After a huge win yesterday, the MUA, today, came under fire from a slew of neo-conservative lobby groups such as AMMA and APPEA abetted by their cronies in Government.
National Secretary Paddy Crumlin made himself available to national media to debunk the myths being pedaled by those such as Michaelia Cash, who falsely claimed the oil and gas industry would come to a standstill. Here he is on ABC 24:
Crumlin also conducted an interview with Geoff Hutchison on ABC 720 Mornings aired in Perth:
Transcript of the ABC 24 interview:
TONY EASTLEY: The Senate has voted down moves which would have continued to allow foreign workers on Australian oil rigs. Labor, the Greens and the Palmer United Party teamed up to defeat the measure. The Federal Government is pushing for changes to a visa which would allow foreign nationals to work on the rigs. Paddy Crumlin is the national secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia and he joins me in the studio. Paddy Crumlin, [audio skip] they employed in the first place, these people on the rigs.
PADDY CRUMLIN: Well, there's three visas here, Tony, and they packaged them up. The 457 visa is designed - there's a labour market test - and it's designed to have skills out there that don't exist in the Australian workplace on - here, so it fills a gap. There's a gap analysis, if the skills aren't in the country, we use that. All of the workers out there on 457s, as long as it's applied properly, we've got no problem.
TONY EASTLEY: And they're on equal wages and conditions...
PADDY CRUMLIN: [Interrupts] Yeah, Australian conditions of employment, Fair Work applies.
TONY EASTLEY: ...as their fellow workers. What's different about this other group?
PADDY CRUMLIN: They've created this other visa class that completely places the existing workforce out there that has done all the work, done all the construction, Australian workers, and replaces them with an international workforce where Fair Work doesn't apply, taxation doesn't apply, none of the Australian regulatory standards apply. It's a spurious, I guess, political move to bypass the intention of the legislation, not support it.
TONY EASTLEY: And they're under a different visa which does allow them legally to work in Australia but which you say doesn't provide the right wages and conditions.
PADDY CRUMLIN: And it never existed before. There's no workers out there on this visa. If this visa came in, not the 457 - they put it in as a package, type of political trickery - the new visa was to replace the thousands of existing maritime workers out there that have built the project, that operate under Australia conditions, and bring in international workers on developing country rates of pay.
TONY EASTLEY: Right. Well Senator Michaelia Cash and a lot of other people today all the way through the industry have said without these workers working on this visa, the 988 visa, a lot of production's going to be lost and other people could lose their jobs or at least a slowdown in the oil rig's of Australia, because of the Maritime Union and Labor and the Greens and PUP voting against this.
PADDY CRUMLIN: Arrant nonsense and misleading. Mines and Metals; they should have a visa for the mines and metals people, the consultants that have created this cynical approach to bypass the legislation.
TONY EASTLEY: [Interrupts] But aren't these peo... but even you say these people are working on the rigs and they're fulfilling a role at the moment, aren't they?
PADDY CRUMLIN: No, they're not. This is a new visa, no-one's on it. 457's over here - we're okay with two out of the three visas, the new visa that they've implanted in there, you take the whole of the regulation or nothing. That's the political cynicism of the move. We said to them: take it away, keep the 457, labour testing, we're okay. Take away the MCV, which is basically to replace- there is nobody in the Maritime Crew Visa out there, Tony.
TONY EASTLEY: No-one out there at the moment?
PADDY CRUMLIN: No-one.
TONY EASTLEY: So Michaelia Cash when she - when other people say that these people, because they won't be able to work, they'll have to down tools, things will go awry, they're wrong?
PADDY CRUMLIN: Nonsense. An absolute fabrication. It's only been in place for 12 days. The people that are doing the work that this visa, the new class of visa, are Australians that have constructed the spread, that have worked out there the whole time and that they will be replaced by an international workforce. It's a loophole to distort and move around the intent of the legislation. It is a regulation to remove the legislation.
TONY EASTLEY: Alright, just finally Paddy Crumlin, did your union lobby the PUP senators to actually get the change here?
PADDY CRUMLIN: We went and had a chat to them, with the other unions. All of the unions involved out there of the same, yeah we went and had a chat.
TONY EASTLEY: Well you got Labor and the Greens, you needed PUP, didn't you?
PADDY CRUMLIN: Yeah, went and had a talk to Clive Palmer and the other senators; very interesting experience actually.
TONY EASTLEY: Did you have to convince them, or were they already of the opinion that maybe they would change their... they would vote against this measure?
PADDY CRUMLIN: No, once it was explained logically, that they bundled up these three visas and we didn't have any problem with those visas - you know, the 457 visas [audio skip] there aren't the skills in the country - once that was clarified and we moved through the guff of mines and metals, they were as good as gold.
TONY EASTLEY: Alright, Paddy Crumlin from the Maritime Union, thank you very much.
PADDY CRUMLIN: Thanks mate.
Transcript from the ABC 720 interview:
GEOFF HUTCHISON: Paddy Crumlin is the national secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia. Good morning to you.
PADDY CRUMLIN: Hello, mate.
GEOFF HUTCHISON: Paddy Crumlin, you just heard Scott Barklamb say there that these are people who are working outside migration zones, that this is what happens internationally, that this decision of last night is going to have a disastrous impact on the oil and gas sector.
PADDY CRUMLIN: Arrant nonsense, and also misleading. We're not talking about Siberia here, this is Australian territory. The migration zone was put in place after the Tampa so that refugees couldn't be landed on Christmas Island. It's Australian territory, it's Australian hydrocarbon, owned by the Australian people and leased to Chevron and the others. This is Australian territory, and should come under the laws of Australia. Somehow Scott seems to think he's going to wave a magic wand and put it in the middle of the Arabian Desert. But, this is Australia we're talking about.
GEOFF HUTCHISON: So what do you make of that decision last night? You obviously support it, why?
PADDY CRUMLIN: Well, what they did, they brought in a new visa, and again Scott's misleading in what he said, and poor old Senator Cash was battling with it. There were three visas. We're okay with the 457 visa, all of those workers out there on 457s that Scott refers to, we're happy for them to stay as long as there's a market test. If there aren't any Australians that can do those high-level professional jobs, and there's proper testing of that, then of course, the jobs have to continue, the work has to continue. There's been no problem. We're supportive of those people staying as long as there aren't any Australians that can fill the gap, you know [indistinct].
GEOFF HUTCHISON: Okay, and how concerned then are you, at this belief that those workers were being exploited, that they weren't being paid the same wages and conditions as Australian employees?
PADDY CRUMLIN: Because the proposal had a new visa, called a Maritime Crew Visa…
GEOFF HUTCHISON: Yep.
PADDY CRUMLIN: … that would bring in third-world seafarers, semi-skilled, no taxation, no regulation, no safety, no Fair Work Act - that was the piece. That's the jigsaw puzzle. And what they did, they wrapped it all up together, and said: oh look, the MUA, the big bad MUA. And it's not the MUA, it's all of the unions, all of the workers out there, were part of the lobbying, you know, on this issue. And they're saying [indistinct] They went out and created a crisis of their own doing, and it's quite easy to fix. All they've got to do is take the offensive visa away, and continue with the 457s and what has traditionally serviced the industry. But Scott didn't say that.
GEOFF HUTCHISON: No, what he has said, he cited a specialist off-shore construction vessel saying 150 Australian workers may have to be stood down because 70 non-Australians critical to operating and navigating the ship can no longer legally do their jobs. Will that happen?
PADDY CRUMLIN: No. We're happy for them to resubmit the regulation with the 457s, have those workers stay out there. Now, if there are Australians that can do the job, well then that's fine. It's about - they're filling a gap where those competencies aren't - don't exist in the country. They created this crisis under the advice of Australian Mines and Metals, and that they're standing over the situation for no other reason to avoid Australian regulation in Australian territory. That's the bottom line mate.
GEOFF HUTCHISON: Paddy Crumlin is from the Maritime Union of Australia. So, to what extent then, as we talk about what matters most to you, to what extent is your argument based on - concern that foreign workers are being exploited, or a more significant and long-term concern that if the visa system had been allowed to stay that maybe more and more of those foreign workers could be doing the jobs you say your members might?
PADDY CRUMLIN: Well, that part of the visa that is offensive was designed to do that. It didn't exist previously. Scott's right to this extent. There was a visa called a Maritime Crew Visa, but it was only for international ships transiting Australian territory. It lasted for five days. They went away, in their genius, redesigned it, made it open-ended, and then created a situation where foreign, unskilled, semi-skilled workers could come in, replace Australians currently working there, and get paid, and not have the protections that the Australian regulation, labour regulation, safety regulation. They created a crisis. It's been of their own doing.
They can submit that regulation in five minutes with the 457 visas, all the protections of those international workers at the top end, and we will agree with it, and support it. And they won't, you know. And this is, you know, it's Chicken Little - oh the sky's falling in. They sky's not going to fall in. We support them, put the regulation back the way it should be, protective both of the job and also Australian conditions of employment, and workers can continue to come in on visas and fill that gap in skills. We've got no problems with that.
GEOFF HUTCHISON: Paddy Crumlin thank you…
PADDY CRUMLIN: Tell them to put up or shut up.
GEOFF HUTCHISON: Paddy Crumlin, thank you. He's the national secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia. So very different perspectives of a decision that was made in the Senate last night. Watch this space and we'll certainly keep you up to date on the direction in which that might be heading. That whole issue of the foreign worker, what is the appropriate visa, what is the appropriate pay scale, and are those workers so important to this country, and in what kind of jobs?