Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries Minister Mark Furner has been called upon to apologise.
Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries Minister Mark Furner has been called upon to apologise. Kevin Farmer

Minister called on to apologise after Fraser Island tragedy

A STINGING attack has been launched against state Fisheries Minister Mark Furner, with calls for him to apologise to the families of eight men lost at sea.

Member for Burnett Stephen Bennett and Gympie MP Tony Perrett said Mr Furner needed to formally apologise for Fisheries Queensland's conduct during the investigation into the loss of the trawlers Dianne and Cassandra.

But Mr Furner hit back yesterday, calling on both men to "resign for stooping so low".

The Cassandra, a prawn trawler, sank off the coast of Fraser Island in April, 2016.

The bodies of skipper Matt Roberts, 61, and crewman David Chivers, 36, have never been found.

Six crewmen died when the Dianne sank late at night in rough seas off the coast of the Town of 1770 on October 16, 2017.

In handing down his findings last week, coroner David O'Connell was scathing in his criticism of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.

He condemned DAF for trying to defend the department's policy not to share vessel monitoring system data with police.

Mr Bennett said the department had been "caught red-handed" in claiming the VMS would be used for safety on commercial fishing boats, but never activating its safety feature.

"It became clear during the investigation that Fisheries Queensland was being deliberately obstructionist in relation to its operation of vessel monitoring systems on commercial fishing boats," Mr Bennett said.

"It's absolutely shameful that is has taken a tragedy of this scale to highlight their failures.

"Those men and women in our community who go out to sea every day do not deserve to be lied to."

Mr Furner described the comments as a "grubby and despicable attack to exploit a tragedy in order to score cheap political points".

"Deb Frecklington must sack them if the LNP has any standards of behaviour at all," he said.

"The Australian Marine Safety Authority made submissions to the Coroner's inquest that VMS was not a reliable distress alerting system and that it had not been designed for that purpose.

"AMSA supported the Department's submission that a direct feed of VMS data be provided to AMSA to assist in search and rescue efforts."