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Thursday, 25 August 2011
Page: 5579

Senator SINGH (Tasmania) (15:17): Dear me! The first alarming words that I heard in Senator Bernardi's contribution were the words 'job security'—as though on that side of the chamber they think they actually care about job security. This is an opposition that is in opposition because of their policies against job security, because of their stance on Work Choices, which drove them out of government. Yet they stand here today and all of a sudden a thought bubble comes into their head and they pretend that they are a friend of the manufacturing workers. Let us not be fooled in this place at all on that front.

For Senator Colbeck to raise the question to Minister Carr is, again, an alarming thought, because Senator Colbeck would know—

Senator Bernardi interjecting

Senator SINGH: Yes, one question that we are all taking note of here today. Senator Colbeck would know, as a Liberal senator from Tasmania, that what happens under Labor governments is that, when there is a serious issue in relation to the manufacturing industry, and when serious job losses from manufacturing are on the line, Labor governments act. Senator Colbeck would have some memory of that in Tasmania. We have had a loss in Tasmania of the Blunds­tone factory. The state Labor government acted to ensure supports were given to those workers who were losing their jobs from the Blundstone company.

It is similar today. What we have here is a recognition from those on this side of the chamber of the plight of those workers, a recognition of the serious loss of the steel industry—and that is why we have acted. That is why we have appointed former Premier Beattie to come in, as someone of reputable character, someone with great knowledge and expertise—having been Premier of one of the larger states in this country—someone with great capability, and give assistance to this particular industry. The manufacturing industry is an industry we take extremely seriously on this side of the chamber, because we recognise that it has a number of workers who need attention and support as our economy changes and goes through this transition period.

Again, Senator Colbeck should remember that we have recently borne witness to that in Tasmania in relation to the forestry industry. There are industries in our country that are in transition, because our economy is in transition, but what does the Gillard Labor government do about that? Do we sit here and idly waste time and wait for those workers to lose their jobs, for things to go down into a dire heap? No, not at all. That is what happened under the coalition govern­ment. The only time, in my memory, that the coalition government acted in relation to jobs in the manufacturing sector was when John Howard had some family connection with the company in question.

Senator Marshall: Don't we all remember that!

Senator SINGH: Yes, don't we all remember that: the old textile workers that he had a brotherly connection to—too bad for all those others in the manufacturing industry, but when there is an interest of family importance, then we see some action from the coalition government.

What we know is that those on that side of the chamber have no plan when it comes to issues of change in our economy, when it comes to issues of workers needing support and needing to transition into new jobs in a new economy; whereas those on this side have a plan. We have a plan to support them and to look at the ways in which our economy needs to be supported through a reform process. And those reform processes are many and varied, as have been imple­mented by a great era of Labor governments that have gone before us, and that we continue implement, to ensure that we are making things better in this country. I could go through a huge list of those areas of reform that outline the differences between us on this side and those on the coalition side. But the most obvious one is that we do support job security. We do support fair work. All they support is unfair work, which is why they are in the situation they are in—in opposition. (Time expired)