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Thursday, 13 September 1984
Page: 1211


Mr KERIN (Minister for Primary Industry)(11.16) —I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

The purpose of this Bill is to provide basic authority for imposing a levy on Australian boats to raise revenue to support fisheries management measures and costs of associated research for the effective management of fisheries. Foreign boats already pay levy under the Foreign Fishing Boats Levy Act 1981. Boats licensed by Papua New Guinea to fish in the Torres Strait protected zone are exempt from payment of Australian levies and statutory fees by virtue of Article 26 (2) of the Torres Strait Treaty.

The Budget includes greatly increased allocations to support implementation of new and improved management arrangements for our major off-shore fisheries. While the Government has been moving quickly to address the problems of excess capacity in many of our fisheries and low returns to fishermen, the situation has been reached where we must look to the fishing industry to contribute to the costs of management programs offering long term benefit to the industry.

It is proposed to impose levies on the grant or renewal of prescribed kinds of fisheries licences or on making prescribed kinds of endorsements or entries on licences, as the case may be. These prescribed authorisations will relate to particular managed fisheries in which measures are being implemented for the benefit of that sector of the industry and it is clear that industry should meet all or part of the cost of administering the management program.

Rates of levy will be set by regulation and may be different for different fisheries. Each levy rate and the method of calculating the amount payable in respect of the authorisation for a particular boat will take account of the operational characteristics of the fishery in which it is imposed and the nature of the management program which the levy will be used to fund. The time at which levy becomes payable is when the licence is granted or renewed or an endorsement or entry is made in it. The holder of the licence is the person liable to pay the levy.

This is a straightforward Bill that does no more than establish flexible machinery for subsequently imposing levies. It is not intended that the fishing industry levy should be a means of raising general revenue. Levy will be imposed only to fund specific management programs or associated research activities in particular fisheries, after consultation with the segment of the fishing industry and the State or States concerned.

I now turn to the financial impact of this legislation. I have discussed the proposal to impose levies with my State colleagues in the Australian Fisheries Council and their major concern has been the effect it will have on State revenue. I have assured them that the levy will apply only to fisheries which the Commonwealth has the sole or a major responsibility for managing and will not apply to fisheries for which States are solely responsible.

The percentage of cost recovery in any managed fishery will be determined in the light of the costs and benefits that flow from that management. For example, in a situation such as the proposed buy-back of authorisations to use boats in the northern prawn fishery, it is already apparent that the principal long term beneficiaries will be those licence holders who remain after their colleagues have sold their entitlement to operate in the fishery. Those beneficiaries will over time meet the full cost of the buy-back program. To support the initial phases of the program, the Government has authorised the raising of a loan to be repaid from the levy collected in the northern prawn fishery.

It should be clearly understood that all levy moneys collected will be spent on the fishery management programs and associated research which each levy was imposed to fund. However, a portion of the levy will be applied to cover the overhead costs of my Department in collecting and administering it. The Taxation Office has advised that under existing tax laws, all levy money paid will be fully deductible from income as business expenses for taxation assessment purposes. I commend the Bill to honourable members.

Debate (on motion by Mr McVeigh) adjourned.