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Thursday, 12 November 2015
Page: 8503


Senator JOHNSTON (Western Australia) (16:18): The one really important ingredient that the Australian Labor Party bring to the subject of employment in this chamber is, of course, embarrassment—embarrassment at the appalling failure they delivered over six years in innovation and employment. Indeed, the gall of Labor senators to stand up here and lecture us on employment!

The Australian government recognises that the best way to create jobs is to get the economic fundamentals, the incentives, the profit and the conditions right to allow employers to confidently invest in their businesses to create more jobs. That is the sole, fundamental ingredient that gets Australia moving and gets Australia drawing in, sucking in, more and more people into work. Over 350,000 new jobs have been created in Australia since the Liberal-National party coalition took government in this country in 2013. More Australians are in work today than ever before. Of course, the Labor Party are, as I say, just embarrassed when the facts are put on the table. Employment growth over the last year is higher than every other G7 nation and around three times higher than the rate of Labor's last year in office. Let me repeat this so that even Labor senators can understand this: three times higher than the rate of Labor's last year in office. Again, I just cannot believe that the Labor Party come into this place and pretend to look busy on the subject of employment when their record over six years in government was just so appalling.

We are delivering jobs at home and we are providing international leadership. Look no further than how quickly we managed three free trade agreements—China, Japan and South Korea. Free trade agreements are one of the fundamental drivers, catalysts, to creating more jobs in Australia. We have secured the ambitious G20 target to reduce the gap between male and female labour force participation by 25 per cent by 2025. Where was Labor on this subject? What has Labor done about reducing the participation rate between males and females? It is just a black hole of silence. We have designed the employment services system, with a $6.8 billion investment in jobactive—the new model that focuses on activation and better meeting the needs of employers.

Under jobactive, we have made sure there is a stronger focus on payment for getting people into sustained jobs due to the recognition that short-term jobs or part-time jobs of four weeks can act as a stepping stone to long-term employment. There will be no more training for training's sake. The massive, delightful bureaucracy of having all of these training places training people in areas that there are no employers investing in is an example of the classic folly of what the Labor Party used to do, because it was about jobs for the boys—giving bureaucrats things to do that had no long-term benefit for the national economy.

This government has set itself a target to cut $1 billion of red tape each year. We are not only meeting this target, of course; we are exceeding it. That means that there is more and more capacity in our economy to get on with the job.

Total employment increased by 58,600 people in October this year and by 315,000, as I have already said, or 2.7 per cent, over the year to what is a record high. These are figures that the government is very proud of, and it comes to this place to say, 'Have a look at the facts. Have a look at the numbers. They speak for themselves.' The unemployment rate has declined by 0.4 percentage points over the year to stand at 5.9 per cent in October this year. The youth unemployment rate, a very important indicator, has declined by 1.7 percentage points over the year to stand at 12.2 per cent as at the end of October.

The Labor Party should and must be extremely embarrassed. Indeed, the previous speaker, Senator Lines, wanted to touch on shipbuilding. They were in government for six years and whilst they were in power there was not one ship completed. But what is worse is that there was not one single ship planned. There was not one single budget line item that invested in shipbuilding in Australia, other than the project that was commenced under the Howard government in South Australia, the Air Warfare Destroyer program. So as they stand up and talk about shipbuilding here, the blush on the faces of senators from the Labor Party is very visible from this side of the chamber. They did absolutely nothing. They did not even pick up a pen and have a plan. Plans do not cost very much, but they did not even do that. When they come in here and talk about shipbuilding, I have never seen people with such gall in all my life. It was not difficult to work out that the Royal Australian Navy desperately needed ships, both surface combatants and replenishment ships, but the Labor Party did not even plan them. It would not even talk about them, and now they are saying, 'Shipbuilding jobs! You are doing the wrong thing by shipbuilders.'

For six years you did nothing and you are as guilty as sin about your dilatory conduct. Anybody who loses a job in the shipbuilding industry in Australia has no-one to blame but the Australian Labor Party. They are the ones who have effectively turned the tap off on investing in Australian shipbuilding. As the secretary for Defence said, if you wanted to avoid the valley of death in terms of shipbuilding, you had to do something more than four years ago—and we all know what happened in Defence more than four years ago. They took $16 billion out of the Defence budget—and they have the gall to come in here and talk about shipbuilding jobs lost.

Under the watch of the former government, particularly the former minister, Senator Carr, employment in manufacturing in Australia fell by 127,600 people. So 127,000 families, if you like, were put on the dole or out of work. As a percentage, that is 12.1 per cent of those employed in the manufacturing industry in Australia. What a fabulous record that is! And yet Senator Carr is here raising this motion on employment. You would have to laugh if it were not so disgracefully sad and tragic that the Labor Party, when they were in power, put 127,600 manufacturing workers out of a job. What a fantastic record! It is just tragic that they can be so laden with gall and so embarrassing when it comes to talking about a subject like employment. There are 127,600 people who were put out of a job under Senator Carr's watch, the largest fall of any of the 19 broad industries in our country.

The Labor Party are like some sort of toxicity for employment in industries that they pride themselves on having union and employment membership in. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics Labour Force Survey, from November 2007 to August 2013 total employment grew by 496,200 or by 8.8 per cent. So, when Labor were in power, other industries were expanding, but 127,600 people lost their jobs in manufacturing. The whole of the economy was doing reasonably well, but we were going backwards in manufacturing—and Senator Carr, of course, was the minister responsible for that. Employment fell in 13 of the 16 manufacturing sectors. Thankfully, after six years we got rid of Labor, because there would be absolutely nothing left if they were still there today.

The sector that had the largest employment was transport equipment manufacturing, in which employment fell by 25,000, or by 24 per cent. The transport equipment manufacturing sector includes motor vehicles, and we all know Senator Carr's magic touch with Mitsubishi. They were the first of the motor vehicle manufacturers to leave our shores and, of course, it was on his watch. Transport manufacturing includes motor vehicle and motor vehicle part manufacturing, in which employment fell by 17,000 people or 27.6 per cent. Again, what an unbelievably shocking and disgraceful record for a minister and for a party that wants to be the alternative government! These falls dwarf the employment growth in the few manufacturing sectors that did grow.

On the facts that I have put on the table, the Labor Party clearly offers nothing more nor less than cynical, quite deceitful, misrepresentative crocodile tears to the Australian public by raising the subject of employment when they themselves contributed so much to the decline in manufacturing. They had no policy. They had no plan, and, as I have said, 127,600 people—or 127,600 households—lost their jobs in the manufacturing sector over the six years that the Labor Party was in power. That is just an absolute disgrace and, may I say, underlines the level of gall and the level of fraud that the ALP brings to this place in arguing about employment. That is to be contrasted with the fact that employment increased, as I have said—and let us reiterate these figures: 58,600 new jobs in October 2015; so there were 58,000-odd new jobs last month, there were 315,000 jobs over the year and there was an improvement in employment by 2.7 per cent, to a record high. That is what the government is doing for employment in this country.

The unemployment rate, as bad as it is and was when we took over, has declined by 0.4 of a percentage point to 5.9. Youth unemployment, as I say, has declined by 1.7 percentage points to 12.2. So they are headed in the right direction.

We inherited an economy that was moribund, suffocating in red tape and suffering from the complete disinterest of the Labor Party in creating any confidence for investment. There have been 350,000 new jobs created since we have come into office. That is a fabulous factual achievement by this government and it stands in absolutely stark contrast to what the Labor Party were able to achieve over six years. But of course they will never acknowledge it.

Every time a person from the ALP gets up and wants to talk about employment and about shipbuilding, for instance, the question must be asked: 'Which ships did you invest in and plan to build for the Royal Australian Navy over the six years that you were in power?' Not only did they not plan anything, they allowed some contractors to go—and there are about four ships being built offshore today, for fleet management services, that are for the Royal Australian Navy, on subcontract, that could have been built in Australia that were not. And the Labor Party sat on their hands and let those contractors go to Damen in the Netherlands and build them in the Philippines.

The hypocrisy that is alive in this place when the Labor Party wants to talk about employment in shipbuilding is outrageous. They did not have a plan for Australian shipbuilding. As to the shipbuilding unions, as I said to them on several occasions over the six years: you have got to talk to the government to get them to plan some ships for the Australian shipbuilding industry, because when the air warfare destroyers are finished, a lot of people are going to be out of a job. They went to the government, and the government of the day, the Labor Party, listened to their union mates and then did absolutely nothing. So we are going to see 500 more jobs go after Christmas in South Australia. BAE down at Williamtown is putting people off. Forgacs have already put a lot of people off. This is because the decisions required to build ships in Australia had to be made back in 2012, 2011 and 2010. The Rudd-Gillard-Rudd government did nothing. Successive ministers for industry simply ignored the problem, hoping it would go away. Yet today the Labor Party comes into this place and wants to talk about employment, and senator after senator, I know, is going to get up and say, 'What about the shipbuilders?' as if you can start building a ship tomorrow. The planning process goes on for years. The line items have to be put into the budget. You have to choose designs. You have to run a contest—a tender program. You have to do all this sort of stuff. Everybody knew that halfway through the completion of the air warfare destroyers there would start to be a decline in employment. And what did the Labor Party do? Nothing. And yet they stand up here today to talk about employment and then raise shipbuilding. Can I just say: they have absolutely no idea—not only of how to run an economy but of how to be involved in supporting and assisting any industry whatsoever.

Anybody who loses a job today in shipbuilding has no-one to blame but the Australian Labor Party, who sat on their hands for six years and did not even put pen to paper to make a plan to build more ships. They did not even do that. When we took over, the planning for shipbuilding was just a blank sheet of paper. There was the box marked 'New ships for the Royal Australian Navy'; you took the lid off and there was a cobweb in one corner. Nothing had been done. So when a Labor senator gets up in this place and talks about industry and what is happening in employment, just remember that they did nothing for six years. We have created 350,000 new jobs since taking over. The gall, the embarrassment, the hypocrisy of Labor wanting to talk about employment! It just really is tragically sad that they pretend to speak up for people in their employment and in their jobs when all the while, when they had the chance, when they had the chequebook, they did nothing—absolutely nothing.