The State Government has hit back at opposition claims that shark deterrents qualifying for government rebates have not been adequately tested are “grossly inaccurate”.
Fisheries Minister Dave Kelly said WA Liberal Senator Linda Reynolds is “putting lives at risk” by spreading misinformation about the government’s shark-deterrent rebate.
“Senator Reynolds needs to put an end to her reckless fearmongering campaign,” Mr Kelly said.
“Discouraging people from taking up protection that is backed by science is not only ludicrous, but incredibly dangerous.”
In a letter to The West Australian on Tuesday, Ms Reynolds claimed that the approved personal shark deterrent in the rebate was “yet to be adequately tested.”
She had also claimed that there had been no attacks at a New South beach trialling drumlines, that WA had twice as many sharks compared to the east coast and that the east coast had been successful at protecting beach users.
The government said Ms Reynolds claims were inaccurate.
Ms Reynolds was not the first WA Liberal MP to criticise the device, after Vasse MLA Libby Mettam likened it to “waving a toothpick” at a burglar.
However, the State Government said research from the University of Western Australia found the Shark Shield Freedom 7 device worked in 90 per cent of occasions against white sharks.
“The science is in, and has been for some time, that the approved device for the McGowan Government’s world-first personal shark deterrent subsidy works in 90 per cent of occasions against a white shark,” Mr Kelly said.
The shark deterrent subsidy had been designed to protect surfers and divers, water users most at risk of shark attacks.
13 of 15 fatal shark attack victims since 2000 have been surfers or divers.
Mr Kelly said Ms Reynolds’ was “hypocritical” after Liberal National Party originally paid for the research and endorsed the deterrent.
“It would appear from her comments, Senator Reynolds thinks she knows more than the UWA researchers who tested the device and found it to be effective,” he said.
“It’s particularly hypocritical of Ms Reynolds to attack this program, when she was on a bipartisan Federal Senate committee which endorsed it and called for it to be rolled out Australia-wide.”