SPEECH: PRIVATE MEMBERS’ BUSINESS – Steel Industry: Employment

Jun 19, 2017

Mr CONROY (Shortland) (11:13): The future of the Whyalla steelworks is an incredibly important issue. The future of Arrium is incredibly important because they employ more people than just those at Whyalla. There are steelworks and steel production in Newcastle that Arrium own which are really vital to the ongoing future of the Hunter Valley.

But to link it to the Adani debate is profoundly silly. It is profoundly silly because the future of Arrium will not be decided by what happens with Adani. If Adani goes ahead—and I will return to that if time permits—it would provide 15 days of production for the Whyalla steelworks. That would be welcome. That would be great for the steelworks. But it would be 15 days’ production out of 365 days’ production per annum that they have got to find orders for. So I want to put that in context.

My real point in this debate is: if the government were serious about supporting local steel and if they were serious about driving local content, they would actually match their rhetoric with action—match their words with action. But what have they done since coming to power? They have gutted the Australian Industry Participation Authority, an authority set up by Labor and an authority that was part of a $100 million package. What have they done? They gutted that package, cut funding by $70 million and, despite the bill passing in 2013, they still have not appointed an Australian Industry Participation Authority. All they have at the moment is a public servant who has been acting in that role for three years. That is how seriously the government takes industry participation. They are all talk on dumping; they make big announcements but they do not implement anything that gives our vital industries like steel real relief. There are real question marks about the enforcement of both Australian and international standards for building products coming into this country.

The member for Wakefield eloquently highlighted the pinnacle of this hypocrisy from the government, and that is that their boast about killing the automotive industry, an industry that employed 50,000 people directly and 200,000 people indirectly and ordered a lot more steel than the 15 days of steel that comes from Adani. They bragged about killing that industry; they have 250,000 jobs around their necks because of that decision. There is a bit of shadow-boxing in this debate, but we all support Whyalla going forward and we all hope that the new owners embrace it, modernise it and reinvest in it. That would be great, but to link it to Adani is profoundly silly and, by some inference, to say that you have to support a billion-dollar loan through Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund to support the Whyalla steelworks is a step further in economic lunacy. The government giving $1 billion loan to that project endangers 18,000 Hunter coalmining jobs. That is ridiculous because global coal demand has peaked and so to add another seven per cent of coal into the market through a subsidy—if it is unsubsidised, that is fine—of $1 billion from the federal government is economic lunacy and it imperils the 18,000 Hunter coalmining jobs that I proudly represent in this place.

I support the ongoing viability of Whyalla. This is a good debate, and I support and applaud the member for Grey for bringing it into the chamber. Like the member for Wakefield, I hope he brings more debate into the future of Australian steel. But I urge him in his party room to say, ‘Bring back the AIP Authority and fund it properly.’ Tell them too to take actions on the dumping authority and look at building standards and stop bragging about killing the Australian automotive industry.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Rob Mitchell ): The time allotted for this debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.

© 2013 Pat Conroy | Disclaimer