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Monday, 26 November 2012
Page: 13243

Mrs PRENTICE (Ryan) (21:17): I rise to speak on the member for Melbourne's motion regarding public sector employees in the states of Australia. Along with every member of this House, I am concerned any time an Australian loses their job, whether it is in the private or the public sector. Employment is a cornerstone of one's life. Being productive in the workplace is how we support ourselves and our children; it is how we provide shelter and security.

I also want to ensure that every Australian has appropriate protections at work. As the motion today does not explicitly state, public service employees in every state except Victoria are covered under their own industrial relations powers. In effect, the member for Melbourne's motion is an attack on the notion of competitive federalism in this country and does not acknowledge that, where appropriate, it is up to the states to regulate their own affairs without an overbearing federal government.

What today's motion does do, however, is distract Australians from what has been the main cause of so many job losses and what has been hurting general employment conditions around Australia in the private and public sectors—and that is the Labor Party and Labor governments. After decades of Labor governments in some states, and after five years of a federal Labor government, Australia and the Australian economy are reeling from their poor and reckless financial management of the economy.

In only five years of Labor running the Commonwealth, $70 billion of net assets has now turned into $150 billion of net debt. The Treasurer has run the four biggest deficits in Australia's history, and this Labor government has overseen wasteful and damaging programs, including overpriced school halls and dangerous roof insulation. This Labor government has implemented the world's only economy-wide carbon tax and has introduced an overpriced and underdelivered NBN, both of which are costing Australians billions and billions of dollars every year.

If we look at Queensland, after almost 20 years of Labor government, Campbell Newman's LNP government inherited $65 billion of debt. The Newman government was elected by Queenslanders to return the Queensland budget to a state of fiscal sanity. As a result of the previous Labor government's reckless spending, the state's fiscal and economic situation was destitute—and the new LNP government has to deal with that.

Today's private member's motion from the member for Melbourne would be laudable if it were not for the usual silence that comes from the Greens and the Labor Party when jobs are cut by their own parties. I say 'usual silence' because we know that the Greens are extremely pleased whenever a single job is lost in the mining industry. We should never forget that this is the party, under Bob Brown and now Senator Milne, that actively wants to shut down the coal industry and to do it today, no matter the cost to Australians and their jobs. More importantly, we have in Australia a Labor minister for employment who remains silent when Labor governments or unions cut workers.

Despite the silence, there have been significant attempts across our country to manage the size of the public service. In Tasmania, the Labor-Greens government plans to slash 2,300 public service workers. The South Australian government recently announced that, as a result of budget pressures and the typical template of Labor economic mismanagement, they are actually cutting 350 jobs from the public hospital system, which will see at least 114 beds lost. In total, the South Australia government plans to slash 1,400 public servants. At the federal level, Labor's own modelling projects 4,200 full-time jobs will be cut from the federal Public Service, with the very real possibility that 12,000 employees will have lost their jobs by the end of 2014-15. Have we heard anything from the federal Labor minister about these cuts? Of course not.

The debate today comes down to one basic fact: the employment conditions and the employment numbers for Australians are best when the economy is performing well. The members of this House who will manage the economy well for all Australians stand on this side of the chamber. Only the coalition has the policies and experience to reset our country's course to one that sees increasing confidence, renewed productivity growth and real improvement in the wealth of households. The next election will offer the Australian people a clear choice of three more years of Labor dysfunction and division or a new government with the experience and plans to deliver a strong and prosperous economy and a safe and secure Australia—indeed hope, reward and opportunity for all Australian workers.