Australian Prime Minister MUA Quadrennial Conference

Prime Minister

Labor’s tax cuts passed through Parliament this week. Tax cuts built on the unwavering spirit of fairness that is shared by the Australian Labor Party and the Maritime Union of Australia. The fairness on which we can build a better future.

We’re giving all of Australia’s 13.6 million taxpayers a tax cut because we support the aspirations of every Australian.

We’re helping you earn more and keep more of what you earn – and that will make a real difference to households right across Australia.

Peter Dutton and the Liberals have made it clear they will roll back these tax cuts the first chance they get. They don’t believe anyone has aspiration until their bank balance is big enough.

They may have changed their vote this time, but they can never change who they are.

Nowhere is this truer than when it comes to workers’ rights. They have shown their true nature by bitterly opposing each of the reforms we have introduced to make our workplace fairer and more productive. They have carried on as if the sky would fall in.

The truth is wages are growing at their highest level since 2008.

The gender pay gap is the lowest it has ever been.

Unemployment remains at historically low levels and jobs are more secure because we have closed off loopholes that are used to exploit workers.

These reforms say something about who we are and the values we stand for – and I need to acknowledge the leading role of Minister Tony Burke, who is here tonight, in delivering these reforms.

I come to you tonight after a week in which the Government has also been pushing back against the Opposition’s latest scare campaign: over fuel efficiency standards, of all things.

It’s a measure that will save hardworking Australians money. The fuel efficiency debate that has seen Peter Dutton and his mob join the lonely side that contains just Russia.

So that’s one more difference between us. The Liberals lean towards the Kremlin. I lean towards Crumlin.

Paddy has that true Irish gift of the gab. You could spend hours listening to his soaring oratory – and I mean that literally because I have. The hours just fly past.

Paddy has been known to charm even the most steel-hearted robber baron. He knows that personal relationships are important and that, sometimes, you need to put aside your feelings in order to get the best result for maritime workers. That takes wisdom, and it takes a particular strength of character.

Paddy is a good and loyal friend. I worked closely with him when I was previously Transport Minister. We have continued to work closely to deliver important reforms such as the strategic fleet.

Paddy has long stood tall for the rights of people with a disability and people injured in the workplace.

He has stood for the responsible investment of workers’ superannuation and pension funds.

As befits a man who has spent so much of his life crossing the horizon, Paddy has been an outstanding international union leader.

He’s been the Australian Workers’ Delegate to the International Labour Organisation’s Maritime Conferences since 1993.

He was also one of the lead negotiators of the ground-breaking Maritime Labour Convention 2006 that embedded Port State Control into the protection of international seafarers safety, rights and working conditions.

This is the first and only instance of this being achieved in an international industry. And that is something that is to Paddy’s eternal credit.

It is such an honour to be with you here tonight, Paddy. You have made a difference and you have kept making a difference. You have changed the lives of so many of working Australians for the better.

I also want to acknowledge Mich-Elle Myers – for all you do, both as an Assistant National Secretary and as a national Vice President of the ALP – and as one of my local Grayndler constituents.

That’s why we’re all here – this is why we sign up. To make that difference.

I was pleased to host Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos in Parliament House today, and I’m looking forward to continuing our conversation at the ASEAN Summit next week. I’ve enjoyed my engagement with President Marcos here and in Manila.

Ours can be very productive relationship, not least in the shipping lanes and on the wharves.

What I find encouraging is that – fittingly for such a maritime power – President Marcos counts as a friend and ally the head of the Philippines maritime union, Conrad Oca.

This is generally a good move and I would advise any national leader to befriend their national maritime union head immediately.

Conrad Oca is also a friend of Australian seafarers. He has been instrumental in working with the ITF and the MUA in securing funding from the ITF Seafarers Promotion Fund, funding that finds its ultimate home with Maritime Employees Training Ltd – the largest employer of Trainee seafarers in Australia.

With Conrad Oca’s support, $17 million has been delivered under that co-operative arrangement over the past 13 years.

We will always seek out further ways to co-operate. That’s where the best outcomes always lie.

Just over two years ago, Minister Catherine King and I stood with you in Newcastle and announced our intention to create a Strategic Fleet. Australian flagged, Australian crewed.

I’m pleased to say that this is another election commitment being fulfilled.

No one understands the importance of this more than the people in this room.

An Australian-flagged and crewed strategic fleet will improve Australia’s future maritime capability by helping get vital goods to affected regions and make us less reliant on international shipping in times of national crisis and emergency.

And if there’s something Covid taught us, it’s that we can’t afford to leave ourselves vulnerable at the end of the global supply chain.

I am pleased to say that work towards establishing Australia’s Maritime Strategic Fleet is well and truly underway.

Legislative reviews of the Shipping Registration Act 1981 and the Coastal Trading (Revitalising Australian Shipping) Act 2012 will be announced shortly.

While the strategic fleet will provide invaluable training opportunities and employment pathways, it alone will not overcome all the barriers to growing the Australian seafaring workforce.

The Jobs and Skills Council for the Transport and Logistics sector is considering the advice of the Taskforce as part of its annual Workforce Plan.

Australia relies on shipping to support our economic and social wellbeing, with an incredible 99 per cent of the volume of our goods trade moved by sea.

It is essential that we make sure Australia continues to have a robust supply chain so we get food, fuel, medical supplies and other critical cargo to support Australian industries, the community and protect our national interest.

To ensure this, it is essential that the maritime workers of Australia have a strong union – that means strong membership, and it means strong leadership. Both great MUA traditions.

And the best results will always be the mighty MUA working with a Labor government.

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