Ms TIERNEY (Western Victoria)– I rise to make a contribution to the debate on the motion moved by Mr Somyurek. Before I go to the specifics of that motion, I just want to touch on a couple of points that Mr Ramsay has made. Firstly, I state the fact that, as was reported in the Geelong Advertiser last Friday, in our region the unemployment rate is 6.8 per cent, up from 5.7 per cent, and the unemployment rate for women is 8.4 per cent. The women who have recently lost their jobs at Target are clearly up against it when it comes to securing future and further employment in the region.
But it is not about talking about doom and gloom only. It is about the realisation that there are facts on the table that require urgent attention from government. The unemployment rates indicate that we have a significant problem in the Geelong region and it needs to be addressed. To be so simplistic as to say that by raising these facts members of the opposition are talking down Geelong does members of the government no good. The reality is that there are some great examples of success, such as Cotton On, but to concentrate on only the great examples and not admit and concentrate on the problems we have is a real imbalance in terms of representing Geelong.
During question time members heard the call from the Minister for Higher Education and Skills, Mr Hall, that we should try to have a bit more of a bipartisan approach, but when opposition members raise what is really happening on the ground in Geelong in terms of issues that affect working families, we are pooh-poohed as if the issues do not exist. Not only that but we are told that we do not support success in the region. That is just ridiculous.
The best thing we can do is support the successes, because they are the role models that we all want to adhere to. They are the very successes that we all want in our communities and in the wider electorate of Western Victoria Region. We have a government that is obviously feeling quite sensitive about the job losses that we have seen.
Last night I went through a long list of job losses that we have suffered, particularly in Geelong, and I am sure that I went through a list during the previous parliamentary sitting week and the one before that. I do that not to talk down Geelong but to try to get at least some recognition from the state government that we have a problem and we need to work on it. At the jobs summit or conference that is to be held on Friday at the Pier Geelong I hope it will be acknowledged that there is a significant issue.
Following Mr Ramsay’s contribution today, my concern about the government’s approach is somewhat renewed, in that he basically admitted that this government has given up on manufacturing. I understand that the Geelong economy is in transition, but for anyone to walk away from manufacturing, whether it be advanced or traditional manufacturing, is truly disgraceful.
Coming back to Mr Somyurek’s motion, he should be congratulated on bringing this item before the house. It is the first time I can recall that we have addressed job shedding and offshoring in the white-collar sector. Unfortunately most of us are well versed in what has happened with offshoring of blue-collar and manufacturing jobs. It has been only in recent times that we have seen large, iconic businesses — often financial institutions or telecommunications organisations — go offshore and shed jobs. Because of the very nature of the work, a lot of it being computer based, that offshoring and shedding of jobs often flies under the radar.
A lot of the work is in offices and not necessarily in large factories, from where we have seen in recent times scenes of workers going to their cars in the car park after having been told that they have been retrenched. As I said, white-collar offshoring and job shedding are very much under the radar.
It was with some significant foresight that organisations came together to produce a report following research on this very issue. It is important that we all read the results of that research which is in the report mentioned in Mr Somyurek’s motion. It sets off very loud alarm bells about where we are going with white-collar jobs. I, like other people, am very interested to discover how we can give them some hope for their future and give some solid grounding to people who have lost their jobs, whether they are blue-collar or white-collar workers. The report predicts that each year another 20 000 jobs will be moved offshore and that in total some 700 000 jobs will be moved offshore. It is a lot of jobs in anyone’s language.
Today members of the opposition are saying that we would like people to read the report and we would like government members to acknowledge not just that we are seeing job losses in the manufacturing and blue-collar areas but that there are huge job losses in the highly skilled white-collar professional sectors. That means that people generally are becoming quite concerned about where their next job will be, not to mention where their children’s jobs will be.
Members of the opposition are also saying that government has a role to play when it comes to trying to encourage companies to retain their workers and to not offshore their jobs. Opposition members want the government to be a lot more interventionist and proactive. I understand that last week, when the document about the ANZ job losses was leaked, Treasurer O’Brien said, ‘We can’t direct companies on what to do. We can’t tell companies what to do’. Members of the Labor opposition are not calling for that at all.
Of course the government cannot tell companies what to do when the situation involves redundancies, but there must be a set of guidelines established. An environment must be created by government that provides greater job security for Victorian workers. That is absent at the moment. It seems that the only rule is one of letting market forces rule. There is not an equal commitment to providing security for people who want jobs in this state. I was quite astonished by the Treasurer’s remark. I would have thought that a lot more thought should be given to and a lot more cohesive argument put on the state government’s position on large organisations that choose to offshore jobs.
The ANZ is a financial institution that has had record profits, and yet still it has chosen — like a number of other major financial institutions — to shed jobs here in Australia and offshore them somewhere else in the world. I do not consider that to be fair. If we are allowing people to get away with blue murder on the basis of just sheer greed, when their actions mean that there is no food on the tables of people here in Victoria, then we have a huge problem.
I refer to another thing that government members point to. Even when Labor opposition members outline the facts of the unemployment levels in various categories, government members say that so many thousand new jobs have been created.
The other week the Treasurer said that 11 400 jobs had been created in the state last month. What the Treasurer did not do, however, was break that down in terms of where those jobs are. Are they in industry? What industries are they in? He also did not go to that place which is called full-time employment, because the overwhelming majority of those jobs are anything but full time. At best they might be part time and casual. That is where a lot of that employment is, and a lot of it is labour hire. I know that those people in my electorate who have been in manufacturing and other companies for a long time, who have taken packages or have left for a variety of reasons and who have found themselves in labour hire companies are now very lucky to get one shift a week or one shift a fortnight. It is absolutely impossible for such people to organise their budgets. It means they have a very tenuous financial situation in terms of paying their rent, and it means they have almost given up on ever being able to secure a full-time job which would enable them to buy a house.
That clearly is not on the horizon for a lot of people. The situation in terms of job losses is probably the worst I can recall. That is why, whilst those opposite might complain about me getting up and talking about unemployment, job losses and the need for job creation — the creation of solid and secure and permanent work — I will continue to talk about this every day I get the opportunity to do so. I do not want people to be left behind, and people are being left behind as we speak, and it is only going to get worse.
I was quite frankly affronted in this chamber when last night David Davis would have had us believe that everything was okay in Geelong. Yes, we have community leaders talking up Geelong and boosting morale. That is our job; we should be doing that. What we want, however, is for this state government to do its job. State government members using the comments of certain civic leaders does not let those members off the hook and let them do nothing with respect to this issue.
I am getting really tired of all the work being done by Geelong community organisations — and there are a number which work 24/7 to ensure the Geelong community has energy and is robust and has a good solid local economy for people to work with and look forward to seeing develop further — being hijacked by this state government which then labels that work as its own work or initiatives when that simply is not true. The state government is doing itself no good by this, because the people in Geelong know who is doing the work, and it is certainly not the state government.
The community of Geelong wants this government to start working in the area in a very strong and constructive way. The government is not doing nearly enough in terms of rolling up its sleeves and putting in the hard work. We do not see the leadership, and we do not see a vision from this government in relation to what is required in Geelong and other parts of western Victoria.
This should not surprise me, I suppose, because only two weeks ago during debate on a similar general business motion a number of government speakers made contributions essentially saying that their primary purpose is to ensure they stay in government. Essentially their main focus is their own jobs, not the jobs of ordinary Victorians. In the meantime, while they remain unfocused about jobs and a jobs plan, we have more and more companies indicating they are going to shed jobs. These are blue-collar jobs, manufacturing jobs, white-collar jobs, retail jobs and maintenance jobs, and of course today the spotlight has been on service sector jobs, which are not just going out of the local economy but are being offshored to other countries.
I am not happy about having to speak on these sorts of issues, but the fact — —
Mr Koch — You relish it.
Ms TIERNEY– I will take up that interjection because I think it typifies the position of this government. Anyone who believes I relish talking about job losses has rocks in their head. If you do not have companies, whether they be small businesses, small and medium size businesses or large companies in robust industries, you do not have jobs, and if you do not have jobs, you do not have families with food on the table and who can clothe themselves and have adequate educational opportunities.
Mr Koch interjected.
Ms TIERNEY — Clearly what I am saying is striking a nerve with government members — because they have not done anything yet. They have been in government for nearly three years, and all they have done is come in here and launch a barrage of personal attacks when they have started to feel uneasy. If they were serious about job creation, if they were serious about a jobs plan and if they were serious about an economic strategy for this state, we would have seen it by now. They have had nearly three years to do this. They have not done it and, quite seriously, I would put to the house that they are incapable of doing it. They should actually put their heads down and work with the community — not steal the work of the community but genuinely work with the community to make sure that we have jobs for our future.