Department of the Environment

Archived media releases and speeches

The Hon Tony Burke MP

Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities

Launch of the Werrington Park Employment Catalyst

25 July 2012
E&OE only

Can I first of all acknowledge three champions of western Sydney who have all been friends and colleagues of mine for some 20 years now.

That's David Bradbury, Michelle Rowland and Ed Husic. And they have, for as long as I have known them, been arguing about the challenges of the high growth area in western Sydney and wanting to make sure that in an area where so many people come for their first homes, where so many people come with so much hope for the future, that that hope is well and truly realised. Australia now you can read all the reports about the extent to which the headline figures for the national economy are figures of boom. But we want to make sure that there are communities, no matter whether they are in a mining area or not, that get to share the benefits of the boom.

And one of the challenges that was really a focus within Australia a couple of years ago, when the Population portfolio was first established, was areas like Western Sydney were very much feeling pressures of congestion, feeling pressures of what was happening with challenges with job supply, and asking questions in terms of well, if more people keep coming to Australia how does that plight fit in with the challenges here.

We went through a whole process to develop the Sustainable Population Strategy, and we recognised, first, at its core within Australia, it wasn't that there was necessarily a problem with the number of people. But what we had was an ongoing challenge where people kept living in some parts of the country, and the jobs kept being created in different parts of the country.

Now, to some extent, over the years there's been a standard answer on that from planners, which is to look at the inner city areas and say well, we need to put more housing in there. And that has been the logical pathway. But until Sustainable Population Strategy was put forward by the Gillard Government there was never a coherent view that we could also do the reverse.

It's not just about creating opportunities for people to live where there are jobs. It's also about creating opportunities for jobs where people live. And as long as planning at a state or local government level continues in places like Sydney to put jobs at one end of the city and houses at the other end of the city we will always have a congestion problem. We will never be able to keep up with roads as long as we fail to get the balance right between jobs and homes.

It makes a real difference in people's lives. In this area alone in Sydney we're looking at more than sixty per cent of people who are travelling more than - something in the order of more than an hour and a half - it's about an hour and fifty minutes - each day. That's a complete loss of time in productivity. It's a massive challenge for the roads and for the public transport networks around here. And, effectively, for individuals it means - particularly in winter - you lose the chance for even half an hour of sunshine at the end of the day. It makes a difference in how people live.

So the Suburban Jobs program was established to address exactly that. Why can't it be the case that if you live in Western Sydney there are more jobs available locally? When we established the Suburban Jobs Program it was new territory, and a lot of people wondered what would be the quality of programs that came through; what would be the quality of the projects that came through.

I'm really pleased that the first of the Suburban Jobs Programs to be announced is announced right here at the University of Western Sydney. The employment catalyst is about creating a hub which will house the space that 350 to 400 local jobs - local jobs that will be able to focus on industries, such as eHealth, local jobs that will be able to deal with some of the high tech engineering work that's about, to deal with IT jobs, with the benefit of co-location with one of Australia's premier universities, and also in an area where it will get the benefits as the broadband is rolled out.

The total project is worth $29.5 million. And today I'm very pleased to announce the federal contribution to that of $13.5 million for jobs in Western Sydney. That $13.5 million means that this financial year the money will be available for the shovels to be hitting the ground.

The project should then take less than two years. There will be in the order of about a couple of hundred construction jobs during the building of the facility. But one of the exciting things here. So often particularly when we hear about mining projects we hear about big job opportunities during the construction phase and afterwards it starts to taper off, it starts to taper off quite significantly. Here we end up with an opportunity that once it's complete the number of jobs actually starts to look like doubling and that's something that's very particular for the story here, for the employment precinct we're here to establish. The benefits of broadband, the benefits of co-location with the University but a massive benefit in the daily life of any local from in Western Sydney who gets to see themselves with a local job.

With the productivity benefits that come from that, the social benefits that come from that and a massive benefit for business and that's why we've got the concept here of a business incubator actually being housed within the hub. And I'm pleased to acknowledge Paul Brennan the chairman of the Penrith Business Alliance for his role in making sure that the business community is fully engaged.

This is not a case, this is not a case of an empty shell being established with the belief oh well we'll build it and maybe they will come. We have the full engagement of the Business Alliance.

We have the full engagement of Penrith City Council and I acknowledge Greg Davies the Mayor of Penrith for the role of the Council here as well. We have the role of the University and all of this adds up to a simple outcome - $13.5 million on the table from the Federal Government - an employment hub, the employment catalyst being established here at the University of Western Sydney, and a great opportunity for jobs locally, where people live here in Western Sydney.