Transcript of joint doorstop interview, Darwin
FRI 18 MAY 2012
Subject(s): INPEX Project; Carbon pricing; NT economy; Live cattle exports; Defence budget; China
PM: It’s great to be here today in the Northern Territory. I’m joined by Chief Minister Paul Henderson. And we’re here for an incredibly important event, for the Northern Territory and for our nation.
Today we have turned the first sod, broken the ground for the Inpex Project. $34 billion of project right here in the Northern Territory, making sure that the LNG here can be mined for the next 40 years.
This is fantastic news for the Northern Territory. It’s about jobs, not only in construction but jobs over the next 40 years, and it’s fantastic news for our nation. It's part of the resources boom which is changing the Australian economy.
These are remarkable days of opportunity for our economy. We have low unemployment, low inflation, a budget coming to surplus and more than $450 billion of investment in the pipeline and here today celebrating a $34 billion project.
Our economy is strong, but we know there are some families who are still struggling to make ends meet, and that's why in the recent budget, as well as returning the budget to surplus, we've provided families with a little bit of extra to help them get by, particularly the new Schoolkids Bonus and increased family payments.
But it's good to be here today, celebrating some new jobs in the Northern Territory. I will turn over to Paul Henderson, the Chief Minister, who has done so much to make this project a reality.
CHIEF MINISTER HENDERSON: Thank you Prime Minister, and it’s great to have you here in Darwin to celebrate this day with us because this is a fantastic day for the Northern Territory.
This project will underpin our economy here for decades to come. And turning the sod today is a great day for Territory tradies.
If you want a job, there are thousands of jobs here in the Northern Territory. Since opening their office just 10 days or so ago, hundreds of people have been knocking the door down, putting their CVs across the table, wanting to have an opportunity to work on a world-class project right here in Darwin.
And certainly as the Chief Minister I will be doing everything I can to ensure that Territory business, Territory tradies, Territory apprentices get opportunities on this magnificent project because for me, this is about seeing Darwin emerge, right across Northern Australia, as the centre for oil and gas in Northern Australia.
As well as this project here today, we've got our marine supply base under construction.
The marine supply base will provide the base and the focus to service all of the offshore platforms off the Northwest Shelf all the way around here to Darwin in terms of service, supplying, maintaining all of those platforms for decades to come, and with that marine supply base will come companies large and small, that will come and invest in the Territory, set up businesses here in the Territory, and support Territory jobs.
I would also like to acknowledge today Charles Darwin University and thank INPEX for their great support of $3 million to help establish the Centre for Oil and Gas Research here at Charles Darwin University, to ensure that not only are we at the heart of delivering a world-class LNG plant here in Darwin, but we've got world-class research and development occurring in terms of developing oil and gas reserves in tropical waters, and the sign of the commitment by INPEX and Total to the Territory with that investment is significant.
I would just like to finish on also thanking the joint venture partners for their commitment to 200 apprenticeships over the life of this construction project.
That's 200 young people here in the Territory who will get an opportunity to do their entire apprenticeship on a world-class project, and those kids have yet to be selected, but if you are looking for a trade apprenticeship here in the Northern Territory, certainly this project offers plenty of opportunity.
So congratulations to everybody involved, Prime Minister, we turned the first sod, but there’s a heck of a lot more work to go.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, this is a huge project for the Northern Territory, what does it do for confidence in the Australian economy?
PM: We can be confident about the Australian economy because there are so many investments like this one in the pipeline. More than $450 billion of investment, in an economy which came out of the global financial crisis strong, where we see growth, low inflation, low unemployment.
Many Australians would be seeing the news from Greece, they would be seeing the unemployment rates in places like Spain, 25 percent of people unemployed. They’d even be worried about the unemployment rate in the US, more than 8%.
Here we've worked together with a spirit of optimism. We came out of the global financial crisis strong, and its investments like this one that are going to get us to the next stage. Now, that doesn’t mean that there aren't some stresses and strains around.
The high Aussie dollar is having an impact on manufacturing and tourism, but even in manufacturing and tourism, we are seeing companies compete and hold their heads up in the world, make their way and continue to make good profits and keep people in jobs.
JOURNALIST: In terms of jobs locally, the Territory already struggles to fill skilled tradesmen positions. I know we're in discussions with the Federal Government about getting more migration visas. How are those talks going?
PM: I think firstly Chief Minister Paul Henderson will be sending out a message to many people around the country to look north for their future, given the scale of this investment, and there will be opportunities for skilled Australians to come here and get work, as well as the great training opportunities for young people in the Northern Territory and local Indigenous Australians.
We always look to train Aussies first, to make sure people get the benefits of this kind of prosperity in our economy. If we cannot fill skills shortages by training Australians, then we do look overseas and we’ll continue to work on that as necessary.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, don't you think it is bit strange that people would be out of work, sitting there in cold, damp old Melbourne when there’s jobs going begging up here?
PM: Spoken like a true Territorian. One of the issues we do have around the country, you’re right is that there are some parts of the country like the Northern Territory growing rapidly, hungry for people, hungry for skills.
We’ve got other parts of the country that aren’t seeing that kind of growth, and we have introduced some policies to encourage people who need a job to move to where the jobs are.
And people will see, this news on their TV screens tonight, and many of them might think ‘well there’s a great opportunity for me to build my future in the Northern Territory with this prosperity flowing through.’
JOURNALIST: It's understood that this project is going to increase greenhouse gas emissions in the Territory by 30% in the Territory alone. Do you want see something locked in to offset those emissions, by INPEX or government?
PM: We’ve got an economy-wide carbon pricing scheme in the sense that it's not focused on the Northern Territory or focused on one project.
It's a system of carbon pricing starting on 1 July that will catch the biggest businesses that generate the most carbon pollution and require them to pay a price, and if they pay a price, then they will look for ways to reduce the amount of carbon pollution.
So that's our approach to reducing our greenhouse gases and it is the cheapest and most efficient way of doing it. At the same time there is money to assist households as we move to carbon pricing.
Already some families will have seen their increased family payments flow through. Pensioners will see money flow through. Tax cuts start on 1 July for people earning less than $80,000 and that assistance continues into the future.
JOURNALIST: So would you like to see INPEX actually invest in a carbon offset, to lock it in, to show what they're doing the right thing?
PM: What we’ve done is exactly what I’ve described to you. It's not based on individual projects, it's based on a system for those businesses that generate the most carbon pollution.
JOURNALIST: Do you worry that the Territory relies too much on big resources-intensive projects, where we’re pinning too much of our future hopes on projects like INPEX and not diversifying?
PM: I’ll go to the Chief Minister who’ll want to talk about your economic strategy here specifically, but as Prime Minister, let me say this very clearly, we want to make sure that we emerge from this phase of economic growth, this resources boom, with a strong, diversified economy.
The resources boom is going to last a long time, but we are working so that the resources boom does not hollow out other parts of the Australian economy. We're working with manufacturing and with other industries so we come out of this phase of remarkable growth with a strong, highly diverse economy.
I want our economy to have many sources of strength, not be reliant on one source of strength, and the Chief Minister will talk about the Territory specifically.
CHIEF MINISTER HENDERSON: Thank you, Prime Minister. This is certainly not a one-shot-in-the-locker approach in terms of the growth of the Northern Territory economy.
We're seeing strong commodities growth right across the Northern Territory in terms of resources up into Asia. This project is the catalyst for bringing many companies, large and small, to the Northern Territory.
The fact that we are building our marine supply base, the long-term future for underpinning economic growth is to see Darwin be established as the oil and gas capital for Northern Australia, not only producing millions of tonnes of LNG for our neighbours in Asia, but also small and medium businesses emerging to support, supply, maintain all of the engineering work on those offshore platforms and our university developer’s a world-class university with many opportunities for research and development.
So in growing an economy you've got to understand what your key competitive advantage is, and our key competitive advantage is our resources, as well as our fantastic tourism assets, the value of the Defence presence here in Northern Australia.
There are many facets to the Territory economy, but we had to broaden this economy, we had to deepen this economy, and that's what this project and all of the associated investment that’s going to come to the Territory is going to do.
JOURNALIST: Chief Minister, you mentioned in your speech 4,000 jobs would be created. I was under the impression it was 3,000. Have we gained an extra thousand somewhere?
CHIEF MINISTER HENDERSON: Well this is right across this project, so the number 3,000 is specific to the construction of the plant, but the flow-on effects right across, in terms of other businesses servicing and supplying this particular contract will be significant.
So the multipliers keep on encouragingly expanding. Already $840 million worth of contracts have gone to Territory businesses. Companies like McMahon's who are having to put on hundreds of extra people and really encouragingly are taking on taking on Indigenous apprentices and giving them opportunities as well.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, it has been revealed that two live cattle exporters have been penalised for breaching the new rules put in place by your Government, but these cases wouldn't have come to light if Animals Australia didn't film the evidence. Your system can't end cruelty, can it?
PM: Thank you for that question, and here in the Northern Territory live animal exports is an important industry and indeed right across Australia's north this is an important industry.
We've worked with the industry to get a better system so that we can track animals, we know where they go, and we know the conditions in which animals are being slaughtered overseas. Now, there are a number of ways that any abuses of the system can come to light.
The abuses that you refer to did come to light as a result of the work of animal welfare activists, but there is a number of ways they can come to light because the system is monitored and there are auditors.
What this news shows today is that the system is working. When abuses are identified, then people pay the price for those abuses, because we now know, because of the tracking system, where animals come from, who has been responsible for exporting them, where they are being slaughtered and we are able to see the conditions under which they are being slaughtered.
So this is evidence the system is working.
JOURNALIST: But it’s not very effective if you're relying on a charity to do the hard yards?
PM: Well, there’s a number of ways that abuses can come to light. Overwhelmingly, this is an industry that does the right thing. I've met with the cattle industry here before.
I will meet with them during the course of today again, and whenever I meet with them, they make the point to me very, very passionately that people in the industry do not want to see their animals abused and that there is no-one more heartbroken when there is evidence of animal cruelty than the people who work in this industry.
But like all areas of life, common sense tells you overwhelmingly people do the right thing, but there is occasionally the odd person who does the wrong thing and so the system is there to catch and identify those few people who do the wrong thing.
JOURNALIST: You’re heading to the NATO summit. Are you worried about other nations raising Australia's Defence budget cuts?
PM: Certainly not, no. Whenever I meet with leaders at NATO and ISAF, so whenever I meet with leaders who also have their troops deployed in Afghanistan, what they say to me is words of congratulations about the professionalism and contribution of Australian troops in Afghanistan.
Our troops have an incredible reputation around the world, and it's hard-won, but when people see Aussie personnel, they know that they're looking at true professionals.
JOURNALIST: What impact did your argument with Kevin Rudd or your feud with Kevin Rudd have on the creation of the annual summit in China?
PM: I've seen these reports today. Can I say generally we are deeply engaged with China in every way, in every respect. Our engagements are very, very deep.
To give you just one example of that, I think around 15 members of my executive team have been to China in the last two years to pursue discussions. I know that there are reports in today's newspapers that suggest when I went to China I reached a broad agreement about regular leaders' meetings and ministerial meetings.
That's simply not correct.
JOURNALIST: Just quickly, should Bob Carr have refrained from making comments about James Ashby.
PM: The matter is actually before the Federal Court today so I'm not making any comments on it.