Tuesday, 19 April 2016
Australian Steel Industry
This motion before the Senate today is taken almost word for word from a submission that was made to the Senate steel inquiry by the steelworkers of Wollongong in New South Wales. They know that the Australian steel industry is doomed and tens of thousands of jobs will be lost unless our major political parties back mandated local content on government projects. The purpose of this motion is to force senators to vote and publicly declare their position with regard to the compulsory use of Australian-made steel in all public procurement. Labor's steel policy, despite many comforting words, does not allow for the mandating of local steel content in government projects, despite calls from the AMWU and the AWU. The steelworkers of Australia and their supporters will carefully watch where senators vote on this motion. I move the motion standing in our names:
That the Senate calls on the Government to:
(a) merge the anti-dumping and safeguards functions into one agency, for example, the Anti Dumping and Safeguards Commission, as occurs in the United States of America (US) and other jurisdictions;
(b) enable anti-dumping applications to be made by industry bodies and trade unions by amending the interested parties definition;
(c) enable and resource the Anti Dumping Commission (ADC) to:
(i) conduct faster and more comprehensive investigations particularly around circumvention countervailing activity,
(ii) share data with overseas jurisdictions that have conducted their own investigations and imposed significantly higher duties, and
(iii) regularly 'benchmark' remedies on like products with other jurisdictions around the world, and in particular the US, Asia and the European Union;
(d) commit additional resources to the ADC to enable independent verification in investigations of importer data and documentation in all applications to ensure the integrity of these processes;
(e) mandate through legislation the use of Australian-made steel in all public procurement, and ensure that all federal grants to the states for infrastructure projects do the same;
(f) apply and enforce enhanced and agreed Australian Steel Standards and Specifications which should be enforced in all federal publicly-funded projects and grants to states for this purpose and apply at every subcontracted level of activity;
(g) ensure all defence and security-sensitive procurement of steel to be Australian-made where those products are locally-produced and can, in a reasonable timeframe, be made in Australia; and
(h) develop and implement, in consultation with industry, union and community stakeholders, an Australian steel industry sustainability plan to incorporate a holistic suite of reforms and measures such as the ones listed above to ensure the survival of this industry.
On behalf of the minister in the other place: Australia already has a robust and effective antidumping system that ensures Australian industry competes on a fair playing field. The government's most recent antidumping reforms included better support for Australian businesses engaging with the system, cracking down on uncooperative exporters, improving the merits review process, introducing measures to address circumvention of duties and improving the operational effectiveness of the Anti-Dumping Commission.
Mandating the use of Australian steel, as proposed by Labor, the Greens and others, threatens our international trade obligations and puts at risk the livelihoods of small and medium enterprises and all the jobs of those who rely on the opportunities that these agreements provide every day. The government is committed to setting the right economic environment by reducing red tape and equipping businesses with key market information and the opportunities to expand and/or export.
Labor does not support this motion because the amount of Australian steel used in public projects can be raised by more effective means than that of setting mandatory targets. Labor has already announced a six-point plan to secure the future of strategically significant metals manufacturing industries, including maintaining Australian standards for steel in all federally funded projects; seeking to maximise the use of local steel in federally funded projects; ensuring Australia's antidumping regulator has sufficient powers; working with the commission to strengthen the system, particularly on countervailing measures; appointing a steel industry advocate; halving the threshold for projects requiring to have Australian Industry Participation Plans; and doubling the funding for the Australian Industry Participation Authority. We are confident that our plan offers a more effective means of maximising the amount of Australian steel used in publicly funded projects.