Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) National Secretary Paddy Crumlin today addressed the Bluewater Seafarers Commission in Melbourne.
Crumlin said with the world’s fourth largest shipping task it was incumbent on Australia to have its own sovereign fleet.
“This is about the right to work in our own country,” Crumlin said.
“The political elites and corporate powers want to kill off unionism … there is a move against organised labour."
Crumlin said Australia is rapidly losing control of shipping, while manufacturing is also in a parlous state.
He reiterated the point that shipping plays an important role in maintaining the maritime skills base, as well as providing jobs, protecting the environment and ensuring our national security.
"If shipping goes from the coast it will extend to the offshore because the two are indistinguishable,” Crumlin said.
Crumlin said it was a failure of national leadership – in particular Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey – to push the car industry out of Australia.
There were now dangerous parallels with the smelting of aluminium and the need to better use our natural energy reserves to benefit all Australians.
“We soon won’t make cars in this country - and in this state - and if we don’t get it right we won’t be making aluminium in this state either,” Crumlin said.
"If there’s no attempt to link up our energy with our steel industry then this joint’s [in serious trouble].
"No-one should be elected for not providing the jobs for the future."
Crumlin said it is nothing short of a disgrace what happened the MV Portland, where Australian seafarers were forcibly removed from their bunks in the middle of the night in January this year.
"Why is it right that we were dragged out of our bunks in the middle of the night and dumped on the wharf in our own country, for no other reason that there’s cheap alternatives that pay no tax?” Crumlin said.
"There’s something seriously wrong.
“The current Federal Government continues to give out Temporary Licences when they shouldn’t and there is no better way to move cargo around the coast than by ship."