AWU secretary Paul Howes is treating his union members dishonestly by refusing to fight Julia Gillard’s carbon tax and instead blaming interest rates for the demise of the steel and manufacturing industry.
A year ago, I applauded Paul Howes for standing up for the rights of steel workers and manufacturers in Australia when he said that if one job was lost as a result of the carbon tax he would not support it.
Today, Mr Howes has admitted that the steel and manufacturing industry will indeed suffer massive job losses, and that Australia could even see the demise of these industries altogether.
However, instead of honouring his promise, Mr Howes has instead bent his knee to the Labor government and the Greens. He has chosen to use the excuse of the rising dollar and interest rates to explain why so many jobs will be lost in the steel and manufacturing industry.
This is rubbish. The high dollar does have an effect, but the real reason so many jobs will be lost will be the carbon tax, and Mr Howes knows it.
The steel industry is important for Australia. Around 20,000 workers are employed between BlueScope Steel and OneSteel.
It was initially predicted that adding a $8 per tonne carbon tax on $7.5 million tonnes of steel production would add another $60 million loss to the bottom line of both of these steel manufacturers. Now that the carbon price is set at $23 dollars a tonne, the effects are going to be much worse.
Both of these companies were under the pump last year and showed big losses. BlueScope Steel recorded a loss of $55 million in the last half year, and share prices have gone from $12 in 2007 to around 40 cents today. OneSteel is not much better with its current share price of only $1.10.
It’s not just the steel industry that will be affected by the carbon tax. It’s clear that more pressure from a carbon tax will cost jobs in the cement, aluminum, and LNG industries.
The 10 million tonne a year cement industry faces an initial $4 per tonne tax rising to $11.50 per tonne in 2020. The AWU represents many of the 1,800 workers in this $2.14 billion industry.
Instead of fighting the real source of the problem, the carbon tax, Mr Howes has chosen to blame factors that are harder to control, such as the rising dollar, to explain why so many AWU members will be out of a job, and why industry in Australia will die a slow death.
Even Minister Greg Combet has rebuffed Mr Howe’s remarks, saying that it’s not the union’s place to go around dictating what levels interest rates should be set at.
Mr Howes should stand up and state what the real problem is instead of using scapegoats. The real problem is the carbon tax. The carbon tax can be done away with and the problem can be fixed.