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Thursday, 25 November 1971
Page: 3642

Mr CALDER (NORTHERN TERRITORY) - Has the Minister for the Navy heard reports of an unidentified fishing vessel being sighted off the Wessel Islands which are north east of Arnhem Land? Is there a naval patrol boat in the vicinity? Does he consider that we have adequate surveillance across the northern waters? In view of the fact that Cape Wessel is over 400 miles steaming from Darwin and 200 miles from Groote Eylandt, would the Navy consider stationing a patrol boat in Melville Bay on Gove Peninsula?

Dr MACKAY - During the last few days there have been at least 2 instances of fishing intrusion from overseas vessels in our northern waters. One has been reported in the Press this morning. A Taiwanese vessel, the 'Kuang Nam', 1 think the name was, was apprehended by HMAS 'Barricade* inside the Great Barrier Reef north of Cairns. That ship is being escorted into Cairns at the moment. There is a fisheries department representative as well as naval crew aboard the ship, and it is expected to arrive in Cairns at about midnight tonight. There was a report concerning the case which the honourable member mentioned off the northern part of Arnhem Land. Incidentally all these reports have been received from commercial shipping and directed to our attention. An Australian fishing vessel by the name of Coburg' reported a Taiwanese vessel named 'Hai Chin' in the locality which the honourable member mentioned, near Cape Wessel. The Air Force went looking for the vessel. Several sorties were flown without discovering it. HMAS 'Attack' is in the area and is also looking for the vessel, but so far no contact has been made.

As regards the adequacy of surveillance, it is true that the whole question of surveillance for fishery purposes is currently being carried out on a limited basis by the Navy's patrol boats. There are large areas that are not under adequate surveillance if wc are to prevent all incursions of the kind mentioned. Of course, that is one of the reasons why at the present time the Navy is thinking about a different type of ship with long range and helicopters to enable greater surveillance to take place.

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