The Federal Coalition has passed up the opportunity to support long-awaited reform of the Australian shipping industry.
Despite going to the last election broadly in support, Nationals Leader Warren Truss has declared he is opposing the reforms.
Mr Truss said that the proposed changes would allow international competitors to “dramatically undercut" Australian suppliers on shipping costs alone.
“In a flashback more than 30 years, Labor and the unions are re-writing the Navigation Act to force businesses that ship products around our coastline to use local union-dominated vessels," Mr Truss said.
“Right now it costs about the same to ship cement from China to Australia as it does to ship it from Adelaide to Port Kembla.
"Under the Gillard government’s sop to the maritime union, our biggest competitors in cement – China, Indonesia, Taiwan and Thailand – will dramatically undercut Australian suppliers on shipping costs alone."
The proposed reforms are part of a package of bi-partisan recommendations of the 2008 House of Representatives Standing Committee on Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government.
A spokesman for Mr Albanese said it is "disappointing but sadly predictable" that the Liberal and National parties would seek to politicise shipping reform.
"For no reason they’ve decided to walk away from what up until now had been a bipartisan approach to revitalising the Australian industry," he said.
"In government they were indifferent to the industry’s plight and presided over a rapid decline in the number of domestically-flagged vessels.
"Now from opposition they are attempting to wreck our efforts to prevent the demise of the whole Australian industry."
"The Gillard Labor Government firmly believes a competitive and growing domestic shipping industry is in Australia’s long term national interest."