Coastal Trading (Revitalising Australian Shipping) Amendment Bill 2017 – Consideration in Detail – Wednesday, 15 August 2018
As the member for Shortland has outlined, incidents around the coast like those involving the Pacific Adventurer and the Shen Neng have had consequences for our pristine natural environment. Fortunately, they haven’t been catastrophic. A potential incident on the Great Barrier Reef could have literally billions of dollars of consequences for Australia because of the knock-on impact that it would have. One of the things that I did as the minister was to extend south the area that was required to have pilots to make sure that that protection was put in place. The environmental consequences are severe.
We also know that, in terms of the maintenance, many of these foreign ships operating around the coast are pretty ordinary, to say the least, compared with Australian based ships. We know that the maintenance simply isn’t there. We know that the workforce can often be overworked and not have appropriate occupational health and safety conditions. For example, the captain of the Shen Neng was prosecuted, as he should have been, for failing to turn through the channel. As the inquiry found, that was a result of that particular gentleman not having been to sleep for a very, very long time. The sort of idea that we should have a free-for-all around our coast without consequences is simply an error of judgement.
There’s the other issue of national security. We hear a lot from those opposite about the protection of borders, yet we will have consequences if the Australian shipping industry cannot continue. Foreign based ships with foreign workers will not have gone through the same security clearances that Australian seafarers have to go through. People who work in ports have to have MSIC cards and go through the whole security clearance process. These ships have a lot of fuel on them. They’re often in ports and harbours, very close to where people reside in very large numbers. I think there are real national security issues which arise from that, let alone the issue of the link between the merchant fleet and our military fleet. That linkage has historically been there between the Navy and people who have worked in the merchant fleet. Their skills are interchangeable. If you don’t have an Australian based maritime sector, what you won’t have is the sorts of skills base of people—
The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Goodenough ): The member’s time has expired. The question is that the amendment be agreed to. I call the member for Grayndler.
Mr ALBANESE: who go on to be harbourmasters and run ports and are very proud of making a contribution to the nation. Here in Australia we have the Australian Maritime College down at Launceston, a world-class facility. We have a very proud history as a maritime nation. The Australian flag’s continued presence on the back of Australian ships crewed by Australian seafarers with Australian engineers and Australian captains is very important. These are not inconsequential matters for an island continent such as ours, which relies overwhelmingly upon shipping to deal with our imports and exports.
The shipping industry also has consequences for our coastal trading regime to take goods around the nation. The ‘blue highway’ is free, unlike the Hume Highway, the Bruce Highway, the Pacific Highway and other roads, where maintenance is required. Other sections of our transport industry—the rail and road sectors—are concerned about the consequences of a free-for-all, where they’re being asked to compete with foreign flagged vessels operating with foreign and foreign conditions to transport those goods around our coast. That puts those transport operators, be they rail or road, at a significant disadvantage. Quite frankly it’s an absurd idea to say that it’s okay for a trucking company to come in with trucks that have been built, maintained and operated in the Philippines, operate from Brisbane and take goods down Highway 1 to Melbourne, pay Filipino wages and have Filipino overheads and costs, and compete with the Australian trucking operators. Why should the ‘blue highway’ be different from the Hume Highway? What’s more, when it also happens in the rail sector, they will be considerably disadvantaged at a time when the government is talking about inland rail and the importance of rail transport. The ARA opposes this legislation. Why would the rail sector be involved in coastal shipping? They understand that when they have Australian costs and overheads they’re at a massive disadvantage if they have to compete with another sector performing the same task through a different mode but with foreign costs and overheads.
There are a whole range of reasons that this legislation is flawed and should be rejected. The particular amendment we’re debating shows that the government is so ideologically determined that they’re prepared to redefine the whole definition of a voyage rather than apply a bit of common sense. This isn’t the current minister’s legislation, nor even the member for New England’s legislation, but there has been no consultation with the opposition over this. When this was introduced—a long time ago now; more than a year—before even I gave my second reading speech I moved a procedural resolution to dismiss this and to have a proper consultation process, because I recognise that a bipartisan position would be far preferable. This is unsupportable.