The Federal Government’s plan to de-regulate coastal shipping will place 300 jobs at risk in Australia’s rail freight sector and undermine the proposed Inland Rail project – according to the Rail, Tram and & Bus Union (RTBU).
RTBU National Secretary Bob Nanva today said the Abbott Government’s coastal shipping reforms would not only decimate the domestic shipping industry – they would have repercussions right through the transport supply chain.
“Our discussions with employers have found that around ten per cent of the volume of containerised freight carried by rail could switch to foreign vessels under the new arrangements,” Mr Nanva said.
“This would lead to around 300 jobs being lost straight off the bat in our industry, and would cause long-term damage to regional communities along major rail freight corridors.”
EVEN PLAYING FIELD
Mr Nanva said the Federal Government had abandoned any semblance of competitive neutrality in the freight sector, brazenly gifting a huge competitive advantage to overseas-based shipping services.
“It’s one thing to have different modes like rail, road and sea freight competing to provide the most efficient service – but there needs to at least be some sort of even playing field.
“Clearly that’s not the case when flag of convenience vessels, that do not have to pay Australian wages or meet Australian safety standards, can compete openly in the domestic market.
“It’s also bizarre that the Federal Government is pursuing a policy which will devalue the worth of its publicly-owned rail infrastructure manager, ARTC, just as it’s looking to privatise the company.
“Furthermore, the Government is supposedly planning a huge investment in inland rail infrastructure – an investment which could become a stranded asset before it’s even built.”
WHERE'S THE STRATEGY?
Mr Nanva said the Abbott Government needed to stop its piece-meal approach to transport policy and start governing in the national interest.
“To any fair-minded observer, it looks like the Government’s left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing.
“Australia needs an integrated national freight strategy - one that ensures our transport system works in a cohesive and complementary way, while maximising jobs and securing the future of local industry.”