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Tuesday, 8 November 2016
Page: 3157


Ms VAMVAKINOU (Calwell) (16:02): My electorate of Calwell has suffered a stream of job losses in recent years. The latest has been the closure of Ford and the thousands of jobs in total that have been lost as a result of the end of car manufacturing in this country. In addition, the alarming rise in insecure work—especially underemployment, casualised labour and depressed wages—is adding to the financial burden of people in my electorate, who already have to deal with narrowing job opportunities.

If we look at the average unemployment rate under this government—which sits at six per cent as compared to 5.1 per cent, where the average unemployment rate sat under the previous Labor governments—we see an alarming rate of unemployed Australians: today, some 700,000 people, many of whom are residents of my constituency. Underemployment is at its highest on record, with 1.1 million Australians who are desperately in need of more work but cannot get it. Youth unemployment is double the national rate, at 12.8 per cent, and in my electorate of Calwell youth unemployment is double that, at 23 per cent and in some cases as high as 26 per cent and rising. In September, full-time employment fell by 53,000, the largest one-month fall since April 2011. Full-time jobs are down by 112,000 since the beginning of this year, and part-time jobs are on the rise and now make up one-third of all jobs, compared to 10 per cent in the 1960s.

If you look at the slowest wages growth on record, you begin to understand that this government is not interested in protecting and advancing the interests of working Australians. The people in my electorate understand loud and clear that this government is committed only to assisting the profit margins of big business at their expense. This government has turned a blind eye to the growing inequality in Australia. Nowhere is this more obvious than in my electorate, where the government is missing in action when it comes to putting forward proposals for creating the jobs desperately needed by my constituents. People in my electorate want more than smooth talking about innovation and start-ups. People in my electorate want to see real and practical plans that create jobs and offer a real and viable future, especially to our young people. They do not want to see massive company tax cuts to big business while they have to endure the hardships of unemployment and exploitation. They want to see support for local manufacturing. They want to see support for genuine, good-quality training and retraining that leads to real jobs.

This government is not interested in supporting the survival of Australian manufacturing. It has killed off the car industry in Calwell and it sits on its hands while other local industries are struggling to survive. And here I want to refer to Willow Ware in my electorate, the iconic Australian company that is most famous for making the esky. Willow is based in Tullamarine and is one of Australia's oldest companies. Founded in 1887, it has been run by the same family since. It employs about 200 people in my local area and manufactures housewares, including pegs, plastic buckets and baking tins. Willow is pretty much the only supplier left in Australia for many housewares but is facing huge pressure from cheaper imports preferred by Coles, Woolworths, Bunnings and Kmart.

I have visited Willow on three occasions, and I want to thank the Leader of the Opposition for coming out with me on the last occasion. Willow approached this government both before and after the election seeking assistance from the federal government to save their business. They need help in order to invest in new machinery so as to improve their productivity and remain competitive. We first wrote to the government when the member for Sturt was the Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, and we received a less than satisfactory result—something akin to 'on your bike'. Willow is still waiting for a response from the current industry minster, and so are the 200 people who rely on Willow's survival for their employment.

Labor has shown an interest in helping Willow in the same way that it has an interest and a commitment to helping working Australians by creating real and meaningful job opportunities. Unlike this government, Labor has a plan for our economy. We have a plan to grow full-time work and to improve my constituents' pay packets. Labor has a plan to protect workers from exploitation. Labor has a plan to tackle the growing misuse of 457 visas. But most of all, Labor believes in Australian manufacturing and believes that the path to employment and prosperity lies in investing in our economy for the good of all Australians, not just a rich few.