Alexander Spirit: Anthony Albanese on Radio National

Below is the transcript of Shadow Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese's interview with Fran Kelly on Radio National:

KELLY: Ok, well let's go to the maritime dispute in Tasmania. This Royal Commission that Bill Shorten will be appearing before is really putting a spotlight back on workplace relations. This dispute dragging on in Devonport, we talked about it earlier in the week on the program - a blockade of the Alexander Spirit oil tanker. 36 crew have been sacked by Caltex. The union says its plan to replace them with foreign sailors. Caltex says it no longer needs the tanker to transport fuel between domestic ports. If this tanker is now needed on international routes, is there any reason why it shouldn't have an international crew? 

ALBANESE: There's no reason why it shouldn't have an Australian crew, Fran. What we're seeing is a conscious government decision to replace Australian workers with foreign workers, with foreign wages. This is a pre-emptive move, I think, by Caltex in anticipation of that and that's the context in which it is happening. A company deciding to get rid of its Australian crew, that will of course continue to operate from Australian ports and it's no wonder that this is a very traumatic situation for these Australian crew members who are being asked to take the Alexander Spirit offshore but, they won't be coming back on it. 

KELLY: The government does have legislation before the Parliament, as you say; perhaps this is a pre-emptive move by Caltex. The government legislation would allow foreign flagged vessels working between Australian ports to employ foreign sailors. The government says its reforms are aimed at reducing costs and increasing competitiveness and competitiveness has been lost because of the laws Labor introduced. 

ALBANESE: This is nonsense, Fran. If you move freight between Sydney and Melbourne on the Hume Highway, you have to have an Australian truck that is registered and has Australian safety standards, and you have to employ someone on Australian wages and conditions. If you decide to use the blue highway to carry that freight, on a domestic task between Sydney and Melbourne, under the government's proposed laws, you can have a foreign ship, with foreign safety and occupational health and safety standards, you can pay them foreign wages and conditions to undertake this task on Australian waters, essentially. This will leave the Australian industry at a massive competitive disadvantage. This is unilateral economic disarmament. No advanced country in the world engages in this sort of activity in which there's a free for all on the Australian coast and there’s no distinction in the legislation that's been carried - it removes the definition of Australian ships.  
KELLY: But the government says the blue highway is almost empty as a result of the Labor government's reforms, because under Labor shipping costs increased, and there's been a significant decline in the use of Australian cargo ships. 

ALBANESE: The government's lying, Fran.

KELLY: Let me give you an example the government gives, and you can respond. For example, they say it's cheaper to ship sugar from Thailand to Australia than to sail it around our own coast under the laws you put in place. How can Australian companies compete when they pay high transport costs like that?

ALBANESE: It's just not true, Fran. This logic that Australian wages are too expensive for Australian businesses conducting Australian freight taken to its logical conclusion, let's have Filipino truck drivers, let's have Chinese people running our trains on those sort of wages and conditions. There are a range of reasons why the Australian shipping industry is vital for our national interests. It's vital for economic interest, our environmental interest, and our national security interests. This is a government that talks a lot about boats but doesn't want to see the Australian flag around the Australian coast, because that is what will happen under this policy.