Press Conference

24 Apr 2016 Transcipt

Press Conference
April 24 2016

SUBJECTS Anti-Dumping of Chinese Steel.

Christopher Pyne: Well I’m pleased to be here this morning to announce that the Government is accepting the recommendations from the Anti-Dumping Commissioner to impose extra duties on Chinese steel. We will from yesterday be applying a duty of either 11.7 per cent through to 30 per cent on steel reinforcing bar, and from 37 per cent up to 53 per cent on rod in coil. So we are increasing duties on Chinese steel from yesterday by up to 53 per cent. This has come about because of a case taken by producers in Australia, accepted by the Anti-Dumping Commissioner, that they were being injured by unfair competition by foreign steel manufacturers. This obviously assists Arrium, who are producers of these kinds of goods. It is just a continuing support from this Government to the steel industry, on top of the 72,000 tonnes of rail line that we brought forward for the Adelaide-Tarcoola rail line, duties that I imposed earlier this year, the review of steel from Asia that I also created earlier this year, and now today, serious action about Chinese steel that will protect Australian jobs, protect Australian steel manufacturers, and I’m very pleased that this was a decision that was made by my Assistant Minister Karen Andrews, and that I as the Cabinet Minister have implemented.

Question: Doesn’t this come a little late?

Christopher Pyne: Well, cases are taken by producers, and those cases need to be gone through by the Anti-Dumping Commission, and they then make a recommendation. So the Government has responded to cases taken by producers of steel. Of course it’s not too late, because Arrium is actually travelling, I believe, reasonably well now, that the Government has taken the action that it’s taken over extra rail line, over anti-dumping decisions. The administrators are doing their job out at Arrium in Whyalla and around Australia, and I think the future for Whyalla and Arrium looks much brighter as a consequence of actions by the administrators and the Government. So it would be a shot in the arm for Arrium over the course of the next year or two, and coincides with the fact that the Chinese realise they need to do something about their extra production.

Question: When you say shot in the arm, as an estimation of how much extra it might mean in sales for Arrium?

Christopher Pyne: No I can’t make that estimation Alan. But I can tell you that what will happen in the future is that Chinese steel won’t be unfairly cheaper than Australian steel. Obviously we have relatively high production costs and China has relatively low production costs, and they have been potentially unfairly pricing their steel in Australia because of extra support from their government. What we’re doing here is the Government is stepping in to stop the injury of Australian businesses like Arrium from unfair competition.

Question: Is this a primary product of Arrium, this particular coil [indistinct].

Christopher Pyne: I don’t know if it’s a primary product, it’s certainly one of their products. Rod in coil and steel reinforcing bar is the kind of construction steel and other forms of steel that Arrium make. Whereas Bluescope make more flat steel.

Question: How do you think this decision will be received by China?

Christopher Pyne: Well the Chinese are part of the World Trade Organisation operations around the world, as well as we are. They recognise that Governments and countries will take action to protect themselves from unfair competition, so therefore we are going through the proper process. The decisions that we’ve made today are entirely within the rules of the World Trade Organisation and as the Industry Minister I believe my job is to apply those rules as far as Australia can go to protect its industries without breaching the rules of the World Trade Organisation.

Question: This is specifically…

Question: [Interrupts] How will that affect your relationship with China?

Christopher Pyne: Well China and any other country that has duties imposed on its industries because they are unfairly competing, need to look at their own actions within their own countries, rather than criticise a country like Australia for example, for applying the rules of the World Trade Organisation to protect our industries when they are being unfairly injured.

Question: These tariffs apply only to the Chinese? Not the Taiwanese or Koreans steel [indistinct]?

Christopher Pyne: These particular duties apply to exporters from China. There are of course other duties for exporters from Taiwan, and South Korea, and in Malaysia, but these ones we have announced today are specifically from China.

Question: Other than these tariffs is there any other assistance the Federal Government is now looking at to assist Arrium and the administrator going forward?

Christopher Pyne: Well I believe strongly that the Government should use the levers at its disposal to help Arrium or any other business. And those levers in this case, for Arrium, are capital works, so therefore we’ve bought four of the rail lines from Adelaide to Tarcoola upgrade, which is worth over $80 million to Arrium, 72,000 tonnes of steel. Applying the rules under the World Trade Organisation and our own Anti-Dumping Commission is using the levers that we have at our disposal. I think they are much more sophisticated methods of supporting Australian industry than tax payers’ handouts.

Question: The administrator hasn’t spoken to you about direct financial assistance or the direct capital investment?

Christopher Pyne: No. And I’ve talked to the administrator a couple of times now. And I think that they are doing a good job at KordaMentha, they have not requested any cash hand out from the Government.

Question: Has the administrator asked you for a decision on duties like this?

Christopher Pyne: No. This is the normal application of Government policy, but from a Government, and an Industry Minister might I say, who is much more exercised to bring these decisions about expeditiously and then apply the recommendations within the law.

Question: Just on another issue, the aged pension policy, where people born after 1965 will have to work until they’re 70, what’s your thoughts on that and how is that feasible?

Christopher Pyne: Look, I’m not briefed on that issue this morning. That’s the first anybody’s raised that with me for about two years, so rather than go off half-cocked as they say, I think I’ll just leave that to the person who’s responsible, which is Christian Porter.