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Wednesday, 29 April 1987
Page: 1951


Senator TATE (Special Minister of State)(10.10) —I move:

That the Bills be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speeches incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speeches read as follows-

FISHING INDUSTRY RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT BILL 1987

This Bill gives effect to the Government's rural industries research policy insofar as the research and development requirements of the fishing industry are concerned.

The Bill replaces, but does not repeal, the Fishing Industry Research Act 1969 which has since its commencement provided a total of $28,540,000 to support research for the benefit of the Australian fishing industry.

The Fishing Industry Research Trust Account established by that Act has supported scientific and biological research in many Australian fisheries. It has supported exploratory fishing projects, fishing gear technology studies, education for fishermen and research into the handling and marketing of fish products. CSIRO, universities, government agencies, fishing companies and individual fishermen have received funding from the Account to undertake research.

The Account has funded a wide range of industry-related projects, for example, experimental longlining for tuna as the basis of Australia's entry into the lucrative Japanese sashimi market, squid jigging off Tasmania and development of a marketing database on the VIATEL system which is attracting interest from exporters, Japanese importers and fishermen's co-operatives.

Full details of the operations of the Fishing Industry Research Act are set out in the annual reports of the Fishing Industry Research Committee.

The Australian fishing industry has, in my view, received important benefits from the operation of the Fishing Industry Research Act that have contributed over time to the welfare of the industry and its place in the national economy. The Bill provides a basis for this to continue under more modern and representative administrative arrangements consistent with the modern legislative framework for rural industries research generally.

The Bill makes two fundamental changes to the basis of determining the amount that the Commonwealth will match by way of appropriation to the Fisheries Research and Development Trust Fund that the Bill establishes. The Commonwealth will match expenditure from approved State funds rather than revenue collected from industry and credited to those funds. And there will be a ceiling to the Commonwealth Appropriation to the Trust Fund, equal in any financial year to 1% of the average annual gross value of production by the catching and culturing sectors of the Australian fishing industry during the three preceding financial years, as determined by the Minister.

The mechanism for determining the amount of the appropriation will remain much the same as under the existing legislation. That is, the Minister will determine one fund under each State's fisheries law to be an approved fund and specified money in that fund to be approved money.

The Bill requires all those determinations to be tabled in Parliament and provides for their disallowance as if they were regulations. Before making any determination under Part III of the Bill in relation to the Trust Fund, the Minister will have regard to the legislative and administrative basis of State funds and the moneys cre-dited to those funds.

The Bill establishes administrative machinery closely resembling that provided by the Rural Industries Research Act. There is to be a Fishing Industry Research and Development Council, which will prepare five-year plans of fisheries research and development and annual programs for giving effect to that plan, for approval by the Minister. The Council will undertake the decision-making and administrative functions associated with the Trust Fund, employing staff in classifications approved by the Minister and the Public Service Board for that purpose.

The members of the Council appointed by the Minister will comprise an independent chairperson, a government member experienced in formulation of government policy and public administration, and not fewer than three or more than seven members with experience and knowledge of the fishing industry and fisheries research and a high order of general administrative and managerial ability.

The Bill provides for the Minister to appoint members of a Fishing Industry Research and Development Council Selection Committee, comprising an independent chairperson, a member with experience in fisheries administration or management, a member experienced in fisheries research and development, a member nominated by the Australian Fisheries Council and three members nominated by the National Fishing Industry Council.

The Selection Committee will, whenever the Minister requests, put forward so many nominations as there are vacancies on the Council, having regard to the mix of skills and abilities that the Bill requires the Council to possess. The Minister may reject any nomination and request the Selection Committee to submit another one. Previous rejection or non-selection is not a barrier to subsequent nomination.

I have outlined the fundamental principles of the Bill. The details of its provisions for giving effect to those principles are contained in the Explanatory Memorandum circulated to Honourable Senators.

I commend the Bill to the Senate.

FISHING INDUSTRY RESEARCH AMENDMENT BILL 1987

This Bill provides transitional arrangements between the effective termination of the Fishing Industry Research Act 1969 and the proposed operation of the Fishing Industry Research and Development Bill 1987 already before the Senate.

The Bill amends the Fishing Industry Research Act in a major sense, by repealing the appropriation and the provisions establishing the Fishing Industry Research Committee, the functions of which will be replaced by the Fishing Industry Research and Development Bill. The shell of the principal Act after passage of the present Bill will preserve the Fishing Industry Research Trust Account until the money in that Account has been spent or otherwise disposed of.

The Government has decided that the money left in the Research Account, after settlement of all outstanding accounts and recovery of all moneys due to the Account, is to be applied to the acquisition of a fisheries research vessel for the CSIRO Division of Fisheries Research. Should that outcome not occur, the Ministers for Finance and Primary Industry are to confer about the disposal of the residue.

I commend the Bill to the Senate.

FISHING LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL 1987

This Bill makes amendments of an essentially administrative and procedural nature to the Continental Shelf (Living Natural Resources) Act 1984, the Fisheries Act 1952 and the Torres Strait Fisheries Act 1984.

I can inform the Senate that there will be further amendments of the Fisheries Act later this year to give effect in Australian law to the multilateral treaty between the United States and the Pacific island countries that are members of the Forum Fisheries Agency with respect to the operation of United States tuna boats in the exclusive fishing zones of those countries. It is expected that the treaty will be signed on 31 March next and come into force later in the year.

The Australian fishing industry is undergoing a period of profound change and it pleases me to say that this Government has in considerable measure been keeping in step with those changes. The Government approaches management of our fisheries on a co-operative basis with the fishing industry.

We have established the Fishing Industry Policy Council of Australia to provide a forum for government and industry to discuss issues of mutual interest. In the long-established framework of the Australian Fisheries Council, we have strengthened the institutional framework for consulting with the relevant industry sectors about the the management of our major fisheries such as northern prawns, tuna, south east trawl, southern shark and north-west shelf crustaceans. Statutory management plans are already in place with the full co-operation of industry in the two first-mentioned of those fisheries. We are working toward having management plans in place for the others in the near future.

The Government has taken steps to give effect to the fisheries element of the offshore constitutional settlement set up by our predecessors. I give full credit to the previous Government for creating the statutory basis on which the Commonwealth and the States can enter into formal legal arrangements whereby a fishery is managed under a single law, be it Commonwealth or State, from the coast to the outer limit of our fisheries jurisdiction.

The preparations for giving effect to the settlement in the fisheries context have been lengthy but I can inform the Senate that arrangements with Queensland in the Torres Strait protected zone have been in place now for more than two years and a further four arrangements have been in place elsewhere in Australia since June 1986. As well, the Minister for Primary Industry has recently executed another 17 arrangements for the Commonwealth and sent them to the States for approval prior to seeking the approval of the Governor-General for them.

In the near future a Bill will be introduced to restructure the Commonwealth's involvement in fisheries research and development. This will follow lines essentially similar to those in the Rural Industries Research Act, taking account of the unique institutional factors that make a separate Fisheries Research and Development Act necessary.

In 1985-86, the gross value of fisheries production, at $592m, ranked sixth among all Australia's rural industries, one place better than in 1984-85. In 1984-85, production was estimated at 148,900 tonnes, valued at $523.5m. Exports of fishery products have increased from $230m in 1980-81 to an estimated $481m in 1985-86 and have significantly exceeded the value of imports each year during that period. There are more than 9,000 boats in the Australian commercial fishing fleet with an annual consumption of about 240 million litres of diesel fuel. Estimated annual domestic per capita consumption has risen from 15 kilograms in 1979-80 to 17.3 kilograms in 1983-84, measured as live weight equivalent. These figures give a general picture of a vigorous fishing industry which is making a very important contribution to the domestic economy and food supplies as well as to foreign exchange earnings.

Against this fairly active domestic background, the provisions of the Bill reflect a wide range of recent administrative experience accumulated by the Australian Fisheries Service and the State fisheries authorities that undertake the day to day administration of the Acts that the Bill amends.

The Bill brings the three principal Acts that it amends into line in so far as their administrative provisions are concerned. The Bill shifts the emphasis of the provisions authorising the Minister to make notices for the regulation of the fisheries, away from the notices to the prohibitions in them. This will facilitate the preparation of notices containing several prohibitions each requiring separate endorsements of licences.

The Bill strengthens the powers of officers so that they may be better equipped to enforce the three Acts. It does so in accordance with those principles of Commonwealth legal policy that have regard to civil liberties and individuals' rights, taking account of the special circumstances in which the principal Acts are enforced.

The difficulties of detecting fisheries offences at sea, far from the nearest land and a magistrate who can issue warrants with reasonable facility, make it necessary to provide fisheries enforcement officers with powers that in other circumstances might seem excessive. The Bill provides powers in this regard that the Government considers to be an acceptable balance between the need for effective enforcement and the protection of civil liberties. The Attorney-General's Department has advised that the Bill conforms with Commonwealth criminal law legal policy.

The Bill provides a basis for ascertaining the state of mind of a director or other agent of a body corporate where it is necessary to do so in legal proceedings for offences for which the Acts provide a penalty for a body corporate.

The Explanatory Memorandum summarises the clauses of the Bill, thus making it unnecessary for me to take the time of the Senate in a detailed explanation of them. The Bill is of an essentially machinery nature for the better administration of the laws affecting Australia's fisheries and has no financial implications. I commend it to the Senate.

Debate (on motion by Senator Kilgariff) adjourned.