The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) today welcomed the Australian Government's announcement of a long awaited package of reforms to revitalise Australian shipping.
The MUA joined with the Australian Shipowners Association (ASA) to welcome the Minister’s announcement which includes the introduction of a tonnage tax and a proposal for an international ships register.
MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin, the newly elected President of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), representing over 4.6 million workers worldwide, praised the reforms which the union has been advocating for the past 15 years and which he said are essential for a maritime dependent nation like Australia.
“The announcement by Minister Albanese today signals a new direction for Australian shipping and lays a foundation for improvements in Australia’s domestic and international freight transport infrastructure,” he said.
“It will bring significant economic, tax, environmental and employment benefits to the nation.”
Mr Crumlin said that after years of neglect by the Howard Government and a complete disinterest by the Liberals in shipping and maritime transport policy which saw Australian-flagged ships drop in number from almost 80 in the late 1990s to just 29 today, the policy announcement places Labor light years ahead in a vision for freight transport.
“We have been very vocal on the need for these reforms and it is very pleasing to see the Gillard Labor Government showing such foresight. The policy package has the potential to reverse the decline of Australian shipping and improve Australia's international competitiveness,” he said
“By restoring balance to the domestic shipping sector and enabling Australian bulk commodities to be transported in Australian registered ships, there is an opportunity for Australia to leverage major benefits in productivity and efficiency. This is good news for the freight transport industry and for all those related businesses that depend on a supply of high quality maritime skills.”
Mr Crumlin welcomed the skills and training reforms that are part of the package and signalled the MUA’s ongoing commitment to labour reform to make the policy package work, stating:
”The proposed labour reforms will be challenging and will require patience and goodwill to be successful. However we believe they are attainable if there is investment in new modern ships, and training, adoption of a strong safety culture and if shipowners and operators are prepared to actively use the policy to secure long term contracts and bring stability to Australian shipping,”
While pointing out that there was very little detail in the announcement on how an international ships register might be implemented the union was looking forward to sitting down with the Government to work through the policy details.
”In our view it is critical that employment on international ships is regulated under Australian collective agreements, recognising international labour standards for foreign seafarers to ensure international competiveness of ships attracted to the Australian international register. These vessels must be restricted from participating in the domestic trade,” he said.
“Nevertheless there is significant opportunity for regional seafarers from developing nations like Timor Leste, the Pacific Islands and PNG to be employed on international register ships as part of a regional development policy for the Pacific,” Mr Crumlin went on to say.
The MUA sees the policy package dovetailing well with the National Ports Strategy and the National Freight Network Plan.
“Given Labor's policy announcements on rail infrastructure improvements, its commitment to road transport reform and now shipping policy, Australia now has the framework for a truly nationally integrated freight transport plan that will deliver significant benefits to the nation,” MUA Deputy National Secretary Mick Doleman said.
“It will also attract foreign investment and signals to our trading competitors that we are fully prepared to compete along the entire supply chain as a trading nation.”
Stronger shipping for a stronger economy