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Wednesday, 23 October 2002
Page: 8540


Mr TRUSS (Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) (10:31 AM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The purpose of the Torres Strait Fisheries Amendment Bill 2002 is to amend the Torres Strait Fisheries Act 1984 so as to allow for the Chairperson of the Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA) to be appointed as a full member of the Protected Zone Joint Authority (PZJA).

The PZJA is the joint Commonwealth and Queensland body responsible for the management of traditional and commercial fishing in the Australian waters of the Torres Strait Protected Zone. Under current arrangements, my colleague the Minister for Forestry and Conservation, Senator the Hon. Ian Macdonald, is chair and a member of the PZJA and the Queensland Minister for Primary Industries and Rural Communities is also a member.

As recognised in the treaty ratified between Australia and Papua New Guinea in 1985, the people of the Torres Strait have a unique relationship with the aquatic resources of their region. For thousands of years, members of their community have lived from the sea and their contemporary culture remains firmly rooted in these strong maritime traditions.

These cultural, social and economic ties are also recognised in the existing Torres Strait Fisheries Act, which under section 8 specifically requires the PZJA to administer the act with regard to the `traditional way of life and livelihood of traditional inhabitants'.

In light of these strong connections and the unique legislative framework for fisheries management in the Torres Strait, the Commonwealth and Queensland governments have agreed to strengthen the involvement of Torres Strait Islanders in the management of the area's fisheries resources by appointing the TSRA chair to the PZJA as a full member.

As a full member, the TSRA chair will be involved in all future decisions on the management of the Torres Strait Protected Zone fisheries and will enjoy similar powers to those of the other PZJA members.

This bill contains the necessary administrative amendments to give effect to this appointment.

It should be noted that as Chair of the PZJA, the Commonwealth minister, will retain certain select roles and responsibilities that will be distinct from the other two members. Additionally, as the joint authority is established by an arrangement entered into by the Commonwealth and Queensland governments, the TSRA chairperson will not be empowered by the act to terminate the PZJA arrangement.

I consider that this appointment will be a significant step in realising the long-term aspirations of the islander people to have a greater role in the management of the region's aquatic resources. I commend the bill to the House and present the explanatory memorandum.