Senate debates

Tuesday, 25 June 2013


Australian Jobs Bill 2013; Second Reading

4:46 pm

Photo of Ron BoswellRon Boswell (Queensland, National Party) Share this | Hansard source

I have looked at the Australian Jobs Bill 2013 and I have looked at the Labor Party over the last 30 years, and I have seen some beauties. This has to be the most bizarre bill that I have ever come across in my history in politics. How could anyone support this bill? It is almost like the Red Army, where you have the army officer and the political commissar. We are going to embed into successful businesses people with no business experience and hope that they can get out and provide jobs.

I have listened to the debate on this bill as I have listened to many, many debates. I have come to the conclusion that Labor are either con men or con women or they just do not know what they are doing. That has bothered me for the last 12 months, and I have come to the conclusion that they just do not know what they are doing. As someone who spent 20 years in business before I came to this place, I do understand business. I understand the costs and I understand that, if you are a businessman, you try your hardest to buy Australian products because you are aware of the jobs created and the benefits in providing those jobs.

I do not believe that anyone who is in the business of manufacturing would deliberately go out and buy an overseas product if he could get the same product of the same quality and at the same lines of delivery in Australia. I definitely do not believe he would buy an imported product. Why would he? Why would he buy an imported product when he could get the same thing on the local market? It would save him time, energy and money in shipping documents and so forth.

I cannot understand this bizarre bill before the parliament. You have a successful business out there that is trading, trying to get ahead and trying to provide wealth. The government, which knows everything, which is all knowledge, comes along and says: 'You don't know what you're doing. We're the government. We're here to help. We'll tell you how to run your business.' Well, obviously the managing director says: 'Well, that's interesting, but what experience have you had in business? What experience have you had in this type of business—manufacturing?' 'Well, I did senior year and I became a public servant.' And the managing director asks, 'What benefit is that going to provide?' It is absolutely farcical. I have seen some beauties such as closing three million square kilometres to fishing and locking out amateur and professional fisherman. But the beauty was the $10 billion bank that the Greens demanded. Whatever the Greens demand they get.

I have seen businesses going down the chute. We have seen Australian industry evaporate before our very eyes. Yes, there are jobs created in areas such as health and with people working in old people's homes, and they are doing a great job, but I have seen industry collapse before my eyes. Industry that has taken 100 years to build up has been going down the chute over the last 18 months before your very eyes. Let me cite a few of them: BlueScope Steel in Victoria—170 jobs gone; Boral—790 jobs gone; Penrice Soda in South Australia—60 jobs gone; Pentair, a company in Western Sydney that has made steel pipes for 60 years—160 jobs gone; Amcor—300 jobs; Caltex Kurnell Refinery—330 jobs; Norsk Hydro Aluminium Smelter—350 jobs.

As well, Kelley Foods are going overseas; Kresta Blinds are going overseas; Cousins Soaps are going overseas; Aerogard is going overseas with 190 jobs; and Harley-Davidson is going overseas. Golden Circle, which is a cooperative—and my father-in-law was one of the directors who started it with blood, sweat and tears—is closing down and going overseas to New Zealand. Rosella, an iconic Australian, has been in business for 120 years and has gone. The second last cannery at Windsor Farm at Cowra has gone. SPC are saying, 'If we don't get some help, we're not going to survive for three months.'

What is the answer? Yes, the dollar is a problem, and I would be the first to concede that. When you get into these troubled times, you cut your expenses and you do not add a carbon tax that gives your competitors an advantage.

The US at the moment is paying industrial electricity costs at just over $60; in New Zealand it is just about the same; in Norway it is a little bit more expensive at about $70; and in Canada it is about $65. What does it cost in Australia? It costs $160 per megawatt hour, and we expect Australia to survive. Australian industry was put here because we had low-cost energy and an abundance of power, an abundance of cheap energy. So what did we do? The Labor Party said: 'You can't have a natural advantage. That's terribly unfair. Let's penalise our natural advantage and put a carbon tax on it.' New Zealand is now paying a carbon tax of $1.36; Australia is paying $21.27; China is paying $4.47; and the United States is paying $3.62. And then it doubles it up with renewable energy. No wonder we are going out the door backwards.

The jobs you are creating are childcare workers and healthcare workers, but they are not in manufacturing. Manufacturing has lost 140,000 jobs in net terms; 307,000 were lost in food processing and 352 businesses went offshore in food processing and manufacturing. Where are the blue-collar workers that you are supposed to represent and help get a job? In a nursing home, looking after old people? What are you doing? Why are you deserting your base—no wonder you have 29 per cent of the vote; I reckon it will bottom out at around 26 per cent—and coming in here and saying that a carbon tax is a great benefit? Who do you think you are fooling? You must underestimate the intelligence of the workers who are forced to pay their $300 union fees. I feel sorry for the people who are paying $300 and being ratted on by people like you over there. You know that you cannot provide jobs for those people. Where are they supposed to work? Why don't you care about them? Why do you take their money and desert them? Why do you take their money and walk away from them? You have no credibility. I will tell you why you do it: because you do not have the guts to stand up against the Greens. They lead you around by the nose and people are sick of it. Your blue-collar workers are sick of it. They know what you are doing to them. They absolutely understand how you have deserted them.

Today in TheAustralian it says 'Holden bosses must share the pain'. That is provided by Dave Smith, head of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union. Mr Devereux, who is Managing Director of Holden, says we have all got to share the pain. We even have to look at how many light bulbs we use. Everyone has to share the pain. Paul Howes from the AWU said the very famous statement: 'If one job is lost in manufacturing, we will pull the AWU out.' Hundreds and thousands of AWU members' jobs have been lost, and what has Paul Howe said? Not a thing, except that he is there to protect the Prime Minister.

I have seen some bizarre legislation and I can never understand it, but, what is more, I cannot understand how you, the Labor Party, can be led around by the nose by nine ultra-left people who believe in boycotting Jewish industry, creating wind farms and so forth. How can you fall for it? Can't any of you read the polls? Can't you understand what 29 per cent means? It means oblivion. It means you are knocked out. I know we have to have an opposition. Every government has to have an opposition. But you are not an opposition. You have become a sick joke because you will not stand up for the people who put you there. You will not stand up for the blue-collar workers. Why is it that on one hand you are saying, 'We've got to help the car industry; we can't walk away from the car industry,' but you penalise the car industry with $400 carbon tax? This is from PricewaterhouseCoopers. I have heard Mr Combet or Mr Albanese say that it is only $50. PricewaterhouseCoopers says it is $412. It is $84 million per year that is being inflicted on the car industry, and then you say we have to subsidise it. You penalise it on one hand and subsidise it on the other hand. No wonder we are being done like a dog's dinner.

Senator Back made an observation that it is cheap energy. There is America's recovery, because they have shale gas and shale oil. They are bringing back their industry to America. There is an extra $15 trillion in increased manufacturing production and there will be 3.7 million manufacturing jobs by 2025. General Electric is spending $800 million bringing back its production from China and putting it in Kentucky. Apple is spending $100 million on US manufacturing of Mac computers. BASF, the German chemical company, are spending $5.7 billion to open a factory in America because they are sick of the carbon tax and they are sick of renewable energy. People are talking with their feet and marching with their feet and putting industry back in America. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we are just killing industry, killing jobs, killing blue-collar workers and putting poorer jobs into the health industry. I cannot understand how you cannot see it.

Fancy trying to embed in a successful business a person who has no knowledge of the industry and no commitment to it! He is a public servant and he has to make the plans. He has to sit down and talk to the board and observe the plans. It is just another one of those crazy bills that you have inflicted on us, in the last three days of parliament, that we will have to manoeuvre around somehow. If you cannot do this, let us just hope we can win the Senate. With the DLP senator, we might be able to get some sort of consistency to protect blue-collar workers and protect business.

There is not an industry in Australia that thinks this is a good idea. But the unions think it is a good idea. And when the unions think it is a good idea and the Greens think it is a good idea, you put your hand up and say, 'We've done you over on the carbon tax and you lost a lot of jobs, but we'll do this for you: we'll make sure that you get embedded in successful manufacturing businesses a spokesman who'll stand up for you.' It is almost as silly as the 457 visas.

The food-processing industry and abattoirs run with about 25 per cent 457 visas. If 457 visas were not there, you would not have a cattle industry; you could not have an abattoir. I have been into abattoirs and they say they have spent thousands and thousands of dollars advertising for people and they cannot get them. No-one wants to work in the abattoirs, so they have to employ 457 visa holders. But the Labor Party says, 'We're protecting your jobs. We're going to bear down on these 457 visas.' You will not protect their jobs. If you make it too hard, you will close the meat-processing industry and a lot of other businesses that depend on 457 visas.

When I came into this place, the Labor Party had some people who had experience in business. There were doctors, lawyers and even a wharfie from Tasmania—someone who had actually picked up a tool and was from a working-class background. There were many different occupations. But what we have now is union hacks, union people. A lot of them are nice people, but they do not have any experience in business. There is not one of them who has ever had to meet a payroll or an electricity account or had to mortgage their own home to pay the payroll tax or to pay the payroll this week or this month. They do not know how gut-wrenching it is when you run a small business and the bank manager calls you in and says, 'You're up to your limit, mate. We're not going to let you go over.' Those are the experiences you have to have in small business. You know that, if you are making one per cent or five per cent on turnover, you are travelling okay. But all this government has done is run interference with business.

Last week I went into a club—a club which, when I was a manufacturer's agent, you almost had to book a table to get into. When I went into that club, there were 10 empty tables. I thought, 'Where is everyone?' There were a couple of old retired people but there was no business. There are no businesses like Ron Boswell's anymore that employ 10 or 15 people. They are gone. There are Woolworths, Coles and the big mining companies but there are no little entrepreneurs that buy products in and go out and sell them. They have gone. You have killed them. You have killed the business that goes with it and you have killed the employment that goes with that. I used to employ nine people. They all started out as absolute red-hot Labor people, but after two years they were on the polling booth for us because they understood what we went through. You have no contact with them. For goodness sake, go out and find a couple of candidates. If you cannot find them, I know a couple of people who vote Labor who would love to come down here and represent you. But you do not do it. You stick to a closed circle of union after union. You are inbred and you do not have anything to offer the Australian people. That is why you are stumbling around at 29 per cent—and you will bottom out lower than that. People have had a gutful of what you do to them. They have had a gutful of paying $300 a year and you turning your back on them.


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