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Thursday, 29 May 1997
Page: 3968


Senator MARGETTS(12.07 p.m.) —It is unfortunate that the minister mentioned southern bluefin tuna, because one of the first decisions he made as a minister was to sign a level of agreement with Japan which is unsustainable and really will mean in the end that we will be losing the stocks of southern bluefin tuna.

This amendment limits the rebate for fishing purposes to ships registered in Australia. This is a sensible action with regard to the problems of flags of convenience ships and potential situations where foreign crews are being used on foreign flag vessels by coastal fishing operations for the Australian market. The tax and customs and excise acts are in part designed to put political and social agendas into action. I know that the government does not understand this, but it is my understanding that that is why these acts are there.

The mining rebate is part of this and a conscious decision to offer incentives to this sort of production and foster and increase emphasis on mining. The acts are full of incentives and disincentives for various activities or to create certain social outcomes. It is entirely appropriate to use the rebate to support Australian registered fishing ships and consequently Australian crews operating under Australian industrial awards and conditions. I do wonder whenever I see amendments like this for how long it still will be possible to even conceive of this kind of action before various vested interests seek to use international agreements prohibiting discriminatory regulation of foreign investment or trade to try to overturn these measures.

I imagine this might be challenged in the future under both the World Trade Organisation's trade related investment measures regime and the multilateral agreement on investment, of which we still have no details and about which the government said, `Trust us. We don't need to look at the details, but trust us. We're the government.' Do honourable senators remember that with GATT and the previous government?

In any case, even if such measures are not externally challenged, the free market funda mentalism that drives mainstream politics generally works against the success of such amendments. I have been interested to watch the argument on this one and I will be noting the vote with interest. We will be supporting the amendment.