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Tuesday, 21 August 2001
Page: 26261


Senator HILL (Minister for the Environment and Heritage) (6:25 PM) —I table revised explanatory memoranda relating to the bills and move:

That these bills be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speeches incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speeches read as follows—

INTERNATIONAL MARITIME CONVENTIONS LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL 2001

The International Maritime Conventions Legislation Amendment Bill 2001 will amend four Acts. Taken by themselves, each of the amendments contained in this bill is relatively insignificant. However, taken as a package, they represent an important updating of the four Acts. I will consider each Schedule of the bill in turn.

Schedule 1 will amend the Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims Act 1989 (the LLMC Act). The LLMC Act implements in Australia the Convention on Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims, 1976 (the 1976 Convention).

In brief, the 1976 Convention allows a shipowner or salvor to limit the total amount of damages they can be required to pay for damages caused by the ship, the shipowner or the salvor in accordance with limits set out in the 1976 Convention. Liability limits increase with the size of a ship. The 1976 Convention has been amended by a 1996 Protocol to increase liability limits and to provide for a simpler method for future increases to liability limits. The bill will amend the LLMC Act to implement the 1996 Protocol.

The amendment to the LLMC Act is expressed to commence on a date to be proclaimed. Proclamation will not occur before Australia has become a party to the 1996 Protocol and the Protocol has taken effect internationally. The passage of this legislation is one of the domestic requirements before Australia becomes a party.

The 1996 Protocol will not take effect internationally until ninety days after at least ten countries become parties to it. As at 28 February 2001 only four countries (Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, Finland and Norway) were parties.

By reversing the effects of twenty years of inflation, the increase in liability limits made by the 1996 Protocol will provide a reasonable level of compensation in the case of an accident involving a ship while not making the limits so high that shipowners will not be able to obtain insurance coverage.

Schedule 2 of the bill will amend the Protection of the Sea (Powers of Intervention) Act 1981 to revise the list of chemicals in respect of which the Australian Maritime Safety Authority may take “intervention action” on the high seas, in the exclusive economic zone or in the territorial sea. Such action may be taken to prevent or reduce pollution if a chemical has escaped, or is likely to escape, from a ship. The intervention action may range from moving the ship to another place to, in an extreme case, sinking the ship.

The revision to the list of chemicals is in accordance with a Resolution of the Marine Environment Protection Committee of the International Maritime Organization, taking into account new chemicals now being carried by ships in bulk.

Schedule 3 of the bill will make a number of amendments to the Protection of the Sea (Prevention of Pollution from Ships) Act 1983 (the Pollution Prevention Act) which gives effect to the operational provisions of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution by Ships, commonly known as MARPOL. I will briefly refer to the more important of the amendments to the Pollution Prevention Act.

The requirement to include the text of Conventions in Schedules to the Pollution Prevention Act has been removed. There are fourteen Schedules which contain the original MARPOL Convention of 1973, the Protocol of 1978 and eleven separate amendments to that Protocol, and the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty. The inclusion of amendments to MARPOL in Schedules to the Act does not provide an easily understood version of the text of MARPOL as in force in Australia at a particular time. Further, the inclusion of the text of the Conventions in the Schedules is misleading as it can give the false impression that this is the latest text of any amendments - that is not so. The removal of the Schedules will not disadvantage users as the text of MARPOL is readily available in written form from specialist maritime booksellers and in electronic form.

Requirements relating to the disposal of garbage have been inserted in Annex V of MARPOL. The new sections 26FA to 26FD will give effect to those requirements. Australian ships of 400 tons or more which are certified to carry 15 or more persons will be required to have a shipboard waste management plan and to carry and maintain a garbage record book. These provisions are designed to complement existing provisions restricting the disposal of garbage from a ship and are intended to ensure that the oceans are not polluted by ship's garbage. In addition, every ship of 12 metres or more in length will be required to display placards to inform passengers and crew about the restrictions that apply to the disposal of garbage from the ship.

Incident reporting requirements are being expanded to require ships of 15 metres or more in length to report any incident that affects the safety of the ship or results in an impairment of the safety of navigation, thereby having the potential to result in pollution. This is an improvement over current arrangements where incident reports are required only when the master determines that there is a probability of pollution.

Members of the Australian Federal Police are routinely appointed as inspectors under the Pollution Prevention Act during investigations into marine pollution incidents. Inspectors have a number of powers (including going on board a ship, inspecting any parts of a ship and requiring a person to answer questions) for the purpose of ascertaining whether the Pollution Prevention Act has been complied with and, in the case of a foreign ship, whether MARPOL has been complied with.

The definition of “inspector” is being amended to include a member or special member of the Australian Federal Police. The amendment will reduce administrative procedures at the time of an incident by removing the need for specific appointments of AFP members as inspectors.

Occasionally, when marine surveyors from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority are conducting ship inspections, it becomes clear that the amount of waste on board the ship at that time - such as oily waste or garbage - is such that the ship would have to discharge some of the waste at sea before reaching its next port of call. The bill includes amendments that will enable surveyors, where it is reasonable to do so, to require waste to be discharged from the ship to a suitable discharge facility. This is another small but important step to help reduce the amount of waste discharged from ships into the oceans. There are waste reception facilities at more than fifty ports in Australia, although not all facilities can accept all types of waste.

Some of the offence and penalty provisions of the Pollution Prevention Act are being revised. One of the most significant of these changes relates to the disposal or discharge of, for example, oil or garbage, into the sea. Currently, it is only the master or owner of a ship who can be prosecuted for an offence. The relevant penalty provisions have been rewritten to provide that any person whose reckless or negligent conduct caused a discharge is guilty of an offence. Where a discharge is not the result of reckless or negligent conduct, the owner and master will be strictly liable but, in that case, the maximum penalty is lower. There are a number of defences set out in the relevant provisions of the Act. For example, there is no offence if a discharge occurs for the purpose of securing the safety of the ship or saving life at sea or the discharge occurs in accordance with the strict conditions set out in MARPOL.

Finally, I mention the amendments to the Submarine Cables and Pipelines Protection Act 1963, set out in Schedule 4 of the bill. That Act gives effect to Australia's international obligations to make it an offence if a submarine cable or pipeline is damaged by an Australian-flagged ship in the exclusive economic zone or the high seas. The amendments included in this bill reflect the wording of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, to which Australia has been a party since November 1994. In its present form, the Submarine Cables and Pipelines Protection Act reflects the wording of the redundant 1958 Convention on the High Seas. The amendments simply include a specific reference to the exclusive economic zone in the Act and do not have any effect on the application of the Act.

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FINANCE AND ADMINISTRATION LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (APPLICATION OF CRIMINAL CODE) BILL 2001

The Finance and Administration Legislation Amendment (Application of the Criminal Code) Bill 2001 amends eight Acts administered by the Finance and Administration portfolio. These Acts are the Parliamentary Contributory Superannuation Act 1948, the Superannuation Act 1922, the Superannuation Act 1976, the Superannuation Act 1990, the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918, the Referendum (Machinery Provisions) Act 1984, the Public Accounts and Audit Committee Act 1951 and the Public Works Committee Act 1969.

The Bill makes amendments to those Acts to reflect the application of Chapter 2 of the Criminal Code, which contains the general principles of criminal responsibility, to offence provisions under all Commonwealth Acts from 15 December 2001. The Bill follows on from the Government's decision to harmonise all Commonwealth Acts with the Criminal Code on a portfolio by portfolio basis to provide greater consistency and clarify of criminal offences in Australia.

Schedule 1 amends existing offence provisions under the various Commonwealth superannuation Acts to ensure that they will operate in the same manner when Chapter 2 of the Criminal Code applies or in a manner which is consistent with Commonwealth criminal law policy. The proposed changes involve imposing the lighter evidential burden of proof on a defendant and expressly stating time limits to satisfy requirements under offence provisions in the Acts. The proposed amendments will not introduce any new criminal offences under the various Commonwealth superannuation Acts.

The Bill will also update maximum penalties in the various superannuation Acts to ensure that they are appropriate and conform with the principles of the Crimes Act 1914. Changes proposed in this respect include converting penalties from a dollar amount to penalty units.

Schedule 1A of the Bill proposes amendments to the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 and the Referendum (Machinery Provisions) Act 1984 to ensure that the offence provisions under these Acts continue to operate in the same manner when the Criminal Code commences. Further, the Bill will repeal a small number of offences from the Referendum Act that can now be adequately prosecuted under the Criminal Code. The Bill will restructure certain offences in both Acts to clarify the interpretation of those offences. The proposed amendments will not introduce any new criminal offences under either the Commonwealth Electoral Act or the Referendum Act.

Schedule 2 of the Bill proposes amendments to the Public Accounts and Audit Committee Act 1951 and the Public Works Committee Act 1969 to provide for the application of Chapter 2 of the Criminal Code to these Acts. A number of minor amendments to sections in these Acts, which contain descriptions of specific offences, are included so that these offences continue to operate in the same way but also comply with the Criminal Code.

Debate (on motion by Senator Ludwig) adjourned.

Ordered that the bills be listed on the Notice Paper as separate orders of the day.