Shipping Reform Passes Parliament

The suite of Bills that represent the Government's Shipping Reform Package have passed the House of Representatives.

Following an impassioned speech in support from Minister Anthony Albanese, and other Labor members Jill Hall, Sharon Grierson, Melissa Parke, Deb O'Neill, Tony Zappia, Richard Marles and Independant Bob Katter, Shipping Reform passed the House of Representatives with a vote of 71 - 69.

As the Minister said in his speech: "When this mob [the Liberals] took over in 1996 we had 55 Australian vessels, now we have less than half. Either we do this today and get it done, or the Australian shipping industry is done. Without reform the Australian shipping industry will disappear " 

All of the speakers made mention of the hard work of the MUA - its National Secretary Paddy Crumlin and all the members involved.

The Bills represent over 10 years of work by the MUA, especially National Secretary Paddy Crumlin, and follows the endorsed support from members at the recent Seafarers Conference and National MUA Conference.

A delegation of seafaring members joined National Secretary Paddy Crumlin, National Policy Officer Rod Pickette and National Communications Director Darrin Barnett in Canberra to see the Bills pass (pictured).

Mr Crumlin said this was the biggest reform of the Navigation Act in 100 years.

"What Australia has effectively done is has shown the way in international shipping, demonstrating that FOC shipping can be defeated and that all seafarers - particularly those from developed countires - have a right to work in the industry.

"Cabotage is back on the menu for seafarers worldwide.

"The support of the ITF was also critical to the political will to enact these wide-ranging and internationally important reforms, and the ITF is enshrined in this legislation," said Mr Crumlin.

Over the last month the core team has been working 24-7 to make sure the legislation was complete and presentable, and that there were sufficient votes the lower house.

This was not guaranteed until right before the Bills were passed.

"We knew we had to make sure that Shipping Reform was not just a good piece of legislation, but one that would be passed the Parliament," said Mr Crumlin.

"As a union, we've fended off the campaign by conservative shippers, foreign ship-owners and the federal Opposition to destroy the Act and the industry.

"It's an emotional day. We've been working on this since the election of the Howard Government. They destroyed Government support for the Australian shipping industry in their first weeks in office back in 1996.

"The union generally and myself personally have been at the forefront of the campaign to ensure that shipping and Australian seafarers have a future in this country," said Mr Crumlin.

"It signals the end of the 17 year war and the beginning of a new era of post-war construction.

"The work of Minister Albanese cannot be overstated. As maritime workers have said, he deserves the Order of Elliott Healy (EOH) named after Elliott V. Elliot and Jim Healy, the legendary leaders of the Seaman's Union and Waterside Workers Federation.

"No one has done more to deliver these reforms than Minister Albanese."

Today the MUA congratulates and thanks the Labor Party for delivering for Australian maritime workers.

The Prime Minister Julia Gillard committed to the legislation when she addressed the 2008 National Conference a few weeks after the Rudd Government was elected.
 Today, they have delivered on their promise and have been supported by the Independents and the Greens, without whom this legislation wouldn't have passed.

The Greens and Independents understood the issues and voted for the legislation on its merits - further isolating the intellectual paucity and of the Federal Opposition, ignobly led by Nationals Leader Warren Truss, whose speech in Parliament against the Bill was as fallacious as it was uninspiring.  In fact, he spoke against his own Party's policy.

The Labor Party also identified the capacity to secure work opportunities for Pacific and Regional seafarers - a policy commitment that the MUA has had in place for many years. This Bill updates the Navigation Act and puts it in the context of international best practice.

The Reforms will create employment, sustain business opportunities and productivity and build the national interest through an industry that has always been and always will be critical to the quality of Australia's economy, environment and way of life.

You can read the Parliamentary Hansard by clicking HERE.