Senate debates

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2008

Referral to Committee

4:35 pm

Photo of Barnaby JoyceBarnaby Joyce (Queensland, National Party) Share this | Hansard source

The concerns that have been raised by Senator Fielding have been raised over a period of time by some of the peak body groups in Queensland and have also been well and truly addressed within the coalition. I note that a media release was circulated the other day from my office and I also note the strong attention that has been paid to this matter by Senator Macdonald and Senator Boswell. In particular, two sections of the bill come to mind. One of them—I think it is section 9—pertaining to the definition of fishing is ludicrous in its explanation. We get a definition of fishing where you can be in the process of a criminal activity if you even consider fishing rather than actually engage in it. This is an Orwellian type of oversight. I would say it is an extreme environmentalists’ oversight that has completely taken the place of people’s liberties in certain areas, and they are no longer given the benefit of the doubt. This is a serious issue that needs to be the subject of an inquiry. Likewise, the precautionary principle as a catch-all is an issue that also needs discussing.

I would also like to note the work that has been done within the coalition in bringing this matter to the fore. The coalition and others who wish to support this issue will determine the number of inquiries, where they will be held and the outcome that is obtained from them. It stands as a matter of course that the outcome of the vote and the inquiry will be determined by a majority in the Senate. It will be the weight of the Senate majority rather than any individual senator that will determine the outcome of this bill. It is important that the people who engage in commercial and recreational fishing, to whom this process is truly important, have the opportunity to clearly understand this issue. We must now engage in this debate in such a way as to garner a majority vote in this chamber.

This is one of the issues on which I hope we can shine a strong light. If people do not see it from the context of fishing, they will see it in the context of how a law can become unreasonable and oppressive when the definitions of certain terms that have worked their way into the legislation become so all encompassing that all manner of people will not be given the benefit of the doubt under this legislation that they would be given in any other facet of law and order and as they should. As I mentioned, particular attention should be paid to the definition of ‘fishing’. This definition will now include not only people who are caught in the act but also those who may intend to go fishing or look like they may go fishing. If I were driving down the coast near an excluded zone and were looking out the window considering fishing and someone truly knew that, would the act allow someone to convict me for it? So it is more than just a matter of a fishing issue; it is a matter that goes to the sentiment of the law. We must be ever vigilant in this chamber to ensure that laws do not become overarching, and remain reasonable. When we start putting forward unreasonable laws, we start to lose our validity and the respect that we hope this chamber would attract.

I know that others will wish to speak on this. In closing, it is very important that I note the work that people such as Senator Boswell and my LNP colleague Senator Ian Macdonald have done on this issue. This work will be ongoing throughout this inquiry. I look forward to the inquiry, which I hope will be conducted in various centres around Queensland in proximity to the fishing zone. I hope that those who are concerned about this issue will attend the inquiries so that they can discuss their concerns.

Finally, I suggest that, if this legislation goes forward in its current overarching form, it will become an onerous precedent to other legislation in similar fishing areas around our coast. What will start with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority will soon become legislation for Moreton Bay, Tasmania and Western Australia. When they see the precedent that this bill sets, they too would have good reason to be concerned about where this is going. It is not just about fishing; it is about the precedent set by a law that not only applies to those committing an act but includes the ridiculous principle of applying to those considering an act. How can anybody possibly determine whether someone is considering an act? It is onerous in the extreme. I believe the Greens may want to look at this as well because, if they believe in this principle for fishing, they must also believe that it should apply in terrorism and everywhere else.


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