The Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, which is responsible for Australian manufacturing, buys almost no copy paper made at Maryvale Mill.
The department has admitted only about 10 per cent of the paper it purchased in 2014-15 was produced locally – the rest was imported.
Department officials had previously told a Senate Estimates Committee in October the “majority” of copy paper it used was Australian-made.
Labor Senator Kim Carr called the statistic “shocking” and said the department seemed to not want to capitalise on its own $9.5 million investment in the recycling and de-inking plant at Australian Paper’s Maryvale Mill, made under the previous government in 2012.
In the lead-up to Australia Day, Senator Carr said there was “no excuse” for the government to not buy Australian-made products.
“The Australian Government is the biggest purchaser of goods and services and has an obligation to ensure that, where possible, the goods it purchases are sourced locally,” he said.
In February Senator Carr will move to establish a Senate Inquiry into paper procurement practices within the government’s departments and agencies, including the impact on securing manufacturing investment and jobs in the paper industry.
He accused the government of not having a commitment to manufacturing in Australia.
“We want the Australian Government to look to Australian business and jobs in their purchasing decisions…value for money across the whole of life costing of a product, looking at the economic impact and employment, when it comes to the purchasing of paper,” Senator Carr said.
Through a Senate estimates hearing last year, Senator Carr uncovered a government decision to not continue with a previous policy committing it to buy 100 per cent recycled copy paper.
That decision ignited a campaign led by the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union to force the government to return to the previous policy and to encourage more people to buy Australian-made paper.
While the government is considering options to amend its arrangement for stationery and office supplies to ensure more use of 100 per cent recycled paper, Australian Paper has warned this will only work if the paper is sourced locally.
The government maintains Australia’s international trade agreements prohibit it from discriminating against overseas suppliers.