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Thursday, 26 June 2014
Page: 3991

Senator MADIGAN (Victoria) (10:30): Three little words: 'made in Australia'. In many ways they go to the heart of our economy and the wellbeing of our country. Those words impact directly on jobs, on our families and on our communities. They are the key to this country's economic health. In the not-too-distant past, those words were a badge of honour—we would speak them with pride. It is extraordinary that we are here today to fight for these three words in relation to one of our most potent symbols. The Flags Amendment Bill 2014 is legislation that is simple and logical. I would hope that most parliamentarians would be embarrassed to vote against it. The bill comprises seven pages, and the amendment circulated by Senator Xenophon states:

The Commonwealth must only fly, use or supply a designated flag if the flag was made in Australia.

Pretty simple? Pretty agreeable? We will see what happens. In the past, the Department of Parliamentary Services has been constrained to procure flags in accordance with the Commonwealth Procurement Rules. The rules are: value for money; encouraging competition; efficient, effective, economical and ethical procurement; accountability and transparency; risk management; and procurement method. I would now like to take the opportunity to address some of these rules. I will outline why this bill promotes the spirit of these rules and why, therefore, it should pass.

'Value for money' is an elusive phrase open to interpretation. However, it need not be. Value for money is knowing when you buy an Australian-made product it is of good quality. Value for money is knowing that almost every dollar spent on that product will find its way into our economy and will not simply be spent overseas. Value for money is knowing the employees who made that product have superannuation, pay income tax, and receive sick leave and annual leave. These are all the rights of workers enshrined in this country that we continue to fight so hard for. Value for money is knowing that the product you buy provides those within your own community with a job, through which they are able to share the tax burden with you. So value for money is hardly just a cost or price. It is a much more intrinsic concept than that. Requiring the Commonwealth to purchase Australian-made flags is very good value for money.

On the topic of encouraging competition, in Australia we have a number of flag manufacturers who are capable and competent at what they do. The flags they make are of the highest standard. These flag manufacturers compete with each other every day on a level playing field to win new tenders. When the Commonwealth buy flags from overseas, we are not encouraging competition—we are simply encouraging annihilation. As good as our companies are, the fact remains that Australia has good standards for our workers which we want to maintain.

Efficient, effective, economical and ethical procurement is the next point. I spend a lot of time visiting factory floors across the country. It is my passion. I can say that almost 100 per cent of the manufacturers I see are efficient, effective, economical and ethical. If they were not, they would not still be in business. This bill is about taking pride in our nation, taking pride in our nation's workers and their abilities, and, ultimately, taking pride in our flag. It is about being fair. Mr Wayne Gregory of Carroll & Richardson Flagworld said during the committee process:

… while the Commonwealth procurement rules seek to be non-discriminatory, in reality they offer a free kick to many importers. We do not compete with overseas suppliers who want to sell here; they sell through local importers. Obviously, the manufacturer overseas does not have to comply, so it is not a level playing field with regard to legislative requirements, regulations, standards, fair work, income tax, payroll tax, superannuation, and occupational health and safety. Clearly the local importer has to, but the local importer may well be two people and a little factory out the back.

I could not have said it better. It is astonishing that, while the government tender documents refer in black and white to employees' rights in relation to freedom of association and the right to representation at work, including that the tenderer allows its employees to be able to make a free and informed choice about whether to join a union and be represented at work, those provisions do not apply to overseas based suppliers. But it gets worse. Carroll & Richardson told the committee that the Commonwealth government was its most difficult customer on the issue of Australian-made flags. Everyday Australians understand the benefit of buying Australian made. They do not need purchasing guidelines, fancy graphs and statistics to know that, if you buy local, you are making Australia a greater place. But, for those in government, this concept seems too difficult to grasp. This bill with the amendments circulated by Senator Xenophon is what Australian industry needs right now. This bill is a turning of the tide in practical recognition of the importance of the Australian manufacturing sector. This bill is a pivotal opportunity for all senators who believe in the importance of the Australian manufacturing industry—for all senators who often talk about how they believe in the Australian manufacturing industry—to vote in favour of it and not just talk about it.

Of course, there is one final aspect to this issue, and that is the power, purpose and meaning of the Australian flag. This is our symbol under which Australians have fought and died. It adorns the coffins of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, and it flies above the parliament as an enduring symbol of the Australian values of freedom, democracy and a fair go. Actions speak louder than words, and I challenge the senators in this place to vote in favour of this bill with our amendments.

Earlier in the debate Senator Back spoke about how we sold our gas in free trade agreements. Currently, our manufacturers and our domestic consumers—mums and dads and pensioners—are facing ever-increasing gas prices because when a previous government, the Howard government, negotiated these forward contracts on our natural gas, we did not keep a domestic gas reserve for our industry here in Australia or for domestic consumption by our people. Now we have a gas crisis on the eastern seaboard, as well as a crisis with people who are very concerned about coal seam gas and fracking. Yet we have our own Australian gas that was not brought about by those means, and that is now all going offshore. But we do have a crisis: companies like Viridian Glass in Dandenong South are paying ever-increasing prices for gas, which is one of their major inputs into the manufacture of glass. They are under enormous pressure; they employ hundreds of Australians to make glass ethically in this country to Australian standards. One does not have to go too far from this place to see glass that is brought in from China, where they do not pay WorkCover or superannuation. They do not provide a safe workplace; they consume people to make a product. Some people in this place talk about level playing fields, but that is an absolute fallacy. And all the while, Australians are losing their jobs, their homes and their ability to look after their family and their friends. Communities around this country are being devastated while successive governments of all persuasions have sat on their hands. Go out and tell it to the people in Western Sydney and to the people in Broadmeadows. Go out and tell it to the people in Spotswood and Geelong, where their lives have been turned upside down. These people want to contribute. They want to pay tax. They want to contribute to our nation's future. As I said in my maiden speech to this parliament, the great economies of the world manufacture. A country is what a country makes. The great economies have strong manufacturing sectors. They do not survive by simply digging holes in the ground or turning their country into a nation of drink waiters or educating their competitors on how to bury them.