Statement on Scott Morrison’s Lies about Wharfies

PADDY CRUMLIN

NATIONAL SECRETARY

1 December 2021

STATEMENT ON SCOTT MORRISON’S LIES ABOUT WHARFIES

Scott Morrison is like that bloke in the pub looking for a fight at the end of the night because he’s got nothing else going for himself. Taking a swing at wharfies and their families in the lead up to Christmas only proves how desperate his leadership has become.

Stevedoring companies secretly approached his Attorney General at the start of COVID asking for his government to take away wharfies’ rights to negotiate a new employment agreement. No wonder these employers have steadfastly avoided finalising the agreement for the last two years.

Never forget that Scott Morrison said, early on in this negotiation process, that there were forty ships lined up off Botany Bay and he would send the army in if he had to. Our response at the time was that he should send in the Navy, because those 40 ships had disappeared!

Of course, the truth is they were never there.

This was an early indicator of Mr Morrison’s habitual spin, falsification and lies. Subsequent events have exposed him both at home and internationally as a repeat offender, but it was wharfies who saw the evidence of his dishonesty early on in his Prime Ministership.

Stevedoring companies and international shipping lines have been spinning, disguising and misrepresenting the fact that they are reaping some of the highest profit margins in their history, and to protect these profits they have been prepared to attack and vilify the workers and their families who turn up every day to unload these ships.

For Scott Morrison to join this attack on working people is a bloody disgrace and reflects the fact that his government will never represent working women and men and will always suck up to big business, wealth and international corporate elitism.

The facts are that Australian wharfies are hardworking, devoted and proud workers who have turned up and delivered throughout the COVID pandemic for the Australian community, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Scott Morrison on the other hand is a liar, a deserter and a fraud who has repeatedly failed the nation during the recent crises of bushfire and COVID.

This is a calculated, political attack by Scott Morrison timed to cause maximum anxiety and fear within the community and all of it based on a lie. We must not let him use wharfies as a scapegoat for his failures.

The Maritime Union will continue to negotiate in good faith with employers on the waterfront and advocate for good pay, job security and safety in the workplace for our members, but what we don’t need is Scott Morrison sticking his head in and trying to create conflict on the waterfront in the lead up to Christmas as a distraction from his failure and lies.

INDUSTRY ANALYSIS / ECONOMIC CONTEXT

Australian wholesalers, retailers and consumers are in a vulnerable position on a sparsely populated island at the tail-end of global supply chains. As a consequence, we pay eye-wateringly inflated costs to international ship owners.

Over two years the cost of shipping a 40ft container has increased by approximately 500%.

Against a baseline of less than US$2000, the Drewry Composite Index hovers at almost US$10,000, and prices on the most expensive routes have tipped almost US$14,000 for a 40ft container.

These unprecedented costs must be sheeted home primarily to rampant price gouging by international shipping companies throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and a sector that operates unchecked by the Federal and some state governments.

Moreover, the true cause of delays and spiralling costs is a mixture of unprecedented domestic demand for imported goods along with poor infrastructure planning by state governments and expert manipulation of pricing and scheduling by international shipping cartels.

Overlaying this regulatory negligence is the failure to reinvest one-off windfalls from port privatisations and provide national coordination of road and rail infrastructure, exacerbating the backlog of cargo at our ports.

At the same time, consolidation of major shipping lines and the undermining of Australian cabotage has led to larger, more densely laden ships at our ports.

For stevedoring companies, increased demand during the last Financial Year sent profit margins soaring, with a 9.9% baseline in 2019-20 rising to a staggering 20.8% margin in 2020-21. Total revenue has risen from $1,427 million to $1,665 million, with workers at NSW Ports servicing 28% more ships in September 2021 compared to September 2020 using the same levels of labour and the same equipment.

This demonstrates the willingness of our workforce to lift productivity and deliver for the community.

In the meantime, Australia has some of the lowest rates of industrial disputation worldwide and our productivity consistently operates at or above global benchmarks, as indicated by the Federal Government’s Waterline reports.

At a recent meeting organised by the Department of Home Affairs, stevedoring, shipping and logistics companies met with departmental officials to analyse the ACCC’s Container Stevedoring Monitoring Report.

The emerging consensus at this meeting was that business had never been better, a position which seemingly took the Department by surprise, despite the ACCC’s report outlining that shipping volumes increased by 20% in the second half of 2020 and are up 8% against pre-COVID baselines set in 2019.

Add to this the boon for company bottom lines of JobKeeper payments and it is little wonder the annual reports of these companies outline record breaking profits and eye watering executive bonuses.

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