Feb 4, 2016

Adjournment – Shipping

Federation Chamber

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (12:40): Yesterday I attended a rally outside of Parliament House with the crew of the MV Portland. Last month, these five workers—Warren Hopkins, Liam Conaghan, Brett Kolpin, Zac Kinzett and Michael Pawson—were woken up in the middle of the night and frogmarched off the MV Portland to have their jobs replaced by a foreign crew being paid foreign wages on that ship that had served the local community at Portland, and Alcoa as a company, taking product from Western Australia to Victoria for the alumina refinery there. They are to lose their jobs. They are the human face of this government’s ideologically driven attack on shipping: real men with real families, real bills to pay and real food to put on the table.

Parliament rejected the ‘Work Choices on water’ legislation in November, but the government is abusing the temporary licence provisions to impose its program through the back door. No other G20 nation does this. Every other economically significant nation in the world understands the importance of having a domestic shipping industry. The MV Portlandtakes that freight from WA to Portland and back again about 20 times each and every year; there is no way possible that you can define that journey and that domestic freight task as temporary. Yet a temporary licence will be allowed for a foreign ship with a foreign crew and a foreign flag on the back to replace that Australian vessel with an Australian flag and an Australian crew creating Australian jobs. This is a government that wants to take the Australian flag off the back of Australian ships and replace it with the white flag of surrender when it comes to Australian jobs.

You know full well, Madam Deputy Speaker Claydon, that the same thing is occurring in your great city of Newcastle as we speak, with the attempt to replace the Melbourne and its Australian workforce with foreign seafarers. This was a piece of legislation last year which clearly stated in its intention that it would destroy Australian jobs. It said this:

Many of the operators currently operating under the Australian General Register would likely re-flag their vessels in order to compete with the foreign operators who enjoy the benefit of comparatively lower wage rates. Australian seafarer jobs would be adversely affected as Australian operators re-flag from the Australian General Register.

Ship operators are likely to replace Australian seafarers … with foreign seafarers

That is what the legislation said and that is why it was rejected in the Senate. Yet we have a government that is not only undermining Australian jobs but now undermining Australian democracy and the intention of this parliament. This parliament clearly found it unacceptable that we would carry legislation that was un-Australian; was not in the national economic interest, with the loss of those jobs and those taxes paid in Australia; was not in our environmental interest given that the ships Shen Neng, Pasha Bulkerand Pacific Adventurer, which created environmental disasters around our coast, were all highlighted by having foreign flags on their backs; and is certainly not in our national security interests. Labor, and I think all Australians, should want to see the Australian flag flying proudly on the back of vessels engaged in trade around the Australian coast and around the world. I pay tribute to those brave seafarers who stood up not just for their own jobs but for the national interest by exposing the disastrous consequences of the government’s actions when it comes to the MV Portland and the disastrous consequences of their anti-Australian shipping policies.