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Thursday, 26 November 2015
Page: 9178


Senator LUDWIG (Queensland) (18:12): This report provides an overview of the government's Shipping Legislation Amendment Bill 2015, which has been rejected by the Senate. One of the things that I wanted to highlight in the report itself is the awful impact this legislation will have on Australian shipping. I think the report itself highlights this quite well. When reading the report, you have to dig past the government sponsored report and look at the issues raised by those who opposed the bill to see some of the adverse consequences that this bill would have on Australian shipping.

Many of those who are opposed to the bill drew attention to what were seen as inconsistencies in the accompanying cost-benefit analysis. What is clear is that the government was rushing forward and was manufacturing the result. I think the report highlights clearly that none of the work done by the government supported the passage of this bill. When you examine the information that was provided, you clearly come to the view that those opposed to the bill were right to oppose the bill. In fact, the bill itself and the supporting documents did not point to supporting the passage of the bill but pointed instead in the opposite direction to issues that should be taken into account.

One of the most comprehensive submissions I have seen in recent times, which was produced by Parley Legal, admiralty and maritime lawyers, highlighted the claims that the Australian registered shipping industry was, in fact, much larger than the RIS inferred. In other words, the RIS, the regulation impact statement, was trying to confine and make it a small target. I think what Parley Legal highlighted was that the industry is much larger than what the RIS inferred.

In addition, the submission by Parley Legal pointed to a number of technical shortcomings, and they included things like it failed to properly identify all costs and benefits as it did not include the cost to those whose jobs would be lost under the proposal. We are talking about Australians who would lose their livelihoods under these proposals. It also went on to say that, while the cost to Australian seafarers was not considered, the benefits accruing to foreign owned companies were included—how unusual. In a cost-benefit analysis they did not look at the cost of losing jobs, and seafarers' jobs in Australian shipping, but they looked at the benefits accruing to foreign owned companies. It really underlines what this government stands for. This government stands for the big end of town. This is Work Choices on water. What it highlights clearly is that this government has a single view about the big end of town.

Parley Legal went on to highlight its use of faulty methodology using theoretical data derived from the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics models without any comparison against empirical data from the annual coastal licence voyaging report for accuracy. They looked at a theoretical report and said, 'They're the facts.' What they could have looked at was the facts, but they chose to ignore the facts because, like always, I suspect this government did not want the facts to get in the way of a good story. An example of the assumptions they made in the analysis was a very high exchange rate of 90 cents in a dollar to the US, which was said to overstate the benefits of the reform to users of shipping by up to 35 per cent. This is a government that has been prepared to go to any lengths to support the reasons why this bill would provide a benefit to Australia. I think it is clear that the government did not succeed.

In addition, there were things like the apparent inclusion in its calculations of the Weipa to Gladstone bauxite shipping by Rio Tinto which is not coastal shipping. This is intrastate shipping not covered by the coastal shipping regime, but all of those voyages were included. And there was the apparent exclusion of non-Bass Strait general/break bulk cargo from its calculations. All in all, when you look at the work that the government manufactured to support their outcome it really is disappointing. I suspect what happened is they did one round on the facts and found that they did not support their case. They have now turned to manufacture data and the report highlights that immensely.

The bill itself—that is what the report highlights—attempts to deregulate Australia's domestic shipping by removing preferences for Australian flagged and crewed ships operating around the Australian coast and establish a single-permit system granting access to ships of any nationality to work the Australian coast for a 12-month period. What is clear from this is they are dismantling a very good system that has been in place. It was put in place by Labor to maintain Australian coastal shipping, to support Australian jobs in coastal shipping and to provide outcomes beneficial to the Australian economy.

What this government have done is as a milksop to big business, to the big end of the international shipping lines, and you see this everywhere. What they will allow is foreign flagged vessels to trade our coast. My concern is, as I said at the beginning, that it will simply be Work Choices on water. The government will not be able to ensure a fair application of the Fair Work Act and its standards in this area, and it will be a diminution even to the wages of foreigners that might ply our shoes. What they are trying to do, I think, is create a cheap coastal shipping outcome which will benefit business plying coastal waters in Australia without any consideration for any domestic country, particularly one such as ours—an island nation dependent on shipping for 99 per cent of its trade. It also has one of the longest coastlines in the world. Ten per cent of the world's trade, by weight, is carried by ships to or from Australia.

It seems perfectly clear to me that Australia's economic, environmental and security interests are served by having a viable shipping industry. That is why, in 2012, Labor looked at this issue very deeply and made the reforms to ensure that we did and would continue to have economic, environmental and security interests secured for our shipping industry. What this report highlights is how this government has utterly failed in ensuring those outcomes for Australian shipping. I seek leave to continue my remarks.

Leave granted.