Labor is deeply concerned that the jobs of over 80 textile workers are at risk following reports from the Textile, Clothing & Footwear Union of Australia (TCFUA) that the Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO) has cancelled orders for West Footscray-based manufacturer, the Workwear Group, to supply uniforms to the Australian Defence Force.

Shadow Minsters Senator Stephen Conroy, Senator Kim Carr, Shadow Assistant Defence Minister David Feeney and Member for Gellibrand Tim Watts MP are writing to Defence Minster Kevin Andrews seeking an urgent explanation as to why the contract was withdrawn and to clarify the status of future orders. The Government must provide certainty for the company and the 80 workers involved.

Shadow Minister for Industry Senator Kim Carr said that these job losses would put a substantial dent in Australia’s capacity to manufacture our own Defence Force uniforms.

“This government can’t just turn a blind eye to the risk that Australia will lose knowledge, skills and capabilities in this highly specialised industry,” Senator Carr said.

Shadow Assistant Defence Minister David Feeney MP said that the Workwear Group was recently responsible for the new Australian Multicam Combat Uniform (AMCU), which will fit out the next generation of Australian Army personnel.

Even Mr Abbott’s own Assistant Defence Minister, Stuart Robert, said he was proud of the Australian contribution made by Workwear Group: 

“I am confident the manufacturing of the AMCU in Australia not only supports local business, but also maintains high standards and keeps pace with current technology.”

Stuart Robert, Media Release, 22 September 2014

“This is just more of the same when it comes to the Abbott Government, with the past 19 months in office containing nothing but job cuts for our Defence industry,” Mr Feeney said.

Time and again this government has demonstrated a flagrant disregard for Australian industry capabilities when it comes to procurement – look at the Future Submarines, the supply ships, or the Defence Force boots fiasco. They simply cannot be trusted.

Even the Industry Minister, Ian Macfarlane, acknowledged the Abbott Government’s complete incompetence, describing the decision to overlook local manufacturer Rossi boots and send Defence footwear contracts offshore as a “mishap” during his address to the National Press Club in October last year.  

Member for Gellibrand Tim Watts MP said the loss of around 80 jobs in West Footscray is a significant blow and will have damaging effects on this community, not to mention the local economy in Melbourne’s west.

“This comes on top of concerns for local manufacturing jobs that will be lost if the Government continues to dodge and dither when it comes to vital naval shipbuilding contracts.  

“Workers at the BAE Shipyard in Williamstown and in shipyards right across Australia are desperately waiting for some kind of certainty about future build programs that their livelihoods depend on,” Mr Watts said.   

Textile workers at the Workwear Group in West Footscray require an explanation from this government as a matter of extreme urgency.

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