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Wednesday, 26 May 2010
Page: 4119


Mr BURKE (Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and Minister for Population) (9:48 AM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The Fisheries Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2010 amends the Fisheries Management Act 1991, the Fisheries Administration Act 1991 and the Fishing Levy Act 1991.

The bill will enhance the ability of the Australian Fisheries Management Authority, known as AFMA, to implement more effective and efficient and less costly fisheries management arrangements in four main ways. Firstly, the bill will facilitate the broadening of co-management arrangements in Commonwealth fisheries. Secondly, it will simplify the regulatory regime with which fishers are required to comply and which AFMA must administer and enforce. Thirdly, it will facilitate the restructure of AFMA’s management advisory committees to introduce a more effective dual advisory model. Finally, the bill will enable AFMA to provide and charge as necessary for services provided to other Commonwealth agencies as well as state government fisheries management agencies in areas where AFMA has technical expertise.

All of these arrangements are expected to result in increased efficiency within AFMA and a reduction in the costs that are passed on to industry.

The first group of amendments will enable AFMA to implement co-management arrangements in Commonwealth fisheries. This represents a further evolution in the operating framework for Commonwealth fisheries management. Co-management creates a partnership to achieve a shared responsibility for management of the resource within a rigorous framework of accountability and policy.

Co-management can be defined as ‘an arrangement in which responsibilities and obligations for sustainable fisheries management are negotiated, shared and delegated between government, fishers and other interest groups and stakeholders’.

Co-management arrangements will allow AFMA to share the responsibilities and obligations for sustainable management with the primary stakeholders involved in the fishery.

AFMA is developing guidelines, standards and rules of operation for co-management. These will be supported by procedures for AFMA to monitor, evaluate and audit industry. The full implementation of co-management, including the delegation of powers to determine catch levels for example, will require a fishery to have responsibility in its management and recognition of the benefits of sustainability.

The proposed legislative amendments to the Fisheries Management Act 1991 will enable the Chief Executive Officer of AFMA to delegate other powers and functions to the ‘primary stakeholders’ in the performance of co-management arrangements. The functions that the CEO may delegate include determining a total allowable catch and the power to close all or part of a fishery. In exercising delegations, primary stakeholders must make decisions in accordance with the directions of AFMA’s CEO and relevant government polices, such as the Commonwealth Harvest Strategy. Primary stakeholders are defined as the holders of fishing concessions or the industry body that represents such concession holders.

Importantly, the ability of AFMA to delegate such powers will not detract from AFMA’s responsibility to pursue the objectives of its legislation. Any exercise of power by a primary stakeholder will be within a framework of rules established by AFMA’s CEO in accordance with the Fisheries Administration Act 1991. The framework of rules will be designed to ensure that industry delegates comply with relevant policies, such as the harvest strategy, and that they are fully accountable to AFMA. The Acts Interpretation Act 1901 also provides further control over the delegation process, such as the ability for the CEO to revoke any delegation issued under an act.

Co-management can provide more effective outcomes in fisheries management through collaboration with industry and other stakeholders. It also acknowledges that involving fishers and other key stakeholders in managing and regulating fisheries can lead to better policy and management outcomes.

A 2008 Fisheries Research and Development Corporation report found clear benefits to implementing co-management in Australian fisheries. Similar benefits have been documented in other countries, including New Zealand and Canada, where co-management arrangements have already been implemented.  Domestic co-management arrangements have also been implemented in the South Australian Spencer Gulf prawn fishery. This fishery has been recognised by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation as a global model of fair, flexible and accountable management.

The Commonwealth fishing industry has shown strong support for the implementation of co-management arrangements. The industry recognises that co-management can provide them a more direct and prominent role in developing effective management structures; structures that are more compatible with the fishing industry operations.

The fishing industry and AFMA also expect that co-management will lead to improved fishery management outcomes, including increasing the sustainability of Australia’s fish stocks, and creating optimal conditions for a viable and resilient fishing industry.

Three trials were established to identify the most effective co-management arrangement for Australian fisheries.

The outcomes of these trials are very positive and indicate that co-management can increase cost-effectiveness and deliver more efficient fisheries management. The trials also indicate that the fishing industry, given the right incentives, is a willing collaborator and can deliver stewardship over Australia’s fisheries resources.

Some co-management arrangements are currently possible, as stakeholders may undertake certain responsibilities and obligations on behalf of AFMA. These already include collecting fishing information, monitoring fishing activity, providing information to AFMA, devising research plans, and managing fishery surveys. However, the proposed amendments will provide AFMA with the capacity to offer those fisheries with strong governance, leadership and demonstrated commitment to sustainability, a collaborative role in fisheries management.

The second set of amendments relates to the simplification of AFMA’s regulatory processes. AFMA administers a complex regulatory framework that currently contains some duplication and inconsistency across Commonwealth fisheries. This bill will enable AFMA to reduce the complexity of the management rules that apply to each fishery, by prescribing standard conditions in the subordinate regulations rather than in individual fishery management plans.

The complexity of the current regulatory regime has been identified as a significant source of inefficiency and cost for AFMA’s administration of Commonwealth fisheries. The streamlining of regulation is expected to lower costs for the industry and AFMA.

The existing regulation requires a plan of management for a fishery to outline its objectives and the indicators by which it will measure performance. This leads to a duplication of the objectives that are outlined in the act and a duplication of reporting against these objectives. This bill will make it optional for fisheries management plans to contain a full set of objectives and performance measures. Managers still have the option of including specific objectives in a plan of management, but these will reflect objectives for individual fisheries beyond those prescribed in the act.

By reducing redundancy and duplication in legislation, these amendments will make fisheries management simpler and more efficient across all Commonwealth fisheries.

The third area of reform in the bill relates to management advisory committees, or MACs as they are commonly known. MACs play a significant role in assisting AFMA in the management of fisheries. They generally include members from industry and environmental organisations.

The bill will remove the limitation on AFMA that prevents it from restructuring the existing management advisory committees efficiently. The restructure is required to reduce the number of MACs from 12 to six and to enable the implementation of a dual advisory model, a model that enables a MAC to advise on more than one fishery. This model also separates the provision of advice to AFMA; MACs will continue to provide advice to AFMA on community interest issues, but advice on fishing operations will be provided by fishing industry participants.

The restructure has the broad support of industry because rationalised arrangements will improve the effectiveness of advice delivered to AFMA and could ultimately reduce the administrative costs borne by industry.

The last group of amendments contained in this bill will allow AFMA to share its expertise and institutional knowledge with Commonwealth and non-Commonwealth agencies.

AFMA has some advanced systems and technologies, including satellite vessel monitoring systems and independent fisheries observer programs. AFMA is also pioneering experimentation in at-sea electronic submission of catch data and remote camera monitoring. There is increasing interest from other domestic and overseas fisheries management agencies, especially in seeking the most cost-effective way for governments to provide such services.

AFMA is currently restricted by the current legislation in its ability to provide these services; despite the demand and its capacity to do so. The ability to provide these services to other organisations would increase the economies of scale and lower the costs to AFMA and the Commonwealth of developing such technologies.

The measures introduced by this bill are a further step in enabling AFMA to implement more efficient and effective fisheries management, and to ensure that Australia’s fishing industry remains viable into the future.

I commend the bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mr Andrews) adjourned.