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Tuesday, 5 June 2001
Page: 27238

Mr BEAZLEY (2:08 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. Prime Minister, why have you involved yourself actively in just two cases where employee entitlements have been at risk following the collapse of their employer: National Textiles and One.Tel? Why haven't you pushed for 100 per cent recovery of entitlements in the more than 120 cases across Australia where employees have lost their legal entitlements? Why have you rushed to the assistance of employees of National Textiles and One.Tel but not the employees of Dolphin Garments, Kennedy Taylor, New Century Enterprises, Tutone Australia, Storetek, Creative Catering, Grenadier Coatings, Champion Forms, Scone Fresh Meats, Braybrook Manufacturing, Electruck, Furniture Australia, Hannah Sports, Lowenstein Electrical Contractors, Perry Engineering and on and on, Mr Prime Minister?

Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) —The basis of the Leader of the Opposition's question is utterly wrong. He talks about two cases: One.Tel and National Textiles. He completely ignores the action taken by the government to rescue the workers of the Oakdale mining company. He completely forgets the fact that the government took very vigorous action and that I and my office were very personally involved in relation to Cobar mines. We took very vigorous action in relation to Cobar mines. Of course, we introduced for the first time ever a scheme. The Leader of the Opposition reads out a long list of companies. One company I do not think he read out was that abattoir at Scone, where—

Opposition members interjecting—

Mr HOWARD —He did? Maybe he should send a copy of it to the Labor Premier of New South Wales, because those meat workers at Scone were denied by the New South Wales government the support that the New South Wales government was willing to give in relation to National Textiles and indeed what the New South Wales government had indicated it might do in relation to others. The reality is that this is the first government to ever introduce an entitlements scheme. The reason it was possible in some cases for people to get their full entitlements is that in those cases the state governments came to the party. In relation to all of these other cases that have occurred since 1 January last year, when the government scheme came into operation, we are willing to pay 50 per cent. We think it is right and proper that the state governments should pick up the other 50 per cent.

Instead of asking questions about this in the parliament, the Leader of the Opposition should be exerting his influence on the Labor Premier of New South Wales, the Labor premiers of Queensland and Victoria and the Labor Premier of Western Australia. I will continue to exhort the Liberal Premier of South Australia to do the right thing also, because I am not impressed with the failure of the Liberal government of South Australia to come to the party either. The reality is that the only government in this country which has done something for workers' entitlements is the coalition government I lead. The lot opposite had 13 years. You saw thousands upon thousands of Australian workers go begging for their entitlements, and you did nothing to help them. You have suddenly discovered a conscience for the workers of Australia now that you are in opposition. The workers of Australia are not very impressed with that.

Mr Beazley —Mr Speaker, I seek leave to table the list of 127 companies—114 of them since the National Textiles imbroglio—that have failed to achieve the Prime Minister's stated intention to return 100 per cent.

Leave granted.