South Australian treasurer Tom Koutsantonis has criticised the replacement of administrator Grant Thornton just six days after steelmaker Arrium went into administration, labelling the company’s banks as shameful.
The board of the embattled steelmaker and mining consumables manufacturer appointed Grant Thornton Australia as administrators on April 7.
The union representing Arrium’s Whyalla steel mill workforce, along with the company’s lenders, forced Grant Thornton out this week, replacing it with rival KordaMentha.
South Australian treasurer Tom Koutsantonis, quoted by Fairfax on Wednesday, reportedly said the replacement of the administrator was “regrettable,” especially given the urgency with which the company’s restructure should be getting underway.
“Having forced the issue of voluntary administration, we are now witnessing the shamefully squabbling about the choice of administrator,” Koutsantonis was quoted as saying.
Whyalla acting mayor Tom Antonio, who spoke with the ABC, said the decision had taken the community by surprise.
“I think the banks have stepped in for their own personal interest and I am just not comfortable with that,” Antonio was quoted as saying.
“I believe Grant Thorton were doing an excellent job and they have definitely instilled confidence in the city, and they were heading in the right direction for the viability and the future of the city.
“I believe it’s disgraceful, and yes I believe it’s shameful.”
Federal industry, innovation and science minister Christopher Pyne last week said the federal government was disappointed to see the steelmaker go into administration.
“While we are advised by the Administrator’s that it remains business as usual, the Federal Government stands ready to assist the workers of Whyalla,” he said.
“The Australian steel industry is facing substantial challenges primarily caused by the significant oversupply of steel. The Australian steel industry is not alone in facing these challenges.”
The NSW Greens, meanwhile, suggested the struggles at Whyalla should trigger NSW Government action to protect the viability of the Port Kembla steelworks, by passing legislation mandating government infrastructure projects use locally manufactured steel.
“The potential collapse of steelmaking in Whyalla shows why NSW Parliament can’t delay and must immediately legislate for local steel procurement,” Greens industrial relations spokesperson David Shoebridge said.
“We want to bring the bill on for a vote in May when Parliament returns. The steel industry in this state can’t wait any longer.
“The NSW Parliament has an opportunity to lead the way, and an obligation to adopt this as a template for procurement bills around the country to protect our steel industry.”