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Tuesday, 4 May 1971

Senator POYSER (Victoria) - Under Division 480, subdivision 2, item 08, professional services - fees and expenses, I want to raise a matter in relation to marine search and rescue work. I would like to know the figure which has been spent on this work for the whole year. Also I would like to know in some detail the type of work which is carried out because I believe the time has arrived in Australia when the Commonwealth Government should convene a conference of all States in relation to the operation of small craft. Each State has its own regulations, its own method of registration, of licensing and of testing drivers of small craft. I believe that much of the money spent on marine search and rescue could be saved if the Commonwealth were to convene such a conference and attempt to obtain some standard regulations throughout the Commonwealth in this field. Every honourable senator in this chamber is aware of the tremendous advances which have been made in the small craft industry. They are aware of the number of people throughout Australia who own small boats and use them. Every year we find that more and more people are losing their lives or are being lost from the small craft. They have to be found. They go out in unsuitable weather and unsuitable boats. Both the States and the Commonwealth have to find them at a tremendous cost.

In Victoria all small craft are required to be registered but no test is required in relation to the type of boat which a person may own. People are still using belly tanks from aircraft in the sea which are totally and absolutely unsuitable and tremendously dangerous. Because a stupid person used this type of boat in which to go fishing a life was lost at Port Arlington last' summer. This type of craft may be allright for a small lake or small river. This person lost his life because he used this type of craft and was able to use it under the regulations which operate in Victoria. No test is carried out in relation to a person's ability to drive one of these boats. Nor is a test carried out in relation to the sea road laws which are required to be known and observed in other States. On many occasions I have seen children of 8 or 10 driving 16 foot and 18 foot cruisers with their parents beside them. Honourable senators may say that they are doing this under supervision. But when we make an observation of this nature we know that that child cannot see in front of it at all. The child may be able to see another boat which is in the water but when one is at sea in a small craft there are many other hazards which one has to watch for. Floating planks and other type of debris can destroy a boat and sink it very quickly. We find that under Victorian regulations no licence is required and no knowledge is needed. Any person can be put into a boat and he can set off. There is a great danger that finally they will get into trouble and the search and rescue work which is done magnificently has to be carried out at great cost to the community.

I believe the time has arrived when the Commonwealth should convene a confer ence on this matter and seek some standard operation of regulations throughout Australia. I believe that every person who is in charge of a small craft should be tested in relation to his ability to control a boat just as he is tested in relation to his ability to drive a motor car. I believe he should be tested in the rules of the road of the sea just as he is tested in the rules of the road of the land. At sea one sees some fantastic things done. During the summer months one has to watch carefully, particularly during the holiday periods in some areas - even more carefully than, when one is driving a car along the road. I suggest that much of the money which is expended at a State and Commonwealth level on this type of work could be cut back tremendously if people were fully acquainted with the rules and had the ability to drive. I commend the Department of -Shipping and Transport for the excellent book which it produced about safety in small craft. I understand it has proved so popular that a third or fourth edition is : now contemplated. It is an excellent book which should be read by everybody who. goes out in a small craft. The matters which are referred to in that book should be compulsorily applied throughout the Commonwealth by all States. I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) to convey to the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Nixon) my wishes that such a confer*ence be held.

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