ACTU Secretary Greg Combet has called on the Deputy PM and Transport Minister John Anderson to stop exporting Australian jobs, as unions step up their campaign to save Australia’s shipping industry.

Unions say that the future of Australian shipping and hundreds of Australian jobs are being threatened by Mr Anderson’s policy of issuing permits to foreign vessels and allowing them to work Australian routes, in some cases for months on end.

“By issuing permits to these vessels John Anderson is knowingly authorising the export of Australian jobs. Australian shipping is being destroyed by John Anderson’s foreign fleet,” said Mr Combet.

“Many of these foreign vessels are rust-buckets and threaten our marine environment. They destroy Australian jobs and don’t pay Australian taxes. How can that be in Australia’s interests? Ships doing the right thing and operating with Australian crews under the Australian flag simply can’t compete with John Anderson’s ships-of-shame,” said Mr Combet.

Mr Combet’s comments come as unions launch an Industrial Relations Commission action in Sydney today aimed at requiring foreign ship-owners working Australian routes to observe proper minimum working conditions. It is expected that the Federal Government will oppose the application.

Foreign vessels can only work Australian shipping routes if the Transport Minister issues a permit. Since John Anderson became Minister in 1996 the number of permits issued to foreign ships has increased by 350%.

Unions are currently in dispute with the owners of the Australian flagged and crewed CSL Yarra. The owners of the Yarra are seeking to sell the ship to a foreign subsidiary company as part of what unions fear is a plan to operate the ship in Australia under a foreign flag with a foreign crew. Back in July 2000 the Yarra’s owners used a similar plan to replace the Australian flag and crew on another vessel, the CSL Pacific. The CSL Pacific is currently working the Australian coast moving Australian cargoes under the flag of Bahamas with a Ukrainian crew.

The use of foreign ships in Australia has grown by 293% since 1994. Unions estimate that only some 45 major Australian flagged and crewed commercial vessels remain in Australian waters.

“John Anderson’s foreign fleet is killing Australian shipping,” said Mr Combet.