Ex-Labor MP Chris Bowen has suggested that the iron-based building material is becoming a “crippling liability” for the economy.
The former Australian Labor leader and prime minister has said that while he believed that the building material could be made more sustainable, the government should focus on reducing carbon emissions.
“There is a lot of energy going into producing this stuff, and that is going to have a significant impact on our economy,” he told ABC Radio Melbourne.
“It is very important that we do what is possible, because the economy is at risk and our future prosperity depends on it.”
Mr Bowen has previously said that the construction industry is responsible for more than half of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions said it was “saddened” by the comments and said that they were “deeply concerned” about the impact of the building materials on jobs.
Key points:Chris Bowen says the building product should be more sustainable than the coal and gas industry, calling it a “rippling burden” for Australia’s economyEx-Labor leader and PM Tony Abbott has previously described the building industry as a “burden” for Australian industry Ex-Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s comments have been criticised by the union for not taking into account the costs of carbon emissions for the construction and other industries.
However, the ANU’s chief economist, Robert Kynaston, said that Mr Bowen’s comments were “not surprising” given that there was “strong support for the use of iron-rich building material in the construction of new buildings”.
“While some may see the construction sector as a costly drag on the economy, it is far more likely to be a benefit for Australian jobs,” he said.
“The use of building materials is a growing industry and is projected to generate about $3.2 billion of annual value for the Australian economy.”‘
Not a sustainable business’The ANU said that construction companies were the “single biggest source of carbon pollution in the country” and the construction union also believed that “there is strong support for iron-making as a viable alternative to coal and other fossil fuels”.
It said that there were currently “very few options” for building materials in the mining industry and “it is unlikely that we will see the industrialisation of iron in Australia for many decades”.
But the union said it hoped the former Labor leader would “change his mind” and said the comments were not an “effective response”.
“There are also significant impacts on the environment and on the lives of people who rely on the iron industry,” the union’s chief executive, Ian Rintoul, said in a statement.
In a report, the Australian Building and Construction Council (ABCC) said that iron-mining companies were “the single largest source of greenhouse gas pollution in Australia”.
The report said that more than 60% of the carbon pollution from building materials came from iron-smelting and processing operations.
It also noted that “the construction industry accounts for about half of Australia’s total greenhouse gas footprint” and that “building materials are one of the few areas of the economy where the construction workforce is not highly integrated”.
In his interview with ABC Radio, Mr Bowen said that Australia’s “carbon footprints” would increase significantly if the construction materials industry were to continue.
He said that “a few” buildings that had been built in Australia in the past “could be the beginning of the end” of the industry.
Mr Abbott has repeatedly said that he was “not concerned” that the Australian building and construction industry was becoming a burden for the country.
“[Iron-making] is a very important industry in Australia and I’m proud of the fact that it is a part of the fabric of our society,” he was quoted as saying in an interview with the ABC.
While Mr Bowen acknowledged that building materials could be improved, he said that building the industry “hasn’t got a very high carbon footprint”.
“Building materials are an important part of our economy.
The industry is the single biggest source [of] carbon pollution [in Australia],” he said in the interview.
ABC News’ Emily Bowerfield and Sarah Jones contributed to this story.