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News News Carbon pricing package presents new opportunities for Australian industries

Dave Oliver, National Secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union, on the new opportunities the Federal Government's price on carbon package presents.

One of the last typewriter factories in the world closed its doors in April. Orders had been dropping off for the Indian company for sometime.

The owners told the international media: "Demand for the machines has sunk in the last ten years as consumers switch to computers."

An understatement maybe but it's a simple reality; industries change and diversify all the time.

What is true for Australia is also true for manufacturing nations around the world.

Each year, thousands of businesses start up and thousands of businesses close down.

As society evolves, so too do our technologies. New markets open up and new products are invented.

Just as manufacturers close, new ones start up.

Australian manufacturing employs one million people and our union will vigorously campaign for the support and protection of these jobs in our traditional industries - from canned tomatoes in the Goulburn Valley, to the steel works of Wollongong to the automotive lines of Adelaide.

But we will not miss opportunities to create new jobs and industries either.

It's why we are excited about the possibilities of a $6 trillion global clean technology economy. We believe Australia can be a world leader in making clean energy solutions.

Not only are we are blessed with the natural resources to support renewable energies, we also have the skills and innovators to bring other clean energy solutions to the marketplace.

The Federal Government's carbon price package has put Australia in the box seat to make it happen. The package includes a $15 billion investment in the development of clean and low emission industries.

It marks an historic commitment to Australian manufacturing.

Unfortunately we are now facing a wave of hostility to this record investment.

Instead of welcoming the opportunity that is before us, we hear all kinds of arguments from business, industry groups and the Opposition bemoaning the package.

Their arguments are the same our union faces every time we sit down to negotiate improved wages and conditions for our members.

For over 20 years I've been in boardrooms as CEOs and managers argue they can't afford to offer their workers a pay rise. I've heard every excuse in the book.

From international competitiveness, to drought, to the impact of the high dollar, to bird flu and the rise of commodity prices.

In that time I'm yet to hear an employer who declares their profits are up, the dollar is down, the company is having a great year and they can't wait to distribute the wealth to their workers.

Business and industry groups have fired off apocalyptic warnings about what the carbon price package will do for manufacturing jobs.

They claim it will destroy them and make them uncompetitive. That they can't afford to change their ways.

It sounds remarkably similar to the doom and gloom we hear at our industrial negotiation tables.

This position is always underscored by one message - they don't want to change.

As for the factory in India, they moved out of typewriters and into the business of refrigeration storage.

Not a single job was lost.

Dave Oliver is the National Secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union.


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