In the wake of the Arrium troubles at the Whyalla steel mill, and the collapse of Clive Palmer's Queensland Nickel refinery, the Labor Party has announced it would push to increase the use of local steel in government projects and tighten anti-dumping laws to support Australian industry.
Bill Shorten was in Wollongong, NSW, on Thursday to announce Labor's Plan for Australian Metals Manufacturing and Jobs. The announcement was made at the Port Kembla steelworks, hit hard by the recent downturn in steel prices and demand for Australian products. Shorten, accompanied by shadow minister for industry Kim Carr and local Labor MPs, outlined his "six point plan to secure metals manufacturing industries."
"A Labor Government led by myself will do everything we can to make sure that we keep making steel in Australia," Shorten declared.
"We will seek to maximise Australian-produced steel as part of our Australian infrastructure spend."
Responding to a reporter's question, Shorten said Labor would not set concrete minimums for the use of Australian steel in infrastructure projects, but would encourage and help facilitate the use of local products. Labor would seek to halve the threshold for projects required to have Australian industry participation plans, which compels projects to consider local businesses, manufacturers and products.
Shorten made particular mention of plans to strengthen anti-dumping laws, to restrict the ability to import foreign steel into Australia at low or below-cost prices, which has been a particular concern of industry groups as Australian manufacturing takes a hit.
"Let me make this perfectly clear to anyone who thinks they can come to Australia and run around our laws and dump foreign manufactured steel in Australia. A Labor Government will make sure that our anti-dumping laws are enforced in a fast and aggressive manner," Shorten said.
"Our promise in metal manufacturing and steel is I and my Labor team will do everything we can do make sure we still make steel in Australia. Australians have seen for too long in the last three years the car industry gone, the mining industry, the jobs are in free-fall, we have seen the terrible demise of Queensland Nickel. Enough's enough. Australians want a government in Canberra who will fight for Australian steel and we are up for that fight."
"There are 30,000 plus jobs directly reliant upon steel production in Australia, not just in the Illawarra but right throughout Australia. There's 100,000 of our fellow Australians, families, small businesses, who directly depend upon steel production and steel manufacturing and distribution."
Shorten has been pushing plans to mandate targets for the use of local steel in Australian infrastructure projects, in the wake of the Arrium and Queensland Nickel woes.
"Governments at all levels -- council, state and federal government -- spend a lot on infrastructure. What is wrong with requiring Australian content in the steel?" he said last week.