MOBIL ALTONA REFINERY DOORSTOP INTERVIEW

RICHARD MARLES MP, TIM WATTS MP, JOANNE RYAN MP

SUBJECT: Mobil Refinery closure. 

TIM WATTS, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR CYBER SECURITY: Well, my name is Tim Watts, I’m the Federal member for Gellibrand in Melbourne’s West and I’m here on a very sad day for our community. I’m joined here by Jo Ryan, the Member for Lalor, Richard Marles, the Deputy Leader of the Labor Party, and workers at the Mobil Refinery in Altona. Where we are standing here today is ground zero of the Coalition Government’s abandonment of manufacturing jobs in Australia. If you go down that street and turn left, you’ll get to the Williamstown shipyards, where under this Coalition Government 1,400 jobs were lost. You go down that street and turn right, you’ll get to the Toyota auto manufacturing plant, where 2,500 jobs were lost shortly after. Behind me here today, very sadly, is the Mobil Refinery in Altona where today, hundreds more direct jobs have been lost. These aren’t just economic statistics; these are people we’re talking about. People who are proud to provide for their families, people proud to put their kids through school and university. People who’ve worked at sites like this for decades, until the election of a Coalition Government. People who have been told that they no longer have a job in Australian manufacturing industries because this government isn’t on the side of Australian manufacturing workers. Scott Morrison isn’t on the side of Australian manufacturing workers. Scott Morrison knew what he needed to do to save these jobs. He was told last year – in fact, he even had an announcement in response to it. He announced a support package for Australian refineries. But we know from bitter experience that announcements and delivery are very different things under this government. Since Scott Morrison’s announcement of a support package for refineries in Australia, the number of refineries operating in this country has halved. Since Scott Morrison told the Australian public that his support package would save 1,000 jobs in Australian refinery, we have lost 1,000 Australian jobs just in the Kwinana facility and the facility behind me here today. There is no better example of the choice confronting the Australian public, than Melbourne’s West.  There is no better example of the difference between Scott Morrison’s government and the Albanese opposition. A Morrison Government that doesn’t deliver on its announcements, that’s not on the side of Australian manufacturing workers. An Albanese Labor government that wants a COVID-19 reconstruction based on local jobs, based on secure work. We need an Australian Government that’s on the side of Australian manufacturing workers.  Days like today, demonstrate bitterly, how urgent that need is. I’ll hand over briefly to my colleague Jo Ryan, to talk about the impact of this on her community.

JOANNE RYAN, MEMBER FOR LALOR: Thanks, Tim. And g’day everyone. Yep, I’m Jo Ryan, I’m the Member for Lalor. I grew up in the community just down the road, in the city of Wyndham, I grew up in Werribee. I went to school with kids whose parents worked in the petrochemical industry. This today, the news today that Mobil Refinery will close, closes a chapter of 72 years of employment in the western suburbs of Melbourne. 72 years of families putting food on the table and a roof over their head and raising their kids. So an incredibly sad day and it’s not just sad because of the jobs today. It’s sad because it’s indicative of what’s happening under this government. There is no plan for jobs, there is no plan for new jobs. There’s just closure after closure after closure. The people of the West have had enough. We need good secure jobs for our population and Scott Morrison needs to sit up, make sense, get his Cabinet and form a plan for jobs in this country.

RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Well on this very difficult day, I’m proud to be standing here with my colleagues Tim Watts and Jo Ryan who are very proud to be here with workers from the local refinery at Altona and their representatives from their unions. Today is a tragic day for the workers here who have lost their job. But it’s a tragic day for Australian jobs and it’s a tragic day for Australian industry. At the end of last year, the Morrison Government made announcements which it said were going to ensure the survival of the refining sector in this country. Those announcements have patently failed. Since they were made, we’ve seen two of Australia’s four refineries now announce that they are closing. This is an absolute crisis. This is a government which does not have a plan for manufacturing in this country, other than to run manufacturing jobs into the ground. Today, these workers are losing their jobs. But Australia is losing their skills. Australia is losing their capability, our sovereign industrial capability is being lost when manufacturing at its highest level, stops being performed in this country. And sadly, this is a story which has been all too familiar, since the election of the Coalition Government back in 2013. Never forget that this is the government which dared the car industry to leave Australia – and that’s exactly what the car industry did. As Tim has said, they’ve been making – building ships here in Williamstown for a century and a half, until this Coalition Government was elected. This government does not have a plan for manufacturing in this country and they do not understand its significance to Australia’s economy. And nor do they understand the role that government plays. Having a refining industry in this country is a decision of government. And it’s a decision which this government has patently failed to make. Just as they failed to make the decision to continue to manufacture cars in Australia. And the national security implications of failing to refine fuel in this country are absolutely profound. The refining industry is now on the brink and if we find that we stop refining fuel in this country, then at that moment, under Scott Morrison, Australia, is less safe. So, today we need to hear from the Prime Minister. We need to hear from the Prime Minister about what is his plan to maintain the refining industry in this country. There’ll be workers not only here, but at the Viva refinery in Geelong, at the Ampol refinery in Brisbane. In companies such as Qenos and Lyondellbasell who will want to hear from the Prime Minister, what is his plan to keep this industry going in Australia today. We need to hear from him right now, to understand exactly what that plan is. It cannot wait a day longer. Are there any questions?

JOURNALIST: Can you please just elaborate just a bit on the fuel security.  What actual impacts will not having this refinery here have in terms of whether it’s the price we’re paying at the petrol pump, or in terms of our national security going forward for {inaudible}.

MARLES: Have we learned nothing from the COVID-19 crisis? The COVID-19 crisis, if it’s done anything, should make clear how significant is our sovereign industrial capability. If we do not refine fuel in this country, we are far more exposed internationally and our national security is profoundly compromised. As a matter of our safety we need to be able to have the capacity to refine fuel in this country. And that is what we will be losing if we lose the refining industry in Australia, which is why it’s so essential that the Prime Minister make clear what his plan is to maintain the refining sector in this country.

JOURNALIST:  Mr Marles, given we’re {inaudible} What does it matter if we import refined fuel into Australia?

MARLES: Again, have we learned nothing from COVID-19? Global supply chains are not what they were. The more we rely on global supply chains for our critical supplies, the more our sovereignty is compromised. And there is nothing more critical than fuel supply. Of course we engage with the world. Of course, we will import and export but there needs to be some fundamental capabilities which we are able to maintain on this continent, within this country, and refining fuel is one of them. And if we can’t do that here, then as a nation, we are less safe, and that’s on Scott Morrison.

JOURNALIST:  Is it too little, too late for the Government though? Is there anything they can do to save it, or is the decision been made and it’s done? It’s a done deal?

MARLES: Well, the Government were warned. And let’s be clear about this, the government got ample warning about the crisis that was facing our refining sector in this country. They needed to act. It has been too little too late in terms of the packages which were announced at the end of last year. But we cannot afford to lose refining in this country, which is why we actually need to hear from the Prime Minister on this day, about what his plan is to make sure that we maintain some refining capability in this country going forward.

JOURNALIST: What would Labor have done specifically to keep this refinery open?

MARLES: Well, we would have made a decision, as we did make decisions when we were in Government to have this sovereign industrial capability within our nation. But let’s be clear, this is not an election issue right now. If refining is not secured by this government before the next election, then our nation is in real trouble. This is a question for the Government on this day, which is why we need to hear from them right now about what their plan is to keep refining going within this country today.

JOURNALIST: So, you’re talking about subsidising the industry? What are you talking about?

MARLES: We need the industrial capability of refining fuel in Australia, it’s as simple as that! Like, we don’t make cars in Australia anymore, is it going to be the case that we no longer refine fuel. And once you go through the list, and you look at the sovereign industrial capabilities, which one by one are leaving the country under this government – we lose our national capability, we compromise our national security. That’s why it’s so important that we hear from the Government right now about what its plan is, to make sure that we maintain a refining industry in this country.

JOURNALIST:  Are we to able to talk to someone who’s been impacted? Are you able to elaborate?  {Inaudible} what are your concerns for VIVA energy now?

MARLES: I think there is great concern now for the VIVA refinery in Geelong and for the Ampol refinery in Brisbane. It’s really why we need to be hearing from the Government today about what their plans are in relation to those two refineries. But not just them – it’s also the petrochemical industry, which relies on them – Qenos, Lyondellbasell – they’re fundamental to plastics manufacturing in this country. They’re actually fundamental to plastics recycling in this country. It’s a terrible environmental outcome if we lose that industrial capability in our nation – the ability to recycle plastic, so we need to be hearing from the government today. But you know, there will be workers in Geelong today, there will be workers in Brisbane today, who are deeply concerned by the announcement that they’re reading in the papers this morning.

ENDS

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