Chamber President Ron Hay, interviewed this morning, 30th May 2016 by ABC AM’s Michael Brissenden, talking about the current situation in Whyalla. Audio & Transcript below courtesy of the ABC
MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Well Ron Hay is the president of the Whyalla Chamber of Commerce and he joins me here now.
Ron, good morning.
RON HAY: Good morning Michael, welcome to Whyalla.
MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Thanks very much, great to be here. What would happen to Whyalla if the steelworks were to close down?
RON HAY: Well if you look at the report that was put out last week by Flinders University, it really brings home the dollar numbers that this community would face, and of course the Australian Government at a national level.
If we look at those numbers they’re very high. It impacts not only socially, it impacts financially, and it’s not a situation that we really like to think about. That would be the total bottom line.
MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: That analysis suggested unemployment up to 40 per cent, an impact it said like the closure of the car industry to Detroit. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Detroit but that’s a pretty bleak future, I can tell you.
RON HAY: It’s a very bleak picture that the report gives. From that point of view, you know, we’ve always known that if the inevitable ever happened – and as I said it’s not something that we like to think about – the inevitable ever happened, then that is clearly the numbers that would support that situation.
Now, you know, people could argue, if they’re factual, that it’s pretty representative of where we see the total situation.
MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: And it’s a one-industry town isn’t it? I mean really if that industry goes, there’s nothing else is there?
RON HAY: It is, and it’s always been, and I guess the upper Spencer Gulf areas have suffered from that issue over the years with the ‘one-horse town’, as we call it. We’re now seeing some other opportunities coming through here, um you know with Muradel with their biofuels, we’ve now got the petrochemical or the Petro Diamond fuels with their situation out at Port Bonython there.
Santos of course is another employer, but there are different levels of those. So one of the things that we need to look at over the next period is what we can actually bring to this community to create diversity.
MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Has there been an impact already? Clearly there is a lot of uncertainty with the locals that we’ve been talking to.
RON HAY: Well there is, because people just focus on what our major employer is currently, and of course that’s something that has actually taken very, very big time out of everybody’s life at the moment.
But, look, clearly you know there are great opportunities at the moment with AusMinerals looking to set up their situation and take employment there. As we say, some of the discussions that I’d have, while I could put forward ideas that we should be seeking probably at least 10 to 12 businesses that can come here to employ 30-40 people.
That way we take out a lot of impact in the community of those people over a period of time that have been displaced from employment.
MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: What about the impact on the state as a whole? Clearly this adds a lot of revenue to the state, there’s a lot of, you know, this is a big employer in the state and a big employer as a whole.
RON HAY: It certainly is, and Michael over the time that we’ve had discussions with government representatives up here, we have indicated to them that a lot of the gross domestic dollar of the state comes from regional areas as well.
And it does push into the Government coffers. And if we don’t have industries up here, then we do have a financial issue for the state because we’re not showing that contribution as it goes through. So, you know, really from a national and a state and a local level it has a very, very big impact.
MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: We heard there from the State Government. Clearly they’re prepared to put some money in – as yet an unidentified amount. The Federal Government is being a little more cautious, although obviously negotiations and discussions are continuing. What are you hearing from both sides in the federal sphere about what they intend to do?
RON HAY: Well, I actually bumped into a minister on Saturday evening. From the federal arena, what we’re hearing is that they have clearly passed on some things in the past, and that is taking away the carbon tax, they have given Arrium a contract for rails by bringing that forward. So that’s clearly the message they’re giving at the moment, that they have already contributed some things to the current situation.
I guess what I’ve been saying back to the federal arena, when I happen to see those people, is that we’re clearly not seeing the same visibility that the State Government is bringing to the situation, and we certainly see a number of government representatives up here at the state level in discussion and fruitful discussion to try and see what we can do to try to move this situation forward.
MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: So what you’re being told at the moment, the messages you’re getting – is it enough do you think to give you confidence about the future of Whyalla?
RON HAY: The message that we’re getting at the moment is that the administrators are working solidly through this problem. We’re confident that the administrators will work through this, we’re confident that the State Government who have come through with a $10 million fund to assist our contractors here.
And what we would like to see is probably bit more visibility from the federal arena, but as they say at the moment unfortunately they’re in caretaker mode, they cannot make decisions but comments would be nice.
It would be very interesting Michael from both sides of the major parties to see what may evolve over the next few weeks in our current run-up to the election.
MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Indeed we’ll see what happens. Ron Hay, thanks very much for joining us.
RON HAY: No worries, thank you.
MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Ron Hay, the president of the Whyalla Chamber of Commerce.