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Wednesday, 18 March 1987
Page: 1076

Mr KERIN (Minister for Primary Industry)(6.30) —I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

This Bill makes amendments of an essentially administrative and procedural nature to the Continental Shelf (Living Natural Resources) Act 1984, the Fisheries Act 1952 and the Torres Strait Fisheries Act 1984. I can inform the House that there will be further amendments to the Fisheries Act later this year to give effect in Australian law to the multilateral treaty between the United States and the Pacific Island countries that are members of the Forum Fisheries Agency with respect to the operation of United States tuna boats in the exclusive fishing zones of those countries. It is expected that the treaty will be signed on 31 March next and come into force later in the year.

The Australian fishing industry is undergoing a period of profound change and it pleases me to say that this Government has in considerable measure been keeping in step with those changes. The Government approaches management of our fisheries on a co-operative basis with the fishing industry. We have established the Fishing Industry Policy Council of Australia to provide a forum for government and industry to discuss issues of mutual interest. In the long established framework of the Australian Fisheries Council, we have strengthened the institutional framework for consulting with the relevant industry sectors about the management of our major fisheries such as northern prawns, tuna, south east trawl, southern shark and North West Shelf crustaceans. Statutory management plans are already in place with the full co-operation of industry in the two first mentioned of those fisheries. We are working towards having management plans in place for the others in the near future.

The Government has taken steps to give effect to the fisheries element of the offshore constitutional settlement set up by our predecessors. I give full credit to the previous Government for creating the statutory basis on which the Commonwealth and the States can enter into formal legal arrangements whereby a fishery is managed under a single law, be it Commonwealth or State, from the coast to the outer limit of our fisheries jurisdiction.

The preparations for giving effect to the settlement in the fisheries context have been lengthy but I can inform the House that arrangements with Queensland in the Torres Strait protected zone have been in place now for more than two years and a further four arrangements have been in place elsewhere in Australia since June 1986. As well, I have recently executed another 17 arrangements for the Commonwealth and sent them to the States for approval prior to seeking the approval of the Governor-General for them. In the near future, I will be bringing in a Bill to re-structure the Commonwealth's involvement in fisheries research and development. This will follow lines essentially similar to those in the Rural Industries Research Act, taking account of the unique institutional factors that make a separate Fisheries Research and Development Act necessary.

In 1985-86, the gross value of fisheries production, at $592m, ranked sixth among all Australia's rural industries, one place better than in 1984-85. In 1984-85, production was estimated at 148,900 tonnes, valued at $523.5m. Exports of fishery products have increased from $230m in 1980-81 to an estimated $481m in 1985-86 and have significantly exceeded the value of imports each year during that period. There are more than 9,000 boats in the Australian commercial fishing fleet with an annual consumption of about 240 million litres of diesel fuel. Estimated annual domestic per capita consumption has risen from 15 kilograms in 1979-80 to 17.3 kilograms in 1983-84, measured on the basis of live weight equivalent. These figures give a general picture of a vigorous fishing industry which is making a very important contribution to the domestic economy and food supplies as well as to foreign exchange earnings.

Against this fairly active domestic background, the provisions of the Bill reflect a wide range of recent administrative experience accumulated by the Australian Fisheries Service and the State fisheries authorities that undertake the day-to-day administration of the Acts that the Bill amends. The Bill brings the three principal Acts that it amends into line insofar as their administrative provisions are concerned. The Bill shifts the emphasis of the provisions authorising the Minister to make notices for the regulation of the fisheries, away from the notices to the prohibitions in them. This will facilitate the preparation of notices containing several prohibitions each requiring separate endorsements of licences. The Bill strengthens the powers of officers so that they may be better equipped to enforce the three Acts. It does so in accordance with those principles of Commonwealth legal policy that have regard to civil liberties and individuals' rights, taking account of the special circumstances in which the principal Acts are enforced.

The difficulties of detecting fisheries offences at sea, far from the nearest land and a magistrate who can issue warrants with reasonable facility, make it necessary to provide fisheries enforcement officers with powers that in other circumstances might seem excessive. The Bill provides powers in this regard that the Government considers to be an acceptable balance between the need for effective enforcement and the protection of civil liberties. The Attorney-General's Department has advised that the Bill conforms with Commonwealth criminal law legal policy. The Bill provides a basis for ascertaining the state of mind of a director or other agent of a body corporate where it is necessary to do so in legal proceedings for offences for which the Acts provide a penalty for a body corporate.

The explanatory memorandum that I have circulated summarises the clauses of the Bill, thus making it unnecessary for me to take the time of the House in a detailed explanation of them. The Bill is of an essentially machinery nature for the better administration of the laws affecting Australia's fisheries and has no financial implications. I commend it to the House and in so doing present the explanatory memorandum to the Bill.

Debate (on motion by Mr Cadman) adjourned.