The Australian Shipowners Association (ASA) has urged the Abbott Government to be careful in its consideration of the Productivity Commission Report into Tasmanian shipping and freight.
The retention of the Tasmanian Freight and Bass Strait Passenger Vehicle Equalisation Schemes is a sensible decision that has been well received by ASA.
But there are still concerns about any recommendation to deregulate access to coastal shipping services as this will result in the loss of strategic skills in the Australian maritime workforce.
“Retaining the Equalisation Schemes recognises that Bass Strait is part of the national highway and is an appropriate fiscal policy.
However, deregulating the coast and allowing foreign vessels unfettered access to carry Australian local cargo will undoubtedly result in the complete demise of Australian shipping companies and with them the skilled Australian seafarer.
It would be ironic if Australia – the largest island nation – was left without professional maritime staff,” Teresa Lloyd Executive Director at the ASA said.
“All our trading partners have entrenched coastal trading regulations and are not undertaking any debate on it. Australia, does not need to be the trailblazer in this area, instead we need to continue to invest in a strong Australian presence in coastal trade,” added Ms Lloyd.
“This report is not about introducing competition, competition already exists. What this report is calling for is the substitution of professional Australian services with cheap foreign providers.
Such a move would have significant consequences that reverberate well beyond the direct impact of shutting Australian shipping businesses down.”
Australian seafarers will disappear under the regime recommended in the Productivity Report as the low paid foreign workers take those jobs.
The Australian domestic shipping task has always been regulated and has always been met by a mix of local and foreign vessels. It is not in the long term national interest to open the coast.
Press Release, July 3, 2014; Image: AMSA