Bills: Marine Safety (Domestic Commercial Vessel) National Law Amendment (Improving Safety) Bill 2019 - Second Reading

10 February 2020

Senator Patrick: I rise to indicate Centre Alliance's strong support for the Marine Safety (Domestic Commercial Vessel) National Law Amendment (Improving Safety) Bill 2019. The story of Damien Mills is one of tragedy, and it's actually one of unnecessary tragedy. I won't repeat the details that Senator Sterle gave to the chamber, but I will say that Senator Sterle has taken leadership on this, he's been passionate about this and he's worked hard on this. Good on him for doing that. What he's trying to do is take a tragic situation and at least get some good to come from it. I can see that there will be obstruction from the other side of the chamber in his goal today.

The story of Damien reminds me of a tragic incident that took place on 3 August 1987, where two submariners were left outside the pressure hole when HMAS Otama dived, which, unfortunately, resulted in the loss of life of both Able Seaman Hugh Marcrow and Seaman Damien Humphreys. It was a shock to the Navy. It was a shock to all submariners and all sailors right throughout the Navy. But what I will say from that is that the Navy, as an authority, acted immediately. I recall them going to sea very shortly thereafter with significant changes that dealt with making sure you counted people going out and you counted people coming back, and they were logged. They were very sensible measures and very similar to what Senator Sterle is proposing here. The Navy acted very, very quickly on that.

AMSA has not acted quickly. As Senator Brown has indicated, it's been two years since this tragic incident. It doesn't require a complex resolution. Indeed, if what Senator Brockman and Senator McDonald said is true—that this does need to be looked at—that doesn't stop an interim order being made, something that errs on the side of caution, to deal with this issue and to place a legal requirement on people to be responsible. In listening to the story, as part of the committee, I simply couldn't believe that any sensible mariner would not be doing what Senator Sterle has suggested in his bill.

This bill is only necessary because of the perfunctory response of AMSA. And, it appears now, in circumstances where AMSA hasn't acted, the minister is not acting either—so this goes unchecked by government. And now the Senate has stepped up, and Senator Sterle, in particular, has put a bill before the Senate that allows us to deal with that. While I note that Senators Brockman and McDonald understand the tragedy, I'm very saddened that there was lots of Sir Humphrey Appleby in amongst all of their rhetoric about why this bill should not go ahead. AMSA has not performed here. The minister overseeing AMSA has not performed here. The Senate is acting, and yet we have Sir Humphrey Appleby on the other side of the chamber. I urge the Senate to pass this bill.

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