Opinion: Don't shirk great chance to get state back to work

November 26, 2013

Originally published in the Daily Telegraph

NSW Minerals Council CEO, Stephen Galilee

THE NSW parliament has a unique opportunity to send a strong bipartisan pro-jobs message to the people of NSW and beyond. It has a chance to say that here in NSW, "we're for jobs".
Right now the long-term job security of thousands of workers across Sydney and regional NSW depends upon our elected representatives putting aside political differences and placing the interests of NSW first.

In the coming days, the NSW parliament will vote on the NSW Planning Bill, which makes important changes to how our state will be developed in the years ahead, including new arrangements for the approval of "state significant" projects.

These are the large projects, including mining, that generate so much of the economic activity that creates jobs and keeps our state economy moving. They are the big projects that deliver flow-on economic benefits for thousands of small businesses, including in western Sydney.

Mining is a good example of how big projects support western Sydney jobs.

Last year mining companies spent about $3.2 billion in Sydney, including $1.6 billion in western Sydney. This money was spent with more than 3700 businesses across Sydney, including in the manufacturing areas of Auburn, Parramatta and Fairfield. These businesses in turn employ people - it is estimated that last year the jobs of about 40,000 people in Sydney were supported by the Sydney spending of companies operating mining projects elsewhere in regional NSW.

It's a clear demonstration of how big projects in other parts of the state have flow-on economic benefits for jobs in Sydney, and a good reason why the new planning bill must be supported in parliament.

As it stands, the new planning bill is not perfect. However it is a step forward in ensuring NSW is open for business and will help efforts to attract the investment needed to secure major projects for NSW, along with the livelihoods of thousands of NSW workers and their families.

As with all important reforms, the new planning bill has its critics, and some noisy voices are being raised to try to change or scuttle it. This is dangerous, and does not reflect the views of the wider NSW community.

When asked, most people believe that, when major projects are assessed for their impacts on jobs, the environment and local communities, job creation should be the highest or a high priority.

A recent Reachtel phone survey of more than 1600 people in NSW asked what priority should be given to jobs when major projects like mines are considered for approval, given the potential impacts on the environment and local communities.

The poll found that, across NSW, nearly 70 per cent of respondents said that jobs should be the "highest priority" or a "high priority".

The results were even stronger in regional NSW, including in mining regions, with nearly 80 per cent of respondents stating jobs should be highest or a high priority. Only around 11 per cent of respondents said jobs should be a "low" or "very low" priority.

These results are a very strong message from the people of NSW. The parliament must heed the message.

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