Cargo slurry including radioactive waste and sewage is polluting Australian waters, but there's cross-parliamentary support to reduce the impact.
Cruise ships would be stopped from dumping waste near the Great Barrier Reef under draft laws to protect Australia's coastline from dangerous pollutants.
Tonnes of cargo slurry is being dumped from ships in Australian waters, polluting the ocean with sewage, food scraps and even radioactive waste, parliament has heard.
There is cross-parliament support for changes to legislation to prevent ships dumping potentially harmful pollutants within specific maritime areas.
"Large amounts of toxic liquids including dredged materials, industrial waste, sewage sludge and radioactive waste are illegally dumped in waters near our island home," government backbencher Jason Falinski said.
Legislation passed the lower house on Wednesday that would require shippers to identify whether their bulk cargo is harmful to the marine environment or not.
That would then determine how and where residue can be discharged, including proximity to land.
Labor transport spokesman Anthony Albanese said up to 500 tonne of cargo slurry including residue of the load could be released from a single ship when it's cleaned at the end of a journey.
"The main reason why tourists say they come to Australia is about our coastline and our marine environment," Mr Albanese said.
His colleague Steve Georganas said there would always be a risk to Australian ports but regulation should encourage best practice to protect the sea.
The changes come from the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, to which Australia is a signatory.