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Thursday, 2 December 1976


Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - I wish to speak today on the subject of Taiwanese fishing vessels operating in Australian waters. Before doing so I shall make brief mentionand it deserves nothing more than that- of the remarks of the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James). As one who was present at the function on Tuesday evening, having seen the responsible way in which members on this side of the chamber responded when we were surprised by certain events, I say that the speech of the honourable member does him no credit. He has a reputation in this place as being the muck raker and the bucket tipper every time the Australian Labor Party has to dredge someone up to do the dirty work. He continues to fulfil his role well; I wish him well in the future.

I express concern at the growth in the number of Taiwanese fishing vessels that have been apprehended in Australian waters in recent years. In 1972 4 vessels were apprehended. Two were apprehended in 1973 and a further 2 in 1974. In 1975 there was a massive increase when 25 vessels were apprehended. In the current year to 23 August 1976, 14 vessels had been apprehended. With respect to penalties in 1975 1 1 vessels were forfeited and fines ranging from $50 to $500 were imposed. All the forfeited vessels were sold back to the former Taiwanese owners for amounts ranging from $785 to $12,600. In 1976, twelve of the 14 vessels apprehended were forfeited. Fines have ranged from $50 to $ 1,000. All of the forfeited vessels have been sold back to the former Taiwanese owners for amounts ranging from $5,000 to $20,000.

There has been a tremendous increase in the number of Taiwanese fishing vessels encroaching upon the shores of this land. I believe that these fishermen have done considerable damage, particularly to clams in the Great Barrier Reef. The long-line fishermen and the clam searchers are all inflicting damage which will not be easily repaired on this nation's marine life which will need hundreds upon hundreds of years to recover.

This Government, as was the case with the previous Australian Government, under the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam), has sought through the Law of the Sea Conference to ensure that Australia has a widened economic and resources zone of some 200 miles to ensure that we can adequately police our waters and, more importantly, protect our resources. There are 2 conventions which are presently in force. They are the Convention on the Territorial Sea and Contiguous Zone and the Convention on the Continental Shelf. The first Convention accords to each country sovereignty subject to a right of innocent passage for foreign shipping over a belt of sea adjacent to its coast but the width is not specified. The second Convention accords sovereign rights for the purpose of exploring and exploiting natural resources to each country over a continental shelf to a depth of 200 metres or to where the superjacent waters admit of the exploitation of natural resources. I believe that a majority of the countries taking part in the Law of the Sea Conference are seeking to extend the previous 12-mile territorial sea limit to a 200-mile wide economic zone. They also support the establishment of an international agency to explore and exploit the international seabed area for the benefit of mankind, with benefits from its activities to go in part to undeveloped countries.

I believe that over the years we have given sufficient warning to Taiwanese fishermen. I was in Taiwan in 1969, 1970 and 1971. On each occasion I was there I impressed upon the

Government of that country that there was one thing that was happening that was not attracting friends in this country, namely, the continual exploitation by its fishermen of the waters of Australia without regard to the damage that is done in the search for food. I do not suggest for one moment that the less fortunate or developing countries should be pushed back into their own areas. But I believe that the Taiwanese have been warned. They have been told. But regrettably they continue to ignore the wishes of this country. There is little that we can do to stop them from coming close to our country. But, certainly when they are caught, we can take action.

I suggest a measure which may well be effective in our attempt to stop this fishing. The trade figures for 1975-76 indicate that Australia exported to Taiwain products to the value of $114m and imported from Taiwan products to the value of $ 134m. The balance of trade is well and truly on the side of Taiwan. I believe that as on our Barrier Reef one million clams a year are being slaughtered by the Taiwanese fishermen the Australian Government has to go to the Taiwanese Government and say: 'You have been warned. We are deadly serious on this matter. If your fishermen continue to plunder what belongs to us we will have to consider stopping trade with you as a form of protest. ' I cannot understand why the Taiwanese Government cannot make a greater effort to inform its fishermen that to go into the near waters of Australia will be extremely embarrassing. I did not enjoy delivering this address against Taiwan. I believe that the previous Government made a grave error and sold out our position to mainland China when it simply agreed to recognise China and to dismiss the presence of Taiwan. But that is history. Today we deal with the plunder of our clams and our marine life. I ask the Government to give serious consideration to the suggestion that there be a threat of the cessation of trade with Taiwan unless it commences to respect what rightfully belongs to us.







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