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Wednesday, 27 August 2008
Page: 3916

Senator BOSWELL (3:52 PM) —I seek leave to make a short statement.

Senator Ellison —There is a principle that a short statement is a short statement. I just remind the Senate of that.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Is leave granted for Senator Boswell to make a short statement?

Leave granted.

Senator BOSWELL —This has been an ongoing concern within the coalition for two or three years. We were successful in providing in the legislation that, from a point in time, no further convictions would carry a criminal penalty. We got that through the Senate and both parties. But there were 324-odd fishermen left in limbo that had these breaches against their names, and we were not able to retrospectively address that particular issue. Just before the last election I and my colleagues went to the Prime Minister’s office and we got a form of words to go out with publicly. We campaigned on those words—that we would reverse the decision for those 324 fishermen.

The bill to come before us is the first opportunity we have to honour our commitment to those 324 fishermen. Senator Ian McDonald very wisely found a way through this by an amendment to the legislation. I want to make the point, because we are receiving a number of calls, that it was the National and Liberal parties that have been on this case for many, many years. We have before the House an amendment that will take the criminal offences away, as best we can. I urge the Labor Party to support it, because Senator O’Brien was reported in the Townsville Bulletin as saying that he would give this bipartisan support.