May 12, 2020

TUESDAY, 12 MAY 2020

ALI CLARKE: Let’s now go to Mark Butler. He’s the Labor Member for Hindmarsh and the Shadow Minister for Climate Change, good morning.  
MARK BUTLER: Good morning Ali.
CLARKE: Yesterday we heard Federal Labor’s pitch, through Anthony Albanese, to reform the nation’s manufacturing sector. What is in it for South Australia?
BUTLER: I hope an enormous amount. What a crisis like this does is really strip a nation back bare and exposes those elements of our society that are working really, really well – our public health system for example is I think the best in the world. But it also shows things that are letting people down. There are questions around some of our industrial relations arrangements that have left too many people, casuals and others on precarious employment arrangements, really without any protections that we need to revisit.
But we’ve also seen really clearly just how much we have run down our manufacturing capability. It is at its lowest point since World War II and I think there is a great opportunity for us to look at that and to rebuild it. Yesterday, there was a really exciting report from the Grattan Institute which has followed some other work that Ross Garnaut and others have done that really says that once the global economy shifts to clean energy instead of fossil fuel based energy – which it will, there is no question about that – Australia will have a huge competitive advantage. Not just in the advanced manufacturing areas that Martin was just talking about, but in traditional manufacturing like steel making and aluminium smelting. We’ve got to think very clearly about how we maximise jobs from that.  
CLARKE: Taking that though, and the shift to green energy for something as energy intensive as the manufacturing, I think that is something that is understood. Given that there are going to be so many people who are in quite dire straits, companies are going to need to regenerate money no matter how they can go about it, do you really think that some of the green targets are going to be able to be achieved and will be sustainable?
BUTLER: The report on green steel and green aluminium is not a report about job opportunities next year, this is really thinking over the course of the next decade or so but I think it is the sort of thing you need to do out of a crisis like this. That really was how South Australian built its manufacturing capability in the 1930s. It was so exposed as a commodity based economy by the Great Depression that it thought very carefully about building a manufacturing economy, putting in place the blast furnace up at Whyalla, making sure that Ted Holden did not proceed with his plans to shift the entirety of the car manufacturing industry to Melbourne, which is what he had signed a contract to do. It was the South Australian Government that then had the vision to build long term pillars of a strong economy, which lasted us for decades. That is the sort of thinking we have to do as well as dealing with the immediate challenges that Martin was talking about on behalf of South Australian business. Of course we have to make sure that people get through this crisis but we’ve also got to take the opportunity to think about the long term jobs future for our young people.
CLARKE: When you talk about manufacturing, and let’s go back to the Iron Triangle: Whyalla, Port Augusta, and Port Pirie – so much of that is tied up into Sanjeev Gupta. I was reading yesterday that he says that he is not as optimistic as many people on the timing of the business recovery out of this. He thinks activity globally will be diminished immensely for a longer period of time, certainly at least until there is a vaccine found. On that note has anyone in your government made contact with Sanjeev Gupta and established that he actually will be going after that 2030 carbon neutral commitment that we’ve heard about so much?
BUTLER: Well, as I understand Mr Gupta is locked up in his farm in Wales. I’ve been reading stuff from him over the course of the last little while as well and my understanding is he is still very much committed to his target of carbon neutrality by 2030. He is very focused on opportunities in green steel and green aluminium as are a number of other big steel making companies around the world, and big aluminium companies. They are all very focused on shifting their aluminium operations because that is what customers are demanding.
In terms of what happens to the global economy I think you are starting to see more and more commentators say, like Mr Gupta has, it is likely that this will be a long and hard economic recovery. The idea, as Scott Morrison has put it, that the economy is going to “snap back” to use his language, snap back in a few months, I think is starting to look a little bit more like an optimistic fantasy. This is going to be a long, hard economic recovery in spite of the fact that we’ve really done magnifically. The Australian people, particularly the South Australian people, have done magnificently in being disciplined to deal with the immediate threat of the pandemic. The economic recovery is going to be much longer.   
CLARKE: You said the South Australian people have done magnificently, can you sit back and are you impressed by how the federal and state governments have responded to this COVID crisis, even as a Labor MP? Have you sat back and thought actually we have done pretty well and the Government has done okay?
BUTLER: Yes I think we have. I think we’ve done as well as any nation in the world and I think party politics doesn’t matter here. There have been Liberal Premiers, Labor Premiers and a Federal Liberal Government and pretty much everyone in the response they have made has had the support of the Federal Labor Opposition. That is what people expect of their politicians at a time of national crisis. There is unity, there is bipartisanship. Sure there are suggestions we have made about ways in which the response could be improved and the Government by-and-large has taken up those suggestions. But at the end of the day the critical thing is not what political leaders or policy makers say it is the response from the Australian people and that response has been magnificent.
CLARKE: Mark Butler, Labor Member for Hindmarsh and Shadow Minister for Climate Change thanks for your time.
BUTLER: Thanks Ali.