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Monday, 29 February 2016
Page: 1396

Senator ABETZ (Tasmania) (22:20): A foundation stone of a healthy society is the number of people in a job. People in gainful employment exhibit better scores on their physical health, their mental health, their self-esteem and their social interaction. That is especially in comparison to people who are not so gainfully employed. The benefits flow not only to the individual but to everyone in that employed person's household as well. That is why the Tasmanian federal Liberal team—comprising the federal members for Braddon, Bass and Lyons, together with the newly endorsed candidate for Franklin, Amanda-Sue Markham, and the Tasmanian Liberal Senate team, of which both of us, Mr President, are proud members—are so focused on job creation.

To create jobs, we need to be able to market the products we make. Being an island state, we are heavily reliant on shipping to get our products to market and underpin the jobs. In recent times, direct international shipping has stopped swinging by Tasmania for general cargo. As a result, our products need to be transshipped over one of the most expensive stretches of water in the world—namely, Bass Strait. The Tasmanian federal Liberal team was able to obtain a massive $203 million extra for the Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme to assist with the international export of Tasmanian products. The cost and the need to tranship could be obviated very simply by this Senate repealing the coastal shipping regime, which was so foolishly and ham-fistedly rammed through this parliament in the dying days of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd governments. The repeal should be a no-brainer for any person with the best interests of Tasmania and Tasmanians at heart.

If you want to create jobs and build jobs in Tasmania, you will, of course, have a very important freight task to undertake to get those products to world markets. Recently, Mr President, in your home city of Burnie, there was a proposal put forward by DP World that, if the coastal shipping regime were repealed and the legislation that we, as a government, had put up were passed, they would immediately invest between $20 million and $30 million on the Burnie waterfront to build a container facility and start direct international shipping from Tasmania to world markets. To see $20 million to $30 million of capital being invested is a huge investment in anybody's language. It does not stop there, of course. It is then getting our product to world markets much more cheaply. Indeed, the taxpayer would be saved millions of dollars because there would not be such reliance on the Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme as the need to tranship to Melbourne would be obviated. This would be exceptionally good news.

Why any Tasmanian senator would have voted against that legislation is, therefore, beyond bemusement. Very sadly, eight out of Tasmania's 12 senators voted against that legislation. It is worth noting that prior to the Labor-Greens regime forcing this legislation through the Senate we had 30 major Australian trading vessels with a general licence—that means vessels of over 2,000 deadweight tonnes. Within two years of Labor introducing its disastrous coastal shipping changes in 2012, this fleet halved to 15 vessels. In addition, the number of vessels with a transitional general licence dropped from 16 to eight and, just this month, two more operators withdrew their Australian crewed vessels from domestic waters, so this fleet component has diminished to six.

Confronted with these horrific statistics, you would have thought Labor and the Greens would admit their mistake of a few years ago. Instead, they maniacally maintain that, somehow, it is in the interests of Australian coastal shipping to maintain this regime, despite the fact that the statistics speak so starkly and so clearly of the decline with the fleet halving from 30 to just 15 vessels. Indeed, there were almost 1,000 fewer coastal voyages in Australia, two million fewer tonnes of freight moved by foreign vessels and demurrage rates tripled from $15,000 to $45,000. A major producer in Tasmania, the Bell Bay Aluminium smelter in the electorate of Bass, told the Productivity Commission of a 63 per cent increase in freight rates. All these things hurt jobs—and hurt jobs in Tasmania—very badly.

It is clearly in the interests of Tasmanian jobs that this coastal shipping regime of the Labor-Greens government be repealed. It is in the interests of Tasmanian jobs, it in the interests of Tasmanian wealth creation and, for the Greens, it surely is in the interests of the environment to ensure that you do not have to burn tonnes and tonnes of bunker fuel to get product from Tasmania to Melbourne only to then have it shipped by another ship elsewhere to the world. Direct shipping would be more economical and, of course, more fuel efficient, ensuring less CO2 emissions into the atmosphere. Indeed, with the 1,000 fewer coastal voyage movements that I referred to, how do you believe that the product gets moved around Australia now? Instead of being moved on the more efficient shipping methodology, it is now trucked around Australia, causing a lot more traffic congestion and a lot more B-doubles on our roads, especially up and down the Pacific Highway and across to Western Australia, and burning so much more fossil fuel. It is inefficient and environmentally more damaging.

Because of the extreme left-wing ideology of the Australian Greens, they refuse to repeal the legislation, which has seen the more efficient methodology of shipping being destroyed. It seems that the MAU stranglehold—financially and with numbers at Labor state councils—is dictating Labour and Greens policy. But what it really cannot explain is somebody who pretends to be an Independent in this place voting against legislation that would see $20 million to $30 million of infrastructure investment in her home city and the capacity for direct export of Tasmania's fine produce to the world's markets.

Mr President, as you and I well know, the Tasmanian economy has turned a corner, with the election of federal Liberal governments in Canberra and Hobart. The economy is starting to tune up very well. We are increasing our productivity. But to be able to capitalise on that, we have to be able to get our products to market. That is why coastal shipping reform is such a vital component for any further development of the Tasmanian economy and Tasmanian job opportunities. My call this evening is for all Tasmanian senators to put aside any partisan differences they might have and vote for Tasmanian jobs, vote for Tasmanian economic growth and, indeed, vote for the environment.

Senate adjourned at 22:30