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Monday, 6 December 1999
Page: 12800

Mr ADAMS (1:34 PM) —We have been very lucky on the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties. Over the years, we have dealt with 200 proposed treaty actions—and that is a considerable number—and we have had two chairmen who understood the significance and bipartisan nature of committees. Those of us who sit on the back bench and work on these committees alongside government members do so in a way that I think achieves a considerable amount. We are very pleased to have a chairman who appreciates that and understands that committees do not belong to one side of the House but belong to the whole House, and they need to be dealt with that way. Not that, jointly, we always agree on things. There have been, of course, dissenting reports, and not only from opposition parties but from the government side as well.

There were two proposals in report 27; I think the chairman dealt with them. Report 27 covers the termination of the social security agreement with the UK. There are something like 60,000 British pensioners in Australia who do not have the missing indexation made good by the Australian age pension supplement because their incomes are too high. Therefore, these people are missing out on a complete UK pension because the UK government does not pay it to them. I understand that, in that country, you pay a certain amount of tax from your salary towards the pension. So 60,000 people who have migrated are missing out because the government there will not go into a fair agreement with us and, therefore, the recommendation is that the agreement be terminated. I fully support that concept.

Our main concern on the issue of the international plant protection convention was to make sure that Australia was not lowering its standards to meet other countries' standards. We should not be going down to meet some sort of world standard; we should—especially when we are trying to prevent the spread of pests on plants and on plant products—stand firm on the highest possible standards that we have. There is a fair bit of weakening of some of these in some parts of the world. That will not occur under this convention, which has received support to go forward.

I wanted to mention report 28, Fourteen treaties tabled on 12 October 1999, specifically the fish stocks agreement. This is an agreement under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982 and relates to the conservation and management of straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks. Of course, we saw the straddling fish stocks in the Tasman rise this year below Tasmania right on the 200-mile limit where the southern roughy poise over a mountain below the sea. We saw the South African large boats rape and pillage that stock of fish which, managed correctly, could possibly go on indefinitely. It could be sustained if good management techniques were used. But having a foreign country come in and do that destroyed all sorts of management opportunities that were being put in place.

As with the migratory fish that move around the great oceans of the world, we have to take stock of this and endeavour to pull together the countries that harvest them so that we can get good agreements that protect the stocks. We know what has happened in many other parts of the world. Fish stocks have become depleted—and you think about the great cod fields of Canada and the northern seas. This is a very good agreement that we are signing up to and will be a part of. I recommend report 28 to the House and look forward to serving with the committee in the coming year.