Campaign launch speech

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Sunday, 1 March 2015

Check against delivery

Thank you – and above all, thank you to my courageous, principled Shadow Minister for Planning.

People ask has NSW Labor learned, has NSW Labor changed. I say four words: Look at Jodi McKay.

That is the face of the Labor Party I lead – bright, and brave, and honest, and always looking to the future.

Thank you Bill Shorten. A true Labor Leader, the next Labor Prime Minister – and in the next four weeks NSW Labor is very happy to have our Federal leader campaign alongside us.

I am not convinced my opponent will say the same.

And I am so fortunate to have a magnificent Deputy. On my first day as leader I said I want New South Wales to be the nation’s social conscience… and with Linda Burney as my Deputy Premier we know that would be true.

Friends...

Have no doubt what is at stake on Election Day – understand very clearly what will be decided on March 28.

If you vote for Labor – this is what you’ll get. Labor will keep our electricity network in public hands.

We’ll use the profits the electricity network makes to fund improved services – and above all, to invest in our hospitals and schools.

We’ll create jobs and infrastructure in the suburbs and regions where people live.

And we’ll impose a moratorium on coal seam gas activity in the state.

This election, you can choose a new approach for New South Wales.

Friends...

There are no ‘iron laws’ in politics.

I wouldn’t be standing here today as your leader if public life in Australia always went to plan.

But I am absolutely certain when I say this to you now.

Anyone who has lived through the last ten years of Australian politics and says an election is unwinnable – is a fool.

Now, you may have heard that I’m a bit of a cricket fan.

Don’t worry, this is a short cricket story – I have longer ones!

In the match that started the Ashes back in 1882, England only needed to score 85 runs in the final innings to beat Australia and win the Test. But our first great fast bowler – Fred Spofforth, ‘The Demon’ – told his teammates at the final change of innings:

This thing can be done.

And they did it.

And an Australian legend was born.

Friends, in New South Wales, at this election, this thing can be done.

We have a mountain to climb. It will not be easy.

But we all know – in our own communities, from our own conversations; we all see – in the democratic upheavals of recent State elections, in the turmoil of conservative politics in Canberra – that this is a time when people all over Australia are looking for change.

This is a time when a party with positive plans, a party of solutions, offering leadership with ideas and energy, guided by values the community shares, can gain the public’s support.

No, it will not be easy – and nor should it.

The people rightly set us a high bar to clear.

But believe me when I tell you, this thing can be done.

We suffered a devastating defeat in 2011.

The voters don’t get it wrong.

My friend Kristina Keneally put it best on election night itself when she said:

The truth is the people of NSW, who entrusted us with government for 16 years, did not leave us. We left them.

For NSW Labor, the last four years has been a journey back to the people; a journey back to our origins, to find our best self.

In a lot of ways we were like the prodigal son.

We had to examine ourselves, find humility, change – and return home.

We had to change – and we have.

With a refreshed policy approach centred on the needs of the people of the whole state.

With the highest integrity standards for MPs of any party anywhere in Australia.

And with a nation-leading reform of the way candidates are chosen – with the largest-ever community preselections, including here in Campbelltown.

But friends, I believe that what we saw at the last state election was not just a message to New South Wales Labor – it was a message to everyone involved in politics in this state.

In 2011 the people of New South Wales voted for change.

The people wanted a new approach.

They still do.

Labor, Liberal, public, private, business, union – all of our leaders are being asked by the public to stop.

To listen.

To think.

And then to change.

That, friends, is at the heart of this election.

At the heart of this election is this question.

Can New South Wales politics change?

This is what I mean when I talk about a new approach for New South Wales.

Friends, ours was the best-governed state in Australia for the sixty years that followed the second world war.

And it saddens me, it angers me…

That on all sides of politics we haven’t done better for the people of this state over the last eight years.

The people of New South Wales deserve a new approach.

And that is what I will offer them on election day in four weeks’ time.

The people of our State are asking us to do things differently.

The Baird and Abbott Liberal and National governments in Sydney and Canberra are determined to ignore them.

The Liberals should learn – but all they want to do is sell.

There is no greater test of a new approach to New South Wales politics than this.

Will its government listen to the people on electricity privatisation?

ELECTRICITY PRIVATISATION

Nothing could better symbolise the ‘old politics’ that the people want us to abandon … than the New South Wales Coalition Government’s plan to sell the public’s essential electricity network and the Abbott Government’s plan to pay them to do it.

This obstinate determination to sell our profitable electricity network is nothing other than conservative ideology and commercial self-interest at work.

This extraordinary fixation on getting rid of a network which sends power into every home and business in this state is propped up by so-called ‘asset recycling’ bribes from the Federal Government.

The conservatives are blackmailing communities around the state for basic infrastructure needs - and my opponent won’t answer the most basic questions.

Mike Baird won’t tell us his minimum sale price - and he can’t tell us what electricity prices would be.

And above all, this insistence on selling the electricity network ignores the most important thing.

The people who own it do not want it sold.

Above all else, that is why it is wrong.

That is why Mike Baird’s privatisation policy symbolises everything wrong with New South Wales politics in recent years.

Imagine if the years of effort wasted on debating a non-reform like electricity privatisation had gone into debating something with serious public benefit.

Imagine if the Liberals, the deal-makers, the financial press, the conservative commentators, put as much effort into building public school, public hospital and public transport networks as they have into destroying public electricity networks?

Well, they don’t.

That’s not what Liberals do.

So this election will be a referendum on electricity privatisation in this state.

I say - bring it on.

And if the Queensland election tells us one thing - it is this.

Whatever the majority, voters can stop privatisation by voting Labor.

We can end the stale debate about electricity privatisation forever by rejecting the NSW Liberals and Nationals at this state election.

Selling off the electricity network – a natural monopoly if ever there was one – is old politics - and it is bad policy.

Be very clear about this - I am not an ideologue.

I will always approach each issue on its merits.

The Government acquires and disposes of assets all the time, and so it should.

The question here is why these assets, why our essential electricity network.

Our opponents’ scheme is simply not in the public interest.

Will prices go up?

Of course they will.

The only reason someone buys an asset is to make money on it.

In South Australia following privatisation families pay the highest electricity bills in Australia - while the billionaire owner of the network makes $420 in profit from every household in that state every year.

Will infrastructure be better?

Of course it won’t.

There will be more cuts to schools and hospitals because Mike Baird can’t explain how he will fill the black hole left when the electricity profits are lost to the state.

Our electricity network has returned over $1.7 billion to the State annually, to fund teachers, nurses and police.

This is a monopoly asset which should be kept in public hands.

And you can only sell it once.

When it’s gone, it’s gone for good.

It just doesn’t make financial sense.

The Liberals and Nationals plan to sell our electricity network is the wrong policy for our State.

And we will oppose it every single day.

***

Mike Baird has many questions to answer in this election campaign.

All I really know about him is - he’s a Liberal.

And frankly, that tells me enough.

If Mr Baird gets four more years, will there be anything left to sell?

But even more fundamentally - if the Liberals have to deliver all their promises - where will the money come from?

They rely on a risky scheme to sell the electricity network that delivers 1.7 billion dollars in revenue every year.

In Mike Baird’s own words – he has no Plan B.

Why was Mike Baird even asked about a Plan B?

Because people know his Plan A is so risky.

He can’t guarantee the price he’ll get in an uncertain market.

Everyone knows sellers don’t dictate the price.

If he can’t achieve his price he can’t fund his promises.

The contrast with my budget approach could not be greater.

We will maintain the budget surplus over the economic cycle.

We will maintain the State’s AAA credit rating.

Our commitments are more modest - but they are the right priorities.

We will promise less than the Liberals and Nationals in this campaign - but what we promise, we can pay for.

NEW APPROACH TO EDUCATION

Friends... in 2015, NSW Labor can offer lasting change.

The Labor Party I lead has a new approach for New South Wales.

Labor, led by me, has a new plan for New South Wales.

Consider the remarkable facts about the growth in demand for schooling.

Close to 1.2 million children are in New South Wales schools today.

In sixteen years’ time, we’ll need over six thousand extra class rooms for as many as 270 000 more students.

87 per cent of that growth will be in metropolitan Sydney itself.

Huge growth across the board - not limited to any one sector.


So this is what we need to do -
this is how I’ll lead.

First, we will plan new schools properly.

I will create a powerful Greater Sydney Commission, sitting at the centre of Government, reporting daily to the Premier and annually to the Parliament.

My Greater Sydney Commission will create a ‘schools growth taskforce’ with a specific brief to build the schools of the future, in the suburbs they are needed most.

Labor will establish a new uniform planning code for schools, so that across the state we can get them built - not only where they are needed, but when they are needed - our children’s education must not be hostage for years to local red tape.

We will also use the schools planning code to ensure that new schools have better facilities that work for parents and communities.

This is important.

I announce today...
that under a Labor Government, the policy of the state will be…

That every new school built must include childcare or before and after school care facilities on site.

I will not have our schools designed as if they are nineteenth century buildings, locked up from 3pm to 9am.

New schools will be designed as modern, multi-purpose education precincts.

This makes the best use of scarce land.

It leverages our investment in school infrastructure for the wider community.

And co-locating primary schools and child-care centres allows many working parents to avoid the ‘double drop off’ of childcare and school.

So Labor will ensure new schools are designed to include more of the facilities that working families need – and our planning code will also make sure all new schools are designed with proper provision for cars, drop offs, pick ups and parking.

Second, Labor in Government will substantially expand the funding available for building new and upgrading existing public schools.

And we’ll spend it where it will make the greatest difference.

Over the four years of Liberal and National Party Government, capital expenditure on schools has been savagely cut.

This is the wrong approach: education matters so much more than the Liberals ever understand.

Education is essential to growth in our economy, essential to the mobility in our society, and above all, essential to the flourishing of our young people.

That’s why I have a different plan.

I announce today, that if we are elected, Labor will provide an additional $1.3 billion to build and improve schools and TAFE colleges.

A cross-sectoral schools growth taskforce will bring the key players together to plan for growth – identifying the priority areas.

The Greater Sydney Commission will give this taskforce the authority it needs to do the job.

The work will be based on the needs-based framework established by the Whitlam reforms of forty years ago – and modernized through the Gonski funding principles today.

Vital principles which I support – and which as Premier, I will force onto the COAG agenda.

We will restore common sense, fairness and needs-based funding to supporting the growth of all New South Wales schools.

And along with Labor’s other plans …

… 200 specialist maths and science teachers in primary schools

… rescuing TAFE so it can flourish in the future

… and new plans to help apprentices and other skilled workers

… it is a new approach to education in our state.

Focused on the future - including every child - building what we need where we need it - and funded from secure revenue I know the State can afford.

A new approach to education - only Labor can get it done.

NEW APPROACH TO HEALTHCARE

If our education system is the great driver of universal opportunity, our health system is surely the great guarantee of universal care.

Yet the Liberal record of cuts and neglect - the Liberal choices that hurt - extend even to the health care we all rely on.

Three billion dollars cut by Mike Baird -
And fifteen billion dollars cut by his good friend Tony Abbott.

Labor has already outlined a very different approach.

Today I announce an additional $1.7 billion for health infrastructure in the coming years.

We’ll open nurse-led walk-in centres - they take pressure off hospital emergency departments, they cost less and they achieve more.

We’ll allow flu vaccinations to be delivered by pharmacists - innovative and practical, and convenient so that even middle-aged blokes like me will get them done.

We’ll build a new public hospital in Maitland for the lower Hunter and keep it in public hands.

We’ll complete major redevelopments at St George and Westmead Hospitals.

And these fit with new announcements I can make today.

We will end co-payments for chemotherapy.

It is a good thing we can do for people facing life’s worst fear, cancer.

And we will provide $100 million for a paediatric surgery centre at Campbelltown Hospital.

The home of the great baby boom right here in Sydney’s south west.

These are the practical, necessary investments we will make in the future of health care in our state.

CREATING JOBS

I’ve said from my first day as Labor leader I want New South Wales to be our nation’s social conscience - and its economic powerhouse.

That means jobs must grow and infrastructure must improve.

Creating secure, well-paid, rewarding work is the real purpose of economic policy.

I want to grow smart jobs and opportunities throughout the greater west of Sydney, on the central coast, in the Hunter and the Illawarra and all our regions.

I am particularly concerned about Sydney’s south-west.

The jobs deficit here in the south-west is greater than in any other part of the city.

And the population here is forecast to grow by almost half a million people by 2031.

There is a great deal which all Governments must do - and we must do it together.

State Labor has real plans.

Our powerful Greater Sydney Commission will ensure the whole of State Government and all local councils work together to get the city right.

It will have a specific focus on town centre renewal, starting here in the southwest with Campbelltown and Liverpool, and then extending to Penrith and Gosford.

Our infrastructure plan will provide more than $10bn in new money – on top of the existing infrastructure budget of around $150 billion over the next ten years – to build the roads and rail, hospitals and schools and essential services that our state’s economy needs.

And we will lock in thirty per cent of Labor’s infrastructure fund for the state outside Sydney -
we won’t let the regions fall behind.

We have a fully funded plan, which we have already released - costed by the independent Parliamentary Budget Office.

I am not making the extravagant promises that my opponent is making - none of it is funded by selling off our electricity network - unlike the Liberals and Nationals, I don’t need a Plan B.

Friends...

When I was growing up in the 1970s and 1980s, the Labor Governments led by Neville Wran and Bob Hawke taught us that we can both grow the economy and jobs, and protect our natural environment.

There can be no new approach for New South Wales without a bold agenda for environmental protection.

This is one of the passions of my public life.

Labor will create the Great Koala National Park, to save the koalas of northern New South Wales from extinction.

I think of what Neville Wran’s Government did in 1982, saving the rainforests of northern New South Wales - and that’s why I’m so glad Jill Wran is here today.

Jill, you had a bit to do with it, you know it didn’t just happen - for all the resistance that you and Neville had to overcome, it was the right thing to do.

Today, if we do not act, if we do not protect their remaining habitat, koalas will become extinct in the north of our State.

I am not prepared for ours to be the generation which allows the koala to become extinct in the wild.

Labor will also create a Sydney Marine Park to protect the jewel in Sydney’s crown -
the world famous Sydney harbour.

Our harbour is home to three thousand marine species.

588 different species of fish have been recorded in Sydney Harbour - that’s three times the variety of fish that live around the entire coast of the United Kingdom.

Green sea turtles, little Penguins, weedy sea dragons and humpback whales all inhabit these waters.

Creating the Sydney Marine Park will allow the New South Wales Government to properly plan for the ecological needs of this wonder.

Here in the most stunning city in the world, the Harbour must always remain a beloved place for Sydneysiders to fish and swim and snorkel, and the nation’s great working harbour.

The Sydney Marine Park is the final piece in the jigsaw - the missing link in the state’s network of marine protected areas.

And friends, under Labor there will be a moratorium on coal seam gas activity in New South Wales.

New South Wales Labor listened and changed.

The Nationals and the Liberals should do the same.

We must pause and take the time to get the science right.

And there are some places that should be permanently off limits to coal seam gas activity - so under my Labor Government, there will be a permanent ban on coal seam gas activity on the north coast.

And we will do the same in the Special Areas of the Sydney water catchment.

It is just wrong for local communities to be trampled in a scramble for gas that will only ever be exported overseas.

It has to change now.

Only Labor will do it.

Friends...

In so many ways, governing is about the detail - policies that can be funded, plans that make sense.

But we are ultimately democrats, not simply technicians.

Governing is about detail, but politics must be about values as well.

Not just what we do and how we do it, but why.

Above all, it is our Labor values that set us apart.

Mike Baird is a polite fellow with a nice smile, there’s nothing personal between us.

But he’s a Liberal Premier, and he’s making choices that hurt - choices to cut, choices to sell -
not because he has to, but because that’s what he believes in.

We are different people, he and I.

I believe in something different - this Labor Party of ours has always believed in something different.

We believe in a fair go for all.

Like you all, that’s why I’m here today.

We want a decent life for everyone.

Like everyone here, that’s why I’m committed to these plans.

We want a helping hand for those who need it most.

Like so many Labor people around the state, that’s why I’ll fight every day until this election is done.

What New South Wales needs today is a new approach.

What New South Wales needs today is a good Labor government.

Courageously upholding the principles which give us life.

Social democratic values, Labor values - Australian values.

An active government, a government on the people’s side.

Timeless ideals.

Modern policies.

A new approach for New South Wales.