Terrorists on ships will sail past super ministry: ITF
PROMISES that Australian borders will be safer under a new super Ministry of Home Affairs ignores enormous gaps in national security that allow foreign ships to work our coastline unchecked.
One of the departments to be pulled into the new ministry -- the Department of Border Protection and Immigration -- directly confirmed the extent of the problem when it described foreign ships as targets for "organised crime syndicates or terrorist groups".
A Senate Inquiry examining ships registered in developing countries, described as flying a 'flag of convenience' (FOC), told the government on Wednesday there were "very real and current risks to our nation" posed by these vessels.
The committee headed by Labor's Glenn Sterle and driven in part by Nationals Senator Barry O'Sullivan found the ships "present security risks to the Australian coast, which need to be properly addressed".
An earlier report by the inquiry called for a major review the industry.
The Turnbull Government largely dismissed the recommendations, saying they were unnecessary.
The findings come in the aftermath of the "Death Ship" saga, in which two foreign sailors aboard the MV Sage Sagittarius were found to have died as a result of foul play while their foreign-flagged coal ship cruised into Australian waters.
A coronial inquest spanning two years failed to name a suspect or recommend charges.
The NSW Deputy Coroner did conclude that the ship's captain likely "caused or authorised" the disappearance of the cook, or at least knew more than he would let on.
Former Sagittarius captain Venancio Salas Jr has consistently denied any knowledge of the circumstances which led to the two deaths.
Seafarer advocates say the government was "intentionally encouraging" the underbelly of foreign shipping.
ITF national coordinator Dean Summers said the inquiry had learned about the "murky world" of shipping, so far ignored by the government.
"The Senate Inquiry heard multiple accounts of the very worst of what FOC shipping has to offer -- murders, gun-running, intimidation, bullying, harassment and slave labour," he said.
"The appalling case of multiple murders at sea onboard the Sage Sagittarius was the basis for this inquiry, and serves as a shocking reminder of what can happen when an entire industry is little more than a race to the bottom."
International Transport Workers' Federation president Paddy Crumlin said neglect of Australia's own shipping industry means the gaps are being filled by foreign and FOC ships.
He said Australian seafarers were being replaced by "whoever comes over the horizon without a word of inquiry about their background".
On Wednesday, News Corp Australia revealed Captain Salas was given a three-year approval to work inside Australian waters less than 12 months after the AFP launched a murder investigation into how the men died on his former vessel.
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton declined to answer specific questions about the inquiry, and the government's view of reforms.
A spokesman from the department said the government was considering the inquiry's report "and will provide a response in due course".