The Federal Labor Government is proud to stand by the Illawarra, writes Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
THE ILLAWARRA is a great region that stands at a turning point in its proud history.
The impact of Asia’s rise on manufacturing is being felt in regions right across the Western world, as well as here at home in places like the Illawarra, Adelaide and Geelong.
At the same time, Australia is beginning one of its most important economic and environmental reforms as we position ourselves to compete in a world that will favour those nations that move to cleaner energy technologies.
These transformations are bringing change – change that so many communities and families understand only too well.
It is my absolute determination as Prime Minister to guide our nation through these changes in a way that protects and creates jobs and eases Australia on the path to new economic opportunities so that no region is left behind.
That’s why the manufacturing industry will receive generous assistance under our Clean Energy Future Plan – because we can still be a nation of manufacturing, of coal mining, of steelmaking – but only if they are cleaner and smarter than before.
Eligible companies such as BlueScope will receive a share of the $9.2billion Jobs and Competitiveness Program. On top of this program we also have the $1.2billion Clean Technology Programs, which will provide grants to manufacturers wanting to shift to cleaner technologies, and the $32million Clean Energy Skills Program to help workers make the transition.
We have also put an extra $300million on the table to drive innovation and cleaner technologies at OneSteel and BlueScope under our Steel Transformation Plan.
We have advanced $100million of this funding to BlueScope so they can get to work immediately in renewing their operations.
So as our Clean Energy Future Plan moves towards becoming law, the Illawarra and our other manufacturing regions will be receiving very generous assistance to make the transition.
Today I return to the Illawarra to reinforce our commitment to supporting investment and jobs. I am here to listen, to learn and to show our determination to stick by the region in these difficult times.
I’ll also be keen to hear from the special Illawarra Taskforce we established last month on how displaced workers and their families are being assisted, and what progress is being made in rolling out the $30million Illawarra Innovation Fund to help create new job opportunities.
These aren’t just abstract policy ideas. The electorate I represent in Melbourne is filled with manufacturing firms, just like the Illawarra. I know the anguish that families are going through as they see jobs lost.
They know that huge changes are happening to Australia’s economy that are making our whole economy richer, and they know that climate change is a reality we need to deal with.
They understand that historic changes like these can’t be avoided – they just don’t want to be forgotten or overlooked.
I’m here to say: you won’t be forgotten or overlooked. We will protect jobs where we can and create new ones.
If you don’t have the skills, we’ll get you the training you need. If you own a small firm struggling to move to newer technologies, we’ll give you a hand. And if you want to move north to take advantage of the mining boom, we’ll help with that too.
We will face these times of change together, and build a bright future so that the Illawarra can offer jobs and opportunity for all its people.
This article was originally published in the Illawarra Mercury.