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  Issue No 62 Official Organ of LaborNet 14 July 2000  




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The Whistleblower

By Rico Aditjondro

A lone Chinese seafarer is fighting to stop a Panamanian flagged vessel from dumping toxic waste into Australian waters


It was not long after 26-year-old Jun started working as an oiler on board the Joint Spirit before he discovered the ship's dark secret.

"The chief engineer would order us to pump bilge water and sump oil directly into the sea," said Jun. "He got us to replace the pipes from the filtration system to do this."

But when the ship was approaching a port, Jun says, the chief engineer would order the crew to reconnect the original pipes so as to pass survey inspections.

"The crew would often discuss what was happening, among ourselves" said Jun. "But we never said a word to the officers. It was ridiculous. The ship was in good condition. Why pump untreated waste into sea?"

Jun had a conscience. He decided to do something. When no one was looking he photographed the pipe modification.

"I didn't tell anyone," he said. "I thought one day I could show the photos to someone who could help."

Since joining the vessel, Jun has visited Australia twice. The first time, he could not report the ship's crime, because he had not taken the photos to use as evidence.

But on the second run, Jun was clear on what he should do. He remembered a Japanese inspector from the International Transport Workers' Federation, who told him about the ITF and what it could do to help seafarers in trouble. So when the Joint Spirit berthed in Port Adelaide, Jun walked straight into the MUA South Australia Branch office, and, with his limited English, explained what was happening on board his ship.

ITF representative Daryl Gray was impressed: "We found out that the ship owed him $7000 in back pay," Daryl said. "But Jun didn't care about himself. All he wanted to talk about was the illegal waste dumping. He drew us a map and pointed to the locations where the ship had dumped toxic waste into the sea. He clearly marked Sydney Harbour, the Great Barrier Reef and the Spencer Gulf."

The MUA contacted the Australian Maritime Safety Authority and the Environment Protection Authority straight away.

"AMSA was very enthusiastic at the beginning," said Daryl. "Jun and I went to their office and showed the surveyors the photos. They indicated the evidence clearly justified a full investigation."

However, an AMSA officer later called us to say he had a clear instruction to 'return to the ship the next morning, inspect the vessel, and if no evidence was found, clear the ship to sail.'

"I asked why AMSA it was not investigating the claim, but the guy just repeated his instructions as if he was reading off a script," said Daryl.

The MUA managed to hold off the Joint Spirit over the underpayment of wages. But when the ship agreed to pay Jun and his crewmates each $7000 back pay, the union could no longer hold the ship in port.

On May 25, two hours before the Joint Spirit was scheduled to sail, Jun decided jump ship.

"It was too risky, to stay on," he said. "The crew and officers knew I was the whistle blower. I didn't think I'd be safe on board the ship."

South Australian Branch Secretary Rick Newlyn was furious that the ship, loaded with grain, left without being fully investigated. He said the Joint Spirit escaped what might have been hundreds and thousands of dollar in fines for polluting Australian waters.

"The message it puts across is that every rogue owner can come and dump s... on our shores and rest assured they won't be arrested or fined," Rick told the local press.

Jun's had planned to fly business class to China, donating the rest of his $7000 in wages to the MUA because it would have been "worthless" where he was going.

"I asked one of my crew mates to tell my family in China to look for me in a detention centre," said Jun. "If I'd returned, the police would have immediately arrested me at the airport and charged me with exposing government secrets."

So the union advised Jun, in the circumstance,' not to go home.' The MUA is now assisting Jun in his application for refugee status.

While this process may take more than a year, the South Australian members are also organising Jun a work permit, a tax file number and a job. He has also received supports from the local Chinese community.

"Even though the ship owner has escaped conviction, I believe an investigation of the photos and Jun's claims are a must," said Daryl Gray. "The guy has stuck his neck out, so his story deserves to be heard."


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*   Issue 62 contents

In this issue
*  Interview: Fair Trader
AMWU boss Doug Cameron is gearing for a showdown with the ALP over their free trade agenda. But what's he really on about?
*  Politics: Free Trader
Trade Minister Peter Cook states his case for coninuting trade liberalisation and why the 'fair trade' agenda is against the interests of Australian workers.
*  History: Organising - Fifties Style
What do the new wave of organisers do? Pretty much the same hard slog that Audrey Petrie did in the 1950s around Sydney for the Hotel, Club and Restaurant Union (HCRU).
*  Unions: The Whistleblower
A lone Chinese seafarer is fighting to stop a Panamanian flagged vessel from dumping toxic waste into Australian waters
*  International: Jakarta Breakthrough
Indonesian workers have just won a new historic bill of rights which gaurantees them legal protections when they form unions.
*  Solidarity: Rio Versus the Rest of the World
Union members around the world have taken part in a week of international action against the mining giant Rio Tinto. Andrew Casey looks at all the hot spots.
*  Satire: Amnesty Branch Targets Lazy Letter Writer
Police are investigating claims that the Glebe branch of Amnesty International has captured and tortured a member whose tardiness in letter writing had become renowned.
*  Review: Little by Little
Clinton Walker's groundbreaking book, CD and video charts the careers of indigenous artists like the legendary Jimmy Little.

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»  Cameron Calls for 'Social Audit'
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»  World Banks' PNG Edict: Six Thousand Bucks per Job!
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»  Shaw Returns to Bar Room Life
»  Newman! Minister Dumps on Staff for GST
»  Taxi Drivers Win GST Justice
»  Unchain Your Mind
»  ACTU Womens' Conference

»  The Soapbox
»  The Locker Room
»  Trades Hall
»  Tool Shed

Letters to the editor
»  Political Hackers and the Law
»  Still a Role for Tariffs
»  Fair Trade - Australia Would be Hit Too!
»  Mexican Greens - A Different Analysis
»  Korean unrest - All the Latest Here

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