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Tuesday, 17 September 1974
Page: 1112

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - Is the Minister for Agriculture aware that Australian primary producer organisations, particularly those in Western Australia, are gravely concerned at the continued presence of foreign fishing vessels in Australian waters off the north-west coast?

Senator Murphy - You whinged last time when we did something about them.

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN -Do you want me to reply to your answer a while ago? Is the Minister for Agriculture aware that these organisations fear that foot and mouth disease, which is prevalent in nearby Bali, will reach Australia as a direct result of the Government's failure to exercise tight control over the fishing fleets? Will the Minister inform the Senate of the action which the Government has taken in these matters and the assistance and advice, if any, which have been offered to the Western Australian Government to alleviate the problem?

Senator WRIEDT (TASMANIA) (Minister for Agriculture) -During the last couple of years both Indonesian and Taiwanese vessels have been operating within the declared fishing zone off the Western Australian coast. This has been a matter of concern to fishermen in that State. I was in Western Australia last year on the last occasion when this was a matter of some local concern. The Australian Government, with the co-operation of the Department of Defence especially, took all reasonable steps within its legal limits to apprehend vessels which had in fact breached the declared fishing zone. When I arrived in Perth I found to my astonishment that the Australian Government was the subject of criticism for taking the action which it had. I must confess that I was at a complete loss. I thought that the Western Australia authoritiescertainly the Western Australia fishing interestswould have been glad because of our actions. In fact I saw a report in the Press only yesterday about a statement by fishermen in Western Australia indicating their concern at the continuing presence of the vessels in these areas.

What have we done? As the honourable senator would know, the Australian Government has in fact confiscated 4 Taiwanese vessels which have subsequently been resold.

Senator Drake-Brockman - Big time!

Senator WRIEDT - That is a rather irrelevent comment to make, because our defence forces and reconnaissance people in this area, in the exercise of their duty, are not expected to use overt force. We try, with the co-operation of the Indonesian Government especially, to persuade governments to direct their fishermen to keep outside our declared fishing zone. That is the sensible way to do it. I hope that this Government, or any future government, will not use any sort of gun-boat philosophy against foreign fishermen who do in fact intrude into our declared fishing zone.

The other pan of the honourable senator's question referred to the importation of exotic diseases. It is true that a risk would occur if animals were being brought ashore, as some reports have suggested. As far as I and my Department know, there is no evidence of this, and I am quite sure that all the surveillance authorities will make every effort to ensure that it does not happen.

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