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Wednesday, 26 November 1986
Page: 3746

Mr MILLAR(12.15) —The spirit of the Navigation Amendment Bill would clearly be supported by any fair-minded person but there are a few points on which I would like to seek assurances from the Minister for Transport (Mr Peter Morris) in respect of the eventual outcomes of certain provisions. As is generally understood, a series of people from a master down to an interested person can draw the attention of the authorities to an alleged deficiency in the condition of a ship. At that point, it would appear that there is no power in the hands of the Minister to make a judgment of whether or not there is a sustainable case to argue. If an interested person, not specifically defined, draws the attention of the authorities to an alleged deficiency, it becomes necessary, I understand, for the inspectors to conduct a thorough inspection of the vessel in accordance with the checklist from A to Z. In other words, in essence, if the nature of the complaint is that a garbage bin lacks a properly sealing lid a fault is established and the mechanism then is for the inspection officers to conduct an inspection of the entire vessel from A to Z. This clearly would have an adverse effect on the operations of the vessel and on the benefits that would normally accrue to our country through the activity in which it was engaged. Ultimately, this could prove to be a massive disincentive for those who seek to purchase from Australia whatever commodity might be involved.

I seek an assurance from the Minister for Transport that that would not be the case. In the memorandum of understanding it was clearly stated that, in respect of the ports under its control, the complaint must establish that the vessel does not substantially meet the requirements relevant to the instrument. Yet I am not satisfied from the legislation that there is any such requirement and the most frivolous complaint by an interested party would leave the Minister impotent to intervene and say: `That is not a substantial deficiency and the complaint should be disregarded'. As the Minister for Transport, who is at the table, will appreciate, it becomes particularly important in the present situation, when Australia is involved in a metaphorical state of war for economic survival, for us to be sensitive to every possibility that may militate against our best interests. If we are now establishing a situation whereby people with a mischievous turn of mind, or perhaps sincerely motivated, use the provisions of this Bill to achieve a result not consistent with Australia's proper ambitions, the Bill becomes counterproductive, because ultimately Australia's markets must be pursued and accommodated within the conditions that the global market would normally expect to attach. It we do not accommodate those expectations the buyers will purchase elsewhere. I put that matter to the Minister in order to obtain, I trust, his assurance that the situation I have described will not become the case. It certainly appears to be as I have described on my examination of the legislation and the background papers. I could, in my limited time, talk about flag lines and other matters of great interest and benefit to Australia but, mindful of the very limited time we have, as demonstrated by speakers preceding me, I will not impose myself on the House.