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Thursday, 18 March 2010
Page: 3061


Ms HALL (12:10 PM) —I rise to support the Protection of the Sea Legislation Amendment Bill 2010. The purpose of this bill is to implement revised measures to reduce air pollution by ships in accordance with changes agreed to by the International Maritime Organisation in October 2008. It is also to ensure that persons and organisations who provide assistance following a spill of fuel oil from a ship are not themselves likely to be exposed to liability.

MARPOL is one of a number of conventions adopted by the International Maritime Organisation to reduce pollution of the sea. It entered into force in October 1983 and in Australia in January 1988. Australia’s obligations under the convention were given domestic effect on behalf of the Commonwealth of Australia by amendments to the Protection of the Sea (Prevention of Pollution from Ships) Act and the Navigation Act 1912. MARPOL has six technical annexes, which deal with the following aspects: prevention of pollution by oil, control of pollution by noxious liquid substances, prevention of pollution by harmful substances in packaged form, prevention of pollution by sewage from ships, prevention of pollution by garbage from ships and prevention of air pollution from ships.

This is very important legislation. It ensures the safety of our seas. It ensures that our seas are not polluted. As a representative of a coastal electorate—the electorate of Shortland, which is very vulnerable to pollution of the sea by ships traversing the coastline—I have on many occasions risen in this House to express my concerns about safe shipping and ensuring that our coastline is protected. In the electorate of Shortland, we have many pristine beaches. I believe that the greatest threat to our beaches and marine life in that area comes from pollution from ships. Therefore it is vitally important that legislation such as this is put in place to ensure protection of both the sea and the coastline. Often we forget that the ocean around our nation is a highway for ships carrying goods around our coastline, delivering from one port to another. As any highway is busy, so the highway surrounding our country is busy.

We have discussed a number of MARPOL amendments over a long period of time. It is laudable that we as a nation support these amendments. Unfortunately, over the years of the Howard government, our maritime shipping industry and the industries associated with it declined. The previous government did not make a commitment to a sustainable shipping industry. Along with failing to make a commitment to a sustainable shipping industry, it also allowed practices that I feel do not ensure the safety of our sea and our environment. With us being an island nation, I believe it is very important that we embrace the opportunities that a strong shipping industry provides. As such, we need to be very supportive of the MARPOL amendments.

It is interesting that countries like the UK and the USA have made a commitment to developing their shipping industry. It is only now that we are really looking at the opportunities that are created by our shipping industry in the way that we should. The MARPOL protocols are vital because, as I have already mentioned, they protect our environment. It is important from a global perspective that Australia becomes a contracting party to all these protocols because, by our ratification and by introducing legislation, we can ensure that the shipping industry worldwide is environmentally sound. In Australia we have many foreign ships traversing our coastlines, so we really need to make sure that these protocols are in place. In the Shortland electorate we have the MV Wallarah taking coal from Catherine Hill Bay to the port at Newcastle on a daily basis. We are always mindful of the fact that this is an Australian ship and the standards that apply to it are supported by the MARPOL legislation.

The legislation we have before us today is about the protection of the sea. It will protect the environment from activities associated with shipping. Sulfur oxide in the atmosphere is one particular thing we are looking at in relation to this legislation. It produces adverse health effects and also contributes to the development of acid rain. We therefore need to ensure that this protocol is in place and this legislation is passed. Despite the comments of the member for Canning, the government is supporting this legislation. The bill will implement incremental changes to the maximum sulfur level of marine fuel oil, as agreed by the International Maritime Organisation in 2008, leading to a corresponding reduction in the amount of sulfur oxide in the exhaust gases of ships. The bill also provides protection for persons or organisations assisting in clean-ups following oil spills. It is therefore essential that persons or organisations are not deterred from responding to fuel oil spills. The bill has been put out for consultation. I support this excellent piece of legislation.