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Issue #1549      30 May 2012

Maritime Union opposes incursion on wharfies’ rights

Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) national secretary Paddy Crumlin has expressed concern that wharfies have been unfairly targeted by an Australian Federal police crackdown on waterfront crime. While the union supports comprehensive efforts to reduce crime in the Australian import /export and supply chain sector, Mr Crumlin said there was no case for focusing solely on the stevedoring workforce.

“The overwhelming majority of the stevedoring workforce are law abiding and today’s measures are targeting innocent people and their livelihoods,” Mr Crumlin said.

“Of the 16 arrests made since July 2010, only one person was a waterfront worker, and another a former waterfront worker, so there is a bigger picture that needs to be focused on.

“Weaknesses in crime detection have been identified in the sector including customs, quarantine and private sector management of freight forwarding and stevedoring. The MUA is committed to the elimination of any crime in the small part of the sector in which we have influence but we question whether Maritime Security Identification Card (MSIC) is the right tool.”

At the time of introduction, the MSIC and Aviation Security Identification Card (ASIC) were focused on preventing terrorist attacks rather than serious and organised crime.

“The MUA is yet to be convinced that the ASIC and MSIC schemes should be extended to the prevention of non-terrorism related crime and we question the use of criminal intelligence on ethical and legal grounds,” Mr Crumlin said.

“This announcement raises more questions than answers. They’re getting counter-terrorism mixed up with law and order. Any scheme needs to be transparent and consistent with high standards of human rights and justice principles.

“Roughly 30 percent of ships in the domestic transport sector have foreign seafarers with no background checks. This was not covered by Taskforce Polaris or in the Minister’s statement this morning and is another serious flaw in the stated methodology of dealing with both terrorism and crime prevention.

“The burning question for us is whether they will apply the MSIC scheme to seafarers on coastal voyages and to other areas in the supply chain and what other measures they are taking for criminal intelligence on foreign crews,” Mr Crumlin said.

Multiple reports have identified gaps in the administration of the ASIC and MSIC schemes in this area. A report by the Auditor General last year found there were “inherent vulnerabilities associated with having a large number of issuing bodies”.

“We hope this is not just another Trojan horse to undermine the rights of transport workers,” Mr Crumlin said.

“This was set up as an anti-terrorism measure and is now transforming into a crime fighting measure. Why unnecessarily alienate a workforce which is complying with the current rules?”  

Next article – WA law plan sparks fears

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