Monday, 1 September 2008

a history lesson

Time for a clean-up, says Sir Geoffrey.

19 February 2003
The Independent Business Weekly
Former Prime Minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer this week called on Parliament's Primary Production Select
committee and its chairman David Carter to put right the Fisheries Ministry's wrong, unreasonable,
unjust and discriminatory administration before injustice became locked into the system in perpetuity.
Sir Geoffrey appeared before the committee investigating allegations of cor rupt administration of the
scampi fishery and official favouritism of Simunovic h Fisheries, a company accused of fiddling the
fisheries quota management syste m on a multimillion dollar scale.
Appearing on behalf of Sealord, our largest fishing company, and scampi fi sherman Neil Penwarden of
Barine Developments Ltd, Sir Geoffrey said the minis try's failure to mend its ways after so many court
rulings against its illegal and unreasonable administration simply compounded the ministry's record of
mism anagement.
Sir Geoffrey also noted the evidence before the committee that Simunovich h ad misreported catch,
saying it had caught scampi for which it had a permit, wh en it had in fact caught and exported fish for
which it had no quota and should have paid the ministry a "deemed value."
If this were indeed the case - and Simunovich denies it - then Simunovich w ould have ripped off the
ministry; first, by not paying the deemed values of it s by-catch, and again by falsely inflating its scampi
catch, thereby fraudulent ly boosting its catch history and thus its entitlement to future scampi quota a t
other scampi fishermen's expense.
Sir Geoffrey referred to an affidavit from David Patterson, a Simunovich sk ipper from 1989 until March
1998. Patterson's affidavit indicated there were se rious discrepancies in the manner in which
Simunovich complied with its statuto ry obligations in the important 1990-92 catch history years.
Patterson's affida vit spelled out how during this time Simunovich's scampi fleet vessels returned to port
about midnight.
He said the affidavit also highlighted an instruction for Simunovich staff to under-report scampi tails and
report all stargazers under the code for spott ed stargazers rather than the code for giant stargazers -
one a quota species a nd one not. He said the ministry knew what Simunovich was up to and wondered
wh y investigations started, were discontinued.
In her evidence before the committee, Ocean Law partner Sue Grey said the m inistry had made at
least four attempts to investigate Simunovich's scampi fish ing operations:
Ae Operation Export 1991-93;
Ae Operation Dog in late 1993;
Ae Operation Forest in 1998;
Ae Operation Metro in 2001.
Grey said it was clear from the ministry's files that none of the four inve stigations ever reached a
proper conclusion.
"Instead, despite some compelling evidence, every single one of these inqui ries simply fizzled out,"
Grey said.
She said the parliamentary inquiry presented an opportunity to review the a dequacy of the
performance of MFish's enforcement arm from the early 1990s to t he present time.
"It also offers a chance to review all the evidence to assess whether Simun ovich fishing returns for the
1990-92 period form a sufficiently reliable basis on which to allocate future scampi catching rights."

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