The Maritime Union of Australia has attended today’s emergency shipping summit in Melbourne, which was hosted by the ACTU and Independent Senator John Madigan.
The summit coincided with the release of The Australia Institute Report, commissioned by the MUA, into the Abbott Government’s proposed changes to the Coastal Trading Act.
The Australia Institute Report investigated the cost benefit analysis of the Government’s own legislation and found that only 88 Australian seafarer jobs will remain under Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss’ preferred option for policy change.
This represents a loss of 1,089 Australian seafarer jobs, or 93 per cent of the current workforce and would mean the decimation of the maritime skills base.
ACTU Secretary Dave Oliver said: "It is a national disgrace that the Abbott Government wants to trash yet another Australian industry due to its ongoing ideological crusade.
"That's why the ACTU and Senator John Madigan are convening this summit. We need to get the balance right by working with unions, politicians and business to ensure a long-term sustainable Australian shipping industry into the future."
In addition to Mr Oliver and Senator Madigan, other participants included Senator Jacqui Lambie, Senator Ricky Muir, Greens Senator Janet Rice, Bob Katter MP, the ALP’s Pat Conroy MP, Maritime Industry Australia Ltd (MIAL) Chief Executive Teresa Lloyd and International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) Maritime Co-ordinator Jacqueline Smith.
Senator Madigan said he was concerned by the potential loss of more than one thousand Australian jobs.
"Coastal shipping goes to the very heart of our national security. I'm very concerned that the Government seems hell bent on doing to the coastal shipping industry, our seafarers, the same that they did to our automotive industry,” Mr Madigan said.
"It puts Australians out of jobs. Once we lose seafarers skills in this country, we will be very hard to get them back and we will be at the mercy of others."
Mr Madigan did say that the point of the summit was to put politicians, unions and industry representatives in one room to try to ensure the survival of the industry.
“We’ve got to look at how we can do things better and that means getting all the parties together, the workers, the unions, the companies to work in a collaborative manner where everybody gets a fair cut of the cake and we secure the future of the Australian shipping industry for the benefit of all,” he said.
Importantly, key crossbench senators signalled they do not support Minister Truss’ shipping industry reforms as they stand.
The ALP and The Greens had previously indicated they would oppose the bill.
"There won't be enough votes, no way in hell, the bill is not going anywhere," Senator Lambie said at the summit.
Senator Lambie said Infrastructure Minister Warren Truss should sit down with unions and the industry for talks on amendments to the reform bill.
"If the Government doesn't have votes to get the bloody Coastal Shipping Bill through now, Truss has no choice," she said.
"This is what happens when you don't consult - I'm sick of the born to rule mentality."
Greens senator Janet Rice said the bill before the house was an "ideological attack" on existing coastal shipping laws.
Senator Muir said: “By deregulating the system and flooding our market with foreign workers and foreign ships we'll run into all sorts of problems."
MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin said from the floor that Australia was a seafaring nation.
“Coastal shipping has successfully operated in Australia for more than 100 years and it needs to continue,” he said.
“Australia cannot function without homegrown seafarers.”
Senator Lambie said that fellow cross bench senators Nick Xenophon and Glenn Lazarus, who could not attend, were also against the legislation as it stands.