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Wednesday, 21 April 1999
Page: 4019

Senator FORSHAW —My question is directed to Senator Alston, the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and also the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. Is the minister aware that his colleague the Minister for the Environment and Heritage is proposing to remove the current blanket exemption for fish exports from the provisions of the Wildlife Protection (Regulation of Exports and Imports) Act? Is the minister also aware that Senator Hill then plans to subject each species in each fishery, both state and Commonwealth, to a review to determine the sustainability of the resource? Can the minister confirm that, if a species loses its exempt status as a result of this process, that species can only be exported if Senator Hill, the minister, or his delegate specifically approves each individual shipment?

Senator ALSTON (Communications, Information Technology and the Arts) —I have to say that Senator Forshaw knows a lot more about this issue than I do and I will take it on notice.

Senator FORSHAW —Madam President, I ask a supplementary question. I note the response from the minister who represents the ministers for those areas in this chamber and I point out that the various state fisheries ministers certainly know a lot about this issue and you should also, Minister. My supplementary question is this: what impact will this plan to impose export controls on the Australian fishing industry have on exports that are worth in the order of $1.5 billion per year? Does the minister agree that Senator Hill already has a number of options to protect a fish species if he considers that species to be endangered and therefore this plan to introduce export controls is environmentally unnecessary and economically inappropriate? Minister, isn't this proposal to create a new export control power over such a major export industry inconsistent with your government's policy of removing controls over exports?

Senator ALSTON (Communications, Information Technology and the Arts) —We are not in the business of imposing unnecessary regulation or going down a path that might be quite unnecessary. If there is a need for export controls because of problems that have arisen in the regulation of the industry, then I am sure Senator Hill will find it necessary to go down that track. If, on the other hand, he does have the options that you say are open to him, then no doubt he will examine those first.