Steel review calls for help
A Senate inquiry has made 28 recommendations to secure the local steel industry.
The Senate Economics References Committee handed down the recommendations as part of its final report into the future of the industry, which is available here in PDF form.
The report said Australia needs its own industry because of the “alarming evidence” of safety risks posed by steel that does not meet Australian standards.
The inquiry was told that legal loopholes have allowed sub-standard imported steel to be used in bridges, poles, caravans and safety structures on mining sites.
The proliferation of foreign steel makes it more expensive to produce in Australia, the report found, because of the reduced economies of scale.
The report calls for more locally-made steel in Commonwealth-funded projects.
It also recommends improving resources for the Anti-Dumping Commission, which looks at the dumping and subsidisation of goods imported into Australia.
Opposition industry and innovation spokesman Kim Carr says the Federal Government must commit to using more Australian steel.
“It's very important that we maintain the standards. We can't have our bridges being put up across the country and not be certain we've met the very strongest of safety standards,” Senator Carr said.
The inquiry also recommended stronger efforts to drive down energy costs for steel manufacturers.
Bluescope Energy, which owns the Port Kembla steelworks, says its power bill has risen by 93 per cent in the past two years.
Steel industry advocate Ian Waters said the sector needs cheap ‘baseload’ energy.
“When the industries are going well and the market's buoyant, it's just another cost that people probably aren't all that stressed about,” Mr Waters said.
“But as soon as there's any sort of sniff or hint of a downturn, this is going to be a massive drama.”
Industry Minister Arthur Sinodinos says the Government will consider the recommendations.
He said the international steel industry is also dealing with uncertainty, as supply outstrips demand.
“Bluescope has posted a major turnaround in its business in recent years by driving efficiency within its business and working with employees to reduce business costs,” Sinodinos said via a spokesperson.
“The Whyalla steelworks has recently been acquired by Liberty OneSteel, and both the state and Turnbull governments are working with Liberty OneSteel to secure Whyalla's long-term future.
“The Turnbull Government has already significantly strengthened Australia's anti-dumping regime by improving the process of conducting reviews of dumping measures by the Anti-Dumping Commission.”
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg stood in front of the Port Kembla steelworks last week to spruik the Government's National Energy Guarantee (NEG).
“More than 30 years ago Jimmy Barnes came to Port Kembla to make the film clip Working Class Man,” Mr Frydenberg told reporters.
“Today the Prime Minister has come to Port Kembla to create jobs for Australia's working class men and women, and the way we will do that is by driving power prices lower.”
Jimmy Barnes responded to the comments on Twitter, telling the federal minister; “Don't use my name or my songs to sell your sh*tty policies. You don't represent me.”