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Monday, 22 October 2018
Page: 10594


Ms KEAY (Braddon) (16:19): I welcome the opportunity to speak on the Shipping Registration Amendment Bill 2018. It's a topic that I have spoken on a number of times in this place. As an island nation, our coastal shipping fleet is a vital part of our nation's infrastructure. For an island state like Tasmania, my home state, it is even more critical. Over 99 per cent of Tasmania's freight volumes are moved by sea. The timely and efficient movement of passengers and goods between Tasmania and the mainland not only means hundreds of local jobs but also supports key Tasmanian industries in the tourism, agriculture, forestry, aquaculture, mining and manufacturing sectors.

Over 12.5 million tonnes of freight is moved through Tasmania's publicly owned ports, and forecasts indicate these volumes will increase. An additional $2.4 million of freight has moved through Port Latta, which is in my electorate. Eighty per cent of Tasmania's sea freight is for interstate trade. With only 17 per cent international exports, a small amount is direct overseas freight. The ports of Burnie and Devonport are Tasmania's two major freight ports and are based in my electorate. These ports are well serviced by three Australian owned and crewed shipping companies: Toll Shipping, which operates out of Burnie; SeaRoad and TT-Line, which both operate out of my hometown of Devonport.

All three companies are investing in the Bass Strait route. Toll Shipping has announced that its two new Bass Strait freighters are expected to start operating on 1 March next year. The vessels will operate between Burnie and Melbourne and are purpose-built at a cost of $170 million. The project also includes $141 million to upgrade terminals, wharfs and berthing facilities at both ports. SeaRoad launched its $110 million Searoad Mersey II vessel in 2016. That lifted the operation's capacity by 62 per cent. TT-Line are also in the process of replacing its two Spirit of Tasmania ships with larger vessels to cater for increased passengers, vehicles and freight. At the moment, all three companies have the confidence to invest.

Tasmania's maritime industry is part of our way of life. It is part of our who we are and of our heritage. Like hundreds, if not thousands, of Tasmanians, my family has a connection with the sea. My father was a seafarer on the Princess of Tasmania, the Empress of Australia and the Abel Tasman, whichsailed the Bass Strait between Sydney and Devonport, and then Melbourne and Devonport.

While this side of the House welcomes this legislation and will be supporting it, one has to question how long there will be a viable Australian shipping industry that will actually need ships to be registered. The actions of the coalition indicate that what they want to do is destroy Australia's shipping industry. It seems that their ideological bent against the Maritime Union of Australia has warped their logic. In their efforts to wipe out the MUA, it appears that they are prepared to wipe out Australia's shipping industry as collateral damage.

When Labor was last in office, we took a number of steps to rebuild the Australia's shipping industry. We had a simple goal: more Australian seafarers, crewing more Australian-flagged ships, carrying more Australian goods around the Australian coastline. Labor made a number of reforms that the shadow minister at the time and the member for Grayndler has articulated to the House. This included a zero-tax rate for Australian shippers and other regulatory changes to make things easier, including the establishment of a single national regulator. Labor reforms were about levelling the playing field. They were developed in consultation with the industry. We also established an international shipping register, allowing operators of Australian-flagged vessels to employ mixed Australian and foreign crews on internationally agreed rates and conditions.

Importantly, Labor's changes did not preclude the use of foreign vessels. They simply required firms needing to move freight between Australian ports to first seek out an Australian operator. When none were available, foreign vessels could be used so long as they paid Australian-level wages on domestic sectors. That all makes perfect sense and seems very fair. We also enacted the first major rewrite of the nation's maritime laws in almost a century, making sure that oil companies pay for any and all damages that their ships may cause. We also developed Australia's first National Ports Strategy. However, for Labor's suite of reforms to work, they needed time.

In 2013, upon the coalition's election, those sitting opposite set about destroying the industry, with their first piece of legislation designed to open up our waters to foreign flagged ships with foreign crews. Notwithstanding the risks to national security, fuel security or the environment, the coalition was determined to wipe out the Australian shipping industry. They said that was not the case, but you only had to look at the regulatory impact statement that accompanied that legislation. That document confirmed that nearly all the savings expected to be produced by that legislation—88 per cent—were to come from shipping operators sacking their Australian crews and replacing them with cheaper foreign crews.

Tasmanian owned shipper SeaRoad said at the time it could possibly be forced to replace local crews with foreign workers. There are people in my electorate working for SeaRoad—literally hundreds of them. SeaRoad was also concerned that this bill could ultimately lead to reduced services and increased prices. The government's own modelling on that bill anticipated that four of the six ships servicing Bass Strait would be foreign flagged if that bill were passed. That would have been a disaster for Tasmania. Fortunately, though, the Senate rightly blocked that legislation.

We had hoped, by now, the government would have come to their senses. But, no, they are back at it again. A bill has shamefully passed this chamber putting Australian crewed vessels at a competitive disadvantage. If it passes the Senate, it will allow temporary licences for foreign flagged vessels to significantly vary their freight volumes and days they are carrying domestic freight, while at the same time making it almost impossible for an Australian general licensed ship to contest those movements. This means Australian shippers simply won't know what is being carried until after the event. In effect, this means any half-smart foreign operator and compliant local freight company can game the system to use foreign flagged ships. The end result would be that these proposed changes would make it easier for foreign ships with exploited crews to operate on the Australian coast.

I've been accused when standing in this place and talking about Australia's maritime industry of only supporting the Maritime Union of Australia. But there are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of jobs not just in Tasmania but across this country that would be lost because of this government's ideological attacks on our maritime industry. I will stand here every day to support those 400-plus workers associated with the maritime industry in my electorate. I will be here protecting their jobs.

Bizarrely, this government did not even consult with Australia's peak shipping industry body, Maritime Industry Australia Ltd, or MIAL, on this bill. MIAL membership includes Toll, SeaRoad, ANL, North West Shelf Shipping Service Company and BP Shipping, just to name a few. No Australian maritime business, except Carnival Australia, which is a cruise operator, were invited to participate in the consultation sessions on the changes to the coastal trading act. How can you possibly consult on shipping changes without actually speaking to the shipping companies? If the minister had consulted with MIAL he would have heard this, which is from MIAL's media release in September last year:

… there is nothing in the Bill to assist Australian shipowners compete with foreign ships that have all but unfettered access to coastal trades. We held low expectations on that front and unfortunately haven’t been disappointed there.

This is a damning indictment from Australia's peak shipping industry body on this bill.

I have made a number of calls on this government in this place to give a 100 per cent guarantee that under its proposed legislative changes Tasmania's domestic sea freight task will continue to be serviced by Australian flagged and crewed ships across the Bass Strait. It is very concerning that, to date, not a single member of the coalition is prepared to give that guarantee, not even the Tasmanian Liberal senators. That's why there is not a Liberal member of the House of Representatives sitting opposite. But I once again make that call. If the government can give a guarantee Tasmania's fair share of the GST will remain, it should be able to give a guarantee that a shipping lifeline is secured.

Each sitting week I look with interest at the legislative agenda for the Senate, and each week the coastal trading amendment bill does not appear. I guess that tells us the government do not have the numbers to get the legislation through. And why would they when the legislation contains provisions that would make it easier for Australian-flagged ships to replace Australian crews and those very workers who are from my electorate? I will also be watching in the Senate how Tasmanian Nationals senator Senator Martin votes. Senator Martin is from my home town and was previously the Mayor of the City of Devonport, a city that has a very long seafaring tradition, with many workers in the city of Devonport attached to the maritime sector. Senator Martin is on the public record opposing changes to our coastal shipping laws. I would like to remind the senator and his new National Party colleagues what he has previously said on this issue as reported in The Advocate newspaper when Senator Martin stood at the last general election when he was still at that time formally the Mayor of the City of Devonport. This is from the newspaper article:

Alderman Martin said an Australian presence in coastal shipping was needed.

He is quoted directly in the article:

"I don't believe in getting in cheap labour and losing Australian jobs over that," he said.

Let's hope Senator Martin keeps his word to his community, which didn't elect him—he was put in there through the demise of Senator Lambie. But, if he wishes to be re-elected, he should stand up for those maritime jobs that are in the hundreds, if not thousands, in Tasmania.

Senator Martin should also take note of correspondence that I received from local people in our community on this issue when debating coastal shipping legislation in August of this year. One such piece was from Callum, who is a local master mariner, and one that Senator Martin would like to continue to so-call represent. Callum says:

I just watched the video of you—

that's me—

speaking against the Coasting Trading Amendments Bill in the House of Representatives and wanted to thank you for your passion and efforts in looking to secure the Bass Strait for future generations.

I am a third generation Master Mariner.

My late grandfather … came to Australia from Scotland as an Extra Master Mariner and became the first Principal of the Australian Maritime College.

He was a key figure in establishing an amazing training facility—

which is world renowned—

and the subsequent high standard of Australian Seafarers, particularly Master Mariners and Deck Officers.

He was then approached to become the principal of the World Maritime University in Malmo, Sweden. He was awarded an Order Of Australia for his achievements.

My point is we are on the brink of losing all of his hard work and the hard work of many others. It would be absolutely devastating to lose the Bass Strait.

The impact it would have on my family and many others in Tasmania, Victoria and Nationally would be monumental.

Recently I received another piece of correspondence, from Monica, who wrote to me in response to an editorial in the local paper that was written to support maritime jobs:

Dear Justine,

…   …   …

Finally, recognition of the impact on Tassie of the selling off of Australian coastal shipping and the jobs that go with it!

I am a Cadet Engineer … I'm also studying at the Australian Maritime College in Launceston.

When I finish my course I would like to have an ongoing job in the shipping industry and in Tasmania.

It seems there would be little chance of that if the government's proposal to amend the existing Coastal Trading legislation goes ahead!

I have read the draft ALP policy platform proposing "a strong Australian flagged shipping industry with a secure Australian workforce".

Which is fantastic!

…   …   …

In the next election, will you as the Labor candidate for Braddon be campaigning for locally-crewed and owned shipping for Burnie & Devonport?

Best wishes,

Monica.

I can assure both Monica and Callum that Labor will continue to campaign for locally crewed and locally owned shipping operations out of Burnie and Devonport. Their correspondence symbolises what I spoke about earlier many times in this place—the connection between the people of Tasmania and the sea. It's a connection that goes beyond transporting passengers and freight. I shudder to think what would happen if Tasmania were left to the mercy of foreign-flagged ships and crew, particularly in difficult economic times when volumes may not be as profitable as they are now. Do they just all leave and leave Australians' freight task to someone else to pick up? Maybe the state or federal government need to then go into their pockets.

As I said at the beginning of my contribution, Labor will be supporting this bill. But the bottom line is that there is a very real difference between the two sides of politics when it comes to shipping. Labor strongly believes Australia needs a viable, competitive and growing domestic maritime industry. The coalition doesn't.