Job losses widespread: Cobb

JOB losses from the Electrolux plant closure in Orange are part of a broader regional issue, according to member for Calare John Cobb, and reigniting existing businesses will be the secret to solving the crisis, but it won’t happen overnight.

Mr Cobb defended the federal government’s role in averting the pending crisis as several central west towns including Bathurst and Lithgow face job losses, saying “not a word” had come from the state government.

He said the federal government’s $25 million deal to set up an industry-wide jobs fund in Adelaide when Electrolux announced the closure of two of its plants in 2006 took six months to stitch up, despite it being announced on the same day the company announced the closures.

“[Orange] won’t hit crisis point for well over two years,” he said.

“Lithgow and Bathurst are more immediately affected by job losses than Orange and [Industry Minister] Ian [Macfarlane] is well aware of that.

“Obviously councils see it as local, but for the state and federal government it’s regional.”

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Mr Cobb said Mr Macfarlane had agreed to return to Orange early next year as the federal government worked with other tiers of government.

“We need to come up with a mechanism to reignite existing businesses,” he said.

“It’s much easier than getting new ones. They all want answers overnight, but no-one has come up with an answer yet.”

Despite unions suggesting millions of dollars would be needed to create more jobs for the region, Mr Cobb said the “whole thing is not about money” and the region had the fortitude to deal with the job losses.

“The biggest way we can help is for new and existing businesses,” he said.

Mr Cobb said the federal government had a less hands-on role than the state government and focused on long-term policy.

As well as the industry department, Mr Cobb has plans to involve another federal agency to help the central west, but would not reveal what it was.

He said mining could be boosted in the area, with Cadia Valley Operations indicating they would step up mining next year, as well as possible new gold mines at Blayney and Molong.

Mr Cobb said Electrolux’s decision to close the Orange plant was staggering given the amount of money the company was making from the plant.

He suspects it was the company’s internal politics, not its profitability in Australia, that caused the closure.

Despite the pending factory closures it is not all doom and gloom for the central west, with pet food manufacturers continuing to invest in the region at Blayney’s Nestle Purina factory and Bathurst’s Mars Petcare plant.

clare.colley@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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