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May 26, 2015

Mr CHESTER  (Gippsland—Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence) (16:09): I appreciate the opportunity to update the House on a community issue within the Latrobe Valley regarding the future of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission. It has come to my attention that ASIC has spoken to staff in Traralgon in the past week regarding some redundancies. Up to 10 ongoing positions will be made redundant along with 20 non-ongoing positions after 30 June this year. It is always disappointing for anyone to lose their job under any circumstances, but I share the pain and disappointment of the ASIC staff who will not be continuing with the organisation in the months ahead.

Being in government does present some tough decisions, particularly when the current government has had to clean up the mess left behind by the former Labor government. That has meant some tough decisions where, unfortunately, the ASIC budget over the forward estimates is going to be reduced by $10 million to $15 million and some efficiencies are being made in the Traralgon ASIC operations. But I want to stress that the vast majority of staff will be continuing at the ASIC office in Traralgon in the immediate and for the long-term future. The people who have been made redundant, I understand, will receive their full entitlements, and I hope they will have the opportunity to access jobs locally wherever it is possible.

There is a separate issue that I want to raise in relation to ASIC—and it must be stressed that these are separate issues. There is the discussion about the future management and operation of ASIC following the finance minister’s budget announcement that there will be a competitive tender process undertaken in the next 12 to 18 months to test the capacity of the market for a private operator to upgrade and operate the ASIC registry in Traralgon. There are in the order of 300 people who will be directly affected by this discussion in the broader national debate, and I will be working with my community to make sure that they are well served in this place. I understand very clearly what the role of a local member is in that regard. Just as I stood up for the Hazelwood power station workers—the 550 workers that Labor wanted to sack under the contract for closure—and just as I am standing up for the 1,000 Australian paper workers’ jobs by campaigning with the member for McMillan, my good friend Russell Broadbent, and urging government agencies to purchase locally made paper, I will be standing up for the local jobs associated with ASIC in Traralgon and strongly representing the views of my community in this place.

The ASIC organisation in Traralgon contributes in the order of $60 million in wages alone to the regional economy. It is a vital part of the regional economy. I have said publicly, and I have said to the minister privately and to the department, that it is up to the government to make the case for this privatisation. The government and the department need to convince us and convince the community that it is a good idea. I have had meetings with the Minister for Finance over the past 12 months, the local council has had meetings with the minister as well, and we will be seeking another meeting with him to explain just how important ASIC jobs are to the Latrobe Valley community. I am very confident that, whatever form the operation and management of ASIC takes into the future, those jobs will remain in Traralgon. It is a very important business model. It utilises cheap rent in comparison to the metropolitan areas and a reliable source of staff who are experienced and capable of doing a great job for our nation. (Time expired)


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