Australian steel should be used in the Federal Government’s infrastructure projects to give towns like South Australia’s Whyalla “something to smile about” instead of the cheaper Chinese product, a union and the Greens have said.
The 2017 federal budget includes more than $70 billion for road and rail projects including an $8.4 billion inland rail network from Melbourne to Brisbane.
There is no word on where the steel for those projects would come from, but the Australian Workers’ Union (AWU) is cautioning against the use of Chinese steel.
“China is flooding the market with cheap steel trying to prop up their economy, and Australia has no broader protection when it comes to the import of manufactured goods,” the union’s national secretary Daniel Walter said.
Mr Walter said while Chinese steel might be cheaper, the economic benefits to towns such as Whyalla in South Australia (which has a steelworks) if Australian steel was used needed to be considered.
Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said she would move a motion in the Senate requiring the Government to buy local steel for building new railways.
“You can’t walk both sides of the fence here,” Ms Hanson-Young said.
“If you care about the steel industry, then make sure Government money is being spent on Australian steel and give those steelworkers in Whyalla actually something to smile about.”
The Federal Government has not said whether it would consider an intervention.
Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne pointed out Australian steel was already being used in other major projects such as the multi-billion dollar naval ship-building program.
“One of the key commitments about the announcements around naval ship building … was that we would use Australian steel creating Australian jobs here in Australia,” Mr Pyne said.
By Ruby Jones