SUBJECTS: Ryan Corner Wind Farm; Snowy Hydro; workplace culture in Parliament House. 

JEREMY LEE, HOST: Before we talk about that, though, last week we learned that Keppel Prince in Portland would be laying off 42 workers after the contract to build the wind towers for the Ryan Corner wind farm went to an overseas firm. That's raised questions about whether there should be quotas on this sort of manufacturing, forcing wind farm companies to perhaps use Australian manufacturers. This question came up at a Senate estimates hearing on Monday.
And Victorian Senator Kim Carr was asking these questions and indeed is with us this morning. Senator Kim Carr welcome to you.

LEE: Now this is an interesting arrangement. Just explain for us, I guess, what we know about the Ryan Corner wind farm in terms of who's building it and then who is going to be actually benefiting from it.
CARR: Well Ryan Corner wind farm in Port Fairy is a foreign owned wind farm but it is selling its product to the Australian Government owned Snowy Hydro and that has been the underwriting agency that makes the whole project financially viable.  70% of the revenue for the whole operation comes through Snowy Hydro’s contracts. And that's why I'm arguing that the Snowy Hydro has a responsibility to look to Australian manufacturing, particularly given that Snowy Hydro makes so much off its commitment to buy local, when it talks to people about its social license in terms of its operation across Australia.
LEE: So, in a case like this where you have a third party like Snowy Hydro, even though it might be a government organisation but who are not actually building or running the facility, you know how much say should they have in how it's being built or, how much should that figure I guess in what's actually happening to create this facility?
CARR: Well we increasingly talk about the importance of sourcing our supply chains on an ethical and moral basis. We don't accept that we should buy clothing from sweatshops who employ slave labour. We say that we have an obligation to make sure that people are treated properly. Now this is a situation where Ryan Corner is importing steel from a Vietnamese company, which is, in turn, importing steel from China. There's been a very, very strong argument that steel is very, very cheap - it's dumped, for 73% of the current cases before our own Anti-Dumping Commissioner relate to the dumping of steel and aluminium in Australia. So we've got a device whereby our trade agreements are being used to undermine Australian jobs. Now, I believe that this is a really important example of how we build sovereign capability, how we build skills in Australia and if we're going to talk about the renewable energy revolution, we've got to make sure that we have the capacity to install wind farms from Australian companies and building with Australian skills and Australian steel. And that means the whole supply chain needs to be looked at, so that we have the ability to look after ourselves.

And this is a situation where we can exactly do all of those things. The sole manufacturer of wind turbines in Australia is of course down at Keppel Prince, and that's the sort of company we should be looking to. The Victorian Government is doing this, but not the Australian government, not the Commonwealth Government in Canberra.
LEE: So just to explain for us that difference as well then, what is the Victorian government doing, what are the current requirements there?
CARR: Well they’re saying that if you want to have government contracts then you’ve got to look to local suppliers and you got to be able to build and make sure it's built on proper costing arrangements, and no one saying that the public should be mistreated in these things, but it's not just a matter of immediate price. You've got to look at the longer-term whole of cost, of life costs, that are associated with these projects, and in this particular circumstance, it'll be said the Australian steel is a little bit more expensive, but in terms of the total cost of the project, it is incontestable, and of course its a circumstance where we look towards building our own national capability. We've seen on the news, just to announce to your listeners, where there are circumstances where we're importing aluminium to build patrol boats for the Australian Navy and that aluminium from China was proved to be defective, which is a circumstance where it was supposed to have been properly certified – it was not properly certified, it was substandard. We have a situation here where we can see replicated. I've been on many Senate inquiries where the same problems occur again and again and again - the regulatory arrangements in this country are far too slack. We have circumstances here where the Australian consumer is being taken for a ride and Australian workers and Australian companies are suffering as a result.
LEE: Alright, is this something that this has been happening for a long time? Can we point at any particular sort of point and say, well, this is when it changed? Or is it is it a problem that’s plagued successive governments over the years.
CARR: Oh well of course it's been a problem that's been developing for some time, but it is also a time to put it into it. And we've got to make sure in these recent examples through the pandemic where the governments talked up this need to have this sovereign capability - to use their language to use their rhetoric - it's time to put those fine words into action. And this is an example where 42 workers have shown already what the cost is to them as a consequence of the government not following, working through, these issues and making sure that Australian companies, particularly government owned companies, are doing the right thing by Australian workers in Australian companies.
LEE: Presumably there's some element of competition here as well, and is there something that is holding you know Australian companies back perhaps, or giving them, putting them in an unfair position here.
CARR: Well, I think there are many aspects, in these trade agreements and such, that you find that companies are put at a disadvantage and it’s often been argued because foreign companies will call upon foreign supply chains rather than look to the local supply chains to be able to meet the contracts. But in the case of a government owned company, that is Snowy Hydro, you would think, given all of their rhetoric, all their talk about buying local, just in the newspaper, in the local Tumut Newspaper, I read overnight, that Paul Broad, the CEO of Snowy Hydro, says that using local contractors has been a priority for Snowy Hydro. It’s clearly not a priority in regards to this contract, and I think that's simply not good enough.
LEE: Alright, I guess getting back to that sort of third party argument though, I mean yeah, but it is a difficult thing to negotiate, isn't it? When they're not the sort of sole user of the facility as well, there is still some elements of, you know, the power being generated here or energy being generated here that's going elsewhere and I understand it's a 15 year contract as well, so beyond that, there's some question marks as well, I guess.

CARR: Well, that's true, but look at what's happening down at the aluminium smelter. Well, power companies are working together to make sure that we are able to maintain the capability for Victoria. And that's a situation there with 10% of the state's power is going into that facility, for a situation where there's up to 1500 jobs dependent on that plant. Of course, the companies should work together to ensure the long-term security and sound economic judgments are made, but also there has to be an understanding that it's not just a question of immediate price. Other factors, including value for money, have to be considered, the relevant financial and non financial - non financial - costs to the community need to be examined. 
For instance, the environmental sustainability issues: we are a country now that understands that the economy is much more than just a matter of getting the cheapest thing off the shelf from someone else. It's about building the skills, building the economic opportunities, building the prosperity for our nation so that our kids and our grandkids have an opportunity to participate in a meaningful life.
LEE: Alright so 19 minutes past 7 here on Breakfast, Senator Kim Carr is here with us, here on ABC Southwest Victoria. Senator Kim Carr just before we let you go, while we've got you - Parliament House in Canberra of course has been very much in the news of late as well. We heard a lot about the culture within the building. You're somebody who's worked there for a very long time. Just curious to know your perception of that culture, and perhaps your take on the conversation we're having at the moment, as well about what happens within Parliament House.
CARR: Well, Jeremy, you're right. I've been there for a long time. I'm now father of the Senate. I have no direct experience of the sort of degenerate activities that we've seen in recent times that have been publicised. All I can say is from my staff, are hardworking. I've never had a problem like this. Long hours and awful stressful work is the characteristic of most of the people I know. Overwhelming numbers of the people I know. They do so in the service of working people that we represent. 

But the evidence is clear here. There is a small group of people, who are fuelled by alcohol and egotism, and they've frankly lost sight of why they're there. They've lost sight of what it is to actually serve the people of the country, and I think this is a sort of private school, private boarding school, you know,  instead of University Hall of Residence, playground antics. It’s totally at odds with what the people of this country expect, and it’s totally unacceptable.
LEE: What do you make as well of the Prime Minister's suggestion about quotas within the Liberal Party, which I know is not your party, but I mean would you support more of that happening across the board perhaps?
CARR: Well, all I can say is I've been a senior member of the Labor Party for a while. We've had affirmative action policies in place since the 1990s. Its ‘Johnny come lately’ talk from the Prime Minister. You have to really ask this bloke whether he's fair Dinkum. I mean he carefully cultivates his image, most of what he says is really about style, it's not about substance. What you've got is a whole series of long term policies that have been neglected and you really have to wonder whether or not he's just lost control of this matter and is trying to regain some initiative here without actually changing anything, and that's what really troubles me about all of this. You know you need to do a lot more than just cultivate an image, you actually need to change things in this country.
LEE: Alright, ok we'll leave it there. Victorian Senator Kim Carr, thank you very much for your time this morning.
CARR: All the best, thank you very much.

Showing 1 reaction

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.
  • Kim Carr
    published this page in Transcripts 2022-02-09 08:17:58 +1100