The NSW government doesn’t appear to have any idea of where the steel it uses in road projects like the Berry Bypass is made.
Reinforcing bar that was used in the Princes Highway upgrades was bought in NSW but was made and fabricated in Singapore, could well be counted by RMS as sourced in Australia
The government cannot say whether steel used in its road projects was made at BlueScope in Port Kembla – or elsewhere in Australia.
In NSW Parliament last week, Roads Minister Duncan Gay reeled off a list of road projects using steel “sourced right here in Australia”.
This included the Berry Bypass, which “uses a majority of Australian steel”.
“The NSW Government has sourced thousands of tonnes of steel for major infrastructure projects from Australia,” Mr Gay told parliament.
“As a result, this Government is the single largest procurer of steel in Australia.”
But it seems Roads and Maritime Services (RMS), the government body responsible for these projects, doesn’t know where the steel is made.
“Roads and Maritime Services buy steel from Australian companies, any questions as to the procurement of the steel is best directed to those companies,” an RMS spokesman said.
As the Mercury reported on Thursday, reinforcing bar that was used in the Princes Highway upgrades was bought in NSW but was made and fabricated in Singapore, could well be counted by RMS as sourced in Australia.
This news from RMS means the government claims that steel has been “procured in NSW” should be taken with a grain of salt, according to South Coast Labor Council secretary Arthur Rorris.
“The government has to be careful in how they make their claims because the government knows what we all know,” Mr Rorris said.
“That is that it is a very murky, opaque area, this whole question of definition and of certification.
“They can’t say hand on heart that it is Australian-made steel because there is nothing that we can see in terms of a certification process that would give them or anybody else the confidence to make that claim.”
Mr Rorris felt the government had incentives to retain these “loose” definitions around where steel is made.
“We would say the government deliberately does not want to tighten those definitions because if you did it would be a very, very concerning picture about Australian taxpayers’ dollars not spent in this country,” Mr Rorris said.
The labour council secretary said the state government had not kept pace with the public’s wishes about local content in taxpayer-funded projects.
“I think what is happening now is the politicians are scrambling to justify their inaction on local procurement and in that scramble they are trying to latch onto anything that might demonstrate local content in their decisions,” he said.
But the processes and the mechanisms just aren’t there.”