Prime Minister Julia Gillard addressing the Australian steel industry’s annual Convention in Canberra on 13 September agreed that many industries were doing it tough due to consumer caution and the high Australian dollar.
“There is nothing more important to our economy than building strong industries that provide jobs and opportunities for all,” she said. “For steel in particular the challenges of transition demanded a more targeted and immediate response.”
She said that for Australian industry to compete in a global market it must have access to opportunities and be internationally competitive.
“The Government has been assisting the [steel] sector to access these opportunities and we recognise that more can be done,” she said.
“We are serious about Australian industry being able to compete for work.”
A strong statement for the future of the Australian steel industry was also conveyed by Federal Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Senator Kim Carr at the national Convention later the same day.
He said that: “… Australia must be in the business of making things, and that Australian steel has to be part of that.” He continued that “there were disputed claims about the level of local content in resources projects".
“My position is, whatever the level is, it’s not good enough. We have the right to expect the companies who profit from our resources will give local industry a fair go.”
The Convention attracted a record number of SMEs concerned at their businesses’ future.
Minister for Finance, Commerce and Small Business of the Western Australian Government, Simon O’Brien outlined the WA Government’s policy approach and strong support for local content. He emphasised the need for State and Federal Governments to work closer together to achieve better local content outcomes.
Member of the Federal seat of Throsby, Stephen Jones (representing Senator Chris Evans) also confirmed strong and passionate support for the steel industry and talked of increasing productivity through up-skilling to recast manufacturing in today’s environment. Structural steel and welding trades are priority occupations in the National Workforce Development Fund worth $358million.