New Shipping Laws Would Axe 93 Pct of Aussie Seafarer Jobs

A Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA) of the inquiry into the Australian Shipping Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 by The Australia Institute shows that 1,089 Australian seafarer jobs, or 93 per cent of the current workforce, will be lost.

As a result, the institute estimates that only 88 Australian seafarer jobs would remain, paving the way for foreign-owned companies to employ much cheaper workforce instead.

The report also found that the submission adopts an unorthodox approach to the value of labour, without adequate justification, or quantification of losses to seafarers.

“While the methodology is unclear, there appears to be an unstated $74 million present value loss to Australian seafarers in the CBA,” the report said.

What is more, the proposed laws are based on very high exchange rates of AUD 0.90 and 1.00 to the US dollar, overstating the benefits of the reform to users of shipping by up to 35 per cent, the report further indicates.

“The proposed Shipping Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 is likely to reduce employment for relatively little economic benefit,” Director of Research at The Australia Institute, Rod Campbell said.

According to Campbell, the little benefit that is generated would accrue largely to foreign owned shipping and bulk freight using companies.

“The economic reality of Australia’s coastal shipping industry is that it must compete with both heavily subsidised land freight options and international shipping that can use foreign labour while in Australian waters. The free-market ideology behind this bill simply ignores that reality.

“If an Australian coastal shipping industry is to survive, it needs policy support as is found in many other countries,” Campbell said.

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The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) has fiercely opposed the reform of coastal shipping stressing that it has no regard of Australian workers or Australian interests allowing for foreign crews, who are often paid less than minimally required, to replace Australian workers.

In this context, the Flag of Convenience (FOC) has also been criticized as it allows for morally ambiguous, and sometimes criminal practices as seen in the example of the Sage Sagittarius ship and unresolved death cases currently under inquest.

According to the ITF President Paddy Crumlin, the conservative Australian government’s moves aimed at the removal of cabotage, or rules which encourage investment in the local industry would weaken labour and safety standards and threaten thousands of domestic jobs in Australia’s maritime sector.

The Australian government’s reforms for foreign flagged vessels operating in Australian waters aim to introduce a single Coastal Trading Permit for all ships to replace the current tiered system, amending legislation to allow the carriage of petroleum products along with applying a minimum Australian senior crewing requirement for foreign ships, reducing monthly trade reporting requirements to annual reporting and removing exemptions for large ships from the Coastal Trading Permit requirements.

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