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Thursday, 12 February 2015
Page: 638

Shipping


Senator BUSHBY (TasmaniaChief Government Whip in the Senate) (14:43): Mr President, my question is to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Abetz. Can the minister outline why reform to coastal shipping legislation is needed, particularly for my home state of Tasmania?


Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service and Minister for Employment) (14:43): I thank Senator Bushby for his question and note that he is the only holder of a Graduate Diploma of Business Shipping from the Australian Maritime College in the federal parliament, so he comes to this issue with some qualification. Since Labor's new coastal trading act, which commenced in 2012, there has been a massive 64 per cent reduction in the deadweight tonnage of Australian flag vessels. Despite Labor claiming that its plan would 'promote a viable shipping industry' the amount of coastal freight loaded at Australian ports has continued to fall at an average of 2.4 per cent each year, placing a lot more goods and containers on Australian roads

Shippers have said that container rates from Melbourne to Brisbane are almost twice that of Melbourne to Singapore. The result of this drop in shipping activity is a dramatic increase in the freight and demurrage rates applying to Australian ships. These facts are of significant concern right around Australia but in particular in our home state and Senator Bushby's home state, where geography dictates a reliance on shipping, making shipping vital to trade and therefore to the viability and growth of Tasmanian businesses and jobs.

The Launceston Chamber of Commerce says that Labor's new scheme meant: 'Northern Tasmania has suffered considerably from increased costs and timeliness for exports and imports of freight.' Bell Bay Aluminium in Tasmania, employing about 500 staff, has reported a 63 per cent increase in shipping freight from Tasmania to Queensland.

We need to protect Australian manufacturing jobs, and the coastal shipping act is not serving that. (Time expired)


Senator BUSHBY (TasmaniaChief Government Whip in the Senate) (14:46): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Can the minister inform the Senate of any reasons for the deterioration in the viability of the Australian shipping industry?


Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service and Minister for Employment) (14:46): The Australian shipping industry has suffered from a decline in activity over the past 15 years. Labor's 2012 reforms worsened and accelerated the situation in their failed attempt to protect jobs on behalf of their friends in the Maritime Union of Australia. In attempting to protect MUA jobs, the Labor Party is jettisoning hundreds, if not thousands of Australian jobs whose products rely on coastal shipping. The Productivity Commission has now found that the justification for the 2012 reforms was—and they were very polite—'questionable' and that higher shipping costs in Tasmania and the impacts on Australian businesses generally require urgent attention to reinvigorate competitiveness in Australian shipping. Labor's ill-conceived licensing system has killed off hundreds of jobs in Australian industry. (Time expired)


Senator BUSHBY (TasmaniaChief Government Whip in the Senate) (14:47): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Can the minister inform the Senate of steps the government is taking to improve the operating environment for Australian shipping?


Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service and Minister for Employment) (14:47): Yes I can, and I thank Senator Bushby for his question. The coalition government is acting to help restore the good health of the Australian shipping industry and fix the mess left by Labor. Australia needs a strong shipping industry in order to support Australian jobs in manufacturing, transport and other sectors. In April 2014, the government released an options paper and called for submissions on the state of the shipping industry. We received 85 submissions, the majority of them calling for reform of the current arrangements. It should not be cheaper to transport goods to Singapore than it is to send them to Brisbane. The government is considering these submissions and continuing to consult on ways to develop a more flexible framework to reduce costs and restore competitiveness to the Australian shipping industry. It is only a coalition government that will reform industry regulation to put the needs of Australian workers first. (Time expired)