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Govt has "no documents" on Aussie steel use in SA projects

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The State Government says it has no documents detailing the amount of Australian steel it has used in public infrastructure projects over the past five years, prompting the Opposition to call for evidence of local procurement.

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Liberal MP Tim Whetstone made a request for “the total amount of Australian steel and Australian concrete used in State Government infrastructure projects in 2010-11 … [to] 2015-16” under Freedom of Information laws in April this year.

But an accredited freedom-of-information officer has responded that “there was no reporting requirement for country of origin or amounts of steel or concrete in the contracts”, and that the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure (DPTI) does not hold any documents within the scope of Whetstone’s application.

The freedom-of-information officer also said the department had no documents regarding “the total amount of Australian steel and Australian concrete used in the South Road Superway project”.

DPTI told InDaily in February that: “The majority of the steel (tonnage) used in the South Road Superway project was sourced from OneSteel (now Arrium)”.

“Eighty per cent of the reinforcement steel used to construct the pile caps, piers and segments was procured from OneSteel,” a spokesperson for the department said at the time.

DPTI is standing by its February statements.

A department spokesperson told InDaily: “As stated in the letter to Mr Whetstone, the Department does not hold any documents within the scope of his Freedom of Information application. At that time there was no requirement for Urban Superway to report to DPTI specific details regarding quantities of steel and concrete procured.

“However, Urban Superway engaged with OneSteel to explore options for supplying the materials locally and every effort was made to support local industry.

“The response provided [to InDaily] on 19 February 2016 still stands.”

Whetstone said it was “not good enough for the Government to continually bandy around figures about the amount of Australian steel used in these infrastructure projects but not provide any evidence”.

“I call on the Weatherill Labor Government to immediately provide substantial evidence that shows the total amount of Australian steel and concrete used in the South Road Superway project.”

Whetstone is on the Public Works Committee, which is currently re-examining the Superway project after an InDaily investigation revealed allegations of questionable construction practices on the project.

He suggested it was “disingenuous for the State Government to continually claim there was as much Australian steel used as possible in our major infrastructure projects when the Department for Transport and Infrastructure stated there was never any requirement to report where steel came from”.

“The Weatherill Government must conduct an audit of steel used in all major federal, state and local government infrastructure projects in the past decade to identify opportunities for increasing the use of Australian steel in South Australia.”

Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis pledged in late 2015 to mandate the use of Australian standard steel in all future infrastructure projects.

Last week the Greens introduced legislation into State Parliament that would enforce a requirement for around 90 per cent local steel procurement in future projects.

Koutsantonis said it was “a wonderful compliment from Mr Parnell [SA Greens leader Mark Parnell] and the Greens that they seek to put Labor’s steel procurement policy into legislation”.

Asked for the Liberal Party’s policy on local procurement of steel, Whetstone said he was working on that with the party’s Mineral Resources spokesperson Dan van Holst Pellekaan.

However he said local steel procurement was “about supporting local jobs”.

Infrastructure Minister Stephen Mullighan told The Advertiser in April that it was impossible to say how much of the steel used in the New Royal Adelaide Hospital build came from struggling Whyalla steelmaker Arrium.

InDaily has contacted DPTI for further comment.

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