Join us on Friday September 23. Assemble at the city side of the Pyrmont Walk Bridge at 12 noon, and march off at 12.30 sharp.
Each year in September the Maritime Union of Australia pauses to remember the fallen maritime workers who paid the ultimate price in times of war. The women and men of the global merchant marine, waterfront occupations and port workers kept the food & supply chains open in the second world war with their courageous commitment to rid the world of fascism and militarism. Their commitment however was not just to the war effort. These nation building folk over many decades built and sustained the maritime industry, fought for the creation and maintenance of Cabotage and job security, creating opportunities for generations of seafarers, wharfies and port workers who came after them via their commitment to their industry and the men and women who worked in it. This commitment was borne out of their belief in social justice and improving the communities and society that we lived in as a consequence of living through world wars and the injustices of the Depression.
Highly trained seafarers ensured that the vessels they shipped out in were always maintained and seaworthy in order to keep the commercial shipping wheels of industry turning. Australian seafarers have played a major role in the world arena of shipping, for many decades the Australian merchant marine was a big player in international trade routes. Australian Seafarers manned international oil tankers, we were in the international container vessel trade, the iron ore trade, the coal trade, the car carrying trade, transporting immeasurable number of products including sugar, acid, gypsum and other materials. Sadly, the only Australian ships left trading overseas are the four LNG tankers. In fact, not only has Australian involvement in International trade disappeared, there is not one single Australian manned crude oil or product tanker left in the Australian domestic trade. All of these cargoes are still being imported and exported and carried between Australian ports but not by Australian crewed or registered vessels. These cargoes are transported to and from this country by the worlds most exploited formal workforce.
What an insult this is to the Australian seafarers who gave their lives in wartime, and to the many old salts who put so much into the shipping industry seeing it torn apart, particularly by conservative governments. The Howard Government started the destruction of our industry by deregulating the economy, smashing trade union rights, decimating the manufacturing industry in a vengeful attempt to wipe out his opposition.
When the Australian Labor party was elected to government in 2007, the MUA and AMOU saw this as an opportunity to resurrect Australian shipping. In 2012, the minority Gillard government, was able to have legislation passed in the lower house and supported by some cross benches in the senate that gave rise to the possibility of a resurgent Australian shipping industry with Australian crewed and flagged vessels. This was short lived however when Tony Abbott was sworn in as the 28th Prime Minister in 2013. Under the leadership of the Abbott/Turnbull government, the Australian merchant fleet has sunken to even lower depths since the Howard years.
The present government is issuing ‘Temporary Licences’ on an almost daily basis. TL vessels, (Predominantly FOC’s) are completely ‘train wrecking’ the Cabotage provisions of the Navigation Act which see Australian registered and crewed vessels being leapfrogged by FOC operators. Despite the fact that it is totally unlawful, the Abbott/Turnbull government continue to issue the TL’s. Here you have an outfit in Canberra that is more than willing to destroy an entire shipping industry because of their pathological hatred for the Maritime Union of Australia. The carnage caused by the Federal government is unprecedented, unemployed seafarers are understandably very angry that their industry has all but been wiped out by the conservatives. These Australian workers are left with no choice but to seek jobs elsewhere, join the bread lines in what can only be described as a disgraceful act of human vandalism or stand up, fight back in the MUA campaign for justice.
World Maritime Day for every Australian maritime worker has to become a call to arms, we no longer should be sitting on our hands letting the likes of Abbott, Turnbull, or anyone else for that matter, tip us out of our own industry, being replaced by exploited foreign seafarers aboard ‘FLAG OF CONVENIENCE’ ships, or worse still, turn us into FOC crews on our own coast. We owe it to the heroic comrades of the past, if not to ourselves, to step up to the plate and claim our coast back.
Yes, World Maritime Day must always be about celebration and homage, but it also has to be about a celebration of our fight back! If the coast goes, World Maritime Day and events like it will pretty soon die on the vine. Who wants to remember a day where we all capitulated and were systematically destroyed by a government hell bent on starving Australian seafarers to death. Let’s make WMD a day of celebration, and a day of action all rolled into one.
‘IF YOU DON’T FIGHT YOU LOSE’
Sydney, NSW 2000
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