Premier holds fire on budget announcements

NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell says he knows all too well the NSW coal industry runs off Hunter coal.

Speaking at Fort Scratchley during its anniversary celebrations last night, Mr O’Farrell said Newcastle was the place where the state’s coal industry started.

‘‘This is a historic place,’’ he said.

Whether the coal and its associated revenue will translate into infrastructure spending in the region is less clear.

Mr O’Farrell was coy about what announcements there might be for the Hunter in next Tuesday’s state budget.

He said it would be ‘‘tough budget’’.

‘‘We will continue to invest in infrastructure, transport, health and education,’’ he said.

‘‘You’ve got five members [of parliament] who have been pummelling the ministry for the last year.’’

Mr O’Farrell was forced to drive directly into Fort Scratchley for the festivities last night because of ardent Australian Manufacturing Workers Union and Maritime Union of Australia members outside protesting against the changes to workers’ compensation laws.

Mr O’Farrell said there was a $4.7billion deficit in the scheme and changes had to occur.

Unions said the steel industry had the most injuries of any industry.

They wanted the Premier to know he could not come to Newcastle without facing them.

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