An extensive campaign against the Federal Government’s widespread use of imported copy paper has drawn up a symbolic win, with the Department of Agriculture’s Canberra office switching to paper produced at the Maryvale Mill.
Declared a “much needed” omen for job security at the mill, Latrobe Valley’s single largest employer, Agricultural Minister Barnaby Joyce today announced a change in departmental procurement processes, which would see his Canberra office and departmental staff commit to using the locally produced paper.
However The Express understands the change does not place an iron-clad ban on the use of foreign paper still available to the department, which purchases more than 30,000 reams of paper per year.
“Our understanding is that while the Department has added Australian-made recycled paper to its procurement options, it is still using recycled paper which is manufactured overseas in Austria,” Australian Paper spokesman Craig Dunn said.
“Australian Paper thanks the Minister for supporting locally made Reflex recycled paper, but there is still more work to be done to encourage the Department of Agriculture to recognise the many environmental and social benefits of Australian-made recycled paper in its procurement choices.”
Mr Joyce said he asked his department to consider Australian Paper as a supplier of copy paper, after touring the Maryvale facility in July 2014 where he was criticised by local workers for his department’s use of Austrian-produced paper.
“I’m particularly glad that my department now has access to paper made in the Latrobe Valley, as it is another vote of confidence in Gippsland jobs and the domestic timber industry,” Mr Joyce said.
The procurement change comes as a small win after a three year campaign led by an unusual three-pronged alliance between unions, industry and politicians, which has hammered various Federal Government departments for snubbing paper produced in the Valley.
Member for Gippsland Darren Chester has supported the ongoing campaign since 2012, and described the move by Mr Joyce as a “breakthrough” in the ongoing lobbying efforts.
It is understood Australian Federal Police commenced a trial into copy paper sources from Maryvale prior to Christmas, however are yet to commit to amending their current contract.
Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union Maryvale secretary Anthony Pavey said while he was keen to hear more details of Mr Joyce’s announcement, he congratulated Mr Chester on his lobbying efforts so far.
“Obviously we welcome this news, it’s really good for us on the copy paper side of things which is one of (Maryvale’s) biggest departments,” Mr Pavey said.
“We are hoping this move will have a domino effect across other government departments, which we’ll continue lobbying. Hopefully Barnaby will continue vouching for us on this.”
It is a change of tune from Mr Pavey, who last year slammed Mr Joyce for his department’s exclusive use of stationary supplies from OfficeMax, who imports paper from Austria.
During the July 2014 visit Mr Joyce was questioned by mill workers on the foreign contract, and was coaxed to make the switch to locally produced copy paper.
At the time Mr Joyce said his department had a supply contract in place with OfficeMax until April 2015, however committed to “do his best” in efforts to make the switchover.
With 15 of the 22 largest government departments in Canberra still supporting imported recycled paper from Europe and Indonesia, Australian Paper has vowed to continue lobbying efforts amid “extremely difficult market conditions”.