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Friday, 5 December 1986
Page: 3549


Senator ARCHER(5.58) —The Opposition supports the Protection of the Sea Legislation Amendment Bill which is designed to enable Australia's implementation of annexes III, IV and V of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, generally known as the MARPOL Convention. The sea, which covers three-quarters of the world's surface, has for centuries been regarded as a receptacle for all waste and, while this may be ultimately so, it is now accepted that it cannot go on. Land based conservation consciousness was appreciated in the world far ahead of marine conservation. It is now here and we welcome the extension.

We are a maritime nation and the sea is vital to us, our security and our trade. With over 6,000 vessels a year visiting our ports, this legislation is significant. It covers prevention of pollution by packaged harmful substances, prevention of pollution by sewage and prevention of pollution by garbage. It ensures that compensation is available to persons who suffer oil pollution damage as a result of discharge from oil-carrying vessels. It also tidies up the definition of tonnage for the purpose of collecting levies. The Opposition welcomes these improvements.

Australia's territorial waters encompass a far greater area than our land. With our Antarctic territorial lands and waters, we have coverage of the most enormous range of climatic conditions, vegetation and marine life imaginable. Our research has failed adequately to cover the responsibility this implies, although I pay tribute to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation divisions of oceanography and fisheries research and the Australian Institute of Marine Science in particular for the very valuable work they have done and have planned.

I find it absolutely imponderable that this Government should have cut by 25 per cent the allocation of funds for marine science research for 1986-87. The work being done on the Barrier Reef in the mangrove country and in drought prediction and so on is the best in the world. It is absolutely senseless to cut that funding. We need much more study into the effects of runoff pollution, interference with the breeding programs of the widest variety of marine life, other uses, habitations, and so on. In the meantime we accept that disasters at sea will always be a possibility, and we can never eliminate that. We can take steps to ensure the standards of vessels and the handling of their cargo. We can ensure that we establish an appropriate level of preventive measures for unnecessary pollution, and we can apply a level of penalties for breaches that will ensure satisfactory compliance. That is the circumstance in which the MARPOL Convention comes into effect. I support the Bill, and I give notice that I will not support the Australian Democrats' amendments as I believe that, on the one hand, they add nothing to the legislation and, on the other, they are covered by other legislation.