Bills Digest No. 195  1997-98 Fisheries Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 1998


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WARNING:
This Digest was prepared for debate. It reflects the legislation as introduced and does not canvass subsequent amendments. This Digest does not have any official legal status. Other sources should be consulted to determine the subsequent official status of the Bill.

CONTENTS

Passage History
Purpose
Background
Main Provisions
Endnotes
Contact Officer and Copyright Details

Passage History

Fisheries Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 1998

Date Introduced: 8 April 1998

House: Senate

Portfolio: Resources and Energy

Commencement: The Schedule prohibiting the commercial taking of marlin commences 28 days after Royal Assent. The amendments setting the final levy and export charge periods are taken to have commenced on 1 July 1997 and the repeals of the prawn promotion scheme legislation commence 3 years after Royal Assent.

Purpose

The purpose of this legislation is twofold. It repeals the 1995 legislative package that implements a scheme to promote Australian sea-caught prawns (the Prawn Boat Levy Act 1995, the Prawn Export Charge Act 1995 and the Prawn Export Promotion Act 1995). It also amends the Fisheries Management Act 1991 to prohibit the commercial taking of black marlin and blue marlin in the Australian fishing zone (AFZ).

Background

Marlin protection provisions

Blue and black marlin have little value to commercial fishers as there is no domestic or export market for them. They are, however, of interest to game fishing groups and attract overseas tourists who are interested in fishing them. Data presented to a House of Representatives inquiry into Commonwealth fisheries showed that the number of black and blue marlin caught and tagged had declined massively in recent years.(1)

Since 1988 a voluntary ban on catching these fish by commercial fishing operators has been in place, but there is some evidence that a small number of operators have ignored the ban. The House of Representative committee recommended that a mandatory ban be imposed to prevent further depletion of stocks.(2) Such a ban is also in line with the Government's 1996 election commitment to impose a mandatory ban if the voluntary ban was ineffective.

Prawn promotion scheme

In 1995 the previous Government introduced the Prawn Boat Levy Act 1995, the Prawn Export Charge Act 1995 and the Prawn Export Promotion Act 1995. This package of legislation imposed a compulsory levy on commercial prawn boats, an export charge on sea-caught prawns and provided for the collection, management and expenditure of these funds. The funds collected were for use by the Australian Prawn Promotion Association (APPA) to fund the promotion of sea-caught prawns and the Australian prawn industry on world markets.

The current boat levy for a full levy period is $50 for a ship less than 10 metres long; $100 for a ship that is at least 10 metres but less than 15 metres long; $200 for a ship that is at least 15 metres but less than 18 metres long; $400 for a ship that is at least 18 metres but less than 20 metres long; and $600 for a ship that is at least 20 metres long. The export charge for prawns exported on or before 31 December 1997 was $0.02 a kilogram net weight of exports of sea-caught prawns, parts of sea-caught prawns and prawn components of sea-caught prawns, payable by an operator only after a threshold of 5,000 kilograms of prawns was reached.

The levy collected was approximately $150 000 a year and the export charge collected was approximately $240 000 a year depending on the quantity of exports. This provided APPA with approximately $400 000 per annum for its promotion activities. The costs to the prawn operators of this scheme were estimated to average $800 per year.

The present Government's policy on compulsory primary industry levies is that they should only be imposed where they have 'substantial industry support, and there is significant market failure'.(3) In December 1996 the Minister for Resources and Energy was approached by a group of prawn operators who strongly opposed paying the compulsory levies and charges. To test the general level of support for this levy Coopers and Lybrand was commissioned to conduct a plebicite of the industry. The response rate to the plebicite was 65%. Of those who responded, 85% opposed the levy and charge. Those who support the continued operation of the scheme expressed concern that without the funding provided by the levies and charges APPA could not continue with its functions. However, after discussions with APPA and the prawn operators and exporters the Government announced that the levy and charge would be abolished from 1 January 1998.

The initial step in abolishing the scheme was to amend the Prawn Export Promotion Levies and Charges Regulations. The amending regulations (SR 409/1997) set the levy at $0.00 from 1 July 1988 and divided the levy payments into two payments over the levy period. The payment for each period is set at half of the rate already prescribed. The second step is to legislate to cancel the levy payment for the second half of the levy period (1 January - 30 June 1998) and to set a final levy period so than no levy can be imposed from 1 January 1998. The final step is to repeal the legislation that enacts the scheme.

Main Provisions

Clause 4 allows the Acts repealed in the Schedules to continue to apply in relation to a levy or charge imposed before the repeal to facilitate the collection of outstanding levies.

Item 1 of Schedule 1 amends the Fisheries Management Act 1991 by inserting section 15A. This section prohibits the taking of black or blue marlin unless the person holds a scientific permit authorising the taking, or the fish is taken in the course of recreational or charter boat fishing. The penalty for not complying with this ban is 125 units (a penalty unit currently equals $110).

It is a defence to a prosecution under this section to satisfy the court that steps were taken to immediately return the fish to its natural environment.

Item 1of Schedule 2 replaces section 5(2) of the Prawn Boat Levy Act 1995, setting the final levy period as 1 July - 31 December 1997. This amendment is taken to have commenced on 1 July 1997. Item 2 of Schedule 2 repeals the Prawn Boat Levy Act 1995 with the repeal commencing 3 years after Royal Assent.

Item 1 of Schedule 3 amends section 4 of the Prawn Export Charge Act 1995 so that only those prawns exported from Australia on or before 31 December 1997 are subject to the charge. This amendment is taken to have commenced on 1 July 1997. Item 2 of Schedule 3 repeals the Prawn Export Charge Act 1995 with the repeal commencing 3 years after Royal Assent.

Schedule 4 repeals the Prawn Export Promotion Act 1995 with the repeal commencing 3 years after Royal Assent.

Endnotes

  1. House of Representatives. Standing Committee on Primary Industries, Resources and Rural and Regional Affairs, Managing Commonwealth Fisheries, para. 13.24.

  2. Recommendation 37.

  3. Press Release by the Minister for Resources and Energy, Senator the Hon. Warwick Parer, 4 November 1997.

Contact Officer and Copyright Details

Joanna Longley
8 May 1998
Bills Digest Service
Information and Research Services

This paper has been prepared for general distribution to Senators and Members of the Australian Parliament. While great care is taken to ensure that the paper is accurate and balanced, the paper is written using information publicly available at the time of production. The views expressed are those of the author and should not be attributed to the Information and Research Services (IRS). Advice on legislation or legal policy issues contained in this paper is provided for use in parliamentary debate and for related parliamentary purposes. This paper is not professional legal opinion. Readers are reminded that the paper is not an official parliamentary or Australian government document.

IRS staff are available to discuss the paper's contents with Senators and Members
and their staff but not with members of the public.

ISSN 1328-8091
© Commonwealth of Australia 1998

Except to the extent of the uses permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without the prior written consent of the Parliamentary Library, other than by Members of the Australian Parliament in the course of their official duties.

Published by the Department of the Parliamentary Library, 1998.



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