Thursday, 17 July 2014
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Employment, Senator Abetz. In the past fortnight, it has been announced that two mines have closed on the west coast of Tasmania. Two hundred jobs were gone overnight with 150 jobs to go next year. Why is it that the junior Assistant Minister for Employment, earlier this month, announced a $500,000 jobs initiative for Geelong and reinstated its local employment coordinator, but the senior Tasmanian Minister for Employment cannot do the same for the north-west coast and the west coast of Tasmania?
Opposition senators interjecting—
on the back of the loss of 200 jobs on the West Coast of Tasmania. If the honourable senator was genuinely concerned about the mining industry and jobs in the mining industry, she would have ensured the demise of the carbon tax a lot earlier than today.
Mr President, as you well know, coming from that region yourself, the state government quite rightly has developed a task force to look into the best possible way to deal with the situation on the West Coast. We can undertake the Labor method. The Labor method is: see a problem, throw a bucket of money over it and walk away without any responsibility, and simply say—
Senator Ian Macdonald interjecting—
You are right, Senator Macdonald: borrow the money to throw over the problem, and then walk away and somehow say, 'We've lived up to our moral obligation.'
We as a government will take a very considered approach as to how best to help the West Coast community of our home state. In relation to the workers: as I understand, a lot of them, in fact, live in Burnie and the north-west coast, driving in and out. There are also many workers that live in Queenstown, but they do have—
Mr President, I rise on a point of order. I thought that, with that time, the minister might have got to my question, but he didn't. So my point of order is on direct relevance. The question was specifically about the extra money and the LEC—the local employment coordinator—position. The senator asked particularly whether that particular process could be put in place, and the minister has not referred to that.
The situation on the West Coast was clearly referred to, with the loss of the 200 jobs, and I was addressing—
Senator Wong interjecting—
how we, as a coordinated force between the government in Hobart and the government in Canberra were going to address the situation.
Senator Wong interjecting—
Senator Wong continues with her relentless interjections, yet had the audacity this morning to seek to raise a point of order against one of my colleagues. The duplicity of this— (Time expired)
Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I refer to the government's inadequate response to these job losses. In the minister's joint press release with the Liberal member for Braddon, Mr Brett Whiteley, they simply recommend that workers contact Centrelink. Given that the workers at Mount Lyell have been off work on half-pay for around six months, is 'contact Centrelink' the best that the employment minister and Mr Whiteley can do?
Can I say to the honourable senator: it is very bad form to quote your own media release that had that falsehood in it, claiming that the excellent member for Braddon had only suggested that people should be contacting Centrelink. The member for Braddon did a lot more, is doing a lot more, and has put to shame the pathetic efforts of the Labor Party who think that by issuing a media release they can just somehow overcome the situation—a media release which, might I add, suggested throwing, I think, $20 million at the situation, with projects that had not been through due diligence, projects that had not been considered as to their value for money—and, indeed, wanted to steal money from Peter to pay Paul that would have cost other Tasmanian jobs. The height of— (Time expired)
Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. The Liberal member for Braddon has also said that the Premier should raise West Coast employment at the Prime Minister's joint Commonwealth and Tasmanian council. Minister, what immediate support will the Prime Minister's council deliver to these West Coast workers?
Mr President, the council is about to meet later this month, and I am not going to pre-empt what the council might determine, because we actually want this council not to be the sort of ventriloquist doll of the government, like the Labor Party used to set up their task forces. We actually want this task force to talk to us, to tell us what the best way forward is for the Tasmanian economy. I can understand that Senator Urquhart believes that that is the way you do business. The people of Australia, and, in particular, Tasmania, voted for a change of government because they wanted a different style of government: a government that listened to the people, to get rid of the carbon tax, to get rid of the mining tax, to destroy that ridiculous forestry agreement—all those things that you, Senator Urquhart, championed, and the people of Tasmania rejected by electing Brett Whitely to the seat of Braddon. (Time expired)