Labor welcomes today’s announcement that the Andrews Victorian Labor Government has secured a package that will sustain Alcoa’s Portland smelter and the jobs of thousands of Victorians.
The crisis at the Portland smelter has caused a lot of anxiety in the community over the Christmas period and people have rightly been concerned about their jobs.
Following the power outage on 1 December 2016 that threatened the future of the smelter, the Victorian Government has been working with Alcoa, AGL and with the Commonwealth to reach a resolution.
This is a state government that is standing up for local jobs.
It is absolutely the role of governments, federal and state, to work together to ensure that critical national infrastructure – like the Portland smelter – is sustainable.
Labor notes that the Commonwealth’s contribution to the package is a one-off grant of $30 million to help restore production capacity, announced by Malcolm Turnbull and Greg Hunt today.
This is a start but it cannot be the sum total of the Turnbull Government’s response to the crisis facing Australia’s metal manufacturing industries.
We know that dumping, energy prices, access to finance and upgrades to ageing facilities remain real issues for these strategically vital industries.
Australian businesses and workers need a comprehensive plan, like the metals manufacturing and jobs plan that Labor took to the election.
Instead, the Turnbull Government is stuck announcing ad-hoc, one-off, reactive measures, when what it should be doing is developing a national plan for jobs and manufacturing.
Meanwhile, while Malcolm Turnbull and Greg Hunt are announcing assistance measures for Alcoa, in a statement on Wednesday the new Industry Minister Senator Sinodinos said that he repudiated Labor policies for industry assistance, claiming that they result in additional costs to consumers and industries.
Presumably the new Minister, the fourth Liberal Industry Minister in less than four years, does therefore not support grant payments to manufacturers.
They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and it is telling that Greg Hunt was brought back from Health momentarily to announce the Alcoa package today.
It remains to be seen how quickly Senator Sinodinos backs away from his stated position when faced with the economic realities.