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Monday, 22 August 2011
Page: 8762

Steel Industry

Mr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (14:24): My question is to be Prime Minister. Will the Prime Minister update the House on the government's response to BlueScope Steel's announcement concerning its facilities in Port Kembla and the Mornington peninsular? What is the future for steel in Australia?

Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (14:25): I thank the member for Throsby for his question. I know that he and the member for Cunningham will be working with their local community as it deals with the blow that they have had today. This is very difficult news for the people of the Illawarra. It is also very difficult news for people in Hastings. We understand the patchwork of pressures that are on our economy and we have been discussing with the Australian community for a considerable period of time now the fact that our nation is in the grips of an economic transition.

We are seeing a global transition of economic weight from west to east. That is good for Australia, because it means that we are here in the part of the world that is growing and will continue to grow strongly and where the history of this century will be written. We understand too that our economy is going through a transition which comes from record terms of trade and strong demand for our resources. That means that our Australian dollar has been and will continue to be high. That puts pressure on export oriented industries like manufacturing, like tourism and like international education. We also understand that we need to see our economy transition to a clean energy future, and the most efficient way of doing that is to put a price on carbon.

Understanding those patchwork pressures on our economy, we have seen today's announcement from BlueScope. We understand that this requires the government to respond in a series of ways. We are responding directly and nationally with BlueScope through our Steel Transformation Plan. We intend to respond to the needs of the regions involved with a plan to directly invest in economic diversification and jobs—$30 million will be available, $20 million from the federal government, $5 million from the government of New South Wales and $5 million from BlueScope itself. We are also making available $10 million in direct services and support for working people. We will also be investing in jobs in Hastings. We want to make sure that the working people who are caught up in this decision get their full entitlements, and we welcome the fact that BlueScope has said they will be paid their full entitlements. They will get the assistance that they need in skilling, training and support to get a new job. The regions affected will also get support for economic diversification.

I believe that Australia will continue to be a nation that manufactures products that the world will want to buy. As a government, we have been strongly engaged in manufacturing. Whether through the new car plan, through our powering ideas agenda or through the work we have done on procurement and supplier advocates, we have been strongly engaged in manufacturing. I believe that we will continue to be a nation that makes things and has the benefit of high value added jobs and high wage jobs. Of course, that will mean that we will need to work with the manufacturing industry and those parts of the country that are particularly reliant on manufacturing. We will be working directly with the members for Throsby and Cunningham as we work our way through these job losses at BlueScope and the consequences for the individuals and for the community.