Federal Labor will seek to maximise the use of Australian-produced steel in government-funded projects.
The pledge is part of a six-point steel plan the opposition will take to an election.
“A Labor government led by myself will do everything we can to make sure that we keep making steel in Australia,” leader Bill Shorten told reporters during a visit to Bluescope Steel in the NSW Illawarra on Thursday.
The plan stops short of mandating the use of Australian steel on taxpayer-funded projects.
Other measures include maintaining quality standards, halving the threshold for companies to submit an Australian industry participation plan for projects, and strengthening anti-dumping provisions.
A Labor government would also set up a national steel supplier advocate.
“What we need is an advocate for the steel industry to make sure Australian steel is getting the best story told about it possible,” Mr Shorten said.
Industry Minister Christopher Pyne responded quickly to that part of Labor’s plan.
“I’m Australia’s Steel Advocate – that’s the job of the industry minister. Labor wants to downgrade that role to a public servant,” he tweeted.
Mr Shorten’s visit follows a decision last week by mining and steelmaking group Arrium to call in administrators.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has refused to say whether the issue of cheap Chinese steel will be on the agenda when he meets officials in Beijing during a two-day visit.
Greens industry spokesman Adam Bandt said the plan was “too weak”.
He welcomed moves to reduce the dumping of foreign-produced steel in Australia, but said Labor should add a seventh point: don’t sign the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
“If Labor is serious about saving the Australian steel industry, it will commit to not signing Australia up to the TPP,” he said.
The Greens would also like to see government projects use at least 90 per cent local steel.
The Australian Workers’ Union welcomed Labor’s direction, but said more detail and hard targets are needed to ensure the industry’s future.