While Deputy Prime Minster Warren Truss yesterday acknowledged the serious impact of manufacturing job losses on Bathurst and Orange he made it clear the federal government was focused on long-term solutions.
Mr Truss was in Bathurst yesterday to meet with local and state government representatives to discuss productivity losses in the region.
He was a guest of member for Calare John Cobb, who said the Deputy Prime Minister’s visit focused solely on what the government could do to mitigate the losses.
Bathurst mayor Gary Rush said he told Mr Truss that per population the loss of 200 jobs in a regional city like Bathurst had the same impact as the loss of 25,000 jobs in Sydney.
Cr Rush said he spoke to the Deputy Prime Minister about the importance of developing infrastructure in the region, citing the Bells Line Expressway as an example.
Cr Rush also spoke about the need to address the shortage of doctors in regional areas by expanding health services at Charles Sturt University, both in Bathurst and Orange.
More than 500 workers will lose their jobs when Electrolux closes. There will be more than 100 job losses from Simplot and a further 100 jobs lost when Downer EDI closes its doors.
Mr Truss said he wanted to see the time that workers had until they lost their jobs used effectively, and the government would support them in that.
However, Mr Truss was not clear on how the government would support them.
Denying that workers at the two interstate Holden plants got special treatment, Mr Truss said the promise of a $100 million package for workers a couple of days after news of the Holden plant closures broke was only a broad announcement, building on work already done.
“The people at Holden are still waiting for more detail,” he said.
Mr Truss stressed the government was committed to the generation of jobs in regional areas.
However, he said while he was impressed with the case put forward by Mr Cobb regarding the Needles Gap dam it was too early to make any kind of judgment regarding the proposal.
Mr Cobb believes building the Needles Gap dam would “mitigate job losses in the region” by creating approximately 150 jobs. He added it would take up to five years to plan and construct.
However, in terms of a solution, Mr Truss said the construction of a dam would take time and expert skills would be required.
However, Mr Cobb is convinced building a new dam would “give heart to everyone”.
Mr Cobb also said it was better to build on a good, existing business than to try and attract a new one.
Despite this philosophy, no funds were forthcoming to keep Simplot in Bathurst.
Mr Cobb said he made it plain to Simplot that the government would not provide assistance to allow them to cut back their operations.
He said he asked Simplot to wait six weeks before making their decision on whether or not to pull out of Bathurst.
“They weren’t willing to wait,” he said.