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Monday, 11 November 1991
Page: 2798

Senator CROWLEY —My question is directed to the Minister for Shipping and Aviation Support. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority has proposed the removal of four navigation aids from the Spencer Gulf in South Australia. There is concern that their removal is potentially dangerous for the small vessels, trawlers and recreational boats which rely on these aids, and that their removal will bring consequential costs to the community for search and rescue missions at sea. Will the Minister comment on these concerns, the status of the proposal and the Government's response to it?

Senator COLLINS —Senator Crowley has been pursuing this issue with me. I can advise her that the Australian Maritime Safety Authority is conducting a review of navigation aids provided in Spencer Gulf. Under arrangements that have existed since 1934 the Commonwealth Government does take responsibility for the efficient marking of ocean highways and coastal shipping tracks, apart from their termination points. All the costs of operating the Commonwealth network are met by commercial shipping through a levy which is imposed. The provision of port, river and navigation aids for inner waterways is the responsibility of the State governments or the local authorities concerned.

  Last year it was concluded that the four navigation aids that have been referred to by Senator Crowley were redundant to the requirements for the safe and efficient navigation of commercial shipping. The review included consideration by the Maritime Services Advisory Committee, which is a consultative body providing advice to AMSA on planned changes to the navigation aids system. The Committee comprises representatives from the shipping industry, including the Australian National Maritime Association, the Australian Chamber of Shipping, the Royal Australian Navy Hydrographic Office and AMSA. Following consultation with their respective associations and ships' masters who are actually transiting the area, in October 1990 the Committee confirmed that the commercial shipping industry did not have a continuing requirement for these navigation aids in Spencer Gulf.

  There are a number of Commonwealth and State navigation aids in northern Spencer Gulf which do mark hazards and allow fixing of position on the recommended shipping track and port approaches. In relation to one of the four aids nominated by AMSA for decommissioning, known as the middle bank beacon, I am advised that the decision to continue this as a Commonwealth navigation aid was based on the surrounding area already being adequately covered by other Commonwealth navigation aids. In relation to the navigation aids in the other three locations in the Gulf, the argument for their retention appears to be based upon their use as port approach aids, which is a State responsibility. Hence, AMSA proposes to decommission these four navigation aids unless the South Australian Department of Marine and Harbors is prepared to assume responsibility for them.

  AMSA has been consulting with the Department of Marine and Harbors on this matter and is always prepared to examine proposals for more cost effective operational practices in relation to the provision and maintenance of marine navigation aids. I have received representations from the local councils comprising the Spencer Gulf Cities Association, raising concerns with the proposed decommissioning of these navigation aids. All of these concerns, including those of Senator Crowley, have been passed on by me to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.

Senator CROWLEY —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I notice in today's newspapers that the South Australian Minister still seems to be unclear of the status of these decisions. Can the Minister tell me where the discussions with his State colleague are?

Senator COLLINS —I can confirm that those discussions are ongoing. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority is conducting negotiations with the South Australian State Government at officer level. The clear criterion for AMSA in operating navigational aids is to maintain those aids which serve commercial sea shipping, that is, large ships. The situation is that these navigation aids are no longer needed for this purpose. That is a joint view of all of the industry parties that have been consulted by AMSA. The option is still open for the South Australian Government to agree to take over the operation of these aids which are currently used as port approach beacons.