Illawarra MPs Sharon Bird and Stephen Jones have today called on the federal Government to ensure Australian steel features prominently in the nation’s shipbuilding plans.
This afternoon the Prime Minister and his Defence Minister Marise Payne announced that a new fleet of 12 offshore patrol navy boats will be built in South Australia from 2018 and Western Australia from 2020.
Constructing and maintaining up to 21 replacement Pacific Patrol Boats will also occur in Henderson, Western Australia.
Several weeks ago Malcolm Turnbull promised that he would have “more to say” on whether his Government would commit to using Australian steel for local shipbuilding and submarine building.
However, today Senator Payne said that the steel was expected to be sourced from overseas as there was no suitable steel available from an Australian manufacturer.
Sharon Bird said that Australian firms should be given the opportunity to tender for these contracts.
“The combined cost of these projects will be $40 billion, so it makes sense that Australian steel should play a key role in a such a large-scale build where possible.
“This defence announcement can and should include measures to involve Australian steel producers, otherwise it will be a massive missed opportunity.
“This Government must step up and show some leadership. The Industry Minister Christopher Pyne still hasn’t visited the Illawarra, the steelworks just isn’t on the Government’s radar.”
Stephen Jones said that the Government needed to follow Labor’s lead and include high quality Australian steel in the nation’s shipbuilding plans.
“Labor’s six point plan to secure metals manufacturing jobs includes maximising the use of locally-produced steel in Government-funded projects, including defence spending.
“Unfortunately, the Government has been missing in action when it comes to the nation’s steel industry.
“They must reverse the trend immediately and focus on ways to secure the future of steel. The industry is under pressure, so we must seize domestic opportunities rather than sticking our heads in the sand and hoping it all turns out okay.”