The Australian Senate has voted down the Turnbull government’s deregulation plans for Australian shipping.
The Shipping Legislation Amendment Bill – defeated 31 votes to 28 - would have allowed foreign ships paying third world wages unfettered access to Australian domestic trade, says the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA).
MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin said the vote sent a strong message that Australian jobs and industries should be front and center of policy making.
“The Senate has rightly decided that the Australian shipping industry is vital in terms of jobs and value to the national economy,” Crumlin said. “Australian crews are the most highly trained in the world and all have high-level security screening. As a result, Australian-flagged ships are demonstrably safer than Flag of Convenience shipping and have a strong record in protecting our pristine coastline.
“Had they passed, the government’s changes raised serious questions on national security, fuel security, jobs and skills and protection of our environment."
However, Crumlin said there was more hard work needed to ensure the future viability of the sector, including those on board the MV Portland. The 19 crew on board the Portland have refused to sail the ship to Singapore where their jobs would be given to foreign seafarers.
Their employer, Alcoa, has exploited a loophole whereby the company has been granted a temporary license by the Turnbull government to use a foreign vessel even though there are Australian ships and seafarers available to service the trade as they have done for the last 50 years
This license is intended for use on foreign trading ships that call into more than one Australian port when the Portland solely trades in Australian waters.
“The MUA is challenging the use of the Temporary Licence in the Federal Court. It is a national disgrace that Alcoa has been allowed to dump Australian workers in favor of foreign workers on as little as $2/hour,” Crumlin said.
“On the back of today’s decision in the Senate, the Turnbull Government should reverse its decision and embrace the spirit of working together shown at the recent shipping summit convened by the ACTU. We need to build our economy on long term essential industries that grow into service clusters including finance, environmental management, regulatory leadership, safety and security.”