Thursday, 24 June 2021
Questions without Notice
My question is to Senator Reynolds, the Minister representing the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development. Earlier this year, at a Senate Select Committee on Job Security hearing discussing foreign flagged vessels, Nationals Senator Canavan identified:
… we have just got to step in and create the circumstances to bring shipping back to Australian flagged vessels.
Why is the Morrison government promoting the use of foreign flagged coastal ships, putting at risk the sovereignty of Australia's supply chain, risking jobs and devastating the ability of the Inland Rail project to attract the required private investment to make it work?
I can confirm that, on 21 September 2020, the department did release a discussion paper proposing changes to the coastal trading framework for cargo vessels. The proposed changes are based on stakeholder feedback. The department received 44 submissions, including from shipping companies, the maritime industry, unions and onshore businesses. Nothing in the paper is yet final. The department will continue to work collaboratively to find an outcome that all parties can accept.
Under the proposed reforms, protections for Australian vessels will be maintained and foreign vessels will continue to need licences. Opening the coast, a strategic fleet or high-cost subsidies will not be considered. The options suggested in the discussion paper are focused on achieving administrative efficiencies within the current system. On 10 June 2021, the Special Recreational Vessels Amendment Act 2021 received royal assent. This extends the superyacht registration for two years and allows more time to develop a more permanent regulatory solution.
Has the minister explained to the mayors of Albury, Parkes, Narrabri and the Scenic Rim, many of whom are visiting Canberra at the moment, that the expected jobs and investment coming to their regions from the Inland Rail project are being put in jeopardy by the Morrison government's promotion of foreign flagged coastal ships? Have you done that, Minister?
Senator Sterle, I'm not sure that you actually heard the answer to the first question, so I might just repeat that because it answers your question. Again, we released a discussion paper for the proposed changes to the coastal trading framework for cargo vessels. Again, nothing in the paper is final and the department will continue to work—
Mr President, my point of order is on relevance. The minister is going nowhere near the question I asked about Inland Rail. I would urge you to bring her back to the question.
The supplementary question referred to the mayors of certain towns in New South Wales and investment in the Inland Rail project. That's the part of the question I heard. I'm listening carefully to the minister's answer. I'm not willing to say it's not directly relevant now, because the minister is talking about the project, from my understanding of the answer. I will let the minister continue, but I will remind her of that part of the question.
So, as I had said, under any proposed reforms, protections for Australian vessels will be maintained and foreign vessels will continue to need licences. Opening the coast, a strategic fleet—
Senator Sterle interjecting—
I will take the interjection, Senator Sterle. You obviously didn't hear it the first time I went through this for you. The options suggested in the discussion paper are focused on achieving administrative efficiencies within the current system. (Time expired)
We will have another crack, shall we, Minister? Why was former Deputy Prime Minister McCormack pursuing foreign flagged coastal ships, and what is the position of current Deputy Prime Minister Joyce?
I can go through a third time what we are doing on this policy for the benefit of Senator Sterle, but I think the government's position on this was quite clear. The government's position has not changed.