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Tuesday, 18 August 2009
Page: 5198

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS (3:01 PM) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Climate Change and Water (Senator Wong) to a question without notice asked by Senator Fierravanti-Wells today relating to the proposed emissions trading scheme and the steel industry.

I particularly refer to the steel industry and Labor’s flawed CPRS. As I have spoken about in this chamber earlier this week, my concern is about the impact of the CPRS on jobs, the economy and in particular the regions. As an Illawarra based senator, I can say that the steel industry is crucial not only to the Illawarra but to the exports of our country as a whole. I am particularly concerned that the steel industry in the Illawarra and in other places supports thousands of jobs. Therefore, areas like the Illawarra will bear the brunt of Labor’s flawed CPRS. In my speech in this place on 12 August I highlighted the real concerns that Illawarra residents in particular have had, which have been articulated by BlueScope Steel. They identified that the Rudd government’s scheme threatened to erode tens of millions of dollars from their books within the first year and had the potential to threaten the viability of the 12,000 jobs that its operations support.

Might I remind senators, particularly those senators opposite, that this region has traditionally been their heartland. At a time when these jobs are very much at stake, many in the area are crying foul that the one-time party of the workers appears to have lost touch. But I will come back in a moment to some comments about that. Today’s headlines in the Illawarra Mercury compound the worst fears of those residents. Under the banner ‘BlueScope steeling for success’, Mr O’Malley is quoted. The article reads:

He also fired a salvo at the Rudd government, saying it needed to amend its contentious Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme or put at risk the 12,000 jobs in the Illawarra underpinned by BlueScope.

It is important to note that BlueScope is a very important company as far as our exports are concerned. I really have to acknowledge the efforts of the Illawarra Mercury in highlighting consistently the concerns of its residents, and in particular as far as the steel industry is concerned, about this scheme. A headline reads ‘O’Malley demands changes to carbon pollution scheme’. The article says:

BlueScope Steel yesterday called on the federal government to consider amendments to its proposed carbon scheme because of concerns over the future impact it would have on the Port Kembla steelworks. In the Illawarra 12,000 workers and their families rely on the steelworks.

I quoted portions of a press release in my questions to Senator Wong. BlueScope Steel has a proven track record as an environmentally responsible company. In a press release yesterday BlueScope cites investing $50 million on environmental improvements globally over the 15 years. Mr O’Malley says:

… the Directors have grave concerns about the current design of the Federal Government’s proposed CPRS and the negative impact it would have on the world competitive Australian steel industry.

The Company strongly believes that the cumulative net cost impact of the current design of the proposed CPRS would be highly significant and material, and that it would severely damage our competitiveness, putting domestic investment, Australian jobs and the Australian steel industry at … risk.

Mr O’Malley goes on:

This is not a one-off tax.

It is very clear. As one person—and I would like to requote this—recently commented in response to an article in the Illawarra Mercury this year:

Champagne socialists, the lot of them. They’re not the working person’s party anymore.

One only has to look at the comments of Jennie George in the House of Representatives on 3 June to know that the government berates us but that there are people on their side who are very concerned about jobs and the regional economies. (Time expired)