The Turnbull Government has released its long-awaited discussion paper on the future of coastal shipping in Australia but the document has left the MUA with more questions than answers.
In calling for comment on proposed coastal shipping 'reforms’ Transport Minister Darren Chester said the aim is "to ensure coastal shipping carries an increased share of the national freight transport task” and that “proposals would substantially reduce regulatory burden.”
MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin said this was a marked improvement on anything proposed by former Transport Minister Warren Truss, who only ever pushed for total deregulation and the increased use of Flag of Convenience (FOC) shipping.
"The MUA welcomes the fact that the current Minister is engaging with industry and has asked if there are further changes required to the CT Act beyond those proposed in the Discussion Paper,” Crumlin said.
"However, we don't think there is enough focus at this stage on protecting local jobs and the discussion paper omits most of the industry proposals put forward in the industry Green Paper which was developed through exhaustive meetings over a long period of time.”
Among the proposed changes in the discussion paper is the removal of the five-voyage minimum requirement for a Temporary Licence (TL), which would allow for organisations to apply for single voyages instead of the current five.
There are also proposals to streamline the licencing processes for TLs and in instances where no General Licence (GL) vessels are available.
Additionally, the discussion paper proposes to extend the geographical reach of the Coastal Trading Act to include voyages to and from the mainland and places in Australian waters such as offshore installations.
The paper’s authors wrote: “This change would allow petroleum companies to obtain a licence enabling foreign-flagged vessels to undertake this type of movement – the carriage of petroleum products from offshore installations in Australian territory to the mainland – potentially increasing the use of Australian refineries, and opening this shipping market to GL vessels.”
Crumlin said the proposed changes would make it easier for the Minister’s Delegate to provide Temporary Licenses (TLs) to foreign ships and make it more difficult for Australian ships with Australian crew to compete in the coastal trade.
Ian Bray met with Anthony Albanese and other MP's today as the paper was released
“The Paper has not addressed proposals aimed at growing Australian content in coastal shipping such as the Strategic Fleet concept, that provides an opportunity to achieve better coordination between Navy objectives and the commerciality of the merchant shipping sector,” Crumlin said.
“The Paper also did not address any of the proposals in the MUA submission to the Government which complemented the Green Paper, such as providing a new commercial solution to get the balance right between supporting a core Australian fleet supplemented by foreign ships on a Temporary Licence.
“The discussion paper also fails the test of developing a long-term policy for manufacturing, fuel and energy security, and other core Australian industries largely in decline or abandoned to which Australian shipping is an essential service provider.
"A strong domestic shipping fleet with Australian crew is vital to the national interest - whether it's from a jobs, environmental or national security perspective. The MUA will be providing its submission in due course."
Mr Chester said the Turnbull Government is proposing greater flexibility for coastal shipping and new training opportunities in a discussion paper aimed at boosting coastal shipping activity.
“We need to address a range of administrative issues in the Coastal Trading (Revitalising Australian Shipping) Act 2012, which place unnecessary burdens on shipping companies and the Australian businesses that rely on coastal shipping,” Chester said.
“The intention of this discussion paper is to elicit views about how modifying the Act could help to redress this situation, without changing the basic structure of the current coastal trading regulatory regime.
“The discussion paper also proposes the introduction of a number of seafarer training initiatives aimed at developing and retaining critical maritime skills in Australia.”
ALP Transport spokesman Anthony Albanese said there was a lot more work to be done to deliver a suite of policies that would deliver long term benefits.
"These proposals do nothing to defend Australian jobs,” he said.
"The Government needs to stop allowing the abuse of Temporary Licences and produce a policy that assists the growth of the Australian shipping industry, which is vital to our nation’s economic, environmental and national security interests.”
More of our supporters after a full day of meetings today