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Wednesday, 28 February 2018
Page: 2201

Mr DRUM (MurrayAssistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister) (09:43): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

Australia's domestic commercial vessels are significant employers, especially in our regional and coastal communities.

There are over 66,000 seafarers employed on 27,000 domestic commercial vessels around Australia. The operation of these vessels is vital not only to sustain the 66,000 seafarers that are employed on these vessels but also to the ongoing viability of onshore support jobs and supply chains.

Australia's domestic commercial vessels are, on average, medium-sized vessels, which undertake commercial, government or research activities. They include:

passenger vessels, such as ferries and scuba diving tour operators,

research and emergency response vessels, including tugs and barges,

fishing vessels, and

vessels that are commercially hired out for recreational use, such as houseboats, sailboats, jet skis and kayaks.

It is our duty as a government to ensure that all of these vessels operate as safely as possible so that they do not risk the lives of those onboard, while being efficient and productive to allow the owners and operators to get on with the job.

In 2009, the Council of Australian Governments decided on a range of national productivity reforms. One such reform was to establish a national regulator for maritime safety—specifically focused on the safety of domestic commercial vessels. As a result the Australian Maritime Safety Authority was appointed as the national regulator. This was enabled through the Marine Safety (Domestic Commercial Vessel) National Law Act 2012which made the states and the Northern Territory responsible for service delivery as delegates of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.

Under this law, the national system for domestic commercial vessel safety was designed to provide a single national regulatory framework to ensure the safe operation, design, construction and equipping of domestic commercial vessels, and to ensure operators, seafarers and vessels could move seamlessly between jurisdictions.

Following an independent review of the national system in 2014, it was evident that there were inefficiencies and inconsistencies in the way it was being delivered. Inconsistent approaches between the state-based service delivery arrangements were identified as the key cause of the full benefits of the national system not being realised.

Consequently, the Council of Australian Governments' Transport and Infrastructure Council agreed the Australian Maritime Safety Authority would take over service delivery and, over time, achieve full cost recovery through the introduction of a levy for the national system.

The levy is consistent with the Australian government's cost-recovery framework and will only recover costs for activities that are directly related to the safety of domestic commercial vessels. Safety regulation activities will include the:

administration and maintenance of the regulatory framework,

initiatives to streamline the regulatory framework,

safety education and customer support services,

standards and policy development,

compliance and enforcement.

Due to the economic importance of these domestic commercial vessels and the safety of the crew and passengers onboard, the Commonwealth has committed $55 million to support industry to transition to charges under this levy. This is part of a $102.4 million joint transition funding package from the Commonwealth, the states and the Northern Territory over 10 years from 1 July 2018. This transition package will help industry adjust to the change to national delivery of maritime safety regulation and ultimately achieve full cost recovery.

From 1 July 2018, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority will deliver a truly national system of domestic commercial vessel safety in accordance with the original vision of the Council of Australian Governments.

Importantly, no levy will be charged to industry in the first year of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority's service delivery to ensure fair and equitable treatment of all operators as charging arrangements are standardised and services transition across Australia. Levy charges will then increase gradually to ensure industry has time to plan and adjust.

Industry organisations such as the Tasmanian Seafood Industry Council, the Western Australia Fishing Industry Council, the Boating Industry Association and the Northern Territory Seafood Council are supportive of this transition package which will help to ensure a smooth transition to a national regulator.

The national system for domestic commercial vessel safety will allow every domestic commercial vessel owner, operator or crew member in Australia to operate under one set of safety standards and charges, and experience a nationally consistent level of service. It will also reduce barriers for industry, improve labour force mobility, and simplify vessel transfers across Australia.

One of the benefits of a national system for domestic commercial vessel safety is that operators now only have to meet one set of requirements nationally, instead of in every state or territory they work across. Take Mr Bruce Davey, a commercial fisherman, for example, who runs a fishing operation and a charter operation during different times in the year across Queensland and the Northern Territory.

He says that in the past he had to have two different certificates of survey, log books, and management plans. There was a time when he even flew Northern Territory surveyors across to Queensland to have his vessel surveyed because it was a lot cheaper than getting a surveyor in Queensland, but then Queensland no longer recognised the survey done by the surveyor from the Northern Territory.

But now he says that 'having a national body with one set of rules has made an amazing difference'.

His Australian Maritime Safety Authority accredited surveyor surveys his vessel by the book, and his certificate of survey is recognised in both Queensland and the Northern Territory.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority will deliver these services for around 30 per cent less than it currently costs to deliver the system. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority is working hard to reduce the cost of the system without compromising safety.

This will further improve Australia's economic growth, productivity and competitiveness.

Today, I present a package of three bills to introduce the cost-recovery levy for the national system for domestic commercial vessel safety.

The first bill is the Marine Safety (Domestic Commercial Vessel) Levy Bill 2018, which will create an act to impose a levy on domestic commercial vessels, define the persons liable to pay this levy in respect of a leviable vessel, and allow the amount of levy to be set in rules.

The charges shown in the legislative rules demonstrate how the levy will be introduced gradually as a result of the $102.4 million transition funding package announced by the Transport and Infrastructure Council in December 2017.

I am proud the Australian government is contributing $55 million of this funding to support our vital tourism, transport and fishing industries in regional and coastal communities.

This bill will allow the Australian Maritime Safety Authority to deliver better safety outcomes by introducing a simpler, more accessible system with risk-based inspection and education regimes targeting unsafe operations.

Once the Australian Maritime Safety Authority has assumed service delivery, I expect it will continually engage with industry to identify further opportunities to streamline services and requirements.

This will ensure our truly national system continues to provide industry with the safety support needed while letting industry get on with driving this nation forward by delivering world-class tourism, transport and fishing.

I commend this bill to the House.

Debate adjourned.