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Tuesday, 15 October 2002
Page: 5183


Senator IAN MACDONALD (Minister for Forestry and Conservation) (6:25 PM) —The Torres Strait Fisheries Amendment Bill 2002 is about an amendment to the Torres Strait Fisheries Act 1984. The act sets up the Protected Zone Joint Authority, which has two members on it: the Commonwealth minister with responsibility for fisheries, which is currently me, and the Queensland minister who holds the same role, which is currently Mr Palaszczuk. The amendment proposed today is one that gives the Torres Strait Islander people a say in the management of the Protected Zone Joint Authority. Senator Ridgeway, there may be issues in relation to native title which are appropriately addressed by you here and elsewhere. I suggest with respect that they are not issues directly relevant to this bill; they are issues that perhaps should be addressed in other forums or in other legislation.

We are left in a situation today where you must either pass the bill and have the Protected Zone Joint Authority with a Torres Strait Islander representative—the chairman of the elected body representing Torres Strait Islander people—or you reject the bill, which means life goes on as normal and the Protected Zone Joint Authority is run by the Queensland minister and the federal minister. I prefer the former option. I think it is appropriate that the Torres Strait Islander people, represented by the chairman of their elected authority, do have a say on that—the same as the people of Australia have a say through their representative, which in this case is me, and people in Queensland have a say, which in this case is through their representative Mr Palaszczuk. The other issues which you raise are serious. I confess that they are not issues that I am any particular expert on. It is not something that I can go into in any great depth, because I am simply not competent to do that. But again, it is also not relevant to the bill before us.