CEO Direct Channel Podcast to industry #7

Well it’s 2021 already and guess what, if you’ve got 2020 vision then it’s time to get your eyes tested already!

OK , last year was a bit of a mess in many respects but I guess we must be really thankful that Australia – and WA in particular – has escaped the worst consequences of the pandemic.

But we’ve got to remain vigilant – I know this first-hand as my daughter in London recently contracted the coronavirus bug – fortunately she’s now OK – but I can assure you that as a parent it’s a really harrowing process to experience.


Look the important reminder is that here in WA we can’t take things for granted – the threat certainly hasn’t got any less, it’s not far away and it’s pretty keen to get a foothold and spread quickly.  It’s dangerous and super contagious, so please take every extra precaution to stay safe – and keep others safe too.

Talking about this new year, 2021, there’s a few things on the WAFIC agenda.  We have a new funding agreement with government which needs to be secured before June – and that won’t be easy.

And of course there’s an election campaign in-between which always brings the wheels of power to a standstill until early April.  And then who knows, we may have a new Minister to deal with – so with all these factors at play, it’s going to be a challenging and uncertain period for WAFIC.

The current Minister has already stipulated that we must undertake a comprehensive functional review of WAFIC and industry representation – and this is a precursor to the funding agreement negotiations that I mentioned.

And at the same time we’re trying to introduce a new operating model to reduce duplication to create new efficiencies, and place us in a situation where we can operate with less GVP income at our disposal in the future.

Thrown into the mix will be a new Constitution which we will hopefully get industry to vote upon in about April – after plenty of consultation.

Apart from all this, we’ve been giving a great deal of thought about what things we should be doing more of – what things we should be doing less of – and what things we should be doing better – and certainly our staff have been placing a lot of attention to these questions.

Certainly I feel that WAFIC needs to take a closer position in relation to trade and market matters – the export issues facing rock lobster have accentuated this but as an industry it probably needs to go a little bit wider and encapsulate post-harvest, supply chain and processing – as well as domestic and international marketing.  So we’re currently examining how we can make a positive difference in this respect.

I also wonder if there is a role we can play with business development assistance – not directly but perhaps by working with government to identify grants which fishing families can access.  It seems that every other industry gets a stack of assistance in this respect, so maybe it’s now our turn.

And in particular, I know that farming families have secured huge support for grants to assist with inter-generational succession planning – so I’d like to explore the current level of interest and demand in fishing.

The other thing the farming sector has cashed in on is with rural counsellors, so this is perhaps an area where fishing can be given a greater priority.  Associated with this is mental health – ours is an industry with unique challenges with too many hours of solo time on the water and families don’t spend as much time together as they’d prefer.  It’s important that there are levels of support available – and WAFIC is looking at ways of potentially facilitating this.

I personally feel that we should also be doing a whole lot more in the R&D space, to ensure that WA gets more than it’s fair share of funded research projects which we can then in turn use to drive our industry forward.

So we’re kicking a few things around and we’re always open to input and feedback from everybody.  We think it’s important that from time to time we ask ourselves some “why don’t we” questions – and in doing so perhaps calibrate our services and delivery to better meet the needs of the industry.

On this point, it’s important for me to continue to get out and about to get a better appreciation of the issues.

Since I’ve been in the job I’ve accepted every invitation I’ve received to meet with fishing groups and I’d hope to maintain this record.  When I started I was really lucky to get to Esperance on my sixth day in the job – and they have a great local crew there who really pressed my buttons – they’re the salt of the sea, they believe in what they’re doing, they’re putting heart and soul into their businesses and to me they’ve set the yardstick – so if there’s anybody else out there who reckons they can put the Esperance fishing community to the test then please make your case and send me an invite to visit.

Now if the location happens to be in Wyndham or Eucla or Macquarie Island it might take a little longer to get there, but I still promise I’ll do my best.

However I also want to see all aspects of the industry closer to home – the challenges of estuary fishing, the unique aspects of the shark fishery, the deep sea crabs, the traps and long lines and trawls, the aquaculture, the prawns and pearls.

But equally I want to see the other things that truly matter – the homes, the communities, the impacts on families, the processing, mobile phone reception and broadband services, the supply chains, the markets – even the fish and chip shops.

If I’m going to be genuinely effective in representing this huge diverse industry of ours, then I need to live and breathe all this sort of stuff.  So I need your support.

And I want to hear the thoughts and ideas that you have all been incubating –  and hopefully I can apply them to the future of our industry.

Honestly, we’ve got one hell of a challenge in front of us – we have a community and government which would love to love us, but they have never really been given the tools to do so.  And that has left our industry vulnerable – not as some pessimists say – at risk – but trust me, we’re vulnerable.

So we need to change this, we need to be smart, we need to be united, we need to be supportive and constructive – and most of all we need to retain a positive mindset.  It’s out with the old and in with the new.

So let’s all take a good swig of salty brine and get 2021 moving and go for it.

Cheers, talk soon.