The Maritime Union of Australia has welcomed the $203 million expansion of the Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme which was announced by the Commonwealth Government this afternoon.
The Government said that from next year the Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme would be expanded and that Tasmanian businesses would be able to claim $700 per shipping container.
The Abbott Government’s Commission of Audit report included abolishing the Tasmanian Freight Equalisation and Bass Strait Passenger Vehicle Equalisation Schemes, while the Productivity Commission has for years wanted to abolish subsidies on the Bass Strait run.
MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin said the aim of the Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme has always been to try to remove the obvious impediment of dealing with freight from an island state.
“We support the Government’s further investment in helping create a level playing field in Australia’s sea freight transport system,” Mr Crumlin said.
“The decision brings into question, however, the advice the Government received on Bass Strait shipping through the Productivity Commission, which wants to deregulate the Australian shipping industry.
“We hope the Government will equally reject the Productivity Commission’s poor advice on Bass Strait shipping, where it advocates entry of foreign seafarers on foreign ships at foreign rates of pay. Such a policy would be a disaster for Australian freight transport.
“All we ask is that the Government maintains a level playing field for domestic shipping that will enable Australian ships and Australian seafarers the opportunity to compete on fair terms in the Australian domestic sea freight industry.”
Mr Crumlin said the 2012 changes to the Navigation Act and introduction of the Coastal Trading Act were the biggest maritime reform since the passing of the Navigation Act 100 years ago.
“The reforms have the potential to create employment, sustain business opportunities and productivity and build the national interest through an industry that is critical to the quality of Australia’s economy, environment and way of life,” Mr Crumlin said.
“We need to maintain a regulatory framework that provides an access regime built on the principle of fair competition that provides for both Australian ships and foreign ships to meet the coastal freight needs of shippers.
“What we don’t want to see is more Flag of Convenience (FOC) ships, with their poor standards and exploited crews, take over our ports and displace Australian vessels.
“We call on Mr Truss to reject the deregulation route for Australian shipping and sit down with unions and the industry to develop a package that protects Australian jobs, maritime skills and the environment.”
Mr Crumlin said changes to coastal shipping could mean the loss of 10,000 Australian jobs – many of these in north-west Tasmania.
"Australia is the fourth largest user of ships in the world. The industry employs thousands of Australians and cannot be allowed to fail,” Mr Crumlin said.