Under-fire West Australian Premier Colin Barnett says nothing will change his mind about the state’s controversial catch-and-kill shark policy, despite vociferous public opposition.
Mr Barnett has copped the brunt of growing public animosity over the policy, which has seen baited drumlines placed one kilometre offshore South West beaches to try to catch certain breeds of big sharks.
With the baited hooks due to be set off Perth beaches as soon as Wednesday, Mr Barnett has revealed he has needed increased personal security following threats, and a vandalism attack on his office.
But the premier said the policy would stay in place this summer – and possibly next – adding opposition had become “ludicrous” and “extreme”.
“I am concerned if people believe they can take the law into their own hands … and if they do there will be consequences,” Mr Barnett told ABC radio.
“The attack on my electorate office, a man coming through the door with a raised hammer at two women working in there. There is an extreme element here that are well known to the police.
“We are, in reality, taking quite modest measures to protect a very small part of our coastline from very large sharks – and we have the reality of seven fatalities in three years.”
One shark has been caught by the hooks laid off Meelup beach over the weekend by a contracted fisherman, who said on Wednesday the situation had become a “circus”.
“If I have to deal with a serious situation, I don’t want to deal with it in the public eye. It’s making it a bit hard to do my job. It’s becoming a safety concern,” he told News Limited.
If he does extend the policy, Mr Barnett could face a legal battle, with a challenge to the state Environmental Protection Authority tipped by Greens MP Lynn McLaren.
But the premier flagged he was up for a fight.
“It is not catching turtles and dolphins, and I don’t believe it will,” Mr Barnett said.
“This program needs to run through this summer and through next summer, and then we have got a better perspective to try and assess it.”
He also said the current policy of dumping dead sharks further off the coast could change so any carcass could be given over for research in future.
The protest against the policy will ramp up again this weekend, with 16 rallies planned in WA.
Rallies will also be held in other Australian states and in New Zealand.
The social media campaign against the policy also continues, with one website calling for Australians overseas to contact their local embassy or consulate to voice opposition.
Meanwhile, the state government has also launched a new website that will feature real-time information from satellite tracking of dozens of sharks.