Sep 8, 2015

Coalition gags debate over shipping fiasco

The Abbott Government has gagged debate in the Parliament to avoid being held to account for seeking to discredit a Western Australian shipping company representative who blew the whistle on the job-destroying nature of proposed new shipping laws.

Today I moved the following motion in the Parliament and the Government used its majority to shut down debate on the serious issues of Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss misleading the House and the Prime Minister wrongly questioning Mr Bill Milby’s honesty.

The Government’s refusal to debate this important matter highlights its cynical preparedness to attack and undermine anyone critical of its policy approach and the Prime Minister’s lack of good grace as shown by his refusal to apologise to Mr Milby. 



I move that so much of standing orders be suspended as would allow the Member for Grayndler to move the following motion:

This House censures the Deputy Prime Minister for misleading the House in Question Time on Monday 7 September when he: 

(i)            stated that reports that senior officials from his Department advised Bill Milby of North Star Cruises to reflag his vessel to a foreign nation, sack his 50 Australian workers and hire foreign crew to compete, were “inaccurate”; and,

(ii)           told the House that such advice “is not possible under the proposed legislation before Parliament”.  

This House notes the evidence before the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee where Mr Milby confirmed his written evidence contained in his submission that he was advised by officials to “consider taking our ship True North off the Australian Shipping Register, re register the ship in a

foreign country, lay off our Australian crew and hire a cheaper foreign crew” under his proposed laws.

This House notes that last night Judith Zielke, Executive Director, Surface Transport Policy Division and Michael Sutton, General Manager Maritime and Shipping Branch both gave evidence that they did give advice to Mr Milby about the reflagging option.

The House further notes last night’s comment from Mr Milby that: “I don’t have an issue with the people who gave that advice because if you read the legislation and the explanatory memo, they were telling me the truth”.

The House notes the evidence from the government’s official economic modelling for the Bill assumed that the displaced Australian seafarers would “get other jobs”.

The House also notes the evidence from Tasmanian freight operator Searoad, North Star Cruises and Maritime Industry Australia Limited that investment in shipbuilding and local job creation is threatened by this flawed legislation.

Accordingly, the House calls for:

  1. The Deputy Prime Minister to immediately correct the record following his misleading answer in Question Time yesterday.
  2. The Prime Minister to apologise to Mr Bill Milby of North Star Cruises in Western Australia for questioning his honesty and integrity
  3. The Government to withdraw its Shipping Legislation before the Parliament and to enter into a proper consultation process with the maritime sector about any future proposed changes to maritime legislation.