The Turnbull Government has admitted that planned changes to shipping laws will destroy Australian jobs by causing the Australian shipowners to sack their Australian crews and replace them with cheap foreign labour.
Economic modelling associated with the Shipping Legislation Amendment Bill, which passed through the House of Representatives on 14 October, vindicates concerns raised earlier this year by Perth cruise ship company representative Bill Milby.
The legislation will allow foreign vessels paying third world wages to undercut Australian vessels that are obliged to pay Australian-level wages.
In September Mr Milby, of North Star Cruises, told a Senate committee examining the legislation that it would damage his business by exposing it to unfair competition.
Mr Milby said that when he raised this with the government, bureaucrats had told him that one way to respond would be to sack his Australian crew and replace it with an overseas crew on lower wages.
Although Transport Minister Warren Truss rejected Mr Milby’s evidence despite confirmation from the bureaucrats involved, the legislation itself makes the government’s intentions crystal clear.
Many of the operators currently operating under the Australian General Register would likely re-flag their vessels in order to compete with the foreign operators who enjoy the benefit of comparatively lower wages rates.
This legislation is a stunning betrayal of the national interest.
It is extraordinary that an Australian government is proposing legislation that is deliberately designed to put Australians out of work.
No other G20 nation allows a free-for-all on coastal trade.
In the United States, for example, the Jones Act requires that all domestic shipping is conducted using American-built ships which are owned and crewed by Americans.
This is because the US understands that it is in its economic, environmental and security interests to maintain a vibrant local industry.
Malcolm Turnbull and Mr Truss are about to engage in senseless unilateral economic disarmament.
Labor will continue to work with the crossbenchers to ensure this short-sighted legislation is rejected in the Senate.