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Tuesday, 16 October 1984
Page: 1741


Senator HARRADINE —My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. It relates to the total exclusion of Japanese long line fishing boats from fishing southern bluefin tuna in the Australian fishing zone south of 34 degrees south. Is the Minister aware that this came as a surprise to Tasmanian businesses at the cost of jobs and an estimated $3.5m? Has the Government taken steps to assist those affected by this decision? Is it not a fact that there are no major Australian fishing vessels operating for bluefin tuna south of 40 degrees south? Did the Japanese refusal to reduce its catch to the level the Government considered appropriate to safeguard parent stock come as a surprise to the Government? Will the Government consult with the businesses affected to obtain first hand the effects on them of its decision? In the long term, will it establish machinery which will enable orderly discussions and timely warnings of changed fishing arrangements which have such dislocating effects?


Senator GRIMES —I am aware of the concern of the local business community in Senator Harradine's and my home State as a result of the restrictions on fishing of southern bluefin tuna in the southern seas. Senator Harradine will know that the negotiations concerning renewal of the agreement with Japan covering the access of Japanese long line fishermen to the Australian fishing zone was made against the background of the need to restrain the global catch of southern bluefin tuna because of grave concerns in Australia and New Zealand about the over-fishing of this important resource and the fear that such over-fishing was considerably damaging the future of the industry. At the last round of trilateral discussions held in Canberra earlier this year, Japan refused to take additional measures to restrain its catch despite the decisive management action which had been taken by Australia in this area. As a result of that action by the Japanese, Australia decided it would not be possible to allocate more southern bluefin tuna from the Australian fishing zone than the current domestic quota which is 14,500 tonnes. For that reason Japanese fishing boats will not be allowed to fish in the Australian fishing zone where they took substantial quantities of these tuna.

The first round of negotiations on the renewal of the contracts was held on 10 September to 13 September. The second round started on 29 September and is continuing. The Minister expects to make an announcement soon. In the meantime, the Australian Government's decision holds. I think Senator Harradine and others realise why that decision was made. But there remains the very real problem that he mentioned with respect to southern Tasmanian businesses which have been the beneficiaries of this fishing. It would seem from the reports that I have had, and which I am sure Senator Harradine has had, that those businesses were taken by surprise at the apparent suddenness of the decision of the Australian authorities. I dare say that the preservation of the species had to be weighed against the effect on southern Tasmanian businessmen. Some days ago I asked the Minister directly concerned to take into consideration the views of the southern Tasmanian business community. I am awaiting an answer on that matter. I will take up with the Ministers concerned the matters that Senator Harradine has raised and the suggestions he has made and get him an answer as soon as possible . I share his concern that sudden changes in business conditions, such as this, are not beneficial to any section of the community.