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Tuesday, 7 February 2017
Page: 120

Senator STERLE (Western Australia) (18:48): In respect of the government response to the Regional and Rural Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee's report on the Shipping Legislation Amendment (Provisions) Bill 2015, I move:

That the Senate take note of the document.

As most would know, I have chaired the committee in one shape, way or form for the last nine or 10 years, but I was on the committee inquiry into this legislation. This is an absolutely disastrous piece of legislation. The opposition has put in a dissenting report; the Greens have put in a dissenting report. I notice that the committee, of which I am a member, without the support of the Labor senators, has endorsed the report and the recommendations and the government has picked it up.

What we have here, Madam Deputy President, is an absolute attack on Australian shipping jobs. There is no argument that the shipping industry is trying everything that it can to be competitive around the world, but we are fooling ourselves if we think that we can drop ourselves to the lowest common denominator and compete with foreign seafarers on flags-of-convenience vessels. What we have here is the federal government's attack on our industry. We are an island and, make no mistake, shipping is absolutely our main thrust of moving freight on and off this great country, this island, to all parts of the world and in between and coming back.

We do not have the ability to train captains and masters in three- or four-day session in TAFE. These jobs, these skills, these professions are grown over years and years of seafaring expertise from our sailors and seafarers. Unfortunately, I cannot for the life of me believe that the Australian government goes to an election and all the government can talk about is 'jobs and growth, jobs and growth'. The sad part about this—and every Australian needs to understand this—is: if you are an Australian seafarer plying your trade between Australian ports, the 'jobs and growth' is fine so long as it is not Australians doing it. I am not making this up. This is a pure attack on Australian seafarers.

I have heard all the bulldust and all the arguments of why we cannot have Australian seafarers, but there comes a time when we have to draw the line and we have to say to someone at the top end of town, 'You may want to deliver more for your shareholders'—I understand how it all works—but when we talk about the environmental consequences that can come. We have seen collisions on the Great Barrier Reef, oil spills and ships falling apart. They are not Australian-crewed vessels that do this.

We also have to sit through—I will tell you what—the beefed up stuff on 'Don't be alarmed but be alert' and all this sort of stuff. You want to talk about security; we all want to talk about national security; we want to protect our borders and we want to know who is coming into this country. We can't guarantee that if we are doing away with Australian seafarers and we are letting flag-of-convenience vessels ply their trade in and out of our ports, carting our freight on previously Australian-flagged vessels with Australian crew. What the hell is this nation coming to?

I am going to look across the chamber to the little corner over there of One Nation and others—you cannot just keep your head down. One Nation senators have to understand that you are very good at stirring up the possum about protectionism and nationalism—Senator Xenophon and the NXT Senators as well—but if you do not stand up and you do not support Labor's position on this terrible bill, I will call you out because you will be selling out Australian seafaring jobs.

You can challenge me in every corner of this building because I have done the inquiry. We have heard from numerous people and from the Australian shipping industry as well, who have come to tell us how bad this could be. We had figures put to us. We asked the MUA. You can challenge it. You can go and ask the owners of the ships: how many Australian jobs could we lose? They have told us uncategorically 1,200 Australian jobs will go if this terrible legislation gets up. I am glad Senator Xenophon is walking in because Senator Xenophon has been a very strong, solid supporter, and I would hope and pray that nothing has changed his position on Australian seafaring jobs.

My colleague the good Senator Gallacher from South Australia wishes to make a contribution, and I do not want to thwart his contribution on another bill. I seek leave to continue my remarks later and I will have another crack again on Thursday. I am not going to give up. I have been going on about this for about the last two years and, unfortunately, there does not seem to be any support from the other side. They are glad to see jobs and growth as long as they are not Australian jobs.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.