Joanne Ryan MP
Federal Member for Lalor
Joanne Ryan MP

Statement on Manufacturing Job Losses

Just like Labor members speaking before me today, I have an electorate that depends upon manufacturing. More Wyndham residents work in manufacturing than in any other industry: 10.6 per cent of local people work as machine operators and drivers, which is almost double the national average and represents more than 10,000 workers. 15 per cent work in related industries as tradespeople and technicians, constituting another 15,000 local residents. So Monday's announcement regarding Toyota was a heavy blow for my community, not just for those working directly for Toyota but for those in components industries and those working for related small businesses. What the government do not seem to understand is that the economy is akin to an ecosystem and when you rip huge holes in it the shockwaves spread.

This will spread across our community: to the contracted technicians and cleaners who depend upon work from Toyota; to those who work in the laundries that service the Toyota plant; even to those who work in the local cafe where Toyota employees stop for their morning coffee. The list goes on and on and extends deep into the families and communities of my electorate and into Melbourne's west as a whole. This will hurt husbands, wives, partners and children, neighbours and friends. Many will already be facing financial stress, struggling to meet mortgage or rent payments and pay for groceries. This is yet another burden to bear.

 I know that this is a sentiment being felt around the country, by Holden workers in Elizabeth, by those with Rio Tinto in Nhulunbuy, by SPC employees in Shepparton. The Australian manufacturing industry is hurting and Australian workers are hurting. Yet we have a government that simply does not seem to care, a government so irresponsible they fail to intervene time and time again, even when it will cost hundreds of thousands their livelihood. This back-to-the-future government will take us back to a country that only exports raw materials, like we did last century. This government that cares so little for Australian workers is willing to break promise after promise. I draw your attention to the statement the Prime Minister made on 28 November 2012:

… I am committing a future coalition government to creating one million new jobs within five years and two million new jobs over the next decade.
But then, yesterday or the day before, Mr Abbott said in this very chamber, 'Governments do not create jobs,' and he has no plan for manufacturing jobs. So which is it, Prime Minister? Is this your solemn promise?

If you think it could not get any worse, Mr Deputy Speaker, you would be wrong. Not only have they broken yet another solemn promise to workers; they are now blaming them and demonising them when they lose their jobs. It is easy to swan around parliament in the air conditioning and plush surrounds while at the same time complaining that manufacturing workers have it too easy. Their attitude seems to be: 'They earn too much. They ask too much.' Really? Is a worker who wants fair wages and conditions asking too much?

Would the Prime Minister be willing to look Toyota workers, Holden workers and SPC workers in the eye this week and tell them they earn too much? Of course he would not, because bullies are really cowards. Instead of bullying Australian workers, maybe the Abbott government should examine its conscience. What kind of government attacks people who have just lost their jobs and spreads misinformation about the conditions of workers so as to mitigate their own responsibility? The answer is just across the chamber.

The Prime Minister must ask himself these questions and more. Who is he really governing for? If it is not for hardworking Australians, if it is not small businesses and if it is not for Australian industries, then who? A government that believes in a fair, just and more prosperous Australia with opportunity for all would not be doing this. It just would not. We see the starkest contrast between the Liberal and Labor parties. We support workers; they do not. We support the manufacturing industry; they do not. We believe in Australian jobs, and it is clear that they do not. I call on the Abbott government to step up. To support these workers. To just plain care. I call on the government to commit to securing jobs and training for those affected by their irresponsible and callous decision making, because these workers need opportunities, not to join the unemployment queue.

 


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