THE battle for Grafton Jail jobs rages on after pleas for State Government to reconsider 108 "devastating" job cuts fell on deaf ears on Friday.
A delegation from the Clarence Valley, including local member Chris Gulaptis, Mayor Richie Williamson, union representatives and Grafton Chamber of Commerce president Jeremy Challacombe met the Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner, the Minister for Justice Greg Smith and the Deputy Commissioner of Corrective Services, only to be told the axing of jobs would continue.
"They weren't interested in listening or talking at all," Cr Williamson said.
"No pause button is being set and the government's original decision will stand. The prisoner transfer is continuing.
"It's devastating in the true sense of the word that Greg Smith and Andrew Stoner are not open to compromise ... and the heart will be ripped out of the Clarence Valley."
Clarence Valley Community Unions were quick off the mark to stamp the date for the second rally, to be held in Memorial Park on Tuesday from 12.15pm.
"The National Party is supposed to represent the people of the bush - well now it's time to do just that. Andrew Stoner as the leader of the National Party must stand up and fight for us. Stand up or stand aside, Andrew Stoner," Clarence Valley Community Unions spokesman Tony King said.
"As leader of the National Party, Andrew Stoner is invited to this rally in Grafton to explain to the people of the Clarence Valley why his National Party is selling out the people of Grafton.
"In November last year, Geoff Provest, Thomas George, Andrew Fraser, Don Page and Andrew Stoner himself were standing side by side with Chris Gulaptis supporting him at the Clarence by-election. Will they support him now in his fight to save the jail and save his town?"
A media release was later issued by Mr Smith, which said: "Government had an obligation to taxpayers across the State to run the prison system efficiently and that Grafton had reached its use-by date, with millions of dollars in maintenance required every year."
Mr Smith said Grafton Correctional Centre's cost per inmate was $173 against $98 for the new centre at Cessnock.
"I acknowledge the upheaval this will cause in Grafton and that's why we had the meeting today," he said.
"However, Cessnock is a recently upgraded facility with better safety measures in place for both prisoners and correctional officers."
Local Member Chris Gulaptis said he would fly to Sydney on Monday morning to meet with the Premier in a bid to have the restructure paused.
"It's imperative that he understands the detrimental effect these job cuts will have on the economic bottom line of the Grafton and surrounding Clarence Valley communities," he said.
Earlier in the day Mr Stoner announced the launch of a jobs plan for the area.
Mr Gulaptis's call for Federal Member Janelle Saffin to ensure the Commonwealth got on board with Mr Stoner's plan saw her launch a stinging attack on him.
"Chris now has the hide to call on me to ensure the Federal Government kicks in their fair share of support," she said.
"He seems to think he looks tough having a go at me and asks what I am doing and does not tell the community what he is doing in terms of lobbying.
"Doesn't he know that it was me who made sure that the Richmond-Tweed and Clarence valleys were included as a Priority Employment Area under the Federal Government's Building Australia's Future Workforce program?"
"So far he has defended and now recanted, but too late.
"It is time the State Member got off his training wheels and started to do his share of the heavy lifting and not abandon the community like with closing the Grafton Jail.
"I do not understand why he always has to drag me into it, hiding behind my skirts. Can't he do things all by himself?
"Chris, if you are not up to the job, no one is forcing you to do it. It is hard yakka, but very rewarding."
- 12.15 pm, Tuesday July 10, Memorial Park, Grafton
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