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Monday, 16 September 1985
Page: 579


Senator GIETZELT (Minister for Veterans' Affairs)(5.44) —I move:

That the Bills be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speeches incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speeches read as follows-

FOREIGN FISHING BOATS LEVY AMENDMENT BILL 1985

This Bill amends the Foreign Fishing Boat Levy Act 1981, which imposes a levy in the grant of licences to foreign fishing boats not exempted under the Act. At present the classes of exempted vessels include those licenced under an agreement with a foreign government and those temporarily imported for use by and under the control of Australians and deemed to be an Australian vessel in accordance with Section 4 (2) of the Fisheries Act 1952. The only fishing agreements Australia has with a foreign government are with Japan and the Republic of Korea. All other foreign vessels licenced to operate in the Australian fishing zone are liable to pay levy unless there is a formal agreement requiring the foreign operators to provide other benefits to Australia, in consideration of which the Minister may waive the levy.

In recent years, it has been necessary to conclude agreements with Australian principals covering the processor/carrier vessels used by the southern bluefin tuna fisherman last season to facilitate the processing and transport of sashimi quality tuna to the Japanese market. These vessels generate significant benefits for Australia and the purpose of the agreements is to provide a basis for waiving the levy in such cases. However, the conclusion of a formal agreement required under the Fisheries Act 1952 to achieve this is complex and time consuming. The proposed amendment to Section 4 of the Principal Act will simplify the Adminstrative processes necessary for exempting those foreign vessels, whether temporarily imported or not, which are operated by or on behalf of, or in accordance with the instructions of Australians and confer benefits on Australia.

The amendments proposed in clauses 5 and 6 relate to the payment of fees for access by foreign interests other than a foreign Government to the Australian fishing zone. Foreign fishing vessels may be licensed to fish in the Australian fishing zone under agreements. Agreements may specify the total access fee to be paid to Australia. To secure the payment of the lump sum access fee under the Principal Act in its present form, a levy is prescribed, calculated by dividing the total access fee by the agreed number of boats to be licensed.

If fewer than the agreed number of boats apply for a licence, a portion of the access fee, although paid previously as part of the total lump sum payment of the fee, remains unauthorised under the present legislation. This produces a loophole which is open to legal challenge.

The Bill closes this loophole by providing proper statutory authority for collecting the full amount of lump sum payments specified in any agreement irrespective of the number of licenses issued. Other amendments are of a machinery nature.

The Bill has no direct financial implications.

I commend the Bill to honourable senators.

FISHERIES AGREEMENTS (PAYMENTS) AMENDMENT BILL 1985

This Bill amends the Fisheries Agreements (Payments) Act 1981 in parallel with the amendments proposed by Clauses 5 and 6 of the Foreign Fishing Boats Levy Amendment Bill.

The Fisheries Agreements (Payments) Act 1981 authorises the refusal of licences for foreign boats unless amounts specified in agreements between Australia and a foreign government with respect to operations of those boats in the Australian fishing zone have been paid to Australia.

The amendment proposed by clause 4 of the Bill will extend the power to refuse licences to cover fisheries agreements between Australia and one or more parties who are not foreign governments.

The Bill requires the Minister to have regard only to the terms of such an agreement when deciding whether or not to license foreign boats under the agreement. It also prevents the issue of any such licences unless the amount has been paid to Australia in the manner specified in the agreement.

The Bill has no direct financial implications.

I commend the Bill to honourable senators.

Debate (on motion by Senator Reid) adjourned.