Dec 23, 2013

Abbott must repudiate IPA extremism

LABOR condemns the contemptible push by right-wing think tank the Institute of Public Affairs to dismantle reforms designed to improve productivity and preserve jobs in the Australian maritime industry.

The IPA’s call in The Australian today for foreign-flagged ships to be exempt from requirements that they pay crews Australian-level wages can have only one outcome – job losses.

Tony Abbott, already under pressure for doing nothing to prevent thousands of job losses at companies including Holden and Qantas, must reject the IPA’s dogma immediately.

Jobs might not matter to the IPA or its fellow travellers in the Coalition, but they matter to the 10,000 breadwinners who work in the Australian maritime sector.

In government Labor delivered reforms requiring that if a foreign-flagged vessel delivering goods to an Australian port sought to take on goods for transport between Australian ports, the ship’s owner must pay Australian-level wages while travelling on the domestic sector.

This sensible reform was designed to ensure the Australian maritime fleet could compete on a level playing field against foreign operators paying Third World wages.

Australian wages for those working in Australia – only an ideologue could oppose this principle.

These reforms were also designed to maintain a viable local shipping sector as a source of jobs for our young people and to support national security by ensuring a strong Australian presence in our coastal waterways.

Now the IPA says it is more important to cut transport costs for foreign shippers rather than ensure the Australian shipping industry is viable.

Tony Abbott and his team learned from the bitter experience of their grossly unfair Work Choices legislation that Australians value workplace fairness.