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Strengthening the Illawarra's economic future

7 September 2015

Minister for Industry and Science Ian Macfarlane said there is a clear determination to keep the Australian steel industry strong and profitable in the Illawarra as part of the region’s broader economic future, following a meeting of key stakeholders in Wollongong today.

Minister Macfarlane convened the meeting to bring all major stakeholders together to discuss opportunities for ongoing economic strength and growth in the region. Participants included NSW Minister for Industry, Resources and Energy Anthony Roberts, BlueScope Steel CEO Paul O’Malley, the AWU, local councils, representatives from the business community, federal and state MPs and the Vice-Chancellor from the University of Wollongong.

“Steel making is at the heart of the economy in the Illawarra, and despite the challenges it is facing in an increasingly competitive global market, the steel industry will continue to play a key role in an increasingly diversified local economy.

“Following BlueScope Steel’s announcement of its need to enhance competitiveness in order to maintain local operations, strong collaboration between all groups in the Illawarra community will be required to see the region develop an economic strategy that is self-sustaining.

“The operating conditions for all global commodities have changed, and to ensure Australia remains competitive and to secure Australian jobs it is essential that all our industries maximise their productivity.

“Holding the meeting at the University of Wollongong’s Innovation Campus is a clear signal of the direction Australian industry must take in order to maintain its competitiveness.

“The Australian Government is assisting all industries with the economic framework to explore new opportunities to integrate innovation and technology into production, and to make better use of science and research to boost competitiveness.

“For the steel industry, that may include improvements to production techniques or new product applications.”

The Australian Government has already taken action to assist Australian industries to compete in global markets. Key measures include:

  • The $225 million Industry Growth Centres initiative which is focussed on lifting competitiveness and productivity in key areas of competitive strength, including greater rates of collaboration between industry and science.
  • The implementation of the $50 million Manufacturing Transition Programme to help Australia transition to increasingly high-value, knowledge-intensive manufacturing.
  • The Entrepreneurs’ Programme with over $100 million invested annually across the country including support for local businesses with 12 Business Advisers who service the Illawarra across a range of business sectors, as well as a Sydney-based Business Facilitator who provides supply chain facilitation support to the region as part of a nationally focused network of facilitators.
  • The Industry Skills Fund which provides $664 million over five years providing more than 250,000 training places and support services across Australia.
  • A tougher anti-dumping regime that levels the playing field for Australian industry, including  a greater onus on overseas businesses to cooperate with investigations, better assistance for Australian businesses, addressing circumvention of anti-dumping duties and reducing red tape.
  • Scrapping the Carbon Tax.
  • Exempting emissions intensive trade exposed industries, including steel production, from the Renewable Energy Target.
  • Deregulation and the removal of more than $2 billion so far in red and green tape for business.

“Today’s meeting also focussed on the opportunities for the expansion of additional industries in the Illawarra, including attracting new types of advanced manufacturing and investigating opportunities across Government including education, infrastructure and defence,” Mr Macfarlane said.

“We will work with all stakeholders in the Illawarra on a constructive approach to discuss BlueScope’s future and a strategy for long-term economic development and jobs growth.

“Today’s meeting was bipartisan and focussed on the future. I’d like to thank all participants for their constructive approach.”

Media contact: Mr Macfarlane's office 02 6277 7070