Speech: Maritime Union of Australia

Speech: Maritime Union of Australia Main Image

Mrs PHILLIPS (Gilmore) (19:10):  I have to say that I am very disappointed in this purely political motion by the Member for Mackellar. Our maritime workers have had it tough enough this year and have stepped up when they were needed. Quite frankly, they simply don't deserve this kind of slanderous motion to be brought against them. This year, our maritime workers supported our bushfire evacuation and recovery efforts. They have worked hard to keep our goods moving during a global pandemic, and they have been 'rewarded' with job losses and unfair attacks from this government.

Let's start with the work that the Maritime Union of Australia did to raise funds to support bushfire relief efforts. MUA offices across the country became collection points, taking in food, clothing and personal hygiene products. They also collected financial donations, which were given to several schools in my electorate to help support local kids impacted by the bushfires—really important and really appreciated work. In the immediate aftermath of the bushfires, many people, including myself, called on the government to activate the Defence Force to help with evacuations and bring supplies to those who were desperately in need. Those calls took a long time to be answered. But, luckily, in some parts of the country, seafarers were there to do the work the government was avoiding.

In Mallacoota, Australian and New Zealand seafarers were the first on the scene. They brought much-needed supplies of food, water and diesel. The Norwegian-flagged ship Far Saracen was there a full 24 hours before the first naval vessel arrived. During the bushfires, they proved what a vital role shipping plays in times of crisis. They were needed and they were there. Civilian crews of the training vessel MV Sycamore and supply vessel Far Senator and the SeaLink Kangaroo Island Ferries were also there helping firefighters, helping stranded people and doing what they could to make a difference. In Eden, tugs were helping to protect those on the beaches and wharfs by using their hoses.

With coastal communities all across Australia cut off, seafarers did what they could, where they could. Imagine what we could have done if those were Australian-flagged ships. When the Aurora Australis was due to take its final voyage, after three decades of service to the Australian Antarctic Division, the Morrison Government had the opportunity to acquire the ship and make it a specialist emergency response vessel for disasters just like the one we had just experienced. Our seafarers had shown what they could do, and I can tell you that many people on the South Coast would have been grateful for this assistance. There were fantastic efforts by volunteers in Marine Rescue, surf lifesaving and many other ocean based organisations all across the South Coast. They stepped up when they were needed. They were there for our community. But they could have been magnificently supported by Australian seafarers if only we had the capacity. But the Morrison Government squandered this opportunity. If we had a formal coordinated emergency capacity we could have large-scale emergency relief and rescue operations.

Since the bushfires, people have continued to question why this didn't happen. Our seafarers showed it was possible. Instead, local people in my electorate who were employed on the Aurora have now lost their jobs. The Aurora Australis is set to be replaced but, due to delays, many of the seafarers who were expecting jobs on the vessel have been left in limbo, while others have been made redundant. The temporary vessel that will be arriving on Australian shores, the MPV Everest will have a foreign crew. We have local seafarers who could be manning this vessel, but instead the crew will come from overseas. Why is this government allowing this to happen? Why isn't the government stepping in to make sure Australian seafarers have jobs?

Instead, we have motions like this. Our seafarers, quite frankly, deserve better.

The truth is that our maritime workers are out there every day, doing their best, delivering high levels of productivity and trying to make a difference in what has been a hell of a year for them all. But the Morrison government has shown time and time again that they don't support our maritime workers. They won't stand up for workers—period. Well, I will always stand up for workers. I will stand up for local people who are losing their jobs. I promise you: their work has not gone unnoticed by me.