Opposition Leader Bill Shorten was in Darwin with Senator Warren Snowdon and ALP candidate for Solomon Luke Gosling. He was asked the following by a reporter:
JOURNALIST: Can I just ask you to respond to Michaelia Cash’s comments which I’m quoting, she said ‘Bill Shorten’s relationship with militant unions are defined by clear tendencies and wilful subservience’, and she’s referring to NUA, and she also quotes you as talking about laws need to be broken, we’re going to get locked up in 2013, and says we need to act decisively (inaudible), what do you say?
SHORTEN: If you’re asking me to respond to a right-wing Liberal minister attacking me for standing up for working people, well, you know, what’s news in that other than to get the view that gets printed. What I say is that my dad was a seafarer. I’m very proud of what Australian seafarer’s do, and I’m very committed to the working conditions of Australian seafarer’s. I’m also very committed also to having Australian flag vessels.
I think it’s a disgrace that we are seeing, even on the Australian coastline, fewer Australian flag ships, and we are seeing more ships flagged for tax reasons in tax havens in the West Indies, and it does worry me with the loss of Australian shipping, the environmental protections of the Australian coastline including the Great Barrier Reef. It does worry me that what we are seeing is tax regimes of tax havens being used to game the Australian shipping industry.
I do not support mindless militancy. I do not support illegality. I do think all participants in the workplace, employers, employees and their representatives must always adhere to the rule of law. That is my very prod track record of 20 years. But I come from a seafaring family, I know how hard seafarer’s work, I value what they do – and just because what they do is beyond the breakers of the Australian shoreline, does not for me, absolve the responsibility of Australian policy makers to ensure that our seafarer’s go to sea in safe ships, that they are well paid, and that the shipping companies carrying Australian cargoes should pay proper taxes and make sure that Australian laws are being respected.
So I say to Michaelia Cash: I get that you’re a paid-up member of the Liberal Party, I get that you’re probably not going to vote for me at the next election, but let’s never sell out Australian seafarer’s because they’re the backbone carrying Australia to the world.