A Senate inquiry into Australia’s coastal shipping yesterday came out in support of opening the coast to international shipping.
While the report was welcomed by Shipping Australia (SAL) representing international shipping interests and business, it was condemned by Maritime Industry Australia Limited, opposition parties, the unions, and environmentalists.
The 43-page report recommended passing the Shipping Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 “to enable Australian producers to access cheaper, more flexible and more responsive options for transport”.
“The last 30 years of reviews demonstrate the objective of a viable and sustainable Australian-flagged coastal shipping fleet is receding ever further into the distance,” the report concluded. “That objective, although nationally reassuring, should not be placed ahead of the economic viability of many other Australian businesses that depend on reasonable cost coastal shipping options”.
Opposition speakers described the bill as “obscene” and “soaked in ideology”. It would “sell out the national interest by allowing overseas flagged and crewed ships, paying workers Third World wages to undercut Australian operators on domestic trade routes,” they argued.
Citing 122 foreign-flagged oil tanker port state control detentions since 2004, the Labor opposition also highlighted the Pacific Adventurer oil spill in 2009, Shen Neng 1 grounding on the Great Barrier Reef in 2010, Pasha Bulker grounding in Newcastle in 2007, and the current coronial inquest into two crew deaths on board a second coal ship Sage Sagittarius.
The government, however, argues the bill “recognises that shipping operates in a global context, and the framework it contains seeks to ensure that Australian businesses and industries can take maximum advantage of the opportunities created by global connectivity”.
SAL CEO Rod Nairn supports the bill arguing it is in the best interest of all Australians.
“The Shipping Legislation Amendment Bill will allow international ships to provide competitive services in the domestic shipping market, this will unlock economic growth and deliver clear benefits to Australian primary producers, manufacturers, and consumers”, he said.
First, however, the bill must pass the Senate where it could be amended or blocked.
Representing Australian shipowners, CEO of Maritime Industry Australia Teresa Lloyd told IHS Maritime cross benchers have made up their mind to oppose the bill.
“It is the responsibility of the government to bring forward another option that has broader support,” Lloyd said. “The contention it will help Australian shipping is a joke and there is no evidence to the contention it will lead to more cargo being moved by sea.”
The Maritime Union of Australia said it was lobbying MPs to oppose changes to the bill. It warned national security was at risk and deregulation would allow USD2/hour seafarers to work on domestic routes replacing Australian workers.