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Monday, 6 December 1999
Page: 12861


Mr HOLLIS (6:15 PM) —Two weeks ago when I was speaking on the Crimes at Sea Bill 1999 I highlighted the treatment of many foreign crews and their pay and working conditions as an international scandal and made the point that this could be solved only by a concerted international response. Australia can begin by immediately ratifying ILO 147. ILO 147 is a broad convention covering wages, working conditions, certification, training and health, which are vital to the welfare and rights of international seafarers. We could do that without this particular legislation we are talking about—it would only add to this. It is a scandal that Australia, having taken the lead in exposing substandard shipping, has not ratified this international convention on a mere technicality.

Although supporting the legislation in the main—and I am not sure whether or not we will proceed with our amendment because while we were speaking on the legislation a government amendment was circulated, picking up the points that were concerning the Labor Party—the legislation will have little impact on international seafarers, and to prove this I started to highlight the example of the Glory Cape. The Glory Cape is a vessel that loaded iron ore and departed Port Hedland on 31 October 1995. On the night of the departure, five of the crew members who were Indonesian were attacked by officers and other crew of that vessel. There had been a dispute over non-payment of wages, which often happens on these vessels. The five Indonesians had sought the assistance of the International Transport Federation and the Australian Maritime Union in Port Hedland in obtaining their underpayment and unpaid wages.

At about 2.30 in the morning of 31 October 1995 the radio operator, Budi Santose, was held by Chinese cooks while he was beaten with iron bars by the Korean officers. Ulti mately, he managed to escape. According to the depositions from the crew that I have read and an affidavit sworn at Dampier on 3 November 1999, there were a number of altercations and brutal beatings. The five crew members went over the side with lifebelts, spent the night at sea and were rescued the following morning at daybreak by local authorities. The radio operator, Santose, died in the water. What really happened was that he was murdered by the Korean officers of the Glory Cape—a crime in anyone's language. This is only one example of what is happening in international shipping in Australian waters.

For too long, because of the mishmash of laws—for example, it was claimed in the Glory Cape incident that it was a matter for the Western Australian police and, incidentally, there has still been no coroner's report—criminal activities are still going unpunished. Although this bill seeks to extend the criminal jurisdiction of the Australian states beyond Australian coastal waters to the limit of the continental shelf and beyond so as to provide a legal basis for more effective control over crimes at sea, it seems it will have little impact on crimes such as those committed on the Glory Cape. Incidentally, the Glory Cape avoided Australia for some time after the Port Hedland incident but, having changed its name to CD Glory, has in recent months been back in Australian waters once more.

Although supportive of this crimes at sea legislation, I must in all honesty say that it does not help the seafarers. Access of foreign seafarers to Australian civil law is always difficult. Take, for example, the Glory Cape. No-one has been charged. The seafarer who has been aggrieved has great difficulty in getting access to the domestic legal situation. This is even more difficult if he is a seafarer from a Third World country. The legislation will clarify some issues and it will make it easier to sort out problems. But, as I say, it will do nothing for the seafarers from the Third World.

No longer should foreign shipping corporations be permitted to evade their international moral obligations for safety at sea and treatment of crew. This is a bill to give Australia a `modern crimes at sea' scheme. The increasing incidence of people smuggling in the last year has highlighted the importance of having an effective legal regime to govern the seas around Australia's coastline. It is interesting that for many years there have been horrendous crimes committed against foreign nationals mainly from Third World countries on ships within Australian waters, and nothing has been done. It was not until people smuggling started to concern middle Australia that anything was done.

This bill complements the important measures that the government has announced in the coastal surveillance context, but we as a parliament must make it easier for seafarers to gain access to Australian domestic law. Only then can we start to address the real meaning of crimes at sea. In this regard, it was very disappointing that the government response did not agree with recommendation 14 of the Ship Safe report presented to the Australian parliament in August 1998, with the unanimous support of all sides of parliament that served on the transport committee. Had that recommendation been picked up, it would have given seafarers from the Third World in many cases through organisations such as Stella Maris, a mission to the seamen, better access to Australian domestic law. That is really what is happening: seafarers from the Third World are not getting access to Australian domestic law for crimes committed against them within Australian domestic law jurisdiction. Until we start dealing with this problem, there will be no justice for so many people who have been aggrieved in Australian domestic waters.