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Thursday, 30 September 1999
Page: 9258

Senator TIERNEY —My question is to the Minister for Regional Services, Territories and Local Government, Senator Ian Macdonald. Yesterday, the minister mentioned a range of projects approved under the Prime Minister's Newcastle structural adjustment package. Will the minister inform the Senate about the support that the government has received from the people of the Hunter region for this initiative and is he able to announce any further projects for the region?

Senator IAN MACDONALD (Regional Services, Territories and Local Government) —I thank Senator Tierney not only for the question but also for his interest in Newcastle and its people. As I mentioned yesterday, the BHP smelter in Newcastle closes today with the ultimate loss of about 2,100 jobs. Many people have told me, when visiting Newcastle on a number of occasions in recent times, that perhaps that will be one of the best things to have happened to Newcastle in the long term. It will change the image of Newcastle from a smoky, dust-filled city to one that concentrates on lifestyle, recreation and high-tech industries. As I announced yesterday, it is this government's aim to help in that transformation. Yesterday, I announced a number of projects which will create some 840 direct new jobs in the Newcastle area and, ultimately, some 4,000 new jobs to replace the 2,100 jobs that will be lost.

Senator Tierney has asked me whether we have any more good news for Newcastle. Today, I am very pleased to announce that the government, from its adjustment package for Newcastle, will be contributing $1.5 million to the Newcastle Harbour marina project. That project will provide, in construction, some 50 jobs over the next three years, with an additional 23 indirect jobs for that project. Once the marina becomes operational, there will be 20-plus permanent jobs and 37 indirect jobs, as well as a number of other jobs from the many new retail outlets that will open up around the marina. The marina complements the Honeysuckle project, which was transforming Newcastle some time ago. The marina project, as I say, includes retail out lets, tackle and bait shops, booking offices for harbour cruises, offices for yacht and boat brokers, chandlers, dry boat storage and maintenance support. The Hunter Valley Research Foundation has estimated that the marina will bring over $10 million to the region. This project and many of the other projects that we have announced in Newcastle have had strong support from the Prime Minister's social task force, a group of Newcastle people set up by the Prime Minister to help overcome this transition in Newcastle.

As well, I am particularly pleased to say that this program for the marina development in Newcastle has received enthusiastic support from the Newcastle Trades Hall Council; from the Australian Workers Union; and from one of the local members, who is also the Minister for Gaming and Racing. It also has the approval of higher authorities, in that the Bishop of Newcastle has welcomed this initiative because of the good things in it for Newcastle—the new jobs, the different approach and the banner that it will put on Newcastle and job creation there. I thank all those people for their contributions. Again I thank Senator Tierney. I am sorry the Labor Party have ignored or criticised this whole program. Mr Beazley went there this morning, and apparently his solution was to do something about paying social service benefits more regularly or something like that. He had nothing for the future and nothing for the creation of new high-tech jobs in this area. It is a good project. Many editorials have said that Newcastle has a future. I conclude by quoting from today's Financial Review, which says, and the government agrees with this:

There is good reason to think Newcastle will survive this historic closure and, indeed, may be the better for it.

(Time expired)