Port Kembla's inactive No 6 blast furnace could be fired up once more to produce steel to build the first stage of Australia's high-speed rail network if the Bullet Train for Australia Party gets its way.
The party's Canberra-based candidate for Throsby, Elrond Veness, visited the Illawarra yesterday to announce a plan to build the track between Sydney and Melbourne using Illawarra steel.
"It makes sense to produce the track at Port Kembla, right next to where the first stages of the bullet-train network will be built - between Sydney, Southern Highlands and Canberra," he said.
"The No 6 blast furnace ... was closed just two years ago and a lot of people lost their jobs.
"It needs to be reopened and set up to produce high-grade steel railway track for the East Coast Bullet Train network."
Mr Veness said this would create at least 800 production jobs and provide a long-term boost for the Illawarra steel industry.
He also said the second stage of the network should include a link from Sydney to Wollongong.
This was not included in the federal government's preferred route, released in April, which bypassed the Illawarra in favour of a station in the Southern Highlands.
"We would like to see a spur line for a station in Wollongong," he said.
"It would have to be a separate line but we do want to reduce the commute to half an hour."
The Bullet Train for Australia Party is running 12 House of Representatives candidates and six in the Senate in an effort to highlight the importance of high-speed rail, which it wants to see operating within five years.
"Even if we don't get a candidate in, if we get 4 or 5 per cent of the vote in some seats then it shows that people do want a high-speed rail network," he said. "It will show the major parties that it's not political suicide to actually invest in decent infrastructure."
Throsby MP Stephen Jones yesterday said he was cynical about single-issue parties making major announcements this close to the election.
He said Labor was the only political party "committed and capable" of delivering high-speed rail and believed the Bullet Train party was "playing catch-up" by announcing a plan to have the track built from Australian steel.
"In his campaign speech on Sunday, the Prime Minister made an important announcement on this, which was that all projects in Australia valued at over $300 million would have to have Australian industry participation plans in place which ensure Australian content in those projects," Mr Jones said.
Throsby Liberal candidate Larissa Mallinson, who has pledged to create more jobs in the region if elected, did not respond to requests for comment by the Mercury's deadline.