Union boss: buy locally, as “other governments around the world are doing”

Image: Fairfax

The head of the Australian Council of Trade Unions has said he will push for procurement provisions for government projects, inspired by the “Buy American” US policies following the Global Financial Crisis.

The Australian reports that Dale Oliver said such policies – which he acknowledged would be against World Trade Organisation principles – would cover manufactured goods such as steel, clothing and other goods. He did not name any specific targets.

The ACTU secretary of the peak union body cited last week’s Ford factory closures, the struggling Australian steel industry, the closure of Shoalhaven Paper Mill, and last month’s news that non-combat Australian Army uniforms were sub-contacted out to a Chinese supplier.

“You would expect this government would do what other governments around the world are doing. The Buy Australian act would generate a trifecta of benefits: jobs for Australian workers, a badly needed boost to the Australian economy and … ensure government projects use safe, Australian-made goods,” he told The Australian.

“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.”

The Labor Party, in response to Arrium Whyalla’s difficulties, urged the government in February to use Australian steel for its projects.

This is also favoured by South Australian Senator Nick Xenophon, who has also campaigned in favour of locally-made Army uniforms and boots and locally-made steel in government procurement.