The new Parliamentary year is up and running, with Maritime Union of Australia officials and officers already seeing a number of politicians about matters of importance to the union.
MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin met with Transport Minister Darren Chester, something that his predecessor Warren Truss was not prepared to do.
While the devil will be in the detail, the Minister confirmed the following:
- He proposes to release a consultation Discussion Paper on shipping reform at around the end of February
- There will be a two month consultation period i.e. to end April
- Based on responses to the Discussion Paper, the Minister intends introducing a shipping reform Bill or Bills into the Parliament some time later in 2017.
The Minister gave no indications on what the direction or key emphasis of change might be in the Discussion Paper, but he did ask questions around training and skills, so that is very likely to be a feature.
In an opinion piece published by Shipping Australia, the Minister gave an indication of his vision for coastal shipping.
"The stark reality is that our fleet of major Australian registered ships (over 2000 deadweight tonnes) with coastal licences has plummeted from 30 vessels in 2006/07 to 14 in 2015/16,” Mr Chester said.
"Based on standard crew numbers, this represents a loss of more than 1,000 coastal shipping seafarer jobs.
“(Yet) Australia’s freight demands are expected to grow by nearly 50 per cent between 2015 and 2030 and we want to set the right environment for investment to occur, for businesses to remain competitive as they seek to minimise costs and to create new jobs and a better transport network for decades to come.
"As Minister, I plan to bring legislation back into Parliament to enable positive, long-lasting, economically sustainable change so Australian businesses can conduct their business using efficient, flexible and cost-effective shipping services.
"As part of that process we are ensuring there is constructive stakeholder engagement with all industries, including those that rely on coastal shipping.
"I am acutely aware of the need to work in a bipartisan way to deliver reforms that will boost confidence, provide certainty and deliver the productivity benefits the maritime sector desires
Mr Chester said he would continue to consult with shippers, shipping representatives and maritime unions.
While in Canberra, Mr Crumlin also met with the Office of ALP Leader Bill Shorten, Deputy ALP Leader Tanya Plibersek, Opposition Transport spokesman Anthony Albanese and Bob Katter form the Katter Australia Party.