MINISTER RICHARD COLBECK, SPEECH TO THE SENATE RE: SHIPPING LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL 2015
26 NOVEMBER, 2015
Senator COLBECK (Tasmania--Minister for Tourism and International Education and Minister Assisting the Minister for Trade and Investment) (13:42): As Senator Canavan has just indicated, the Shipping Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 is a really important piece of legislation not just in respect of shipping but also for industry and commerce generally in Australia.
I say at the outset that the government is committed to a safe, secure and efficient transport system. This is unambiguously also the case for coastal shipping. Nowhere is this more important than in my home state of Tasmania, which, by virtue of geography, requires affordable and competitive shipping. It plays an incredibly important role in our economic prosperity.
Under Labor, the fleet of major Australian registered ships with coastal licences dropped from 30 vessels in 2006-07 to just 15 in 2013-14. The changes that Labor made were supposed to save the Australian shipping industry. Under Labor's changes, there is less freight, fewer ships and less employment. So the costs that were imposed on all of the Australian industries that used those coastal shipping services have not done anything to save the Australian coastal shipping industry, as Labor promised when they passed the legislation.
Between 2000 and 2012 the shipping industry's share of Australian freight fell from 27 per cent to just under 17 per cent while the volume of freight across Australia actually grew by 57 per cent. What Labor's laws did was take freight off the coastal shipping routes and put it onto the roads of Australia. You only need to think about that additional load on the road transport system to consider what the potential impacts might be, yet Labor said that they were going to save the coastal shipping sector.
When we look forward--with Australia's overall freight task expected to grow by 80 per cent by 2030 but, under the current settings, coastal shipping is to only increase by 15 per cent--there will be more trucks on the road and less freight being carried around the Australian coastline by ships.
The government's objective is to facilitate greater use of coastal shipping services around the coastline. The coastal shipping has more to do. It can do it economically and it can do it efficiently, particularly for a number of industries.
I say that nowhere is more important than my home state of Tasmania. Why should Bell Bay Aluminium pay something like $29 a tonne for moving its freight from Bell Bay to Gladstone when the global going rate is about $17 or $18 a tonne, and before Labor's coastal shipping laws came in the rate was about $1 or $2 more than the global rate.
Labor's laws have inflated costs and made it more difficult for Australian industry to compete within Australia. Labor's coastal shipping changes are locking Australian industry out of the Australian market. That is the effect of Labor's coastal shipping laws that they said would save the industry, but it has had less freight, less ships and less employment as a result of their process.
Our amendments provide a more competitive and efficient coastal shipping industry for Australian shipping users. It replaces the cumbersome and complex framework, which was put into place by Labor, with a single permit significantly reducing red tape and regulatory burden.
There is some view being put around this place that these changes will create some form of disaster in employment in Australian coastal shipping that does not exist already. One of my Tasmanian colleagues foretold job losses at Toll, TT-Line and Searoad. All of those businesses existed within a coastal shipping framework that existed prior to these costly Labor regulations. All of those businesses operated using Australian employees prior to the commencement of these destructive changes that were brought in by Labor in 2009 and 2012. So to suggest that there is not some concept where they can exist within a new environment that takes us back more to that framework I do not accept.
It was the changes that were made by Labor that actually cost Tasmania its international shipping service. That is one of the reasons the AAA service left Tasmania--
Senator Lambie: That is rubbish!
Senator COLBECK: You ought to talk to triple A, Senator Lambie. I know it is the truth because I have had the conversation. Senator Lambie, through you, Mr Acting Deputy President, I know you are trying to pretend that you support Tasmanian business, but you are locking Tasmanian industry out of the Australian market. You are stopping Tasmanian businesses from participating in the Australian market with some sort of pretence that you care about them, but you are voting against Tasmania by voting against this piece of legislation. Quite clearly you are voting against Tasmania.
Senator Lambie interjecting--
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bernardi): Order! Senator Lambie.
Senator COLBECK: It is cheaper to bring sugar from Thailand into the Australian market, as Senator Canavan quite rightly said, than it is to bring it in from Queensland, so the Australian sugar industry is locked out of the Australian market. It is locked out of its own market. It is cheaper to bring timber from New Zealand to every eastern port in Australia than it is to bring it from South Australia or Tasmania. The South Australian timber industry and the Tasmanian timber industry are locked out of their own Australian market. It is cheaper to bring cement from China than within the Australian market.
The measures brought in by Labor increased costs, reduced flexibility, made it less competitive for Australian business in the Australian market and it did nothing--as they claimed it might--to save the Australian shipping industry. In fact, the Australian flagged vessels that are leaving the Australian coastline right now are doing so under Labor's provisions. Labor's provisions that were supposed to save the Australian coastal shipping industry are doing nothing to save the Australian coastal shipping industry.
Why is it that they are not prepared to stand up for the rest of Australia's industry sectors that want an efficient and cost-effective shipping system? Why is it that they will not stand up for them?
Throughout the debate on this bill there have been some quite mischievous claims with respect to the impact on Australia's marine environment and maritime safety, and they are quite clearly false. Australia's strong environmental safety laws will continue to apply to all ships operating in Australian waters. All ships operating in Australian waters are subject to the Port State Control regime administered by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, which is world's best practice.
AMSA advise that their port state control statistics indicate that in the 2014 calendar year the deficiency rate for Australian-flagged ships was 3.9 deficiencies per inspection, compared to the deficiency rate of 2.9 deficiencies per inspection for foreign-flagged ships. Looking at the statistics, you can see that Australian and foreign-flagged vessels are basically on a par when it comes to reporting deficiencies. If a vessel does the wrong thing, regardless of its flag, AMSA will detain the ship until it is fixed and if a vessel continues to fail to comply, AMSA can direct a vessel out of Australian waters.
The reason for bringing this legislation forward is so that it can work for the benefit of the Australian shipping industry. My colleague Senator Abetz talked about the impact of a proposed development at Burnie in my home state of Tasmania where DP World are proposing a major container port expansion. The impact of that expansion and the resultant increase in flow of coastal shipping and changes to coastal shipping would reduce the price of a 20-foot container from $2,800 to $1,350--that is, more than halving the cost.
It brings it back to more like the cost which occurred before Labor brought in their disastrous coastal shipping reforms--again, that were supposed to save the industry. That saving, by more than halving the cost, is great news for Tasmanian business. It epitomises the fact that this legislation would be a stimulus for investment in my home state.
I will close my remarks by commending the bill to the Senate. I urge members in this place to continue to engage with us and, hopefully, to support the legislation.