The Senate Economics Committee’s wide-ranging inquiry into the future of Australia’s steel industry will be in Wollongong today for its first public hearing.
The Committee will hear evidence from Bluescope Steel, Bisalloy Steel, the Australian Workers Union & South Coast Labour Council, the University of Wollongong, Wollongong City Council and the Illawarra Business Chamber.
The Committee has already received compelling evidence from stakeholders in the Illawarra through submissions to the inquiry.
Bluescope Steel has advised that changes are needed to ensure Australia’s anti-dumping system is effective in redressing the harm caused by dumping, and that products purchased for government-funded infrastructure projects should comply with Australian Standards.
The Illawarra’s manufacturing unions have made urgent calls for wide-ranging anti-dumping and procurement reforms, as well as an Australian Steel Industry Sustainability Plan guided by expert advice through a tripartite Steel Advisory Council.
The University of Wollongong has called for expanding joint industry-research collaborative efforts, like the Australian Steel Research Hub, as well as greater support for the retraining of retrenched steel workers.
The Wollongong City Council has renewed the call for governments, at all levels, to maximise the use of Australian made steel in government contracts and tenders.
The Illawarra Business Chamber has called on the Federal Government to secure the future of steel making in Australia by enhancing local procurement practices and standards.
To date, the Abbott/Turnbull Liberals have refused to show leadership and have instead resorted to piecemeal policies that don’t even come close to a comprehensive national plan for the industry.
It is not surprising that the community, particularly in regions like the Illawarra, have grown impatient with the lack of action from the Turnbull Government when the fate of such a strategic Australian industry is on the line.
Bill Shorten and Federal Labor have already outlined proposals to work with industry, unions and all levels of government to develop a long term plan for the future of the steel industry, including:
- ensuring Government leads by example and works with Australian steel producers and their supply chains to maximise the use of Australian steel in government funded infrastructure projects;
- working with the Anti-Dumping Commission to develop options to strengthen the anti-dumping regime, consistent with Australia’s international trade obligations; and
- committing to transitional employment services and support for local communities, such as Whyalla and Port Kembla.
Labor will have a plan for Australia’s steel industry informed by the outcomes of the Senate inquiry and in close consultation with industry stakeholders.
A strong, sustainable future for the Australian steel industry is far too important for the national economy and jobs to sit back and wonder whether Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will ever take appropriate action.