Retirement of Greg Combet a Big Loss For Working Australians

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[Picture: (L to R): Paddy Crumlin and Greg Combet launch the Hunterlink Recovery Services Helpline.]

Paddy Crumlin, national secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA), and Tony Maher, General President of the Mining and Energy Division of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) issued the following statement regarding the decision by Greg Combet to not contest the upcoming election and retire from politics:

"Working Australians could hardly have had a better friend, ally and advocate in the halls of power than Greg Combet. His decision to leave government is a great loss to the nation and to the union movement. Parliament will miss his passion, intelligence and commitment to advancing the dignity and power of workers.

Greg came from the trade union ranks, and his work in government was a continuation of his significant contributions to the union movement. Greg worked for the Waterside Workers Federation in the lead up to the formation of the MUA and is one of only two non-members of the MUA to be awarded life membership by the union.

As ACTU Assistant Secretary he played a critical leadership role in the 1998 Patrick dispute on the waterfront, distinguishing his involvement through a combination of intelligence and strategic capacity together with a passion and extraordinary commitment to community and labour values.

When he was elected Secretary of the ACTU in 2000, Greg played a central role in winning compensation for asbestos victims of the James Hardie company and he worked diligently to make sure that workers who were victims of the Ansett Australia airlines collapse received their just entitlements.

Together with Sharan Burrow, now the leader of the International Trade Union Confederation, he led the campaign against the anti-worker WorkChoices.  The MUA and CFMEU were proud sponsors of the "Fill the G" Rally that launched the Your Rights At Work Campaign under that leadership.  

In government he committed himself to that same framework of hard work and commitment for his electorate in Charlton and the Australian nation as a whole. Greg helped establish Hunterlink in the Newcastle region, the 24-hour service to assist people in the community affected by mental health and substance abuse issues.

Greg was a fierce advocate for Australian industry, and the manufacturing industry in particular, and was instrumental in getting the Government’s industry and innovation policy implemented. In that context he was a central advocate for the wide-ranging and critical shipping reform legislation, which he understood as critical to support manufacturing supply chains, and which will touch the lives of thousands of maritime and other Australian workers and their families. 

Apart from his achievements as a union official, Greg will be most widely recognised for his pioneering work introducing a legislated price on carbon. He correctly saw the challenge of climate change as essentially an economic challenge. To have introduced an emissions trading scheme covering 70 per cent of the economy, which has already driven down emissions and protected jobs, is something future generations will have him to thank for.

Greg will always have the unwavering support and friendship of our two unions, and the entire labour movement, in whatever endeavour he pursues in the future."