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Tuesday, 13 October 2015
Page: 7474


Senator RICE (Victoria) (16:17): On behalf of Senator Siewert, I present a dissenting report to the report of the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee on the provisions of the Shipping Legislation Amendment Bill 2015.

Ordered that the report be printed.

Senator RICE: I move:

That the Senate take note of the report.

This dissenting report into the inquiry into the Shipping Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 notes that the Australian shipping industry has proven itself to be efficient, clean and safe. But the government, with its proposed changes to the shipping legislation, is putting it all at risk.

We feel that the majority report on the legislation has not captured the full breadth of the impacts that this legislation would have on our local shipping industry. The deregulation that is included in this proposed legislation for the coastal shipping sector in Australia will lead to a massive loss of Australian jobs and will allow ships on our seas that are not up to scratch, which will risk polluting our oceans and coastlines.

We have an issue with Australian coastal shipping: there has been a decline in recent years. This bill represents the government's response to that reduction in Australian shipping. But, rather than facilitating an increase in Australian owned, Australian flagged and Australian crewed ships, this proposed legislation will send it over the cliffs. The provisions in this bill would mean that we would see a very rapid end to the Australian coastal shipping industry.

There were a number of submissions that were made to the inquiry which we feel were not appropriately considered in the majority report which highlighted a range of technical shortcomings in the government's basis for deregulation—in particular, the cost-benefit analysis. There was a submission which noted that the cost-benefit analysis:

It fails to appropriately set the scope of the assessment - in other words, whose costs and benefits count. It appears to include millions in benefits to foreign-owned companies, with little consideration of Australian workers.

It adopts an unorthodox approach to the value of labour, without adequate justification, or quantification of losses to seafarers. While the methodology is unclear, there appears to be an unstated $74 million present value loss to Australian seafarers in the CBA.

This very scathing and detailed analysis of the cost-benefit analysis was not adequately addressed in the majority report.

The basis of the shortcomings of the proposed bill is further undermined by other independent analysis that was presented to the inquiry, noting that neither the regulatory impact statement nor the cost-benefit analysis are documents that provide a sound basis for decision making and policy development. Both largely ignore the economic context of the coastal shipping industry and contain various omissions and technical flaws that reduce their usefulness.

In particular, I want to note that this analysis showed that employment in the coastal shipping industry is estimated under this legislation to decline from its current levels of almost 2,000 jobs to under 100 jobs. The analysis that was done, which was not refuted, showed that essentially the only Australian jobs that would remain in coastal shipping after the government's proposed legislation was enacted would be the jobs on the Spirit of Tasmania. This is obviously an outcome that would be extraordinarily damaging to the Australian economy and to Australian jobs. It would also be something not in the interests of the industry. It was recognised to be not in the industry's interests across-the-board, including the members of the shipping industry and shipping owners who submitted to the inquiry. They did not want to see the legislation passed.

One of the things I took to heart in the submissions made to this inquiry was that the shipping industry wants certainty. We have legislation that was brought into force in 2012. Some finessing of that legislation could be required but the industry does not want to see the wholesale rejection of the 2012 legislation and to have this new legislation brought in. It would have us lurching from one government to another, meaning there would be a total lack of certainty and a lack of ability for the shipping industry to plan for the future. It would be a totally destabilising move which, in itself, would undermine confidence and the ability for people to invest in the shipping industry.

Our dissenting report notes that we oppose the government's proposed shipping legislation. We urge the government to keep the current legislation and to do some thorough consultation with a whole range of stakeholders, with the aim of reaching an agreement that all stakeholders can support, rather than having the industry and workers lurching from one government to another with destabilising changes each time.

Question agreed to.