Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Monday, 18 June 2012
Page: 3339

Senator CAMERON (New South Wales) (11:06): I am very pleased to support of these bills before the Senate today. I must say I nearly fell asleep during Senator Colbeck's presentation, but let me tell you, Senator Colbeck: we know what it is about. It is about trying to reduce the conditions of seafarers both here and internationally. I was on the committee and I could see what the business people were pushing for. They want to reduce the wages and conditions of seafarers in this country. They do not want to give seafarers a fair go. Your definition of 'globalisation' is exactly what you claim it is not; it is about trying to push the wages and conditions in this country down to the lowest level.

Senator Ian Macdonald: Absolute rubbish.

Senator CAMERON: Senator Macdonald, if you would stop—

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Boyce ): Senator Cameron, please stop worrying about the interjections and please address your remarks to the chair.

Senator CAMERON: I am never worried about interjections; the more the merrier—certainly from Senator Macdonald and Senator Colbeck. That is fine. It is clear that the two people from the coalition who have contributed to the debate on the bill today really do not understand what it is about—and what would you expect from the coalition? This is a coalition with absolute economic incompetence, with only one argument about trying to improve productivity. We hear about productivity and costs. What was their approach, in the 11½ years of the Howard government? Their approach was to try to destroy the wages and conditions of workers in this country, to try to force them down to the bottom. That is the coalition, and they are waiting with Work Choices in their back pockets, waiting to come back, waiting to support big business and trying to drive wages and conditions down. We heard from Senator Joyce and Senator Colbeck. Let me give a bit of advice to Senator Colbeck: you should stop worrying about this bill, because this is a bill that will benefit Tasmania. What you should do—

Senator Ian Macdonald: Madam Acting Deputy President, I raise a point of order. Senator Cameron has been around long enough to know that he should not address senators across the table and that his remarks should be through the chair.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: There is no point of order. I have brought this to Senator Cameron's attention.

Senator CAMERON: Thank you. Through the chair, I would ask Senator Colbeck to concentrate on the real issues for Tasmania. The real issues for Tasmania are to get an effective, efficient shipping fleet of long-term viability in this country, and that is what this bill is about. If the Tasmanian senators actually stood up here and fought for Tasmania, they would be fighting against the sycophantic approach by the Western Australian Liberal Party towards Twiggy Forrest, Gina Rinehart and Clive Palmer, who are in there arguing that all the money should be in Western Australia or in Queensland and that Tasmania should be left to swing. That is the position. It is okay for Senator Colbeck to leave the chamber now, but I have a bit of advice for him, through the chair: if you want to stand up for Tasmania then stand up against the mining magnates who want to rip back any decent taxation from this country.

We are a nation that has been built on shipping. We need a viable, growing shipping industry. But that has to be done on decent wages and decent conditions. We hear, 'We're in a globalised economy,' but that is simply code for: 'We want overseas maritime workers to be plying their trade in this country on the lowest wages and conditions possible.' That is what the coalition want. That is what they have always been about. That is why the Howard government—and I see Senator Sinodinos has just walked in—was up to its neck in ripping away the conditions of maritime workers in this country. That is why Senator Sinodinos was sitting around the cabinet table advising John Howard to do something about the carbon price on one hand and then backflipping when he came in here. This is the absolute hypocrisy of the coalition. Their idea of improving productivity is to put dogs on the wharves, to get the thugs on the wharves with their balaclavas, to try to get rid of workers who are earning a decent wage and to put in lower wages and conditions. We all know what the coalition is about. But you have to understand that the MUA is here to stay. They are going to have decent conditions on the wharves and decent conditions in the industries they are involved in.

The arguments being put forward by Senator Joyce do not bear up under any analysis whatsoever. I do not often agree with Senator Joyce, but I do agree with him on the Productivity Commission—you have to take it with a big grain of salt, given its ideological bent to come after working people wherever it can. Senator Joyce's view of the Productivity Commission—on the public record—is that you should use Productivity Commission reports for toilet paper. That is his argument. Yet he comes in here today because the coalition has said, 'You've got to oppose this bill.' And what does he argue for? He argues for a Productivity Commission inquiry. What a disingenuous approach from Senator Joyce. On one hand, he says to use the Productivity Commission reports for toilet paper—even I do not say that!—and, on the other hand, he says, 'Let's have a Productivity Commission inquiry.' What a joke. What a load of rubbish from the coalition—a Productivity Commission inquiry about making sure we get decent wages and conditions and a decent industry in this country. Well, Senator Joyce just gave the game away.

I think Senator Urquhart outlined earlier the National Party's policy on shipping. What is the National Party's policy on shipping? The National Party's policy on shipping is, almost word for word, this bill—what the government is seeking to do. Senator Joyce needs some credibility. I know he does not have a lot of credibility on an economic basis. I know he got sacked because he could not cop his shadow portfolio in finance. But he has to have a little bit of credibility left, and he should support the National Party policy, which says, on page 65, that they would introduce a tonnage tax. I do not suppose that is a 'great big new tax', but they want to introduce a tonnage tax, and they said that if they were in power they would do that from 2011-12. That company tax would be on an opt-in basis, linked to mandatory training arrangements. So the National Party proposes mandatory training arrangements for the industry, and we support that view. But they would introduce a national system of training support under the supervision of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority. Again, we will cop to that. Also, they would examine ways to reduce the income tax disadvantage suffered by Australian seafarers operating outside Australian waters, compared with seafarers from other nations.

Well, now is the chance for the National Party, instead of getting up here making disingenuous speeches they do not actually believe in, as Senator Joyce did. He had to spend half his speech talking about a carbon price when he does not understand the industry and does not know the benefits that this will provide for the industry. The National Party could now stand up and actually support its policy, what it stands for. Stop flip-flopping around every time the Liberal Party tells you that you cannot support your own policy. Stand up for your own policy and support this bill. That is what you should be doing.

A tonnage tax is on the National Party platform. Ours is a zero tax rate, as recommended by the industry and the Treasury. So we can get some agreement on that. They want a national training system. The bipartisan committee supported that, and so does Labor's shipping bill. We want a tax exemption for Australian seafarers, and the National Party support that. We want to establish a second register, and so do the National Party. So, when this bill comes to the floor, I would expect the National Party to support their own policy by supporting this bill. That is the right thing to do. This is a good bill. It is about ensuring that we have an industry in this country that can help service the needs of Australia. We are a shipping nation and we should support our shipping industry and make sure that we do the right thing by the industry.

Clearly, there was political inference in the shipping industry under the Howard government. It was supported by Senator Sinodinos. So when Senator Sinodinos gets up on his feet here you will know that he was the guy who sat around with John Howard and Peter Reith saying, 'Crush the MUA. Put the dogs on the docks. Put the thugs on the docks. We will drive wages down.' That is Senator Sinodinos for you. The Australian said that, in Senator Sinodinos, a great new economic mind was coming into parliament. Well, Senator Sinodinos sat with John Howard and said, 'How do we fix our economic problems? We try to destroy the MUA. We try to drive wages and conditions down for workers all over this country.' Senator Sinodinos will continue that when he stands up here and opposes this bill.

This is about a sophisticated economic development position, taking this country forward. It is not about the lowest common denominator. It is not about trying to cut costs at the expense of maritime workers or at the expense of maritime workers' jobs. It is about training, about cooperation and a compact, and it is about sophisticated tax support for the industry. These are things that happen overseas, but in the 11½ years that the Howard government were in office they never once thought about it.

So we will have Senator Sinodinos, the so-called economic guru, railing against government interference—yet when he was sitting there with John Howard, working out how we should interfere in industry, what was his plan? His plan was to put the Alsatians on the docks. Put the Rottweilers on the docks. Put the thugs on the docks. That is what was done by the Howard government, supported in the Senate by Senator Macdonald.

They are all sitting there opposing this bill, a bill that is based on a sophisticated approach to industry development. It will bring our industry into line with what happens in about 40 other countries, which is to support our industry with a decent tax base. But what you will get is speeches like the ones we got from Senator Colbeck and from Senator Joyce. I suppose Senator Sinodinos will be a little bit more sophisticated than Senator Joyce, but that will not be very hard.

My view is that, in talking about the problems the country is facing, those problems are not with this bill. This bill is about improving the lot of the industry and the life of maritime workers. It is about improving every aspect of the industry through training and sophisticated tax approaches, to build our industry. It is not about artificial restrictions, as Senator Colbeck would have it. It is not about the cost of shipping, because this will be done in a cost-effective way, a sophisticated way, that means we will have a decent industry in this country. When Senator Sinodinos gets up to speak, that is what he should speak about. He should speak about getting a decent, sophisticated industry in this country that is about bringing Australia back to what it was: a strong maritime nation capable of moving some of our own goods, with workers getting decent wages and conditions. That is the problem.

Here you have to pay decent wages and provide decent conditions. I got a bit sick and tired of listening to some of the submissions at the Senate inquiry. Some of the dry goods people came in and said that they wanted to continue to exploit overseas maritime workers, by keeping them on wages as low as possible, to keep costs down in this country. That is not the way to do business. We have to be a bit more sophisticated than that.

After hearing the speeches from the other side this morning, senators would well know that those opposite have no capacity to deliver on that. They have no understanding of the real drivers of the industry. It is simply about cost. It is not about the tax base and making sure it helps that industry. It is not about the training in the industry. It is not about a compact in the industry, where the unions can sit down with the employers and improve the productive performance of the industry. It has nothing to do with that. They are simply responding, as they always do, to business saying, 'This will cost us a little bit extra.' They run behind their big business mates and will oppose anything that is in the interests of the workers in this country. They will oppose sophisticated approaches because they are all about taking the low road in industrial relations and the low road in productivity. That was borne out by the two speeches we heard this morning.