The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) says World Maritime Day provides a timely reminder to reflect on the great sacrifices made by merchant seafarers who worked aboard cargo ships during wartime, as the Turnbull Government loads up again to try to destroy the coastal shipping industry.
MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin said one in eight Australian Merchant Seafarers died in the Second World War and the Australian merchant fleet continues to play an important role.
“The gallant efforts of Australian merchant seafarers to ensure that the supply chains remained open during the fight against European fascism and Japanese militarism will never be forgotten,” Crumlin said.
“The same must be said of the wharfies working the docks in those extremely dangerous times - when Darwin was bombed in 1942 by Japanese fighter bombers, there were waterside workers killed on the job, and every single one of them knew they were prime targets of the air strikes.
“At the present time, global uncertainty is rising, whether you consider the Korean Peninsula, South China Sea or Middle East yet the Turnbull Government is actively trying to decimate the merchant fleet and expose our borders to some of the worst shipping on the planet.
Crumlin said that without strong cabotage rules, that the Turnbull Government currently wants to water down, Australian seafarers would have to compete with cheap, exploited foreign labour on Flag of Convenience (FOC) vessels, the owners of which pay no tax and often flout safety laws.
“Australian workers cannot compete with slave labour and systemic tax avoidance under the FOC system. Exploited crew on Flag of Convenience vessels earn as little as $1.25 an hour, often have inferior training and are often unaware of our fragile coastal environment,” Crumlin said.
“A strong, viable domestic shipping fleet makes absolute sense from a national security, fuel security, and environmental standpoint yet instead of enhancing a vital national industry with a long and proud tradition, the Turnbull Government wants to send the jobs offshore.”
MUA Sydney Branch Assistant Secretary Joe Deakin said: “When we do reflect on the Seafarers who went to their watery graves after their vessels were either torpedoed or mined, we do it with a great deal of remorse.
“But at the same time we have a tremendous feeling of gratitude. They didn’t have a battery of weapons aboard their vessels to defend themselves, all they had was a human resolve to keep the fighting front supply routes operating at maximum capacity.
“The Merchant Seafarers who were lucky enough to survive the Second World War, weren’t given the key to the city by the local Mayor when they arrived back home, nor were they given ticker tape parades in the streets like the armed forces personal were treated too.
“The fact that these heroic people played an enormous part in ensuring that the allied forces were fed, and the weapons were kept up to the fighting fronts, wasn’t acknowledged until decades later.
“Everything that these wonderful Australian Seafaring pioneers fought and died for, is being sunk to the bottom of the Sea by the Turnbull Government.”
The MUA has launched its latest campaign Save Australian Shipping – Take Back Our Coast. MPs and Senators have already started to sign up and put their face to the campaign. You can view a list of all our our current supporters here.