Boost for local pensioners on the way

Wollongong pensioners are set to receive an increase in their payments to help balance the household budget, Federal Member for Cunningham, Sharon Bird, said today. “From 20 September, single age, disability and carer pensioners receiving the maximum rate of pension, will receive an extra $19.50 per fortnight. “Pensioner couples combined on the maximum pension rate will receive an extra $29.60 per fortnight. “Pensioners in my electorate are benefiting from an improved indexation system put into place by the Federal Labor Government to ensure that pensions keep up with the cost of living”, Ms Bird said. Pensions are now indexed twice each year (March and September) to match the higher increase of two measures: the Consumer Price Index (CPI) or the Pensioner and Beneficiary Living Cost Index. “Over the last two year, two of the four pension increases have been the result of the Pensioner and Beneficiary Living Index. “The Commonwealth Government understands that local pensioners are on a fixed income, and it is important to index their pension to ensure that as the cost of living increases, their pension payment matches it”, she said. Following the indexation increases from 20 September, total pension payments for people on the maximum rate, including the base rate and pension supplement, will be: $748.80 per fortnight for singles, and $1,129.00 per fortnight for couples combined.

Support starts as Illawarra Taskforce holds first meeting

The Government’s new Illawarra Stakeholder Taskforce of key local business, community and civic groups and representatives today held its first meeting at the Innovation Campus of the University of Wollongong. Innovation Minister Senator Kim Carr said the Taskforce’s priority was to help coordinate the Governments services for the workers impacted by the restructure of BlueScope Steel. “The Taskforce is working closely with the Government's working group that oversees and coordinates the entire government support package for the region,” Senator Carr said. “This process has worked successfully in other areas around the country and today we saw it begin for the Illawarra.” Federal Member for Throsby, Mr Stephen Jones, said there were costs in reinvigorating the area. Continue reading

Funding to benefit Illawarra region youth services

Services for young people with high needs in the Illawarra region will be improved with the announcement of $2.26 million in funding for a $4.83 million therapeutic care service. Federal Minister for Regional Australia Simon Crean today announced that funding for the centre has been provided to Youth Off the Streets Inc as part of the first round of the Regional Development Australia Fund (RDAF), worth almost $1 billion. The project, located in Cordeaux Heights, involves the refurbishment of a 1970s style detention centre into a care centre for 16 people with high needs. The existing facility will be transformed into a modern, environmentally conscious facility providing services based on innovative therapy models and rehabilitation for young people. “Project Cordeaux will directly support the regional community buy establishing services that produce both a community service and an educational output,” Mr Crean said. Member for Cunningham Sharon Bird said this was a great project that will not only benefit the local community, but the surrounding regional areas as well. Continue reading

Assistance for Illawarra businesses

Fifty local businesses in the Illawarra region will receive expert, one-on-one coaching to help them identify opportunities for growth and the creation of new jobs. This is thanks to a $98,000 Gillard Labor Government Enterprise Connect grant to Regional Development Australia (RDA) Illawarra. Announcing almost $500,000 for seven regional business development programs, Innovation Minister Senator Kim Carr and Regional Development Minister Simon Crean said the funding would help develop strong regional partnerships between businesses, communities, industries, researchers and governments. “These partnerships will help create jobs and transform firms,” Senator Carr said. “The funding to RDA Illawarra will help them collaborate with local firms and tertiary institutions to give Wollongong, Shellharbour and Kiama businesses the skills to identify and exploit possible national and global niche markets,” Mr Crean said. Member for Cunningham Sharon Bird and Member for Throsby Stephen Jones said the diversification into new processes and markets is essential for the local business community which will be hard hit by BlueScope Steel’s recent decision. Continue reading

Innovating to create new products, processes and jobs

Speaking at the Illawarra Manufacturing Expo hosted by Member for Throsby Stephen Jones and Member for Cunningham Sharon Bird, Innovation Minister Senator Kim Carr said manufacturing was an essential part of the local and national economy. “The Government knows that times are tough right now for manufacturing. This Expo is showing local firms that we will work with them to transform manufacturing in the country and create the high-skill, high-wage jobs of the future,” Senator Carr said. “Today’s Expo has been organised by Sharon and I because we are keenly aware of the immediate need for support and information for local employers about the range of government assistance available, as well as providing the opportunity for the Minister to hear directly from manufacturers about the challenges they are currently facing,” Mr Jones said. At the Expo, the Minister and local Members highlighted the $30 million Illawarra Region Innovation and Investment Fund, announced last week in response to job losses at BlueScope Steel. Continue reading

Working together to secure the Illawarra's future

Prime Minister Julia Gillard met with BlueScope Steel workers, business leaders and union heads in the Illawarra today to discuss plans to keep the region strong and prosperous. After listening to workers at BlueScope Steel’s plant at Port Kembla, the Prime Minister hosted a business and union roundtable in Wollongong. The Government’s assistance package was discussed at the meeting along with potential opportunities for the local community to work together to create a sustainable manufacturing future in the region. The Prime Minister was joined by Innovation Minister Kim Carr, Member for Cunningham Sharon Bird, Member for Throsby Stephen Jones, NSW Minister for the Illawarra Greg Pearce MLC, local business owners, unions and other key members of the Illawarra community. The Prime Minister confirmed the Government’s commitment to developing a prosperous local economy and sustaining high-wage, high-skill jobs in the region. The $30 million Illawarra Region Innovation and Investment Fund will strengthen the Illawarra region by stimulating investment and diversifying the economic and employment base now and into the future. The fund is a joint initiative between the Australian and New South Wales Governments and BlueScope. Continue reading

Illawarra Manufacturing Expo all the more important

The Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Senator Kim Carr, will visit Wollongong on 30 August to launch an Illawarra Manufacturing Expo being convened by Federal Illawarra Labor MPs, Sharon Bird and Stephen Jones. “Given the specific challenges of the manufacturing industry flowing from a high Australian dollar and the BlueScope Steel announcement yesterday, we want to bring together a range of Commonwealth Government agencies which are available to provide high-level services and advice to manufacturing businesses in the region. “There is also an opportunity for the University of Wollongong and the regional manufacturing sector to establish a growing partnership to develop new ideas and innovations, which will create new business opportunities. “The Commonwealth Government has already been investing to secure the future of the regional manufacturing sector by building the $43.8 million Australian Institute of Innovative Materials Processes, the $25 million Sustainable Buildings Research Centre and the roll-out of the National Broadband Network”, Ms Bird said. Continue reading

$140 million assistance to steelworkers welcomed by local Federal MPs

Federal Member for Cunningham Sharon Bird and Federal Member for Throsby, Stephen Jones today welcomed the $140 million in measures being put in place by the Gillard Government to assist Bluescope steelworkers and the Illawarra community that will be affected by today’s announcement. “This rapid and comprehensive response from the Gillard Government is a vote of confidence in the future of the Illawarra economy and in our capacity to meet the immediate challenges posed by today’s Bluescope announcement,” Mr Jones said. “The $140 million package that is being put in place today by the Gillard Government will provide strong, practical assistance to help workers deal with a bitterly disappointing day in their working lives,” Ms Bird said. “Although not unexpected, today’s announcement of the closure of the No 6 Blast Furnace in early October is nonetheless a heavy blow to the local economy,” Ms Bird said. “It has been clear for some time that the sustained high Australian dollar was taking a toll on the profitability of Bluescope in the steel export market and that they could not continue to compete indefinitely in these unfavourable global market conditions,” Mr Jones said. “The Illawarra has faced tough times in the past and come through them and I am confident that we can do the same again this time,” he said. “In addition to bringing forward $100 million of payments under the Steel Transformation Plan, the Government is putting in place a range of measures to assist affected workers including Job Services Australia assistance, relocation assistance and a raft of training and employment assistance,” Ms Bird said.

Maldon to Dombarton Rail Link: taking the next step

Work will begin soon on getting the Maldon to Dombarton Rail Link project ‘shovel ready’ ahead of its possible inclusion in Federal Labor’s next multibillion dollar road and rail construction program. Federal Infrastructure and Transport Minister Anthony Albanese said approval had been given for the release of the $25.5 million needed to complete the planning and detailed design work, with these pre-construction activities to be undertaken by Transport for NSW. “In line with the commitment given by the Prime Minister late last year, we are determined to progress this infrastructure project and cement the Illawarra’s status as one of our nation’s most important industrial powerhouses,” said Mr Albanese. “When it comes to infrastructure, Federal Labor means and does what it says. “What’s more, the progress of recent years after more than two decades of inaction is a tribute to the local community’s success at keeping the vision alive as well as the tireless lobbying efforts of their elected representatives, Sharon Bird and Stephen Jones.” The preconstruction activities are expected to be completed within the next two years.  The project involves laying 35 kilometres of standard gauge track connecting Port Kembla directly to the Main North South Line via Dombarton.  It would also include two passing loops, bridges over the Nepean and Cordeaux Rivers and one of Australia’s longest tunnels (see attached map). Continue reading

Minister for Industry to visit Wollongong and launch Illawarra Manufacturing Expo

The Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Senator Kim Carr, will visit Wollongong on 30 August to launch an Illawarra Manufacturing Expo being convened by Federal Illawarra Labor MPs, Sharon Bird and Stephen Jones. “Given the specific challenges of the manufacturing industry flowing from a high Australian dollar, we want to bring together a range of Commonwealth Government agencies which are available to provide high-level services and advice to manufacturing businesses in the region. “There is also an opportunity for the University of Wollongong and the regional manufacturing sector to establish a growing partnership to develop new ideas and innovations, which will create new business opportunities. “The Commonwealth Government has already been investing to secure the future of the regional manufacturing sector by building the $43.8 million Australian Institute of Innovative Materials Processes, the $25 million Sustainable Buildings Research Centre and the roll-out of the National Broadband Network”, Ms Bird said. Continue reading