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Friday, 28 November 2003
Page: 18411


Senator ALLISON (2:48 PM) —The Democrats recognise the urgency of the Maritime Transport Security Bill 2003 and for this reason we will be supporting the passage of the bill today. The bill introduces at Australian ports new security requirements which are required under the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code under the SOLAS Convention, to which Australia is a signatory. These arrangements must be in place by 1 July 2004. It is necessary to provide the shipping industry and the department with adequate time to implement the necessary arrangements; for that reason, we recognise the urgency for passing the bill.

These provisions were introduced to address international maritime security following the events of 2001. Whilst much attention has focused on aviation security and terrorism in air transport, terrorism at sea and in our ports is also of concern—if not of potentially larger concern—as is the security of shipping containers transported to and from sea ports on land. This bill introduces measures to address those concerns.

It is also the case that international ports may not accept ships arriving from ports which are not compliant with the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code. Should Australian ports not comply, the implications for foreign trade would be significant to Australia's international trade. As we are all very aware, living on an island continent, we are very dependent on marine shipping for international trade, and indeed for our economic livelihood.

I note that concerns were raised in the Senate committee regarding the need for ongoing consultation between the department and industry during the implementation of the provisions in the bill. I seek assurances from the minister that this consultation will occur. I note that concerns have been raised by the aviation industry regarding the lack of consultation in relation to the implementation of the aviation security bill, and it concerns me that we have seen lack of consultation in this bill too. When implementing any new regulatory regime or system, the government would be well advised to consult with those affected to ensure that the implementation goes smoothly and that the aims and objectives are achieved. I hope that the department will implement the provisions of this bill with that in mind. The bill in many ways resembles the aviation security bill; as with that bill, the concern has been raised that the bill lacks specificity and that industry participants will lack guidance from the department in implementing the provisions of the bill. Again, as with the aviation legislation, I hope that the department will take active steps to work with industry in this regard.

I note that there are amendments which will be moved in the committee stage and which seek to address some of the other concerns raised during the inquiry of the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee. These concerns include the need to protect the religious rights and welfare of seafarers. The Democrats will support those amendments.

It is a pity that the Senate has not had more time to consider this bill and to work through some of those issues. I am sure senators are aware that there is currently a large workload before various Senate committees, including the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Committee. The bills have been dealt with in a very tight time frame. However, recognising the importance of the bill in light of our international obligations and potential impacts on international trade, the Democrats will be supporting the legislation.