Letters: Ship change needed
Letters: LUCY Stanton has clearly failed to see the big picture when she criticises the Federal Government's proposed changes to the coastal shipping rules.
She needs to consider what is good for all Australians, not just Maritime Union members.
Under the Coastal Trading Act, which Labor introduced in 2011-12, our coastal shipping trade is not only shrinking, it is sinking under the waves of red tape, regulation, costly licences and ridiculous restrictions.
Foreign vessels trading around Australia for fewer than 183 days a year are forced to hire staff with Australian wages and conditions.
Needless to say it is far too inconvenient and costly for foreign vessels (and Australian ones) to trade profitably.
It is cheaper to ship goods from Singapore to Melbourne than from Brisbane to Melbourne.
About 90,000 Australians are employed in industries which use coastal shipping, including oil refining, cement, steel and aluminium.
Coastal shipping plays a vital role in our nation's prosperity.
For Tasmanians, it is the only viable bulk transport link across the Bass Strait. Yet, when all Australian freight grew by 57% between 2000 and 2012, coastal shipping fell from 27% of all freight transport to a mere 18%.
It costs about $5 million a year more for an Australian ship to perform the same freight tasks as a foreign ship.
Ten years ago, Australia had 30 ships in its coastal fleet. Now it only has 18, and the freight it has moved has dropped 64% in the past two years.
As the size of our coastal fleet decreases, so does the number of Australians it employs. At its present rate of decline, the industry will soon be dead in the water, employing no-one.
The proposed Australian reforms will abolish all the cumbersome and costly licences ships must apply for and replace them with a single permit, providing all ships, foreign and Australian, with access to Australian ports for up to 12 months.
There are strict criteria for permit eligibility.
Increasing our coastal shipping trade and making it quicker, cheaper and more efficient for all our industries can only increase Australian employment in the coastal shipping industry.
At present it is a protectionist, closed -shop declining industry for a few Maritime Unionists to the detriment of all industries dependent on Australian coastal trade.
Our national prosperity and all Australians will benefit from the proposed reforms.