SA Greens Leader Mark Parnell said the party’s Steel Industry Protection Bill would enforce a requirement for around 90 per cent local steel procurement in future projects.
“This Bill enshrines in law what everyone says they want – for government and council infrastructure projects to use Australian steel,” Parnell said.
Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis told InDaily: “What a wonderful compliment from Mr Parnell and the Greens that they seek to put Labor’s steel procurement policy into legislation”.
However, Parnell said the local steel industry needed more than policy “assurances” that its products would be used in SA infrastructure projects – it needed law.
“Despite all the attention now being given to the future of the Whyalla steelworks, there is still a glaring lack of commitment to local procurement of steel,” Parnell said.
“For the people of Whyalla to have confidence that public infrastructure projects will use local steel, they need more than just assurances; they need legislation and accountability.
“Of course, there will be occasional cases where a local steel product isn’t available or isn’t suitable, however, the Greens’ Bill ensures around 90 per cent of steel used will be made in Australian furnaces in Whyalla and the Illawarra by Australian workers.”
Parnell said Australia must be able to protect local industry, despite the country’s various free-trade agreements.
“Opponents of local procurement policies often refer to free-trade agreements as the reason not to insist on using local products for public infrastructure projects.
“What they forget is that our major trading partners, including China and the US, also protect their local industries with local procurement policies.
“Australia must insist on being able to support local industries within a Fair Trade environment as well.”
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Sunday pledged almost $50 million to help debt-laden Whyalla steelmaker Arrium buy new equipment.
Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis said the lifeline was welcome, but that it was not enough to save the struggling steelworks.
Industry Minister Christopher Pyne had argued at a CEDA event last week that Arrium didn’t need a “handout” from government since its steelworks were breaking even.
The pledge follows a $100 million commitment from the federal Labor Party last week.
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