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Thursday, 3 November 1983
Page: 2329

Mr HUMPHREYS(5.56) —I join in the debate this evening on the Great Barrier Reef Marine Amendment Bill. I have only a few minutes in which to speak because I know that the Minister for Home Affairs and Environment (Mr Cohen) is anxious to reply and we have other business to attend to. However, it is necessary that I enter the debate in order to point out a few facts to the Minister. I hope that he will take them on board. When he meets with the Great Barrier Reef Ministerial Council I hope that he will consider the remarks that I make this evening. I refer firstly to the tourist industry on the Great Barrier Reef. I think that the Minister is well aware that there are only four islands in the Great Barrier Reef which have tourist facilities. They are Heron Island, Lady Elliott Island, Green Island and Lizard Island. We all know that the Great Barrier Reef is one of the great wonders of the world and it should be able to be visited and viewed by people from throughout the world. However, we find that tourist facilities on those islands are very expensive indeed. Workingclass people should be able to view the Barrier Reef and the other islands without having to pay an arm and a leg as the saying goes. Millions of people go there to view the reef but unfortunately, due to the weather, they cannot get to it.

Mr Lindsay —They get no assistance.

Mr HUMPHREYS —They do not get any assistance from the Queensland Government. We all appreciate that fact, as my friend the honourable member for Herbert points out. I know that the Minister is very concerned about tourism. He has done a marvellous job, as we all know. He is a very good Minister and I congratulate both him and the Government. However, I ask him to ensure that the tourist complexes do not keep putting up their prices and thus make a visit to the area totally out of the price range of the working man. The Barrier Reef should be able to be seen by working-class people and I hope that the Minister will take that on board.

I know that concern has been expressed about the commercial fishermen. My friend the honourable member for Leichhardt (Mr Gayler) referred to this matter and I know that the Government is considering it. Commercial fishermen were worried that we should be closing the whole of the Barrier Reef to commercial fishing. In 1979-80 their catch was worth $30m. The Minister will probably update that figure so that the Parliament will know whether commercial fishermen are very active on the reef. I want to talk about the Taiwanese fishermen who also have been very active on the reef. The Minister, in his second reading speech, stated:

The underlying philosophy is management by education. It is recognised that there must be rules and regulations, and penalties . . .

I want to refer to the penalties imposed on the Taiwanese fishermen. As recently as 20 August another Taiwanese poacher was caught. Admittedly, he probably would have come down from the Barrier Reef. He was not in the Barrier Reef zone. He was in the 200 mile fishing zone. We do not know exactly where he came from. He was apprehended. The boat is in Brisbane now, tied up at the wharf. I think that tenders close today. We know that we are spending $1.6m and that $500,000 is to be spent straight away. A very good way that we can start getting money back is by apprehending these people who are polluting and plundering our reef. They have been doing it for years and years. Admittedly, we have not caught as many in the past few years as we used to catch. They are becoming more cunning.

I point out to the Minister that whilst we apprehend these boats, no Australian is allowed to purchase them. These ships are quite big, as was the one which was apprehended. It was stated that the ship would probably we worth $750,000. Someone else has valued it at $75,000. This will make it very easy for the Taiwanese to buy that boat back. I say that the money the Government can get should be coming back. The Government should get the money. The money that comes back from that boat should be going to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Council so that it can spend more money to protect the reef-especially from these people. In the daily aerial surveillance we should be able to include Navy and Air Force training. While they are practising they can be practising over those areas and checking on these plunderers and polluters. We are all well aware that one of the boats was caught on the Great Barrier Reef collected $20 per kilogram for clam meat in Taiwan and $44 per kilogram in Hong Kong. One of the vessels that was apprehended not so long ago was carrying 15 tonnes of clam meat. It was worth $500,000 on the market.

The real tragedy-I hope that the Minister is listening to this-is that that 15 tonnes of clam meat represented 100 million years of clam life. We want to ensure that we catch these people. We want to make sure that when we do sell those boats, the money comes back to Australia. In regard to the boat that was apprehended recently and the catch, the boat can be used only for scrap and the catch can be used only for fertiliser, and rightly so. But if someone from overseas buys that vessel-I hope the Minister is listening-he can take the vessel back overseas and use it as a fishing boat. More than that, he can also buy the catch from the Australian Government and it will probably come back to Australia in tins. I know these matters are not quite in the Minister's area but they are matters at which he should be looking, taking them on board and speaking to other Ministers. This is a disgrace. We cannot sell the catch in Australia, but it can go overseas and come back here in tins. Is that not a disgrace? An Australian is not allowed to buy the boat and then sell it overseas . No, he can only buy it and use it for scrap. I think we should be looking at the legislation in that area.

The Minister should listen to this. Papua New Guinea can teach us a lesson. An American fishing boat that was apprehended in its water was worth $12.9m. Papua New Guinea did not worry where it came from. It kept the boat. A fine was imposed. The penalties to which the Minister refers should be very heavy, heavier than those that have every been inflicted on these polluters and their captains before. The Papua New Guinea Government apprehended that boat and received quite a lot more money than we do. That boat was worth $12.9m. Yet one could not build the boat about which I spoke for $75,000. Yet we are going to send it back to the Taiwanese for $75,000. I hope that the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority will take that on board. I could go on and on.

Concerns have been voiced from conservation groups. The Minister should take this matter on board. In fact he has taken it on board. I know that he is very concerned. However, I do not have enough time to pursue the matter further. I know that the Minister wants to reply, so we will get on with the business of the day. I sincerely congratulate the Minister and Government for doing a great job. From 14 per cent to 98.5 per cent of the reef has been declared in the last seven months. We know the problems. It is no good the honourable member for Dawson (Mr Baithwaite) saying that we did not have problems with the State Government, because as long as I have been here we have been arguing. The Ministers of his Government were trying to do deals with Joh. The honourable member knows what the problems were. I appreciate that the Queensland Government is co-operating now, but it did not do so during all that time and he knows that .