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LABOR has accused Premier Gladys Berejiklian of besmirching the Hunter's bona fides and overlooking its proud industrial history after the state's leader said NSW had to buy trains from overseas because Australia was "not good" at building them.
NSW Labor leader and former Newcastle MP Jodi McKay slammed the Premier's comments, saying they were offensive to train building and other industries with proud history in regions including the Hunter.
Ms Berejiklian told media at a Sydney press conference on Wednesday that "Australia and New South Wales are not good at building trains, that's why we have to purchase them."
The comments come against the backdrop of new Sydney river ferries, berthed at Carrington, that contain asbestos gaskets and are reportedly too tall to pass under bridges in the state's capital while carrying passengers upstairs.
Labor called for the government to tear up its contract on the vessels earlier this week. The Maritime Union of Australia says it warned the government and Sydney Ferries operator Transdev of the potential use of asbestos in the construction process.
Ms McKay said bolstering NSW's manufacturing credentials should be a priority during the pandemic,
"We should be supporting and growing the manufacturing industry. That is how you create jobs," Ms McKay said. "This is a great opportunity to bolster employment across regional NSW, and especially in areas like the Hunter with a proud history of building trains.
"Manufacturing must and should occur all across in NSW and Newcastle and the Hunter is the perfect place to start, "
"Instead we've seen thousands of jobs shipped overseas, and all we get back are trains that don't fit the tracks, or asbestos-riddled ferries that don't fit under the bridges."
Minister for Finance and Small Business Damien Tudehope did not respond to the premier's comments under questioning from the Opposition in parliament on Thursday.
Swansea MP and deputy Labor leader Yasmin Catley said it was "a slap in the face for rural and regional communities" when contracts were sent overseas.
"If we make it here, we should buy it here," she said. "If we don't make it here, the Government should be helping NSW businesses meet that demand
This article first appeared on www.newcastleherald.com.au
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