STEELY RESOLVE NEEDED TO SAVE THOUSANDS OF JOBS

7 February 2017

Independent Senator for South Australia, Nick Xenophon, has today written to New South Wales Premier Mike Baird and NSW Treasurer Gladys Berejiklian asking that they immediately implement procurement policies that ensure Australian standard steel is used in major infrastructure projects.

This follows the news today that Arrium OneSteel at Whyalla is facing massive losses because of unfair competition from imported steel, and a lack of support from some state governments.

Senator Xenophon also foreshadowed a Senate Motion to be introduced next week demanding that the Federal Government only provide funding to state governments for infrastructure projects if there is a strong local procurement policy in place. In particular, Senator Xenophon is asking that NSW and the Commonwealth fall into line with South Australian procurement policies which requires that steel must be of an Australian standard.

Senator Xenophon, who along with his Victorian colleague Senator John Madigan, sponsored an inquiry into procurement policies in 2012, as well as introducing legislation on anti-dumping laws in 2010, said: “Successive governments, state and federal, have been asleep at the wheel when it comes to our procurement policies. The SA government’s recently mandated approach requiring Australian-standard steel on government projects is a template NSW and the Commonwealth should follow.”

“Any procurement rules must acknowledge the massive economic multiplier effects of local procurement rather than money and jobs being sent offshore,” Nick said.

“And when it comes to our anti-dumping laws, there is still a long way to go to ensure our steel makers aren’t being subject to an un-level playing field with below-cost steel being dumped in this country. It is killing Australian jobs and there needs to be a tougher, faster and clearer approach to dealing with dumping than there is now.

“All I want is for Australian governments to stand up for our national interest in the same way other governments such as the US and Chinese governments stand up for the national interests of their industries and citizens.”

According to a BIS Shrapnel report for the Australian Workers’ Union, only 49 per cent (633kt) of steel used in publically funded projects in 2014/15 was sourced from the domestic market and 653kt was imported. BIS Shrapnel also estimated that achieving a 90 per cent local content policy would cost the public sector an average of $61 to $80 million annually extra but would add a cumulative $1.3 billion to real GDP over five years.

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