A cruise ship company alleges an official from the Department of Infrastructure urged it to move offshore if it wanted to remain competitive in the industry.
In a submission to an inquiry into proposed shipping reforms introduced by Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss, a representative from North Star Cruises says a bureaucrat told him to switch from local workers to foreign labour.
The West Australian company should consider taking its ship True North off the Australian Shipping Register, re-register the ship in a suitable foreign country, lay off Australian crew and hire a cheaper foreign crew,
Bill Milby argues he was told after approaching an official at the launch of the policy in May.
Mr Milby followed the conversation up with the department at another meeting in Canberra in June.
‘I again put the case that should the legislation be passed … Australian businesses such as North Star Cruises and all of the smaller operators in the Kimberley would not be able to compete,’ he said.
Labor has seized on the submission, with opposition transport spokesman Anthony Albanese saying it’s “disgraceful and unacceptable” that the Abbott government is openly advising businesses to sack workers.
‘This submission makes it clear that at senior government levels there is an acceptance that this legislation will eliminate the Australian shipping industry,’ Mr Albanese said in a statement on Wednesday.
The legislation before parliament will no longer require foreign ships to pay Australian wages between domestic ports for the first 183 days.
In its submission, the department insists foreign ships that engage in more than 183 days of coastal trading will be required to employ an Australian master or chief mate and a chief engineer.