Sep 4, 2015

Shipping plans imperil major investment

An Australian shipping company has warned the Senate that proposed Abbott Government shipping laws will jeopardise the company’s plan to invest at least $100 million on two new Australian cargo vessels.

SeaRoad Holdings managing director Michael Easy says shipping reforms put in place by the former Labor Government in 2013 encouraged the company to decide to buy two new ships to work between Tasmania and the Australian mainland.

But Mr Easy has warned that Tony Abbott’s proposal to dump Labor’s reforms will imperil his plans and benefit no-one but foreign shipping companies.

“It is crucial to our funding arrangements, Tasmania’s future and Australia’s credibility on the world stage that the legislation acknowledges that the current regime be preserved on Bass Strait,’’ Mr Easy wrote in a formal submission to the Senate’s Rural and  Regional Affairs committee.

In 2013 the former Labor Government introduced the Revitalising Australian Shipping package, which included tax breaks and training subsidies for Australian shipping companies, as well as confirming the requirement that foreign-flagged vessels working in Australian coastal waters pay their crews Australian-level pay rates to maintain a level playing field.

The Abbott Government plans to dump these arrangements, claiming they are not working in their stated aim to revitalise Australian shipping.

However, Mr Easy says in his submission that Labor package encouraged SeaRoad Holdings to seek and obtain bank finance to make its $100 million investment in two vessels, the first of which is due to begin operating at the end of 2016.

“Central to these negotiations was the positive understanding that the Australian Government was actively promoting a reinvigoration of Australia’s maritime industry by encouraging direct investment,’’ Mr Easy wrote.

“The proposed legislation will jeopardise this position and is likely to severely impact our current ship replacement plans.’’

Mr Easy added that the Abbott plan would “only benefit foreign shipping interests’’ and was “likely to force upward pressure on pricing.’’

It is in Australia’s economic, environmental and security interests to maintain a viable domestic shipping industry.

The Government’s plans represent unilateral economic disarmament.

Labor wants to see the Australian flag flying off the back of ships in Australia and around the world.

But Tony Abbott wants to raise the white flag on the future of Australian shipping.