House debates

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Matters of Public Importance

Economy

4:10 pm

Photo of Anika WellsAnika Wells (Lilley, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

It is my pleasure to rise today and speak on this matter, because it's something that constituents are raising with me every single day in my electorate of Lilley. As the current member for Lilley, I invite you all to speak about my efforts at any time.

When I was in the private sector, working as a workers' compensation lawyer, I assisted clients who had been injured at work through no fault of their own. This re-enforced something to me that I already knew to be true—that is, not everybody who has a go gets a go. Life is not that simple or reliably benevolent. And that reality is at play every single day in our local communities—communities who rely upon us to advocate for them and to raise their issues in the parliament. So that is what I'd like to do today.

Specifically, I'd like to talk about the loss of jobs in my community on the north side of Brisbane. In the past few weeks alone, we have lost more than 840 jobs. There are nearly 100 jobs being lost from Lockheed Martin, who are shutting operations altogether in Pinkenba, where they make commercial helicopters. And you would have seen in the press that Virgin Australia is axing 750 jobs from their head office, which is also located on the north side of Brisbane. Eight hundred and forty jobs lost in a couple of weeks is a very big deal to one community, and yet what we have from this government is an elaborate Kabuki theatre, full of subsections and 'a to d' about how well they are doing. They are not doing well. This is what's happening on the ground.

What locals asked me to bring up with the parliament this week are their concerns about where the economy is going and why there is no plan. They're not talking about the quarterly figures being a shade better than was expected or a shade lower than what was forecast in the budget. They're not talking about how, apparently, the quarterly figures in September are expected to get a little better again so we should all hold hard until then. September quarterly figures being debated in Canberra matter very little to you if you have just lost your job or if you are worried about losing your job in the near future, because job security and insecure work are very big issues.

To this end, last week I bought the Labor leader, Anthony Albanese, to Lilley to meet with workers who had had their wages stolen. We met with Sulu and Kulinder, who spoke to us about how much they'd had stolen from them by their employers—$14,000 and I think something like $32,000—in just a year or two. And they had no idea until the union assisted them to work that out and then reclaim those wages. Stolen wages—

Mr Falinski interjecting

Yes, unions are actually very helpful if you let them do their jobs; if you let them do their work and don't go after them with union-busting legislation. But I will come to that, don't you worry.

So instead of talking about stolen wages—an issue of great concern to my community of Lilley, which had the highest reported number of stolen wage cases in the country in the last parliamentary term—or moving legislation that would assist workers with job losses, or stagnating wages or stolen wages, instead of doing things like criminalising those matters, we have this government talking about what a great job they are doing and esoteric things like quarterly figures that make them look good on Sky. That's what they're talking about instead.

We don't see this third-term government giving us a plan for jobs or wage stagnation. We don't see any legislation for that; instead, we see legislation for union busting—going after the very people who stand on the frontline, helping workers reclaim wages and protecting their rights at work every single day. I just mentioned Sulu and Kulinder, who had wages recovered with the assistance of their union. Going after unions who are on the frontline, protecting workers in an economy like this where we are losing jobs and wages are stagnating, is like seeing a house on fire and deciding to go in and take apart the smoke alarm. These are the consequences of the decisions of this government.

I also want to mention briefly the problem that young people are having in this economy and the failure to plan for their futures. People have lost jobs. People have lost benefits. People have lost much of the safety net that used to make those losses less frightening, and they see a future for their kids that looks even more foreboding than their precarious present. Millennials are now earning 20 per cent less than their parents did at the same age when you adjust for inflation. The wealth of households under the age of 35 has barely moved since 2004. Youth unemployment is around double the national average, and in my home state of Queensland it is as high as 25 per cent in the regions. Wage stagnation is grinding our economy into the dust, and this government's plan is to make us all look over there at their shiny new drug test for Newstart recipients instead. They should hang their heads in shame and bunker down on a plan.

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