18 November 2020

SUBJECTS: Federal Labor’s support for the gas industry; trip to the Pilbara.




SUBJECTS: Federal Labor’s support for the gas industry; trip to the Pilbara.

KELLY GUDGEON, HOST: Over the last few days the Shadow Minister for Trade, Madeleine King, has been here in Karratha meeting with representatives from the oil and gas industry in the region. Good morning to you Madeleine.

MADELEINE KING, SHADOW MINISTER FOR TRADE: Good morning Kelly, it’s a delight to be here and it’s great to be here in your studio.

GUDGEON: As I said to you before we came on air, I love it when people come to visit. You have been here and meeting with people. Tell me exactly what you've been doing while you've been in Karratha?

KING: We’ve had a good couple of days here with myself and Senator Louise Pratt, WA Labor Senator for Western Australia. And we started off out at the Karratha gas plant and had a great tour around there, which Woodside hosted for us. And I acknowledge them and their other partners in what was an iconic development of the gas resources of the North West shelf that's been in train for a number of years and, as you know, has changed the face of the Pilbara, quite frankly, the investment that's gone into that gas extraction and processing here. Also, the Pluto plant just next door and talking about their plans and the pipelines they are building to be able to transmit between the two sites. There's a lot of work going on, a lot of maintenance work ongoing, as the site gets older. And we also went to Yara Pilbara, which makes the ammonium nitrate, which is another exceptional manufacturing process that takes place up here for the local industry. And we've visited a nearby gorge too and so had a great tour by the local rangers of the rock art there. And there’s a fantastic new boardwalk out there.

GUDGEON: It's beautiful isn’t it.

KING: It really is. And you get a better insight when you go with the rangers as to the meaning of that rock art and its immense age and significance to the local people. 

GUDGEON: Have you ever seen anything like that before?

KING: No, I have not. It is remarkable. And when you see it you can hardly believe it. But it's right there in front of you. And it's not that far from you. And you can really feel a connection to what was here before. This is a really remarkable place and we know across the Pilbara there's so much of it. And it's so important that is protected and honoured and respected. So that was a great experience for all of us that witnessed that yesterday, or the day before. And yesterday we went down to Onslow for a visit to Chevron's Wheatstone plant. Deanna, the plant manager there, took us around. That's one of the most amazing facilities I've ever seen. And I've been to a few of the gas plants, and they're all extraordinarily high tech and really complex operations and for the people that are running it to try and explain it to not-so-clever MPs, I'm really grateful for their generosity of time in trying to explain the processes that go on.

GUDGEON: So what are you hoping to learn from your discussions with people? Is this going to be for future policy development?

KING: It's a part of acknowledging how important the gas industry is to Australia, and particularly Western Australia. It’s one of the nation's largest exports, but also for WA. The gas plants around here supply domestic households and industry and that's a really important part of how Western Australia's energy needs are met. And I think that's part of speaking to them, acknowledging them, and also how these really large facilities and large companies are supporting local communities like Karratha and Onslow. People now stay here more than they used to, there's more local workers and less FIFO.

GUDGEON: It’s more of a home for people and not just fly-in fly-out.

KING:  Yeah, absolutely. And you know, that industry is being behind that. And the state's been behind it through the state development agreements. And I think it's really important to acknowledge how much they are a part of the community and how important it is to the local community so that towns like Karratha and Onslow can continue to prosper because they've changed out of sight. I was talking to my sister who used to work in Onslow hospital  30 or 40 years ago, and I was taking photos of the main street and just showing the changes. She was blown away by just how different it is. I think it's pretty remarkable what these developments have done for these communities. But equally, the communities have been a part of it and they remain a part of it. 

GUDGEON: On the issue of gas, the PM recently said he believes gas is the way forward and he announced the Government's gas-fired recovery plan. He said gas is a critical enabler of Australia's economy and said if we must have renewables then it has to be proved they generate the same amount of energy as fossil fuel or go back to fossil fuel. What's Federal Labor's position on this?

KING:  We support the gas industry. And we always have, I might add. Whether it be in in Queensland or in Western Australia or anywhere else around the nation. What we know is that the companies that are doing this work, that are extracting and processing gas, have committed to net zero emissions by 2050 themselves. They're the companies that employ Western Australians and Australians to do these jobs. If they're moving toward that, the country should too and we should work together to get to net zero emissions. Woodside and Chevron, Santos, BP, BHP, all these big job creators in Australia have made the commitment to net zero and they're involved in the gas industry. We can work together with them to make sure we get to net zero emissions. So to put it bluntly, we support the gas industry, and the gas industry is going to help get us to net zero emissions by 2050.

GUDGEON: The other big industry here is iron ore. What discussions have you had with representatives from the iron ore industry where you’ve been visiting? You mentioned, you were out at Woodside.

KING: Yes. And we did go to Rio Tinto’s site nearby and I've been to a few Rio sites before, as well as BHP in previous years, and Fortescue as well. So looking at their operations, again, it’s support for an industry that is critical to the revenue of the nation through the royalties and our export industry. Again, it’s driven the development of the north-west of Western Australia. And that's been extraordinarily important for our state and the rest of the country. During COVID times it's kept the economy going. Part of our visit is acknowledging with Rio and other companies here, and to thank them for how they so quickly really leveraged their own focus on occupational health and safety to the COVID actions that they took. I think that's what's been really important. So talking to Rio and seeing what they're doing and how their processes are just getting increasingly efficient and safer. It's been a really good chat with them as well.

GUDGEON: Well, I hope you've enjoyed your visit to the Pilbara. Madeleine King, Shadow Minister for Trade. Thank you for dropping into the studio.

KING:  It's a real pleasure Kelly and I hope to be back here again.