THE Senate has voted down the government’s proposed amendments to Australia’s coastal shipping regime, with just two out of the eight Senate cross-benchers supporting the changes.

The government tabled the Shipping Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 on 25 June 2015. It passed through the Lower House on 14 October 2015 but was voted down in the Senate on 26 November 2015. The bill will not proceed further, and it remains to be seen whether the federal government will table a new version.

The amendments would have replaced the existing three-tiered licensing system for coastal trading with a single permit system and a new IR framework for seafarers on foreign vessels.

Proposed amendments to the Coastal Trading (Revitalising Australian Shipping) Act 2012 would have renamed it the Coastal Shipping Act 2015. The bill would also have replaced the reference to “coastal trading” with “coastal shipping” under a revised definition.

The proposed single permit system would have been available to Australian and foreign vessels, and would have seen a permit apply to a vessel rather than a voyage or number of voyages.

Under the proposed legislation, unlimited transport of passengers and goods would have been available during a 12-month permit period.

Permits would also have protected vessels from importation under the Customs Act 1901.

Coverage of the proposed act, had it passed into law, would have been expanded to apply for the first time to ships carrying petroleum products from Australian offshore facilities to the mainland, and to ships engaged in “dry docking”.

Industrial relations changes proposed in the bill

Under the proposals, Part A of the Seagoing Industry Award would have continued to apply to Australian ships. However, Part B would only have applied if a foreign ship traded for more than 183 days – at which time the vessel would have to pay Part B Australian wages from day one of the 12-month permit period.

If a vessel spent 183 days or less in coastal shipping, their existing onboard WR arrangements would continue to apply under the proposals.

At present, Part B wages are required to be paid when a foreign vessel under a temporary licence makes its third voyage in 12 months.

The bill had also proposed to remove the requirement that a vessel be predominantly engaged in international trade to register on the Australian International Shipping Register (AISR). Instead, the requirement would have been for a vessel to undertake at least 90 days of international trading a year to be on the register.

Entry into a collective agreement with the seafarers’ bargaining unit (i.e. the MUA) would no longer have been a pre-requisite for registering on the AISR.

Majority of cross-benchers voted against the legislation

In a vote on the legislation on 26 November 2015, Senate cross-benchers (i.e. neither Coalition, Labor nor Greens) that supported the bill were Family First Senator Bob Day and Liberal Democratic Party Senator David Leyonhjelm.

Senate cross-benchers opposing the bill on the day were Independents Jacqui Lambie, Nick Xenophon and Glenn Lazarus plus Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party Senator Ricky Muir and Palmer United Party (PUP) Senator Dio Wang.

To view the negatived bill and its journey through parliament, click here.