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BUSINESSES BEING LEFT ALL AT SEA BY DISPUTE 

22 January 2024

 

It has been a long time since Australia has been reminded of the importance of the seas that surround us.

Our home really is ‘girt by sea,’ and it’s global shipping lanes that carry 98% of our wealth in trade.

They are quite literally the arteries of our economic lifeblood.   

 

With all the adversity shipping lines face transporting goods around the world, imagine creating even more economic risk at home?  

After carefully mitigating the risks of the Red Sea, pirates, terrorists and adverse weather events, these cargo ships are making their way to sunny Sydney only to be confronted by a closed door.

We know we cannot make absolutely everything we need here, nor can we thrive without exporting to a world hungry for essential Australian resources and food products.  

Australia’s trade surplus currently stands at $11.4 billion, almost all of which left our land, by sea – we simply can’t put this at risk.

It was a body blow to businesses when last week Minister Tony Burke emerged from a meeting with DP World to say “there is no information that I have had from departmental sources that would match some of what I have seen appear in the press in terms of full market impact”.

 

It is time for Minister Burke to stop listening to the bureaucrats and start listening to businesses to understand the stranglehold this dispute is having on their livelihoods.

 

Take the example of a Penrith manufacturer of industrial equipment that has been waiting for a shipment that was scheduled for arrival in early December.

 

Eight of the company’s 40 employees have been standing around with their hands in their pockets waiting for their containers to arrive.

 

This business’ goods and the ship they are supposed to arrive on have been diverted to New Zealand as the bottle neck grows at our ports.

 

If we have reached a point where cargo ships are doing laps of the Tasman and more than 48,000 containers, that’s over 1,500,000m3 of precious cargo capacity and climbing, aren’t reaching their destination, then I think it’s fair to say we have a crisis on our hands.

 

A crisis that is damaging businesses’ balance sheets, tarnishing their reputations and strangling the economy.

 

The Government needs to move at lightning speed to resolve this crisis.     

 

This is no longer just about DP World and the Maritime Union of Australia. 

 

It’s not about playing favourites with a global company or a well-resourced militant union. 

It’s about the thousands of people who risk everything to build a business, who take on the world and all the risks that entails that are now suffering at the hands of a home-grown dispute that can be resolved by their government.

It is time for the Minister to take this dispute to the Fair Work Commission for compulsory arbitration – this emergency at our ports is exactly what the legislation is designed for.

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