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Thursday, 16 February 2017
Page: 1281

Mr CHESTER (GippslandMinister for Infrastructure and Transport) (10:11): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

It is important that the government laws for the prevention of marine pollution are adequate, up to date and consistent with our international obligations.

The bill I present today, the Protection of the Sea (Prevention of Pollution from Ships) Amendment (Polar Code) Bill 2017, will ensure that our framework for preventing marine pollution remains consistent with international requirements.

The bill will amend the Protection of the Sea (Prevention of Pollution from Ships) Act 1983 (known as the POTS Act) to implement domestically our international obligations stemming from conventions adopted at the International Maritime Organization.

Through the IMO, Australia has been integral to the development of the International Code for Ships Operating in Polar Waters (known as the Polar Code). The Polar Code is implemented through amendments to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973, as modified by the Protocol of 1978, and the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, 1974. The Polar Code has been developed to supplement existing IMO instruments to increase the safety of ships' operation and mitigate the impact on the people and environment in the remote, vulnerable and harsh polar waters.

The Polar Code addresses the specific risks of operating in the Antarctic and the Arctic polar waters and specifies a range of operational and structural measures. It covers ship design, construction and equipment, as well as seafarer training and qualifications, search and rescue capabilities, and environmental discharges.

This bill will amend the POTS Act to ensure Australia implements its international obligations into domestic law, by ensuring that the stricter discharge requirements for oil, noxious liquid substances, sewage, and garbage that exist for certain ships operating in polar waters, as set out in the Polar Code, are reflected in Australian legislation.

Marine Orders will also be amended to properly implement the Polar Code. Marine Orders are legislative instruments made under the POTS Act by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority's Chief Executive Officer.

Australia has a strong national interest in Antarctica, including in the safety of shipping and the environmental protection of Antarctic waters. Australia has responsibilities in a very significant portion of the Southern Ocean, including search-and-rescue coordination, environmental protection, hydrography and nautical charting, and safety of vessels operating in the area.

Australia has been actively engaged in the development of the Polar Code, in order to influence and improve safety and pollution prevention outcomes in respect of Antarctic waters. Australia's Southern Ocean maritime interests are best advanced through internationally agreed arrangements that are consistent with Antarctica's unique legal and political status.

Australia's implementation of these amendments is consistent with our longstanding support for the protection of life and safety at sea and the marine environment, and with our active backing of, and participation in development of the Polar Code.

I commend the bill to the House.

Debate adjourned.