Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is being urged by the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union to act immediately on his promise of ‘a big future for Australian manufacturing under this government’ by addressing the Federal Government’s discriminatory paper procurement practices.
The Union plans to launch a series of billboard and bus stop advertisements in the coming weeks along with a postcard campaign as part of its ‘Let’s Spread it Around’ campaign, which will highlight the importance of buying locally manufactured paper products and carry the message: ‘Don’t shred pulp and paper jobs. Buying Australian paper means Australian jobs’.
This follows the lodging in Parliament last week of a CFMEU-sponsored petition, supported by Nationals MP for Gippsland Darren Chester, and signed by thousands of pulp and paper workers and members of their communities who called on the Federal Government to commit to buy more Australian made paper and paper products.
An investigation by the union into procurement practices by the Federal Government, which is the biggest purchaser of paper in Australia, reveals several incidents that are currently discriminating against local producers, and have failed to provide value for money for taxpayers.
The Department of Human Services rejected a quote for Australian made envelopes despite it being less than 1% more expensive than imported alternatives. When independently tested, the results suggested the imported envelopes contained a questionable amount of recycled fibre, if any, despite the specification of the contract being that the paper was 60% recycled.
A ‘Request for Tender’ for print services by an agency of the Department of Industry sought to specifically exclude the use of Australian made paper by mandating the use of imported paper amongst some of the stock specified despite suitable alternatives being manufactured in Australia.
Over 40,000 Australian Defence Force diaries were imported from overseas and printed on paper made overseas from a company with a purchasing history of using paper produced from unsustainable and allegedly illegally logged forests in Indonesia from companies including Asia Pulp and Paper.
External printing contracts awarded for the upcoming Federal Election materials contained no requirement for the use of any Australian made paper.
The Department of Finance provided MPs with false and misleading information about Australian made paper, advocating alternative supplies from Germany, Austria, South Africa and China.
Quality issues with imported paper used for the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme’s forms are apparently resulting in paper jams in Medicare offices.
CFMEU National Secretary Michael O’Connor said the union had been encouraged by recent statements by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. The Prime Minister had said that he believed he had a responsibility to diversify the economy by ‘ensuring that we are doing whatever we can to boost our manufacturing’.
According to Mr O’Connor, if the Federal Government wants to get on with the job of supporting Australian manufacturing and Australian jobs, it can be as simple as ensuring they buy more locally made paper and paper products.
Though the Government is the biggest purchaser of paper in Australia, the current procurement system effectively discriminates against local manufacturers.
Mr O’Connor, who also chairs the Federal Government’s Pulp and Paper Advisory Group, said the Federal Government needed to ensure procurement policies included broader examination of the socio‐economic benefits of using locally produced products such as supporting Australian manufacturing jobs, the significant taxation receipts from local production and the environmental benefits of paper that adheres to higher local standards.