Browsing articles in "Shadow Ministerial Interview Transcripts"
Sep 8, 2015

Transcript of doorstop – Parliament House, Canberra

Subjects: Senate shipping inquiry hearing; Bill Milby; department confirms it told an Australian business to replace Australian workers with foreign workers; China free trade agreement; Cory Bernardi comments on Syria

Good morning. Last night saw explosive evidence before the Senate legislation committee. Bill Milby is a decent businessman. He’s a businessman who runs a company, North Star Cruises, which employs Australians to take other Australians and visitors from around the world to see the majestic Kimberley.

When confronted with the situation of the current draft legislation that’s been introduced before this Parliament, Mr Milby said that that legislation would put him out of business. When he enquired as to how he should respond to this, he was given advice by Departmental officials to remove the Australian flag from the back of his ship, replace it with a foreign flag, replace his workforce with a foreign workforce, and that is the way that he could compete, by essentially becoming the same as a foreign flagged ship.

Mr Milby called that out. Then the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister essentially said that he’d lied about what happened. Last night Mr Milby gave evidence under oath before the Senate Committee. He was very clear about what occurred, not once, but twice. Once in May in Sydney, and then in June in Canberra, that he was given that advice as the way for his business to remain competitive.

What’s more, he named the officials involved, Judith Zielke and Michael Sutton. They were next up to give evidence. And they gave evidence and backed up Mr Milby’s case. They said very clearly, when Bill Heffernan asked a question;  “So, Mr Milby, was telling the truth when he said you discussed with him the option of going offshore etc?.” Judith Zielke; “Yes.”.

It was very clear from last night’s evidence that these were the options that were put forward by the Department for his business to survive. The Department said, well, they were just options. Well they were – he had two options. Option A: put a foreign flag on the back of your ship. Option B: go out of business. And as Mr Milby said very clearly, he doesn’t blame the departmental officials and nor does Labor. Last night they told the truth before the Senate Committee.

What they were doing in explaining to Mr Milby his options was also telling the truth; that unless you remove the Australian flag and replace you Australian crew with foreign crew, then you simply won’t be able to compete.

And that’s a message that’s there in the findings also before the Senate Committee where they found that 88% of the savings were due to foreign wage costs compared with Australian wages. They expected that all but two of the ships that operate around the Australian coast would remove the Australian flag and replace it with a foreign flag.

We heard evidence from the Tasmanian operator SeaRoad of that in spite of the fact they’ve invested $100 million in a new ship creating jobs here in Australia. So it’s not just jobs at North Star Cruises. It’s not  just jobs in terms of those people in either tourism or freight sectors, but jobs in manufacturing, in shipbuilding, of SeaRoad’s respective ships.

Yet here we have a government determined to pursue this measure. Determined to see the loss of Australian jobs. It appears their ideology is so extreme that their idea, their sole objective is to get rid of jobs that are currently held by MUA members. The way they do that is getting rid of the Australian shipping industry. They were extraordinary revelations.

Mr Truss misled the Parliament yesterday very clearly, very explicitly when he said that this did not occur. It did occur and the two senior people in charge of shipping in his own department confirmed to the Senate last night that it did occur. He must come in at the first opportunity and correct the record.

Mr Abbott must at the very least apologise to Mr Milby for calling this Australian businessman operating in Western Australia a liar.

The third thing that should occur is that this legislation should be withdrawn. It is flawed. It will result in simply the replacement of Australian seafarers with foreign seafarers, Australian flag with a white flag when it comes to Australian jobs. This is WorkChoices on Water. This is ideology before common sense.

REPORTER: Mr Albanese, a few things. Mr Truss has only misled Parliament if he knew about this advice being given to Mr Milby. The second thing is what’s the Department giving advice like that anyway?

ALBANESE: The advice was right.

REPORTER: But is it up to the Department to be giving out that kind of advice? Don’t you have reservations about that?

ALBANESE: Of course it’s up to the department to give honest responses to people who are in industry. This launch of Mr Truss’ where the advice was first given was after Mr Milby had asked a question of Warren Truss. Warren Truss referred Mr Milby to the Department. That was the evidence last night. So Mr Truss refers him to Judith Zielke, who’s the person in charge of this policy area for the response. That implies an authority not just of the Department but of the Minister himself, who launched this policy at the Orwellian-named Shipping Australia.

Shipping Australia are the non-Australian shippers. That is where this policy was launched. They call themselves Shipping Australia because even they know that Australians actually get that as an island continent, it’s probably a good idea if the Australian flag has a presence.

So Mr Milby gets referred, Mr Milby then isn’t satisfied with the answer so asks to see the Department, travels to Canberra, saw Judith Zielke and her superior, Michael Sutton, in the Departmental offices, gets told the same advice.

This issue was around last week. Reported on. Mr Milby was on The Project last week, live on TV, in response to Mr Abbott saying that he was lying. So Warren Truss had all of last week to enquire. He said yesterday he made enquiries of the Department. Why didn’t Warren Truss ask Judith Zielke?

Everyone knew it was her, because in the submission to the Senate enquiry, Mr Milby named Judith Zielke by speaking about the Executive Director and who was present at the meetings. Mr Truss stood up in Parliament yesterday and said this didn’t happen.

What’s more, he said this couldn’t have happened, because he doesn’t understand the policy implications of his own legislation that Departmental officials, from both the Department of Infrastructure and the Department of Employment claimed last night.

Now it may well be that ignorance or stupidity is his excuse rather than treachery, but this is treachery when it comes to Australian jobs.

REPORTER: This is only draft legislation though.

ALBANESE: No. This is before the Parliament. This has been introduced in the House of Representatives. This is a Senate enquiry properly called into that legislation. So it’s before the Parliament, there’s been no consultation with industry and all of industry put that forward, a lack of consultation. That was the theme last night.

Maritime Industry Australia Limited, the Australian based shipping industry was very clear about their opposition to this legislation last night. This is not thought out. This would just dismiss having an Australian shipping industry.

REPORTER: Just on the China free trade deal, the Government’s ramping up its pressure against Bill Shorten to back the deal. What else do you need, does Labor need in order to support the free trade deal?

ALBANESE: We need a bit of government common sense. We see from this legislation that’s before the Parliament that this is a government that doesn’t care about Australian jobs. Labor supports free trade. We support increased engagement with China.

What we simply want to make sure in terms of labour market testing is that if jobs are created through this arrangement, then Australians have an opportunity to apply and participate in that employment creation.

REPORTER: The Government says that jobs will be lost if the China deal doesn’t go ahead.

ALBANESE: The government says all sorts of things. This is a government that has forgotten how to govern. This is a government that acts like an opposition. This is a government in which Tony Abbott has put a motion on the Notice Paper, today, like he’s some backbench MP.

Tony Abbott has lost the plot. Prime Ministers don’t move motions on Notice Papers. That’s what Shadow Ministers do, and government backbenchers do. This is a Prime Minister without authority in his own party room and without authority in the community.

The way that he called out Mr Milby last week while he was campaigning in Canning simply said to this Western Australian businessman, who’s created jobs including people who live in Canning and in Perth, that he has lost any authority as Prime Minister. He never made the transition.

He was a good opposition leader. He was good at saying no. He was good at wrecking things. He’s continued to wreck things. He’s forgotten he’s the government.

He’s wrecking his own government with his behaviour, with his childishness, with the way that he’s failed to have a plan to actually govern.

Mr Abbott had a plan to get into government. He doesn’t have a plan to govern. Two years on, that’s very obvious.

REPORTER: Mr Albanese, just one more question on refugees. After a moment of bipartisanship in Question Time yesterday, or at least the attempt to have bipartisanship in this area, we saw some comments last night from Cory Bernardi in the Senate. He’s described the refugee crisis in Europe as becoming an opportunistic cycle. What do you think about that?

ALBANESE: Cory Bernardi is an embarrassment to this Parliament. Cory Bernardi should have a good look at himself and the implications of some of the things that he says. I don’t blame his Party in this case. It’s pretty clear that he just goes off but I think probably the best response to Cory Bernardi is to treat him with the contempt that those comments deserve.

 

Sep 8, 2015

Transcript of television interview – SKY News

Subjects: Warren Truss’ statement that Australian job losses are “trivial issues” Senate shipping inquiry; Bill Milby; China free trade agreement; Syrian refugee crisis

DAVID SPEERS: The Shadow Minister joins me now. Anthony Albanese thanks for your time.

ALBANESE: Good to be with you.

SPEERS: Does this hinge on the difference between a government official giving an option to a businessman versus advice?

ALBANESE: No. It doesn’t. This is an open and shut case. Bill Milby said, how can my business compete, when he heard of the reforms. He was referred by Warren Truss, the Minister, to the official, because Warren Truss had just launched this policy, and the official very clearly said to him, well if you want to compete, then this is what you have to do. Get a foreign flag, replace your Australian workforce with a workforce paying foreign wages and that way you won’t have any training bill either.

SPEERS: But did they say you’ve got to do that, or did they say, these are the options?

ALBANESE: Well, they of course can’t do that. He had the option of going out of business. That’s the other option. Because you can’t compete. If two ships are side by side, and one has a cost structure paying third world wages, and third world registration, and third world tax rates, both income tax rates, and also corporate tax rates, if it’s taken off the Australian register, then of course they can’t compete on the basis of first world wages, which we have here in our first world country of Australia.

That is the whole purpose of the legislation and we heard last night that 88 per cent of the savings, and this is in the Government’s Explanatory Memorandum, are as a result of wages. So, the difference between Australian wages and foreign wages. We know that 90 per cent of the Australian flagged industry will disappear. That is the very purpose of this legislation.

SPEERS: But the Government argues the whole point of doing this is because we are losing more and more business here. More and more shipping freight. They point to figures that between 2006-7 and 2013-14, coastal licences plummeted from 30 vessels to 15. They halved.

ALBANESE: Our legislation came in 2012 and took effect from 2013. That’s what they miss out. That’s why we introduced legislation and it’s working. We had last night evidence from a Tasmanian ship freighting operator, about a $100 million investment that they’ve made on the basis of the new legislation.

Financed by the ANZ Bank. Creating jobs in Tasmania. That’s what it was aimed at. We didn’t bring in a protectionist model. We brought in one whereby Australian based shipping can compete with foreign shipping, by making them pay Australian based wages when they’re working on the domestic freight task.

Just like in any other sector of the economy, if you’re doing work in Australia, you should pay Australian wages and conditions. What the government seeks to do is to bring everyone down to third world levels by introducing flags of convenience.

SPEERS: Sure, but if you are doing that and you are essentially saying those foreign flagged vessels have to pay the Australian wage for any domestic freight that they are going to carry, few are going to do that. Are we going to see the share of the freight by shipping continue to fall?

ALBANESE: No, not at all. The share hasn’t fallen. That misnomer was brought out last night as well. The figure that Warren Truss used today was based upon value, and because the iron ore price has gone down, the value of freight that’s used in terms of shipping has gone down as well.

SPEERS: What other measure could you use? The actual bulk?

ALBANESE: Prices go up and down so that’ll have an impact in terms of the relative value of what’s being taken on shipping and what’s been taken on rail. Indeed there was evidence last night that the amount of freight going on shipping is actually increased and evidence from the rail sector on that basis.

Today of most concern was the fact that Warren Truss described these issues as being trivial. Well, Mr Milby who’s, we’re not just talking about the tourist sector jobs on his cruise ship. There are also the related jobs onshore.

There are also, of course, the jobs in shipbuilding. His ship was built here in Australia, so you lose those shipbuilding jobs as well in manufacturing when you decimate the Australian shipping industry.

That is what not just Mr Milby but every single one of the Australian shipping operators who appeared last night said would happen including the peak organisation, the Australian Maritime Industry Limited said this legislation is flawed. It should be thrown out. You’ve had one gentleman, a Liberal Party member of 50 years from Mr Abbott’s own electorate saying this is just bad legislation.

SPEERS: You say it’s not protectionist, what you want to do. It is though, to a degree, isn’t it?

ALBANESE: We allowed for foreign ships around our coast. What we simply said though, unlike in the United States where if you want to take freight from LA to San Francisco, you’ve got to take have a US flagged vessel, US seafarers and the ship has to be built in the United States. We allow for competition, but it’s competition on an equal basis. Where Australian ships are available, they should be used.

So a simple principle, in terms of preference, but also, was making sure that the cost structures were similar. There are real consequences, not just for our economy but for national security. Common sense tells you that as an island continent, you want ships going around the coast with the Australian flag on the back.

It’s one of the reasons why every single country in the G20 does not have this free for all around the coast. G20 economies all have a system that allows for support for a domestic shipping industry, because of national security, because of environmental issues as well.

I must say, every time there’s been an incident off the coast, whether it be the Pasha Bulker, be it the Pacific Adventurer, be it the Shen Neng, off the Queensland Coast, there hasn’t been an Australian flag on the back of that ship.

SPEERS: Let me ask you about a couple of other issues today. The refugee question as to what we do to help with the refugee crisis in Syria. Labor’s settled on a figure of 10,000. How and why that particular figure and why the need to rush out that sort of figure?

ALBANESE: We think that’s a reasonable contribution. We’ve also said we’re not dogmatic about it; we’d be prepared to talk to the government about it. But the big distinction I think, why it was necessary to make it, was that the Prime Minister did a press conference on the weekend and said we should take people from Syria, but that they would displace people who would have otherwise got through.

There was no increase in the intake. That’s why it was important, I think, for us to say hang on a minute; if you’re going to say Australia should do our bit, that’s not doing our bit. That’s just replacing people from Africa or other countries who are refugees, genuinely and have been through the UN processes, with people from Syria.

We need to do, given that the crisis is over and above business as usual, we need to have a measure that’s over and above business as usual. That’s why we made that statement and I was pleased that the Prime Minister yesterday said that he would consider that and I’m hopeful that we can actually get this above partisan politics and hopefully, the Prime Minister will give that proper consideration.

SPEERS: Is Labor really doing that? Is Labor really trying to seek a bipartisan approach to this, because we saw again in Question Time, attacks on the government over the aid funding for the people in Syria and again, calling on him to back this 10,000 figure that you’ve announced.

ALBANESE: Well, this is a government that has cut foreign aid. That’s a fact. We think that’s a problem.

SPEERS: It’s also taken a lot more Syrian refugees than Labor ever did.

ALBANESE: Hang on a tick here. The crisis that has occurred has escalated in recent times. I mean, this was a conflict that was expected not to last for very long. That has now lasted four years. And there are people in camps in Turkey, in Jordan, people desperately travelling across Europe. The circumstances are such that in the same way the rest of the world has stepped up, we need to as well.

SPEERS: And finally, the China free trade agreement. We’ve seen the government going after Bill Shorten in Question Time, the various things that he said over the years about free trade. Where do you stand on this? At the end of the day, will you want to see the free trade agreement with China supported?

ALBANESE: I support free trade. I support increased engagement with China. What I want is the government to get serious about making sure that they get the details right. It’s a matter of the details. I think there are benefits of free trade. What we need to do though, is to make sure that those benefits accrue to the entire Australian population rather than to just a few.

The way to do that is to make sure that Australians have an opportunity, if there is investment going on, to apply for those jobs, in terms of labour market testing that occurs with other foreign investment here in Australia as well.

The problem with this government is that they’re constantly looking for conflict and looking for difference. They haven’t transitioned from being the Opposition. Tony Abbott was a very good Opposition leader. Unfortunately, the skills of negativity and opposition and destruction have been brought into the way he depicts himself as Prime Minister.

SPEERS: The opposition and negativity on this, though, is coming from Labor, because the Government points out the many elements in the free trade agreement that do protect local jobs.

ALBANESE: That’s not right, David. Today we saw an extraordinary circumstance, something I haven’t seen, of a Prime Minister putting a motion on the notice paper, moving a suspension of standing orders to deal with his motion before the Parliament, when the legislation associated with the China free trade agreement isn’t before the Parliament. That’s just extraordinary.

SPEERS: It’s still going through the Treaties Committee.

ALBANESE: Why would you move that motion?

SPEERS: Because Labor have been so critical of the deal and the Government wants to know that you support it.

ALBANESE: This is the tactics of an opposition, not the tactics of government – and that’s Tony Abbott’s problem. He had a plan to get into government, but he doesn’t have a plan to govern and it’s shown every day, because after more than two years now, we can say this; there’s no sense of purpose.

You don’t hear him talking about infrastructure very much anymore, because they haven’t actually started to build anything.

SPEERS: Anthony Albanese, we’ll have to leave it there. Thank you very much for joining us this afternoon.

ALBANESE: Good to be with you.

 

Sep 8, 2015

Transcript of doorstop – Parliament House, Canberra

Subjects: Warren Truss’ statement that Australian job losses are “trivial issues”; Senate shipping inquiry; Bill Milby; Tony Abbott’s plan for WorkChoices on Water 

ALBANESE: (First 20 seconds omitted due to recording malfunction)  … from his department, Judith Zielke. Mr Milby asked Judith Zielke, how can I possibly compete with foreign ships paying foreign wages in competition with me on the coast? He was advised that the best thing to do was to reflag his ship with a foreign flag, sack his Australian workforce, employ foreign workers paying foreign wages, and that would also save the bill when it came to training that he currently conducts for Australians.

He was shocked by that. Mr Milby is a proud Australian. Mr Milby stated that it was very important for those people, whether they be Australians or overseas tourists, who get to visit the Kimberley on the True North, his vessel, to actually have Australian crew there. That was part of the experience in this iconic part of Australia. So he asked for a further meeting. He came to Canberra. At that meeting, he met Judith Zielke and he met Michael Sutton. Once again he was given the same advice. Now, Mr Milby put that forward in his written advice to the Senate inquiry. Tony Abbott, in the electorate of Canning a week ago dismissed that advice and said “that’s just not true”.

Warren Truss didn’t bother to have any major inquiry into these incidents as to whether they occurred or not. He said in Parliament yesterday that he asked his Departmental secretary, and said that it didn’t happen and it wouldn’t be possible. Well, Mr Milby last night gave very clear evidence.

He was asked, not by a Labor Senator, but by Bill Heffernan and I pay tribute to the way that Bill Heffernan conducted himself as the Chair of that Committee last night. A fair dinkum Australian who actually does support Australian jobs and just wanted to get to the truth. Bill Heffernan said this:  “So Milby was telling the truth when he said that you’d discussed with him the option of going offshore, etc.?” Judith Zielke, “Yes.”

Then, he went on a said, “does that mean no one is telling a lie?” ” “I understand Mr Milby heard the conversation and reported what he understood the conversation to cover.”

Bill Heffernan went on to ask Michael Sutton, who is Judith Zielke’s boss in the department. He said this; “I don’t like what I just heard from the previous witness, and I don’t give a rats who’s in government, and who’s not, and neither does this committee. Emphatically, are you going to deny the words Milby just said in the previous evidence?”

Michael Sutton said: We discussed the options available to all shipping operators, one of them being to retain their current operations. One of them is the reflagging option.”

On any reading of last night’s evidence, anyone who has a look at Mr Milby, who says by the way that he was only given one option, which was that if you want to compete, reflag your vessel. For Tony Abbott today to just dismiss these concerns, for Warren Truss to show contempt in the way that he dealt with these issues and dismiss these concerns of Mr Milby and ignore the fact that he misled Parliament yesterday, very clearly an open and shut case, is quite extraordinary. But it gets even worse.

Because Warren Truss today in Parliament described the concerns that businesses and seafarers have, as well as local communities about the loss of jobs and economic activity, as “trivial issues”. He actually described that in the Parliament, that we were raising “trivial issues”.

Well, I don’t think there’s anything trivial about whether there’s an Australian shipping industry around our coast as an island continent.

I don’t think there’s anything trivial about replacing Australian workers with foreign workers on our coast and paying them foreign wages.

I don’t think there’s anything trivial about Australian businesses going out of business because they’re competing against a ship that has a foreign flag paying foreign wages in direct competition with them.

It is completely unacceptable, Warren Truss’ response, in the Parliament this afternoon. We attempted to censure the Deputy Prime Minister today in the Parliament and the response in the Parliament was to shut down that debate.

It’s very clear; this has got a long way to go. A very long way to go. And we are determined to pursue these issues. There are three things that should happen.

Mr Abbott should be big enough to apologise to Bill Milby – a decent Australian who employs his fellow Australians.

Warren Truss should correct the record in the Parliament for his mislead.

Thirdly, the Government should withdraw this flawed legislation that would destroy the Australian shipping industry.

REPORTER: Mr Truss was suggesting Mr Milby wouldn’t have much difficulty continuing his business under the new regulation.

ALBANESE: Good old Warren, sitting there, when he’s awake, in Gympie, Queensland, suggesting he knows more about Mr Milby’s business than Mr Milby, up there in the Kimberley, operating out of Broome.

What’s more, is that as Mr Milby made clear last night, and Labor made clear as well; we don’t blame the officials for giving that advice. Because that is the absolute logic of anyone who looks at the legislation.

The legislation that provides for foreign ships to operate side by side but on a cheaper cost basis because they have foreign standards and they have foreign wages and conditions being paid.

Of course, the Australian business will not be able to compete. That’s the very purpose of this legislation. The purpose of the legislation as came out last night; 88% of the savings, according to the Government’s own Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS), part of the Explanatory Memorandum, are simply because of the replacement of Australian workers with foreign workers. That’s what came out in the inquiry last night. It’s there for all to see.

REPORTER: Doesn’t it make sense though, that if you were to reduce the costs on these ships, that you would have more ships and you would have more economic activity on land?

ALBANESE: It’s not hard. A ship won’t get its costs reduced unless they replace the Australian flag with a foreign flag, and that foreign flagged ship employs workers on foreign wages. They don’t pay tax to the Australian system – either the workers or the companies. That’s a loss to our national economy. This is short sighted. This is extraordinary.

It would be like allowing you journalists here to be replaced by Filipino journalists on Filipino wages, use Filipino standards in terms of qualifications etcetera, and say that you’ll compete. No industry could compete on the basis of a race to the bottom.

REPORTER: Can’t Labor and the crossbench defeat this legislation anyway, Mr Albanese?

ALBANESE: We sure can, and we’re going to do everything we can to defeat this legislation. And the crossbenchers last night, I think some of them were quite shocked by some of the answers that came forward.

Senator Lambie asked a question about how it is that the modelling in this legislation doesn’t take into account any loss of Australian jobs in terms of the economic impact.

What the person from the Department remarkably said was that it is assumed that everyone who loses their job will find another job. Absolutely remarkable statement to make, particularly given many of these jobs are skilled jobs in the maritime sector.

If there aren’t Australian flagged vessels, and the legislation assumes, by the way, that there won’t be Australian based vessels. That’s the purpose of the legislation, is to replace Australians with foreign workers being paid foreign wages.

REPORTER: Do you draw no difference at all between a bureaucrat giving someone two options and discussing those two options, you conflate that with that bureaucrat advising someone to undertake –

ALBANESE: They didn’t given them two options. They gave them one option. If you speak to Mr Milby, he’s quite happy to go on the record. They gave them one option. Well, the two options are there, to be fair, there are two options.

Option one, keep it the way it is, and go out of business. Option two, reflag your vessel, employ foreigners, replace your workforce, and then you’ll be able to compete.

They’re the two options that are before industry as a result of this legislation and the bureaucrats after being directed by Warren Truss the Minister to talk to Mr Milby, indicated just that, and they did so in a pretty honest way. Thanks very much.

 

Sep 7, 2015

Transcript of doorstop, Canberra

Subjects: Senate shipping inquiry; Workchoices on water; Bill Milby; China free trade agreement; Syrian refugee crisis

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Today in the Senate there will be a legislation committee looking at the government’s draconian shipping legislation.

This shipping legislation is designed to destroy the Australian shipping industry. The evidence that’s been put forward shows that this will destroy Australian jobs and mean that the Australian based shipping industry simply cannot compete against foreign ships.

The legislation does two things.

Firstly, it removes any preference for Australian ships above foreign ships operating around our coast on domestic freight.

Secondly, it ensures that those foreign ships competing side by side versus Australian ships for these jobs can pay foreign wages.

That means that the Australian ships simply aren’t competitive. You wouldn’t allow an Australian truck travelling from Sydney to Melbourne along the Hume Highway for Toll or Linfox to have to compete with a foreign truck with Filipino standards, including Filipino safety standards, Filipino wages and conditions being paid to the truck driver behind the wheel of that vehicle. Nor should that be allowed along the blue highway if people choose to take freight by sea rather than by road or by rail.

We saw that earlier this year, with an attempt by the government to remove cabotage, or Australian preference for aviation in northern Australia, that was abandoned by the government. They should abandon this too.

There are two key sets of evidence before the committee.

One, Australian shipping operators saying that they cannot compete and they will be forced to take a foreign flag. Worse is the evidence of Bill Milby. He operates a ship in the Kimberley, True North.

He was advised by a departmental officer to, and I quote, “consider taking our ship, True North off the Australian shipping register, reregister the ship in a suitable foreign country, lay off our Australian crew and hire a cheaper foreign crew”.

It is unconscionable that a senior Australian infrastructure department representative who will be quizzed today before that committee has advised an Australian based company to sack their Australian crew but importantly to take the Australian flag off the back of that ship.

They want to replace the Australian flag on the back of our ships with a white flag when it comes to Australian jobs.

This is Workchoices on Water.

This will lose Australian jobs and conditions.  It is ideology gone crazy.

Another piece of evidence before the committee concerns SeaRoad, a Tasmanian company that has invested $100 million in two ships, a total investment of $200 million based on the existing legislation.

If this current legislation before the House is carried, that investment will be wasted, those jobs and that investment lost to Australia and importantly to Tasmania.

I call upon the government to abandon this ideological crusade that they have against Australian based shipping.

REPORTER: The department says it didn’t provide that advice to Bill Milby and Warren Truss last week cast doubts on the veracity, was the word he used, of the evidence. Are you concerned that ultimately this important debate might come down to Bill Milby and the cruise line’s word against that of Tony Abbott or Warren Truss?

ALBANESE: No. You have to look at the facts.

The fact is, if you have two ships, one of them with an Australian flag on the back, paying Australian wages and conditions and the other one with a foreign flag from a flag of convenience, often third world countries with no preconditions whatsoever paying third world wages, what are the competition implications of that?

The policy implications are clear. What industry is saying is very clear, and Bill Milby has the courage to call them out and he’s called them out for calling him a liar. He has very specific dates in May and June. When he was first given this advice he travelled here to Canberra, he met with the Department and they gave him that advice.

Can I say this, as someone who was Minister in that Department. I know there are people in that department who say it doesn’t matter whether there is an Australian shipping industry or not. What matters is just goods being carried around the coast as cheaply as possible.

What Bill Milby has done is expose the reality of the advice that he was given. That advice makes sense with this legislation. That is the logic that this legislation draws you to. It’s as simple as that and Australian companies, if you look at the Australian peak body organisation that has put forward Australian Maritime industry, they have said all of their members, it’s consistent with what people have said who have come through the door.

But they don’t want to say it as publicly as Bill Milby has, but they are all saying exactly the same thing and common sense tells you the same. If you allowed a foreign truck to go from Sydney to Melbourne with Filipino standards, without any of the safety things that we have put on trucks that are registered here and you allow them to pay a third world truck driving wages and conditions to compete against Linfox, Linfox would go out of business.

There would be implications for safety on our roads; there would be implications for jobs. There would be implications outside the industry just as there are implications and I refer you to Pasha Bulker and all the other incidents that have occurred with foreign ships around our coast.

There are implications beyond just carrying cargo for having a free for all around our coast, as well as national security implications, but that is the logical consequence of what the government’s policy positon is. Warren Truss, I’m pleased he woke up for long enough to actually make a statement on this because he had gone missing.

REPORTER: Is this resonating with anyone in the Coalition side?

ALBANESE: It certainly is. There are many in the Coalition who understand the idea of saying that Australians do not care whether there is an Australian flag presence around our coast and around the world. They understand that this is an ideological position.

It’s a pity people like Paul Neville aren’t in this Parliament anymore because Paul Neville was a co-author of the report that was unanimous that led to the existing shipping legislation being in place.

This was not partisan legislation. This was worked out over a period of time as a result of a unanimous parliamentary committee. For those people in the National Party, for those people in the Liberal Party who care about jobs, they should, just as the cross benchers have, examine this legislation and reject it.

REPORTER: On the China free trade deal, and the legislation the government says needs to be passed by December so the tariff cuts can come in from January. Will Labor be supporting the Free Trade Agreement legislation?

ALBANESE: We support free trade. We support increased engagement with China. We are simply saying that the government should sit down and do what they say they support. They say they support Australian jobs. They say they support labour market testing to make sure that any jobs that are created out of the free trade agreement, that there is potential for Australian employment before foreign employment is allowed to take those jobs.

Let’s have a bit of common sense here and let’s get a good outcome. I don’t think that should be beyond the wit of the government to do, but it’s the government that prefers to play politics with this rather than sit down and have common sense discussions.

REPORTER: So if Labor can’t get those extra safeguards put into the enabling legislation…

ALBANESE:  I’m not the Shadow Trade Minister, so I’ll leave it to the Shadow Trade Minister. I have stated what our positon is. I have stated what my positon is very clearly.

REPORTER: Just on the refugee crisis, do you think Labor should put a figure on how many Syrians should be accepted and should it be this one off separate allocation sitting outside of the annual intake?

ALBANESE: We are not the government, of course. But what Australia should do and what Labor is saying they should do is take Syrian refugees over and above the existing humanitarian intake.

That would be the right thing to do. Tony Abbott can’t say we’re doing our bit and then in the next sentence say there’ll be actually not a single additional refugee taken as a result of a government decision.

That’s not doing our bit.

Have a look at what is going on. This is the largest humanitarian refugee crisis since the Second World War. Our European partners Germany are doing an extraordinary amount and I think that Australia should certainly do more. They should listen to other world leaders, people like Pope Francis and the statements that he has made, that are so strong, and do our bit.

Anyone who has a look at what the situation is knows that we need to do more, not just say, we’re going to displace some people and take Syrian refugees in place of people who would have otherwise been accepted here in Australia.

That’s consistent with our approach we adopted at the National Conference where we said we would increase the intake.

May I say one thing on the two-year anniversary of the election of this absolutely hopeless government. When Tony Abbott was elected he said very clearly that within one year there would be cranes in the sky and bulldozers on major infrastructure projects.

He talked a lot about infrastructure prior to the election and in the early stages. You don’t hear him talk about infrastructure much at all now. Two years on, there aren‘t any bulldozers, there aren’t any cranes in the sky. It’s just bulldust, that promise of the Prime Minister.

Thanks very much.

 

 

 

Sep 4, 2015

Transcript of television interview – Today Show, Nine network

Subjects: Citizenship laws; the economy; infrastructure financing; debt; Canning by-election, China Free Trade Agreement

KARL STEFANOVIC: Well, hasn’t it been a big week in appearing politics again with Bill Shorten appearing to be isolating himself from the Labor Party and Tony Abbott fighting for his future. So it’s a good morning to Shadow Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Anthony Albanese and the Assistant Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg. Good morning lads. Nice to see you this morning.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: G’day

FRYDENBERG: G’day Albo.

STEFANOVIC: Josh, to you first up, there are reports in the Tele, some of our most notorious terrorists will have their dual citizenships revoked and be sent back to where they came from. Is that happening?

FRYDENBERG: Well, look, we really hope so. Today we’re getting a report from a parliamentary committee. This is an area where both sides of the Parliament want to ensure we do everything to protect Australia and we’ve got some serious problems. ASIO tell us there are 400 high level terrorist related investigations going on here in Australia and more than 20 Australians have already been as killed over in Syria and Iraq and as you know, we’ve got our men and to women in uniform over there trying to make the world a safer place. So we hope to act soon on this dual citizenship legislation.

STEFANOVIC: You know it’s going to get stuck in the High Court perhaps?

FRYDENBERG: I hope not. Let’s hope the lawyers get out of the way here because this is too serious an issue to delay too much longer.

STEFANOVIC: Anthony?

ALBANESE: Well, I think the changes that I hope the committee will recommend improve this legislation. We have no sympathy, nor should anyone, for people who are out there fighting against Australia on behalf of this extremist organisation. But at the same time, we want to make sure that inadvertently people aren’t caught up and I hope that the committee – my understanding is the committee report is unanimous. That’s a good that thing because we need to make sure that national security is above partisan politics.

STEFANOVIC: High Court needs to move aside do you think or what?

ALBANESE: No, no, I don’t think it is up to politicians to tell courts what to do and I think that’s an important principle as well.

STEFANOVIC: Agreed.

FRYDENBERG: I think Albo likes to tell the Royal Commissioner to do. But let’s put that one aside for a minute, Karl.

ALBANESE: What? Like not attend have Liberal Party fundraisers. I would have thought commonsense tells the Royal Commissioner what he should do.

STEFANOVIC:  We’re moving on with all that. We’re moving on. Economic news now, it’s been a bleak week. Josh, when is the GST going up?

FRYDENBERG: This has been put forward by the most impressive premier in the country, namely Mike Baird. He raises a good issue there.

STEFANOVIC: You’ve got problems with the others, but when is it going up?

FRYDENBERG: Well look, this is something the states are pushing. As you know, all the states would have to agree and right now all the states don’t agree. So let’s just see where the debate goes.

STEFANOVIC: OK. If you don’t do that, how do you get control of the spending?

FRYDENBERG: Well, we’re already cutting spending significantly. We inherited 3.5%. …

STEFANOVIC: The Budget is a bit of joke at the moment you know. It’s only getting worse.

FRYDENBERG: No, no, no that’s not right. We are paying back Labor’s debt. We know that Albo today is talking about increasing the debt.

STEFANOVIC: Your debt is getting worse.

FRYDENBERG: No, no, don’t believe that.  Actually we’ve been cutting the deficit.

STEFANOVIC: Well no. It is. It’s a fact.

FRYDENBERG: No. We inherited a deficit, Karl, of $48 billion.

ALBANESE: And you’ve doubled it. And you’ve doubled it. Debt up, deficit up, unemployment up, economic growth down. You’ve had a shocker.

FRYDENBERG: No, no, no, we inherited a deficit of 48 billion. It’s now $35 billion. It will be $7 billion in three years’ did time. We’re doing what Labor never did which is pay back that debt.

ALBANESE: No. you doubled it to $48 billion as your first act of government.

STEFANOVIC: Now Anthony, just back to you, Anthony, you don’t have a problem with debt. You don’t mind have seeing more debt?

ALBANESE: No, I do have a problem with debt. What I want to see though is the government recognise the difference between capital debt – debt for infrastructure – and recurrent debt. We need to get the budget under control, but all debt isn’t the same. That’s the truth. You and I you wouldn’t have ever had a house if you didn’t borrow from the bank in order to secure long-term economic growth.

STEFANOVIC: This is a tough sell in this environment though?

ALBANESE: Yes. It is just about having a sophisticated adult debate, the sort of thing Josh just showed he wasn’t up for with that comment. It is precisely what the business community are calling for.

STEFANOVIC: The problem is you have to get the other debt in control first otherwise you are just going to spiral into more and more debt.

ALBANESE: Absolutely. We have a medium and long-term problem with the budget deficit. We need to get recurrent expenditure under control. At the same time, we need to not do what infrastructure has happened which is that infrastructure investment has collapsed. You’ve had a 12% decline in infrastructure investment. That creates long-term problems for both fiscal policy and economic policy.

FRYDENBERG: Karl, can I just say that Albo doesn’t mind increasing the debt because he never paid it back. The last time the Labor Party paid back the debt or came with a Budget surplus was 1989.

ALBANESE: And how are you going with that, Josh? You’ve doubled it, mate. You’ve doubled it.

FRYDENBERG: 1989 Bon Jovi was ruling the air waves. Mate, you were living on a prayer. That’s what happened back then.

ALBANESE: The figures are up there, Josh. You’ve doubled it. And you are the Assistant Treasurer.

FRYDENBERG: 1989, that was your last surplus.

STEFANOVIC: Either way, there has be some resolution because at the moment it seems to be getting sicker, the economy. Bill Shorten, is he playing politics with the FTA, with China?

ALBANESE: No, Not at all.

STEFANOVIC: What is he that doing?

ALBANESE: Well, Labor’s a party, one, that supports free trade. Secondly, we’re about we’re not going to be lectured Labor about the relationship with China. It’s relationship Labor that forged the modern opposition relationship with China against the opposition of the Coalition. We started the negotiations on the Free Trade Agreement. We have a simple principle which is to make sure there is labour market testing. Essentially all that means is if there are jobs created, see if Australians can do them first before you allow overseas workers to do them.

STEFANOVIC: OK is that in the FTA at the moment Josh?

FRYDENBERG: The FTA makes no changes whatsoever to our workplace relations law or to our 457 visas.

STEFANOVIC: And so what’s the problem, Anthony?

FRYDENBERG: So there’s no problem with it. That’s the issue.

ALBANESE: Well, there are issues. If there are no problems, then sit down and make sure that that’s made explicit. That’s all we’re it asking for with this. A bit of common sense.

STEFANOVIC: He is saying that there are no changes at the moment.

ALBANESE: Well, there are changes in terms of the wording of the Free Trade Agreement. There are changes all in terms of skills recognition and all we’re saying is, look, there’s enough conflict in politics without trying to make conflict up and that’s what we’re concerned about here. We support free trade. We support increasing our relationship with China, but let’s make sure it’s in the Australian national interest.

STEFANOVIC: Josh, can you guarantee that there’ll be no Aussie jobs lost as a result of this FTA?

FRYDEBERG: Absolutely. Tens of thousands of new Aussie jobs will be created. It will be great news for guarantee the dairy farmers.

STEFANOVIC: You can guarantee they won’t be lost though?

FRYDENBERG:  Absolutely. We can guarantee it. What this means is Australia as a country of 23 million people will be linked to an economy and a country of 1.2 billion people. It great is great news for the dairy farmers, great news for the wine producers, and great news for the health workers. Ninety-five percent of everything we export will be tariff free to China. Labor’s just playing to the tune of the CFMEU here.

STEFANOVIC: Josh, we do have to go. You have put done all right today. You going to in put your hand up if you get beaten got in Canning?

FRYDENBERG: We are going to win Canning and we’ve got a great candidate in Andrew Hastie and Tony Abbott was there just this week and will be there again.

STEFANOVIC: There have been no leaks this week. What’s wrong with you all?

ALBANESE:  They haven’t had a cabinet meeting.

STEFANOVIC: On that note, we will say goodbye. Thank you, Josh, thank you, Albo.

 

 

FRIDAY, 4 SEPTEMBER 2015

 

 

Sep 4, 2015

Transcript of press conference, Sydney

Subjects; Infrastructure cuts; Bureaucrat’s advice to cruise company to replace Australian flag with foreign flag; lack of rail to Badgerys Creek airport; China free trade agreement

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I’ve just addressed the Infrastructure Partnerships Australia Conference. This is an important body for the construction sector and other parts of the Australian private sector who are engaged in infrastructure development. What we know is that there’s been a massive decline in public sector infrastructure investment since the election of the Abbott Government.

In the order of 19 per cent since 2013. We also know that for 12 consecutive quarters there has been economic growth below trend. We know that unemployment is rising and now has a six in front of it, getting closer to seven than it was to six. Indeed, there are more unemployed people now than there were during the global financial crisis. That’s why it makes sense for governments to invest in infrastructure, to support growth, to support jobs and to make sure that over the longer term, you actually get a fiscal and economic return from good infrastructure investment.

That’s why you need to draw a distinction between governments having capital investment in our roads, our railway lines, our ports, our airports and other infrastructure, that will produce a return to government, and the issues around recurrent expenditure that clearly need to be reduced if we are going to deal with the issues of budget deficit. That is what sensible investment would produce, and that’s part of what I outlined in the speech today.

Secondly, today I emphasised our continued opposition to the Government’s support for changes to shipping legislation. That legislation would do two things. Firstly, it would remove any preference for Australian flags on the back of ships. Secondly it would allow any ship competing with the remaining Australian fleet to pay foreign wages rather than Australian wages. That means that the Australian industry would be uncompetitive.

This week we’ve had revelations from Bill Milby, who operates the True North ship in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. He was advised that in order to stay competitive he should remove the Australian flag, replace it with a foreign flag and foreign registration, and replace his Australian workforce with foreign workers that would reduce his wage bill but also remove any requirement for training of Australians to undertake that task. Now, Mr Milby is not a political person. He’s made it very clear that these are the changes that will occur as a result of this legislation that’s before the Parliament if it’s carried.

Today we’ve had revelations of a Tasmanian operator who has invested $100 million in a new ship, backed by ANZ Bank, funding secured, investing in Australian jobs, investing in the future and particularly in Tasmania. That investment is jeopardised by these changes that are before the Parliament and I’d call upon the Federal Government to rethink its strategy. This is ideology before common sense. It makes no sense to replace the Australian flag and Australian jobs with a white flag when it comes to supporting Australian jobs.

REPORTER: In light of your address, how would you characterise the State Government’s decision not to provide a rail link to the airport at Badgerys Creek?

ALBANESE: Well, quite clearly that is a very short sighted approach. Badgerys Creek airport needs a rail line. It needs a rail line for the airport to function effectively. But more importantly, the Badgerys Creek site needs to be more than just a runway and a terminal. It needs to be a driver of economic growth for Western Sydney.

It needs to be a precinct similar to Macquarie Park precinct in terms of creating high value jobs in the logistics sector, in the tourism sector, in the transport sector, in other areas engaged in our trading sectors as well. And it can certainly be that with a bit of vision.

Part of that is connecting up the rail line from Leppington through Badgerys Creek to the western line. That will create a loop line around Sydney and that would create benefit not just for those who work at the airport, those in local industries and those who are travelling to and from the airport, but for other people in Western Sydney and for the Sydney transport system as a whole. It’s time that the State and Federal Government ended their blame game on this and understood that there was a need to invest and make sure that western Sydney airport does have a rail line operating from day one.

REPORTER: This morning Martin Ferguson criticised the CMFEU and criticised people from all parties who attack the China free trade agreement. He said it had racial overtones. What’s your response to that?

ALBANESE: I didn’t hear his address, so I’m not going to respond to it. I’ll say this though about the free trade agreement. Labor supports free trade. Labor supports relations with China being improved, as we always have.

It is Labor that recognised China. I was in China just two and a half weeks ago. One of the things that happens when you meet with people in any region of China is that they always go back to the courageous decision of Whitlam.

Here in New South Wales, the courageous decision of Wran, where he made agreements leading to coal exports going to China.

We believe in free trade. We also believe that if the government says that Australians will benefit in terms of jobs, why is it they’re not prepared to have a discussion about how we can ensure that when jobs are created through a free trade agreement, Australians will be able to benefit from that through Labor market testing as it has to occur currently under 457 visas. That is what Labor is saying.

The current government should not look for conflict where it isn’t there. I think people are sick of that form of politics and I believe that we need to make sure that we get these arrangements right and that’s what Labor is saying.

REPORTER: I suppose, in light of your visit to China, do you think Labor’s opposition to the FTA could damage Australia’s reputation?

ALBANESE: Labor hasn’t said it’s opposed to the FTA. Labor has said we support free trade. Labor has said that we support our relationship with China. What we’ve said though, is that we need to get the details right and we need to make sure that the arrangements benefit the Australian community, the Australian workforce, and assist in creating jobs for Australians arising out of this agreement. That’s what we’ve said. At no stage have we said that we’re opposed to this agreement.

REPORTER: Are you concerned that there are elements of the Opposition, that there are some sort of racial overtones to it? Do you see that at all?

ALBANESE: No.

REPORTER: You’ve been critical of the government’s boat turn back policy before. How do you think it’s had an impact on our global reputation given the New York Times?

ALBANESE: We had a debate at national conference. Those issues were resolved. We had an opportunity as ALP members to state our views about what should or shouldn’t be in the ALP platform, but can I just say this about the ALP platform. It would provide for a much more humane response to the issue of asylum seekers than the current government and that is why the platform, indeed the amendments that were adopted at the national conference are something that I support.

 

 

Sep 3, 2015

Transcript of radio interview – ABC Sunshine Coast with Annie Gaffney

Subject/s: Bureaucrat’s advice to cruise company to replace Australian flag with foreign flag; China free trade agreement; Australian economy

ANNIE GAFFNEY: An Australian cruise company has been advised by a government bureaucrat in Minister Warren Truss’ Department to register its ships overseas so that it can hire cheaper crews.

You have to wonder what’s going on. The Prime Minister said that’s not true. The man at the centre of the controversy, Bill Milby said this last night on Channel 10 in response to the Prime Minister’s comments.

BILL MILBY, NORTH STAR CRUISES: If that’s what he’s saying, he’s basically calling me a liar. And I’d like to say to him I am not a liar, I do not lie. I know who I spoke with. I know what they said and it wasn’t just said once. It was said at two separate meetings.

We’re very concerned because it doesn’t just affect North Star Cruises, it will affect all of the Australian owned, and operated, and crewed ships around the Australian coast that do similar things to what we do.

GAFFNEY: Anthony Albanese is the Shadow Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, amongst his many other portfolios. Mr Albanese good morning, welcome to the coast. What can you tell us about the legislation underpinning this situation?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: The legislation does two things, Annie. First, it removes any preference for Australian ships as opposed to foreign ships in terms of doing a domestic freight task. So if you want to take freight from Brisbane to Sydney you have to check to see if there’s an Australian ship available to undertake that task.

This would remove any preference whatsoever for the Australian flag, but secondly and most importantly, it would also allow the foreign competitor to pay foreign wages and conditions. And that means, put simply, that the Australian industry would simply be unviable and would need to, as this bureaucrat has advised Mr Milby, replace the Australian flag, and in his words from the advice he was given, “consider taking our ship True North off the Australian shipping register, re-register the ship in a suitable foreign country, lay off our Australian crew and hire a cheaper foreign crew”.

What that has done is highlight exactly what the implications of this legislation are. Already, in anticipation of this legislation, the Coral Princess that operates in Far North Queensland has done just that – removed the Australian flag, become a foreign flagged vessel, and it’s extraordinary that any government would contemplate what is unilateral economic disarmament. No country in the world in terms of a G20 country behaves in this way.

GAFFNEY: The Prime Minister has said it’s untrue. Is it possible he’s unaware of the situation or the possible results for workers in this field?

ALBANESE: It’s possible he just doesn’t get it. One of the issues with shipping is that because it happens off our coast, then it’s sight unseen. We saw the Four Corners program expose basically the loss of life of three seafarers off our coast on a foreign vessel and the investigation that’s occurring into the death of those three seafarers.

So it’s possible that he doesn’t get it, but what he should understand is that if I wanted to take goods from Brisbane to Sydney via road down the Pacific Highway, I’d have to have an Australian truck, it would be registered here, and it would have Australian safety standards.

It would have an Australian truck driver with qualifications being paid Australian wages and conditions. Under this system, if people chose the blue highway, rather than the Pacific or the Bruce Highway, then it can be a free for all. It can be a foreign ship with foreign standards with foreign workers paying foreign wages.

That is quite an extraordinary proposition. No one would suggest that would be appropriate on our roads or on our rail system or in construction or anywhere else for that matter, and yet the government is essentially saying, this is fair game.

They tried it on earlier this year in aviation as well, where they wanted to remove cabotage, which is the term for Australian preference. They wanted to allow foreign airlines, paying foreign wages to compete with Qantas and Virgin in the north of Australia, which would have simply meant that those operators and the smaller operators as well such as Air North would have become unviable when trying to compete against foreign wages.

GAFFNEY: When is this legislation relating to shipping going to come into effect, and what’s Labor doing about it?

ALBANESE: The legislation is before the Parliament now. This submission from Mr Milby is consistent with all of the submissions from industry. There’s one from Peter Cadwallader, he’s the head of Intercontinental Shipping Group. He’s been a member of the Liberal Party for 50 years and points out how anti-jobs this proposal is.

Maritime Industry Australia Limited, which is the peak organisation for Australian shipping, has pointed out the flaws in this legislation and there will be a Senate legislative inquiry into the bills on Monday.

Really, this legislation should be scrapped. No one’s saying that the current system is perfect. If there are some measures that are needed, that are practical, then Labor and I’m sure, the crossbenchers would be prepared to consider them. But this is extraordinary legislation.

These are explosive allegations whereby Mr Milby, at a meeting at the launch of the policy on the 20th of May, raised his concerns and was told that by the bureaucrat.

He was shocked, so he organised a meeting in Canberra, travelled to Canberra, met with the Department of Infrastructure’s senior bureaucrats on the 16th of June and was given the same advice to essentially remove the Australian flag and put up a white flag when it comes to Australian jobs.

GAFFNEY: It’s sixteen to nine on ABC Sunshine Coast. I’m Annie Gaffney. My guest is the opposition spokesperson for infrastructure and transport, Anthony Albanese.

Mr Albanese, that brings us to the free trade agreement with China. The unions are very worried about workers and jobs for Australians. In light of this, and  with so many Labor Premiers and former leaders like Bob Hawke saying the deal should go ahead, can you explain the Federal Opposition’s position on this?

ALBANESE: We support free trade. We think there is a case for greater involvement with China – with what will be the world’s largest economy to our north and a very significant relationship with Australia, going back to the Whitlam Government as people have pointed out, which recognised China.

Labor has always recognised that we need to engage in our region. But what we’re saying is that the Government needs to make sure that everyone benefits from this free trade agreement. Labour market testing that currently occurs for 457 visas, if people want to use a foreign workforce rather than an Australian workforce; it has to be tested whether Australians are available to do that particular task.

What we’re saying is that Australians need to benefit. It’s as simple as that. We’re certainly not anti-free trade. Far from it. When in government, we advanced this agreement, but we will always look towards making sure it was in Australia’s national interest. We’re just calling upon the government to sit down and be cooperative and see if we can come up with solutions to the issue that have been raised.

GAFFNEY: Beyond jobs, I mean the ABC’s Fact Check unit has said the deal will threaten jobs. It’s a little bit hard to understand what exactly the position is. So what are some of the other sticking points for the Opposition on this?

ALBANESE: That certainly is the major sticking point – who benefits. Then there’s the issue of the ability of countries to, as a result of trade agreements, undermine the sovereignty of national government decisions. At the moment there’s a case against plain packaging laws, for example. We think that any agreement shouldn’t undermine the rights of sovereign states, such as Australia, or China for that matter, to make decisions such as that.

GAFFNEY: Why do you think, then, that so many Labor voices are chorusing at the moment for the deal to go through?

ALBANESE: What they’re saying, if you look at the detail, I don’t think there’s a great difference here. It’s nuanced. They’re saying at the end of the day, they want this deal to happen. We want this deal to happen to. We just want to make sure that it’s the right deal and that the details are looked at, not just given a tick without ensuring that Australians and Australian jobs will be enhanced as a result of this deal.

GAFFNEY: The CFMEU says there are lots of workers in Australia working illegally. We’ve also seen 7-Eleven breaching the rules and underpaying workers in some franchises, United Petroleum as well. Are we as a country able to afford the wages we pay workers?

ALBANESE: We have to, because we enjoy living standards that are part of our way of life. That’s the big issue here. It’s there with shipping; it’s there across a whole range of areas.

Do we as a nation compete in our region on the basis of our skills, our knowledge, providing high value jobs, which ensure that we have growing living standards into the future, or do we engage in a race to the bottom when it comes to wages and conditions?

Quite simply, we cannot compete on the basis of wages and conditions. We shouldn’t try to. That is the wrong approach – and those people who usually advocate that approach are people who are on exorbitant salaries themselves in the big end of town. Australians understand that they value our way of life.

They value the fact that we have a society which doesn’t have the same levels of inequality that you see in some other nations but the truth is in the last couple of years that inequality has grown. Living standards are falling. And this is a government that speaks about jobs and growth. Well, unemployment is growing and economic growth is declining.

GAFFNEY: Anthony Albanese, thanks for giving us so much time this morning.

ALBANESE: Great to talk to you.

 

Sep 2, 2015

Transcript of radio interview with John McGlue – 720 ABC Mornings, Perth

Subject: Bureaucrat’s advice to cruise company to replace Australian flag with foreign flag & Australian workers with foreign workers

JOHN MCGLUE: Bill Milby is the company owner’s representative, North Star Cruises is the name of the company and he’s here now, Bill good to talk with you.

BILL MILBY, NORTH STAR CRUISES: G’day.

MCGLUE: So what are your concerns about this legislation first up?

MILBY: The legislation, if it passes the way it is written at the moment allows any foreign ships, provided they meet the navigation regulations, to ply their trade on the Australian coast.

By doing that foreign ships will obviously come in with foreign crew, that’s what they do. Foreign crew, especially from certain countries around the world are paid a lot less money in wages than what Australian crew are paid. We compete against them then obviously we become uncompetitive.

MCGLUE: Right, and what representations have you made to the federal department in relation to this which led to these extraordinary comments from the bureaucrat? What were you seeking to do?

MILBY: Well, this legislation, changes to the Navigation Act, has been tinkered with by two different governments and I’ve been involved from our company’s point of view to make sure we can protect not only our operation but the operations of other coastal crew coming here around Australia and protect the wages of our Australian workers.

But this Bill, which is before the Parliament now, allows any foreign ship to come in and operate against us and that’s why I sought briefings. That’s why I went first off to the public launch by Minister Truss of this legislation at which I asked some questions and got some answers and then I had a meeting with two bureaucrats in the Department about three weeks after that.

MCGLUE: Some time later. Ok well let’s go back to that day it’s the 20th of May this year. You’re in Sydney at this function, Warren Truss is there launching this piece of legislation and afterwards you spoke to a bureaucrat. Tell me about that conversation.

MILBY: Well I did query Minister Truss in the question and answer session, “how do expect companies like North Star Cruises and others to be able to compete when you table this legislation?”

He said he thought it wouldn’t be an issue and that was the end of the conversation with him. So then I sought out the person from his Department and asked the person the same question. “Ok, this is what you are going to do, how do you expect North Star Cruises and other to compete?”

And they said “well you’ve got to realise that you are in an international marketplace now so you have to take steps to become more competitive”.

And I said “well how do you suggest I do that?”

And she said “well maybe you should consider taking the ship off the Australian registry, reflagging it in a different country and then hiring a foreign crew”.

MCGLUE: Bill Milby, just let me get this right, this is a federal government bureaucrat giving you advice to ditch your Australian workers and to hire cheaper labour from overseas.

MILBY: Correct.

MCGLUE: What was your response?

MILBY: I was gobsmacked. I said to her, I can’t remember the exact words but words to the effect of “I cannot believe those words are coming out of your mouth.”

I was gobsmacked. So much so that I said to her that I would really like to continue this conversation elsewhere in your office in Canberra. And she agreed to that and we met three weeks later in her office in Canberra, not only with her but with one of her managers as well.

MCGLUE: Ok, so tell me about that meeting because you were obviously taken aback by what you heard at that function in Sydney so you make your way to Canberra three weeks later to sit down with the grown-ups from the department. Tell me about that conversation.

MILBY: We virtually continued on where we left off in Sydney. I stated our case that we believe that should this legislation as it is written be passed then it would seriously threaten out operation and the operations of other operators all the way round the Australian coast who have Australian ships, Australian crew, who build Australian ships in Australia for their operations, I said “you affect a whole lot of people and you also effect the regions where these ships operate out of”.

MCGLUE: And they said?

MILBY: Not a lot. They reiterated the fact that if we wanted to stay competitive then we should take the ship off the Australian registry, sack our crew and put on foreign workers.

MCGLUE: Ok. Where does it go next? What do you want the Government to do?

MILBY: I want them to look at this legislation, this draft legislation, well it’s not draft it’s now before Parliament. It’s wrong and in my submission I actually said that they are taking a machete to fix something they should be doing with a scalpel.

They should be very careful as to how they frame this legislation.

I’ve argued for the last 6 years that freight and passenger trade around the Australian Coast are two different businesses, therefor it should be covered under two sets of different rules and regulations.

I’ve argued that point for 6 years but they don’t listen.

MCGLUE: Ok, well I wonder what’s going to happen now. This is quite an extraordinary sequence of events. Bill Milby, thank you so much.

It really sounds quite incredible. North Star Cruises, they operate the True North, up off the Kimberley coast. Some extraordinary comments and engagement with the Federal Government. That’s Bill Milby.

Anthony Albanese is with me – the Shadow Minister for Infrastructure. Good day to you.

ALBANESE: Good to talk to you John.

MCGLUE: Good to talk with you too. What do you make of what you heard there from Bill Milby?

ALBANESE: Well the Department is just being honest about the implications of this legislation. The submission from the Maritime Industry Australia Limited, which is the peak Australian shipping body, is consistent with the opposition that’s there across the board to this legislation.

If you allowed from Perth across to Sydney, a foreign truck in to carry goods that allow them to employ someone on Filipino or third world wages and said, here you go, Toll and Linfox and the Australian trucking industry – you compete with them. Guess what? They’d go out of business as well.

The Hume Highway shouldn’t be any different from the blue highway, but what they’re saying is that in industries that compete against each other, the only way that they can be competitive is to take ships off the Australian registry, register them in a foreign country, replace the crew with foreign crew, and pay them foreign wages.

In the submission from Mr Milby it speaks about how he was given advice as well that the foreign crew would be trained in a foreign country not Australia, saving money. This is ideology gone mad. This is about replacing the Australian flag on the back of ships with a white flag when it comes to Australian jobs.

MCGLUE: What do you want to see happen now?

ALBANESE: I want to see this legislation rejected. This is unilateral economic disarmament. No country in the world that’s advanced just says let’s have a free for all on our coast and allow for foreign wages, and they do that with good reason.

But for an island continent such as Australia, which doesn’t have any land borders, the shipping industry is particularly important and those skills that are important for our national security.

There’s a relationship between the merchant fleet and our Navy. It’s important for our environment in terms of the standards that Australian ships are kept to. It’s important for the way that our ports and harbours operate and where the skills come from the shipping sector.

The idea appears to be that we’ll just give up an Australian industry because the Government can’t see beyond their own ideology.

Australian ships might have union members on them, and therefore the way to get rid of those union members is to get rid of the whole industry is just ideology gone mad.

MCGLUE: It’s good to talk to you today. Thanks for your time.

ALBANESE: Good on you John.

 

Sep 2, 2015

Transcript of press conference, Sydney

Subjects: Australian shipping industry; Bureaucrat’s advice to replace Australian flag with foreign flag

ANTHONY ALBANESE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR INFRASTRUCTURE AND TRANSPORT:  Good morning. The Federal Government has introduced legislation that would decimate the Australian shipping industry. As an island continent, Australia depends upon having a strong shipping sector for reasons of our economy, our environment and also for national security reasons.

The legislation that is currently before the Parliament has been subject to a review by a Senate legislation committee. The submissions make interesting reading indeed. Every single one of the Australian shipping industry’s submissions, whether it be from the peak organisation, Maritime Industry Australia Limited, or from individual shippers, supports the current regime but suggests some changes or consistently opposes the proposals that have been brought forward before the Abbott Government.

National governments understand that it is in the national interest to have a shipping industry. That’s why in nations such as the United States, in order to do a freight task domestically from LA to San Francisco or anywhere else around the US coast, the ships have to be US flagged, they have to have US seafarers on board, and indeed, in the United States the ships actually have to be built in the United States.

Australia has a very open system indeed. But it’s one that provides for a preference if an Australian ship is available to be used, and secondly requires that for domestic work in Australia, Australian wages and conditions have to be observed. This legislation before the Parliament would remove any preference for Australian based ships, and secondly would allow for foreign wages to be paid on those ships which are competing with Australian flagged ships.

It’s no wonder that this has been characterised as WorkChoices on Water. No Australian industry could compete side by side with a foreign industry if they are allowed to pay foreign based wages.

If you want to take freight on the Hume Highway by truck from Sydney to Melbourne, you have to pay Australian based wages and conditions and you have to be on an Australian registered vehicle with the appropriate Australian safety standards.

If you decide to take that freight by ship rather than by road on the blue highway rather than the Hume Highway, you should also have to pay Australian wages and conditions on that route. It’s a very simple principle.

But the Abbott Government wants to support unilateral economic disarmament. It’s no wonder that it’s been condemned by submissions including from Intercontinental Shipping Group Chairman, Peter Cadwallader, who has said that as a 50-year member of the Liberal Party, he regards this as against the Liberal Party’s stated objective of supporting Australian jobs.

But the most significant submission is from North Star Cruises, from Bill Milby. He outlines his attendance at the launch of this policy on the 20th of May. It was launched at the Shipping Australia hosted event.

Shipping Australia is, in Orwellian speak, the ships that actually aren’t based in Australia but are foreign flagged. Mr Milby says in his submission that he attended the function, where he advised the Executive Director of the Department of Infrastructure and Transport and Regional Development that, and I quote “allowing foreign crewed passenger vessels into the Australian coastal expedition cruise sector would effectively result in our operation, as well as that of many other Australian coastal maritime operators being uncompetitive.”

The Executive Director’s advice to them was quite extraordinary.

“The Executive Director advised that we should consider taking our ship, True North, off the Australian shipping register, re-register the ship in a suitable foreign country, lay off our Australian crew, and hire a cheaper foreign crew.”

A quote from the Department, from people in charge of the implementation of this policy, to an Australian operator.

Then the operator chose to meet with the Department and actually flew to Canberra for a meeting on Tuesday the 16th of June. They put their case to the Department about the problems that would be created for this cruise company, which operates in the Kimberley in Western Australia.

They got told again, to “take True North off the Australian Shipping Register, register True North in a foreign country and reflag our ship True North with a foreign flag, then replace the Australian crew, apart from the captain and chief engineer, with foreign crew who would not be governed under the Australian labour laws and the Australian Fair Work Act. The foreign crew would also be trained in a foreign country, not Australia, saving money.”

When asked to justify this position, the bureaucrat said this “Australia is part of the international market and we have to compete with international operators”.

This is an absolutely extraordinary position. The Abbott Government wants to replace the Australian flag flying on the back of our ships with a white flag when it comes to Australian jobs. This is an outrageous piece of legislation that would destroy a vital Australian industry for our economy, our environment, and also for national security.

REPORTER: In regards to the Caltex issue in Tasmania, a Caltex spokesperson actually said similar to the bureaucrat you’re referring to that this is an issue where Caltex need to compete against hundreds of other shipping companies that are also paying foreign workers. How do you suggest that Australian companies compete if they’re not prepared to pay for foreign workers?

ALBANESE: We need to recognise that the wages component is a very small component in terms of the shipping costs. So the differential between the Australian based wages and foreign wages, when you look at the overall capital costs of a voyage, are not the major part of the costs.

The truth is though, that if you apply that logic, why wouldn’t you allow a Filipino truck operator to compete with Linfox and Toll on the Hume Highway with a Filipino registered truck, with the standards that are accepted in the Philippines but not here, in terms of safety and environmental considerations, and allow them to employ a Filipino truck driver paying Filipino truck wages and conditions?

There are costs to the national economy as a result of not having an Australian shipping industry. I’ll give you just one. The environmental cost of incidents such as the Pasha Bulker, the Shen Neng, the Pacific Adventurer, were all substantial for the Australian economy.

An Australian flagged ship has not been involved in any of the major incidents that have occurred off our coast. The Australian taxpayer, the Queensland taxpayer, and industry have borne the cost of those incidents. There is a reason why the Australian shipping industry is so well regarded internationally.

Because of the standards that we have, because of the skills of our workforce, and that’s why, when we sat down in developing the policy that the government is trying to remove, we sat down not just with the workforce through unions, but with employers, with peak organisations, with the Navy, with organisations including ports and others who are involved in the maritime sector.

If you lose an Australian based shipping industry, you lose those maritime skills that are so important for an island continent such as Australia. So yes, it is cheaper to employ someone on foreign wages than Australian wages. That’s the case across the board.

That would be the case if you had two construction sites next to each other and on one you’re allowed to pay third world wages and on one you pay Australian wages but guess what?

We in this country pride ourselves with the standards that we have, and it cannot be a race to the bottom. But that is what is being admitted by the Departments who are responsible for implementing this policy.

We’ve already seen a major cruise ship operator in Cairns take the Australian flag off their ship and put a foreign flag on, employ people on foreign wages rather than Australian wages, is what they would like to do, but they’ve done that in anticipation of these changes – in order to compete with those ships that will operate in terms of competitively with a foreign flag.

So all that we’re asking for, and all that Australian industry are asking for, is a genuinely level playing field. We do not have protection here in this country in terms of the Australian coast. There’s an important role for foreign ships around our coast. But they should compete on a level playing field with Australian industry otherwise the Australian industry themselves are saying that they will leave the Australian coast.

More importantly now, the people responsible for the implementation of the policy are quite extraordinarily advising Australian industry to sack Australian workers, employ foreign workers, remove the Australian flag, and put a foreign flag on the back of those ships. That is an extraordinary position to be in, in 2015.

REPORTER: With the next election coming up, with regards to this incident, particularly in Tasmania, will the topic of Australian jobs and protecting Australia’s own financial interest really in and amongst it?

ALBANESE: Australian jobs are vital. This is a government that has no plans for Australian jobs. In this case, they’re actually promoting a policy that will result directly in Australian based seafarers being replaced with foreign based seafarers being paid foreign based wages,  doing domestic freight tasks.

If you take that logic there, to other industries, then that is why this legislation must be defeated. The government will say this is about the unions. This isn’t unions making this submission. It is employers.

It’s Australian based industry that have invested their capital in having Australian ships operating on our coast. It is them who are saying so strongly that this is unacceptable legislation.

So I say listen to Maritime Industry Australia Limited, the peak organisation. Have a look at their submissions. They’ve made it very clear that this is ideology before common sense. Common sense tells you that you need to have an Australian based shipping industry if you’re an island continent. Thanks very much.

[ENDS]

 

 

Sep 2, 2015

Transcript of radio interview – FIVAA with Leon Byner

Subjects: Australian shipping industry; Bureaucrat’s advice to replace Australian flag with foreign flag

LEON BYNER: Let’s talk to Shadow Transport Minister, federally, Anthony Albanese. Anthony thanks for joining us.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good to be with you Leon.

BYNER: What do you make of this explosive allegation by the cruise shipping company?

ALBANESE: Well this is quite extraordinary. But what it indicates is the true aim of this legislation. If this legislation is carried, then foreign ships doing domestic freight tasks around our coast will be able to employ people paying foreign wages and conditions, and of course the Australian industry can’t compete.

And what’s occurred here, as you’ve said, is not a vague allegation. It’s named the Executive Director of the Department of Infrastructure as saying to Mr Bill Milby, who runs North Star Cruises that operate around the Kimberley, on the 20th of May in Sydney when he said I can’t compete with foreign flag vessels if they’re allowed to pay foreign wages doing the same routes.

And the advice he was given was, to quote,” ‘consider taking our ship True North off the Australian shipping register, reregister the ship in a suitable foreign country, lay off our Australian crew and hire a cheaper foreign crew,’ unquote”.

Now he was so shocked by that so he went to see the Department on the 16th of June in Canberra and he was given the same advice with even an additional component which was that the foreign crew could be trained in a foreign country, not Australia, saving more money.

This is so short sighted that the Government legislation would simply see the Australian shipping industry disappear. So that instead of having an Australian flag on the back of Australian ships, this is a white flag when it comes to Australian jobs.

BYNER: What do you propose to do about this?

ALBANESE: Well we’re opposing this legislation and we’re calling and have been talking to the crossbenchers about making sure they oppose the legislation as well. This is unilateral economic disarmament. No country, which is advanced in the world, says you can come onto our coast; you can go between Adelaide and Melbourne for example. If you go on the highway you of course have to have an Australian registered vehicle, have to have Australian safety standards, you pay Australian wages to the truck driver. But if you go on the blue highway they’re saying it’s fair game. We’ll remove any preference for Australian ships and you can pay foreign wages.

For which case the businesses, and this is where the bureaucrat has told the business correct advice, which is the only way that they can compete is to become one of them. That’s a disastrous consequence for Australia in terms of having a skilled workforce as an island continent that relies upon ships for our exports and imports and also around our coasts.  If we remove that industry the consequences, for not just our economy, but for national security, for the environment, will be dire indeed.

BYNER: Will the crossbenchers support what Labor is doing here to block that legislation?

ALBANESE: Well I’m hopeful that they will. This is a common sense test. No Australian industry could survive if next to it its competitors could pay foreign wages in Australia. That’s what we’re talking about here, and there are consequences. It’s so short sighted. One of the things that I’ve said is that every time there’s been a disaster off our coast; the Pasha Bulker, you might recall off Newcastle, the Sheng Neng off Queensland, they’ve all been foreign flag ships. Not Australian ships that have good standards and have good safety records. Every time one of those instances happened the costs have been tens of millions of dollars. And yet this short sighted approach is let’s just pay people foreign wages rather than Australian wages. I mean if we lose an industry then the relationship between people who are in the navy and people who are in the merchant fleet in terms of skills, the people who run our ports and our harbours, we will lose all those skills, which as an island continent we simply can’t afford to do.

BYNER: Anthony, thanks for joining us.

 

 

 

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