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Monday, 25 March 1985
Page: 725

Senator ARCHER(5.10) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the paper.

I rise to speak to the report of the Fishing Industry Research Committee because we do not get enough debate in the chamber on issues that are vital to Australia, particularly those to do with the production of the wealth of the country. While we spend so much time waffling about all sorts of nebulous issues, we do not get around to looking at the people on whom the country depends. The Fishing Industry Research Committee is a modest body. In its report this year it has devoted only half a page to itself. I urge it to open up a little more and to give more of a description of what it is endeavouring to achieve and its philosophy of operation. It is vital that more people should have information about the Committee. In fact, others may wish to participate in the scheme of things if they had more information.

I plead particularly for a revision of the personnel of the Committee. There has been a lot of change in the fishing industry over the last five years. The emphasis now is very much on the regeneration of species, merchandising and presentation of the catch, operating economics, aquaculture and in particular-the one I think of most of all-the Australianisation of the industry. The Committee needs to have greater representation from the industry in both the catching and marketing sectors. The scientific and government ends are a bit heavily weighted at present. I believe that there needs to be a better balance. The product presentation is not good enough in the market place. Much needs to be done get a better quality and price. So often I see fishermen use great skills to catch fish and then fail to get a reasonable price because of inadequate presentation or because the system of marketing arrangements is less than it ought to be. I would not go so far as to to cry corruption about it, but I will go so far as to say that the management and operation may be significantly less than is adequate, and it is at the expense of the catching sector.

The Committee should prepare and circulate a schedule of the cases suggested for research. There may even be such a schedule. If there is, I have never heard of it and I do not know where it is. I have never heard anybody refer to it. The Committee should be giving a lead as to where it would like more research done. I have absolutely no complaints about the work the Committee does. The report produces a very full and adequate description of the work the Committee has done and it is of a universally high quality. The only doubt I have raised from time to time is that the Committee's priorities may be somewhat astray.

Over the next few years Australia will be depending more and more on fishing and, accordingly, on the research that goes with the industry. The Australianisation question is absolutely essential. We have had fishing by the Koreans, the Taiwanese and the Japanese in our waters for many years now. We have a lot of research material. We know what is there and we know how to catch it. I believe that with greater co-ordination between the Australian fishing industry and the visitors to our waters we can achieve a much better result for Australia.

The Fishing Industry Research Committee Account has a very healthy surplus. Accordingly, I urge that a larger program be engaged upon. It is neither desirable nor necessary to continue to build up the total in the account, particularly if we can spend it on Australianisation, promotion, presentation and quality, aquaculture and fishing economics generally. I commend the report and congratulate the people who are giving so much time and effort to seeing that the Committee's work continues. I urge more honourable senators to take more interest in this productive sector of our economy.

Question resolved in the affirmative.