Truss Misleads on Shipping to Drive Home Ideological Agenda

The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) has urged the Abbott Government to protect Australian jobs, the maritime skills base and the environment when considering changes to laws covering coastal shipping.
 
Fresh on the heels of killing off Australia’s submarine industry and car industry, Transport Minister Warren Truss today signaled an end to cabotage, which is the rules that level the playing field for Australian ships on our coast, using flawed data from a new report.

The MUA is highly concerned that Minister Truss in his speech to Shipping Australia today has politicized the data from the  Australian Sea Freight 2012/13 report and is calling on BITRE to clarify or reissue the data. (please see examples of incorrect assertions below).
 
MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin pointed out that cabotage is not industry assistance in that no taxpayer funds are directed to the Australian shipping industry and that the industry cannot be allowed to fail.
 
This could directly impact the jobs of around 1,500 seafarers in the blue water sector, and a further 500 in towage and other industries that services the blue water fleet. So, in total around 2,000 direct jobs and up to 8,000 associated jobs are on the chopping block. Many of those are in north-west Tasmania.
 
“Australia needs a viable, vibrant shipping industry which employs Australian workers and the Abbott Government needs to give the laws passed in 2012 time to work,” Mr Crumlin said.
 
"Australia is the fourth largest user of ships in the world. The industry employs thousands of Australians and cannot be allowed to fail.”
 
“What we saw today from Minister Truss leads us towards an act of political stupidity which would damage the national interest and place another key Australian industry on the scrap-heap.
 
“Shipping is essential to national security and we cannot allow essential skills to be placed in the hands of non-Australian interests.
 
"Australian shipping should enjoy bi-partisan political support, as it has done in the past. I urge the Abbott Government to keep a regulatory framework that supports Australian ships.
 
“Over the life of the Howard Government, the number of Australian-flagged vessels plummeted from 55 to 21 and the 2012 changes were desperately needed.”
 
Mr Crumlin said the 2012 changes to the Navigation Act and introduction of the Coastal Trading Act were the biggest maritime reform since the passing of the Navigation Act 100 years ago.
 
“The reforms have the potential to create employment, sustain business opportunities and productivity and build the national interest through an industry that is critical to the quality of Australia’s economy, environment and way of life,” Mr Crumlin said.
 
“We need to maintain a regulatory framework that provides an access regime built on the principle of fair competition that provides for both Australian ships and foreign ships to meet the coastal freight needs of shippers.
 
“What we don’t want to see is more Flag of Convenience (FOC) ships, with their poor standards and exploited crews, take over our ports and displace Australian vessels.”
 
“A revitalised Australian shipping industry will enable us to protect our environment from the risks posed by FOC ships, like the ones that have damaged our Great Barrier Reef.”

Examples of Minister Truss misleading the Australian people:
 
From Minister Truss’ speech to Shipping Australia on September 18, 2014:
“Under Labor’s flawed, bureaucratic and protectionist tiered licencing system, there were almost 1,000 fewer coastal voyages and almost 2 million fewer tonnes of freight moved by foreign flagged temporary licenced vessels in its first year of operation.”
 
This is incorrect because there were 776 voyages in 2011/12 that did not carry any cargo. The number of vessels which did not carry any cargo was not included for 2012/13. This reduces the difference between the two years to 118.
 
Also, the numbers do not include the permit voyages that were carried out during the transition period, where permits were given under both systems. In effect, voyages during the first four months under the existing system are not counted.
 
In addition, the MUA has copies of applications for both single voyage and continuing voyage permits for the period 1/7/2012 - 31/10/2012 which are not included in the report.
 
In other words, Minister Truss is deliberately fudging the numbers to prove a political point. It is highly likely the number of voyages actually increased after the legislation was introduced.
 
From Minister Truss’ opinion piece in the Australian on September 18, 2014:
“It does not help our national cause when coastal shipping is bound by regulations where a ship has to wait idle in port for a day before loading can begin.”
 
No such regulation exists.
 
From Minister Truss’ opinion piece in the Australian on September 18, 2014:
“Meanwhile, our trading fleet continued its downward trend, with the number of major Australian-registered ships with coastal licences declining from 30 in 2006-07 to just 13 by 2012-13.
The number of major vessels (defined as over 2,000 tonnes) is currently 16, indicating that the Coastal Trading Act is beginning to work. The number of ships licensed under the Coastal Trading Act has increased by 11 to 61 since the 2012 changes.