Aug 15, 2018

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

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (18:26): We have a proud maritime history in this country. We’ve spoken about the link between the merchant fleet and the naval fleet. At our time of greatest need, when John Curtin showed such extraordinary leadership in this country, we didn’t have a major naval presence at all. When we were under threat, he built—in such a short period of time, during wartime—three destroyers, 14 frigates, 60 corvettes and 30,000 small craft. The other thing that happened under Curtin’s leadership was that we were preparing craft and assisting both military craft and merchant craft vessels for our allies in Europe and in the United States. Nothing can state those linkages more than that acute period in which our very existence as a free and democratic nation was under threat. At that time, the Australian maritime sector grew, which then expanded into the postwar period under Chifley. Unfortunately, there wasn’t the same long-term foresight under Menzies that had occurred under Chifley and that occurred in the United States. A very similar thing happened in the United States. That’s the context of the Jones Act. It’s the link between the merchant fleet and the military needs of the United States.

I said to the minister to point to one thing in the legislation that was positive about the Australian industry, but he’s been unable to do so. That’s because there isn’t anything positive there. This is the latest tranche of Work Choices on water. This is about ideology and a sort of bizarre logic of, ‘If we have no Australian shipping industry, we therefore will have no MUA members,’ as opposed to, ‘What are the opportunities, including the opportunities to build and construct ships here and around the coast? What’s the potential for expansion of the manufacturing sector here in Australia?’

This is what Maritime Industry Australia Ltd say about whole of the legislation:

… there is nothing in the Bill to assist Australian shipowners compete with foreign ships that have all but unfettered access to coastal trades. We held low expectations on that front and unfortunately haven’t been disappointed there.

The regulatory impact statement of this legislation is very explicit about the goal of increasing the presence of foreign vessels around the coastline. It says:

… the current framework makes it unattractive for foreign ships to enter the coastal trading sector.

…   …   …

These amendments … will remove the barriers that currently face many foreign flagged vessels under the current system.

I spoke before about rail, road and other modes, and the disadvantages that they’re at. I want to quote them. These are Freight on Rail Group members: Aurizon; the Australian Rail Track Corporation, which is owned by the government; Ark Infrastructure; Genesee & Wyoming; Pacific National; Qube Holdings and SCT Logistics. This is what they said in their submission:

… the proposed amendments have the potential to introduce an unreasonable competitive advantage to foreign ships that may choose to compete in the domestic freight market. This unreasonable competitive advantage arises as the proposed amendments allow foreign shippers to compete in the domestic freight market against land freight transport operators that have to comply with all laws and regulations. In particular, exemptions would allow foreign ships to incur substantially lower wages, conditions and associated workplace relations costs when compared to rail, road and Australian-based coastal shipping companies.

There it is. (Time expired)

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Andrews ): The question is that the amendments be agreed to. I call the honourable member for Grayndler.

Mr ALBANESE: I’m going to make this my last contribution to the debate.

Mr McCormack: Aw!

Mr ALBANESE: Although I might reconsider, given the support from those opposite! It’s important to know what the consequences are of what is happening on this government’s watch. Last year, the Australian flagged ship CSL Thevenard went to dry dock in Singapore and the crew were sacked—’You’ve lost your jobs.’ You know what? The ship is now back on our coast as the Acacia, with the Bahamas flag. To be very clear, they’ve renamed the ship; it’s the same ship. It’s operating around the coast but, instead of an Australian flag on the back, it has the flag of the Bahamas. Instead of Australian seafarers, it has foreign seafarers. It’s still operating around the coast. It had the Australian flag in 2016, just in case you think that was an accident.

The CSL Brisbane is now back on the coast. Guess what? It has changed its name from Brisbane. It’s now called the Adelie. It relinquished its general licence, and guess what? It replaced the Australian flag with the flag of the Bahamas. The foreign flagged transitional general licence and Australian crewed British Fidelity was withdrawn from the coastal trade by BP. That was our last petroleum tanker. We talk about fuel security in this country. The last one is gone.

The Australian crewed CSL Melbourne, carrying Rio Tinto alumina, was replaced by a foreign flagged ship with foreign crew. The same volume of alumina required transporting. In 2016, the Australian flagged and Australian crewed MV Portland, which has been carrying alumina from Western Australia to Alcoa’s Portland smelter for 27 years, was replaced by a foreign flagged ship with foreign crew. It is doing the same task. In 2015, the Australian flagged and crewed Alexander Spirit was withdrawn from service by Caltex. The Australian flagged and crewed Hugli Spirit was withdrawn from service by Caltex. The Australian flagged and crewed British Loyalty was withdrawn from service by BP. The Australian flagged and crewed Tandara Spirit was withdrawn from service by Viva. That happened in 2014. Also in 2014, the Australian flagged and crewed CSL Pacific was withdrawn and scrapped. In 2014, the Australian flagged and crewed Pacific Triangle was withdrawn by BHP. The crew were offloaded in Japan in December 2014 and replaced by a foreign crew. In what world is it okay for Australian seafarers to lose their jobs overseas and just be sent back while another flag is put on the back of a ship?

In 2013, as well, the Australian flagged and Australian crewed Lindesay Clark was withdrawn from Rio Tinto’s alumina trade when the Point Henry smelter was closed by Alcoa.

These are real consequences for the individuals involved, but there are real consequences for the Australian economy and for protection of the Australian environment and real national security considerations here. I say to the minister: I reiterate that Labor is prepared to engage constructively in dialogue for proper legislation that supports Australian based industry, but we can’t support this package, which is why we are moving these amendments. I commend the amendments to the House.

The SPEAKER: The question is that opposition amendments (2) and (4) to (14) as circulated by the member for Grayndler be agreed to.