Australian Senate shoots down shipping bill

The Australian Senate on Thursday voted down the Turnbull Government’s amendment to the country’s shipping legislation that would have opened up the coastal shipping market to foreign ships and underpaid foreign crews.

The Shipping Legislation Amendment Bill was defeated by three votes, 31 in total, against 28 votes that were in favor of the amendment.

Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) National Secretary Paddy Crumlin said the vote sent a strong message that Australian jobs and industries should be front and centre of policy making in this country.

“The Senate has rightly decided that the Australian shipping industry is vital in terms of jobs and value to the national economy,” Crumlin said.

“Australian crews are the most highly trained in the world and all have high-level security screening. As a result, Australian-flagged ships are demonstrably safer than Flag of Convenience (FOC) shipping and have a strong record in protecting our pristine coastline.

“Had they passed, the Government’s changes raised serious questions on national security, fuel security, jobs and skills and protection of our environment.”

However, Crumlin said there was more hard work needed to ensure the future viability of the sector, including those onboard the MV Portland.

The 19 crew onboard the MV Portland have not sailed the ship to Singapore following the announcement on their replacement with a foreign and cheaper crew. Earlier this month, American-based corporation ALCOA, producer of primary aluminum,  decided to replace the Australian crew of the general cargo with foreign workers, who will be paid as little as USD2 an hour.

“On the back of today’s decision in the Senate, the Turnbull Government should reverse its decision and embrace the spirit of working together shown at the recent shipping summit convened by the ACTU,” Crumlin said.

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