No Whyalla wipeout

Rowan Ramsey, the Federal member for Grey, talks about Arrium being sold to Liberty House, promising to guarantee 5,500 jobs

Introduction: No Whyalla wipeout

Ross Greenwood: Welcome back to Money News right around Australia. We know about the real problems of the steel making business that owned the Whyalla steelworks, Arrium. What’s going to happen is after this company had basically gone broke, KordaMentha was the administrator and we’re looking to restructure this business. Today, it’s signed a binding agreement to sell the steel and the mining company to a company called GFG Alliance.

Now there’s a bit more behind this I’ve got to tell you because GFG Alliance is actually involved with a company called Liberty House. Liberty House is one of the companies that is associated with Sanjeev Gupta. Now Sanjeev Gupta is a billionaire, Indian-born based in London. Has been for many years. He’s particularly involved in heavy manufacturing and aluminum steel making a range of things in the UK and around the world and he’s really been something.

According to The Times, he is said to be worth around $6.7 billion. He is the key behind purchasing the wireless steel works here in Australia today. That’s a binding agreement that’s come out. The interesting side about this is it throws a lifeline to those people in Whyalla. It was always thought that maybe the steel works could operate here. It also means that maybe there have been deals done, in particular, big royal projects which require enormous amounts of steel to be able to keep that steel works open.

Let’s go to the local member, that is the member for Grey, Rowan Ramsey who’s on the line right now. Many thanks for your time Rowan.

Interview: Rowan Ramsey, Local Member for Grey

Rowan Ramsey: Yes. Good to talk again Ross, haven’t spoken for a while. It’s quite electric Grey making the news again.

Ross Greenwood: I was going to say, is this good news for the workers, for the town of Whyalla that Sanjeev Gupta stood in and has now bought this business?

Rowan Ramsey: Absolutely. This is what we have been looking for. We thought we had a sale up to two weeks ago through to the Korean group. Unfortunately, they couldn’t meet the timelines. Since the sale process was reopened, Liberty House or GFC, as you point out, felt that they could do better than their first bid. So they put another one on the table and because they could meet the timelines and the Koreans were looking for a 90 to 120 day extension.

We’ve been at this long enough, the creditors, the people of Whyalla, the local member, I got to tell you, we’ve all had a long time and we need a resolution. It was decided by the the creditors to accept that bit and it’s full steam ahead. There’s a few little bits and pieces to be put in place. This is a group that has a record of pulling mothball and unprofitable steel plants out of the wreckage, if you like, out of the fire, and reconstructing them, getting them back profitable.

Of all the older plants they’ve bought over a number of years they haven’t closed any of them. They’re bringing mining record as well. They have experience in mining and of course it’s an integral part of the wireless steelworks is the mine so that fish should run alongside the middle back range. So when great outcome all the way around I’m very pleased.

Ross Greenwood: Just one thing Rowan. I noticed that Sanjeev Gupta in his statement today said, “I’d like to thank all the stakeholders who have worked tirelessly alongside me for over a year on this acquisition. I’d also like to thank both the federal and South Australian governments for their proactive and collaborative partnership with us in seeking solutions to the challenges faced by the Arion business.” Because that imply to me, that the state and federal government have given some commitment to projects and indeed certain tonnages that this mill might produce?

Rowan Ramsey: No no. Not to my knowledge at all. The orders are on the books already. That is the Adelaide Tackle alone which the Australian Government through AITC put in the system for. I and others pursued Adani to place an order but that’s not a government order. That provides part one but additionally, the federal government’s put a $10 billion fund up for rail renewal over the next number of years and we will be looking to bid a number of projects back into that.

We now have a preference clause, if you like, on Commonwealth procurement that says, it’s a bit like the Foreign Investment Review Board, that it must be in Australia’s interest.

Well, it’s not always in the Australia’s interest to use Australia steel, I would have thought. It’s not a 100% guarantee it’s very close to it. All those things send a very good message to the stewards.

I think we’ve seen a turnaround in industry. That have suddenly realized they were looking like losing the local supplier or local manufacturer of heavy structural steel and the threats that has to all the major projects are in Australia. They lifted their order books as well. I think everybody has had a common interest to delivering the right outcome.

Ross Greenwood: Just while I’ve got you on the line, Rowan. Now I know you’re a big member of the government in the Liberal Party in regards to the regional parts of Australia. Is it true that you’ve got a group of 20 regional Liberal MPs together and you’re trying to act as a bit of a block to try and put a bit of pressure on the year Prime Minister for a cabinet seat, is that the way in which it works?

Rowan Ramsey: There has been a group existing in the parliament since David Hawkers time. He was a speaker back in the Howard years and it was formed I think before he was speaker. I thought that rural and regional liberals should come together because we don’t always agree in unison, now we’re coalition friends, the National Party and make sure that their voice is heard as well now. It’s waxed and waned a little bit.

Chairman Stone was chairing in the last Parliament or convening it and I took it over at the beginning of this Parliament. I made a few changes I thought would be helpful and made some very good contacts with the ministry. We are getting a really top quality presentation on the regular basis to a breakfast that we hold about once every fortnight.

Ross Greenwood: Look I know these things have always got pretty wacky names, have you got a name for it, you do not?

Rowan Ramsey: I don’t know. We don’t have a particular name but it’s the Rural and Regional Liberal Caucus.

Ross Greenwood: That’s a bit too long Rowan. Normally these things have a really pitchy name, a really catchy name.

Rowan Ramsey: I had a great name for a band that I used to play on but I’m not going to share that with your listeners. Look, we are looking to be part of the team but we are also looking to make sure that our voice is heard. I think that’s really important. The fact that we’ve had the year of the senior ministers, the prime minister, in particular, I think it’s really important. I think it was fairly obvious in the last election, certainly to those missing the regional areas, that the blanket message is not always good enough.

I think we’re going to have to be a lot a lot smarter in the messages. All parties. A lot smarter in the messages we pitch to different parts of the election now.

In my electorate where we were looking like losing steel jobs, for instance, a message that says that the innovation and technological change is going to provide the jobs for you, was not the right message because we needed to know that we had a commitment to those traditional industries.

The fact of the matter is, now we can see that we do have a commitment to those traditional industries but we weren’t telegraphing that in a correct manner at the time of the last election, I don’t think so. That’s what this group’s about making sure that our voice is heard and that our city friends in the party, in the government actually, understand their point of view as well, to make sure that’s taken into consideration.

Ross Greenwood: There you go, Rowan Ramsey, the member for Grey. Good news for that seat as well in regards to those jobs being saved in Whyalla. The steelworks being saved in Whyalla as a result of a billionaire from the UK who stepped in and acquired all of that. Really interesting story that one I will keep you up to date with it.

 

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