Canberra Calling

Seafarers take the ship campaign to Parliament

MUA delegations from Port Kembla, Newcastle, Sydney and Melbourne converged on Canberra for the last week of Parliament, last week to urge government to come good with its promised ship reform package.

The delegation of mainly rank and file seafarers divided into small groups to meet face to face with MPs and senators urging them to talk to their cabinet colleagues about supporting reforms the Labor Government had promised to deliver in its first term of office.

"We now accept the shipping policy to be implemented next year," said Paddy Cumlin.  "But an announcement is overdue.  The industry needs some certainty before it will invest in Australian ships.  We're not asking for handouts, just the tax incentives and regulations necessary to attract investment in the industry."

The lobby sessions were spread out over three days with the NSW team returning on the eve on the political changes that rocked Capital Hill and the nation, leaving the Victorian team there to witness history in the making.

 Kevin Bracken and Terry Mundy, MUA were in the gallery at Parliament House when the move from a Rudd to a Gillard Government got under way.

"I heard before it was all happening, but I didn't expect it to happen then," he said. .   "Everyone still kept their appointments to talk shipping bar one which was when Caucus met on Thursday morning at 9.30. "We had meeting with Louise Pratt while Kevin Rudd made his departure speech and watched in Catherine King’s office as Julia Gillard, made her inaugural speech as Australia's first woman PM.

"Carol King chaired of parliamentary inquiry into revitalising the Australian coastal shipping industry," said Kevin.  "She's very supportive we were both on the Port Melbourne branch of the Labor Party a few years back. She's been very good helping us get to see people.

"The delegation appears to have gone very well," said NSW delegation leaders Neil Swanson and Keith Russell on their return. "The knockout punches were the Aussie Passport to Shipping and the tonnage tax. The issues of exploited labour carrying our domestic cargo, the environment, national security and defence, Australian job's for Australian seafarers were easy to sell and consistent with ALP Party platforms, in fact their support for them was a given."

Neil and Buster found that what the MPs seemed to be most interested in was the economic arguments underpinning our campaign.

"We all know that the political conversation has been framed in this country over the last 25 years by the economic rationalist, and more recently the Neo Economic Liberals, both in Canberra and the Mass Media. To that end they're telling us that they support us but our arguments need to make economic sense in the "cold light of day."

Testimony to the success of the visit was news that Melissa Parke, the Member for Fremantle, spoke for The Australian Shipping Campaign/industry in Caucus on June 22, encouraging her colleagues to support the impending policy package being delivered by Transport Minister Albanese.

While in Parliament cafe Neil Swanson spotted (former IR minister and an architect of the 1998 war on the wharves) Peter Reith walking past.

"I sarcastically let him know that since he has been such a wonderful supporter of both our Union and Australian Shipping over the years that it would be remiss of me not to present him with his very own Australian Passport to Shipping, there was a bit of sting in my delivery and although he tried to laugh it off."

All in all the MUA delegation of 11 seafarers and officials got to meet with 31 MPs and senators over the three days - some by appointment some by chance.

This is in addition to the already 16 visits to local MPs and senators in their electorates still under way.

"Each and every one  has done a brilliant job," said MUA Assistant National Secretary Warren Smith. "Along with the other states we now have got to the vast majority of ALP MPs and advocated the MUA's vision around the future of Australian shipping.
"Thanks particularly to Buster and Neil who have worked tirelessly in Sydney to organise and participate in visits to MPs. The value of members visiting their local members cannot be understated and will no doubt contribute positively to the campaign to develop our nations shipping industry. Thanks to all and congratulations on a great and successful delegation."

MUA SHIPPING CAMPAIGN CANBERRA DELEGATION:  Neil Swanson, Keith Russell, Glen Williams, Dave Butler, Ben McLucas, Wally Pritchard, Garry Keane, Danny Brady, Vince Allport, NSW; Kevin Bracken, Terry Mundy, Victoria.

Special thanks to Jennie George who hosted the NSW delegation.  Jennie is retiring from parliament this year and the union hosted a dinner in her honour during the visit.

The union is naming ships after Jennie and every senator and MP who pledged their support for Australian shipping

See Keep Australia Afloat Petition