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Wednesday, 15 July 1998
Page: 6169


Mr TRUSS (Customs and Consumer Affairs) (4:32 PM) —I thank honourable members for their contribution. Obviously, little new was raised. One would expect that all these issues have been adequately addressed. I note that the honourable member for Perth (Mr Stephen Smith) is satisfied with the legal opinion that he received following the legitimate concerns he raised in the debate when this bill was before this chamber previously.

The honourable member also raised questions about whether this matter was genuinely urgent, given the Asian economic crisis at the present time. The government considers that the matter is still urgent. LNG is a very long-term business, and neither the companies that are selling the product nor their buyers think in terms of the present economic climate. They are looking 40 years ahead. The companies are talking with potential long-term customers now. They are in hard commercial negotiations and I am advised that these amendments will assist the early resolution of the negotiations. If we delayed these matters until August, then the Senate may well not have considered them until into next year and opportunities could well be lost to other countries; we may have lost, particularly, export opportunities to Malaysian and Indo nesian suppliers. So I thank the opposition for their willingness to support these proposals in that light.

Finally, I want to comment briefly on the question of fisheries research. The honourable member for Burke (Mr O'Keefe) made comments about the reduction in the funding for the Fisheries and Research Development Corporation. That has only become necessary because the previous government so hopelessly mismanaged the south-east fisheries that it was necessary to provide substantial financial resources to recover from that incompetence. The amount of money provided is to be amortised, so the effective loss in each year will be to the tune of $600,000. If the fishing industry or the honourable member for Burke has complaints in relation to that matter, I suggest they take it up with the member for Hotham (Mr Crean) who has just entered the chamber because it was his mismanagement that required the expenditure of such large sums of money to rectify the problem. Nonetheless, I thank the opposition for their support for these amendments and commend them to the House.

Question resolved in the affirmative.