Government Must Abandon Workchoices On Water

Malcolm Turnbull must heed the will of the Parliament and abandon his attempt to allow ship owners to cut costs by sacking their Australian crews and replacing them with foreign crews being paid third world wages. 

THE HON MARK DREYFUS QC MP

SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL

ACTING SHADOW MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT AND WORKPLACE RELATIONS

MEMBER FOR ISAACS


GOVERNMENT MUST ABANDON WORKCHOICES ON WATER

Malcolm Turnbull must heed the will of the Parliament and abandon his attempt to allow ship owners to cut costs by sacking their Australian crews and replacing them with foreign crews being paid third world wages. 

Overnight news that security guards removed the Australian crew of the MV Portland from the vessel show Mr Turnbull is continuing to target the Australian maritime industry as the thin edge of the wedge for a broader attack on the wages and conditions of all Australian workers.

Only two months ago the Senate rejected the Government's WorkChoices on Water legislation, which would have allowed foreign-flagged vessels paying third world wages to undercut Australian-owned vessels, which are required to pay Australian wage rates.

Despite this, the Commonwealth has used existing legislation to issue the owners of the MV Portland a licence allowing the temporary use of a foreign crew.

The owners then told their existing Australian crew to sail the vessel to Singapore, where they would be sacked and replaced by a foreign crew, sparking the ongoing dispute.

Temporary licences are designed to be issued for temporary work around our coast where no Australian crew is available.

But the Portland already has an Australian crew.

And there is nothing temporary about the Portland's work. The vessel has been working for Alcoa in Australian waters between Western Australia and Portland for more than two decades.

Instead of attempting to undermine Australian shipping as part of a return to the Coalition's WorkChoices agenda, Mr Turnbull should listen to the will of the Australian people as expressed through the Senate.

He should immediately withdraw the temporary licence, allow these Australians to keep their jobs and work with the Senate on ways to enhance Australian shipping in way that do not involve destroying it.

It is in Australia's national interests to maintain a vibrant domestic shipping industry.

It provides jobs to Australians who, unlike foreign mariners, pay tax in Australia.

The industry is also critical to Australia's environmental interests.

Australian mariners are familiar with our coasts and environmental assets like the Great Barrier Reef and have proven safety record.

All of the major shipping accidents that have led to environmental damage in recent years have involved foreign flagged vessels.

WEDNESDAY, 13 JANUARY 2016