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Tuesday, 25 March 2003
Page: 13435

Mr TUCKEY (Minister for Regional Services, Territories and Local Government) (4:52 PM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The Maritime Legislation Amendment (Prevention of Pollution from Ships) Bill 2003 will amend two Commonwealth acts, the Protection of the Sea (Prevention of Pollution from Ships) Act 1983 and the Navigation Act 1912. The bill's primary purpose is to ensure that changes to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, known as MARPOL 73/78, are reflected in Australian legislation.

A key issue to be addressed by the bill is the protection of the marine environment by ensuring that the level of environmental protection from marine sewage in Australia is consistent with internationally adopted standards. This is particularly important for sensitive marine areas, such as the Great Barrier Reef, which are vulnerable to pollution by sewage from ships.

In 1999-2000, 3,254 international trading ships visited Australian ports. The amount of sewage discharged from a vessel varies depending on the number of persons carried and the duration of the trip. The increase in the size and number of cruise ships visiting Australian ports, and regions such as the Great Barrier Reef, in recent years has resulted in a renewed focus on the issue of protecting the marine environment. Today's cruise ships, the largest of which can carry more than 5,000 passengers and crew, generate significant volumes of waste. For example, an average sized cruise liner discharges approximately 100,000 litres of sewage per day, while an average sized bulk carrier with a crew of 25 discharges approximately 300 litres per day.

The bill includes amendments setting out the condition in which a ship is to be maintained to ensure that it remains fit to proceed to sea without presenting an unreasonable threat to the marine environment. Other amendments include provisions prohibiting the discharge of mixed sewage into the sea and amendment of a condition specifying the distance from the nearest land that treated sewage can be released.

The bill contains some technical amendments reflecting the renumbering of regulations contained in annex IV of MARPOL 73/78—that is, Regulations for the Prevention of Pollution by Sewage from Ships—a change to the name of the International Sewage Pollution Prevention Certificate 1973 and provision of a new power for survey authorities to issue such certificates.

Other amendments are being proposed to ensure that purely technical and routine operational matters are removed from primary legislation and included in subordinate legislation. In the case of this bill, subordinate legislation will be in the form of Marine Orders.

Australia is a signatory to MARPOL 73/78 and has implemented annexes of the convention dealing with the prevention of pollution by the discharge of oil, chemicals, harmful packaged substances and garbage from ships.

In 1985, Australia agreed to the adoption of annex IV of MARPOL 73/78: Regulations for the Prevention of Pollution by Sewage from Ships. Following this agreement, the Commonwealth Protection of the Sea Legislation Amendment Act 1986 was passed to give effect to annex IV along with a range of other amendments to MARPOL 73/78. However, the provisions relating to annex IV have not been proclaimed to commence due to delays in the treaty gaining international acceptance.

In 2000, the International Maritime Organisation adopted a number of amendments to annex IV that addressed several outstanding issues which had delayed its international acceptance. Annex IV will now enter into force internationally on 27 September 2003. I commend the bill to the House and present the explanatory memorandum to this bill.

Debate (on motion by Mr McClelland) adjourned.