Chapter 1 The Navigation Amendment Bill 2011
On 25 May 2011, the Selection Committee referred the Navigation
Amendment Bill 2011 to the House Standing Committee on Infrastructure and
Communications for inquiry and advisory report. The bill had been
introduced into the House of Representatives earlier that day.
In proposing amendments to the Navigation Act 1912, the bill
seeks to give effect to the conditions of the International Labour Organisation
(ILO) Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) in Australia, by ensuring that the act
is consistent with the provisions of the MLC. The bill also makes some minor
amendments relating to vessel tracking services, to enable an extension of
tracking to the southern part of the Great Barrier Reef. This amendment forms
part of the Government response to the grounding of the Shen Neng 1 in
the Great Barrier Reef in April 2010.
The proposed ratification of the MLC was a matter considered by the Joint
Standing Committee on Treaties, which invited submissions, held a public
hearing, and presented its report in April 2011. After referral of the
legislation to this Committee, views were invited from those organisations who
had prepared submissions for the JSCOT. Details of the inquiry were made
available on the Committee’s website, four submissions were received, and a
public hearing was conducted on 22 June 2011.
This report considers the purpose of the bill in the context of the Maritime
Labour Convention, noting that a similar review process has been conducted by
the JSCOT. The bill and the explanatory memorandum are included at Appendix A.
Details of submissions received and witnesses attending the public hearing are
listed at Appendices B and C respectively.
The Committee notes that the Parliamentary Library prepared a Bills
Digest. The Committee accepts the comments on specific clauses contained
therein, noting that the digest’s focus on ‘some, not all, of the proposed
provisions of the bill.’
The Maritime Labour Convention
The MLC is an international convention that sets minimum requirements
for seafarers working on ships. It includes conditions of employment, work and
rest hours, accommodation, recreational facilities, food and catering,
occupational health and safety, medical care, and social security protection.
It seeks to consolidate 68 ILO instruments adopted since 1920.
The Committee heard that while the majority of Australian seafarers
already benefit from terms and conditions that exceed the standards articulated
in the MLC, ratification will ensure there is a level playing field across the
shipping industry, preventing unfair competition by operators using substandard
The Australian delegation to the ILO supported the adoption of the
convention at the meeting of the ILO. The delegation consisted
of two government representatives, an employer representative (Australian
Shipowners Association (ASA)), and an employee representative (Maritime Union
of Australia (MUA)).
According to the Department of Infrastructure and Transport (DIT), the
MLC will come into force internationally 12 months after it is ratified by 30
ILO member countries, representing a total share of at least 33 per cent of the
world’s gross shipping tonnage. At its public hearing,
the Committee heard that 15 eligible countries had ratified the MLC. As such,
the Committee notes that although the tonnage requirement has been met, the MLC
must be ratified by an additional 15 ILO member states before it comes into
Passage of the Navigation Amendment Bill 2011 is a precursor to Australian
ratification of the MLC. According to the DIT, ‘the amendments to the
Navigation Act contained in the bill do not go beyond the terms of the MLC’.
The Committee understands that the MLC will be implemented as part of the flag
and port State control regimes of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority
(AMSA) and that if the bill is passed, ‘AMSA will amend several Parts of Marine
Orders to give effect to its terms.’
Support for the Maritime Labour Convention
The Committee understands that the MLC has broad support from major
stakeholders. This support has been reflected in the involvement of those
stakeholders in the delegation to the ILO, subsequent submissions to the JSCOT,
and further in the four submissions received by this Committee. All submissions
supported the passage of the bill to ensure ratification of the MLC, however Shipping
Australia Limited (SAL) sought to have some issues around about the Bill
The ASA indicates that passage of the Bill and ratification of the MLC
will improve protection for workers, benefit shipowners by addressing some
areas of competitive disadvantage by levelling standards of employment, and
provide certainty to stakeholders that basic social standards can be enforced. The
ASA describes its commitment to ratification as ‘unwavering’ and urges
ratification at the ‘earliest possible opportunity’.
The Maritime Union of Australia also strongly supports the Bill, noting
it will consolidate Australian standing in the ILO, will enable Australia to
demonstrate regional leadership, and will function as an important adjunct to
other reforms of the Australian shipping industry.
The submission prepared by the Department of Infrastructure and
Transport (DIT) outlined the process of the development of the MLC, the consideration
by the JSCOT (including the presentation in the House of Representatives of a
National Interest Analysis and Regulation Impact Statement), and the drafting
of the legislation, including consultative processes which were undertaken at
The Committee notes that DIT, the ASA, and MUA all support quick passage
of the Bill to enable ratification of the MLC as soon as possible. They
identify that late ratification would put Australian shipping as a
disadvantage, as Australian shipping operators would not have had as much time
as their competitors to ensure compliance with the MLC.
Report 116 of the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT) contained
a dissenting report that raised several issues which were discussed with witnesses
at the Committee’s public hearing.
The dissenting report suggested there had been minimal time for JSCOT
members to review the report regarding the treaties. The Department of
Infrastructure and Transport advised that the regulation impact statement had
been tabled on 24 November 2010, and that JSCOT had held their hearing into the
treaty on 21 March 2011.
The dissenting report also suggested that there may have been
insufficient consultation with state and territory governments. The Department
of Infrastructure and Transport replied that the Department of Education,
Employment and Workplace Relations had conducted broad consultations with the
states and territories, and that they had all given in principle support to the
MLC. The Committee was advised
by the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations that this
consultation process had commenced in 2004.
The dissenting report suggested opportunities for employment groups to
discuss the MLC had been limited. The Department of Infrastructure and
Transport noted the ASA had been involved in the drafting of the convention for
several years and had also acted as an employer delegate at the ILO conference.
The dissenting report also expressed concern about the potential for
opportunities for cadets to become more limited if the requirement for
individual rooms onboard a ship was implemented. Currently, cadets sometimes
share a berth as a way of getting employment experience on a ship. This concern
was also raised by the MUA.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority replied that they were actively
working on the issue and were hoping to address the issue in subordinate
legislation, and also noted that it was not always the case that a cadet shared
The Committee notes the concerns raised in submissions and by the
dissenting report of the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties, and considers
that where possible, these have been addressed subsequently by DIT. The
Committee observes that much of the detailed implementation of the conditions
of the MLC will occur through regulations, not the bill itself.
The Committee also notes evidence received at the public hearing on 22
June 2011 that there are no relevant representative bodies in Australia who
have any opposition to ratification of the MLC:
I would say not just from the direct consultation we have had
with the ASA, the MUA and states and territories but also through the official
International Labour Affairs Committee, which we manage and comprises the head
of the ACTU, the head of ACCI and a representative from the Australian Industry
Group. In terms of our ILO obligations, there is really unanimous support.
||The Committee recommends that the House of Representatives pass the Navigation Amendment Bill 2011