Industry Minister Christopher Pyne has given the strongest indication yet the next fleet of submarines will be made using Australian steel as he prepares to attend crisis talks on the embattled steel company Arrium.
Arrium went into voluntary administration on Thursday with debts of more than $4 billion, putting more than 8,000 jobs at risk nationwide.
Mr Pyne will meet administrator Grant Thornton, representatives from the South Australian government and unions today to try to find a solution to the company’s woes.
The federal government is not promising a bailout package but suggested this morning that the company could be thrown a lifeline in the way of contracts for the next fleet of submarines.
“Because of the government’s commitment to the 12 subs, the nine frigates, the patrol vessels and so on, there will be a whole body of work coming through the pipeline,” Mr Pyne told the Nine Network’s Today program on Friday morning.
Overnight, federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten called for a “nationalistic” approach and suggested a government bailout might be necessary.
“If there is a way in which governments can help the steel industry stay on its feet, through helping them with technology transfer so that we help upgrade our industry, we should,” he told Sky News.
“I make no apologies for being nationalistic in my vision for Australia’s economic future.
“I think there are some things which governments, if things are very tough, need to look at.
“The cost of losing 3,000 jobs, to me, will hit the taxpayer far harder than helping, perhaps, Arrium upgrade some of its steel making technology, which will be a productive investment for the future.”
Labor’s policy would threaten jobs of Aussie workers: Ciobo
Labor is also calling for stronger anti-dumping measures to stop the local market being flooded with cheap, imported steel and it wants to maximise the amount of local steel used in government projects.
But Trade Minister Steve Ciobo said Mr Shorten’s plan could jeopardise other Australian jobs.
“He’s advocating a policy that’s actually in direct breach of quite a number of our trade agreements that we have in place,” he told the ABC.
“A policy that would threaten the jobs of Aussie workers who work for businesses that currently export to foreign governments and foreign public services.”
Labor also wants higher quality standards for the steel, which is imported into the country.
Substandard imported steel could lead to catastrophe: Carr
Opposition Industry spokesman Kim Carr delivered an extraordinary warning about the potential for substandard foreign steel to precipitate a “national catastrophe” like a bridge collapse.
Mr Carr made the comments while raising concerns about the broader steel industry and job losses at Whyalla steelworks Arrium.
“We are importing steel at the moment which is substandard,” he told ABC’s Radio National.
“There is a real chance that the substandard product that’s been put into Australian infrastructure at the moment could lead to major national catastrophe.”
Mr Carr said evidence had been put to a Senate committee suggesting the situation was dangerous.
“We simply can’t wait until one of these bridges falls down as we saw in Israel a few years back … where Australian athletes were trying to cross a bridge which fell over,” he said.
Four Australian athletes died after the Maccabiah Bridge in Tel Aviv collapsed in 1997.
Mr Ciobo has slammed Mr Carr’s suggestion a bridge could collapse.
“We continue to see the most dreadful scare campaigns,” he said.