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Thursday, 23 June 2011
Page: 7222

WYATT ROY (Longman) (11:29): I rise to speak to the Protection of the Sea (Prevention of Pollution from Ships) Amendment (Oil Transfers) Bill 2011. The intent of this bill is to ensure that amendments to annex I of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships are implemented in Australia. The amendments have been made in recognition of the potential for pollution to occur when oil is being transferred from one ship to another. Whilst this happens rarely in Australia it is important that all reasonable measures be taken to reduce the risk of an oil spill when these types of transfers occur at sea. Under this legislation oil tankers with 150 gross tonnage and above that are involved in ship-to-ship oil transfers must have a ship-to-ship operations plan that details how such transfers are to be managed. Australian oil tanker operation plans will be checked by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority and approved if they comply with the provisions of the legislation. Importantly, the master of an oil tanker that will be undertaking the ship-to-ship transfer is required to notify the administration of the country in which the transfer is to take place at least 48 hours before the operation in order to ensure the presence of the right equipment to clean up an oil spill should it occur. That way, serious damage to waterways and coastlines might be prevented by early intervention. It is my understanding that ship-to-ship transfers of oil have occurred in Australian waters on only one occasion, off the coast of Sydney, by Caltex. Caltex have advised that they are already compliant with the provisions of this legislation.

I have a personal interest in this legislation. Honourable members will be aware of what has become widely known as the Queensland summer of disasters, during which our beautiful region suffered through the worst season of natural disasters in the state's history. We were buffeted by floods and cyclones all through the summer, and these have done untold damage to our state and have robbed us of too many lives. However, in March 2009 Queensland suffered from one of its worst man-made disasters, when the container ship Pacific Adventurer spilled approximately 270,000 litres of oil into Moreton Bay. The oil spill affected 20 kilometres of pristine coastline from Cape Moreton to Blue Lagoon in South-East Queensland. It was a shock to my community when, on Thursday, 12 March 2009, the Premier declared Moreton Island, Bribie Island and more southern parts of the Sunshine Coast a disaster zone. Bribie Island, in my own electorate, was one of the worst-affected areas. Queensland beaches are famous all over the world and the tourism industry was seriously threatened by the oil that was spilled. Community safety was compromised and our precious beaches and waterways were closed. This caused untold distress and economic damage to the region, its people and its wildlife. Some of Queensland's major tourist attractions along the Sunshine Coast were affected, together with Moreton Island and Bribie Island.

This legislation will require that all transfers of oil are carried out in accordance with an oil tanker's ship-to-ship operation plan. This will apply when the transfer occurs in the sea near a state or territory in Australia's exclusive economic zone, or when the supertanker is involved in Australia and the transfer occurs while the tanker is outside the Australian exclusive economic zone. Most of the oil that was spilled into Moreton Bay polluted our sandy beaches, but when the oil spill occurred the weather was terrible. This resulted in a lot of the oil that had been buried in the sand being deposited back on the beaches by the rough seas. Without exception, all the areas affected have tourism as one of their major industries, so the clean-up effort was huge and aimed to ensure that people's expectation of Queensland's fabled beaches were met. Clean we did, for two months. Up to 2,500 people were involved in the clean-up and, reflective of the true Queensland spirit we saw this summer, volunteers came from everywhere: from the community, from agencies, from interstate and from the oil industry. At times during the response there were up to 400 people working on Moreton Island. During the cleanup approximately 3,000 tonnes of oil-soaked sand was removed from Moreton Island. It was backbreaking work but mostly done manually, using shovels and rakes to fill about 8,000 bags each day. Fortunately, the affected areas are now back to their pristine condition.

As recently as April of last year, the Shen Neng 1 ran aground near Great Keppel Island on the Great Barrier Reef. In this instance there were serious concerns that the ship would break up, spilling its 975 tonnes of oil into the fragile environment of the Great Barrier Reef. As it was, some oil was spilled, requiring the use of chemical dispersants to break up the oil slick, which measured 3,000 metres by 100 metres. It was very fortunate that the skills of the salvage effort ensured that only a minimal amount of oil was spilled and that the ship was prevented from breaking up. Nonetheless, the incident serves as a stark reminder that we need to do all we can to protect our valuable and fragile marine environment. There is not a lot we can do to prevent rain and cyclones; however, it is our responsibility to do what we can to prevent man-made disasters, such as oil spills, from damaging our coast and waterways. In this context, the coalition supports this legislation.