Coastal shipping reforms win senate committee endorsement

Legislation likely to hit the House of Representatives for a vote later today

Coastal shipping reforms win senate committee endorsement
Infrastructure minister Warren Truss has welcomed a key Senate commitee's endorsement of coastal shipping reforms


Controversial coastal shipping legislation has passed an important hurdle but support remains split along party lines.

The six cross-party members of the Senate Rural, Regional Affairs and Transport committee have endorsed the proposed legislation, but Labor and a Greens senator each provided a dissenting report in addition.

The legislation is expected to be voted on in the House of Representatives later today.

A much tougher journey through the full Senate has not yet been scheduled. With Labor and the Greens opposing, the government will need the support of six of the eight independent and other cross-bench senators to enact the reforms.

Earlier, infrastructure minister Warren Truss thanked the committee for its positive consideration.

"The Australian Government plans to help deliver more affordable freight costs for businesses and greater choice between shipping companies, which will lead to better services being provided to Australian industries," Truss says.

He highlights the committee’s report found the existing regulations were "clearly inadequate".

"[Those reforms] failed to revitalise coastal shipping," the report says.

"Indeed, it seems, perversely, to have facilitated its continuing decline, making it often more economic to import goods than to ship them locally."

The Labor Party’s dissenting report, by senators Glenn Sterle and Joe Bullock (both from Western Australia), says the laws start in the wrong place.

"The majority report exhibits a strong bias towards solely shipper interests and devotes scant detail to the national interest in strategic support for the shipping industry," they warn.

"We oppose the bill, and we would urge the government to withdraw it."

Greens senator Rachel Siewert (also representing WA) says the main report "has not captured the full breadth of impacts that this legislation would have on our local shipping industry".

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