Local content discontent

Henderson businesses, engineers and workers who rallied outside Parliament House yesterday are more determined than ever to fight for local content laws, according to Australian Steel Institute WA manager James England.

Mr England said the fact that about 5000 people, including some Henderson employers who had shut down their workshops for the morning and paid to bus their employees to the protest, had probably convinced Premier Colin Barnett that the local content issue was not going to go away.

"I think the Premier is taking the issue seriously now,'' he said.

In front of a boisterous crowd, Mr Barnett spoke for about 15 minutes about the five questions the organisers of the WA Jobs from WA Resources campaign had asked him to answer.

Mr England said the Skilled Work Alliance - made up of the Australian Steel Institute, the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, UnionsWA and The Association of Professional Engineers, Scientists and Managers of Australia - wanted Mr Barnett to release the quarterly local content reports that big resource companies provide to him.

"But he won't make them public,'' he said.

"He (just said) he'd try and work harder to get more local content for businesses and he didn't promise any law changes, which we really need.

"We can't keep relying on someone's word that they'll give local businesses and employees work.''

Australian Manufacturing Workers Union State secretary Steve McCartney welcomed Opposition Leader Eric Ripper's pledge to introduce new legislation to ensure project proponents were up front and transparent about how they would employ the State's manufacturing workforce.

Mr Ripper said the legislation, which he proposed to introduce next week, would increase transparency around tender processes without adding the burden of the approvals process.

Commerce Minister Simon O'Brien, whose portfolio includes local content, was in Henderson last week to officially open Modular Engineering's new premises.