Maldon to Dombarton Rail Link on track for the Illawarra

Prime Minister Julia Gillard today announced an additional $25.5 million to advance the Maldon to Dombarton Rail Link project for the Illawarra. The announcement follows a recent feasibility study which concluded a new rail line would support the rapidly expanding resources sector in New South Wales by giving the mining sector more direct access to Port Kembla. The study found the railway line would also free up capacity along the existing Illawarra Line for additional passenger services. The final project would involve laying 35 kilometres of standard gauge track connecting the Main North South Line directly to Port Kembla via Dombarton. This new piece of rail infrastructure would also consist of two passing loops, bridges over the Nepean and Cordeaux Rivers and one of Australia’s longest tunnels (see attached map). Commencing this financial year, the pre-construction activities will include: • preparation of detailed design work for civil, structural, geotechnical and track work necessary for the future construction of the project • finalisation of a realistic construction timetable and cost estimate for the project. This preparatory work will ensure that the Illawarra region and NSW more broadly is well positioned to act quickly to meet any increased future freight demand. The additional $25.5 million in Federal Government funding will ensure that this important project is “shovel ready” for the Illawarra. Continue reading

Prime Minister - Transcript of Press Conference (Wollongong)

PRIME MINISTER TRANSCRIPT OF JOINT PRESS CONFERENCE WOLLONGONG 18 OCTOBER 2011 E & O E – PROOF ONLY Subjects: National Broadband Network; Maldon-Dombarton Rail Link; Jobs; Clean energy future; Carbon price; Vietnam; Sri Lanka; Visit by Her Majesty The Queen PM: Thank you very much, I’m joined this morning by our local Members, Sharon Bird and Stephen Jones and I’m also joined for the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Anthony Albanese.  We also have available to answer any technical questions the CEO of NBN Co, Mike Quigley, and I thank him for being here. I’m here today in the Illawarra and I’ve got three important announcements to make. One is the announcement you’ve just seen made about the next stage of the roll out of the National Broadband Network. This is an announcement for the nation. It is the 12-month rollout plan of the National Broadband Network Company, of NBN Co. This plan will be updated on a quarterly basis so Australians can see where the National Broadband Network is going to be rolled out next. Continue reading

Clean Energy Future legislation

The Federal member for Cunningham, Sharon Bird, has welcomed the passage of the Commonwealth Government’s Clean Energy Future legislation through the House of Representatives. “The introduction of a fixed three-year carbon price will cut greenhouse gas emissions, encourage innovation by increasing energy efficiency, and investment in renewable energy technology. “The passage of the legislation through the House of Representatives today will also provide extensive support for local jobs in the steel and coal industries. “Illawarra families and pensioners will also receive income tax cuts, higher Family Tax Benefit payments, increases in pensions, benefits and other allowances. “The region’s industry will benefit from the Government’s $9.2 billion Jobs and Competitiveness Program, the $300 million Steel Transformation Plan, and the $1.3 billion Coal Sector Jobs Package”, she said. Ms Bird said that the Government’s legislative package was a balanced approach to addressing the need to reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions, protecting emission intensive trade exposed industries, and ensuring fairness for low and middle income households.

Gash and Fierravanti-Wells betray steel workers

Joanna Gash and Concetta Fierravanti-Wells have no credibility as they both walked away from steel workers, their families and the Illawarra community, Federal Member for Cunningham, Sharon Bird, told the Parliament last night. "The Liberal-National Party has betrayed workers in the Illawarra by voting against the Steel Transformation Plan. "This $300 million Steel Transformation Plan is supported by BlueScope Steel, major employer groups and the trade union movement. "Tonight's vote against the Steel Transformation Plan by the Liberal-National Party, and particularly Joanna Gash, only confirms that Tony Abbott is a hypocrite when it comes to caring about the manufacturing industry and it's workers. "I absolutely indicate my support for the National Day of Action in support of steel jobs in Wollongong. "Steel workers have one final opportunity this morning to try to persuade Senator Fierravanti-Wells to do the right thing when the Steel Transformation Plan comes before a vote in the Senate. "Given Joanna Gash's stance in voting against support for steel workers last night, I have little confidence that the Senator will be prepared to stand up for the region she claims to represent", Ms Bird said.

Prime Minister to visit Wollongong

The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, will visit Wollongong on 18 October to present the keynote address at the Illawarra Regional Leaders’ Summit, Federal Labor MP’s Sharon Bird and Stephen Jones announced today. Sharon Bird said “Stephen and I are really pleased that the Prime Minister is coming back to Wollongong on her second visit in less than a month.   “The Prime Minister told us very clearly that she would stand shoulder to shoulder with the region.” Stephen Jones said, “Sharon and I have been working closely with the Prime Minister on the Gillard Labor Government’s response to the BlueScope Steel restructuring.   “The Prime Minister has a strong commitment to ensuring that the Illawarra region meets the immediate challenges ahead of us and continues to make the transitions necessary to ensure job and business opportunities are available in the regional economy.” The theme of the third Illawarra Regional Leaders’ Summit is Transforming the Illawarra: Infrastructure, Technology and People.   Continue reading

$147,000 in local community volunteer grants announced

The Commonwealth Government will invest $147,000 in 43 local community volunteer groups in the Cunningham electorate, Federal Member for Cunningham, Sharon Bird, announced this morning. “I am absolutely delighted that so many local community volunteer groups in my electorate have been recognised for the great community work they continue to do in our local areas. “Volunteer community organisations will receive up to $5000 in funding support under the Commonwealth Government’s Volunteer Grants Program. “The funding will allow these local community volunteer organisations meet the costs of purchasing much needed equipment to continue with their important community volunteer activities. “The funding will also allow these community organisations to cover fuel, training and other certification costs, such as child protection checks’, Ms Bird said. Examples of local community volunteer organisations which have received funding under the Volunteer Grants Program for 2011-12 include: Aspect South Coast School P&C Cancer Patient Support Group Illawarra Coniston Junior Soccer Club Corrimal Junior Rugby League Football Club Lions Club Wollongong Rotary Club of Corrimal Thirroul Mens Shed Woonona Surf Life Saving Club

Job opportunities on display at Illawarra Jobs Market

BlueScope Steel workers will be able to access information about the Australian Government’s support measures and re-employment opportunities at a Jobs Market at the Illawarra Hockey Stadium, Unanderra, tomorrow and Saturday. Many local and interstate companies interested in employing BlueScope workers will be there to meet workers face-to-face to discuss their job vacancies. Minister for Jobs, Senator Chris Evans, said the Jobs Market will focus not only on BlueScope workers but also on those who may lose their jobs in related businesses. “I urge Australian employers in related industries to give BlueScope workers special attention for recruitment,” Senator Evans said. “For those BlueScope workers who decide to relocate for employment, the Gillard Government’s support package includes a grant of up to $6000 for relocation and another $3000 for those with dependent children.”   Continue reading

Manufacturing future in the Illawarra

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.   Continue reading

Cash flow benefit for 10,000 small businesses in Wollongong

Nearly 10,000 small businesses in Wollongong will benefit from tax law changes that will improve cash flow, reduce red tape and simplify depreciation rules, Federal Member for Cunningham, Sharon Bird, said this afternoon. “The Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Small Business today released public consultation exposure draft legislation outlining the Commonwealth Government’s amendments to tax laws. “The consultation period is open until Wednesday, 28 September, and I encourage individual small businesses, the Illawarra Business Chamber and Australian Industry Group to participate in these consultations”, she said. The Commonwealth Government’s package will allow for small businesses to: Immediately write-off assets valued at under $6500, such as photocopiers, laptops, fridges and desks; Immediately write-off up to $5000 for motor vehicles acquired from 2012-13 income year, with the remainder to be written-off at a rate of 15 percent in the first year and 30 percent in the following year, and Write-off of other assets in a single depreciation pool at a rate of 30 percent. “These changes which are effective from the 2012-13 income year will help improve cash flow for small businesses, reduce red tape and simplify depreciation rules for assets. “These changes will help small businesses in Wollongong plan for the purchase of assets to help their business grow and expand”, Ms Bird said.

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.