The Guardian August 23, 2000


Senate applauds seafarers

The Federal Senate last week passed a resolution applauding Australian 
ships and Australian seafarers for their role during the deployment of 
Interfet forces in East Timor, acknowledging the role Australian merchant 
shipping plays in peacetime and calling on the Government to promote 
Australian flag shipping.

The resolution contrasts starkly with the Howard Government's policy of 
favouring cheap, substandard foreign shipping at the peril of the national 
flag fleet.

The Government has refused recommendations by the industry, the unions and 
its own appointed shipping reform group to provide fiscal support to the 
Australian shipping industry.

Instead it has opened up the domestic transport industry to "guest workers" 
and exposed the Australian coast to pollution.

The Maritime Union of Australia points out that world shipping is dominated 
by flag of convenience vessels registered in tax havens like Panama and 
Liberia, where they are not required to meet international safety or labour 
standards.

According to submissions to a recent international inquiry, the 
International Commission on Shipping, many of these ships are crewed by 
poorly trained or fraudulently certified crew from third world countries.

Exploitation of labour and tax avoidance enables these ships to offer cut 
rate freight rates, which are driving Australian ships out of business. 
Seven Australian flag ships have been taken out of operation in the past 18 
months.

The Senate resolution says in part that the Senate:

* recognises and applauds the role that was played in supporting the 
Interfet force deployment in East Timor by Australian civilian ships;

* acknowledges that the role of Australian civilian ships in East Timor 
continues the significant and enormous role that the Australian Merchant 
Navy has historically played in the ever increasing peacetime carriage of 
trade, both internationally and domestically;

* requests that the Government promote the flying of the Australian flag 
rather than flags of convenience.

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