Media Release

Joint Committee Inquiry into the implications of COVID-19 for Australia’s foreign affairs, defence and trade hears from Ports Australia

Posted on
July 31, 2020

Ports Australia has provided input to Federal Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee Inquiry into the implications of COVID-19 for Australia’s foreign affairs, defence and trade.

Ports Australia addressed the Committee yesterday (Thursday 30 July 2020) after making a formal submission to the Inquiry earlier in the week, which outlined a list of recommendations for governments around the nation to consider with the intention to improve supply chain integrity and flexibility.

The submission recommended that government continue their consideration of the viability of coastal trading to enhance supply chain flexibility while commonly used freight routes are burdened by COVID-19. Ports Australia believes there is opportunities along our Blue Highway where cargo usually hauled for trains and trucks can be transported.

Strengthening of regional relationships was explored with the Committee, with reference being made to Ports Australia’s newest members from across the South Pacific, including New Zealand. An opportunity identified by Australia last year and even more clearly highlighted now by the pandemic is building the knowledge pool created by our Australian industry by sharing and mixing it with that of ports from across the South Pacific. Such a strengthening of ties could unlock the possibility for a ‘Pacific bubble’ with potential to expedite trade, as well as build regional communication channels and security.

Ports Australia pushed a strong position on how technology could benefit a pandemic-affected supply chain, as more work is done around the country examining a national single window and Trade Community System. The prospect this technology offers is easing the management and lessening double-handling of freight along the supply chain, which is a crucial benefit during COVID-19 when increased handling poses increased risk.

The Committee also heard our urge for government to consider a single source of truth document produced and routinely updated by the Australian Government, for communicating all pandemic-related policy and regulatory changes and a single contact point for all pandemic related matters. This call for greater transparency comes after months of Australian states and territories failing to align under the National Cabinet agreed class exemption for non-cruise maritime crew, which was issued on Thursday 9 April 2020.

Ports Australia’s CEO and Director Policy and Operations, Mike Gallacher and Margie Barbouttis answered a mix of questions from members of the Committee at the public hearing yesterday. Mike said he was encouraged by the Committee’s engagement with the various challenges facing the ports sector.

‘Ports Australia welcomes the wide lines of questioning posed by the Committee as it crystallises their engagement with industry and willingness to take recommendations on how to better prepare Australia’s supply chain for future challenges like COVID-19.

‘I echo my urge from yesterday by stressing that crises such as the restrictions on crew-changes and shore leave across Australia are going to become far worse if their criticality is not recognised quickly. The hardships will begin to extend beyond human rights of seafarers being threatened to dire economic consequences, as we see more crews refusing to continue work, leaving ships at port unmanned and their cargo halted.

‘Our interaction with the Committee is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to our constant collaboration with governments across Australia and advocacy for the ports industry, which has and will continue throughout the pandemic period,’ Mike said.

Our submission can be downloaded below on this page and the hearing can be streamed via the link.

Media: Josh Appleton – E:, P: 0439 833 628

Ports Australia is the peak industry body representing port authorities and corporations, both publicly and privately owned, at the national level.

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