The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) has thrown its support behind the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU’s) Buy Australian campaign that would require all major government projects and services to use locally manufactured goods, such as steel, iron, clothing and equipment.
In addition, the MUA passed a resolution saying shipping is an important and strategic industry sector that supports manufacturing, resource and agricultural supply chains, both domestically and internationally.
The ACTU is calling for all Australian political parties to support a Buy Australian Act, which has also been backed by the Australian Workers Union (AWU).
An ACTU statement said the Buy Australian Act would generate a trifecta of benefits: jobs for Australian workers, a badly needed boost to the Australian economy and would ensure government projects use safe, Australian made goods.
This would ensure jobs are created and maintained locally. It is vital that our manufacturing industry thrives and create much needed development and service jobs, rather than being killed off like Ford this past week.
A similar ‘Buy American’ provision was used by the US Government in 2009 to stimulate the American economy after the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) and continues to operate within the United States government purchasing guidelines.
At the height of the GFC the US unemployment rate was 9.7% now it is lower than Australia’s, with youth unemployment in the double digits in some Australian regions.
MUA National Council today passed a resolution moved by MUA Deputy National Secretary Will Tracey and seconded by Sydney Deputy Branch Secretary Paul Keating supporting the ACTU’s call for all Australian political parties to support a Buy Australian Act.
"MUA National Council believes that such an Act would help ensure jobs are created and maintained locally, particularly in manufacturing, agriculture/food production and the offshore oil and gas industry, and importantly in the service industries that support manufacturing and transport,” the resolution says.
"MUA National Council regards A Buy Australian Act as an important part of national procurement policy that should be designed to support the interrelationships between industry sectors and help create investment in essential sectors of the economy.
"National Council notes that shipping is an important and strategic industry sector that supports manufacturing, resource and agricultural supply chains, both domestically and internationally.
"The MUA calls on all political parties to ensure that the principle of Buy Australian be applied to purchase of seaborne freight services that are a critical component of manufacturing, resource and agricultural supply chains, particularly in relation to Australian coastal shipping.
"National Council notes that the purchase of foreign shipping services is currently having a negative impact on the Australian Balance of Payments of around $10B annually, and that Australian coastal shipping is now almost totally under direct foreign control.
"National Council considers this to be detrimental to national security, detrimental to Australian employment, maritime skills supply and job security, and is creating dysfunctionality in Australian freight transport supply chains."
In a statement, ACTU Secretary Dave Oliver said: “We are sick and tired of seeing our jobs being exported overseas, we are sick and tired of seeing cheap, unsafe products being imported into the country and we are sick and tired of seeing exploited, cheap labour being used over local workers.”
“Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull needs to stand up for working people in Australia by creating local opportunities for both workers and businesses — a Buy Australian Act would do this.”
“Prime Minister Turnbull has promised to create jobs but his poorly negotiated Free Trade Agreements don’t even sell off jobs, working conditions and sovereignty, they literally give it all away.”
“Basing buying decisions just on accounting principles alone does not factor in the extra value created by ensuring that we have local, stable, well paid jobs. When people have those jobs they drive demand and growth which in turn provides the revenue all Australian governments need for our national health, education and infrastructure.”
“The cheapest price today doesn’t always mean value for money in the long run. If it is made by exploited workers overseas or robs Australian people of jobs and business opportunity how much does that discount really cost?”
“This is not about limiting trade, this about making sure Australian governments are investing tax payer dollars locally on every major project.”
“The Victorian Government recently showed how this policy could work when it awarded the contract to build 20 new trams to the Dandenong manufacturer Bombardier as part of a specific strategy to boost the local manufacturing economy.”
“In contrast, we have seen the contract to manufacture the Australian Defence Force’s noncombat uniforms go to a discounting international competitor, we don’t make the paper used in
Australian passports anymore, forcing the closure of a paper mill in regional Victoria, and without union pressure the submarines being built in South Australia would have been made entirely overseas.”
“Australian lives have also been put at risk by the importation of dangerous building products containing asbestos and a range of other unsafe, substandard goods. Some of these unsafe materials have found their way into hospitals and other places where vulnerable people would be put at serious risk.”
“This Government needs to put the people of Australia first, rather than the interests of multinationals.”
“The Buy Australian Act will ensure Australian families have work, Australian businesses have opportunities to grow and will ensure our infrastructure and services meet the high standards that the Australian people expect and deserve.”
AWU National Secretary Scott McDine today said manufacturing workers were right behind the ACTU’s proposal for a Buy Australian Act, and the pressure was now on Federal politicians to act.
“Malcolm Turnbull has made jobs and growth his political mantra, but under his leadership the Australian economy has flat-lined.
“While factories like Ford are closing down, and the major industrials like the Whyalla steelworks are struggling to survive, the Turnbull Government has failed to present a credible plan for how it will create jobs.
“The innovation fairy is not going to come along and magically fix everything. We need genuine leadership from government to support local manufacturing and local jobs.”
Mr McDine said the steel industry would be one sector to potentially benefit from a Buy Australian Act.
“It’s galling to see major transport projects being built with low-quality imported steel, when the Australian steel industry desperately needs support.
“The Federal Government is a major investor in large-scale infrastructure projects, and so it should be flexing its financial muscles to ensure local steel is used wherever possible.
“A Buy Australian Act would force governments to make sure that the benefits of buying locally are recognised, and that local manufacturers are given every opportunity to fulfill government contracts.”