Illawarra campaigners, industry groups and business organisations will sit down with state government representatives on Monday to discuss ways to maximise the use of Australian-made steel.
The steel procurement forum, to be held at the University of Wollongong, comes less than two weeks after a Labor-Greens’ industry protection bill failed to reach a vote in the NSW Parliament.
The bill – which called for a mandated 90 per cent use of Australian-made steel in taxpayer-funded infrastructure projects, among other measures – has now lapsed.
Parliamentary secretary for the Illawarra Gareth Ward, who came under fire from Labor MPs for not supporting the bill, has convened Monday’s forum.
NSW Minister for Minister for Finance, Services and Property, Victor Dominello will be among those in attendance, along with Department of Premier and Cabinet representatives.
The Liberal MP will use Monday’s forum to push for government steel standards in all of its contracts, to ensure there was a “fair playing field, not just based on price but based on quality”.
Steel advocate and South Coast Labour Council secretary Arthur Rorris has previously told the Mercury campaigners wanted government action and were “not interested in another talkfest”.
Mr Ward dismissed the talkfest suggestion and described Monday’s gathering as being “a vehicle for change”.
“I’m not just coming to the table to bang it, I’m coming with a real solution, which will make real change for local steel jobs,” he said.
Mr Ward told the Mercury his government must change its procurement approach.
“The company [BlueScope] has asked for payroll tax concessions, which I’ve delivered, and a fairer playing field in terms of their product being assessed on the basis of its quality, and I absolutely support that,” he said.
“I will be putting that to the meeting, I will be putting it to the minister; that that must change. Government must change its approach because it’s one that takes a holistic view of our products.”
A number of government departments will be involved in Monday’s forum, as well as representatives from steel industry groups, the Illawarra Business Chamber and Wollongong City Council.