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Burnie pulp mill closure threatens to become another Newcastle fiasco.

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The Hon Simon Crean MP

Shadow Industry and Regional Development Minister

Manager of Opposition Business


2 June 1998




The closure of the Burnie pulp mill, reported to b e announced tomorrow, will be another savage blow to the economy of north-west Tasmania, a community already hard-hit by the sacking of its Patricks workforce, Shadow Industry and Regional Development Minister Simon Crean said today.


The decision to import pulp rather than produce it at Burnie is a harsh and callous act against 150 workers and their families who have acted loyally for their company and their region. Over the past few years they have done everything asked of them to lift the efficiency of the mill.


It is my understanding that there was no consultation with the union prior to the decision being taken.


The decision will further worsen our already deteriorating current account. The Government has been aware of this problem for months. Yet it has done nothing.


Instead of developing a comprehensive plan to address the problems facing the region the government has resorted to the Newcastle strategy shrug the shoulders and do nothing.


As early as 30 January the threat to the mill was raised with the Minister responsible for anti-dumping policy, Warren Truss.


According to a report in the Burnie Advocate on 30 January:


“Mr Truss said he did not believe the mills were near closing. If and when they were, his only commitment was that the government would look at the situation ‘in the light of events at that time‘.”


The government has failed the north-west of Tasmania in three ways:


* It failed to read the signs pointing towards the closure;


* It failed to implement the industry development strate gy for the sector as part of the Regional Forest Agreement; and


* It was too slow in implementing the necessary anti-dumping reforms advocated by Labor and the Willett report.


There is now an urgent need for action from the Federal Government, if it is t o avoid another Newcastle fiasco. The course for Mr Howard is clear:


First: Pick up the phone to Amcor chair Stan Wallis and talk about what is needed to safeguard the jobs of the Burnie workers. (After all, Mr Howard has been happy to receive extensive a dvice from Mr Wallis on taxation.)


Second: Go to Burnie immediately to see at first hand the problems facing the region and to meet the workers and management of the mill.


Third: Develop a comprehensive industry development strategy for the industry base d on the RFA.


This time around the Newcastle strategy is not an option. The government must act, and it must do it immediately.


Further information:

Philip Tardif (02) 6277 4803(w), (0419) 491 166, (02) 6254 7383(h)