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Wednesday, 1 June 2011
Page: 5570

Mr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (16:14): If you are going to come into this place and raise a matter of public importance on the impact of government policy on the manufacturing sector; if you are going to come into this place and profess—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. Peter Slipper ): The member for Throsby ought not use the word 'you' because it refers to the occupant of the chair. I am in this place because I am in the chair.

Mr STEPHEN JONES: I thank you for that guidance, Mr Deputy Speaker. If somebody is going to come into this place and profess a love for workers in the manufacturing industry, they need to do it with some credibility. The fact is that those opposite—particularly the Leader of the Opposition—have absolutely no credibility on this issue.

Those opposite profess a love for the manufacturing industry and manufacturing workers. If they have a love, it is a very modern love affair. When you look at their record when it comes to the manufacturing industry and manufacturing workers in particular, it is a dismal record. Between the years 1996 and 2007, that mob over there, who profess to be in there in defence of manufacturing workers, oversaw the absolute obliteration of jobs in the manufacturing industry. Over 10,000 jobs were lost in the manufacturing industry when that mob over there last had the opportunity to do something about the sector. That is about 1,000 jobs per annum, or 20 jobs a week. So when the Leader of the Opposition stands here and says to workers in the manufacturing industry, 'I am your friend; I have your interests at heart,' those workers need to look at his record—and his record is pretty damn ordinary. Over 1,000 jobs per annum were lost on the opposition's watch—20 jobs a week.

But it did not just come to job losses. When the Leader of the Opposition was last focusing on industry and workers it was because he was out there spruiking the Work Choices legislation. But as he makes his fear tour around the electorate in 2011 he will not be going around the manufacturing plants talking about his last love affair—the love that dare not speak its name, his love affair with Work Choices. He cannot tell the workers in those manufacturing plants that the two pillars of his last love affair were to make it easier for employers to sack their workers. This bloke who comes in here and says he has love and affection for manufacturing workers was, when he last had a chance, introducing laws and defending laws in this place to make it easier for bosses to sack their workers and to cut their wages and conditions.

I have had a look at the outcome of the opposition's Work Choices legislation when it came to workers, particularly manufacturing workers. Over 70 per cent of workers on Work Choices AWAs lost their shift loadings, 68 per cent lost their annual leave loadings, 65 per cent lost penalty rates, 49 per cent lost overtime loadings and 25 per cent no longer had public holidays. The man who comes into this chamber professing a love affair for manufacturing workers does that on the basis that he hopes workers in the manufacturing industry have a very short memory indeed. Those opposite have no credibility on this issue and they have no policy.

The policy of those opposite in this area is quite simple. It can be summarised as follows. Those opposite want ordinary workers, including workers in the manufacturing industry, through their taxes, to subsidise big polluters for the ability to continue to pollute and for the obligation to reduce their pollution. They want ordinary workers, ordinary taxpayers, to go out there and subsidise the polluting activities of big business. We on this side of the chamber say that that is bad public policy. We believe that the most effective way to get a change in our economy and to reduce carbon pollution is to put a price on carbon and ensure that it is the big polluters who pay, not ordinary workers.

It is not surprising that the member for Wentworth—in fact, the last two members for Wentworth—have found it very difficult to defend the direct action policy. We understand that it is going to cost ordinary workers—those whom in the chamber today he was proposing to protect—around $720 per annum and to cost the economy around $30 billion. It is not surprising that when those opposite went to their focus groups and said, 'We've got a policy and we're thinking of calling it the Taxpayer Funded Pollution Scheme' that their focus groups and their media spin advisers said: 'That just won't work. We'd better come up with a tag like "direct action".' But the people of Australia will not be fooled. They know this is a taxpayer funded pollution scheme. It is no surprise that the current member for Wentworth finds it very difficult to defend. The previous members for Wentworth find it even harder to defend, and I would not be surprised if those opposite are seeking to abolish the seat of Wentworth retrospectively to do away with their embarrassments.

There is a risk to manufacturing, and that is the risk of being left behind. There is no chance that Australia is going to be at the head of the pack, because the rest of the world is already acting—and they are already acting decisively. If we do not act it is going to become all the harder for us to retool in our manufacturing industry, for us to reinvest and for us to do the things we need to do to protect jobs and protect this vital part of our economy.

The other risk to manufacturing, of course, is the uncertainty created by those opposite. We know that investors are very nervous indeed at the moment about making any long-term investments in the manufacturing industry or in electricity generation because they are uncertain as to whether we are going to have a bipartisan policy on this issue. When they are making 20- and 30-year investments, they are concerned that those investments will be completely undermined by the policies of those opposite. It is this uncertainty and this lack of a bipartisan approach to dealing with climate change that are the real threats to investment in manufacturing at the moment. That is without mentioning the threats that we currently face, and the case of Qantas which, we learn this week, is going to have border adjustments imposed on it by the European Union. These are the threats facing us from not introducing a plan to deal with climate change, from not putting a price on carbon.

Those opposite came in here earlier today and proposed a love affair with the manufacturing industry. We know it is hypocrisy. We know it is hypocrisy because when they were last in government they oversaw the massive loss in manufacturing industry jobs. We also know that if they got into government again they would further take the axe to the manufacturing industry. In fact, the coalition's plan is to make massive cuts to industry programs. The Leader of the Opposition says that they want to protect jobs in the car industry, but the reality is that if the coalition had their way they would cut half a billion dollars from the Automotive Transformation Scheme.

The Automotive Transformation Scheme provides investment in research and devel-opment that increases the competitiveness and productivity of our automotive industry across the entire supply chain. So those who profess a love for manufacturing and manufacturing workers are at the same time planning to take the hatchet to the plans that are going to give workers in these industries a real future. They say that they are proposing to protect jobs in manufacturing industries but at the same time they are proposing to slash funds for Enterprise Connect, one of the main support programs for emerging manufacturing firms. They are proposing to cut over $100 million from Enterprise Connect, a program which has assisted over 7,500 firms.

On this point there is absolutely no credibility from those opposite, whereas we on this side of the chamber know that we have a challenge in the manufacturing sector and the challenge is one brought about by the fact that we have a very high Australian dollar. That is a sign of confidence in the Australian economy, a sign of international confidence in the Australian economy, and we know that we have to assist our vital manufacturing sector to make it through these difficult and challenging times.