LABOR stalwart Anthony Albanese has used the Ports Australia Biennial Conference 2018 in Darwin to issue a rallying cry in support of Australian coastal shipping as well as the need for maritime jobs and an Australian-flagged fleet.
Mr Albanese, the architect of the 2012 laws, spoke with the electricity of a politician who knows an opponent is foundering in the Canberra muck.
“[Labor is] determined to not be a party in destroying a proud Australian industry,” he said during his address.
Coastal shipping reform, he said, was essential for bringing back the maritime jobs that would feed into the upper levels of the profession.
“You need a maritime sector and maritime skills, who’s going to run the ports if you don’t have a maritime sector? Who’s going to be the harbour masters? Vision!” he told Daily Cargo News on the sidelines of the conference.
“It’s a matter of understanding that there’s a national interest,” he said.
“You don’t allow a truck to take goods from Melbourne to Sydney on the Hume Highway, with a Filipino truck, with Filipino standards, with a Filipino driver; why should that be allowed on the blue highway?”
He said other countries around the world had recognised a maritime sector was in their national interest, pointing to the Jones Act in the US.
“In the US – the land of the free market – you can’t take a ship from San Francisco to LA unless it has a US flag on it and US crew,” he said.
While it is safe to say everyone at the Ports Australia Biennial Conference recognised the importance of reforming coastal shipping laws in the country, not all agreed that the answer was along the lines of the Jones Act.
Port Authority of New South Wales CEO and director Grant Gilfillan told DCN that everyone had an interest in seeing any form of shipping being successful.
“We understand the politics of coastal shipping, and the MUA and where the Labor Party sits. But, unfortunately the reality is that this is not going to save coastal shipping from an inevitable demise because it’s so expensive,” he said.
“It’s very hard not to label it as a form of protectionism when we’re in a global economy and every other industry has to compete on the international stage. It would be far better to look at ways to make coastal shipping more effective, because otherwise the investment goes into inland rail routes and roads to move cargo because it’s cheaper than putting it onto coastal ships. The debate still needs to go on.”