Aug 15, 2018

Coastal Trading (Revitalising Australian Shipping) Amendment Bill 2017 – Consideration in Detail – Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (17:03): I quoted the industry body before. I’ll now quote the Maritime Union of Australia:

Such open-ended tolerance provisions would totally undermine accepted commercial arrangements and make it impossible for a GL [general licence] holder to contest a cargo, as the GL holder would not know what they are contesting. The ability to position a ship when the loading date could vary by up to 30 days would be commercially untenable for a GL holder, as would be the unknown nature of the cargo volume.

The operators of vessels around the coast have been unanimous in their positions where they have expressed concern about these changes. That includes CSL, which currently owns three Australian flagged vessels operating around the coastline. ANL said: ‘the current date tolerance seems reasonable’.

The other issue is that of the impact on Australian based tourism cruise operators. From those opposite we hear about superyachts. In my earlier contribution to the debate I said that I’m happy to sit down with the minister and talk constructively about ways in which we can change customs regimes and improve access for superyachts, because I agree that there is potential for growth in that industry. What I’m not prepared to do is destroy the entire coastal shipping industry in the interests of the superyacht industry, which is based essentially in the Cayman Islands and other offshore tax havens.

But those opposite exposed what drives them when they had two issues really that they raised continuously. Even the minister, in his summing up, spoke more about superyachts than he did about the actual resources sector, the agriculture sector or other sectors that take trade around our coast. There’s an Australian cruise ship industry that’s worried about these provisions as well. This is what True North Adventure Cruises have had to say, through Mr Bill Milby, the operator of the tourism vessels off north-west Western Australia, on regional jobs. He’s warned that the proposed changes to the tolerance limits would allow foreign operators to game the system. This is what he said in his submission:

The purpose of temporary licences was to allow foreign ships to carry cargo and passengers in the event that cargo or passengers were already waiting at a port to be shipped from one destination to another.

This amendment allows foreign ships to apply for and be granted a temporary licence when there is no cargo or passengers, thus allowing the foreign ship to wait at any port and choose to bid against any general licence holder at any time.

What you have here is an Australian based industry—Coral Sea Expeditions, which operates primarily around Far North Queensland, and True North Adventure Cruises, operating out of the Kimberley—saying that these provisions will result in a loss of Australian jobs and a loss of Australian economic activity.

When Mr Milby raised this question originally, when these sorts of provisions were in the act put forward by former minister Warren Truss, which were rejected in the Senate, he was told: ‘What you should do is take the Australian flag off your ship, reflag it with a foreign flag and replace your Australian crew with a foreign crew being paid foreign wages. That’s the way in which you can continue to compete.’ That is explicitly what they said. And today, in his one contribution to the debate about this amendment, the minister said that seafarer jobs would continue to be in decline. Well, why is it, Minister, that for an island continent you are promoting legislation that you say will result in a decline in jobs for Australian seafarers? There are real implications behind that. I think you’re better than that, and you can do better than this legislation.