Adjournment: Boating legislation and fines

Mr PURCELL (Western Victoria) — My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Police. Boating and fishing tourism is important throughout western Victoria, all the way from Geelong to the South Australian border. It is particularly important along the Great South Coast, and it has a big impact on the economy, particularly in the Warrnambool, Port Fairy and Portland areas. This is in particular the tuna fishing industry, which is undertaken mainly through the winter. It is a big fillip to the tourist industry through that period, and it makes a substantial contribution to the local economy. Many visitors spend time and a considerable amount of money in our towns, which is an important economic and jobs stimulus in our region. There are many occasions when there are boats lined up for 2 or 3 kilometres waiting to use the boat ramps, and there can be 200 or 300 boats on any one morning.

It has been brought to my attention that many of these visitors are being unreasonably, we feel, targeted by the water police for failing to comply with the boating legislation. The police will not in any circumstances, as we understand it, provide warnings in regard to the boating legislation. There are many instances of people being fined for not wearing life jackets. On the surface that seems reasonable, but the situation that has come to our attention is that when they are docking the boats the skipper gets off the boat to put it onto his boat trailer, at which time he takes the life jacket from his person. He then ties the boat onto the trailer and gets back on the boat to straighten it. When he gets back onto the boat to straighten it, he is being fined for not wearing a life jacket. We believe this is unreasonable.

I recognise that it is vital that those boating are licensed and that they have a safe environment, but it is concerning that there is a lack of discretion being applied by the water police when interacting with visitors. It is discouraging tourism to our region. I ask the minister to convey our concerns to the water police and suggest a more proactive, more helpful and less zealous approach to encourage boating safety.