Coastal shipping operators leaving… reform cannot wait

Media Release


02 February 2016

Arresting Australia's coastal shipping collapse is reaching a critical juncture with two more operators withdrawing their Australian-crewed vessels from domestic waters, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development Warren Truss said today.

“The current system for coastal trading, which Labor introduced in 2012, has failed and is driving Australian businesses on land and water to the wall,” Mr Truss said.

“The system that Bill Shorten says is failing Australian shipping was, in fact, brought in by Labor and their MUA masters in 2012. No changes to Labor's laws have passed the Parliament and Labor and crossbench Senators are determined that none will.”

Yesterday Bill Shorten said:

‘When you've got a foreign flag on a ship replacing Australian ships it's quite often because that foreign flagged ship can avail themselves of tax havens in the West Indies or anywhere else and somehow the Australian Government is waving goodbye to Australian jobs.’

“What he didn't say is that Labor set of rules in 2012 that allow foreign ships to carry coastal cargo under temporary licences when there is no Australian operator with a general licence seeking to carry the cargo—and that is exactly what has happened in this situation,” Mr Truss said.

“The two recent ship withdrawals were entirely commercial decisions by the two operators—Alcoa and CSL—having determined that it is no longer viable to operate the vessels in coastal trade.

“In neither case did an Australian operator object to the issuing of the temporary licence.

“The Coalition's reforms have not passed the Senate. The only coastal shipping system in place right now is the one we inherited from Labor and are trying to fix.

“Clearly, the Government's proposed reforms are not the cause of recent decisions by two ship operators to withdraw their Australian-crewed vessels from the Australian coast—that's Labor's mess that we are determined to clean up.

“Over the first two years of Labor's coastal shipping legislation there was a 63 per cent decline in the carrying capacity of the major Australian coastal trading fleet.

“The Government is not going to sit around and let cargo be stuck on a wharf—threatening Australian jobs in sectors that use shipping and disrupting entire communities.

“When the Coalition left office in 2007, there were 30 major Australian trading vessels with a General Licence. By 2014, the fleet halved to just 15 vessels. In addition, the number of vessels with a Transitional General Licence has dropped by more than half from 16 to 7 vessels, and with the most recent decision by CSL this number will soon drop to 6.

“The Australian shipping industry is simply not competitive and is costing Australian jobs.

“The Australian Government will be bringing coastal shipping legislation back into the Parliament this year and crossbench Senators need to consider why they should continue to back a system which has overseen the marked decline in Australian coastal shipping.

“Leaving the current failed legislation in place is not an option. That would guarantee further declines in Australian ship numbers—with no hope of a recovery—and more and more customers turning away from shipping.”