Bill's Transcripts

3AW - Mornings with Neil Mitchell


SUBJECT/S:            Caltex refinery closure, fuel costs, NDIS, Baillieu Government

  NEIL MITCHELL:     On the line the Workplace Relations Minister, Bill Shorten.  Good morning.

 BILL SHORTEN:     Good morning Neil.

 NEIL MITCHELL:    Is it - well, the Caltex situation, what do you know about it?

 BILL SHORTEN:     Well I understand that Caltex have decided to over the next two years close one of their two refineries in Australia. There's one at Kurnell in Sydney.  They say that there's excess refining capacity in the Asia Pacific and they can import the fuel more cheaply than the cost structure than what they have at Kurnell.

 I'm obviously concerned about the impact upon the refinery operators and contractors.  I've - being a union rep in the oil industry in the past, I know that the workforce is highly professional - not a militant workforce.  They've downsized over time to make it as efficient as possible.  But I also know that there is excess capacity and that some countries have bigger refineries which are, just by their scale, cheaper to run.

 NEIL MITCHELL:    But doesn't it by definition make us captive of the international market?  If for any reason there's a shortage of imports we're going to be effected?

 BILL SHORTEN:     Well the government is interested in - more than interested, we are focused on energy security.  The initial advice I've got is that this doesn't particularly jeopardise our energy security.  But obviously the news has been put to the market today. So that's one question which I know people and the government have.

 NEIL MITCHELL:    Do you believe it will affect prices?

 BILL SHORTEN:     No.  I don't actually.

 NEIL MITCHELL:    Okay, well you know the industry pretty well.  See the way I'm extrapolating is if we've got less refining capacity in this country, and for some reason we're able to import less which can happen through international tensions or anything, you know wars and things, if we can import less, we're refining less of our, that puts the price up and the availability down.

 BILL SHORTEN:     Well I agree. One of the dilemmas of being an island is a great advantage but it also means that our shipping routes are fundamentally important to us. Things which go to jeopardising reliability of supply do go to security so you know I think you've got a point there.

 What I also understand though is that in the first instance I'm interested in Caltex's plans to look after the workforce. Secondly, what I also understand is that the cost of producing fuel at larger refineries is cheaper than the cost of producing them at lower refineries. So that's why I think the price impact is not directly affected by the closure of the refinery. It's more affected by the scale of production costs.

 NEIL MITCHELL:    Just a quick traffic warning. Truck smash in the tunnel, two lanes closed, only one getting through. Avoid the area if you can. I don't know which direction. We'll check which tunnel.

 I know you're no longer the Minister but the National Disability Insurance Scheme very much your baby. COAG discussed it all day yesterday and didn't sort it out. You sort of wonder about the point of COAG if they can't handle this. But it's going to be sorted out in the next couple of days isn't it?

 BILL SHORTEN:     Well I'd hope so. I think that the Victorian Government and the New South Wales Government and the Queensland Government have overplayed their hand here. By that - I mean ever since I got elected to parliament at the end of 2007 I've become very involved in how we improve the situation for people with profound and severe disabilities and their carers. And the status quo is hopeless.

 Now what the Federal Government offered yesterday is to do a launch site in the Barwon region of a new approach which would be individual case management, vastly increased packages and support controlled by individuals and their families.  Five thousand people in the Barwon region - that was the proposition on the table in Victoria - the Federal Government offered over $100 million and we were seeking I understand $44 million dollars from the Baillieu Government.

 Now I think the State Governments criticism is that they don't want to spend the 44 million, they've got scarce resources. The Federal Government should do it all…

 NEIL MITCHELL:    I think that the government, the Baillieu Government's argument is that the goal posts were changed and they didn't have time to consider it properly. That it was sort of we've got to meet at two o'clock press conference which seems a bit silly if that's right.

 BILL SHORTEN:     Oh my goodness, if the Baillieu Government is complaining that they've got to make decisions quickly - what are they paid to do Neil?

 NEIL MITCHELL:    Well when was this all…

 BILL SHORTEN:     Like this disability debate has been around…

 NEIL MITCHELL:    Yeah but when were the specifics put to them?  They're claiming the goal posts moved. When were the specifics put to them?

 BILL SHORTEN:     Well I hope you're right - that that is the only obstacle - that they take longer to take a decision than other people do. Now, at the end of the day this debate about National Disability Insurance Scheme was proposed as early as 2008. You know I've been ringing you and saying mate if disability's an issue you certainly accept that and promote the issue for four and a half years.

 You know sometimes in negotiations things do move quickly.

 NEIL MITCHELL:    So was this put to them at the last minute yesterday?

 BILL SHORTEN:     Oh no, they put in a tender and I suspect that's what happened is we've lowered the ask from the State Government. Like you either go there to do - you roll up your sleeves and you go to work to do your day job at your desk or in your meetings.  What matters to me is that there's thousands of individuals and their families in the Barwon region who could be at the start of a marvellous new idea, at the end of the day the Baillieu Government is going to give in.

 Like what annoys me about this is that you've people who are stretched up and down emotionally, they're at breaking point, when I believe fundamentally that the Victorian Government will give in.

 NEIL MITCHELL:    But it doesn't start until the middle of next year. There's time to negotiate. It didn't have to be done yesterday did it if it doesn't start until the middle of next year?

 BILL SHORTEN:     Yeah well disability has been a disgrace for a hundred years…

  NEIL MITCHELL:    But when does it start? Middle of next year.

 BILL SHORTEN:     Middle of next year and it should have - but Neil I think it should have started twenty years ago.

 NEIL MITCHELL:    Well I agree but I mean the Baillieu Government is hardly stopping it if the negotiations are continuing today and it doesn't start until the middle of next year.

 BILL SHORTEN:     Doesn't it beg the question - how can Tasmania who has got a lesser economic base than Victoria make a decision yesterday?

 NEIL MITCHELL:    Of course, but what is the impact of the Baillieu Government delaying a decision?

 BILL SHORTEN:     It's just on what people think of them mate. Because at the end of the day this is a good idea and it will happen.

 NEIL MITCHELL:    I agree with that.

 BILL SHORTEN:     Baillieu Government shouldn't treat disability as a football. Now some people say oh they're all equally as bad as each other.  That's not fair. It's not fair because the Federal Government has come up with the idea of a National Disability Insurance Scheme.  We're putting money on the table. At the end of the day the Baillieu Government can decide to cancel the Brighton Beach level crossing which is costing between $5 million and $10 million and put that into that the Barwon region.

 NEIL MITCHELL:    Yeah but are you seriously saying that this scheme is now in jeopardy? Or are you just saying there's more negotiation before something that's introduced before the middle of next - a year off.  A year off.

 BILL SHORTEN:     No. I apologise if I wasn't clear. I think the Victorian Government will ultimately give in.

 NEIL MITCHELL:    So what was…

 BILL SHORTEN:     But I just think - it just annoys me that we've got to have all this toing and froing and chest beating. Let's just get on and do the job.

 NEIL MITCHELL:    Fair enough. Thank you very much for speaking to us. Bill Shorten, Workplace Relations Minister.