Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler—Leader of the House, Minister for Infrastructure and Transport and Minister for Regional Development and Local Government) (15:26): I am opposed to this opportunistic resolution from the Member for Denison and the Member for Kennedy. I say with respect to them: don’t come here and lecture about what the alleged interests of Australian shipping are before you are actually aware of the facts of what this legislation is and will do. The Shadow Minister has not even had a briefing from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority about these issues. This is a deeply irresponsible and deeply opportunistic position that would lead to a shutting down of Australian ships and a consequential loss of massive productivity for our nation.
This proposition suggests that there is something before the Australian Parliament to downgrade. There is no such proposal before the Australian Parliament, none. The union responsible for putting this legislation forward has not bothered to knock on my door, as the Minister in a Labor Government, about the consequences of this legislation. They have not bothered to knock on the door, and the deputy chair of the House of Representatives Committee in this area knows full well how irresponsible this legislation is. He should talk to his leader of his party about it because his leader has also had direct briefings from Australian ship owners, the Australian shipping industry—you know, the one that put the red ensign on the back of the flags—that say they will not be able to operate if this legislation came in.
Whatever motivation people have for this being put forward, this is deeply opportunistic as is this suspension of standing orders. The Opposition over here is allowing and wanting this to go forward, having put forward a proposition from the Member for Cook. If they vote for this proposition to suspend standing orders, they will be voting to knock off his MPI—the so-called big issue he is concerned about and that the Opposition are concerned about. That is why standing orders should not be suspended. They also should not be suspended on the basis of what happened earlier today. What happened earlier today was that an amendment was moved on the floor of the Parliament by a Government Member that had not been seen by an Opposition Member.
When that was pointed out to me as Leader of the House, even though there was a majority sitting over here, I quite rightly moved the adjournment of that. If this Bill were to be brought on and were it to be allowed further debate—and there are further speakers from the government who wish to speak on this Bill, what does this do?
The Opposition’s position in supporting this suspension—if they indeed support it—says that, when you have Government Bills before this Parliament, everyone has a right to speak, but, when you have a Private Members’ Bill, it has a higher authority than a Government Bill. It can have just a couple of speakers in the Federation Chamber, and then we will bring it down here. Let me tell you: if it is brought down here, there will be considerable debate and a range of amendments to the legislation so it does not shut down the industry. There will be in the order of more than 80 that will be debated one by one. If we want to go down this track—and I say to the Member for Denison and the Member for Kennedy: with due respect, neither of them nor any of the other crossbenchers can say that at all times I have not attempted to facilitate fair and proper consideration of items of business that they have wanted to put forward. To move a suspension of standing orders to bring on a Private Members’ Bill to debate in this Parliament is a complete abrogation of those proper processes and an abuse. I say this—
Mr Katter: Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I am being misrepresented.
The SPEAKER: The Member for Kennedy will resume his seat. There are other forms of the House. It is not a point of order at this stage.
Mr Katter interjecting—
The SPEAKER: The Member for Kennedy will resume his seat. He has been in the Parliament long enough to understand the processes. The Minister has the call.
Mr ALBANESE: In terms of the proposition before this Parliament I say to the Member for Kennedy: have a look at what we have done to increase monitoring through REEFVTS and protection of the coastal region in North Queensland. When we had shipping reform, we had a committee—the deputy chair is here—that issued a unanimous report in October 2008. In February 2009 I formed an advisory group of industry leaders to help us work out how to implement that report. I followed this up during the 2010 election campaign with shipping policy commitments. On 1 December 2010 I released a discussion paper that proposed important reforms and invited submissions to be provided by the end of January 2011. As you are all aware, in January last year I established three industry reference groups which consulted and provided advice to the government on tax and regulatory and workforce elements—a proper process. We produced an exposure draft of the bill. We had debate on the bill in this Parliament—a proper process that engaged industry and unions in full participation.
The joke here is that the Members of the Opposition, who are attempting to take the Independent Members moving this motion today for a ride, say it does not matter, because nothing will actually happen when it goes through the Senate. Nothing will happen anyway, so do not worry; we are just in on this because we have had people knock on our doors and say, ‘This is an attack on one union by another union,’ and that is all we will engage with. So be it, I say, but do not be used by the Opposition for what essentially is another element of their consistent anti-union agenda.
I say to the Members opposite that, if this bill did pass, it would result in Australia introducing outdated and inconsistent standards with global shipping, resulting in Australian shipping contravening international training and certification standards and conventions. The national president of the union that is putting this forward would no longer be eligible and certified and would be knocked out of the industry. I say to them as well that how training in this country is done is not in a way that is put in legislation. If you do training in legislation, when technology changes, you cannot change the training. You cannot adapt. This is an industry where technology changes. You cannot enshrine training in legislation. That is not what happens in industries across the board. It does not happen in electricity. It does not happen in plumbing. It does not happen across the sectors. You cannot do that. This is really an extraordinary proposition. It creates the precedence of setting training standards in legislation outside of the national vocational education and training system—outside of the VET system. This is an attack on that whole system, and that is why this bill needs to have proper further consideration—
Mr Katter interjecting—
Mr ALBANESE: With due respect to the Member for Kennedy, he has had no discussion with me on this legislation—none. And he is seconding this resolution. I know a bit about this industry and I have got a proud record in this industry. I understand and respect the position of the Member for Kennedy, which is why I say to him: do not proceed with this. Have a sit-down with me and some of the experts– (Time expired)
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.