Time is running out for the Coalition to pass its dormant coastal shipping deregulation Bill with at most six Parliamentary sitting weeks left until the next federal election, which is expected in May next year.
The Senate quietly passed administrative changes to two Bills late last week but the Government is yet to try its hand in the Upper House on far more controversial changes to coastal shipping.
The MUA’s continued lobbying efforts mean the Government simply does not have the numbers to pass its Coastal Trading Act amendments that would effectively deregulate the sector and result in 90 per cent of job losses in the industry.
The amendments passed last week impacted the the Maritime Legislation Amendment Bill and the Shipping Registration Amendment Bill with supporters of coastal shipping taking the opportunity to remind the Government of the importance of an ongoing coastal shipping fleet.
Changes to the Maritime Legislation Amendment Bill sought to clarify legal questions concerning the nature of Marine Orders made by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.
Its practical effect will be to ensure that Marine Orders have the same legal status as regulations, including that they include penalties for non-compliance.
Changes to the Shipping Registration Amendment Bill 2018 made minor amendments to the shipping registration process to modernise the system.
The amendments remove the shipping registration certificate from existing Regulations and allow them to be directly approved by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.
By taking the certificate forms out of the Regulations they can be updated and changed as needed without going through the lengthy process of amending the Regulations themselves.
The Bill includes a suite of other minor associated reforms including:
Requiring the Australian Maritime Safety Authority to publish forms on its website.
Clarifying responsible authorities for a variety of existing provisions.
Creating the ability for the Australian Maritime Safety Authority to exempt some ships from ship marking requirements, for example heritage ships.
Allowing the Authority to specify the forms that must be used in applications for shipping registration.
Shadow Minister for Transport Anthony Albanese said Labor supports these minor reforms.
“But we aren’t fooled. This Government does not have the best interests of this industry at heart. In fact, they have an ideological opposition to the very existence of a strong Australian shipping industry,” Albanese said.
“Australia needs our domestic shipping sector. There is no two ways about it.
“The combined value of our sea-going exports is over $400 billion annually - it represents about a quarter of our GDP. Our shipping task is the fifth biggest in the world.”
Albanese said shipping is a critical industry to the health of our nation but the current Government is overseeing a decline in the industry.
“I have spoken many times in the House on the importance of Australian shipping. But there are some points I want to reiterate because it just doesn’t seem the Government is getting it.
“The existence of a vibrant Australian shipping industry serves Australia’s economic, environmental and security interest.
“A strong Australian shipping industry supports Australian jobs. The shipping sector trains highly skilled and highly valued workers.
“These are critical skills we must possess here in Australia and represents the continuation of a proud industry intrinsically linked with our nation’s history.
“A strong Australian shipping industry supports our environment. Australian seafarers know our coast and care for our maritime treasures, like the Great Barrier Reef.
“In fact all the major maritime accidents to have occurred in our waters in recent decades have involved foreign-flagged vessels crewed by foreign seafarers.
“A strong Australian shipping industry supports our national security. Defence experts tell us that a domestic maritime workforce ensures there is a pool of highly skilled labour that can be mobilised in war or national emergency.
“But these issues of the national interest are of no interest to the Government.
“Labor has always prioritised more Australian seafarers crewing more Australian flagged ships carrying more Australian goods around the Australian coastline.”