Transcript - ABC Illawarra, ABC Sydney - 24 February

24 February 2020


SUBJECTS: Bluescope Steel; Labor's commitment to net zero emissions by 2050.

MELINDA JAMES, HOST: Now let's look at the future of another aspect of Wollongong I suppose, and that is the steelworks. You probably heard over the weekend that Labor leader Anthony Albanese recommitted the ALP to the net zero emissions target by 2050 but could not provide any detail on how that target will be achieved, by what means. Of course steel making is one of the most emissions intensive industries around, and of course still making one of the most emissions intensive industries around and last year BlueScope Steel said it wasn't technically possible or commercially viable for its operations to become carbon neutral in that timeframe. We spoke a little bit about green steel haven't we. Overseas steelmakers turning to hydrogen potentially and trying to use hydrogen to power up how the steel making process as opposed to coking coal. The Labor MP for Whitlam Stephen Jones says offsets in other parts of the economy might be needed to help heavy industry in the Illawarra such as steel making meet the proposed zero net emissions target by 2050 and Stephen Jones spoke to our reporter Kelly Fuller.

STEPHEN JONES, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Well the world needs steel, and if we acknowledge across the economy, across the country, and across the world….(cut off)

KELLY FULLER, HOST: There has to be other ways of making it?

JONES: Under current technology no, we can certainly look at ways to make it more efficiently and we will do that. When I talk to coal miners, when I talk to the representatives of the steelworks, they’re committed to ensuring that we meet those objectives, as everybody else in the community, but they know, if we're going to continue to use steel and make it, means we're going to need to continue to make steel then there are just some chemical limitations and physical limitations about how that happens, and until somebody else can find a new  way of converting iron into steel then this is the way we’re going to have to do it. Which means we need to find offsets in other parts of the economy and we're committed to doing that.

FULLER: This not just the creation of the steel though. It's the amount of energy it uses to create this steel and there's been no movement by BlueScope looking at hydro electricity as one of their sources or other methods of generating electricity. They have invested in some offsets, but without releasing I guess a framework or I guess a sense of ideology about what your plan is without giving these businesses some kind of cost incentive, aren't you sort of letting them off the hook about having to change the model of their practice in some way.

JONES: Can I ask to get a little bit of perspective on some of the things that were saying? It's now 2020. We're saying by 2050 that's 30 years. When we went through the significant restructure of the steel industry in the 1980s that happened over a two-year period. We're talking about a 30 year transformation and we are very confident that with the best engineers, and the best scientists, and the best researchers in the country that we are going to be able to find a lot of technological solutions to a lot of the problems on the issues that you're raising now. We're confident that can happen. Nobody is saying, or Labor is certainly not saying we need to make this transformation over the next five years or even the next 10 years. We are saying over the next 30 years we know we need to make these changes and we're going to set ourselves on the trajectory to ensure that we can do that and I guess I'd ask the listeners to think back 30 years, and how much our region and our economy has changed over the that period of time since the early 1990s. We will go through another wave of change, economic change, technological change, and I'm confident that we'll have the solutions to ensure that we can continue to have a first class steel manufacturing industry in this country at that time and there's a lot of other big decisions that have got to be made by companies like BlueScope between now and then. I think we've got probably no more than another 10 years before there needs to be a reline of the blast as an example. These are other huge issues of investments and other huge challenges that are going to occur well before 2050, but I think it's important we send a clear message, that is a as a country and as a economy, if we don't start now every decade that we delay our kids have got a bigger problem that they’ve got to confront.

FULLER: Can I just ask that your knowledge of this area and you've been thinking about this, you must have been thinking about how this region transitions. What does it look like? Are you able to see this industry existing beyond 2050? or will we be finished with steel production and coal, I guess extraction by 2050 and how does this region transition job’s wise as you may hit this goal, and what do jobs and opportunities look like?

JONES: There will be a massive transformation in the region over the next 30 years, as there has been over the last 30 years and I hope to use the example, the Steelworks when I left school employed 23,000 people. A year later it employed about 13,000 people. Those transformations occurred over a period of two or three years. We're talking about a period of 30 years. I'm supremely confident in the engineering expertise, in the know-how and the natural resources that we have in this region. One of the best deep water Ports anywhere on the East Coast of Australia, some of the best coking coal, some of the best hard coal anywhere in the world that is in hot demand not just for the steel works in Port Kembla, but around the rest of the world, excellent supplies of iron ore. I think actually that we have every reason to be optimistic that Australia can become, and Port Kembla, and this region can become a center of excellence for the transformation of our wonderful minerals, the raw materials that we have in this country into the products that the new economy is going to need and yes that includes steel for a long long time to come. So far from being pessimistic, I'm very very optimistic.

JAMES: That’s the Labor Member for Whitlam Stephen Jones speaking with Kelly Fuller on your radios at 8:30 on ABC.