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Monday, 10 September 2018
Page: 8511

Ms KEAY (Braddon) (17:23): I thank the member for Hindmarsh for bringing this motion to this chamber. As a member representing an island state, I know that a reliable shipping service and maritime industry is absolutely crucial. Over 99 per cent of Tasmania's freight volume is moved by sea—12.5 million tonnes through the main ports and another 2.4 million tonnes out of Port Latta. Tasmania is also serviced by three Australian owned and crewed shipping companies—Toll, Searoad and TT-Line. Our stevedoring companies, which are critical in the supply chain, also play a pivotal role.

At sea and onshore, it is important that the workforce, customers and community are not manipulated for commercial gain. I am pleased our maritime operations do the right thing. I wish I could say the same about the foreign shipping companies that visit Tasmania. As recently as July this year, a foreign flagged ship, the Xing Ning Hai, was detained in Devonport over the nonpayment of hundreds of thousands of dollars to its Chinese crew—$338,400, to be precise. Unfortunately, this is commonplace, and all too regularly we see examples just like that.

Sadly, in Australia our ocean workers are being manipulated, as evidenced by the events in Devonport in July, but this exploitation is commonplace in international ports. One company responsible for this exploitation is the Philippines based global port operator International Container Terminal Services Inc., or ICTSI. It has gained a foothold in Australia at Webb Dock in Melbourne, thanks to the former Victorian Liberal government's granting ICTSI's subsidiary VICT a contract.

A report last month by the International Transport Workers' Federation raises a number of serious questions that this parliament should be addressing, and it's disturbing that there is not one government member speaking on this motion. The report found that ICTSI operate in some of the poorest and most exploited nations in the world. They use their Australian operation to somehow demonstrate they are a legitimate operation. But, when you operate in Sudan, Syria and Congo, that cannot be the case. The report found ICTSI's workers are underpaid and overworked, and are harassed and coerced. Workers face violence and intimidation in retaliation for raising workplace issues. The report also found that ICTSI proudly proclaims that its presence in developing nations with questionable regimes is good for business. The ITF report contains a quote from Enrique K Razon, Chairman and President of ICTSI, which I shall now read into Hansard:

Africa is a very good place for us. There is very little competition and they need the investment badly … Returns are best there with high yields in the handling business. To handle a box in our terminal in Yantai, [China], we charge about $45-$50. The same container in Africa easily goes for $200-$250.

Who ultimately pays for this? It is the people, which is just unacceptable. Fortunately, ICTSI has not set foot in Tasmania. However, with former state Liberal governments in Victoria awarding them a contract, we need to be vigilant that the Tasmanian state Liberal government does not do the same. What we need is a set of principles that foreign owned companies who want to operate in Australia must adhere to.

While I am very confident the community would not tolerate the sort of exploitative practices we have seen from ICTSI in Third World countries, I believe governments in developed nations like Australia should play a number of roles. Firstly, we should not allow companies to legitimise their international operations by operating in Australia with such a record while at the same time exploiting some of the poorest people in the world. Secondly, our political leadership should be doing everything they can at an international level to put pressure on companies like ICTSI to change the way they operate. Thirdly, there should be a full and proper investigation as to how a company with such practices was allowed to gain a foothold in Australia.

By any reasonable standard, the exploitation of developing nations and their people is abhorrent. It is intolerable. I commend ITF and the member for Hindmarsh for bringing this issue to the attention of the parliament. It is shameful that members of the government are not speaking on this important motion.