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Thursday, 25 August 2011
Page: 9381

Mr ALBANESE (GrayndlerLeader of the House and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) (09:03): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

Although it is one of the harshest environments on the planet, Antarctica is also one of the most vulnerable.

Australia continues to take a leading role to secure protection of this fragile environment including through participation in Antarctic Treaty consultative meetings, which are the annual meetings of countries which have an interest in Antarctica.

The 2005 Antarctic Treaty consultative meeting requested the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to examine ways to restrict the use of heavy grade oils in Antarctic waters.

Consequently, the IMO's Marine Environment Protection Committee adopted, on 26 March 2010, amendments to Annex I of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) to ban the use or carriage of heavy grade oils in the Antarctic area except where it is necessary to secure the safety of a ship or in a search and rescue operation.

The amendments to Annex I of MARPOL entered into force internationally on 1 August 2011.

The purpose of the Protection of the Sea (Prevention of Pollution from Ships) Amendment (Oils in the Antarctic Area) Bill 2011 is to amend the Protection of the Sea (Prevention of Pollution from Ships) Act 1983 to implement these amendments.

This bill will apply the ban on the carriage or use of heavy grade oils to all ships in the Australian Antarctic Territory and to Australian ships elsewhere in the Antarctic area.

The possibility of an oil spill in the Antarctic area is relatively high.

Ships navigating in these waters face a number of risks including icebergs, sea ice and uncharted waters.

The rationale for banning the use and carriage of heavy grade oils in the Antarctic area is that they are more environmentally hazardous than other marine oils because they are slow to break down in the marine environment, particularly in cold polar waters.

It is likely that a spill of heavy grade oils in Antarctic waters would persist for many years and could have a major impact on any wildlife populations in the vicinity, particularly on penguins and other seabirds.

The bill imposes a maximum penalty of $220,000 on both the master and owner of a ship in the event of a breach of this ban.

As a government, we are committed to preventing and reducing marine pollution where possible.

This bill will help to ensure that the Antarctic area remains free of significant pollution damage.

I commend the bill to the House.

Debate adjourned.