The Maritime Union of Australia believes at least some of the money earmarked for the $8.4 billion Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail project could be better spent on investment in Australia’s coastal shipping sector.
MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin said the MUA agrees Australia should be trying to get trucks off the roads but that the sea offers the best alternative.
“Port infrastructure already exists in Australia and coastal shipping leaves the lowest carbon footprint when it comes to moving goods around our coast,” Mr Crumlin said.
“There are hundreds of seafarers in Australia who are currently out of work and reasonable investment in coastal shipping services would see these workers back up the gangway.
“This package from the Government looks a lot like pork-barreling by the Coalition to protect their inland seats through regional Victoria, NSW and Queensland as they desperately try to stave off the threat from One Nation and other parties.”
According to the Budget Papers, the Turnbull Government has committed to finance the Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail project by a combination of an additional $8.4 billion equity investment in the Australian Rail Track Corporation and a public private partnership for the most complex elements of the project.
“Inland Rail will provide a high-capacity freight link between Melbourne and Brisbane through regional Australia to better connect our products to domestic and international markets,” the Budget papers said.
“The Inland Rail project will drive national productivity and reducing the number of trucks in our cities and on our regional roads. The project will sustain thousands of jobs, with up to 16,000 direct and indirect jobs to be supported at the peak of construction.”
Construction is scheduled to start this year, with the Government having already committed nearly $900 million towards planning and land acquisition.
Infrastructure Minister Darren Chester released a discussion paper on the future of coastal shipping on March 21 and the MUA has made a submission that will be published by the Department in due course.
Mr Crumlin said the Turnbull Government needs to act in the national interest by ensuring Australia has a viable coastal shipping fleet.
“A strong domestic shipping fleet makes absolute sense from a national security, fuel security, and environmental standpoint,” Mr Crumlin said.
“The Government needs to stand up for Australian seafarers and do it now.”
Media Contact: Darrin Barnett 0428 119 703