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Thursday, 10 November 2011
Page: 8831

Senator JOYCE (QueenslandLeader of The Nationals in the Senate) (13:13): I rise to speak on the Maritime Legislation Amendment Bill 2011. These bills have been around for a while. We have only got to them by reason of other legislation being dealt with—the carbon tax bills and our single-handed desire to cool the planet from a room in Canberra, send us back to 1910 to ride horses around and change our car parks back into stables. Maybe we could rename this place 'the Manger' as opposed to Parliament House.

This bill seeks to amend the Navigation Act 1912 and the Protection of the Sea (Prevention of Pollution from Ships) Act 1983. It will introduce an offence for negligent navigation in a manner that causes pollution or damage to the marine environment. It will create an offence for failure to report in a mandatory reporting area. It will increase the penalties for reckless or negligent discharge of oil or oil residue by ships. This is a clear example of how, at times, though the public never see it, there are bills that we agree on. They are called noncontroversial because we agree on them and therefore they do not make the paper. The lasting impact of damage to our unique marine environment should not be underestimated. While significant environ­mental incidents are relatively uncommon, the number of reported oil spills in Australian waters has averaged over 250 per year for the last 10 years. Oil spills at sea have the potential to cause lasting damage to our marine ecosystem as well as having an ongoing impact on the maritime, fishing and tourism industries. We have seen this globally with examples such as the Exxon Valdez. I heard the other night that more oil is spilt in a year than was spilt by the Exxon Valdez; it is just that that oil spill was over such a wide area of United States coastline.

Oil spills at sea have the potential to cause lasting damage. In Australia's recent history, we have had two very pertinent maritime incidents that stand out. One was the grounding of the Shen Neng 1, which ploughed into a reef off Gladstone, and the other was the Pacific Adventurer oil spill.

Senator Feeney interjecting

Senator JOYCE: You are right. I will take the interjection. The Labor Party said it was an attack on fossil fuels. This is yet another unity ticket where we all hope that the Labor Party will be able to hold out against the Greens, who want to get rid of fossil fuels. They want to get rid of fossil fuels because they are basically anti civilisation and want to take us back to being content hunters and gatherers on the forest floor, eating beetles and nuts. In dealing with the interjection, if we were to claim that the Labor Party would roll over to the Greens, we would probably have someone like Mr Swan come out and say that that was hysterical. Mind you, that is exactly what he said to us when we said that they would roll over on the carbon tax.

The changes proposed in this bill implement some of the recommendations from a report conducted by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority in the wake of the Shen Neng 1incident. The Shen Neng 1ran aground 38 nautical miles east of Great Keppel Island, causing damage to a three-kilometre stretch of the Great Barrier Reef. Mind you, it will grow back. This caused the fuel tanks to rupture and four tonnes of fuel oil to leak into the surrounding waters. Thankfully, the vessel was successfully salvaged by Svitzer, preventing the spillage of coal, heavy fuel and oil which was on board.

I remember at the time the interest in the spill and the circus of aircraft flying over it. It was visited more than the Holy Spirit that day. There was Peter Garrett, Anna Bligh and the Prime Minister all earnestly looking out the window at it. What surprised me about that is that not far from there is a real ecological disaster that no-one wants to talk about—that is, the Mount Morgan mine. It is completely full of water and has heavy metals throughout. It has killed the river downstream. No-one wants to talk about it. It is in the too-hard basket. There are 11,000 megalitres of water and they have the capacity to treat six megalitres a year. It is leaking from the tailings at the moment. You only have to go to the Dee River just below it to see. It is killing crops. Cattle are not allowed to use it. People are not allowed to swim in it. No-one wants to talk about it. It is owned by the state government, of course, and that is why the state government does not want to talk about it.

The Pacific Adventurer oil spill in March 2009 saw 270 tonnes of heavy oil leak as far as seven nautical miles off the coast of Cape Moreton. The ship lost 31 containers of ammonium nitrate overboard which caused the leak. The clean-up operation lasted two months and involved 2½ thousand people. Three-thousand tonnes of contaminated sand was removed from Moreton Island.

This bill implements a number of measures. Firstly, clause 267ZZI will require the master of any ship in Australian waters not to operate the ship in a manner that causes pollution or damage to the marine environment. Additionally, the bill will require that the master of any ship in Australian waters must ensure the ship is operated in a manner that does not cause pollution or damage to the marine environ­ment—clause 267ZZJ. Similarly, in relation to Australian flag vessels operating on the high seas, it is the responsibility of the master not to operate the ship in a manner that causes pollution or damage to the marine environment—clause 267ZZL—and to ensure that the ship is operated in a manner that does not cause pollution or damage to the marine environment, which is under clause 267ZZM.

This bill also creates criminal and civil penalties for contraventions of these provisions and the procedural requirement through which compliance with the bill may be enforced. Criminal and civil penalties are provided for and a higher civil penalty may apply in the case of serious damage. The high penalties are intended to deter noncompliance and to take into account the level of cost saving that shipping operators may achieve through noncompliance and the perceived likelihood that a breach will be identified and a shipping operator prosecuted.

The bill also creates an offence where the master of a ship fails to report in a mandatory reporting area—clause 269E—such as the Great Barrier Reef. A strict liability offence is created, so no intention is necessary for an offence to be committed. This makes it clear that the prosecution does not have to establish that the master knew or was reckless as to the fact that the ship was in a mandatory reporting area. This is appropriate as the defendant, the ship's master, is best placed to provide evidence as to whether the provision was contravened. Finally, the bill increases penalties under the legislation for reckless or negligent discharge of oil or oil residues by ships. Australia, as a signatory to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, MARPOL, is required to ensure that the penalties specified in law are adequate to discourage violations. Presently the act imposes a maximum penalty of $220,000 for an individual and $1.1 million for a corporation for reckless or negligent discharge of oil or residue into the sea. However, this is significantly less than that imposed by state governments, with spills in New South Wales and Queensland having a maximum penalty of up to $10 million for a corporation.

The bill will increase the fine for a corporation from $1.1 million to $11 million. The amendment will mean that the severity of a penalty will be based on the seriousness of the offence and not the location of the offence. In increasing the penalty, the bill puts the burden on the polluter to pay the clean-up bill. In the wake of the Pacific Adventurerspill—and I think everyone remembers that, when everybody was out cleaning the beaches, scraping up the oil—the Protection of the Sea Levy was increased by 3c per registered tonne in order to recover the clean-up costs of the spill. This meant that the industry paid for the mistake of a particular shipping line, as their legal liability was inadequate to cover the cost of the clean-up. It should be noted that the owner of the Pacific Adventurer, Swire Shipping, agreed to pay $25 million in compensation in excess of their legal obligations arising from the oil spill. This was still below the total clean-up cost, which was estimated at $31 million.

In conclusion, the coalition is pleased to support the bill and will continue to support sensible measures designed to protect our unique marine environment. The ongoing situation in New Zealand shows us that, while major incidents in Australia are rare, they can happen. We need to take steps to deter dangerous and reckless actions at sea and to deal appropriately with incidents should they arise.

Once more, this is an example of an environmental piece of legislation which is bipartisan. This is an example of a position where both parties have decided to agree to get passage of the legislation to bring about a better environmental outcome. This legis­lation actually has the capacity to provide a better environmental outcome, as opposed to the carbon tax, which is not going to do anything for the environment but will just make people poorer. This piece of legislation quite evidently will try to alleviate and mitigate the effects of oil spillages. A tax delivered to every power point in the house is going to do absolutely nothing at all to cool the planet. Now we hear that the Greens want to go to totally renewables in the next 10 years. That will send us back to the Dark Ages, literally.

It is incredible that, within maybe 48 hours of the passage of the carbon tax legislation, the people that the Labor Party negotiated with, who are now at the tiller of this nation, have made a statement which quite obviously will accelerate driving the ship of state into the rocks. One has to ask the question: what on earth happened in the discussions? Mr Combet assured us that this was not going to cost one manufacturing job. What happened in those discussions? Did they discuss that? Did they say: 'The people we're in business with want to completely and utterly shut down any form of major industry in Australia'? How did we get to a position where, when we were told that it was all under control, that it was competent, that—

Senator Feeney: Mr Acting Deputy President, I rise on a point of order. I ask that you draw the speaker's attention to the bill. I appreciate the fact that he is using as much maritime and navigational terminology as he can but, notwithstanding that, he is not referring to the bill. This is a time for non-controversial legislation. If he is going to filibuster, I ask that he at least be artful about it and refer to the bill.

Senator Ian Macdonald: On the point of order, Mr Acting Deputy President: Senator Feeney raises a point of order that is rarely raised in relation to speeches in second reading debates. Senator Joyce is clearly very much on the topic and, as well as that, is making some very good points, which perhaps the minister at the table does not like to hear.

Senator Feeney: It sounds just like you're filibustering!

Senator Ian Macdonald: Well, you raised the point of order, Minister. If you are accusing—

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Ludlam ): Senator Macdonald, do not debate the issue. I think you have made yourself quite clear on the point of order.

Senator Ian Macdonald: I was just responding to an unruly interjection from the minister. I hope I have made my point.


Senator Ian Macdonald: I think the speaker is being very relevant to the bill.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: There is no point of order, but I will direct Senator Joyce's comments to the question that is before the chair.

Senator JOYCE: Thank you very much, Mr Acting Deputy President—a Daniel come to judgment.

The Maritime Legislation Amendment Bill 2011 is a good piece of legislation. As it is a good piece of legislation, we should juxtapose it quite clearly with an appalling piece of legislation, which was the carbon tax. This legislation will actually deal with the problem. That is why it is a superior piece of legislation to pieces of legislation such as the Clean Energy Bill, which started off as something about global warming then became about carbon pollution and then became about clean energy. The government did not have to use weasel words in this bill like they had to in that bill, where it had to keep changing and changing.

The reason that this piece of legislation has an inherent strength to it—and it is essential that we talk to this—is that there has been a competent hand on the tiller, with the political association between the National Party, the Liberal Party and the Labor Party, to bring about a piece of legislation that is not extreme and that everybody knows the effect of. That juxtaposes quite evidently with the Clean Energy Bill, where we have no idea what the effect of it will be. There was absolutely no competency whatsoever shown by the minister to answer serious questions about it. The minister could give flowing recitations on glamorous points but on the technicalities and getting down to the detail was completely and utterly at sea.

After this bill is passed, we will have a period of certainty. The Labor Party, in debate on the other bill, talked about certainty, yet within 48 hours the Australian Greens were back on the front page of the paper saying that they had to take the next step and the next step is the complete removal of fossil fuels from Australia. Where will this end? With the removal of fossil fuels. Every motor car runs on fossil fuels, so we take them off the road. So you say, 'We'll have electric cars.' Electricity is generated predominantly from fossil fuels, so we will take electric cars off the road, too. We'll go back to ships: every one of them will be off the sea except those coming from overseas. Those from overseas will still be allowed but the Australian ships will be gone. The trains run on diesel so we will take them off the railway lines. There will be nothing left.

It would not matter if this had come from the ramblings of a dissident group, but this came from the Greens partner in the Greens-Labor Party-Independent alliance. I deliberately put them in that order because that is how the show is being run. The leading light of the Greens-Labor Party-Independent alliance—the glee club—who negotiated and brought into our nation this Clean Energy Bill, is now wanting to completely remove from Australia motor cars, trains, ships, recreational pursuits, anything to do with fossil fuels, anything with a synthetic base or an oil base, or plastics, carpets or nylons. We will obviously have to get rid of coal and steel. How would we build this place? What would we build it out of? We cannot use steel. We will build it out of sticks. There will be no more glass because you need energy to make glass.

This is the new world. This is where they live. Quite evidently, the absurdity is that this is where our nation is going. At times, if you did not laugh you would cry. While all this is going on, what is happening overseas? The world is basically falling out of its financial bed. So what are we doing to our nation? We are putting it in the most precarious position, completely redesigning it on a colourless, odourless gas. How absurd is that?

Senator Di Natale: It's weightless, isn't it?

Senator JOYCE: What a peculiar thing for someone to say. You have just brought in a bill. Do you not know about it? Of course carbon dioxide has weight. What an incredibly foolish interjection from somebody whose party has been prominent in bringing into our nation the most dangerous act in my time here. He asked: 'Isn't it weightless?' What a peculiar question. This is why what they are doing to our nation is so dangerous. As I said before, Julia Gillard is the Romulus Augustus of the Australian Labor Party. It is all over. It just goes to show that, when they want to, we can do things which are effective.

The other day they passed the most dangerous piece of legislation economically for our nation at this juncture of our history. What we see now coming from their alliance partner the Greens is a question as to whether carbon dioxide is weightless—a foolish thing to ask. And today they are thrilled to be on the front page of the paper saying they are ready for the next step. They have hardly taken a breath and they are ready for the next step. The next step, Australia, is to remove fossil fuels from our nation. When that happens, you will not have to worry about the Maritime Legislation Amendment Bill as far as Australian ships go. We will not have any Australian ships because we will not be allowed to have steel, we will not be allowed to have fuel and we will not have an economy.