The head of the Abbott Government’s new Border Protection Command has exposed Tony Abbott’s plan to remove any preference for Australian flagged ships around our coast.
Today The Australian newspaper referred to Rear Admiral Michael Noonan as stating that “vessels that flew flags of convenience flouted safety and employment standards and posed risks to revenue, trade and environmental hazards”.
This extraordinary intervention by one of Australia’s most senior military officials is a stark warning about the consequences of Mr Abbott’s plan to pass the Shipping Legislation Amendment Bill 2015, which is the equivalent of WorkChoices on Water.
If passed, the legislation will allow foreign-flagged vessels working between Australian domestic ports for up to 183 days a year to pay Third World level wages, undercutting Australian shipping companies.
The former Labor Government levelled the playing field on Australia’s domestic sea routes by requiring people seeking to move freight by sea to first seek out an Australian vessel. Where an Australian vessel was unavailable, domestic freight could be moved by foreign-flagged vessels provided they paid Australian-level wages.
Labor’s reforms, the result of a comprehensive consultation process with stakeholders, also included tax breaks for Australian-owned vessels as well as support for skills training.
If Tony Abbott’s changes to shipping laws are passed, not only will thousands of jobs be put at risk, but so too will our environment.
If Tony Abbott won’t listen to the Australian shipping sector, he should listen to his own Border Protection Chief and drop his plan for WorkChoices on Water now.