The “reasonable prospect” of Labor winning government at the looming state election has seen the Opposition’s ministers-in-waiting move to educate themselves about the port of Port Kembla’s future growth.
A proposal to build the state’s first liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminal at Port Kembla, predictions the number of car imports there will almost double in coming decades and the port’s 5200-strong workforce were at the centre of talks between Labor pollies and industry stakeholders on Tuesday.
NSW Deputy Opposition Leader Michael Daley and Labor’s leader of the state’s upper house, Adam Searle, joined Wollongong MP Paul Scully at the port – a signal the party’s Illawarra election campaign has begun.
The politicians didn’t bring with them any new announcements, instead focusing on their party’s previous $50 million pledge to help build the Maldon-Dombarton freight rail line and the potential energy cost savings the yet-to-be-approved LNG facility could generate.
“Paul wanted to bring us down here today [Tuesday] to talk to industry stakeholders to say ‘look, there’s a reasonable prospect in March of next year that we could form government [and] I don’t want us to be playing catch-up when we get into government’,” Mr Daley said.
The deputy leader said NSW Ports wanted certainty and the best way for a prospective government to deliver that was “to make sure they’re educated up on what could happen down here”.
Mr Scully said it was “highly likely” the final decision on the LNG facility and its planning “will lie with a Labor government”.
“So it’s important now that ... as much information is made available to those who will be leading a Labor government in the future,” he said.
“So that they’re aware of it … [and] if we’re lucky enough to be elected to government, we have a smooth transition and we don’t have the delays in any planning decisions.”
Mr Searle – who is also Labor’s spokesman for industry, resources and energy – said the port of Port Kembla’s importance would grow in line with increasing imports and exports.
“As the population centre of Sydney moves west and south, government has to make sure that Port Kembla remains fit-for-purpose in serving both the Illawarra and parts of Sydney as well,” Mr Searle said.
As for whether the visit from two members of Labor's leadership team signalled the start of Mr Scully’s 2019 state election campaign, the Wollongong MP said he had a “constant campaigning approach to the way I do things”.
“I've said I would always treat Wollongong like a marginal seat,” he said.