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Can foreign seafarers on $2 an hour work on domestic shipping routes in Australian waters?

It is true foreign crew on roughly US$2 an hour can work on domestic shipping routes in Australian waters – though only under certain conditions.

But it is wrong to say this can happen using 457 visas.

The Coastal Trading (Revitalising Australian Shipping) Act 2012, passed by the Gillard government (and supported by the Maritime Union of Australia), allows for the granting of temporary licences, subject to certain conditions.

These temporary licences allow companies to use foreign ships and foreign crews working under a special purpose visa to transport goods between Australian ports.

These foreign workers can be paid under “existing international arrangements” for the first two domestic voyages in Australian coastal waters.

What’s that mean in wage terms? Brandt Wagner, head of the Transport and Maritime Unit at the International Labour Organisation, an agency of the United Nations in Geneva, told The Conversation by email that:

The current minimum monthly basic pay or wage figure for able seafarers, which became effective on January 1, 2016, is currently US$614. The International Labour Organisation does not refer to an hourly figure but only the monthly figure.

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