Joe Hockey misses chance to really help communities such as Broadmeadows:

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Frank McGuire

Herald Sun

June 15, 2015 12:00AM

WE have a chance to turn adversity into opportunity, to develop industries for the future, to create new jobs for the next generation, to address housing affordability and to replace anxiety and fear with hope.

So, say it ain’t so, Joe. Say it ain’t so that Australia’s Treasurer refuses to participate in an Economic and Cultural Development Summit designed to deliver a co-ordinated response to urgent and critical issues confronting our country: globalisation, the demise of local manufacturing, population growth, multiculturalism and a fair go.

Four months ago, I wrote to the Australian Treasurer and Prime Minister Tony Abbott to join leaders from business, civil society and the Victorian Treasurer, Tim Pallas, head of the national review on housing affordability, to develop a creative strategy addressing these concerns in the place where they most dramatically converge: Broadmeadows.

Put simply, if the social situation was a bushfire it would be declared a disaster.

Unemployment is higher than Spain and equal to Greece. Youth unemployment in a community with twice as many Muslim families than any other Victorian electorate living side-by-side with Christian refugees from Iraq and Syria is perilously high — estimated above 40 per cent — while the disengagement of 16-24 year olds neither working nor learning is unknown.

One of the best anti-radicalisation strategies is a job that helps connect the disconnected. One of the most informed national security responses is community engagement. The Abbott Government remains a bystander where these concerns matter most.

Despite Joe Hockey’s first Budget hitting vulnerable families in Broadmeadows hardest, the Treasurer has rejected the chance to move beyond his “lifters and learners” rhetoric and meet the heavy lifters who have underwritten prosperity for generations with their muscle, sweat and manufacturing nous.

Unfairness was at the heart of the Prime Minister’s self-described political near death experience yet the request from Victoria’s poorest community for him to participate in a blueprint for the future has been answered with silence.

Postcodes of disadvantage are increasingly complex. Globalisation offers opportunities for some but upheaval and fewer jobs for many in blue-collar communities.

The Ford Motor Company ends its Australian manufacturing in October next year while Holden and Toyota fall like dominoes the year after. Despite this end of an era, Ford will retain its innovation centre in Broadmeadows because it produces the sophisticated changes that deliver its highest selling models internationally. This defines a national dilemma.

I’m waiting for supermarket giant Woolworths to respond whether this is the unstated reason behind last week’s announcement that it will move its distribution centre from Broadmeadows shedding up to 680 full-time, part-time and casual jobs to a “state of the art” site in an undisclosed location in the Melbourne’s south-east. Broadmeadows workers were told they faced redundancy via text message.

My plea to the Australian Government is for the politics of responsibility, not simply ultimate ends. It is made beyond regret, the news and political cycle.

Australia needs more companies of the calibre of CSL which produces lifesaving blood products, exports internationally and has an outstanding share price. Melbourne’s medical research is world class and other companies can follow CSL’s example of maintaining its brains trust in Parkville and manufacturing arm where land is more affordable and conveniently located in Broadmeadows.

Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott in federal Parliament

Excellent road and rail links are underscored by one of Victoria’s most strategic assets, the curfew free Melbourne Airport at its back door. Cities once built around sea ports are now established around giant airports and business hubs. Melbourne Airport is classically placed to play such a role in the future with a $10 billion expansion already under construction.

Tim Pallas will detail how Melbourne’s North can benefit from the Victorian Government’s funds for future industries, jobs and growth at the Economic and Cultural Development Summit but this critical evolution needs a coordinated strategy involving small, medium, big business and innovation for new industries and jobs. The Australian Government’s participation is crucial for collaboration.

Australians are crying out for leadership on such critical issues. Tony Abbott wooed blue-collar voters to become Prime Minister. This is the opportunity for his “come to Broady” moment to define his sincerity and explain where such communities belong in his version of “Team Australia.”

Otherwise, Joe Hockey has the chance to consider his own advice, rethink and have a go, just as the families of this proud, resilient community have for generations.


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