Tony Abbott has today launched his long-expected attack on Australian workers with legislation that will destroy the Australian shipping industry by exposing it to unfair competition from foreign-flagged vessels.
Legislation introduced in the House of Representatives will allow foreign-flagged vessels working between Australian domestic ports for up to 183 days a year to pay Third World level wages.
This means they will undercut Australian shipping companies that pay Australian-level wages and drive them out of business, putting Australian mariners out of work.
The Shipping Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 would demolish the level playing field on Australia’s domestic sea routes created by the former Labor Government.
The Labor reforms required people seeking to move freight by sea to first seek out an Australian vessel. Where an Australian vessel was unavailable, domestic freight could be moved by foreign-flagged vessels provided they paid Australian-level wages.
Labor’s reforms, the result of a year-long consultation process with stakeholders, also included tax breaks for Australian-owned vessels as well as support for skills training.
Tony Abbott’s legislation is the equivalent of WorkChoices on water.
It will put at risk the jobs of 2000 Australian mariners and 8000 jobs in associated sectors.
It has nothing to do with the national interest.
The legislation is linked to the Government’s obsessive hatred of the Maritime Union of Australia and its desire to use maritime reform as the thin edge of the wedge for broader WorkChoices-style change across the economy.
If a business wants to move freight from Sydney to Melbourne on the Hume Highway, the truck must meet Australian safety standards and the truck driver must be paid Australian level wages.
There is no reason that the arrangements for domestic freight on the Hume Highway should be any different to those on blue highway.
If you work in Australia you should to be paid Australian level wages.
It is that simple.
It is in Australia’s economic, environmental and security interests to maintain a local shipping industry.
Australian Maritime Safety Authority figures show that since 2004, inspectors have detained 122 international-flagged oil tankers because they were overloaded or had defective equipment or serious deterioration in their hulls which was judged to be a risk to their seaworthiness.
In the same period they detained no Australian-flagged oil tankers.
Australian mariners are familiar with the important environmental assets that are critical to the success of our tourism sector.
They are also required to undergo stringent background checks as to their character to safeguard national security.
Labor will oppose the Shipping Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 in the national interest.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.