May 13, 2015

Abbott budget flags attack on Australian shipping jobs

Tony Abbott wants to force Australian shipping companies to pay Australian mariners Third World wages in an ideologically charged attack on the viability of Australian shipping.

Budget papers released last night foreshadowed reforms aimed at “better aligning employment conditions for ships based in Australia with international standards’’.

Since many shipping companies base their ships in Third World nations to minimise their pay levels and other costs, this is code for a push to allow Australian shipping companies to slash pay levels and reduce conditions.

The changes would dismantle a comprehensive reform package delivered by the former Labor Government which created a level playing field in domestic shipping.

That package included support for Australian shipping companies, including tax breaks and training subsidies, as well as a requirement that foreign-flagged vessels pay Australian level wages when working domestic trade sectors.

While Mr Abbott has previously criticised these provisions, the Budget papers reveal for the first time his intention to actually degrade employment conditions of Australian mariners in the equivalent of Workchoices on Water.

The Government’s policy is to remove any preference for Australian ships to undertake domestic shipping tasks and allow foreign ships to dominate our domestic freight task.

But last night’s Budget indicates Mr Abbott wants Australian ships which do operate on domestic tasks to pay foreign wages and conditions.

If an Australian company seeks to move freight on a road or railway line, the workers involved are paid in accordance with Australian standards.

Conditions should be the same for the movement of sea freight.