Illawarra MPs, Sharon Bird and Stephen Jones, today slammed Industry Minister, Greg Hunt, following his empty-handed visit to the Illawarra today.
Labor has been lobbying the Government to get serious about securing the future of steel.
It has been more than one year since former Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane visited the Illawarra. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and another former Industry Minister Christopher Pyne both point-blank refused to visit the region. Finally, the new Industry Minister Greg Hunt has snuck into town empty-handed with no notice to local MPs.
The local Labor MPs wrote to Minister Hunt back on 28 July 2016 and received no response. They were perplexed as to why he would refuse to put politics aside and take a bipartisan approach to help save the steel industry.
Sharon Bird said the Minister’s refusal to do anything to protect the steel industry in Port Kembla and Whyalla was appalling.
“Stephen and I have asked the Prime Minister to visit, we have asked a succession of Industry Ministers to visit, and now the current Minister has snuck into town with vague ‘hopes’, ‘beliefs’, ‘expectations’ and ‘deep optimism’ rather than a strong steel plan to ensure the future of the steel industry in Australia,” Sharon Bird said.
“The Minister should stop using weasel words and spell out exactly what he is going to do to ensure that the industry continues into the future – while a contract for 19 patrol boats would be a good start, it isn’t guaranteed and a one-off tender will not ensure the future of the steel industry.
Stephen Jones said that today’s visit was further proof that this Government was all talk and no action.
“At least we can be glad that the federal Government now understands where the Port Kembla steelworks are actually located.
“Christopher Pyne was under the impression that it was on the South Coast and didn’t even bother making a visit himself.
“It has been 380 days without the Prime Minister or a federal Coalition Minister stepping foot in the Illawarra and that is completely unacceptable.
“Labor has had a plan for steel on the table for almost a year whilst the Liberals have just ignored the local steelworkers and the region in general. It’s time for them to step up with more than vague promises about BlueScope possibly being in the hunt for future government shipbuilding contracts.”
Prior to the election Labor put forward a substantial and strong package to help save the steel industry and ensure it remains viable into the future:
ensure Australian standards are upheld in Federal Government funded projects and support local producers meet certification standards
seek to maximise the use of locally-produced steel in Federal Government funded projects and put in place regular reporting of usage levels
halve the thresholds for projects required to have an Australian Industry Participation Plans from $500 million down to $250 million for private projects, and from $20 million to $10 million for public projects.
double funding for the Australian Industry Participation Authority and appoint an AIP Board
ensure Australia’s anti-dumping system has the right powers and penalties in place
create a national Steel Supplier Advocate