World Maritime Day

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SpeakersRhiannon Ms Lee

Page: 5819

    Ms LEE RHIANNON [6.31 p.m.]: The Greens would like to support the calls for World Maritime Day to be officially recognised in Australia. Each year an increasing number of communities around the world celebrate this day on 24 September. The International Maritime Organisation [IMO], the United Nations maritime body, actively promotes this day. It is an event that deserves to be recognised by all levels of government in this country. Indeed, the Greens will be writing to the Premier and to the Lord Mayor of Sydney to inform them of the significance of this day, to remind them of our rich maritime history, and to urge them to determine appropriate ways to celebrate World Maritime Day. The great Sydney Harbour is the perfect venue for such celebrations. Australia's record of maritime achievements is remarkable. Australia always has been and will remain a maritime nation.

    The doors to the inland of our country are the ports, and it was the incredible skills, fortitude and tenacity of mariners that brought them into being. Apart from the politically created Canberra, every city and the vast majority of major towns had a maritime birth as the ports became the economic, political and administrative control centre for the opening of this country. Until the railways began to cover the continent, the only way across and around the tyranny of distance was the sea. Shipbuilding was our first true industry. This continent was populated via the sea, charted and explored from the sea. Our early survival depended on food carried in the hulls of vessels from overseas or internally. The world's first refrigerated cargoes were invented by Australian engineers in Geelong in the late nineteenth century. The Kooringa, an Australian ship, was the world's first designed and built container ship and similar designs were copied internationally.

    Therefore, it is important to mark World Maritime Day for the indispensable role that the maritime industry has played throughout our history and continues to play today. Maritime workers, both ashore and afloat, constitute the framework for some of our major trade. Together these workers serve as the varied import-export interstate trade components of our national economy. The wartime death ratios of Australian and allied seafarers dwarf that of the armed services and for this they were never sufficiently recognised or rewarded. I repeat: World Maritime Day is an important occasion on which to remember and pay tribute to the many Australian seafarers who lost their lives in war.

    During the Second World War alone some 35,000 allied merchant seaman lost their lives in enemy action—that is, one in eight Australian merchant seaman died in war. One of the shameful aspects of our history is that it took some 80 years for First World War seafarer veterans and 50 years for Second World War veterans to receive Veterans Affairs benefits from the Australian Government. World Maritime Day also marks the founding of the International Maritime Organisation in 1958. The IMO, over the past 50 years, has played an important role in promoting the international maritime industry, safeguarding the aquatic environment, and promoting healthy and safe work practices. The Greens support the IMO's aim of safer and cleaner oceans.

    I had the privilege to work for the Maritime Union of Australia [MUA] when it was known as the Seamen's Union of Australia, both when I was 14 and then later on in my thirties, when I edited the Seaman's Journal, as it was then known. It is a most democratic organisation. I think few in this House would know that once a month they have a stop-work meeting. Unfortunately, one Coalition member laughs. We need democracy in all our organisations. At that monthly stop-work meeting MUA workers at the ports come together and scrutinise the officials of the unions, talking to them about how the union should be run and campaigns that they need to be involved in. So we will be taking a message to the Premier and the Lord Mayor that World Maritime Day on 24 September must be recognised. This year, as it coincides with the Olympic celebrations, would be a great occasion on which to link this day with the Olympic events and make it an international celebration on the shores of our great Sydney Harbour.