The Maritime Union of Australia welcomes the Government’s more inclusive approach to shipping, after Transport Minister Darren Chester met with the MUA and other stakeholders to discuss shipping policy last month.
In November last year the Government’s plan to deregulate coastal shipping, which would allow low paid foreign seafarers into Australian workplaces, was defeated in the Senate.
MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin said he was glad the Government had begun to consult with the union on shipping after the former Transport Minister had refused to meet with the union since his election in 2013.
“Australia has the fourth biggest shipping task in the world and to remove Australian workers and Australian businesses from the industry is short-sighted and will be a detriment to trade, the environment, national security and will contribute to the deficit as less net tax will be collected,” Mr Crumlin said.
“The Senate obviously recognised this and refused to pass the amendments to the Coastal Trading Act, sending a message to the Government that a race-to-the-bottom was not that answer to reviving the coastal shipping trade.
“It is prudent and good practice to engage all stakeholders when it comes to formulating policy, regardless of who is leading Government, therefore the union is happy that the new Minister has agreed to invite us to the table.
The Government and the MUA both agree that the industry needs reforming.
“Complete deregulation, which would open up the coast to foreign, flag-of-convenience ships registered in developing world countries like Panama, is not a solution to the waning industry,” he said.
“As was highlighted in the recent Senate Inquiry, flag-of-convenience shipping, as well as being a way to circumvent labour, environmental and safety regulation is a form of tax avoidance.
“The Panama papers have begun to expose worldwide business practices in tax minimisation and avoidance, something foreign shipping companies have been engaging in for decades.
“Australian shipping companies working under Australian national regulation contribute positively to the economic balance, in paying tax and adhering to other local regulations including wage law.
“This needs to be nurtured in the national interest and this needs to be remembered in the Government’s reevaluation of shipping laws.
“The MUA is invested in working collaboratively in creating a viable shipping policy.”