My Top Ten Priorities for Western Sydney

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Transcript of remarks to the Western Sydney Leadership Dialogue

Thanks, Chris. I’m Auburn’s second most famous politician!

To my parliamentary colleagues, distinguished guests, Barney Glover – thanks for hosting us.

You’re all itching to get to morning tea, so I will aim to give you my top ten priorities for Western Sydney in the next ten minutes. I’ll break from my usual deliberative, painstakingly slow, speechmaking style and give it to you rapid-fire.

The top priority, and indeed every subsequent priority relates to this one: growing jobs.

If we’re talking about the quality of life, the very liveability for the inhabitants of Western Sydney, a region of 2 million people that will be home to 3 million residents in 15 years’ time, we must focus on growing jobs in the region.

It’s the only true congestion-buster for Sydney. We can add all the lanes we like to the M4, the M5 and the M2. There are road and rail projects we must invest in. But unless we grow a half a million jobs in greater Western Sydney over the next 25 years, congestion will grind this city to a halt.

So we have to talk about growing our health and education precincts. We have to talk about the Western Sydney University’s vision of an innovation corridor, west of the M7, home to high-quality jobs - in science, in food and in other growing industries.

I’m a Labor leader - of course I think the public sector has a contribution to make here. I’m proud that we invested in Parramatta by moving public service jobs there – Sydney Water, Attorney General’s and Police.

The public sector can’t and won’t create anywhere near half a million jobs in Western Sydney over the next 25 years, but it can provide a base for private sector funds, investments and projects to follow. Take the Parramatta Square Project - should the public sector, should the State Government, be looking to provide confidence to potential private sector investors by making a contribution to taking floor space in a development like that?

Then, flowing from the top priority, we must focus on a small number of priority growth areas in Western Sydney.

So to the second of my top ten priorities: a relentless focus on South West Sydney. We have to understand the size of the challenge. A region of 800,000 people will become a region of 1.3 million people over the life of the current Sydney Metropolitan strategy. In less than 20 years there will be an additional half a million people. So I’m proud to have taken a policy to the election that said we’d relocate the Ministry of Health from North Sydney to Liverpool, to supplement that massive teaching hospital at Liverpool.

Let’s talk about extending metro rail to Liverpool. Why do people in Liverpool have a slower train trip to the Sydney CBD than they did a hundred years ago? So, a relentless focus on South West Sydney. Understand the challenge. Parramatta has had, and has, its great champions; people like Brownie and David Borger. Southwestern Sydney needs its champions and needs relentless focus from all of us.

And that, of course, relates to the Badgerys Creek area which is the third of my priorities. We’ve come a long way: Mike Baird and I both support the development of this airport. Four years ago, the debate was about whether Sydney’s second airport should be located in Canberra.

So we’ve come a long way, but let’s raise our ambition.

I’m an unabashed admirer of the work of John Kasarda, the father of the Aerotropolis concept. He’s taught us all that business location this century will be determined by proximity to airports in the same way as business location in the twentieth century was determined by proximity to motorways, in the nineteenth century by proximity to rail lines and in the eighteenth century, by proximity to seaports.

So let’s raise our ambition. This cannot be an airport that’s a mere spillover for the flights that Kingsford Smith Airport doesn’t want, or can’t handle. I’m calling for the Western Sydney Airport to be exempted from those restrictive bilateral air service agreements that inhibit the growth of airports.

Let’s give Western Sydney Airport the right to grow. Let’s exempt it from the bilaterals, let’s have an open skies policy for the Western Sydney Airport.

And let’s deliver a rail connection. Kingsford Smith Airport opened in 1920 and got a rail line eighty years later in 2000. Let’s not make the same mistake.

And if PM Turnbull is coming here this afternoon to make the commitment that Anthony Albanese and I have made, that’s terrific: let’s have both sides of politics committed to delivering a rail link from the new airport to the rest of Western Sydney.

Fourth, let’s focus on the Parramatta to Olympic Peninsula area. I’ve launched a rescue plan for the Sydney Olympic Park.

I was distressed when 8,500 finance
sector jobs left Olympic Park, Lidcombe and Parramatta back to Redfern. I’m with Chris Brown – let’s invest in the Olympic Stadium before a new stadium at Moore Park. Let’s invest in convention and exhibition space at the Sydney Showgrounds.

I support what’s happening at Darling Harbour, but John O’Neill delivered a report in 2007 that talked about a two precinct strategy for conventions, exhibitions and events industries. Let’s invest in the Sydney Showgrounds at Olympic Park to do just that.

Let’s put the Sydney Olympic Park Authority masterplan on exhibition. I don’t know if anyone from the Department of Planning is here, but the SOPA masterplan has been with the Department for some time now.

I’m the local member, I’m happy to champion private sector innovation, dense development, commercial and retail growth in my electorate at Olympic Park. If we can’t do density in Olympic Park, where in Sydney can we do it? Let’s get it happening. It can’t all be a big state solution for Sydney Olympic Park. Let the private sector innovate in that area.

Of course we have to fix transport connectivity into this part of Sydney that Labor and Liberal governments have told us since about 1993 will be a major hub for future residential and employment growth in the geographic heart of Sydney.

We have to fix Sydney’s worst roundabout, improve the train services – the light rail commitment is welcome. One of the fastest growing suburbs in Sydney is Wentworth Point. People talked about the urban renewal at Camelia earlier, on the Parramatta River. Well it’s already happening just east of there at Wentworth Point.

There’ll be 30,000 people living there in 10 or 15 years’ time. The private sector, the landholders at Wentworth Point, is building a Homebush Bay Bridge to connect 30,000 residents back to Rhodes and Sydney’s rail network, and do you know what? They’re building it with room for future light rail.

Let’s make sure Parramatta, Olympic Park, Strathfield light rail services the people of one of Sydney’s fastest growing suburbs at Wentworth Point.

Fifth: let’s invest the Greater Sydney Commission with the scope and ambition necessary to do the job that needs to be done. I want it to sit above siloed Government departments and agencies. It’s a good thing that we were able to waive the legislation to create the Greater Sydney Commission through the Parliament in a day, with bipartisan support from Labor and Liberal.

Once again, let’s raise our ambition. I don’t want to see the Transport, Roads, Planning, Education departments and agencies acting in isolation. How is it that the road builders came up with a massive roadbuilding plan for the Westconnex that missed an off-ramp to Hill Road, into one of the fastest growing precincts in Sydney?

It’s not because they’re bad people; it’s because siloed government departments work in isolation. The road builders want to build a road, the Planning department is working out where to fit people in and where people will live. Let’s bring them all together, let’s give Sarah Hill and Lucy and her Commissioners the authority they need to plan Western Sydney’s future properly.

My sixth priority: town centre renewal. There’s been so much done here in Parramatta, it’s a model for the other key cities in Western Sydney. Liverpool and Campbelltown - I spoke earlier of the challenge for southwest Sydney - but also Penrith. They’ll need density done well - to bring street life back, to bring nightlife back, we see it in Parramatta with Eat Street. We need to expand or export the Parramatta renewal model to the cities of Penrith, Liverpool and Campbelltown.

Seventh: it hasn’t been talked about today – better planning for schools. Theo talked about the dream demographic, with a younger population here in Western Sydney than in the state as a whole. We have to create 300,000 school places in NSW over the next 15 years, more than half of them will be needed in Western Sydney.

It distresses me when an arm of government sells land adjacent to a public school in Lidcombe that’s already bursting at the seams. It distresses me when a deal falls through at Homebush West, for the Department of Education to buy some other public land next door so their kids will have somewhere to play.

We need a uniform schools planning code. We need to ensure that public, Catholic and Independent schools’ authorities get first access to the land they need, and they get the right data sets from the Department of Planning. Once again, I think the Greater Sydney Commission can help here in bringing departments and agencies together, to invest in the future education of our kids in this region.

Under Barney, with the Western Sydney University, Western Sydney now has the tertiary institution it deserves. Let’s ensure that this region gets the schools it deserves over the next decade.

Eighth: Let’s invest in language education. Understand what’s going on in Western Sydney. The dream demographic that Theo talked about, the region is young and it’s multicultural.

I don’t tell them I’m a Roosters supporter in Auburn, I tell them that I’m a Western Sydney Wanderers supporter. That football club is the model that’s united the multicultural tribes of Western Sydney. Tomorrow I’ll be at an African festival in Auburn, and then I’ll be at a Lebanese dinner in Fairfield.

But we’re so far behind Queensland and Victoria when it comes to teaching our kids a second language. Ten times as many kids in Queensland are studying Japanese than in New South Wales. Despite the size of our Chinese population, fewer kids in New South Wales primary schools are studying Mandarin and Cantonese than in Victoria.

We are so far behind Victoria and Queensland. Let’s invest in language education. Successful societies are bilingual societies. Understand the Asianisation of Sydney. Let’s have a major focus on teaching Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese, Korean, Bahasa Indonesian and Hindi languages.

That’s a policy for the kids of Western Sydney – to invest in language education.

Ninth – bear with me – morning tea is very close: arts and culture.

Chris put it on the agenda; let’s not make the mistake of thinking the Powerhouse relocation ticks the box. The underinvestment in arts and culture for Western Sydney has gone on for far too long.

I’ve resisted all pressure to just take a free and easy kick at Mike Baird’s government and bag the Powerhouse relocation. I’ve refused to do it, I’ll support it. In a couple of weeks’ time all of my Western Sydney MPs will be meeting with the Western Sydney Arts and Cultural Lobby. I want us to talk about a new multipurpose centre, a facility to be used by not one, but many arts institutions and arts companies to put on performances and exhibitions in Western Sydney. I want us to talk about outdoor music bowls. Why is the premiere outdoor music venue in Sydney in the Domain? Let’s talk about those arts and cultural opportunities for Western Sydney.

Tenth and finally: social housing. I’m a Labor leader, excited about the opportunities and potential for economic prosperity for people across Western Sydney.

But let’s not forget the pockets of disadvantage. Let’s not forget the public housing crisis that Labor and Liberal Governments have neglected for far too long. I’m with Nick Greiner; let’s look at new solutions. I’m prepared to give the private sector more height, if they invest in lifting the quality and quantity of social housing stock. I want to see transfer of title to community housing associations.

Let’s make a commitment today to think about the multigenerational disadvantage in some of those public housing estates in Western Sydney. The truth is, governments of both persuasions have always found more important constituencies to spend money on than public housing tenants. We’re going to have to do this differently, but I think all of us should make a commitment to that.

These are my top ten priorities for Western Sydney. Thanks so much to Chris for the opportunity. Let’s have some morning tea.

* These are the remarks made by the Leader of the Opposition at the Western Sydney Leadership Dialogue on Friday 11 March 2016. Please note that an earlier posting provided the incorrect text of the Leader of the Opposition’s speech.