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Interview on ABC 774 Melbourne Drive

22 December 2016

Interviewer: 
Nicole Chvastek

Subject: Opening of Ford’s Asia Pacific Product Development Centre; Alcoa; Cory Bernardi

E&OE

NICOLE CHVASTEK:      

Greg Hunt, good afternoon.

GREG HUNT:         

And good afternoon Nicole.

NICOLE CHVASTEK:      

How do you like the sound of the Cory Bernardi party?

GREG HUNT:         

Look, I have a suspicion that all of this is wildly overstated. I've got a deep belief in all of my colleagues, and we all signed on to be part of the Liberal and National parties.

We made a commitment to the electorate, and I suspect and expect and believe that all of my colleagues take that very seriously and will continue to do that.

We've just delivered really important legislation, and for those who have a strongly conservative mindset, to see the protection of the CFA volunteers, to see the protection against workplace intimidation and thuggery on building sites and to see the budget savings, and then what we're doing to work to provide futures for Australian manufacturing in Alcoa and in Whyalla with steel, all of those things go to the heart of concerns that I think people would want to see addressed.

NICOLE CHVASTEK:      

This isn't a great commitment though is it? It's not a great vote of confidence by Cory Bernardi and also George Christensen who are continuing to indicate that they may leave the party. It's not a great vote of confidence in the Turnbull Government.

GREG HUNT:         

Well, I've got to say that as a team we are right now fighting and doing difficult things in terms of achieving an outcome for jobs.

Today we had the global president of Ford come out and commit to Ford having 2000 jobs in their Australian operations, with this being one of three global design centres, and $450 million next year alone of investment.

So the really critical economic job creating things are being done right now on our watch.

So I suspect that the more success and achievements we have that actually deliver jobs, that actually deliver values that protect people, such as our CFA volunteers, the stronger the response will be from the base. The Government was only re-elected very, very recently and we all made a commitment, and my judgement is that all of our colleagues take that very, very seriously.

NICOLE CHVASTEK:      

If some of your own MPs don't believe in you, why should we?

GREG HUNT:         

Well I don't accept that proposition.

NICOLE CHVASTEK:      

Well George Christensen and Cory Bernardi are regular critics of the Government.

Cory Bernardi recently came out complaining about the emissions trading scheme, or emissions intensity scheme which was floated in a review, and all of a sudden that was shut down. So he has been a repeated …

GREG HUNT:         

We are opposed to a carbon tax.

NICOLE CHVASTEK:      

Yeah, but my point is that he's been a repeated critic of this Government, and my question again is that if your own MPs don't believe in you, why should we?

GREG HUNT:         

Well I just respectfully could not disagree more. I know almost all of our conversations are this perennial attack on the Liberal Party, and I'm sorry that our conversations go that way but I don't control the questions you ask.

But I think it's a lost opportunity, because we were invited on to talk about 2000 jobs in Alcoa. But let me respond to you, and that is to say Cory Bernardi and George have voted with the Coalition and not with the Labor Party.

They voted with the Coalition every single time there's been a split vote since the election. So it's great to have a democracy where people have views, that means we don't have an authoritarian party. The Labor Party doesn't allow people to actually have a conscience vote.

There's no such thing as a conscience vote in the Labor Party, there is in the Liberal Party, and despite the fact that that conscience vote is there and available every single time, George and Cory have voted with the Liberal Party against the ALP on any split votes every single time. I think that's the reality.

NICOLE CHVASTEK:      

We've seen the rise of One Nation, we've seen the rise of the Shooter, Fishers and Farmers …

GREG HUNT:         

So we really aren't going to talk about Alcoa, 2000 jobs?

NICOLE CHVASTEK:

Who took Orange in New South Wales.

GREG HUNT:         

We're not? Okay.

NICOLE CHVASTEK:      

Overseas we've seen the election of Donald Trump. Do you think that the Liberals should be moving further to the right?

GREG HUNT:         

I think that we should be delivering job outcomes for people in places such as Ford and Alcoa.

It was some years ago now that the decision was made on Ford. Right now we're fighting on Alcoa, and what we've seen today is a return of investment in Ford and we are right in the process of fighting for the future of Alcoa and the workers.

I'm quietly optimistic about that, I'm really pleased to see investment, these are the things that a government should be doing.

That's what values are about, delivering outcomes and delivering jobs and delivering that sense of opportunity in future for people, and that's beginning to occur, really profoundly important outcomes.

NICOLE CHVASTEK:      

The former premier of Victoria speaking to Steve Martin this morning said that the Libs should consider going into coalition with One Nation. Let's have a little listen.

[Excerpt]

JEFF KENNETT:   

It may be that as the community continue to exercise their preferences, that the Liberal Party and One Nation can provide the security and the vision for the country.         

NICOLE CHVASTEK:      

What do you think about that? Can you work with Pauline Hanson? Do you think that that's a good idea?

GREG HUNT:         

We work with the Senate and we've been able to pass legislation with the ALP, we've been able to pass legislation with the Greens, and we've been able to pass legislation with the crossbench …

NICOLE CHVASTEK:

What about going into coalition though with One Nation?

GREG HUNT:         

I didn't hear him actually use those words. That's not something we're proposing. We work constructively with all of the crossbenchers.

We don't get all of them on every occasion, but we did get the support of the Xenophon party and One Nation – two very different parties – on the legislation with regards to the Registered Organisations Commission, the Australian Building and Construction Commission and the CFA volunteers.

And so quite diverse ideologies we were able to work with, negotiate with, bring together and secure their support and make constructive changes.         

So our goal is to work with all of the crossbenchers.

We've worked very well with Derryn Hinch. We may not agree on everything, but boy we are going to fight for those outcomes, and that's why on something like Alcoa where you have the Greens now literally arguing that 2000 jobs in Portland should be lost, we take a very different view.

That's why we have committed to fighting with every single ounce of energy for those jobs, and to meet with the CEO, the global head of Alcoa to work with them on a long term sustainable pathway to ensure that we get negotiations with the power companies. Those things matter, and that's what a government should do, [inaudible] to get outcomes…

 

NICOLE CHVASTEK:

Did you also meet the Trump team while you were in New York, as Senator Bernardi did?

GREG HUNT:         

No, no mine was a very, brief trip. We were on the ground for less than 24 hours, because our job was to get to Alcoa and then to get back for Ford.

It was done as quickly as possibly it could be done. But our Government, I mean, the Prime Minister spoke with Donald Trump.

I think he was one of the very earliest international leaders, and as people come on board we'll meet with them and talk with them.

NICOLE CHVASTEK:      

There has been a lot of concern about the Portland aluminium smelter. Did Alcoa's chief executive give you any firm undertakings?

GREG HUNT:         

So they are now entering into the third part, and that is the negotiations with the power companies.

So there had to be discussions with the Australian Government and with the Victorian Government.

I actually went as a joint delegation with Wade Noonan, the Victorian Industry Minister, because we thought this was so important that any partisan difficulties should go.

So his commitment was to take the discussions and proposals that we had as two out of the three parts, and then to work with the power companies.

I do believe they want to keep Alcoa Portland running, and now the last part of it is the negotiations on an acceptable agreement with the power companies.         

So we are urging all sides to come to an agreement and to do that as quickly as possible.

It may take a little bit of time, because they are complex negotiations between a large power company and a significant aluminium company, but we're just going to keep trying to bring them together and urge them to get to an agreement whilst being, you know, both ourselves and the Victorian Government being constructive on each of our parts.

NICOLE CHVASTEK:      

So still no guarantees?

GREG HUNT:         

Look, I won't predict what the companies will come to, but I will say this, I am, in myself, quietly optimistic that we will get a positive resolution.

And I think the Australian Government and the Victorian Government have cooperated very, very positively to try to bring that about. The last part, though, is a commercial negotiation between the power companies and Alcoa, and that's something which they're doing now and I'm very pleased that they are in deep negotiations, I think probably as we speak.

NICOLE CHVASTEK:      

Minister, thank you.

GREG HUNT:         

Thanks very much.