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Govt admission on foreign workers

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An ACTU representative has called the Abbott government’s proposed changes to the cruise industry a “national disgrace” designed to suit “its ongoing ideological crusade”.

The Coalition has a bill before Parliament to deregulate the industry, paving the way for foreign-flagged ships to spend more time in Australian waters.

Bill Milby from North Star Cruises, which runs a luxury passenger ship along the Kimberley Coast, has previously claimed government officials told him to consider hiring foreign crew to survive under the new laws.

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“That suggested advice was that we re-flag… take [the ship] away to a flag of convenience… lay off our senior crew… put on a foreign crew and bring it back,” he told a parliamentary hearing.

“That was how we could compete with the foreign ships that would come down and operate on our coastline.”

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Mr Milby’s account was “just not true” and Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss told Parliament it was “inaccurate.”

But government officials, Judi Zilkie and Michael Sutton from the Department of Infrastructure, have admitted the issue was raised with Mr Milby.

Asked in the same parliamentary hearing if she “discussed with him [Mr Milby] the option of going offshore”, Ms Zilkie replied: “Yes.”

But she said while they “did talk about the various options” she denies she “provided advice that he should take that action.”

ACTU secretary Dave Oliver called on the government to “abandon” the changes.

“It is a national disgrace that the Abbott government wants to trash yet another Australian industry due to its ongoing ideological crusade,” he said.

“Australian crews are among the most highly trained in the world but the Abbott government wants to kill off another domestic industry and replace Australian workers with exploited foreign labour in a race to the bottom through Flag of Convenience (FOC) shipping.” 

A report by the Australia Institute into the government’s legislation estimates that only 88 Australian seafarer jobs will remain under the Department’s preferred option for policy change.

This represents a loss of 1089 Australian seafarer jobs, or 93 per cent of the current workforce.

– with ABC

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