Tuesday, 23 February 2016
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Industry and Innovation and Science. Minister, I know you are well aware of the challenge facing Arrium's Whyalla operations, of the absolute reliance of this community on this prime generator of jobs, and of the strategic importance of having an Australian source of structural steel. Can the minister inform the House what the government is doing to ensure this industry has a long-term future, and why it is so important to Australia that the industry survives?
I thank the member for Grey for his question. He, like me and other South Australian members, is very concerned about the future of steel making at Whyalla under the company Arrium. I can assure him and other South Australian members of parliament on both sides of the House that the government is doing everything within its power to ensure that the Whyalla steelworks remains open and can at least break even into the future.
In fact, I am sure all members around Australia would have the same view, because the Whyalla steelworks are the only steelworks left in Australia that have the capacity to build construction steel—girders, poles and so on. Whyalla builds those at Port Kembla. Of course BlueScope Steel builds sheet steel, particularly for roofing, which is also extremely important.
We have seen in recent months BlueScope Steel making some decisions about their business to ensure they will remain in business. They are cooperating with their employees, the shareholders and the New South Wales government to put a package together that will let BlueScope Steel thrive into the future. Arrium is doing similar things. They are finding their own savings. They have to work on their plant. They have to work on their markets. They had a lifeline yesterday through GSO, through a recapitalisation of their debt that I hope their debtors will accept, which will mean that they will at least get some breathing space over the next couple of years to make the decisions that will be necessary to exist into the long term. I anticipate that some of the factors that have caused Arrium to make losses in Whyalla, like the glut of Chinese steel on the market, will dissipate in the next couple of years as China acts to deal with their overproduction of steel.
We, as a government, are making the decisions that will protect Australian businesses from being injured, for example, by alleged dumping. There are about six decisions ahead of the Anti-Dumping Commission right now into alleged dumping of Asian steel. It will surprise the House, and probably the member for Grey, to know that 80 per cent of the work of the ADC, the Anti-Dumping Commission, is steel and aluminium. A case is being placed before the ADC by Australian business and a decision is being made. As well as those six decisions that I will have to deal with over the coming few weeks, I initiated an inquiry last week under the new powers given to us by the parliament last year. As part of our first round of reforms of anti-dumping I initiated an immediate inquiry and investigation into the circumstances surrounding Asian steel coming into Australia. So we are using the levers at our disposal, and we will work with the company and the South Australian government to do the best we— (Time expired)