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Wednesday, 11 August 2004
Page: 26087

Senator IAN CAMPBELL (Minister for the Environment and Heritage) (9:32 AM) —I table the explanatory memorandum relating to the bill and move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted

The speech read as follows—


The Fisheries (Validation of Plans of Management) Bill 2004 (the Bill) provides certainty about the validity of certain plans of management determined, amended and/or revoked under the Fisheries Management Act 1991. It also provides certainty about things done under or for the purposes of those plans.

The Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) manages Commonwealth fisheries under the Fisheries Management Act 1991 and the Fisheries Administration Act 1991. Under Division 2 of Fisheries Management Act 1991, plans of management can be created for Commonwealth fisheries to establish the arrangements under which the resources are to be sustainably managed.

A plan of management may determine a range of matters for a fishery including the area, fishing method and gear, the fishing capacity and target species. It may also specify how AFMA will adjust catch levels when there are changes in the size and structure of the stock, economic and social conditions in a fishery or other events that may impact upon the biological sustainability of the stock or associated and dependent stocks.

A plan of management may also provide for the management of the fishery by means of a system of statutory fishing rights (SFRs) and other fishing concessions, and may formulate procedures to be followed for selecting persons to whom fishing concessions are to be granted. It is put in place following extensive consultation and review processes.

Plans of management are an essential tool for the effective management of Commonwealth fisheries and have been put in operation for a number of years in some of the significant Commonwealth fisheries. As such, it is important to ensure that nothing can call into question the regime of access to resources under these plans and things done under or for the purposes of those plans.

In this respect, a legal audit was undertaken last year which identified that there is a potential argument that there may have been an inconsistency in the process by which plans of management were determined, amended or revoked before July 2003 by the Managing Director or by the Acting Managing Director of AFMA.

There is a small, residual legal risk that this potential inconsistency may encourage some fishers to challenge the validity of these plans, even though the plans of management were formulated correctly, with due regard to the proper consultation and review processes.

The Australian Government is of the view that all current plans of management are valid. However, it is important for industry that these plans are placed beyond risk and are certain. The consequences of a successful challenge could be significant. It would undermine many of the existing arrangements and rules underpinning the management of Commonwealth fisheries. This would create uncertainty and instability within the industry.

The Australian Government is of the firm belief that the plans of management will withstand any challenge wants to ensure there is no scope for uncertainty about the status of the plans of management.

The provisions of this Bill address this small legal risk and put beyond all doubt the validity of existing plans of management determined, amended and/or revoked under the Fisheries Management Act 1991 and things done under or for the purposes of those plans. The Bill will have no affect on fishing operators, other than to ensure that the current management arrangements relating to their fisheries are certain.

Ordered that further consideration of the second reading of this bill be adjourned to the first day of the next period of sittings, in accordance with standing order 111.