ALP stalwart attacks union
ALP stalwart attacks union

Former federal Labor resources minister Martin Ferguson is set to blast the powerful Maritime Union of Australia for putting political power plays ahead of its members and jeopardising the nation's economic growth.

He will also urge the Government to toughen industrial relations laws to prevent unions threatening major projects.

In a speech to an energy and resources conference in Sydney today, Mr Ferguson will lash the MUA campaign to kill off the Abbott Government's visa regime for offshore workers.

The Government suffered an embarrassing blow last week when Labor, the Greens and the Palmer United Party voted down a move for maritime crew visa holders to be used for some specialist offshore work.

"Unfortunately, a few unions are using strong bargaining positions in ways that harm the wider community as well as their own members' long-term economic prospects," Mr Ferguson will say.

"It made for great political theatre but the myopic position put by the MUA created great uncertainty and risked vital, specialised, construction work."

This year, the MUA tried to have Mr Ferguson ejected from the Labor Party, arguing he breached ministerial ethics by joining the board of an oil and gas lobby group so soon after standing down as resources minister.

Mr Ferguson says owners of oil and gas ships should have the right to use foreign crews.

The Senate killing off the use of MCVs for some work had created headaches for companies using foreign specialists in some areas.

Mr Ferguson, chairman of Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association, says the body wants bigger fines for unions that pursue unlawful industrial action. It also wants to raise the threshold for protected strikes at major projects, new anti-picketing laws and tougher right-of-entry provisions.

Mr Ferguson says he is frustrated that the NSW Labor Party campaigned against the development of coal seam gas projects.

"It appears that NSW Labor has forgotten who it is supposed to represent," he will say.

"A Labor Party hell-bent on chasing Green votes in Nimbin and Lismore will do nothing to further the interests of the working families of Western Sydney, Newcastle or the Central Coast."

The West Australian

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