Jun 19, 2012

Navigation Bill 2012, Navigation (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2012, Marine Safety (Domestic Commercial Vessel) National Law Bill 2012 & Marine Safety (Domestic Commercial Vessel) National Law (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2012 – Second Reading

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler—Leader of the House and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) (17:47):  I thank members for their comments and their contributions to the debate on the Navigation Bill 2012 and the Marine Safety (Domestic Commercial Vessel) National Law Bill 2012. These bills represent the most significant overhaul of the regulation and management of Australia’s maritime industry since 1912. Between them these bills provide the primary legislative means for the Australian government to regulate international ship and seafarer safety, ensure shipping is conducted in a manner which protects our marine environment, give effect to Australia’s obligations under various International Maritime Organisation conventions and create a national safety system for domestic commercial vessels by establishing the Australian Maritime Safety Authority as the single national maritime regulator.

Shipping is a crucial part of the Australian transport system. Each year almost 4,000 ships transport goods to and from Australia, carrying 99 per cent by volume of Australia’s imports and exports. This constitutes the world’s fourth largest shipping task. The increase in demand for Australia’s exports and new resource developments means that Australia’s sea freight task is likely to double by 2025. The safety and efficiency of the shipping industry is, therefore, critical to Australia’s economic prosperity. For these reasons it is important that the 100-year-old Navigation Act be replaced with a contemporary legislative framework for maritime regulation. It is also important that vessels operating in Australian waters all operate under one system with one set of rules.

It is a credit to all states and territories that the national law bill is the result of a cooperative national reform effort. All jurisdictions have actively participated in developing this bill. The national law bill replaces eight existing federal, state and territory regulators with one national marine safety regulator and a single national law, providing clarity and consistency for Australia’s seafarers and commercial vessel owners, together with the single national regulators in rail safety and heavy vehicles.

This will lead to a benefit to the national economy of $30 billion over 20 years. This is real productivity reform. This is real microeconomic reform, moving from 23 regulators down to three, achieved by this government, funded by this government, driven by this government, in cooperation with the state and territory governments. This is indeed a proud day, the day when this legislation is adopted. I congratulate the fact that the opposition are also supporting legislation, meaning that this has bipartisanship, which just emphasises how significant this legislation is.

The practical impact of these bills is that the conduct, obligations and safety standards required of vessels in Australian waters will be clear, consistent and consistently applied. This means that companies or people who operate national businesses, have vessels in multiple states or rely on domestic commercial vessels for their livelihoods will not have to grapple with different safety, regulatory or administrative requirements.

Yesterday, the Senate passed the most significant reform of Australia’s shipping industry since the 1920s. That reform should be viewed in combination with these bills to mean that this week this parliament is dealing with the most significant reform of the maritime sector since Federation. This, together with the shipping bills, will ensure that our country has a strong and prosperous maritime future. A competitive, growing and safe Australian shipping industry is good for our economy, our environment and our national security.

I want to pay tribute to all those who have been involved in this process: the state and territory governments, the unions and maritime industry sectors, and AMSA—the Australian Maritime Safety Authority. And I wish particularly to single out the work that has been done by my department through the deputy security Andrew Wilson and Karen Gosling. Karen will be leaving the department shortly for a much quieter life in retirement. I wish Karen well. This is a legacy that she has left just prior to her departure. I thank Pauline Sullivan also.

I also want to pay tribute to two people in my office—one former and one current. Craig Carmody has driven this reform through my office under circumstances which have been difficult, getting on top of the detail of such a complex series of legislation and liaising on a day-to-day basis with the sector. I often think that as ministers and members of parliament we get the credit but it is the staff who are doing the hard yards. Mr Carmody’s predecessor, Malcolm Larsen is now with AMSA. I think he can get a great deal of credit for being there as this enormous reform project began.

This is a proud day and I commend these bills to the House. I congratulate all those who have been involved in this reform.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.