House debates

Thursday, 30 March 2006


Illegal Fishing

12:43 pm

Photo of Roger PriceRoger Price (Chifley, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

As you know, yesterday I spoke about the issue of maritime security on our northern borders. In 2005, through the Senate estimates process, it was revealed that there were 13,000 sightings of illegal fishing boats, an increase of some 35 per cent on the previous year. On a conservative estimate, it means that for 2005 there were some 78,000 illegal Indonesian fishermen fishing in our northern waters. They fish for trochus off the reefs, beche-de-mer, fish and shark.

The shark boats use long-lines, as do the fishing boats for fish. Those long-lines are some three to four kilometres long. What they are using for bait for shark—and for fish, but especially for shark—are dolphins. So, if you have even only half the number of boats that I have mentioned and each has at least two lines three to four kilometres long and they are fishing for fish or sharks, you can imagine how many dolphins they are taking out of Australian waters. People tend to focus on the dramatic impact that fishing for sharkfin is having in our waters, but not too many people are talking about the dramatic impact on our dolphin population in the north. Something needs to be done.

Mr Deputy Speaker Causley, I know that as a National Party member you are most concerned about any impact of foot-and-mouth or rabies on our agricultural industries. I certainly share that concern. What the people of Australia who do not live in the north need to understand is that in the Northern Territory we have very large populations of feral pigs and dingoes. If we are going to get foot-and-mouth in this country, it may come through the boats that land on our coast—by the way, they have to land on our coast because they do not have provisions on board to sustain them. They carry parrots, monkeys and poultry. If they bring foot-and-mouth in and it gets embedded in the Northern Territory in our feral pig population, it will be here to stay. We will be putting at risk a meat export industry worth some $6 billion. Again, for rabies: if we get rabies—because they bring dogs as well—then it will get embedded in the Northern Territory dingo population and Australia will suffer the curse of rabies. We do not have either foot-and-mouth or rabies. The absence of foot-and-mouth allows us to export to countries and compete very effectively with those countries that have it. If we are to get avian flu in this country, I would predict that it is not going to come through migratory birds visiting our shores. It is going to come via the poultry that are on these 13,000 illegal fishing boats. That was acknowledged through the Senate estimates process.

I would hate to be an AQIS officer in the north of Australia. We have plans in progress and risk management, but we are pushing the envelope here. I do not think we can adequately maintain a campaign against these diseases entering Australia if we are not apprehending these fishermen and stopping the trade. Not enough is being done about it. Regrettably, our fellow Australians in Northern Australia think we do not care. They think that in this parliament we do not care; they think the people of Adelaide, Western Sydney and Melbourne do not care. I believe they do care. I believe we have an obligation to get the message out about how serious these illegal fishing boats are. This country went berko about some illegal migrants coming. There were many fewer; not 78,000 illegal immigrants to this country—(Time expired)