Policy change gives BlueScope a boost

BlueScope's calls to create a level playing field for landing government contracts have been answered. Picture: Sylvia Liber

BlueScope's calls to create a level playing field for landing government contracts have been answered. Picture: Sylvia Liber

Surprise changes introduced by the federal government this week have answered BlueScope’s calls for a level playing field when competing with foreign steel.

The Port Kembla steelmaker has been wanting to be able to compete for government contracts on equal terms.

BlueScope CEO Paul O’Malley has said it was “unfair” that the government did not take things like the taxes the steelmaker paid when working out if they were “price competitive”.

On Tuesday, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann announced changes to government procurement policy that does exactly that.

The big change is that, for projects of more than $4 million, the economic benefit of the procurement to the Australian economy must be taken into account.

The changes were brought in as part of government negotiations with South Australian independent Nick Zenophon to get its controversial bill passed to reinstate the Australian Building and Construction Commissioner.

The result of the changes is they shift things very much in the favour of Australian businesses, like BlueScope.

“We have been advocating the concept of competitive neutrality for some time,” the spokesman said.

“Put simply, this is recognition by the government of the significant economic and social contribution Australian manufacturers like BlueScope provide.”

The spokesman said the changes, which come into force in March 2017, will improve the fortunes of Australian businesses.

“The changes will help Australian manufacturers to win more orders for government projects, while still ensuring the government complies with Australia’s international trade obligations,” the spokesman said.

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