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Thursday, 15 September 2011
Page: 6284

Senator CAMERON (New South Wales) (18:43): I thought it was deja vu when I went back to my office and heard the same speech from Senator Macdonald. Obviously I did not make my position too clear. The same speech came out and it was so laced with hyperbole and hypocrisy that it was unbelievable. I did not hear Senator Macdonald deal with any of the issues that I raised about the Auditor-General and the rorts under the previous coalition govern­ment in relation to Work Choices advertising—$150 million. I did not hear any response to that. Do you know why? There is no response to that. The coalition who are in here complaining about government advertising are the world champions of using public money for advertising. And they were not even advertising a decent policy. As I indicated before, it was advertising a policy to rip away the rights, rip away the conditions and rip away the wages of ordinary workers in this country. So, if coalition members are going to stand up in here and argue that the hypocrisy is on the government's side, they will have to address the hypocrisy in the $150 million that they spent on Work Choices—$150 million of taxpayers' money to try and convince people that Work Choices was a good policy. The Howard government were judged on that sort of expenditure, and the judgement of the Australian public was that they could not be trusted to look after workers rights in this country.

Then we have the bleating support for Peter Costello. I have to say that what is being built up around Peter Costello is a myth—

Senator Back: All true.

Senator CAMERON: It is an absolute myth. We had one of the best times in this country—

Senator Boyce: What about Whitlam? The Whitlam myth is the biggest myth of all.

Senator CAMERON: Listen to them howling and baying in support of Peter Costello, the Treasurer who lay back in the hammock on the veranda, swinging away, watching the money pouring in and watching the then Prime Minister dole it out in tax cuts. There was not one investment in the future of this country, not one reasonable investment in climate change, not one decent investment in industry policy, but here we have—

Opposition senators interjecting

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Furner ): Order!

Senator CAMERON: Mr Acting Deputy President, I know why they are bleating: it is because they cannot stand the truth. They cannot stand the truth. We had Mrs Mirabella, the shadow industry minister, at the Press Club yesterday saying how the coalition are going to be a friend to manufacturing workers. I know a bit about the coalition government and manufacturing. I was very lucky and very proud to the leader of the Manufacturing Workers Union during the period of the Howard government. And do you know what the Howard government did for manufacturing? They did nothing. They simply cut away support for the industry. If you knew anything about economics, you would understand that it is easy to make an investment in mining—

Senator Cormann interjecting


Senator CAMERON: but much harder to make an investment in manufacturing. One of the key ways, around the world, is to give public support to your manufacturing industry so the industry can overcome the disadvantage it has in providing jobs in the country, because manufacturing actually provides more jobs, a million jobs, in this country—

Senator Boyce: How many did it provide five years ago, Senator Cameron?


Senator CAMERON: compared to the 200,000 jobs in the mining industry. No wonder Senator Boyce is getting a bit agitated: she was here during that period when the coalition did nothing for manufacturing—

Opposition senators interjecting

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Cameron, resume your seat, thank you. Once again, senators on my left, opposition senators, your last speaker was heard in silence, and I expect that standard to be maintained. Senator Cameron.

Senator CAMERON: I fail to understand how the shadow minister for industry, Mrs Sophie Mirabella, could go into a manufacturing plant and actually look a worker in the eye, because I remember going to a debate with Mrs Mirabella during the Work Choices campaign and her view was simply that you would increase productivity by taking workers rights away. That is all she was doing. She was a vociferous advocate and supporter of Work Choices.

So, if there are any manufacturing workers listening in tonight and you hear the coalition arguing that they are going to do something for manufacturing, let me tell you what they will do for manufacturing. They will allow the worst bosses in the manu­facturing industry to rip away workers rights. You know that. You know that because that is in the coalition DNA: attack the trade union movement, attack workers in this country; try and compete from the lowest cost base, try and take away workers rights, try and reduce their wages and try and compete in the international arena on the basis of low wages. That is what this lot are about, and they know it, and that is why the debate is red hot now within the coalition between the extremists who want to bring back Work Choices and the other group who are equally as extreme but have a bit more political nous and do not want to mention the words 'Work Choices'. That is the debate that is going on in the coalition at the moment—between those who want to stand up proudly for their failed policy and those who want to try and pretend that Work Choices never happened. I tell you, the public will be onto you. The public will be onto you.

There are two years left in this government's term and, in that two-year period, we will continue to implement policies that are in the interests of the nation, not what you are proposing. You are proposing policies that are not in the interests of ordinary working families and policies that ignore the reality of climate change—policies that are based on contempt for environmentalists, policies that are based on contempt for scientists, policies that are based on contempt for the Bureau of Meteorology, policies that are based on contempt for the CSIRO and policies that are based on contempt for every decent economist in this country. You are a party of contempt, a contemptuous party, a party that has no idea about the real issues that go to improving an economy and improving the manufacturing industry. This government will continue to invest in the skills base of this economy. This government will continue to argue that the mining industry must make a contribution to try to even up this economy. The mining companies must, in my view, make an investment in this country's future. They cannot continue to do what they have been doing—simply taking the skills from the manufacturing industry and putting them into the mining industry and then crowding out the manufacturing industry on the basis of a high dollar.

The Mirabella speech yesterday was an absolute joke. It showed a complete lack of understanding of the real drivers for productive performance and the real drivers for a good economy. The coalition, manu­facturing workers need to understand, will be about trying to drive productivity on the basis of reducing costs. Their policies will be all about giving the boss every advantage to rip and tear at workers rights and conditions. Their policies will not be about the drivers, the innovation, the productive performance that is important for the manufacturing industry in this country. Peter Costello had no idea. He was the worst Treasurer this country ever had and history will prove that.

Question agreed to.