Give Poachers Well-Paid Australian Jobs: Jakarta

Give poachers well-paid Australian jobs: Jakarta
The West Australian
24th August 2006, 8:00 WST

Illegal foreign fishermen would be given well-paid jobs on Australian trawlers if a radical Indonesian Government plan is adopted.

While the proposal has been roundly dismissed in Australia as unviable, Indonesia wants the Federal Government to consider issuing temporary work visas to detained poachers who can prove they are master fishermen.

Under the plan, the illegal fishermen would be released from Australian jails and allowed to work on Australian commercial fishing vessels for minimum wages of about $42,000 a year plus benefits 10 times what they could earn on their island homelands.

Indonesia sees the idea as one way of tackling the escalating illegal fishing crisis by tackling the issue of the poachers livelihoods.

Australia has rejected the plan, suggesting that it was something Indonesian authorities had come up with on the spur of the moment.

A spokesman for the Indonesian Embassy in Canberra said the proposal was one of several ideas being discussed between the two governments that could benefit both sides.

Federal Fisheries Minister Eric Abetz said it was not raised when he met Indonesian Fisheries Minister Freddy Numberi a month ago.

It would not work, he said.

And no matter how many Indonesian fishermen took up positions on Australian vessels, it wouldnt stop others raiding our waters, Senator Abetz said. What will stop them is the Australian Governments approach of making it economically unviable by burning their boats.

An Immigration Department spokesman denied that it was considering the Indonesian idea, saying fish poachers would not qualify for work visas because their activities were illegal.

Australia has no intention of granting work visas to illegal fishermen, he said. Anyone seeking an Australian visa must meet character requirements first which would include consideration of any illegal activity conducted by that person.

However, the Indonesian Embassy insisted that the proposal was included in bilateral discussions as part of the working group on fisheries. Indonesia expected it to be on the agenda when Senator Abetz met Mr Numberi early next year for a regional summit on illegal fishing as one way of regulating the activities of Indonesian fishers in Australian waters.

Indonesian Ambassador Hamzah Thayeb reportedly told a Northern Territory newspaper this week that the idea was one way of tackling the illegal fishing crisis.

The Australian Government denied that it had confirmed the proposal was being considered.

Chris Johnson Canberra