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Address to GFG Alliance Whyalla for transformation plan announcement, Whyalla

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Good morning, everybody.

It's a pleasure to be here to demonstrate the bipartisan support for this project.

I'd like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land upon which we meet and I

pay my respects to elders past and present.

I'd like to acknowledge all the distinguished guests, including the current Prime

Minister, the Premier, the Leader of the State Opposition and local representatives,

including Eddie Hughes.

I'd like to also acknowledge the GFG alliance - Danieli, Pelligra, BEC for their

investment decisions that they've made.

But in particular today, in coming here, I'd like to acknowledge the people of

Whyalla and the workforce of the Whyalla steelworks. This is a beautiful city.

I also acknowledge all the school kids who are sitting here so patiently. Believe it

or not, this announcement is all about your future, so thank you very much for

coming and behaving so well.

Just a few brief remarks. This is personal for me today.

I first came to Whyalla 22 years ago as a young organiser in the ironworkers union,

that's when Whyalla was under the Stewardship of BHP.

And I've seen changes since then. There was OneSteel, the spin-out from BHP

and then the Arrium purchase. And then, of course, the very difficult time 2-plus

years ago with administration.

And now, I come here again with GFG Alliance showing the leadership.

I've heard talk of change before in the steel industry and I've seen around Australia

the steel industry in retreat. From BHP in Newcastle to Kembla Grange in Port

Kembla, I've seen steel lines close down at Western Port.

And there has been a view, periodically stated in some parts of the media and

some more conservative elements of Australian economic theory, which says that

the world is too hard for Australian manufacturing, that we don't really need a steel

industry in Australia and there are people better in the world at building and

manufacturing steel and Australian manufacturing more generally.

So I'm pleased to congratulate Sanjeev Gupta because what we're seeing here,

somewhat, I think ironically, from someone who has come to this country and not

from within this country is we've got a gentleman who sees a vision for the

Australian steel industry and I think sometimes it takes someone from outside to

remind us occasionally how lucky we are and what we need to do to invest in

ourselves in the future.

Thank you very much, Sanjeev.

But the other point I want to make today is to acknowledge the workforce.

It is true sometimes that some people say that the workers in Australia are paid too

much money, they say that we cannot compete with even other first world


But I know the steel workers of Australia and I know steel workers of Whyalla.

You are highly skilled, you have coped with change and I've mentioned successive

managements who have long gone and taken their packages, but you're still here

working. You've adapted to new technology, you work in teams, you problem-solve.

I've seen how you've literally had to hold your breath when the shutdown of the

blast furnace wasn't always sure if it would come back online.

But time and time again, you present.

And most recently, I know it was very difficult and unions in Australia sometimes

get a bad rap from some people who don't understand what really happens but I

congratulate the delegates and the workforce and their leadership who in this case,

to help make sure that Whyalla's future was certain, accepted changes to shift

roster patterns, shutdowns on Sundays.

Perhaps not getting the wage rises which people feel were appropriate. Not easy

decisions and I understand the apprehension.

And this wasn't about someone else doing it somewhere else. It was you having to

make decisions. And I understand the apprehension and perhaps even

the scepticism. But what you did is you demonstrated and you delivered.

We want to see the investment flow through and the promises kept, I understand


But what makes today so personal for me is that the workforce, their families, the

reason why we're sitting here celebrating is in large part because the workforce of

Whyalla do not know when they're beaten.

They do not know how to give up. They believe in a steel industry. They believe in

Whyalla being a steel town.

So you have my congratulations, you are an example to all of Australia.

In conclusion, what today means is it means that perhaps the young people in the

future won't have to leave Whyalla to have a future.

It means that the retired steel workers who bought their houses years ago, the

value in your house will remain.

It means that people will be moving to Whyalla.

But what you also show is the future for this country:

Cooperation, not conflict.

Renewable energy, working with heavy manufacturing.

The economy and the environment working together.

And what I promise, from my point of view, is that in Canberra we will make sure

that when we build railways in Australia, we buy Australian steel.

When we build defence equipment in Australia, we buy Australian steel.

And it also means that when other countries try and dump steel product in

Australia below the cost of what it costs to make in their home jurisdictions, we will

not be a soft touch, we will strengthen the anti-dumping laws.

There is no shame in backing Australia.

Sanjeev has outlined an exciting vision. My vision is this is a country that not only

digs up stuff and ships it overseas but we dig it up here and we manufacture it here

and we keep the profits and jobs at home where they belong.

Thank you very much.