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Thursday, 3 December 2015
Page: 9834


Senator RICE (Victoria) (14:36): My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development, Senator Colbeck. Senator Colbeck, will the government revoke Alcoa's temporary shipping licence and save the jobs of the 38 crew of the MV Portland? If not, why not?

Senator COLBECK (TasmaniaMinister for Tourism and International Education and Minister Assisting the Minister for Trade and Investment) (14:36): The decision announced by Alcoa to decommission one of its ships is a commercial decision that has been taken under legislation passed by the previous Labor government, not by anything this government has done.

So this is legislation that has occurred under the Labor Party's coastal shipping legislation—passed, I might add, with the support of the Greens. Alcoa's decision to decommission the MV Portland is one of a number of measures the company is taking to reduce costs in order to ensure the ongoing viability of its aluminium smelting plant in Portland in Victoria. This smelter employs more than 2,000 employees. We understand the Greens' desire to deindustrialise—to attack large, employing industries in this country. The company is aiming to protect these 2,000 jobs by making its business more efficient. Might I add: this action is occurring under Labor's coastal shipping legislation—the legislation that the Labor Party told us would save the Australian shipping industry. And what has happened? Less ships; less freight carried on the coast and less employment—there is the legacy of the Labor Party and the Greens. So a government and an industry trying to protect jobs and employment— (Time expired)

Senator RICE (Victoria) (14:38): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Senator Colbeck, given that the Senate last week emphatically rejected the government's agenda to destroy Australian jobs and industry in coastal shipping—and this decision was a foretaste of what is to come—how can the government justify this ongoing attack on this vital Australian industry and its committed and skilled workforce?

Government senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order on my right.

Senator COLBECK (TasmaniaMinister for Tourism and International Education and Minister Assisting the Minister for Trade and Investment) (14:39): Senator Rice demonstrates the dangers of not listening to the previous answer and having a preprepared second question, because the changes being made by Alcoa have nothing to do with the coastal shipping legislation that was voted down last week—quite shamefully voted down last week, I might say. It had nothing to do with it. It is under legislation that you passed, with the Labor Party, in the previous parliament; so it is your legacy, Senator Rice. Mr President, this is Senator Rice's legacy, not this government's legacy. The Labor Party got the Greens to vote with them to pass coastal shipping legislation which has contributed to less ships, less employment in the shipping sector and less freight being carried on the coast. In fact, it is cheaper to bring product from overseas than it is to bring it around the Australian coastline. So the Labor Party and the Greens are locking Australian business out of Australian manufacturing. (Time expired)

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order on my left and on my right.

Senator RICE (Victoria) (14:40): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. So, given that, what does the minister then say to the families of the workers on the MV Portland, including the children who face Christmas having to go without, as their parents' jobs are on the chopping block?

Senator COLBECK (TasmaniaMinister for Tourism and International Education and Minister Assisting the Minister for Trade and Investment) (14:41): One thing I think we all agree on is that it is very difficult for these families at this point in time, given the decision that Alcoa has had to make. But let us place the blame where it ought lie: with those opposite and their friends in the Greens. So this is a very difficult time, but the blame for this lays with the Labor Party's legislation and the Greens' coalition with the Labor Party, because these things are happening—these changes that Alcoa are making right now—and, quite unfortunately for the families that are involved, under the legislation that the Labor Party promised would save their jobs. The Labor Party promised that the changes they made would save the coastal shipping industry and they misled those in that sector. (Time expired)