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Thursday, 29 March 1984
Page: 910

Senator JONES(5.28) —I, like Senator Archer, would like to make a few remarks in relation to the report on the operation of the Fishing Industry Act 1956. The report deals with grants given to the fishing industry for research. Whilst one could deal with a number of items in the report, it is my intention to deal with the reference to the prawning industry in the Gulf of Carpentaria. The sixth item on the list of projects supported by the Fisheries Development Trust Account in 1982-83 refers to the exploratory prawn trawling in the Gulf of Carpentaria. The report indicates that a grant of $54,000 was approved in 1981-82. There was a further payment from the account in 1982-83 of $50,000 which completed the project.

I think it is worth while mentioning at this time that although money was paid to the industry by the Federal Government for research concerning exploratory prawn trawling in the Gulf of Carpentaria, Northern Fishing Companies Association, which carried out that research by using six of its trawlers, would have paid somewhere in the vicinity of $420,000 into the cost of that research. One has to take into consideration the fact that the trawlers used for research at that time were not returning to their bases with catches. If running costs were taken into account, plus the time spent by the trawlers and their crew, that company would have spent $420,000-odd to complete its research into prawning in the Gulf of Carpentaria. I believe the money that is being expended by the industry and the Government in relation to research will help the prawning industry in the Gulf of Carpentaria to exploit the resources that are available to it. In the future the industry will be able to plan for further fishing and prawning within the Gulf of Carpentaria.

It is worth while mentioning that the northern prawn fisheries deserve some congratulations for the courage and tenacity which they have shown in establishing a viable industry in a true frontier area of Australia. It is also reasonable to note that this industry has been established despite the problems it has faced in relation to the weather and not knowing what resource was available to it prior to the research being undertaken and completed. The prawn trawlers use Karumba as their base. Until now the prawns were processed there. There are some problems in the area, particularly the water supply. It concerns the amount of water used by residents in the area and the amount of water needed by the prawn processing plant in that area.

Senator Robert Ray —What about the jellyfish?

Senator JONES —I do not know whether there are any jellyfish in that area. It is interesting to note that Normanton, a town not far from Karumba, was paid money by the Federal Government in order to establish a water supply. Although $1.7m has been spent in the Normanton area there has been no allocation of money to Karumba. This is not the responsibility of the Federal Government. But it is certainly the responsibility of the State Government to supply some money for the establishment of a water supply to the Karumba area. This would allow the trade that has been undertaken by the prawn trawlers in the area to increase. It would increase the number of people living in the area. They could have a water supply which could be used by the prawn processing plant that was established in the area. Because of neglect in this area, we are putting in jeopardy a fishing industry which would earn in the vicinity of $35m a year. I think that some request should be made to the State Government to supply some of the money at least, or a major portion of the money, to provide a decent water supply in the Karumba area.

Question resolved in the affirmative.