Jun 1, 2015

Private Members’ Business – Shipping

Federation Chamber

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (13:00): I am pleased to support this resolution that has been moved by the member for Newcastle. I do so as someone who understands that, as an island continent, Australia depends upon Australian shipping. More than 99 per cent of our exports and imports are moved by sea. Our starting point is that it is in Australia’s national interest to have an Australian shipping industry. It is in our economic interest, in our environmental interest and in our national security interest. That is why we brought in a comprehensive plan of reforms—not a protectionist model that occurs in a place like the United States, where ships not only have to be US owned and operated to operate around their coast but have to be built in the United States as well. We did not go down that sea. What we did was make sure that there could be competition in terms of accessing the blue highway.

We should allow these reforms to have an opportunity to work, because they were comprehensive. They went to employment and training, they went to providing tax breaks and they went to ensuring that people moving domestic freight around our coast seek an Australian flagged vessel in the first instance. But there would be a permit system to allow foreign flagged vessels around our coast if an Australian operator was not able to undertake that task. So it is a flexible system but one that operates in the interests of the nation.

Those opposite simply want to introduce Work Choices on water. They are so obsessed by the Maritime Union of Australia they never mentioned the Australian companies that run the shipping industry here. It is all about the workers. If you move freight by road, the truck driver must be paid Australian wages and conditions and the truck must satisfy Australian standards. If you move freight by rail, the people who work in the rail network are paid under Australian wages and conditions. There is no reason whatsoever for any different arrangements to operate on the blue highway. For those who speak about border security, the idea that people on a Liberian flagged carrier can operate, not complying with environmental conditions, certainly renders us vulnerable compared with the control that is there in the Australian system.

When it comes to Tasmania, the Tory state Premier of Tasmania got elected on a promise of funding an international ship from Tasmania to take exports to Asia. That is what they said they would do and they have now dropped that and instead made changes to TFES at a cost to the taxpayer. That is the reality. They committed a fraud upon the voters of Tasmania by pretending that government, not the market, could determine the operation of shipping from Tasmania. What they know, and operators know, is that the increase in costs for Tasmanian shipping is due to the increase in port charges that occurred in the Port of Melbourne under the Napthine government. That was the big increase in costs.

When it comes to an Australian ship, there is a total staff of 15 that operate a container ship. The difference in labour costs is minimal. The member for Lyons says it was a minuscule charge. That was before the businesses who operate out of the Port of Melbourne recently saw an 800 per cent increase proposed. And they say it is miniscule!

A government member interjecting—

Mr ALBANESE: And he says ‘one stevedore’. How many stevedores do you think they have? When you look at the detail of their proposal, you see they have not done any work. It comes down to ideology; it comes down to Work Choices on water. Like their crazy proposal for open skies in northern Australia, it should be rejected.