The time has come to swing our shipping campaign into its next phase of action to secure the future of our blue water shipping industry.
The run down of Australia's fleet is well known. There is an historic opportunity presented to us to reclaim the blue water shipping industry destroyed so wantonly and willingly by the Howard Government in their servitude to foreign capital and the big shipping conglomerates.
The MUA has been working since the election of the Rudd Government to capture the attention of policy makers and highlight the dire need to resurrect our Australian merchant fleet. 99% of Australian trade is carried by the 4000 ships that work on our coast. It is the world's fifth largest shipping task and only a tiny portion of that cargo is carried by Australian seafarers on Australian vessels.
The MUA has put forward comprehensive policy positions on shipping reform and now is the time to lobby our Federal politicians and particularly Cabinet Ministers with those propositions for delivering the goods for the Australian shipping industry and for the workers in the industry and for the people ofAustralia generally.
We have already made some achievements. These include Deputy PM Julia Gillard's extension of the Fair Work Coverage to guest workers on our coast - but due to Opposition - this does not apply to ships with one or two permits a year and there is a one year grace period.
The Deputy PM has also announced funding for training of Australian seafarers to help overcome the skills shortage ($2.1M to the Australian MaritimeCollege for funding its seafarer training programs for 2010. This builds on funding of $1.5M provided in 2009.)
The Minister for Transport has made SVP permit process more transparent and announced upcoming changes to the Navigation Act.
But this is not enough and we will need to lobby hard to secure the real changes needed to save our industry and keep Australian shipping afloat.
We are calling for:
- No free kicks, but incentives to invest in new Australian ships - which are common in major shipping nations.
- A tax system based on ship tonnage rather than profits like in theUK.
- Tax breaks for Australian seafarers working in international shipping. It means Australian based ships can operate more economically.
- Changes to laws and regulation to coastal shipping so that wherever possibleAustraliaships and crews are used in our domestic trade - like in theUSA. (reform the Navigation Action and Ministerial Guidelines for Granting Licences and Permits to Engage inAustralia's domestic shipping)
- Australian awards to cover ALL guest workers on the coast. (by extending the Fair Work act to all foreign ships trading on our coast)
- An industry driven national skills and training scheme boosting numbers and skills - preparing us for the freight task ahead.
The MUA has prepared campaign kits and there are committees set up in every Branch to further the struggle and intensify the lobbying. We are working to ensure that every Federal Labor MP is visited with particular emphasis on Cabinet Ministers. We will have speaking notes available for those who visit local members and Cabinet Ministers. We will be highlighting the benefits of a revitalised Australian merchant marine. These include the environmental arguments of low greenhouse emission shipping, the positive effect on trade, jobs and human rights, the economic arguments and the defence and security arguments.
It's up to us to move the policymakers. The first stage of our campaign is to ensure we make the visits a success and send the message loud and clear that is in the interests of the entire country to Keep Australia Afloat because An Island Needs Ships.
Contact your Branch where a committee is set up to roll out this campaign. Get involved for your future and more importantly... Let's leave our kids an industry not a memory of days gone by. Get active!!
Visit our campaign site and put your own ship on the coast at: http://www.mua.org.au/campaigns/keep-australia-afloat/
Keep Australia Afloat | An Island Needs Ships.
Assistant National Secretary
Maritime Union of Australia