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Tuesday, 11 August 2015
Page: 4949


Senator URQUHART (TasmaniaDeputy Opposition Whip in the Senate) (15:24): By any objective measure, the Abbott government has completely, totally and fundamentally failed on its mantra of 'jobs, jobs, jobs'. It has failed on the economy, it has failed on jobs and it has shamefully betrayed Australian workers. Unemployment is now higher than it ever was during the global financial crisis. In fact, it is higher than it was at any time under the former Labor government. The sad truth is that this government's botched management of the economy has meant that Australia now has the highest number of unemployed people since 1994. Not only that, but those opposite have a track record of meekly sitting by and watching while Australian jobs walk out the door.

Take the case of the 280 workers in Burnie on the north-west coast of Tasmania, who were dealt a savage blow in April when Caterpillar announced that their jobs were going overseas. This is a massive hit for a small town and it could result in the loss of up to 1,000 jobs from the region. Federally, the government hoisted the white flag on Caterpillar jobs right from the very beginning. Local member Brett Whiteley rejected out of hand opposition leader Bill Shorten's suggestion that the Prime Minister should pick up the phone and try to convince the company's US headquarters to intervene in the decision that was made by the Asia-Pacific arm of the company.

Just a few months later we saw the Abbott government sit meekly by while the crew of the Alexander Spirit lost their jobs. This Caltex oil tanker was docked in Devonport for three weeks after the crew were told there would be no more work for them upon their return to Singapore—despite the fact that they were told previously that their jobs were safe until 2019. Yet again the government was missing in action and the workers were hung out to dry. In fact, there are seven state and federal Liberal members of parliament who live on the north-west coast of Tasmania, and not one of them had the basic decency to head down to the ship and meet these workers—let alone to attempt to fight for their jobs.

Again this week we see history repeating, with almost 100 workers at Hutchison ports being cruelly told, by text, after dark, that they did not need to come in to work in the morning. Unsurprisingly, we have yet to see anything from this government to say that they are going to stand up for these workers. It is also telling that senior Liberal Senator Abetz sees absolutely no problem with sacking by text. It is shameful. Clearly the senator sees workers as an expendable resource who do not deserve the basic respect and consideration that I am sure the senator himself would expect from others.

Senator Bushby: Mr Deputy President, I rise on a point of order. I think Senator Abetz was asked a direct question about that yesterday and made his position quite clear. I believe that Senator Urquhart is misrepresenting his position on that matter.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Thank you, Senator Bushby. Misrepresentation is not in fact a point of order, so there is no point of order.

Senator URQUHART: It gets worse. Not only does this government raise the white flag when Aussie jobs are being sent offshore; it actually develops policy to hasten this outcome. Take the renewable industry, for example, which has suffered a massive 88 per cent drop in investment since this government set out to sabotage every policy that Australia has to respond to climate change and transition to a low-carbon economy—or the wind industry specifically, where the Prime Minister did a dirty deal with certain crossbench members to add extra layers of bureaucracy in his coal-addled determination to bring this multi-billion-dollar industry to its knees. Not only that, but he directed the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to stop investing in this cheap and clean energy source that promises many hundreds of jobs in regional Australia. Or we could look at Australia's vital strategic shipbuilding industry, which saw the Abbott government blatantly ignore its own advice that Australian submarines should be built in Australia and its own pre-election promise to build 12 submarines in South Australia. Let us not forget that. It was a pre-election promise that there would be 12 submarines built in South Australia under the Abbott government. Astoundingly, the Abbott government actually excluded Australian shipbuilding companies from the tender process for the construction of two new naval supply ships. Or how about the appalling coastal shipping legislation which plans to sell out Australian jobs by removing the preference for Australian-flagged and cruise ships operating on our coastlines?

Let's be clear: the Abbott government has absolutely and totally failed to create the conditions for growth. It is clear that this government has no plan for Australian jobs. This is a government stuck in a permanent, fatal opposition-mode loop. (Time expired)

Question agreed to.