SUBJECTS: AMWU’s ‘Support Aussie Made’ campaign; Morrison Government leaving behind local staff and interpreters in Afghanistan.
PETER BAUER, AMWU State Secretary: We're here today, we brought 60 of our delegates from across the state to meet with us today to launch our Aussie Made campaign. It's a campaign that we're asking our delegates to take back to their workplaces to examine in their workplaces how they can maximize the amount of Australian supplies that they use and parts, and to make sure that we're making as much as we can in this country. We've got some major projects coming up in this state. We've got a $2 billion interconnector project. We're going to be making sure that we put the Government under pressure to give a commitment that that steel for those towers that are going to be used in the interconnector project is made in Australia, and particularly from the Whyalla steel works. And we're also going to be examining other areas where we can maximize Australian supply chain involvement. Electrolux is a perfect example. Electrolux through the COVID had a four-week shutdown, because they couldn't import parts to keep the place going. We had a situation where our delegates and members, with the ingenuity they've got, spoke to the company and made those parts in house, to enable that company to keep operating. One of our delegates is here today - Matt Hastings - and he can give you some more information about how we were able to provide an opportunity for Electrolux to keep working by making parts that would normally come from overseas in Australia, so I'll hand you over to Matt.
MATT HASTINGS, ELECTROLUX WORKER: Hi, my name is Matt Hastings and I've worked for Electrolux cooking plant for the last 20 years. The last four or five years I've been with Electrolux I've been an AMWU delegate. We had the forced shutdown when COVID hit last year, March, April time. We were unable to get parts obviously due to the crisis with getting international flights and so on. So, due to the forced ship stoppage, we had to look at other ways to keep the plant running so we were able to get some of the other press parts made back in store again and keep the factory running.
JOURNALIST: Some people would say, or businesses would say that it's just too expensive to make in Australia, how do you counter that?
HASTINGS: We thought the same thing as well but it's not that much dearer, once you add in freight and things like that. We had to air freight a lot of stuff as well to keep us going so the cost of air freight is quite astronomical so there's not that much difference.
JOURNALIST: The state government has said that they're already ahead of this argument and are doing that. Do you see much from the state or federal level?
HASTINGS: No, no I haven't no.
JOURNALIST: What would hope that they might do?
HASTINGS: Subsidise in some way shape or form.
JOURNALIST: Penny, did you want to add anything?
SENATOR PENNY WONG, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS: Thanks very much and thanks to Matt for not only being with us today and telling us about the ways in which you and your colleagues have been supporting Australian Made but for the work you do for your union. Thanks to Peter and Glenn for the opportunity to speak today. You know, I think what the pandemic showed us is that we need to make sure we can make things as a country. We need to make sure we can secure supply chains here in Australia, so I support the Aussie Made campaign that the union is engaging in. And what I'd say is this; we have such capacity in this country, we have workers such capacity, we have skilled workers, we have people who are creative and ingenious. You know what they need? They need a government that will back them. They need a government that will back them. And unfortunately, what we haven't seen from Scott Morrison is a government which is willing to back Australian workers. There is no greater example of this than in the submarine debacle. There is no greater example of this than having $270 billion worth of government procurement not being used to invest in Australian workers, Australian sovereign capability, and to develop supply chains here in Australia. With every step of the way this government has had to be dragged to bring local content provisions to this contract. Because it's not just a legal issue, it is an issue about local jobs, local capability, here in South Australia but also more generally.
JOURNALIST: Has there been much of a shift in the thinking on this in the last 18 months?
WONG: Well, can I just say, you know Scott Morrison shifted because he had to politically, but I remembered Christopher Pyne and Marise Payne and then Linda Reynolds, all telling workers like those standing behind me and union officials like those standing behind me, and South Australians, 'we don't need a local content minimum, we don't need one'. Well now they've decided they do, which was blindingly obvious to everyone, and instead we've had delays and cost blowout. So what workers like Matt and others need is a Government that's prepared to back them and that is what an Albanese Labor Government would do. We will back Australian jobs, we will back Australian capability, and we would ensure that we rebuild from this pandemic in a way that secures more supply chains and creates greater sovereign capability.
JOURNALIST: Most immediately how, how can this government come on board?
WONG: Well, first this government could actually make Australian jobs and supply chains here in Australia a priority which, when we look at the submarine project they demonstrably haven't.
Can I turn now to the Afghan interpreter issue if I can. We've seen news today of the tragedy, which is people who helped us in Afghanistan being left behind. Marise Payne is using this argument that there's a difference between a subcontractor and someone who was employed directly by the Australian Government. Well, the Taliban don't care if you worked for the government or for a subcontractor. That doesn't matter to the Taliban. We should do the right thing here. We should do what is morally right. And we should also ensure that we show the world that if you help Australia, we'll help you.
JOURNALIST: So, anybody who's been employed should be covered?
WONG: People who are at risk because they worked for our government, whether directly or as a subcontractor should be looked after. And I remember the Minister using fine words when I asked her questions about this, she said we regard this as a moral obligation. Well, I'd say to Senator Payne, act like it.
JOURNALIST: For those who are even going to get visas, are they moving too slowly?
WONG: Well, this is the thing, if I compare what we are doing in Australia, with the swift action taken by our friends and allies, including the United States. We have been slower, and we have been less fair and the cost of that could be in people's lives. These people helped us they put their lives in danger. We have an obligation to help them. And we also have an obligation to show people around the world, when you help Australia, we help you.
GLENN THOMPSON, AMWU ASSISTANT NATIONAL SECRETARY: Could I just say one more thing; today was the launch of the campaign to support Aussie made in South Australia. The AMWU nationally has stepped up the engagement of workers and manufacturing from right around the country. I think COVID has showed us that we as a country are vulnerable in relation to our supply chains. When we have frontline workers who have helped us through this pandemic, making our own PPE, the inability from the supply chain to be able to deliver. It is unfortunate that we need a circumstance like this for the Morrison Government, to start to talk about manufacturing and supply chains. In the early days of the pandemic, the Government engaged unions and others in a discussion around the need to address Australian sovereignty and Australia's capabilities. Can I say from the AMWU's perspective, we believe that the Government has dropped the ball. There was momentum. There has now been nothing occur. And from our union's perspective, we think the Government, as they have done in relation to the slow take up of vaccines etc, exactly the same is happening around manufacturing. Across the globe, the OECD, Australia sits at the bottom of the league table of 36 countries. A country like Australia, who only produces around about 70% of what we need in manufacturing. This is not an issue in relation to cost. I say that where we can make it, we should make it. And developed countries from around the world have shown by producing all that they need for the purposes of their domestic economy, and in many cases, exceeding 50, 60, 70% into our region, that the government needs to look at policy settings that give certainty to business, certainty to industry, to address the issue around confidence so that we can look at what we're good at, and that is to put in place a process where businesses are confident to innovate. And I think Matt's story is a really good one, where workers, along with companies, in engaging in discussion, can work towards delivering outcomes to ensure that we have a strong, viable manufacturing industry in Australia. Thank you.
Authorised by Paul Erickson, ALP, Canberra.