THURSDAY, 21 SEPTEMBER 2017
SUBJECTS: Energy; gas exports; Australian jobs and manufacturing; marriage equality survey.
RICHARD MARLES, MEMBER FOR CORIO: Well, welcome everyone to Incitec Pivot here in North Shore in Geelong and it's fantastic to have the Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten here. Bill's no stranger to this particular site, he's been visiting here for 20 years in one form or another. Can I thank Sean O'Riley who is the site manager here and thank James Fazzino the CEO of Incitec Pivot for coming down and meeting with us and going on the tour of this site.
This is a really important site of manufacturing here in Geelong, and energy is absolutely critical to the work that is done here and the commerciality of this site, Bill's going to address that in a moment. But I just want to say something about how significant Incitec Pivot is to the city of Geelong. This is now the oldest, continuous manufacturing site here in Geelong and it employees about 120 people who obviously bring home, by virtue of what they do here, an income and a livelihood for their families. We are a city which has gone through a number of shocks when it comes to manufacturing - the loss of Alcoa, the loss of Ford and indeed the loss of other sites right around the precinct that we're in here. But this is a manufacturing site that has been operating since the 1920s and it's absolutely critical to the future of Geelong. Well it is about jobs - but it's actually more important than that, it goes to the identity of this town. It's worth knowing as Geelong saddles up to play Adelaide tomorrow night that in the early years the Geelong Football Club was known as the Pivotonians, and that was a reference to this site and the early manufacturing history of Geelong.
So it's not just about jobs it's about who we are and what we're on about as a town. This goes to the identity of what Geelong's about and the energy equation for how this plant operates is absolutely critical to ensuring that Incitec Pivot continues long into the future. So with those few words, it's my real pleasure to invite the Leader of the Opposition back here to Geelong, to say a few words about this place and about the energy equation for it - Bill.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks, Richard and I want to thank the leadership of the workforce of Incitec Pivot for explaining to us the important manufacturing role that Incitec Pivot plays in the Australian economy. From providing quality material to our farmers right through to employing hundreds of people right around Australia, including 120 people at this facility. But no matter how hard the workers and the management of Incitec Pivot and other Australian manufacturers work, it could all be for nothing unless we deal with the energy crisis in Australia, and the energy crisis is rapidly becoming a job's crisis. Australian business is doing everything in its power to educate the Government about the energy crisis and that if spiralling gas and electricity prices are not tackled, the energy crisis will become a jobs crisis for Australian manufacturing.
Now, the Government says that they are listening. But an out of touch Turnbull seems to be doing a lot of talking but not a lot of action - it's all talk and no action from the Turnbull Government. What Australia desperately needs when it comes to rising energy prices is leadership. We are not getting a lot of leadership right at the moment. The problem is that Turnbull is paralysed, paralysed by disunity, paralysed by fear of Tony Abbott and the right wing of the Liberal Party. Australia and the Turnbull Government has an energy crisis, Turnbull has a jobs crisis looming but until Turnbull deals with the crisis of disunity within the Liberal Government, then nothing's going to get fixed about jobs and energy.
Today, Labor is again, reiterating our call upon Mr Turnbull to put in place, or to pull the trigger on export controls, which will require a prioritisation of the supply of gas in Australia to go to Australian businesses, rather than being shipped overseas for export. We are also saying that Mr Turnbull needs to give the regulator more teeth so that we can see more transparency, more public information for business to understand what exactly the big gas companies are price gouging and profiteering off battling manufacturing businesses in this country. It is now time for Mr Turnbull to deal with the crisis in his party and thereby we can deal with the energy and jobs crisis which is coming down the road very fast to Australian industry.
We are happy to take any questions people might have.
JOURNALIST: The head of the ACCC says network costs are the biggest driver of electricity price hikes and have strongly backed the abolition of the Limited Merits Review. Isn't it time to get on with this?
SHORTEN: I think he is right. What we want to make sure is that the three ingredients which go to energy prices, which is supply, transmission and the retail part of the sector, they all need to be dealt with overall by the Government. The Senate's having a look at the LMR review to make sure that there is no unintended consequences, but I'm confident that we will see action on that part of the equation. But again I say to Mr Turnbull, it is also about the supply of gas. I think Australian business struggles with the idea that Japanese or overseas businesses can buy Australian gas more competitively than Australian business can. There is nothing wrong with Australian governments sticking up for Australian business and making sure that Australian industry and Australian jobs get first bite of the cherry when it comes to gas produced in Australia.
JOURNALIST: So you do support the abolition of the Limited Merits Review?
SHORTEN: I think that is where we will end up, yes. There will be a Senate Inquiry to make sure there is no unintended consequences but I think that is where we will end up.
JOURNALIST: Should the states lift their ban on gas exploration?
SHORTEN: Could you repeat the question?
JOURNALIST: Should the states lift their ban on gas exploration?
SHORTEN: I have gone on the record as saying that I think wherever we've got conventional gas in Australia we should be pursuing that. It is a matter of backing the science, it is a matter of making sure you talk to communities. But I think it is reasonable if we can extract gas in Australia conventionally, safely, in consultation with communities, well I think we do need to look at that, absolutely, yes.
JOURNALIST: In Question Time you were claiming that power prices in Sydney have gone up nearly $1000, do you accept that that's not the case?
SHORTEN: I think that the Government counterattack shows they live on another planet. What planet does Turnbull and his out-of-touch Government live on when they try and argue that power prices are not going up. I'm here at Incitec Pivot. This company is one of our biggest phosphate producers, it's doing well by global standards.This company has seen a 60 per cent increase in their energy prices here. I mean we see rising electricity prices, rising gas prices, if Mr Turnbull is so sensitive to criticism about the energy crisis which is happening on his watch he probably needs to get a new job. He got to toughen up, he's got to toughen up to Tony Abbott, stop standing in the way of good investment policy which will deliver reliable energy.
There is no doubt in my mind that the Turnbull Government needs to get over its out-of-touch views on renewable energy. It needs to make sure there is a greater supply of gas in Australia, including prioritising gas for Australian markets before they go overseas and we need to start getting agreement on a Clean Energy Target, and that's what the Chief Scientist has said. You know, if I have to pick in a beauty parade, Tony Abbott and the right wing of the Liberal Party or the Chief Scientist, my vote goes to the Chief Scientist and his fact-based efforts to ensure that we've got proper pricing for energy and sustainable energy into the future.
JOURNALIST: But that figure of $1000, what was your evidence for that? Where did you get that from?
SHORTEN: There was something in the Australian newspaper.
JOURNALIST: Have you got a secondary source for that?
SHORTEN: Well the people who said it have since retreated from some of their calculations, but listen I'm not going to take a backward step on behalf of Australian consumers and Australian industry. This company here isn't getting us down just to take some happy snaps for a tourism portfolio. This is a company who has made lots of changes in this business. This company alone has improved productivity over the past three years by $6 million. That's a lot of effort from all 120 of the workforce and the management.
But how frustrating must it be for Australian manufacturers, and this is not an isolated example, they are working night and day to extract margins of values so they can keep in business, make a profit, employ people. And then all of that in this game of snakes and ladders comes to nothing. For every ladder they go up through their own efforts then all of a sudden we see rising electricity prices which takes them all back to the start again. If Mr Turnbull's plan for Australian gas and Australian energy is to say the prices aren't increasing, it just proves how out of touch Turnbull is with what is going on in business and the lives of every day Australians.
JOURNALIST: There's been a bit of backlash against the AFL for supporting the yes campaign, do you think it's appropriate for the AFL to be getting involved with politics?
SHORTEN: I think various institutions are allowed to have a public opinion on this matter of marriage equality either in favour or against. I think it is a testament and a credit to the AFL that they can have such a powerful message without personal invective, without causing harmful or hateful speech. I think the AFL have done what they think is right according to them. Obviously the first aim of the AFL is football but what they have done is I think show you can participate in a public debate without being harmful or negative. I think in terms of this same-sex marriage survey, I think the AFL has made a contribution. All good everybody, thanks.