SUBJECTS: Manufacturing, Anti-Dumping Commission, By-election results

MELINDA JAMES (HOST):  There have been snippets of good news for BlueScope over the last little while. Of course BlueScope is to manufacture about 500,000 solar panels.  There has also been talk of them being involved in the major military projects that are going on across the country, but what is the future of manufacturing here in the Illawarra? After a pretty rocky road some are arguing that the future is not too bad and I’m joined now by Senator Kim Carr who is Labor’s Spokesperson for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research.  And he joins me now, good morning.


JAMES:  Things we looking pretty grim when you were last here a few years ago when you wrote an opinion piece for the Illawarra Mercury about the need for major reform in the manufacturing sector in order to keep steel making alive and well,  things are looking much, much better though aren’t they?

CARR: I have been back since then, but it is true that with the right policy settings we can have a bright future for advanced manufacturing.  I’m very optimistic about the future.  I know that with very strong political assistance we can see our major manufacturers develop the high skill, high wage jobs with the proper investments that they are able to attract to ensure that Australia takes its place in world as an advanced manufacturing nation. 

And that’s what I see as my job, and today along with Sharon Bird and Stephen Jones and Jason Clare the Shadow Minister for Trade and Investment  that’s exactly what we will be advancing,  yet another tranche of policy announcements to ensure that we can strengthen our steel industry,  we can strengthen our steel manufacturers,  our steels fabricators, so that we strengthen the supply chains  that securers Australia’s future in what is a highly competitive industry and to do so in a way that ensures that we provide the prosperity for this nation,  that I know this nation can provide to its people.

But it requires strong policy leadership from government and that is where I think is the real difference in the direction of politics in Australia.

JAMES: So what are some of those policy settings that you think need to change to ensure the future of steel making?

CARR: Well, we need to ensure that the anti-dumping regime is strengthened so that our heavy industry is able to get a fair go. That workers and companies in the steel industry, aluminium, glass, cement and all those other big heavy industries are able to secure their futures and not be subject to unfair dumping from countries overseas.
That’s why today we are announcing further changes to ensure that the anti-dumping commission is strengthened – it’s able to do its job properly – its properly resourced, and is able to ensure that countries, particularly in the circumstances where we see in the United States where President Trump is moving to secure what he sees as the future of American industry, that we are not put at a disadvantage as countries divert their production here to Australia.

Already we have a problem.  Ninety percent of the work of the anti-dumping commission is done in steel, and we know that in the circumstances where the United States is blocking access to their markets that we have a real prospect that overseas companies and countries will seek to dump their product here in Australia.
So we need to make sure that our steel industry is able to secure its future by not being subject to unfair competition. 

JAMES: We’ve been hearing for some years from both the Coalition Government and then previously from the Labor Government federally about strengthening the Anti-Dumping Commission and it seems to be something that both parties lay claim to having done end yet there is still more to be done.

CARR: Oh there is.  It’s like tax avoidance.  You see we’ve got a lot of shysters out there.  We’ve got a lot of shenanigans going on here and we do know that we need to fund the Anti-Dumping Commission properly and that is why we are strengthening its funding base. 

We will be strengthening the penalties that are actually able to be levied against companies that have transgressed against Australian workers and Australian companies.  We will be making sure there is better access to information so that companies here in Australia can take the necessary steps within the World Trade Organisation parameters.  We can also provide companies with the necessary support to protect themselves against this unfair competition. 

This is only one part of our policy framework.  We need to also ensure that companies have access to finance.  We have the Advanced Manufacturing Future Fund – A billion dollars of funding we will provide to Australian Manufacturing companies – so that they can provide themselves with the necessary wherewithal to build our industrial capabilities.

We will also provide an accelerated depreciation scheme, an investment guarantee fund to also ensure that our companies are able to get access to the investments they need and the new equipment they need to build those high skilled, high waged jobs for the future. 

You see it’s all about the direction and the signals you send to Australian Advanced manufacturing that there is a strong future in this country.  That’s why we have to build connections with the universities and you don’t do that by cutting funding to the universities. 

The University here in Wollongong is suffering a cut of 60 million dollars.  How can you build Australian manufacturing when you find the university facing those sorts of reductions?  How can you build Australian Manufacturing when you are cutting money to TAFE?  How can you build the sort of support you need when the government procurement policies in rail for instance, in the State area is looking towards buying trains from overseas when we should be building those trains here in Australia. 
These are the sorts of policies we need at both a National level and a State level to build Australian capability and provide the jobs to ensure we have the investment here in Australia.

JAMES:  I just have to move onto another issue before I let you go because even though we are talking policy here it is politics that seems to be on all the front pages, of course the Super Saturday By-Election, Labor doing well out of the by-elections there you would think this would put an end to any debate over an early election.

CARR:  I wouldn’t get too carried away with that sort of talk.  Why would you trust anything this Prime Minister has got to say?  See he has to say that this government will live for ever when in fact we know that this government has very limited life expectancy. 

What we know is that the Australian people are expecting that their political parties will be on their side. They expect and the Labor Party fulfils this obligation that we will be there to help them negotiate the future. We are about ensuring that we are they to make sure they get through some really difficult times in terms of their education, their health, they understand that wages are falling they understand their living standards are declining. 

People want to know that in times of great uncertainty that they can rely upon governments to actually back them in.

JAMES:  And just briefly it seems that people are saying that this has ensured that Bill Shorten’s leadership is safe, but the Labor Party must be concerned that there will be lingering doubts in voters’ minds about his tenure as Leader.

CARR: No! On the contrary.  I am a very strong supporter.  Bill Shorten is constantly underestimated by the smarties in the media.  You know the “know-alls” who constantly get it wrong.  There is a big mea culpa due here given the way the media treated the Australian people. 

What we are finding is that there is a big disconnect between what the commentators in Canberra says is going on and what the Australian people tell them is going on.  This is the real lesson that comes out of this period.  What we do know is that political parties have to respond to what people want.  They’ve got to be able to respond to what people really aspire to.  They’ve’ got be able to deal with the real issues and not the froth and bubble that comes out of the press in Canberra.

JAMES:  Senator Kim Carr we will have to leave it there but thank you very much for your time and we look forward to maybe catching up with some of the local manufacturers you are meeting with today.  Thank you very much.

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