Hogsback on the Gong

HOGSBACK reckons the political king pins in Macquarie Street Sydney have a blind eye when it comes to the historic coal mining town of Wollongong and the Illawarra.
Hogsback on the Gong Hogsback on the Gong Hogsback on the Gong Hogsback on the Gong Hogsback on the Gong

Wollongong lies outside of the Sydney metropolitan region, however, the National Party refuses to lavish it with taxpayer funding the way it does more rural seats that it controls in the bush.

This blatant disregard for one of the state's most important coal mining regions was displayed by leader of the NSW National Party, John "Porky" Barilaro.

When he is not threatening to destabilise the government by walking out on the Liberal National Coalition government, he is working out ways of rewarding his farmer mates with big fat government grants.

This is at the expense of hard working and honest people who do not live in these favoured regions.   

A NSW government grants inquiry headed by Greens MP David Shoebridge found the government had been sidestepping mining councils when allocating the $400 million Stronger Country Communities Fund grants program in the lead up to the past state election.

Analysis of the $300 million in grants in rounds one and two of the Stronger Country Communities Funding shows a skew towards Coalition seats where the average funding was $153 per resident.

This blew out to as much as $462 per resident to try and hold the then National Party seat of Barwon. Those grants were made in the run up to the 2019 election.

Wollongong Greens councillor Mithra Cox said Wollongong was deliberately excluded from the scheme.

"It's hard to explain to residents why their projects keep missing out on funding when ones a few kilometres down the coast in a Coalition seat are getting support," she said.

Shoebridge said there was deliberate pork-barrelling in the lead up to the previous state election.

"Communities in electorates held by non-government members have been dudded by this policy, and if they are wondering why their community hall is still leaking, or their sports fields haven't been upgraded, then the answer is here," he said.

In June Barilaro said a revision of the Resources for Regions program would give 24 local councils a base amount of $1 million each before a further $26 million was distributed based on the scale of mining's effect in the area.

Eligible councils include Cessnock, Lake Macquarie, Maitland, Muswellbrook, Newcastle, Singleton and Upper Hunter as well as Bland, Blayney, Bogan, Broken Hill, Cabonne, Cobar, Gunnedah, Lithgow, Liverpool Plains, Mid-Western Regional, Narrabri, Narromine, Parkes, Orange, Wentworth, Wollondilly and Wollongong.

"Every year our vibrant mining towns contribute to the NSW economy, but this success can place extra pressure on local infrastructure or create unique and diverse needs that are specific to mining communities," Barilaro said.

Very nice words from the deputy premier, who is taking a month off work for mental health leave.

It would be even nicer if the NSW government gave Wollongong and the Illawarra the attention and investment it deserves as a centre of coal mining in the state.