CONSTITUENCY STATEMENTS (Federation Chamber): Shipping Industry

24 June 2021

For all of my working life, from the time I started training as a young nurse many years ago, I have been a member of my union. The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, or the ANF, as it was then, has played a huge part in my life and I have always been a proud member. As a trade unionist, there's nothing better in this place than to see fellow workers come to parliament to voice their concerns, knocking on doors, standing up for their rights.

At the moment in this House there are members of the Maritime Union of Australia, the mighty MUA, and they are here in Canberra to tell a sorry story. There are Michael, Brett and Zach, MUA members, maritime workers, who were on the crew of the MV Portland. This was an Australian ship carrying Australian cargo, manned by an Australian crew. This is a rare beast in Australia at the moment, because what we're seeing is a shift away from Australian ships doing Australian work on Australian shores and being manned by Australian crew to what we call ships with flags of convenience. These are ships that register in countries that have very few standards when it comes to safety or labour standards. We have had the International Transport Workers Federation find dreadful conditions on ships that have come to our shores. There have even been instances of murder on these ships and indentured labour; it's terrible.

But here we had a great ship, the MV Portland, which was Australian and proudly flying the Australian flag. Three young men—Michael, Brett and Zach—are here to tell the story that they and their fellow crew members were woken in the middle of the night, in their bunks on the ship when it was in Portland. They were dragged off the ship in the middle of the night by security guards, like common criminals, and summarily sacked. The whole crew of that ship was replaced by a foreign crew, who we know are exploitable, who we know get paid a pittance—sometimes as little as $2 an hour, we've seen in some instances. We know that this is a great shame.

This happens under this government because big multinational companies are not afraid to do those things under a Morrison Liberal government. They weaken protections for workers. We've seen outshoring and offshoring. This is the DNA of the Liberal government and this is what happens. They don't have the backs of Australian workers. They don't listen to unions when they raise the alarm on unsafe conditions and insure work. You know who wears the consequences? It's the workers and their families. Those young MUA members have families. They are young men. They want to work. They're proud of their craft and they want to be on board Australian ships proudly flying Australian flags. But that is not what's happening in this country. Sadly, that is what happens under this government, but a Labor government would have their backs.