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Wednesday, 8 May 1985
Page: 1821


Mr GAYLER(11.36) —At the outset of my address I say that it is refreshing to see that the approach to this legislation seems to be on common ground. I refer to the contributions by the Deputy Leader of the National Party, the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) and the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Everingham), who have raised no objections to the legislation as it is presented. We have a very minor amendment, which the Deputy Leader of the National Party has put before the House. The one common thread that can be found in the contributions from both sides of the House is that there is no doubt at all that management of the Australian fisheries is certainly necessary.

The honourable member for the Northern Territory, in his previous role as the Chief Minister of that Territory, for a number of years attempted to have introduced into the Federal Parliament legislation for this type of management. In fact, he said that he came to Canberra to do that in 1982. One will note the year and who was in Government at the time. Nothing has happened since 1982, but we have now before the Parliament comprehensive legislation for the future management of the Australian fisheries. He said that he went to Hobart prior to 1982 and that his words fell on deaf ears at that stage too. It is pleasing that we are as one in relation to this legislation. I believe that it will be in the best interests of the industry in the future.

In joining in the debate on this legislation, one must revert to the original legislation, the Fisheries Act of 1952. When that legislation was introduced the fishing industry was only a fledgling. At that time the total harvest of crayfish, prawns and oysters amounted to a mere $3.75m. If one contrasts that with the industry as it stands today, there is a stark difference. The fishing industry's input into Australia's gross domestic product stands at about $900m annually. The industry employs in excess of 200,000 people. In 1952, when the original legislation was introduced in this place, the industry was certainly not of that stature.

I wish very briefly to add to some of the comments made by other speakers on this legislation. I very much welcome it. It should be well-known by most Australians that the Gulf of Carpentaria, the far north-eastern coast of Australia and the Torres Strait fall within the electorate of Leichhardt.


Mr McVeigh —Good fishing grounds, too.


Mr GAYLER —Good fishing grounds. The fishermen there have as one welcomed the approach of this Government, not only in relation to the Gulf of Carpentaria but also the Torres Strait and the east coast trawl fishery, which extends from Barrenjoey Point to the tip of Cape York Peninsula. In the management of fisheries in the future we must overcome the exploitation of the fisheries which has occurred over a long period. The fishermen now have the difficulty of very little return for their capitalisation in the industry. That has been brought about by a number of factors. I know that there are problems in relation to fuel pricing, but that is not the sole factor affecting the reduced returns of the fishermen. I ask that the people of Australia be told that there are other deep-seated problems. Some of these problems-not all of them-will be overcome with the introduction of this type of legislation. Certainly the problems of overexploitation and over-capitalisation will be overcome.

The Australian fishing industry has too many large vessels. It is interesting to note that this Government and the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Kerin) introduced a boat buy-back scheme. With total consultation with the State governments and the industry, this was a step that was supported and welcomed by the fishing industry. The industry has overcapitalisation and it has a weak export market. One looks with some trepidation at the Bureau of Agricultural Economics indications for the international market for prawns, which of course constitute the major product from the Gulf of Carpentaria, the Torres Strait and far north Queensland. The BAE indicates that the international market for prawns is likely to remain weak for some time. When one takes account of those factors, factors that already exist in the industry because there has been no proper development or implementation of marketing or management programs previously, and when one accepts that those difficulties and flaws in the industry already exist, one sees that this exemplifies more the necessity for the introduction of this type of legislation.

There are, in fact, three major fisheries in far north Queensland and I refer briefly to them. They are the East Coast Trawl Fishery-and I have already indicated to the House the geographical description of that fishery-the Northern Prawn Fishery and the Torres Strait Island Fishery. In conclusion, I can assure the House, other fishermen of Australia and the fishing industry that, from my discussions with a number of members of those fisheries, the fishermen and processors in the far north of Queensland welcome this type of legislation because it will lead to the proper management and development of those fisheries in the future. It is high time that the band-aid treatment of the previous Government for the fishing industry of Australia was cast aside and legislation such as this implemented. I join with members of the fishing industry in my part of Australia in commending the Minister for Primary Industry for introducing such wide-reaching and comprehensive legislation.