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Wednesday, 22 August 1984
Page: 158

Senator JACK EVANS(5.07) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the paper.

The Industries Assistance Commission report on the southern bluefin tuna is very significant, but for only a very small segment of the Australian community. It is a segment which is based on the south coast of Western Australia an area which will be hurt if the Government adopts the recommendations of the report. For that reason I make a few comments in the hope that the Government will consider very carefully how it handles this report and the recommendations that flow from it. There is no doubt that there is a real threat to the southern bluefin tuna of the south ocean region around Australia. That threat will be exacerbated if steps are not taken in the very near future. Because of that threat this report will have to be considered urgently by the Government and steps taken very quickly. One would hope that although those steps may be taken hastily they will be taken with a great deal of compassion and consideration for the people who will be caught up in a situation resulting from overfishing in this industry.

What has been happening is that there has been a tendency to fish for tuna which are too small. Therefore, due to this abuse of the catching of these smaller fish the survival of the fish has been threatened. We will put at jeopardy not just an industry in Western Australia but also the very livelihoods of a lot of people. For that reason and particularly because this happens to be the second time that many people in this group have been hit-the first having been when the Government took the decision to cease the whaling industry in that area-we will have to consider the economic survival of the people in the industry and, literally, their livelihoods. We cannot, just with a wave of a biro, sign out of existence the livelihoods of these people. The Industries Assistance Commission report recommends that the Australian quota for 1984-85 be reduced to 14,000 tonnes. That in itself is not such a serious problem. What is serious is that Western Australia will have to phase down from 4,000 tonnes to 1 ,000 tonnes, a 75 per cent decrease. That is going to mean that the people in that industry will be forced out literally overnight. There will be a loss of 280 direct jobs and a total loss of 650 direct and indirect jobs. That needs to be borne in mind when the type of adjustment assistance is determined by the Government.

The report comments that it is going to be difficult to justify adjustment assistance, either to offset personal hardship experienced in the fishery or to encourage a faster rate of adjustment. But, Mr Deputy President, I put it to you that a government with any compassion in its heart has to assist in making that adjustment possible. We have to recognise the personal hardships of these people . We have to provide retraining. We have to give incentives to lead the industry . We have to provide assistance, not just to the fishermen but also to other people who are going to be hit if this report's recommendations are adopted.

In general terms there certainly are necessary steps to be taken. The report suggests that we need to take into account likely Japanese fishing activity. I agree with that. We need to get the Japanese to agree to quota levels. But we also need to recognise that if we adopt the suggestion of the report that the cash grants suggested by certain people who made submissions to the Committee should not be used by the Government, we are going to abandon these people. We must give assistance to them. It must not be limited to the fishermen; it also needs to take into account the others who are going to be affected by the rationalisation of this industry. We also need to take into consideration the fact that there is going to be a boost to the people of this industry on the east and that needs to help to compensate those in the west.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! The honourable senator's time has expired.