MONDAY 30 JULY 2018
SUBJECTS: Labor’s Second Tranche of Anti-Dumping Policy, Australian Manufacturing, By-election results
SHARON BIRD, MEMBER FOR CUNNINGHAM: I just want to say this morning that my colleagues Fiona Phillips, Stephen Jones and I are just thrilled to have Kim Carr and Jason Clare our Shadow Ministers here today looking at very important work being done by our university sector and our local manufacturing businesses.
We are very optimistic that manufacturing as a significant part of our regional economy has a good future but we need to have governments with policies in place that actually support that being sustainable into the long term. Here today can I thank the university and this particular facility for hosting us because what they are showing us is innovation combined with traditional skills developing new products, new services and most importantly new jobs. And saying to young people, if you’re into something like welding, which can be a very traditional thing for young people to think about, there’s actually a really exciting future in that space that’s combined with technology.
So I just want to say on behalf of the three of us – Kim and Jason have been here many, many times and are very committed to our region and to our manufacturers and our industries – we are really pleased to host them and I’ll ask Kim and Jason to talk about what they are here for today.
SENATOR KIM CARR, SHADOW MINISTER FOR INNOVATION, INDUSTRY, SCIENCE AND RESEARCH: Thank you very much. Since Donald Trump announced the 25 percent increase in tariffs on the importation of steel, the Australian steel industry has faced significant extra pressures. Already over 90 per cent of the Australian Anti-Dumping Commission’s work has been in the steel industry. That is because so much of the world is producing an over capacity of steel and we have seen very, very large amounts of steel being pushed towards Australia at unfair and uncompetitive prices.
Our grave concern is that steel will be sent to Australia that can’t get into the United States. It will add pressure on what is a recovering industry, a steel industry in Australia that is taking great steps forward to improve its competitiveness, and improve its profitability.
Today Labor is announcing its second tranche of reforms to strengthen the Anti-Dumping Commission, to help protect Australian jobs, protect Australian companies and preserve the ability of Australians to be able to negotiate the future.
A Labor government, under Bill Shorten, wants to be able to strengthen our ability to improve the bargaining position of our workers and our companies in what are very uncertain times. So today we are announcing further changes – already we have announced improvements in terms of the funding for the Anti-Dumping Commission, improvements in the way the Anti-Dumping Commission works, improvements in terms of the fines that can be levied on dumped product in Australia by companies that are doing the wrong thing against Australia. And today we are announcing further changes to improve the capacity of Australian companies to be able to be competitive internationally.
Now these include the capacity of companies to provide recommendations to the Anti-Dumping Commission on the sorts of penalties that should be imposed. These are measures to improve the capacity of the Anti-Dumping Commission to be able to prevent further obstruction by companies who are seeking to undermine Australian companies in Australia. And provide additional information to Australian companies so that they can get access to the Australian Bureau of Statistics material so they know what is actually going on in real time in the marketplace. And to this point companies have been able to use so called bogus commercial in confidence devices to be able to prevent the Australian people, Australian companies from knowing what their activities have been engaged in.
So with these measures we are saying that the Australian Labor Party – the Shorten Labor Government – will stand shoulder to shoulder with Australian companies, with Australian workers in preserving jobs, defending Australian manufacturing, ensuring that we are able to compete internationally and ensure we are able to get a fair go from the international marketplace.
JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR TRADE AND INVESTMENT SHADOW MINISTER FOR RESOURCES AND NORTHERN AUSTRALIA: Thanks very much Kim and it’s great to be back in the Gong with Kim, with Sharon, Fiona and Stephen.
Even though Donald Trump’s 25 percent tariff on steel doesn’t apply directly to BlueScope here in the Illawarra it is still a threat to the jobs at BlueScope, and it is still a threat to the jobs of Australian steel workers right across the country. And that’s because the tariffs that the Trump Administration has put on steel exported to the United States from other countries increases the risk that some of that steel might be dumped here in Australia instead of going to the United States. And if that happens, well that’s a risk to Aussie jobs.
That’s why we have said that we need to be prepared to make sure that steel doesn’t get dumped here in Australia. In March we said we would triple the penalties on companies that dump steel here in Australia. We also said we would provide the Anti-Dumping Commission with an extra $3.2 million to employ an extra 30 investigators to make sure once again that steel, manufactured in other countries, doesn’t get dumped at below cost price here in Australia just because they can’t send it any more to the United States.
What Kim has just announced here is another package of measures that build on that and they are recommendations that come out of a recent Senate inquiry. Recommendations that have come from members of parliament from the Labor side and the Liberal side. We are calling on the government again today to pull their finger out and back these measures.
When we announced back in March our policy to triple penalties and increase funding for the Anti-Dumping Commission the government said that wasn’t necessary. Well it is necessary. We have just seen the European Union put in their own anti-dumping measures because they’re worried about this as well, and they have seen an increase in steel coming into Europe. And if we don’t take these sorts of measures then there is a risk that Australians in the steel industry could lose their job. That’s why we need to put this in place.
It shouldn’t take an election for this to happen. We can do this now. We have told the government that this is the sort of thing that is really necessary to protect jobs, not just here in the Illawarra but right around the country. So the message from Labor again today is that we need to protect Australian jobs in the steel industry, we need to protect Australian jobs in the aluminium industry, we need to protect jobs here in the Illawarra and one way to do that is to make sure we have the anti-dumping rules we need to make sure companies don’t think Australia is a soft touch, an easy place to dump their cheap steel.
JOURNALIST: Are these measures BlueScope has been calling for?
CLARE: When we announced the first tranche of measures to triple penalties, as well as to increase resources for the Anti-Dumping Commission they were welcomed by BlueScope. We consulted with BlueScope on those measures, and they backed them in. They actually told the Prime Minister when the Prime Minister visited BlueScope at the time, that these are the sort of things that are necessary as well. And it’s unfortunate that the Prime Minister hasn’t listened. He doesn’t listen a lot. It’s part of the problem. Part of being a politician is not just talking but listening and what BlueScope has said to us is that these are the sorts of things that are necessary.
CARR: There is a reference group that operates within this - a whole series of companies not just BlueScope but a whole series of companies have been calling for these measures. A whole series of trade unions have been calling for these measures so companies and workers are saying that this question of anti-dumping is a bit like tax avoidance. You just can't rest on your laurels. You've got to constantly work at it because there are so many shysters. There are so many crooks out there who are trying to rip this country off.
Now we've got to defend this country against this sort of activity and that's why companies and workers are saying to the Australian Government just get off your bum and get on and do something to make sure that this country is not put at an unfair disadvantage.
JOURNALIST: We’ve obviously seen the Prime Minister multiple times in the last six to twelve months, why do you think he hasn't gotten on board with these types of measures given I guess you’re saying there’s been so much consultation and this is what the companies want?
CARR: This government the Liberal government has got a real problem with actually standing up for Australia. You know they don't seem to understand that when it comes to the big international economy there are measures that governments have to take. And this is one of them.
We do need to be able to say we are for Australia first. We are for Australian workers first. We are Australian companies first and this is one of those areas where the government which has pandered to the big corporations by and large, is not able to realise that there are matters in the international trading environment where we do have to be able to defend the country's interest, the national interest, in the circumstances when there's so much at stake in terms of the prosperity of this nation.
What sort of a country would we be without a steel industry? Without aluminium? Without glass? Without cement? These are the big questions that we need to address and these are the questions that Labor wants to address. We've got to be able to say to the Australian people and politics has got to be able to address these basic matters about the future of the country and which side politicians are on when it comes to dealing with these basic questions about those future directions for the country.
JOURNALIST: If elected how quickly would these come in? We obviously know this is a threat right now because the tariffs are in place.
CARR: Well the election is not very far away no matter what the Prime Minister says. These are measures that we will move on very, very quickly. We are determined to strengthen the powers of the Anti-Dumping Commission. It is a very, very effective mechanism when the Anti-Dumping Commission knows it's got the support of the government behind it when it knows that it's got the resources to be able to do its job properly.
So I think that there is just no question about how quickly we can move. Jason established the Commission when he was the minister. We are committed to these measures. So we'll move very, very quickly to see these actions are taken once the Labor Government is elected. Now of course that will depend on the people of this country. They've got real choices to make and they'll have real options put to them at this forthcoming election.
JOURNALIST: With those options you guys must be feeling quite confident and buoyed after the election results on the weekend?
CARR: Well this is a circumstance where real choices have been made by the Australian people. We were told ad nausea that these were about leadership and I think there's no question that Bill Shorten has been able to demonstrate - underestimated so many times - and once again we see the circumstances where the Australian people in those by-elections have demonstrated the direction they want to take.
This is about the capacity of our political system to respond to real needs. People’s real expectations. They want to know that their political parties are on their side and not the side of the big corporations. They want to know that we are about improving people's bargaining power in what are very, very uncertain times and that's what the Labor Party is about.
It's actually standing shoulder to shoulder with workers shoulder to shoulder with companies to be able to see that they get a fair go. Whether it's in their hospitals whether it's in their schools whether it's on the job whether or not it’s within industry. That's the difference and that's why politics really matters. That's why people can look to the political system to get some answers and they are expecting that. And I think what these elections have demonstrated is that there is reason for confidence about the future but it requires political leadership and Bill Shorten has shown that. The Labor Party has shown that and I've got absolutely no doubt that whenever this election is held - I'm of the view it'll be quite soon - whenever that election is held the Labor Party will be very competitive because we've got some real answers to some really serious problems.
JOURNALIST: Fiona how are you feeling about your chances after the results of the weekend?
FIONA PHILLIPS, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR GILMORE: Well look I think the next election in Gilmore is going to be really really tough. We've had the Liberals in Gilmore for 22 years. I’m out there talking all the time with people. They’re telling me that it's taking, in some cases up to two years to wait for elective surgery. They're telling me they need more funding for their schools. You know what's happened to our TAFE. So these are the things that people are telling me. Gilmore of course is very close but it's going to be a tough election.
JOURNALIST: A lot of steel workers in the Gilmore electorate too I guess today’s policies are good news for them?
PHILLIPS: Definitely look the Gilmore electorate today covers a really wide geographical area. And yeah we’ve got workers who travel up to the Illawarra, people that travel to Sydney and further south as well so yeah it’s certainly good news for people in Gilmore.
JOURNALIST: Would you like to know who you’re up against? Would you like them to hurry up?
PHILLIPS: Look I'm not worried about who my opponent is I'm focusing on the people in Gilmore getting out there and talking to them. We've got great policies you know everything's happening on the ground in Gilmore and I'll be focusing on that.
STEPHEN JONES, SHADOW MINISTER FOR REGIONAL COMMUNICATIONS: I want to thank Jason and Kim for coming down and making this important announcement today. You know we've been through some tough times in the steel industry. We've turned the corner; BlueScope is starting to make money. We don't want to see that wiped out by cheap cut price steel being dumped into the Australian market. It will affect the future of BlueScope it will affect the future of jobs down here. That's why steel and the future of the steel industry is going to be an issue. It’s going to be an issue in the Illawarra and South Coast at the next federal election.
JOURNALIST: In terms of this measure I guess how important is that in terms of securing those jobs here locally and I guess in terms of the people you represent?
JONES: Well BlueScope is going flat out at the moment. They’re making a lot of steel. They’re selling it domestically they're selling it internationally. We want to ensure that they can continue to do that without having the rug pulled out from under them because of cut price or low cost steel being dumped into the Australian market. It matters for local jobs.
JOURNALIST: We are seeing BlueScope make some money but is there any impact that this dumping is having at the moment on them?
JONES: Well we know if we don't take tough preventative action that that steel has got to be sold somewhere. We want to ensure that it's not dumped into the Australian market because it matters locally. It matters in the Illawarra. It matters in the South Coast. We want to ensure that great quality Australian steel competes evenly, fairly in the Australian market and internationally.
CLARE: Just one extra point. There are reports in the newspapers today that Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberals might be thinking about dumping their unpopular tax cut for the big banks. Well no surprise that they'll be thinking about this after the by-elections on the weekend which prove that this policy is about as popular as a snake in a sleeping bag.
But the people of Australia aren't stupid and they can't be conned by Malcolm Turnbull on this. Even if they say that they're going to get rid of it, everybody knows that if Malcolm Turnbull wins the next election he'll be back at this trying to give the big banks a tax cut again. Just like John Howard said that he'd never ever introduce a GST and then when he could he did. Just like Tony Abbott who said he wouldn't cut education and health and then when he could he did.
If Malcolm Turnbull wins the next election you can bet, you can guarantee, that he'll be trying to give the big banks a big tax cut once again and if he does that well it just proves how out of touch Malcolm Turnbull is. Because the lesson from the weekend is that people want better hospitals not tax cuts for the big banks and that's just as true here in the Illawarra, it’s just as true in Gilmore as it is in Longman, Braddon and right across the country. Thank you very much.