It was World Maritime Day yesterday, the day designated by the United Nations to remember the service and sacrifice of seafarers.
To mark the occasion a group of Sydney branch members, joined by guests from around Australia, made their annual pilgrimage across the Pyrmont Bridge to the Australian National Maritime Museum lead by the Memorial Jazz Band.
First up was Sydney Branch Assistant Secretary Paul Garrett, who took to the podium in front of the infamous ship’s anchors at the ANMM.
“World Maritime Day was created by the United Nations via the International Maritime Organization to celebrate the contribution the international maritime industry makes to the world economy, in carrying the overwhelming portion of world trade,” Garrett said.
Today is the 24th occasion that working and retired MUA members, maritime veterans, and the maritime community have celebrated World Maritime Day by marching with the Memorial Jazz Band across Pyrmont Bridge to these giant anchors.”
He then invited John King, Dane Barrenger, Sister Mary Leahy, Geoff Wall, Alan Tait, Joe Miller and Cecily Hardy to lay wreaths in the memory of Joe Dryburgh, Alan Oliver, EV Elliot, John Brennan as well as a wreath for the Merchant Navy Association and another for ‘the culture of the sea’.
Following the formalities the group headed into the ANMM for a special screening of four stories from the Blue Angel Project.
BighART’s Cecily Hardy provided a run down of how the project was going.
Legend of the union, 102-year-old John Miller, gave an impromptu speech about his time walking the Hungry Mile and how tough times were for him and others during the Depression.
He also regaled with his tale of surviving two of the ships he worked being torpedoed during World War Two. Former Seamen’s Union National Secretary Pat Geraghty accepted a portrait of Bill Langlois who was unable to attend the event.
Geraghty talked about the internationalist perspective of seafarers and about some of the world-changing campaigns the MUA’s predecessor, the SUA embarked upon.
He pointed at the union’s support for Indonesian seafarers in the quest for self-determination from the Dutch.
Assistant Sydney Branch Secretary Joe Deakin highlighted this year’s International Maritime Organization theme of effective implementation of conventions.
“It’s the recognition that seafarers in 2014 are still getting mistreated and to combat this the conventions need to be followed through on,” Deakin said.
He then directed his attention to Australian shipping in particular the ongoing attacks being levelled at maritime regulations.
“I would implore the Australian Government to reconsider their position on the total dismantling of the Australian shipping package, presently in the Australian parliament,” he said. “I would ask them on behalf of people that an Australian industry is nurtured and maintained.”
MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin wrapped up proceedings in saying World Maritime Day was a reminder that Australia’s merchant seafarers had paid a heavy price in times past. During World War 2, one in seven merchant seafarers died protecting Australia and its interests.
Crumlin said this should not be forgotten at the present time when on the same day Australia’s terror alert was raised, Minister for Infrastructure Warren Truss flagged his intention to deregulate shipping and kill off Australian seafarers’ jobs in the Australian Coastal Trade. “
It is a great tragedy when they talk about this era of insecurity, the great terrorist threat where somebody is going to be beheaded in Martin Place, we’re all in a tiz, people can’t sleep at night and yet the Government wants to see off shipping - the industry that kept Australia secure during the second World War, secured the economy over a long period of time, was able to deliver fair and representative share of wealth during colonial times, that was able to offer jobs and control over our trade,” Crumlin said.
Crumlin said that the Australian National Line (ANL) - an Australian Government owned overseas and coastal shipping line that operated in Australia between 1956 and 1998 – was set up to protect local industries from overseas shipping lines who had no obligation to protect Australia’s national interest.
“That’s why ANL was formed because we didn’t want to be carved up by the big international shipping monopolies - because we’re a trading nation, miles away from our markets,” he said. “But now, under the Abbott Government we’re stopping making cars and steel – we’re outsourcing all of our industries.
“We haven’t got a Sovereign Wealth Fund - as they do in Norway – for all of the wealth that we’ve got - iron ore, coal, hydro-carbons, minerals, gold - we’ve never had politicians with sufficient intelligence and character to go back to the electorate and say let’s build up our national wealth and build up our national interest through that.”
Crumlin said foreign interest exemptions still exist under the Trade Practices Act in Australia for container lines to set up monopolies, which makes Australian shipping even more important.
“If you have a foreign interest controlling your one way of getting foreign produce to your international markets and they monopolise you as they still do – they can set process and squeeze out the competition,” he said.
“Then farmers, producers and manufacturers in Australia might not be able to compete because they are going to be screwed.”
For all of the photos of the day click here.
National Secretary Paddy Crumlin's speech below: