Shorten fires up over gas as Aussie manufacturing reaches ‘tipping point’

FIRED UP: BlueScope's Sam Gerovasilis meets Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, Member for Cunningham Sharon Bird and Whitlam MP Stephen Jones. Picture: Robert Peet

FIRED UP: BlueScope's Sam Gerovasilis meets Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, Member for Cunningham Sharon Bird and Whitlam MP Stephen Jones. Picture: Robert Peet

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has used a visit to Wollongong to warn that Australian manufacturing is at a “tipping point” as gas prices reach “crisis levels”. 

Mr Shorten toured BlueScope’s Port Kembla steelworks on Thursday, meeting workers and urging the Turnbull government to “stand up for Australian jobs”.

“There’s 4000 direct employees and contractors [at the steelworks] and they are keeping Australia in the steelmaking business,” the federal Labor leader said.

“What the hard work of BlueScope and its workforce need out of Canberra is a government who will take real action to stand up for Australian jobs.”

One of the biggest challenges for BlueScope and its customers, Mr Shorten said, was “out of control” energy price rises, in particular gas. 

“Malcolm Turnbull needs to realise that gas prices in Australia are at crisis levels,” he said.

“BlueScope customers report price increases year-on-year of 100 per cent … in their gas and energy costs. This is not sustainable.

“Australian manufacturing is at a tipping point and what we need is a government in Canberra who will actually take strong action to make Australian gas companies prioritise supplying Australian companies over their export markets.”

Mr Shorten said Australian gas was cheaper to buy in Japan than it was in Australia.    

The Opposition Leader’s comments followed a meeting of gas company bosses on Wednesday and came as the Australian Industry Group outlined its solutions to the energy crisis. 

Mr Shorten said the Prime Minister “had to do something about the cost of gas”.

“Instead, he calls the companies together and Malcolm Turnbull rates himself as a formidable advocate and persuasive man, yet for these gas companies, it’s like being flogged by a wet lettuce leaf.

“They’ve just come and listened to Malcolm Turnbull and they’ve left, business as usual. In the meantime, Australian jobs are in jeopardy.”

Chief executive of the Australian Power Project Nathan Vass, an advocacy group, said Mr Shorten’s visit had put “the threat to local steel production from spiralling electricity costs” on the national stage.

“Steel, which is critical to the Illawarra economy, is one of the most energy intensive activities in Australia,” Mr Vass said, adding electricity made up 20 to 40 per cent of local steel production costs.