The MUA’s fight for jobs on the lawns of Parliament House was forced to escalate after the overnight news that Australia’s last domestic tanker – the British Fidelity – was finishing up, rendering another 40 seafarers out of work.
The BP-owned British Fidelity became the third ship this year to sack its Australian crew, rendering hundreds of seafarers unemployed with little chance of them finding employment in the future.
The original stunt of ‘Slick the Oily Surfer’ was still carried out, only speakers talked about the need for job protection, as well as the need to protect the environment from dodgy foreign ships of shame.
As a result, the two ‘Slicks’ (sourced from Southern New South Wales Branch as nobody from Newcastle volunteered) were joined by high profile speakers: ALP Shadow Environment Minister Mark Butler, AMWU Assistant National Secretary Glenn Thompson and crossbench Senators Jacqui Lambie, Glenn Lazarus and John Madigan.
Assistant National Secretary Ian Bray, who emceed the event, said it was a disgrace that the Government was enabling companies to undermine Australian workers.
“Another day and another 40 workers have been shoveled onto the scrapheap and the Turnbull Government remains silent in its complicity,” Bray said.
“There are approximately 1000 seafarers out of work at the moment and the Government intends to add another 1000 to that number through complete deregulation of the coastal shipping industry.”
Additionally, Australia is the only developed country to not have fuel security policy and Australia only has approximately a fortnight’s worth of fuel in reserves.
“Not having domestically-crewed ships puts Australia’s fuel security at further risk,” he said
“This is a Government that doesn’t have a plan. They don’t have a plan for jobs, they don’t have plan for fuel security.
“I thought the adults were in charge, but I am yet to see anything adult coming out of parliament.”
Senator Jacqui Lambie was one of the members of the recent Fuel Security Senate Inquiry and she estimated Australia only had 9 to 11 days of fuel in reserve.
“I’d like to see what happens to the country if that stops flowing, so they can have a reality check,” Lambie said.
“I’ve had a gut full, just like Senator Madigan has, just like Senator Lazarus has of your jobs going.
John Madigan delivered and impassioned speech in saying self-regulation of business did not work.
“Not everything is about money,” Madigan said.
“The greatest gift we can give is the dignity of a job.
“Often you hear in the governments rhetoric is about there being a deficit, well the greatest deficit in Australia today is an integrity deficit and our greatest export is our jobs.”
Meanwhile, Queensland Senator Glenn Lazarus took aim at the current guard:
“We have a Prime Minister who wants to carry on about an ‘Ideas Boom’, well I have an idea for you Malcolm; how about you start providing Aussie jobs and not send them overseas?’
“The manufacturing industry is almost gone, our shipping industry will be if we allow it go by the wayside.
“We’re going to have election sooner or later, and I hope to God people will vote with their feet, otherwise we’re going to go down a very slippery slope.”
The AMWU’s Glenn Thompson made an impromptu but powerful speech about the state of manufacturing. In recent days Australians had discovered a contract to build submarines had been offered to Spain in a bidding process which had excluded Australian manufacturers.
In the morning, prior to the ‘Slick’ event, another group of AMWU workers had used the Jobs Embassy to highlight the declining steel industry in Whyalla and they were joined by South Australian MP Nick Champion in a media doorstop.
Also that morning, the two Slicks - Mick Cross and Blair Walsh - were joined by a busload of MUA members and trade unionists from the Shell Harbour workers and the South Coast Labour Council's Arthur Rorris. They used the jobs embassy to highlight the concerns of workers in southern NSW and the need to get rid of the LNP's Anne Sudmalis from the seat of Gilmore. ALP MPs Stephen Jones and Sharon Bird joined the group to talk about Labor's plan for the region.
Port Adelaide representative Mark Butler rounded off the afternoon’s speeches in highlighting the importance of a strong domestic shipping fleet.
“If there’s a single country in the world, with the fourth biggest shipping task in the world, where 99 per cent of of our goods go on ships, for an island continent in a pretty touchy part of the world, which needs a domestic shipping industry, it’s Australia,” Butler said.
“Australian crew are the best trained seamen in the world. They know Australian waters better than anyone. They care about our beautiful environmental assets like the Great Barrier Reef like no one else on the face of this earth does and not they’ve been replaced by foreign crews paid $2-an-hour, working ridiculous shifts and are simply unable to do their work in the same way an Australian shipping crew can do.”