For all of the genuine solidarity the MTD enjoys with our union brothers and sisters “down under,” this is one of those times when we wish we didn’t have quite so much in common.
Like the Jones Act here in the U.S., especially since Hurricane Maria, Australia’s cabotage laws remain under attack. In fact, Australian cabotage has eroded under the current conservative government, which seems intent on wiping out what’s left of that nation’s domestic fleet and its vital manpower pool.
Even when the words emanate from below the Equator, we recognize the ruse. The Turnbull Government pushes for “deregulation” and “competition” in the domestic maritime trade. Rather than an outright repeal of cabotage, they try to water down the rules surrounding foreign ships gaining temporary blessings to operate between Australian ports.
Fortunately, the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) continues leading the charge to protect the industry, with strong backing from the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF). Paddy Crumlin, who serves as both the president of the ITF and the top official of the MUA, has been tireless in this battle, and deserves a tip of the cap.
We in the MTD count ourselves among the MUA’s strongest allies, and we are not alone. Check out these quotes from a recent op-ed by Josh Wilson, a member of Australia’s House of Representatives from Fremantle. Wilson wrote in part:
“Without a sovereign shipping capacity, our economy and security is at risk…. Maintaining an effective maritime capability requires naval capacity, an Australian merchant marine, a shipbuilding and sustainment industry and, of course, a skilled workforce and training framework.”
Wilson went on to point out that there is no Australian-flagged ship capable of transporting petroleum. Let that sink in for a moment, as a reflection of what can happen when domestic industries are allowed to wither.
Brothers and sisters, we may use different terminology and have different accents, but we do speak the same language regarding the nearly identical cabotage fight being waged on our counterparts from the land down under. We know they’ve got our backs, and we’ve got theirs.
To our comrades from Australia, the MTD, its affiliates and its Port Maritime Councils pledge our full and ongoing support to promote, strengthen and rebuild that nation’s maritime cabotage laws.