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.

The Gillard Government will establish a Taskforce made up of key local business, community and civic groups and representatives.

Its job will be to inform the Government’s Working Group overseeing and co-ordinating the entire government support package.

This process has worked successfully in other regions around the country.

For example, more than 2,500 jobs have been created through Innovation Funds in regions such as Adelaide and Geelong where major plants have closed.

The Government is providing immediate support and assistance to workers affected by BlueScope Steel’s recent decision to restructure its operations.

In addition to immediate relief, the Government is working closely with local businesses, the community and the New South Wales Government to help people find work in new businesses that produce long-term high quality jobs.