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Tuesday, 11 November 2008
Page: 50

Senator BOSWELL (5:29 PM) —I am not going to go into a great deal of detail, as Senator Macdonald has covered the amendment very adequately. I do, however, want to go on the record because this amendment is in both our names. I want to thank him for his efforts in getting this sorted out. In a previous life Senator Macdonald was a solicitor. He has found a way through this and, in consequence, we have been able to put this amendment up. It is a great day for those people who have had a conviction registered against them. People just could not believe that they had been criminally charged over fishing in a green zone when they did not recognise that they were in such a zone. I went through that this morning and I do not intend to go through it again. I am very pleased, however, that there are a lot of people tonight—324 of them, actually—who will not have to confess that they have a criminal conviction when they go to the police, to an insurance company, to get a passport or to take some other action. It will be a great relief to them to be able to go and apply for another job or to do certain other things that require a clean slate. This will, hopefully, go through today and they will have a clean slate.

I can not understand why, after Senator O’Brien went on the record, there is a change in the attitude of the government. I do not intend to go on about this because I want to clear up this issue as soon as possible, but I do want to put on the record again what Senator O’Brien said in the Townsville Bulletin on 19 October:

Shadow fisheries minister Kerry O’Brien said the government was holding fishermen’s votes to ransom and yesterday’s announcement was beyond the pale. ‘Frankly, it is an indictment on the government—

that’s the Howard government—

that they are prepared to play politics about these issues,’ Mr O’Brien said. ‘Those who have been convicted have had these convictions sitting against their names for some time. Why couldn’t the government act before today?’ Mr O’Brien said an elected Labor government was also sympathetic to the overturning of the criminal record of 324 fishermen convicted for defence. ‘This is about correcting the initial mistake and we would take the bipartisan position on that.’ he said.

There seems, on the part of the government, to now be a complete reversal of Senator O’Brien’s commitment. Be that as it may, I would like to go on the record and thank a gentleman called Wayne Bayne, who carried a lot of the responsibility for organising the evidence given to the committee. I also thank Senator Ian Macdonald for finding a way through this legal maze and coming up with an answer that will technically remove criminal convictions.