Forum seeks to ensure local paper mill’s future

A community gathering in Nowra on Monday, July 21 will seek a firm commitment from the federal government to keep the Shoalhaven Paper mill in operation. 

It follows a commitment from Foreign Minister Julie Bishop last month that the federal government would continue to buy specialist Australian-made passport paper from the Shoalhaven Paper mill until at least June 2015. 

However, according to the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union, this alone won’t secure the mill’s future and the union has urged the Commonwealth to immediately commit to buying more Australian-made paper. 

“The mill can’t survive on passport paper alone,” CFMEU national secretary Michael O’Connor said. “The federal government purchases 60,000 tonnes of paper for printing reports, brochures and pamphlets each year. If it directed a proportion of that work to the Shoalhaven mill and also guaranteed fairer access to government markets to its sister mill in Gippsland, the future of the local industry would look far more secure. 

“Without such a commitment, the mill will start to wind down. It would be a terrible loss of an important industry in the region, which is already experiencing high unemployment. In addition to this, if our passport and other security grade paper needed to be manufactured overseas it would be a huge blow to Australia’s essential security interests. 

“We’ve organised this event to raise community awareness of the mill’s situation and to demonstrate the community’s support for a sustainable future for the industry, and the mill.” 

CFMEU Nowra sub-branch secretary Jack Evans, who has worked at the mill for 20 years, said while the workers very much appreciated the efforts of the local MP Ann Sudmalis to secure a victory with the passport paper, it was not enough to secure their jobs. 

“We need a lot more orders, particularly specialised grades. Without them we’ll struggle,” Mr Evans said.  

“There is a perception that the mill has been saved because of the extension of the passport paper contract – but that’s not the case. It’s a good result but alone it’s not enough. We need the community to really get behind our mill. It’s an iconic part of Shoalhaven, it’s been there for over 50 years.” 

The community forum will be held at 7.30pm at the Shoalhaven Entertainment Centre, Bridge Street, Nowra. 

Speakers will include: Gilmore MP Ann Sudmalis; CFMEU national secretary Michael O’Connor; Shoalhaven Mill worker and CFMEU Nowra Sub-Branch Secretary Jack Evans; mill manager Bruce Borchardt; and chief executive officer of the Flagstaff Group Roy Rogers. 

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