Govt won't stop Wollongong's Pillar sale

The NSW government has voted not to rule out the sale of Wollongong superannuation administrator Pillar, despite a push from Wollongong MP Noreen Hay in Parliament this week.

On Thursday, Ms Hay called on the government to make a commitment not to sell the state-owned company, which employs about 700 people.

However, her motion was voted down 57-23 by Liberal and National Party MPs.

Ms Hay said Pillar - previously known as State Super - had been "a great success story for the Illawarra", after former premier Bob Carr moved it to Wollongong from Sydney 14 years ago, creating hundreds of jobs.

Last year, then Treasurer Mike Baird announced his government would "investigate future options" for Pillar, including its sale.

"Sell, sell, sell - that is all those opposite are interested in," Ms Hay said.

Wollongong MP Noreen Hay outside the NSW State Office Block on Crown Street, Wollongong. Picture: KIRK GILMOUR

Wollongong MP Noreen Hay outside the NSW State Office Block on Crown Street, Wollongong. Picture: KIRK GILMOUR

"The best way to protect jobs and secure Pillar's long-term future in the Illawarra in an increasingly competitive environment is to retain its public ownership."

Her motion was strongly supported by Keira MP Ryan Park, who said the company was vital for Illawarra jobs due to the downturn in other industries like manufacturing.

"[Pillar] does not just support hundreds of jobs at the organisation, it creates a flow-on multiplier effect," he said.

"We cannot allow the contraction of any more large-scale government departments or government-support departments in a community that is already experiencing significant economic changes."

Heathcote MP Lee Evans said there was "no government decision to sell Pillar", but his speech to Parliament did not bode well for its publicly owned future.

"No state-owned corporation is immune from commercial reality," he said.

"Pillar has been plagued by substandard performance in recent years ... the financial returns of the business are low and it has an old information technology system."

Mr Evans said the government had made efforts to lift Pillar's performance, but was still faced with a potential multimillion-dollar bill to replace its IT system.

"Investing in a major information technology project is not without costs and risks," he said.

"For one, there is the ... cost that comes at the expense of other capital investment choices of the government, such as schools and hospitals."

Pillar manages accounts for about 1.6 million members and retirees, with assets totalling $70 billion.

Mr Baird has employed Deutsche Bank to analyse Pillar's market conditions, operating environment and stakeholder needs to help him decide whether it will be offered for private sale.


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