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Thursday, 24 March 1994
Page: 2186


Senator PANIZZA (12.47 p.m.) —I have just been given the job of addressing this bill because Senator Alston is overseas. I will briefly address the points in the bill that the committee considered. The Australian Chamber of Shipping, representing the principal foreign shipowners, submitted that it was totally unfair that they were subject to regulations, like having to have their ships impounded while they were in Australian ports, while the Australian vessels, mainly represented by the Australian National Maritime Association, were able to keep operating within the exclusion zone without detention.   We took notice of what the Australian Chamber of Shipping had to say but we thought that where foreign vessels are suspected of polluting the sea in Australian waters, once they have put up their bond, they are free to sail. The committee questioned the government and received no undertaking that, no way in the world, would a ship be held up.

  I had fears that, if more than one ship was involved and the Australian Maritime Safety Authority was trying to work out which ship it was, the ships could be held up. We have been given the undertaking that, once a bond has been put up, ships are free to sail. We support that idea. We would like to see it in practice to see whether it prevents foreign vessels from being treated unfairly in Australia. Those were our concerns, and I think they have been overcome.

  Most foreign vessels trading in Australia are signatories to the world convention and are subject to detention powers in other countries. This means that, with Australia's being a signatory, Australian vessels are subject to those conventions when they are in foreign countries. We have decided that, on balance, the coalition is prepared to support the legislation. However, we wish to see it in practice to see whether any amendments have to be introduced later on.