Protection of the Sea
Ms WELLS (Lilley) (17:21): In Lilley, we have around 28 kilometres of coastline, and we are surrounded by waterways, from Kedron Brook to Cabbage Tree Creek to Nudgee Beach and the Sandgate and Brighton foreshores. We want these waterways to be cared for, and we want these waterways to be protected. Our glorious Moreton Bay has more coral than the Caribbean and the most southern population of dugongs, and it is easier to access than the Great Barrier Reef. Yet it stands at risk of being taken for granted.
The Healthy Land and WaterReport Card is an annual study of the health of South-East Queensland's waterways. The 2018 report cardfound that, overall, the waterways draining into Moreton Bay were in poor health, due to the high levels of mud and other pollutants that ultimately flow into the bay.
This bill, the Protection of the Sea (Prevention of Pollution from Ships) Amendment (Air Pollution) Bill 2019, is necessary to help combat emissions, stem the growth of sulphur emissions and reduce acid rain, and so I support it. But there is more work to be done to protect our waterways in Lilley, and I will continue to work with our local community groups and organisations to ensure that we achieve our goals together.
In Australia, we have ocean-exposed and high-energy sandy beaches stretching for over 10,000 kilometres, covering approximately 49 per cent of the coastline. In my electorate of Lilley, we have approximately 28 kilometres of that coastline—easily the best 28 kilometres!
Spilt oil can affect marine organisms via several pathways, such as the physical coating of organisms, the penetration and persistence of component petroleum hydrocarbons in the sediments, and the uptake of petroleum hydrocarbons by both plants and animals, leading to lethal and sublethal toxicity. Impacts to mobile species such as fish, sharks and marine mammals are most likely to occur due to the flow-on effects of impacts to their habitat and food sources. However, direct contact with oil can result in direct impacts to the animal, due to the toxic effects if ingested, damage to the lungs when inhaled at the surface, and damage to the skin and associated functions such as thermoregulation. Waterbirds are particularly susceptible to impacts from oil spills as, if the birds come into contact with the oil, the hydrophobic nature of hydrocarbons can cause reduced waterproofing in their plumage, and reduced insulation and buoyancy of the plumage if the animal comes into direct contact with spilt fuel. This may cause death due to hypothermia, starvation or exhaustion.
The international importance of the wetland areas within our Moreton Bay has been recognised, with parts of the bay and surrounds being designated as a Ramsar site in 1993. Covering more than 120,000 hectares, the Moreton Bay Ramsar site is extremely varied, ranging from perched freshwater lakes and sedge swamps on the offshore sand islands, to intertidal mudflats, marshes, sand flats, coral reefs, seagrass beds and mangroves next to the bay's islands and the mainland. This varied landscape enhances the bay's biological diversity, which includes an overlap of both tropical and temperate wildlife species. The site contains extensive intertidal areas that are valuable for supporting waterbirds and fauna of conservation significance as well as providing important nursery conditions for fish and crustaceans.
I would like to take this opportunity to note the good and dedicated work of the Sandgate Wildlife Network, who spend their volunteer hours caring for our waterways and wildlife. I would like to acknowledge the Ocean Crusaders. While they are based in the electorate of Bowman, they do come to the beaches at Brighton and Sandgate, when they can, to assist in protecting our waterways and looking after our wildlife. I thank them too.
I want to speak about pollution in Moreton Bay. Like I said earlier, the most recent report card—the report card of 2018—found that overall the waterways draining into Moreton Bay were poor in quality due to mud and other pollutants flowing into the bay. Professor Connolly believes that Moreton Bay will likely deteriorate in the years ahead due to pressures including urbanisation, increased and more intense weather events and strong population growth.
Lilley constituents are aware of the threats to our beautiful corner of the world, and they dedicate many hours of their time to preserving our environment. I'd like to acknowledge the Keep Sandgate Beautiful Association, the Nudgee Beach Environmental Education Centre, the Boondall Wetlands Environment Centre, the Northern Catchments Network and the Cabbage Tree Creek catchment coordinating network for their hours and hours of dedicated efforts to keep our beautiful corner of the earth as clean and as protected as they can.
Lilley's youngest citizens are also switched on to these dangers and to the issues of climate change and the threat it poses to our environment, our public health and our economy. They are taking some initiative and doing their part, even before they can vote. I congratulate the environmental clubs in schools, such as the Sandgate environment committee, based out of Sandgate District State High School, the Craigslea State High School environmental committee, Mount Alvernia College, Mary MacKillop College, Northside Christian College and Wavell State High School, all of whom are currently involved in the 2019 Brisbane City Council's Green Heart Schools Program. Like these Lilley volunteers, I recognise that protecting our environment is something we must act on every day, and today I am supporting this bill as part of our fight to protect what we love.
Australia is a proud signatory of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships. We first gave effect to our obligations under the convention through the passage of the Protection of the Sea (Prevention of Pollution from Ships) Act 1983. Since then, numerous regulations and the Navigation Act 2012 have also ensured that Australia meets its international obligations. MARPOL provides for a global cap of 0.5 per cent on the sulphur content of fuel used on board ships. This cap will come into effect on 1 January 2020, as the member for Stirling detailed before me. The International Maritime Organization has also agreed to a ban on the carriage of fuel that does not comply with the new cap on the high seas from 1 March 2020.
This legislation gives effect to both of these new requirements and ensures that they're legally enforceable in Australian waters. Ships burn heavy sulphur fuel oil, which releases air pollutants. Shipping currently contributes approximately 13 per cent sulphur oxide and approximately 15 per cent nitrous oxide to global emissions. This new cap is necessary to help combat global emissions, stem the growth of sulphur emissions and reduce acid rain. Any breaches of the carriage ban as contained in this legislation will be subject to the same penalties as the use of non-compliant fuel, which will remove the incentive for ships to switch to the higher sulphur content fuel on the high seas. All international shipping is required to comply with the new fuel obligations contained within MARPOL. This legislation and the implementation of the MARPOL obligations are necessary to allow Australian authorities the power to enforce the convention in Australian waters.
As an island continent and trading nation, Australia cannot isolate itself from the impacts of marine pollution and any potential increases in the costs of marine fuel oil. International shipping covered by this new cap carries 99 per cent of Australia's trade by volume. Most large-scale transport providers have long-term fuel contracts in place and/or hedge against any fluctuations in the price of fuel. Given these arrangements, it is difficult to predict what impact, if any, the likely increase in the price of marine fuel will have on goods purchased in Australia. This legislation also better aligns the POPS Act with MARPOL by providing an exemption for naval and government vessels, and clarifies the definition of a number of key terms provided for in the current act.
Labor is a proud supporter of Australian shipping. During his time as minister and shadow minister for infrastructure and transport, the current Leader of the Opposition outlined a number of measures that would prevent further undercutting of the Australian flagged fleet.
Shipping is an important national strategic industry. Maintaining a domestic shipping industry is critical for an island nation. Ships are efficient, require no built infrastructure for navigation and are the least energy intensive of all freight transport nodes. Over 99 per cent of trade to and from Australia is carried by ship. Australia has the fourth-largest shipping freight task in the world. Australia is inherently and increasingly reliant on international shipping for our coastal trade, underlying the critical importance of international conventions to the protection of our coastline. With the expansion of Australia's commodity trade, international shipping is becoming busier. Cruise shipping is also growing rapidly, delivering more international tourists to Australia and around the coast.
Labor has a proud history of supporting the vital role Australian maritime industries play in securing our economic, environmental and national security interests. We had committed to revitalising the industry if we were successful at the May election. We would have stopped the abuse of temporary licences that has occurred under this government and in breach of the existing legislation, and ensured that the national interest was prioritised when it comes to licensing foreign ships to work in Australia. We would have worked towards creating a strategic fleet of Australian flagged vessels that could be called upon in areas of strategic importance to the Australian economy, such as the distribution of liquid fuel. Unlike this government, Labor supports Australian maritime workers and Australian flagged vessels. Australia needs a vibrant maritime industry that serves the nation's economic, environmental and national security interests, and we want to see that vibrant industry serve our shipping needs, create profit for industry, secure a strategic set of maritime skills, and provide jobs and opportunities for our young people.
I want to speak about the Moreton Bay oil spill—because it is solid bulk cargoes like oils and fuels that are occasionally spilt into the sea, coastal and inland waters in large volumes as a consequence of infrastructure and transportation failures. On 11 March 2009, in one of Australia's worst oil disasters, we saw the container ship Pacific Adventurer lose 31 containers overboard and leak approximately 270 tonnes of bunker oil into Moreton Bay, blackening beaches on Moreton and Bribie islands and along the Sunshine Coast. Fifty-six kilometres of beach from the coastline of Brisbane right through to the Sunshine Coast were affected by this oil spill. The oil slick damaged beaches, rocky reefs and wetlands on Moreton Island, and beaches and mangrove wetlands between Bribie Island and Coolum on the Sunshine Coast. Premier Anna Bligh declared the area a disaster zone. The captain of the Pacific Adventurer and the four companies involvedwere each charged with one count of discharging oil into the ocean. The captain faced additional charges of failing to notify authorities. The ship was sailing north from Port Kembla in New South Wales when it hit rough weather off the south-east coast of Queensland. More than 30 containers fell overboard, piercing the ship's fuel tanks and spilling 270,000 litres of oil into the ocean. Prosecutors alleged that each defendant was reckless, that the ship was not properly maintained and that ship lashings were faulty. Ultimately, the defendants were fined and convictions were recorded. The clean-up and compensation bill amounted to around $31 million. But what was the ultimate cost to the quality of our water in Moreton Bay; the health, life and vitality of the animals; and the flora and fauna that live there?
In conclusion, Queensland's streams, rivers, lakes, wetlands, estuaries and open coastal waters are essential to maintaining the health of our environment and our quality of life. Preventing or reducing water pollution improves water quality, and it helps to underpin our healthy natural ecosystems that stand at risk. Moreton Bay contributes approximately $7.6 billion of value to the South-East Queensland economy each year. The bay indirectly employs thousands of people, and it provides countless social and lifestyle benefits to our community.
South-East Queensland's unique lifestyle depends on healthy waterways. This is why acting now is so important. More than 3.6 million people visited Moreton Bay in 2017, only slightly fewer than the combined 3.8 million who visited the southern Great Barrier Reef, the Whitsundays and Mackay. Community groups in Lilley already put so much thought, time and care into preserving our local waterways, and I thank them all for their service to our part of the world. This is a bill that helps protect Australian waterways and upholds our international obligations, but I look forward to doing more.