ABC NORTH AND WEST SA
FRIDAY, 15 APRIL 2016
SUBJECT/S: Labor’s Steel Plan
JOURNALIST: Yesterday as we were finishing our program, Bill Shorten and Shadow Industry Minister Kim Carr were in Port Kembla where of course BlueScope steel still operates and they released a six point plan, Labor’s steel plan going forward to the 2016 election. Now it is in the context of obviously some pretty horrendous financial conditions for Arrium, who have gone into administration over the past couple of weeks.
If you haven’t been listening we have been covering it to quite some detail, now the six points essentially move in the opposite direction that the Liberal Government is talking about. The Liberal Government as we have heard from Dave Noonan at the CFMEU this morning, have been particularly keen on free trade deals across the world. Well the Labor plan will take us in a slightly more protectionist direction reducing cost for local producers, while keeping the costs a little bit higher for importers, to tell us a little bit more and to answer a couple of questions is Shadow Industry and Innovation Minster, Kim Carr, good morning.
CARR: Good morning.
JOURNALIST: Can you take us through the six points?
CARR: We want to be able to help the Australian steel industry and that is not just the raw steel producers, but the 1800 steel fabricators survive the onslaught of dumped, cheap, underspec product from overseas. We want to ensure that we can protect the public by insisting on Australian standards being applied for government funded projects we want to maximise the use of locally produced steel so the critical element here is selling more steel because we believe the steel industry is absolutely critical for the future of Australia and we want be a country that actually makes advanced industrial products.
JOURNALIST: So as I understand it, the first point is that subsidies will be provided to local steel makers to cover compliance costs, importers would have to pick up the bill, there would be a new reporting system to increase the use of local steel on government projects, there is also some changes to the amount of capital investment – in terms of private and public work – so basically half the cost you would have to start having Australian steel conversation to what you would use and the Labor Government would tighten anti-dumping rules and establish a national steel support supplier advocate. I’m just going to touch on that last one, Christopher Pyne the Industry Minister tweeted yesterday that he was the National steel supplier advocate.
CARR: Yes he has got a good sense of humour, I will give him that, this is a government that has cut back the Labor Government’s steel Industry transformation plan, that has cut back the steel industry advocates or in fact abolished to have these things in place, cut back funding for the industry participation plans and cut back support for the industry capability networks. Now all of these things were aimed at helping Australian business secure contracts now that’s the nub of this.
The steel industry advocate, and you have got one in South Australia, is working incredibly well and the policies in South Australia have produced a situation over the last couple of years where by local businesses have secured 91 per cent of contracts and it used to be only 40 per cent of the contacts, just a couple of years ago. So we know these policies work and we know that they have been field tested and what we have in Canberra is a Government that just seems to want to play these games and not actually stand shoulder to shoulder with Australian workers and companies and ensuring that we are able to get a fair go.
JOURNALIST: Kim Carr is with us and is the Shadow Industry and Innovation Minister, talking about Labor’s steel policy from yesterday. Now Scott Morrison the Treasurer has disagreed with the policy, he makes the point that a more protectionist steel policy disadvantages the rest of the economy, so at the expense of trade opportunities it has reached in recent trade agreements. Now do you disadvantage other industries who use steel because they would have to pay more for Australian steel with this move?
CARR: No, we will actually be building capabilities, we will provide economic opportunities, employment opportunities, we make no apologies for being nationalistic about standing with Australian businesses and Australian workers. Scott Morrison is a man in a panic we know from the things that he has said in recent weeks that he is under enormous pressure and when he is under pressure he gets nasty, makes really cheap statements, but the truth of the matter is there are very few people in this country who would be reassured that Scott Morrison is Australia’s Treasurer.
What we need is a government that’s prepared to show Leadership, a government that’s prepared to defend Australian interests when it comes to making sure that the prosperity is spread throughout our nation.
Now all of these measures we are proposing are absolutely consistent with our trade obligations, governments around the world have no trouble fulfilling their obligation to their people, at this time the United States has imposed punitive tariffs against BlueScope of 25 per cent and it is only reasonable that we treat the steel industry in the same way that the Americans do.
JOURNALIST: Ok let me go on the other side, because on the other hand there has been criticism from the Greens, Adam Bandt has been calling the move ‘weak’, and he would have liked to have seen a 90 per cent local mandate, now as you said you are not ashamed of going nationalistic, if you are going this far towards to protecting the industry why not go the next step and nationalise the industry?
CARR: We are going to make sure that what we do is consistent with our International treaty obligations; you know the greens are a really funny crowd, aren’t they. They actually hate coal, they hate the extractive industries, yet they want to say that we are weak in defending manufacturing, the Greens are really short when it comes to defending blue-collar interests and what we need is a government in Australia that is realistic, that has policies that work, that defend Australian jobs and we want to make sure that we protect our national sovereignty.
JOURNALIST: Senator Kim Carr is here and is the Shadow Industry and Innovation Minister, now you’re going to be taking this to the election, whenever that might be in a couple of months, I guess the question from many of us in this state is, this steel plan is motivated the situation in Whyalla and you did announce it in Port Kembla in Wollongong where BlueScope are a little bit better off compared to their South Australian counter parts are you going to be visiting Whyalla as part of the election campaign?
CARR: Absolutely, and I had recently been in Whyalla where we had a Senate Inquiry into the Steel industry, so we saw this stuff coming and we knew what we had to do and we wanted to talk to people and make sure that we had good advice coming to the parliament and of course to the Labor Party. I think that we are in a strong position to base our polices on evidence and what we have been able to do in Whyalla where I was last week was talk extensively to all the players.
What our plan does is provide the foundation stone for the continuation of steel making in this country, the fundamental issue is we have got to sell more Australian made steel, both at home and abroad and we have got to ensure that it is a quality product and it is safe, and that’s the real issue here, how do we ensure that the Australian people are also protected from shoddy imports that actually are below the specifications we need to ensure public safety.