The Federal Member for Cunningham, Sharon Bird, told the House of Representatives last night that she remained committed to ensuring that manufacturing has a bright future in the Illawarra.
Ms Bird said in a speech that:
The Illawarra region makes things. The Illawarra region will continue to make things. The future of manufacturing in the Illawarra is through innovation…and productivity…
She told the House of Representatives that the Commonwealth Government had three main priorities following the announcement that BlueScope Steel would restructure its operations, including ensuring that all affected workers at BlueScope Steel and the company’s supplier-contractors are given every possible assistance; the establishment of the $30 million Investment and Innovation Fund and continuing to diversify the economic base of the region.
Ms Bird said that the Commonwealth’s $140 million structural adjustment package announced by the Prime Minister on 22 August was:
One of the largest structural adjustment packages introduced by a Commonwealth Government to assist in economic transitioning for a region.
It is important to place on record the difference in assistance provided to Wollongong and Newcastle when its steel industry was affected in 1997. The Howard Government at that time provided $10 million in adjustment assistance for BHP workers. This was matched by the then Carr Labor Government.
I do not criticise the assistance provided by the Howard Government or the Carr Government. But I think it is important to recognise that this Labor Government did provide an important and significant assistance package to the Illawarra.
She called on the Member for Gilmore, Joanna Gash, and Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells to support the Steel Transformation Plan.
This is no longer a theoretical or conceptual debate; it is real time and the workers in the Illawarra depend on this fund, BlueScope Steel depends on this fund. We should stop playing politics, be responsible and support the Bill.
Ms Bird also told the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth’s investment in the $43.8 million Australian Institute for Innovative Materials and the $25 million Sustainable Buildings Research Centre which will become very important partners for the manufacturing sector in Wollongong.