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Tuesday, 7 September 1993
Page: 1104


Senator SHERRY (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Primary Industries and Energy) (9.05 p.m.) —I move:

  That this bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

  Leave granted.

  The speech read as follows

The purpose of the Bill is to amend the Protection of the Sea (Shipping Levy) Act 1981 to raise the maximum rate of oil pollution levy which can be applied to commercial shipping using Australian ports.

The levy, which was introduced in 1973, provides funds towards the costs associated with operation of Australia's National Plan to Combat Pollution of the Sea by Oil.

The National Plan brings together Commonwealth, State and Territory and industry expertise and combat capacity under one national contingency plan. Since 1 January 1991, it has been administered by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA).

The levy funds the administration of the National Plan, including equipment acquisition, maintenance and training. It also provides a contingency fund to cover costs incurred in responding to marine pollution incidents.

The Act currently provides that the rate of levy (per quarter) is such rate, not exceeding 4 cents per ton of the tonnage of the ship, as is prescribed.

The rate of levy at present prescribed by Regulation is 2.2 cents per ton. However it is intended that this rate be raised to 4 cents per ton from 1 October 1993. This increase will enable AMSA to implement the recent decisions of Commonwealth and State Transport Ministers aimed at enhancing the effectiveness of the Plan.

These decisions flowed from consideration of a high level review of the National Plan by a Commonwealth/State/Industry Working Party. Additional funds are required to purchase additional response equipment to enhance response capability in the event of major spills and put in place contractual arrangements to enhance fixed wing dispersant delivery capability.

The increase in the prescribed rate of levy to meet these additional funding demands will, however, remove the leeway that has previously existed between the rate of levy prescribed by regulation and the limit on the levy set by the Act.

This leeway is essential to allow AMSA to react speedily to a large funding requirement that might arise in the case of a major incident. While in almost all cases costs of responding to oil pollution incidents are recovered from the polluter, there is an immediate call on funds, and it may be some time before these can be recovered.

In such cases the ability to increase the levy by regulation will allow AMSA to borrow funds at short notice by giving it the financial capacity to service and repay such a loan from the levy.

The increase in the maximum rate of levy that can be prescribed to 6 cents per ton as proposed in this legislation maintains the current relationship between the rate of levy prescribed by regulation and the maximum rate capable of being prescribed.

Mr President, the Government hopes of course that we will never need to raise the rate of levy to pay for the clean up of a major spill. The Government believes, however, that it is essential for AMSA to have the capability to respond quickly should such an unfortunate event occur.

I present the Explanatory Memorandum to this Bill and commend the Bill to the Senate.

  Debate (on motion by Senator Panizza) adjourned.