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Tuesday, 11 December 1973
Page: 2656

Senator WRIGHT (Tasmania) - I wish to address the attention of the Minister for Primary Industry to proposed new section 13d which states:

Any boat or other property ordered by a court to be forfeited under this Act becomes the property of Australia and shall be dealt with or disposed of in accordance with the directions of the Secretary.

I should like to know whether we have established any practice following on forfeiture whereby the Crown waives the forfeiture upon the payment of expenses to which it has been put on prosecution or payment of fines that the defendant has been ordered to pay. It is my understanding of fishery practice in some States- when I last knew of it, in Tasmania- that a fishing vessel forfeited was invariably released to the owner provided the owner paid fines and expenses. I should like to know whether we have any practice in the Commonwealth in that respect. If not, will the Minister consider the matter with a view to establishing that son of practice? I take the view that the forfeiture of a boat for any offence, even the most deliberate, is a most rigorous penalty. If the court took the view that upon conviction there should be a severe penalty there would be nothing to prevent it, I take it, from ordering a payment of $10,000 provided that a vessel of $250,000 in value were released to the owner.

The other point about which I should like information is that part of proposed new section 1 3d which states:

.   . shall be dealt with or disposed of in accordance with the directions of the Secretary.

It seems to me that to give that power to a secretary of a department is not quite the appropriate thing. The secretary is the head of the department and administers the department but it is not for him in his judgment, I suggest, to waive a forfeiture or to direct how the vessel should be disposed of. I have heard of cases recently in which a forfeited vessel has been directed to be used in some part of the Commonwealth navigation services. I would not regard that as an appropriate authority for the secretary. I should be pleased if I could have the Minister's views upon those matters.

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