Oct 31, 2015

Shipping changes will destroy Aussie jobs on Bass Strait

The Turnbull Government has admitted that planned changes to shipping laws will destroy Tasmanian jobs by causing the operators of four of the six vessels engaged in Bass Strait cargo trade to sack their Australian crews and replace them with cheap foreign labour.

The Government’s Shipping Legislation Amendment Bill, which passed through the House of Representatives on October 14 with the support of Tasmanian Liberal MPs, will allow foreign-flagged vessels paying third world wage to undercut Australian vessels working on domestic coastal trade.

Australian operators, who are required to pay Australian-level wages, will be unable to compete.

Economic modelling that is part of the legislation clearly states that the Government expects its proposals to destroy jobs.

It says: “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’’.

The modelling says that under the regime put in place by the former Labor Government, which requires foreign vessels to pay Australian-level wages to maintain a level playing field, six Australian flagged cargo vessels operate on Bass Strait.

But it notes that under Malcolm Turnbull’s changes: “We assume four vessels will register under a foreign register to reduce operating costs’’.

That means the Australian crews of those four vessels operating on Bass Strait will be sacked and replaced by overseas mariners.

That 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.

Mr Turnbull is about to engage in senseless unilateral economic disarmament.

Labor calls on the Prime Minister to withdraw this legislation immediately.