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Wednesday, 30 May 2012
Page: 6304

Ms LEY (Farrer) (15:26): by leave—I appreciate the update from the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations. The circumstances of the collapse of the Hastie Group are now unfortunately becoming all too well known: 2,700 workers have been stood down without pay for 28 days. Job losses and business closures are shocking when they happen.

What I would say is that, while the opposition makes no political comment about a government to blame for this, as we do see more and more company closures, the creeping loss of confidence across the economy is doing nothing to encourage small and medium businesses—especially in the regional towns affected by Hastie; namely, Albury, Shepparton, Bendigo, Mildura and Geelong—to actually take a risk and recruit a recently retrenched worker.

The government has failed to provide the right economic policy settings that would give sufficiently robust local and regional job opportunities to enable these workers to easily find a job. In my own home town of Albury, Watters Electrical had 80 workers stood down on Monday in the car park outside the office. The process of standing them down means they cannot apply for Centrelink or redundancy payments. I appreciate the minister's efforts in encouraging that official retrenchment action take place so that Centrelink and the GIS can step in to assist these workers. For those workers who do lose their jobs as a result of the collapse of the Hastie Group, we need to ensure they are assisted with prompt and appropriate support. So I echo that commitment from the minister to ensure that workers are not left in doubt for longer than 28 days as to whether they have a job or not.

The government needs to work with the administrators to ensure that where some of the subsidiaries can remain in business they are given every assistance to do so. I appreciate the minister mentioning that he has received advice from relevant unions who represent these workers, but I also seek his assurance that those workers or subcontractors affected who are not members of unions also receive the same level of support.