The Nationals’ Senator Ron Boswell and Liberals Senator Ian Macdonald said that they were delighted that the long awaited amendment that sees criminal convictions for green zone fishermen regarded as ‘spent’ is finally to be proclaimed today.
Senator Boswell said that “the proclamation of these provisions has taken far too long to be enacted.”
“These fishermen are free today to get on with their lives without the burden of a criminal conviction,” he said.
Senator Macdonald said that “the weight of a criminal record will be buried for the more than 300 people who were convicted for fishing in a green zone before the penalties changed to include only a heavy fine for the same offence.”
“The convictions were totally unfair and this is why Senator Boswell and I sponsored amendments to remove the burden of these convictions.”
“This decision means that the Coalition has fulfilled the promise we made to those unfairly burdened fishermen.”
Senator Macdonald said that “together we have been working for two years to right the wrongs that bad legislation had inflicted on these people.”
“The decision will alter convictions so they will be regarded as ‘spent convictions.”
“This decision will effectively overturn the convictions and will apply to anyone who has a criminal conviction where the fine was $5000 or less.”
Senator Boswell said that “today is the day we can put this behind us and remove the burden of these criminal convictions from people’s lives”
“The issue arose from a 2006 decision when the former Coalition 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.”
“Those convicted included grandfathers who went fishing with their grandchildren and were given a criminal record because they didn’t have GPS or proper charts.”
Senator Macdonald added that “this will bring an end to this sorry saga.”