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Thursday, 16 March 2000
Page: 12976


Senator ALSTON (Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts) (10:47 AM) —I table a revised explanatory memorandum to the A New Tax System (Tax Administration) Bill (No. 1) 2000 and move:

That these bills be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speeches incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speeches read as follows

FISHERIES LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL (No 2) 1999

This Bill proposes amendments to the Fisheries Management Act 1991 and the Fisheries Administration Act 1991. These amendments will introduce new measures for control, monitoring and enforcement of foreign and domestic fishing operations to increase management effectiveness of the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) and support sustainable use of Australia's fisheries resources.

The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics has calculated that the total Gross Value of Production of the Australian fishing industry for 1998-99 was $1.98 billion.

The amendments are the result of the ongoing refinement of fisheries management practices and changing circumstances in Australian fisheries management. The amendments also complement the fisheries enforcement, forfeiture and detention measures already included in the Fisheries Legislation Amendment Act (No 1) 1999 and the Border Protection Legislation Amendment Bill (No 1) 1999. As a package they will enhance AFMA's management effectiveness and significantly increase Australia's ability to ensure the sustainable use of its fisheries resources.

The Fisheries Legislation Amendment Act (No 1) 1999 dealt with strengthening enforcement action against foreign fishing boats making incursions into the Australian fishing zone (AFZ) and strengthening fisheries management controls on the high seas. This draft Bill will further add to Australia's enforcement and management controls, for both foreign and domestic fishing boats.

Key elements include changing the definition of foreign fishing boat to enable control over port access for a boat that may be equipped and capable of fishing but may not have been originally designed for fishing. This amendment will also clarify that control and denial of port access can be exercised over a foreign boat which is being used, or intended to be used to resupply foreign fishing vessels. Denial of port access is a mechanism to deter fishing that may be undermining agreed regional conservation measures and also to reduce the risk of illegal foreign fishing in our AFZ.

Currently port access is being denied to Japanese tuna long line boats fishing for southern bluefin tuna outside agreed regional fisheries management arrangements. Control over supply vessels will preclude any future attempts to undermine this measure through use of a bunkering ship using Australian ports to resupply vessels on high seas fishing grounds.

A further element provides AFMA with the authority to place observers on foreign boats outside the AFZ. This would enable regulations to be made that would allow the placing of observers on foreign fishing boats outside the AFZ. Observers on foreign boats would enable the gathering of data on the boat's fishing operations for research and compliance purposes. If Australia been able to agree with Japan on a scientifically sound joint experimental fishing program it would have involved participation of Australian observers on Japanese tuna long line boats fishing on the high seas.

The Bill will also increase deterrence to providing false or misleading information. These amendments would address cases where false or misleading information has been furnished in an attempt to conceal the actual amount of fish taken, processed or carried; the species of fish taken, processed or carried; or the location of a fishing boat. There will be an increase in the monetary penalty from $6,600 to 250 penalty units (currently a value of $27,500) on conviction for providing information that is false or misleading. There will also be provision for a court, upon conviction for providing false or misleading information, to order the forfeiture of a boat, fishing equipment, or catch relevant to the offence or the specific proceeds gained as a result of the commission of that offence.

These provisions recognise fisheries management is highly reliant on accurate information being provided by commercial operators on which to base stock assessment and management decisions.

Not only is the Government concerned to ensure that Australia has a strong capability to enforce its rights over our fisheries resources, but this Bill also provides for more effective management by AFMA and better monitoring of our marine resources.

This Bill introduces new measures to collect data essential to assess the impacts of fishing on the marine environment. In particular data may be collected on by-catch incidentally caught in fishing operations. This is consistent with the initiative to move fisheries management to ecosystem management. This data will assist in the development of by-catch action plans to minimise incidental catch. As such, it supports the recent release by the Commonwealth of the National Policy on Fisheries By-catch. This Policy provides options by which each Australian jurisdiction can manage by-catch according to its situation in a nationally coherent and consistent manner. As a result, waste should be reduced and all components of the marine environment better conserved.

The Government is also clarifying the need for Fishery Plans of management to include provisions, eg mitigation measures, directed at reducing to a minimum incidental catches of fish and non fish species which are not authorised by that plan.

AFMA's efficiency and effectiveness will be enhanced through widening the types of offences for which a penalty infringement notice may be issued. This provides flexibility by allowing an alternative to prosecution for minor transgressions. It is proposed to amend AFMA's functions to remove the limitation on the Authority which prevented it from managing and carrying out adjustment, restructuring, exploratory and feasibility programs which had been devised by other agencies or within Government. Finally, it is proposed to amend the present tax exemptions of the Authority to make it liable for Fringe Benefits Tax.

With the introduction of this Bill, the Government completes a major commitment to ensuring that Australia's fisheries resources are better managed and that their use is more effectively enforced.

I commend the Bill to the Chamber

A NEW TAX SYSTEM (TAX ADMINISTRATION) BILL (NO. 1) 2000

This Bill contains a number of measures relating to the Government's reform of tax administration, and in particular the rules for the collection and payment of tax and other liabilities under the Pay As You Go (PAYG) system.

The Bill will complete the PAYG arrangements for certain trustees, by specifying how their PAYG instalments are to be calculated. It will also ensure that PAYG instalments paid by life assurance companies and other organisations with superannuation business, are calculated on the same basis as the instalments paid by superannuation funds.

The Bill will provide for loan repayments under the Student Financial Supplement Scheme and ABSTUDY to be collected under PAYG. This will align the collection arrangements for these loan repayments with the arrangements for the Higher Education Contribution Scheme.

A number of minor technical and consequential amendments will also be made by this Bill to facilitate the introduction of the new PAYG system.

Full details of the measures in this Bill are contained in the explanatory memorandum.

I commend the Bill.

Debate (on motion by Senator Quirke) adjourned.

Ordered that bills be listed on the Notice Paper as separate orders of the day.