Matters of Urgency - Shipbuilding Industry


Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (16:52): Where, oh where was Senator Carr when as industry minister in the last government he presided over the greatest decline in manufacturing that Australia has ever seen. The man you have just been listening to, with all those fine words about developing Australia's capacity in manufacturing and in defence procurement, was the minister in charge of manufacturing when Holden, heading towards bankruptcy, shut down, and when Ford shut down, when manufacturing across Australia went overseas because the then government completely priced Australian manufacturers out of the game with their carbon tax, their mining tax and all the other taxes. Where were Senator Carr's fine words when he was the minister able to do something about it? Where was Senator Carr when his government singlehandedly destroyed what had been, for 20 to 30 years, a very vibrant, successful and prosperous shipbuilding industry in Cairns?

I know Senator Carr has a thing against Cairns. Just last week he slagged off at James Cook University of Townsville and Cairns, saying it was not a university capable of doing good research work and saying the grant for the Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine—a world-class facility—to build upon JCU's world-class reputation in tropical research, was 'pork barrelling'. If anyone were inclined to believe anything the previous speaker said, they should just look at his attitude towards Townsville and Cairns in the university area. More importantly, they should look at what Senator Carr did when the Labor government in Queensland and the Labor government in Canberra shut down what had been a very successful shipbuilding industry in Cairns.

Senator Carr comes in here and sheds crocodile tears over the demise of the shipbuilding industry, but where were you, Senator, when you could have done something about it? Where was your colleague Senator McLucas when the Australian shipbuilding industry in Cairns was brought to its knees by a deliberate decision of the Labor government in Queensland and the Labor government here? Perhaps I am wronging Senator Faulkner who was at the time the defence minister because I know that Senator Faulkner was prepared to sign the contract for Cairns to build certain sections of the hulls of the air warfare destroyers—the shipbuilding work with which the 'southern rust bucket states' are currently experiencing difficulty in building. Cairns was going to be part of that and on the eve of signing the contract with North Queensland Engineers and Agents, the company which had built the patrol boats and had built survey craft and had done a lot of shipbuilding work, the Queensland Labor government pulled rug out from under them, withdrawing the bond it had been asked to pick up, a lousy $20 million. And did we hear one squeak from Senator Carr when that vibrant shipbuilding industry was sent to the wall? There was not a word from Senator Carr and regrettably not a word from Senator McLucas, who claims to be based in the City of Cairns, where this very vibrant shipbuilding industry was based. I would love Senator Carr to explain why, despite all the fine words he has just delivered in support of Australian manufacturing, he did not put his words into action when he was the minister and could have done something about it? And where was Senator Carr when the Cairns shipbuilding industry, which employed lots of skilled workers in the shipbuilding trade, had the rug pulled out from under them by the Queensland Labor government and by the federal Labor government? It is okay to get up here in the chamber and deliver all these fine words about what should be done with shipbuilding in Australia and what should be done with manufacturing, but Senator Carr, who just spoke on those things, was in a position to do something about it. He was the minister who, as I said, presided over the greatest ever downturn in the manufacturing industry in Australia. So how can anyone take any notice of what Senator Carr has said?

I say to Senator Madigan that he would be pleased to see that this government has brought forward the proposals to get proper drawings done for the Pacific Patrol Boat program and some other shipbuilding work, things which the previous Labor government should have done but did not get around to doing. Senator Madigan, you should be congratulating Senator Johnston and this government for what they have done in relation to getting some work for the Australian shipbuilding industry. I conclude by again asking Senator Carr: where were you when you could have done something about it? Where were you when you singlehandedly destroyed the Cairns shipbuilding industry? And where was Senator McLucas, a Cairns based senator, when she could have done something to help the Cairns shipbuilding industry.

I have a few seconds to go but I may stop now. I suspect people have not come into the chamber to hear my oratory. I finish this speech with some sadness in acknowledging that it precedes what I know will be a fine speech from a fine Australian, a fine Queenslander, a guy who has done so much for all Australians. It is a great pleasure to be a colleague of Senator Boswell's and to be in the Senate to hear what I know will be a magnificent valedictory speech.

Question agreed to.

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