The peak steel industry body, the Australian Steel Institute (ASI) has welcomed the latest announcement from the NSW Government that it will facilitate quality steel procurement for its public works and commits to continue working closely with the industry to uphold supply surety.

The joint announcement from NSW Minister for Finance, Services and Property, Hon Victor Dominello MP and Parliamentary Secretary for the Illawarra and South Coast, Gareth Ward is the most significant procurement policy change in NSW history. It commits the NSW Government to mandating that steel supply for its infrastructure projects be specified to the new AS/NZS 5131 standard covering structural steelwork fabrication and erection from 1 October this year.

The moves emerged from close discussions between the ASI and the NSW Procurement Group over recent weeks following a directive from the Minister at the recent Steel Forum in Wollongong. ASI also congratulated the Government on the quick turnaround on the commitments made during the Forum.

ASI National Manager – Industry Development, Ian Cairns said the Institute built on its existing working relationship with the NSW Procurement Group to develop workable approaches that help mitigate project risks.

“It’s in everyone’s interest to find ways to minimise risk in public works projects so the Government’s commitment to a measurable quality benchmark such as set out in AS/NZS 5131 can be achieved. This is a fine starting point toward more responsible procurement policy settings,” he said.

In cooperation with the procurement body, the ASI has also been tasked to liaise closely on a Working Group to address ways local economic and social benefits can be factored into procurement decisions, while staying within the bounds of existing trade agreements.

Mr Cairns said the ASI supports free and fair trade that takes a more sophisticated view of procurement, recognising broader economic and social benefits in terms of enhanced business activity, job opportunities and skills training and retention in the State.

He also welcomed supporting initiates outlined in the Government’s announcement about publishing the amount of local steel used in NSW infrastructure projects and addressing concerns when raised by the industry about quality issues with non-compliant steel.

“It is crucial that sourcing for taxpayer funded projects be as transparent and accountable as possible so materials quality and supply issues can be addressed efficiently,” he said.