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Thursday, 8 February 2007
Page: 8


Mr HATTON (12:12 PM) —At the outset I have to thank the member for Shortland who, with a very short period of notice, has filled in and spoken for me. Because I was speaking in the chamber on another bill, the AusCheck Bill 2006, I would not have been able to participate in this debate if it had not been for her good graces in speaking off the cuff. So I thank her very much and now I will get on with it.

There is a conjunction here in terms of the bill I have just been speaking about in the House—and the Attorney is now summing up in relation to that bill, the AusCheck bill, that seeks a better coordination of identity checks in the aviation and maritime area—and this bill, the Maritime Legislation Amendment (Prevention of Air Pollution from Ships) Bill 2006. The second reading was given by the parliamentary secretary, the Hon. De-Anne Kelly. There is a direct connection with a series of other bills. At the end of last year we were dealing with pollution of the seas directly from a number of different agents and materials carried on ships. These matters have now been dealt with.

I imagine—and the parliamentary secretary may be able to elucidate—that we are, if not at the end, close to the end of the series of bills dealing with this particular area, because most of the schedules should now have been covered. What we are looking at is a worldwide attempt to come to grips with problems of pollution from major ocean-going vessels and particularly cargo vessels. It relates to the problems we have seen with the lack of double-hulled ships and those terrible experiences, from one end of the earth to the other, of ocean-going tankers full of petrol foundering and spreading their contents across the ocean. Last year we dealt with a bill concerning the manner in which chemicals should be carried.

What is required is not just a set of regulations but very practical work in this area to come to a new set of standards to obviate the most significant problems by ensuring that future ships will be double-hulled and that, as we go forward, the problems with material spilling out of ships will be significantly lessened, because there is a tremendous cost to what has happened.

When you look at the provisions in the last few bills we have dealt with and this one, you see that you do not do this sort of stuff on your own. This is an example of the Australian government cooperating with other governments overseas, shipowners, operators and the people who regulate this worldwide to ensure that we sign up to making our oceans safer and cleaner places. It is part of a broader thing. We live in a modern, industrialised world. I go back to the early sixties, when I was finishing school, and the late sixties, when I started university. One of the most seminal books written at that time in the economic area was called The stages of economic growth by Walt Rostow. What Rostow laid out was really the story of developing countries from then until now. He argued that it was possible to go through a series of stages of economic growth; that those stages could be relatively well predicted, enhanced and pushed forward; and that the worst of countries—the ones with the least amount of capacity—would be able to get their acts together and build towards a more prosperous future.

What Rostow was predicting we have really dramatically seen in action in China and now, increasingly, in India. As Deputy Speaker Somlyay would well know, we have already seen a range of European countries have their own economic revolutions. Hungary, of course, was one of the great leaders, even when it was still under domination in the Soviet bloc. That demonstrated that the native capacity of the people could be harnessed to really dramatically change the nature of their economy and the way in which their society was run.

Linked into the stages of dramatic growth we have had has been a dramatic increase in the amount of industrial output. So much pollution has been poured into our air and so much damage has been done to not only the atmosphere but also our seas and rivers. The story of the last 20 years or so—in the eastern bloc in particular since the fall of the Russians and the opening up of the dreadful consequences of pollution in that Soviet bloc—is of a new awakening to the dangers of pollution in an industrialised world. Latterly, we are finally on a road not to Damascus but to somewhere else. I am not sure where it is. Maybe it is a road to Kyoto or somewhere.

The Prime Minister has had a latter-day pastoral conversion and now recognises, as President Bush finally concedes, that we actually do have climate change. There is a worldwide scientific consensus. In the past six years there has been a deliberate campaign on the part of the Bush administration in the United States to deny the reality of climate change—to lessen it, run sceptical arguments to try to derail that acknowledgement and boost up any of the antis over that period of time. That has been a considerable blockage in terms of dealing with the fundamental problems we have.

We have to deal with air pollution. We have seen state governments grapple with this over many years. If you live in the Sydney basin—if you are privileged to do so—you will know that that basin, because of its very nature, years ago was pretty bad in terms of the way pollution was building up. There was an understanding of just how significant the actions needed to be if you were going to fix up the problems with CFCs. That is the best example we have so far of cooperative activity worldwide to address major environmental problems.

The government is doing the right thing here, as it did in the previous bill, to moderate the deleterious effects of air pollution from ships. If we look at the particulars of this, we are dealing here with annex VI of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships 1973-78, the MARPOL agreement. In September 1997, that was adopted and it was fully brought into play on 19 May 2005. If you connect annex VI of this with the other things that have been dealt with, we are looking at a significant attempt to moderate the environmental effects of shipping. There is a lot of shipping worldwide; there is a lot of shipping that needs to be controlled. There is a lot of shipping of the nature of ‘ships of shame’. Much of that has been cleaned up through this kind of mechanism or will be, but it is absolutely important that it is. The amendments set limits on sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions from ship exhausts and they prohibit the deliberate emissions of ozone depleting substances and include a global cap of 4½ per cent on the sulfur content of fuel oil. That is a good step and an important one. You should not be afraid of regulating and you should not be afraid of operating in a multilateral environment. You should move to fix things as necessary.

If only we had the same kind of commitment from the government in broader areas. This is where you need to not only recognise the problem but realise that you have to actively move in order to fix it. There are a number of things that we have moved that the government has so far not taken note of adequately enough. But we have to in the maritime area ensure that everything we can possibly do in order to address not just pollution but safety and security is done. There are many ships travelling to Australia with foreign crews that are not listed. We do not know what cargo those ships carry and we do not know their crews. We need to address that adequately and properly if we are to have not only a clean but also a secure maritime environment. That is particularly the case where we have cargo vessels coming to Australia loaded up with ammonium nitrate and other noxious substances that could be released.

This has a security dimension. We need to ensure that a continental Australia, a maritime Australia, is secured and secured efficiently and effectively by deliberate government action. We have run through a whole series of measures that could be directed towards that. I would encourage the government generally, as I have just encouraged the Attorney, to look very closely at these areas and to step up moves with regard to securing the containers running through Australian ports. The government has actively been part of a multilateral compact here to put into place annexure VI and a series of other measures that the parliamentary secretary was involved with last year. They should move expeditiously to do the rest of the job to ensure that the broader area is fixed. I will leave my comments at that.