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Thursday, 27 April 1972
Page: 1375

Senator COTTON (New South WalesMinister for Civil Aviation) - I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

The principal subject dealt with in this Bill, that of the tonnage measurement of ships, has probably never been discussed in the Senate. This is because the present law in Australia on tonnage measurement of ships is that contained in the British Merchant Shipping Act 1894 and amending Acts, in so far as they apply in Australia. The origins of tonnage measurement of ships are interwoven with those ships themselves. The purpose of measurement is to establish criteria for ship's size by volume and a basis for levying dues and charges. Broadly a ship's net tonnage is an indicator of its earning capacity. In simple terms, it is the total enclosed volume of the ship - the gross tonnage - less the volume of the spaces in which cargo is not carried or that do not otherwise directly contribute to the earning capacity of the ship.

Tonnage measurement is part of the whole process for the registration of ships, and not only our tonnage measurement legislation but the whole of our registration legislation exists in the British Merchant Shipping Acts. The Government has for some time been anxious to have this replaced with Commonwealth legislation, and new registration legislation will in fact be introduced as soon as possible. This Bill, however, will take care of the tonnage measurement aspects by inserting in the Navigation Act power to make regulations for the measurement of ships' tonnage in the way provided in the Tonnage Mark Scheme. The urgent need for Australian ships engaged in overseas trades to be able to take advantage of the Tonnage Mark Scheme on a similar basis to their competitors will then be able to be satisfied.

I shall now refer to some of the clauses of the Bill in a little detail. Clause 6 provides the regulation-making powers that are necessary to enable Commonwealth tonnage measurement regulations to be made in place of the British tonnage measurement provisions. Subsection (1.) of the new section 407a provides the general regulation-making power, and subsection (2.) provides specific regulation-making powers to ensure that there is no doubt that regulations may be made in respect of the matters mentioned in each of its paragraphs. The powers contained in most of those paragraphs would seem to be selfexplanatory, but there are two which I should explain.

Paragraph (d) enables the regulations to have conditional provisions along the lines of the 1967 British Tonnage Measurement Regulations, as, for example, where certain spaces may be deducted from the gross tonnage of a ship, this deduction can be made conditional on the spaces conforming to certain requirements. Paragarph (f) provides for regulations to give effect to the Tonnage Mark Scheme. Under the scheme a ship can have 2 sets of tonnage figures and a 'tonnage mark' on its side. One set of figures applies when the tonnage mark is submerged and the dry cargo spaces between the second and upper decks are included in the ship's tonnage figures. The other set applies when the tonnage mark is not submerged, the dry cargo spaces between the second and upper decks not being included in the ship's tonnage in such circumstances. The Tonnage Mark Scheme has been recommended by the Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organisation.

While Australian ships will for the time being continue to be registered under the Merchant Shipping Act, it is necessary, as I have indicated, that some provisions of the Merchant Shipping Act be repealed or amended, in so far as they are part of the law of the Commonwealth. These changes will not affect the operation of the provisions in so far as their application in the States is concerned. Subsection (3.) of section 407a provides for the sections of the Merchant Shipping Act that are to be amended or repealed to be set out in a Schedule, which is to become Schedule VIII to the Principal Act. The Schedule is inserted by clause 9.

Clause 6 also inserts a new section 407b dealing with tonnage in the case of ships of countries other than Commonwealth countries. Briefly, it provides in effect that the Governor.General may, by proclamation, declare a country to be one the tonnages of whose ships will be accepted in Australia for the purposes of dues and charges, subject to any specified conditions and restrictions. It is expressed to apply only to ships of countries other than Commonwealth countries, as section 408 of the Navigation Act already covers the matter so far as ships of Commonwealth countries are concerned. Under subsection (3.) of section 407b the Governor-General may, by proclamation, in effect require foreign ships measured according to rules substantially different from those operating in Australia, and those that have tonnage figures that appear to be at variance with the figures that would be expected, to be re-measured under the Australian regulations.

Clause 7 amends section 409 so that if a ship to which it applies enters an Australian port unregistered, or if there is a dispute arising as to its correct tonnage, the ship will be re-measured under the new Commonwealth regulations rather than under the Merchant Shipping Act. Clause 10 will enable regulations for tonnage measurement purposes to be formally made between the date when the Act receives Royal Assent and the date on which, under clause 2 (2.), the sections of the amending Act concerning tonnage measurement are brought into force by proclamation. However, the regulations are not to come into operation before the latter date.

The opportunity has been taken to effect amendments on two other matters within the Navigation Act. The first of these, which is dealt with by clauses 3 and 4, raises the minimum age for employment at sea under the Navigation Act, including apprentices, from 15 to 16 years. The minimum age in practice is already at least 16, and while covering this the amendment will put Commonwealth law in the matter in an even better position in relation to relevant International Labor Organisation conventions. The second matter involves repeal, by clause 8, of section 423a. This section provides, broadly, that the GovernorGeneral may, by order, declare that, subject to certain conditions, specified provisions of the Act shall not apply in relation to Aboriginal natives of a territory employed as crews on territorial vessels. The section has been inoperative for some time, and, in accordance with the Government's policy of eliminating any potential source of racial discrimination, is being repealed.

I am sure that all honourable senators will be pleased at the extension of the Commonwealth's own legislation that the Bill represents, and will give it the support that it merits. I commend the Bill to the Senate.

Debate (on motion by Senator Bishop) adjourned.

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