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Tuesday, 25 June 1996
Page: 2130

Senator MURPHY(4.40 p.m.) —I would like to make a few comments about Auditor-General's report No. 32. I agree with some of the things that have been said with regard to the management of our fisheries. It is fundamentally important to the future of our marine environment that we have in place a comprehensive management strategy. Clearly, we do not have that at this point.    The ANAO has identified many of the areas where there are still significant problems. As senators would probably be aware, it was not that long ago—either 1994 or 1995—that we had a Senate inquiry into fisheries management and the operation of AFMA in general.

I would like to refer to some parts of the report—in particular, section 47 of volume 1 of the report, which appears at page 16, relating to stock assessment. I noted with interest that Senator Baume said that where the fisheries management, AFMA, find they do not have sufficient information, they fall down on the side of the fish. He was criticising that approach. I think that is a very sound policy to have. It should be encouraged even further, because it is important that we do not overfish our fisheries stocks. We have done so on many occasions and we have stuffed up monumentally.  Any of us who are fishermen do not have to look far to understand exactly what we have done to our fisheries stock, particularly in respect of the poor old recreational fishermen. It is of fundamental importance.

The other thing I noted with concern is something that we looked at during the Senate inquiry, that is, having a management strategy. The ANAO, in section 48 of its report, says that only one fishery has developed a five-year strategic plan and full implementation of the process is not comprehensive or consistent. I think that is absolutely true. It is a failure on the part of all of us that we do not have proper strategic plans for what is not only a very important food source for this country but also an industry with export earning potential.

The report talks about fisheries controls. We know the control measures do not work. We know that the by-catch is a major problem—the fact that there cannot be a proper transfer of quotas, et cetera, and that we do see so much waste. Yes, there have been improvements but those improvements are sadly lacking and there is still a long way to go.

Section 58 talks about the achievement of ecologically sustainable development. We are so far from that that it is not funny. We do need to make a concerted effort. In terms of research and funding, I do not mind admitting that when we were in government we probably did not provide sufficient funding. But I can assure you I will be raising the matter with this government. Remembering things that have been said by some senators on the other side, that there is insufficient funding for research—

Senator O'Chee —If you could not succeed with your colleagues, what makes you think you will succeed now?

Senator MURPHY —There is not sufficient funding for research, Senator O'Chee, and you ought to be very interested in this issue, given that your home state, which has a very important prawn fishing industry, is completely knackered. I suggest that you encourage your government colleagues to provide more funding for research so that we can get proper strategies in place for the full, comprehensive and sustainable development of our fishing industry. It is a long way from being where it should be right now.