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Union protectionism sinks shipping reform proposals

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Media Contact Paul Chamberlin mob 0419 233 989 ph 02 6277 4482

2 December 2010

Union protectionism sinks shipping reform proposals

The opportunity for worthwhile shipping reform has been lost by the Gillard Government’s rush to pay back the Maritime Union and wind back past changes that have benefited the whole nation.

The Shadow Minister for Transport, Warren Truss, said he was deeply concerned in particular by the Government’s apparent support in a new discussion paper for an end to continuous voyage and most single voyage permits.

“This change would immediately take us back to the bad old days where companies wanting to ship product around Australia would have to wait weeks and sometimes months for an Australian flagged and crewed vessel to become available,” Mr Truss said.

“I believe that shipping will need to play a much greater role in Australia’s transport task in the years ahead, but Labor’s proposals will add millions of dollars to the cost of domestic shipping.

“Australian shipping will very quickly become uncompetitive with other forms of transport. Instead of taking a larger share of the forecast transport task, shipping will be used less and we will see more heavy vehicles on our roads.

“It will be cheaper and simpler to import products from Asia, the United States and even Europe than it will to move them from one port to another in Australia. It will be more attractive to process Australian raw materials overseas than to ship them to an Australian port.

“Labor’s permit policy might create short-term subsidised seafarers jobs, but it will take away at least as many jobs in other areas of Australian industry. Unions other than the MUA should be white hot about these proposals.

“Labor’s apparent return to union protectionism sadly cloaks many decent and sensible reforms put forward in the shipping industry discussion paper. The proposals to develop a second register and to examine the taxation regime for Australian shipping and seafarers were part of the Coalition’s election platform.

“The last thing Australia needs is the unions running shipping again - or even the waterfront. We came a long way under the Coalition and Labor must not take us back in time,” Mr Truss said.