97.3 ABC ILLAWARRA
THURSDAY, 14 APRIL 2016
SUBJECT/S: Labor's positive plan to secure Australian metals manufacturing and jobs
TONY ARTHUR (HOST): We've got an important event happening this morning around 9:15 at BlueScope Steel, a gathering headed by the Honourable Bill Shorten, Leader of the Opposition. He'll be joined by Senator the Honourable Kim Carr, Shadow Minister for Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Industry, Local member Sharon Bird, the member for Cunningham and the Minister for - Shadow Minister for Vocational Education, the Shadow Assistant Minister for Health, Stephen Jones and Labor's candidate for Gilmore, Fiona Phillips. They'll all be together to announce Labor's plan for the steel industry and ahead of his visit this morning the Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten joins us on 97.3 Breakfast.
Mr Shorten good morning.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning.
ARTHUR: 9:15 BlueScope Steel with your colleagues around you, you'll be announcing Labor's plan for the steel industry, what can you tell us about that plan?
SHORTEN: Today I'll be announcing a six point plan that a Labor Government would do to secure the future of our strategically significant steel and metals manufacturing industries. I'll be there with Kim Carr and Sharon Bird, Stephen Jones and Labor's great candidate for Gilmore, Fiona Phillips. Because we want to make sure that we hang on to all those very important steel jobs in Illawarra and elsewhere in Australia.
ARTHUR: You've narrowed it down to six points, can you give us an idea what they are?
SHORTEN: Well, I've got to say come along at 9:15. But what I can do is say that we're committed to upholding and ensuring Australian standards. We want to see a greater role for maximising the use of locally produced steel. We think that our steel industry, if it's given the sort of strategic plan which only Labor's offering, that it can get through the current problems with China producing so much steel. And as that glut of steel starts to evaporate we can make sure that Australians steel producers stay on their feet so that we can benefit from a better time in the future when global circumstances are more optimistic.
ARTHUR: Does this include mandating the use of locally produced steel for government projects?
SHORTEN: What we want to do it maximise the use of locally produced steel. For some projects in Australia we just don't make the steel that is necessary for those projects in Australia. So, trying to mandate something that we don't do wouldn't be realistic. But I think, we can help try and do more to maximise the use of locally produced steel. Absolutely, we should be firm on what we should be doing, everything we can.
ARTHUR: One of the big stories of the last week or so, of course, is the collapse of Arrium and the future of Whyalla under a very dark cloud. Has enough been done to protect steel making in Australia?
SHORTEN: I honestly don't think Mr Turnbull and his senior Ministers really understand a whole lot of blue collar jobs, starting with steel manufacturing but not just steel manufacturing. We constantly need to be toughening our anti-dumping laws. I also think that when it comes to manufacturing, it's really important that Mr Turnbull, who is in China today and tomorrow, that he speaks up on behalf of the thousands of manufacturing jobs. There is a bit of a myth in Australia that we are not a country that makes things. But the truth of the matter is that according to the Australian Steel Institute that combined, the Australian steel industry employs more than 100,000 people, it has massive turn over in excess of tens of billions of dollars and in fact, there's 33,000 Australians, not just in the Illawarra but right around Australia engaged in the production and manufacturing of steel alone.
ARTHUR: Many people who are employed at the Port Kembla steel works and the ancillary industries which feed off it, are concerned that Wollongong may go sadly, the way of, it looks like Whyalla is going to do. If you are elected later this year, what guarantees can you give that steel works, steel producing will continue in the Illawarra?
SHORTEN: I can guarantee that I'll do everything I can. I was the union rep for the AWU, who cover the iron works, the steel works at both Whyalla and Wollongong, and in other parts of Australia. It is not the job of Australian Government to give up on Australian jobs. It is not the job of the Australian Government to wave goodbye to industry after industry. I understand earn their living. I have been to the blast furnaces, I have been to the freight yard, I have been to the small fabricators. They're good jobs in these businesses and there is good quality work to be done. We are a nation who occupies a continent. If we wave goodbye to our steel industry just through apathy, neglect or indeed, a view that somehow Australia should only be a quarry and a financial services centre, well then that's abysmal leadership and that's not what a Labor Government I lead will do.
ARTHUR: But only last week, Christopher Pyne stated that he didn't believe the Federal Government is the answer to saving our Arrium, that it had to be a state and business led recovery. Your view on that?
SHORTEN: Well there's no doubt that Arrium, formerly OneSteel, needs to have a commercial solution. But the point about it is, everyone who works at Arrium pays their taxes. All the small businesses and the families who've helped generate the work indirectly that goes into Arrium, they all pay their taxes. Now's not the time for the government to play 'wash my hands of this problem', the people who work at these businesses and throughout manufacturing in Australia, they pay their taxes, they deserve a government who's in their corner when the going gets tough.
ARTHUR: Talking about taxes, if I can just go to a slightly different story, in the Australian today it says that you have left open the possibility to offer personal income cuts at the federal election. You repeatedly failed to be drawn on personal income tax cuts at a press conference yesterday. Are we liable to see income tax cuts if they win the election?
SHORTEN: Well I don't know what sort of mess the current government's got the budget into. You know, they love to say that they're very pro-business and they're pro-reform, but the only tax reform that the current government's been talking about is trying to persuade Australians to go for a 15 per cent GST. Labor will never do that. Then Mr Turnbull had a remarkable lightbulb moment where he decided it would be good to allow States to levy income taxes. Labor gets that the way that you do budget repair is you go after some of the unsustainable tax concessions, you reduce wasteful government spending, but you don't raise the income taxes of ordinary, everyday Australians. Now whether or not personal income taxes are possible we'll have to, income tax cuts are possible, we'll have to see what's in the Budget. One thing I won't do though, is cut the funding to schools and hospitals and instead give large multinationals corporate tax cuts. I just think Mr Turnbull and Mr Morrison are showing their real stripes. They think that if you look after the top one per cent then the benefits of that trickle-down to the rest of Australian society, I don't share that view. We've got to be in the business of nation building. You build a nation with a strong Medicare. You build a nation with strong schools. You build a nation with looking after the steel industry, not by corporate tax cuts at the top end which will just benefit foreign shareholders.
ARTHUR: All right we've got to go, and I know you're on your way to Bluescope steel at Port Kembla. We will follow with interest your announcement today. Thank you for your time.
SHORTEN: Thanks for standing up for steel.
ARTHUR: Bill Shorten the Federal Opposition Leader, 9:15 that announcement being made about Labor's plan for the future of the steel industry.