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RURAL AND REGIONAL AFFAIRS AND TRANSPORT LEGISLATION COMMITTEE
26/05/2010
INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT, REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT PORTFOLIO
Australian Maritime Safety Authority

CHAIR —I welcome officers from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority , and I call Senator Back.

Senator BACK —I want to reflect on a new protocol creating a supplementary fund which improves the international regime for compensation of victims of oil pollution from tankers. I understand this has taken place as of 13 October 2009. Can you give us some further advice on that protocol?

Mr Kinley —I will have to go and get further information, but basically the supplementary fund relates to the compensation regime that is applicable to oil tankers. It basically is a top-up mechanism to increase the limits of the compensation available in the case of an oil tanker incident where those funds are needed to clean up and compensate people for damage.

Senator BACK —So it does not replace an existing fund, which I think was the 1992 fund, but it makes available additional compensation. Is that correct?

Mr Kinley —Yes.

Senator BACK —I know others want to ask questions so I will go through mine. This question relates to the Montara oil spill. Has the authority reviewed the wash-up from the Montara oil spill, with particular reference to your own activities and those of other agencies with whom you would have interacted in that particular incident?

Mr Peachey —Yes, we have. We have reviewed what went on.

Senator BACK —Have there been any changes to your protocols, or have you recommended changes to the protocols of other agencies as a result of that incident?

Mr Peachey —There are a couple of parts to that. One is that the review that was undertaken was an independent review, as we customarily do after these sorts of incidents. That review involved talking with all of the players in it, and a lot of operational matters were raised in that review. Those matters are being addressed internally within AMSA, and we intend to use the lessons learnt out of that sort of incident in a broader review of the national plan that is coming up later this year.

Senator BACK —Will those be made publicly available? Will we have an opportunity to be apprised of what those changes are?

Mr Peachey —Yes. The reports that we do like that end up on our website. I understand that the incident analysis report for the Montara wellhead issue is published on our website at the moment.

Senator BACK —As a result of that, has there been any further budget allocation for the authority in terms of putting into place changed protocols?

Mr Peachey —There have not been any budget appropriations because we do not believe they are necessary.

Senator BACK —There was a question at the time about the toxicity of the different types of dispersants used. The event in the Gulf of Mexico at the moment has also focused attention on dispersants. Can you advise the committee of any work, results or advice that may have come to you in terms of the possible toxicity on marine life of the dispersants used in Montara?

Mr Peachey —The dispersants we use have to satisfy a protocol that is agreed in the national plan. There are tests that are done to test the toxicity of it. The dispersants we used met that standard.

Senator BACK —They have met the standard?

Mr Peachey —The dispersants we used met the standards that had been agreed nationally, yes.

Senator BACK —Okay. I just made reference to the BP incident in the Gulf of Mexico. Is that an event that your authority would be taking any sort of active involvement or interest in, apart from the natural interest we all have within the community?

Mr Peachey —It is certainly one that has a great deal of interest for us. We have in fact contacted our counterparts in the United States. We have sought their cooperation to put one of our senior environmental people over there. As you would probably expect, there are probably a lot of countries queuing up to do just that, and our advice is that we will go when it suits them. But we are certainly monitoring what is going on. I learned pretty early in this sort of area that the community involved in these sorts of environmental issues is a pretty close-knit one, and there is a lot of information floating around between various interested parties about what is going on there.

Senator BACK —If I can go away from those incidents for a moment; there is a high degree of interest at the moment in terms of the possible opening up of areas for exploration. The one I wish to ask you about is off the south-west corner of WA, in the Margaret River area. Does the authority have any involvement at all in advising government on offshore areas that may be available for exploration for oil and gas purposes?

Mr Peachey —We do not have a role in that, no.

Senator BACK —You do not have a role at all? And my final question is about the vessel that is currently anchored nine miles north of Yorke Island in the Torres Strait. Following the grounding there has not, as I understand, been any pollution and there is no immediate risk to the vessel or the crew. But I wonder if you could give us an update as to what that situation is with that vessel and the role that the authority is playing in it.

Mr Peachey —The vessel is gone. We did have a role in it. In fact, we sent one of our surveyors out there to get a firsthand view of what was going on. A salvor was appointed. The advice was that that vessel was seaworthy and able to go, and it has left.

Senator BACK —It has?

Mr Peachey —Yes.

Senator BACK —And the impact of the grounding?

Mr Peachey —I cannot answer that. As far as I am aware there is no pollution incident to speak of. There was talk of sheen or something like that, but that only lasted—and I am advised the actual grounding was outside our waters anyway—in PNG waters.

Senator SIEWERT —I want to go to the Montara issue first, you would be surprised! I want to go back to the issue of dispersants first and sort of pick up where Senator Back left off. I asked you previously about dispersants that were used, and they are on the website. You gave them to me and subsequently they have been put on the website. What I still have not been able to ascertain is how much of each dispersant was actually used. At the time you gave me what had been used to date—that was before the incident finished—and you gave me the name of the dispersants that had been used. Can you give me the amount of each dispersant that was used—in other words, the Slickgone, I have forgotten the second one and the two Corexits that were used. Are you able to give me, for each specific dispersant, the actual amounts used?

Mr Peachey —We do not have that information with us, but we would be happy to provide it on notice.

Senator SIEWERT —If you could, that would be appreciated. That is not available on your website, as far as I can tell. Am I correct in that?

Mr Kinley —We are still calculating that, from the actual count of the empty containers. We are just doing an audit to make sure we have exact figures.

Senator SIEWERT —Do you have any preliminary figures?

Mr Kinley —I have only the total figures with me. I can actually say the number of containers at the moment, but that is not going to give you the volumes.

Senator SIEWERT —That will give me a start.

Mr Kinley —For example, we have a total of 43 empty containers of Slickgone NS-205 from one load and then another 48 from another load. So I have numbers here, but they are really meaningless unless we give you the actual size of those containers. We will give you that on notice.

Senator SIEWERT —That is what I was going to ask—thank you. Can we go into the issue around how you determine the toxicity of a dispersant. I did hear you, in answer to Senator Back, say it was according to the national plan. The issue here is how you determine the lethal concentration in a particular dispersant, in a particular toxicity. Isn’t it the point that you determined which dispersants were allowed to be used according to what was in the national plan?

Mr Peachey —That is right.

Senator SIEWERT —My question is: have you reviewed how you have established the toxicity of a particular dispersant under the national plan? Because it seems to me that approach is quite generous, in that I think half the adult fish are killed over a period of 95 hours. That is correct, isn’t it?

Mr Peachey —We do not have the details of what that toxicity test is, but again we are happy to provide it. When we do the review of the national plan, I dare say issues like that will be looked at. This is probably an evolving science anyway, and why wouldn’t we look at that into the future? Having said that, the people involved in this and the science behind it are pretty robust. I would be surprised if there are any doubts about the toxicity and the methodology they have right now.

Senator SIEWERT —I will go back to that in a minute. I would like to ask, though, in terms of whether the particular dispersants that were used have been tested also against fish larvae and coral spawn?

Mr Peachey —I do not have the details of the testing methodology with me, but again we will chase that up and give it on notice.

Senator SIEWERT —The reason I am asking is that I have been chasing this for some time but obviously it has been put back on the agenda because of the incident in Louisiana, and the issue around what dispersants have reportedly—I say ‘reportedly’—been banned for use in that exercise but also, I understand, in America. Two of the dispersants that were used in the Montara spill have been reported to have been banned for use in the Louisiana spill and in Europe.

Mr Peachey —Can I just comment on that. I have heard, like you have, the concerns that have been raised about dispersants in the Gulf of Mexico. I understand there is a direction from the US Environmental Protection Agency on talking about dispersants, which I have not seen but it has been reported to me. My understanding is that that direction does not specifically mention Corexit. There have been concerns about dispersants, as I mentioned, but I would be reluctant to be drawing comparisons with what is happening there and what happened in Montara. As I understand it, the US has used almost three million litres of dispersant in the one month that the oil spill has occurred. We use something like 185,000 litres in three months. So if you are talking about three million in one month versus 185,000 in three months—and of that 185,000, I understand 45,000 litres were Corexit—I think we are talking apples and pears here. We are not talking about a definitive picture in the US either. There is concern and warnings, but as I understand it there has not been a ban on Corexit.

Senator SIEWERT —Okay. What about in Europe? Reportedly—again I say reportedly—the use of Corexit has been banned in Europe.

Mr Peachey —I do not know the answer to that.

Senator SIEWERT —Could we then talk about the process. If a particular dispersant has been banned in other countries, do you then subsequently look again at that dispersant?

Mr Peachey —I would be hazarding a guess, because I have not actually been directly involved in those sorts of discussions, but you would expect the science and the scientists involved in that to have regard to international practice.

Senator SIEWERT —The scientists involved in determining what dispersants are used under the national plan?

Mr Peachey —Dispersants used generally, whether under our national plan or internationally. There is an international community which does get involved in this. They do actually meet regularly and I am sure these sorts of issues will come up. Again, if you want further details I am more than happy to provide information about what sort of testing is done and what regard we have for international standards and practice.

Senator SIEWERT —That would be appreciated. It is AMSA that makes the call in a particular incident on the dispersant that is used—that is correct, isn’t it?

Mr Kinley —The use of dispersants has been evolving over years. There are dispersants that we used 10 or 20 years ago which you would never consider now. As the further research and product development is done and under the processes of the national plan, we will continue to look at what the toxicity limits are and what better products are coming on line. If there are better and less toxic products we will use them.

Senator SIEWERT —I appreciate that it is evolving science, and that is why I am asking about the use of Corexit and why I am asking about the toxicology tests that are used. If I understand correctly, the process that is used is going to be looked at under the review of the national plan. Do I understand that correctly?

Mr Peachey —The review of the national plan covers all things. My expectation is that all matters to do with oil spills and how we respond to them will be looked at. Given the public interest in dispersants I would anticipate that there would be some regard for that and it would be picked up as part of the review.

Senator SIEWERT —I just want to go back to when Corexit was banned. Is it your understanding then that Corexit may or may not have been banned in the US after its extensive use to date?

Mr Peachey —My understanding is that concerns have been raised about it. There is a direction, which I have not seen, but that direction does not actually specifically mention Corexit.

Senator SIEWERT —I have been told that it does. I will check that.

Mr Peachey —I will check it too.

Senator SIEWERT —I am not disbelieving you. I have just been told that the two with the code names that we used, EC9500 and EC9527, were both specifically named—not the other ones but those two in particular were mentioned.

Mr Kinley —We are seeking that information. We are aware of those reports and we are actively trying to find out exactly why those directions have been made and exactly what those directions say and we will take those into account.

Senator SIEWERT —I am trying very hard not to cover things that have been covered in the inquiry and that they will be reporting on because I appreciate the issues involved with the commission. I specifically want to go to the issue of the spill going into Indonesian waters and the use of satellite photography. At the time, the community and I were accessing some satellite photography that showed, we thought pretty clearly, that the slick was going into Indonesian waters.

At the time, that was pretty strongly denied by the government and I think by you as well. It has now subsequently transpired that it is acknowledged that the slick did go into Indonesian waters. I am wondering how you use the satellite imagery and how soon you became aware of the fact that the slick had gone into Indonesian waters. I have been reading the transcript from the commission and it does indicate that people were aware, and the government was aware, that the slick had gone into Indonesian waters but it is bit unclear, certainly from what I have read, how soon you knew.

Mr Peachey —From what I recall, there were some reports of sheen around the border. Obviously the sheen is quite different from the oil slick that people would normally talk about. Satellite imagery was used by us regularly, but that is a bit hazardous in itself. Things do interrupt a clear picture from a satellite. I learnt very early on that, when you look at a satellite image and you see something dark on it, that is not necessarily the oil. It is something that is light. Interpretation from that satellite imagery is also up for discussion too. But as to whether or not the slick actually extended into their zone and when it happened, I do not have that information. We could take that on notice.

Senator SIEWERT —If you could take that on notice, that would be appreciated. From the evidence that is out there in the public sphere, the spill was much bigger, the area was much bigger and the area was much more extensive than was reported. We can all say, ‘I told you so.’ What I am more specifically interested in is how in the future estimates will be taken into account and how you will provide data to the community that reflects more accurately what is actually happening.

Mr Peachey —I do not want to debate about how big the slick was or who was informed. It might be a useful discussion to have another day. But some of the images that went to the commission, some of the discussion there, highlighted, ‘This is the extent of the slick,’ but one of the pictures was an accumulation of pictures, if you like, showing the movement of the slick over the length of the oil spill. So it was not necessarily that large at any one time.

Senator SIEWERT —It does go to the impact that it potentially has, though.

Mr Peachey —It gives an indicator of where the slick was. Just going back to your other comment that it is now proven that the slick went into Indonesian waters, I would also like to carefully consider that, because you can only do that if you actually get samples of the oil and test it and you are sure that the footprint of the oil in the Indonesian waters matched the footprint of the oil in the Montara incident. I am not aware of any samples that have done that.

Senator SIEWERT —Sorry, there is a sample that I sent myself—that I received. We have had indications back from the inquiry that it matched the footprint from Montara oil, and I got that information back in January. So there is a sample. The point there is: why weren’t samples taken to establish that, beyond the sample that I received? I am relying on the fact that it was sent to me. I was not out there getting it myself.

Mr Peachey —I do not want to debate this issue unnecessarily, but the fact is that the samples that we accept as true samples do follow some sort of evidentiary steps. It is not a matter of saying, ‘Here’s a bottle that came from Indonesia. It must be the same bottle.’ We would not accept that. I do not think the science would accept it, either.

Senator SIEWERT —I appreciate that. I appreciate the very hazardous process from a scientific point of view that people will say that samples have gone through. My question then was: what samples were taken in a scientifically rigorous process to establish whether the oil that was there in the water was Montara oil?

Mr Peachey —We will take that on notice. I do not have the information with me. I do not have the details of the sample, whether they are from our waters or from Indonesian waters. So I will take that on notice.

Senator SIEWERT —Okay. Thank you.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Senator Nash will ask some prepared questions I had, but there are two that I want to deal with quickly in fewer than five minutes. You told me in answer to a question that the 12-month pilotage trial—this is the coastal pilot services in the Torres Strait and the Great Barrier Reef—is dependent on the issue of New Marine Orders part 54, MO54. Are they issued yet?

Mr Kinley —No. The development process has taken a bit longer with some further consultations and some further refinements of that marine order. We anticipate having the final draft to go to the interested parties in the industry within the next month or so.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —And then after that when would you expect that they would be adopted and the trial actually start?

Mr Kinley —Again, we would hope to, once we finalise the final draft for consultation, have that in place within two months and then have that trial.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —And then the trial would go for 12 months from there. I will leave that there, as much as I would like to say other things. Finally, the Queensland and federal governments will work together to extend the vessel tracking system now operating—this is coming across Senator Siewert’s issue. The northern waters are to embrace that. It is going to be manned by the Queensland transport department maritime safety office, but I understood that the infrastructure is being built by the Commonwealth—is that correct? It is going to be set up in Townsville rather than Hay Point or Dalrymple Bay, where it currently is?

Mr Kinley —The REEFVTS operates under a cooperative funding model between the Australian Maritime Safety Authority and Maritime Safety Queensland, and that funding model is based upon us supplying the hardware sensors that feed into the REEFVTS itself. Maritime Safety Queensland opened the new REEFVTS centre at Townsville officially on Tuesday, I think, and we are undertaking the necessary work for the extension of the REEFVTS boundary further south, as was announced following the Shen Neng 1 incident. We are undertaking that work to get the sensors and the communications equipment to cover that area in place as soon as possible.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Where is that funded in the budget—that is, your relocation from Dalrymple Bay to Townsville?

Mr Kinley —That was funded by the Queensland component. We do the sensors for the nav aids network there. So we will be funding, for example, automatic identification system base stations, which is a radio communications system that identifies automatically where ships are, and that is funded under our levy funding basis from the industry.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —But that is already in place. It is just that your base operations are changing—is that right?

Mr Kinley —The base operations were funded by Maritime Safety Queensland. They built the new REEFVTS centre at Townsville. The additional work we are doing at the moment is about extending the southern extent of the REEFVTS and putting those additional—

Senator IAN MACDONALD —So you do not have paid officers working out of this new building?

Mr Kinley —No, they are not AMSA officers there.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —So yours is simply the beacons. The change of base station has no impact on your operations at all?

Mr Kinley —No.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —All right. That is all I had, Mr Chairman. I thank Senator Siewert again and I will keep talking in the other place till you get there.

Senator SIEWERT —Yes, thank you.

Mr Peachey —Excuse me, Senator Siewert, but before you continue can I just go back to an earlier discussion we had around the Indonesian issue. I have just been advised that satellite imagery captured on 30 August 2009 showed that small patches of weathered oil had crossed into Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone.

Senator SIEWERT —That is at 30 August?

Mr Peachey —Yes, 30 August.

Senator SIEWERT —So that was pretty soon after the event—30 August?

Mr Peachey —Yes, it was—about a week, I understand. We notified the Indonesians of this a couple of days later.

Senator SIEWERT —Thank you. I was just talking to DEWHA about the national plan and the role of the environment science coordinator. I was asking them about the delay in appointing the environmental liaison officer and they said that they were a bit unclear about their role in the national plan, and I must admit that I am paraphrasing now and not quoting directly. However, they said that they were a bit unclear about the role of that officer and their role in the plan. How is that being picked up? I know you have just told me that the national plan is being reviewed but, in the shorter term, what actions are being undertaken to address the fact that agencies appear to be unclear about their role and the coordinator under the national plan?

Mr Peachey —You are right; there is an ambiguity in the national plan about the role of that position. If you look at the chart showing who does what, you will not see it. But we coped throughout that whole Montara incident and we did collaborate with Environment and in the end it worked out.

Senator SIEWERT —Some of us have a different view on that. Given the fact there was not proper monitoring undertaken, I would say it was not a good outcome. That is my opinion.

Mr Peachey —I am only talking about the outcome from my point of view. We became known as the cleaners and we averted a catastrophic event in that part of the world. So, from my point of view, it worked in terms of addressing the oil spill and doing the cleaning up, if you like. Sure, there are always areas for improvement, and that is why we have an incident analysis team looking at it and they have done a report. They have looked at areas where we can actually collaborate more closely with others, and that cooperation between us and the environment department is on the list.

Senator SIEWERT —Improving that?

Mr Peachey —Yes.

Senator SIEWERT —In the short term in the run-up to the plan being reviewed?

Mr Peachey —Sure.

Senator SIEWERT —In terms of the decisions about when to use dispersants, I appreciate there was an extensive discussion during the inquiry and I do not want to revisit that. However, I refer to the issue around the discussion about how far after the event dispersants can be used. It appears from the reports on what happened during this incident that dispersants were used more than 48 hours after the oil had leaked, which, according to best practice, apparently is not the best process to use.

Mr Peachey —Dispersants were used almost throughout the incident. The issue here is if you are getting fresh oil.

Senator SIEWERT —Yes.

Mr Peachey —And so that is why the dispersant effort was targeted around the wellhead.

Senator SIEWERT —I understand that. The point, as I understand it from some of the evidence, is that oil was sprayed further away from the rig than would have taken 48 hours to get there, so my question is: is that process being reviewed and what is the standard practice? Is it 48 hours or is it longer? And if the standard practice is different will there be modifications to practices and responses in the future?

Mr Kinley —The practices of using dispersant in each incident are actually dependent upon the characteristics of the oil being released. The oil that was being released in the Montara incident was very amenable to being dispersed. Our experience of the impact of the dispersant was that it was very effective on the oil and the conditions were such—it was so benign up there—that the oil maintained those characteristics for quite a period of time. I do not actually have that data about the 48-hour incident, but I will go away and investigate what particular case that was. But my understanding, from those involved in the incident, was that we were very lucky it was very amenable to being dispersed and it reacted ideally to the application of dispersant.

Senator SIEWERT —Thank you. Can I move on to the Shen Neng 1 incident? I want to follow up a specific part of that. It comes out of some evidence that we received this morning from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Authority relating to the toxicity of the antifouling paint. I discussed with the authority the ongoing issue of it now needing to be cleaned up. From what I gathered this morning it sounds like it was old paint on the boat, not new—I am guessing, which is why I ask the question. It sounds like the new antifouling paint was put on over the old layers. As I understand it, this is at least the second incident in the park. There have been incidents with antifouling paint recently—or in the not-too-distant past—and needing to clean it up. Is it a requirement with the new antifouling paints that the old ones should be cleaned off, or is it acceptable practice for the new layers to be put on the old layers so the ships still actually have TBTs on them?

Mr Peachey —I will open the batting, and pass to Mr Kinley if I get stuck. But as I understand it, Australia ratified the relevant convention some time ago. The convention is the International Convention on the Control of Harmful Anti-fouling Systems on Ships 2001. The intention of that convention was to actually ban these antifouling paints. There is a part in there that talks about vessels constructed prior to 2003. Those vessels are required, should they enter a port—like a port in Australia, for example—to have a sealant applied to the hull of the vessel to actually minimise the potential impact of the antifouling paint. Our advice is that the vessel, the Shen Neng 1, had antifouling paint most recently applied on 4 April 2008. So it would appear on the face of it that it was acting in accordance with the convention requirements.

Mr Kinley —It is permissible under the convention to cover the old antifouling systems containing organotins, which are the system which was phased out, with a sealer coat and to then apply the new antifoulings—antifoulings are toxic; that is what they do. They are designed to stop marine organisms growing on them. They are lower toxicity with the newer systems, but our understanding of the system that was applied to the Shen Neng 1 was that that was the new system—sealer coat on old organotin system.

Senator SIEWERT —That is what I wanted to find out.

Mr Kinley —That is legitimate under the convention.

Senator SIEWERT —Was it compliant with the system?

Mr Kinley —Yes.

Senator SIEWERT —So, in other words, we have still got ships coming in such that if they are involved in an accident we end up with some quite significant impact where it is still possible for the old layers to come off?

Mr Kinley —Potentially, in a grounding situation.

Senator SIEWERT —In the other groundings that have occurred—and we were just talking about one earlier—has it been identified as an issue where the old antifouling paint has had an impact on the marine environment in that area?

Mr Kinley —Without going outside of our bailiwick, I am aware that there has been considerable monitoring with the previous groundings that have taken place on the Great Barrier Reef.

Senator SIEWERT —This morning the authority told me there has been at least one other where, as I understand it, they have had some significant impact. I realise that you are only following the rules and only enforcing the rules, but I just want to find out if they were actually consistent with the rules as they apply?

Mr Peachey —As I mentioned, as I understand it they were compliant with the convention requirements.

Senator SIEWERT —Thank you.

Senator NASH —I have a couple of questions which I will run through as quickly as I can. With regard to the National Maritime Safety Plan, what is the current status of progress towards the national maritime safety regime?

Mr Mrdak —Is this the single national regulator?

Senator NASH —I think so.

Mr Mrdak —As we outlined earlier, the Australian Transport Council ministers agreed on the next stages of that. We have a draft national partnership agreement which is ready for submission to COAG for its consideration. That is now in the process for the next COAG meeting, which will enable us to then progress that to a full national partnership agreement. The government has allocated funding in the budget for this year for AMSA to start to set up its administrative systems.

We still have a lot of work to do with the jurisdictions in relation to cost recovery in particular, and how the funding arrangements for the future will go forward. At this stage we have a tentative position in the national partnership agreement, with that work to be settled over the coming months.

Senator NASH —Yes, we did touch on this before, didn’t we? In terms of industry consultation, very briefly, who are the stakeholders and who has been consulted about that being set up?

Ms O'Connell —We are working with the jurisdictions in terms of preparing for that single national regulator for maritime. In particular, all of the states and territories are partaking through a maritime group that we have set up which reports through to the senior officials.

Senator NASH —You might have given me this before as well, but when is it going to be finalised?

Mr Mrdak —A single maritime regulator is due to be in place by 2013.

Senator NASH —Will there be a lot of new requirements for the industry to have to deal with around this?

Mr Mrdak —Not necessarily. There will be some issues. AMSA may wish to comment, but we do not anticipate a great deal of change for most of the industry in terms of the regulatory arrangements they will face.

Mr Peachey —If I can add to that: we would expect, as Mr Mrdak suggested, a transitional arrangement for when it comes in.

Senator NASH —That was my next question.

Mr Peachey —But the outcome would be a single national law governing all activities of the shipping industry. So for the first time in our history we would have national consistency and uniform application of laws governing the safe operations of ships.

Senator NASH —Obviously, you have a date for when the transition is going to be finalised. When do you expect this law and the changes to take effect?

Mr Mrdak —We would aim for the beginning of 2013.

Senator NASH —I think you have already covered how much money is going to it. In terms of additional funding for the joint Indonesian operations—and I am not sure if Senator Siewert already covered this—is there $14½ million for this under the existing MOU? Is that correct?

Mr Mrdak —Yes. The current program has completed. This is a new program which will commence from 1 July. The government is providing $14 million in our portfolio for that program, of which there is an allocation for the department, and then funding through the department for the agencies involved.

Senator NASH —Finally, how will the safety inspectors and the accident investigators be trained?

Mr Mrdak —We have arrangements in place already where organisations such as the ATSB, AMSA and the Civil Aviation Safety Authority work with Indonesian authorities. AMSA may wish to comment on it from their end. It involves visits by our officials to Indonesia to run courses and training there, and at times we bring Indonesian officials here to work in our agencies.

Senator NASH —What is the scope of Australia’s role in the project?

Mr Mrdak —This arose out of the accident at Yogyakarta some years ago. The real aim here is to improve the systems and standards of safety regulation and technical expertise by the Indonesian authorities and the industry.

Senator NASH —Thank you.

CHAIR —I have three very quick questions, Mr Peachey. What is AMSA’s staffing level?

Mr Peachey —We currently have 281 staff, of which 223 are in Canberra and the remainder are in our regional offices.

CHAIR —What has the turnover been in the last two years?

Mr Peachey —In 2009-10, 21 left. In 2008-09, 39 left.

CHAIR —So, if you had a staff freeze, what would be the impact on your organisation?

Mr Peachey —If we had one over those two years?

CHAIR —If you had one from now on.

Mr Peachey —AMSA is dependent on its people. We draw people from all walks of life—from the maritime sector, from defence, from the aviation sector. These are, by and large, second career people who come with a lot of experience and knowledge. We deliberately target them. If there were any reduction in staffing or any freezing, I suspect it would severely curtail our ability to deliver national safety programs and to deliver an effective search and rescue effort. If I can just add some figures to that, in the last 12 months our search and rescue area was involved in saving 619 lives. The Montara oil response took some 104 days and averted, as we mentioned earlier, probably a catastrophic event in those pristine areas. We have had two groundings. We undertook 2,994 inspections of foreign vessels. So, to summarise, it is a very, very busy organisation dependent on its people to deliver high-quality but very technical activities. So any suggestions of reducing those figures would severely compromise our ability.

CHAIR —To wrap this up, this is not a question but a statement. I share Senator Siewert’s concern about the pristine coast of the north-west. When you see what has happened in America, thank goodness AMSA did act or react very, very quickly. So, well done to your staff, your crew, Mr Peachey.

Mr Peachey —Thank you, Senator.

CHAIR —Thank you very much, Mr Peachey and Mr Kinley.

 [7.15 pm]