Call for contractor 'lifeline'

CALL FOR ACTION: Member for Giles Eddie Hughes.

CALL FOR ACTION: Member for Giles Eddie Hughes.

Giles MP Eddie Hughes is calling for Premier Steven Marshall to provide financial relief for Whyalla contractors and reinstate full protection for the Great Australian Cuttlefish during his visit to the steel city.

Mr Marshall is in Whyalla today, where he will be opening the new jetty and attending the site of the new $100 million Whyalla secondary school.

But Mr Hughes is calling for the Premier to address serious issues during his visit, with many contractors still feeling the financial pinch from the Arrium administration.

Last week the Whyalla News reported that small businesses contracted by GFG Alliance were owed as much as $1 million by the company following a recent delay in payments.

Mr Hughes says some relief can be provided by converting the $10 million in loans that was provided to local contractors by the former Labor government into grants.

In June 2019 Mr Hughes wrote to Treasurer Rob Lucas and asked him to consider converting the loans into grants, but his request was denied.

"I am calling on the Premier to show more compassion than Treasurer Rob Lucas and throw a lifeline to contractors who are in need of financial help. They are not yet out of the woods," he said.

"Converting these loans to grants will provide Whyalla contractors with a greater level of certainty and they have told me it might lead to additional employment."

With Mr Marshall also handling the Tourism portfolio of the state government, Mr Hughes is also calling on him to reverse the Liberals' decision to remove the ban on fishing the Great Australian Cuttlefish in the Spencer Gulf.

"The decision to dilute protection for the Northern Spencer Gulf Australian Giant Cuttlefish shocked scientists, environmentalists, the tourism industry and Whyalla residents," he said.

"If the Premier is serious about boosting the visitor economy in South Australia, he will reverse this decision and help Whyalla's world-famous Australian Giant Cuttlefish."

Treasurer Rob Lucas said the state government had been working with contractors on a 'case-by-case' basis to support them with loan repayment options.

"In fact, the Government has already agreed to renegotiate the terms of the loan repayments for all the small business contractors who have contacted us," he said.

"I have met with the Small Business Commissioner on behalf of all contractors, as well as having met with a number of contractors themselves, to advise them of the Government's actions.

"Mr Hughes knows this, which is why in his letter to me in June last year, he described how pleased he was with this approach."

Resources Minister David Basham said the latest SARDI survey, which showed record numbers of cuttlefish in the Spencer Gulf, suggested fishing outside of False Bay had a 'negligible' impact on cuttlefish stocks.

"I see no reason to reinstate the temporary closure of the Northern Spencer Gulf at this time but the cuttlefish working group will meet later in the year to consider the latest science as well as stakeholder views," he said.

"I will consider the recommendations of the working group before deciding arrangements for 2021."