BUDGET REPLY SPEECH 2018

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NSW Parliament

21 June 2018

Madam Speaker,

This is the Government’s eighth budget.

Eight budgets for a Government well into its eighth long year.

A Government defined by three characteristics:

  1. an ideological obsession with privatisation;
  2. waste and incompetence in the delivery of projects; and
  3. the wrong priorities.

The Liberals and Nationals are, above all else, committed to privatisation.

In any circumstance and on any occasion.

It’s their answer to everything.

Given the choice they will always side with the banks and the big end of town rather than with the community.

$50 billion of public assets have been sold with serious consequences for the long term health of our economy.

In 2014 they sold the Liddell power station to AGL for effectively nothing – despite the ACCC telling them it would mean higher electricity prices.

The Liberals and Nationals didn’t care that high power bills hurt every household and business.

They just wanted to privatise.

And now, just four years later, we have the bizarre spectacle of the Deputy Premier wanting to nationalise Liddell.

Here’s some advice for this Bombala Bolshevik: if you didn’t privatise it, you wouldn’t have to nationalise it.

In 2015 the Premier sold Vales Point power station for $1 million.

The new owners turned around and valued it at $730 million.

Imagine what that $730 million could do for our schools and hospitals.

The Liberals and Nationals promised that electricity privatisation would mean lower power bills.

Instead, high prices punishing families and power shortages damage industry.

Then the port privatisations - thwarting competition and entrench a private monopoly.

Secret deals deliberately designed to hurt Newcastle by making it economically impossible to develop a container terminal.

In an open trading economy like ours, ports are strategic pieces of infrastructure.

Instead of promoting competition to boost productivity and lower costs, the Liberals and Nationals entered into secret deals to stifle investment, hurt exporters and block jobs.

If such an anti-competitive arrangement was ever concocted in the private sector, the participants would be jailed.

The Liberals and Nationals were so ashamed of what this privatisation did to Newcastle they tried to conceal the truth.

I welcome the ACCC’s investigation into the ports and await its findings with interest.

Let me turn to hospital privatisation.

Across regional New South Wales, - at Shellharbour, Maitland, Wyong, Goulburn and Bowral, - the community knows what the Liberals and Nationals tried to do.

To put profits before patients and privatise our great public hospital system.

In the face of strong opposition from health workers and local communities, we’ve seen the Liberals and Nationals back away ….. for now.

But, we know it is just a short term political fix, an attempt to get them through the next election.

Because the Liberals and Nationals only believe in one thing - privatisation.

The Treasurer calls it the golden key.

Even of the ABC.

At Newcastle we have seen the damage done by the privatisation of public transport.

Over one thousand people came to a public meeting at Belmont to protest what this Government has done.

One of those was Pauline Graham of Belmont North.

Pauline has a granddaughter, Tahlia, who has multiple disabilities.

Before privatisation, Tahlia caught the bus to get to her part time job at Swansea McDonalds and to attend day programs four days a week.

But after Tahlia was stranded at Mayfield due to having to change buses multiple times, Pauline has to drive her everywhere.  

Real people hurt by this privatisation.

The last Premier came from the banks ….. and this one did too.

The last Premier returned to the banks ….. and this one hopes to do the same thing.

A banker led government always selling the people’s assets….always hurting the people on the way through.

The Liberals and Nationals told the people of New South Wales at the last election that they would privatise electricity to pay for essential infrastructure.

They guaranteed that electricity prices would not go up after privatisation.

They lied.

Prices went up by 20 per cent last year alone.

And they make people pay again for infrastructure…..through unfair new tolls, 30 year extensions to existing tolls, toll increases double the rate of inflation, and a more than doubling of entry fees to the Powerhouse Museum.

The public always pays.

And if our opponents are re-elected, they will be straight back to their old tricks, with more privatisations.

Hospitals…..water……the remainder of the electricity network.

You know they want to.

Today I announce Labor’s Privatisation Pledge.

A commitment to the people of this state that we will call a halt to this destructive privatisation scam.

A guarantee that under Labor the sell-offs will stop.

Under Labor: no privatisation of our hospitals, no privatisation of water, no more electricity privatisation, and no privatisation of public transport services.

Madam Speaker,

The Government’s delivery of infrastructure projects reveals its waste and incompetence.

Billions of dollars are being squandered.

In 2012 Westconnex was announced as a $10 billion road project to connect Western Sydney to Sydney Airport and Port Botany, and to renew the Parramatta Road corridor.

Six years on, the cost has blown out to at least $17 billion.

Yet it won’t go to the city.

It won’t go to the airport.

It won’t go to the port.

It will end in monstrous traffic jams.

Parramatta Road is more congested than ever because of the thousands of extra vehicles that use it to miss the M4 toll.

Property owners have been treated with contempt.

The public relations stunts have been endless, but honest information about the project is suppressed.

The Sydney light rail is the Premier’s personal vanity project - but she cannot say when it will be finished or how much it is going to cost.

A scar of semi-permanent construction sites line the route.

Small businesses are being destroyed.

There are court cases for deceptive and misleading conduct.

The Auditor General found that the NSW Government “did not effectively plan and procure the CBD Light Rail project to ensure it maximised value for money for New South Wales.”

The Premier’s pet project, Sydney Light Rail, is a monument to her Government’s incompetence.

The Liberals and Nationals chose to buy new intercity trains from overseas instead of making them here.

Skilled workers and good businesses in the Illawarra and Hunter overlooked.

Some comic genius from the Liberal and National parties has delivered the state new trains that don’t fit the tracks.

The Government is now going to compromise safety standards to get them into service.

Labor will do better on infrastructure because we will break the culture of secrecy that has allowed this Government’s incompetence to thrive.

Today, Labor announces a four point plan to end the waste and incompetence on infrastructure delivery.  

Firstly, a Labor Government will hold a judicial inquiry into the Westconnex and Sydney Light Rail to establish exactly how these projects have gone so badly wrong and provide full public accountability.

Second, we will not use special purpose vehicles like the Sydney Motorway Corporation to escape legitimate scrutiny from freedom of information laws.

This has been central to this Government’s culture of secrecy and it has to end.

Third, we will ensure that no construction contracts are signed before planning approvals are received.

The Government has never explained why it did this on the New M5.

Fourth, we will legislate to require Infrastructure NSW to provide health checks each year on the progress of major projects and publish these.

The public has the right to know what is going on.

Frontline health, education, and public transport services are missing out because billions of dollars are being squandered in blowouts and delays to the Sydney Light Rail and Westconnex projects.

We have to stop the blow-outs, the deceit and the waste.

The four measures I have announced today will end the secrecy and provide a cleansing dose of transparency.

Madam Speaker,

A new fast rail line between Westmead, Parramatta and the Sydney CBD – the Western Metro – is Labor’s top transport priority.

It will connect the two major centres of the Sydney metropolis and reduce travel times between the centres.

It will greatly improve public transport for three million western Sydney residents.

Labor’s sense of urgency about this project is shared by Infrastructure NSW.

They advised the Government this year that the Metro West is a higher priority than both the F6 and northern beaches tunnel:

Infrastructure NSW considers that the F6 Extension and Beaches Link both need to be weighed carefully against other potential government sector investments. In a constrained fiscal environment, a near term decision to invest in these new motorway connections serving the Eastern Harbour City may mean deferral of projects elsewhere in Greater Sydney which may have greater city-shaping impacts.

Unlike the Government, the Labor Opposition accepts the advice of Infrastructure NSW.

A Labor Government will deliver the Western Metro years earlier than a re-elected Liberal Government would.

We will re-allocate billions tied up with the Northern Beaches Tunnel to the faster delivery of the new Western Metro.

The Premier should accept the advice of her infrastructure experts, swallow her pride and drop the northern beaches tunnel – it was only a by-election stunt – and accelerate the Western Metro.

Drop the northern beaches tunnel – the political future of the Member for North Shore is just not worth the cost.  

Labor’s transport priority will be the Western Metro.

We will pursue this project instead of the northern beaches tunnel.

And we will not proceed with the Bankstown line conversion.

The case for metro rail is to deliver metropolitan Sydney new, additional rail lines.

The Liberals’ Bankstown metro is another property play, another developers’ picnic, a plan to cram over 100,000 more people into new apartments along the Canterbury-Bankstown corridor.

The over development of our suburbs, new apartment towers without the parks, playgrounds and social infrastructure that is so needed, is damaging our people’s quality of life.

To add insult to injury, the Government recklessly assaults the urban and natural environment.

Motorways through the Royal and a deliberate assault on the special alpine values of Kosciuszko.  

We’ll also ensure that that every cent of the Snowy Hydro proceeds goes to projects that create jobs across regional New South Wales.

A policy I announced in May last year, a policy the Nationals and Liberals were forced to adopt this year.

We’ll support and grow our regional centres.

And we confirm our commitment to the Illawarra and Central Coast with comprehensive job action plans. 

Madam Speaker,

The Liberals’ and Nationals’ plan to spend billions on Sydney sports stadiums confirms that they have the wrong priorities for our state.

My conscience tells me that it is wrong to spend $2.2 billion on Sydney stadiums when desperately ill people are turned away from mental health clinics – often with tragic results.

The Liberals and Nationals want to waste $800 million rebuilding the Sydney Football Stadium with 45,000 seats, even though the teams that play there struggle to attract a crowd of 15,000.

Their plan is to commence the demolition of the existing stadium before they have planning approval for a new one.

This is a scandalous abuse of process.

Can you imagine demolishing your old home before you have a contract in place for your new one?

And their stadium splurge will deliver fewer seats at Moore Park and Olympic Park stadiums than there are today.

Labor will not support the Berejiklian stadium splurge.

Because we have the right values and the right priorities.

Labor stands for more nurses, teachers and police, not $2 billion on two Sydney stadiums.

Madam Speaker

Our state is facing a schools over-crowding crisis.

This has not happened by accident.

We have a crisis today because the Liberals and Nationals cut education funding by $1.7 billion in 2012.

Actions have their consequences.

Year after year the Liberals and Nationals neglected our schools and refused to invest in our children’s futures.

Since 2011, the Liberals and Nationals have closed 21 more schools than they’ve opened.

This Budget’s schools announcement is an admission of their failure.

A failure to plan.

A failure to look after our children’s future.

Labor will not support splurging $2.2 billion on Sydney stadiums when 120,000 kids are being taught in demountable classrooms.

When he became Education Minister, the Member for Pittwater promised a dozen new schools each year.

In eighteen months he has managed to deliver just one comprehensive school – Wentworth Point – late and without air conditioning.

Of the 170 projects announced last week, there were only 13 new schools – to be open years down the track.

A few months ago I announced that Labor would take $300 million from the Berejiklian Sydney stadium splurge to air condition the schools most in need.

And I wanted to spark action from the Berejiklian Government after eight budgets of neglect.

Well, I was right.

I started this – and today I’m going to finish it.

We’ll add $300 million from the Berejiklian Sydney stadiums splurge to the $500 million budget allocation.

And Labor, only Labor, will air condition every public school in New South Wales.

Our priority is air conditioning classrooms – not corporate boxes at the Liberals’ new stadiums.

Whatever you can do, we can do better – on time and on budget.

Our summers grow ever hotter and ever longer.

Labor will not leave our classrooms as the only non-air-conditioned state government buildings.

We will not put school children and their teachers through this.

This forms part of our comprehensive plan for dealing with the schools crowding crisis.

Surplus Government land will go to build new schools and expand existing schools in an unprecedented schools building program.

Every new public school will have childcare or before and after school care facilities, on site.

And all new schools - public, Catholic and independent - will be exempt from local infrastructure charges.

When it comes to schools, Labor will always do so much more than the Liberals and Nationals.

We’ll put schools before stadiums.

Madam Speaker

The heartlessness of our conservative opponents is revealed by their treatment over the last seven years of vulnerable children and families, people with disabilities and the aged.

Their cuts and closures have hurt too many of our state’s most vulnerable people.

The Liberals and Nationals have now had eight budgets to fix our health system.

Instead, elective surgery waiting lists have grown to almost 78,000 patients, and the hospitals aren’t properly staffed.

Mental health services are inadequate.

Drug rehabilitation services are under-funded as well. 

Sadly, too many families know the damage that ice can do.

This is a drug causing great damage across our state.

It is taking a heavy toll on our young people – especially in rural and regional communities.

The number of deaths relating to methamphetamines doubled in seven years.

It is a devastating drug that causes violence and psychosis.

It is destroying lives.

Family members, friends, police, emergency and health workers bear the brunt of the devastation this cheap and addictive drug causes.

We can’t keep doing what we are doing – because it just isn’t working.

I am determined not to leave this problem unchallenged.

A Labor Government will combat head-on the scourge of ice with our plan for compulsory detoxification and rehabilitation of severe ice addicts.

We will take the most dangerous ice addicts off our streets and out of our State’s emergency departments and get them the help they need.

We will open six clinics across the state for the mandatory detoxification and rehabilitation of patients with severe ice addictions who are a threat to the community and themselves.

There will be six facilities with total of 150 beds – four will be located in regional NSW.

The clinics will treat up to 1,300 ice addicts a year and will be staffed by specially trained nurses, health professionals and security guards.

This is a health-based therapeutic approach and not a punitive response to individual ice addicts.

It protects the community and provides individual addicts with the intensive treatment they need to recover from their addiction.

Madam Speaker

It is time for a decision on a final location for the new Tweed hospital.

The Nationals and Liberals, and their Member for Tweed, have delayed this for too long.

Labor rejects the National Party's push to over-develop Kingscliff.

A Labor government will build a new Tweed Hospital at Kings Forest – protecting our State significant farmlands at Cudgen.

Madam Speaker

After eight budgets, this Government has a terrible record.

Dodgy privatisations.

High electricity prices.

Endless tolls.

Port rorts.

A schools over-crowding crisis.

MPs moonlighting as property developers.

Water theft.

Forced council mergers.

The greyhound ban.

Relentless attacks on the environment.

Undermining the ICAC.

Incompetence, waste and blow-outs on the Westconnex and Sydney light rail.

The Government’s eighth budget is not a budget for our state’s future.

It is a budget for a desperate political campaign.

But all the media stunts, PR spin and pork barrelling can’t hide the fact, that at its core, this Government has the wrong priorities.

It puts stadiums before schools and hospitals.

Labor has better values and better priorities.

After eight budgets the case for change is clear.

Labor wants to build a secure future for everyone in this state, whether they live in Sydney or our great regional areas.

Labor will govern for the long term – we will rebuild TAFE, protect the environment and put schools and hospitals before stadiums.

Now, more than ever, Labor stands for a fairer future with opportunities for everyone and a fair go for all.