Mr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (10:18): On Monday this week I attended an economic summit with my colleague Sharon Bird, the member for Cunningham; state and federal MPs; and local government representatives together with business leaders, union leaders and community representatives.
The purpose of the summit was to craft a response to the news that BlueScope has to cut $200 million out of its costs—roughly 500 jobs—or face the closure of steelmaking at its Port Kembla steelworks. With over 9½ thousand people already looking for work in the Illawarra and no obvious plan at the national level for this government to turn that situation around, this round table—this economic summit—could not have happened at a better time.
Before the summit, my state and federal colleagues put together a plan which looked at state and federal responsibilities and what we needed to do for the sake of the region and to assist the steelworks. Together there were 15 initiatives across all levels of government, which, if put into place, will secure not only the future of the steel industry in the Illawarra but also the future economic base of the region.
I am pleased to say there were representatives there, and I am very pleased to say that the industry minister, Ian Macfarlane, attended the meeting and took a positive attitude. The tone was generally bipartisan. There was not only unanimous support for the long-term viability of steelmaking in the region, something that we understood to be essential to the regional economy, but also a commitment to ensure that we had a long-term diversification of the regional economy. It was agreed that assistance needed to be provided to the workers who are going to lose their jobs and to the small businesses, contractors and suppliers who are going to have their incomes reduced or removed by the changes afoot at BlueScope.
Other things need to be done. The week before the summit, the member for Cunningham and I wrote to the Prime Minister with four initiatives that the Commonwealth needs to implement. The first is to beef up the Anti-Dumping Commission, to ensure it is properly resourced to do the job that it was set up by Labor to do. The second is a simple, easily gained initiative: reinstate the local employment coordinator that Labor established in the Illawarra to assist workers and businesses join together those people looking for work and new employment opportunities. The third is to put in place measures that will foster innovation through the local entrepreneur program in ensuring we have somebody on the ground in the Illawarra—not based in Sydney, but in the Illawarra—who knows the local businesses. And the final measure is to ensure we put in place the right labour market and procurement programs to support local industry. If these things are done, there is a future for steel and for the Illawarra. I call on the government to get to and agree to the four-point plan.