What does this bill do?
According to the bills digest:
The purpose of the Coastal Trading (Revitalising Australian Shipping) Amendment Bill 2017 (the Bill) is to amend the Coastal Trading (Revitalising Australian Shipping) Act 2012 (the Coastal Trading Act) to streamline the regulation of coastal trading, including by:
- removing the five-voyage minimum requirement for temporary licences
- simplifying licence variation, consultation and notification processes
- amending the tolerance provisions for temporary licence voyages
- abolishing the separate category of emergency licences and
- extending the regime to cover, for example, voyages involving offshore petroleum facilities.
The Coastal Trading (Revitalising Australian Shipping) Act was introduced in 2012 as part of a suite reforms designed to provide the Australian shipping industry with a stable framework and indeed to encourage further investment. Unfortunately that has not been the case. Since implementation of the current framework, the decline in the number of Australian flagged vessels has unfortunately continued. The reality at the moment is that many ageing Australian registered vessels are not being replaced. The sector is ostensibly in decline. This bill was intended to balance the interests of the Australian shipping industry and users of shipping services by regulating Australian and foreign flagged ships through a licensing system. Unfortunately this simply hasn't happened. Australian businesses have faced such significant issues accessing coastal shipping that they've given up and frankly started sending their products by road or rail. Something has to change.
Opposition to the bill
This bill offers a raft of measures that will make it easier for foreign flagged vessels to operate in Australian waters, while providing absolutely nothing for Australian flagged vessels. The proposal before the House would increase tolerance limits from their current level of plus or minus 20 per cent of the nominated cargo or passenger volumes to 200 per cent more or 100 per cent less. It would also change the current loading window from plus or minus five days to 30 days either side of the authorised date. This drastic increase of volume tolerance limits and loading windows would make it impossible for Australian owned and operated ships that hold general licences to compete with foreign vessels holding temporary licences. These provisions would, according to the Maritime Union of Australia, totally undermine accepted commercial arrangements and make it impossible for a general licence holder to contest a cargo, as a general licence holder would not know what they were contesting.