THE government has announced an independent review of the legal framework regulating the safety of domestic commercial vessels in Australia.

According to an announcement from minister for infrastructure and transport Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, the inquiry is in response to several recent inquiries by Senate committees and the Productivity Commission into various aspects of maritime safety regulation.

The review is to consider whether the National System for Domestic Commercial Vessel Safety is fit for purpose, focusing on the capacity of the legislation to support safe vessel operations, minimise regulatory and administrative burden for industry, and transparency. It will also assess the costs and charges associated with the legislation.

Additionally, the government has tasked the independent review panel with specifically considering:

  • whether the legislation interacts effectively with other Commonwealth and state and territory legislative frameworks, as well as with international maritime safety obligations; and
  • whether expanding the Australian Transport Safety Bureau’s role to include domestic commercial vessel safety could support substantially improved safety outcomes for industry, as well as regulators and policy makers.

Former Australian Taxation Commissioner Michael Carmody will head up the inquiry. Mr Carmody will be supported by Carolyn Walsh, chair of the National Transport Commission, and John Harrison, who has commercial fishing industry expertise.

Industry body Maritime Industry Australia welcomed the announcement.

MIAL said it had been eight years since the implementation of the National Transport Regulatory Reform, which saw all state and Northern Territory maritime regulatory regimes brought under the one national umbrella.

MIAL chief executive officer Teresa Lloyd said, “Implementation of the National Law has been an incredibly challenging task, but we must now concentrate on moving from the necessary transitional complexity to a streamlined framework which, at its core, embodies a flexible, risk-based approach to safety management.

“This is critical to allowing maritime businesses to be innovative, tailor their safe practices to be specific to their operations, while having the confidence to grow their businesses and invest in new technology.”

The second stage of the review will examine the current and future service delivery costs and charges, the efficiency of the regulator, and the impact on industry of potential increased regulatory service costs, considering the very wide spectrum of domestic commercial vessel operations.

“MIAL is very keen to see cross subsidisation of industry sectors eliminated as soon as possible, and we will be looking to Government to extend the current budget appropriation for National System service delivery for at least a further 12 months while the cost and charges aspects of the Review are considered,” Ms Lloyd said.

On the timeframe outlined for the review, Ms Lloyd said, “We’re very keen on having this review completed as soon as possible following a meaningful consultation process that secures well-supported review recommendations.”