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Thursday, 29 May 1997
Page: 3967


Senator PARER (Minister for Resources and Energy)(12.04 p.m.) —The total dollar figure, as I understand it, covers all vessels coming into and out of Australia: international vessels that bring goods and take goods out, as well as the fishing vessels. My understanding is that, to use your term, a knock-for-knock policy is the case. What makes me recall it is that, when there was talk of the diesel rebate and getting rid of it for the fishing industry, I happened to be in Cairns. The fishing people up there told me at the time, `That's fine. We'll just move our operations to PNG where we won't have to pay it.' I presume that answers your question on that.

The answer I gave to Senator Murray was in relation to the claim made about international agreements. The Customs people have searched for that international agreement and have not been able to find one. That is the answer I gave to Senator Murray earlier.

As regards Japanese fishing vessels, to a large extent this relates to that commission for the bluefin tuna. That is very important to this country in a number of respects. I am sure both the Democrats and the Greens are interested in that because it is part of the sustainable recovery of the tuna stocks. Year in, year out there are pretty tough negotiations that go on. But it is often not recognised that, when those quota figures are set, they cover not just Japanese fishing vessels or any vessels that are part of the commission operating in Australian waters but also those operating on the high seas. That is the importance of that commission for the southern bluefin tuna.

I know I am deviating a little bit but it is important for tuna that we get the three other countries that are not currently involved with the commission involved with it. We have had discussions with them and they are at observer status. We are trying to get them to come into the commission. It is estimated that on port visits alone—and Senator Cook will be aware of this because it comes up on a year in, year out basis; perhaps not every year because last year the Japanese vessels boycotted the Western Australian ports—those vessels coming into our ports, mainly Fremantle and Hobart, generate in port about $40 million worth of expenditure. There was a lot of concern expressed by the provedores and others, which is understandable.