PMB – International Labour Organization: 100th Anniversary

Sunday, 20 October 2019

Mr PITT: I’ll congratulate the International Labour Organization on its 100th anniversary, because what all of us know in this place is that to achieve 100 years in terms of longevity is incredibly difficult, whether it’s you as a human, whether it’s a business or an organisation, or whether it’s something like the International Labour Organization, and congratulations should be given where it is due.

The ILO’s decent work agenda helps to advance the economic and working conditions that give all workers, employers and governments a stake in lasting peace, prosperity and progress. But there is an incredible difference between the ILO and the current Australian Labor Party, I have to say. Quite simply, the Australian Labor Party has abandoned workers in this country. They do not represent working people anymore, and I’ll expand on that as in the next few minutes.

Where do they come from? According to the ABS Characteristics of Employment in August of 2018, of the 10½ million employees, who were surveyed in August 2018, 15 per cent reported being a member of a trade union associated with their main job—so roughly 1½ million members. Where have they come from? In 1976, there were 2½ million members. I think if we want to compare and contrast the 1976 ALP with the current one, we need to look at the change in population. In 1976, there were just 14 million Australians. There are now 25 million. That is an incredible change, over four decades, as to who was actually representing working people. Why is it so? Quite simply, the decisions made by Labor governments, whether they be state or federal, have not been in the interests of people who are out there working hard for a living, who are putting on their steel cap boots and their high-vis shirts and their working helmets and construction gear and going out there and earning a living. These are individuals who are proud of what they do; they’re proud of their job and they’re proud of their industry, and they have every right to be so.

For some examples we only need to look at the true Premier of Queensland, Jackie Trad, who said to the entire resources industry, ‘You need to transition out of your industry into another job.’ This was to an industry that provides over $200 billion of GDP for Australia and over 200,000 jobs. And in some places generations of one family have worked in that industry—three, four or five generations, all the way back to when the first coal was actually shipped from here to India in the 1800s! It might have been earlier than that, but it was substantially a long time ago.

So the Australian Labor Party no longer represents working people at all. If we look at the sugar industry: what they’ve done now in Queensland is extend what they called the reef regulations into my region. These are the reef regulations which have been in place in Far North Queensland, in areas where there is run-off that goes out towards the Great Barrier Reef. But what we know, and what’s been put up by scientists, is that my area of the catchment simply doesn’t go into the reef. So they have put another layer of legislation and bureaucracy over those hardworking individuals who are on farms, whether they are members of unions or not, for a regulation which makes absolutely no difference to the outcome for the Great Barrier Reef.

If we look at vegetation laws, it’s exactly the same. There is no greater renewable industry than the timber industry. It is the useful product which grows over a period of time and which can be replaced. It’s been a very important industry right across Australia for a substantial amount of time and yet we have Labor governments continuing to put those people out of work.

So once again we can look at what Australia Labor says compared to what it does. It is not about working people. That’s because it wants to take away their jobs and their right to earn; the ability for them to pay for themselves and their families to educate their kids, to put food on the table and to pay for their own housing. I just think it’s abhorrent where the Labor Party has ended up over this period of time. Unfortunately, it now represents some kind of inner-city trend which is the slogan of the day. This morning we saw the announcement of a climate emergency. It was so important to the Australian Labor Party that there were six of them in the chamber—just six! That is sloganeering at its absolute worst.

We can look at what happened in Queensland with the Paradise Dam. What a debacle! The Australian Labor Party and the Queensland Labor government have tried to spin their way out of this. The first thing was that it was free water for drought-stricken farmers. The next one was that it was an inquiry into emergency management procedures for downriver communities. The latest one is, ‘We’ve filled the weir at the Gregory River,’ which supplies the townships of Woodgate and Childers. Now of course we have an unspecified safety issue. The reality is that the loss of that water is the loss of wealth in my community; it is the loss of future jobs. It is something that the Australian Labor Party should be standing up for and delivering opportunities for those individuals, whether they live in the cities or in the regions. Unfortunately, they have absolutely lost their way.

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