ALP Transport spokesman Anthony Albanese has re-committed Labor to a strengthened shipping policy when they next come to Government.
Addressing the MUA National Council in Sydney, Albanese said the so-called Coastal Trading (Revitalising Australian Shipping) Amendment Bill 2017 recently put forward by Transport Minister Darren Chester lacked consultation, in stark contrast to the exhaustive consultation undertaken before the introduction of the Coastal Trading Act by the Rudd/Gillard Government in 2012.
The 2017 Bill, which is currently subject to a Parliamentary Inquiry that reports on December 4, pointedly ignores proposals put forward in the industry Green Paper that was developed through exhaustive meetings with key stakeholders over a long period of time.
“Labor’s shadow cabinet and caucus has determined that we will oppose the Bill in its entirety,” Albanese said.
“In 2012, Labor tried to get certainty for the long term but the Turnbull Government has engaged in a semi –process, then bang, back to their ideology.
"They may as well have had full deregulation with the changes they want to bring in.
"People will be able to game the system even more than they do now."
Albanese received a briefing on the legislation from the Department of Transport earlier this week.
“I’ve got hanging on my wall a map given to me and signed by the crew of the MV Portland,” Albanese said.
"I looked at the picture and simply asked why has a temporary licence been granted, why are there 457s being granted when there are Australian seafarers who need jobs?
"What part of the word temporary is ambiguous?
"We need to change the processes around the granting of temporary licences - unions and businesses need to be involved.
"It’s not good enough when people find out after the event that a licence has been granted, put up on a website while the Melbourne Cup is on.”
Albanese added that it was important to enshrine changes to shipping in the ALP National Platform ahead of next year’s National Conference.
MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin also questioned why Minister Chester's Bill does not address proposals aimed at growing Australian content in coastal shipping such as the Strategic Fleet concept, that provides an opportunity to achieve better coordination between Navy objectives and the commerciality of the merchant shipping sector.
The Bill also ignores proposals in the MUA submission to the Government which complemented the Green Paper, such as providing a new commercial solution to get the balance right between supporting a core Australian fleet supplemented by foreign ships on a Temporary Licence.”
In addition, the recent Senate Inquiry Into Flag of Convenience Shipping found that unlike Australian seafarers, foreign crews have no background checks yet they are carrying petroleum products, ammonium nitrate and LNG around the Australian coast.
"Chester is all show and no go,” Crumlin said.
“The Green Paper wasn’t perfect but it did enjoy a certain amount of consensus.
"I sat down with Chester for an hour and a half going through the Green Paper but to then serve up that doggerel?
“This needs to be a priority issue for the Labor Party – the awarding of temporary licences, removing taxation from the coastal trades."
Albanese taled up the efforts of MUA officials and rank and file members who persisted with the MUA Jobs Embassy on the lawns of Parliament House over the past couple of years.
“I’ve been going to Canberra for 21 years and I tell you what – one day out there at the Embassy was the coldest it’s ever been,” Albanese said.
“The Caucus event later that week was the biggest turnout I’ve ever seen of Labor members in the Caucus room – it was 40-50 people, so well done.”
MUA Assistant National Secretary Ian Bray said all of the hard work putting on the Jobs Embassy had paid off.
“The ALP Caucus event showed that it was all worthwhile,” Bray said.
"It lets our members know what we’ve been up to."
Albanese was photographed with national councillors holding a copy of the Uluru Statement From The Heart, which was rejected yesterday by the Turnbull Government.
“The proudest moment of my career was Kevin Rudd’s Apology to the Stolen Generations,” Albanese said.
"There is still much to be done re Closing the Gap.”