May 28, 2012

Question Without Notice – Australian Shipping Reform

Ms SMYTH (La Trobe) (14:38):  My question is to the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport. Will the Minister advise the House of the government’s efforts to revitalise the Australian shipping industry? What are the obstacles to this important reform to create jobs for Australians?

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler—Leader of the House and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) (14:38):  I thank the member for La Trobe for her question. In part because of the resources boom, Australia’s shipping task is now the fourth largest in the world. But, at the same time as it has been growing, the number of Australian ships operating has been in drastic decline—from 55 in 1996 to 21 today, with just four operating internationally. Given that we are a country where 99.9 per cent of our exports are moved by ships, there will soon be no Australian shipping fleet to revitalise. We need to act now or we will simply not have an industry at all, and an Aussie flag on the back of an Aussie ship will be consigned to history. Our reforms are designed to encourage investment in Australian shipping—not through protection but by ensuring that Australian ships operate competitively with their international competitors through zero tax for Australian shipping companies and zero tax for Australian seafarers. Those opposite have never seen a tax reduction that they could support.

This is sensible policy to level the playing field with our international competitors. That is why it has been welcomed by the shipping industry and that is why it has been welcomed by many users of ships. These reforms are entirely consistent with the unanimous recommendations of the House of Representatives inquiry of which the member for Hinkler was the deputy chair. Those opposite should get on board for this important reform. We have had a parliamentary inquiry which was established in 2007 and which reported in 2008. In 2009 I convened the Shipping Policy Advisory Group, which contained groups such as BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and the Australian Shipping Association. In 2010 we fulfilled our election commitment by delivering a discussion paper. In 2011 there were three industry groups, including the tax group chaired by Treasury. There were industry representatives on each of the three groups, which dealt with taxation, regulatory reform and workforce development issues. We had exposure drafts of the legislation and yet those opposite say ‘no, no, no’ to this reform. They want another inquiry. The walking vuvuzela is back again. Aussie seafarers on Aussie ships with an Aussie flag on the back, carrying Aussie goods around the Aussie coast and internationally: how hard is it to say yes to this reform? (Time expired)