Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 17 October 2002
Page: 5427

Senator ABETZ (Special Minister of State) (4:59 PM) —I thank honourable senators for their contributions to the second reading debate. The Space Activities Amendment Bill 2002 amends the Space Activities Act 1998. The bill implements new arrangements relating to liability, insurance and safety that will provide greater protection to the public, to industries underlying flight paths and to other strategic economic assets such as Australia's oil and gas facilities. These new measures will mean that Australia's space insurance and liability regime is more consistent with international practice.

The proposed amendments will require proponents undertaking launch activities to procure insurance for each launch of up to a defined maximum probable loss or $750 million, whichever is the lesser. By this bill, the Commonwealth will provide greater protection to Australian nationals by accepting liability of up to $3 billion in excess of the amount covered by insurance for damage to Australian life and property caused by Australian launch operations. The Commonwealth is already liable for damages to foreign nationals under international law. This bill will also apply a stronger test of risk to space launch activities. The new test requires the risk to be as low as reasonably practicable—or ALARP. Adoption of the ALARP principle will ensure that applicants for authorisations under the act demonstrate that they have achieved the lowest practicable risk within the bounds of reasonable cost.

In addition to the new liability, insurance and safety measures, the amendments provide for new arrangements to license the space launch activities of scientific and educational organisations, thereby promoting the development of space science expertise in Australia and increasing opportunities for nonprofit scientific and educational organisations to engage in space science research. These new arrangements will provide for an alternative application processing fee structure which is less onerous and better suited to the modest scale and limited risk associated with scientific and educational launches and returns. The bill also implements a number of minor administrative and technical amendments, including defining the point at which the act becomes effective, clarifying the fee regime and making provision for an annual review of a space licence. These amendments will improve the overall operation and efficiency of the act.

During the second reading contributions there was some criticism of the Christmas Island project. This legislation is of general application and is not project specific. However, as one person described it to me, it is one small step for the Senate to take, but it will be a giant leap for Christmas Island.

Senator Lundy —You have been waiting for that, haven't you?

Senator ABETZ —I have been waiting for that, Senator Lundy. It is a very good line from one of my staff members. I confess that I did not think of it, but I thought that it was a very good line.

Senator Crossin —Look at the mess on Christmas Island!

Senator ABETZ —Even Senator Stott Despoja has sufficient grace to laugh at that, Senator Crossin. But let us move on. The original act established a licensing regime to regulate space launch and re-entry activities from Australia and overseas launches of space objects in which Australian nationals have an ownership interest. It ensures that space launch activities will only be undertaken where the applicant has presented a strong case to demonstrate the safety of the proposed activities. The act also ensures that such activities do not compromise Australia's foreign policy obligations or national security, that procedures to protect the environment are in place and that the Commonwealth complies with its obligations under United Nations conventions.

Passage of the bill will ensure that the Australian space safety regime is amongst the most stringent in the world and that our insurance and liability arrangements are appropriate to the needs of space launch activities in Australia. The bill also facilitates the development of Australia's space industry by improving and enhancing the regulatory framework needed to create a competitive environment, to protect research into space science technology and to encourage private investment in emerging space launch and research projects. I commend the bill to the Senate.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.