A bill to secure the future of the Australian steel industry was presented to the NSW Parliament by the Greens today. If passed the Steel Industry Protection Bill 2016 would require all NSW government-funded infrastructure projects to use Australian-made steel. Steel workers from the Illawarra and representatives from the AWU, the MUA and the South Coast Labour Council were present in Parliament while Greens MP David Shoebridge presented the bill for its second reading in the NSW Legislative Council.
A state government procurement policy that required Australian steel to be used in all state government infrastructure projects is both affordable and rational. The additional 0.2% costs to the state’s $17 billion annual infrastructure spend amounts to just $34 million a year.
This is a small cost to avoid the potential loss of thousands of jobs in the Illawarra and billions of dollars in lost GDP by providing long-term security to the Port Kembla blast furnace.
Greens NSW MP David Shoebridge said:
“The purpose of this bill is to secure a future for steelmaking in the Illawarra.
“Requiring all state-funded infrastructure projects to use, wherever possible, only steel sourced from Australian steel mills is the economically rational thing to do.
“In the face of a dysfunctional international steel market that keeps dumping below-cost steel into the Australian market the NSW government has an obligation to act.
“If this bill is passed NSW will simply be joining the rest of the developed world in moving to ensure the State’s strategic steel industry is not destroyed by continued dumping of below-cost steel that is a function of the broken international steel market.
“Across the United States, in states such as Illinois and Pennsylvania, laws requiring domestic steel to be used in government infrastructure are already in place. Despite its importance there is really nothing novel in this bill.
“With an ongoing guaranteed market for its products the Australian steel industry can invest in cutting-edge low carbon steel production facilities.
“The Steel Protection Bill will also ensure that it’s Australian steel, built to the highest environmental and labour standards in the world, that builds the new rail lines and renewable energy infrastructure that builds the State’s clean tech future.
“Already this year we have seen the Illawarra’s steel workers show real courage in taking a pay freeze and staff reductions to help sustain the industry. Now it is time for the government to act and ensure the future of the industry.
“If Port Kembla shuts down it is never coming back. We do not get a second chance at this.
“With a steel procurement policy the government only pays if steel is produced and the economic activity and security that comes from a successful steel industry more than compensates for a tiny increase in infrastructure costs.
“The Greens are committed to working with all political parties, unions and workers to ensure that this bill is successful and Australian steel has an economically sustainable, low carbon and high wage future,” Mr Shoebridge said.