Government fund accused of failing laid off BlueScope workers

The Illawarra Region Innovation and Investment Fund, budgeted at $300 million and designed in response to 800 redundancies at BlueScope’s operations in Port Kembla, has been called a failure by some that it was designed to assist.

The Illawarra Region Innovation and Investment Fund, budgeted at $300 million and designed in response to 800 redundancies at BlueScope’s operations in Port Kembla, has been called a failure by some that it was designed to assist.

ABC’s 7:30 program last night reported that the fund, designed with the goal of creating nearly 900 jobs and strengthening the region “by stimulating investment and diversifying the economic and employment base”, has created nowhere near that amount.

Industry minister Greg Combet downplayed the scheme’s failure to meet its goals, saying it was only 200 jobs shy of meeting these.

"It is a bit short of what was anticipated at the time but [it is] nonetheless a very important initiative for many people," he told the ABC.

30 companies won grants under the IRIIF, which pledged dollar-for-dollar funding to applicants over two rounds for businesses to diversify their operations.

"Like a used-car salesman, they've over-promised and under-delivered. I do feel ripped off," said Dave Tyrrell, a retrenched electrician looking for work.

Tyrrell’s former co-worker at BlueScope, Donny Windsor, was also dismissive of what the program has achieved, and remains out of work 18 months after losing his job, despite applying for over 200 jobs in that time.

"Most of the time I hear nothing back. You're just classed as a greenhorn if you've never been in a mine, so it's very hard," he told the ABC.

"One company I applied for said they had 3,000 applications a week.

"A lot of people say having BlueScope on the resume is holding us back."