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Monday, 29 November 2004
Page: 93

Senator O'BRIEN (6:27 PM) —I have great pleasure in rising for a couple of minutes to address the Fisheries (Validation of Plans of Management) Bill 2004. This bill makes a number of amendments to the Fisheries Management Act 1991 which are designed to ensure that certain decisions made by the Director or Acting Director of the Australian Fisheries Management Authority are not open to legal challenge. This bill makes it clear that decisions taken by the Director of AFMA prior to June 2003 to revoke or amend plans of management are valid and should be taken as having the same effect as if the determinations were made by AFMA itself.

A legal audit of the operations of the Fisheries Management Act last year identified a small risk that it may be possible to challenge decisions made by the Director or Acting Director of AFMA in relation to plans of management. This bill closes off any opportunity to challenge those decisions. While the risk of a successful challenge was always slight, the consequences for the industry of a successful challenge could have been great.

Labor established AFMA back in February 1992 to manage Commonwealth fisheries resources on behalf on the Australian community. These resources are an important community asset and it is important that the community can have confidence in the structures put in place to manage them. I understand that this piece of legislation has the support of the major associations that represent the interests of the fishing industry.

The opposition will not be opposing this legislation. I do not propose to say anything further at this stage. I do not believe there are any amendments for this legislation—we are certainly not aware of any—but in the circumstances we would commend this legislation to the Senate. As I said, we will not be opposing it, and I am hopeful that it can be implemented expeditiously.

Sitting suspended from 6.30 p.m. to 7.30 p.m.

Debate (on motion by Senator McGauran) adjourned.