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Greens throw full weight behind steel-making jobs

Media Release
Lee Rhiannon 16 Aug 2015

The Greens NSW conference meeting this weekend in Gloucester unanimously endorsed the campaign to save the blast furnace at Port Kembla using state and federal government purchasing polices, according to Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon.

The party also called for the NSW state government to take up part ownership of the steel mill in return for financial support delivered through requiring at least 50 percent of all steel in publicly-funded infrastructure projects to come from Australian blast furnaces.

See below for the text of the resolution of the Greens peak decision-making body. 

Senator Rhiannon said: "Greens members from across NSW recognised that a closure of the Port Kembla blast furnace would have appalling consequences for employment in the Illawarra and for the state's economy.

"They endorsed the argument that infrastructure paid for from the public purse should respect the community's support for steel jobs and the strategic importance of blast furnace.

"The Greens also recognised that while steel is an essential ingredient of renewable energy generation like wind turbine towers, making it releases a lot of greenhouse gases.

"The party called for the state government to take up an equity position in the Port Kembla steel mill in return for the financial lifeline that would be thrown to it.

"That would give the people of NSW a real say in the future of the blast furnace and in ensuring that it is at the forefront of reducing the use of coal and the greenhouse gas emissions it causes.

"This is about protecting existing jobs while building a platform for the next generation of economic growth in the Illawarra.

"Being an early adopter of low-emissions steel making will position the region to the source of choice for nations reducing their carbon footprint.

"The Greens are convinced that public ownership is critical to pushing the envelope of technology while securing jobs.

"Our vision for the Illawarra is as a world-leader in clean tech, from the materials that are used through to developing sate-of-the-art renewable energy and public transport solutions.

"Private sector and market solutions have failed, leading the region to the brink of economic collapse.

"The failure of Bluescsope's management to read the wind of change and its stick-in-the-mud approach to the new lower-emissions steel-making is a testament to their tunnel vision approach to profits.

"More people are now focusing on the future of the steel mill. There is growing frustration with the multinational owner's willingness to shut down the last remaining large-scale blast furnace in NSW.

"The future of Port Kembla is a state-wide and national priority and it cannot be left up to a company that is prepared to sacrifice the strategic and economic importance of the blast furnace to fatten up its profits," Senator Rhiannon said.

Motion: Future of the steel industry in NSW

Passed by consensus by Greens NSW August State Council
That the Greens NSW:
1. Recognise
a. the significant role that steel plays in the transition to a 100% renewable economy and the capacity for the development of a clean energy export industry in the Illawarra and across NSW,
b. the importance of the Port Kembla Steel Works, including the blast furnace, to employment in the Illawarra and to the local and state economies,
c. the absence of any greenhouse gas emissions benefit from importing raw steel, and
d. the adverse social, economic and environmental consequences of the closure of the blast furnace at Port Kembla for the Illawarra and for NSW.
2. Support calls from Illawarra unions for each NSW government infrastructure project to require at least 50 percent of steel sourced from an Australian blast furnace,
3. Actively support the campaign to protect the Port Kembla steel industry coordinated by the South Coast Labor Council and other unions,
4. Propose to the Australian Greens to provide support at a national level for government purchasing to prioritise Australian sourced steel, and
5. Insist on obligations to be imposed on BlueScope Steel to maintain a state-of-the-art blast furnace, that minimises greenhouse gas emissions (both direct and indirect) and to moves to zero-emissions technology when it becomes commercially available.
6. Require public equity to purchased in the mill in return for the financial support delivered through purchasing policy and that equity be used to leverage rapid transformation of steel making to a low carbon emissions and a massively reduced dependence on coal.

Contact Brami Jegan  0487 350 880

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