PRIVATE MEMBERS' STATEMENT - Minerals House Staff Relocation
The Government announced in May that 2,500 jobs would be cut from the New South Wales public sector. This is in addition to the more than 200 public sector jobs we know of that the Liberal Party and The Nationals have cut from my community in the past eight years.
Cuts have been made to Crown Lands, Family and Community Services, Housing NSW, Community Health and Revenue NSW.
I have now heard from a number of sources that some 200 workers based in Maitland's Minerals House will be moved to Newcastle sometime after the lease on the building expires on 31 December this year.
Those workers are a vital and vibrant part of our CBD lunchtime economy. Shifting jobs from Maitland to a central hub in the second-largest coastal city in New South Wales is yet another slap in the face for rural and regional New South Wales. It will have a devastating effect on our regional economy.
I remind the Premier of the promises she made when my colleague the member for Cessnock asked her in this place to confirm that every regional public sector job would be maintained in its current community. The Premier's response was absolute. In part, she stated:
"I assure every community in rural and regional New South Wales that their government jobs are protected … "
"… We know that three jobs in one town could be worth more than 30 jobs in another. We understand that. That is why the Government [will] make sure we protect all of our jobs in rural and regional New South Wales."
In light of this, I have written to the Minister for Agriculture and Western New South Wales, the Minister for Planning and Public Spaces, the Minister for Finance and Small Business, the Minister for Energy and Environment, who is in this place, and the Premier herself.
To date, I have received just one response to my correspondence—from the Minister for Planning and Public Spaces.
It stated, "As this matter falls within the portfolio of the Special Minister of State, Minister for the Public Service and Employee Relations, Aboriginal Affairs, and the Arts, it has been referred to the Office of the Hon. Don Harwin for consideration."
I still have no response.
Just in case the matter was not referred, I have written also to the honourable member.
This response to my letter of 26 June 2019 was sent to my office on 19 July 2019—over three weeks after I sent the initial letter.
The Minister is to be congratulated on responding in a more timely manner than the Premier or her other Ministers—or indeed the Minister sitting opposite in the Chamber.
Actually, it is a pretty surprising response. I wrote to the Minister again last week to confirm that he really does not know where or how many of his current Maitland-based staff will be relocated after 31 December 2019. I know I am not a Minister, but I would have thought such matters were of interest to a Minister and that even if they were not of interest he could have asked someone in his agency in response to my request—such as the people who will be arranging payroll, relocations and what is going to happen.
Strangely enough, a similar thing happened when I raised this issue, on notice, with the Deputy Premier in question 612 on 20 June this year. I asked:
"Does the Planning, Industry and Environment (PIE) Cluster's plan announced in the NSW Budget 2019-20 to consolidate regional offices, which included staff from Orange, include any staff from the Maitland PIE office?"
The Deputy Premier failed to answer the actual question about whether the consolidation of regional offices would include any staff from Maitland by shifting onto the topic of the staff at Orange and saying merely that there were "no plans to relocate staff from the Maitland office to the new Orange office".
That is not an answer to the question I asked him.
Meaningfully, he did not rule out any moves to the new Newcastle building.
There has been much conjecture in the Hunter about which departments it will house. The Deputy Premier did, however, confirm that the lease on Minerals House will end on 31 December this year.
The Maitland Business Chamber is vitally concerned about these issues. It knows that the multiplier effect of money into an economy is about seven times. This means that there is potential for a $90 million drop in economic activity in my city if this goes ahead.
Despite the trouble and concern of the Maitland Business Chamber and a representation to the Premier, it has not received a word—diddly squat. There has been no response from this Premier.
I have received only diversions, avoidance, obfuscation or stony silence from the Government, the Premier and her Ministers. Meanwhile, 350 people who work in Minerals House in Maitland wonder who will move to Newcastle, who will stay in Maitland and—this is the real kicker—which of the staff who move to Newcastle will have their jobs on the chopping block.
Those on this side of the Chamber know that this Government does not consider Newcastle a regional city when it comes to public service employment.
Newcastle is considered a city in its own right, so if staff from my community are relocated to Newcastle there is no guarantee for those 350 jobs
. I ask the Premier to guarantee that she will keep her word and not use sneaky, back-door deals to steal jobs from Maitland and ruin my community's economy.