Human Rights at Sea lobbies new Australian government to ensure seafarers’ welfare

Global NGO Human Rights at Sea (HRAS) has undertaken a second round of letter writing lobbying and direct engagement with 19 key members of the newly formed Australian Parliament, as well as the new Australian Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese.

The recent federal elections saw a significant shift in support for the Labor government and which, traditionally, has held positive views towards seafarers and all those workers living, working and otherwise operating at sea.

In the letters sent, HRAS and their supporting Western Australian based board member, Paul MacGillivary, wrote: “Following on from the election, HRAS is again calling on the Australian Government to take urgent steps to ensure a national funding model is made available to fulfil Australia’s international commitment to seafarer welfare under established international law of the Maritime Labor Convention 2006 (MLC).”

The covering letter sought further clarifications, which asked: “We would be most interested in hearing your thoughts on the following:

  • What does a Labor win mean for shipping and port welfare services?
  • What has been the historic focus of Labor in the maritime sector?
  • What have been the positive changes made under previous Labor Governments in the maritime sector?
  • What should the focus be for the new government regarding maritime levy funding?
  • What is your assessment of the likelihood of change in maritime levy funding under the new government?
  • Can we look forward to such change occurring in the near future?

The main letter text then went on to variously state: “The incoming Australian Government’s opportunity to assure long-term seafarer welfare funding and sustainability with minimal legislative amendment must not be derailed, side-stepped, nor the proverbial can kicked-down-the-road through paralysis of internal decision-making.

“Seafarers’ working lives, wellbeing, and the upholding of a fair and reasonable recuperating environment ashore pivots on this much needed but simple development to use existing maritime levy funds for good.

“The solution and legal pathway have already been proven and it can be achieved with a simple committed focus with the setting aside of political point-scoring, and a deliberate avoidance of vested self-interest.

“A core interest of both coastal states and the multi-trillion dollar shipping industry must be the seafarer, associated supply chain workers and de facto support to their respective families; not a primary focus on profit or deliberate and/or inadvertent absence to be party to the upholding of access to sustainable welfare support.

“Strategically, state-level opportunity for both national and regional leadership in terms of a concerted focus on legislative surety for welfare needs through assured access to, and use of, existing maritime levy funding must not be ducked through lack of coordinated action or failure of political will. Time is of the essence.”

CEO David Hammond said: “Following the legislative precedent set by the New Zealand Labor-led government in July 2021, the prize of refining the maritime levy pathway for sustaining funding for seafarer welfare must not be passed up. This is the best opportunity to deliver a strategic win in the region.”

HRAS calls upon the new Australian Government to seize the opportunity that they have to create a sustainable and effective funding model for seafarer welfare.

Photo credit: iStock/ Hector Pertuz

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