Jun 3, 2015

Matters of public importance – Budget

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (15:41): I must say that it is pretty hard to respond to thin air. What we have had from the parliamentary secretary there is a complete failure to defend the government’s position at all. This is a political movement opposite us that have never seen a working condition that they did not seek to undermine. They know that they cannot bring back Work Choices through the front door, through industrial relations reform. But Transport is just one example of where they are bringing back Work Choices through the back door. In the maritime sector they have a policy of Work Choices on water. They have an aviation proposal of Work Choices in the sky. It comes from the ideological position outlined in the Harper review. The Harper review said that ‘consistent with the approach the panel recommends for other regulatory reviews, the panel considers that restrictions on cabotage for shipping and aviation should be removed’.

What does this not very well known idea of cabotage mean? It means that nation states understand that industries that are engaged in the global industries of shipping and aviation defend their national interests by having a preference for industries within their own borders. That is what it means. It is as simple as that. It is a national interest test. But what are we seeing from them? In aviation, we have a proposal to allow foreign airlines to fly on domestic routes. There is not a single country in the world that allows that to happen—not one. It is unprecedented. But they would allow foreign airlines to come in and undercut Australian wages and conditions, to operate in northern Australia.

This proposal is the thin end of the wedge. When they attack workers, they also attack Australian industries. So this proposal is opposed by Qantas, Virgin, Jetstar, Airnorth and Tiger. All of them employ Australians, with Australian wages and conditions—and, importantly, Australian safety standards.

We heard a lot this week about the cabinet split amid—to quote the Prime Minister—the ‘come to Jesus moment’. Cabinet solidarity again has gone to hell in a handbasket. Andrew Robb is out there in the paper today bagging any suggestion that this proposal should not go forward

He speaks about vested interests. When he says vested interests, those vested interests are Australian interests, Australian jobs, Australian wages, Australian conditions and Australian industry.

In the maritime industry, they have an extraordinary proposition. If you wanted to take goods from Sydney to Melbourne on the Hume Highway, you could not bring in a Filipino truck with Filipino safety standards, employ a Filipino worker, pay them Filipino wages and have them travel from Sydney to Melbourne down the Hume Highway. It would not be allowed. But what they want is a situation where, if that journey takes place carrying Australian domestic freight on the blue highway from Sydney to Melbourne, you can have a foreign flagged vessel paying foreign wages with foreign conditions and foreign safety standards.

We saw some examples of exactly why that is inappropriate just this week on the Four Corners program. Australian ships are not the ones that have hit the Great Barrier Reef. Australian ships are not the ones that do not have the same controls over the security cards that the aviation and maritime industries have. For a government that talks a lot about borders, they want a free-for-all on our coast. They want a free-for-all where there is absolutely no protection for Australian maritime interests—none whatsoever—as well as in the skies. They are showing that they are putting their ideology before the national interest.