SIMON BIRMINGHAM: The sad news today is that 60 jobs are now, of course, going to come to an end at Penrice down at Port Adelaide. This, of course, is a tragedy for the individual workers but the awful truth is that Labor Government policies are contributing to these job losses. Penrice, in their announcement of these job losses today, have made it abundantly clear that higher regulations and higher taxes in particular, the carbon tax have contributed to their decision to end soda ash production in Adelaide and axe 60 jobs. This, of course, is one of a string of decisions right around Australia that we are seeing of companies taking action to reduce their cost base, to axe jobs because of the cost pressures, including those cost pressures from the carbon tax. Now, the really awful truth of this is that Penrice warned this would happen. Penrice made it very clear this tax would have an adverse impact on jobs at their business. We’re now seeing this come true. Penrice predicted jobs would be lost under the carbon tax and 60 jobs at Penrice have now been lost under the carbon tax. Further to this, we see the hopelessness of the entire situation they will now import soda ash instead, so the emissions that come from producing soda ash will still be produced; they’ll just be produced in a country that doesn’t have a carbon tax and then that product will be transported to Australia, with additional emissions in that transportation, to be sold here in Australia. We don’t just see the loss of jobs from this story today. We see the complete pointlessness of this carbon tax that simply shifts production, jobs and emissions offshore.
JOURNALIST: What exactly was the company’s concerns when you spoke to them last year about the impact of the carbon tax?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Penrice made clear that they would be paying hundreds of thousands of dollars per annum in additional tax because of the carbon tax and that it will just make them [inaudible] their international competitors, so that’s the truth here. We have Penrice warning that the carbon tax would cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars a year and now that the carbon tax is costing them hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, they’ve had to axe production and 60 Adelaide jobs.
JOURNALIST: Do you think we’ll see further job losses because of the carbon tax?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: We’ve already seen announcements from Boral and now today’s announcement from Penrice and it’s a weekly eventuality right around Australia at present where we see job losses [inaudible] increasing electricity costs, increasing business costs or increasing tax costs including the carbon tax. Sadly, I expect that, unless the carbon tax is axed, we will see more job losses over the medium to long term.
JOURNALIST: The company says that this has been… the carbon tax, generally, has just been difficult to manage. There have been so many changes, it was unclear exactly in the lead up to the carbon tax what they were going to be charged. There’s even uncertainty over whether or not it will be scrapped when… if and when [inaudible]. What guarantee can you give that if you take government the carbon tax will be scrapped?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: The Coalition’s made it abundantly clear our first order of priority if elected will be to remove the carbon tax and we will do whatever is necessary to remove the carbon tax. This is a tax on jobs. Today it’s cost 60 Adelaide jobs. In the future it will cost more jobs. That’s why we [inaudible].
JOURNALIST: Where is South Australia’s manufacturing industry sitting, compared to other states of Australia, at the moment, in your opinion?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Manufacturing right around Australia is feeling the pinch there’s no doubt about that but South Australia does have the nation’s highest electricity costs and by some reports the world’s highest electricity costs. You can’t sustain a manufacturing industry without a competitive cost base. That means you need to keep input costs like electricity low. South Australia at present is failing to do that and the carbon tax is adding to that.
JOURNALIST: Part of the issue as well is the strong Australian dollar which shows that we’ve got a strong economy. How is that a bad thing?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: There’s no doubt there is a factor here in the Australian dollar and Penrice [inaudible] they equally made it clear that increasing cost, increasing regulation and increasing taxes all of which are things within the control of the Government are also playing a role.
JOURNALIST: There was a lot of talk that this would spell the end of places like Whyalla. Do you take some sort of schadenfreude from seeing it actually come true, that companies are going bust?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: There’s absolutely no joy in seeing jobs lost. There’s particular despair at seeing jobs lost pointlessly pointlessly, firstly, because the companies themselves warned that this could be the outcome and, secondly, because [inaudible] exporting those emissions overseas, so it has no environmental benefit, it simply loses jobs in Australia. That’s why we think there’s a better way to reduce emissions and to protect jobs [inaudible].
JOURNALIST: How will you protect jobs in the future?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: We will make sure that we have the lowest possible cost base. We’ll start by ending unnecessary taxes like the carbon tax and we’ll follow through by reducing regulation. Now, there are far too many regulations here and Penrice stated themselves that it’s not just the cost of paying the carbon tax, but the cost of complying with the carbon tax. It’s an incredibly complicated tax for companies like Penrice and so the regulation that goes with it simply adds to the cost.
JOURNALIST: And how are you going to balance that with the environmental protection?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: The Coalition has a clear Direct Action Plan that will see us invest directly in the areas where we can reduce emissions rather than just taxing industry in the hope that they reduce emissions.