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Monday, 1 September 2008
Page: 4132

Senator XENOPHON (12:50 PM) —I will make a brief contribution on the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2008. Since this matter was last before the Senate, I have had the opportunity to have further discussions with my colleagues Senators Fielding, Joyce, Boswell and Scullion. I also had a very useful briefing from the minister’s office last week. I can indicate that, as a result of that process, I support this bill being referred to the relevant Senate standing committee for a relatively short period to allow the concerns raised to be appropriately canvassed—in particular, the convictions for illegal fishing. The coalition says that there are some 324 convictions. At the briefing I had with the government they indicated that they were in the order of 116. Perhaps something that the inquiry can clarify is the number of convictions and the circumstances of those convictions. Of course, these convictions occurred prior to this offence becoming expiable in December 2006. These are matters that need to be sorted out through the inquiry process.

Further, I understand that the inquiry may look at the feasibility of pardoning those convicted and the ramifications of that. I also believe it would be appropriate to consider whether a right of rehearing could be an alternative path for those convicted, although my understanding is that the matters were before the Queensland Magistrates Court. How that would interplay with this legislation is another matter that needs to be considered. I would be confident that the committee process would look at those technical aspects.

And there, of course, is the whole issue of the current provisions of schedule 6 of the act. I know that Senators Boswell and Joyce, amongst others, have raised concerns about the breadth of it. I think Senator Boswell refers to it as being draconian. It is a question of taking into account the intent of the provisions to effectively deal with those that flout the legislation but avoiding unintended consequences, which has been raised by Senator Boswell and others.

With those brief remarks, I indicate my support for the referral of this bill to a standing committee. I look forward to the committee’s deliberations and to the report being presented, if that is the will of the Senate.