HUNDREDS of people rallied at East Devonport on Saturday to enjoy a sausage in solidarity with the crew of troubled fuel tanker the Alexander Spirit.
The 36 Australian workers employed on the tanker started industrial action after they were advised by employer Caltex they would be sacked and replaced with a foreign crew for a new international fuel transport route upon their arrival in Singapore.
Five crew members have left the ship due to illness since it docked on July 1. The ship is scheduled to leave Devonport early Monday morning.
A Caltex spokeswoman explained on Saturday that the closure of the BP Bulwer Island refinery meant the company no longer had surplus fuel to ship to other terminals and that the Alexander Spirit would now spend much of its time in international waters or Asia.
"This is about an Australian company being able to compete against major global traders and multinational oil giants. There must be a level playing field or Australian business will suffer," she said.
Federal opposition employment and workplace relations spokesman Brendan O'Connor spoke at the community barbecue on Saturday and demanded the government intervene to protect Australian jobs.
"I just think Australians must think this is unbelievable. That a crew is being asked to sail a vessel to Singapore, to hand over that vessel, and their jobs, to a foreign crew," he said.
Employment Minister Eric Abetz pointed the finger at the opposition.
"Since Labor and the Greens forced through Maritime Union Australia-inspired legislation there has been a 64 per cent decline in tonnage moved by coastal shippers," he said.
"Labor might like to explain how they would protect this unfortunate loss of jobs in circumstances where the product will no longer be made in Australia but overseas requiring direct importation."
Independent Tasmanian senator Jacqui Lambie, who also attended the event on Saturday, said the situation posed questions about national security.
"Why would the Liberal government make it easier for overseas crews with no Australian security or health checks to operate oil and gas tankers in our coastal waters and ports," she said.
Senator Abetz dismissed her fears: "To suggest one extra shipping movement from Singapore might pose a terrorist threat is an interesting proposition on which the government will not be spending an excessive amount of time."