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Tuesday, 19 June 2012
Page: 7026


Mr ZAPPIA (Makin) (17:25): Yesterday was a historic day for the shipping industry here in Australia, when we saw reforms that had been worked on for the last five years passed through the Senate. Having passed through the Senate, and also having been through this House, that legislation will now obviously become law and put into effect those very important and long-overdue reforms. These are reforms which all speakers have made the point about, that they update legislation that is now 100 years old—legislation that is clearly outdated and which should have been updated a long, long time ago.

It was interesting to hear the member for Fadden say that the coalition will support this legislation, because they did not support the reforms which were voted on in the Senate yesterday and they did not support those reforms when they were in this House. So I am pleased to hear that at least they support this legislation, the package of bills that is before us today—the Navigation Bill 2012 and cognate bills.

It is a package of bills, because this legislation sets out to do a number of things. Whilst I certainly will not go into detail about all of them, there are some comments I want to make. The most important aspect of this legislation is that a national maritime regulator is established under the national law bill. Not only is a national maritime regulator long overdue but it will create much more efficiency in the shipping industry here.

The national maritime regulator is one of three national regulators that replace 23 existing regulators for rail, heavy vehicle and ships across this country. The national law bill introduces a new national law for the regulation of domestic commercial vessel safety and establishes the Australian Maritime Safety Authority as the national regulator. The objects of the bill are to promote continuous improvement in marine safety, to promote public confidence in the safety of marine operators, to ensure effective identification and management of safety risks and to reduce the regulatory burden without compromising safety. It is all about making our shipping industry more efficient.

The national law bill is a component of the national transport reform package, which I mentioned a moment ago, and there has been other legislation in respect of the road transport sector. That was debated in this parliament only last month and, again, it complements this legislation. It has also now been agreed to by this parliament. The policy basis for this legislation arises from an agreement reached at the Council of Australian Governments meeting on 19 August 2011. So this is legislation that has the support of each of the states and territories. And understandably so, because having three national transport regulators instead of 23, which is currently the case across the three sectors, will result in significant improvements to efficiency and to productivity. Across those three transport sectors those improvements are estimated to save about $30 billion over the next 20 years. That is not insignificant—$30 billion is a lot of money, and it is money that would not be able to be saved if we did not undertake and commit to the reforms across all of the three transport sectors.

This bill means that Australia now has one national maritime safety law replacing 50 pieces of legislation in seven jurisdictions, one national maritime safety regulator replacing seven state and territory regulators and one national system for commercial vessel safety, allowing the seamless movement of domestic commercial vessels and crew around the country. Clearly it makes sense to have one national regulator. It also makes a lot of sense to have one national set of laws so that as vessels move from one state to the waters of another state they are subjected to the same laws and conditions.

The state and territory agencies will still be responsible for the effective day-to-day operation of the national law under delegation from the national regulator. The jurisdictions—that is, the states and territories—will retain responsibility for the regulation of waterways, the management of ports and associated issues such as classifying waters, setting speed limits and regulating alcohol consumption. I think it is quite appropriate that each state and territory have that responsibility remain with it. I note that vessels which operate internationally, foreign vessels and vessels which maintain certification under the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea will be regulated by the Commonwealth under the Navigation Act 2012 and are outside the scope of this bill. Defence vessels and recreation vessels are also outside the application of this bill. Interstate vessels that are currently regulated under the Navigation Act 1912 will be covered under the national law from its commencement.

The Maritime Safety (Domestic Commercial Vessel) National Law (Consequential Amendments) Bill provides for consequential amendments to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority Act 1990, the AMSA Act, and the national law bill. The objective of this arrangement is to align the national law, general safety obligations and offences with workplace health and safety duties and offences once the WHS Act has been enacted nationally.

Schedule 1 of the bill amends the AMSA Act to include definitions defined in the national law and to reflect the agreement on commercial vessel safety reform that the Commonwealth reached in the Council of Australian Governments agreement. The bill will ensure that the AMSA board membership includes at least one member with knowledge of or experience relevant to non-SOLAS-convention commercial vessel operation and/or construction. Schedule 2 of the bill repeals the existing offences and penalties for the general safety duties in the national law and replaces them with provisions that correspond substantially with the provisions of part 2 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011. Schedule 2 will take effect when all law that corresponds substantially with the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 is enacted in all states and territories.

I want to make a few general comments about the shipping industry in this country, and they are comments that I touched on when I was speaking to the reforms only two weeks ago. Those reforms, as I said at the outset, have now been passed by both this House and the Senate. According to the Australian Logistics Council, the national freight task in this country is expected to double to 1,000 billion tonne kilometres by 2030 and to 1,400 billion tonne kilometres by 2050. We live in a country where we export a lot of our product. We are fortunate to have an abundance of mineral resources. We sell those resources outside this country, but we do not ship them because we have hardly any ships left in this country. In fact I understand that less than half a per cent of our exports are carried by Australian flag vessels.

It is high time that we got behind our shipping industry in this country. It is high time for several reasons. Firstly, we have a product to export, yet we have no means to carry it. It makes logical sense to value-add to that product by having a shipping industry and a shipping fleet capable of continuing the work that we generate in this country. Secondly, we know full well that a shipping industry, like any industry, has to abide by regulations and the laws of the sea. We have had too many experiences where that has not occurred, including in our own waters, and we have seen the destruction and damage that is caused by that. By having professional, well-regulated, well-trained shipping crews, that is not likely to happen. It is in our environmental interest, if nothing else, to ensure that that happens. We also have obligations to the rest of the world when our ships are in international waters or when any ship carrying our produce is in international waters. If we are going to live up to those obligations, it seems to me that we ought to be in total control of the process.

We have an opportunity to do something that we have neglected to do for a long, long time, which is to revive the shipping fleet of Australia. In doing so we will add to our national prosperity and we will also be more in control of our future affairs. A good example of that, where we literally see money being wasted, is the demurrage costs that we pay to foreign vessels whilst they sit in our coastal waters waiting to be loaded. I understand that in 2008, which is the last year I have figures for, we paid about $1.8 billion in demurrage costs just to have those vessels sitting out in our coastal waters. Even if it were our ships sitting out there, at least that money would be going into our own industry and not into someone else's.

There are very many good economic reasons to revive and support the Australian shipping industry. The four pieces of legislation that we are dealing with today are part of that process. It is legislation that has been worked on for some time, it is legislation that has the agreement of the industry, it is legislation that has the agreement of the states and it is legislation that will add to the national economy and national prosperity. For those reasons I commend the legislation to the House.