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Thursday, 31 May 2012
Page: 6480


Ms PARKE (Fremantle) (10:24): It gives me enormous satisfaction to speak in support of these shipping bills and to welcome the package of further maritime reforms they contain. They certainly build on the government's earlier reforms, which have included the Navigation Amendment Bill, which enabled ratification of the International Labor Organisation's Maritime Labour Convention and amended provisions in line with the convention's guidelines when it comes to vessel tracking. Prior to that, we made changes to undo what had become the chronic and unjustifiable use of the permit system to avoid the sensible regulations that would otherwise apply to foreign flagged and registered vessels. All these steps are consonant with the government's overarching National Ports Strategy, which itself is a very important piece of future planning for Australia.

I represent an electorate, Fremantle, whose ports and maritime industry are absolutely essential to its economic, cultural and historical character. Fremantle port is far and away the largest general cargo port in WA; it receives 80 per cent of all seaborne imports by value and it is home to the largest branch of the Maritime Union of Australia. What is more, it has lent its workers' name and anchor symbol to potentially the best AFL side in the land. But, for all its current size and significance, there is a clear need and potential for Fremantle port to have a greater freight role in the years ahead, and there are many environmental and community amenity reasons why an increase in domestic freight by sea instead of road would be a welcome outcome. Having said that, we do need better land-side arrangements and infrastructure in Fremantle and the Perth metro area to assist in moving container freight into and out of Fremantle port on rail rather than on road. As I have observed before, this task was proceeding well under the Gallop-Carpenter government in WA but has fallen into a hole since 2008, with the proportion of freight on rail dropping by a third under the Barnett government.

As I noted at the outset, these bills follow from the earlier regulatory changes which addressed the discouraging and obstructive policies of the former government when it came to Australian owned and flagged vessels and therefore to the Australian coastal shipping industry. The bills we debate today go further in actually creating the incentives for Australian shipowners to upgrade and renew the ageing fleet of Australian vessels, and they offer further sensible encouragement for operating Australian registered vessels and for employing Australian seafarers. This package of incentives will boost investment in Australian shipping which in turn will mean better employment and training, an increase in coastal freight and an improved domestic shipping stock and capacity, with the security benefits and flexibility this brings.

I know that the people in my electorate would particularly welcome a rejuvenated coastal shipping industry. They are well aware that shipping represents a much lower carbon footprint than road transport and they know that trucks also carry much higher infrastructure costs in terms of road damage, in addition to the impact they have on the safety and amenity of communities along the freight route. Freo people, especially young people, stand to benefit enormously from the increased opportunities for Australian seafarers and for other kinds of Australian based maritime work because the changes we make here on an industry-wide basis will dovetail well with the training provided at South Fremantle High School's new maritime trades training centre.

Maritime reform in the shape of structural and regulatory changes designed to make for a revitalised, better managed and more economically sustainable industry is one of the very significant and yet relatively unsung achievements of this Labor government. These changes are an example of comprehensive policy reform that is clearly in the long-term national interest, and by securing this reform we will introduce measures that improve the position of employers and employees, shipowners and seafarers as well as international competitiveness, international labour law and safety compliance. All of that makes it very hard to understand how and why the coalition can have chosen to oppose these bills and the reforms they contain.

By way of contrast, I want to acknowledge the very constructive input that has been made by the Australian shipping industry and by the Maritime Union of Australia, members of which are in the gallery today. I very sincerely welcome them. The largest branch of the MUA has been and continues to be a critical mainstay of social values and industrial rights in Fremantle and Western Australia. The MUA has always been one of my community's strongest, most vibrant foundation blocks: an organisation whose contribution to the social capital in Freo goes far beyond its important industrial work to also encompass the wider general values of collective trust, care and obligation and the wider specific concerns in areas like safety, health, the environment and social justice.

I want to conclude by acknowledging the incredible work of the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, his staff and his department. It is quite amazing to consider the scale and scope of the investment and reform that he has been responsible for within this government, not least because it is a government that has made transport and infrastructure investment of a never before seen breadth and not least because, in addition to those investments, which include more funding for urban public transport than all previous federal governments combined, there has also been the delivery of a range of complex and far-reaching reforms like the one we debate here today. As the minister said in question time this week, we are a country where 99.9 per cent of our exports are moved by ships, and there will soon be no Australian shipping fleet to revitalise. We need to act now or we will simply not have an industry at all, and an Aussie flag on the back of an Aussie ship will be consigned to history. This is sensible policy to level the playing field with our international competitors. That is why it has been welcomed by the shipping industry, and that is why it has been welcomed by many users of ships.

It is my privilege to represent a deeply maritime electorate. Fremantle is a place whose intersection between Swan River and the sea has made it an important and sacred place to the Nyungar people for thousands of years. It is a place whose natural harbour made it the obvious choice for the site of the Swan River colony and it is a place whose port has been the focus and spark of such diverse economic and cultural contributions as the engineering genius of CY O'Connor and the Labor movement fervour of people like Tom Edwards, Paddy Troy and John Curtin. These reforms will provide improvements for Fremantle and for Western Australia, and they are part of securing a safe, workable and sustainable maritime industry in the decades ahead.