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Tuesday, 11 November 2008
Page: 5

Senator XENOPHON (1:09 PM) —In relation to the proposed amendment that Senator Boswell has spoken of regarding spent convictions, I can indicate my support for it for these reasons: following discussions with the minister’s office—which I found very useful—and, of course, with the opposition and from representations I received, it seemed that there clearly was an intent to change the law on 14 December 2006. It was an acknowledgement that the earlier law allowing for convictions had, in a sense, gone too far; that there was a concern that individuals were left with the stain of a criminal conviction and that it was causing significant distress to many of those who had received a conviction. There was a debate as to what the appropriate level was—whether it should be $2,000, $5,000 or $10,000. It seems that a limit of $5,000 would deal effectively with recreational fishers by and large, but anything beyond that would be going more into the realm of the commercial fisher. It is not, though, a perfect solution. There was an alternative suggestion that there should be a pardon by the government in relation to these convictions. That, to me, seems to be an extreme solution for the problem. There was a discussion about retrospective expunging of the convictions. That does not seem to be appropriate. The convictions will be spent in any event under legislation, but what is being proposed here allows for an acceleration of the time frame for the convictions to be spent. Given the legislative change on 14 December 2006, given indeed what the then opposition said in the lead-up to the last election about this whole issue, I think this is an appropriate way forward.

In relation to the other amendment on the composition of the board, I agree with Senator Siewert that it is appropriate that there be an Indigenous representative. That is entirely appropriate, and it is important. In relation to the amendment moved by Senator Macdonald, I have one significant reservation with it. I do not have a problem with there being a representative of the tourism industry; because I think the tourism industry knows that for it to thrive in that area it needs to have an environmentally sustainable, very viable, marine park. I think they have a vested interest in facilitating all that can be done to ensure that outcome. I do take issue with the reference to ‘or another industry’. That would give the minister the discretion to appoint someone from, for instance, the fishing industry, and I think there could well be a real conflict of interest there. If it were to be limited to the tourism industry, I would be amenable to that amendment. I note that this is still an appointment to be made with the authority of the minister, and so there is still significant ministerial discretion. I just do not feel comfortable with that discretion being extended to an industry other than the tourism industry because I can see a potential conflict of interest if the fishing industry were to be invited onto the board.