A steel industry is essential to all first world economies and critical to Australia, Opposition Leader, Hon Tony Abbott told delegates at the industry’s annual convention in Canberra on 12 September.

The Australian Steel Convention titled 'Australian Steel: in the national interest' was being held in the nation’s capital for the first time.

Mr Abbott said that considering the industry currently employs over 90,000 people he regards it unbelievable that Australia may end up being the only G20 country without a steel industry, especially as it has a competitive advantage with raw materials.

He said the Coalition’s approach would be to get the economic fundamentals right by reducing government spending, drive interest and exchange rates down and engaging in dialogue about industry specific policy.

He told the Convention that he has tasked Shadow Industry Minister, Sophie Mirabella and Shadow Resources Minister Ian McFarlane with a policy review process, to seek submissions and respond on ways to assist industry to remain viable to keep the diverse structure of Australian industry sound.

The BlueScope Steel and OneSteel chiefs were clear on the types of reforms needed to address industry concerns when speaking earlier that day.

BlueScope Managing Director and CEO, Paul O’Malley said what was primarily required was a global approach to carbon pricing, anti-dumping measures to “have teeth” and be in line with other countries and for Industry Participation Plans to be administered more effectively.

OneSteel Managing Director and CEO, Geoff Plummer said Government also needed to design a more globally competitive tax system, encourage procurement policies that reflect risk, not just price, and reduce the complexity and cost of workplace compliance.

He said that whilst the local steel industry is not looking for subsidies and supports free trade, the playing field is not level and Government has a role in correcting that.