$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

New era for disability services and care

The Federal Member for Cunningham, Sharon Bird, has today welcomed the Commonwealth Government’s initial response to the Productivity Commission report into disability care and support. “The report by the Productivity Commission has set out, at the request of the Commonwealth Government, a comprehensive vision for a new system of disability care providing individuals with the support they need over their life time. “The report outlines the creation of schemes that would ensure that every Australian can have confidence that they will be taken care of, and receive the support needed, if they acquire a disability, or are born with a disability. “The report concludes that the current disability support system is unfair, underfunded, fragmented and inefficient. “The bottom line is that disability care and support should be based on a person’s need, not on what kind of disability they have, how they acquired it, or where they live. “I am pleased that the Prime Minister, on behalf of the Commonwealth Government, has today outlined the next steps to be taken at all levels of government working together to start the process to ensure that Australia’s disability care and support services are part of a new era”, Ms Bird said.

Wollongong and Illawarra to be part of high speed rail future

Wollongong and the Southern Highlands could be part of a high speed rail network connecting Brisbane to Melbourne, according to a Phase 1 High Speed Rail study MPs, Sharon Bird and Stephen Jones said this morning. The Phase 1 Feasibility Study released today has identified two possible corridors roughly following the contours of the Hume Highway via the Southern Highlands and the Princes Highway via Wollongong and the Southern Highlands. Federal Member for Cunningham, Sharon Bird, said, “This is great news for Wollongong and the Illawarra which could be part of the biggest nation-building project in Australia’s history no matter which corridor is ultimately identified. “Of the two possible corridors described in the Phase 1 feasibility study, the Illawarra could be connected to a high speed rail line running along Australia’s east coast. Continue reading

Bob Brown should just say 'yes' to re-assure workers on steel and coal jobs in the region

The Greens Party Leader, Senator Bob Brown, instead of planning a visit to Wollongong, should just issue a media statement today to reassure steel workers and coal miners about their jobs, Federal Illawarra Labor MP’s Sharon Bird and Stephen Jones said this afternoon. “All that Senator Brown is required to do is say a simple ‘yes’ to the Commonwealth Government’s $300 million Steel Transformation Plan and $1.3 billion Coal Sector Jobs Package. “He had the chance to just say ‘yes, the Greens Party will support the Government’s steel and coal package’ on ABC Illawarra this morning. Instead, he dissembled, ducked and weaved. “Senator Brown has had months to consider this package. He sat on the Multi-Party Climate Change Committee. He knows the details of this package. “Senator Brown should just say ‘yes’ – very simple, very easy – three little letters to reassure steel workers and coal miners in this region”, Ms Bird said. Stephen Jones said, “The Greens Party and Senator Brown have exactly the same position as Tony Abbott, Barnaby Joyce, Joanna Gash and Concetta Fierravanti-Wells at the moment. None of them support steel workers and coal miner’s jobs in the Illawarra. “It is extraordinary that Senator Brown says he needs to visit Wollongong to talk to steel workers and management. “He can tell the workers in the Illawarra steel and coal industries today that the Greens Party will join the Government in support of their livelihood”, he said.

Abbott should apologise for disgraceful scaremongering

Tony Abbott has been involved in disgraceful scaremongering in the Illawarra and should immediately apologise for it, Federal Member for Cunningham, Sharon Bird, said this afternoon. “Mr Abbott visited the Peabody Metropolitan coal mine in my electorate on 9 June 2011 and blatantly told coal miners that this mine would be at risk under the carbon tax. “Today Peabody has announced a $4.7 billion takeover bid for Macarthur Coal. “Quite frankly, the biggest coal miner in the world is not going to throw away $4.7 billion on a takeover of another coal miner’s multi-billion dollar assets if there is no future in the coal mining industry. “I say to each and every coal miner in the Illawarra: watch with your own eyes how the coal you produce is being trucked to Port Kembla Coal Terminal for export, and trucked down to BlueScope Steel. Continue reading

Supporting jobs and households in the Illawarra

Jobs and households in the Illawarra region will benefit from significant support under the Gillard Government’s plan for a clean energy future. As well as a carbon price, which will cut pollution and drive innovation, the plan includes extensive measures to support jobs in local industries like steel making, cement production and coal mining. People in the Illawarra will also benefit from the Government’s household assistance measures – tax cuts, higher Family Tax Benefit payments and increases in pensions, benefits and allowances. The Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency Greg Combet said supporting jobs in regions like the Illawarra had been a central priority for the Government when it designed the carbon price policy. “The Government will provide strong support for jobs in the Illawarra by assisting steel manufacturing and coal mines which emit high levels of methane gas,” Mr Combet said. “BlueScope Steel’s Port Kembla plant will be eligible for assistance under the Government’s $9.2 billion Jobs and Competitiveness Program. “The steel industry is emissions‐intensive but faces strong international competition – that is why the Jobs and Competitiveness Program will shield steel manufacturing activities from 94.5 per cent of the carbon price.” Continue reading

Will Abbott support Illawarra steel industry jobs?

Tony Abbott must come clean today and tell Illawarra steel workers clearly whether the Liberal-National Party will support their jobs and their industry, Federal Illawarra Labor MP’s, Sharon Bird and Stephen Jones, demanded this morning. “While BlueScope Steel has welcomed the Commonwealth Government’s Clean Energy Future package and the Steel Transformation Plan, Tony Abbott is planning to rip apart the protection and security of jobs in the Illawarra steel industry. “Mr Abbott must come clean: he either supports steel jobs or he doesn’t. Illawarra steel workers want to know today which is it?”, Ms Bird said. Stephen Jones said, “The Steel Transformation Plan was developed in response to specific issues relating to the steel industry. “It’s been welcomed by BlueScope Steel and it is almost unbelievable that Tony Abbott and the Liberal-National Party are now intending to block the package”, he said. The Federal Illawarra Labor MP’s said that they were pleased with the Clean Energy Future package, particularly the household compensation available to pensioners, self-funded retirees, and families in the Illawarra region. “The majority of households in Wollongong and the Illawarra will be compensated by either pension increases, payments to self-funded retirees, tax cuts and family payments for families”, Ms Bird said. Mr Jones said that, “This package will also help small businesses with an increase in the write-off for depreciable assets from $5000 to $6500 from the 2012-13 income year”.

Launch of Illawarra Mining Technology Services Directory

Illawarra mining technology businesses will be able to take advantage of Australia’s investment boom in the minerals and energy sector after the official launch of the Illawarra Mining Technology Service Directory today. The Directory and its website were officially launched by the Federal Members for Cunningham, Sharon Bird, and Throsby, Stephen Jones, this morning at Ringway Control and Automation, based at Unanderra. The Commonwealth Government provided $50,000 towards the Directory and website following the project’s proposal at the 2009 RDA Illawarra hosted Illawarra Regional Leader’s Summit. The Minister for Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government, Simon Crean MP, announced the $50,000 in Commonwealth Government funding at the 2010 Illawarra Regional Leader’s Summit in Wollongong. “This is a great initiative and the collaboration achieved in putting the Directory and its website together will mean the region’s mining technology businesses will be able to promote their capabilities and take advantage of the increasing investment in Australia’s mining and energy sector”, Ms Bird said. Stephen Jones said, “This initiative shows the importance of the Illawarra Regional Leader’s Summit, which is a clearing house for good ideas, which gains the support of the region’s community, including the funding support of the Commonwealth Government”. The Directory was developed with the involvement of the Australian Industry Group, Enterprise Connect, University of Wollongong’s SMART Infrastructure Facility, AusIndustry, Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, Illawarra Itec, Industry and Investment NSW and the Illawarra Innovative Industry Network.