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Thursday, 21 November 2013
Page: 1093


Mr CHESTER (GippslandParliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence) (09:51): I rise to present a petition which has been found to be in order by the Petitions Committee. It contains 4,300 signatures, which were achieved in just one week earlier this year. The petition has been driven by the local CFMEU members on behalf of mill workers at the Maryvale Mill, paper manufacturers in the electorate of Gippsland. I suppose some listening might think it is unusual that a member from the National Party would be standing here today tabling petitions from the union movement, but I have been working very closely with the CFMEU in relation to the issue of government support for paper manufacturing in an Australian sense. I will always stand up for local jobs, and I am proud to be here today on behalf of the CFMEU people who have initiated this petition and in partnership with the Australian Paper mill at Maryvale and the owners of that facility.

The future of the mill in Gippsland is of great interest to the regional economy, but it is also, more broadly, an issue of great significance to the Australian economy. The Australian government is one of the biggest purchasers of paper products, but at present contracts are awarded on a financial basis only—that is: which company can provide paper products for the cheapest price? That is a point in this campaign put forward by the CFMEU. It calls on the government to take a broader view of how we make those procurement decisions.

This petition makes the point that purchasing policies need to reflect what we call a 'true best value proposition'. Once you consider all the socioeconomic benefits associated with a local producer such as Australian Paper at Maryvale, the support for Australian jobs, the environmental credentials of our own paper-manufacturing industry and our own timber industry, and the taxation receipts of the government in the longer term, the petition makes the point quite clearly that the cheapest is not always the best. It calls on the government—it was the previous government that it called on originally, but now it calls on this government—to consider a pilot project in the Gippsland region, taking into full consideration the true best value proposition.

Many members may have received a letter in the last couple of weeks from Australian Paper. It was written by the chief executive officer, Jim Henneberry. It made it clear to members that, as a local manufacturer, Australian Paper is facing unprecedented pressure from the high Australian dollar and imported papers, including some that are currently the subject of an Anti-Dumping Commission investigation. Despite those difficulties, the Australian Paper mill in Maryvale is investing in a de-inked recycling plant. This $90 million plant will divert up to 80,000 tonnes of local waste paper from Australian landfill each year, producing premium recycled pulp to make innovative Australian recycled copy and printing papers.

I urge all members to consider purchasing locally where they can. Australian Paper delivers fantastic products to the Australian community. So I urge MPs and I urge businesses right across Australia to make an informed decision, when they make these decisions, to support Australian jobs by purchasing locally made products wherever possible.

The petition read as follows—

To the Honourable The Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives

This petition of citizens of Australia draws to the attention of the House:

That Australian Paper at Maryvale is Gippsland's largest private employer. Almost 1000 people work at the pulp and paper mill and many more thousands of jobs in the community rely on its operations. Last year workers from the Maryvale mill went to Canberra to talk to politicians as part of the CFMEU's 'Let's Spread It Around' campaign (www.letsspreaditaround.com.au).

The Australian Government is the biggest purchaser of paper in Australia and we want the Government to buy less imports and more Australian made paper to support our jobs, our families and our communities.

Workers are still concerned that Australian companies continue to lose procurement contracts with Federal Government agencies to overseas suppliers which are putting jobs at risk.

We therefore ask the House to:

Commit to getting true value for money when buying paper and paper products by taking into account the socio-economic benefits to the community of supporting Australian manufacturing jobs, the significant taxation receipts from local production and the environmental benefits of procuring paper which reaches high Australian Standards.

Achieve this through implementing a pilot project covering all Government procurement of paper and paper products which core principle is preference of Australian made product except where it is independently assessed against agreed Government-CFMEU criteria that net cost to the community of the imported product is lower than the Australian made product.

from 4,293 citizens

Petition received.