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Thursday, 26 November 2015
Page: 9108


Senator CAMERON (New South Wales) (13:05): I thank Senator Fifield for drawing attention to my 'dulcet tones', even when I cannot read properly!

The Maritime Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 seeks to amend Australian maritime legislation to better align it with our obligations under new International Maritime Organization conventions. It also amends the definition of 'dangerous goods' in the Navigation Act. The bill changes four acts. Critically, it closes a loophole that potentially allows heavy-grade oil to be used as ballast in Antarctic waters, and it ensures that the Australian Maritime Safety Authority can take appropriate enforcement action against vessel operators who do not carry appropriate insurance certificates.

There are few things more important than ensuring that the legislative framework for protecting our environment is as effective as it can be, and this is especially so in the area of shipping. When accidents occur on the high seas the consequences can be devastating. For instance, in June 2007 the Pasha Bulker ran aground off Nobbys Beach at Newcastle during a severe storm. In March 2009 the Pacific Adventurer lost 30 containers overboard in heavy seas with one or more piercing the hull as they tumbled overboard. A year after that accident, the Chinese bulk carrier Shen Neng 1 ran aground on the Great Barrier Reef east of Rockhampton. Not long after that, the Liberian-flagged vessel Rena hit the Astrolabe reef off Tauranga on the North Island of New Zealand, spilling 350 tonnes of oil into the Bay of Plenty. The accident shut down New Zealand's export sector.

Consider the consequences if there were a major shipping accident in Antarctica, one of the few pristine environments left on the globe. It hardly bears imagining. That is why Labor will support the bill before us today. As much as we value and want to encourage the maintenance of a vibrant shipping industry, we regard environmental protection as a key role of government. We will always take a conservative view when it comes to balancing economic activity and the environment.

The bill seeks to amend Australian maritime legislation to better align it with our obligations under the new International Maritime Organisation conventions. It also amends the definition of 'dangerous goods' in the Navigation Act. The bill changes four acts. Critically, it closes a loophole that potentially allows heavy-grade oil to be used as ballast and it ensures the Australian Maritime Safety Authority can take appropriate enforcement action against vessel operators who do not carry appropriate insurance certificates. Labor can always be depended upon to support legislation that ensures that laws protecting our environment are fit for purpose. We support this bill because it is the right thing to do. I commend the bill to the Senate.