COMMENT: Union criticism of Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss’s visit to the region this week as nothing but a “talkfest” is a little premature, and dismissive of conversations which took place beyond the glare of the media spotlight and which could yet bear fruit.
One such conversation, between Bathurst mayor Gary Rush and Mr Truss, reveals that on one crucial point at least the federal government and unions are not that far apart.
They agree that member for Calare John Cobb’s proposal to build a major new dam will do nothing for the 1100 workers in the region facing redundancy over the next two years.
In his talks with Mr Truss the Bathurst mayor said the deputy prime minister saw “shovel ready” projects as the best way to stimulate the regional economy, not projects like the Needles Gap dam near Canowindra, which would take years to bring to construction.
It is a criticism of the dam proposal which Mr Cobb has been reluctant to accept. His position is that this large dam could set the scene for future water needs in mining and agriculture as well as augmenting residential supplies.
There is nothing wrong with that, except the time frame does not match the far more immediate needs of the local workforce.
Mr Rush’s impression of the deputy prime minister’s visit, for which Mr Cobb deserves credit, is that Mr Truss was receptive to the argument that more immediate pump priming is needed.
Bathurst council will certainly be preparing its list of “shovel ready” projects to take to Canberra and Orange should be doing the same.
The challenge is not to try and create hundreds of new jobs these workers will be able to walk into but to find realistic ways to quickly stimulate the region’s economy so that the demand for labour increases across several sectors.