Tuesday, 19 April 2016
I, and also on behalf of Senators Hanson-Young and Xenophon, move:
That the Senate—
(a) acknowledges that:
(i) the Australian steelworks manufacturing industry has been an important part of the Australian economy for almost 100 years, and
(ii) this is a difficult time for South Australian employees at Arrium OneSteel and the Whyalla community, with Arrium recently going into administration; and
(b) calls on the Government to:
(i) provide urgent mental health support to the Whyalla community as part of any plan to assist in securing the future of the steel industry in South Australia,
(ii) invest in the development of greenhouse gas reducing steel-making technologies,
(iii) adopt a mandatory use of Australian Standards to assess the quality compliance of all steel-related building products used in Australia,
(iv) develop a legislated national procurement policy that ensures all government infrastructure and construction projects use at least 90 per cent locally-produced steel,
(v) as a condition of such a procurement policy, require that Australian steel producers adopt renewable sources of energy for the steel production process,
(vi) recognise That the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other free trade deals prevent federal and state governments from adopting such procurement policies should they be signed, and
(vii) reject the Trans-Pacific Partnership to protect South Australian jobs.
I seek leave to make a short statement.
This motion highlights the impact of the TPP on the potential of national procurement policies to protect the steel industry. Recently, as part of the Senate inquiry into the future of steel here in Australia, I went to Whyalla and spoke to workers in that industry. It was very clear to me that people in that industry are very concerned about the impact of the Labor and Liberal party policies in this area—economic policies and free trade agreements. The TPP is selling off and selling out our national interest rather than protecting the interests of Australian workers and Australian jobs. We note the position of the Labor Party on this, the contradictory and inconsistent statements that have been made, and we call on the Labor Party and the Liberal Party to side with us in supporting Australian jobs.
Mandating the use of Australian steel, as proposed by the Greens, the Labor Party and others, threatens our international trade obligations. This puts at risk the livelihoods of farmers, manufacturers, small and medium sized enterprises and all their employees who rely on these agreements every single day. The government is committed to fostering an environment where Australian businesses have an opportunity to bid for work on Australian projects and major government procurement contracts. The government does ensure that major project proponents and tenderers for significant government projects are given equal consideration to Australian suppliers of goods and services.
Labor opposes this motion for the same reason we opposed the previous motion from Senators Lambie, Lazarus, Madigan and Xenophon. We are confident our plan offers a more effective means of lifting the amount of Australian steel in public projects. In addition to what I said in the previous motion, I invite senators to examine the record of the South Australian steel supplier advocate, Mr Ian Nightingale, from the public hearing of the Senate committee in Whyalla on the future of the Australian steel industry. According to Mr Nightingale, the number of local steel companies winning public projects in South Australia has risen from 40 per cent to 91 per cent. This has been achieved through essentially the same measures that Labor has committed to implement at a national level—that is, ensuring that steel used in public projects meets Australian standards and ensuring a rigorous compliance regime with such a scheme.