Senate passes amendment to overturn convictions

The GBR streaches over 1500km along the Queensland coast. Photo courtesy of The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority
The Senate today passed Federal Coalition amendments that will see the criminal convictions of 324 fishermen, convicted of fishing in a Green Zone prior to 14 December 2006, effectively overturned, according to Queensland Senator Ron Boswell.

The amendments moved by Senator Boswell and Senator Ian MacDonald will see the criminal convictions of 324 fishers being regarded as spent convictions.

'This is an historic amendment that will right the wrongs of the past,' Senator Boswell said.

'These convictions are totally unfair. We have tried to change it. Today is the day we can put this behind us and remove those criminal convictions from people’s lives.'

'The amendment fulfils a promise given by the former Coalition Government prior to the last Federal election.'

'A recent Senate inquiry heard evidence from convicted fishermen that was compelling and illustrated that ordinary people have had their lives adversely affected through having a criminal conviction hanging over their head,' Senator Boswell said.

'Those convicted included Grandfather’s who went fishing with their grandchildren and were given a criminal record because they didn’t have GPS or proper charts.'

'The amendment carried today will have the effect of altering their convictions so they will be regarded as ‘spent convictions.’ This effective overturning of convictions will also apply to anyone who has a criminal conviction where the fine was $5000 or less.'

'It will now go to the House of Representatives for their approval.'

'In 2006 our Government acted to implement a fairer infringement notice system where those caught in green zones were still to be issued a fine, but would not necessarily receive the ongoing burden of a criminal record against their name.'

'However, this left the 324 fishers in a kind of ‘limbo’ where they had already been charged under the old system, and consequently had a criminal record documented.'

'Before the election I received advice from Prime Minister Howard’s office that they had identified a possible legislative solution to the problem. I had brought the convicted fishers to the brink of a pardon, but unfortunately the election got in the way of justice officials taking action.'

'Prior to the Federal election Labor’s spokesman Senator Kerry O’Brien was reported in the Townsville Bulletin as saying Labor would take a ‘bipartisan’ (19/10/07) approach to the issue.'

Senator Boswell said, 'This amendment will bring this tragic saga to a close.'