May 25, 2015

Abbott confirms attack on Australian wages

Tony Abbott has confirmed he will trigger a race to the bottom in wages and conditions in domestic shipping by allowing foreign-flagged vessels paying Third World wages to undercut Australian operators.

When Bill Shorten asked the Prime Minister in Parliament today whether he believed people working in Australia should work under Australian wages and conditions, he refused to answer, instead unleashing an angry rant about trade unions.

Last week Transport Minister Warren Truss said he would unwind reforms from the former Labor Government that created a level-playing field in coastal trading.

The reforms provided tax breaks and other support for the Australian shipping industry, but also required foreign-flagged vessels to pay Australian wages while working on Australian domestic sectors.

Mr Abbott wants to dismantle this system – a move that will destroy Australian jobs.

This is Work Choices on Water.

If freight is moved by road in this country, the truck driver is paid in accordance with Australian wages and conditions.

If freight is moved by rail in this country, the train driver works under Australian laws and conditions.

There is no reason the situation should be any different when freight is moved by sea.

Labor’s position is simple.

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

It is in the national interest for there to be a strong, Australian-based shipping industry.

The Government’s proposals would decimate the industry, the existence of which serves Australia’s economic, environmental and national security interests.

They also represent the thin edge of the wedge for a fresh, economy-wide attack on the wages and conditions of all working Australians.

The Government is also considering expanding its Work Choices on Water proposals to Work Choices in the Sky with proposals to open up the domestic aviation system to foreign based airlines.