Feb 11, 2016

Defence of Maritime Workers in Australia – 11 Feb 2016

Last month I met with Wayne Doleman, a seafarer for 35 years and also a proud member of the Maritime Union of Australia. He was deeply concerned with the way security guards mounted a secret midnight raid to forcibly remove the crew of the Alcoa ship, MV Portland, on Wednesday 13 January 2016.

Wayne was extremely concerned that 40 Australian workers had lost their jobs and were replaced with a foreign crew using flag-of-convenience ships, which can result in exploitation of workers. But there is an issue that I want to look at in terms of national security. It concerns me on an ongoing basis about what is happening to Australian shipping here. Wayne was concerned that his fellow sailors would lose their jobs, in line with the recent trend of replacing Australian workers with foreign workers.

Unfortunately, Wayne’s foresight proved correct. Last Friday, when working on the CSL Melbourne, his crew was removed via an armed escort in Newcastle. He was extremely angry—understandably—that he was forced off the ship and he injured his shoulder. He was also upset that the crew were not properly provided with food on the CSL Melbourne before being escorted off the ship and that his concerns about asbestos in the engine room of the ship were not addressed by CSL.

People may not like the union, but I welcome the members of the MUA who have set up a jobs embassy outside the Australian parliament. Let me say why I welcome what they are doing. Let me talk about the comparison with what we are doing with our shipping versus what the United States is doing. In the United States there has been a resurgence in auto manufacturing. Also, I want to draw the attention of the House to the Merchant Marine Act 1920—it is known as the ‘Jones act’. It requires under cabotage deals that all goods transported by water between US ports must be carried by US-flagged ships and crewed by US citizens.

Under the Obama administration the United States is ensuring that that provision remains. One of the reasons why they are very concerned about foreign crews and foreign ships was 9-11. I have visited there very recently and seen the impact of that terrible event. They were very concerned that foreign ships were going to be used to mount an attack of some description on American shores. In fact, one plot that was uncovered was to launch a cruise missile from a ship. It was a plot that they were concerned about.

We commend the government for its national security architecture and the spending it is putting into national security. But at the very same time what we are doing with an essential conduit of goods, shipping and transport is effectively to take our eye off the ball by allowing foreign crews on foreign ships to be coming in. We just do not know: we can never guarantee security as we could with an Australian crew and an Australian ship. I believe, particularly given my interests, that this is an area that the federal government is falling down in and it really does need to address this, because our seas and port will become unsafe if this continues. (Time expired)


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