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Fisheries Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 1998
Bills Digest No. 195 1997-98
This Digest was prepared for debate. It reflects the legislation as introduced and does not canvass subsequent amendments. This Digest does not have any official lega l status. Other sources should be consulted to determine the subsequent official status of the Bill.
Fisheries Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 1998
Commencement: The Schedule prohibiting the commercial taking of marlin commences 28 days after Royal Assent. The amendments setting the final levy and export charge periods are taken to have commenced on 1 July 1997 and the repeals of the prawn promotion scheme legislation commence 3 years after Royal Assent.
The purpose of this legislation is twofold. It repeals the 1995 legislative package that implements a scheme to promote Australian sea-caught prawns (the Prawn Boat Levy Act 1995 , the Prawn Export Charge Act 1995 and the Prawn Export Promotion Act 1995 ). It also amends the Fisheries Management Act 1991 to prohibit the commercial taking of black marlin and blue marlin in the Australian fishing zone (AFZ).
Blue and black marlin have little value to commercial fishers as there is no d omestic or export market for them. They are, however, of interest to game fishing groups and attract overseas tourists who are interested in fishing them. Data presented to a House of Representatives inquiry into Commonwealth fisheries showed that the number of black and blue marlin caught and tagged had declined massively in recent years.(1)
Since 1988 a voluntary ban on catching these fish by commercial fishing operators has been in place, but there is some evidence that a small number of operators have ignored the ban. The House of Representative committee recommended that a mandatory ban be imposed to prevent further depletion of stocks.(2) Such a ban is also in line with the Government’s 1996 election commitment to impose a mandatory ban if the voluntary ban was ineffective.
In 1995 the previous Government introduced the Prawn Boat Levy Act 1995 , the Prawn Export Charge Act 1995 and the Prawn Export Promotion Act 1995 . This package of legislation imposed a compulsory levy on commercial prawn boats, an export charge on sea-caught prawns and provided for the collection, management and expenditure of these funds. The funds collected were for use by the Australian Prawn Promotion Association (APPA) to fund the promotion of sea-caught prawns and the Australian prawn industry on world markets.
The current boat levy for a full levy period is $50 for a ship less than 10 metres long; $100 for a ship that is at least 10 metres but less than 15 metres long; $200 for a ship that is at least 15 metres but less than 18 metres long; $400 for a ship that is at least 18 metres but less than 20 metres long; and $600 for a ship that is at least 20 metres long. The export charge for prawns exported on or before 31 December 1997 was $0.02 a kilogram net weight of exports of sea-caught prawns, parts of sea-caught prawns and prawn components of sea-caught prawns, payable by an operator only after a threshold of 5,000 kilograms of prawns was reached.
The levy collected was approximately $150 000 a year and the export charge collected was approximately $240 000 a year depending on the quantity of exports. This provided APPA with approximately $400 000 per annum for its promotion activities. The costs to the prawn operators of this scheme were estimated to average $800 per year.
The present Government’s policy on compulsory primary industry levies is that they should only be imposed where they have 'substantial industry support, and there is significant market failure'.(3) In December 1996 the Minister for Resources and Energy was approached by a group of prawn operators who strongly opposed paying the compulsory levies and charges. To test the general level of support for this levy Coopers and Lybrand was commissioned to conduct a plebicite of the industry. The response rate to the plebicite was 65%. Of those who responded, 85% opposed the levy and charge. Those who support the continued operation of the scheme expressed concern that without the funding provided by the levies and charges APPA could not continue with its functions. However, after discussions with APPA and the prawn operators and exporters the Government announced that the levy and charge would be abolished from 1 January 1998.
The initial step in abolishing the scheme was to amend the Prawn Export Promotion Levies and Charges Regulations. The amending regulations (SR 409/1997) set the levy at $0.00 from 1 July 1988 and divided the levy payments into two payments over the levy period. The payment for each period is set at half of the rate already prescribed. The second step is to legislate to cancel the levy payment for the second half of the levy period (1 January - 30 June 1998) and to set a final levy period so than no levy can be imposed from 1 January 1998. The final step is to repeal the legislation that enacts the scheme.
Clause 4 allows the Acts repealed in the Schedules to continue to apply in relation to a levy or charge imposed before the repeal to facilitate the collection of outstanding levies.
Item 1 of Schedule 1 amends the Fisheries Management Act 1991 by inserting section 15A. This section prohibits the taking of black or blue marlin unless the person holds a scientific permit authorising the taking, or the fish is taken in the course of recreational or charter boat fishing. The penalty for not complying with this ban is 125 units (a penalty unit currently equals $110).
It is a defence to a prosecution under this section to satisfy the court that steps were t aken to immediately return the fish to its natural environment.
Item 1of Schedule 2 replaces section 5(2) of the Prawn Boat Levy Act 1995 , setting the final levy period as 1 July - 31 December 1997. This amendment is taken to have commenced on 1 July 1997. Item 2 of Schedule 2 repeals the Prawn Boat Levy Act 1995 with the repeal commencing 3 years after Royal Assent.
Item 1 of Schedule 3 amends section 4 of the Prawn Export Charge Act 1995 so that only those prawns exported from Australia on or before 31 December 1997 are subject to the charge. This amendment is taken to have commenced on 1 July 1997. Item 2 of Schedule 3 repeals the Prawn Export Charge Act 1995 with the repeal commencing 3 years after Royal Assent.
Schedule 4 repeals the Prawn Export Promotion Act 1995 with the repeal commencing 3 years after Royal Assent.
1. House of Representatives. Standing Committee on Primary Industries, Resources and Rural and Regional Affairs, Managing Commonwealth Fisheries, para. 13.24.
2. Recommendation 37.
3. Press Release by the Minister for Resources and Energy, Senator the Hon. Warwick Parer, 4 November 1997.
8 May 1998
Bills Digest Service
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