May 20, 2015

Abbott plans Workchoices on Water

The Abbott Government will today outline plans to attack the Australian shipping industry and reduce wages and conditions of maritime workers.

In a speech in Sydney, Transport Minister Warren Truss will explain his desire to wind back reforms of the former Labor Government which allow Australian shipping companies to operate on a level playing field with foreign-flagged competitors.

We already know the flavour of Mr Truss’s plans because last week’s Budget flagged reforms aimed at “better aligning employment conditions for ships based in Australia with international standards’’

(Budget Paper No. II, p132).

Since many shipping companies base their ships in Third World nations to minimise their pay levels and working conditions, this was an explicit statement that the Government wants to impose massive reductions in pay and conditions.

The Coalition lost office in 2007 partly due to the unfairness of its WorkChoices legislation.

This is WorkChoices on Water.

Labor’s coastal shipping reforms were designed with Australian industry support.

They support Australian jobs.

The Labor package included support for Australian shipping companies including tax breaks and training subsidies, licensing arrangements and a requirement that companies moving freight by sea first seek out an Australian carrier.

The Government wants foreign flagged vessels to pay foreign level wages while working on the domestic trade sectors.

But the Budget is now promoting driving Australian flagged vessels wages down to the same level in a race to the bottom.

Labor’s position is simple – if an Australian company seeks to move freight on a road or railway line, the truck drivers or railway workers involved are paid in accordance with Australian standards.

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

What’s more, Labor believes 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.