AUSTRALIA'S entire maritime industry must be scrutinised to protect our national security, according to a Senate inquiry investigating foreign shipping.

The inquiry made two recommendations that grew out of concerns that foreign crews on international vessels could slip past border security agencies.

The inquiry's interim report calls for a comprehensive government examination of "potential security risks posed by flag-of-convenience vessels and foreign crews".

The findings follow the government's plans to deregulate Australia's struggling shipping sector to allow international ships to carry cargo between Australian ports with crews sourced entirely from overseas.
 

 

Under the ill-fated reforms by former Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss, the foreign crews would fall outside Australian wage laws unless they worked for longer than six months.

The International Transport Workers Federation estimate they could be paid as little as $16 a day.

Opposition infrastructure spokesman Anthony Albanese called them "WorkChoices on water" in Parliament last year.

A spokeswoman for Infrastructure Minister Darren Chester said the government would look again at the bill. It was committed to making the shipping industry competitive, she said.

The minister would wait until a final report is delivered before discussing the inquiry's findings.

The Senate inquiry also used its report to push the government to better share information between security agencies when it monitored seafarers working in Australia.

An Australian Regional Media investigation in February discovered a Filipino captain wanted for questioning over two suspicious deaths on his former vessel was in Gladstone. He was preparing to leave the country after his contract expired.

 

 

Capt Venancio Salas Jr was the master of the Sage Sagittarius or "Death Ship" when two men mysteriously died on board in Australian waters in late 2012.

After the New South Wales Coroner learned of his arrival, she issued a subpoena for Capt Salas to appear at an inquest for cross-examination.

Senate inquiry chair Glenn Sterle said the incident showed "very serious gaps in our border security regime".

"It shone a light on an area that we didn't know existed," he said.

"We think that (border security) is in the hands of competent people.

"This example has shown it's not the case."

He said the "top of the tree" of these agencies did not know what each other were doing.

Capt Salas worked along Australian shores for months with the approval from the Department of Immigration and Border Security yet a department official said there was no "active knowledge" of his arrival.

The coronial inquest and Senate inquiry each followed earlier investigation into the Sage Sagittarius by Australian Regional Media.
 


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