Say no to ending cabotage laws for ships within Australian waters 81



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The Australian Fair Work Commission recently ordered a stop to industrial action taken by 36 sailors (2 x 18-member crews) on the Nassau-registered oil tanker, Alexander Spirit. The ship was due to depart Devonport for Singapore last Friday but the all-Australian crew refused to set sail. Once the ship reaches Singapore, they will be paid off and their places taken by foreign crew for work on overseas routes.

Caltex Australia is redeploying the Alexander Spirit overseas because it says there is no longer a need to transport fuel from its refinery in Brisbane to other Australian ports. The company claims it is a tough decision but, for them to compete with huge global conglomerates there is a need to “…ensure our supply chain is for the situation we’re in today, not what it was seven years ago”.

Caltex spokesman Sam Collyer continued, “Every ship that’s doing this task internationally, and we’re talking hundreds of ships, every other ship is operating internationally and the arrangements are appropriate internationally, so that includes the crew”

Australian cabotage laws require ships operating within Australian waters to be crewed by Australian workers. Because of the change, and the ship’s operation in international waters, Australian law will no longer apply. Hence the crew being paid off once they reach Singapore. They took the only action in their power and refused to sail.

A company called TK Australia, operators of the ship on behalf of Caltex, asked the Fair Work Commission to intervene. Commissioner Ian Cambridge handed down his decision in Sydney this afternoon, stating the dispute constitutes unprotected industrial action and must come to a stop.

Meanwhile, the people of Devonport are offering support to the Alexander Spirit’s crew, including setting up picket lines, backing a peaceful protest in the Rook Street Mall and marching in unison with the crew.

What the future holds is not entirely certain (although reasonable assumptions can be made) but one thing all Australians might consider is to email their local MP and protest: The Federal Government wants to end cabotage laws for those continuing to operate ships within Australian waters. This is something that will affect all states but especially the Island State, Tasmania, whose lifeline is shipping.


We are forever told it costs too much to continue employing Australians in so many fields of endeavour but, surely, isn’t the cost of putting them out of work so much greater?

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John Reid

  1. Australian cabotage laws and the MUA combined with weak governments have killed off Australian shipping. A drastic change is needed, if Australian shipping is to be revitalized – this includes scrapping cabotage laws.

    2 REPLY
    • But is won’t be Australian shipping will it! It will be foreign shipping. You know them! The ones who don’t pay their taxes to Australia.

    • Australia has lost all its international shipping because of high cost. Virtually all exports move on foreign flag. The only way to change that is to become competitive. In order to become competitive and get coastal shipping moving again, deregulation needs to happen.

  2. That has always been my contention,the cost of laying the workers off. It’s not just the wages,it’s the flow on effect,which can see the break down of communities & whole cities like Newcastle and Wollongong.

    1 REPLY
    • I live in Newcastle and it is a working town Catharine, it the highest unemployment in N.S.W, it is heart breaking to see so many people who want to work and their are no jobs.

  3. Better to pay for employment than unemployment!

    2 REPLY
    • I am having to claim New Start allowance at the moment as I cannot find work and as a mature worker even harder now. The MAXIMUM I get per fortnight is $597.00 which includes some rent assistance. (my rent is $370 p/wk) and I would FAR prefer to be employed but with whole industries being closed down getting harder and harder to find work which enables me to pay taxes & have more to spend & keep businesses in business.
      Putting the work offshore is just so wrong and at the end of the day the people who are lucky to have a job now are paying the penalty as taxes will HAVE to rise to support everyone who is unemployed and being supported by the government. It is ludicrous.

  4. All the striking in the world won’t affect the government’s decision to scrap cabotage laws. In the end our unemployment rate will be sky high and they will cut all benefits to an absolute minimum. A very sorrowful Australia is looming ahead.

    1 REPLY
    • It is already here Christa. The cuts to social services from July 1 are more severe than you can imagine. I volunteer for meals on wheels (funding cuts right there) and the elderly who had a cleaner once a week to vacuum floors – get rid of expired food from the fridge etc used to contribute $10 for the weekly service. Now they have to pay $68 for the same service. How many can afford this? $10 under previous governments – and $68 under Tony Abbott. $10 – to $68 would someone like to calculate that percentage rise?

  5. For the Government to be allowing this, I suppose the ports that receive oil by ship will have no choice but to have all energy from solar, wind or hydro? Will the Australian Government then assist these communities to switch to renewable clean energy?

    This Government is destroying everything that Australians have gained. There also needs to be Australians first to be employed in every field of employment.
    Australia will have lowered workplace health and safety and workers will be forced to work under the conditions that Asian countries have. As it is many of the companies who do employ Asian workers they are paid less. A

  6. It’s a disgrace this Abbott gov has no care for Australia jobs. Now sacking maritime workers & giving the jobs to overseas Asian workers as they are paid a pittance. Senator Lambie also had a good point being the country’s security is threatened, they have no criminal checks such as our Australian workers. Abbott ‘the border control’ freak, is leaving these cargo ships wide open for anything to happen. He hates us public, he hates workers & always money first.

  7. Australian workers spend in Australia, Foreign workers don’t so it is better for our economy to employ Australian workers.

  8. The very reason we in Australia are pricing ourselves out of the labour market is all the add ins to wages upto ten percent of gross wage bill for workers compensation leave loading maternity leave generous sick leave payroll tax compassionate leave the list goes on and the we’ve got a number of people who have no intention of working have a think about that an then try and solve the problem don’t just bash a government to death with your crap be it liberal or labor

    5 REPLY
    • Maybe but you cannot expect us to work for the same $ as in say US which does not have our structure either. I am sure you would not bill yourself out at say $20 p/hr which is what the minimum is or around that figure. I see you are self employed. Would you bill yourself out a say US$9 which works out about AUD$12 p/hr??? I don;t think so!!!!
      As for thinking everyone on the dole wants to be there you are wrong and we can’t all be self employed to charge what we think our time is worth. When you work for someone else you have to accept the going rate.
      Your comments are definitely from an employer’s point of view who wants to pay the least to their employees who make their business what it is (otherwise if you could do it yourself you would not need anyone, so the above comments would not apply to your business) & keep the most profits for themselves.
      I do agree with some of your comments that there are so many benefits like the PPL as in our day we did not have this and it has to be paid by someone. As for workers comp, yes we should be protected otherwise only the rich will be able to take someone to court if you are injured on the job. As for sick leave not everyone takes the time off because you can and if you are sick of course you should stay home, otherwise you infect everyone else. Maybe we should change it that if there is any sick leave left at the end of the day, you have an incentive tobe paid for the days you have NOT taken as it translates to more productivity for the employer not losing people to sickness through the year. My ex-husband worked for Parker Furniture & they used to try & get back as uch as possible at Christmas to be paid their sick leave. I used to try & keep mine for when I really needed it, especially as my back used to go out & I would not be able to walk or sit much less get to work. Most people are in the lower scale and would not be able to protect themselves.
      It IS a real issue with both sides of the government as they are NOT trying to help unemployed, there are NO measures for creating jobs and the more they sell off our country more & more of us will be looking for assistance which falls back on the ones who are working.
      It does not mean that we should send all our work overseas as we cannot afford to support everyone.

    • The Unions made sure we lost all our Manufacturing by overcharging, Companies just went Overseas . If they get the boot, we may get back on track, Better to have a job at a reasonable rate than none,

    • If a CEO sitting at a table in an air conditioned office can get $7 million a year what then is a sailor, truck driver, mechanic, stockman, butcher worth? They spend their own blood sweat and tears to earn a pittance and the fat cats earn millions to sit on their arses and work out how to avoid paying income tax. . You tell me which is wrong! When the average worker gets a reasonable wage then the big drain on industry is the CEO, and Directors of the Board. They contribute nothing.

    • Kay Eller hi I am self employed some weeks I work for nothing not a cent but our people all get paid and get paid 20percent over the award rate most of our employees have been with us over five years small business is damned hard work with very little return for the owners

    • Leone O’Sullivan agree totally have worked hard all my life doing three of the jobs you refer to self employed now but CEOS are not worth anything like the money they earn Australia post all of the banks the airlines most large companies just to name a few I could retire very comfortably on one half of what the Australia post CEO gets in one year a bloody joke

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