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Thursday, 25 August 2011
Page: 5576

Senator MOORE (Queensland) (15:07): I am really pleased to see this newfound interest and this wonderful relationship that Senator Colbeck has now established with union leaders in this country. Usually at this time in the afternoon we have significant contributions involving quotes from the Australianand other newspapers, with absolute deference to the media in this country. Recently we have also had, at length, quotes from radio stations. At the same time that the opposition looks at the clips they can listen to the radio and then come in here and give standard comments about what is happening in this country.

I listened carefully to Minister Carr's response which this motion moves to take note of. There was one question on this issue today—only one question. The minister was quite open in talking about what is happen­ing with the steel industry in this country. There was no attempt to say that we are not deeply concerned and that we do not have deep sympathy for the workers who have been caught up in this decision. What the minister did do was look at the real history of manufacturing in this country over the last few years, which has not been mentioned by anyone on that side. In fact, when people from this side of the parliament were looking at ways into the future—with strategic plans for how we can transform the steel industry and how we can work effectively with indus­try, with the workplace, with business and with the market—there did not seem to be any support for that from the opposition.

There is a plan, but the plan does not stay stagnant; it evolves as the process continues. We understand that there has been a serious loss in the steel industry and for a number of manufacturers over the last couple of days. That has been fully reported. We understand that, and we on this side of the chamber want to work with those workers. We want to work with the unions and the employers to go through this crisis. There has been no attempt to say that it is not important to work with the industry. Senator Colbeck is inter­ested in the appointment of Mr Peter Beattie to work with government and industry on this issue. As a Queensland senator, I know full well about the work Peter Beattie was able to do in Queensland looking at industry and at jobs. He had that ability to work across areas and focus clearly on outcomes. That is what is important.

We know that in several areas of the Australian community there is real concern and fear about what is happening with jobs. As an effective government we respond to that, and we seek the support of the opposi­tion to do it. While there has been this ongo­ing attack on the credibility of Australia's financial position and daily attacks from the opposition on the strength of our economy, then naturally the kinds of concerns raised by Senator Colbeck will come into industry. If a part of the Australian parliament sees it as the answer to every issue to downplay the strength of our economy, as outlined by ministers today in this place, that will give credence to the idea that there is a crisis that cannot be surmounted.

The best way to look at what is actually happening in this community is to work effectively on identifying the issues, to listen to all the ideas. Certainly Mr Howes and other trade union leaders will have an important role to play. We need to have that input into the discussion. The ministers and all of us in parliament want that input so that we are responding to all the ideas, all the energy and all the needs of the community to work through this time in our economy.

We have heard from the steel producers that there are a number of concerns in their industry. One of the key ones that is consistently being talked about is the strong Australian dollar. That is something we will have to understand. We will have to work through it with the kind of planning the minister has put forward. Yesterday he gave an innovation statement for the whole econo­my, not just for the steel industry. An effect­ive way to move forward would be to agree on the process, agree on the plan, use every skill available and work with Mr Beattie—in the same way that previously, in the auto industry, we brought experts together so we could work through the immediate threat of the global economic crisis in that area.

The way forward is to ensure that the plans being put forward are understood, that people engage in the process and that it is not used as a cheap political attack. At the same time that we are trying to score points and move forward politically, the people who will suffer are the people whose jobs we should be looking after. We should acknow­ledge that there are issues there, but we need to move into the future effectively. (Time expired)