SHIPPING has entered centre stage of the Queensland election campaign, with the incumbent Labor Party announcing it will commit $21m over two years towards a coastal shipping industry.

The policy aims to establish a shipping service between Brisbane and Townsville, with north Queensland seats expected to be crucial in determining the outcome of this Saturday’s poll.

Transport minister Mark Bailey said establishing a new shipping service between Townsville and Brisbane would be prioritised.

Transport minister Mar Bailey speaks to the media during a press conference in Townsville. Credit: Smit Lamnalco

“Labor is backing the economic potential of Queensland’s 16 trading ports,” Mr Bailey said.

“The pandemic has shown that our long-term success will depend on our ability to build local capacity in our state’s economy without relying on international companies.

“Supporting maritime jobs to strengthen our local supply chain capacity means Queensland is more resilient and less likely to be affected if international supply chains experience a major disruption, like we saw with the first global COVID-19 outbreak.”

Member for Townsville, Scott Stewart, talked of keeping ports in public hands, going against the grain of former governments under Campbell Newman (LNP) and Anna Bligh (Labor).

Local MP Scott Stewart and transport minister Mark Bailey on board a tugboat off Townsville. Credit: Smit Lamnalco

“We’ve kept Queensland’s ports in public hands to grow domestic and international trade to support the state’s economy,” Mr Stewart said.

“Now we’re focusing on increasing domestic shipping along 7000kms of Queensland coastline to create new regional jobs that can support our economic recovery.”

Mr Bailey said making better use of coastal shipping gave businesses more transport options and could improve road safety on the Bruce highway.

“To do that, we will provide incentives to companies to establish a regular Brisbane to Townsville coastal shipping service using Queensland-based crews,” he said.

“A key part of our plan will be growing skills, through maritime cadetships and training, with $1million to support additional training for Queenslanders to enter the industry or to upskill.”

Mr Bailey said a re-elected Palaszczuk Government would prioritise land-side investments in equipment such as port cranes.

The maritime jobs initiative is to be bankrolled from the existing port budget.

According to the government, Queensland state-owned ports had revenues of over $760m in 2019/20.

Maritime Union Queensland branch secretary Stephen Cumberlidge applauded the announcement.

“This investment in the ‘blue highway’ along Queensland’s coast will not only create jobs for local seafarers, it will strengthen the maritime supply chains that are vital for keeping the state’s economy ticking and delivering essential goods to the community,” Mr Cumberlidge said.

“The creation of a new shipping service between Townsville and Brisbane will provide improved freight movement while also increasing marine safety and protecting the Great Barrier Reef by using highly-skilled local seafarers.”