Dec 12, 2019

OPINION PIECE – LNP THREATENS ALUMINIUM JOBS – THURSDAY, 12 DECEMBER 2019

LNP THREATENS ALUMINIUM JOBS

Manufacturing jobs are the heart of regional Queensland. There is no better example than the aluminium industry, which directly employs 3,000 hardworking, highly skilled Australians in good regional jobs. Almost 900 of those jobs are in Gladstone at the Boyne Island smelter.

Australia has a long and proud history as an aluminium producer and I want to see the aluminium industry grow, not shipped offshore because of the energy policy mess created by Scott Morrison.

Australia is the world’s largest producer of bauxite and a substantial producer of alumina. We have been producing aluminium for well over 50 years, but Australia now only has four aluminium smelters left. These smelters are crucial employers in regional centres and produce a strategically and economically vital metal.

Aluminium isn’t just another industry, It’s strategically important in sectors like construction and transport.

Through their inability to deliver a national energy policy, the Liberal National Government has placed the future of Australia’s aluminium industry at risk.

Since the Government’s energy crisis began in 2015, wholesale electricity prices have increased by 158 per cent. In the months since the embattled Energy Minister Angus Taylor took office, wholesale prices have risen by 20 per cent.

Rio Tinto, which has a stake in three out of four Australian smelters, has said Australian energy costs “are very, very high by any kind of global standard”, and as a result, “the current situation is not sustainable.”

Producers have been warning for years that the price and reliability of our energy system isn’t good enough to sustain a local industry able to compete internationally. Boyne Island has previously had to cut staff and production during periods when power prices have become unsustainably high. There continues to be a risk of plant closures.

Internationally, it is clear that the future of the industry is in low carbon aluminium, supported by renewable power, a future the Liberal Nationals are dead against.

The future of the aluminium sector is threatened by the LNP’s big headed refusal to accept a future driven by new technologies and new opportunities.

Its strength, durability, flexibility, corrosion resistance and the fact it is 100 percent recyclable, makes aluminium the perfect metal to support not only the industrial economies of the last century, but the clean energy economies of the future.

Labor is calling for the Government to finally get its act together, deliver a national energy policy that supports new investment in clean affordable, reliable energy, and support a crucial sector that their incompetence has put at risk.

They need to do this urgently, before we see any of our four aluminium smelters close.  If there are any further closures in this important industry, the blame will lie with Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Energy Minister Angus Taylor.

This piece was originally published by The Gladstone Observer on Thursday, 12 December 2019.