National Farmers' Federation

Economic recovery could be lost at sea, warns NFF

The National Farmers’ Federation says a critical report released by the ACCC should be a wakeup call for governments, failing to curb the chaos on our waters.

The 2020-21 Container Stevedoring Monitoring Report confirms Australian importers and exporters are struggling amid a perfect storm of extreme congestion and delays, reckless industrial action, and skyrocketing costs. Confirming what the NFF has been saying for sometime.

To address the crisis the NFF continues to call for:

  • The repeal of Part X exemptions from competition laws for international shipping lines.
  • Action and reform on industrial actions on the waterfront, that is holding every Australian ransom, who work in an industry that may rely on imports or exports, to extract unprecedented and unjustified working conditions; and
  • And reform of Australia’s ports and stevedoring industries, which are some of the most unproductive in the world.

NFF chief executive Tony Mahar said it was time for governments to take this crisis seriously – starting with scuttling the shipping lines’ legalised protection racket on pricing.

“The NFF has been calling for the repeal of ‘Part X’ from our competition laws – which gives the shipping lines a free pass to collaborate on pricing, capacity and schedules.

“In an industry which has seen huge consolidation, and key players quintupling their profits in just 12 months, it’s bonkers to be exempting them from competition laws. Every Australian will pay the price if that’s not fixed.

“It’s great to see the ACCC itself now acknowledging that these laws are not up to scratch,” Mr Mahar said.

“With a bumper winter crop being harvested at the moment, farmers are nervous about how the dysfunction at our ports might capsize a promising season.

“In recent weeks we’ve seen dozens of combine harvesters sitting on the docks, unable to get to the paddock as harvest gets underway,

“Farmers export 70% of what we grow. If we can’t get our produce to overseas customers on time, they’ll simply look elsewhere. It leaves us in a really precarious position.”

With so much at stake, the NFF is calling on governments to redouble their efforts to minimise the impact of shipping issues on Australia’s economic recovery.

“While there are international factors spurring the spiralling cost of international freight, there is so much that can be done domestically to lower the cost of international freight in Australia.

“We were already paying some of the highest costs in the world to get our goods to international markets.”

“When it costs the same to ship a container of freight from Australia to Indonesia as it does from Canada to Indonesia, despite the journey being some 10,000km shorter, there has to are clearly domestic issues that have domestics solutions.”

“Fixing competition laws and reigning in reckless industrial action are common-sense steps that should have been taken yesterday,” Mr Mahar said.