Trawler lawyers warned

Written By miftah nugraha on Sabtu, 16 Maret 2013 | 19.55

LAWYERS fighting a two-year ban on a super trawler operating in Australian waters have been warned by a Federal Court judge to cast their nets with care when making allegations against federal Environment Minister Tony Burke.

Seafish Tasmania wants the court to overturn a ban imposed by Mr Burke on the trawler Abel Tasman. An expert panel is considering the ship's possible impact on the environment.

In documents previously lodged with the court, Seafish said the minister was advised that the impacts were known and any risks could be managed.

Seafish alleges Mr Burke was keen to ban the vessel and was searching for some power to justify his actions.

The trawler has since been sold and left Australia on Thursday.

In his opening statement yesterday, Justice John Logan warned the company's lawyers their statement of claim risked breaking the Parliamentary Privilege Act, which emanates from the centuries-old Bill Of Rights. Under the Act, questions cannot be asked of ministers in court about their behaviour in Parliament.

"Your statement of claim is scandalous, is it not, in asking this court to do what has been forbidden since 1689?" Justice Logan said.

He suggested he might strike out sections of the claim.

"Such is the constitutional importance of the separation of powers between the state and the law," he said.

Roger Derrington, SC, told the court he had no intention of questioning what the minister said in Parliament and did not call into question his motivation.

The case has been set down for trial on June 25.

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