Support for Australian shipping industry

February 14, 2019

Outside of border command, the merchant marine was the arm of the Australian services that lost the most people during World War II. In fact, we lost three iron boats—two off my particular region of the Hunter Valley and Central Coast. Today I met with Ben from Belmont, Daniel from Shoalhaven and Jesse from Caves Beach. Ben and Daniel have joined me in the chamber today. They were sacked by BHP and BlueScope on the MV Mariloula and MV Lowlands Brilliance. They were replaced by workers working for $2 an hour, and what's worse is they were sacked at sea when they entered international waters.

Now, BlueScope made a $1.6 billion profit this year. BHP made a $12 billion profit this year and avoids paying tax through their Singapore marketing hub. For these companies, which claim to be pillars of the Australian society—one, in fact, claims to be the 'Big Australian'—to sack Australian workers and replace them with foreign workers on $2 an hour is a disgrace. It is an un-Australian move. It is an act aided and abetted by a Liberal government that has given up supporting Australian workers, if they ever tried to—a government intent on attacking workers.

This is a not a temporary trade; moving iron ore around this country to steel smelters is not a temporary trade. It is by definition a permanent and regular trade. It is the same as the attacks on the aluminium trade and the bauxite trade. What is next for this government? Is it replacing truck drivers, because this is the equivalent? When they attack the blue highway, the next logical move is to say: 'We'll replace Australian truck drivers driving Australian registered trucks with foreign workers driving trucks registered in the Philippines.' It is exactly the same logic.

You just have to read the government's own legislation and the regulatory impact statement to understand what they're about. The legislation they want to move and get through this parliament brags about sacking 1,000 maritime workers. That is the only cost saving from that policy change. Well, I'm here to say that I and all my Labor colleagues will stand up with the maritime workers. We stand with Jesse, we stand with Ben and we stand with Daniel and the thousands of Australian seafarers who are out of work right now because of the neglect and the angry attitude of this government. We stand for an Australian shipping industry—a shipping industry where Australian-flagged vessels are staffed by Australian crews who are paid Australian wages. That is the right way.

When I talk to people in the streets—people who aren't Labor supporters, people who aren't trade unionists—they think it's crazy that we don't have Australian ships crewed by Australians on our trading routes at the moment. It is positively un-Australian. This government likes to talk about national security. Well, they weaken national security by destroying Australian crews and by allowing the sacking of Australian workers, who are being replaced by foreign crews on $2 an hour, carrying vital trade for this nation. Shame, I say, shame!

View my speech here.