CREATING a strategic fleet and the establishment of a maritime skills taskforce are key planks of the Australian Labor Party’s shipping platform.

Labor infrastructure spokesman Anthony Albanese announced the policies during an event at the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney, a function organised by Maritime Industry Australia.

The key features are:

  • Directing the Department of Infrastructure to enforce laws which are currently in place and prevent “abuse” of temporary licences;
  • Create a strategic fleet of Australian-flagged vessels that can be called upon in areas of strategic economic importance, such as the importation and distribution of liquid fuel;
  • Appoint a strategic fleet taskforce to provide advice on the design of this fleet, including representatives of MIAL, charterers, shipowners and operators, maritime unions and the Department of Defence (Navy);
  • Reinstate the Maritime Workforce Development Forum to develop strategic responses to skill development;
  • Consider income tax reform to encourage investment in Australian shipping; retain zero corporate tax rate for shipping companies that earn profits with Australian-flagged ships while also exempting vessels from paying tax on dividends;
  • Consider the seafarer income tax regime; exempting Australian seafarers working for foreign international shipping companies from paying income tax in Australia.

Mr Albanese indicated a Labor government would consult, but not excessively.

“If we’re successful [on May 18], there won’t be a long process of consultation,” he said.

“There will be consultation but we’ve had a lot, frankly, and what we need, what we think the industry needs, is action.”

Mr Albanese acknowledged the role of overseas-flagged ships.

“We won’t compromise at all on our view that Australia needs a strong, competitive, growing and home-grown maritime industry,” he said.

“We also won’t compromise on our view that foreign ships have an important role to play around our coast and in our trading sector as well. We want, though, to ensure that there is a genuine level playing field.”

Regarding the strategic fleet, Mr Albanese said these vessels would be “privately owned and commercially operated”.