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West Gate Tunnel: ‘Outrageous’ Chinese steel deal breaks local content promise

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Approximately 17 per cent of steel used for the West Gate Tunnel project will be sourced from China, despite a state government promise that at least 92 per cent of steel used would be Australian.

John Holland, the engineering contractor building the project, has locked in a deal for 33,000 tonnes of steel with Chinese company, ZPMC, without consulting the government.

The first the state government or the Australian Workers Union heard about the deal was when ZPMC posted about it on LinkedIn.

Victorian Secretary of the Australian Workers Union, Ben Davis, said the deal was “outrageous”.

“It’s unbelievable that John Holland would say to the government ‘we’re prepared to build the West Gate Tunnel with 92 per cent local steel’ and then they thumb their nose at that by teeing up a contract for 33,000 tonnes of Chinese steel from their own parent company,” he told 3AW’s Neil Mitchell.

He said the state government’s response to the broken promise wasn’t good enough.

“I don’t know why they bothered to have a West Gate Tunnel Authority given that they’ve been so badly missing in action on this.

“I don’t understand how a principal contractor can go and do a dirty deal like this and get off scot-free.

“Where does this leave the commitments from the Premier and the Treasurer?”

Mr Davis said the local steel industry will suffer as a result of the deal with ZPMC.

“It means that the fabricators and the steel manufacturers won’t put the capital expenditure in to land this sort of work.

“They were planning to do that,” he said.

There are also safety concerns about Chinese steel dating back to 2015, and Mr Davis said safety is “absolutely” an issue.

“The only way to guarantee the quality of steel is to produce it locally,” he said.