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Monday, 25 February 1985
Page: 118


Senator ARCHER(3.25) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the paper.

The first item dealt with at the meeting of the Australian Fisheries Council was the off-shore constitutional settlement. The first paragraph of the report states:

Council recalled that at each of its last four meetings, it had urged the Commonwealth Government to implement the fisheries aspect of the Offshore Constitutional Settlement . . . as soon as practicable.

This has been going on for years. We do not seem to be getting any closer to a settlement. In the resume of likely legislation for the session the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Button) did not mention this matter. The present situation is creating considerable pressures. The northern Australian prawn fisheries, the southern scallop fisheries, the shark fisheries, the trawl fisheries in south-eastern deep waters, the lobster fisheries between Victoria and Tasmania and the tuna fishery are all in trouble because they lack a constitutional settlement statement. In the past it has been argued that the settlement is necessarily tied up with mineral rights and various other things. It is certainly not necessary to implement the decisions that have been taken in the past. In the last 12 months we have seen a ridiculous situation arise between Tasmania and Victoria over scallops and now we are seeing an even more ridiculous one over rock lobsters. There is absolutely no excuse for this matter not being dealt with and a declaration being made giving the States concerned authority over waters and the power to license accordingly.

Another matter dealt with fairly lengthily at the Council meeting was foreign fishing. I believe it is necessary to make a few comments on this because Australia has obligations to international fishing countries. We are working hard on Australianisation and we need foreign fishermen to assist us in biological assessments of the stocks in waters we do not fish and in marketing the product of those waters. We do not fully understand what foreign fishing is all about and how to run it. I regret that after a few years of foreign fishing we are still in some instances imposing patently ridiculous requirements. There is quite heavy handed treatment of the fishermen involved in foreign fishing. It seems to be constant niggling and the use of unsettling tactics which prevent Australia from gaining a reputation of being a reasonable country to deal with. The agreements we make with other countries are two-sided. We have to appreciate that for a deal of any sort to work properly it has to be reasonable for both sides, and at present we do not seem to be capable of that.

I commend the Fisheries Council for holding the conference. It was an excellent start. I am sure the industry will appreciate being given something to do now that it is showing some maturity in its operations. It must have an attitude of co-operation. The Government, the fishermen and the processors will all have to give a bit. None of them will get exactly what they are looking for, but if we genuinely want to improve the fishing industry in Australian waters it will be necessary to establish a new fisheries body and all sections of the industry will have to work together and settle for the best that they can get.

Question resolved in the affirmative.