The Budget papers have confirmed the Abbott Government will attempt to throw another Australian industry on the scrap heap with the announcement it intends to radically alter the Coastal Trading Act or remove it altogether.
MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin said that if implemented, this represents a radical policy change that is ignorant or negligent to the critical importance of a domestic shipping industry.
“The MUA strongly urges that the Coastal Trading Act is not unwound as it is demonstrably in the national interest to retain and grow the coastal shipping industry,” Mr Crumlin said.
“These changes could spell disaster on a number of fronts – maritime jobs, skills, fuel security, maritime security and pose a threat to the environment.
“Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss has finally shown his hand in his ongoing efforts to unwind the Coastal Trading Act and open up Australia’s coast to foreign shipping.
“The Abbott Government’s changes could directly impact around 2,000 direct jobs and up to 8,000 associated jobs so 10,000 Aussie jobs could be on the chopping block.
“But rather than protect local jobs, the Abbott Government wants to open up our coast to all comers – carrying such substances as car and jet fuel, diesel and ammonium nitrate.
“There could also be a significant impact on the offshore oil and gas sector - with limited visa regulations and oversight.
“It simply doesn’t make sense and indicates the Abbott Government is on yet another ideological crusade against unions, pushing blindly forward without thinking of the consequences.”
Mr Crumlin said the 2012 changes to the Navigation Act and introduction of the Coastal Trading Act were the biggest maritime reform since the passing of the Navigation Act 100 years ago.
“The reforms have the potential to create employment, sustain business opportunities and productivity and build the national interest through an industry that is critical to the quality of Australia’s economy, environment and way of life,” Mr Crumlin said.
“We need to maintain a regulatory framework that provides an access regime built on the principle of fair competition that provides for both Australian ships and foreign ships to meet the coastal freight needs of shippers.
“What we don’t want to see is more Flag of Convenience (FOC) ships, with their poor standards and exploited crews, take over our ports and displace Australian vessels.”
“Australia is one of the world’s great shipping nations – in both wartime and in peace.
“One in eight merchant seafarers were killed in the Second World War in our territorial waters and we shouldn’t be making changes which could impact our front line of maritime security.
“All of that history and skills base could be sunk by cheap political ideology and policy negligence which would see widespread tax avoidance, third world safety standards and non security-profiled international seafarers servicing a domestic industry on a full time basis.
“It is a policy decision designed to replace Australian workers in an Australian industry with workers more exploited then those agricultural workers recently exposed by the Four Corners program.”