Illawarra MPs Stephen Jones and Sharon Bird have vowed to help the region secure a slice of the federal government’s $1-billion plan to boost jobs.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard unveiled details of the three-part plan in Melbourne yesterday.
Under the proposal, the government will create new laws to make sure major projects give local suppliers a fair go; set up innovation precincts; and help grow small and medium-sized businesses.
Resource and infrastructure projects worth $500million or more will have to develop Australian industry-participation plans and give local companies a fair chance to win contracts.
The government will also create 10 industry-innovation precincts, to bring together industry, research institutions, technology experts and government agencies to create business opportunities.
The first two will be devoted to manufacturing and the food sector and will be based in Melbourne and Adelaide.
Throsby MP Stephen Jones said the Illawarra was in a strong position to bid for at least two of the eight remaining precincts.
‘‘We have two clear areas of expertise: we have a great university with traditional strengths in engineering and mining, as well as our ICT [information and communication technology] strength and ability,’’ he said.
Mr Jones said the region could draw on existing strengths in steel, metal and engineering by developing innovative materials.
‘‘Secondly, we graduate more ICT graduates out of [UoW] than any other university in Australia, and the Illawarra will have more NBN fibre optic cable laid down our streets than any other region in the country,’’ he said.
Cunningham MP Sharon Bird said she and Mr Jones would work with researchers and businesses over the next fortnight to come up with a ‘‘clever and strategic’’ plan to secure funding once details of the remaining precincts were released.
‘‘We want to be really clever and strategic and make sure we are actually picking projects to match all of the criteria so we can do well for the region and create as many jobs as we can,’’ Ms Bird said.
‘‘This can’t be pie in the sky, we have to talk to local businesses that may have plans and ideas they want to progress and see how they can be linked to the university because it’s really about research and development.’’
Mr Jones said he and Ms Bird would arrange a meeting with businesses and researchers in the coming two weeks.
The government will cut a research and development tax incentive for businesses with an Australian turnover of more than $20billion to fund the jobs plan.
The Australian Workers Union yesterday described the proposal as a game changer for manufacturing, while the ACTU said the new laws would be a step towards creating a level playing field for Australian companies.
But opposition industry spokeswoman Sophie Mirabella said the plan just rebadged a 2011 promise for industry research hubs that hadn’t been established.