The sun shone down as 300 people descended on the picket at East Devonport in a show of solidarity with the crew of the Alexander Spirit.
The fate of the ship and its crew has been in limbo for more than fortnight after oil major Caltex announced it would replace the loyal Australian workers with a cheap foreign crew on the same week it gloated about a $375 million half-year profit.
Incensed by this corporate exploitation, community members have manned a picket adjacent to the Alexander Spirit for 24-hours a day, everyday, in spite of sub-zero temperatures and relentless rain.
Today, those supporters were joined by a long list of high profile leaders from politics and the union movement, as well as a wide cross section of the local community.
Taking to the podium first was the head of Australia’s trade union movement, Dave Oliver, Australian Council of Trade Unions’ Secretary, who lamented the actions of the Abbott Government and their lack of action on protecting Australian jobs and industry.
The ACTU this week passed a resolution at its executive meeting agreeing to organise a Shipping Industry Summit, which would bring together key stakeholders from the union movement, politics and business.
Following Oliver was Brendan O’Connor Labor’s Shadow Employment Minister.
O’Connor said it was part of the Abbott Government’s DNA to attack Australia’s workers, particularly those in industries with strong unions.
He said seafarers, were the latest victims in these attacks and that the only way to defend against such attacks was to make sure the Liberal National Party was not granted a second term.
His media doorstop transcript is available here.
Meanwhile, Greens Senator Peter Whish-Wilson voiced his concerns about the security of Australia’s pristine environment with foreign ships-of-shame allowed to visit Australian ports unchecked.
Independent Senator, Jacqui Lambie, who has supported the crew from the very beginning said she was worried about the lack of security checks on visiting foreign seafarers, here she is in a video from the picket line:
Lambie targeted Caltex and the Prime Minister stating that there were only two groups that could make a difference here, one was the Caltex and the was the Abbott Government.
“The PM could go and tell Caltex enough is enough,” she said.
MUA Assistant National Secretary Ian Bray thanked the crowd for their ongoing support.
Bray said the whole ordeal had been very tough on the crew.
“It’s very rare you can bring such a diverse group of people together, so it just goes to show how out of touch Abbott and Eric Abetz really are,” he said.
“Only yesterday, Abbott’s head of Border Protection, Michael Noonan, said that Australia’s national security was compromised because of an over-reliance on foreign shipping.
“Well I hope Abbott listens to the bloke he installed and reconsider the need to completely dismantle the Australian shipping industry.”
Tasmanian Branch Secretary Jason Campbell read a letter from the crew to those gathered:
The crew spoke of what they were going through and stated their belief that the only way to stop this onslaught of Australian jobs was to get rid of the Abbott LNP Government.
The letter can be read in its entirety here.
Photos from the ongoing dispute can be viewed and downloaded from here.