WAFIC CEO launches Direct Channel podcast
As incoming CEO, I’ve already often heard that WAFIC needs to engage much more closely with the industry participants – on the water, on the beach or factory floor. Over the past two weeks I’ve already covered a couple of thousand kilometres driving to meet with fishing families in many coastal communities – and this engagement will continue.
I’m determined to improve things and am going to be introducing a number of changes to how we do business – one of these is a direct unfiltered communication channel from me to you. And that’s the call I’m making to you today – it’s called Direct Channel as it’s coming straight to you from me.
Yes we already have our monthly newsletters, we have ongoing engagement through sector groups and there are opportunities for discussion through various industry forums and consultation meetings. But this Direct Channel is different, this is an opportunity to transparently share my thoughts and observations on emerging developments – and to give you a background view on what’s happening. I’m intending to do this every couple of weeks to ensure that you’re in the loop. The audio is attached as a podcast – that’s if you’d prefer to listen – but if you’re somewhat technology challenged (like me) then the exact same words will be printed in the email for reading. If you know somebody in industry who hasn’t received it, then please send through their contact details for next time.
Seeing this is my first such communication as I’m still reasonably new to the role, I thought that I’d share my early observations on where things are in the fishing industry – and what we need to do to ensure the long term interests of fishing people are best protected.
The first and most apparent thing I’ve seen is the passion and commitment of industry participants to the work they do. They are really proud of their fishing but feel their interests are constantly being eroded by encroachment from outside intrusion. I sense your frustration – I detect your feeling of not being appropriately recognised or properly appreciated. And that’s fair enough. And this in some ways encapsulates the challenge I have in my new role – while we may have to deal with many complex technical issues in the future, at the core there will always be the need to grow our level of respect in the broader community and strengthen our position so that our voice is appropriately heard. I’ve got a few ideas on how we might approach this – and we can discuss these on another occasion – but there’s a threshold issue I’d like to raise before then.
My background is quite diverse – I’ve worked as an adviser to state and federal Cabinet Ministers, in the media and government relations – in mining and agri-business and international trade – and even worked for a few years specialising in crisis management – being recruited by businesses or organisations to help steer their ships through troubled waters. I’m not an expert but it’s fair to say that from both the inside and out, I’ve seen some very good and very bad attempts by industry groups to secure the best outcomes – the pathways of which are always significantly impacted by the swirling interacting forces of politics, bureaucracy, media and community sentiments. Some approaches are successful – while the majority just don’t even make it through the door. But one thing is clear from the winner’s circle – unity of purpose is the first guiding principle – no group ever wins if they aren’t all on the one page.
If the fishing industry is to have a safe and secure future, then we need to be highly disciplined. We cannot risk having breakouts or perceived divisions within sectors or between sectors. Yes we most certainly need to have full and frank debates behind closed doors, but when a position is decided upon we need to go out into the public domain displaying unity.
For the good of the industry we need to stick closely together – and be seen to be closely together – even when we have personal views which may not necessarily align with the position others in our industry have agreed to. So unity is critically important to our industry. We need to be seen as stable and reliable and have well researched and reasoned (rather than emotive) propositions.
The feedback I have received from past and present Fisheries Ministers is that our industry has often been perceived as fragmented – the sectors are too far apart and there are too many competing voices within each group. As a result some Ministers tend to pull back and avoid the making of decisions – they don’t want to stick their necks into situations where if they support one group then they’re going to get publicly criticised by others. The Ministers are the decision makers – but they generally avoid getting caught up in bun fights. And if we show even the slightest sign of division, then our opponents are going to swoop in with a unified voice and easily pick us off – and worse than that, they’re going to enjoy it at our expense. So the need to be seen as a unified team has never been more important than it is right now.
The other thing I’d like to say is that I’m just one person and while I’m wholeheartedly committed to being the leading advocate of our industry to government, media, the broader community and our key stakeholders – the most powerful weapon for our industry is that we have thousands of proud and passionate fishing people who are out there on the water – and they are the visible representatives and ambassadors of the fishing industry. So I’m asking for you to take a step forward and play your part – to always be a role model – a standard bearer for our industry – to take your time and talk to people in the community about how much care you take in your work, how the stereotypes of the past about raping and pillaging are simply wrong – these stories are peddled by those with narrow agendas – we love the ocean, there’s nobody who cares more about clean waters, healthy habitats and sustainable breeding stocks than us – because our future is totally dependent upon this. So we need to proudly say it. We are the custodians of the ocean, we want the best for the marine environment.
As an industry – and as individuals – we need to grasp the high moral ground. We’ve got to be good citizens, good Australians – we don’t just want people to think that we’re good fishermen or good blokes – we actually want Australians to be proud of us. And in doing so, please also take that extra step – when a family comes along the jetty and asks what may appear to be dumb questions about your catch – then please engage with them – talk to the kids – get in a photo with them -educate them about fish and the care that you take to ensure that renewable food is provided for our community – because without the efforts of fishing people, few others in the community would be able to enjoy the fruits of the ocean.
Those in hospitals and aged care facilities would miss out altogether. We are vital for the needs of a healthy community.
So it’s important that as an industry we activate our individual efforts at ground level – we can generate a groundswell – each and every one of us are vital ambassadors for the fishing industry. We need to win the support of the community but remember that they’re watching and listening every single day – 24/7 – so we always need to openly demonstrate our very best behaviours to strengthen our position. I’m sorry if today’s message went a little longer than I had intended, but the subject matter is critically important to our future. If we activate our individual efforts with positive deeds at a community level and act in unity when we deal with our stakeholders then we will have a very healthy future.
Cheers, I’ll catch you again soon.