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Issue #1796      September 27, 2017

In defence of Australian shipping

The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) says the Turnbull government is trying to kill off yet another vital national industry by introducing a Bill that waters down the cabotage rules surrounding foreign ships gaining temporary licences to operate between Australian ports.

As the car industry prepares to leave our shores, MUA national secretary Paddy Crumlin said the Orwellian double speak in the Coastal Trading (Revitalising Australian Shipping) Amendment Bill 2017 was astounding given the end result would be the decimation of the domestic shipping fleet.

“A strong, viable domestic shipping fleet makes absolute sense from a national security, fuel security, and environmental standpoint yet the Bill introduced today would have exactly the same consequences as the deregulation Bill rejected by the Senate in the previous Parliament,” he said.

“Put simply, the proposed changes would make it more difficult for Australian ships with Australian crew to compete in the coastal trade. Instead of enhancing a vital national industry with a long and proud tradition, the Turnbull government wants to send the jobs offshore.

“Sensible senators will see right through the government’s charade and reject this Bill in its entirety.”

Australia has a very strict cabotage regime for aviation where foreign companies can’t just come and operate on domestic routes but there has been a very liberal approach to cabotage for the maritime sector.

“Without strong rules, Australian companies have to compete with cheap, exploited foreign labour on Flag of Convenience vessels, the owners of which pay no tax and often flout safety laws,” Crumlin said.

“The Bill put forward by Transport Minister Darren Chester lacks consultation and ignores proposals put forward in the industry Green Paper which was developed through exhaustive meetings with key stakeholders over a long period of time.

“The Bill does not address proposals aimed at growing Australian content in coastal shipping such as the Strategic Fleet concept, that provides an opportunity to achieve better coordination between Navy objectives and the commerciality of the merchant shipping sector,” Crumlin said.

The Bill also ignores proposals in the MUA submission to the government which complemented the Green Paper, such as providing a new commercial solution to get the balance right between supporting a core Australian fleet supplemented by foreign ships on a Temporary Licence.

The recent Senate “Inquiry Into Flag of Convenience Shipping” found that unlike Australian seafarers, foreign crews have no background checks yet they are carrying petroleum products, ammonium nitrate and LNG around the Australian coast.

Exploited crew on Flag of Convenience vessels earn as little as $1.25 an hour, have less training and are often unaware of our fragile coastal environment.

In addition, they do not meet national security screening applying to Australian resident seafarers and are directly making Australian seafarers unemployed in effectively taking their jobs under this industry of rorting and vandalising Australian workers’ rights.

Next article – Tudeh Party of Iran – Donald Trump’s serious threat to global peace

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