BIPARTISANSHIP over coastal shipping laws already has proven elusive, with the major parties trading political blows.
Former infrastructure minister Anthony Albanese has accused infrastructure and transport minister Darren Chester of attempting “WorkChoices on Water” (a reference to the industrial relations regime of former PM John Howard).
But Minister Chester hit back, saying he had gone to lengths to be consultative and called on Mr Albanese to “tell the truth”.
Mr Albanese fired the first salvo, saying the latest legislation was “an attack on Australian maritime jobs” making it easier for shipping companies to “sack Australian crews and replace them with overseas mariners earning third world wages”.
“After its (2015) Senate defeat, the government promised that any new attempt at shipping reform would involve widespread consultation in a spirit of bi-partisanship,” he said.
“However, early today transport minister Darren Chester broke that promise by introducing his new legislation without consultation with the Opposition and, more importantly, the maritime sector.”
Mr Albanese said the government had rejected Labor’s attempt to delay the full debate.
But Mr Chester said there had been “extensive consultation with industry stakeholders for the past 18months”.
“Mr Albanese acknowledged in the House of Representatives today that we consulted industry in the lead up to the introduction, because industry told him that we had,” the Minister said.
“Mr Albanese’s colleague, the Member for Fremantle, even provided a submission in response to the discussion paper I released in March this year.”
Mr Chester said his office contacted Mr Albanese’s office on Monday offering a meeting prior to introducing legislation today.
“Labor should support these sensible reforms, which will reduce red tape and improve industry competitiveness,” the Minister said.