Country Labor Launch - Singleton

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Wednesday March 11, 2015

Friends. Thanks so much for a warm welcome.

I’ve been active in our movement for a long time, made a lot of friends around the state, seen plenty of good days and bad.

And nothing ever gives me a lift like spending time with Labor people in country NSW.

A special thanks to you, Kate – a true champion of her local community who has fought for a high school in Medowie for years. It was my privilege to announce last week that a Foley Labor Government will build it.

Thanks to Martin Rush, someone who has demonstrated as the mayor of Muswellbrook how hard he will fight for the Upper Hunter.

I’d also like to acknowledge Steve Whan who has spent his life delivering record investment in the Monaro region – new schools, new hospitals and literally hundreds of kilometres of roads upgrades.

And our tireless Country MPs – Mick Veitch and Clayton Barr.

Thank you to our host, a true champion of the bush and my friend, Joel Fitzgibbon.

We’ve got a number of our other great Country Labor candidates here with us today:

Jenny Aitchison, who is fighting for a direct rail connection to Newcastle for all communities in the Hunter Valley.

Cass Coleman, our candidate in Bathurst, who has doorknocked thousands of households right across the Central West;

Stephen Lawrence, our candidate in Dubbo – a highly accomplished lawyer who now runs the Western NSW Aboriginal Legal Service, who is taking the fight up to the Nationals’ leader Troy Grant;

Bernard Fitzsimon, Joe Hillard, Debra O’Brien, David Keegan, June Smith and Fran Armitage who are all holding their Nationals MPs to account in their own backyards.

Now, I’ll tell you something mightn’t know about me. I married a farmer’s daughter. 

Edel and I take our kids back to her family’s farm every year, spend our holidays there.

My father in law Pudsy McKenna, has taught me a hell of a lot about the issues facing farmers and rural communities.

But as the farm is in Ireland, he hasn’t much need for drought assistance. His problem is … it never stops raining.

There is so much work ahead in the coming seventeen days – but I know how hard you will work – because country New South Wales needs a new approach and only a change of Government can get that done.

The Labor leaders who’ve gone before me have understood the vital importance of the regions to the State as a whole.

The story of country New South Wales and the story of New South Wales Labor have always been deeply intertwined.

We have never formed a government, and we never will form a government in New South Wales, without winning seats in the country.

Above all though we are connected because country Labor and country communities share an idea.

Fairness.

Country New South Wales deserves a fair go.

Equal treatment.

A proper share.

The same level of services, the same quality of infrastructure, the same standard of living, the same opportunities in life, as those who live in the city.

And when you ask that of a Foley Labor Government, you’ll be knocking on an open door.

We believe that everyone deserves the opportunity to succeed – no matter where they live.

That’s why I’m here today – that’s why our Country Labor team is here today – that’s why you’re here today.

Because four years of Liberal-National Government has left country New South Wales behind.

Everyone here has a story to tell about how a service has been cut or user charges have risen.

Everyone knows of somebody who has been laid off.

Across regional NSW, there are so many communities that are hurting. Young people desperate for a chance.

Unemployment here in the Hunter Valley is 11.4%. It’s 10.8% in New England. 10.5% in the Tweed.

Back in 2011 the Coalition promised to create 40,000 additional jobs in rural and regional NSW.

Instead, 23,000 jobs have been lost.

The Coalition broke their central election promise.

***

Only a new Labor government can give country New South Wales a new approach.

A new approach begins with common sense and business sense.

That’s why stopping electricity privatisation has become the central issue in this election campaign.

Because selling our profitable electricity networks just doesn’t make sense.  It’s the wrong plan.

These assets returned $1.7 billion to the State budget last year alone.

If they are sold, those returns are gone for good.

And with them, the reliable revenue that funds our infrastructure, education and health – not just in the city but across New South Wales.

And this network is a natural monopoly which shouldn’t be in private hands.

The only reason someone buys an asset is to make money on it – prices will go up.

But the best way to keep electricity prices low is to keep our electricity network in our own hands.

And don’t believe the Nationals for a moment when they tell you they won’t sell the network you rely on here.

For a start the Nationals are selling 100% of Transgrid –the transmission network that is the backbone of the electricity network and services all parts of New South Wales.

40 per cent of their employees live and work in regional NSW.

And as sure as night follows day, if the Coalition parties are re-elected, Essential Energy will be offered up for sale to overseas investors.

It’s next.

That’s why this sale is coming to your town – that’s how higher prices are coming to your region – and what’s more, the lost returns will be felt hardest in country New South Wales because every promise the Liberals and Nationals have made relies on privatising our electricity network.

There is only one reason Mike Baird keeps getting asked what is his ‘Plan B’ …

… It’s that his big ‘Plan A’ is such a big risk.

But don’t take my word for it.

Take the Government’s Leader in the Upper House, the Nationals’ Duncan Gay.

I am sure many of you received his letter.

He said the sale is risky.

If Duncan says it’s a risky sale then it’s riskier than you think.

There’s one piece of good news in all of that.

It’s not sold yet.

It’s not too late.

We still have time.

We have seventeen days to go.

Seventeen days to stop the electricity sale.

Seventeen days to preserve the State Budget.

Seventeen days to protect the household budget.

We can end the stale debate about electricity privatisation forever … by rejecting the NSW Liberals and Nationals on March 28.

And once we have ended the privatisation debate for good, we can have a better conversation in our democracy, and establish better priorities in our government.

That’s what the state needs – that’s what New South Wales country needs – and that’s the new approach a Foley Labor Government will delivery for the State.

Regional development requires investment in country communities to support the growth of local industry, boost the skills base and encourage job creation.

Regional development is an integral part of all our policies – and above all, our State infrastructure plans.

That’s the key to our three billion dollar health and education fund – with specific local health initiatives identified now.

That’s why we’ve targeted policies to create jobs – especially skilled work for the young.

And we will rescue TAFE in country New South Wales!

***

Country New South Wales has been left behind on infrastructure in the past four years.

Mark the date I said it: if we win this election – that ends.

There is no greater example of Labor’s commitment to building infrastructure that materially improves the lives of rural communities and increases productivity then the road many of you travelled on today.

The Hunter Expressway.

As Anthony Albanese stated – not only was the $1.5 billion Hunter Expressway the largest ever infrastructure project in the Hunter Region. The project was a game changer for the Hunter.

A project that only a Labor Government would build.  And it did.  May I add – built without having to sell off our electricity network.

When the Liberals and Nationals have sold public assets they’ve taken the lions’ share back to Sydney – I don’t believe that’s fair.

Even worse, the Nationals’ promised funding for the bush – but didn’t spend it.

We’ve seen program after program underspent by millions of dollars.

And not one National or Country Liberal stood up and protested.

A Labor Government will ensure that our regions receive the investment in infrastructure they need.

At least $3 billion extra will be for infrastructure in rural and regional NSW.

This includes more than $1 billion for roads.

It also includes Labor’s existing reservation of $810 million right here in the Hunter.

Today I can announce we will reserve $23 million of that fund for a Roads package for Singleton, Gloucester, Dungog, Muswellbrook and Liverpool Plains Council.

More than 30 per cent of new infrastructure funding – and more than half of the roads funding – will be allocated outside Sydney.

That includes building a new Grafton Bridge, upgrading the Pacific Highway, and major works to the Kings Highway in the Monaro.

If anyone here has ever had a conversation with Steve Whan that wasn’t about the King’s Highway, let me know!

The Liberals and Nationals savagely shortchanged the Hunter and the Illawarra from previous sales of their ports – a Labor Government will right that wrong by putting more of the return from those sales back in the regions and surrounding areas where it belongs.

Labor’s investment in rural and regional NSW shows that we can build the infrastructure we need without privatising our electricity network and driving up power bills.

A NEW APPROACH TO HEALTH

Country New South Wales needs a new approach to health care.

I believe – Labor believes – in universal health care.

Health care not just for those who can afford it – health care not just for those who live in the cities.

We must do better in the bush.

This is why Labor will reserve $100 million to establish a Care Co-location program.

This will fund one-stop-shops, sites that offer integrated primary care and a range of health related services.

The Care Co-location program will deliver more nursing services where they are needed.

From Tibooburra to Wentworth to Ulladulla to Lithgow to Urunga and many places across the state.

And it will expand access to other forms of care including oral health, physiotherapy and podiatry, through to early childhood and youth health services and mental health, drug and alcohol services.

Aboriginal health services will also form an important part of this program.

This is a smart, practical measure to deliver the best services at the right cost where they are needed most.

And friends, Labor will reserve $300 million to establish a Regional Multipurpose Health Facilities Program.

Labor will redevelop small rural health services into multipurpose facilities that offer integrated health, community and aged care services outside hospitals.

These will service country towns across the state, including Tenterfield, Dungog, Narromine, Blayney, Crookwell, Yass and Hay.

I am proud to announce we will provide a $17 million funding boost for IPTAAS – the Isolated Patients Travel and Accommodation Assistance Scheme.

We will increase the fuel subsidy by eleven cents a kilometre and increase the commercial accommodation rate by 39%.

Simple assistance to help families in their time of desperate need.

Here in the Upper Hunter … I can today announce that we’ll provide fifty million dollars for the upgrade of the Muswellbrook Hospital. 

Martin Rush is a fearless advocate for his community.

I am also proud to confirm today that a Foley Labor Government will build the new Lower Hunter public hospital in Maitland – and keep it in public hands.

This is an additional resource for our growing population.

Unlike the Government, we will continue public health services at the current Maitland Hospital site.

I was proud to stand with Bill Shorten yesterday to announce that a Labor government will introduce nurse-to-patient ratios into emergency departments and paediatric wards in our first term of government.

We will employ 840 new nurses in total – including 735 additional nurses in emergency departments.

This will benefit 75 emergency department and paediatric wards in hospitals across NSW, such as Bega District Hospital, Kempsey Hospital, Bathurst Base Hospital, Goulburn Hospital, Shoalhaven Hospital …

… Kurri Kurri District Hospital – and right here at Singleton District Hospital, as well as Maitland, Muswellbrook and John Hunter hospitals.

Also in our first term, we will recruit an additional 500 paramedics – many of which will be based in rural areas.

A NEW APPROACH TO JOBS

Friends, you deserve a fair share of the state’s infrastructure, fairer access to public health – and there must be more jobs for country New South Wales.

Labor has a comprehensive approach to strengthening the economy of the whole state.

Our export strategy will increase the quantity and value of the State’s food exports to Asia.

I want to help industry boost the value of processed food and agriculture exports from NSW and make NSW the highest employer in food and beverage processing in Australia.

Our well-received Dairy Export White Paper – developed by Steve Whan – will be driven and co-ordinated by industry.

We must make the most of our competitive advantages for export to Asia, in particular China.

Labor will work with local councils and invest $9 million in a Rail Trails Strategy to stimulate regional economies.

Our commitment to direct all recreational fishing licence fee revenue to specifically support recreational fishing will support jobs on our inland lakes and rivers as well as on the north and south coast.

Last month I visited the drought affect farming communities around Lightning Ridge.  They are doing it tough.

Labor understands the devastating impacts droughts can have on farmers and their families. And the flow on impacts on local communities.

That’s why I announced an extensive drought assistance package that included:

The reintroduction of drought declarations

Stock, fodder and transport subsidies

$1.5 million to double the number of Rural Support Workers; and

The $20 million extension of funding announced for water infrastructure grants.

 

In January I announced that I wanted to make NSW the horse racing capital of the southern hemisphere.  Racing is a great regional industry with great potential for growth.

At this election Labor will deliver tax parity with Victoria for this great industry in New South Wales.

Thousands of extra jobs in racing will flow from this decision.

I know that more than half of the economic activity generated by the racing industry is generated in regional New South Wales.

This decision will grow local jobs in the entire industry.  An industry that currently supports 50,000 jobs – many of them here in the Upper Hunter –  the thoroughbred capital of Australia.

This decision will boost country racing, allowing racing clubs to invest in their facilities and offer bigger and more attractive race meetings and carnivals.

A NEW APPROACH TO ENVIRONMENT

Friends, we will strengthen the economy while protecting the environment.

NSW Labor will grow jobs in a sustainable way. 

The Hunter is uniquely placed to build new and exciting economic opportunities in the emerging low carbon global economy.

The Hunter has a highly skilled workforce, world class research institutions, a well established manufacturing sector and long experience in commercializing innovation.

So, a Foley Labor Government will make this region, the Hunter, a national hub for renewable energy.

It is a growth industry for this nation.

The Hunter has a highly skilled workforce, world class research institutions, a well established manufacturing sector and long experience in commercialising innovation.

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

Farmers across the state are joining with broader community members to defend the land from the untested CSG industry.

Our prime farmlands and our scarce water resources are too precious to gamble.

CSG activity should halt while we gather the science.

My message to Mike Baird is plain.

End this issue as a political controversy – act in the interests of the state – sign up to a statewide moratorium today.

Labor is committed to securing the Orange community’s water supply but we will not support the destructive proposals of the dam-mad National party.

Their plan to dam the Belubula River and flood the Cliefden Caves is an abomination. 

Cliefden Caves are internationally significant geologically.

They house ancient fossils and magical rock formations.

Labor will not sell out the down-stream irrigators, we will not destroy the precious natural values of the Cliefden Caves. 

We stand against both the Needles Gap and Cranky Rock Dam proposals.

CONCLUSION

Friends, Mike Baird, the Liberals, the Nationals and their leadership have chosen to make this election a referendum on privatisation.

I welcome that. On 28 March we can stop the sale.

But I want this election to be about more than just privatisation.

We should be debating the future of our people – the values of our leaders – and the ideas we would bring to the task of government.

You deserve something better than the old politics of the past decade – you deserve change.

That’s what I offer – that’s what a Foley Labor Government would mean.

A new Government in Sydney which has the whole State as part of its plans.

A new Government with effective and hardworking MPs who will stand up for the country.

New ideas for infrastructure that include your roads.

New funding for health and education that include your hospitals and your schools.

New strategies to grow jobs that include your businesses and your kids.

This is why country New South Wales needs a good Labor Government.

It’s a new approach for country New South Wales!