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Wednesday, 15 August 2012
Page: 8814


Mr HUNT (Flinders) (10:18): I am delighted to lend my support to the Maritime Legislation Amendment Bill 2012. This bill is the latest in a succession of steps for Australia to participate in and give effect to international provisions regarding the prevention of pollution from international and domestic maritime industries. Only last week I was at Phillip Island, in my electorate, meeting with people from the Phillip Island Nature Park. They have done work which is the practical face of the items intended by the bill.

The nature park, in conjunction with Victoria University, has developed what may well turn out to be the world's leading system for care, prevention and recovery of seabirds and other marine creatures that have been affected by the discharge of oil, diesel or other fuels. So, in the event of an accident, in the event of an incident, the fine grain ionic particles which they have developed would be sprinkled on a bird or animal where they are covered in oil or diesel or other maritime fuels. These are magnetic in nature and the university has developed a short magnetic stick or, as they call it, a wand, which they would then wave over—I participated in these trials—the skin or fur of the animal. The magnetic particles are in turn lifted off and, with that, bring the offending oil or diesel or other maritime fuel with them. This technology is the living embodiment of everything that these bills are meant to support and encourage, which is the care, protection and maintenance of our marine environment.

I am completely supportive of, and utterly committed to, the broader notion of marine protection. I played a small role whilst we were in government in helping to advance this cause and also, more broadly, to look at cases such as those currently being developed by the Phillip Island Nature Park in conjunction with Victoria University. I happen to think that, if this technology is given support, it has the capacity to be a 21st century stump-jump plough for Australia. It will be Australian technology being used to try to deal with the consequences of marine accidents wherever they occur around the world.

This bill is about preventing those sorts of incidents. To the extent that it extends and advances the implementation of the MARPOL convention and the entire marine apparatus, I am delighted to support it, but it is one part of three elements going forward. Firstly, we implement the conventions. Our approach has been well elevated and set out by the Leader of the National Party, Mr Truss, this morning. Secondly, we need to have these measures in place, particularly for care and maintenance where there are spills. Thirdly—and this is the last thing that I want to address so as not to detain the chamber—we still have an issue of ongoing shore based pollution, which is an extraordinary element of legacy waste in the 21st century.

We use our coasts as dumping grounds for sewage around the country. We have well over 1,500 billion litres of waste water discharged off our coasts each year, every year. In Sydney, that includes primary treatment at Malabar Headland off Bondi and off the northern shores. We are effectively using our coasts as sewers, and that is a 19th century concept in the 21st century, and it simply cannot stand. We need a national ocean outfalls plan. This is something to which I have now been committed for many years. If we are in a position in government, we will work with the states to develop an ocean outfall plan so that each of these outfalls is cleaned up to an acceptable standard and that water is progressively recycled for industry and agriculture around the country. We are in a wet period at the moment, but the dry times will come again soon enough. To be wasting that water and to be discharging pollution off our coasts completely undermines, I think, the intention of this bill. How can it be that we are taking steps to ensure, as we should, that our maritime operations do not despoil the seas whilst, at the same time, discharging 1,500 gigalitres, 1,500 billion litres, of sullied water off our coasts each year, every year, forever?

I am delighted that the Gunnamatta outfall is about to be treated to tertiary level. Within the next year that process should be completed. In my own electorate, 150 billion litres of waste water have been discharged at a very polluted and unacceptable level. That is multiple times greater than any ship discharge.

We can see that we have to take steps to prevent pollution occurring at sea, steps to allow for the clean-up and care and maintenance of those animals affected by sea-borne pollution and then we have to address the third part of the process—the extraordinary damage caused by 1,500 gigalitres, as well as the waste of water from that 1,500 gigalitres of sewage discharge around our oceans. We need to set time frames and targets to end that waste. I commend the bill and I thank the minister. It has our support but there are broader steps which we also need to take.