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Wednesday, 14 November 2018
Page: 8172


Senator WILLIAMS (New South WalesNationals Whip in the Senate) (16:56): Mr Acting Deputy President Gallacher, you may have heard the saying 'leading with your chin'. This motion from Senator Urquhart says:

Putting local workers first, including cracking down on 457 visas; using Australian grade steel; and protecting local manufacturers.

For the Labor Party to put this motion forward is leading with your chin, for sure.

Let's have a look at the facts here. The motion talks about 'putting local workers first, including cracking down on 457 visas'. There are no 457 visas—they've been abolished. But there were 457s. When Labor was in power there were 40,000 more people working in Australia on 457 visas than there were when we abolished the 457s. When those opposite were in government there were more people working on 457 visas than when we took over government and abolished the 457 visas and brought in the new system, the temporary skill shortage visas. The new temporary skill shortage visa was implemented on 18 March 2018. Labor and the unions destroyed the integrity of Australia's skilled migration program, just like they destroyed the integrity of our borders. Those opposite cannot be trusted on their border policies, nor can they be trusted to run this country.

As part of our reform package, the coalition tore up Labor's expansive list of 651 occupations listed on the 457 visa, which had opened up Australia's labour market and permanent resident programs to occupations such as potters, goat herders—I'm sure there'd be a big demand for goat herders—and cattery workers. In its place, the government established an evidence based list of occupations that reflects the genuine skill needs of our economy. I want to emphasise the point that, under Labor, there were more people coming into Australia on 457 visas and working than there were under the coalition government—yet they are complaining about the 457 visa.

The motion also talks about 'using Australian grade steel'. I couldn't agree more. The steel industry is vital and employs many, many people. The steel industry, and our incredibly high-quality steel, is worth billions of dollars here. In fact, it contributes $11 billion to Australia's GDP each year. The steel industry is a nation builder and a significant contributor to our economy. More than 90,000 Australians are employed in the steel industry and many more are employed indirectly in downstream industries that utilise the steel.

So here we have Labor saying that we've got to look after our steel and buy local steel, but who is against coalmining? We know who is against coalmining. Don't shake your head, Senator Watt. It depends where Mr Shorten is talking. If he is in Melbourne and talking at a by-election he is against coalmining. You know that you will be hamstrung by the Greens. You know that the Greens are the tail wagging the dog and they want to shut down every mine in Australia.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Marshall ): Senator Williams, I don't want to dob in Senator Ketter, but it is Senator Ketter, not Senator Watt.

Senator WILLIAMS: My apologies, Mr Acting Deputy President. They've changed seats. My sincere apologies. Senator Ketter—instead of Senator Watt—here you are opposing coalmining, but how do we produce steel? Out of coking coal. We have high-quality coking coal, some of the best in the world, and the steel we produce is magnificent steel. As I said, there are 90,000 people employed, plus a huge number of people in employment on the downstream side.

You want to keep manufacturing here. Well, the problem we've got in Australia is the cost of doing business here compared to the rest of the world. What's one of the main costs? One of the main costs is electricity. Remember 2010, when Labor was in power? 'There'll be no carbon tax under a government I lead.'

Senator Carol Brown interjecting

Senator WILLIAMS: Yes, I think Senator Brown remembers that famous quote: 'There'll be no carbon tax under a government I lead.' Of course, along came the member for New England, Mr Tony Windsor, and he stamped his foot and said, 'I'll get behind you on one condition: that a multiparty climate change committee be formed.' And what did we get? We got a tax of $9 billion a year and growing—nine thousand million dollars in tax. It put electricity prices up. What does that do for manufacturing here? It means we are uncompetitive.

Senator Carol Brown: You're in government. What've you been doing?

Senator WILLIAMS: I think, Mr Acting Deputy President, the truth is starting to hurt Senator Carol Brown. I don't think she's enjoying what I'm saying, but she's going to have to sit there and listen carefully and take every word in, because what I'm saying is the absolute truth.

So you've put the cost of doing business up. I see it all the time. I've seen it at an abattoir in Inverell. Where they used to pay $40,000 a week for electricity, they're now paying $70,000 a week because of things such as the renewable energy target, which, thank goodness, the coalition did reduce from 41,000 gigawatts to 33,000 gigawatts—and it should have been reduced more. There's nothing wrong with renewable energy, on one condition: it competes on a level playing field. We see the wind towers being built now in the plain between Inverell and Glen Innes. That's fine, but there's one problem: for every wind tower that spins eight hours a day, 365 days a year, anyone who's hooked to the grid—the pensioner, the widow, the business, the family—pays $700,000 a year to that one wind turbine before they buy one watt of electricity. I think that is very unfair.

What they did in South Australia was put these windmills everywhere. Where I grew up, at Jamestown, the hills are covered with them. Of course, because of the subsidy, they can sell electricity cheaply. What did they do? They sent the coal-fired power station at Port Augusta broke. It was literally blown up. What happened then? The lights went out. The lights went out because the stupid subsidies sent the reliable source of electricity broke.

We have the crazy attitude of many in here that Australia is going to dominate the world, rule the world and change the world. They had a column in the Australian Hotel a few weeks ago—The Australian newspaper, sorry; though I have been to the Australian Hotel before today, I can tell you—that highlighted the number of coal-fired generation plants being constructed around the world. Guess what they're going to burn in those coal-fired generating plants? They're going to burn coal. Do they burn the more efficient coal from Australia or do they burn the second-rate brown coal from Indonesia, China or wherever? The Greens and many others will say: 'Don't have a coalmine in Australia. Don't burn more efficient coal, with higher energy and less CO2 production. Burn the rubbish coal and, hence, shut down the mining here and take away our wealth and our jobs.' That is the crazy hypocrisy of this whole situation. As Dr Finkel, our Chief Scientist, said, we can cut out all our emissions, 1.3 per cent of the world's CO2, and it will have virtually no effect on the planet whatsoever, but we're paying for it and paying dearly. I return to the cost of doing business. If we want to keep manufacturing here, we need to keep the costs down, and electricity is one.

You don't want to see foreigners working here. Mr Acting Deputy President, it was 15 September 2008, a while back now, when I made my maiden speech to this chamber. I said then that some of the young ones in Australia who are fit and capable of working need a touch on the backside with a cattle prod—not literally, metaphorically—to get them off their butts and get them to work. When I was a young fella, if you didn't work it was a shame. You were shamed in your community. We didn't have enough land for me to work when I threw in my scholarship at university and came home to the farm, so I took up shearing sheep. It's not an easy job. There's probably none tougher. I remember my first day shearing. I worked my butt off for eight hours and crawled out on all fours. I had shorn 32 sheep for the day. I thought, 'What a great future I have in this industry!' Anyway, I got better as time went on. I then went driving trucks.

So the young ones, the healthy ones, need to get to work. Our abattoir at Inverell employs 800 people. It was started by the great man John McDonald and his family, who kicked off the abattoir after it had closed down about 20 years ago. Locals were employed. They actually ran a bus out to areas of unemployment such as Tingha. People came to work for the first couple of days. Then they didn't come to work. Australians came to work and—guess what?—they failed the grog test. They failed the drug test. They got the spear. They were offered a job, they had a job and they wouldn't play by the rules.

So what do we have now? We have many Filipino and Brazilian workers there because we can't get others to work there. It is all right to say, 'Let's have the locals working,' but they've got to have a bit of a go. There's nothing wrong with working at abattoirs. It's a great industry that relies on exports and export income. It has great local jobs and puts great money in the local community. So it's all right to say, 'Preserve our jobs,' but the locals are going to have to work. In many countries, as Senator Gichuhi pointed out about where she comes from in her maiden speech, if you don't work, you don't get paid. Luckily we do in Australia, but that money should be there to help people along to the next job. For those who refuse to work, we have a real problem because some are simply not capable of working and we need to keep business costs down.