||Issue No. 131||12 April 2002|
Interview: Cross Wires
International: Two Tribes
Activists: Beneath the Veil
Unions: Terror Australis
History: A Labor Footnote To The Royal Funeral
Economics: Private Affluence, Public Rip-Off
Review: The Great Hall of the People
Poetry: Waiting for the Living Wage
Satire: Israel Recruits NAB To Close West Bank
The Locker Room
Week in Review
A Voice for the Shareholders
Noses in the Trough
Memo: Carmen Lawrence
Police: Make the Boss a Woman
Baby Faced Brogden
Workers Online - Aoteroa
The Howard Government is continuing to downplay the security implications of flag-of-convenience shipping in order to sack Aussie seafearers.
This week, in the IRC at Sydney, the Federal Government tabled its intention to intervene in an MUA case seeking to bring the foreign-flagged, CSL Pacific, under the Australian Shipping Award.
In a similar rearguard action, the MUA was also in the Federal Court, attempting to stop a corporate reshuffle that would see the CSL Yarra sold to the company's Asian arm so it could resume coastal trading under a foreign flag.
The implications for workers are horrendous - the dole queue for Aussies, third world conditions and wages for their replacements..
But wider issues are raised by this Government's determination to flog off Australian jobs.
Convenience shipping not only relies on exploited labour but also the capacity of owners to hide behind secrecy provisions, erected by convenience states, to attract business.
This lack of accountability raises serious environmental issues and, increasingly, security concerns.
These worries are being flagged by conservative, international publications, including the Times of London and Lloyds Shipping List.
The Times reports that Osama bin Laden runs a secret shipping fleet "under a variety of flags of convenience, allowing him to hide his ownership and transport goods, arms, drugs and recruits with little official scrutiny".
It says he uses his ships to move key terrorists around the world, allowing them to disembark at obscure ports.
The information stems from court revelations that a convenience-flagged bin Laden vessel landed in Mombassa the bombers who blew up US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
The Times quotes a corporate investigator as saying uncovering bin Laden's bank accounts, bogus charities and front companies would be "child's play" compared to "piercing the veil of secrecy that protects shipping owners".
Essentially, convenience countries operate a sort of maritime version of a Swiss bank account, as Lloyds List explains.
"Backwater countries with flags of convenience have watertight secrecy. Even if you do find a suspicious ownership, how do you prove the company holding the bearer shares of that vessel is linked to the al-Queda network?
"Some registries have indicated they would dismiss with the so-called 'corporate veil' ... approaches by legitimate agencies," it says.
Last month, academics from the Wollongong University Centre for Maritime Policy added their voices, warning of terrorist, and general security dangers, posed by convenience trading.
"It's easy to secure airports but very difficult to secure maritime borders. A well-resourced terrorist would find it relatively easy to evade current maritime border control," Professor Martin Tsamenyi, centre director, warned in Sydney's Daily Telegraph.
Yet, as a matter of Government policy, Australian crews are being dumped in favour of foreign-flagged and crewed vessels. These crews are automatically issued visas, bypassing the usual security measures faced by tourists or asylum seekers.
In an enviroment of terrorist fear, heightened by open Australian support for the US and Israel, Howard's administration chooses to ignore warnings about convenience shipping.
Quite the opposite, in fact. It is opening the Australian coast by stealth, using single and continuous vogage permits to defeat cabotage laws, designed to protect Australian shipping.
Since John Anderson took over as Federal Transport Minister the number of such permits has rocketed. Just last year, the rate went up 60 percent, to 116.
And they had the bare-faced cheek to run an election campaign on security and border protection.
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