Bill's Transcripts






SUBJECT/S: Rio Tinto refinery closure; Asylum seekers.


RICHARD MARGETSON: The Opposition Leader joins me now. Bill Shorten, very good morning to you.




MARGETSON: Since the closure, and since the news of the closure, it seems that there’s been a parade of politicians and union leaders visiting Gove. What do you actually hope to achieve there today?


SHORTEN: Well, when you say there’s been a parade of people coming here, I don’t think the Federal Government has been here. The reason I’ve come up here is because local members, Lynne Walker at the territory level and Warren Snowdon, have asked me to come. People are concerned that the closure of the refinery in Gove has been forgotten by state and federal government and that Rio Tinto could do better than it currently is.


MARGETSON: But it would be unfair to say it’s been forgotten by local government. I think the Chief Minister himself has said that he believes that that three-year rescue package for businesses and properties in the town, including subsidies for rates, sewage and rubbish charges, should fall more into the hands of the federal government. But that transition package is being criticised by you, by the ACTU, by the Chief Minister himself, Adam Giles. What is it that you think it’s missing, what should be added into it?


SHORTEN: Well, there are a lot of people who’ve made their lives here. And I think there were people who relied on the gas to Gove promises. I think there are people who are saying that the closure is happening very quickly, and what all of this means is people are being squeezed. People get that if there’s not to be an alumina refinery here, that’s one thing. But the manner in which the place winds back is another thing altogether.


MARGETSON: Yeah, but what should added to it? I think people know that the refinery is closing and we’re well aware of the pressures that are coming on to Nullumbuy here in the Northern Territory. What would you be adding to the package, a three-year rescue package that’s been criticised, offering cheaper rents in the town, subsidies for rates, sewage, rubbish charges. What would you be adding into that?


SHORTEN: Well, let’s have a look at what you call a three-year package. The closure will actually be done by August, so it’s not a three-year package. There’s a bit of spin, I’m sensing, on what seems to be three years is in fact a lot less than that. Let’s look at the different categories of people. First of all, you’ve got contract employees, many of whom whilst they’re not directly employed by Rio have been part of what that company has relied upon to make this place function, looking at the details of what’s going to happen to them. Then you look at people who operate in the town, who are not directly renting from Rio. Rio has a percentage of the properties which, upon which renters charge and there’s a subsidy now being offered to help minimise the impact of the closure. A lot of other people, they  - this is a company town, this town exists because Rio is here. So whilst the property mightn’t be directly owned by Rio, if you’re someone renting from someone else, your rent is still staying very high you’re getting those subsidy – but Rio’s closing, see, is stranded. Another group of people who are here for whom it’s not clear what it means is all the public sector workers. If mum and kids haven’t got a maternity service, if there’s no school services available for the next three years, well then you’re going to move and what happens is the spiral about the decay of the town.


MARGETSON: Bill, pardon, I don’t think you’re telling us anything we don’t know. We know that that is the process that is going to take place. What we’re asking is, what do you think you can do to change that?


SHORTEN: Well, when you say I’m not telling you anything you don’t know, first of all –


MARGETSON: But issues about childcare, and the fact that people are leaving, I mean, we know very well here that the people of Nullumbuy are doing it tough. We’ve seen what’s happening, we’re seeing people leaving, we’re hearing from the community, we’re hearing from the township itself, but what I’m interested in is what you think that the Opposition would be able to offer that hasn’t been offered to date?

SHORTEN: Well first of all the Abbott Government should provide some structural assistance to help with the cost of making sure that the decline of the town is, you know, less difficult fashion than it currently is, so a transition package, that means money. Secondly, I’ll have more meetings today, but I’m forming the view that Rio Tinto could come up with a package which is actually more reflective of all of the people who are going to be affected by their decision.


MARGETSON: Does it make you think though, that with SPC Ardmona and Holden, two recent and very high profile cases, both in southern states, in South Australia and with SPC Ardmona in the news right now, both rejected as packages that you would see anything likely to be given by the federal government, in a landscape which doesn’t seem to be offering business much hope when it comes to government assistance?

SHORTEN: This is the same government who’s happy to help the Cadbury factory in Hobart, happy to stop the Americans buying Graincorp, and they’re also offering, the fish industry is also having some structural readjustment. This is a very pick and choose federal government, if for whatever political reason they have, they think you should get some sort of support, they’ll give it. So let’s be really clear here, this is not a case that everyone here gets treated the same, some people get treated worse than others. The other thing is that with Rio Tinto themselves, I’m forming the view that either this is a company town or it’s not. Now I think this is a company town, I think Rio’s taken the benefit of permanent population being available to help contribute to the profits of Rio Tinto, not over 12 months, but many decades.


MARGETSON: 17 minutes past seven, were going to have to leave shortly Bill Shorten, he’s the federal Opposition Leader, with us the radio this morning. Couple of other topics that are around, what’s Labor’s position on putting asylum seekers in life boats? Do you support that, is it something that the Labor Government has considered in government?


SHORTEN: In terms of the asylum seekers, our position is what is the government doing? You’re asking me to comment about aspects of government policy, we would just like them to tell us what they’re doing, we’d like them tell not just even us, just the Australian people. But I mean it’s one thing, they can put asylum seekers in life boats, I’m in Gove because I actually think they could afford to give Gove a better life boat than there giving them.

MARGETSON: So it’s one of things that may come out of the conversations you’re going to have. Who do you meet with  first, what’s the plan for the rest of the day, Bill Shorten?
SHORTEN: I’m meeting with traditional owners, meeting with small businesses, meeting with public sector providers, meeting with residents, meeting with workers.


MARGETSON: And at the end of that you’ll form some idea about what you would like to see as the rescues package or a more long term profile for what the town could and should become?

SHORTEN: That’s a good point. I’m interested in what people think a better rescue package would look like. I don’t accept this town shouldn’t exist, so I’m interested in, not just how do you give people a hand out, but how do you create a sustainable community going forward.
MARGETSON: Bill Shorten it’s good to speak to you today, we’ll hear I’m sure as the day goes on, what’s happened with the meetings that you’ve had, and the trip that you’re taking there with Nova Peris and Warren Snowdon as well, but for the moment we thank you very much for your time.


SHORTEN: You have a nice morning, thank you.