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Wednesday, 14 November 2018
Page: 8175

Senator ANNING (Queensland) (17:06): This MPI raises a number of very important matters of great concern to me. As I said in my speech opposing the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, there has been a long list of so-called free trade deals, going back to the disastrous Lima agreement of 1975, which have crippled our manufacturing industries and, in the process, shed many hundreds of thousands of Aussie jobs. It seems very ironic that this MPI would be put up by the Labor Party today when, only a few weeks ago, it supported the latest TPP agreement which did exactly what it is now lamenting. Australia's self-proclaimed 'Fabius Maximus', former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, has to rate as the No. 1 enemy of manufacturing industry and jobs, signing a trade agreement that had the explicit purpose of killing Australian jobs and transferring manufacture to the Third World. Whitlam slashed tariffs and, overnight, destroyed whole industries.

Before Whitlam, around 70 per cent of the Australian workforce were employed in decent, well-paid jobs in manufacturing, but now that number has fallen to a tiny fraction. The working-class voter who naively put Whitlam into power in 1972 little realised that his radical Left interventionist vision cared nothing for the prosperity of them and their families. Those who cared about their jobs, the jobs of Aussie workers—and I know there are many in the Labor Party today who genuinely do—realised that trade treaties that allow cheap foreign products to be dumped on our markets simply destroy our own industries. They realised that allowing foreign workers to flood into this country on 457 visas and the like only takes jobs from Australians.

Foreign worker visas are a Trojan Horse not only stealing hundreds of thousands of jobs from Aussies every year but providing a conduit for a flood of Third World immigrants. Foreign worker visas should not be issued at the expense of Australian jobs. There should be a very stringent public interest test in which employers seeking foreign labour should be required to prove that the position genuinely cannot be filled by an Australian. These visas should be of a very limited time with a subsequent period of ineligibility for reapplication after completion. At their conclusion, those who have had foreign worker visas should be compelled to return to their countries of origin with no entitlement to jump the queue for immigration selection.

It is of great concern to me that neither the Liberals nor the Labor Party appear to have any industrial policies. How can we ever hope to address the decline of Australian manufacturing under these circumstances? As I set out in my maiden speech, I do not just want to protect our remaining residual manufacturing; I want a program to reindustrialise Australia. However, we don't need to reinvent the wheel on this.

Konrad Adenauer's postwar German economic miracle, which ultimately led to both high wages and high profits for companies, is a model for the reindustrialisation of Australia and a means to return to widespread employment in secondary industry. Adenauer's approach of rebuilding manufacturing as a national collaborative effort between private capital, government and unions provides a means to create sustainable industries, free of the adversarial industrial disputes that bedevilled our past. Following the German model, the boards of these new industries would have positions reserved for union representatives who would have full access to profit-and-loss accounts and would then be able to realistically negotiate wage levels, based on the actual profitability of the companies. As occurred in postwar Germany, wages would be expected to be low on start-up but then would grow with rising profits.

By following this model, collaborative manufacturing would be built up, concurrently serving the interests of labour and capital. Supported by some import restrictions and limited temporary tariffs, and a blanket policy for government procurement of only locally made goods, Australia could be reindustrialised along efficient, cooperative lines, re-creating our national industrial independence and balancing our economic development through import substitution. The cooperative nationalist industrial model that I propose would lead to the creation of hundreds of thousands of secure, well-paid jobs in a profitable industry free of industrial disputes that would reassert our economic freedom and our independence as a nation.