Labor has pledged to create a strategic shipping fleet to “enhance Australia’s economic sovereignty and national security” if the party is elected to federal government.
Labor leader Bill Shorten and transport spokesman Anthony Albanese say Australia relies on shipping to move 99 per cent of its imports and exports, but the country’s own merchant fleet is disappearing.
They said the number of Australian-flagged vessels had shrunk from 100 to 14 over the past 30 years.
“This has destroyed the jobs of Australian seafarers and created a situation where none of the vessels our nation relies upon to deliver its essential supplies of crude oil, aviation fuel and diesel are registered in this country or crewed by Australians,” Mr Shorten and Mr Albanese said in a joint statement.
A Labor government would first appoint a taskforce to guide the establishment of a fleet of up to a dozen vessels including oil tankers, container ships and gas carriers, the statement said.
While the Australian-flagged and crewed vessels would be privately-owned and commercially-operated, they will be available to be requisitioned by the government in times of national need.
Labor has also pledged to re-establish the scrapped Maritime Workforce Development forum and enforce existing laws around coastal shipping.
“That means for trading within Australia where domestic freight is moved between Australian ports, we will require firms to seek out an Australian operator. When none are available, foreign flagged vessels can be used so long as they pay Australian-level wages on domestic sectors.”