Maritime workers have welcomed Labor’s commitment today that it will create a strategic fleet if elected, saying the plan will not only ensure the nation’s fuel security during times of global economic or political instability, but will also ensure the future viability of Australia’s shipping industry.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Anthony Albanese today announced that a Labor Government would create a fleet that includes Australian crewed oil tankers, container ships and gas carriers that can be called upon by the Federal Government in times of crisis.
The Maritime Union of Australia also welcomed Labor’s pledge to properly enforce coastal shipping laws, ensuring local seafarers are given the first opportunity to move freight between Australian ports, and if they are unavailable, ensuring foreign vessels pay Australian wages and conditions.
MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin said that as an island nation which moves 99 per cent of its imports and exports by sea, Australia’s economic sovereignty was tied up with its shipping industry.
“Just last month, 80 seafarers lost their jobs after BHP announced it was replacing the last remaining Australian bulk carriers, which carried iron ore from Port Hedland to BlueScope’s steelworks in Port Kembla, with vessels registered in international tax havens and crewed by exploited foreign visa workers,” Mr Crumlin said.
“You can’t have a strong, security economy if the nation is completely reliant on foreign vessels to provide our fuel, bring in our goods, carry our exports, or move products around the coastline.
“Australia has less than three weeks fuel in reserve, so if an economic, political, or military crisis hit our region, Australia would quickly grind to a halt, yet we don’t have a single Australian-operated oil tanker.
“Labor’s commitment to create a strategic maritime fleet, made up of Australian-registered vessels crewed by Australian seafarers, is a vital step to safeguarding our nation’s economic future.
“But more than that, growing our domestic fleet through the return of Australian-flagged oil tankers, container ships and gas carriers ensures a future for this vital industry, job opportunities for Australian seafarers, and the retention of skills and experience in the Australian workforce.
“What we have seen in recent decades is a race to the bottom, with multinational corporations replacing Australian seafarers with vessels that are registered in tax havens, crewed by exploited foreign seafarers that can be paid as little as $2 an hour, and fail to meet basic environmental standards needed to protect our iconic coastlines.
“This pledge from Labor comes in stark contrast to what we’ve seen from the Liberal National Coalition, which has not only stood by while multinational corporations destroyed our industry, but have actively assisted by providing the licenses needed by these companies to replace Australian workers.
“We can’t have a civilised society if we don’t defend our sovereign rights, and ensuring our shipping supply chain remains in Australian hands is a vital part of this.”
Media contact: Tim Vollmer 0404 273 313