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Illegal Indonesian fishermen a drain on Australia

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Australia needed to review the effectiveness of spending millions of dollars a year chasing, apprehending and repatriating illegal Indonesian fishermen, the Shadow Minister for Regional Development, External Territories and Northern Australia said today.

Senator Grant Tambling called on the Federal Government to take decisive action and minimise the financial burden on taxpayers. Options included stiffer penalties to deter fishermen and cost-sharing arrangements with Indonesia.

"I recently asked a number of federal departments to provide me with details and costs relating to the surveillance, apprehension, prosecution and repatriation of illegal fishermen found in our waters.

"The answers were staggering. Primary Industries and Energy will spend more than $1 million this year on illegal fishing operations, Immigration expects to outlay $250,000 (including money for the fishermen's air fares home) while Defence will

continue committing patrol boats and aircraft for

apprehensions and air surveillance. The Australian Customs Service does not have a breakdown of its budget, however, it runs into millions of dollars a year.

"Other departments which devote time and resources include Foreign Affairs and Trade; Attorney-General's; and Arts, Sport, Environment, Tourism and Territories.

"According to Foreign Affairs, Indonesia is addressing the problem by encouraging the propagation of trochus in its own waters (the main species targetted by fishermen) and developing alternative income opportunities."

Senator Tambling repeated his call for illegal fishermen to serve time in their own jails as part of stiffer penalties.

"I urge the Foreign Affairs Department to make Australia's position clear at the next meeting of Indonesian and

Australian officials, scheduled in May. Until these fishermen face penalties at home and are forced to shoulder some of the costs now borne by Australian taxpayers, we will not see an improvement."

ENDS: Contact: Senator Grant Tambling (06) 277 3436 Tiz Zeroni (089) 81 3567