MUA Seeks Reasons Behind Alcoa’s Temporary Licence

The Maritime Union of Australia is urging the Turnbull Government to present documents outlining the reasons to grant a temporary licence to an American-based corporation Alcoa, producer of primary aluminum, which led to the sacking of seafarers onboard the Aussie-crewed MV Portland.

According to MUA, the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development has been forced to correct evidence given by two of its bureaucrats to a Senate Committee on February 8, 2016.

Department head Mike Mrdak and senior official Michael Sutton said the reasons for granting the licence had been tendered in the Federal Court in a case brought by the MUA and would be provided to the committee.

But this week, Department Deputy Secretary Judith Zielke wrote to the Committee Secretary, to change their evidence. Under the title – Correction of Evidence Provided to Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislative Committee – Zielke stated:

“I wish to advise that no document identifying the reasons for the decision to grant a temporary licence to Alcoa in October 2015 was produced or tendered in court.

“Therefore, under questioning from ALP Senator Stephen Conroy during the Committee hearing, both senior Departmental officials answered falsely.”

MUA National Secretary, Paddy Crumlin, said that it is in the national interest for the Department’s reasoning “to be tested publicly”.

“Unfortunately, as was the case with Western Australian cruise ship operator Bill Milby, the Department of Transport appears to be systematically undermining the right of existing Australian seafarers to work in their own country.

Furthermore, Crumlin said that, apart from a nonexistent “case to issue the Alcoa licence”, the Turnbull Government has refused to cancel it.

Namely, the Turnbull Government issued Alcoa with a temporary licence in October 2015 which enables the company to avoid Australia’s cabotage laws for domestic trade.

Following this decision, Alcoa announced the plans to replace the Australian crew aboard its vessel MV Portland by a foreign crew to be paid as little as USD 2 per hour.

After a 60-day dispute over the matter, the Australian crew was forced by 30 security guards to leave the vessel on January 13.

The MV Portland, which has carried alumina between Western Australia and Victoria for more than 27 years, has been sent to South-East Asia to be scrapped.