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Thursday, 31 May 2012
Page: 6505

Mr MARLES (CorioParliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs and Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs) (12:00): I would like to add my voice to the member for Kennedy's in commending the Minister for Transport and Infrastructure for his efforts and, like the member for Kennedy, I too say, 'God bless Albo'. I am here to support this package of reforms, in particular the Shipping Registration Amendment (Australian International Shipping Register) Bill 2012, which establishes an Australian international register—which will be a genuine and quality national register that upholds an appropriate standard of ships, robust regulations, decent labour standards and good safety.

The AISR provides for the establishment of a high-quality register under the regulation of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, which is internationally regarded as a leading-edge regulator in international shipping. The bill establishes a strong regime for the employment of seafarers, recognising that to be internationally competitive with other quality shipping registers, such as Singapore, Denmark and the UK, the Fair Work Act and related Australian workers compensation standards cannot apply. Instead, the bill provides a framework for the establishment of labour relation standards that are comparable with better quality international registers, like those in Europe and the UK, based around the ILO Maritime Labour Convention and International Transport Workers Federation standards.

In that context, the bill allows for mixed crews on ships on the AISR, requiring a minimum of two Australian resident crew members, ideally the master and the chief engineer. The remainder of the crew can be non-nationals. Minister Albanese in his second reading speech acknowledged the opportunity for those non-nationals to be drawn from the near region—from seafarer nations of the Pacific and from Timor Leste. I fully support that objective and will work with the Australian stakeholders and regional nations to ensure that our regional neighbours are provided with the opportunity to participate in Australian shipping reform.

Australia understands labour mobility is critical to the economic sustainability of the Pacific region. In Kiribati, remittances—mainly from merchant seamen—represented around seven per cent of GDP in 2009. In Tuvalu last year, remittances— again mostly from locally-trained merchant seamen—were worth around six per cent of GDP. Our commitment to increasing opportunities for labour mobility was demonstrated last year when this government expanded the Pacific Seasonal Workers Scheme to nine countries across the Pacific and East Timor. This aspect of Australian shipping reform creates a new employment stream for the graduates of Pacific maritime institutes, a number of which are already delivering outcomes to IMO standards. It also creates opportunities to build the standing and standards of those regional maritime training institutes so they can also supply internationally recognised seafarers to other nations which encourage investment in shipping.

Of course, all of this will provide a new source of remittances for the nations of the Pacific. We know, as I have stated, that in some Pacific nations remittances from seafarers are a substantial part of the national economy.. Such an outcome fits well with the existing development assistance objectives around education and training and the creation of genuine employment streams in quality and sustainable industries. For Australia, there will be an opportunity for our high-quality seafarer training institutes, such as the Australian Maritime College or the Great Barrier Reef International Maritime College, to deliver top-up training to meet the requirements of the new IMO International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping, known as the 2010 Manila amendments, which create globally an international integrated rating.

The creation of a genuine regional seafarer labour market will help smooth out the peaks and troughs of the domestic seafarer labour market, driven by the demands of the offshore oil and gas industry. I am committed and I know AusAID is committed to fostering these opportunities. This will create economic benefit for Australia and for regional nations who come on board. This is one aspect of the shipping reform bills where Australia can show regional, and indeed global, leadership in a partnership with domestic stakeholders and regional nations.

The regional employment and training opportunities demonstrate how Labor has structured this package as an integrated package of bills that delivers positive benefits for Australia, for seafaring families and for the nations in the region. I commend the minister for his foresight in developing these bills. I will be providing my support to see that workers from Pacific and neighbouring countries have the opportunity to be part of high-quality seafaring crews under the AISR. I commend the bills, and in particular the Shipping Registration Amendment (Australian International Shipping Register) Bill 2012, to the House.