Published: 5 Oct 2015
5 October 2015, 8:22am
The CFMEU has revealed a shock decision made in the final few weeks of the Abbott Government that has put the future of the Maryvale paper mill - a major Latrobe Valley employer - at risk.
Under a policy that had been in place for five years, all Federal government departments were to be required to procure 100% recycled paper this year.
But the policy was dramatically scrapped in one of the last acts of the Abbott Government - just before the requirement to purchase recycled paper was meant to come into effect.
Australian Paper at Maryvale has been positioning itself to supply Government departments with extra demand for recycled paper as a result of this long-standing policy, investing in a $90 million deinking and recycling plant.
The plant has the capacity to produce 50,000 tonnes of recycled paper each year from 80,000 tonnes of waste paper that would otherwise go to landfill.
The CFMEU is urging new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to reverse the disastrous decision, which was taken without any consultation.
"This backflip is a savage blow to the Latrobe Valley, and to Australian Paper which employs 1000 people. The company has undertaken a major investment on the expectation that the policy would lead to more demand," said Alex Millar CFMEU Pulp and Paper Federal Secretary.
"It is also a disastrous outcome for the environment, as the plant would have diverted 80,000 tonnes of waste paper from landfill.
"This decision was made against the advice of industry, unions and environment groups. It is bad for jobs, bad for the Latrobe valley and bad for the environment. And it means Australian manufacturers will again be forced to compete head to head with paper manufactured overseas who often source wood from unsustainably managed forests and deforested areas."
Australian Paper began producing paper for market at the Maryvale facility this year. At the opening of the plant, Chief Operating Officer Peter Williams stated:
The Australian Government has specified that it will purchase 100% recycled papers from 1st July this year and we are hopeful that all Government Departments, Federal and State, will recognise the sustainability advantages of Australian-made 100% recycled paper over imports when making their purchase decisions.
The opening was attended by a number of Federal Government Members including the MP for Gippsland Darren Chester and the now Assistant Minister for Trade Richard Colbeck.
"We're extremely disappointed that industry and union calls for policies mandating procurement of recycled paper have fallen on deaf ears.
"We urge new Industry Minister Christopher Pyne to listen and act.
"Changing policy at a whim has serious implications for companies considering investment in Australian manufacturing infrastructure."
When combined with the China Free Trade Agreement, under which local manufacturers would lose their tariff defence whereas China will maintain their tariffs, the impact on jobs in regional communities would be exacerbated.
The CFMEU is preparing to lead a community campaign made up of local groups, environmentalists and industry groups in order to have the decision reversed. They will seek the support of politicians based in the region including Darren Chester, Russell Broadbent, Ricky Muir and State representatives Russell Northe and Harriet Shing.