Unions push for local content laws at Jobs Forum

 Trade unions are using Canberra’s job forum to push for laws to force the mining industry to use more local content.

The unions are also calling for a rethink of free trade deals, renewing a push for protectionism, according to the ABC.

However, while they are pushing for the creation of local content measure, the unions want the Government to allow miners to obtain increased tax write offs if they use locally made products.

It is part of the manufacturing industry’s struggle to stop the hemorrhage of jobs from the sector as workers are lured in to mining, at a rate of around 150 jobs per day.

"What these delegates want to hear out of this forum tomorrow is what plans this Federal Government’s got to secure manufacturing jobs now and into the future during this current crisis that we’re in," Australian Manufacturing Workers Union spokesperson Paul Bastian said.

As part of the campaign, unions have hit out against mining companies that use predominately overseas made goods, saying Australian companies are being pushed out.

Australian Workers Union secretary Paul Howes said the Federal Government should force miners to announce the levels of materials they source from Australian companies.

“Frankly, it is unacceptable that these mining companies won’t open up their books,” he said.

“It is a case of naming and shaming them.

“I think companies like Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton are sensitive about their public profiles, and if it was clear and there was an agreed statement of fact on how much was being used, we would have more ability to be able to pressure these companies to do right thing.”

The government has previously considered ‘naming and shaming’ mining companies that do not use Australian made steel in their project.

In an address to the annual Australian Steel Convention, Julia Gillard said that while Canberra would not mandate a minimum level of local content, it would help the industry in other ways.

She said the Government would look at publishing how much Australian content was involved in projects as a way to but pressure on mining giants.

Labor ministers from manufacturing regions will push the government to create firm legislation, and have received support from the Greens, with MP Adam Bandt saying “we know that the big miners are sending much of their profits overseas, but now we know that a lot of the goods and services needed to develop these mines are coming from offshore as well.”

Rio Tinto iron ore Australia chief Sam Walsh has already gone public with the percentage of Australian made goods its operations use in the Pilbara.

“If you look at our expansion projects [in the Pilbara], we’re running with 75 per cent local content.

“If you look at our ongoing operations we’re running with 86% local content,” he said.

West Australian premier Colin Barnett has dismissed the push for local content laws, stating that there are serious risks for growth in mining if these laws are enacted, as it may push mining offshore.

“The government has got a very clear interest in making sure work does stay in Western Australia and there are skills and job opportunities available for the Western Australian public, but it is very dangerous territory when governments get involved in direct private sector financial arrangements.

“I don’t favour legislation at all. 

“I think that would be a very poor way of proceeding and would probably make the companies recede even further from giving work locally.”


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