THE HON MARK DREYFUS QC MP
Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency
28 April 2011
TRANSCRIPT OF INTERVIEW WITH ANDREW MALE, ABC NORTH AND WEST SA
SUBJECT: CARBON PRICE, IMPACT ON WHYALLA
ANDREW MALE: Let's go now to - we're going to speak to the Federal Cabinet and
Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, of course Mr Mark
Dreyfus in just a moment. But before we do that let's go to the Australian Workers Union
Whyalla organiser who is Scott Martin who joins us this morning.
Scott good morning. Welcome to the program.
SCOTT MARTIN: Good morning how are you?
ANDREW MALE: I'm very well. What's the feeling from the floor on this? Is there - again is
it seen as just being another political stoush or is this something that people have got real
concerns about for the future of their jobs?
SCOTT MARTIN: Yeah look I'll take that in two sections. People have got genuine concerns
for their job but you know every time an issue like this comes up in a political arena, then
the workers are always the last ones to be told anything. And as far as Tony Abbott's visit,
yes I think he is drumming up a lot of hysteria and look it's a pure vote getting adventure for
There's no way Tony Abbott would have come to Whyalla if he didn't think he could get
some votes out of it. He's never been to places like Whyalla or the Pilbara in his life. I
would doubt whether he's hardly been out of Canberra and Sydney for most of his life. He
comes to Whyalla now because he knows there's a bit of scare campaign going on and he
knows that the finer details of this carbon tax haven't been released.
So he's pounced on that to try and stir up a bit of trouble and maybe get some votes out of
it to get him in parliament. But we're more concerned as a union about our members and
how it impacts their lives and the problem we've got at the moment is we need some
satisfaction. We need some finer detail, we need to know exactly how this is going to
impact the workforce in the industry.
ANDREW MALE: Is there a feeling there that look, it would be a lot cheaper to do what we
do, it could be cheaper to do what we do every day in India or China and there is a serious
possibility that this is what's going to happen in say four or five years from now?
SCOTT MARTIN: No doubt about it and that's regardless of a carbon tax. I mean I think you
know the steel industry would be quite upfront and open to everybody to say that
regardless of an ETS or a carbon tax or whatever you want to call it, manufacturing at the
moment is struggling big time when it comes to international markets.
And steel production in Australia is struggling not only here but at Bluescope interstate as
well. And they're struggling right now to keep up with the cheap products that are coming
in. And that's another thing that we've been calling on the Government to do. We've just
had a big round table discussion. They can think anything they want. We don't want to
upset them, we don't want to do anything that might rock the apple cart in case we lose
some of the other aspects of the agreement.
But at the moment there is a lot of manufacturing industries in this country that are
struggling big time to compete internationally. And the Government really has to have a
look at that.
ANDREW MALE: Well you mentioned that Tony Abbott, the leader of the Opposition
probably wouldn't have been in your view, in Whyalla if it weren't for this. What about Julia
Gillard, the Prime Minister? What sort of feedback are you getting from her and what are
the members' opinion of the Prime Minister's handling of this up 'til now?
SCOTT MARTIN: It's a bit hard at the moment because Julia's been out of the country as you
know. So she's had this trip booked in for quite a while so that's understandable. But at the
moment - the problem with this Government and it probably flows through to the State
Labor Government too, is they've got this habit now of releasing things and then discussing
You know let's put it out there, let's get a reaction, let's see how it goes with the public and
with the voters, let's see how it goes with industry and then we'll talk about it. Well we've
been saying from day one that things have to be done in complete reverse. They should be
sitting down and talking to the stakeholders first, getting their opinions which they've done.
But then before they release any announcement or release any plan or any tax, sit down
with the stakeholders and say look this is what we've got to do, this is what we've planned
from our discussions, have a look and get back to us.
Now that hasn't happened and that's why the union has come out pretty strongly because
we need that to happen, we need some certainty for our members to say look, yes there's
going to be a carbon tax. But there is going to be compensation for the steel industry and it
won't affect your jobs tremendously. That's what we need to hear.
ANDREW MALE: Do you - you deal with people who are on the floor and in the community
every day of your life, working people right across the region. Do you feel from what you're
seeing that the Government is possibly on the verge of letting this just get too far without
enough information, where it would get to the point where everybody is just adding their
own idea into it without any real idea about what it means? And if so, is it retrievable do
SCOTT MARTIN: I think it is. What you said then is spot on. That's exactly what's going on.
Because there isn't any finer detail out there, people are jumping to conclusions and making
their own presumptions on things. And Tony Abbott's been pretty good at that and I mean
that's his game, you know that's what he's on about. And that's good for him but I think
people can see through that, especially in towns like Whyalla.
And the feedback I'm getting from my members is look, I understand the position but I just -
as we want to know and as we've been saying they're quite happy with the union stance - is
look we need more detail. Before we can come out and start saying yea or nay, we need to
know exactly how it's going to impact. At the moment nobody does. So it's all a bit up in
the air at the moment and the members are probably just sitting back waiting at the
moment just to see what happens.
ANDREW MALE: Okay. Well thanks very much Scott for joining us this morning. All the
SCOTT MARTIN: No worries. Thank you.
ANDREW MALE: Thanks a lot. Scott Martin who is the Whyalla organiser for the AWU. Now
listening to all that is Mark Dreyfus who is the Federal Cabinet and Parliamentary Secretary
for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency. Mark Dreyfus welcome to ABC 639. A bit of an
extended Breakfast program.
Mark good morning.
MARK DREYFUS: Good morning Andrew.
ANDREW MALE: Now you've just heard those two views from Whyalla. Tony Abbott has
been out and about, the leader of the Opposition and I suppose from a political point of
view, it's easy to understand that he's perhaps feeding a bit of a vacuum if you like. Why
isn't the Government putting more specific detail out for companies and workers and I
guess the rest of Australia to be able to look at this objectively and perhaps try to draw their
MARK DREYFUS: Well the short answer to that is that we're sitting down and discussing the
detail with companies like Onesteel and Bluescope and with unions and with other
industries. Tony Abbott is doing a sort of fly in one day fly out the next campaign which is
only designed to leave a trail of worry in local communities right across Australia.
ANDREW MALE: Well you're in the political business. You understand that perhaps if you
were in Opposition you'd be doing something similar if the boot were on the other foot I'm
sure. Why as a politician, why can't you come out and in the same way that the Treasurer
with the recent, the Henry tax reviews, said look GST is off the table. Why can't we get
some certainties about what is in and what is out?
MARK DREYFUS: We've announced the broad architecture of this carbon price and we've
explained that it's going to be an emissions trading scheme which is going to start with a
fixed price period of three to five years. And we've committed and this is really important -
we've committed that every cent raised from the carbon price will be used to assist
households, to support jobs in the most affected industries and to encourage the transition
to a clean energy future.
And what we're engaged in now is talking to, in particular affected industries and
unions in those affected industries, to make sure that we get the support for jobs right. We
will be providing - I can't stress this strongly enough - we will be providing assistance to
trade exposed emissions intensive industries including steel, to support jobs and
ANDREW MALE: Okay so that support, could you understand that businesses and workers
might be saying okay well now we're relying on politicians to protect us where we actually
had an industry and a trade to protect us before?
MARK DREYFUS: Well it depends on what level of protection you think there is. We've got
Onesteel and Bluescope under tremendous pressure at the moment and it's not the carbon
price that's causing that pressure, it's the high value of the Australian dollar compared to
the US dollar. It's at historically high levels and I suppose you could add to that high iron ore
prices, high coking coal prices, all of those are feeding into the higher costs of production for
steel makers. That's the sensitivity that's there at the moment.
ANDREW MALE: Okay so America is in a very similar - well not a - a similarly successful
financial position but America the economy is obviously in real dire straits at the moment.
America is saying look we, at this point, the Obama administration is not in a position to be
as far ahead as Australia is on this. Why wouldn't we just wait for the big economies, the
world giants to move down this path before Australia commits to going in a direction which I
suppose, in the scheme of things, we're only twenty million people, twenty-two million
people in a very big world.
MARK DREYFUS: I think it's important to remember why we're doing this. We're doing this
to take action on climate change and it is already the case that the rest of the world is acting
to tackle climate change. And I include in that China, India, Europe, New Zealand and where
I was recently and the US. And the problem that President Obama has is that he at present
doesn't control the House of Representatives which mean the Democrats don't have a
majority there. It makes it hard for him to get legislation through.
He's for the moment proceeding down another track which is to use their clean air
legislation to impose restrictions on carbon emissions. So it's not right to suggest that
nothing is happening in the United States. All that's happening at the moment is that the
President is not in a position to bring in an emissions trading scheme. But they're doing
plenty in other areas and many states are acting as well.
ANDREW MALE: And what do you say to former Keating minister Gary Johns's comments in
The Australian this morning saying that your minister Greg Combet is spruiking nonsense on
China's efforts in this area?
MARK DREYFUS: Well I don't know why he'd say that but I suppose one of the reasons why
we've commissioned the Productivity Commission to do the work on comparing controls on
emissions, comparing carbon prices around the world because different countries are
presently using different systems to reduce carbon emissions. One of the reasons we've
commissioned the Productivity Commission is so we can get an independent view and that
will be coming in in May.
And then we won't have to put up with what I regard as inappropriate comments by people
like Gary Johns.
ANDREW MALE: He's claiming that the vivid economics data that Greg Combet is relying on
has been colourful with its analysis. So you'd be prepared to overlook that sort of data and
wait for the Productivity Commission?
MARK DREYFUS: Well I don't agree with Gary Johns's description of a range of matters there
from overseas. I read that piece but I think it's important that it not be - that we reach
agreement on basic facts and that's why it's useful to have organisations like the
Productivity Commission come in and do an analysis. That's why we've commissioned them
to do it.
ANDREW MALE: And that will be made public that report?
MARK DREYFUS: Of course.
ANDREW MALE: Mark Dreyfus good to talk to you. Thanks for joining us this morning.
MARK DREYFUS: Thanks Andrew.
ANDREW MALE: Federal Cabinet and Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change and
Energy Efficiency Mark Dreyfus. We're about a minute and a half away from news at nine