ALP frontbencher Anthony Albanese today defended the Rudd/Gillard Government’s record on delivering shipping reform.
As Minister for Infrastructure, Albanese’s reforms to the Coastal Trading Act were the most substantial in a century, in a bid to ensure the survival of Australia’s sovereign flagged shipping industry.
However, Abbott Government Minister for Infrastructure Warren Truss last month signalled an end to cabotage, which is the set of rules that level the playing field for Australian ships on our coast.
Truss indicated a willingness from the Government to de-regulate coastal shipping and allow Flag of Convenience (FOC) shipping to compete.
“We’re facing a full frontal assault on our reforms,” Albanese told the MUA National Council.
"The reforms weren’t protectionism – they were about a level playing field for Australian ships.
"You can’t bring in a Filipino truck driver to bring a load up the Hume Highway - it should be no different on the blue highway.
"We’re not asking for special favours – we’re saying that if an Australia ship is available, it should be used.
Albanese said he wast sure how far the Abbott Government would go "but they haven’t given the reforms a chance to operate".
"They’re using the Productivity Commission report into Tasmanian Shipping and the Coastal Shipping Review to try to wind back reforms.
"But it’s worth noting that the Australian Shipowners Association (ASA) is in the same position - it isn’t just the union fighting this.
Mr Albanese also reaffirmed the ALP’s opposition to the Abbott Government’s changes to the Seafarers Tax Offset.
MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin said the retention and improvement of the 2012 Coastal Trading Act by the Abbott Government would protect Australian jobs, the maritime skills base and the environment.
“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,” Mr Crumlin said.
“Cabotage is not industry assistance in that no taxpayer funds are directed to the Australian shipping industry.
“Shipping is essential to national security and we cannot allow essential skills to be placed in the hands of non-Australian interests.
“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.”
From all of the National Council photos, see here.