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Thursday, 18 November 2010
Page: 1620

Senator IAN MACDONALD (1:36 PM) —I will not detain the Senate for too long. I just want to support my colleague’s contribution and congratulate Senator Colbeck on the very fine job he is doing in holding the government to account in the fisheries area. Senator Colbeck has spent some time explaining the provisions of the bill. I want to briefly comment on arrangements with other nations to assist with looking after fisheries. I again commend our relationship with the French, particularly in the Southern Ocean, in protecting the very valuable and relatively rare Patagonian toothfish, which lives in the Southern Ocean and is harvested in a very controlled way by France and Australia, amongst other nations.

Ten or so years ago there was a push by pirates to take the Patagonian toothfish to such an extent that the species was in danger of disappearing from the planet. It was at that time that Australia and other nations embarked upon a lot of activity to protect the southern waters and the Patagonian toothfish. The toothfish is a magnificent table fish. It is highly sought after around the world and brings a very strong price. There are a couple of licence holders in Australia and they are able to harvest it in a very controlled and defined way. It is a way of protecting the species but allowing the magnificent fish to reach some people’s tables.

Over the years, the French have been very close allies of ours in looking after the Southern Ocean and the French territory around Kerguelen Islands. The French, out of the island of Reunion, have a very sophisticated military base to look after and help protect that territory. Like Senator Colbeck, I am very concerned that the Oceanic Viking, which the Australian government leased specifically to protect Southern Ocean waters, is being used for matters not related to protection of fisheries. I well remember commissioning two 50-millimetre machineguns for the Oceanic Viking to give the ship some real power to enforce Australian and international laws where appropriate on the high seas. It seems to me to be another indication of the mismanagement of the Rudd and Gillard governments that this ship, instead of doing what it was built for and acquired for—that is, protecting our waters and the waters of other nations against pirate fishing—ended up being a floating hotel for illegal immigrants in northern waters. The Labor government cannot protect our borders and cannot properly manage the refugee system as it relates to Australia. It is a shame that vessels that were acquired for other purposes have to be used in this way to simply try and overcome the deficiencies of the current government.