The government’s decision to have 500 new train carriages built in South Korea has cost the Illawarra hundreds of jobs, NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley said.
On Thursday Transport Minister Andrew Constance signed a $2.3 billion contract for RailConnect to build the new intercity fleet that will service the Illawarra and other regions.
RailConnect is a consortium that includes South Korean company Hyundai Rotem.
“For customers travelling more lengthy trips, these trains will be more spacious, more comfortable and have features never before seen on our long distance services,” Mr Constance said.
The winning consortium will be building the trains in South Korea.
One of the losing bidders, Stadler Australia, was understood to have earmarked a location in Unanderra where it would build the trains if it won the contract.
“The Baird government is completely disinterested in supporting local manufacturing and local jobs,” Mr Foley said in Unanderra on Thursday.
“Here in the Illawarra we had a tenderer, Stadler, prepared to deliver 600 jobs here at Unanderra. We could have had 600 people working here assembling new train carriages and maintaining them, with hundreds of apprenticeships for local kids.”
He also estimated the work would have created almost 600 indirect jobs.
Mr Foley said the decision could cause problems for the Illawarra steel industry.
“On this very big $2.3 billion contract to build rolling stock, we should have Australian steel, Illawarra steel, in those trains. We won’t,” he said.
NSW Parliamentary Secretary for the Illawarra Gareth Ward said Stadler had never locked in the Unanderra site.
“Stadler never, ever said definitively that they’d be setting up in the Illawarra,” Mr Ward said.
He also said the decision to go with RailConnect was made by “an independent procurement panel”.
Shadow Minister for the Illawarra Ryan Park said this was “a disappointing day”.
“The people of Wollongong should now be very, very clear that this is a government that doesn’t care about jobs in this region, that this is a government that doesn’t care about Wollongong and the Illawarra more broadly.”
South Coast Labour Council secretary Arthur Rorris said going with a cheaper offer was not in the best interests of the Illawarra.
”It is fine for the government to sit up in Macquarie Street and say ‘look, the taxpayer can get so much of a cheaper deal if we get it done overseas’,” Mr Rorris said.
“But it’s a false economy because every dollar that they save on these supposed cheaper contracts they lose three, four, five and tenfold in our local economy when local jobs are lost, when communities suffer because of these decisions.”
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