The union representing Australia’s paper industry has complained about a 30% decrease in local paper purchases by the federal government during COVID-19.
The Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) has declared that its members are ‘furious’ about a drop in domestic paper sales to big government departments at a time when they were taking enforced leave. The group claims the federal government is favouring paper milled from Indonesia over local sources.
The union launched a campaign called ‘Back Our Jobs — Buy Our Paper’ earlier this year, which involved Opal Australian Paper — the largest private sector employer in Gippsland — petitioning Prime Minister Scott Morrison to make a change. Emails were also sent to Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and other senior parliamentarians in Victoria.
According to Michael O’Connor, the CFMEU national secretary of manufacturing, the drop in Australian-made paper purchases from Australian businesses undermines a COVID-19 economic recovery.
“We know that every ream of Australian made paper purchased supports Australian jobs and every ream imported from Indonesia damages Australian jobs,” O’Connor said.
O’Connor said it was hypocritical for Frydenberg to talk about reviving the Australian economy while his own department did not procure any Australian-made paper this financial year (according to available data).
“Treasurer Frydenberg is in charge of the economic recovery so must order his department to buy Australian made like the PM’s Department does,” O’Connor said.
The union claims that in 2018-19 and 2019-20, the proportion of paper purchased by the Department of Treasury that was Australian-made was 7%.
Conversely, the union has credited the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) for ‘having one of ‘the strongest track records of all departments [in] sourcing Australian made paper’.
Although PM&C is separate to the Prime Minister’s Office, the union said it believed the healthy procurement of Australian-made paper from the department was because of Scott Morrison.
“We acknowledge that the prime minister has already shown leadership by ensuring his department buys Australian made paper” O’Connor said.
“We think he can show even more leadership by directing his ministers to ensure their departments buy Australian made like his department does.”
This article was first published by The Mandarin.