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Thursday, 24 March 1994
Page: 2199

Senator PANIZZA (1.38 p.m.) —I will briefly address the Australian Democrats' amendment. I wish to express my disappointment. There was an original set of Democrat amendments which we considered; the Democrats revised it on 15 March but did not send it to us; they revised the amendment again today and did not send it to us. We could hardly have addressed it at this stage. From quickly running through the amendment, I consider it to be an inner glow amendment that does not really mean much. It calls on the government to use its best endeavours. Who is the judge of whether the government uses its best endeavours?

Senator West —Us!

Senator PANIZZA —No, it is generally us on this side. But okay, in this case, as Senator West has pointed out, it is the government. The amendment calls for `appropriate legislative initiatives and consultations with the states'. How do we define `appropriate' when dealing with the states? I ask how, why, and when? Probably `when' will be answered over the page. Paragraph (a) states:

the states accept their responsibility for the uptake and discharge of ballast water by coastal shipping;

Is it really the domain of the states to do that, and not the Maritime Safety Authority? Paragraph (b) states:

Vessels do not take on . . . water.

I agree that we have to watch what ballast water is brought to Australia, and ensure that it does not interfere with our fishing and other things, but it is not necessarily the states that have to do that. The amendment continues:

Port Authorities assume responsibility for alerting coastal shipping to factors covered under paragraph (b);

Once again, are the port authorities the right sort of authority to do that sort of work? I have my doubts about that—great doubts. The amendment continues with similar things, such as:

before discharge of any ballast water in any Australian port, the ship's master:

  (i)  informs the Port Authority—

and the port authority will tell them where to discharge. I do not think that authority should be responsible for doing that. There are more appropriate authorities to look after the discharge of ballast water. Democrats' amendment No. 7 says:

the highest priority is given to the development of on board processing of ballast water;

If Senator Coulter wants to go along with this idea of onshore treatment of ballast water, I would agree that we have a future there—discharging ballast water that comes from another part of the world, treating it and then using it as ballast for another ship—but there would need to be a very quick technological development to be able to process water on board a ship. I do not see it happening in the next 10 years or so. As for this being laid on the table by February 1995, again, that is like talking about the government's best endeavour and deciding who will be the judge of that. Senator West will be the judge, no doubt. While we were not alerted to these amendments, the concerns I have expressed are not very strong ones and the coalition has no intention of opposing them.