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Government attitude to shipping industry is 'dangerous and short-sighted'.

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Media Release

Cheryl Kernot, MP

Shadow Minister for Regional Development,

Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Services


30 September 1999






Shadow Transport Minister, Che ryl Kernot, has labelled the Howard Government’s attitude to Australia’s domestic shipping industry as dangerous and short-sighted.


Speaking on the Government’s response to the Ship Safe report of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Communications, Transport and Microeconomic Reform, Ms Kernot accused the Government of neglecting the domestic shipping industry and the welfare of maritime workers to the long-term detriment of the national economy and the coastal environment.


“Not only has it taken the Minister more than a year to respond to this report, but the Government has been sitting on a report from the shipping reform working group, completed in April of this year, that calls for a return to some level of fiscal assistance to ensure the future of the Australian shipping industry,” Ms Kernot said.


Ms Kernot pointed to evidence that the Australian shipping industry is in serious decline. “The share of cargo carried by Australian flag vessels has fallen, net investment in the Australian fleet has dramatically declined, there has been a massive increase in the granting of voyage permits to foreign vessels operating on the Australian coast and we’ve lost 17 ships from our national flag fleet in the last five years,” she said.


Ms Kernot said that, despite the shipping industry delivering significant increases in productivity and reductions in crew sizes, the Coalition Government had refused to consider some level of fiscal support for the industry.


“The end result of this approach will be a situation where much of our local shipping industry is replaced With foreign ships with foreign crews, with all the national economic and coastal safety implications that come with that development,” Ms Kernot said.


Ms Kernot said she was particularly disappointed in the Government’s rejection of the Committee’s recommendations relating to the welfare of seafarers.


The Committee recommended that the government require ships visiting Australian ports to have compulsory insurance for the illness, injury, disability and death of crew members. It also recommended that the Commonwealth provides financial assistance for seafarers’ welfare organisations and investigates setting up a National Seafarers Welfare Network.


The Government rejected both recommendations.


“The Committee rightly pointed out that the abuse and neglect of crew members on foreign ships is both a violation of human rights and a significant risk factor in ship safety,” Ms Kernot said. “The Committee also argued that Australia has an obligation as a civilised community to assist organisations providing support to seafarers who are far from home and subject to degrading and exploitative treatment.


“The Coalition Government’s rejection of these recommendations is a disgraceful response to a serious human rights and maritime safety issue.


“That response, combined with the Government’s continuing neglect of the domestic shipping industry, represents a dangerous and short-sighted attitude. It’s an attitude that will not only be to the detriment of Australian shipping and maritime workers, it will ultimately be to the detriment of the wider Australian economy and our coastal environment.”




Jacqui Flitcroft; (02)6277 4328 or 0419 395 705



md 1999-10-05  09:51