CURRENT wage levels and government policies are crippling Bendigo’s small mining companies, shadow treasurer Joe Hockey says.
But Labor candidate for Bendigo, Lisa Chesters, said it was “reckless and irresponsible” of Mr Hockey to suggest the Australian economy was in trouble.
Mr Hockey met staff from McCulloch Hydraulic Engineers and Australian Mineral Waterwell Drilling at the latter’s Epsom site yesterday.
Australian Mineral and Waterwell Drilling has laid off 30 casual workers in the past six months, and McCullochs has laid off 15 people since November.
Both companies blame higher wages and loss of new contracts because of the perceived cost of extra taxes.
“A lot of legislation is not adding confidence to the industry and there is a lot of red tape to get around,” Australian Mineral and Waterwell Drilling business development manager Richard Maish said.
“People globally look at the taxes and the wages and say ‘we don’t want that, we’ll take our business to Africa or Chile’.
“Drillers are feeling the pain.”
Mr Hockey said small businesses would be able to compete better if the carbon and mining taxes were revoked.
“The starting point is to get rid of the carbon tax and the mining tax, which has directly and indirectly affected these businesses,” he said.
“The more thatt we restrict our enterprises with red tape and tax, the less likely people are to do business with Australia.”
But Ms Chesters said Mr Hockey was not telling the truth.
“Coming to Bendigo and painting the picture that it’s doom and gloom is reckless and irresponsible.
“We should talk up how well Bendigo is going.
“We have a strong manufacturing sector that is modernising to keep up with change,
we have strong health and education services and strong financial services.
“It’s also wrong to paint the Australian economy as failing – it has grown 13 per cent in the past five years.” Ms Chesters said she would be keen to meet the businesses to discuss their situations.
“The Labor government designed the carbon price to support jobs and competitiveness of industries – that’s why the policy includes assistance packages for manufacturing,” she said.
“I encourage this company to find out how they may benefit from this assistance.”