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Monday, 3 June 2013
Page: 4904


Dr STONE (Murray) (10:30): We woke up this morning to the news that Geelong is to be the site of the new administration headquarters of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. I applaud this decision. A regional centre should always have been the choice for the location of the new facility, which we are told will eventually employ over 300. The announcement of the Geelong location in the very marginal Labor seat of Corio was explained this morning, however, as a response to the closure of the Ford car-making plant in October 2016, with the expected loss of over 510 jobs in Geelong and 650 jobs at Broadmeadows. The Labor government also just announced, on 1 June, a further $15 million to help Ford auto workers find new jobs after the closures. It has also already offered a package of $51.9 million in a jobs assistance package. The state has also offered many millions of dollars in support of these Ford workers. I applaud the generosity and quick response to these workers and their communities.

What I want to know is when the federal and state governments are going to acknowledge the same but more immediate plight of the orchardists, pickers and pruners, packers, transport sector and factory workers who are now facing the same extinction of jobs as a result of SPCA being unable to compete domestically or internationally with its fruit-preserving business. Workers in the Shepparton factory do not face immediate dismissal; only if there is no government response to their urgent request in the first instance for a safeguard action. This is a 200-day emergency WTO consistent action, which has been with this government now since 30 April. Nothing has been done.

Why is it that workers in a regional inland community, in this case the Goulburn and Murray valleys, are being ignored and their plight is being somehow dismissed as just one of those things that happen in country Australia, while those who are on the seaboard, in this case in Geelong and then in Broadmeadows, are being treated to generous responses to a crisis which will occur in two years time? There are over 2,700 jobs in the Goulburn and Murray valleys—I repeat: 2,700—which will go as a result of SPCA being unable to compete with cheap imports. These are the same factors that are knocking out the Ford motor industry in Australia. This cannot be tolerated. This is not fair. It is un-Australian.

Tomorrow there will be a delegation in this place with union members and orchardists. I beg this government to pay attention to their plight. They will also be meeting with the shadow ministers who have responsibility in those same areas. Can they go home tomorrow with some message of hope, with some equality of treatment, compared to the Ford auto industry workers? Or are they going to be told, yet again, 'Sorry, you are in the wrong part of Australia; we always ignore agriculture in this country; you just make do and try and turn into something else when the time comes, after the pushing-in of your trees in the orchards; it's just bad luck for you'?