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Tuesday, 4 December 1973
Page: 4252

Mr O'KEEFE (Paterson) - I rise to take part in the debate on this short Bill. At present under the Customs Act fish and other produce of the sea landed by Australian registered fishing boats operating out of Australian ports are exempt from Customs control. The stated purpose of this Bill is to provide an exemption from this position so that endangered species as agreed upon by the Convention on International Trade may be subject to restriction under the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations. In specific terms this would mean that a vessel registered in Australia and operating out of Australian ports would not be permitted to bring into Australia certain endangered species such as types of fish and whales.

I entirely agree with the sentiments expressed in the Bill, but at the Committee stage I propose to move an amendment to tighten up the wording of the Bill. I will propose that the regulations may prohibit the importation into Australia from the vessels in question only the species of wild flora and fauna specified in the Convention. I am concerned at the broad discretions contained not only in this Bill but also in the principal Act. The regulations referred to in this Bill are those covered by section 50 of the Principal Act.

Under this section the Governor-General may, by regulation, prohibit the importation of goods into Australia. This power may be exercised by prohibiting imports absolutely, or from a specified place, or prohibiting their importation unless specified conditions or restrictions are complied with. A similar section applies in respect of exports and contains similar discretionary powers.

Mr Deputy Speaker,I mention in passing that I believe that these broad powers of regulation making should be severely curtailed. It is my belief that the Act should be amended so that the Governor-General, in making regulations, may disallow an import or export licence only on the basis of a set of specified criteria and conditions. I also believe that the Minister concerned should have to table the reasons for the disallowance of the licence within 15 sitting days of the disallowance.

Under this Bill as it stands, the regulations to which I refer may be used to prohibit either absolutely or otherwise the importation into Australia of fish or other goods which are the produce of the sea. I realise that the second reading speech states that it is the intention that the regulations shall be administered so that they will apply to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. However, if this is the intention, then this regulation power should be confined to that specific purpose, that is, to the prohibition of importation of endangered species.

I also believe that the regulations should specify those species in question so that there is a clear understanding in the industry of the intentions of the Bill regarding this matter. The species in question involve some types of whales and turtles, as well as other marine species. I believe that some clarification is necessary in respect of the whaling industry in Western Australia. Possibly this is one of the main items which should be very clearly specified under this legislation. Is this industry now not to be permitted to slaughter and process certain types of whales? I would like some comment from the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) on this aspect. As I have said, the broad intent of the Bill is to be commended, and the amendment that I shall move at the Committee stage is not intended to destroy or divert the intention of the Bill, but rather to confine it to the reasons for which it was introduced.

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