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Wednesday, 9 August 2006
Page: 1


Senator ELLISON (Minister for Justice and Customs) (9:31 AM) —I table the explanatory memorandum relating to the bill and move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

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

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows—

ENVIRONMENT AND HERITAGE LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (ANTARCTIC SEALS AND OTHER MEASURES) BILL 2006

The purpose of the Environment and Heritage Legislation Amendment (Antarctic Seals and Other Measures) Bill 2006 is to make amendments to the Antarctic Treaty (Environment Protection) Act 1980 and the Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards Act 2005.

The Antarctic Treaty (Environment Protection) Act 1980 gives effect to Australia’s obligations under the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty—the Madrid Protocol of 1991, of which Australia was a principal architect. The Madrid Protocol afforded significantly increased protection to the Antarctic environment.

Measures giving effect to Australia’s obligations under the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Seals 1978 are currently embodied in the Antarctic Seals Conservation Regulations 1986 which means that penalties for offences can only be set at a low level.

This bill transfers the seals-related measures in the existing Antarctic Seals Conservation Regulations 1986 into the Antarctic Treaty (Environment Protection) Act 1980. Seals and whales are the only two families of mammals native to the Antarctic. Whales are already protected under the provisions of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. The bill increases the penalties for seals-related offences to bring them into line with other wildlife related penalties in the Antarctic Treaty (Environment Protection) Act 1980. Taking seals for commercial purposes will remain prohibited.

The Madrid Protocol specifically prohibits mining in the Antarctic, and mining remains prohibited by the Antarctic Treaty (Environment Protection) Act 1980.

In addition to the pecuniary penalty already available, the bill introduces a maximum imprisonment penalty of sixteen years for mining in the Antarctic. The ban on mining is the key feature of the Madrid Protocol and the severity of the proposed penalty reflects the seriousness of this offence as well as the degree of premeditated planning required to commit such an action.

In recognition of the high scientific value of meteorites found in the Antarctic, the Antarctic Treaty Parties in 2003 agreed to a measure to protect them from uncontrolled collection. The bill implements this agreement by requiring a permit to collect meteorites or to remove meteorites or rocks from the Antarctic. Accordingly, it will also be an offence for a person to remove a meteorite or rock collected in the Antarctic. Collecting rocks and meteorites under a permit is exempted from the restriction on mining activities.

The bill will also extend to individual animals the protection afforded by the Antarctic Treaty (Environment Protection) Act 1980 to seals and birds in concentrations of more than 20.

As a precaution against the introduction of non-native organisms and diseases to the Antarctic environment, the bill includes the requirement for a permit to re-introduce a native bird or seal to the Antarctic. Such a permit would set appropriate conditions for the safe re-introduction of a native animal. This requirement would apply, for example, to the return to the Antarctic of a vagrant individual or a specimen from a zoo.

The bill also adjusts other penalties throughout the Antarctic Treaty (Environment Protection) Act 1980 to better reflect the hierarchy of offences, and to more closely align them with penalties for similar offences under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

The bill also adjusts other penalties throughout the Antarctic Treaty (Environment Protection) Act 1980 to better reflect the hierarchy of offences, and to more closely align them with penalties for similar offences under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

Finally, the bill will amend the Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards Act 2005 to allow a WELS standard to be incorporated by reference into a determination that relates to a particular WELS product, and make another minor amendment to correct a drafting error regarding the definition of offence against this Act.

Ordered that further consideration of this bill be adjourned to the first day of the next period of sittings, in accordance with standing order 111.