Speech on a Matter of Public Importance: Abbott Government Job Losses

12 February 2014

Dr CHALMERS (Rankin) (15:56): The unemployment rate was lower under Labor in the depths of the global financial crisis than it is under the Liberal Party during a global recovery. That is the fact today, with the release of the labour market statistics. Yet there is no plan from the government to deal with this fact. If your name is Peter Costello or if your name is Tim Wilson, the labour market has really turned up since the election of the Abbott government, but for everyone else it has gotten worse. That is the reality of today's job market.It has been a devastating week in the labour market in Australia.

It has been a week that proved that this government are determined to be part of the problem and not part of the solution. What we have is a government that are determined to chase jobs away to satisfy this extreme ideology of theirs—this scorched earth ideology that says to workers, whether they are in the manufacturing sector or elsewhere, 'You're on your own.' And every time the government think that they are striking a blow for ideological purity, the reality is that it strikes at the heart of the Australian workforce.

Never before has an industry minister or an employment minister had such a detrimental impact on industry and employment in such a short time in office. Never before has a Prime Minister and a Treasurer, who says Australia is open for business, chased so many businesses away in such a short time. Speakers before me have gone through why this has been an awful work. On Monday, we had the Toyota announcement. We had all kinds of demeaning things said about workers by the Treasurer and others in this House. And today it has culminated in the release of some pretty bad unemployment figures. You would think, with all this going on, we would get more than the smirking arrogance that we get in question time from those opposite. You would think that we would get more than crocodile tears about workers in Australia. You would think that we would get some kind of plan. Instead, we get this really cruel and callous indifference to the plight of the Australian worker.

Their message this week to workers is: 'Yes, there have been job losses and, yes, it is all your fault.' This side of the House does not blame the workers for the situation that so many of them find themselves in. It is not enough to wander around in a hi-vis vest during an election campaign and say that you care about jobs. It is not enough to have a fancy, glossy brochure that says that there will be a million new jobs in five years. That is not enough. It is not enough to come in here and cry your crocodile tears about Australian workers. You need to have a plan.

The reason that Cadbury got the money they got is that they asked for it during an election campaign. The reason SPC did not get it and the reason manufacturing workers are in such strife is that the election has been and gone and these guys have been elected. That is the difference between Cadbury and so many other companies in Australia.

This week we saw the true colours of those opposite, we saw the mask slip a little bit, when it comes to how they feel about Australian workers. It actually began when the Treasurer stood over there and, in a remarkable thing for a Treasurer to do, dared a big Australian company to leave our shores. He stood over there and beat his chest, and then, all through The Financial Review, we read all the sycophants on that side saying how great he was, how ideologically pure he was. That set in train a sequence of events that culminated in Toyota hitting the fence earlier this week. As other speakers have said, this will have devastating consequences for components manufacturers right through Australia.It is not well known that there are 7,000 Queenslanders employed in the automotive manufacturing sector.

It is important that we recognise the South Australian and Victorian contributions to that industry, but right around Australia there are people making components. In my own electorate there are 508 people employed in this sector. I know from talking to a lot of them that they are mostly involved in electronic manufacturing for cars. That is something we want them in; that is a good job to be in—helping make electronics for cars. There are 508 of them, and their jobs are at risk. It would be cold comfort for them to hear what I thought was probably the low point of the week, which was when the Minister for Industry came in here and said, 'It's not a catastrophe.'

It is a catastrophe when people lose their jobs, when they have to explain to their families that they are not going to have a job, that it is going to be hard to find a new one. Not everyone gets re-employed immediately, or even at all. That is a catastrophe for a lot of people. The industry minister should go to the industrial part of my electorate and say to them that it is not a catastrophe. The biggest difference between our side and that side is our approach to jobs: nearly a million created during a global financial crisis; more than 63,000 already lost by those opposite in just five months.