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Thursday, 6 December 1973
Page: 2566

Senator LAUCKE (South Australia) - Is it the desire of the Senate that the Fisheries Bill and the Continental Shelf (Living Natural Resources) Bill be debated cognately?

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Davidson)- Is leave granted for the Bills to be debated cognately? There being no objection, leave is granted.

Senator LAUCKE - The Liberal Party Opposition is not opposed to the general concept underlying the provisions of these Bills. The Fisheries Bill 1973 amends the Fisheries Act 1952-1970. I wish at this moment to refer particularly to this Act. At the time of introduction of the original Bill the then Minister for Commerce and Agriculture said that the purpose of the Bill was to legislate in respect to swimming fish in Australian waters beyond territorial limits in order that fishing in those waters could be so regulated that existing fisheries resources would be conserved for regular commercial development, and excessive exploitation of our fish resources would be prevented. The need for proper management was evident then. It is of greater importance now. The fishing industry in 1971-72 had a production value of $9 1.8m, but 10 years ago it was only $3 1.7m. The increase in export income has been spectacular. In the 10-year period to last year the increase has been about 400 per cent, from $ 15.2m to $75.7m. A visit to the Port Lincoln processing works in South Australia, where shellfish, tuna, salmon and other varieties are processed, reveals the buoyancy of the growth of the industry. This appears to be the pattern of development in all major fishing areas around the Australian coast. It would be a retrograde stance that did not seek to regulate reasonably and to expand the potential of the fishing industry.

Consequent upon the passage of the Seas and Submerged Lands Bill, one assumes that the Commonwealth will be issuing fishing licences in its own name. One hopes that this will be done in full consultation with the States. The State fisheries departments are experienced and knowledgeable. The Commonwealth is not at this point of time, as I see it, equipped with the people or the experience to issue licences because it does not have the same degree of background knowledge that the State officers have. I stress that there must be very close co-operation with the States. If the sovereignty provision of the Seas and Submerged Lands Act is successfully challenged, the States would issue fishing licences in their immediate jurisdiction, to the 3-mile limit, and would issue composite licences beyond that limit. But I wish to stress particularly the need for consultation to arrive at a workable arrangement which has direct bearing on an industry highly important to Australia these days.

I wish to foreshadow amendments to clauses 1 1 and 12 of the Fisheries Bill, which will have the effect of removing the arbitrary condition of forfeiture and provide that the ordering of forfeiture be made a matter for the courts. On the world scene as regards the forfeiture of vessels which are in breach of fishing laws, in Japan the penalty imposed is a fine of 200,000 yen, or $A494, or 3 years imprisonment or both. The court may also order the forfeiture of any or all vessels or all their catch and fishing equipment. The court also may order monetary payment in lieu of such forfeiture. In the United States of America the penalty imposed is a fine of US$100,000, which is $A67,340, or 1 year's imprisonment or both. The courts may order forfeiture of the vessel and fishing equipment, but forfeiture of the catch is mandatory. In the United Kingdom the penalty imposed for breach of the requirements in respect of proper conservation of fishery resources is a fine of 500 pounds, or $A820, as well as the court's having a discretion to order forfeiture of the catch and fishing equipment. In the Bahamas the penalty is a fine of up to $ 10,000 or 1 year's imprisonment, plus forfeiture of vessel, catch and fishing equipment at the discretion of the court. In addition, I understand that some South American countries -for example, Peru, Chile and Ecuador- do not allow foreign vessels to come within 200 miles of their coast. We can see that in these countries there is actually not the rigidity of the requirement in relation to the forefeiture of foreign vessels that we find in clause 12 of the Bill in relation to vessels which come within the jurisdiction of Australia. Clause 12 provides for the insertion of, amongst other new sections, the following proposed new section 1 3d ( 1 ):

A foreign boat used or otherwise involved in the commission of an offence under this Act is forfeited to Australia.

We suggest that this proposed new section be amended to read:

A foreign boat used or otherwise involved in the commission of an offence under this Act, if the court so orders, is forfeited to Australia.

I shall be moving that amendment at the appropriate time. I would like to have information from the Minister as to the proposed working of these mandatory provisions so that some light may be thrown on that which at this moment is not very clear in the second reading speech. I would also like to have explained the retroactive provision in clause 20 of the Fisheries Bill, which states:

(   1 ) Section 13d of the principal Act as amended by this Act applies in relation to an offence committed before the date of commencement of that section where the boat concerned was, immediately before that date, in the possession, or under the control, of Australia, a court, an officer or a person complying with the requirement of an officer under paragraph (e) of section 10 of the principal Act and so applies as if the offence has been committed on that date.

(2)   For the purposes of section 13d, a boat forfeited under that section by virtue of this section shall be deemed to have been seized under that section on the date of commencement of that section.

That is quite definitely a retrospective provision, and I would appreciate the Minister's explanation on this aspect of the legislation. The Continental Shelf (Living Natural Resources) Bill is on very similar lines to the Fisheries Bill. The purpose of the Continental Shelf (Living Natural Resources) Bill is to amend certain of the machinery provisions of the Continental Shelf (Living Natural Resources) Act. In this second reading speech the Minister says that this is to ensure more effective administration of the legislation and, in conjunction with amendments proposed to the Fisheries Bill, to bring the principles embodied in the 2 Acts into uniformity. That is very desirable. The Minister states further that the purpose of this measure is to enable the fullest possible protection to be given to the living resources of the continental shelf of Australia and the external territories, including the Great Barrier Reef. The Minister also says in his second reading speech that such control is in accordance with international law as expressed in the 1958

Convention on the Continental Shelf. The Continental Shelf (Living Natural Resources) Bill contains a provision concerning the forfeiture of foreign boats similar to that which appears in the Fisheries Bill. I shall look at this matter more closely at the Committee stage with a view to bringing into line both the provision in the Fisheries Act and that contained in the Continental Shelf (Living Natural Resources) Bill in relation to the rigidity and the mandatory nature of the terms of forfeiture. I feel that I have nothing further to say on this point as it is related to those Bills, and I shall leave the detailed discussion to the Committee stage.

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