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LABOR infrastructure spokesman Anthony Albanese has expressed caution on the subject of providing exemptions to the Coastal Trading Act for container ships.

Shipping Australia chief executive Rod Nairn asked the former minister if he would consider exemptions similar to what had been applied to the cruise ship sector should Labor return to power.

“Would you consider extending that exemption that was so successful in the cruise industry to the container industry to allow that blue highway to be utilised to its maximum advantage?” Mr Nairn asked.

But Mr Albanese said he would be concerned about “unintended consequences of any change”.

“The cruise sector being a pretty unique one. The cruise ship season is seasonal and ships operate in the Northern Hemisphere and then move down to the Southern Hemisphere,” he said.

“I think that has been a success. But one of those things we did at the same time as we did that is to provide some protection… the ships that operate around the Australian coast in the cruise industry, particularly in the north.”

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Mr Albanese used the example of the MV Portland, an Australian-crewed ship that sailed between Portland and WA, only to have its workers made redundant and the vessel withdrawn from the Australian coast.

“My concern, and my reference to abuse, the MV Portland was to me was a rort, it was an abuse of the legislation, and I call it as I see it,” he said.

“One of the things you’ll see from me is – you’ll get a straight answer.”

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