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Thursday, 3 November 1983
Page: 2356


Mr HOLLIS(10.5) —Tonight I wish to make a few comments about a company which is often referred to as the Big Australian. I refer, of course, to Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd. Since my election on 5 March, I have been very involved in discussions concerning the future of the steel industry. Although the steel works at Port Kembla are in the electorate of my good friend and colleague the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr West), many of the workers, or ex-workers, are constituents of mine. Because of the plight of the steel industry, caused by many factors including a world recession but also poor management, it was necessary for this Government to take drastic action to save this industry. The Government, after extensive discussions, introduced far reaching measures to save the steel industry. This included the largest corporate handout in Australia's history. Part of the announced package was that there would be no more enforced retrenchments in the steel industry. It might have been unfortunate that this was not to apply until 1 January of next year, because BHP at Port Kembla is in the process of reducing its work force by some 700 members, including 44 electricians.

I had extensive discussions with BHP over the future of these tradesmen. Indeed , I led a deputation to see the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Senator Button), but BHP assured me that although it was sympathetic, it was sorry but the barrel was empty. Sixteen bricklayers were also retrenched because the Big Australian was too broke to keep them on. Over 200 apprentices will not be given work when they finish their training this year. People on light duties as a result of their injuries at the works will also be thrown on the scrapheap.

Yet broke as the Big Australian claims to be, it could still find $50,000 recently to give to its mates in the New South Wales Liberal Party. Indeed, the Big Australian was the largest corporate donor. It is interesting to note that Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Limited knew that if the Liberal Government were returned at the March Federal election there would be no Australian steel industry-or none at Newcastle or Whyalla and most likely none at Port Kembla. Is it, as some suspect, that it really wanted to get out of steel? Perhaps the generous donation came from the oil and gas division which, I can assure this House, is not broke. Perhaps the donation was not from the steel division. It makes one wonder why, if BHP can move funds around for donations, it could not move a few funds around to save workers' jobs. It is common knowledge that business supports the Liberal-National Party and it seems that even members of those parties are intent on putting them out of business, an illustration of how their political philosophy outweighs their business sense. It illustrates just how badly a shake-up of the management of BHP is needed. I believe also that an equity share by the Government is needed, as is government representation on the Board.

This Big Australian went to its steel industry workers over the past two years and said: 'Retire on a pittance or we will sack you'. Once again, it was the working people held hostage to the demand of a large corporation and the working people bore the brunt of the economic crisis. The retrenched workers in my electorate would be outraged, as I would be, if any of the steel assistance money, taxpayers' money, given to save the steel industry found its way into the coffers of the New South Wales Liberal Party.

I wish to comment on some remarks made by the honourable member for Dundas (Mr Ruddock) this evening in this House when the report of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory was presented. The honourable member for Dundas made an outrageous statement about the New South Wales Labor Government. He said that that Government would not provide a two-lane highway from Goulburn to Canberra. This is absolute nonsense. I am a member of that Committee and I think it is disappointing that, on present indications, the duplication of the New South Wales section of the Federal Highway will not be completed before 1988. This should be put in its correct context, and not in the way the honourable member for Dundas put it in this House this evening. It is possible that two short lengths will not be completed. There is a six-kilometre section there and a four-mile section at the southern end. That is nearly 10 kilometres that might not be completed. Part of it is because of an enginering problem along Lake George. It is outrageous for the honourable member for Dundas to come into this House and try to say that 60 miles of this road will not be duplicated by 1988.