Aluminium: support but no bailout

Hunter MPs expressed support for soon-to-be unemployed workers and struggling aluminium manufacturers, but stopped short of pledging a bailout such as the taxpayer assistance offered to the car industry.

Hunter MP Joel Fitzgibbon visited Norsk Hydro at Kurri Kurri yesterday.

He said people had asked whether the government was considering assistance for Hydro or Tomago Aluminium.

"The point I make is companies come to the government with proposals for assistance, governments don't go to companies," Mr Fitzgibbon said.

Mr Fitzgibbon said he would support such proposals if forthcoming. But assistance would have to be an investment in the industry's long-term sustainability.

The plants were efficient and the workforce productive, but Hunter politicians have rejected claims that the federal government's carbon tax was to blame for the region's aluminium industry crisis.

"The only thing that turns this situation around is easing in the value of the Australian dollar or a rise in the international price of aluminium," Mr Fitzgibbon said.

"None of us have any control over those issues."

A spokeswoman for Charlton MP Greg Combet, who holds climate change and industry portfolios and was on leave yesterday, said global conditions were at play.

"The decisions at Kurri Kurri and Tomago aluminium smelters reflect the high Australian dollar and current international economic conditions, which have significantly reduced the price of aluminium by about 27 per cent," she said.

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