Credit where it is due.
The Illawarra Mercury has been quite critical of the Federal Government over the past 12 months for its lack of action in relation to getting a “fairer deal for Australian steel”.
We’d actually wondered whether anyone in the Federal Government even knew where Port Kembla was on a map.
Quite infamously we decked out the past minister Chris Pyne in a “Where’s Wally” outfit and asked with the front page headline “Where’s Pyney?”.
Apparently Mr Pyne got quite a chuckle out of it, but it wasn’t enough for him to find his way to Wollongong.
In September of 2015, Ian McFarlane visited the region promising big things.
He planned to save the steel industry.
Shortly after he found himself on the scrap heap.
In the most encouraging sign in over a year, the Illawarra welcomed a visit from the new Industry Minister Greg Hunt.
And he was saying all the right things after pointing out it was his third visit to a steel plant in the eight weeks he’s been in the job.
“It’s not the visit, though, that’s the key thing,” Mr Hunt said.
“It’s the message of genuine support and optimism for the Australian steel industry.
“The only way in a competitive world our businesses can thrive and be successful is if they innovate and they’re world-class competitive in their own right.”
The Minister also noted BlueScope would be in the hunt – pun intended _ when it came to providing steel for the national ship-building contracts.
The news was welcomed by BlueScope’s CEO Mark Vassella.
“Any domestic order I can take that helps the plate mill or the hot strip mill I’d be delighted to take,” Mr Vassella said.
“Ship building is good for us, as are submarines, they’re good projects for local manufacturing.
“We’re the only [Australian] steelmaker who makes flat products, so from that perspective we’d like to think we’re right in the sweet spot for those sort of projects.”
It’s what we'd describe as a good strong start from Minister Hunt, making sure he’s not the next Federal Minister we have to target.
Thank you Minister Hunt we appreciate you taking the time to hear about the issues facing the Illawarra region and you will be welcomed back any time. Hopefully you can spread the word within your government.