The Labor government is working hard to assist people in businesses in the Illawarra to modernise, to protect current jobs and to prepare the region for the jobs of the future.
Initiatives such as the Steel Transformation Plan, which provides $300 million worth of assistance to the steel industry nationally, particularly BlueScope, which is headquartered in Port Kembla; initiatives such as the $100 million plus worth of funding that the Labor government has invested in Wollongong university in capital works and projects, which will assist the university to be a real leader on growth and development of technology in the future; and the Regional Development Australia fund, which has over $12 million worth of projects including the $2 million worth of funds to local councils recently announced by the minister.
We have put $25 million into the Maldon-Dombarton line to bring that important piece of infrastructure one step closer to completion. The Illawarra Region Innovation and Investment Fund is a $30 million fund to attract and develop local businesses and create job opportunities. Over $136 million has been invested into capital works programs in local schools.
Add to this the fact that we are rolling out more fibre optic cable through the NBN to more suburbs in the Illawarra than any other region in the country and we are doing our fair share to assist the local economy, which is going through a very difficult transition.
Against this backdrop, people in the Illawarra are quite rightly feeling a bit ripped off by recent decisions of the New South Wales state Liberal government. The privatisation of Port Kembla Harbour is a case in point.
I argued against this, saying that I thought it was a dud deal for the Illawarra, and not because I had some sort of ideological opposition to it but because I thought the returns on the sale were nowhere near what the region needed. It reaped $760 million worth of funds for the state government; however, for the Illawarra it was $100 million.
More insultingly, nearly half the proceeds, $340 million, are going to be spent in another region to develop the CBD of Newcastle. I am sure that is a worthwhile project, but if you are privatising Port Kembla Harbour it makes sense that you send a greater amount of the proceeds to the local area.
I am not surprised that over the last 48 hours the Wollongong City Council councillors have voted to condemn the New South Wales government for their decision. I will be very surprised if Shellharbour council, led by Mayor Marianne Saliba, do not act to do the same sort of thing. The message to the New South Wales government is: 'Come to the table. Match what the federal government is doing in the interests of the Illawarra.'