Mill closure sparks political battle

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

CALL FOR ACTION: Shadow minister for small business Adam Searle (left) and shadow minister for regional infrastructure and services Mick Veitch (right) with Labor candidates for South Coast and Kiama Fiona Phillips and Glenn Kolomeitz outside Australian Paper’s Shoalhaven Mill in Bomaderry.RIVALS in the contest for the Kiama electorate, sitting member Gareth Ward and Labor candidate Glenn Kolomeitz, have traded verbal blows over the closure of Australian Paper’s Shoal-haven Mill in Bomaderry.

During a visit to the mill on Monday afternoon with shadow minister for small business Adam Searle, shadow minister for regional infrastructure and services Mick Veitch and South Coast Labor candidate Fiona Phillips to announce the party’s Local Jobs First Policy, Mr Kolomeitz claimed Mr Ward and South Coast MP Shelley Hancock had done nothing to help the local mill.

“Why haven’t they and the state government done more to support the local mill and its employees?” Mr Kolomeitz said.

“Where’s Ward on this? We’ve heard nothing from him.

“The Prime Minister was in the region on Sunday. Why didn’t Gareth Ward and other reps bring him here to see firsthand the results of one of the effects of government purchasing?

“The workers have not heard a word from their state member.”

Mr Ward said Mr Kolomeitz was using displaced workers and their families for his own shameful political end.

“His comments have sickened me to the pit of my stomach,” he said.

“[Mr Kolomeitz] claims I have sat on my hands and done nothing. I have been working behind the scenes to help the workers.

“Unlike him, I don’t need to put out a press release to get things done or feel relevant.

“What is relevant are the lives of the families that have been affected, many of whom I know.”

Mr Ward said when he heard the news of the closure he contacted the Department of Trade and Investment and asked it to co-ordinate state agencies, including training services, to provide future opportunities to affected workers.

“Even the company’s managers said they hadn’t sought government assistance because of the nature of competition in the market place,” he said.

“I remind my Labor opponent that copy paper used by the state government isn’t even produced at this mill and is another example of how out of touch he is for what happens in the region.

“We have known this closure has been coming for a long time and all the government agencies should support the workforce to move to the next chapters of their lives and future training and employment opportunities.”

Mrs Phillips said she had grown up with the paper mill and couldn’t believe what had happened.

“Generations have worked at this mill and I can’t think of anything worse than elected representatives standing by and continually doing nothing,” she said.

“I know there were attempts to try and save it and the community lobbied hard to buy Australian paper but this is inconceivable.

“And with cuts to TAFE where are those employees going to be able to get more or further training?”

Mr Ward rejected claims there had been cuts to vocation training and TAFE.

“There has been an 11 per cent increase in the vocation training budget in the state and an additional 60,000 places,” he said.

“The unions might not like the changes involving independent training authorities but Labor’s claims there has been a cut to the vocational budget are a lie.”

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