A war of words has broken out over Illawarra Labor MPs’ responses to the latest round of the Resources for Regions program.
The state government program supplies infrastructure funding to projects in mining-affected communities in regional and rural NSW.
The second round of funding was announced this week from a shortlist that contained no projects from Wollongong.
This was despite several projects being put up for consideration, including an upgrade to turn WIN Entertainment Centre into a convention centre and funding to fix Mount Keira Road and summit park.
An independent panel makes decisions on the funding allocations and asks for feedback from a range of parties, including local MPs, to help the decision-making.
Earlier this week, Minister for the Illawarra John Ajaka criticised the Labor MPs for not providing this feedback.
‘‘Four local MPs were consulted as part of the process and asked for feedback on the project applications, including the members for Shellharbour, Wollongong, Keira and Kiama,’’ Mr Ajaka said.
‘‘The Member for Kiama was the only local MP to respond.
‘‘If the local Labor MPs were serious about attracting government funding for Illawarra infrastructure, they would have given feedback on the proposed applications.’’
Mr Ajaka declined to state whether, in his capacity as Minister for the Illawarra, he offered feedback on any projects in the region.
Wollongong MP Noreen Hay, who has WIN Entertainment Centre in her electorate, said she was never asked for feedback.
‘‘I’ve just gone back through my notes on Resources for Regions,’’ Ms Hay said.
‘‘I could find nothing that came to me seeking my position on a submission from any group.’’
Shellharbour MP Anna Watson said there was no need for her to provide feedback.
‘‘There were absolutely no projects applied for within our electorate,’’ she said.
Mount Keira Road is in Ryan Park’s electorate of Keira.
In response to questions, Mr Park emailed a series of letters he had written to local and state government representatives outlining his support for the Mount Keira Road work.
Illawarra infrastructure spending was in the spotlight in NSW Parliament this week, as the region’s MPs traded insults during a debate over the government’s ‘‘record spending’’.
Kiama MP Gareth Ward raised the issue on Wednesday afternoon, posing a Dorothy Dixer asking the Treasurer to outline his investment in the Illawarra. This led to howls of derision from Labor MPs, who were repeatedly reprimanded as the discussion descended into a shouting match.
‘‘Order!’’ the Speaker shouted 10 times in the first few minutes. ‘‘The Member for Wollongong will cease shouting at the Member for Kiama. The Member for Wollongong and the Member for Kiama will come to order or they will be removed from the chamber, along with the Member for Shellharbour – all three of you.’’
As a debate about Hunter Infrastructure wore on, Shellharbour MP Anna Watson was booted out of the House until the end of question time. Six minutes later, Keira MP Ryan Park followed.
Seizing his chance, Mr Ward asked the Parliament to ‘‘note the government’s record investment and support for the economic powerhouses of the Hunter and the Illawarra’’.
Reeling off projects such as the Princes Highway upgrade, Berry bypass, Picton Road interchange, new Dunmore train station, and Wollongong Hospital extension, he crowed that his government had created 6658 Illawarra jobs since 2011.
But Wollongong MP Noreen Hay said this was all ‘‘hot air and waffle’’.
‘‘The only thing this government has done is lose jobs left, right and centre.’’
She noted job losses at Port Kembla Hospital’s kitchen and the Registry of Births, Death and Marriages and threats to 700 jobs with the proposed sell-off of Pillar. And so the parliamentary circus continued, until – with a majority of 63 to 21 – Mr Ward’s motion succeeded and ‘‘record spending’’ in the Illawarra was officially enshrined.