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Tuesday, 6 April 1965

Senator O'BYRNE - The point has been made that pollution on a large scale could occur if an accident happened and normal precautions were not sufficient to cover the emergency. I have been reading the record of a hearing before the Merchant Marine and Fisheries Sub-Committee of the Committee on Commerce of the United States Senate on this subject. It is pointed out that the total damage caused by the enormous amount of oil released on the marine waters of the world can never be accurately assessed. The principal uses of salt water are listed as follows - The propagation and harvesting of finned fish, the propagation and harvesting of shellfish, the propagation and maintenance of other vertebrate and invertebrate marine life including water fowl, swimming, boating, sport, fishing, other forms of recreation and aesthetic enjoyment, navigation and commercial transportation, dilution and dispersion of wastes, domestic water supply in the future and industrial water supply in the near future.

The principle involved in this legislation affects all those various activities. If the release of oil were uncontrolled, even outside the 150-mile limit as far as Australia is concerned, or outside the 50-mile limit in the case of other signatories great damage could be caused to marine life in a world which needs more food. There is no need for this, and the matter should be approached in a commonsense way by all nations. I hope that the amendment now before us, which breaks new ground, will be extended so that the prohibition will apply to ships dispersing oil anywhere at sea, and that a new marine code will be drawn up.

Mention was made of the harm that can be done to marine bird life. Let me refer to the migratory habits of the sheerwater, a species of mutton bird, which travels all the way to Siberia but returns to nest on the islands of Bass Strait, particularly the Furneaux group and Flinders Island. It is one of the wonders of nature that these birds always return to these islands. Even though the annual harvest or take-

Senator Hannaford - Slaughter.

Senator O'BYRNE - That is true. Hundreds of thousands of birds are taken. The young birds which survive the annual harvest fly off after their parents have already left on their migration but are able to join up with them. The birds return the following year to their burrows to lay their eggs and to commence the cycle again. Vast numbers of these birds are affected by oil on the sea. In their migratory flights their habit is to fly by day and to sit on the sea and rest by night. If they happen to land in an area that has been polluted by oil, the simple fact is that they just cannot rise off the water.

Senator Hannaford - They cannot swim even. They lose their buoyancy.

Senator O'BYRNE - That is true. As a consequence, many thousands of these birds die and are washed up on the coasts. Their death can be directly attributed to the fact that they have had the misfortune to land on a part of the ocean that has been polluted. The other valuable commodities that are taken from the sea by fishermen must be considered. We have only to think of the tremendous amount of capital that is invested in oyster beds around the Sydney area. Oysters are a delicacy, particularly to Sydney people who have developed a taste for them. How unpleasant it would be to eat an oyster that has an oily taste - at 10s. or 12s. a dozen, too.

My colleagues and I give this measure our fullest support. I have made a few observations in the hope that the principle involved will be extended so that anyone who deposits oil on the sea, whether inside or outside the prescribed limit, will be breaking the marine code. I hope that every seafaring nation in the world, whether it has 1 million tons registered tonnage or less, will observe this very important principle. I have pleasure in supporting the Bill.

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