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Thursday, 6 December 1973
Page: 2567

Senator LAWRIE (QUEENSLAND) -The Australian Country Party does not oppose either the Fisheries Bill or the Continental Shelf (Living Natural Resources) Bill, but we will support the amendments proposed to be moved at the Committee stage. These 2 Bills fit in with and partly attach to the Seas and Submerged Lands Bill which the Country Party opposed last week. But since that Bill has become law and probably will be the subject of a High Court challenge as to who has authority over which particular parts of the off-shore seabed, we have to look at these Bills in connection with the Seas and Submerged Lands Bill. One of these Bills is apparently concerned with sedentary life in the sea and the other is concerned with swimming fish. Because we are dealing with two forms of sea life 2 separate Bills have been introduced. As regards the sedentary type of life in the sea, one of the most important species which affects us and affects the foreign fishing boats operating in our waters is the giant clam which is found around many of the islands to the north and east of Queensland. In his second reading speech on the Continental Shelf (Living Natural Resources) Bill the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) made one statement which is not clear and to which I would like to draw his attention. He said: the main purpose of the Continental Shelf (Living Natural Resources) Act 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.

How does the Minister fit in the Great Barrier Reef with the external territories as mentioned in his second reading speech? I think that probably the position might have been expressed differently in the speech. It is not clear and I think that the Minister should clear it up when he replies.

Clause 8 of the Bill provides for the licensing of the boats. I believe that it provides for a joint licensing by the Commonwealth and the States. This will overcome any future difficulties, depending upon a possible High Court ruling on the actual areas of jurisdiction which may be given when the position is challenged, as I understand is sure to be the case. The Minister stated in his second reading speech:

Clause 8 empowers the Minister to close an area to the taking of a specified sedentary organism except by persons or by the use of boats with licences endorsed to permit the taking of that sedentary organism in that area.

He qualifies that by saying:

These provisions will enable effective effort-control programs to be undertaken where necessary, especially in the case of removal of live coral from the Great Barrier Reef, and of the talcing of abalone.

I point out that for a long time the taking of live coral, or any coral, from the Great Barrier Reef or any of the islands is absolutely illegal in Queensland. No doubt, if the court rules that the Commonwealth has control over parts of the Great Barrier Reef, that will be only a complementary power to that which already exists in Queensland. I might mention that the law in regard to the taking of live coral is very rigidly enforced.

Senator Lauckementioned foreign ships and the mandatory provision that ships will be subject to forfeiture. I think that that matter will be raised during the Committee stage. Clause 20 of the Bill contains a retroactive provision which I believe involves a bad principle. I would like the Minister to explain why it is necessary to provide that ships seized at any time prior to the royal assent being given to this Bill are, in effect, to be held to have been seized at the date that it comes into force. Retrospective legislation involves a bad principle in British justice anywhere that it is applied. It seems that we are introducing it here where it should not be necessary.

The other Bill under discussion is the Fisheries Bill 1973. The remarks of the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) in his second reading speech about the value of production from fisheries are very interesting. No doubt, the industry will grow if properly looked after and fostered. We could arrive at the position where the harvest of the sea becomes a very substantial part of our national income. This income is derived mainly from the swimming fish. Also, mention is made of a 200 mile preferential fisheries zone. I understand that some of the South American countries are claiming such a zone now unilaterally. It is not agreed to under the law of the sea conferences. We have heard and seen a lot of publicity in recent months about fishing around Iceland which is claiming, I think, a 50 mile zone for its fishing boats. It is very difficult for any one nation to settle that unilaterally. Really, it can be settled only by conference between the nations on the law of the sea. I hope that some action will be taken to make quite clear what power we have over the area of the continental shelf which is claimed in respect of minerals under the seabed and what power we have over the swimming fish. I understand that the law today states that our control over foreign fishing boats extends only 10 miles from the shore and around each and every island. With those few brief remarks, I repeat that the Country Party is not opposed to these Bills but will support the amendments to be moved in Committee.

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