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Tuesday, 8 March 2005
Page: 10

Senator ALLISON (Leader of the Australian Democrats) (1:11 PM) —The Navigation Amendment Bill 2004 makes a few minor amendments to the Navigation Act to clarify certain legal points and remove certain anomalies. Schedule 1 of the bill clarifies that certain offences under the regulations shall be indictable offences. This follows a ruling by the Victorian County Court that offences relating to the failure to display lights on a ship in order to avoid a collision should be treated as summary offences. The bill removes references to nautical assessors, which became redundant some 15 years ago. Nautical assessors, as I understand it, were once appointed to advise a court in matters dealing with offences against regulations. The bill also brings penalties into line with the Guide to Framing Commonwealth Offences, Civil Penalties and Enforcement Powers. Section 258 of the Navigation Act sets penalties of up to $10,000 or two years in prison for offences relating to collisions, lighting and signals. However, the details are left to regulations. Under the Guide to Framing Commonwealth Offences, Civil Penalties and Enforcement Powers, serious offences punishable by penalties such as these should be contained in the parent act to enable the parliament to scrutinise the laws being made.

The large numbers of laws made through regulation and disallowable instruments no doubt mean that some will go unnoticed, except perhaps by a few who may or may not have any knowledge in the specific area of law being dealt with. Often we wonder whether that suits government and we wonder whether the government leaves the detail to regulations because it wants that detail to go unnoticed. Our view is that detail should be scrutinised by stakeholders and the parliament wherever possible. As this bill deals with section 258, it would have been a perfect opportunity to tidy up this anomaly, together with some of the other anomalies that might also have been dealt with. We urge the government to do the necessary work—to find those sections where regulations should be brought into the parent act and to take the action required to make that happen. The Democrats will support this bill unamended.