Government Must Urgently Adopt Shipping Reforms

The Maritime Union of Australia today urged the Federal Government to urgently adopt reforms to revitalise Australian shipping in circumstances where there are real and ongoing threats of further losses of Australian trading vessels from the coastal trade.

“It’s become clear to the Maritime Union of Australia in recent discussions with major shippers of Australian bulk commodities just how critical reforms to the regulatory and policy settings for shipping are”, National Secretary of the MUA, Paddy Crumlin, said.

“The maritime unions and major shippers agree that the package of reforms are needed to support  new operational and industrial arrangements  being  formulated by unions and shipping operators that will enable the efficient  use of  Australian crewed vessels in the Australian coastal trade”, Mr Crumlin said.

The MUA moved an emergency resolution at the ALP Conference today urging decisive action by the Government on shipping reform calling for the adoption of the shipping incentives and reforms formulated since the Parliamentary Inquiry into Shipping last year, as soon as possible.

“Policy measures needed include the introduction of tougher criteria determining the use of foreign ships in the coastal trade, a tonnage tax which is now global best practice in shipping aimed at increasing investment in shipping, and other operating incentives as well as the reform of PAYE tax for Australian seafarers who spend a greater part of their time on international routes.

 “We have consistently been seeking Australian flagged and crewed vessels operating under union collective agreements, supported by permits only in specific circumstances, including instances like an emergency cargo requirement”, Mr Crumlin said.

“A failure to reform the shipping policy arrangements will effectively mean the Government has accepted that Australian coastal shipping is a legitimate tax haven for foreign shipping interests and a refuge for substandard labour conditions.

“A revitalised Australian shipping industry has significant potential benefits in areas including employment, taxation, balance of payments benefits, Asia-Pacific regional development objectives, national security and naval defence capability, reduced freight transport contributions to greenhouse emissions and development  of a  maritime skills workforce that is essential to Australia’s future operational port capacity, maritime safety and marine environment protection needs.

Paddy Crumlin: 0418 379660

Michael Meagher: 0410482367

(Today’s Emergency Resolution at the ALP Conference is attached)

SHIPPING POLICY REFORM RESOLUTION  - ALP Conference July 30, 2009

Chapter 3: Building a 21st Century Economy

Conference notes the detrimental consequences that the lack of a positive Australian shipping policy has had on the Australian shipping industry over the last 13 years.  The failure of Coalition Government Transport policy, which excluded shipping, ignored maritime infrastructure spending and failed to realise the benefits of an efficient and integrated freight transport market that takes advantage of Australia’s large shipping volumes has led to a crisis in Australian shipping.

As the largest island nation in the world with the 5th largest shipping task, this crisis is manifested in the continuing decline in the Australian merchant fleet, the over exploitation of the use of foreign ships and foreign crews in the Australian domestic shipping and the failure to leverage any national interest benefit from our huge international commodity shipping task. 

Conference notes and welcomes the initiatives of the Rudd Government that have the potential to revitalise Australian shipping, both its domestic and international dimensions.  These initiatives include: establishment of a Parliamentary Inquiry into Australian coastal shipping policy and regulation which has recommended a package of fiscal and regulatory reforms; the extension of the Fair Work Act to cover all shipping in Australian waters; gaining COAG support for creation of a single national safety regulator for the maritime sector; announcing a review of the Navigation Act; announcing work on a National Ports Strategy; and progress towards ratification of the International Labour Organisation Maritime Labour Convention.

The stage reached in the global economic cycle provides a window of opportunity for a nationally significant rebound of investment in shipping and related maritime infrastructure under modified policy and regulatory settings.  The global availability of suitable shipping hardware, the bottoming of international freight rates and the re-emergence of global growth creates the ideal conditions for Government to act without delay to reform the policy environment to attract that investment in shipping.

Conference therefore urges the Government to respond to the Recommendations of the Parliamentary Inquiry into shipping as an urgent priority and to ensure that any legislative change is expeditiously introduced into the Parliament.  Conference also urges the Government to consider complementary workforce development measures and industry policy support measures in its shipping reform package aimed at maximising Australian employment and in ensuring domestic innovation and capital sources are properly focussed to underpin shipping business success.  The ongoing threats for a further reduction to Australian coastal shipping underlies the urgency of this comprehensive Government response.

Conference notes that a revitalised Australian shipping industry has significant potential benefits in the areas such as employment, taxation, balance of payments benefits, Asia-Pacific regional development objectives,  national security and naval defence capability, reduced freight transport contributions to greenhouse emissions and to develop the maritime skills workforce that is essential to Australia’s future operational port capacity, maritime safety and marine environment protection needs.