The federal government is keeping its cards close to its chest regarding future financial backing for the Arrium steelworks in Whyalla.
Federal Liberal Member for Grey Rowan Ramsey said the government would negotiate from “a position of strength” and it was not wise to publicise how much money it might contribute.
He was responding to criticism of the Budget from Whyalla-based State Labor Member for Giles Eddie Hughes.
Mr Hughes criticised the federal government for failing to provide support for Arrium in the 2017 Budget and said Mr Hughes it was ‘deeply disturbing’ that there was no reference to the current challenges facing Whyalla in the budget.
In a strongly-worded reaction, Mr Ramsey said the state Labor government’s “repeated and dishonest bleating about Arrium and the federal government’s performance is beyond pathetic”.
He said the state government was trying to divert attention from its own mishandling of South Australia’s electricity grid, child protection system, the Oakden facility, hospital management and a raft of other issues in which it had failed.
“State Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis and Mr Hughes know any extra help from the federal government for Arrium will come through an off-Budget allocation,” he said.
“It is not in the taxpayers’ interest that the federal government publicise through a budget allocation how much money we might be prepared to contribute.
“We will negotiate from a position of strength and with purpose, but we are absolutely committed to getting the right result.
“In the meantime, the government has already contributed $120 million to improve the performance of Arrium’s Whyalla operations making the assets much more saleable.”
Mr Ramsey said he has worked hard in the past 12 months to bring the Adani order for another $74 million of steel rail to the Whyalla plant.
“By comparison state Labor has put $50 million on the table which has been sitting there for 12 months and with no-one able to access it. So far they have not contributed one cent to the survival of Arrium,” he said.
“Mr Hughes and Mr Koutsantonis should tell the public what strings they have on that money and why it hasn’t gone into making Arrium profitable and saleable.
“If they really care about Whyalla and the thousands of workers who rely on Arrium for a job they would be working with the federal government instead of trying to take cheap political pot-shots.
“Unfortunately their statements erode public confidence and present a divided effort to the prospective buyers.
“For the sake of all who live in Whyalla, they should pull their heads in and work with us, not against us.”