Strong support urged for Whyalla survival

The administrators of embattled steel maker Arrium believe the company’s Whyalla operations will be able to continue operating with the “strong support” of the South Australian and federal governments.

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Administrators Grant Thornton, who took control of Arrium last week after it was placed in voluntary administration, say they “firmly believe” the plant can survive with the support of all stakeholders, including governments and the existing management at Whyalla.

In particular, the firm says it is working with the South Australian government’s steel task force.

“The South Australian Government and its advisers have been working for a long time on this issue and are well advanced in their thinking,” lead administrator Paul Billingham said.

“Our joint aim is to now swiftly bring together all key parties in a collective effort to save Whyalla and we have stepped up the flow of information between Arrium and the Steel Taskforce since our appointment to ensure this.”

Mr Billingham said the local management at the Whyalla steelworks, which is the largest employer in the town, had been working for some time to make operations more efficient.

“At the time of the appointment, Arrium was partway through a number of projects designed to improve efficiency at Whyalla, which were being successfully driven by the local management team.”

Meanwhile, Turnbull government minister Peter Dutton has ruled out the possibility of the federal government taking a financial stake in the steel maker.

Mr Dutton, the immigration minister, says the government will instead make sure it gets the broader economic settings right.

“For government to take an equity stake or to try to pick winners as Labor governments at a state and federal level have for many many years, that is a fraught exercise, and ultimately you put at risk taxpayers money,” Mr Dutton told Sky News on Sunday.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten has called for mandatory use of Australian steel on all major government projects to help protect the local steel industry.

But the suggestion has been ruled out by Treasurer Scott Morrison, who says the move would contravene Australia’s international trade agreements.