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Source: Marine Industry Development Strategy AMISC 1997 Figure 2. Estimated Value of Australia Marine Industries


July/September 1996

Journal of the Australian Naval Institute


record of ihe nation's history in visual arts and literature. Most colonial art works emphasised the significance of the perception of landscape (as opposed to seascape) as an indispensable part of the self-image ol" Australians. This tatty be due to the reasons noted already such as the militancy of the wharfies and the dominance of shipping by foreigners.

Since World War II (he perception of maritime themes as integral to Australian life in the visual arts has been matched by progress in literature. This includes a wide range of national issues like shipping and overseas trade, ports and fisheries, beach life, maritime sports and Australia's gradually rediscovered location and role in the Asia-Pacific region. Hill observes that a nation's self-perception ol its marilime-ness is very important and can prevent it from '.. treating the sea with sometimes malign neglect that can most kindly be characterised as sea-blindness".,: Some important maritime novels published in Australia since World War II are Robert Close's LoVf Me, Sailor (1945). Geoffrey Blainey's The Tyranny of Distance (19bf>) and Prank Broe/e's Island Nation: A History of Australians and the Sea


In recent decades there appears to be more awareness of the significance of the sea through artistic avenues. The establishment of the Australian Association for Maritime History and the appointment of a director of Naval Historical Studies in Ihe RAN's Maritime Studies Program and the development of maritime museums in all states and the territories have given what Hill calls 'a [modest] nautical slant' to Australia. This culminated in the opening of the Australian National Maritime Museum at Darling Harbour. Sydney in 1991. Indeed, maritime archaeology brought the sea into the national headlines and Australia's Historic Shipwreck Act of 1976 also set a benchmark to the world.

To the maritime observer, these modest achievements in the maritime awareness of the ordinary Australian are just 'a drop in the ocean". It can be argued that the post-1945 effort to raise the maritime culture has probably only succeeded in emancipating the ordinary Australian from his landscape ideology to the coast -the beach. Undoubtedly, every Australian, from the young to the old. is conversant with the beach and its activities but many only see ii as the water's edge where they can retire for pleasure.

To most Australians the beach has become the neo-colonial fence beyond which nothing or very little is known. The new Australian maritime jurisdiction covers an area in excess of 15 million square kilometres (one-eighth of the earth's surface if international objectives are included) with a coastline just in excess of 57 OIK) km. These figures in a way demonstrate the alarming ignorance of the Australian about the new maritime regime. Andrew Forbes"

notes '...ihe need to progress beyond our rudimentary knowledge of the role that the oceans play in our existence" because his friend Walter Munk (cited in Forbes: 199S) confirms '... the oceans ... are ... a reservoir of ignorance". Another disturbing feature of Australia's maritime ignorance is the virtual complete silence ol the media on Ihe oceans policy (often regarded as the mouthpiece of the public). After the release of the officials" draft of Ihe policy the media has turned a blind eye on its progress even as the deadline approaches.

Effective management of the oceans will depend on Australians knowing about the marine environment and its importance, recognising the threats to it, wanting to care for it. and learning the skills to look after it. Many factors may influence people's values (family, friends, media and personal experience) but it is education at schools, colleges and universities that gives people most of the formal knowledge and skills io make informed decisions, and the ability to act on them. Australia has around three million students. 10 000 schools and 200 000 full-time school teachers. During their formal education, every Australian student learns something about the sea in a variety of subjects, from art to biology. But as the SOMER report indicates 'Most Australians leave school with little more than basic understanding of the sea. and Ihe important issues affecting the marine environment' (1995:34). Even at the universities, marine studies generally have a greater emphasis on basic science than applied science and management of the oceans. Professor Gerard Sutton. Vice Chancellor of the University of Wollongong. in an opening address at a recent international conference on "Ocean Governance and Maritime Strategy" in Canberra made similar observation:

Hopefully Australia's Ocean Policy will say something about the development of the skills for Oceans governance and the ride of the university sector. This role is not just in marine science...hut in other relevant disciplines as well."

To him, the establishment of the Centre for Maritime Policy at the University of Wollongong in 1994 presented a more sanguine opportunity and dared to suggest that the four words in the title of the conference 'oceans governance' and 'maritime strategy" encapsulates the work of the Centre.

Indeed, all is not gloomy for Australia's maritime culture. Credit must go to marine scientists", marine industries. RAN and politicians for sustaining and projecting Ihe maritime culture in their various spheres of professions, locally and abroad. In fad. through their activities and contributions to international maritime issues. Australia's maritime values are highly revered." This group of experts have actively contributed to the evolution and development of Australia's Ocean Policy and are likely to provide

July/September 1998



Journal of the Australian Naval Institute

the 'bulk' Of public comment on the officials" draft, given the inaction of the media and the ignorance of the general public.

Some Implications for Oceans Policy Development

The success of Australia 'i Oceans Policy-An Issues Paper for public comment will largely depend on the nature of the public interests and response it generates. The Federal Minister for Environment, Senator Robert Hill, notes in the foreword that"... the document has been accepted as providing a sound hasis for public consultation and is being released for public comment as an officials' draft' and gave the deadline as 15 July 1998. With barely one month to the deadline il appears vers little or nothing is going on with respect to public involvement. Even the government agencies have gone dumb on it and the media does not appear to be bothered at all. In rebuking the hypocrisy of the Pharisees of his day Jesus said " their fruits (works) you shall know them'. Though not trying to sound judgmental the development of the oceans policy has offered an opportunity for Australia to assess its 'popular consciousness' in maritime affairs. The degree of integration and consequently of the rationality and efficiency will he directly related to the "fruits' of the public and of course the Commonwealth government. It may be argued that public awareness programmes initialed for the past few decades have prepared the Australian public for such a moment. This author contends that the modest achievements of the awaamess strategies are woefully inadequate for the comprehension of the development of a national oceans policy. Perhaps there is a need for a 'nautical slant" to the national life. Hill observes that in Brazil school leachers are mandated to inculcate a regard of the sea m their pupils.

Traditionally, in Australia, a fragmented and sectoral approach to ocean management exists. With the multiplication of various responsibilities corresponding to the increase in the multiple-use of the oceans, ii is nowadays common to find some It) to 15 different ministries having ocean-related responsibilities. This creates functional and institutional problems. In addition, each state has established various degrees of decentralisation and has a multiplicity of public and semi-public or private actors having specific interests to advance or defend. What is more, maritime issues and the concept of national oceans policy are not understood by the public and as discussed above does not command priority in the public view.

Australia is a member of the international community and is therefore subject to international law through international, regional or bilateral treaties lo other

nations. Thus the international law of the sea will limit arbitrary decision-making in a number of areas including the delimitation of ocean space under its jurisdiction and its various marine activities such as fisheries, marine scientific research, navigation and mineral resources exploitation of the seabed. Here again, very often the public has difficulties in understanding the extent to which international rules and norms applied to ocean affairs impose limits on unilateral government action. For example Anthony Bergin'" notes thai Australia has concluded maritime delimitation with four of its maritime neighbours and this author wonders how many people are aware of this important development in maritime Australia.

The international role of Australia in ocean affairs includes economic and strategic aspects. The aspects related to its naval power and defence objectives are very important in the formulation and conduct of its national oceans policy, especially the current emphasis on regional co-operation. The supremacy attached to this objective may defy any rational cost-henefil analysis and therefore may attract public criticism. There could be several instances where the objectives related to naval power or maintenance of links of communications appear in conflict with certain other objectives, but are still pursued in view of their relationship to the sovereign attributes and role of the nation. RAN's role in protecting the new maritime zones in addition to its traditional tasks requires additional resources as noted in the draft oceans policy. An ill-informed or ignorant public may be infuriated by the extra budgetary requirements.

The socio-economic imperatives are crucial to the formulation and implementation of the national oceans policy. As mentioned earlier, the Australian maritime industries contribute approximately $30 billion annually to the GDP. which may be a public 'secret'. This will remain largely unknown to the general public, except those working in the maritime sectors and agencies, until a deliberate effort is made to disseminate the information by way of public education.

Clearly, the official's draft of Australia's Oceans Policy indicates the nation's reliance on 'ocean managers' for effective implementation of the policy. As observed above, it is not only marine scientists that are going to manage the oceans, but rather includes other disciplines where personnel may not be readily available or are not being trained in the appropriate tertiary institutions. A nautical slant is therefore required at the universities to produce experts in ocean management or governance.


Australia has been sea-dependent from the lime of its Aboriginal habitation through colonisation to the


My/September 1998


Journal of the Australian Naval Institute

present time. Its distance from England helped a great deal to shape its history and its international policies. Historically, colonial Australia was founded and sustained by controlling the sea space, taming the vast distances through shipping and exploiting the resources of the sea for domestic and commercial purposes. This was made possible through the influence of the rich imperial maritime culture. Independent and modern Australia continues to survive on the same colonial maritime principles, albeit highly diversified and intensified. But in spite of the intensity and diversity in maritime activities in Australia, there appears to be a marked decline in the maritime culture of the public.

Maritime Australia has been greatly influenced by the culture of arts, literature, media and Australian historiography. Since 1945, a number of strategies have been adopted to increase the maritime awareness of Australians through arts, education in school and other artistic avenues. There is some modest achievement in the development of literature and arts in maritime affairs. However, the demands of Australia's Ocean Policy development will overstretch the modest 'beach' knowledge of maritime Australia. Clearly, this is a clarion call on Australia to bring its maritime human resource to bear on a policy that will encompass about one-eighth of the earth's surface. The type of public response will reflect in how integrated and feasible Australia's Oceans Policy would be apropos of sectoral, socio-economic, political, cultural and international imperatives. Human resource development in ocean management through forma] education will require some attention to sustain the policy. Meanwhile, there are strong indications that Australia's Oceans Policy will not atrophy through benign neglect, inaction and ignorance of the public (including the media) because the experts who lobbied for its introduction and have sustained its development till date, are still holding onto the 'lifeline'.


  1. See Prank Broeze. 1998. tstand Nation. A History of Australians and the Sea. Allen it Umvin. Sydney, p. 257 Such major ihemes of 'mainstream' Australian history include distance, political economy, industrial relations, gender relations, the management ot lime and the quest lor Aboriginal rights, justice and reconciliation.

  2. See Hi 11. J.R.. 1986. Maritime Strategy Jar Meiliam Possets. Naval Institute Press. Annapolis, pp. 40-44.

2 See Blainev. G. 1906, The Tyranny of Distant e. Sun Books. Melbourne, p.37. Blainey argues that Australia was first settled with the twin hopes ot giving England the natal supplies it needed and ridding England ol the people it did not need. He notes that official letters disclosing the decision to send a Beet to Australia back his argument

  1. See Mclean. D. 1990, Australia's Maritime Interests: The New Zealand Dimension, in Baleman and Ward teds. I. Australia's Maritime Interests-Views from Overseas. Canberra, p. 74.

  2. //././ p.77.

It Roskill argues that maritime power rests on three essential elements, namely strength, security and transport. Importantly, the transport element must be supported by adequate shipbuilding and ship repair industry.

7 See Young. TD. 30 January 1995. The ISW Australian intense

While Taper: An American View, paper at the conference on "1994 Defence While Paper Conference''. Canberra

X See O'Connor, M. 1997. A coastguard for Australia' in MucKimlon and Sherwood (eds.l Policing Australia s Offshon Zones: Problems anil Prospects, Wollongong Papeis on Maritime Policy No. 9. p 268. O'Connor has been arguing lor a coastguard since the late 1960s and still thinks an Independent coastguard o ideal lor Australia. Incidentally, the Australia's Oceans Policy - An Issues Paper jar I'uhltt Comment, p.X5. envisages the acquisition of X Customs ocean going vessels to carry out surveillance tasks similar to those perlnmied by the RAN's Patrol Boat Force. Perhaps the lor motion of a coastguard is in the offing

9 Blainev. op.cil.. p.149. The convict system hastened the rise ol a dynamic export economy, producing goods lor an expanding world market. II Australia had not been a gaol, a strong Australian-owned whaling Heel might not have arisen before 1X51) Com lets cheaply built Ihe whaling ships and emancipated corn ids and their tree-horn sons manned them

HI See Baleman. S, 1997, Environmental issues with Australian ports, in Ocean A Constat Manneement. Elsevier Science I .id. Vol 33, Nov 1-3. pp. 229-247. Note thai air Ireighl is mainly in high value cargo.

I I Blainev. op.cil., p.146. If the south eastern rim of the continent is defined as the coast stretching Irom Port Pene to Adelaide to Melbourne to Sydney and Brisbane and all the interior within 2(10 miles of that coast, then the result is a coastal tract shaped like a boomerang. Today, apart from Canberra and western Sydney, Australia's maior growth centres arc all on the coast

12 Hill, opa ir. p47.

I 3 See Eorbes, A. I99X, Oceanography's Contribution to Oceans Management, paper on 'Ocean Governance and Maritime Strategy' conference in Canberra, p I

  1. See Sutton. G. IX May I99S. Oceans Governance ami Maritime Strategy: Opening Address, to the Conference on 'Oceans Governance and Maritime Strategy' in Canberra, p.3.

  2. An Ocean Outlook Congress was held by leading marine scientists to mark Australia's adoption of the 19X2 UNCLOS on 16 November 1994 and issued a report that ol the many challenges and opportunities facing Australia none match the potential rewards ottered by sustainable development of Australia's newly-declared EEZ and associated murine territory.-' The intense lobbying from Ihe marine scientist can he credited with (he political response' from Ihe Commonwealth Government on Australia's Ocean Policy lor further information sec Baleman. S. 1997, Marine Industry Development and Oceans Policy in Australia, paper fot I '< IS1 Conference. Singapore. 12-14 May 1997 and Ocean Outlook A Blueprint for the Oceans, a report from the Congress 16 17 November 1994 and a Scientific Program Proposed by the Steering Committee.

  3. For instance. Prolessor Edward Miles called on Australia land Canada) to play the role ol political entrepreneur!si in what be called 'a proactive strategy' in convening periodic conlerenees on stale practice and the extent to which any devi.uions anj injurious to the central compromises of FN Convention at a recent international conference in Canberra. See Miles. E.L.. 1998. New Ocean Regime Facilitating Implementation, Compliance and evolution, pajvr on "Oceans Governance anil Maritime Strategy' Conference in Canberra. IX-1') May 1998

  4. For details on maritime delimitation w-th Indonesia. PNG. Solomon Island and France see Bergin. A. 199X. Australia. National Arrangement for Maritime Management, pp. 5-6, in Baleman and Bales icds i. Regional Maritime Management A Security. Canberra Papers on Strategy and Defence No I 24


Baleman. S. 1997. Marine Industry Dcvclotmiciii and Oceans Policy in Australia, paper lor COSL' Conference. Singapore. 12 14 May 1997.

Bateman. S. 1997, Environmental issues with Australian ports, in Ocean A Coastal Management. Elsevier Science Ltd. Vol 3.3, Nos 1-3. pp. 229-247

Bergin. A. 1998, Australia: National Arrangement for Maritime Management, pp. 5-6. in Bateman and Bales teds.i. Regional Maritime Management A Security. Canberra Papers on Strategy and Defence No 124

Blainey. G. 1966. The Tsranns ol Distant c Sun Books. Melbourne

Julv/Septcnthrr 1998


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