Sep 8, 2015

Transcript of doorstop – Parliament House, Canberra

Subjects: Senate shipping inquiry hearing; Bill Milby; department confirms it told an Australian business to replace Australian workers with foreign workers; China free trade agreement; Cory Bernardi comments on Syria

Good morning. Last night saw explosive evidence before the Senate legislation committee. Bill Milby is a decent businessman. He’s a businessman who runs a company, North Star Cruises, which employs Australians to take other Australians and visitors from around the world to see the majestic Kimberley.

When confronted with the situation of the current draft legislation that’s been introduced before this Parliament, Mr Milby said that that legislation would put him out of business. When he enquired as to how he should respond to this, he was given advice by Departmental officials to remove the Australian flag from the back of his ship, replace it with a foreign flag, replace his workforce with a foreign workforce, and that is the way that he could compete, by essentially becoming the same as a foreign flagged ship.

Mr Milby called that out. Then the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister essentially said that he’d lied about what happened. Last night Mr Milby gave evidence under oath before the Senate Committee. He was very clear about what occurred, not once, but twice. Once in May in Sydney, and then in June in Canberra, that he was given that advice as the way for his business to remain competitive.

What’s more, he named the officials involved, Judith Zielke and Michael Sutton. They were next up to give evidence. And they gave evidence and backed up Mr Milby’s case. They said very clearly, when Bill Heffernan asked a question;  “So, Mr Milby, was telling the truth when he said you discussed with him the option of going offshore etc?.” Judith Zielke; “Yes.”.

It was very clear from last night’s evidence that these were the options that were put forward by the Department for his business to survive. The Department said, well, they were just options. Well they were – he had two options. Option A: put a foreign flag on the back of your ship. Option B: go out of business. And as Mr Milby said very clearly, he doesn’t blame the departmental officials and nor does Labor. Last night they told the truth before the Senate Committee.

What they were doing in explaining to Mr Milby his options was also telling the truth; that unless you remove the Australian flag and replace you Australian crew with foreign crew, then you simply won’t be able to compete.

And that’s a message that’s there in the findings also before the Senate Committee where they found that 88% of the savings were due to foreign wage costs compared with Australian wages. They expected that all but two of the ships that operate around the Australian coast would remove the Australian flag and replace it with a foreign flag.

We heard evidence from the Tasmanian operator SeaRoad of that in spite of the fact they’ve invested $100 million in a new ship creating jobs here in Australia. So it’s not just jobs at North Star Cruises. It’s not  just jobs in terms of those people in either tourism or freight sectors, but jobs in manufacturing, in shipbuilding, of SeaRoad’s respective ships.

Yet here we have a government determined to pursue this measure. Determined to see the loss of Australian jobs. It appears their ideology is so extreme that their idea, their sole objective is to get rid of jobs that are currently held by MUA members. The way they do that is getting rid of the Australian shipping industry. They were extraordinary revelations.

Mr Truss misled the Parliament yesterday very clearly, very explicitly when he said that this did not occur. It did occur and the two senior people in charge of shipping in his own department confirmed to the Senate last night that it did occur. He must come in at the first opportunity and correct the record.

Mr Abbott must at the very least apologise to Mr Milby for calling this Australian businessman operating in Western Australia a liar.

The third thing that should occur is that this legislation should be withdrawn. It is flawed. It will result in simply the replacement of Australian seafarers with foreign seafarers, Australian flag with a white flag when it comes to Australian jobs. This is WorkChoices on Water. This is ideology before common sense.

REPORTER: Mr Albanese, a few things. Mr Truss has only misled Parliament if he knew about this advice being given to Mr Milby. The second thing is what’s the Department giving advice like that anyway?

ALBANESE: The advice was right.

REPORTER: But is it up to the Department to be giving out that kind of advice? Don’t you have reservations about that?

ALBANESE: Of course it’s up to the department to give honest responses to people who are in industry. This launch of Mr Truss’ where the advice was first given was after Mr Milby had asked a question of Warren Truss. Warren Truss referred Mr Milby to the Department. That was the evidence last night. So Mr Truss refers him to Judith Zielke, who’s the person in charge of this policy area for the response. That implies an authority not just of the Department but of the Minister himself, who launched this policy at the Orwellian-named Shipping Australia.

Shipping Australia are the non-Australian shippers. That is where this policy was launched. They call themselves Shipping Australia because even they know that Australians actually get that as an island continent, it’s probably a good idea if the Australian flag has a presence.

So Mr Milby gets referred, Mr Milby then isn’t satisfied with the answer so asks to see the Department, travels to Canberra, saw Judith Zielke and her superior, Michael Sutton, in the Departmental offices, gets told the same advice.

This issue was around last week. Reported on. Mr Milby was on The Project last week, live on TV, in response to Mr Abbott saying that he was lying. So Warren Truss had all of last week to enquire. He said yesterday he made enquiries of the Department. Why didn’t Warren Truss ask Judith Zielke?

Everyone knew it was her, because in the submission to the Senate enquiry, Mr Milby named Judith Zielke by speaking about the Executive Director and who was present at the meetings. Mr Truss stood up in Parliament yesterday and said this didn’t happen.

What’s more, he said this couldn’t have happened, because he doesn’t understand the policy implications of his own legislation that Departmental officials, from both the Department of Infrastructure and the Department of Employment claimed last night.

Now it may well be that ignorance or stupidity is his excuse rather than treachery, but this is treachery when it comes to Australian jobs.

REPORTER: This is only draft legislation though.

ALBANESE: No. This is before the Parliament. This has been introduced in the House of Representatives. This is a Senate enquiry properly called into that legislation. So it’s before the Parliament, there’s been no consultation with industry and all of industry put that forward, a lack of consultation. That was the theme last night.

Maritime Industry Australia Limited, the Australian based shipping industry was very clear about their opposition to this legislation last night. This is not thought out. This would just dismiss having an Australian shipping industry.

REPORTER: Just on the China free trade deal, the Government’s ramping up its pressure against Bill Shorten to back the deal. What else do you need, does Labor need in order to support the free trade deal?

ALBANESE: We need a bit of government common sense. We see from this legislation that’s before the Parliament that this is a government that doesn’t care about Australian jobs. Labor supports free trade. We support increased engagement with China.

What we simply want to make sure in terms of labour market testing is that if jobs are created through this arrangement, then Australians have an opportunity to apply and participate in that employment creation.

REPORTER: The Government says that jobs will be lost if the China deal doesn’t go ahead.

ALBANESE: The government says all sorts of things. This is a government that has forgotten how to govern. This is a government that acts like an opposition. This is a government in which Tony Abbott has put a motion on the Notice Paper, today, like he’s some backbench MP.

Tony Abbott has lost the plot. Prime Ministers don’t move motions on Notice Papers. That’s what Shadow Ministers do, and government backbenchers do. This is a Prime Minister without authority in his own party room and without authority in the community.

The way that he called out Mr Milby last week while he was campaigning in Canning simply said to this Western Australian businessman, who’s created jobs including people who live in Canning and in Perth, that he has lost any authority as Prime Minister. He never made the transition.

He was a good opposition leader. He was good at saying no. He was good at wrecking things. He’s continued to wreck things. He’s forgotten he’s the government.

He’s wrecking his own government with his behaviour, with his childishness, with the way that he’s failed to have a plan to actually govern.

Mr Abbott had a plan to get into government. He doesn’t have a plan to govern. Two years on, that’s very obvious.

REPORTER: Mr Albanese, just one more question on refugees. After a moment of bipartisanship in Question Time yesterday, or at least the attempt to have bipartisanship in this area, we saw some comments last night from Cory Bernardi in the Senate. He’s described the refugee crisis in Europe as becoming an opportunistic cycle. What do you think about that?

ALBANESE: Cory Bernardi is an embarrassment to this Parliament. Cory Bernardi should have a good look at himself and the implications of some of the things that he says. I don’t blame his Party in this case. It’s pretty clear that he just goes off but I think probably the best response to Cory Bernardi is to treat him with the contempt that those comments deserve.