HON. WAYNE SWAN MP
FEDERAL MEMBER FOR LILLEY
CONSTITUENCY STATEMENT (GOLDEN CIRCLE CANNERY)
FEDERATION CHAMBER, CANBERRA
WEDNESDAY, 9 SEPTEMBER 2015
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A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit the Golden Circle Cannery at Northgate in my electorate, alongside Quan from the National Union of Workers and representatives from the company.
Golden Circle began as a grower cooperative in the 1940s with the pineapple cannery commencing production in 1947. Initially, the cannery produced around 40,000 tonnes of canned pineapple annually, in addition to some canned fruit salad, tropical fruit chutneys and fruit juice cordials. Today it produces over 150,000 tonnes of canned pineapple, as well as fruit juices and cordials.
The cannery is an iconic Queensland workplace and Golden Circle is a classic Queensland and Australian brand. The cannery is vital to our local economy, providing a livelihood directly for hundreds of jobs and indirectly for thousands of people across Brisbane. The best part about getting out to the cannery is to talk to the workers. Many of the workers, such as Mayumi who showed us around the lunch room, have been at the cannery for decades. Some have been there for over 30 years: a remarkable achievement that shows real dedication and loyalty to their jobs and to the cannery.
Unfortunately, many of the workers are casual workers and have been for decades, often unsure of whether they will have enough hours to get by. This is partly due to the seasonal nature of the work, but it is also a consequence of employment practices that do not do justice to a dedicated workforce and must be upgraded in fairness to the workers but also in terms of long-term productivity of the cannery. As a student, like many people over the last 30 or 40 years, I worked at there as a younger man. Unfortunately, in recent years, the cannery has downgraded significantly, with a number of jobs being moved offshore.
The fall in the Australian dollar now gives the cannery an economic opportunity to reboot. The workers are up for it, but the workforce and our local community need to see the board come to the table with increased investment. I am pleased to see the company is still committed to keeping the factory open and is looking for new ways to upgrade this facility. It will be good to see the global board of Kraft Heinz recognise this strategic opportunity for food processing in Australia. It is good to see that the state government, through their state member Leanne Linard, is engaging positively with the company on new investment proposals.
The union—the NUW—is also committed to ensuring that the cannery workers, who have worked hard for decade after decade, get a fair go. Their priority is not only to ensure the job security of the casualised workforce but to engage constructively with the company to ensure the long-term sustainability of the cannery.
I would like to thank Golden Circle for giving me the opportunity to visit and Quan and the union for working hard for the workers at the plant. It is a great opportunity, with the lower dollar, to upgrade this facility and other food processing facilities right around Australia.