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Thursday, 8 February 2007
Page: 8

Ms HALL (12:01 PM) —I rise to support statements made by the shadow minister in his contribution to this debate. The Maritime Legislation Amendment (Prevention of Air Pollution from Ships) Bill 2006 implements Australia’s obligation to reduce pollution from ships as a party to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, MARPOL 1973 to 1978. In particular, it implements annex VI, which was adopted by the International Maritime Organisation in September 1997 and came into force internationally on 19 May 2005.

The amendments set limits on sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions from ship exhausts, prohibit the deliberate emission of ozone-depleted substances and set a global cap of 4.5 per cent on the sulfur content of fuel oil. There are some minor amendments unrelated to annex VI, including a change in the description of ‘pilot’ to ‘licensed pilot’, amendments to better implement the revised annex I of MARPOL and the removal of the limit on the amount of penalty for regulatory breaches. The bill amends the Navigation Act 1912 and the Protection of the Sea (Prevention of Pollution from Ships) Act 1983.

I would firstly like to raise the issue of the continuing voyage permit and the single voyage permit ships that operate around the coast of Australia and how these ships impact on the ability to ensure that Australia meets its obligations in relation to the amendments to the act. I would argue strongly that the amount of control we as a nation have over those ships is severely limited because these ships tend to be outside the jurisdiction of this nation.

I would like to share with the House an example of one of these ships and how our knowledge and ability to influence what happens on them is limited. I have visited ships issued with continuous voyage permits and single voyage permits. The flag of convenience ship I have visited, which I have mentioned many times in the House, is the Angel III. This ship sails under a Maltese flag, with a Greek captain and Burmese crew. The crew of this ship were very nervous and very subservient, and their inability to speak English and the fact that all the signs on the ship were either in English or in Greek created questions about how safe the ship was in their hands.

There have been many stories about flag of convenience ships, which are often flagged under one country, have a crew from another country and a captain from a different country again. Many of these ships have been identified as rust buckets floating on the seas around our coastlines, and they have the potential to impact on the environment. The Australian government’s inability to ensure that these ships will observe the amendments in this proposed legislation really raises some serious concerns.

I would argue that the government’s decisions and actions in the maritime area have been driven more by its ideological hatred of the MUA and more by its workplace relations legislation than by what is actually best for the shipping industry of this country and for the protection of our environment and the global environment.

On another note, coal was previously shipped from Catherine Hill Bay, within the electorate of Shortland, to the port of Newcastle on a wholly Australian owned vessel, an Australian crewed vessel, captained by an Australian captain. That was the MV Wallarah. You could look out to the ocean and see the Wallarah off the coastline and be secure in the knowledge that there would be no pollution on our beaches. Unfortunately, that vessel has been sold. It is now a flag of convenience ship sailing around the coastline of Australia. The potential for environmental damage to our shores by these flag of convenience ships is quite enormous.

I implore the government to look at the national interest and revisit this issue of single voyage and continuous voyage permits, which, as the shadow minister informed the House, were initially introduced to meet peak workloads. They are not the exception now; they are the norm. That is the way that shipping is conducted around Australia in the overwhelming majority of cases.

As well as the potential for an environmental catastrophe, there are other impacts. There is the impact on our shipping industry as a whole, because the shipping industry is an employer not only on ships but on shore. There are a number of shore related businesses associated with Australian shipping. These have all been affected by this government’s ideological opposition to the MUA.

We are an island nation. We should have one of the strongest shipping industries in the world. Potentially we have the expertise here, which we are fast losing because of the approach to shipping by this government. But instead of following down the track of developing, nurturing and improving the country’s shipping industry, we have gone down the track of selling out on it.

The shadow minister mentioned a very important issue, and that is the security issue and the fact that foreign crews are not subject to the same scrutiny as our Australian crews. They do not have to have the maritime security card that Australian crews do and they do not have to have the same level of identification and security checks that Australian crews and Australian maritime workers have to have.

The government cannot really be serious about security if they allow these foreign crews to come in without proper security checks and to not have to notify the port until 24 hours before; as the shadow minister said, half do not advise until they are in port, and the security checks on these foreign crews are non-existent. If they are not checked properly, how can you ensure that the person that they claim is on the ship is actually on the ship?

There are enormous issues surrounding the maritime industry. We in the opposition support these changes, but we implore the government to revisit all the issues surrounding the Australian shipping industry, and to commit to building a strong shipping industry for our island nation, put aside their hatred of the MUA and join with the opposition in ensuring that we have a shipping industry that will set us up for the future and place us in a very good place in the world and use the expertise that exists in this country.