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Tuesday, 18 May 1993
Page: 710

Senator GILES —My question is directed to the Minister for Transport and Communications. What action is being taken by Australia to obtain cooperation from our geographical neighbours to tackle the problem of substandard shipping in the Asia-Pacific region?

Senator COLLINS —I have indicated to the Senate before the seriousness with which the Government takes the question of substandard shipping. Honourable senators would have seen—I hope they did—the extremely informative report that was broadcast in the Sunday program entitled Ships of Shame.

Senator Vanstone —Can't you find your brief?

Senator COLLINS —I do not need a brief to answer this question. As that program made clear, the appellation `ships of shame' came about as a result of the description given to substandard shipping by the chairman of the parliamentary inquiry into it, Mr Peter Morris. The Government intends to address fully the question of what action we need to take in respect of the Ships of Shame report in the Senate shortly, and I will address all of those matters then.

  In terms of regional cooperation, one of the obvious things we wish to pursue through the Australian Maritime Safety Authority is the establishment of a database of the ships which come into the area, which can be accessed by all of our near neighbours. I might add that this is something which is done routinely around the world.

  We carry out random inspections of about 25 per cent of the ships which come into Australian ports. All of that is carefully logged on a computer database here in Australia. But these ships also regularly visit ports in countries close to ours where they go through a similar inspection. One obvious way of assisting to pool the information from our near neighbours and ourselves is to provide a common database between Australia and our near neighbours to ensure not only that the inspections in Australia are logged and made available to them, but also that the inspections of the same ships carried out by them are made available to us.

Senator Gareth Evans —Mr President, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.