The Turnbull Government has taken its first step toward destroying the Australian shipping industry, with the House of Representatives today backing legislation allowing foreign flagged vessels to undercut Australian ships on domestic trade routes.
Passage of the Shipping Legislation Amendment Bill came despite clear warnings from Australian shipping companies that the changes will destroy their businesses.
Last month Perth cruise ship company representative Bill Milby, of North Star Cruises, told a Senate inquiry into the legislation that senior officers in the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Affairs had told him that if he wanted his business to remain competitive under the changes, he should register his vessel overseas, sack his Australian crew and hire cheap foreign labour.
Mr Milby’s evidence, confirmed by the bureaucrats involved, demolished the misleading claims by Transport Minister Warren Truss that the legislation will support growth in Australian shipping.
The true intent of this legislation is to replace the Australian flag on the back of vessels working our coastline with the white flag of surrender on Australian jobs.
The only justification put forward by the government for this legislation is that it will reduce freight charges.
While Labor also wants to reduce costs for business, we will never support legislation that does so by destroying an entire industry and putting thousands of Australians out of work.
No other G20 nation allows a free for all on coastal trade.
This ideologically driven legislation represents unilateral economic disarmament.
Labor will reject the Bill in the Senate and work with crossbenchers to ensure it never passes into law.
We want to see the Australian flag flying off the back of freighters in Australian waters and around the world.
Labor had held out hope that new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull would shelve the legislation in the name of common sense.
However, it is clear that despite Mr Turnbull’s attempts to present himself as a moderate face, he is prepared to put the interests of his friends in business ahead of the livelihoods of average Australian workers.
This legislation is WorkChoices on Water. It must be rejected in the national interest.