Anthony Albanese Second Reading Speech - Navigation Bill 2012

This year, the 100th year since the sinking of the RMS Titanic, is also the 100th anniversary of the Navigation Act 1912.

For those 100 years the Navigation Act has been Australia's primary legislation regulating ship and seafarer safety, shipboard aspects of protection of the marine environment and protection of the rights and conditions of seafarers. 

The original Navigation Bill was in the process of development when the Titanic sank on 15 April 1912.  

As a result, the draft legislation was amended before it had even commenced to incorporate the safety recommendations that were internationally agreed following the disaster.

This vital piece of legislation has been the key legislative vehicle to give domestic effect to Australia's international port state control responsibilities and a range of international conventions.

But the Act is 100 years old.

On 5 June 2009, I announced that the Gillard Labor Government would rewrite the Navigation Act 1912

After approximately three years of planning, public and whole of Government consultation, extensive drafting, and through the commitment and cooperation demonstrated by all stakeholders, it is with great pride that I introduce the Navigation Bill 2012 to the Australian Parliament.

We are in the middle of a once-in-a-generation resources boom.

Each year almost 4,000 ships transport goods to and from Australia, carrying ninety-nine per cent by volume of Australia's imports and exports. 

This constitutes the world's fifth largest shipping task. 

The increase in demand for Australia's exports and new resource developments means Australia's sea freight task is expected to double by 2025. 

The safety and efficiency of the shipping industry is therefore critical to Australia's economic prosperity, maritime environment and security.

Australia's re-election last year to the Council of the International Maritime Organisation served to reinforce Australia's long standing tradition as an active participant, in a cooperative multilateral approach to the regulation of maritime safety and marine pollution prevention.

This Bill supports that approach.

This Navigation Bill 2012 is a comprehensive rewrite of the Navigation Act 1912.

The Bill is written in plain language, reflects contemporary maritime industry practice and provides clarity to domestic and international seafarers, vessel owners and operators on their regulatory responsibilities.

Gone are the archaic and redundant provisions that peppered the Navigation Act 1912

Many of the 1912 Acts original provisions were taken from the British Merchant Shipping Act of 1894 which included laws that had been around since the 18th century.

You will be reassured to know that it is no longer an offence to take a lunatic to sea without telling the master.

Not only is the Navigation Bill clearer and more accessible to the reader it is more flexible allowing the regulatory framework to keep pace with changes in the domestic and global maritime sector today and in the future.

The Bill introduces a civil penalty regime which expands the range of regulatory options available to the regulator for breaches of the legislation. 

The Bill also allows for the development of an infringement notice scheme in regulations.

Of primary importance, the Navigation Bill gives effect to our international obligations under various conventions to which Australia is a signatory, covering matters such as the safety of life at sea; training and certification of seafarers; prevention of collisions at sea; watertight integrity and reserve buoyancy of ships; pollution prevention standards for ships; safety of containers; salvage and regulations to determine gross and net tonnage of ships.

The Bill will also ensure Australia's compliance with the International Labour Organization's Maritime Labour Convention - which Australia has ratified and which will soon come into force internationally. 

I have previously introduced legislation to establish an Australian International Shipping Register.

The employment provisions contained in the Navigation Bill will be a key part of the legislative framework that protects the rights of seafarers working on those vessels.

The Navigation Bill applies to Australian commercial vessels undertaking overseas voyages and where it is consistent with international law, to all foreign flagged vessels in Australian waters regardless of the voyage.

As such it provides a legislative framework within which the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) can exercise its port state control responsibilities. 

AMSA has an enviable reputation as the regulatory authority with responsibility for 'big' ships. 

The Navigation Bill complements the Marine Safety (Domestic Commercial Vessel) National Law Bill, which I introduced today, that establishes AMSA as Australia's single national maritime regulator.

The Navigation Bill also incorporates the provisions of the Lighthouses Act 1911, one of the oldest laws on the Statute book and one that predates even the Navigation Act 1912

Like the Navigation Act the Lighthouse Act has struggled to keep pace with changes to maritime industry practice and rapid technological change.

The recast provisions relating to aids to navigation have been modernised and are now sufficiently flexible to encompass a world where satellites and global positioning systems operate in company with traditional beacons and lights.

It is appropriate that the provisions of the Lighthouse Act are incorporated in the Navigation Bill as it will ensure that aids to navigation, which are so essential to safe navigation, are an integral element of Australia's primary maritime safety legislation.

The Lighthouse Act 1911 will be repealed once the Navigation Bill is enacted.

As the Transport Minister I have had the privilege to undertake the most comprehensive reform of the maritime sector in Australia's history.

This Bill, the shipping reform Bills and the National Maritime Regulator Bill position Australia to make the most of its future as a shipping nation while ensuring that safety of vessels and those who sail upon them as well as the protection of our treasured marine environment is paramount.

I commend this Bill to the House.