The silence around jobs in the NSW election is deafening.
Newcastle has been losing 200 jobs a year from the sale of state assets and the casualisation and retrenchment of state employees.
Up to 8000 workers in jobs such as fitters, boilermakers, welders, riggers and trades assistants in ship building and rail manufacture are also under threat.
Both major parties are focusing on other issues instead of the Hunter region’s jobs.
Mike Baird, for example, is talking about “leasing” state assets and how it will supposedly mean more infrastructure - coal terminals for Newcastle; tunnels and freeways for Sydney.
He dodges the issue of job losses that go with privatisation by insisting that “leasing” is not the same as “sale”.
In a similar way, he justifies cutting Newcastle’s rail line by promising a new light rail system in the future.
Labor is also weak on jobs. They claim to have changed their mind on privatisation, yet they propose to use the proceeds from the sale of the Port of Newcastle to fund infrastructure in the Hunter. Another Labor job promise is for a convention centre.
Privatisation and vague commitments to light rail and a convention centre do not stand up as job strategies when one in ten workers and one in five young people in our region is without a job.
I am being loud about jobs in this campaign.
The Baird government is not actively encouraging the winning of contracts by local manufacturing industries. Take rail for instance. The Hunter is part of the Sydney rail network. Is it not it logical for Newcastle to be involved in the work that goes with the intercity rail fleet, North West Rail Line and Sydney fleet replacement project?
Labor and Liberal jobs strategies are just based on allowing the Upper Hunter to become one large open cut coal mine.
It is vital that we retain local manufacturing skills. Our region can help to develop the post-coal future by transitioning towards the manufacture of wind turbines and solar components, and by continuing to build rail carriages, ships and ferries locally.
If elected, I commit to mobilising the community and workers to ensure that local manufacturers win tenders, that public investment occurs, that new privatisation ends and where privatisations have occurred, they are reversed.
[Steve O’Brien is the Socialist Alliance candidate for Newcastle in the March 28 NSW state election and will be attending the jobs rallies to be held in Newcastle in the coming week.]