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Wednesday, 26 April 1972
Page: 2047

Mr CHARLES JONES (Newcastle) - I wish to refer to a statement made by the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Nixon) on the 19th of this month at the opening of the new Marine Operations

Centre in Canberra. A statement released by the Minister on 19th April read:

The Minister for Shipping and Transport, Mr Peter Nixon, said today he was 'intent on finding the means of having all seafarers, including yachtsmen and fishermen, contribute to the cost' of search and rescue operations.

This was because it seemed 'less than equitable that the community as a whole should pay for search and rescue actions, especially those which result from the less than responsible approach taken by some adventurers'.

On 2nd October last year a ketch by the name of 'One and AH' foundered some miles ofl the Australian coast. In reply to a question which I asked the then Acting Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Hunt), he informed me that the cost of the search was something in excess of $200,000. At that time I was very critical of the fact that this vessel was allowed to go to sea. Not only was I critical, but the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) was too, and the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton) asked a question on the subject. But the honourable member for Griffith and I in particular were critical of the fact that this ketch was allowed to go to sea in the condition it was in. On 12th October I asked the Acting Minister for Shipping and Transport a question and it and the reply are reported on page 2146 of Hansard. I do not want to quote all the reply. In the latter part of the Minister's reply he said: 1 cannot give any indication at this stage of whether there will be a marine inquiry. Detailed discussions are taking place at present, as I said previously, but I want to make this point clear: At a meeting of the Commonwealth and State Ministers for Transport on 24th September the Ministers agreed that there are several areas in which co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States could lead to more efficient marine administration. Such an area is the safety of private yachts and pleasure craft. It is under current consideration.

That question was answered on 12th October 1971. Yet here we are today, 26th April 1972, and to the best of my knowledge no statement has been made by the Minister or his Department about what happened to that marine inquiry that was being conducted by the Department into the foundering of the 'One and All'. The people involved in this incident sold the story to the newspapers. I do not know what they got out of it, but I do know' from the Minis ter's statement that the search cost the public purse in the vicinity of $200,000. I agree with what the Minister said at the opening of the Marine Operations Centre, namely, that something positive has to be done about small craft today.

Under the Navigation Act and under load line legislation which was introduced here in 1968 or thereabouts, pleasure craft are specifically excluded. I believe, and on that occasion I said that pleasure craft should not be excluded from the provisions of the Act because it is in this field that many people are losing their lives today. People sometimes have to be protected from themselves. Let us look at some of the information that is available. The Commonwealth Department of Shipping and Transport reported 266 incidents in 1970, of which 21 were considered to be major incidents. In New South Wales in 1970-71 there were 39,007 boats registered which were capable of a speed of more than 10 knots and which were less than 65 feet in length. There were 67,704 licences issued. In New South Wales in the same year there were 144 accidents - 110 on inside waters and 34 in the open sea. On inside waters there were 59 injuries and 15 fatalities; at sea there were 12 injuries and 8 fatalities. This makes a total of 144 accidents, 71 injuries and 23 deaths. For the other States it is a little difficult to get information; but Western Australia does an excellent job in the preparation of its statistics. However, I have not time to go through all of them. The interesting figures which the Western Australian statistics disclose are that on the ocean there were 55 accidents and 9 deaths and on rivers and lakes there were 7 accidents and 2 deaths. So boating results in quite a number of fatalities.

When the number of vessels registered is compared with the number of motor cars registered there is probably something like the same proportion of people injured and killed in boating accidents as in motor car accidents. So I go along with what the Minister has said. Unfortunately, however, the position is that if I want to hold a licence to drive a boat in excess of 10 knots all I have to do is pass an oral examination based on the information in a book called Boating in New South Wales'. Having done that, I can take my boat to New Zealand if 1 am silly enough, or I can go even to England. Some people would probably think that would be a good place for me to go. The fact is that if 1 was silly enough to want to take a boat to New Zealand I could do so.

Mr Kelly - We are all wondering when you are going to leave.

Mr CHARLES JONES - I would probably get a good cheerio call as I was leaving. To do this 1 would not need to have any knowledge of navigation or to know a thing about the boat. I need only pass this oral examination, which is not a difficult examination, and away I could go. I could get on to the open sea, where I could get into a bit of trouble. It could cost John Citizen or John Taxpayer, as it did in the case of the 'One and AH', a couple of hundred thousand dollars to find me. This is not good enough. People who are silly enough to go to sea like that have to be protected from themselves, and so do the men who have to go and look for them have to be protected. People get into trouble mostly in inclement weather, when there are storms and the like. In Queensland recently there was a fatality at the height of a cyclone. I do not want to dwell on that, but there people went to sea in a cyclone. We all know from having flown in aircraft that it is not very pleasant upstairs when there is bad weather. One of these days one of the searchers could lose his life and this matter will blow up again. I support in principle what I think the Minister is trying to do.

I hope there will be a dual system of licences. One should be for people who want to use boats in estuaries, rivers and lakes where they need just the basic knowledge of to whom they give way, what they have to do when approaching or overtaking another vessel and what they have to do when people are fishing, swimming or skiing. For a boat that goes to sea some basic principles should be laid down and the person responsible for the boat should be required to hold a licence. To gain a licence I suggest that the person should be required to undergo an examination to test whether he has a simple knowledge of meteorology and whether he understands the reading of a barometer and how clouds form so that if he sees certain clouds form he cay say: 'It is time I was not here. It is time I got into sheltered waters'. It may be necessary to insist that he have some basic knowledge of navigation and probably even some mechanical knowledge of the motor that is driving the boat he has because so many marine accidents occur when the engine in a boat breaks down. Other requirements should be that the boat has on board a 2-way radio, flares and floats and some form of life jackets to make sure that if the person gets into trouble at least he has the means of getting out of it. The boat should be fitted with at least the safety equipment that is thought necessary by people in the industry who know what should be on board. If a person is going to sea he should prepare a voyage plan showing where he has in mind going, whether, for instance, he is going to fish at a particular point and then return to port. He can give a message to the representatives of the Maritime Services Board or its counterpart in the various States so that the people who are running the country will know where he is.

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