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Wednesday, 30 May 2012
Page: 6369


Mr CHRISTENSEN (Dawson) (19:54): Last week the Gillard Labor government gave approval for over 1,700 foreign workers at the Roy Hill project in the Pilbara. It was an absolutely bungled decision, and we still do not know exactly what the Prime Minister knew or did not know about that decision. Now we see knee-jerk reactions from this government in response to their own stuff ups, which may result in increased cost burdens for the resources sector. At a time when the Minerals Council of Australia is reporting that it is 75 per cent more expensive for iron ore projects here in Australia compared with West Africa, it is not in the national interest to add more costs.

I support the sensible use of 457 visas where businesses struggle to find home-grown workers. In the Mackay region we would have businesses in serious trouble without 457 visas. We have many great Filipino and South African 457 visa workers in Mackay who have gone on to migrate here permanently—foreign workers who have become Aussie workers. However there is a disconnect, particularly when we hear mining companies say that they cannot find workers while people in my electorate on the doorstep of the Bowen Basin tell me they are desperately looking for work and are unable to find it. I know that there are many more jobseekers in capital cities. A number of locals have talked to me about the great expense they have incurred personally to get training but that they have not been able to secure a job in the resources sector. That is why there needs to be more rigour in the enterprise migration process to ensure that Aussies get the jobs before we open it carte blanche to foreigners, as this government has done.

And a jobs board is not the answer. An extra page on the JobSearch website does not solve or absolve this government of its Roy Hill debacle, but at least the Prime Minister and others opposite will have somewhere to pin their resumes after the next election. We also know that cash incentives to relocate do not work on their own. The government scheme to offer $9,000 cash to relocate to where jobs are has already failed, with only 37 people taking up that offer.

What will work is a comprehensive approach, such as the one pursued by the Nationals, which combines incentives for relocating to regional centres for employment with disincentives for doing nothing. The Nationals' regional investment strategy also includes tying skilled migrants to regional areas and providing tax incentives for businesses. Young, mobile welfare recipients who refuse to take up gainful employment in the regions should not expect to continue to receive unemployment benefits.

While this is not Nationals' policy, I agree with what hard workers in the resource industry in my electorate tell me about the idea of mandatory drug testing for welfare recipients. If it is good enough for a hard-working miner, who pays taxes, to have to undergo a mandatory drug test then it is good enough for the person who receives those taxes via welfare. To argue against drug testing for Newstart recipients is to foster illegal activities while undermining the economy and the self-respect of future generations. If we are to be serious about keeping Australians in jobs, we must provide those incentives to get the unemployed to the employment and provide disincentives for doing nothing.

One thing that may make people think twice about pursuing a career in the resources sector is the spectacle of a public dispute as we are now seeing in the Bowen Basin. I call on the CFMEU and BMA to come to the table and sort this out urgently, because every day this goes on is another day Mackay families have less money in their household budgets. Unions should accept the fact that they are not management and drop all ambit claims to management functions. They should stop their push to squeeze subcontractors off BMA sites.

But BMA should accept the more sensible union suggestions by agreeing to family-friendly rosters, and adding an extra half-hour crib break for shifts longer than 10 hours. We need to keep mining strong, with unions and mining companies working together, and where a good Liberal-National coalition government is working to get Australian jobseekers into mining jobs—not causing job insecurity through a great big new mining tax and a great big new carbon tax.