Shadow Employment Minister Brendan O'Connor joined a number of other high profile speakers at a Devonport rally in support of the recently sacked Alexander Spirit crew. Below is the transcript of his doorstop.
BRENDAN O’CONNOR SHADOW MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT AND WORKPLACE RELATIONS: We’re concerned that the Australian Government wants to run down not only the Maritime Sector of our economy, but the shipbuilding sector as well. So 100 jobs disappeared only yesterday in Adelaide. I just think Australians must think this is unbelievable. That a crew is being asked to sail a vessel to Singapore, to hand over that vessel, and their jobs, to foreign crew. I’m not suggesting this issue is an easy thing to fix, but to see the Minister for Employment insult these workers in this way, quite frankly is a national disgrace. You’ve got workers on this vessel, there’s one soon to have a kid. He’d be worried about the security of his employment, he’d be worried about paying the bills. I know of another that just had a child. They will be worrying about their mortgage and paying the bills and whether they can keep their house. These are real life problems. These are not just a set of numbers and for Senator Abetz to be so dismissive and so insulting in his remarks, underlines the lack of empathy and the lack of interest that the Abbott Government has when it comes to protecting Australian jobs. I think the Minister should come down and speak to the crew and to the union and the employer about whether we can get past this, because I don’t think Australians think this is providing a fair go for these workers.
JOURNALIST: What do you think needs to happen here?
O’CONNOR: It starts with conversation. It starts with the Minister for Employment agreeing to come down and talk to the company, and talk to the workforce and talk to the union about whether we can resolve this matter. At the very least, show the respect and decency that these workers deserve and say that you have an interest in their livelihood and in their families, because turning your back on them, but even worse, publicly insulting them is not helping their interests. Also it is showing a callous disregard for workers in this country, and quite frankly the Abbott Government should be ashamed of themselves. JOURNALIST: There are workers on there now who aren’t able to get off due to minimum safety requirements, what is your take on that?
O’CONNOR: Well it is what it is. Of course there are requirements about the way in which crews man vessels and they have to be complied with. I think the bigger question is, can the Government play a role in protecting the industry and protecting workers on vessels? It seems to me they are happy to see the end of Australian jobs. They’d be happy to see and encourage in fact people getting about $2 an hour to man these vessels. That’s a terrible shame. We’ve watched the Abbott Government attack the car industry, we’re seeing them really let down the shipbuilding industry, and now in the maritime area, we’re seeing legislation proposed in the House that wants to undermine conditions of employment. We’re seeing a government turn its back on Australians that are here on a vessel, that are being asked to sail a vessel to Singapore to hand over the vessel and their jobs to foreign crews. I think it’s a shameful thing and I think most Australians would think it’s a shameful thing too.
JOURNALIST: Do you share the same concerns that Jacqui Lambie does on terrorism and foreign ship workers not having to deal with the same security issues that Australians workers –
O’CONNOR: I think there are a series of issues. From my point of view, the priority is jobs, but of course there are environmental and security matters that go to the way in which we allow vessels into our waters and the way in which they get around our areas, particularly when you’re talking about fuel and fuel security. So there are serious questions about how that is managed. Of course it is easier to manage security issues when you have your own crews. I’m not the only one that thinks that. You’ve got the head of the Border Protection Rear Admiral Noonan, has said the same thing about concerns in relation to environmental problems that can arise. When you’ve got the ADF, and the Labor Opposition raising questions, I think it’s incumbent on the Federal Government to sit down and talk to the company, to the union and the crew, indeed should have an industry discussion, an industry summit, to talk about protecting local jobs and making sure that environmental concerns and other security concerns are managed in a way that Australian’s would feel safer.