House debates

Monday, 21 October 2019


Customs Amendment (Growing Australian Export Opportunities Across the Asia-Pacific) Bill 2019, Customs Tariff Amendment (Growing Australian Export Opportunities Across the Asia-Pacific) Bill 2019; Consideration in Detail

6:03 pm

Photo of Bob KatterBob Katter (Kennedy, Katter's Australian Party) Share this | Hansard source

I very strongly back the member for Melbourne. I regret to say this because some of these farmers are my friends, but I've been into the accommodation. There are three beds on that side, one on top of the other, and there are three beds on that side, and I could not put both my elbows up. There was no space between the beds; just enough space to walk. Their clothing was stacked on sticks. They'd broken off branches of trees or they had some broom handles or something, and they just had their clothes on them. There was nowhere for them to hang their clothes. It was about a 25-metre walk to the toilets. They're probably paying $100, I thought. The bloke who was showing me around said, 'It's $150 a week they're paying in rent.' That's $150 a week to share a little room that's 10 feet wide and with six beds in it. Are they paying the industrial award rate? Yes, they are, but there's a little round robin taking place here—that is, they've got to pay the labour hire company back for getting them the job in Australia. Then the labour hire company pays the employer because the employer's getting a beaut deal. So there are lovely little round robins taking place everywhere, and they're quite legal. There's nothing illegal about them. When Keating said he was going to free up the market, I threw a boot at the wall because I thought: 'Is this bloke completely mad? Are we going to go down to Asian slave labour wage levels or are we going to close every industry in Australia?' There are only two possibilities. Our industries can't possibly survive competing against people that pay their workers—the last time I looked, and this is a few years ago, in the United States, farm labour cost was $5 an hour, mostly to Mexicans, wetback labour, in agriculture, and over here it was $15 an hour. How can we possibly compete against this? We can't. There's no doubt that our wages are tumbling in Australia.

Mining is probably the biggest employer in this country; the honourable member here for Western Australia would back me up on that. In mining, an experienced miner earned $200,000 some seven, eight, nine years ago. He's now lucky if he's on $100,000, and he has no permanent job. There's contractual work that might last one or two years, and he's living away from home. This is all as a result of your free trade, and it will just go down and down until we have the same labour conditions that they enjoy in Third World countries. The men that fought to bring these laws in—as I mentioned before, every time I walk out past, I salute Charlie McDonald, the first member for Kennedy because he was fighting the same battles that the member for Kennedy is fighting 110 years later. Winston Churchill said that those who cannot learn from history will be forced to re-suffer it. That is what is happening here. Our wage structures are collapsing through the floor.

The member for Melbourne is absolutely 100 per cent right. I've seen the accommodation with my own eyes. I've been told—admittedly, I haven't got any documentary proof. That would be very hard to get. I'm not holding it against the employers. What are they supposed to do? It's a free market now, so they're competing against slave labour produced products from overseas. What should they do—close their doors? You can't blame them for going down this pathway. And that is why some of us consistently and continuously oppose what has been disastrous for this country.

I repeat: we have no motor vehicle industry. We have very little textile, footwear and clothing industry left. We've even managed to export a quarter of our electricity industry. Instead of having coal-fired power stations in Australia, we now have solar panel factories in China. We figured out how to do that. We were 90 per cent self-sufficient in petrol before this free trade agreement rubbish started off. Now we're three per cent self-sufficient in petrol. The last whitegoods factory closed in Orange, New South Wales, three years ago, so we've got no whitegoods. What exactly do we produce? We're down to two quarries. That's all. We're not a mining country. I'm a mining man. I've lived all of my life in and out of mining, and mining is when you dig it out and sell the metal. We dig it out of the ground— (Time expired)


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