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Wednesday, 30 May 2012
Page: 6303

Mr SHORTEN (MaribyrnongMinister for Financial Services and Superannuation and Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations) (15:23): by leave—For the benefit of members on both sides, I wish to briefly update the House on matters concerning the Hastie Group. The Hastie Group is made up of approximately 44 separate companies, and that number is on latest advice. It employs about 4,000 people across mechanical engineering and electrical plumbing work on construction sites and also services such as refrigeration and mechanical operations.

I have had the opportunity to speak directly with Mr Peter Anderson from McGrathNicol and Mr Craig Crosbie from PPB, who are the appointed receiver and administrator for Hastie. I am advised that a number of the subsidiary organised companies will or may be sold as going concerns, and as such it is hoped that quite a lot of the jobs for electricians, plumbers and metal tradespeople will continue. The Australian Council of Trade Unions, the Electrical Trade Union, the Plumbers Union and others have been in touch with me to ensure that their members' interests are represented.

In terms of the services part of the Hastie Group, I am advised that the 1,300 staff employed in that part of the businesses are likely to retain their jobs. In addition, I am advised that 500 workers in the two refrigeration businesses are likely to retain their jobs. I will continue to talk with the administrator and others during the remainder of this week. I am aware that the CEPU electricians and PPB reached arrangements yesterday that allow redundancy certificates to be issued. That will mean that some employees will be able to gain access to entitlements in a more speedy fashion. I am aware that the plumbers division of the CEPU are in constructive talks to ensure that the plumbing jobs are maintained going forward.

All workers will remain eligible for support through JSA and Centrelink, and the government are doing everything we can to support people. In the event that liquidation is confirmed, employees may be eligible for the GIS scheme. If the administrators believe that they are going to have to liquidate particular operations, we look forward to them informing us at the earliest possible time; thus allowing me to use a discretion. In the event that they are not then we are keen to see who is going to buy the businesses and what will happen to the jobs this week.

The aim of the government is to make sure that people do not remain in uncertainty for days and weeks. The situation is moving very fast, and we know that there are a lot of people trying to work on this issue. At the end of the day, in relation to the subcontractors, the small businesses and the employees who are caught up in circumstances beyond their control, I appreciate that the jobs that they perform will still be necessary in many cases for the construction projects to get completed.

According to initial reports—and I stress 'initial reports'—it is apparent that this unfortunate situation has arisen out of mismanagement, including a multimillion-dollar irregularity in the Hastie Group's accounts. ASIC are investigating the matter and making the appropriate inquiries of directors, administrators and auditors. The government, at the appropriate stage, will consider any policy options arising out of these inquiries, including whether or not mandatory rotation of auditors after a set number of years is required in the future. Members of parliament with any questions should feel free to contact my office.