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Wednesday, 7 December 1983
Page: 3365


Mr KERIN (Minister for Primary Industry)(12.20) —I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

This omnibus Bill seeks to implement a number of amendments of an administrative nature to the Fishing Industry Research Act 1969, the Fisheries Act 1952 and the Continental Shelf (Living Natural Resources) Act 1968 pending completion of a comprehensive review of Commonwealth fisheries legislation. The amendments are designed to streamline and improve the administration of fisheries management arrangements for the benefit of both the industry and the Government. The Bill will amend the Fisheries Act 1952 to simplify licensing requirements, overcome a number of administrative difficulties and include review provisions in relation to licensing functions and fisheries notices made under section 8 of the Act. In particular, I draw the attention of honourable members to the removal of the requirement for crew members of fishing boats to be individually licensed. In future only master fishermen will be required to hold a licence.

There has been strong and continuing criticism from the fishing industry because the Commonwealth is maintaining a licensing system that is no longer necessary for effective fisheries management. The Senate Standing Committee on Trade and Commerce in its report on the Australian fishing industry tabled earlier this year also expressed similar concern and recommended removal of unnecessary licensing provisions. The amendments, which have the support of the fishing industry, will simplify existing arrangements by reducing the number of licences required, and associated administrative costs.

Another important provision of the Bill will enable the entry of unlicensed foreign fishing boats to Australian ports for major repair and similar purposes. The entry of unlicensed foreign fishing boats for these purposes, which has the potential to provide significant economic benefits for Australian industries, has been limited by restrictive port entry criteria in the Fisheries Act. Clauses 23 and 24 of the Bill will remove this difficulty by providing for the authorisation of entry into Australian ports for specified purposes. It is not intended that such authorisations be used for the purpose of allowing unlicensed foreign fishing boats to enter ports for routine refuelling and revictualling or minor repairs on an ad hoc basis.

Clause 9 of the Bill will provide a procedure for formally controlling the activities of research boats in the Australian fishing zone by allowing the granting of permits for scientific purposes. Clauses 5 and 7 of the Bill will permit the application of the Fisheries Act to Australian fishermen operating beyond the outer limits of the Australian fishing zone, should this be required under future international fisheries management arrangements. It is likely that if international agreement is reached on the management of highly migratory species of fish such as tuna, each country concerned will be required to control its own fishermen on the high seas.

The Bill will remove all references to traditional fishing from the Fisheries Act. Traditional fishing as defined in the Fisheries Act relates to fishing by indigenous inhabitants of Australia's external territories, with particular application to Papua New Guinea. With the granting of independence to that country several years ago, that term is no longer necessary for fisheries management under the Act. The Bill also effects a number of other amendments to the Fisheries Act to streamline administrative procedures. These include additional powers relating to the cancellation of licence endorsements, changes in licence conditions, and the endorsement of licences to exempt the licensee from a prohibition imposed by a specified fisheries notice. The Fisheries Act currently permits licences to be endorsed only in respect of one type of fisheries notice. These amendments will permit greater flexibility in implementing fisheries management arrangements.

I am pleased to announce the inclusion in the Fisheries Act of review provisions to allow parliamentary scrutiny of fisheries notices and adminstrative review in relation to certain licensing powers. In particular, I draw the attention of honourable members to clause 11 of the Bill, which provides that fisheries notices made under section 8 of the Act must be tabled in Parliament and may be disallowed by either House. This amendment was also recommended by the Senate Standing Committee on Trade and Commerce in its report on the Australian fishing industry.

The amendments in clauses 19 and 27 of the Bill provide for administrative review of decisions relating to licensing functions, other than decisions in respect of foreign boats or persons who are not citizens or residents of Australia. These provisions reflect the Government's commitment to the principle that discretionary powers exercised under Commonwealth legislation should be reviewable. However, in this Bill special provision has been made to recognise the position of State officials acting under Commonwealth law. Before the Bill is debated I will arrange to consult the States on the implications of the proposed provisions.

Decisions on licensing matters made personally by the Minister or the Secretary will be directly reviewable by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. Decisions on licensing matters by delegates of the Minister, including State officials acting on behalf of the Commonwealth, although not reviewable by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, will be subject to reconsideration by the Minister or Secretary or a Commonwealth official delegated to review decisions. Any decision made following such reconsideration may then be reviewed by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. Decisions of a fisheries joint authority itself will not be reviewable by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. The Government considers that , as a policy making body comprising Commonwealth and State Ministers, it is not appropriate to subject a joint authority to Commonwealth administrative review. However, decisions of delegates of a joint authority may be subject to reconsideration by the joint authority itself or a delegated Commonwealth official. Any decision made by that official would then be reviewable by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. I point out that while this Bill amends some provisions relating to the functions of fisheries joint authorities as a consequence of other amendments to the Act and the inclusion of review provisions, implementation of the system of joint authority management of fisheries will depend on the outcome of the review of the offshore constitutional settlement now being undertaken by the Government.

The Bill will also amend the Continental Shelf (Living Natural Resources) Act 1968 to extend the Act to apply to the seabed beneath the territorial sea of the Coral Sea Islands territory. This amendment is necessary in the light of advice from the Attorney-General's Department that the Act does not apply to this area of seabed. The amendment, which will complement regulations under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1975 in its application to the proclaimed nature reserve in the Coral Sea Islands territory, will ensure that the Commonwealth has adequate jurisdiction over the seabed area to prevent the illegal taking of giant clams and other sedentary organisms. Finally, the Bill will amend the Fishing Industry Act 1969 to authorise approval of a Northern Territory fund for the purposes of determining Commonwealth fishing research funding levels under the Fishing Industry Research Trust Account arrangements.

Under the Act, the Commonwealth matches the amounts paid into recognised State funds on a dollar for dollar basis. The Commonwealth's contribution is appropriated for credit to the Fishing Industry Research Trust Account. The Northern Territory is not a State for the purposes of the Act and although, in 1979, it established a fund similar to that recognised in each State, that fund cannot be approved without an appropriate amendment to the Act. In 1982, the Australian Fisheries Council noted the urgent need to amend the Act to include the Northern Territory fund with those of other States to give proper recognition to the Territory's contribution to fishing research. The proposed amendment will allow approval of the Northern Territory fund as one qualifying for matching Commonwealth fishing research funding. Mr Speaker, the foregoing amendments provide long awaited reforms to the fisheries legislation which will assist the Government to discharge more efficiently its management responsibilities for the valuable fisheries resources off our shores. The amendments come at a time when the Government is in the process of introducing new and improved management arrangements for a number of important fisheries to provide for the long term stability of the fishing industry and at the same time protect the biological needs of those fisheries. I commend the Bill to honourable members.

Debate (on motion by Mr McVeigh) adjourned.