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Monday, 18 October 2010
Page: 583

Mr CRAIG THOMSON (11:57 AM) —I rise to support this motion. I also come from a non-capital city regional area and it is important that we recognise that what is happening in Grafton is not just about Grafton; it is about regional Australia generally. We need to be encouraging corporates to keep jobs in regional Australia and move jobs to regional Australia. Firstly, I want to talk a little about the situation in Grafton—where over 108 jobs are going to be cut. One hundred and eight families are going to be affected in a small community and uprooted either to Brisbane or to Melbourne. They will not be moving close; they will be moving a long, long way away for these jobs. The flow-on effect on the Grafton community will be immeasurable in terms of the economic side of things and the social and community side of things.

When you rip out 108 jobs from a town the effect is immeasurable. It is something that small communities take a long time to get over. It is no small surprise that the community in Grafton have rallied so strongly around this issue. For the member for Page to get over 6,000 signatures on a petition in less than two weeks is not only a tribute to her hard work in the area but also shows just how widespread the feeling is on this issue. It is important not only for those who will lose their job but also for the whole community in Grafton. In such a short period of time 6,000 people signed a petition that says to Telstra: ‘You should not make this decision. You should keep these jobs in Grafton.’ I think we have a slogan from today’s contribution from the member for Page: ‘Jobs not cocktails’. We need to make sure that Telstra gets that message loud and clear. I certainly endorse her comments that we should all be going to this Telstra function tomorrow night and that all of us from regional Australia deliver the message loud and clear that it is not good enough to take jobs away from regional Australia, and that we need to be putting more jobs into these areas and making sure that these communities are supported.

In a more general sense what we have here is an example we are seeing far too often of corporates looking at the bottom line and using it as an excuse to cut services and jobs in regional New South Wales. This is neither in the interests of regional Australia nor in the interests of those who live in regional New South Wales. But it is not in the interests of Australia either. At the moment we are having a debate about sustainable population. Let us make it clear that we have big populations already in metropolitan areas which are overburdened in terms of their infrastructure. One of the prime areas where new population growth can occur, and which can be of benefit both to the country and to the area in which it occurs, is regional Australia. Corporates need to take their responsibilities more seriously and look at the options and at the decisions they are making. Moving 108 workers back to Melbourne or to Brisbane would not only damage the community of Grafton, as it would damage any rural community, but also place an added burden on big metropolitan areas that are already struggling to meet the demands on their infrastructure. We need to be looking at that in a much wider debate, which I think this parliament has already foreshadowed is an important debate for us to have throughout the country.

If a corporate took 108 jobs out of my area on the Central Coast it would devastate the Central Coast, not just because of the number of jobs but because of the money that would leave the economy. The member for Page has pointed out that over $6 million will be ripped out of the Grafton economy by Telstra taking this decision. It is not a good decision and it needs to be reviewed; we need to make sure that Telstra gets the message loud and clear. Telstra also need to be talking to the heads of their fellow corporates. Regional Australia needs more jobs. It does not need fewer jobs. We need to make sure that regional Australia gets a fair go. We need to make sure that Grafton keeps its 108 Telstra jobs.