The Turnbull Government has relaunched its attack on Australian maritime jobs with legislation that will make it easier for shipping companies to sack Australian crews and replace them with overseas mariners earning third world wages.
The Coastal Trading (Revitalising Australian Shipping) Amendment Bill resurrects the Government’s WorkChoices on Water legislation, rejected by the Senate in 2015 because it would have destroyed thousands of Australian jobs.
The legislation would have allowed overseas vessels paying their crews as little as $1.25 an hour to undercut Australian vessels paying their crews Australian-level wages.
After its Senate defeat, the Government promised that any new attempt at shipping reform would involve widespread consultation in a spirit of bi-partisanship.
However, early today Transport Minister Darren Chester broke that promise by introducing his new legislation without consultation with the Opposition and, more importantly, the maritime sector.
The Government also rejected Labor’s attempt to delay the full debate on the new legislation to allow for the consultation that was promised.
While the Opposition has not had time to review the new legislation in detail, it is clear the changes would make it easier for overseas-crewed vessels to obtain temporary licences which allow them to operate in Australian waters on temporary jobs where no Australian vessels are available.
Since the defeat of the WorkChoices on Water legislation, the Government has been abusing the temporary licence system, issuing licences in circumstances where the work was not temporary and in which Australian vessels were available.
Mr Chester’s new changes appear seek to legitimise this abuse in a fresh attempt to destroy Australian jobs.
It is in Australia’s national interest to genuinely revitalise Australian shipping.
The industry not only provides jobs for Australians who pay tax in Australia, but its existence also serves our national security and environmental interests.
Australians want to see more Australian-crewed ships working around our coast and around the world.
But the Turnbull Government wants to replace the Australian flag on the back of ships with the white flag of surrender when it comes to Australian jobs.