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Wednesday, 10 November 1971
Page: 3277

Mr NIXON (Gippsland) (Minister for Shipping and Transport) - The simple fact is that the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Foster) has made my case for me. The case I put forward earlier was that industrial difficulties are making great trouble for the future success and operations of the Australian National Line. If we turn to the report of the Chairman of the ANL, who is an undisputed great figure in the shipping world, we will see that he agrees with what the honourable member for Sturt has said and what I have been saying all night. The fact is that industrial disputation is threatening the existence of the ANL and every shipping service, not only on the coast but also overseas. In his report the Chairman said that industrial unrest was causing delays to vessels and he mentioned that Tilbury closed for almost 18 months. I do not suppose there is much difference between . a wharf labourer in the United Kingdom and one in Australia. Neither has any respect for our national flag line and this is obvious from the way they have been treating it. The Chairman went on to say that considerable unrest on the Australian waterfront is disrupting terminals. I am pleased that the honourable member for Sturt agrees with the point I was making earlier.

I want to come now to more serious matters raised by the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Davies). He stated properly that the Commonwealth now provides a subsidy of $3.35 a ton to ensure the continuation of the service of R. G. Houfe and Company Pty Ltd from King Island to Melbourne with the 'King Islander'. The reason for the change in the estimates is as the honourable member said himself: 'This subsidy will cease on the introduction into the service of Houfe's new vessel, the Straitsman'. It is expected that the 'Straitsman', now being built in Cairns, will be delivered in about February 1972. When the 'Straitsman' is introduced the 'King Islander' will remain in service to take stock from the Island to the mainland.

Although the 'Straitsman' will be operated without subsidy, Houfe's expect the rates to be comparable with those of the ANL. It is not expected that the new Grassy port will be operational in time for this ship. That is the reason for the change in the figures mentioned by the honourable member.

The honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) and, the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) raised the question of rust in motor vehicles. My understanding is that this matter was examined by an Australian Transport Advisory Council committee some years ago. It was called the Australian Motor Vehicles Standards Committee which has been replaced by the Vehicle Performance Committee. The Committee concluded that the problem in Australia was not as serious as it was in the northern hemisphere where there is snow for some 6 months of the year and the streets are sprayed with a saline solution. The rust problem is, therefore, of much greater consequence in the northern hemisphere than it is in Australia. The answer to the honourable member for Dawson is that it is a matter of consumer demand. I suppose that if people keep on changing their cars every couple of years in order to keep up with the Joneses, or perhaps I should say the Smiths, then the motor car manufacturers will not be encouraged to build with a material that will last much longer. The fact is that this matter is totally in the consumers' hands. If they choose the sort of car mentioned by the honourable member for Angas that is a matter for them.

Mr Charles Jones - There is a great deal of waste.

Mr NIXON - I agree that there is a great deal of waste, but nevertheless there is consumer demand, and that is the only way in which the demand can be met. The honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) referred to the Australian Labor Party's policy. I have no wish to comment on Labor's policy other than to say that many of the things which it puts forward are presently being implemented by the Government, and it seems that Labor's policy is more or less a parallelling of the Government's policy in most respects. The honourable member for Robertson no doubt would be aware, as would the honourable member for Newcastle, that both the National Association of Australian State Road Authorities and the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads are studying the operations of the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act and will give close attention to the needs of the community before they come back to the Government with their report on the present operation of the Act and any changes which might be desirable.

As regards road safety, I reiterate to the Committee the names of those associated with the expert group which has been established. Originally the group was under the chairmanship of Sir James Darling, but he has retired recently, and it is now under the chairmanship of Mr Justice Meares. Also in the group are Brigadier Campbell, a consulting psychologist; Mr P. J. Kenny, a surgeon; Mr P. D. Pakpoy, a transport planning and research consultant; Professor Robertson, a pathologist; Mr Solomon, a statistician; Mr Sweeney, a mechanical engineer; Mr Jack Brabham, a racing driver and designer; and Mr Cosgrove of my own Department. As I said earlier, I am expecting a lot from this expert group. It is to hold a symposium next March which both national and international experts will attend, and out of this will come some recommendations which I can take to the Australian Transport Advisory Council for consideration. The Committee will also be aware of the money which we have spent in the road safety field on several projects and on publicity. In fact, a few weeks ago we launched a series of films built around the 9 lives of Hector the Cat. These films have a great impact on children of a very young age, and I would advise any honourable members who have the time to go to the local schools in their electorates when these films are being shown and have a look at them. I think that they are a credit to the producer, and I am hoping that a great deal will come out of them.

The honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) referred to the problem of apple and pear exports. He will know that the Australian Apple and Pear Board has negotiated a capacity for the shipment of 4.7 million bushels of apples and pears at rates depending upon the amount of unitisation achieved and that negotiations are continuing for the remaining 2 milton bushels. He asked whether the Tasmanan

Premier has approached the Federal Government about fruit stabilisation payments. He has done so. The Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) received some representations on this question from the Tasmanian Premier. They were referred, in the first place, to the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) who had meetings with the Apple and Pear Board and the Tasmanian growers in an attempt to get their house in order. Negotiations are still proceeding for the carriage of the rest of the fruit.

There is one other matter to which I would like to refer before I resume my seat, that is, the subject of oil pollution. Recent Press reports have given considerable publicity to statements atributed to the Victorian Minister for Public Works about the intention of the Victorian Government to introduce legislation to prevent oil pollution in Victorian waters. One section of the reports says that under the proposed legislation the Victorian Minister would have power in an emergency to sink a ship if it was in danger of breaking up and threatening to spill oil in coastal waters. The claim has been made that Victoria is setting the pace in the fight against oil pollution and that Victoria's efforts are not being matched by the Commonwealth and the other States. Such statements display a complete lack of understanding of the facts and of the role of the Commonwealth and the States and the initiative taken by the Commonwealth 1o prevent pollution of Australian coastal waters and the coastline.

The fact is that legislation was introduced in this House in March last year - more than 18 months ago- for precisely that purpose. This action followed the incident involving the tanker 'Oceanic Grandeur' which had been holed in Torres Strait and which posed a threat of a major pollution of our waters. The Commonwealth acted quickly - so quickly, in fact, that Opposition members complained that they had insufficient time properly to study the Bill. Accordingly, the Government agreed to repeal the legislation within 6 months and to introduce a fresh Bill. This was done, and the new Bill - the Navigation Bill (No. 2) 1970 - which made provision for preventing and dealing with the effects of pollution by oil was passed in November last year. This Act gives effect to many of the principles contained in 2 international conventions drawn up at Brussels in 1969, but because these conventions have not yet come into force internationally there are some ships to which the Navigation Act is not able to be applied - for example, intrastate ships.

The provisions of the Act enable the Commonwealth Minister to issue a notice in writing on the owner of a ship from which oil is escaping or is likely to escape requiring him to take such action as is specified to prevent or reduce the extent of pollution. If, for example, it were considered necessary to require a ship to be sunk in order to prevent the escape of oil, this action could be specified in the notice, and if the owner failed to comply the Commonwealth Minister could take action to have the requirements of the notice carried out. These provisions do not apply, however, to a ship not registered in Australia unless the ship is in Australian coastal waters. Thus we have the situation that the Commonwealth is able to take action in respect of Australian ships other than intrastate ships, and also in respect of foreign registered vessels in Australian coastal waters. At a recent meeting with State Ministers in Perth I drew attention to the fact that Commonwealth legislation does not apply to intrastate ships and I suggested that State Ministers should consider introducing complementary legislation, modelled on the Navigation Act, to fill that gap. I understand that the proposed Victorian legislation is still in the drafting stage but that it is being modelled on the Commonwealth Navigation Act. If this is so, it would seem that the lead given by the Commonwealth is now being taken up.

During the 12 months to the end of March, 305 oil spillages were detected on the Australian coast, but many of these were quickly and easily cleaned up by the offending vessel or by the port authority. I point out that 134 of these incidents occurred in Victoria, but in 69 cases, most of which could be classed as minor in nature, the offender was not detected. Thus there were in Victoria 65 incidents where the offender was detected. By way of comparison, in New South Wales 111 pollution incidents were reported and in 86 cases the offender was detected, there being only 25 incidents, again mostly minor in nature, where the offender was not detected. If we consider ship calls as a measure of the potential number of oil pollution incidents we find that in 1970-71 there were 6,470 ship calls at New South Wales ports and only 3,600 at Victorian ports. One would expect to find that there were considerably more pollution incidents in New South Wales than in Victoria, but this was not the case. Thus, the only conclusion that can be drawn is that a significant proportion of the incidents in Victoria was caused by small fishing boats and launches whose movements into and out of port are not included in shipping statistics and which could never conceivably cause such a major oil pollution that sinking of the vessel would be warranted. One thing that Victoria could do to overcome minor pollutions would be for the State to look at the provision of reception facilities, such as mobile tankers, at all wharves so that oily water can be discharged as cargo is being onloaded. As far as Victoria is concerned, even the provision by the State of drums at wharves for oil disposal would be an advantage.

Let me turn now to the matter of penalties for oil pollution, which also were mentioned in recent Press reports. This matter also was raised by me with State Ministers in Perth in the context that the present maximum penalty of $2,000 for deliberately discharging oil is .too low and should be increased. There was unanimous agreement. But a proposal by the Victorian Minister to set a minimum fine of $2,500 and to raise the maximum fine to $100,000 was not acceptable to other State Ministers. They felt that in many cases a minimum fine of $2,500 would be extreme and should be set by a court, and that a maximum of $50,000 would be appropriate. In order to give effect to the decision of the Ministers to increase the maximum penalty it will be necessary to amend the Pollution of the Sea by Oil Act 1960 and have complementary legislation passed by the States. At the same time it is proposed to amend the Commonwealth legislation to give effect to amendments to the International Convention for the Prevention of the Pollution of the Sea by Oil which have been agreed to by the Intergovernmental Maritime Consultative Organisation.

One amendment forbids the discharge of oil within 50 miles of the Great Barrier Reef. This amendment was proposed by

Australia and passed by the recent meeting of the IMCO assembly which I attended in London. Prior to this amendment the convention prohibited the discharge of oil within 50 miles of the nearest land. This could have resulted in oil being discharged in the immediate vicinity of the Barrier Reef which extends up to 145 miles from the Australian coast. I expect to be able to introduce the necessary amending Bill during the autumn session of the Parliament. When it is considered that Commonwealth legislation on which the proposed Victorian legislation is being modelled was introduced more than 18 months ago and that the Commonwealth took the initiative in calling the State Ministers together to discuss the need for similar State legislation and other matters in relation to oil pollution, 1 fail to see how it can be seriously claimed that Victoria has been setting the pace. I would like to thank the various honourable members who have taken part in the debate tonight on the estimates for the Department of Shipping and Transport.

Mr FOSTER(Sturt)- Mr Chairman, I wish to make a personal explanation.

The CHAIRMAN (Mr Lucock - Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?

Mr FOSTER - My word. During the course of my speech - made by the fact that the Government has restricted the time for debate - the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mi Nixon) implied that I had suggested and supported his contention that the ills of shipping and the position that it is generally were wholly and solely the result of industrial disputes. My explanation is that 1 said it had its small part to play. At no time did I imply that industrial disputes were the whole problem in regard to shipping. 1 want to make that abundantly clear to the Minister once again.

Proposed expenditure agreed to.

Department of Foreign Affairs

Proposed expenditure. ยง89,913,000.

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