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Thursday, 23 June 2011
Page: 7229

Ms GAMBARO (Brisbane) (11:56): I also rise to support the Protection of the Sea (Prevention of Pollution from Ships) Amendment (Oil Transfers) Bill 2011. The coalition has a long history of supporting sensible reform to protect our marine environment, and the bill amends the Protection of the Sea (Prevention of Pollution from Ships) Act 1983 to implement amendments to annex 1 of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, known as MARPOL, to prevent marine pollution during ship-to-ship oil transfer operations. These requirements entered into force internationally on 1 January 2011, and this bill will bring Australia's legislation into line with that scheme.

The measures of the bill are that oil tankers with 150 gross tonnage and above will be involved in ship-to-ship oil transfers and that they must have an operational plan prescribing how to conduct those transfers. It is also designed to ensure that consideration has been given to the process involved in the ship-to-ship transfer and that hazard prevention safeguards are in place to prevent an oil spill. These plans have been checked by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, AMSA, who will ensure that they meet the requirements. As you would expect, Madam Acting Deputy Speaker, the bill also stipulates that ship-to-ship transfers must be made in accordance with the approved operations plan and that ship-to-ship transfers must be overseen by the master of a ship involved, or by a suitably qualified person. A record of ship-to-ship transfers must be kept and notification must be given to the country in whose waters the transfer is to take place approximately 48 hours prior to the transfer.

Recently I met with representatives of the Australian Marine Conservation Society. They are the voice for Australia's oceans. A constituent of mine in Brisbane, Mr Omar Ameer, was one of the representatives to visit me. He is a volunteer for the society. He is very dedicated and spends many hours in his fight to help conserve Australia's marine environments. I want to congratulate him and the organisation for the very fine work that they do in this particular area. Their head office is located in my electorate of Brisbane, and the work that they do on behalf of all of the community to protect ocean wildlife, make our fisheries sustainable and create places in the sea where our precious ocean animals are safe from harm is to be commended. The Australian Marine Conservation Society are working actively with passionate scientists, educators and advocates who have defended Australia's oceans for more than 40 years. Australians love the sea and, as an island nation, we value our ocean wildlife, our fur seals, our humpback whales and our sea turtles. Measures outlined in this bill have the specific aim of protecting these gifts that we have been given. Moreton Bay, on the eastern coast of Australia 45 kilometres from Brisbane, is one of Queensland's most precious coastal resources. The waters of Moreton Bay are a popular destination for recreational anglers and are used by commercial operators who provide seafood to the market. The protection of this area, along with our waters, is of great importance. Brisbane has a great love for Moreton Bay and its 30 beaches, its wonderful, beautiful islands and its national marine park. This region also plays a very important role in the world's biodiversity, hosting 40,000 migratory birds each year, as recognised by the World Wetlands Day celebrations.

We all remember one of Australia's worst oil disasters on 11 March 2009. We saw the cyclone-buffeted cargo ship Pacific Adventurer leak some 270,000 litres of fuel into Moreton Bay. It blackened the beaches of Moreton Bay and Bribie Island and beaches along the Sunshine Coast. The oil washed onto beaches, rocky reefs and mangroves on the north-eastern side of Moreton Bay and Bribie Island, and onto the beaches and mangrove wetlands between Caloundra and Coolum Beach on the Sunshine Coast. Many of the affected areas were located within the Moreton Bay Marine Park and the Moreton Bay Ramsar site. It will take many years for these areas to fully recover.

The Bligh government's response to the Moreton Bay oil spill disaster was just another bungle from a tired and inept Labor administration. It took far too long for them to recognise that there was a problem occurring, and then they delayed the start of the clean-up effort. Several of the local restaurants and many of the hotels and function centres that received shipments of fish from the waters off the Queensland coast refused to stock any fish due to the spill. The cost of that particular operation also hurt the economy terribly. It cost at least $10 million. In July 2009, the total clean-up bill was estimated to be some $34 million. The President of the Queensland Seafood Industry Association, Neil Green, said at the time that the 30 containers of ammonium nitrate that fell off the Pacific Adventurer on the Wednesday morning were also a major concern to commercial fishermen and the potential impact on fishing stock was absolutely devastating.

I support any safeguards that we can implement to prevent such ecodisasters. The coalition has supported the bills which have updated liability provisions for oil spills in 2008 and implemented improved air pollution standards for ships in 2010. These measures, combined with the current bill, will in the long term reduce the risk, and lessen the impact, of disasters such as those I have outlined. The measures in the bill are very important. It also needs to be noted that to date a ship-to-ship transfer has occurred only once in Australian waters. In March this year Caltex conducted a successful transfer off the coast of Sydney.

Debate adjourned.