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Committee: Building and Construction Industry (Improving Productivity) Bill 2013, Building and Construction Industry (Consequential and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2013

Estimates & Committees
Lee Rhiannon 30 Nov 2016

Tuesday, 29 November 

Senator RHIANNON (New South Wales) (21:46): Sadly, when you hear Senator Carr speak like that you know he has been captured by the free traders.

Senator Kim Carr: Me? Me? I claim to have been misrepresented!

Senator RHIANNON: No, you have, because you more than anybody should be standing up here and speaking about steel procurement. These arguments that have been thrown up have no basis. Let's go through them. The free trade one is a furphy. So many very capable people, like Senator Penny Wong, are so obsessed with free trade that all of you have become locked into this position.

The Bluescope one is an interesting one. North Star is their company in the United States. It is incredibly profitable at the moment, as is much of the steel industry in the United States. They have a Buy America policy. I asked the CEO from BlueScope about it today and he said that it is not causing them a problem with regard to any of the free trade agreements. Buy America is not a problem for them because it actually allows their operations to go ahead and does not contradict the trade agreements. Seriously, the government and the opposition should be getting their heads around this and doing their trade agreements properly. They are the ones who are penalising Australia while other countries, like China and the US, have worked it out. North Star's profits have gone up 160 per cent because it has worked out that you can have a local procurement position and you are not contradicting your trade agreements. Both sides of politics are so far behind on the developments that are occurring fast in that area.

The other area where Senator Carr criticised what we are saying was with regard to steel procurement. I would really urge senators to read the motion, because we have there the important subsection about excluded steel. We know that a whole variety of steel types are needed, depending on what the construction is, so we have in there a clause about excluded steel. If the steel that is required cannot be sourced in Australia, it can be sourced from overseas. Again, we have put in there a very responsible, clear position with regard to local procurement. If the steel cannot be sourced from Australia because it is not made here—or even, as we have got there, because it is not going to be available within a reasonable time—it can be sourced from overseas. That definition is there. So please do not misrepresent what is a very responsible position. Again, this is where we should be able to have unity to give some certainty to the steel industry and to advance trade agreements that are not living in the 20th century.

The CHAIR: The question is that the amendment as moved by Senator Rhiannon on sheet 7984 be agreed to.

Question negatived.

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