House debates

Wednesday, 2 August 2023


Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Amendment (Using New Technologies to Fight Climate Change) Bill 2023; Second Reading

6:29 pm

Photo of Zaneta MascarenhasZaneta Mascarenhas (Swan, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I stand today to speak in support of the Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Amendment (Using New Technologies to Fight Climate Change) Bill 2023. I speak as an engineer and as someone who has consulted the mining and resource industry on their policies and practices to address climate change. As a scientist I could say that I understand that leadership in the area of climate change is urgently needed, but the truth is I recognise this as a human.

I also understand that only Labor can deliver this policy. The recent decision by UNESCO to hold off the placing of the Great Barrier Reef on its endangered list is evidence of that. It's a shift of climate change policy in Australia. The House should be reminded that UNESCO was recommending the opposite, and was seriously considering placing the Great Barrier Reef on its endangered list. This was directly related to the Liberal government's irresponsible and lazy approach to climate change and the environment. It was a policy of inaction and delay.

The bill I speak to today is yet another example of work that did not get done under the Liberals. It's an area of policy and legislation that matters, but it was ignored and forgotten. Australians wanted to change the nation, so they changed the parliament, and the government is now changing climate change policy. This government takes the environment seriously. This government is responsible and proactive. This government is taking action without delay.

The bill I'm speaking to today is an example of a government that takes this action seriously. We are taking action to clean up the decade of oversight and neglect that is the legacy of the coalition government. Acting on climate change means preserving our special places and the inhabitants of those special places. Our oceans are a special place. We know that the ocean is critical for the regulation of the planet's climate. Climate change has significant effects on the ocean and its inhabitants. Labor is also responding to change to shape our country for the future. We're working hard to deliver a sustainable future for all Australians. We need a livable planet, and there is no planet B. The Ocean Business Leaders Summit recognised the ocean as a new economic frontier that offers opportunities for economic growth, employment and innovation.

This legislation is responsible. This bill will tackle our immediate and long-term commitment to preserving our unique marine environment. This bill will implement Australia's international obligations in the control of waste in our ocean. Australia has obligations under the 1996 Protocol to the Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter, 1972—also known as the London protocol. Australia, along with 86 other state parties, agreed to modernise the 1972 convention. It's committed to prohibiting all sea dumping except for acceptable wastes on the reserve list. The International Maritime Organization explains that materials on the reserve list, including dredged material; sewage sludge; fish wastes; inert, inorganic geological material, such as mining wastes; organic material of natural origin; and carbon dioxide streams from carbon dioxide capture processes, are all subject to strict regulatory assessment procedures. Groundbreaking steps by parties to the protocol establish the steps that would mitigate the impacts of increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by amendments that would regulate carbon capture and sequestration. It was a commitment by the international community to respond to new issues that impact the marine environment.

The 2009 amendments to the London protocol put in place regulatory responses to the risks that confront our marine environments. It will permit the export of carbon dioxide streams from a contracting state party to another country for the purpose of carbon sequestration in subsea geological formations. It was a commitment that Australia signed up to, and I take that commitment seriously.

In the same way, the bill will adopt the 2013 amendment to allow the placement of waste and other matter for marine geoengineering activity. This includes activities such as ocean fertilisation. This can be used for conducting scientific research, which is important to us for understanding the risks of damage to our ocean and what we need to put in place to protect its future.

It will enable scientific research that is legitimate. The research is necessary to determine the feasibility of methods to reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide. Examples of this scientific research include microbubbles which inject tiny bubbles in the ocean surface or into sea foam. This enables the increase of sunlight reflectivity. It also includes marine cloud brightening or seeding; ocean alkalisation, which relating to the PH of oceans; and macro-algae cultivation.

I believe that Australia should take its international commitments seriously. They are not token gestures and an expression of commitment to join the international community in a matter of importance to the world. This matters to the world, and therefore it matters to the Labor government. My position is consistent with the conclusions drawn by the Standing Committee on Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water, which I'm now a member of. The committee recommended that the amendments be enacted in the Australian legal framework not only for the obvious environmental reasons I've outlined but also for the reason of foreign policy. I do not want to be the odd one out in the international community when it comes to action on the marine environment. The world is watching what we do, so let's be the trailblazers, not the renegades.

Australia's oceans are some of the most spectacular oceans in the world. We need to make sure that we look at the regulatory environment and make sure that the marine environment is regulated and that we understand the impacts of our policies. The bill will ensure that Australia will develop a framework that is needed to administer permits for emerging international activities in marine engineering. The regulatory framework that is proposed by this bill is comprehensive. The assessment process is robust. That is why we need to ensure that activities are monitored with legal certainty. We know that the area of marine engineering is expanding, and its growth in activities demands a regulatory response from government. Our marine environment is a part of our heritage. It's a part of our identity and it has to be a part of our future.

Labor understands that we have a responsibility, and we need to ensure that we safeguard it, to ensure that oceans remain special places for future generations. Relying on an unregulated approach would risk long-term damage. And so I commend the Minister for the Environment and Water, Tanya Plibersek, for getting done the job that the Liberals did not do. I commend her for her tireless commitment to her portfolio and leadership on environmental policy. I commend the bill to the House.


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