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Monday, 14 October 1991
Page: 1833

Mr CREAN (-Minister for Primary Industries and Energy)(4.46 p.m.) —-I move:

That the amendments be agreed to.

Because there are amendments relating to three separate Bills before the House today, I should indicate that before the parliamentary recess all three Bills, the Fisheries Administration Bill, the Fisheries Management Bill and the Fisheries Legislation (Consequential Provisions) Bill, were passed by this House. When the legislation got to the Senate, it was referred to the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology and the Senate rose before that Senate Standing Committee completed its deliberations.

In the parliamentary recess, two reports came to the notice of that Senate Committee. One was the report of the Ecologically Sustainable Development Committee dealing with fisheries and the other was the final report of the Industry Commission which was originally understood only to go to the question of charging--the cost recovery issue--for fisheries management, but in fact made some observations that went beyond that point.

Against that background, I had a number of discussions with the Opposition both in this House and in the Senate, as well as with the Committee. What resulted was a series of discussions that ultimately led to these sets of amendments that incorporate issues that were raised, mostly out of those two reports. The amendments refer in differing ways to the three different Bills that are before us and, if I make some observations at this stage, it will not be necessary for me to go into detail with each of the subsequent two pieces of legislation.

To try to give the House some idea as to where the changes were picked up, I think it useful to try to categorise them into a number of different aspects. The first goes to the ecologically sustainable development issue. The House would be aware that an objective of the fisheries legislation was to ensure the conservation of fisheries resources and the environment which sustains those resources. The amendments that go to this issue further strengthen that commitment by requiring that the exploitation of fisheries resources be conducted in a manner consistent with the principles of ecologically sustainable development, in particular the need to have regard to the impact of fishing on non-target species and on the marine environment. I consider that this is a logical development of the policy statement and is in keeping with the development of our thinking on ESD, in particular in relation to fisheries.

A second point of concern by the Senate Committee was the extent to which the industry would really drive the agenda. I want to restate the position of this Government in relation to that. The Australian Fisheries Management Authority will have the task of enforcing regulations which will prevent fisheries from being overexploited or overcapitalised. At times, the collective interests of all the fishermen in the fishery and of the broader community may be at odds with the self-interest of individual fishermen. Since the Authority itself will be a government body undertaking the government's regulatory role in fisheries management, it would, in our view, be totally inappropriate for the industry to have the dominant influence. To do so would be a bit like asking the players to umpire their own football match.

The Senate Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology, while noting the various claims of AFMA that it would be an industry body, did accept the assurances that were provided by the Government. I simply place on record that anyone who still has concerns in this regard should examine the detailed accountability provisions that are built into the legislation.

There are a couple of assurances--they continued to surface in the Senate Standing Committee--that I think are important to place on the record. The first concerns costs to the fishing industry. The commitment is that the industry contribution, in aggregate, will not be greater in real terms for the duration of 1991-92 than for 1990-91. It does not include the new research and development levy, and expenditure for fisheries management overall in 1992-93 and 1993-94 will not be greater in real terms than like expenditures in 1990-91, excepting voluntary levies that the industry may impose and any other costs that are set by the industry.

A second concern of the Senate Standing Committee was the review of legislation to be undertaken by it in 12 months time. I have agreed to this review and, in doing so, it reflects my desire to ensure that the legislation is as good as can be possible and that if deficiencies are found then they can be addressed. In addition, the review will enable further consideration of the final Industry Commission and ESD working group reports if certain recommendations dealing with the legislation have not already been addressed.

There are 18 amendments to the first Bill before the House, the Fisheries Administration Bill, and some 61 amendments to the next piece of legislation, the Fisheries Management Bill, but the bulk of these amendments are procedural or consequential in their nature. The changes cover a variety of areas, but only three effectively or significantly affect policy. I have already referred to one: the issue dealing with ESD; the second is the extension of plans of management to cover, where appropriate, recreational fishing because most recreational fishing is undertaken in waters adjacent to the States and, in most cases, is regulated by the States under the State fisheries management arrangements, but there are a number of Commonwealth managed fisheries where it may be necessary to control recreational and commercial fishermen, for example, in relation to tuna.

So the change enables plans of management to be formulated to cover all of those involved in a particular fishery, thus ensuring more complete resource management. It is envisaged that this facility would only be required where recreational fishing has a significant influence on the resources.

The third broad grouping of amendments that significantly affects the policy direction goes to the provision of a temporary orders facility. This is designed to enable the Australian Fisheries Management Authority to take quick action to deal with emergencies or to correct errors or anomalies in a plan of management. It can be used by AFMA where necessary, and where no other action will produce the desired outcome, but it must be consistent with AFMA's objectives. I consider this to be an important tool for AFMA, as I will not be involved in the day to day management of fisheries myself.

Mr Lloyd —-I bet you are pleased about that, too.

Mr CREAN —-I certainly am. This is its policy significance. We just hope that those to whom we have delegated that authority are able to use that flexibility sensibly if they need to, but a temporary order can only be made for three months and may only be extended once.

With the indulgence of the House--I have spoken to the shadow Minister for primary industry, the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd), before this debate, because these amendments cut into the three different Bills in various ways--I felt it would be helpful to outline the broad thrust of the amendments which have been agreed to, the process which led to that, and to indicate, which I am pleased to do on this occasion, that there was some very extensive consultation with the other side of the House. I am pleased to say that, because on previous occasions members of the Opposition have been critical of the lack of information or forewarning on these matters. I believe we have discharged that function properly in this case, and that is why I believe we have the level of agreement necessary to give passage to all items of legislation.