TRANSCRIPT OF DOORSTOP INTERVIEW
4 DECEMBER 2012
E & O E – PROOF ONLY
Subjects: Royal baby; Anti-dumping legislation; GST; Council of Australian Governments; Budget surplus; Interest rates; State education cuts; Palestine; Royal Commission into child sexual abuse; Export Finance Corporation
PM: Can I start by offering my congratulations to Prince William and Kate on the news that they are expecting a child.
This is delightful news, it is going to bring joy to them and to their family and I think it is going to bring joy to many around the world. Clearly it is a time of joy.
It can also be a time of challenge and I am sure many will be thinking of Kate as she deals with morning sickness and is in hospital.
But from the Australian people, to Prince William and Kate, delightful news and our congratulations.
I am here at OneSteel in Laverton in Melbourne's west and I am accompanied by Ministers Combet and Clare.
We are here today to make an important announcement about Australian jobs.
The Australian economy has been resilient and it is only Labor that has a plan to keep it resilient for the future.
Our economy has shown it can be resilient even in the toughest of times.
But nothing about the future is assured. In order to have strength and prosperity tomorrow, we have to make the right decisions today.
That is why Labor has developed a plan for the future of our economy. To make sure we have jobs and opportunity tomorrow.
We laid that plan out in our policy paper about Australia being a winner in this century of growth and change in the Asian region.
And we're making the right decisions today to seize the benefits that will flow in that future.
Rolling out the National Broadband Network, making sure that we are focused on skills.
Developing ports and roads and rail so that we can keep our competitive advantage.
It is only Labor that has a plan to ensure that our economic resilience today continues tomorrow.
During all of this we have had a particular focus on manufacturing. Manufacturing has been facing some difficult times as a result of the strength of the Australian dollar.
That means that for places like OneSteel and manufacturing around the country, they have had to face some pressures.
Manufacturing is an important industry to this country. It employs almost a million Australians and it is important to our skills and innovation for the future.
One of the challenges that manufacturing has been facing is competition from dumped, cheap imported product.
This is product that is being sold at less than its true cost. Australian manufacturing can be strong for the future but Australian manufacturing can only be strong if it gets a fair go and a level playing field.
Which is why today I do announce, with my ministerial colleagues, that we will create an Australian anti-dumping commission.
It will be the job of the anti-dumping commission to be the policeman, to make sure that we are enforcing fair rules so that Australian manufacturers don't face competition from dumped cheap imported product which is actually being sold for less than cost.
Here we are today around three weeks from Christmas, and as we move from this year into next year, our announcement today shows that one of the big things that the Government will be focused on in 2013 will be jobs and opportunity.
We are a government that is focused on job creation during the most difficult times.
We have worked with the Australian community to make sure that, unlike the rest of the world, we have low inflation, low unemployment, economic growth and sound public finances.
In 2013, we will be focusing on jobs and opportunity for the future by making the right decisions today.
I will turn now to Minister Clare for details of today's announcement.
MINISTER CLARE: Well thanks Prime Minister and thanks Greg.
We are a trading nation and boosting trade is critical to our success. One of the things that can harm that is dumping.
Dumping is cheating. It is where goods are imported at less than their real cost and it can cost Australians their job, it can hurt Australian industries and it can undermine confidence in free trade.
That is why it is so important that you have a strong cop on the beat to make sure that people play by the rules.
It is important that that cop on the beat has the resources they need and the powers they need - that is what today is all about.
There has been a lot of reform already in this area but there is more that is needed. There is a lot more that is needed.
In the last couple of years, we have seen a tripling in the number of anti-dumping investigations.
And that has been driven by a weak global economy as well as a strong Australian economy with surplus commodities out there looking for a home and Australia is an attractive market.
And expectations are that that is set to continue.
In July I asked John Brumby, the former Premier of Victoria, to give me advice on the best structure to tackle this issue.
He gave me his report two weeks ago, I released it last week and today we are announcing that we are going to implement his recommendations.
As the Prime Minister has said, the first of these is we are going to set up an anti-dumping commission and it will be based right here in Melbourne, the heart of Australia's manufacturing.
The anti-dumping commission will report directly to me.
Second is we are going to boost the resources available to this anti-dumping commission, a massive increase in resources, over $24 million over four years.
To put that in perspective it is more than double the resources that we invest in anti-dumping at the moment and it will mean that we almost double the total number of investigators that will do this work.
On top of that it needs the powers to do the job properly and higher penalties - increased penalties - to make sure that people play by the rules.
And so today, we are also announcing that we're going to introduce more reform into the parliament so we can impose higher duties where people break the rules, increase infringement notice penalties and make it easier to retrospectively apply dumping duties where people break the rules.
All of these reforms have been developed by working closely with Australian industry, including the team here at OneSteel.
And very importantly, they also comply with our obligations under the World Trade Organisation rules. The purpose of all of this is to make sure that people play by the rules.
And to do that, you need a strong cop on the beat, somebody that has the resources they need and the powers they need to make sure that people play by the rules, that will help support Australian jobs and help support Australian industry and I will introduce the legislation to make this happen next year when parliament returns.
PM: I will call on Minister Combet now to explain how today's announcement fits with our outlook for jobs and innovation.
MINISTER COMBET: Thanks very much Prime Minister and thank you to Minister Jason Clare.
I spent many years as a trade union official representing people in factories such as this before I entered parliament.
From time to time that included representing them in circumstances where they were up against unfair competition from overseas where goods had been dumped into the Australian marketplace.
So now in the role as industry minister and formulating an industry and innovation policy for the Government, one of the important priorities for the Government and myself as minister has been to strengthen the protection against anti-dumping in our laws.
Minister Clare, as he's just indicated, will be introducing legislation to achieve the changes that we're announcing here today.
But the fundamental purpose is to support the jobs of Australian workers in important industries such as this from unfair practices such as the dumping of products at below their true cost.
This is the first step, the first part in introducing a wider set of measures that will comprise the Government's industry and innovation policy statement.
There will be further measures announced in coming weeks and months, but principally we are going to be focusing on supporting the jobs of Australian workers and especially in the manufacturing industry, and also focusing on what we need to do to win more work in the resources sector where there is still a boom very strongly going on, and also to create more jobs through innovation and being more competitive and winning more work by exporting overseas.
So these are the focuses of the Australian Government in this area; supporting Australian workers' jobs and also looking to create more jobs by being able to export more overseas and I look forward to explaining more of the policy in coming months.
PM: We are happy to take questions.
REPORTER: Prime Minister Gillard, which countries are doing the dumping? Who is responsible for the dumping?
PM: We face dumping challenges from many nations so this is not directed at any one country, it is directed at making sure that our great manufacturing businesses get a fair go and that there is a cop on the beat that can enforce the rules.
JOURNALIST: What size is the dumping market and how much impact do you think this will have?
PM: We know from businesses like OneSteel, which has successfully taken and fought an anti-dumping case, that this is a challenge for Australian manufacturing and for Australian jobs. Minister Clare might take you through some examples.
MINISTER CLARE: Sure. There are thousands of Australians who work in industries that are affected by attempts by companies to import goods at below their real cost. So this helps to protect those jobs.
Thousands of Australians work in areas where if we don't have a strong cop on the beat, their jobs could be at risk. That is why this is so important.
MINISTER CLARE: Goods are imported from countries all around the world which potentially are the subject of anti-dumping measures.
The issue here is not where they come from; it is the impact that it has in Australia, the impact on Australian jobs, the impact on Australian companies.
It is important that there is a level playing field; that everybody plays by the same rules and that is why this anti-dumping commission is so important.
JOURNALIST: So what is the value of dumped goods in Australia?
MINISTER CLARE: It is important to make the point that most people do play by the rules. But we have seen an increase in the number of goods that have been dumped into Australia.
The reason for that is, as I said earlier, you have a weak global economy, there is goods out there looking for a home.
Australia is an attractive option because the dollar is high and because our economy is so strong.
So companies around the world are looking to sell their goods into Australia. Some of them are trying to dump them into Australia. That is against the rules.
We have got an anti-dumping system at the moment, but as I said, we have had a tripling in the number of investigations. Our team needs the resources and the powers to do the job.
The extra resources will be delivered and the extra laws, the extra powers, will be implemented by legislation next year.
JOURNALIST: On the value, do you have a tonnage, to try and quantify –
MINISTER CLARE: It is not about tonnage, sometimes it is steel, sometimes it is aluminium and sometimes it is agricultural products.
It is not how much it weighs, it is about the impact it has on the Australian economy and the impact it has on Australian jobs. It is about making sure that everybody plays by the rules.
JOURNALIST: You are putting $24 million into it; it must be worth at least that much to the Australian market?
MINISTER CLARE: It is worth much more than that. It is worth Australian jobs.
It is worth making sure that Australian industry has a fair playing field on which to compete to deliver goods to Australians but also to export to other countries around the world.
JOURNALIST: Did the report say how much it is worth?
MINISTER CLARE: No, it didn't put a figure on it.
PM: Do we have more questions?
JOURNALIST: On another matter, Paul McClintock and a number of experts have said that the GST needs to be reviewed. This is something that you're strongly against. Why don't you listen to their advice and why don't you think that it should be reviewed?
PM: We have ruled out increasing the rate or broadening the base of the GST. Labor is the political party that opposed the introduction of the GST because it is a regressive tax.
And so of course you would expect a Labor Government to say that we're opposed to broadening the base or increasing the rate.
We will be working through the Council of Australian Governments for change, for things that matter for Australians.
I have talked about the resilience of the Australian economy but we have got to keep making the right decisions that make us competitive for the future.
So later this week, I will be meeting with leading business identities as well as premiers and chief ministers to talk about our economy and how we can make it a more seamless national economy; that there aren't rules that you trip over when you move from one state to another.
We will be focused on the electricity market, on making sure that we do what we can so that families aren't faced with continuous rapidly escalating power bills.
The plan I have put forward for the consideration of premiers and chief ministers would make a difference for households of $250 a year.
We will be very focused on the National focused Disability Insurance Scheme.
It is the kind of benefit you can bring to Australians if you do the right thing to keep your economy growing.
It will make a real difference for the more than 400,000 Australians who live with profound disability and those who care for them.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, how likely is a surplus given the weak economic data?
PM: Let's just deal with the premise of your question. We have a resilient economy. We have come through testing times with a resilient economy.
What that means is that we have got low inflation, low unemployment, strong public finances, economic growth.
We have to make the right decisions today so we have got economic strength for the future, and it is only Labor that has a plan to make sure our economy is resilient tomorrow the way it has been resilient during tough times.
Now the Reserve Bank will meet today and independently of government, as is appropriate, make a decision about interest rates.
For our economy, we do know that there are parts of the economy facing strain, particularly from the high Australian dollar, and we are dealing with part of that today through the announcement that we have made about the anti-dumping commission.
JOURNALIST: (Inaudible consecutive rate cuts means the economy is weak, it's all about stimulating the economy isn't it, that is why the rates are cut, so the economy has to be weak?
PM: The premise of your question isn't right. The economy as the Reserve Bank itself says, is growing at around trend growth.
The Reserve Bank is obviously making a decision looking at the whole of the economy, the strength of the Australian dollar and what that means for all sectors of the economy.
But you can't just do one simple snapshot the way that you have looked at it.
You need to look at all the information; low unemployment, low inflation, economic growth, strong public finances, a Reserve Bank making a decision about interest rates.
What we already know about interest rates is for a family with a $300,000 mortgage, they are already paying $4,500 less per year under this Government than they were under the former Liberal Government.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, are you worried about the teachers' strike action that is continuing in Victoria at the moment? Teachers aren't going to write comments on kids' reports?
PM: When we look around the country, Liberal governments are just rolling out a cookie cutter approach to education.
There is a Liberal plan when it comes to education and the Liberal plan is always for cutbacks in education.
You can see that here in Victoria, you can see it in New South Wales, you can see it in Queensland. A Liberal Government means cutbacks in education.
People obviously then react to those cutbacks in education. There is a better way than all of this cutting back and division.
It is the plan that we are rolling out for the future of Australian education, where we say that there is nothing more important to our future as a nation than the education of our children and we are prepared to invest in it.
JOURNALIST: If there is a rate cut should the banks pass it on?
PM: The banks should certainly pass on in full any interest rate reduction if it is made.
It is very close to Christmas and so if an interest rate reduction is made, the banks should take into account that Australian families will be looking to them to pass the interest rate reduction on in full.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, if the economy is going so well, what does it matter if they pass it on or not?
PM: I always want to benefit Australian families. I think it is good that Australian families are paying $4,500 less a year now than they used to on a $300,000 a year mortgage.
Even with the resilience of the economy, many families find it difficult to make ends meet and so when interest rates have gone down in the past we have wanted to see families benefit from that and of course we want to see families benefit from any interest rate reduction that flows today.
JOURNALIST: How interested do you think Australians are in a royal baby?
PM: I think people will stop and look at the news and they will be chatting about it over lunch and as they go about their work and I think there will be a sense of delight about it.
JOURNALIST: Do you have a comment on Israel's plans for the new homes in East Jerusalem and its timing soon after the vote taken last week on the Palestine status?
PM: We have already indicated publicly that we're very concerned about this development, very concerned that all sides should act with restraint and very concerned that everyone should find a way back to a path to peace.
JOURNALIST: Do you think that the Royal Commission inquiry into child abuse should look at the evidence that has become available to the Victorian and other inquiries?
PM: We certainly think that the Royal Commission that I have announced should work in a productive way with other inquiries around the nation.
There has been an inquiry here - a parliamentary inquiry. In other parts of the nation there are inquiries in progress now.
We will certainly be working with our State and Territory colleagues so that the Royal Commission we're creating works well with what has already been done through those inquiries.
JOURNALIST: Obviously the Federal Government has given more, has provided the company with money to make it cleaner. How many more companies can the Federal Government keep bailing out or keep giving money to, to transform their practices?
PM: You need to have a look at the details of that matter.
What we have actually done is provided some monies by way of loan through our export finance corporation to help the company transform.
It is not a grant, as you have phrased your question. That is not how it is being done.
We have, through the Export Finance Corporation, provided a loan to enable this business to transform so that it is viable for the future.
This is important to the regional economy of South Australia. It is also got impacts for the economy of Tasmania. So we have worked through and we have assessed risk here.
Minister Crean is still working on arrangements with the South Australian Government and with the business.
Okay, thank you very much.