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Thursday, 13 February 2003
Page: 11840

Mr CHARLES (2:54 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations. Would the minister inform the House of any threats to continuing jobs growth in the car industry? Would the minister also inform the House of the government's response to those threats and of its policy to protect the jobs of Australian workers in the car industry?

Mr ABBOTT (Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service) —I thank the member for La Trobe for his question. The car industry is one of the great success stories of Australian manufacturing. It was a virtual basket case 15 years ago. Now it exports some $5 billion worth of high-quality product per year and employs nearly 100,000 Australians, which is an increase of some 20,000 in the last seven years. The car industry has rarely been helped by the activity of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union. Last year, strikes orchestrated by the AMWU cost the industry some $400 million in lost production and resulted in tens of thousands of workers being stood down. The industry's strike rate is six times the national average. Last year the AMWU gave $818,000 to our friends opposite, and the AMWU has three representatives in this parliament to protect their investment, including the member for Grayndler.

Now the AMWU is ramping up what it calls Campaign 2003. This is a campaign for an 18 per cent pay rise and a 36-hour week—more pay for less work. Not only that, but it wants workers' entitlements to be paid into a union-controlled trust fund, even though statutory and community standard entitlements are guaranteed by this government. I regret to inform the House that Campaign 2003 has already begun, with a series of strikes and bans directed against a Victorian components manufacturer in defiance of an industrial commission recommendation. This campaign is now threatening to destroy the viability of this company and destroy the jobs of its workers. It is also threatening to lead to thousands of stand-downs in the car industry next week.

I think it is important to make a few things clear. When unions are not genuinely bargaining and when strikes are threatening to shut down Australia's most important manufacturing industry, this government will intervene in industrial commission proceedings. If union officials and others break the law, they will face prosecution by this government. I have to say that for too long workplace relations have been a province of law without order. For too long, we have had too much legal process and not enough law enforcement. The era of industrial law without an industrial policeman is now over. This government will not stand by and see the great industries of Australia vandalised, and we will certainly not allow the jobs of decent, honest Australian workers to be sacrificed on the altar of union power.