That the words ‘the next sitting’ be omitted with a view to substituting ‘the first sitting in 2018’ to allow proper consultation to take place consistent with the commitment made by the Government.
The fact is that, on this government’s watch, the Pacific Triangle, the CSL Pacific, the Pioneer, the Lindsay Clarke, the Tandara Spirit, the Araluen Spirit, the Alexander Spirit, the British Loyalty, the Hooghly Spirit, the MV Portland, CSL Melbourne, British Fidelity, CSL Brisbane and CSL Thevenard have all left our shores. They have left our shores and the Australian flag has been lowered. The Australian flag has been lowered and Australian jobs have been lost. This is a government that has been prepared to destroy the Australian shipping industry because, rather than having Australian workers who are members of unions, it prefers to have foreign workers being paid foreign wages on foreign-flagged ships around our coasts.
The abuse of the temporary licence system is something that has to be addressed. This government has no plan. Indeed this is replacing the Australian flag with the white flag when it comes to Australian jobs. On this government’s watch, it has allowed temporary licences for work, such as that done by the MV Portland, which takes minerals from Western Australia to Portland in Victoria to the smelter and then the ship returns to Western Australia—a very consistent voyage between two destinations that in no way could be defined as temporary. Yet this government has failed to put in place a mechanism to ensure that the legislation carried by this parliament in 2012 is given a chance to operate. That has led to a loss of Australian jobs.
I think this minister, who has his 50th birthday today, I am told, isn’t too bad a bloke. But he’s a part of a bad government. On this, he said ‘another key message from my recent stakeholder consultations is that regular certainty, indeed, ideally bipartisanship, is essential for investment,’ and it is. But has there been any briefing for the opposition on this legislation? No, there hasn’t been. Has there been an exposure draft of this legislation? No, there hasn’t been. Has there been consultation with stakeholders? Have they had the potential to see this legislation? No, there hasn’t been.
It stands in stark contrast to the way that we on this side dealt with this when we were in government. In 2007, we asked a parliamentary committee to conduct a comprehensive review; indeed, I think one that the member for Ballarat played a critical role in. In October 2008, that committee brought down a unanimous bipartisan report that provided the basis for the legislation moving forward. In 2009, we established a shipping policy advisory group comprising shippers, industry and unions, convened in order to implement the committee’s recommendations. We released a discussion paper for public comment in 2010, and in 2011 we established three industry reference groups to work through the details of the reform package. Later in 2011, we released exposure drafts of the bills for public comment and another roundtable was conducted with industry and government officials. And then, of course, we introduced the legislation to the parliament and it was carried by this parliament at that time in spite of the extensive consultation, the attempt at bipartisanship and the getting together with industry players, whether they be users of ships or owners of Australian ships in the shipping industry, to participate in this process.
Yet what we have now is legislation being introduced into this parliament consistent with this government’s attempts to destroy Australian shipping. We had legislation from the minister’s predecessor, the former member for Wide Bay and Deputy Prime Minister. It came before this parliament and it was the first legislation I had ever seen that made it clear in the explanatory memorandum that the result of that legislation would be the replacement of the Australian workforce with a foreign workforce. We had Australian businesses, such as tourism operators in the Kimberley, being advised by departmental officials that the way they should go forward and be competitive was to replace the Australian flag on the back of their ships, to put a foreign flag on them and to employ a foreign workforce on foreign wages.
That was an extraordinary admission made by the government officials at that time. I don’t blame them; I blame the elected government for that responsibility. Mr Bill Milby gave extraordinary evidence before the Senate about the conversations that were taking place when he asked for a briefing about how he could deal with the response to the legislation that was being put forward by the government. That legislation was defeated in the Senate because people of goodwill said they wouldn’t cop this. Senator Xenophon, who would normally, as is his practice, grant a second reading amendment so there could be further debate, killed that legislation at that point. He refused to allow it to occur.
What we have now is in spite of the fact that a birthday boy over there was prepared to make comments at a Shipping Australia Limited annual review in January 2017 like:
I am acutely aware of the need to work in a bipartisan way …
But we are not seeing that. We are not seeing that happen.
Of course, there is the euphemism of industry bodies such as ‘Shipping Australia’, which is actually about foreign ships. It shows that they know Australians want to see an Australian shipping industry, because it is in the interests of our economy, it is in the interests of our environment and it is in the interests of our national security. The minister at the table regularly speaks about stopping boats. Well, this legislation and this government’s approach has been to stop ships and boats with the Australian flag on them and replace them with foreign ships around the coast that, of course, enter our harbours without the same migration or security checks that Australian workers have to go through to get their MSICs.
We have very clearly put forward our preparedness to sit down with the minister and work through these issues. Certainty is required for legislation to produce the intended outcome—a revitalisation of the Australian shipping industry. So I am very disappointed with the minister. In spite of the fact that we received commitments about proper consultation about any legislation before it comes into the House, that simply hasn’t happened. It has been abandoned. Once again, there is another gap between the rhetoric of the government and the reality. Teresa Lloyd from the industry body, who is overseas, contacted us to tell us she had been notified that this legislation was coming in this week and asked us whether we knew anything about it. That was how we found out about the legislation. So the Australian shipping industry has not been briefed on this bill either. How hard is it to pick up the phone? We sat last week in parliament. How hard would it have been to get a proper briefing to allow for some advice before we went forward? This amendment will allow for that proper consultation to occur, and that is why it should be carried.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.