National Farmers' Federation

Review of ports welcome, however, immediate action is required

The National Farmers’ Federation is encouraged by the Prime Ministers’ comments with respect to the establishment of a Productivity Commission inquiry into ports and waterfront issue.

“We welcome this review into our international freight supply chains, and the Prime Minister’s acknowledgement that industrial relations disruptions on our waterfront have exacerbated the cost blow outs and delays,” NFF CEO, Tony Mahar said.

“Had we seen the same six-to-seven-fold increases in prices at McDonalds as we have seen at our waterfront, a Big Mac would cost the average Australian $35.”

The NFF seeks that any review be an expedited one focused on solutions, noting the plethora of reviews completed highlighting the inefficiencies and lack of productivity of our international freight supply chains.

“Previous reviews have already highlighted the myriad of waterfront problems. We seek an expedited review that focuses on implementable solutions, and a commitment by Government to action any review recommendations as a matter of urgency,” Mr Mahar said.

While the review is likely to address long-term structural issues, the NFF notes that there are immediate actions that will help ease the spiraling costs and delays at Australia’s ports, including:

  • Economic regulations on ports, stevedores and international shipping lines restricting the use of ad-hoc levies and surcharges imposed on freight users;
  • The narrowing of Section X exemptions for international shipping lines from the Competition and Consumer Act, that allows them to coordinate price and supply; and
  • The use of national interest powers to refer any maritime industrial relations disruptions straight to arbitration.

“I am heartened to hear that the Prime Minister is considering invoking the national interest test in the Fair Work Act to take any potential industrial relations waterfront disruptions straight to arbitration. 

“This will mean that workers’ rights can be upheld without causing millions of dollars in costs and delays for freight users,” Mr Mahar said.

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