Over the last few weeks I have been raising my concerns about the Abbott government's plans to privatise the Royal Australian Mint. The Royal Australian Mint, located just down the road from here, is facing an uncertain future. The Mint was earmarked for privatisation in last year's horror budget, meaning its 200 employees have been living in a state of limbo for 10 months. I call on the Abbott government to explain what impact selling the Mint will have on the budget bottom line. The Prime Minister must answer questions like: how will the government ensure the integrity and security of the Mint if a private company takes over? What kinds of regulations will accompany the sale if it goes ahead?
A number of concerns have been raised to me by members of the public: do we allow foreign owned bidders to enter the divestment market to provide competition for the sale of the Mint? Would some of the activities of a privatised Mint be able to be contracted out to foreign owned businesses? As long as the Abbott government refuses to make a case for the sale, we must assume its decision is purely ideological.
These questions are front of mind because last weekend the Royal Australian Mint celebrated its 50th birthday. There were a range of celebrations that attracted thousands of people who have worked at the Mint over its 50- year history. In fact, more than 3,200 people have worked for the Mint. It was a pleasure to meet them at an event on Saturday night at the Arboretum. It really was a pleasure to be able to meet so many of them. Some of those who attended have worked for the Mint for more than 35 years: people like Wayne Hennock, who still works there; Max Izzard, who is retired now but worked there for 47 years; and Jack Crosbie, who worked there for 23 years. It was fantastic to meet so many of the Mint's dedicated staff over the weekend and commemorate their achievements. There were people who have been fitters and turners, graphic designers, marketing managers, managers, communication managers. There is a whole community there who are doing wonderful work. In fact, they call themselves the Minties family. They are dedicated, they are proud of their work and they are contributing. They are very proud of the fact that they are contributing to our nation's economy and our nation's story. The Mint's staff have contributed in some way to the 15 billion coins that have been made there and they have shared their story with more than 250,000 people who have visited, including 42,000 children.
I would like to thank Ross McDiarmid for making me so welcome on Saturday night at the celebration and Sarah for looking after me. Sarah looked gorgeous in mint-green dress with her mint-green nails. It was wonderful to meet so many of the Mintie family.
The Mint has a vitally important role in our society. It marks important national events and milestones and keeps a record of Australian society through coinage. It reflects part of our national identity, and there are key concerns that need to be addressed if the government wants it privatised.