Topics: Offer to supply power generators to the South Australian Government; plebiscite
Minister for Industry, Innovation, and Science Greg Hunt from our Parliament House studios. Many thanks for your time, Greg.
It’s a pleasure, Ross.
Look, I know you might be a bit pressed for time with a division likely in the House of Representatives and, of course, we know how thin the numbers can be there so I’ll get to the point, was your offer of those emergency generators being flown into South Australia, was it rejected?
Yes. So, we’ve left it on the table, it still stands.
We made an offer on the morning of Friday 30th September, the blackout occurred late on the Wednesday afternoon and when it was clear that South Australia wasn’t in a position to renew power to some of their critical firms such as Arrium, which is the steel plant at Whyalla.
I spoke with the Tasmanian Premier, the Tasmanian Minister and then I spoke with the South Australian Government and said we’d be in a position to provide the Air Force.
We then provided it in writing through our officials. Unfortunately, for their own reasons, they chose not to take the opportunity of the back-up, which could perhaps have helped get Whyalla back up to full power a lot earlier.
Okay, just a quick one now. Given the state of play in South Australia, is it back on the grid fully right now?
Is it a situation where they’ve resumed electricity as normal in the aftermath of that storm?
Well, I understand that there are parts that still need some additional support.
The latest advice I have from speaking with the administrator at Arrium’s plant, or the Whyalla steel plant, just this morning, is they have only just got back in the last 24 hours to full power.
In part because we pushed at a federal level to say this is an absolute priority because if you have an asset which is employing 5000 people, which is at risk of potentially going cold and if that goes cold then it would’ve had a massive impact on the steel furnace, in other words you’d have to chip it out and at a difficult time in the firm’s history that could be a decided massive problem.
And with more than 20,000 people in the town of Whyalla, most of them really depending on that steelworks, it could’ve almost created a ghost town and really wholesale unemployment in an area that was terribly sensitive at the time.
Just one issue that’s going through the Federal Parliament today, I notice that Labor has also rejected the plebiscite on same-sex marriage.
What strategy now does the Government employ do you believe in regards to that issue?
Well, we’ll keep going because we want to take this through the Senate.
It hasn’t happened in the House or the Senate yet and so we’ll continue to pressure through this process in the House and the Senate and there’s a very simple reason, the Australian people voted for the Coalition, 15 million people odd voted in the election, more than a million voted for the Coalition over and above Labor, a majority of Australians through two-party preferred voted for the Coalition, and a majority of seats and so that’s the definition of a mandate.
The will of the people, giving the Australian Government the right and the responsibility, the responsibility to uphold their promises and so we have to present this bill to the House and the Senate and we want Labor to respect that will but we will work with the crossbench as well.
So, in other words it’s not off the table, strangely enough, if it’s rejected by the Senate twice, you’ve actually got the grounds for another double dissolution. That’s an unusual thing, isn’t it?
I won’t pre-empt Senator Brandis and the next steps but right now we’re presenting, we’ll be presenting the bill to the House of Representatives where I would expect that it will pass and we’ll be presenting the bill then to the Senate where I would hope that it will pass.
So, parties change their minds. Now, we have taken a position to an election, we’ve received a mandate and, you know what? Giving the Australian people a say is something I believe in deeply.
Upholding our promises is something that the Australian people also believe in deeply as well as I do and when the Opposition talks about governments upholding their promises and seeks to thwart that, I think you find that there’s a grand democratic failure on their part.
Good to have him on the program. Greg Hunt, he’s the Minster for Industry, Innovation, and Science. How’s that offer to South Australia? Rejected and that could’ve really been almost terminal for that Arrium steel works at Whyalla. Greg, we appreciate your time this evening.