Trawler on way out of Aus waters

THE Federal Government's bid to keep the Dutch super trawler out of Australian waters for up two years appears likely to pass the House of Representatives.

Proposed changes to Commonwealth environment law came about as a government response to try to keep the FV Abel Tasman out of Australia waters.

The trawler was approved by the Australian Fisheries Management Authority to fish 18,000 tonnes of small pelagic fish from Australian waters, sparking a public campaign against the super trawler.

Environment Minister Tony Burke introduced the proposed changes to the Environmental Protection, Biodiversity and Conservation Act on Tuesday.

Even without the votes of key independents Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor, APN Newsdesk understands the government has the numbers in the lower house for the amendments to allow the environment and fisheries ministers to restrict trawling operations.

The government seems to have gained support from independent MPs Andrew Wilkie and Craig Thomson, Greens MP Adam Bandt and Queensland MP Bob Katter.

Mr Oakeshott told parliament he would "more than likely not support" the legislation, citing the scientific basis of the AFMA decision.

Mr Windsor issued a statement just after 5pm, indicating he was yet to decide which way he would vote.

The Coalition had indicated it would not support the bill.

The changes to the Act would have created large grey areas for ministerial discretion when assessing applications for fishing quotas.

Under the changes, the justifications for the two ministers to ban vessels such as the FV Abel Tasman were social, environmental and economic reasons.

Opposition environment spokesman Greg Hunt said the amendments gave the amendments "almost unfettered authority over all forms of fishing".

"All fishers should be concerned - these powers could be used against any of them, and indeed could easily be extended to further reduce access to any natural resource."

Mr Hunt said the proposed changes also represented another case of the government making policy on the run.

Mr Hunt said the government's move to ban the trawler for up to two years also created "sovereign risks" and could scare of potential investors.

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