The AMWU has welcomed the federal Labor Opposition’s new steel policy as a step in the right direction but called for it to be strengthened by mandated local content on government projects.
National Secretary Paul Bastian said that both the Coalition Government and the Labor Opposition needed to do more to ensure the future of the steel industry.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten today announced a six-point steel policy, which includes imposing Australian standards on all steel used in federally-funded projects in a move to encourage local content.
The policy also cracks down on foreign dumping of imported steel, halves the threshold for Australian Industry Participation Projects plans from $500 million to $250 million.
It also creates a new steel supply advocate and doubles funding for the Australian Industry Participation Authority.
Mr Bastian said these moves were all positive in supporting the Australian industry, with the future of local commercial steel production at risk through Arrium’s assets being in administration.
“We welcome Bill Shorten’s policy on stronger anti-dumping provisions and more stringent quality standards and these are important policies to ensure the future of our industry” Mr Bastian said.
“We are also pleased that the Opposition has reduced the threshold for Australian Industry Participation plans from projects valued at $500m to $250m.
“However, we are disappointed that Labor has not backed mandated local content on government projects. This is a missed opportunity to turn government spending on nation-building infrastructure into secure jobs in the steel industry.
Under threat: steel making at Arrium's facility in Whyalla.
Mr Bastian said the world wide oversupply of steel, driven by the Chinese government’s failure to address overcapacity, is putting pressure on manufacturers across the globe.
The AMWU is campaigning for a mandated 90 per cent of high quality Australian steel in government infrastructure projects instead of turning to cheaper foreign steel of dubious quality.
BIS Shrapnel has reported that a local procurement policy would add only 0.2% to infrastructure costs and would keep Australia’s steelmakers in production. This would add $1.3 billion to real GDP over the next five years and save thousands of steelmaking jobs.
The potential for use of local steel has already been seen in the Victorian Labor Government’s procurement policy, which has stipulated that 100 per cent local steel be used in the project to fix 50 dangerous rail crossings.
“We need Labor and the Coalition to focus on promoting the use of Australian steel in government infrastructure projects as a matter of urgency,” Mr Bastian said.