Budget 2014 impact 'savage' for Wollongong

Bleak outlook: Community representatives meet Cunningham MP Sharon Bird, Throsby MP Stephen Jones and South Coast Labour Council secretary Arthur Rorris to assess the damage to the region of the federal budget. Picture: SYLVIA LIBER

Bleak outlook: Community representatives meet Cunningham MP Sharon Bird, Throsby MP Stephen Jones and South Coast Labour Council secretary Arthur Rorris to assess the damage to the region of the federal budget. Picture: SYLVIA LIBER

Wollongong's unions, politicians and community representatives rallied together on Thursday in an effort to tally up how "the distressing and savage" federal budget measures will affect the Illawarra.

Led by South Coast Labour Council secretary Arthur Rorris, the group, which includes retirees, welfare groups, nurses, teachers and public sector workers, will spend the next few weeks pulling together a "community impact statement", showing exactly how the region will be hit by the Coalition's austerity measures.

Mr Rorris said initial figures provided at Thursday's meeting showed costs stretching into the hundreds of millions, painting a picture "even more bleak than I had imagined".

For instance, he said, an initial University of Wollongong assessment, which did not account for the increase in course costs or impact on students paying high fees and paying back loans at higher interest rates, indicated $30 million would be lost from the institution's bottom line.

Likewise, the $7 Medicare co-payment could cost Illawarra patients up to $30 million if GP referrals to pathologists were included, and more than $100 million could be cut from public school funds (see separate story).

Mr Rorris said it was important to find out the true cost of budget measures for the region, because the government had not provided this information.

"We will come up with a total number at the end, because it's important that we start quantifying this," he said.

"But what we will say to people is as shocking as that figure is, it will be a conservative estimate that doesn't factor in the flow-on effects to our community.

"The impact statement will also tell stories of people in our region, because it's one thing to see a number on a balance sheet but when you hear from people who really do need assistance and lack an alternative, that is the most shocking part."

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