Shipping Registration Amendment Bill 2018

October 22, 2018

 I rise today to speak on the Shipping Registration Amendment Bill 2018. The Shipping Registration Amendment Bill 2018 introduces sensible reforms. These changes will make the shipping registration system more flexible and more responsible to a crucial industry in Australia's economy. Despite the rife and rocky seas this government is facing, Labor will be supporting these reforms. The bill places decision-making about the form of shipping registration certificates and application processes in the hands of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority. This is the right decision. Furthermore, the bill makes other important changes to the shipping registration system. These changes clarify existing provisions and make technical tweaks to improve the registration process. These changes are the right moves. They remove red tape and simplify the processes for an important Australian industry. We want the shipping industry to have the best possible conditions to flourish as a sector.

As an island continent girt by sea, Australia sits in a relatively removed part of the world. We rely on the shipping industry for almost all our imports and exports. Importantly, almost one-tenth of the global sea trade flows through our ports. We know how important shipping is to the Australian economy, but there is a problem: Australia's own merchant fleet is disappearing, along with the skilled workforce it trains and employs. Despite the continued importance of shipping, we're not attracting and training enough employees to the industry. We must keep in mind that, for all Australia's economic advances, industries like shipping have continued to have relevance even today. Both jobs within the industry and jobs that follow from this industry are important today and for Australia's future prosperity. We should relish our task to put the wind back in the sails of the proud industry, not just to anchor our economic prosperity but also to protect Australia's environment and security interest.

Commercial shipping and defence shipping do not exist in isolation. There are clear synergies between Australia's naval and merchant shipping fleets. Domestic maritime workforces know shipping. They know the ins and outs of how to maintain vessels, and this is important not just in times of peace and prosperity but in times of war and national emergency as well. Importantly, Australian seafarers who are employed in this industry undergo stringent background checks.

By safeguarding our support for the Australian shipping industry, we ensure that those who have the most intimate knowledge of our coastlines are the ones who are guiding ships along them. We're ensuring that those who have vested interests in protecting Australia's natural beauty are entrusted with the navigation of the ships. History supports this stance. All of the major maritime accidents that have occurred in recent decades have, unfortunately, involved foreign vessels with foreign crews.

Who could forget the images of the Pasha Bulker, run aground on a beach near Newcastle? The ship had an entirely foreign crew and did not heed the storm warnings requesting ships to move further out to sea. The ship was beached, and the resulting clean-up operation cost the Australian public $1.8 million.

Another foreign ship with a foreign crew, the Shen Neng 1, also caused unprecedented environmental damage to one of Australia's most important natural attributes. When the Shen Neng 1 collided with the Great Barrier Reef, it was over 10 kilometres outside the shipping lane. The reef still bears a three-kilometre scar where the ship irreparably damaged precious coral and destroyed marine life.

When it comes to ensuring that our natural beauty is protected for generations to come, we must put environmental protection first. Foreign ships with foreign crews do not have the interests of Australia's precious natural environment at heart when they sail through our waters.

Unlike this government, Labor understands the importance of the shipping industry. Australian seafarers should be provided with secure work. It is important. The former federal Labor government had a clear goal: more Australian seafarers crewing more Australian-flagged ships carrying more Australian goods around our coastlines. When we were in government, we created the international shipping register. This allowed operators of Australian-flagged vessels to employ mixed Australian and foreign crews on international rates and conditions.

We also enacted the first major rewrite of Australian maritime laws in over a century. These updates ensured that oil companies must take financial responsibility for all damage that is caused by their ships. We developed Australia's first National Ports Strategy. Furthermore, we replaced a myriad of confusing and conflicting state and territory laws with just one regulator administering one set of modern national laws. If upheld, these reforms would have ensured that our maritime industry continued to remain in the best shape.

The government were not satisfied with white-anting these reforms when they were in opposition. Once elected, they raced to scrap the reforms altogether and sink what remained of the industry. All of us want to reduce the cost of doing business in Australia, but we need to do better. Reducing transaction costs faced by strategically critical industries is good but cannot come at any cost. The government's proposed changes in 2015 touted removing red tape to strengthen the shipping industry. I'm sorry, but since when does removing red tape equal removing Australian jobs and drowning the entire domestic industry? Along with that legislation was a regulatory impact statement. The statement laid bare the true intentions of the government. The RIS confirmed that all of their savings from the legislation were going to come from shipping operators sacking their Australian crews and replacing them with foreign ones.

We need to make sure that this doesn't happen. It is very important that Australian jobs stay here. Shipping is an incredibly important industry. Whilst my electorate of Werriwa may be landlocked, our industries depend on shipping to survive. For this reason, we support the reforms in the Shipping Registration Amendment Bill 2018, but we will be keeping an eye on the government's treatment of this critical industry.