I start by thanking Mr Somyurek for bringing this motion before the house. It is timely that he has done so, particularly given the recent announcement that Toyota Australia will cease manufacturing cars in this country by 2017. Manufacturing was dealt another serious blow yesterday, with Alcoa announcing that up to 1000 workers will lose their jobs, including 840 blue collar workers at Point Henry in Geelong. Today’s editorial in the Herald Sun is headed ‘Alcoa storm hits Victoria’:
Geelong sits at the epicentre of a manufacturing tornado that is currently battering Australia.
Other headlines refer to our industry being in ‘meltdown’. The headline on the front page of today’s Age is ‘Geelong a city under siege — Up in smoke’, and it lists:
800 jobs lost at Alcoa
510 jobs lost at Ford
300 jobs lost at Avalon
The latter is from heavy engineering at Qantas in Avalon. Along the line it is estimated that another 500 jobs will be lost due to the sale of Shell’s Geelong refinery, which is currently on the market. People would be aware of the job losses we have had in the Geelong area, including job cuts from Target’s Geelong headquarters, where a significant number of people have lost their jobs. Boral Cement has also cut jobs, and other key jobs have been lost in the region.
I raise this matter so that people start getting the idea that there is an issue. With opposition members having raised this matter, it is not for those opposite to say that Labor is talking down manufacturing and talking down Geelong. The fact is that the opposite is true.
Labor has always had a very strong connection with Geelong. Those of us with a particularly close connection to Geelong understand that community, how its members care for each other and that it has a very strong community leadership, whether that be within the greater city of Geelong, within the suburbs or within the smaller coastal communities. So to accuse Labor of talking down manufacturing or talking down Geelong is just rubbish. To be quite frank, we care about Geelong because we understand it to be our premier second city in the state, and we will not walk away from it. We will make sure that every person who is displaced as a result of this government’s decision to walk away from manufacturing will not be left behind.
We on this side of the chamber are absolutely committed to Geelong, and we are committed to the continuation of manufacturing.
Can I say, I was grossly disappointed with Mr Ondarchie’s contribution when he said Labor does not understand vehicle manufacturing and that it does not understand the auto industry. The fact is that when this matter was before the house in the past, debate concentrated on car manufacturing in Australia for the obvious reasons: the finger was being pointed at the time for the demise of the industry. That is why Labor concentrated on car manufacturing in Australia. It is not because we do not accept the aftermarket sector of the industry; we do accept it. In fact I have always tried to explain to those opposite that the vehicle industry in this country and this state is absolutely interconnected, whether it be premarket or aftermarket. To deliberately try to create division in the industry is absolutely outrageous and not helpful to the industry — —
Mr Ondarchie interjected.
The ACTING PRESIDENT (Mr Finn) — Order! Mr Ondarchie should restrain himself.
Ms TIERNEY — or to those who hopefully will remain in the industry. They will remain in the industry if the state and federal governments actually get their act together and act in a strategic way to try to make sure that the auto component companies remain in this country and do not collapse as a result of the major manufacturers being run out of town.
So when Mr Ondarchie comes into this place and tries to give us a lecture or a 101 lesson on the vehicle industry, he should not try to create divisions in an industry that is fraught with a crisis already. He should not try to do that at all.
Returning to the motion, Acting President — —
Mr Ramsay — You are not a shop steward anymore.
Ms TIERNEY — I will take up the interjection from Mr Ramsay that I am no longer a shop steward. I think that is the third time I have heard that, and I corrected it in Hansard when he raised it before Christmas. In line with what has been mentioned by Mr Ramsay when he has been in the chair in recent times — and indeed what we have heard from the President today — it is really important to try to get the pronunciation of people’s names correct. I agree with that; we need to be sensitive to that fact. I also think it is important to be a little bit more respectful and to read the Victorian Parliamentary Handbook in terms of the facts about certain members in this house, including me. I think the role of a shop steward is incredibly important, but it is a role that is constantly underestimated by workers and employers alike. I do not have a problem with that.
Mr Ondarchie — On a point of order, Acting President, during my contribution Ms Tierney interjected and raised points of order about relevance.
I would ask you to direct her back to the motion at hand, rather than allowing her to just make an ALP — —
The ACTING PRESIDENT (Mr Finn) — Order! I thank Mr Ondarchie; I get the gist of what he is saying. I think the member will find that Ms Tierney was in fact responding to an interjection. It would be preferable if she did not respond to interjections, but it would also be preferable if we did not have interjections to begin with — it takes a thief to catch a thief.
Ms Tierney is at the moment within her rights to defend her previous occupations, as I think she is currently doing.
Ms TIERNEY — Can I also say that I think it is preferable for members to actually read the CV of those who are in the house, on both sides of the chamber, before they assert — —
Mr Leane — Make things up.
Ms TIERNEY — Or make things up; Mr Leane is quite correct.
I would also ask Mr Ramsay, before he sends his letter to the editor, which was obviously the content of his members statement this morning, to change his facts in that letter before submitting it presumably to the Geelong Advertiser or elsewhere.
Honourable members interjecting.
The ACTING PRESIDENT (Mr Finn) — Order! This is turning into a bit of an all-in brawl here. Ms Tierney has the call, and it would be very helpful if she were able to address the house unassisted.
Ms TIERNEY — Moving back to the motion, I wish to remind the house that manufacturing has been the lifeblood of this state and its economy for a long time.
Since the first car rolled off the production lines in the 1920s we have seen a whole range of manufacturing companies establish themselves here, as well as a lot of subsidiary companies supporting this industry. Of course we have also seen cities such as Geelong be built on manufacturing. For decades families have raised their children on the pay packets of good manufacturing jobs and workers have been trained to become very highly skilled at a local, state and national level. Our economies have grown and prospered. We have had the ability to produce very high-quality products for decades and decades. But now of course we have seen under this state government’s watch Victoria bleeding manufacturing jobs. Car manufacturing jobs are going, and they will continue to disappear as a result of the three majors making their announcements in recent times.
The year 2013 will be seen and remembered as the year the federal coalition government and the state coalition government gave up on manufacturing, particular car manufacturing in this country; it will be remembered as the year government abandoned local communities that have for decades lived and breathed through secure employment provided by a vibrant automotive manufacturing industry; and it will be remembered as the year we had a very reckless and cavalier attitude to the car industry on the part of government, particularly on the part of the Prime Minister and the federal Treasurer, Joe Hockey. From the Victorian perspective 2013 will be remembered as a year when this government turned a blind eye or was not up to the task, even though the state’s economy is so dependent on manufacturing.
Over the past three years we have not seen all that much in terms of this government wanting a car manufacturing industry in this state, and I think that will be the view people come to when they reflect on the performance of this government. Through its own actions or lack thereof this government has shown it has no idea about what to do when times get tough. We have seen that time and again. To be quite honest, I just do not know whether it is an issue of intellectual capacity or the lack thereof in terms of developing policy solutions to the challenges that have confronted the industry and its woes, or whether it really is just a matter of those opposite not having the ticker to get in there and stand up for our industries. Not long into the term of the Abbott administration it started becoming quite obvious that the federal government would not have ongoing support for car manufacturing in this state.
This state government has essentially stood by and watched thousands upon thousands of Victorian workers simply lose their jobs.
It has simply not been a strong advocate for the automotive industry and for the Victorian economy. As I have said in this chamber in the past, it is almost as if this state government has given the driver’s seat to the federal government when it comes to the automotive industry.
Mr Ondarchie — Let’s talk about you and the carbon tax, then, shall we?
Ms TIERNEY — We could talk about you and carbon tax. Why don’t you look at the front page of the Age today and see what Alcoa said — —
The ACTING PRESIDENT (Mr Finn) — Order! I say to Mr Ondarchie that I will accept a degree of interjection. The member might be surprised to learn that I am not opposed to interjection. I would appreciate it, however, if we did not have a shouting match between himself and Ms Tierney across the chamber. That is most disorderly. I would ask Ms Tierney to direct her comments through the Chair.
Ms TIERNEY — I will, Acting President. It is very difficult when you get those sorts of interjections. I simply refer the member to the front page of the Age today and Alcoa’s comments in relation to the carbon tax.
Getting back to this motion, I will say that this year will be remembered by those in the community and particularly by those in the auto manufacturing sector as the year this state government walked away from them. Their pain will be not just for now but for the weeks and months after they leave their current jobs — for the period they are not employed — as a result of this government not putting anything in place to deal with the economic restructure it is undertaking without any consultation.
I move to the position of the federal government. It is no secret that the federal government could not give two hoots about the Victorian car industry and does not care about Victorian jobs. Otherwise Prime Minister Abbott would have called for an economic report on the state of Victoria the very day he took office. But, no, he did not do that. Did he call for a report on the state of the economy when Holden made its decision? No, he did not. Did he call for a report on the state of the Victorian economy when Toyota made its decision? No, he did not.
It is only after today’s headlines in all of the Victorian newspapers, headlines saying we are experiencing a huge crisis, that this morning the light went on, and he is now asking for a full report on the Victorian economy which he expects to have in 10 days. Hallelujah!
It has taken a long time, and many jobs have been lost in that time, but it will be very interesting to see what he finally comes up with in terms of at least trying to demonstrate he might be somehow interested in the Victorian economy, in manufacturing and in those who will be left on the dole queues as a result of the decisions of his government, decisions he has arrived at without having taken them to the election.
Honourable members interjecting.
Ms TIERNEY — No, he did not go into the election saying he was going to let the car industry leave this country.
An honourable member interjected.
Ms TIERNEY — No, he did not do that, because during the election campaign he was too busy having Cheshire-grin photos of himself taken in factories as if he were the workers’ friend. Very far from it! Everything he has done so far as Prime Minister has been to take the knife and the axe to workers and particularly to car workers. There are thousands of them, and they are going to remember exactly what the governments in Canberra and here in Spring Street have done. These governments have not been the friends of workers at all, and all I can say is, ‘Bring on November — —
Honourable members interjecting.
The ACTING PRESIDENT (Mr Finn) — Order! We are not at the front bar of any particular hotel. I ask members to restrain themselves and show some degree of decorum in here. We are in the Parliament of Victoria.
Ms TIERNEY — Thank you, Acting President. There is nothing like having those opposite urge you on. Unlike the Napthine government, which has played its role in the demise of manufacturing by burying its head in the sand, the federal government has played a very active role in seeing the end of the automotive manufacturing industry in this country. Toyota’s latest announcement signalled the death of automotive manufacturing in this state. The Abbott government has been content to blame the enterprise bargaining agreements and the workers for the demise of the industry. The Prime Minister and the Treasurer have repeatedly sought to shift responsibility for the departure of both the Ford and Holden from Australia back onto employees. Clearly they think that bashing workers is a vote winner, because they have extended that very same strategy to SPC Ardmona in Shepparton. It is clear that the Prime Minister and the Treasurer are no friends of workers.
What is extraordinary about the Abbott government’s pernicious approach to policy-making is that there is seemingly no regard for the facts let alone for the industries that very much require their help. It is not strange that Holden, for example, in its submissions to the Productivity Commission, which was set up by the Abbott government, praised its workforce and the unions for the flexibility and assistance they provided to the company in its continued existence in Australia. Surely if the Prime Minister and the Treasurer were correct, somebody would have raised wages and conditions or untenable industrial relations issues in their submissions to the Productivity Commission — —
Mr Ondarchie interjected.
Ms TIERNEY — No-one did, Mr Ondarchie. Yet that was one of the key points Mr Ondarchie made in his contribution — that Labor costs were a major contributing factor in terms of the walkout of the car industry from this country. After question time I will be more than happy to take Mr Ondarchie through the productivity costs and labour costs in the car industry and how his side of politics have used them as a furphy and an excuse to run car manufacturing out of this country.
Business interrupted pursuant to standing orders.
Ms TIERNEY (Western Victoria) — Prior to question time I was making the point that it is unfortunate — in fact, it is quite outrageous — that the Prime Minister and the federal Treasurer have blamed workers for the demise of the automotive manufacturing industry in saying that their wages are too high and their conditions of work are too generous. If that was the fact, Holden would have at least mentioned it to the Productivity Commission, and that certainly was not the case. In fact Holden praised its workforce and praised their unions.
In terms of productivity submissions, the Federation of Automotive Products Manufacturers, which is the organisation that represents the auto parts industry, did not think it rated a single comment.
Neither did the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, which represents the car manufacturers. Not once did they point to those issues with respect to the ongoing nature of the car manufacturing industry. It is only those opposite who are living in fantasy land when it comes to the workers in the auto manufacturing industry. It is only those opposite who believe in the fantasy that it is the workers themselves who are to blame for their job losses. It is a very sad indictment of the political process when ideology substitutes for policy, when the decisions that are made by those opposite and their colleagues in Canberra pay no regard to the human costs.
I also mention the absolutely poor behaviour of federal coalition politicians in Canberra and what they did and what they said when Holden announced its decision and when Toyota announced its decision.
Honourable members interjecting.
The PRESIDENT — Order! Mr Ondarchie has had an opportunity to make a contribution.
There is a long list of government speakers, and I am sure that if they have a rebuttal to put to the house, some of those speakers can take that up.
Ms TIERNEY — On the very day that Holden made its decision to close its doors and stop making cars in this country, it was the federal Minister for Education, Christopher Pyne, who stood up, rubbed his knuckles under his eyes and went ‘boohoo’ and mimicked what it is like to cry. In all my life I have never seen such an appalling act by a politician in public. He not only had no empathy for what was happening to the many thousands of workers in the automotive industry, he made fun of the fact that people were losing their jobs. On the very day that Holden announced its closure, in the federal Parliament the Treasurer, Joe Hockey, supported and praised the fact that Holden was leaving the country, and that was not surprising given that he actually goaded the company into exiting our shores.
It was the federal member for Corangamite, who was sitting behind the federal Treasurer, who that day went on to attack the Toyota workplace agreement and Toyota workers. The member for Corangamite sat there nodding as if she understood what the Treasurer was saying when trying to unpick the various workplace agreement clauses — something that we were soon to see repeated when it came to SPC Ardmona. When in doubt, attack the contract between workers and their employer. I remind the member for Corangamite that there are Toyota workers who live in her electorate and that their extended families and friends also live in Corangamite.
In terms of the Prime Minister, it is unbelievable that a Prime Minister of this country, regardless of what political party they represent, could possibly say, — when hearing of the Toyota and Holden job losses, that car workers were ‘liberated’. It has been quoted time and again, it is not hearsay or something overheard; he actually said it.
Is there any person on that side of this house who can still stand or sit there and say that they support not only the auto industry but also the car workers and that they believe that secure, important manufacturing jobs are something this country needs? Clearly not.
I am very concerned about what this government is going to do with what is left with manufacturing in this state and this country. As I said at the beginning of my contribution, if a strategic intervention in terms of the auto components industry is not taken now, given that it is no longer going to have the
critical mass in terms of making a solid business proposition for its own companies, what is the government going to do to make sure that they survive? It is the case that a number of companies are on the brink; I said that before Christmas. What assistance is the government going to provide? If it does not provide assistance, it will mean those jobs that are earmarked to go will be going much earlier than what has been indicated by those companies.
Mr Ondarchie should not sit there and nod; that is just a sheer fact. It will mean that Ford will close earlier, that Holden will potentially close earlier, and hopefully Toyota will stay until 2017. If the government does not provide auto component companies with a favourable environment, it cannot expect them to remain. They cannot be expected to sit there when it is very difficult to make money and when they have not been provided with an investment environment.
It is extraordinary that while all this is happening, the state government is acting as if everything is fine and dandy. That is, of course, until the next company or industry has to get up and make an announcement that they will also have to close and more workers will be heading towards the unemployment queues. This government has treated Victorians like fools. I was very disappointed with the Premier when he said, ‘I will be certainly expressing my concern about the suddenness of the decision’ to Toyota. Saying that he is going to express his concern is as effective as being slapped with a wet lettuce leaf.
How is it possible that he could be caught unawares of the Toyota and Holden closures, with that being played out in the media for many months prior to their final announcements?
To not see the Ford and Holden closures as a sign that the industry’s very existence is being threatened and as warranting direct intervention is a shameful neglect of his responsibilities to the Victorian public. One would have thought that as soon as the Holden announcement came, he would have made a direct beeline to Toyota. He did not. It just did not happen. The tragedy for all Victorians, and Australians for that matter, of the Holden, Toyota and Ford exits, is that they were entirely preventable. They would have been prevented if there had been a will. A lot of us grew up with the belief that ‘where there is a will there is a way’, and I put to you, President, that there was never the will — by this government or the federal coalition government — to keep the car manufacturing industry in this country.
It was never there.
Knowing that in a few years time we will not have a car manufacturing industry in this country, the government has still not provided a way forward or a vision as to what will happen to those facilities and to those workers. It is not happening. One could be very generous and say that those opposite and those in the federal government in Canberra have been left a bit flat-footed, but that would be incredibly generous. I think this was a deliberate policy decision taken by the Liberal Party to get rid of the car manufacturing industry in this country, but it forgot to tell the Australian public before they queued up to vote in the federal election last year.
The performance of the Minister for Manufacturing also needs to be highlighted. I do not understand how it is that the minister only mentioned vehicle manufacturing, I think, three times in this Parliament prior to the Holden announcement. On the day of the Ford announcement he did not mention it at all. He had not met with the key players in the industry.
He had met with quite a few people and organisations within the auto component sector, but he was not interested in meeting with the major vehicle manufacturers. That trend was demonstrated time and time again by the coalition government in that it did not understand the connection between the major manufacturers and the auto supply industry. Now we have what is left of the auto components
industry, and it is going to be interesting to see how it gets on without the car manufacturers, given its heavy reliance on the innovation and highly skilled personnel who provide the skills, direction and indeed the networks that are needed not just within the local auto industry but also internationally.
The Minister for Manufacturing forgot his responsibilities, and I believe that Victorians deserve much more in respect of the manufacturing industry. I came across this quote from Edmund Burke.
Sitting suspended 1.00 p.m. until 2.02 p.m.
Ms TIERNEY — Before the luncheon break I was about to provide a quote from Edmund Burke, but upon reflection during the break I have decided to save that quote for the conclusion of my contribution, because it will provide a crystal ball that reflects what is happening here in Victoria with respect to this coalition government.
I also said before the break that I believe the tragedy of the closure of Ford, Holden and Toyota and their exits from this country was entirely preventable. If a government were to hold the view that it was time to wind up the industry, one would have thought that as an act of proper responsibility of government some thought would go into creating alternative long-term secure permanent employment to replace what the government has destroyed as a result of the auto industry closures.
Instead we have seen panic on the part of the Prime Minister and the federal Treasurer and a continuation of the Sergeant Schultz approach on the part of Victorian Premier.
These events beg the question: is this government out of touch with and divorced from the harsh realities of industrial life? I believe that essentially that is the answer: members of this government are completely out of touch. If they were even slightly in touch and even slightly interested in facts in relation to the automotive industry, members of the Abbott government would have known that in terms of productivity gains there have been impressive productivity gains in the auto industry. In fact those gains have almost doubled since 1989, with Holden demonstrating a 37 per cent improvement in the hours it takes to build a car, placing that company at a very high world standard.
Food manufacturing has also been in trouble in recent times, and again the government is blaming the woes of SPC Ardmona on its workers. Despite the fact that SPC management has unequivocally denied any link between wages and conditions of its workforce and the situation the company is facing, the federal government has continued to blame the workers. This has been reinforced by the federal member for Murray, Sharman Stone, who accused Prime Minister Tony Abbott and senior ministers of blackening the character of SPC Ardmona workers with their lies. She also said:
It’s really deeply disappointing to me when I see more and more of these furphies rolled out to try and blacken the character of the workers themselves and the business.
Dr Stone also suggested that government denial of an assistance package to the struggling food manufacturer was more about an attack on unions than concern for the industry. She correctly identified what this is about when she said:
This is a witch-hunt. And sorry, I don’t like witch-hunts, which are … unfair and in this case could lead to us losing an industry.
If Sharman Stone, MP, is correct, that raises interesting questions about how far this government will go with its strategy and how many jobs will be lost as part of this process.
Even worse than doing nothing, the Napthine government — just like its federal counterpart — has resorted to blaming car industry workers for the demise of the local industry. In a number of radio interviews in recent times I have heard the Premier saying that the cost of labour has been a major contributing factor to car plants moving their operations offshore. The fact is that wages, as a proportion of investment, have remained around the 13 per cent mark for an extraordinarily long time. Indeed in the context of productivity car manufacturers are on the record as saying the biggest reforms have already been made and that any further change would be incremental. I believe that for both the coalition Premier of this state and the federal Treasurer, Joe Hockey, to imply that it is the fault of workers is an extraordinary public deception — and nothing short of a deception — that they have been peddling in the media and elsewhere.
I also find it extraordinary that any government would want to attack the most vulnerable by striking out at those families who will be the most affected by the closures. I also believe it is an act of political cowardice and should be seen as such for what it is. For the federal Treasurer to assert that blood donors leave at Toyota is causing that company to rethink its operations — which is what he said in Parliament on the day that Holden announced its closure — is absolutely laughable. It demonstrates the lengths that these governments — federal and state — will go to try to shift blame and avoid and divert any close scrutiny on their part to the demise of a once great industry. They need to take heed of economic realities, not shift blame. They need to provide leadership and to show us where the new jobs are and where they will be created, because without that we will not have any forward thinking.
I believe that it is time — in fact it was time months ago, but certainly it is time now — for this government to stand up and protect jobs and indicate exactly where those jobs will be. This state was the machine that created so many jobs, but essentially the petrol has run out of that machine and it seems to have run out of the government as well.
Today those opposite — whether in this debate, in members statements or in any other contributions — and I think yesterday as well, have been hammering on about unemployment levels in this state, particularly in regional Victoria. The reality is that the most recent Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures demonstrate that we have a record level of unemployment. The last time it was at this level was in February 2002. Those opposite do not mention that when they make their contributions on unemployment levels. We have a situation in Geelong where, as is reported in today’s Age:
Even before factoring in Alcoa, and probable job losses at Shell and elsewhere, Geelong is in trouble.
Unemployment jumped from 6.7 per cent to 7.3 per cent in the year to September 2013.
That does not include the Ford figures, because they have not yet come on-stream. It continues:
In the area known as Corio Inner, it’s 9.9 per cent, compared with 9.4 per cent a year earlier.
In other words, the prognosis is not good.
All I can say is that the decisions to close by the major car companies, and the lack of assistance demonstrated by the federal and state governments, mean that the government is culpable of adding to the systemic, intergenerational disadvantage in a whole range of suburbs in Geelong and the northern suburbs of Melbourne, as well as what will soon be the case in the south-east of Melbourne.
If those opposite do not want to listen to me and do not believe me, and if they do not believe the ABS statistics or anything that is written in the Age or the Herald Sun, I draw their attention to the latest Australian Industry Group (AIG) report, which is based on a national survey of CEOs, which was published this month. It says that only 29 per cent of businesses are anticipating lifting employment
numbers in 2014, while almost one-third, or 32 per cent, plan to reduce employment, with the remaining 39 per cent saying that things have flattened out, and they do not see much change.
Any glimmer of hope held out to the thousands of soon-to-be-redundant manufacturing workers by this government that they will be absorbed into the new economy or indeed into new industries that seem to be a figment of this government’s imagination is false. Those industries are simply a figment of this government’s imagination, because the jobs for these people are not there: the jobs are simply not there. What really concerns me is that there does not seem to be any indication from those opposite that they are working hard to find ways to match up the skills held by those manufacturing workers with other jobs or to retrain people into other industries. They talk about it, but there is very little happening on the ground — very little at all.
In terms of industry and employment generally, the manufacturing industry is doing it tough; the employment sector generally is doing it tough. The AIG report talks about the enormous pressure on companies to change gear and to move into a new structure of economic growth.
This has also been brought on by the fact that the mining industry is starting to slow down and that — surprise, surprise — other sectors in the economy need to get up and running, and manufacturing needs to be there. Of course, we have seen what has happened: the government has itself contributed to pulling the plug in respect of that.
The reality is that this government, along with its federal counterpart, has never really been committed to the car manufacturing industry. These governments have laid the demise of the industry at the feet of the workers. With this as a backdrop how can workers made redundant in the sector — and their families — have confidence that this government will do the right thing when it comes to managing their transition into the wider economy? I pose these questions to government members: do they believe, and are they serious when they say that car workers will take a leap of faith and believe that the government will do the right thing?
Do they think that ordinary voters — voters who were not told by the coalition parties that they were about to decimate the car industry — will have any faith in the promises that have been made to retrain other members of the community into new jobs that the government says will be created through infrastructure? Until the government was hit by the announcement of all of these closures it did not have any projects on the drawing board. I believe it is still standing bewildered with a crayon in its hand that has now calcified through inaction.
The reality is that we have been doing it tough for some time, but the really tough times are about to emerge. The sheer numbers of car workers who will be hitting the jobs market at the same time will be unprecedented. The majority — thousands of them — do not have a trade. Probably 85 per cent of them are non-trade, and they are the people who will have great difficulty in securing good, solid and secure employment.
They simply do not have the skill set that is an automatic fit for the industries and the companies that are now being flagged as opportunities to absorb car workers. Car workers do not see themselves being pushed into a corner at the back of supermarket somewhere. They are simply not going to accept that as proper alternative employment.
Last night on ABC’s 7.30 Report a Geelong employment agency manager was interviewed. He said that his office has been so inundated by people knocking on his door wanting jobs that he has contemplated shutting the front door and stopping the traffic of people because they do not have enough resources to deal with the situation that is being faced in Geelong at the moment.
Having said that, I refer to the comments I made at the beginning. Labor is not about talking down Geelong. What we want is a proper, serious, honest evaluation of where we sit at the moment.
We absolutely support the establishment of the national disability insurance scheme head office in Geelong. We absolutely support all the work that is going on in the innovative industry program. Of course we support Carbon Revolution — that is fantastic. A lot of these initiatives were actually federal Labor initiatives or initiatives of the Labor state government. We also support the LAND 400 project, which is a fantastic project and a great entree into the defence sector. Let us not, however, get hoodwinked. The fact is that this involves 400 people who could be employed if Geelong is successful in getting the project; and we have to be successful in getting it. But the vast majority of those jobs will be trades work; they will not absorb the large number of car workers who do not have a trade. That project will also not come online for several years, which means that the jobs will not be there for the Ford workers at that time either; the timing will be out. Having said that, it is still a fantastic and much-needed project for the Geelong community. Labor very strongly supports it and wants to secure that defence contract.
I think government has a real role to play in terms of industry policy. It is not about picking winners or losers; it is about making sure there is some understanding about outcomes, and it is about creating an environment that fosters investment.
Unfortunately this government is absolutely wedded — has an absolute commitment — to pure market forces, and it is not interested in safety nets. The government just want 1000 flowers to bloom. I think we can do much better than that and government definitely has a role to play. I believe voters, our constituents, want us to play a more determined and interventionist role in providing guidance and leadership — along with industry and employers — to ensure there is a greater sense of where we are going and so we can make a greater contribution to the prosperity and wealth of our communities.
I do not think that our current state and federal coalition governments are up to that task. In pondering this, I came across an interesting quote from Edmund Burke, as I mentioned before. He must have had a crystal ball. He said: ‘All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing’. Clearly he was thinking of the Napthine government, because unfortunately doing nothing has become the trademark of this government.
The cost is going to be absolutely unbearable for the thousands of people who have been caught up in what I consider to be really bad industry policy — really bad public policy. The state of Victoria deserves better, and Geelong absolutely needs better than what is currently being dished out by this government and the federal government in Canberra.