Mar 22, 2012

Shipping Registration Amendment (Australian International Shipping Register) Bill 2012 – Second reading speech

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler—Leader of the House and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) (09:22):  I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

Australia’s burgeoning commodity trade provides us with a once in a generation opportunity to become part of the international shipping trade.

This bill, the Shipping Registration Amendment (Australian International Shipping Register) Bill 2012, will provide the vehicle to achieve this.

Currently, we have only four Australian flagged vessels participating solely in the international trade.

We need to move up the value chain—not only do we want to mine the iron ore for the world; we should be transporting it to the world as well.

Over the last 20 years, international registers have been embraced by many advanced countries, which, like Australia, have seen a large portion of their fleet register offshore.

International registers offer some of the benefits of open registers, such as the ability to use crew of different nationalities, while ensuring that the ship owner maintains a strong link to the country of registration.

These are not flags of convenience.

All companies with vessels on the international register will need to demonstrate strong links to Australia, ensuring that our maritime safety regulator, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) has the regulatory reach to ensure compliance with our high safety, environmental and occupational health and safety standards.

Consistent with this, the primary objectives of this reform are to:

  • facilitate Australian participation in international trade;
  • provide an internationally competitive register to facilitate the long term growth of the Australian shipping industry; and
  • promote the enhancement and viability of the Australian maritime skills base and the Australian shipping industry.

The bill establishes two shipping registers—the general and the international registers.

Unlike the general register, AMSA will have the discretion to register a vessel on the international register and will have the power to cancel registration.

The bill sets out a range of matters that the registrar may have regard to when making a decision to register a vessel.

This decision is reviewable.

This discretion is important to ensure that we maintain a quality flag.

The crewing and labour provisions are a key element of this bill and go to the core of its competitiveness.

Before I outline these provisions, I would like to thank those in the labour movement who have worked with us on these provisions.

This reform package is not pro-union, it is not pro-business; it is pro-Australian.

Both employers and unions alike have worked constructively with the government to ensure that these reforms are world’s best practice and offer the industry the best chance to compete on a level playing field with international shipping.

The bill provides for mixed crews on the Australian international register vessels.

However, international vessels will be required to employ a minimum of two Australian crew members; preferably the master and the chief engineer.

One of the benefits of mixed crewing will be the employment opportunities for seafarers in the Pacific region and I know that the Maritime Union of Australia is working hard on these regional partnerships.

To ensure that the international register is competitive, crews will be employed on international terms and conditions while engaged in international trading.

These employment conditions are in accordance with the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC).

Minimum wages and a number of conditions are set out in the bill.

Unless specifically amended in this bill, the provisions of Chapter 2 in the Navigation Act 1912 will also apply to these seafarers.

This creates a safety net.

The bill provides for collective agreements to be negotiated through a seafarers’ bargaining unit (SBU).

A collective agreement agreed with the SBU will be required for registration in the international register.

The bill also ensures that seafarers who suffer long term injury or death are adequately compensated.

The bill requires that ship owners hold insurance cover that provides for the level of compensation set out in the International Transport Workers’ Federation Uniform Total Crew Cost Collective Agreement.

AMSA will have additional powers to ensure vessels comply with the working, living and crewing condition provisions contained in this bill.

A civil penalty and infringement notice regime is also established under the bill.

These measures are important to show there is no derogation of standards.

Greater involvement by Australian companies in international trade will provide the catalyst to reinvigorate our domestic trades.

Consistent with this, vessels registered in the international register will have limited access to the coastal trade.

Operating under temporary licences, these vessels can compete with foreign flagged vessels in the coastal trade.

As I have already made clear, the Fair Work Act 2009 will apply to vessels operating under temporary licences.

To ensure our ships are on a level playing field with foreign flagged vessels, the Seafarers Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1992 will not apply to international register vessels.

I know there is some concern that some coastal trading vessels may seek to avoid their legal responsibilities by joining the international register.

This will not happen.

The bill includes a requirement that vessels must be predominantly engaged in international trading.

Registration can be cancelled if this requirement ceases to be met.

I commend the bill to the House.

Debate adjourned.