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Wednesday, 30 August 1989
Page: 652

(Question No. 1019))

Senator Archer asked the Minister for Resources, upon notice, on 26 May 1989:

(1) Has the Government received representations from Tasmanian fishermen expressing concern at the evidence of various organisms being released in Tasmanian waters by Northern Hemisphere vessels.

(2) What measures does the Government take to monitor foreign vessels in ballast entering Australian waters.

(3) What supervision are they subject to and what penalties are imposed on operators failing to maintain the requirements.

Senator Cook —The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

(1) Both I and the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) have received representations from a range of agencies and organisations in Tasmania and mainland Australia expressing concern at the situation.

(2) A program of ballast sediment sampling by Quarantine staff from overseas vessels entering a number of ports around the mainland of Australia has been introduced. This supplements the sediment sampling from woodchip carriers entering Triabunna in Tasmania which has underpinned work by the CSIRO Marine Laboratories into possible introduction of exotic species into south-east Tasmania waters.

(3) The Quarantine Act 1908 sets penalties of $50,000 or imprisonment for 10 years or both for a natural person, or $200,000 for a body corporate for the knowing introduction of harmful organisms. The challenge involved in developing effective controls on ballast water under the Quarantine Act is a substantial one given the estimated 60 million tonnes of discharge annually in Australia and the need to minimise disruption to industries which rely on shipping for bulk commodity exports. A range of control approaches is under development, in consultation with concerned authorities and industry to limit the introduction and spread of organisms toxic to humans. It is intended that these controls be introduced as soon as practicable arrangements are finalised. Additionally, a program of research into the broader problems posed by ballast water discharge, including possible control approaches, is being developed. The Government's concerns in this area and its commitment to action were highlighted in the Prime Minister's Environment Statements in July.