Interview on Sky PVO Newsday
14 April 2016
Subject: The Steel Industry.
Peter Van Onselen:… from our Sydney studio. Minister thanks very much for your company.
Christopher Pyne: A pleasure Peter, it’s nice to be with you again.
Peter Van Onselen: What do you make of this announcement by Bill Shorten concerning steel? A six-point plan, it sounded scarily similar to Jamie Diaz’s seven-point plan.
Christopher Pyne: Well Peter, Bill Shorten’s proposals for steel are a moveable feast. Last Friday he said he wanted to mandate all Australian steel in government construction projects. He’s dumped that policy six days later. So you can’t rely or trust Bill Shorten to deliver any policy. His statement today is silent on anti-dumping reform, which is one of the key levers of the government in protecting the steel industry. He thinks an answer to steel is another public servant called an advocate for steel. Well the advocate for steel should bet the Industry Minister, and that’s me and that’s exactly what I’ve been doing. He thinks a board is a response to the crisis facing steel around the world in response to the glut of Chinese steel, and he still wants to reintroduce the carbon tax. The carbon tax, which would have an effect on Arrium of instantly making it an unviable business and other businesses like it across Australia. So Bill Shorten’s policy on steel is actually just a bunch of motherhood statements, more public servants, more boards, no action on dumping, and worse than that he’s dumped his own policy within six days since last Friday.
Peter Van Onselen: Just on that, I mean his words insofar as isn’t it- I’m not a philosophical fan of industry assistance at the best of times, but there’s no money in this six-point plan as I understand it, is that right?
Christopher Pyne: He hasn’t proposed one extra dollar of government spending. Contrast that with the Turnbull Government bringing forward the purchase of 72,000 tonnes of steel from Arrium for the Adelaide-Tarcoola rail line, which is worth over $80 million to Arrium, the unit cost of which will be very low, which means it’s almost all profit. There’s no mention in his steel plan at all of government procurement policy in terms of bringing forward construction projects that we can do. So I would have thought a lot of people will be very disappointed. He went to Wollongong to announce it, he seemed to do so in a parking lot, it all seemed to have been put together in a very rushed way. And as I say, the idea of a steel advocate, I’m Australia’s number one steel advocate. That’s what the Minister for Industry’s job is, not a public servant. So he’s basically downgrading the role of steel in our economy.
Peter Van Onselen: Well you talk about your advocacy for steel, you’re also a South Australian MP. Obviously this is of particular importance as well in your home state more generally. Are you in favour or greater industry assistance in this sector, irrespective of philosophical views about industry assistance more broadly?
Christopher Pyne: Well I’m in favour of using the levers that we have at our disposal immediately to assist Arrium and the 7000 workers across Australia in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, WA, and South Australia who rely on Arrium for their livelihood. And that’s using the anti-dumping powers that I have, and I’ve already been doing that, applying duties for companies that have been trying to circumvent the rules around dumping. Of course I’m going to say more about that in the days and weeks ahead as other decisions are made. Also bringing forward big projects like the Tarcoola-Adelaide rail line, that’s how we can help Arrium, and that is worth $80 million-plus to the company. So far I’ve been working closely with the South Australian State Government and other governments to talk to them about what can be done, but we are getting on with the job, whereas Bill Shorten had a policy last Friday to mandate steel, which potentially breached six free trade agreements and would have removed all the competitive tension in pricing, so the taxpayers would have been the loser as they were potentially fleeced by monopolies. He’s backtracked from that and dumped it completely from his policy, and instead come up with a bunch of motherhood statements and he still wants to bring the carbon tax back, which would have real damage to our economy. If you want to trust the team that can delivery jobs and growth, you can only trust the Turnbull team to do that, certainly not the Shorten team.
Peter Van Onselen: What do you make of this Moody’s report suggesting that the AAA credit rating might be in jeopardy if taxes aren’t put up as well as spending restraint being embarked upon? Scott Morrison talks a lot about the latter but seems to be of the view that the former isn’t necessary.
Christopher Pyne: Well on 3 May Peter the country will see the Government’s Budget. In there, there will obviously be a responsible, calm, methodical approach to the issues facing Australia. If the Labor Party wanted to assist us with our credit rating, rather than hyperventilating about it they would pass the savings measures that they are blocking in the Senate. The greatest threat to our credit rating is a Labor Government that abolishes negative gearing, pushes up rents, pushes down the value of house prices, and increases the capital gains tax by 50 per cent. Their tax and spend policies, if they are elected, will do the most damage to our credit rating.
Peter Van Onselen: Well but on exactly that issue with the negative gearing policy, the Moody’s report specifically says that Labor’s negative gearing plan is an important thing to do. Is this a case of you just basically dismissing Moody’s?
Christopher Pyne: Well, the negative gearing policy of the Labor Party will push up rents, it will push down house values, and it will damage our economy. So if Moody’s have said that they are wrong. The greatest threat to our credit rating is the election of a Labor Government.
Peter Van Onselen: But- okay, so Moody’s if they’re wrong on that, presumably the Government, you mentioned we’ll see the Budget on 3 May, will the Budget have any tax increases, which is what Moody’s is saying has to be one half of the equation to keep the AAA credit rating?
Christopher Pyne: Well Peter I’m not going to pre-empt Scott Morrison’s Budget on 3 May. It’s his first Budget of which I hope will be many into the future. I can tell you one thing, the Turnbull team can be trusted on delivering on jobs and growth. The Shorten team is a threat to jobs and growth, they are also a threat to our credit rating, and their policy on negative gearing will push up rents, it will depress house values, their policy on the capital gains tax increases tax by 50 per cent at exactly the time we want more investment in things like startups, new businesses et cetera.
Peter Van Onselen:Christopher Pyne, always appreciate your company, thanks for joining us once again.
Christopher Pyne: Thanks for the chance.
Peter Van Onselen:Cheers.