MONDAY, 10 DECEMBER 2018
SUBJECTS: Whyalla Steel industry; medical transfers legislation.
MONDAY, 10 DECEMBER 2018
SUBJECTS: Whyalla Steel industry; medical transfers legislation.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good afternoon everybody. It's great to be here with Sanjeev Gupta, founder and leader of the GFG Alliance which is going to save the Whyalla steel industry, and indeed, I think provide a bright future for Australian steel. It's an absolutely fantastic announcement for the workforce, for the families, for the residents of Whyalla, for the small businesses and all the other people who do rely on a successful Whyalla steel industry. What's really exciting is that today, for the first time in a generation or more, we've seen a vision outlined that Australia can compete in the steel making industry and be amongst the best steel makers in the world. What we see today is a bold vision which will save jobs in regional Australia, which will grow jobs in regional Australia, by providing heavy industry and renewable energy. What this visionary plan for the future of Whyalla and steel making in Australia shows, is that having a good economy and having a good environment are not in competition, they are actually in cooperation.
I want Australia to be a country that continues to make things. I think we're long past the day where we should just be the nation's quarry, digging up our raw materials, shipping them overseas and then paying a lot more to buy them back. Australian workers, Australian innovation are amongst the best in the world. We've got some of the best natural resources in the world and what's exciting is that we're hearing a plan for the long term. The big challenge in Australia is not just thinking about the short term of the five and 10 and 20 year horizon. Labor congratulates Sanjeev Gupta and all of the workforce of Whyalla, and in saying that I must commend the workforce. This company was on its knees two years ago and more. It was a real 50-50 decision would this company go ahead. But what happened is the workforce took the long-term view that it was better to have some short-term pay cuts and restructure of their shift rosters, so long as there could be light at the end of the tunnel which was jobs for their kids in the future. This workforce and the unions in cooperation with the far side of management, have today offered the best and brightest promise for Whyalla in many, many decades. It's an example of how Australia can cooperate; heavy industry and renewable, workers and management, export based manufacturing, Australia being a country that doesn't just dig things up, but makes things here and competes with the world.
I'd now like to invite the CEO, Sanjeev Gupta who has absolutely got everyone pretty excited about the future of Whyalla and to hear some more of the vision which he outlined earlier today.
SANJEEVE GUPTA, CEO: Thanks, I think I've spoken enough. I'll just take questions if you have some.
JOURNALIST: Mr Gupta, is there going to be a big emphasis on using Australian steel to do the projects you outlined?
GUPTA: Actually, it's - that is already a point well supported, support I will continue. Most government projects, most construction, first of all gets that and the other point is it's also a natural phenomenon anyway. Even when Arrium went into administration, even during that long period, 70-80 per cent of the steel used in the company was produced by Whyalla. So the customers, the construction industry, everybody needs a local producer. People think you can just import steel, it's not that easy, it's not about - it is about competitiveness but it's also about the whole supply chain as well. I just think it's not that simple. You have to have a look at producing, you have to look at supply just in time, make modifications, change things as things are being built. You can't have six months, nine month long supply chains, it's just doesn't work like that, you don't build a country like that.
JOURNALIST: Mr Gupta when it comes to the next generation plant, have you got a ballpark figure of how much that might cost you?
GUPTA: I honestly do, but I wouldn't like to start speculating on those things until we've actually finalised it. We've done quite a lot of work on it. Already all the pieces of the work are done. Now we commissioned, signed today of the detailed (inaudible) - that will cost tens of millions, and if you go over the next six to nine months and that will be time (inaudible).
JOURNALIST: Mr Gupta, a next-generation steel pipe modellings are different to the current generation of steel pipe. What are the key ingredients that make it what you want to build in the future?
GUPTA: I mean look, I love my current steel plants, I don't want to talk it down but there is - we are talking about having another - a new steel plant especially scale steel plant of - a 10 million tonne steel plant, all the latest technology, it will be much, much, much bigger blast furnaces, economies of scale, it will use ARVR, it will use machine learning, it will use everything you can think of in terms of the modern industrial era. All of those things and beyond. Nobody has built a 10-20 million tonne steel plant for a while. So the fact that we will do this now will be, it will be the best in the world. Our steel plant, the existing steel plant is tired, it is old. It hasn't been invested in for a long time. We are doing some of that. But really, fundamentally to do it at that scale we need a new steel plant, as well as trying to fix the current one.
JOURNALIST: The stuff down the foreshore that was announced, the horticulture projects, those types of projects - obviously you're not directly involved but I am guessing it is something you're really appreciated that is going to happen as well?
GUPTA: I am very passionate about it because you know, you can't have a steel town, you have to have a town, a city which has a proper ecosystem, it is a diverse, it has the full mix of everything. So bringing other industry here is critical for the success, even of the steel plant. So I am very passionate about inviting as many other industries as possible here. The other point is, as you know, we are building our renewable park. So once that 1,000 megawatts is built, we are not going to use all of it, we are very keen for other industries to come utilise that power.
GUPTA: Next summer is what the target is. I don't know if we will make it but that's the target for that one.
JOURNALIST: I am sure this is will be part of the feasibility study, but for the next generation plant, are you going to be able to source enough water for that?
GUPTA: Yeah, that is part. All the work which is going on, obviously that is a critical part. There will need a different scale solution to that. But I want to talk a bit more about the - I think all the attention is going to next-gen as you would expect because that is where all the excitement is. But we are talking about spending $1.3 billion on the transformation. That you know, by itself is a mammoth undertaking which has never happened in this place for a very, very long time, and that will make that businesses sustainable. Things like this state-of-the-art (inaudible) will make that business for sustainable for the long term. The next-gen is very exciting and it is the future, but right now what we need to focus on over the next couple of years is actually the transformation program which is what will keep this business going, which is what we are running now.
JOURNALIST: Do you expect to grow your workforce as part of the transformation program or expect it to maintain -
GUPTA: Yes. So the big growth will be in the construction jobs, and then after that, there is a lot of automation in it so there will be increases for sure. But there are not going to be thousands of people, more like hundreds of jobs in terms of sustainable job increases on the current transformation. Obviously the next-gen is a different ball game all together.
GUPTA: Actually, we were talking earlier and I said for me today, it is actually the - not the day we bought the business, not the first anniversary - today is the greatest moment because it is all that work over the last 15 months. Thousands and thousands of man hours, tens of millions of dollars which has gone into the feasibilities now resulting in these two contracts, the mill and the (inaudible) plant, with more to come. This is about half the project if you like and out of the $1.3 billion about 600 has been committed today, there is 700 to go which will be finalised also over the next few weeks and month.
JOURNALIST: Opposition Leader, can I ask you a question?
SHORTEN: You've finished on the steel projects? Because Mr Gupta doesn't have to worry about federal politics. I should have also introduced Eddie Hughes. He is the Whyalla Member here, the State Member. He is third generation Whyalla steel works – indeed his own son came out of his apprenticeship when Arrium had the shadow over the administration. So I'll just finish up on the steel plant to say, what we see here today is an investment in manufacturing. Steel jobs are good jobs because they pay well, they are permanent jobs; you can get a mortgage, you can make financial decisions. I am very optimistic that if across regional Australia, we unlock the key of renewable energy to power manufacturing, we can make sure we stop the exodus to the big cities of our young population out of the bush and the regions. Anyway, over to the other issues.
JOURNALIST: Newspoll, I am guessing you must be buoyed by today's numbers?
SHORTEN: Well, for five and a half years I have made a habit of not commenting about the polls. Sometimes they're good and sometimes they're not so good, so I don't comment about the polls. I think you should ask though, Mr Morrison the Prime Minister and his Liberal team what they think about that.
JOURNALIST: Peter Dutton says his advice on the Nauru bill is that asylum seekers with serious criminal records will be able to come to Australia and there'll be no power to intervene. Is that contrary to your advice?
SHORTEN: Yes, it is. Listen, let's go to the heart of the matter here. Labor is committed to turning back boats. We are committed to offshore processing. But what does the Government want? If someone is sick and dying on Nauru, do they just expect us to leave them there? We've had hundreds of people come to Australia now for medical treatment, literally hundreds. The six kids or the 10 kids left on Nauru - is the Government really arguing that border security now will be affected, when in fact they've been bringing hundreds of people here, and all we've proposed is that treating doctors' views get taken seriously. The Minister still has discretion, the Minister still has the final say. But what we do think is that where you've got treating medicos, I don't want people just to be left on Nauru to die just because the Government doesn't want to treat them in Australia and then send them back to Nauru.
JOURNALIST: So will you release your advice on this policy?
SHORTEN: Listen, it's existing policy. This Government, you know they've really got to explain what is wrong with having two treating doctors with the Minister still having final discretion. Full stop. I mean really, we got down to a debate in Australian politics that an Australian Government saying it's better to leave someone on Nauru to die than bring them to Australia, in custody, have treatment, and send them back to Nauru.
JOURNALIST: How do you stand up to the left of the party and any push they may have to try and soften the current border protection policy?
SHORTEN: See the irony - the previous question was that we're not doing enough on border security and then the next question is we're doing too much, and we're not even the government. We'll have our National Conference; I am determined that the people smugglers don't get back into business. I think it is to the disgrace - to the shame in fact, of the Federal Government, that every day when they have a microphone in front of them they just signal to the criminal gangs in South East Asia - try your hand for bringing people to Australia. That is the exact opposite of what a government should be doing. We will work as the government has to maintain strong borders; turning boats back where it is safe to do so; we are committed to regional processing, full stop. But what I also believe is that, after five-plus years, this government should have done more to resettle people elsewhere around the world than they have, and that's what we'll do. So for National Conference, I am confident that the party understands the position I've outlined, and that is the policy I'll be taking to the next election.
JOURNALIST: Just briefly back on Mr Dutton, what do you make of his comments Tanya Plibersek is unfit to sit on the National Security Committee?
SHORTEN: What did he say about Tanya?
JOURNALIST: That she was unfit to sit on the National Security Committee because ((inaudible).
SHORTEN: Well one, she will. And two, if Peter Dutton wants to make the election a test of his character versus Tanya Plibersek's, bring it on. She is an outstanding person. All good?
JOURNALIST: I just want to ask Eddie a question. Eddie, steel is in your blood. How are you feeling today with the huge announcements for the steel works?
EDDIE HUGHES, STATE MEMBER FOR GILES: Delighted. The community since Sanjeev bought in, confidence is buoyed. But we were in a state of limbo, wondering what was going to happen next. But now we have something incredibly tangible. This is like an incredible Christmas present for the community that's been unwrapped today. In the meantime we have a very strong future. The steel transformation plan is incredibly visionary and ambitious, but before that we're going to have a lot of solid work that's going to mean massive investment in our community and jobs sustained into the future. So it is a real solid Christmas present for my community.
SHORTEN: Thanks, everybody.