The campaign is well and truly underway in the nation’s most marginal seat of Corangamite. Both candidates are attempting to focus the campaign on jobs, with many workers, particularly blue collar in the Geelong region fearing for their long-term futures. Unsurprisingly, the Liberal Party is focusing its attention on the impact of carbon pricing. This comes in spite of very generous concessions being extended to major local emitters such as Alcoa. But what workers, particularly those at the beleaguered Ford plant really need to worry about is the direction a future Coalition government will (I say will rather than would, because the writing is on the wall for all to see) take in relation to protection for local industries, especially the automobile sector. The picture is far from clear; Joe Hockey, very likely our next Treasurer is on the record as against the subsidies currently offered to protect local manufacturing jobs. Others in the Coalition disagree; frontbencher Ian McFarlane noted that removing subsidies would very likely be the death knell for the industry, at the cost of 50,000 jobs.
So whilst in the upcoming candidates forum, and in the wider campaign, voters in Corangamite will hear much about the alleged damage done by the carbon tax, they would do well to remember the tangible and imminent harm that a Coalition government may inflict. Cost of living pressures, as the Coalition will doubtless hark on, are one thing, but they pale in significance to the threat of unemployment for workers who have known nothing but a career at Ford for their entire working life. Furthermore, this is about more than just one business, given the potential ripple effects throughout the region if such a large employer were to be lost. The Coalition needs to take a clear stand on this issue, otherwise, at least in Corangamite, voters should be very cautious about giving power to the party of heartless neoliberalism which last time around brought us Work Choices.