Mar 22, 2012

Coastal Trading (Revitalising Australian Shipping) (Consequential Amendments and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2012 – Second reading

Second Reading

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler—Leader of the House and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) (09:17):  I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The Coastal Trading (Revitalising Australian Shipping) (Consequential Amendments and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2012 will ensure that there is a smooth transition from the current coastal trading arrangements to the new regulatory regime.

I would like to turn first to the proposed transitional general licence, which has been the subject of some public commentary.

Under this bill, a transitional general licence will be created to enable foreign flagged vessels currently operating in the Australian coastal trade under a licence, to continue their operations.

These vessels are currently licensed under part VI of the Navigation Act 1912.

This provision recognises that operators of foreign flagged vessels may not be able to immediately transfer to the Australian register.

This may be due to a range of financial, legal or other commercial constraints.

These vessels are performing an important function in the domestic shipping industry.

A transitional general licence will be valid for up to five years and may be renewed once for an additional five years.

Inclusion of this power for an additional renewal was in response to stakeholder feedback that indicated that a number of these vessels are locked into commercial agreements that go beyond the initial five years and cannot be renegotiated without considerable financial penalty.

Proof of these commercial arrangements will be required to support an application for renewal of a transitional general licence.

In the long term, if these operators wish to continue to have unrestricted access to the Australian coast, they have to register their vessels in the Australian General Shipping Register.

Vessels operating under a transitional general licence will be required to pay wages consistent with the current obligations under the Fair Work Act for vessels operating under licences issued under the Navigation Act.

There will be no increase in the wages payable.

Foreign flagged vessels currently operating under permits will not be allowed to apply for transitional general licences.

To minimise disruption as we move from the old to the new system, this bill provides that permits or licences which are valid immediately before commencement of this bill will continue to be in force until their expiry date or up to four months after 1 July 2012.

Any application submitted on or before 30 June which was not decided by 1 July 2012 will be assessed in accordance with the Navigation Act requirements.

These will be valid for up to a maximum of three months.

These arrangements will provide industry with a level of certainty as we move to the new system.

Consistent with current arrangements, the Occupational Health and Safety (Maritime Industry) Act 1993 will continue to apply to vessels operating under a general licence and foreign vessels operating under a transitional general licence.

This act will also apply to all vessels registered in the Australian International Shipping Register (AISR) irrespective of where these vessels are located.

This is to ensure that AISR vessels maintain high standards of safety.

The Seafarers Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1992 will not apply to vessels registered in the Australian International Shipping Register when these vessels are operating under a temporary licence.

This will enable AISR vessels to operate on a competitive footing with foreign flagged vessels while engaging in the coastal trade.

A number of consequential amendments are required to existing Commonwealth laws to prevent any potential gaps in these laws as we repeal certain parts of the Navigation Act.

Minor amendments will also be made to the Australian Maritime Safety Act 1990 to ensure that AMSA, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, is able to share information with Department of Infrastructure and Transport for the administration and enforcement of the requirements of the new legislation on coastal trading. I commend the bill to the House.

Debate adjourned.