Thursday, 27 February 2020
Questions without Notice
Australian Maritime Safety Authority
My question is for the Minister representing the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, Senator Cash. Damien Mills died tragically at age 35 when he fell overboard while travelling on a chartered vessel off the coast of Western Australia on 31 October 2014. A coronial inquest found Mr Mills's death underscored the need for simple safety processes on chartered vessels, such as performing accurate headcounts and supervising passengers properly while on board. What action, Minister, has the Australian Maritime Safety Authority taken to improve passenger safety following Mr Mills's death?
I thank Senator Sterle for the question. Senator Sterle, I have not been provided with a brief on that. I will take it on notice, and I will revert to you as quickly as possible.
Minister, a Senate inquiry into the Australian Maritime Safety Authority has raised serious concerns about the authority's management of Mr Mills's case and the authority's continued refusal to strengthen safety regulations for domestic commercial vessels. Why has the government minister ignored pleas from the committee for sensible action on passenger safety for the past two years?
Senator Sterle, I will have to reject the premise of your question. In terms of the government's record of maritime achievements, we actually have a very, very strong record of maritime achievements since 2013. Our economy relies, as you know, on safe and efficient maritime trade. Almost 80 per cent of the value of our international trade is moved by sea. As such, fishing, maritime, tourism and transport are important domestic industries. On 1 July 2018, the government took full responsibility for safety services and standards for domestic commercial vessels, which are now delivered consistently around Australia by AMSA. Industry also remains committed to phasing out two-tier vessels for live sheep exports, with AMSA implementing changes to Marine Order 43. But I would reiterate that, in terms of safety, we are committed to ensuring— (Time expired)
Out of respect for the memory of Damien, I will go straight to my final supplementary question. Minister, no Australian family should have to endure the pain and anguish that the Mills family have experienced. Will the government finally act by supporting my private senators bill, which ensures that two headcounts are conducted—one at the commencement of the voyage and one at the end—to ensure that all passengers are present and accounted for?
Senator Sterle, the minister is responsible for administering maritime and shipping legislation in support of a safe, efficient and clean Australian shipping industry. This, as you know, includes compliance with international rules on maritime safety and environment, coastal trading, domestic commercial vessel safety and regulation of ships engaged in the live animal export trade.
Mr President, I am disinclined on this matter to take a point of order, but I take a point of order on direct relevance. This is about headcounts on charter vessels. It is a private senators bill. The issues that the minister is describing are not germane to the question. If she wishes to take the question on notice because the government hasn't made a decision on the private senators bill that would be a respectful thing to do. But could she please respond to the question?
Mr President, as you've indicated on many occasions in relation to points of order of this nature, all that is required is for the minister to be directly relevant. The Leader of the Opposition in the Senate cannot insist on how she wants the minister to answer the question.
On the point of order, it was a very specific question with respect to a bill and a particular policy measure. You've reminded the minister of the nature of it, Senator Wong. I will listen carefully. She has 36 seconds remaining to answer or to take it on notice, as appropriate.