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Thursday, 16 May 1968


Mr FULTON (Leichhardt) -1 would like to support the remarks of the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) about the fishing industry in the northern waters of Australia. I agree wholeheartedly with him that the Gulf of Carpentaria should be declared Australian waters. To do so would not be anything new as other countries have taken similar action regarding great gulfs and bays. I read recently a newspaper report about a foreign fishing vessel being apprehended in the Gulf of Mexico. The vessel and its operators were fined $22,250. Recently this

Government increased the extent of Australian territorial waters so far as fishing rights are concerned from 3 miles to 12 miles. However, as the 3-mile limit was not policed how are we going to police th: 12-mile limit? It is not worth while passing legislation if we do not enforce it. There is today in the Gulf of Carpentaria a fishing industry worth between $50m and S80m. It was rightly said by the honourable member for Dawson that during the last fishing season there were over 100 foreign fishing vessels operating in the Gulf of Carpentaria and along the east coast of Queensland. Perhaps this Government will wake up when the foreign operators come down near Brisbane and then to Sydney and Melbourne.

There is also a very serious problem arising because the men on these fishing vessels come ashore and wander inland. I have known them to speak to miners and to Aboriginals. They also collect wood and water. It is a serious matter when these people wander about the Australian mainland. We speak about the money we spend on the defence of Australia yet we cannot even keep fishermen off our shores. Overseas fishermen do wander around and they can present a very serious disease problem. All honourable members read of what happened in England when foot and mouth disease broke out. We were amazed at the consequences. Well, whether honourable members believe it or not Queensland and the Northern Territory are still part of Australia and if disease is carried into those areas it will spread throughout the Continent.

I want to refer to the arrangements made between the Japanese and Australian fishing companies to operate in conjunction. I do not know what the arrangements are but at the present time these companies are using Japanese vessels and crews. Have these Japanese interests put an amount of money into the organisations? lt was said that eventually, over a period of 3 to 5 years, the Japanese crews would be replaced by local people in the area. Such a scheme was suggested once before, as honourable members may remember, when the cultured pearl industry was started in the north of Australia. Technicians from other countries were allowed to come here on the understanding that they would teach the indigenous people how to cultivate pearls. They have never taught anyone; nor will they. So, unless the agreement for the Japanese-Australian fishing operations is policed it is foolish to allow them to continue. The position is exactly the same with other laws that we pass in this Parliament. If they are not policed then we are just wasting our time.

I have said before in this House andI say again that we will have to introduce a coastguard service. If policing our northern waters is not the responsibility of the Royal Australian Navy, the Army or the Royal Australian Air Force then we will have to do what other countries have done; that is, institute a coast guard. Such a service is very necessary not only to police our laws but also from the point of view of health and customs regulations. There is no way in which a coastal service would not pay for itself. Not only would it protect Australian fishermen and Australian fishing interests but it could also safeguard the Great Barrier Reef. This is one of the wonders of the world. There is nothing similar elsewhere. It must be protected. We are the closest nation to it and we should accept responsibility for it. I am not sure, because the Attorney-General (Mr Bowen) has not indicated, whether we have the right to protect it. I do not know whether Australia owns the Reef. However, this does not matter particularly, but action must be taken before it is destroyed. I have tried on other occasions to tell honourable members what has been going on but no action whatever has been taken to stop people from despoiling the Reef or from intruding on to the mainland of Australia. I leave it at that.

I refer now to the Herberton Ore Producers and Prospectors Association. I had the opportunity to attend a meeting of the Association in Irvinebank during the week before last. The people in this area live hard, believe me. They deserve assistance and encouragement. They work as individuals, but there are a lot of them. They do not employ other persons. The Australian Tin Producers Association has approached the Government requesting that the pay-roll tax rebate scheme be not disallowed after 30th June. These people are not against that proposal, but it does not help the small miner. Costs for crushing ore have risen whereas the world market price for tin isdown. It is essential that we keep these miners and their families in the area. We do not want centralisation. We want the country to be developed and individual persons can help. The Government can assist them in many ways. For instance the taxation zone allowance has not been increased since it was first introduced. Why cannot we increase it to encourage people to remain in remote areas?

I have been asked to request the Federal Government to give serious consideration to subsidising the Australian tin price, such subsidy to bring the ruling price of tin concentrates to $30 a unit, and when the quoted price exceeds $30 a unit no subsidy should be paid. Such a subsidy could be reviewed periodically as cost structures alter. This would not involve a big sum, but it would give these people some incentive to stay in this area and to produce the valuable minerals that abound in Cape York Peninsula. Many minerals have yet to be discovered and some are not being exploited because at present they have not sufficient commercial value, but they will become valuable in time. The provision of a subsidy would be an incentive to these people and to those producers who employ labour. If the pay-roll tax rebate scheme continues after 30th June it will enable the production of more ore and perhaps encourage the producers to look for probable markets overseas. The Government should give these people every consideration and it should police the laws that are passed in this House.







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