MUA welcomes Port Productivity Review; Implores Scott Morrison to stop lying about wharfies

Published: 10 Dec 2021


10 DECEMBER 2021


The Maritime Union of Australia welcomes with enthusiasm the Morrison Government’s sudden interest in port and shipping matters along the Australian coastline, which comes after eight years of neglect, failure and disinterest from the Prime Minister and his predecessors.

“The Union has been consistently and persistently tabling data and prosecuting vigorously the critical and essential need for federal government investment in crucial road and rail infrastructure at our ports to alleviate freight congestion, improve productivity and help stevedores do their jobs effectively,” said MUA National Secretary, Paddy Crumlin.

“All we get in response is politicisation, when last week Scott Morrison decided to lie about wharfies and their families in an attempt to distract from his government’s years long mismanagement of the industry,” he added.

“If a port productivity review will stop Scott Morrison thinking of his own political self-interest and return to the job at hand, then we welcome it with enthusiasm,” Mr Crumlin said.

However, any port productivity review must focus on examining Australia’s inadequate intermodal freight infrastructure and systemic global shipping sector malfeasance which hampers productivity on the waterfront and undermines our import, export and domestic maritime supply chains.

The federal government’s failure to develop a nationally coordinated port infrastructure plan is exacerbated by various state governments’ refusal to reinvest their one-off windfalls from port privatisations into much needed road and rail infrastructure, with the result that containerised freight accumulates at our ports without intermodal capacity to move thousands of shipping containers off the quayline.

At the same time, consolidation of major shipping lines and the undermining of Australian cabotage has led to larger, more densely laden ships at our ports requiring lengthier processing times. Australia’s reliance upon foreign registered and crewed cargo vessels also undermines our national interest and deepens our dependency on the volatile international shipping sector, which has seen stratospheric price rises over the past two years.

“All the political misrepresentation in the world can’t mask the negligence and mismanagement of maritime infrastructure in this country,” Mr Crumlin said.

“Australia’s supply chains have been manipulated by international shipping companies to extract maximum profit and influence, which has a flow-on effect beyond our ports for consumers and small businesses,” explained Mr Crumlin.

International shipping companies have been taking advantage of Part X of the Competition and Consumer Act, an exemption from Australian law that allows these companies to form cartels. The MUA has repeatedly called for this section to be repealed. It has been joined in this campaign by the ACCC itself and industry figures including the Freight Trade Alliance.

Cabotage is a feature of most maritime countries worldwide, particularly where the national interest relies heavily on shipping, such as China, the United States, Canada and Japan.

A lack of Australian flagged and crewed ships, particularly on short sea domestic shipping lanes, has undermined any hope of a dynamic, resilient national supply chain and robbed us of any strategic advantage against the manipulative conduct of these international shipping cartels.

“Our Union is committed to the resilience of our national supply chains and we welcome a port productivity review that isn’t hampered by ideologically narrowed Terms of Reference,” Mr Crumlin said.

“We must not settle for a sham process from Mr Morrison to blame hard working wharfies as a distraction from the larger, more structural problems for which the Federal Government is ultimately responsible,” Mr Crumlin added.

Media Contact: Tom Harris-Brassil - 0401 834 924



Authorised by P Crumlin, Maritime Union of Australia, Sydney