Speaking to Chattr from a community barbeque on Sunday, Labor candidate for Wollongong Paul Scully revealed how one of the most important issues this by-election will be employment.
Born and raised in Wollongong, Paul Scully joined the Labor party while still in high school. Instilled with the Labor values of decency and equality of opportunity, Mr Scully hopes that if elected in the upcoming by-election he will be able to bring these values back to the community. Tackling the region’s high rates of unemployment is key to his plan.
Both Mr Scully and his field director Liam Rankine emphasised how although the Illawarra was facing record rates of unemployment, the challenges that Wollongong faces from its ailing industries could actually present new economic opportunities for the growing city.
“There are a number of opportunities in the lllawarra for both existing industries and for new industries” said Mr Scully.
Wollongong’s unemployment rate is 7.4 per cent – the third highest rate of unemployment in NSW. The youth unemployment rate is even higher, with 15.7 per cent of young people in the Illawarra unable to find sufficient work. Although Wollongong’s historic steel industry is ailing, Mr Scully said both NSW Labor and himself were committed to providing support for steel workers in the Illawarra.
“Labor has a strong plan for steel which means 90% of every government bridge, hospital, school and road will be local steel” said Mr Scully.
Last week the Liberal Baird government announced it had awarded a $2.3 billion contract for new Sydney Rail train carriages to be built in South Korea, scuttling job opportunities for Wollongong where construction of the carriages had also been proposed.
“There alone are 600 job opportunities lost for the Illawarra,” said Mr Scully.
“There could have been opportunities for apprentices, and there could have been opportunities for steel. Instead they’re going to South Korea.”
Working as the chief operations officer for the Australian Institute of Innovative Materials at the University of Wollongong (UOW), Mr Scully believes he is well versed in the prospective new industries and new job opportunities for the Illawarra. Research currently underway at UOW, Mr Scully says, has the potential to create new industries in the local area.
“Battery technology, renewable energy technology, medical bionics, all of those sort of things help to create an environment in which there might be opportunities in the future to establish new businesses down here, to grow those new businesses and provide employment opportunities” Mr Scully said.
Health and education will also feature strongly throughout Paul Scully’s campaign. Local primary and high schools are estimated to have millions of dollars’ worth of maintenance backlogs.
Despite Wollongong being one of the safest Labor seats in NSW, Mr Rankine said he and Mr Scully would not be complacent in the lead up to the November by-election.
“We’re definitely going to be fighting. If Paul thought that it was a shoe in, he would not have been out doorknocking 20 hours after he was pre-selected” said field director, Liam Rankine.
“Regardless of who else is running against him, he’s going to be out every day between now and the by-election knocking on doors, at shopping centres, at train stations talking to every single person he possibly can about health, education, jobs, and his plan for Wollongong.”