Labor has promised to build an independent fleet to secure Australia’s access to fuel supplies and overseas trading routes.
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese says despite shipping accounting for almost all of Australia’s imported and exported goods, only one per cent of seaborne trade is carried by Australian ships.
“The Morrison-Joyce government has put our national security and economic sovereignty at risk by standing idle as large multinationals dumped Australian flagged and crewed vessels so they could hire cheaper overseas crews,” he said.
“Our nation (relies) on foreign governments and companies for our essential imports … including fuel.”
A Labor government would initially close regulatory loopholes and establish a taskforce to inform the fleet building initiative.
The taskforce would also advise on how to enforce current coastal shipping laws and what reforms would help energise the sector.
While the ships would likely be privately owned and operated on a commercial basis, Mr Albanese says he would ensure they are available for the defence force to use in times of national crisis – be that natural disaster or conflict.
“In times of conflict and crisis, our economic sovereignty and national security are dependent on Australian seafarers working on Australian ships,” he said.