After unsuccessfully submitting questions to ABC’s Q&A panel for weeks, activists were eventually successful in getting a question put to the panel on seafaring jobs after staging a protest outside of the Ultimo ABC studio.
The panel was made up of Employment Minister Michaelia Cash, radio personality Alan Jones, blogger Mia Freedman, Shadow Trade Minister Penny Wong and New York-based, Australian journalist Josh Zeps.
Sydney seafarer Matt Lawrence was able to ask the question of the whole panel, but it was no doubt the question was aimed squarely at Senator Cash, who has been complicit in the removal of Australian seafarers from their jobs since taking up the Cabinet position.
“I'm an unemployed Australian merchant seafarer,” Lawrence said.
“Why would any government in their right mind replace tax-paying Australian seafarers with exploited foreign seafarers working on 457 visas, working for as low as $2 an hour?”
Even right-wing shock jock Jones was on board, saying it was ludicrous to replace hard-working Australians with foreign labour.
“Look, I don't care whose the campaign is. If someone is right, you back- if I think someone's right I back them, I don't whether they are unionists or what they are,” he said.
“And I think in this instance, that bloke's supporting Australian jobs and the capacity to take home a pay packet for his wife and kids, and he is being gazumped by someone who comes in more cheaply. I mean, the thing is happening all the time, in a sense.”
Cash, losing composure, tried to blame ALP policy for the loss of Australian flagged vessels and said that coastal shipping had to be competitive.
However, Wong was quick to jump in to defend the policy and blame the Turnbull Government for the demise of shipping.
“Let's be clear, what is happening on the MV Portland, what is happening in terms of coastal shipping under this Government is a deliberate government policy; it is a deliberate decision to not prioritise Australian jobs but to enable foreign workers on foreign crewed vessels to operate domestic routes,” she said.
Meanwhile, the group of mainly Sydney Branch activists were keeping the noise up out the front of the studios.
Seafarer Dan Crumlin said, “I’m concerened about the future of Australia, the future of my kid’s jobs, the future of Australian shipping and jobs in general.”
Justin Halwagy of the youth committee said, “It’s absolutely disgraceful to think that young Australian seafarers have to pay tax and they contribute to the economy and are being kicked off their jobs and being replaced by foreign workers on $2-an-hour.”
Prior to the event a number of other activists from New South Wales posed their video questions, in addition to young WA seafarer Damien Moller who had identified that Cash would be on this panel: