The ITF (International Transport Workers’ Federation) says the conservative Australian Government is again trying to kill off cabotage by introducing a Bill today that waters down the rules surrounding foreign ships gaining temporary licences to operate between Australian ports.
ITF President Paddy Crumlin, who is also MUA (Maritime Union of Australia) National Secretary said it was clear the Government’s intention was to decimate Australia’s domestic shipping fleet.
“A strong, viable domestic shipping fleet makes absolute sense for Australia given it has the fourth largest shipping task in the world.
“Put simply, the proposed changes would make it more difficult for Australian ships with Australian crew to compete in the coastal trade. Instead of enhancing a vital national industry with a long and proud tradition, the Turnbull Government wants to send the jobs offshore."
Australia has a very strict cabotage regime for aviation where foreign companies can't just come here and operate on domestic routes but there has been a very liberal approach to cabotage for the maritime sector.
“Without strong rules, Australian companies have to compete with cheap, exploited foreign labour on Flag of Convenience vessels, the owners of which pay no tax and often flout safety laws,” Crumlin said.
“Today’s new laws lacked consultation and ignored proposals put forward by the industry via exhaustive meetings with key stakeholders over a long period of time."
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.
“Exploited crew on Flag of Convenience vessels earn as little as $1.25 an hour, have less training and are often unaware of Australia's fragile coastal environment,” Crumlin said.
“They do not meet the same national security screening applied to Australian resident seafarers and are directly making Australian seafarers unemployed by effectively taking their jobs through the FOC industry of rorting, poor safety standards and tax evasion.
“Australian workers cannot and should not be expected to compete with slave labour and systemic tax avoidance under the Flag of Convenience system.”