Lisa Wilkinson interview with Anthony Albanese on Channel 9’s Today
SUBJECTS: Arrium steel, election promises, the Budget
Lisa Wilkinson: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has weighed in on the Arrium Steelworks collapse urging creditors and the company to cooperate in a bid to save 7,000 threatened jobs. But with no indication of a bailout, is the government doing enough?
It's good morning right now to Minister for Industry and Innovation Christopher Pyne and Shadow Transport and Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese. Good morning to you.
Anthony Albanese: Good morning.
Christopher Pyne: Good morning Lisa.
Lisa Wilkinson: Christopher, I'm going to start with you. You're Innovation Minister. What is the government actually doing to save these jobs?
Christopher Pyne: Well we are doing two very specific things. Well three I suppose if you add Malcolm Turnbull ringing the banks personally and talking to them about the need to be good corporate citizens and to be fair to them, I think they want to be good corporate citizens. He spent the weekend, Monday, Tuesday doing that. But we also, about a month ago, brought forward the purchase of 72,000 tonnes of steel for the Tarcoola Adelaide rail line. That is worth $80 million to Arrium. That is a very important contract for them to win and we- that was supposed to be done in the 2020s. We brought it forward to this year and as the Ministry for Industry, I'm using the Anti-Dumping Commission powers that I have to make decisions that stop unfair competition from overseas steel makers.
So we are using the levers at our disposal without committing to any kind of bailout because we are also talking to the State Government in South Australia who have said they will put cash on the table. So between the banks, Grant Thornton the administrators who have said it is business as usual and announced no job losses which is really good news, between the federal and state governments, we are trying to work through what is obviously a very serious issue.
Lisa Wilkinson: Anthony, have you got a better plan?
Anthony Albanese: Well I think they could be bringing forward more works. One of the things that we did as part of the economic stimulus plan for jobs, when it was needed, was bring forward upgrades of the rail track that the Commonwealth Government essentially owns through the Australian Rail Track Corporation. It is a good thing the Government has brought forward some of that works but there is more that could be brought forward that has a benefit for Australia as well. We cut six hours off the Brisbane to Melbourne freight line time and nine hours off the East to West Coast. Now, this work could be brought forward. And we should also ensure, I think, that when government is investing in infrastructure upgrades to use Australia steel. That is not too much to ask. It makes sure that the jobs is there- kept here in Australia. It also ensures quality in terms of the steel that we produce. That's, of course, is the best in the world.
Christopher Pyne: I agree with that, Lisa. And if Anthony has got suggestions about other projects that we could bring forward in rail, I would be very keen to talk to him about it because it is beyond politics. And secondly, I couldn't agree more. State and territory governments using federal taxpayers dollars for construction and any Federal Government projects should use Australian steel, especially where- sometimes it's not always exactly possible. We don't necessarily make every kind of steel. But where we do, we should be allowed to compete and, of course, because of the Government's commitment to the 12 subs, the nine frigates, the patrol vessels and so on there will be a whole body of work coming through the pipeline. So I'm optimistic and the people of Whyalla should not be panicking and no one should try and panic anybody and it's an Australia wide problem. There are 1000 employees in Queensland, 1000 in Victoria, 1,500 here in New South Wales, 500 in WA, it’s not just a Whyalla problem, it’s an Australia problem.
Lisa Wilkinson: So how many jobs do you think you can save of the 7,000?
Christopher Pyne: Well Grant Thornton, the administrators have said they haven't announced one job loss, you know…
Lisa Wilkinson: Not yet.
Christopher Pyne: No, because the best way for the banks to get their money back- it’s $2.4 billion of debt and there's a whole different argument about whether management should have got them into that debt. But the best way to get the money back is to trade out of the problem.
Lisa Wilkinson: Because that is the question. Yeah trading out of the problem but the company has stuffed up.
Christopher Pyne: Look, there is no doubt about that.
Anthony Albanese: I think that's a bipartisan position, Lisa, that the company management clearly have completely stuffed this up.
Christopher Pyne: It’s not the workers of Arrium, [indistinct].
Lisa Wilkinson: [Talks over] But are they capable of trading their way out of this?
Christopher Pyne: Well whether the previous management was, you know, is now a moot point because Grant Thornton has moved in. I think 70 people found out across the country yesterday to keep the business going and I'm meeting with them today in South Australia and I will be able to get a better update from them when I've spoken to them.
Anthony Albanese: We have got to remember it's not about the management. It is about the workers and their families.
Christopher Pyne: It is.
Lisa Wilkinson: Absolutely.
Christopher Pyne: Absolutely.
Lisa Wilkinson: I think everyone agrees on that. Now, moving on. Anthony, we heard last night that Bill Shorten has started to lay out some of his economic plans should he become PM and according to those most recent polls out this week, there is a growing chance that that will be the case. He said that he is going to spend more on childcare, self-funded retirees, older workers trying to get into the workforce, health, education. He has also said that he is going to have some new taxes should he become prime minister. What are they going to be?
Anthony Albanese: Well, we have outlined, Lisa, our policies, including the quite controversial policy, according to Christopher, of doing something about housing affordability for example in terms of changes that we would make to negative gearing and to capital gains in terms of those concessions. That's pretty brave for an opposition to do but it's the right thing to do because government's about priorities. Our priority, for example, is education. Where Labor is out there, we are saying we will commit $37 billion to make sure that every child gets the best opportunity in life that that is a priority for us. The Federal Government last week was floating $0 for public education. We think that says a lot about Malcolm Turnbull’s priorities compared with ours.
Lisa Wilkinson: But do we know what the new taxes are going to be?
Anthony Albanese: Well, we have put out there exactly what we would do in terms of tax changes, in terms of capital gains tax and in terms of superannuation changes at the high end.
Lisa Wilkinson: So nothing over and above that?
Anthony Albanese: We’ve said that. Well we have put out there our policies very clearly.
Lisa Wilkinson: But those taxes are going to raise $88 billion over the next 10 years. That's $9 billion, per year, that's only a drop in the bucket on a deficit that's blown out to $37 billion.
Anthony Albanese: Well if you look, Lisa, at the spending commitments that we have made every single one of them has been fully costed. That's unusual for an opposition to do.
Lisa Wilkinson: Christopher.
Anthony Albanese: Lisa, they use the same dollar over and over again to pay for different things. Now, we would all love to be able to do that but actually you've got to have the money. Now, unless Bill Shorten has got a money tree that we don't know about, he's promising money for everybody who wants to hear that. Everybody - every group. You went through five or six of them. That is just half a dozen of the groups he has promised money to. The next election’s going to be not only a choice between Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten, who you want to be the Prime Minister of Australia, it is going to be who is credible on economics, who you trust to create jobs and growth. Now, the last time Labor was in office, we went from a massive surplus to a massive deficit, enormous amounts of debts and they have learnt nothing. They just want to spend, tax and spend more and more and it is time to call a halt to this spending spree.
Anthony Albanese: Well the last time, that was a global financial crisis, Christopher.
Christopher Pyne: But you certainly took us from $22 billion in surplus into hundreds of billions of dollars of debt.
Anthony Albanese: There was a global financial crisis, We, unlike the rest of the world, didn't go into recession…
Christopher Pyne: That is Labor's way.
Anthony Albanese: … we ensured that jobs were created. It is Labor’s way to protect jobs.
Lisa Wilkinson: Just quickly because we have run out of time...
Christopher Pyne: Labor's way is to tax and spend.
Anthony Albanese: It is to protect jobs.
Lisa Wilkinson: We’ve run out of time. I just have to ask quickly - how is Scott Morrison going with that budget? Has the PM finally left him alone to just get on with it?
Christopher Pyne: Well he is, he’s doing a great job, Scott Morrison. On 3 May we will see the Budget. It is the next down payment on our policies. We have got the Defence Industry Policy Statement, the Defence White Paper, the National Innovation Science Agenda, media reform, competition law reform, we will have the Budget. I mean, by the election, the stark contrast between tax and spend Bill Shorten and Malcolm Turnbull living within his means will be very obvious to the Australian public.
Lisa Wilkinson: I will - Karl will kill me if I don't ask you this. Are the Prime Minister and Scott Morrison talking?
Christopher Pyne: Best friends.
Lisa Wilkinson: Are they all happy families now?
Anthony Albanese: [Laughs].
Christopher Pyne: They are besties.
Karl Stefanovic: [Laughs].
Lisa Wilkinson: Yeah?
Christopher Pyne: Best friends.
Lisa Wilkinson: Good to see.
Christopher Pyne: Much better friends than me and Anthony and everyone knows that we are also good friends.
Anthony Albanese: Malcolm Turnbull certainly left Scott Morrison alone. He is alone in the corner. He doesn't even know when the Budget’s going to be.
Christopher Pyne: I wonder how Bill and Anthony are getting along since everyone now knows about the plot to replace Bill early in the year with Anthony.
Karl Stefanovic: Ooh.
Lisa Wilkinson: We will have to leave it there.
Christopher Pyne: They’ll paper over the difficulties.
Lisa Wilkinson: Christopher and Anthony, thanks very much and have a great weekend. Over to you Karl.
Anthony Albanese: Good to be with you.
Karl Stefanovic: A prime minister and a treasurer don’t need to get on.