The federal government is just giving “lip service” to the Illawarra Business Chamber’s concerns for the region, according to CEO Deborah Murphy.
Ms Murphy has joined the chorus of disapproval with Industry and Innovation Minister Christopher Pyne and the government in their perceived lack of interest in the region, especially in the wake of the BlueScope crisis.
Ms Murphy said the chamber had met with Mr Pyne and requested the return of the Illawarra-based advisors for the government-funded Entrepreneurs’ Program.
The Illawarra-based advisors’ contracts ended earlier this year and were not renewed.
“We put that on the table when we went to the meeting with him (in September) and we would really like to have those three advisors reinstated because they were helping companies be more innovative,” Ms Murphy said.
“It’s his portfolio and he’s saying that he’s doing stuff but he’s doing nothing.”
Ms Murphy said the chamber had received correspondence from the government but she said it was all just “lip service”.
“We’re not getting any real feedback from the federal government,” she said.
Ms Murphy said those advisors had been successful in recent years, helping companies to grow and move into new markets.
“At the time that we were going through the downsizing in the mining and manufacturing sectors, the government took away those advisors that can help companies get into new markets,” she said.
This week Mr Pyne was also criticised after claiming the Port Kembla steelworks were in the seat of Gilmore.
They are in the seat of Cunningham – two electorates to the north.
The minister also faced criticism for not meeting with steel campaigners on a recent visit to Canberra.
Mr Pyne stayed in the room next-door while his advisors dealt with the campaigners.
A spokesperson for Mr Pyne said there were 12 business advisors from the Entrepreneurs’ Program that are able to service the Illawarra.
“In particular, there is one business advisor dedicated to the South Sydney and Illawarra region and has been actively servicing Illawarra clients,” the spokesperson said.
They also said there was an AusIndustry regional manager based in Wollongong and four National Business Facilitators that can supply help in the Illawarra if required.
The spokesperson declined to say whether the advisors whose contracts were not renewed would be reinstated.
“One business advisor is actively servicing Illawarra clients and a number of other business advisors are able to service the area dependent on demand,” the spokesperson said.
“The program is continually assessing demand and support for services and attempts to adjust the approach to best service client needs as we balance the level of service with demand.”