Mr RAMSEY (Grey—Government Whip) (11:10): It would come as no surprise to anyone in this place that there’s been a lot of focus on GFG Alliance, Mr Sanjeev Gupta and the collapse of Greensill and the effect it had on his global empire. Citibank, here in Australia, had lodged an application to wind up the operations of OneSteel Manufacturing, which was a major concern in Whyalla, with the Whyalla Steelworks and the Tahmoor coal mine operations. There are 1,200 workers employed by Liberty Primary Steel at the Whyalla Steelworks. There is that many again employed in the community as a result of contracting and another 600 in the iron ore mines there, in a city of 22,000.
But the darkest hour is the hour before dawn, and I feel that dawn has risen over Whyalla. I had great confidence that Mr Gupta would land new finance for his operations. He’s been around a while and he’s a survivor and he’s a confident operator. So, it was with great joy that I took a call about 10 days ago to announce Liberty Primary Steel Australia had reached an arrangement with Credit Suisse, who were the one’s who were disadvantaged by the fall of Greensill, to refinance, and I think the most interesting thing of this refinancing deal is that it’s been done on the back of the outstanding performance of his Australian operations, and in amongst that are the Whyalla Steelworks.
It’s a great credit to the workers of Whyalla steel, who have taken a pay cut and buckled down. The new management there, particularly the last change, has seemed to have made an enormous difference. This operation, which was losing tens of millions of dollars a year, is now back in the black and making good profits. It’s on the back of a buoyant steel market. The whole of the GFG Alliance empire has basically been rejuvenated by the profits of the Australian arm. It just shows how good these businesses are in the long term. It’s a bit like farming. Sometimes you’ve got to have faith in the future; you’ve got to have long-term focus before the pay-off comes. That is of great credit to those people: the GFG and the workers and the management, as I said.
It dovetails into a few other things happening in Whyalla. In Whyalla we, of course, had put on the table finance available for a movement to green steel, and Mr Gupta has expressed great interest in this in the past. There’s been the sale of the Whyalla Foreshore Motor Inn. Many thanks to Barbara and Tom Derham, who have been part of the Whyalla business community for many years and who managed to sell this operation and, hopefully, get into retirement. They feel as though they’re about ready for it, and they deserve it. It’s gone to a consortium that’s planning to build a $100 million hotel down on the foreshore at Whyalla and spend money building Whyalla as a tourism destination, rather than just the kind of place you pass through. And a lot of people do pass through Whyalla, and they don’t appreciate what’s there, particularly down on the beach. The highway doesn’t go along the beach; you have to drive a little way to find it. I think that’s a real tick up.
At the same time, the federal government has announced that the Eyre Peninsula is to be designated one of the hydrogen hubs in Australia. The state government has already named Whyalla as its prime site of interest, and there is commercial interest in developing the operations there. There are solar and wind farms being built in the vicinity, and there’s a large wind farm under planning and financing. My understanding is that GFG Alliance have sold it to another operator, and they will complete that operation now.
We’ve seen Clean Seas kingfish farmers come back to Whyalla, where they’d been some years previously. The industry faced some problems here some time ago, but they’ve got on top of it now. They’re now producing 3,000 tonne of kingfish a year, and it’s going into Europe and other places. They’ve got fantastic marketing, and demand is knocking down their door. To put that in perspective, the Australian tuna quota is somewhere a little north of 6,000 tonnes. So it’s basically half the size of the tuna quota. They were recipients of some assistance from the federal government through the Regional Jobs and Investment package. The actual deal took a little while to land, but it’s so good to see it go ahead.
The Whyalla City Council has announced a whole new redevelopment of the foreshore area. They’ve built a new jetty that people are coming to see in droves. There are a lot of positives. A town like Whyalla can be a bit of a roller-coaster, but I reckon we’re over the top and we’re going down the hill.