Governments throughout Australia should be required to use locally produced steel, iron, clothing and equipment on all public sector projects and services, the nation’s union movement says.
In its latest move, the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) has called for the introduction of a Buy Australian Act which it says would stipulate that locally manufactured goods be used on all major government projects and services.
Stressing that the new Act would not be about restricting trade, ACTU Secretary Dave Oliver said the proposed new law would boost the Australian economy, deliver local employment opportunities and ensure that government projects use safe, domestically produced goods.
“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,” Oliver said.
Whilst the union body did not respond to questions seeking clarification about how the proposed legislation would work, potential clues in this area can be seen through a law which is currently in place within the United States.
That law, introduced in the wake of the global financial crisis in 2009, requires that all steel, iron or manufactured goods used in public building or works projects in which federal government stimulus money is used be sourced locally from within the US.
Exclusions can be granted if locally made goods are either not available or their use would cause overall project costs to increase by more than 25 percent.
Oliver points to a drop in US unemployment from 9.7 percent to 4.9 percent in that timeframe as evidence that that policy in the US has paid off.
The union body also did not respond to queries about whether or not such a law would reduce competitive tension within government procurement contracts and thus lead to higher costs or about whether or not the proposed law would in fact breach Australia’s obligations under World Trade Organisation rules or any of the various free trade agreements which Australia has signed with other countries.
According to News Corporation reports, however, Oliver did tell that organisation that such a law would in fact represent a likely breach of requirements under WTO rules.
Nevertheless, he says the rules are needed in order to protect local jobs.
The latest call follows last week’s closure of the Ford Automobile plant in Broadmeadows and Geelong.
Whilst the ALP will come under pressure to support the plan, however, the plan is unlikely to gain support from within the government.