The shipping reform laws passed by the Senate today will save the Australian shipping industry from disappearing completely, the Maritime Union of Australia said today.
The bills, which passed through the Upper House with the support of Labor and the Greens, will create an environment for more Australian-flagged vessels, rather than Flag Of Convenience vessels, which have been allowed to overwhelm the nation's ports over the past 17 years.
Australian ships will be given priority on coastal routes and tax incentives will be offered to Australian operations. This means that shippers on the Australian coast will be able to effectively compete in the domestic freight market but not rely on unimpeded access to developed nations wage standards
MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin, who together with the union officers and members, has worked for seventeen years to achieve today's outcome, said it was a truly historic day.
"This is, without doubt, one of the most important days in Australian maritime history," Mr Crumlin said.
"It marks the day that Australian shipping was saved from near-death. In recent years, the number of Australian licensed trading vessels has been allowed to drop at an alarmingrate - from 55 in 1996 to 21 today. The Howard Government sacked domestic shipping like the vandals sacked Rome and this is the first stage of the rebuild.
"This package of bills will finally allow Australian ships, operating to Australian standards, achieve a footing from which they can compete with Flag Of Convenience vessels in our domestic market while winning back a share of our export shipping. This latter opportunity under the new International Register will create badly-needed jobs for our regional neighbours in the Pacific.
"For over a decade we have seen FOC ships, with their poor standards and exploited crews, take over our ports and displace Australian vessels. This legislation will arrest this trend and start turning it around in favour of Australian-flagged ships.
"Australia is an island nation with a huge amount to export. Revitalising our own shipping industrywill create employment and build productivity, while sustaining business opportunities in ship financing and many ancillary shipping services in this country. The national interest will be served through an industry that mustalways play a critical role in the Australia's economy, environment and way of life.
"A revitalised Australian shipping industry will enable us to protect our environment from the risks posed by FOC ships, like the ones that have recently damaged our Great Barrier Reef.
"The MUA salutes the work of Transport Minister Anthony Albanese whose efforts to deliver today's reforms, in a hung Parliament, have been nothing short of extraordinary.
"The MUA has worked for seventeen long years to achieve today's outcome. It is unbelievably gratifying to know that we have finally laid the foundations to rebuild Australia's shipping industry."