Senate vote threatens future of Australian shipping

Media Release

WT391/2015

26 November 2015

The Senate's decision to vote down legislation pivotal to reforming Australia's coastal shipping industry has put the sector's viability and competitiveness at risk.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development Warren Truss said the reforms under the Shipping Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 were essential for Australia's continued prosperity.

“Today's scuttling of the changes by the Senate threatens thousands of Australian jobs, both on land and sea,” Mr Truss said

“We want our cement made in Australia, our alumina refined in Australia, our sugar used in Australia, our oil refined in Australia. Our current shipping laws are putting at risk the viability of many land-based industries dependent on domestic transport services.

“As our shipping industry declines there is increased pressure on our roads and railways to undertake tasks that could be better done by ships.

“Our shipping industry has become uncompetitive and this is demonstrated by the massive decline of Australian registered ships over the past seven years.

“In 2006–07, we had 30 major Australian trading vessels with a General Licence, and by 2013–14 the number had declined to just 15. Similarly, we have seen major declines in shipping's share of Australia's freight task, declining from 27 per cent in 2000 to 17 per cent in 2012.

“This is in spite of an almost 60 per cent increase in freight volumes across Australia over that time.

“Labor's Coastal Trading Act has been a disaster for local businesses and the need to reform is clear, however the Senate doesn't seem to appreciate that fact, and has entrenched an environment where our shipping industry will continue to decline and businesses will fail.

“Industry is keenly aware of the dangers, with one submission to the Senate inquiry into the legislation stating the industry is at risk of operational shut downs and potential job losses.

“This decision is a missed opportunity to implement a single, streamlined permit for all ships, replacing the cumbersome three-tier system currently in place. The legislation would have also allowed Australian and foreign ships to be treated equally and removed significant costs from the regulatory framework.

“The Australian Government remains committed to improving our national prosperity and we will revisit the legislative framework and try again to make Australia's shipping industry competitive.”

A copy of the Senate Rural, Regional and Transport Legislative Committee report, which recommended the bill be passed, is available here.