Wednesday, 8 August 2007
Maritime Legislation Amendment Bill 2007
That this bill be now read a second time.
The bill will enable the integration of the Australian Maritime College (the College) with the University of Tasmania to proceed. The integration is strongly supported by both organisations as a means of facilitating greater leveraging of capabilities, broadening course offerings and generating cost reductions through rationalisation of facilities. Furthermore, it reflects the continued hard work of the member for Bass in ensuring the long-term sustainability of the college through integration with the university. This bill will ensure that Australia and the region continue to have access to a world-class maritime research, education and training institute. The college has gained recognition as an international leader in maritime education, training and research. The college’s expertise is recognised worldwide and it has established a reputation for the provision of quality services to the maritime industries in Australia and throughout the Asia-Pacific region.
The bill includes the repeal of the Maritime College Act 1978, under which the college was established and currently operates, and the transfer of all assets and liabilities from the college to the university. In return, the university will be subject to conditions on certain funding it receives from the Commonwealth under the Higher Education Support Act 2003 for a period of five years. During that period the university will be required to report on key aspects of the college’s operations within the university, including governance, financial, and academic arrangements. The terms of the integration will ensure that the rights and privileges of current staff and students of the college are protected in the transition to the university.
The Minister for Transport and Regional Services will issue a certificate indicating whether the university has satisfactorily complied with the funding conditions, and if the certificate indicates unsatisfactory performance the education minister may require repayment of a portion of the Commonwealth funding going to the university. In addition to the conditions specified in the legislation, an agreement is to be negotiated between the Department of Transport and Regional Services and the university defining how the university will deal with the land assets to be transferred to it as a result of the integration. The special conditions will be in place for five years, after which time a review is to be conducted of the operations of the college within the university with a view to determining if further special conditions are warranted as part of the ongoing funding agreements in place between the Department of Education, Science and Training and the university.
The government believes these safeguards provide an appropriate balance between protecting the Commonwealth’s interests and not inhibiting the flexibility of the new merged entity to pursue the opportunities that will arise as a result of the integration. There are no direct resource implications from the bill. The 2007-08 budget includes a figure of $61.4 million representing the consolidated net assets that will be gifted to the university as a result of the integration. I commend the member for Bass on his strong support for both the college and the university, and recognition of the broader benefits to his electorate through the integration of these two great institutes of learning.
The bill also authorises the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) to share its information with other Australian, state and territory government agencies and other parties for the specific purposes of maritime domain awareness, maritime safety, protection of the marine environment, and efficiency of maritime transportation. This information includes data from a new international long range identification and tracking system for ships, which comes into force on 1 January 2008.
AMSA has been tasked to receive information from the new system on behalf of Australia for distribution to other government agencies through the Australian Maritime Identification System (AMIS). AMSA receives vessel movement information from other sources, which also is to be fed into AMIS for distribution to other government agencies, including security, intelligence, police, customs, immigration, environment, transport and fisheries agencies, to improve whole-of-government maritime domain awareness. Agencies are already seeking access to live data feeds from AMSA for their own functions and for development and testing of AMIS. There is currently no specific legal authority for AMSA to share information gathered for its purposes with other parties.
In addition to the benefit to Australian government agencies in sharing in AMSA’s information sources, states and territories, port authorities and coastal pilot service providers could use AMSA’s information to improve navigation safety, environment protection and transport efficiency, including such areas as improved vessel traffic management, port infrastructure planning and operations. The information will be released only for the purposes specified in the bill.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.