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Monday, 2 May 2016
Page: 4099


Mr CHAMPION (Wakefield) (11:46): I move:

That this House:

(1) notes with concern that one of Australia's major steel manufacturers, Arrium, has recently been placed into administration, highlighting the risk to Whyalla's economy and our national steelmaking capabilities;

(2) recognises the multiple pressures currently being experienced by the Australian steel industry, including the impact of a global over supply of steel;

(3) further notes the worrying evidence presented to the Senate Economics References Committee's inquiry into the future of Australia's steel industry, on the widespread importation and use of structural steel that does not meet Australian standards and presents a threat to public safety;

(4) notes the plan announced by Labor to support Australia's strategically significant metals manufacturing industries, particularly the steel industry, by:

(a) ensuring Australian standards are upheld in Government funded projects and supporting local steel producers in meeting certification standards;

(b) seeking to maximise the use of locally produced steel in Australian Government funded projects and put in place regular reporting of usage levels;

(c) halving the thresholds for projects required to have an Australian Industry Participation Plan from $500 million down to $250 million for private projects, and from $20 million to $10 million for public projects;

(d) doubling funding for the Australian Industry Participation (AIP) Authority and appointing an AIP Board;

(e) ensuring Australia's anti-dumping system has the right powers and penalties in place;

(f) creating a national Steel Supplier Advocate; and

(g) establishing a tripartite Metals Manufacturing Investment Council to work closely with the Government to deliver these measures;

(5) condemns the Government's failure to take a comprehensive approach to securing the future of Australia's steel industry; and

(6) calls on the Government to take serious action to support Australia's strategically significant metals manufacturing industries, particularly the steel industry.

It is a great pleasure to address the Federation Chamber on this very important issue related to the steel industry. We know that this is not just about Arrium or BlueScope; it is about the national interest and our capacity to make steel in this country.

There has been a great deal of agitation about this issue. We cannot say that it has just come out of the blue. This has been an issue for over a year now. Bill Shorten wrote to the Prime Minister in October last year seeking bipartisanship to support the steel industry, offering our support for the government to come out with a policy. What we have seen from those opposite has been absolutely zip—zero. We have seen lacklustre attempts to deal with the crisis affecting our steel industry. We have the member for Grey here as the lone government speaker on this motion. Of course, he is a bit like Robinson Crusoe on this government. He is shipwrecked up there and marooned in a sea of free traders and in a sea of flat-earthers in this government.

We know that on the Labor side we have had very spirited representation from the Weatherill Labor government, in particular, my good friend Tom Koutsantonis, who has introduced a policy on standards and procurement for the South Australian government to lead the way amongst state governments. We have seen the Victorians do something similar. We also had Eddie Hughes, the state member for Whyalla, lead a delegation of steelworkers to Canberra to make sure that they were represented in this building. The delegation included Steve McMillian, from AMWU, Andrew Maine, an AMWU delegate at the Whyalla steelworks, Scott Martin, from the AWU, Stuart Munro, the AWU delegate on the site, Greg Warner, from the CFMEU, Brad Prince, a CFMEU delegate at the steelworks, Bill Metropolis, my friend from the electricians union, and Leigh Fewster, a electrician and delegate at the steelworks.

Those men had to come to this place to secure adequate representation and attention for their issues. I guess that does reflect on this government's interests and on the member for Grey and his capacity to bring their interests to the attention of both this House and the government. That is a great pity. Steelmaking at Whyalla is an essential thing for that town. We know of the catastrophic consequences if the steelworks was to close in Whyalla. As catastrophic as the car industry closures have been, we know that if the steelworks was to close in Whyalla it would be like that with the dial turned up. We know that this is a government of flat earthers, a government that has been completely disinterested in industrial policy, and I have seen the consequences of that with the deliberate shutdown of the car industry in this country by Mr Abbott and Mr Hockey. We have seen the consequences of that in South Australia.

Labor has a six-point policy. We have come out and put our cards on the table in the run-up to the next election. We have put this issue front and centre. We have been promoting the interests of the steel industry in this House for some time. I know my colleagues from Wollongong have had a great interest in this area of public policy making. We are committed to providing in government some relief and security for these workers.

They have been desperate to get the House's attention. They have been desperate to get the government's attention. What have we had? We had the Prime Minister rock up in Whyalla and they hid him down there at the park. The member for Grey shuffled him into a park for a press conference, trying to hide from the local community, trying to hide from local workers. They only met with the council. They did not go and meet with the unions. They did not go and meet with the workforce at all because they might have got a contrary opinion or might not have got the golfers claps they were looking for. Then the Prime Minister got ambushed by Raylene. That is what happens when you try and wrap a Prime Minster up in cotton wool, when you try and do fly-in fly-out press conferences in towns like Whyalla.

It is important that the steel industry remains in South Australia. It is important that the steel industry remains in Australia overall. Thousands of jobs are caught up in it. The very future of Whyalla as a functional town is caught up with it. This motion is about getting this issue debated in this House, making sure it is front and centre at the next election and making sure that workers in Whyalla and elsewhere know Labor is on their side.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mrs Wicks ): Is there a seconder for this motion?

Ms Bird: I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.