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Wednesday, 2 May 1984
Page: 1466

Senator ARCHER(11.15) —I will continue from where we were at stumps last night. I repeat that the Opposition does not oppose the legislation but it is disappointed that it does not go further than in currently does. I am reminded by a colleague that this is another demonstration that we are not obstructing the program of the Government. I also commend the Government for setting up the interim fishing industry consultative panel which already has gone quite a long way to enabling those in the various facets of the industry to discuss the future and to see what is to happen. I look forward to getting quite a lot of progress from this committee. I understand that it is shortly to meet, probably for the last time, and that as a result it will be making re- commendations. I believe the appropriate course of events was outlined in the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Trade and Commerce: There should be a national conference which should go a long way to establishing national policy.

The main difficulty faced by the industry in the last ten years has been that it has not had a sufficiently strong organisation of its own. At one stage it looked as though the Australian Fishing Industry Council would be able to fulfil this function, but regrettably it has not turned out that way and has got weaker and weaker. It is absolutely essential that the fishing industry be adequately represented, and regrettably it would appear that the only way in which this can be achieved is by the formation of a statutory authority with certain power to raise money from the industry to spend on administering the interests of the industry as a whole. Of course, there needs to be greater industry participation . In the past those who have been involved with and those who have invested in fish have been held at arm's length while a group referring to itself as the industry managers took over. I think it is quite wrong that they should be referred to as the industry managers and I object to that, as do the fishermen.

The fishermen are very competent people. They are big business men. They are not small business men. Of late there has been a lot more discussion between the fishermen and the scientists. This is encouraging, and more understanding is starting to develop than there has ever been in the past. It is absolutely essential that we remove this 'us and them' situation that has always obtained between the administration and the fishermen. I do not believe the fishermen should have or would want a dominant position on any authority, but it is certainly essential that they should be represented and should have a direct voice where the decisions are made. The problems that still befall the industry can be largely settled if we can instigate proper discussions at Federal, State and industry levels. I do not think it is reasonable to try to settle the difficulties one at a time. The whole thing needs to be opened up and the whole discussion dealt with at once. There are questions of boundaries, of crossovers of licences, of changes of vessels and of changes of restrictions. All these things need to be dealt with at once, because I do not think it is possible to deal with them one at a time and achieve any sort of conclusion.

At present there is a variety of difficulties. Even in the Tasmanian waters that I know reasonably well there are major difficulties in the scallop industry , in the trawl industry and in the shark fishing industry. Beyond that, we have only to think of the southern blue fin tuna industry and Investigator Strait prawn fishery, of the difficulties at Shark Bay, in the Gulf of Carpentaria, with the New South Wales trawl fleet and with the Queensland boat population. I do not think enough consideration has been given to the enormous effect of amateur fishermen on the resource and the effect on national statistics of the total loss of statistics from amateur fishermen. Without due recourse to statistics on how many fish are taken and where they are fished, it is very difficult for future planning to be done adequately.

Relationships all round have to be improved. There has to be greater level of understanding and a greater appreciation of the part that fishing plays in the overall economy of the country. I believe the industry by and large and certainly the Parliament would welcome a ministerial statement as soon as possible on the position of the fishing industry and plans for its future. In the meantime we are not opposing the Bill. We see it very much as a stop-gap arrangement mainly to assist the convenience of the Government and its officers. We look forward to a Bill of considerable substance in the very near future.