Ms Bird (Cunningham) (12:41): I want to take the opportunity in this House today to put on the record, for members and for the general public, two important battles going on in my electorate, to which my Labor colleague, the member for Whitlam, and I have been able to provide some support, together with our state Labor colleagues: Ryan Park, the member for Keira; Paul Scully, the member for Wollongong; and Anna Watson, the member for Shellharbour. We have, playing out locally, two disputes that encapsulate exactly the challenges that ordinary workers and their families are facing across the country. I'm very pleased to be joined by some constituents in the Chamber today and to be able to talk about the fight that they've got on their hands.
I want to first of all go to the decision by BHP and BlueScope to abandon Australian crews and shipping on the run around the Australian coast, from Western Australia to the port in my own area, Port Kembla. We've had a long history—over a hundred years—of ships carrying iron on the Australian coastline to provide for our steel industry, and we all know very well from our history the importance of our maritime fleet at times of great struggle, indeed world wars, in this country. This country needs, for its own best interests, an Australian fleet on our domestic runs. I have met with workers from two ships—the Lowlands Brilliance and the Mariloula—who, while in international waters, were told that their run had been cancelled, that their employment had been cut and that they would be sent home—some of them with years and years of experience as seafarers, others new to the job, told out in the middle of the ocean that their job is gone.
This is a disgrace on so many levels. It's a disgrace for those individuals and their families to have their work pulled out from under them in that manner, where they don't have access to their union reps or to people to support them to deal with that sort of outcome. It's also a real disgrace for us as a nation that a significant employer, indeed one whose initials say it's about 'the big Australian', abandons Australian shipping and Australian workers. Indeed, we know all too well from the report Ships of shame, which was a bipartisan report of this parliament, about the abuse of foreign seafarers and what that will now open up to.
I want to acknowledge the Maritime Union officials Garry Keane, Mick Cross and Mich-Elle Myers for the work they've done on this campaign and also the sacked workers, particularly those here with us today—Daniel Bell, who was on the Lowlands Brilliance and comes from Nowra, and Ben Sirasch, who was on the Mariloula, and partner Erin, who are from the Gold Coast.
I also acknowledge their colleagues John Liebrand, Will Zisis and Daniel Hicks.
I call on the government to have a close look at the action it could have taken in not providing licences for foreign-flagged, foreign-crewed ships to do domestic runs. I think it's something that in the long run, as a nation, we need to get on top of. Certainly our shadow minister Anthony Albanese has made it clear that Labor believe that we need to have a domestic fleet.
I also want to talk about the Port Kembla Coal Terminal. I have met with the united mineworkers' union representatives Bob Timbs and Lee Webb; the workers on the picket line out the front of the coal terminal; here today, David Brown, Geoff Logan, Kevin Cope and Chris Milevski; and also some workers who are still back either locked out or on strike in my local area who yesterday, while some of their colleagues were here in Canberra, were actually out repairing playground equipment in Dapto, using their time while they were on strike to help a local community: Ben Burns, Owen Steep, Cameron Green and Peter Hawke. These workers just want kept in their enterprise agreement a guarantee of security that they can't be sacked and replaced by contractors. PKCT claim that that's their intention. Well, get back to the table and put that back into that agreement so these workers and their families have an assurance of security for the future.
Watch Sharon’s speech here.