THE Federal Government is signalling it may abandon reforms to Australian shipping trumpeted by former deputy prime minister Warren Truss.

His successor as infrastructure minister, Darren Chester, is reconsidering the legislation, having begun a "comprehensive review" into the current and proposed laws after taking on Mr Truss's portfolio in mid-February.

Mr Truss's reforms were rejected when they went before the Senate last year.

The changes are expected to deliver a fatal blow to Australia's shipping industry by allowing international ships crewed by foreign workers to compete against local firms.

Maritime Industry Australia Ltd chief Teresa Lloyd - whose group represents Australian ship owners - said if the reforms had passed, "I very much doubt there would have been any Australian shipping left".
 


Opposition infrastructure spokesman Anthony Albanese said any reforms involving foreign ships and crews needed to consider threats to national security.

In February, Australian Regional Media discovered that a Filipino captain wanted for questioning over two fatalities on his former vessel had been working for eight months aboard a ship operating between Gladstone and Weipa.

He was subsequently subpoenaed by Border Force officers.
 

  A Senate inquiry into international shipping has called on the government to review "potential security risks" posed by foreign-flagged ships.

"It's one of the reasons why you would insist on it being in the national interest to have an Australian shipping industry," Mr Albanese said.

"At a time when the government seeks to prioritise national security issues, it has been oblivious to issues relating to the maritime sector."

A spokeswoman for Mr Chester said the government's approach to national transport security was "robust".

Since the bills' failure to pass, MIAL has begun working with sections of the maritime industry to carve out "middle ground" reforms.

As part of the government's consultation efforts, Minister Chester's office has met with three maritime unions, plus Shipping Australia Limited, MIAL and representatives from the manufacturing, petroleum, cruise and yacht charter industries.

It is unclear whether Minister Chester will attempt to amend the 2015 reforms or draft an entirely new bill.

Ms Lloyd said a set of changes that were "completely new and re-cast" would have the best chance of success.

"I would be very keen to hear the government has moved away from that legislation and is looking for something fresh," she said.

A spokeswoman for Minister Chester said while the government was in caretaker mode, he would consider the findings of MIAL and others.

She said the government was committed to reforming coastal shipping laws.



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