I speak on behalf of the hundreds of seafaring crew employed by the Svitzer towage company around Australia, many of whom live in the electorate of Swansea and work in the Port of Newcastle, the jewel in the crown of Australian seaports. Without tugboats and the skills, experience and hard work of their crews, cargo vessels cannot enter or leave Australian ports. Towage workers, like all inland navigation and port services workers, are essential to the smooth operation of our national supply chains. Despite this, Svitzer is at war with its own workforce and has given notice of its intention to lock them out of their workplaces. What is their crime? To ask for a wage increase that keeps pace with the cost of living and a fair share of the record profits being extracted by Svitzer and its multinational parent company.
Svitzer Australia is a wholly owned subsidiary of global shipping giant A.P. Moller-Maersk. Despite the fact that Svitzer has a near monopoly over Australian towage operations, and funnels hundreds of millions of dollars overseas to its shareholders in Copenhagen, I was shocked to learn that it pays minimal tax here in Australia. At the same time, Svitzer is also paid by the Australian taxpayer to provide emergency on-call towage services for maritime emergencies around the Australian coast. This company takes from the taxpayer and its workforce but is apparently unwilling to give back. I have read the company values statements promoted by A.P. Moller-Maersk. They boast of respecting workers' right to collectively bargain, and they promote the company's environmental, social and governance values. Unfortunately, the conduct of Svitzer Australia's management team is completely at odds with the values promoted by A.P. Moller-Maersk.
Svitzer crews have been in the news a lot lately, but not for industrial action or workplace disputes. No, Svitzer's name will be familiar because it was tugboat crews from Svitzer that sailed into the night to perform a daring rescue of thePortland Bay ship off the coast of Cronulla in July this year. They were also sent out more recently to rescue theRio Madeira—a cargo ship owned by A.P. Moller-Maersk, by the way—which had also broken down off the coast of New South Wales. Without these tug crews, certain disasters would have unfolded. These heroic crew averted a humanitarian and environmental disaster on our shores. In fact, it gave me great pleasure to stand in this Parliament with the Minister for Transport, only a few weeks ago, to recognise this massive contribution. I was proud to commend the Svitzer tug crews for their bravery, skill and commitment.
Unfortunately, just four weeks later I am forced to condemn Svitzer's management for an act of cowardice. Locking out the tug crews of Svitzer is the latest escalation in a years-long industrial dispute that has been waged against the workforce by management. Through delay, obstruction and disputation, Svitzer has managed to stall a fair pay rise since January 2019. In the meantime, it continues to wreck and undermine the negotiation process for a new agreement and repeatedly turns to the nuclear option: terminate the employment agreement. Cancelling its arrangements would throw the entire workforce back onto the award and deliver a 47 per cent wage cut, casualise its jobs and undermine key safety measures that have been hard fought for over so many years.
Svitzer cannot be permitted to continue with a campaign of employer militancy against its skilled, loyal and hardworking employees. Its lockout is due to come into effect on Friday at midday, and it would have the effect of completely shutting down Australia's global supply chain. It is an act of wilful economic and social sabotage that holds the entire nation ransom to the demands of a company that is already making super profits. My message to Svitzer is simple: In Australia, we respect our workers, and we bargain in good faith. Get with the program and get out of our ports.