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Wednesday, 18 March 2015
Page: 2856

Mr O'DOWD (Flynn) (19:45): The coastal shipping trade in Australia has been in trouble for some time. Let me explain. While there has been a dramatic increase of 57 per cent in total Australian freight over the past decade, during this period shipping's share of national freight fell from 27 per cent to 17 per cent.

The number of major Australian registered ships with licences to move coastal freight fell, from 30 to just 13, during the six years that Labor was in power. And there was also a 2.4 per cent decline each year in the total weight of coastal freight in the five-year period, from 2008 to 2013, under Labor. It is disgraceful to see the decline of such an important industry.

Coastal shipping moves vital cargoes, including coal, petroleum products, LPG and, particularly in Queensland, fertilizer supplies. Gladstone Port, in my electorate, is an important port for cement and aluminium shipping. The Coastal Trading Act, put in place by the former Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, in 2012, has really sickened the whole trade.

The act was supposed to tighten restrictions on foreign ships operating in Australian waters. Did this happen? No. It has, instead, damaged the domestic shipping industry in Australia. Ships are being held idle at ports for a day before loading and it is costing domestic vessels twice as much as foreign vessels. The Maritime Union claim that this is not true but, because of this regulation, there have been rate hikes across the industry. Tasmanian company Bell Bay Aluminium has reported a rate increase of more than $11 per tonne, or 63 per cent, when transporting from Queensland to Tasmania.

The Maritime Union also claims that there has been increased activity since the act was implemented, but that is not right, either. Shipping capacity has fallen by 64 per cent between 2012 and 2014. There have been 1,000 fewer journeys since this reform was passed and, as a result, hundreds of jobs have been lost. We told the minister so at the time that this bill came in! There have also been disastrous flow-on effects to other industries on land. The jobs of some 90,000 Australian workers employed in the manufacturing sectors using coastal shipping, including oil refining, steel and aluminium production, are at risk.

There is more congestion on our roads as a result of the ships slowing down and this is all putting pressure back on our road system and of course driving up costs. And the increased usage of our infrastructure is quickly wearing out our roads. Shipping rates are imposing excessively high cost on business. Currently, an Australian ship can cost around $5 million a year more than a foreign ship of similar capacity on the same routes. That of course is hurting jobs and affecting our manufacturing industries.

But I am pleased that our government is trying to fix the mess that Labor created. But how do you unscramble an egg? We are now doing something to remove the red tape imposed, which will help the industry and improve the shipping trade. It will create more jobs and it will go some way to reviving the coastal shipping trade in this country. The task is ahead of us.

It is good news for my electorate in Gladstone if we can keep these costs down and get the ships moving, because we are in a competitive world. We are a global trade and we must be competitive along with the other countries which have an advantage over us with cheaper shipping rates.

Labor came in. They replaced a system that was 100 years old. But do you know what? It worked. Since 2012 the whole industry has been hurting. I think it is up to those people on the other side to help us restore the faith in coastal shipping.