Infrastructure Minister Warren Truss continues to misrepresent his own departmental officials by rejecting their sworn testimony that they told a Perth shipping company executive that if he wanted his business to remain competitive under Mr Truss’s new shipping laws, he should sack his Australian staff and replace them with cheap foreign labour.
And questioned today in Parliament about what written advice he or his office received from his department about the explosive exchange with Bill Milby, of North Star Cruises, Mr Truss arrogantly refused to answer as he continued to avoid scrutiny of job-destroying shipping plans.
Mr Truss’s Shipping Legislation Amendment Bill, which is before the Parliament, would allow foreign-flagged vessels paying third world wages to undercut Australian operators.
On Wednesday evening Infrastructure Department officials Judith Zielke and Michael Sutton told a Senate committee hearing that on May 20 and June 16 they held meetings with Mr Milby to address his concerns that the shipping changes would make his business uncompetitive.
Ms Zielke and Mr Sutton confirmed that they told Mr Milby that re-registering his vessel True North
offshore and hiring cheap labour on foreign wages was the option available to him if he wished his business to be able to compete. The other option is that he would go out of business.
Today in Question Time, Mr Truss flatly arrogantly rejected their testimony.
And when I asked him to back up his claims by producing any written advice he or his office had received from his Department about the Milby affair, Mr Truss ran a mile.
There is nothing less dignified than watching a Minister of the Crown hanging public servants out to dry rather than taking responsibility for his own actions.
Even worse, by refusing to recognise the facts, Mr Truss is impugning the integrity of Mr Milby, a respected Western Australian businessman.
The advice given to Mr Milby by Ms Zielke and Mr Sutton about the effect of the shipping changes was perfectly in line with the proposed legislation.
The Bill will demolish the level playing field in shipping created by the former Labor Government, thereby putting Australian shipping companies at a competitive disadvantage over foreign vessels.
It is time for Mr Truss to stop shooting the messenger and apologise to Mr Milby, who said in several interviews this week that he resented the government’s suggestion that he was not being honest about his meetings with Ms Zielke and Mr Sutton.
Mr Truss should also apologise to the Parliament for his continued misleading statements about the discussions between Mr Milby and the departmental officials.
Above all, he should scrap his proposed shipping legislation, which would destroy Australian jobs in an act of unilateral economic disarmament.
Labor wants to see the Australian flag flying proudly behind Australian vessels around Australian coasts and overseas.
Instead, Mr Truss and Mr Abbott want to raise the white flag on Australian jobs by imposing legislation best described as Work Choices on Water.