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House of Reps Blocks Supertrawler

14 September 2012

AUSTRALIA - The Federal Government's Bill to block the supertrawler Abel Tasman from fishing in Australian waters has passed the House of Representatives.

The legislation will also bring on a 'root and branch' review of the Fisheries Management Act, reports ABCRural.

The Government won the vote with the support of the independents Andrew Wilkie, Rob Oakeshott, Craig Thompson and Bob Katter, as well as the Greens' Adam Bandt. NSW independent Tony Windsor voted with the Opposition against the Bill.

Several amendments offered by the government were also adopted. Those included removing the words 'social and economic' so that environmental considerations alone are considered, introducing a 12-month sunset clause so new determinations under the legislation cannot be made after 12 months, and wording to ensure that current fishing operations, both commercial and recreational, are not affected by the Bill.

Mr Oakeshott had earlier expressed an inclination to vote against the Bill, saying he supported a science-based approach and until now there had been no suggestion that the current science and precautionary principle for fisheries management in the Act was insufficient.

Following an answer in question time today from the Environment Minister Tony Burke, Mr Oakeshott changed his mind.

He told the House he's now satisfied with the government's position that there are doubts around how quotas are formed and managed, and that a 'root and branch' review of the Fisheries Management Act is necessary, and that it will be timely and meaningful.

Mr Oakshott also welcomed the inclusion of the sunset clause, so that the powers granted to the Environment Minister in the new legislation will not last beyond 12 months, by which time a review of the Fisheries Management Act will be complete.

A Greens amendment to ban supertrawlers from Australian waters altogether was not supported.

The Opposition's environment spokesman, Greg Hunt, told the parliament that the Government had been inconsistent on the Bill, saying it "didn't know what it was doing".

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