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- Start of Business
- QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
- DISTINGUISHED VISITORS
QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
Emissions Trading Scheme
(Rea, Kerry, MP, Combet, Greg, MP)
(Ley, Sussan, MP, Rudd, Kevin, MP)
Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme
(Bradbury, David, MP, Tanner, Lindsay, MP)
(Hockey, Joe, MP, Rudd, Kevin, MP)
(Rishworth, Amanda, MP, Garrett, Peter, MP)
(Truss, Warren, MP, Rudd, Kevin, MP)
Emissions Trading Scheme
(Campbell, Jodie, MP, Ferguson, Martin, MP)
Building the Education Revolution Program
(Pyne, Chris, MP, Rudd, Kevin, MP)
(D’Ath, Yvette, MP, Gillard, Julia, MP)
(Dutton, Peter, MP, Rudd, Kevin, MP)
People with Disability
(Zappia, Tony, MP, Macklin, Jenny, MP)
(Baldwin, Robert, MP, Rudd, Kevin, MP)
- Emissions Trading Scheme
- AUDITOR-GENERAL’S REPORTS
- MINISTERIAL STATEMENTS
- MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE
- HEALTH INSURANCE AMENDMENT (COMPLIANCE) BILL 2009
STATUTE LAW REVISION BILL 2009
AVIATION TRANSPORT SECURITY AMENDMENT (2009 MEASURES NO. 2) BILL 2009
- NATIVE TITLE AMENDMENT BILL (NO. 2) 2009
- COAL MINING INDUSTRY (LONG SERVICE LEAVE FUNDING) AMENDMENT BILL 2009
- ACIS ADMINISTRATION AMENDMENT (APPLICATION) BILL 2009
- AUSTRALIAN CENTRE FOR RENEWABLE ENERGY BILL 2009
- Nation Building Economic Stimulus Plan
- Property Rights
- Page Electorate
- Assisting the Victims of International Terrorism Legislation
- Assisting the Victims of International Terrorism Legislation
- Start of Business
- Swan Electorate: Crime Prevention Programs
- Newcastle Electorate: Mr Kurt Fearnley
- Gilmore Electorate: Institute of Design
- Climate Change
- Cook Electorate: St Patrick’s Parish
- Kingston Electorate: Defence Force Cadets
- Disability Services
Lindsay Electorate: St Marys North Public School
Councillor Jackie Greenow
- Cowan Electorate: Wanneroo Agricultural Show
- Shortland Electorate: Belmont Medicare Office
- Corporations and Financial Services Committee
- Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government Committee
- Health and Ageing Committee
- Employment and Workplace Relations Committee
- Industry, Science and Innovation Committee
- QUESTIONS IN WRITING
Tuesday, 24 November 2009
Mr CHAMPION (7:14 PM) —It is a great honour to follow my colleague the member for Makin, who always speaks in a very intelligent manner and with a great deal of knowledge and street smarts. He was a great mayor of the great council of Salisbury. I was happy to be a resident of Salisbury and happy to vote for you Tony too, on occasion. You always did a great job by those in my electorate and also by those in the electorates of Port Adelaide and Makin. You have a long history of serving the northern suburbs.
It is also always interesting to follow the member for Mayo, who has departed to the party room for the CPRS debate—no doubt to participate in that cage match that they are having. It is a bit of a cage fight. It reminds me of that movie Fight Club. Do you remember Fight Club? Underground boxing by people who should know better but do not? Young men just punching on, I think is the expression. There is no doubt that a Liberal Party meeting is a lot like that at the moment. But I digress and I should be discussing the importance of manufacturing in Australia.
This industry is tremendously important to Australia. It produces billions of dollars in export revenue, it directly employs over 50,000 people and it indirectly employs thousands more. These people need our support and encouragement to keep making the great products that they make. This government knows that if you do not have car manufacturing—if your country does not have a car manufacturing industry—then generally you have very little manufacturing full stop. This is a government and a Prime Minister that want to see Australia as a country that makes things, that makes elaborately transformed manufactures. As Paul Keating used to often say: ‘We don’t just want to be a mine or a quarry or a beach for the rest of the world. We want to make things and we want to export things.’
This industry is tremendously important to South Australia. I cannot stress its importance enough. Despite all the tribulations of the previous decade—losing Mitsubishi and losing many component firms associated with car and other forms of manufacturing—manufacturing is still the heart and soul of the South Australian economy. Defence manufacturing is increasingly important and it is interesting to note that the Rann government has won some $44 billion worth of defence contracts in recent times. Manufacturing has been tremendously important to the wine industry, which has a big impact as an employer and an exporter in my electorate and the areas adjacent to it.
Of course car manufacturing is where it all began, when Sir Thomas Playford, a great Liberal premier of our state, went out to the world in his own particular fashion. It is hard to imagine a more humble man—he was a cherry farmer from the Adelaide Hills—but he marched into various boardrooms and convinced them to invest in South Australia. That is why a lot of companies like Holden and Bridgestone set up in South Australia. There are a lot of great stories about the foundation of manufacturing in South Australia. In my heartland in northern Adelaide, in the city of Playford and the city of Salisbury, one in four workers is a manufacturing worker. The income they earn is tremendously important to their families. Manufacturing jobs tend to be well paid, they tend to have good conditions and, despite what some people say, they do have good secure futures. If you doorknock places like Salisbury, Elizabeth or Gawler or even the country towns to the north, like the town I grew up in, Kapunda, you will find vehicle industry workers from Holden, Bridgestone, Futuris and the hundreds of small engineering firms that get their business from manufacturing either in the food area, in cars or in defence. Manufacturing has been important to the identity and the culture of the northern suburbs of Adelaide. Holden is still a major sponsor of the Central District footy club.
Mr Zappia —Premiers!
Ms Kate Ellis —Boo!
Mr CHAMPION —The premiers this year, as we are many years. I hear the member for Adelaide, who would be disappointed of course because a couple of years ago the Bays, of which her family are great supporters, went down in a screaming heap yet again. It will happen one day for the Bays, I am sure, as it will happen one day for Sturt or North Adelaide—one of them. One of them will win, eventually. But I digress again.
This government has been tremendously supportive of the manufacturing industry, and our New Car Plan for a Greener Future contains the Automotive Transformation Scheme, which works in tandem with the ACIS Administration Amendment (Application) Bill. It starts in 2010. It provides $3.4 billion in grants to industry for research and development to improve environmental outcomes and work skills development. It is all about renewing this industry and making sure it has a future in Australia. It is all about helping it to adjust to a greener economy.
This assistance also takes into account the reduction in automotive tariffs from 10 per cent to five per cent in January 2010. This reduction will mean that Australia’s tariffs on passenger vehicles are amongst the lowest in the world. In fact, we will have the fifth most open market for cars in the world, and that is an important signal to the rest of the world about free trade. It is an important message at the moment about learning the lessons from the Great Depression and avoiding protectionism, particularly during a period of economic crisis and declines in world trade. That is obviously a larger global issue. We often wait for other nations to practically implement some of their rhetoric around free trade and not just talk about it. I have told the House a few times of my reservations about rapid tariff reductions, and I still hold those reservations. Australia does lead by example in this area, and my electors hope that the rest of the world follows at Doha. It is tremendously important to the world’s economic growth, but it is also important for the rest of the world to match Australia’s performance in this area.
This bill does correct an unintended consequence that would have produced a three-month gap in support from 1 January 2010 to 31 March 2010, which occurred through the linking of this scheme, ACIS, with the Automotive Transformation Scheme. Such things happen; you just have to get on and fix them. Nobody is immune to oversights or mistakes, and we are correcting this one.
The content of the bill basically delinks assistance from a calculation based on an ever-declining tariff rate to a new calculation based on the flat rate of 7.5 per cent, and it treats the value of cars the same, regardless of whether they are produced for domestic or export markets. That is an important thing to do.
As I conclude, I would like to make a few remarks about Bridgestone and about some of the economic dislocation that is occurring in the western and northern suburbs of Adelaide. Even before Bridgestone, we had faced over 3,000 redundancies, and a lot of those jobs were manufacturing jobs. If you want to know about the toll of the economic crisis then you need to come to western Adelaide or northern Adelaide.
It is tremendously damaging to people’s lives and to their families to lose a job and have to go on the hunt for a new one. It produces uncertainty and economic hardship, and it unsettles families and communities. We want to avoid that at all costs, which is one of the reasons why we have invested in the economy and put stimulus into the economy, because we know that, without that, thousands more would join the job queue. And that figure does not include Bridgestone; it does not include the 600 who will face an uncertain future as they come to the end of that plant’s life.
Many of these workers devoted decades of their lives to this plant, and it is not just a job for them; it is a way of life. Making tyres is a way of life. It is about their workmates and friends, who are more like a family than any other relationship. It is about losing stability and certainty about where they work and what they earn. Many of those workers face an uncertain future, and no-one in this House or outside of it can predict the individual paths that they will take from here.
We have unions fighting for better wages. The government has visited the plant and has pledged resources for retraining. We have an excellent local employment coordinator, a lady named Pippa Webb, on the ground drumming up enthusiasm and putting employers who do want to employ Bridgestone workers together with those workers. There are some employers who have come to the party already, and I certainly congratulate them. But, in the end, no-one can predict the future for these workers, and such circumstances breed worry, anxiety and anger, and it is perfectly justified that these workers feel this way.
When we visited the plant, along with the members for Makin and Port Adelaide and the Minister for Employment Participation, Mark Arbib, we took a tour through the plant. Such tours are always a little stage-managed by companies, I think it would be fair to say, and workers are never entirely frank. But we did have a few interactions with some of these workers that just brought home what they face.
One fellow who we stopped to talk to had previously had a WorkCover injury—he had an injured arm—but he was still working. The first thing he said to us was, ‘I want to work; I am a worker,’ and you could just tell that, for him, that was the priority—that he get another job and have the dignity of looking after himself and his family. He did not want to go on the dole. He did not want a redundancy. He did not want to have to face uncertainty and unemployment. And I think that is commendable. These are the people that you are dealing with—good people; working-class people.
Another worker I met had to suffer the indignity of hearing from a relative that his job was gone. He was a night-shift worker. His brother-in-law rang him to tell him that the plant was closing; he had seen it on the news. I think that is a terrible indignity for anybody to have to endure—to be told by a friend or a relative who has seen it on the news before you have heard it yourself. And if there is one message I want to give to companies, it is this: there is absolutely no excuse in this day and age for a worker to hear from someone else or from the news about their job being finished. These days, with text messages, emails and telephone calls, communication is instantaneous. You can have instantaneous communication with your workers—and Holden does this. When Holden has a significant change to any part of its plant or its production schedule, they make sure the workers know before the media know—that the workers know before anybody else knows. That is a really empowering thing to do. It is the decent thing to do. And it is in the company’s self-interest, too, because you get the one message going out to workers; they are not left in the dark.
I have seen many redundancies—at John Martins, at places like Harris Scarfe, and at textiles factories like Levi’s in Adelaide. It is always a terrible process; it is always a difficult process. It is never pleasant for employers or employees. But it can be done properly, which means telling workers first, giving them accurate information and giving them certainty about their entitlements, about production schedules, about retraining options, about time off for a new job and about the method of paying redundancies—whether they can leave for a new job and still get their redundancy. These are all important things to do. Communicating with workers is an important thing to do. It makes a difficult process more bearable and it allows people to leave their jobs with some dignity and without bitterness or anger.
It is my hope that Bridgestone adopt a best practice approach to their closure, but I am very fearful that they will not. I am very fearful that this company will get it wrong and that there will be a bitter taste left in these workers’ mouths. Despite all the efforts of their unions and of this government, that is my fear. If there is one message I would like to leave the House and Bridgestone with it is that you have to actually do this right. It is not good enough to just pack up and leave Australia and leave these workers in the lurch and not to a good job in saying goodbye. If it has to be goodbye, then do it properly.