THURSDAY, 14 APRIL 2016
SUBJECT/S: Labor's positive plan to secure Australian metals manufacturing and jobs, Barnaby Joyce, Labor’s proposal for a Royal Commission into the banking and financial services industry
SHARON BIRD, SHADOW MINISTER FOR VOCATIONAL EDUCATION: Welcome everybody to Cunningham and to the Illawarra more broadly. This is a really significant and important day for Stephen Jones, Fiona Phillips and I. There is absolutely no doubt that the future of the steel industry has been a critically important issue for our local community and it is clear that the Government has absolutely no interests in this issue. Stephen and I have had to put a release out this week calling on Malcolm Turnbull to actually talk about the steel industry when he's in China. We are really pleased that we've had such great support from Bill Shorten and Kim Carr and the whole Labor team in addressing this issue and we're really pleased that Bill's been able to come down here today for this announcement. We want to thank him for that and to say to the workers in our community we remain at their side fighting for a steel industry and steel jobs in our region.
STEPHEN JONES, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR HEALTH: Thanks very much. Steel is always an election issue here in the Illawarra. Sharon Bird, Fiona Phillips and myself want to ensure that it is an election issue nationally. We've been calling on Christopher Pyne to come and visit Port Kembla. He didn't even know where it was. To come and see and speak to the steel workers who are affected by what's going on in the steel industry nationally. He hasn't done that. Sharon, Fiona and I are delighted that Bill is here today with Kim Carr and I think that sends a pretty powerful message about which side of politics stands on the side of steel. Bill.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning everybody. It's great to be here with Fiona Phillips, Stephen Jones and Sharon Bird, Labor's team for the Illawarra and the South Coast at the next election. Also great to be accompanied by hard working industry spokesperson Senator Kim Carr. I'd like to thank BlueScope steel, I'd like to thank the workforce of BlueScope Steel for showing us around their plant today. And it re-enforces my conviction that Australia needs to be a country that makes things here, that we need to defend and promote our steel and metal manufacturing industry.
There are 30,000 plus jobs directly reliant upon steel production in Australia, not just in the Illawarra but right throughout Australia. There's 100,000 of our fellow Australians, families, small businesses, who directly depend upon steel production and steel manufacturing and distribution. Only Labor has a plan for the steel industry for Australia and for metal manufacturing. I'm pleased today, at the heart of the Australian steel industry, in amongst the workers doing such a fabulous job, to announce Labor's six-point plan for improving, defending and retaining the steel industry in Australia. At the core of our promise to Australian steel workers, to Australian manufacturing workers, to families and small businesses who care about a manufacturing future in Australia, a Labor Government led by myself will do everything we can to make sure that we keep making steel in Australia. Specifically our six-point plan includes ensuring Australian standards are upheld for Federal Government funded infrastructure projects. Making sure we have the best quality, the best safety, that the steel products that taxpayers spend their scarce resources on to make sure that Australian standards are upheld. We will seek to maximise locally-produced steel as part of our infrastructure spend. We will seek to maximise Australian produced steel as part of our Australian infrastructure spend. We will also halve the threshold for projects required to have Australian industry participation plans. What this is, is making sure that projects above a certain level of expenditure have a plan that the drivers of these projects turn their mind to making sure that Australian small businesses, that Australian manufacturers, have the capacity to have a role in these projects. And our fourth part of the plan will be to help increase the funding to help Australian infrastructure, Australian investment participation projects, have that Australian involvement. Our fifth step is a very important part of our plan. It is strengthening our anti-dumping provisions. Let me make this perfectly clear to anyone who thinks that they can come to Australia and run around our laws and dump foreign manufactured steel in Australia. A Labor Government will make sure that we are - that our anti-dumping laws are enforced in a fast and aggressive manner. Australians expect nothing less of an Australian Government.
Finally, we want to create a national steel supplier advocate. There's a lot of small businesses in the steel industry who are busy making ends meet, there's a lot of Australian workers in the steel industry busy doing their day jobs. What we need is an advocate for the steel industry to make sure Australian steel is getting the best story told about it possible. There you have it ladies and gentlemen, a six-point plan to make sure that Australian metal manufacturing and steel has a bright future in Australia. We will work with the commercial operations of business, we will work with the productive workforces, we will work with stakeholders including unions and employers to make sure the steel industry has a bright future. Our promise in metal manufacturing and steel is I and my Labor team will do everything we can do make sure that we still make steel in Australia. Australians have seen for too long in the last three years the car industry gone, the mining industry, the jobs are in free-fall, we've even seen the terrible demise of Queensland Nickel. Enough’ s enough. Australians want a government in Canberra who will fight for Australian steel and we're up for that fight. I've asked Senator Carr to talk a little further about so of our measures and we're happy to take questions.
KIM CARR, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HIGHER EDUCATION, SCIENCE, INNOVATION AND INDUSTRY: It is remarkable in a country with such natural endowment when it comes to resources, that we spend so little time thinking about how we transform those resources into manufactured goods. It is remarkable how little time we spend about what sort of country we want to be. What we are saying is that we need to be an advanced manufacturing country that passes onto our children opportunities for prosperity, opportunities that many of us have had. We've got to make sure that that prosperity continues, we've got to be much more than just a quarry and a beach, and we've got to be able to look to industry, so we see the whole industry, not just one or two companies, but of course, the capacity for 1,800 companies that are involved in the steel industry in this country for them to have a future. 100,000 Australian workers should be able to look to government to stand shoulder to shoulder with them in preserving their prosperity and the prosperity of the nation. Now, this is a plan that at its centre, has a central proposition. We should be able to sell more Australian steel, at home and abroad. All our commitments are consistent with our trade obligations. All our commitments are about building the capacity of the Australian and metals industry to keep jobs in Australia, high quality, secure jobs in Australia. Now, if you compare what we are doing with what this Government has done, you think about it for a moment. They've cut back the work that we started in buying Australian, at home and aboard, they have cut back the work that has been undertaken in the steel industry by removing the steel industry advocate. By undermining the industrial capability network, by undermining funding for the Australian industry participation plans. This is a Government that talks about these things but actually will not act. It will not show the leadership that the Commonwealth should show to the rest of the country and these are plans we have before us today that will provide the security for the future of Australian steel industry.
JOURNALIST: Why won't you mandate the use of Australian steel in Government infrastructure projects?
SHORTEN: First of all, only a Labor government is going to maximise the role of Australian steel in our projects, but setting a particular level, when in fact some of the steel that we use in some of our Defence contracts, for instance, is simply not made in Australia. So you've got to make sure that whatever you promise, you can actually do -
JOURNALIST: - But what is maximising? How do you define that?
SHORTEN: Well, very straightforward. We will ask our agencies when they allocate contracts to start recording what the Australian content is because I think that you can't improve something until you start measuring it. In terms of maximising, I can guarantee you, and through you all of the steel families and all of the small businesses in steel, I understand that the Australian steel industry has a sustainable future. We will make sure and we will keep pushing with our Australian industry participation plans, we will help companies doing the big engineering projects to source Australian content. We will help the smaller Australian businesses who might not be always to get their nose in front of a contract to be able to have that chance to speak up and be heard. We will have a national steel advocate which will make sure that there's a greater chance for the steel industry to speak with one voice. We will also make sure that our anti-dumping laws are as speedily and aggressively enforced. Each point of our plan reinforces the other. I've spent 20 years representing steel workers in one way or another. I've seen the workforces of these big steel mills and a lot of smaller fabricators, they've become more productive, they've done more with less people, they have made the changes that employers have asked of them, they have become a highly technically savvy workforce. What they now need, because in all of those years, they've always paid their taxes to Canberra. Steel families and steel small businesses need to see some return for the tax dollar they've paid to Canberra for these last 20 years. Mr Turnbull has got a chance in China as he is rubbing shoulders with the owners of Chinese steel mills, with the Government of China, to speak up for Australian steel. Right around the world, the German steel industry in the Ruhr, the English steel industry in Wales, the Americans in their steel industry, are all experiencing, like Australia, the consequences of a glut in steel production from China and Asia. Now what we need is the Prime Minister in Australia, when they visit China, to speak up on behalf of steel jobs, not just to simply ignore the issue. This issue of what Mr Turnbull says to the Chinese Government, is a test of his leadership. We see other Australian businesses and other industries, like dairy and pharmaceuticals, now facing new sort of objections and difficulties through new Chinese standards in e-commerce making it harder for Australian product to get on the shelves in China. Mr Turnbull needs to speak up on behalf of those companies, and if he doesn't raise the issue of standing up for Australian steel jobs in China, then Mr Turnbull is betraying hundreds of thousands of people.
JOURNALIST: But this is your plan and you talk about strengthening anti-dumping measures. You're not saying how you are going to do that?
SHORTEN: I will get Senator Carr to answer that, but it is our plan and I tell you what, I didn't get stuck in a traffic jam of Liberal MPs, Christopher Pyne or Malcolm Turnbull, coming down to the Spring Hill Steelworks talking about saving Australian steel jobs. I'm proud of our plan and Kim will talk further about the anti-dumping laws.
CARR: The anti-dumping Commissioner has appeared before a Senate Committee which we've organised, we've traveled around the country so we know what people are saying, the evidence is clear. 75 per cent of Arriums product is subject to dumping measures as recognised by the Dumping Commission. But what the Anti-dumping Commission also says is that when they bring in an order, it is too easily circumvented. There are companies around the world that find ways of getting around the orders we make. What we will do is enforce the orders and ensure that the anti-dumping Commission is able to act quickly to enforce the orders when we've discovered the dumping has occurred to move against it, and preserve Australian industry, as the Americans do.
JOURNALIST: Are you going to introduce any other laws to strengthen anti-dumping?
CARR: The main laws relate to the dumping commission, that's all consistent with the WTO provisions, and we will make sure the dumping commission is able to do its job and not have people walk around the laws that are introduced, walk around the orders that have been made. Last year, the anti-dumping commission introduced 130 orders in the steel industry. This year alone it's 80 already. But there are companies that find it easy to get around that. We have a problem with the speed of with which our commission works. We have a problem to enforce the orders that our commission actually delivers. We will make sure they have the power and capacity to enforce their orders.
JOURNALIST: They are strong enough, you think?
CARR: We need to strengthen the law. We need to strengthen the law, we need to be able to ensure that people can bring actions against dumping product and that orders against that dumped product are actually enforced. That's where you need to strengthen the laws.
JOURNALIST: Other countries have tariffs on imported steel. Is that something -
CARR: Well, there are penalties in Australian law at the moment. But at the moment, the United States has imposed a penalty of 25 per cent on BlueScope for its importation of product to the United States. I think we should be able to say that the Australian steel industry will be treated the way the American steel industry is being treated with their government actions. We have got to be able to preserve our capacity, our companies and give them the opportunities to be able to go after work and get that work on a fair and reasonable basis.
JOURNALIST: On the subject of Australian standards; because that's being discussed at the Senate inquiry, dumped products not meeting Australian standards, could you tell me then why not lift Australian standards across the board? Why just make it specific in Government projects?
CARR: Well, because we will in time, of course, move through this, but we've got to ensure in the first instance, that government-funded works are using quality steel, are using steel that is actually safe and fit for purpose. We have too many experiences now put to the Senate committee of inferior, substandard work being used in Australian Government projects for public works, for roads, for bridges. We have had examples where we've had gum trees fall over, we've examples of light posts not being able to stand up because of the standard of steel that is being used. We've had examples of people bringing in product that is not welded properly, using No More Gaps instead of actually welding steel together. These are very practical examples and the evidence from Steel Institute, the evidence from welding institute to the Senate committee is overwhelming about the failure of our enforcement mechanisms at the moment. We want to see Australian standards used in Australian Government work where it's funded. We want to make sure that's extended through State Government, to Local Government. Now, in the case of South Australia where these things are being road tested, they have been field tested, what we've seen in increase in local work being achieved over the last two years as the contracts have moved from 40 per cent to 91 per cent for local firms. These are measures that we know work because they've been field-tested, we know that they are needed because the evidence is clear before the Senate inquiry, and we will, as a Labor government, enforce these measures to ensure they are applied on a national level.
JOURNALIST: Sorry, how quickly can these laws be implemented.
SHORTEN: 100 days after the election. If you want to make sure that we protect jobs in the Illawarra, if we want to protect the jobs of families and small business in steel, you vote Labor at the next election. The Turnbull Government has given up governing. They are doing everything they can to have an early election on July 2. But I can promise people, that within 100 days of forming a government, the measures we've outlined will become official national policy.
JOURNALIST: You'd expect that industry will say that the participation plan is just increasing red-tape. Are they right?
SHORTEN: No, they are wrong. The truth of the matter is, that when you give small businesses a crack at major contracts, that's not increasing red tape, that's actually making sure that some of Australia's wealth stays in Australia. It's not red tape to make sure that small business has a better opportunity, that the families of small businesses have a better opportunity to contribute their skills on major projects. I want to lead a government where Australians get a fair crack. I want to lead a Government where we still have manufacturing in this country. I want to lead a Government which ensures a level playing field for Aussies.
JOURNALIST: A big defence spend is on the horizon, why not a seventh point that any steel that ah, in Australia, that could be used for those Defence projects should be (inaudible)
SHORTEN: Well, I tell you one thing, if you care about building Defence equipment in Australia, you vote Labor at the next election. It is Labor who's led the campaign to make the Coalition build the 12 submarines in Australia. In the last two and a half years, we've seen highly skilled shipbuilders and ship repairers lose their jobs in Newcastle, lose their jobs in Melbourne, lose their jobs in South Australia and lose jobs in the West. This is because the Government has an aversion to an Australian build. Only Labor has clearly and unequivocally said that for the 12 submarines, which is multiple tens of billions of dollars, that we will build, maintain and sustain those submarines in Australia. Going to the technical issue behind what you say, not every piece of steel used in every piece of defence technology is actually made in Australia, so therefore I'm not going to get caught up - Mr Turnbull would love me to fall into some smarty-pants trap about that. But what I can assure in plain English to Australians, is a Labor government is absolutely committed to making sure that we maximise Australian steel in Australian projects and that's what people want to hear. They want to know that they've got someone in Canberra who'll do everything they can to stand up for them. I just want Mr Turnbull to pass that test in China today and tomorrow.
JOURNALIST: (inaudible) steel project used for the Australian Government is more expensive than imported steel, will the Government still buy that steel?
SHORTEN: Now we are getting into hypotheticals. I believe that our policy of maximising Australian steel will see great value for projects using Australian steel. I'm not going to second guess every contractual item in every matter and you wouldn't expect me to, but what I know when I walk along the paint line here today, what I know is that the steel being made in this plant is going into Australian houses. It's literally putting a roof over the heads of Australians. Australian steel is world-class and I'm not going to be part of the talk down Australian manufacturing brigade. You haven't heard me doing it about Australian cars, unlike the Government who have goaded them to go. You don't hear me saying that about Australian submarine builders, unlike the Government who disparaged Australian manufacturing workers and said they can't build a canoe. And you're not going to hear me talk down the quality and value of Australian steel.
JOURNALIST: What's your reaction to Barnaby Joyce being the acting Prime Minister today?
SHORTEN: I think it's a case of, oh, well, see how he goes and cross our fingers, isn't it? I see he making some jokes about himself being Prime Minster. I just say that he should take himself in the job seriously. It's the Prime Minster of Australia.
SHORTEN: Well, I didn't say that. I've got no doubt, when you look at a specific contract, and I use a story from my own time as a union rep, there was a wharf being built in Melbourne, and the builder chose to use not Port Kembla pipe and tube steel for steel casing. Instead, they bought some steel from Korea. Unfortunately the civil engineers hadn't assessed the depth of the mud where this pier was being built and the steel bought from Korea was simply too short for the job it had to do. It sunk into the mud. I suspect it is still going in Port Phillip. The truth of the matter is if this contract, in my opinion, had bought the steel from Port Kembla, the repairs could have been made to the steel in a speedy fashion rather than waiting for three months to come off the boat. What I understand by that story is sometimes not everything which is the cheapest dollar price is necessarily the best value. That's why we have engineers and quantity surveyors. What they want to hear though from a government in Canberra is that the Aussie steel will get an even crack, and under a Labor government that's what we will do -
JOURNALIST: Is it time - sorry Bill Shorten, apologies. Is it time for Malcolm Turnbull to push back harder against China in the South China Sea issue?
SHORTEN: Well, I've got no doubt that, I want this trip to be successful. I'm not, I don't want to get into this hyper partisanship which was used to mark the Abbott opposition years. I'm always pleased when an Australian company can secure a contract, I'm always pleased when there's more trade, but what Mr Turnbull also has to do is step up. He has to say to China that what we need is to respect international borders, maritime borders, and where there is a disagreement, as can occur from time to time, that's resolved for a process, a mediation discussion, adhering to international law. I also think that Mr Turnbull needs to speak up for Australian dairies, for Australian pharmaceutical companies that are experiencing quite a deal of turbulence and resistance in terms of their product being listed in China and he needs to speak up for Australian steel jobs. It is a test. It's easy to go to a meeting and say nice things to the person you're negotiating with, it's a lot harder to tell them the things which they need to hear, but won't necessarily be greeted with the same degree of round of applause. Mr Turnbull needs to not just focus on his popularity, he needs to focus on leading and standing up for Australian steelworkers' jobs. Any other questions?
JOURNALIST: The Treasurer says that the Government will soon respond to its review into ASIC. What are the minimum changes that should be made?
SHORTEN: I do not know why Mr Morrison and Mr Turnbull are being so silly and stubborn about resisting the calls for a royal commission. Labor's leadership of calling a royal commission has crystallised the thoughts of millions of people. Mr Turnbull knows what the right thing to do is, he's got to stop protecting the banks and start putting people first. You know, to have a discussion about ASIC without having a look at how widespread the cultural problems, the ethical problems are within banking, frankly, is ineffectual. What Australians don't want is a second-class inquiry, merely because Mr Turnbull doesn't feel inclined to have a proper examination of the ethics and culture and find out how widespread the scandals are in banking. People in the Illawarra know that, they've had to deal with the trauma of the trio scandals, financial planning rorts. In the last 12 months, a lot of everyday people have made a life insurance claim which wasn't honoured by the bank. We have serious, serious allegations about interest rate rigging. Now, the Government says about a royal commission that somehow it jeopardises our international reputation. Mr Turnbull, I tell you what jeopardises Australia's international reputation, it's when we have bank scandal after bank scandal. It beggars belief that the Government is running an argument that an unhealthy industry somehow, an industry which doesn't operate and deal with the scandal after scandal is somehow better than an industry which does. Labor wants a royal commission because we have been promised time in and time out, year in and year out, that after each banking scandal, we're always told that's the last one, that everyone's learnt their lessons. Clearly people aren't learning their lessons. We have to see how deep the pathology of poor ethics and low standards extends throughout the banking and financial sector. Mr Turnbull needs to the right thing, he knows what the right thing to do is. He needs to put people first and not big banks. Thanks everyone.