PARLIAMENT HOUSE, Canberra: In the time that I have available this evening, I would like to make some remarks in relation to three important local issues in my electorate. The first of those relates to manufacturing. As everyone across Australia knows, Ford will stop producing cars in 2016 and this once mighty car company, which has been in operation in Australia since 1925, will come to a halt.
Our immediate thoughts are of course with the 1,200 people who will be losing their jobs as a result of Ford’s decision. However, the impacts are broader than just the Ford workers. First, there are suppliers across Melbourne who will suffer, including businesses in my electorate who rely upon the car industry as their primary customer. Second, it delivers a very significant blow to manufacturing confidence.
There is no single thing which has led to Ford closing, but the government has made things harder than they need be. First of all, the government introduced the Carbon Tax, which put up the price of electricity for Ford and for other motor vehicle manufacturers and other manufacturers. That is estimated to equate to an amount of $400 per Australian made car.
Second, the Labor has added 20,000 new regulations over the last six years and has only taken out about 200 in that time.
Thirdly, it has re-empowered the unions, particularly in the automotive industry but also across all manufacturing.
Fourthly, it has driven down business confidence through its reckless spending, massive budget deficits and constant change to policies without proper consultation.
Manufacturing today is in crisis and we need to rebuild confidence. If Germany and Japan and New Zealand can have strong manufacturing sectors, there is no reason why we here in Australia cannot also. I have a particular interest in this because my electorate has such a large manufacturing presence.
There are about 1,000 manufacturers located in my electorate, employing about 10,000 people. Many are struggling.
We recently had GlaxoSmithKline announce the closing down of its tablet-packaging business, which meant that 120 jobs from Boronia in my electorate would be lost. A factory from the Hastie Group has had to close down in my electorate, another prominent example, and many others have closed down in recent times. Many others that I speak to on a regular basis say that are struggling and that this is one of the worst years that they have ever had.
We have to give hope to these manufacturers that times can be better. We have to give hope to the people who work in these manufacturing businesses that their jobs can be secure and that there are future growth prospects on the horizon.
There are a number of things that we as policy makers can do—and that we will do should the coalition win government in September. Firstly, we can make energy cheaper for the manufacturers by getting rid of the carbon tax. Energy is one of the major input costs into manufacturing. The carbon tax itself adds between 10 and 20 per cent on top of everyday electricity prices.
That makes things so much harder for those manufacturers. It operates like a reverse tariff because their competitor businesses from overseas do not have to pay those taxes.
Secondly, we must get rid of some of the red and green tape. We have announced already that we will get rid of a billion dollars worth of red tape, and we will have a one-stop shop in relation to environmental approvals.
Thirdly, we can provide some more flexibility in the industrial relations space—and we have already announced our policy in this area—as well as, equally importantly, stamping down on union militancy.
Fourthly, we must build some of the economic infrastructure which our manufacturers rely upon. Our manufacturers are often exporting, or they are selling their wares across the nation. Therefore the roads need to be in place and the rails need to be in place. Importantly for manufacturers in my electorate, the East West Link must be built so that they can quickly get from the eastern side of Melbourne across to the western side of Melbourne without being stuck in traffic. That would make it cheaper as well.
All of these things would make a difference in reducing costs for local manufacturers and manufacturers across Australia. In addition to this, if the budget allowed, I would like to see accelerated depreciation of capital assets to take advantage of the high Aussie dollar so that they can purchase capital assets, capital equipment, today, frequently from overseas, quickly accelerate that and therefore set their businesses up for the future. Most of all, we have to give businesses confidence that they can invest, knowing that a government supports them.
The second issue I would like to raise concerns Australian postal services. Australia Post is one of those services which are respected and valued across Australia. But in parts of my electorate people have difficulties accessing Australian postal services because of the tremendous growth in the Rowville and Lysterfield areas.
They have traditionally relied upon the post office in Stud Park in Rowville. It is still there and it still does a fantastic job, but because of the growth in the area, particularly the eastern part of Rowville and into Lysterfield, they are now finding that that post office is always busy. They cannot access it. The shopping centre itself is busy, and there are always queues, particularly in the busy lunchtime period.
Residents are telling me that they would like to see a post office at Wellington Village in Rowville. That is one of the new shopping precincts. It is a fantastic shopping precinct. I have been working with the owner of Wellington Village and some of the traders there to see what might be possible.
One of the complications is that there is a licensing agreement with the Stud Park post office in relation to post offices not being set up within a certain radius, so we need to work through that. I can report that we have had some very constructive meetings with senior Australia Post officials, and we continue to have constructive meetings. I am hopeful that at some stage we will get some additional postal services at Wellington Village, and that would make a real difference to residents in that area.
Finally, in the last couple of minutes I have remaining, I would like to talk about community safety. I recently did a survey of my electorate and had almost 2½ thousand responses to the survey. One of the issues which people consistently raised was community safety. In fact, of those 2½ thousand people, one in 10 respondents said that they did not feel safe in the Knox area, which I think is an extraordinarily high number, and many said particularly that they did not feel safe around the train stations or around the major shopping precincts, particularly at night.
There are many things that we can do to assist in that, and I have been working with some of the community groups, particularly Mountain Gate, to develop community safety plans for their particular shopping precincts. Some security cameras have been installed in Boronia, and they are already making a difference, particularly when they are working in concert with the protective services officers who are now operating at the railway stations. But we can do more. I would like to see security cameras extended in Boronia.
I would like to see security cameras in Mountain Gate and also, if they are required, in the Bayswater area—and possibly also in Wantirna Mall. If we had cameras there, we would see the same results that we are seeing in Boronia, where crime is reducing, police are reporting a much safer environment and people are feeling generally that they live in a safer community.
That is one of my priorities—to have an impact on community safety; to work with my state colleagues who run the police services and support them whenever we can. Collectively I think we can make a real difference in that area.