“The big boys get all the benefits”: Small manufacturers say government subsidies favour big companies

Small manufacturers have accused the Government of favouring big steel manufacturers such as BlueScope Steel and OneSteel in the provision of government support.

The small manufacturers raised their concerns at a meeting of Australian Workers Union (AWU) members held yesterday where over 80 steelworkers from all major steel plants met with representatives of federal and state governments as well as heads of industry to discuss and plan strategies to save the struggling Australian steel industry.

AWU national secretary Paul Howes said the crisis facing the steel industry in Australia had worsened in recent months and more needed to be done to save the strategically vital sector.

Greg Combet, the minister for industry and innovation, announced at the meeting that the Government would introduce new measures to give manufacturers more opportunities to take part in government funded resource projects worth more than $20 million through the requirement for an “Australian Industry Participation Plan”.

“What we are endeavouring to do is to make sure, in a fair and appropriate way, that Australian businesses and Australian workers such as those that are here behind me from the steel industry, that they’ve got a fair go at getting into the major resource projects and major infrastructure projects around the country,” said Combet.

Shane Robinson, the owner of Steel Supplies in Wagga Wagga, told SmartCompany government favouritism of the big steel manufacturers over small companies was “absolutely” a problem.

“The big boys get all the benefits and the little fellas get left to wonder what is happening,” says Robinson.

“We just get left to flounder and I am sure there are a heap of businesses my size and much bigger that are in the same situation – they only see the steel industry as the big boys.”

“You can lay down and go to sleep or you can get on your bike and have a go. Obviously the big boys are getting hand outs and we are not so they have a huge advantage so we have to be better at our jobs to compete.”

Robinson said small companies in the steel manufacturing sector were the major employers rather than big companies like Bluescope Steel and OneSteel.

“The Government are feeding the wrong people, we can manufacture in this country and we are very good at it,” says Robinson. “The people who deserve the support are not getting it.” 

“The sector that employs 85% of the steel industry should be the ones getting the support.”

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