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Thursday, 12 March 2009
Page: 2607

Ms VAMVAKINOU (12:54 PM) —I rise today to speak about my concern regarding the manufacturing industry in Australia and in particular within my electorate of Calwell. The impact of the global financial crisis is hurting manufacturing in my electorate. Since November 2008, approximately 1,500 jobs have been lost. This includes the most recent 298 jobs lost as a result of the decision by Pacific Brands to close the doors of its very productive Coolaroo hosiery plant and to go offshore. Imagine one day turning up to work and being summoned to a mass meeting and being told that your job was about to go. That was the case on Wednesday, 25 February when Mr Graeme Russell, the general manager of hosiery, on behalf of the management of Pacific Brands, addressed the workers of the Coolaroo hosiery plant. I want the House to hear the narrative that plays out in workplaces across the country as Australian workers are told that they are about to lose their jobs. This is a condensed version of Mr Russell’s address. I am quoting selectively from the entirety of the text, which was a two-page document. He said:

Good morning everyone and thankyou for coming together at such short notice … This morning Pacific Brands has made an important announcement which I am here to share with you … the company has made a difficult decision to exit the majority of its manufacturing operations globally … sadly it will result in 1,850 redundancies across Australia… Regrettably, the company has decided to exit all manufacturing at Coolaroo …. The intention is to manage an orderly wind-down of manufacturing on this site that will see us cease manufacturing on or around the end of February 2010 … We will give you the next hour or so to digest the news, talk among yourselves, call home, do whatever you need to do—after that, we will need to return to work.

Needless to say, the reaction to this closure by Pacific Brands in my electorate has been one of shock and disbelief. The personal stories I have heard are gut wrenching. It is important that this parliament hears these stories because all of us in here will need to somehow support as best we can those constituents who will become unemployment statistics.

Last Saturday morning I went to visit one of my constituents. This 43-year-old mother is having great difficulty digesting the news of her impending job loss. She is having difficulty because, as she asked me, how can Pacific Brands be in trouble ‘when we have so much work to do here in the factory’? She just cannot believe that the company she has worked for all these years, a profitable factory where workers were rewarded with bonuses, encouraged to buy shares in the company when it was floated, and treated to Christmas and Easter lunches in recognition of their contribution to the company’s successful production, could so abruptly come to an end. She told me that losing her job will mean that all of her family plans will now have to be shelved. Although fearful of the future, she will not give up hope that the decision by Pacific Brands to leave Australia will be reversed.

This wonderful lady told me about her neighbour, a co-worker with whom she carpools to work and who is also trying to digest the news. This co-worker and his wife are expecting a child. He and his wife also recently purchased a block of land. Their dream is to build a home. His impending job loss now places this dream into serious jeopardy as he worries now about how he is going to support his family. There are many stories like this.

Many of the people in my electorate who are losing their jobs are middle-aged migrants from non-English-speaking backgrounds. Many of these workers do not have any formal qualifications or training and will find it difficult to find other employment. But they want to work. Like most of us, they all have families and financial commitments. They have mortgages, bills to pay and children to support. These are real people and they will need our help.

It goes without saying that this decision by Pacific Brands is a further blow to the manufacturing sector in Australia. In the face of this global crisis though, whilst we have said that this will be a difficult year, it is important for us to be optimistic about the future of the manufacturing industry and its ability to recover from this setback and to build a sustainable future. As a government, we have committed to doing everything we can to help workers get new jobs. My constituents do not want to give up on the manufacturing industry and neither do I. I do not believe that this House should give up on the future of manufacturing in this country.

Question agreed to.