Senate debates

Tuesday, 25 June 2013


Australian Jobs Bill 2013; Second Reading

5:06 pm

Photo of John MadiganJohn Madigan (Victoria, Democratic Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I acknowledge the contributions of Senators Colbeck, Xenophon, Back and Boswell. Basically, I agree with the intent of the Australian Jobs Bill 2013. I think the government has good intentions but the outcome may be that there is going to be some disparity between the rhetoric and the reality. We should be talking today about the definition of major projects—the threshold, the amount. I see here that a project will only be considered if it exceeds $500 million. In my opinion, that is ridiculous. People who are running a project only have to divide it up. I do not see anything in the legislation to tell us why a project that is worth $500 million cannot be divided up into 10 lots of 50 and escape any scrutiny.

I see here that you are going to insert people—bureaucrats, public servants—into businesses to police the thing, but really we are all in this together. This adversarial position that we have heard today is not going to save any jobs and is not going to help our industries and our manufacturers. As I said, I think some pretty clever operators will just divide up their projects worth $500 million.

In government circles, when projects are discussed, I often hear the notion of 'best value for money'. We have not spoken here today about the real jobs, the real skills, the real people and the real prosperity that is generated by our manufacturers, our farmers and our food processors, amongst others. I think this bill could have gone some way to addressing the fact that when people have jobs—a sense of self-worth and gainful employment—we have less demand on Centrelink, less alcohol and drug abuse, less domestic violence, less vandalism, fewer mental health problems et cetera.

We have to look at how we sell this to people and how we build bridges between the union movement, industry and government. How do we get a bigger cake to pay for the aspirations of all the people? I suggest—I have put it in my amendment—that we lower this to $20 million, which is far more realistic. There are a hell of a lot more projects across rural, regional and urban Australia that come in at around that figure than at the figure of $500 million. Even a project of $20 million has huge flow-on, knock-on, domino effects for small- and medium-sized businesses in the community, let alone the larger businesses. We need to be thinking about Australian intellectual property as well, because that is integral to Australian jobs. We also need to be looking at Australian patent protection.

We need to talk about the state of our oil refineries and the fact that, amongst others, Shell has the refinery at Geelong on the market. As some of us know, LPG is a by-product of the refinery business and there are a hell of a lot of cars in Australia—in both a domestic context and a business context—that use gas. If we think that the rest of the world is going to give us cheap oil, petrol and gas when we have no ability to produce our own, we are, quite frankly, kidding ourselves.

Australian manufacturing delivers socially, economically and environmentally. Our salaries and our perks of office are provided by businesses who pay tax in this country and by the people who pay their PAYG tax in this country. They are not paid for by companies operating overseas. We legislate for Australian businesses—manufacturers, food processors et cetera—and they are the people who pay our salaries. We owe them the greatest duty of care.

We also need to talk about our domestic gas reserves for industry and for households, which was mentioned earlier in one of the contributions, and the natural advantage they have given us. As I said, in essence I agree with the sentiment of the bill but I fear that the bill has some glaring inadequacies. I plead with the government not to butcher a bill which, in essence, could and should help our industry and Australian working people.

I plead with the opposition to make some positive contributions about how this bill may be improved to deliver for all the players this bill will affect.


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