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Torres Strait islanders want to keep China out

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The Torres Strait people are skilled navigators with detailed knowledge of the sea, reefs and islands


Sari-Ella Thaiday, just completing a law degree in Brisbane, has initiated a petition to Australia’s foreign affairs minister asking that the government protect the rights of Torres Strait Islands’ people against any Chinese incursion into Australian waters - KJ

BRISBANE - China has just signed a memorandum of understanding with Papua New Guinea to build a $200 million fishing facility on Daru Island.

It is imperative that Torres Strait Islands’ leaders discuss this issue with Australian foreign affairs minister Marise Payne to review the Torres Strait Treaty, which allows Papua New Guinean nationals to fish in Australian waters.

Daru Island is the closest PNG island to Australia and on the doorstep of the Torres Strait.

Torres Strait Islanders hold grave concerns and are anxious for their jobs, livelihoods, families, communities and culture.

They believe the $200 million Chinese facility will ‘vacuum’ the seafood, destroy their fisheries industry and run dry environmental resources.

“We have to stand up and voice our concerns about it, because it will be on our doorstep,” said Torres Shire mayor Vonda Malone.

“It will affect our communities, our people, our families, our resources.

“We are dealing with a country that does not have the same values as us,” Ms Malone said.

There are concerns as to why China is investing so much money into a fisheries facility located in an area that has few fish.

Many people are not convinced this facility will be used entirely for its said purpose.

How will small fisheries compare to a multi-million dollar facility?

It will not be sustainable, and it is highly likely China will take advantage of the Torres Strait Treaty to fish within Australian waters.

The renegotiation of the treaty must happen now.

The Australian federal government must listen to Torres Strait leaders, giving them authority and providing protection so a Chinese facility cannot gain access to Australian waters.

Link here to our earlier story on the Chinese fisheries project 


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Robin Lillicrapp

A comment by Senator Rex Patrick:


Two weeks ago in the Senate I asked the Foreign Minister about China's plans to build a fishing base on Daru Island in Papua New Guinea, right on Australia’s doorstep in the Torres Strait.

A Chinese marine presence on Daru Island has serious national security implications for Australia.

There is no doubt that such a presence will complicate our security and provide China with a new foothold for interference in PNG.

The Government needs to make this very clear to PNG and offer Australia's support for alternative development projects.

In the event that the Government is ineffective in deterring PNG support for this project, given that Chinese fishing fleets have a well-known tendency for the over exploitation of marine resources, Australia will need a plan to protect the marine ecosystems of the Torres Strait from Chinese depredations.

Because it’s such a big issue, I’m confused as to why Senator Wong, Labor’s shadow foreign minister, has only just started engaging on the topic this week. Why so slow Australian Labor? More internal divisions about China?

Alex Maddern

I think the shared cross border regions should remain open to local residents of the region. As someone stated, families live across both sides of the boundaries.

This has generally been a peaceful environment that has respect for local island cultures.

What we should be cautious of and block or limit is commercial fishing by outside interests under the guise of 'local fisheries'.

I feel that outside interest taking advantage of the stable freedoms of movement of local island communities has potential to disrupt local culture and community.

PNG/Daru as well as Australian island groups have every right to take advantage of developments that advance their prosperity, but I am concerned about the potential impacts here, on numerous fronts.

Philip Fitzpatrick

Presumably reviewing the treaty means cutting off access to Australian waters for Papua New Guineans.

Given that the people of the islands are Melanesians just like the PNG folk this would mean cutting off families and clans from each other.

A hard border with PNG would be disastrous for everyone involved.

John Greenshields

As Aileen in Milne Bay, PNG, commented to me on this petition:

"They must never be allowed. They have been using their ocean seabed nets that harvested even the seas of sea cucumbers (beach de mer) in the Milne Bay waters and no one has tried to stop them.

"Few of their boats caught & their citizens deported but these must be stopped before it starts."

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