The Maritime Union of Australia today backed Budget measures to lift spending on resource and freight infrastructure but said Australia would not be prepared for the substantial freight task ahead if the next steps did not include incentivising and revitalising Australian shipping.
"Items in the Budget like the new $5.6 billion infrastructure fund to help manage capacity restraints in resource rich States and progressing the Moorebank intermodal transport solution for freight movement in the Sydney basin are important initiatives. But the next steps in the freight solution must include mechanisms to trigger investment in shipping infrastructure which is in a parlous state" said Paddy Crumlin, National Secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia.
"The Budget sees the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) industry as a "key driver" of the economy and that LNG production could increase to around 3 per cent of GDP by 2013-14, doubling current levels of engineering construction investment in Australia.
"Australian flagged ships make up less than 20 percent of the current shipping fleet exporting LNG and when we think of future infrastructure, there must be a place for Australian ships and crews in this trade", Mr Crumlin said.
Mr Crumlin said the Government's provision of $5.1 million to fund the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) is a significant move. The regulator will also now regulate all commercial vessels, not just those involved in interstate and international trade.
"The decision by the Government to publicly fund AMSA and it places a new obligation on the regulator to lift its safety performance standards across the maritime industry", said Crumlin.
Mr Crumlin also felt skills training funding was among the best news in the Budget.
"While the $660 million comes after a major call from industry and unions it does not diminish its importance. In areas like LNG and mineral resource development we have clearly lagged in skills provision and maritime workers have been among the most affected. This funding promises nearly 40,000 new training places in places where it is desperately needed such as infrastructure, construction, renewable energy and resources."
Mr Crumlin also welcomed the Government's extra $14.5 million for Australian transport safety authorities to help train Indonesian authorities regulate higher safety standards, particularly in their maritime sectors.
"We have seen how often our own merchant seafarers find themselves in Indonesian waters and involved in actions with refugee vessels and any dollar used raising security and safety standards at this level is money well spent. It's ultimately the security of Australia that's being looked after", said Crumlin.