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Wednesday, 8 October 2003
Page: 20824

Mr ANDERSON (Minister for Transport and Regional Services) (1:39 PM) —I thank members of the House who have contributed to this debate on the Maritime Transport Security Bill 2003. I assure the previous speaker, the member for Melbourne Ports, that I and the government do take maritime security very seriously—as do, I am glad to say, the states and the territories. This is above politics. It is extremely important that by 1 July next year we are able to meet the obligations to which we have committed ourselves internationally. It is essential for Australia's trade as well as security interests that this bill be passed during the present sitting to enable industry to put the required security measures in place so that we can conform, as I mentioned, to international community standards by 1 July 2004 and confirm to them that we are a safe and secure trading partner.

This bill establishes a preventive security framework for the maritime industry. It will take into account the diversity of our ports, port facilities and ships and the different jurisdictional arrangements around Australia's coast. Its primary purposes are to establish a regulatory system, which will safeguard against unlawful interference with maritime transport, and to meet Australia's international obligations under chapter XI-2 of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea and the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code by 1 July 2004. Our maritime sector is integral to our economic wellbeing. The overwhelming majority of Australia's trade is carried by sea. We generate around 12 per cent of global shipping activity. Protecting the sector from the threat of terrorism is a major priority. I assure the previous speaker and all members of this House that I take it very seriously, as does the government.

This bill is designed to enhance the security of Australia's ports, port facilities and ships. I make the observation that perhaps no country in the world has a firmer approach against what might be described as `ships of shame' entering our ports or plying our coasts. We do not simply allow open slather approaches to Australian shipping. The great bulk of our coastal shipping is still carried in Australian ships and exemptions are by way of permit only. The Labor Party, through its spokesman for transport, has indeed confirmed that it would continue to issue those permits in circumstances where no suitable Australian ship was available.

In relation to the issue of costs, we do see security as an integral part of the cost of doing business now. However, the international experience has been to suggest very strongly that upgrading security at ports tends to result in better outcomes in terms of damage, pilfering, theft, interference and so forth of cargoes and merchandise transiting ports in particular. Savings arising tend to go a long way towards offsetting the increased cost. Having said that, any limited cost that might be involved in setting up these security arrangements is to be seen as a very valuable investment in continuing the security of trade internationally and to the benefit of the Australian economy.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Ms Corcoran)—The original question is that the bill be now read a second time. To this the honourable member for Batman has moved as an amendment that all words after `That' be omitted with a view to substituting other words. The question now is that the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the question.

Question agreed to.

Original question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.