OPINION: We will be voting for work

March 18, 2015

This opinion piece originally featured in the Newcastle Herald.

This election is about jobs – jobs in the Hunter and across NSW.
 
The Hunter has had it tougher than many other NSW regions in recent times, with thousands of jobs lost and an unemployment rate well above the state average.

This is mainly a result of the downturn in the mining sector, in which more than 3000 Hunter miners have lost their jobs in the past two years.
 
When mining is hurting, the whole region hurts too. As well as the direct mining jobs lost, the downturn has hit the Hunter economy more broadly, with additional job losses across a range of businesses, including in retail, engineering, and services.
 
In the Upper Hunter in particular, the unemployment rate has jumped from 2.3per cent at the start of 2012 to more than  9per cent at the end of 2014 – well above the overall state jobless rate of 5.8per cent.
 
As the president of the Singleton Business Chamber, Ryan Fitzpatrick, noted in the media recently, when there is a mining downturn,  ‘‘the impact is felt from Singleton to the coast’’.
 
And that’s the point.  Behind these jobless numbers are real people – Hunter miners, as well as many locals from businesses that supply the mines. Most will have families now feeling the harsh impact of regular household income gone and livelihoods in jeopardy.
 
Consider Gus Mather from Pirtek in Muswellbrook. Gus’ business manufactures hydraulic hoses for the Hunter mining industry and his family have been working with mining for many years. 
 
 When local mining is not supported, and when workers are let down by a planning and regulatory system that makes tough times even tougher, Gus becomes very concerned for the future of his own workers and his business. 
 
And with more than 4000 local Hunter businesses in the mining supply chain, Gus is not alone.
 
With the state election now upon us, Hunter residents who understand the importance of mining to the region are demanding to be heard.
 
And with the popular Newcastle Knights Voice for Mining Family Day returning this year, supporters of mining  across the Hunter have a golden opportunity to send a strong message to the local candidates contesting the state election.
 
This year the Voice for Mining Family Day is being held at Hunter Stadium when the Knights take on the Panthers on March 28, also state election day.
 
As with previous years, mineworkers and their families will be encouraged to come along in their high-vis work gear, while fans will have the opportunity to don high-vis vests on the day.  And the Knights will again take to the field wearing their special hi-vis miners’ jerseys.
 
Over the past two years the event has drawn record crowds, demonstrating the underlying community support for our Hunter miners. 
 
This year again there will be thousands of people standing together in a sea of fluoro-orange, supporting their local team playing in their own special miner’s jerseys.
 
It will be another strong statement of support for the miners of the Hunter, and recognition of the role that mining continues to play in the region.
 
Whoever wins the March election, the voters of the Hunter need to see policies that will bring down the local jobless rate.
 
This means support for job-creating projects across all industries, and an end to bureaucratic botch-ups that cost jobs.
 
On March 28, supporters of mining will be watching.  
 
They’ll be watching the Knights beat the Panthers, and they will also be watching to ensure that  local jobs are protected and created by the policy commitments of our political leaders.

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