The Government understands the importance of the shipping sector to the
Australian economy. Shipping plays an essential role in Australia's freight
strategy, particularly given our position as an island nation. It is imperative
that Australia's shipping services remain open and competitive at an
international level. However, the Australian shipping industry will need to
address issues with a small and ageing fleet, and relatively expensive labour
and product movement costs.
As stated in the committee's report, not all ships flying under a
foreign flag do so as part of a flag of convenience registration. When
discussing foreign‑flagged vessels, use of the 'flag of convenience'
terminology should be considered with some caution and not automatically
applied to all vessels registered to a foreign country.
While the committee heard some concerning evidence about the crew on
some flag of convenience vessels operating in Australian waters, overall the
inquiry received compelling evidence that Australia's transport security regime
was robust. This was particularly the case in more recent years with the
formation of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP).
There are substantial risk assessments completed for all foreign vessels
entering Australian waters, and for their crews via the Maritime Crew visa
(MVC) application process. The considerable increase in MCV refusals in recent
years highlights the strengthening of immigration clearance processes under the
DIBP. The committee was particularly encouraged to hear that the events
concerning Captain Salas would not occur under the current security frameworks.
The ongoing and thorough regime of Port State Control (PSC) inspections
conducted by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) ensures that the
international vessels operating around Australia's coast comply with safety,
environmental and labour standards. As AMSA continues to work with flag states
to improve safety measures of vessels, Australia becomes part of the global
effort to improve ship safety for seafarers of all nationalities.
Australia ratified the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) in
December 2011, and it applies to all international vessels in Australian
ports. The MLC provides significant protections to seafarers regarding their
working rights, living conditions and wages, while supporting the economic
interests of shipowners.
Australia implements the MLC through the Navigation Act 2012 and
other legislation, therefore safeguarding compliance with its provisions. The
ongoing implementation of the MLC shows that the government supports a comprehensive
framework for protecting the working rights of seafarers.
As highlighted by the committee's interim report, the inquiry continued
to hear evidence that the Coastal Trading (Revitalising Australian Shipping)
Act 2012 does not work as intended, particularly in relation to the five
voyage minimum required for a temporary licence. The licencing scheme itself is
burdensome, and the minimum voyage requirement is resulting in costly and
The inquiry noted that the government was progressing development of a
national freight and supply chain strategy. It was also considering reforms to
coastal shipping. The proposed coastal shipping reforms will play a key part in
reducing the regulatory burden and administrative issues currently being
experienced in the shipping sector. The government is therefore already well
progressed in ensuring that safe and efficient shipping has an increasing and
ongoing role in Australia's national freight network.
We disagree with the recommendation of the committee for the Fair Work
Ombudsman (FWO) to implement an inspection program, to verify the wages paid to
foreign seafarers. It is clear that the FWO already undertakes such tasks, as
evidenced by its successful case against the MT Turmoil. The FWO also
made clear that the shipping sector does not cause the FWO considerable levels
of concern, and that no further investment into this area was warranted.
The committee noted that the Maritime Labour Convention of 2006 allows
seafarers to make a complaint directly to AMSA or any other seafarer welfare
organisation about wages. Such complaints must be made 'without recourse or
concern'. Further, it is clear that AMSA does receive complaints under the
current regulatory framework, and these are thoroughly examined and forwarded
to the FWO for further investigation where required.
The committee's recommendation for the FWO to implement another program
of inspection for seafarer wages is unnecessary and would increase the
regulatory burden in an already heavily‑regulated sector.
Senator Barry O'Sullivan Senator David
Bushby B.EC., LLB, G.Dip Bus
Deputy Chair Senator
Senator Chris Back
Senator for Western Australia
Navigation: Previous Page | Contents | Next Page