Matter of Public Importance
Ms NOREEN HAY
(Wollongong) [6.45 p.m.]: I ask the House to note as a matter of public importance that we are facing unprecedented economic circumstances and that no-one is immune. Communities such as mine across the State are facing job losses. We know from news reports that jobs across the State are on the line and that last month Pacific Brands announced 280 jobs cut in the Illawarra. These are concerning and disturbing headlines. What the Opposition fails to recognise is that behind each one of those news stories are families who have lost their breadwinning salary, families who are already stressed and under pressure in these tough economic times. This is a real problem that needs a real response and the New South Wales Government is providing that. The Government is working hard to deliver a $56 billion infrastructure program to support 154,000 jobs annually.
The State and Commonwealth governments are working to build libraries, gymnasiums and science laboratories for schools across the Illawarra. These infrastructure projects will support jobs for local tilers, roofers, electricians, plumbers and concreters. Thanks to the State Government, the Illawarra will get its share of $3 billion dollars to build about 9,000 additional social housing homes across the State. It will also get its share of the extra 37,000 jobs that go along with that project. The public will be happy to know the New South Wales Government is also investing in training our workforce to ensure they are best protected in the global economic crisis.
Last month, the Premier joined Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard to announce the details of a $620 million national partnership to provide 175,000 extra training places for job seekers, school leavers and under-skilled workers across New South Wales. The Illawarra will again get its share of that investment. That is on top of the announcement the Premier made earlier in the year that the New South Wales Government will create 6,000 apprenticeships and cadetships over the next four years to provide the young people of New South Wales with the skills and training needed for employment opportunities. The Government is committed to supporting jobs in the Illawarra.
The Premier visited the Illawarra last week to meet with the community and hear their concerns. While he was there, he opened the first green power station in the Illawarra, which will provide 27 permanent local jobs. The $430 million TRUenergy plant supported up to 600 jobs during construction and will produce 65 per cent less greenhouse gas than a coal-fired power station. The project will not only help secure the future electricity needs of New South Wales residents and businesses, but it will also provide jobs for 27 people in the Illawarra—green jobs for the future. I also joined the Premier and the Minister for Transport in the Illawarra last week to announce the new Gong Shuttle, a free Wollongong bus service every day of the week. The new service is part of the Government's commitment to delivering better transport services and job options for the Illawarra. It has created 10 jobs for local bus drivers and makes transport around the city easier.
While the Opposition refuses to recognise the need for jobs, let me tell you what the New South Wales Government is doing about jobs in the Illawarra. There will be a $135 million capital injection this year to support 1,170 jobs, including $33 million to expand Port Kembla. An amount of $170 million has already been invested in upgrades to the port to accommodate car imports—1,300 new jobs and $140 million a year into the Illawarra economy. The Government has contributed $24 million to help set up the Innovation Campus of University of Wollongong, with 5,000 new jobs once complete. It is creating a renewable energy precinct on the South Coast to attract green investment and create green jobs. It has targeted youth unemployment through a project that has now placed over 300 first-year apprentices across the region.
The Government knows how important jobs are to the people of New South Wales, and that an investment in infrastructure is an investment in jobs. That is why the Government has a $56 billion four-year infrastructure program, supporting an average of 150,000 jobs each year. It is the largest infrastructure program of any State government anywhere in Australia. That is what the Government is doing in the face of the global economic crisis—a crisis that the Opposition refuse to recognise, despite job cuts in its own backyard. The New South Wales Government understands that we are facing unprecedented economic challenges. As governments across the world put together their responses, the Opposition does nothing. The people of New South Wales deserve better than that. That is why we are working with the Commonwealth to deliver our part of the Federal Government's $42 billion job plan.
Yesterday morning the Premier met with Senator Mark Arbib to brief more than 250 representatives of the building, construction and services industries on the progress the New South Wales Government has already made in the delivery of the Commonwealth's Nation Building and Jobs Plan. We are moving fast, and we need to in order to best support jobs in New South Wales. It is a big project: $2 billion for new social housing over the next two years, the largest expansion of social housing in a quarter of a century. It is an opportunity that the Opposition would want gone, along with all the jobs it would create. New South Wales $4.4 billion share in education infrastructure is the largest school infrastructure program ever undertaken in New South Wales. The Opposition refuses to get behind it. The Illawarra deserves its share of the funding, the infrastructure and the jobs. Opposition members should hang their heads in shame. They have very little to gloat about on the issue of jobs. I commend the Premier and the Government for their commitment to the people of the Illawarra and for their attempt to deliver to the Illawarra a share of the infrastructure projects and jobs.
Mr ANDREW CONSTANCE
(Bega) [6.52 p.m.]: That was a colourful speech by the member for Wollongong. It typifies exactly what the New South Wales Government is all about. The only job in the Illawarra that the member for Wollongong is interested in is her own. She only has to look at the unemployment figures for the Illawarra, which have gone up by 2 per cent over the past 12 months. The member talked about the great work of the New South Wales Government. In fact, it is doing nothing more than piggybacking off the Federal stimulus package, which is being delivered after 10 years of record economic growth, jobs growth and record low employment that was brought about by the fiscal discipline of the Howard-Costello years. It is not good enough for Noreen Hay, of all people, not to make any reference in this place to the mini-budget.
Ms Sonia Hornery:
Point of order: I ask that the member for Bega not refer to the member for Wollongong as "she" or "Noreen Hay", but rather as "the member for Wollongong", and that he be polite.
Order! The member for Bega knows that members must be addressed by their correct titles.
Mr ANDREW CONSTANCE:
If the member for Wollongong is not a female—
Ms Sonia Hornery:
Point of order: I asked that the member for Wollongong be referred to by her correct title. It was not about gender, it was about the correct title. I ask that the member for Bega be polite.
Order! That is not a point of order.
Mr ANDREW CONSTANCE:
Since Premier Nathan Rees has been in office—he was installed by Tripodi and company—200 jobs have been lost each day in New South Wales. The Government has done nothing to enact any form of stimulus package. It has completely relied on Kevin Rudd, and now it is trying to piggyback his public relations and pretend that the package is its own. Since September last year 37,100 people in New South Wales have lost their jobs. In that time the State Government has handed down a disastrous mini-budget that has cost jobs in the Illawarra. The member for Wollongong made no reference to the Keelong Juvenile Detention Centre, the campaign being waged by the Public Service Association and the 60-odd jobs that will be lost because of her Government's decision on this issue. Government members such as Noreen Hay are doing nothing to support any form of regional stimulus package for the Illawarra, which would result in a better outcome for jobs creation.
The figures speak for themselves. The member for Wollongong has not acknowledged that unemployment in the Illawarra has risen by 2 per cent in the past 12 months. The Government has done nothing to stimulate jobs growth in the Illawarra. What have we seen throughout the region? We have seen Pacific Brands go. What decisions has the Rees Government made? What decisions did the Minister for Transport, and Minister for the Illawarra make when he was police Minister about police uniforms being shipped off to China? Was he the police Minister responsible for signing off contracts that resulted in the production of uniforms in China, instead of in Australia by Australian manufacturers? There has been no response from the member for Wollongong in relation to that issue. Hundreds of jobs have gone from the region as a result of the decision of Pacific Brands to move offshore.
The Premier said that New South Wales jobs are being sent to China because they keep the rising super power happy. New South Wales Government contracts to make items such as police uniforms, train carriages and hospital bed sheets have gone to China, even though the New South Wales unemployment rate is well above the national average. In fact, we are sitting level with South Australia. As I have said and will continue to say, and the Opposition will continue to reinforce, we have a Premier in New South Wales who lacks authority. He has no authority within his own party or the Government. Every day in New South Wales 200 jobs are going. Yet a disastrous mini-budget is handed down by finance Minister Tripodi and Treasurer Roozendaal and overseen by a Premier who lacks authority.
Ms Noreen Hay:
Point of order: I have listened to the waffle from the member for Bega. He is not addressing the matter of public importance. He is going in all directions and is failing to address the issue before the House.
Order! The member for Bega will confine his remarks to the matter of public importance.
Mr ANDREW CONSTANCE:
In light of the sensitivity shown by the member for Wollongong, I suggest she encourage her Government to adopt a regional stimulus package that provides payroll tax relief to businesses in the Illawarra and unties the red tape associated with the much-required infrastructure spend for the Illawarra. The member talks about the port. The Government has to address the supporting infrastructure around the port, such as the Princes Highway. I am particularly amused that, when unemployment in the Illawarra has risen by 2 per cent over the past 12 months, the member raises this matter of public importance and boasts about activities the Government has undertaken to address the problem. In fact, the Rees Government has done nothing.
Mr PAUL McLEAY
(Heathcote) [6.59 p.m.]: The Rees Government is committed to creating jobs, and creating them closer to home. We want to see families in work and we want to create job opportunities closer to home so that they can spend less time commuting and more time with their loved ones. That is our ambition. We are doing the work to deliver on that ambition, particularly for the good people of the Illawarra. The Government will ensure that attention is given to local ideas to create local jobs and investment. That is why last week a community Cabinet meeting was held in the Illawarra.
The Premier and the Cabinet spent much time teasing out ideas and talking to local people to get local knowledge on local issues. Premier Rees announced that the Government would hold a Jobs Summit on 16 April 2009 specifically for the Illawarra region: the State Government to work closely with the people on the ground in the Illawarra—the local businesses and local community leaders who can help us create local jobs. The Illawarra has unique strengths, and we will work together with local experts to harness these strengths and translate them into jobs and investment.
While at the Illawarra community forum the Premier announced a $3 million injection into the Illawarra Advantage Fund, which will provide payroll tax concessions and incentives for companies who want to set up or expand in the region. This is a direct investment into creating jobs and generating investment in the Illawarra, and that is something we want to see more of. The investment in the Illawarra Advantage Fund and the imminent Jobs Summit will build on the Government's achievements in the Illawarra to create more jobs.
I highlight a concept plan that is in the pipeline for the Illawarra, in my electorate, for the $108 million redevelopment of the existing 18-hole Illawarra Ridge Golf Resort, which would generate 400 jobs during construction and 80 operational jobs. The concept plan, approved on 13 January, includes a nine-hole golf course, a clubhouse, a pro-shop, restaurant, bar and other facilities; and short-term accommodation with 100 hotel rooms, 100 serviced apartments and 127 villas for temporary short-stay accommodation.
Locally we have had upgrades to our public schools, including nearly $5 million spent at Helensburgh Public School for new classrooms, a new library and a new administration building. We are building a new gym at Bulli Public School. The magnificent Sea Cliff Bridge has been built since I was elected to this place, and we have now started work on the Bulli overpass. We have provided new sewerage services in northern Illawarra towns. We have rebuilt Coledale Hospital. We will continue to get the runs on the board and we will continue with the planning and listening to the community to create more jobs for the people in the Illawarra.
Ms NOREEN HAY
(Wollongong) [7.02 p.m.], in reply: I thank the member for Heathcote for his very considered contribution, but I raise some obvious concerns about the contribution made by the member for Bega. It is a great shame that once again the member for Bega, not unlike other members of the Opposition when they speak on these issues, failed to be supportive in any way shape or form of something that would have constructive, positive outcomes. As usual, negative whingeing comes from the other side of the House. In listening to the criticisms of the member for Bega it is interesting to note that the New South Wales Opposition publicly declared that if it had won government at the last election—which we have to remind them time and time again they did not—there would be no car imports out of the port of Port Kembla: the millions of dollars spent on the expansion of the port at Port Kembla would not have happened.
We have to remind the Opposition that during the lead-up to the last election the Opposition talked about getting rid of 20,000 workers. The member for Bega likes to talk about my failures when it comes to Keelong Juvenile Justice Centre, yet what did he or other members of the Opposition have to say about Pacific Brands when it decided to close down and get rid of 280 jobs? I do not believe that closure was as a result of the economic crisis but a money-grabbing exercise to make more and more profits. But those people did not deserve to lose their jobs. They were predominantly women from non-English-speaking backgrounds who were cast out without a thought. Shame on that company because these women performed dedicated hard work for many years.
The Rees Labor Government is taking action to increase opportunities, create jobs and move the State forward. It is trying to protect us from some of the negative impacts of the economic crisis. The member for Bega should be in his glory with all the negativity we are hearing—he should be wallowing in it—because it is the same negativity we hear from that lot on the other side of the House every day: negative complaining. They never participate in any positive, constructive debate for positive outcomes.
The House adjourned, pursuant to sessional orders, at 7.05 p.m. until
Thursday 26 March 2009 at 10.00 a.m.