Member for Shellharbour, Anna Watson has called on the Premier to make a ministerial statement in the State Parliament on the future of the steel industry in the Illawarra as a matter of urgency.

Ms Watson used a Private Members Statement in the Legislative Assembly yesterday evening to make the call as well as imploring BlueScope Steel management to level with the Illawarra community.

“I find it extraordinary that the head of Government in New South Wales, the Premier, has said so little about the effect of this crisis on the second largest region in the State. I find it perplexing that the Premier would not even officially confirm until today that he has in fact met with BlueScope Steel representatives. The State Government, in my view, has a certain relaxed attitude to the threat of closure of the steelworks in the region. This too is simply not good enough.

“The Premier has a moral responsibility to level with the people of the Illawarra about his meeting, which he finally disclosed was held recently. He should be making a ministerial statement in this House about what was discussed with BlueScope Steel representatives and what, if any, requests were made of his Government”, she told State Parliament.

Ms Watson also used her speech to criticise some regional stakeholders for not taking the threat of the steel industry shutting down in the region as “sleep-walking into a catastrophe.”

“Some people in the Illawarra community may think that the possibility of the steel works closing is not serious. Those people may believe that they have heard these threats before and BlueScope Steel will not pull the pin this time.

“I suggest that those who hold this view are sleep-walking into a catastrophe. This false sense of security may have taken hold because BlueScope Steel has pulled down the shutters. It is absolutely misguided thinking”, she said in her speech.

Ms Watson told State Parliament that a soon-to-be-released report commissioned by the South Coast Labour Council and Port Kembla Branch of the Australian Workers Union would “shake to the core” the complacency which was apparent among some of the region’s stakeholders.

“I do not have any insider information on the report but I would not be surprised if it finds that up to 10,000 full-time equivalent jobs will simply be wiped off the map in the Illawarra.

“If that is not bad enough, add in the lost household income in the region each year. It would mean that the Illawarra region’s contribution to the State’s economy every year would be substantially lower than it is today. The Illawarra would be facing an economic and social catastrophe. We would become the State’s equivalent to Detroit, Michigan, in the United States of America”, she said.

Ms Watson told State Parliament that BlueScope Steel’s continued silence on the future of the steel industry was hurting the region.

“Over the past month it is fair to say the Illawarra has been gripped by uncertainty after BlueScope Steel let slip to its workers that unless costs were cut the plant at Port Kembla could be closed down. BlueScope Steel management has since pulled down a cone of silence and refused to come clean on the future of steel-making in the Illawarra. This is simply not good enough.

“It is now time that BlueScope Steel management both in the Illawarra and in Melbourne start to take the workers and the community into its confidence. It is time it explained its future plans for the steel industry in the region. It is time to level with the Illawarra community. This continued uncertainty is a big cost on confidence in the Illawarra region”, she said in her speech.

7 August 2015