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Issue #1718      February 10, 2016

Turnbull’s brave new world

The Turnbull government’s ideological attack on workers took a new twist last week when more than a dozen police ordered onto the CSL Melbourne in Newcastle to remove five crew members protesting their sacking by Pacific Aluminium.

Stand-off: Crew evicted from CSL Melbourne joined MUA members and supporters at Tomago Aluminium. (Image: Simone De Peak)

This is the second time in less than a month where Australian seafarers have been forcibly removed from their workplace. Five crew on board the MV Portland were woken by up to 30 security guards at around 1am on January 13 and marched down the gangway.

The removal of the crew on the CSL Melbourne follows the bizarre decision by management earlier this week to put locks on the fridges and remove all fresh food from the ship.

The CSL Melbourne has been running alumina between Newcastle and Gladstone for the past five years but these jobs will go after the company received a temporary licence from the Turnbull government.

Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) assistant national secretary Warren Smith said Pacific Aluminium is exploiting coastal trading laws to simply replace Australian seafarers with exploited foreign seafarers on as little as $2 per hour, aided and abetted by the Turnbull government’s administration of the licensing system.

“Today’s removal of the crew is an absolute outrage. No worker in this country is safe now. These blokes have been removed by the state from their rightful place of work and replaced with workers who earn as little as $2 an hour,” Mr Smith said.

“They were doing nothing more than standing up for their jobs and their right to work in an Australian industry with decent pay and conditions. We have cabotage laws which cover trade through domestic ports and the use of both Australian-flagged and Australian-crewed vessels. The Senate voted in November to retain these laws yet the government has again pushed ahead with the issuing of another temporary licence.”

MUA assistant national secretary Ian Bray said the crew from the MV Portland had met with around 20 MPs and Senators in Canberra last week to explain their plight, as well as appearing at a Senate inquiry into Flag-Of-Convenience shipping.

“The crew received a very sympathetic hearing from a range of ALP, Greens and Senate crossbenchers,” Mr Bray said.

“This all makes for a very interesting set of hearings at Senate Estimates next week and there are plenty of Senators itching to go with questions about how a government can replace Australian workers with exploited foreign labour in what are effectively overnight raids.

“The Turnbull government’s moves to deregulate Australian shipping raise serious concerns on national security, fuel security, jobs and skills and protection of the environment.”

Australian crews are among the most highly-trained in the world and all have high-level security screening. As a result, Australian-flagged ships are demonstrably safer than Flag-of-Convenience shipping and have a strong record in protecting Australia’s pristine coastline.

Next article – Happy No Year

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