The announced closure of Australian Paper’s Shoalhaven Mill in Bomaderry was both avoidable and was the result of governments failing to invest in local economies according to NSW Labor.
Shadow minister for Small Business Adam Searle and shadow minister for regional infrastructure and services Mick Veitch joined Labor candidates for Kiama and South Coast, Glenn Kolomeitz and Fiona Phillips in selling its Local Jobs First Policy in Bomaderry on Monday afternoon.
Both Mr Kolomeitz and Mrs Phillips fired a broadside at current members Gareth Ward and Shelley Hancock as to why they and the state government hadn’t done more to support the local mill and its employees.
“Where’s Ward on this,” said Mr Kolomeitz.
“We have heard nothing from him.
“The Prime Minister was supposedly in the region on Sunday, why didn’t Gareth Ward and other reps bring him here to see the first hand the results of one of the affects of government purchasing?
“To see the human face. The end consequences.
“Why didn’t Ward invite him here?
“Where is he on this issue?
“The workers have not heard a word from their state member.”
Mrs Phillips said she had grown up with the paper mill in the region and still couldn’t believe what had happened.
“Generations have worked at this mill and I can’t think of anything worse than elected representative standing by and continually do nothing,” she said.
“I know there were attempts to try and save it and the community lobbied hard to buy Australian paper but this is inconceivable.
“And with cuts to TAFE where are those employees going to be able to get more or further training?”
The closure will result in the loss of 75 local jobs at the mill and the loss of 150 flow-on jobs from money lost to the local economy.
Around $20 million in regional household income will be lost from the region as a result of the closure.
Mr Searle said that was already on the back of more than 10,000 jobs being lost to the Shoalhaven and Southern Highlands area since September 2013.
“The mill was the only producer of security paper in Australia. Once it is closed, all security paper used in Australia will have to be imported,” he said.
“A Labor government will implement our Local Jobs First Policy which will give local businesses a preferential advantage when bidding for the billions of dollars of NSW taxpayers’ money spent every year on government procurement.
“This will keep taxpayers’ dollars in NSW supporting local jobs.
“Governments at all levels needed to do more to ensure important local providers are not lost to local communities.
“NSW Local Jobs First Policy will use government purchasing power to provide opportunities for local businesses to build industry capability and create new skilled job opportunities for local workers.
“It will provide a 20 per cent price preference for local industries and service providers that can demonstrate local content in their tender applications.
“There will also be an additional five per cent price preference for industries in regional and remote areas.”
Mr Vetch said the government’s record on jobs was appalling.
“Right across regional NSW I have seen plant after plant, factory after factory close and the government has sat on its hands,” he said.
“It has been too slow to respond and when they did respond they did very little. It is not good enough.
“The Baird Liberal/National Government broke its centerpiece 2011 pre-election promise to create 40,000 regional jobs – in fact 22,800 jobs have disappeared in regional and coastal communities since the coalition came to office.”