NSW Budget Reply Speech 2017

Legislative Assembly, NSW Parliament

22 June 2017

In New South Wales today schools are overcrowded, academic standards have fallen, TAFE has been gutted and hospital waiting times have soared at emergency departments and for elective surgery.

Yet record revenues flow into government coffers from a Sydney property boom.

This government’s wrong priorities have led us to this point. 

Revenues have never been greater but the key services that the people rely on are failing.

Mismanagement of the delivery of infrastructure projects has resulted in cost blowouts in the billions.

In his Budget speech the Treasurer claimed that “good Liberal budgets don’t increase tax, they decrease tax.”

But…in the six years of this Government, state taxation revenue has increased by 53 per cent – from $20 billion to $31 billion.

New South Wales is now the highest-taxing state per capita in the nation.

50 billion dollars’ worth of public assets have been privatised.

The stable and predictable profits that those assets once returned to the state budget every year are gone.

The state now relies on unstable and unpredictable stamp duty receipts.

 

Making Energy Affordable Again

For six years this Government has had one energy policy.

Just privatise it.  Just sell it.

The result is that electricity is fast becoming unaffordable.

Families and small businesses are facing record power bills- because the Government did everything it could to drive the price up ahead of privatisation.

It went to court to overturn the independent regulator’s price cuts.

Labor will not stand by and let family budgets be crushed and businesses wrecked by power price hikes.

The retail electricity market was deregulated in 2014.

The Liberals and Nationals promised that this would put downward pressure on prices.

Instead, prices are going up and up.

From next week, households are facing an annual average increase of over $300 and small businesses $900.

The respected Grattan Institute reports that excessive profits are being made in the retail electricity market.

Electricity privatisation and price de-regulation has NOT delivered what the Liberals and Nationals promised. 

Today, I put the electricity companies – and the Liberals and Nationals - on notice.

We will re-regulate the electricity companies to ensure that consumers are treated fairly.

A Labor government will eliminate energy company super profits to make electricity more affordable for families.

 

Secure and clean energy

On February 10 this year, New South Wales ran out of power.

Tomago Aluminium, a major employer in the Hunter with 1,000 staff, had its power cut off for over 3 hours.

The smelter only narrowly avoided catastrophe.

Last week the Australian Energy Market Operator in its Energy Supply Outlook warned of the risk of electricity supply falling short of demand, especially in extremely hot conditions.

While other states are acting now, the New South Wales Government is standing idle.

We are staring down the barrel at the possibility of blackouts this coming summer.

This Government’s inaction is negligent in the extreme.

There’s much more that a Labor government in 2019 and beyond, can and will do.

But our state cannot wait.

The Market Operator’s warning is stark. And it is urgent.

There is an immediate need for more energy generation that can reliably contribute towards meeting demand on the hottest summer afternoons.

Battery storage is essential to ensuring the supply of energy at the times of greatest demand.

I call on the Government to immediately tender for 100 megawatts (MW) of storage to be delivered and in place for this coming summer.

Other Governments are acting.

Queensland’s government is looking at battery storage in its 400 megawatt (MW) renewable energy tender.

The Victorian government will deliver 40 megawatts (MW) of battery storage for the coming summer.

South Australia will deliver 100 megawatts (MW) of battery storage and up to 200 megawatts (MW) of temporary diesel generation.

The Federal Government is spending $2 billion on the Snowy  to increase generation by 50 per cent.

But in New South Wales - nothing.

Since the Liberals and Nationals came to office, the 1,000 megawatt (MW) Wallerawang power station has closed. Another, Liddell, a 2,000 megawatt (MW) station, is set to close within 5 years.

A Labor Government will:

  • Use proceeds from the transfer of the Snowy Hydro to invest in renewable generation across regional New South Wales
  • Provide a fair minimum solar tariff – so that households with rooftop solar are paid fairly for the power they generate. We will legislate for the IPART recommended rate to be mandatory.
  • And massively increase solar energy generation on the rooves of government buildings.

Across the New South Wales public sector, including local government, there are a multitude of opportunities to install rooftop solar on buildings such as schools, TAFEs, hospitals, police stations, libraries, offices, courts and depots.

This is an industry in itself – and with huge growth potential.

The only thing missing today is the political will to make it happen.

 

Infrastructure for Western Sydney

Greater Western Sydney needs to grow half a million new, additional, jobs between now and 2040.

The Western Sydney Airport will be the single greatest contributor to jobs growth in the region.

But we only get one chance to get this right.

Today I call for the creation of a joint Commonwealth-State Western Sydney Airport Co-ordination Authority.

The Federal Government is taking responsibility for building the airport itself.

This is the start, not the finish.

The co-ordination of land use and surface infrastructure planning is essential to the airport region’s development.

Proper co-ordination will involve an early focus on essential connections, such as electricity, water and sewerage for the airport’s surrounding employment zones.

The airport itself requires a rail connection from day one.

And it’s time, now, for a fuel pipeline corridor to the Airport to be reserved.

At the moment the plan is to supply jet fuel by road.

Forty three  B-doubles from Clyde.

This isn’t sustainable.

Sydney Airport receives its millions of litres a day by an underground pipeline from Kurnell.

The construction of a pipeline to the new airport needs to be accelerated.

We need efficient supply and distribution networks – to ensure our state’s farmers have a competitive edge and our world class primary produce is delivered to new markets in China, India and across South East Asia.

To create jobs and attract business investment to the Western Sydney airport region, proper planning and co-ordination between governments, including local government, is required now.

This Premier’s first major commitment was to build a tunnel from Mosman to the northern beaches.

It’s the wrong priority for Sydney.

The right priority is investing in transport improvements for western Sydney.

Western Sydney’s population is growing from 2 million residents to 3 million in just over a decade.

That’s why Labor’s priority is the Western Metro – a new railway line for Western Sydney.

I commit Labor today to accelerating the Western Metro.

We won’t proceed with this Premier’s pet project, a northern beaches tunnel.

Rather, we’ll prioritise the delivery of a new underground metro railway line between Parramatta and the Sydney CBD.

Because, frankly, the needs of 3 million residents of western Sydney must come before those of 300,000 northern beaches residents.

The existing Western Line is at full capacity now.

The Western Metro will effectively double rail capacity between our two CBDs of Parramatta and Sydney City.

The Liberals say they are committed to the Western Metro.

But not a single dollar is allocated to it in this Budget.

When it comes to transport, people will have a clear choice at the next election.

The Liberal’s priority: a northern beaches tunnel.

Labor’s priority: new metro rail for Sydney’s west.

 

Apprenticeships & Training

Six years into the life of this government, we have fewer young people in training.

63,000 fewer students enrolled in TAFE.

Continued sackings of teachers and support staff.

Another 500 this year, bringing the total to 5,700 since the Liberals and Nationals got their hands on TAFE.

And the slated sale and closure of campuses– particularly in regional and rural areas, where these cuts hit hardest.

My commitment today is that a Labor Government will require 15 percent of jobs on Government construction projects, valued over $500,000, to be allocated to apprentices, trainees, indigenous Australians and  the long term unemployed.

This will create thousands of new jobs for trainees and apprentices every year.

Labor will re-build one of the great institutions of our state – TAFE. 

We will guarantee at least 70% of vocational education and training funding for TAFE.

We will also set up a Private Providers Investigations Unit, to target dodgy providers and restore confidence to the vocational education sector.

Our aim is simple and it is achievable: to help young people gain the skills they need and create the skilled jobs for them.

 

Stopping the offshoring of local jobs

This government has exported thousands of local manufacturing jobs.

It awarded the contract to build the next generation of inter- city trains to South Korea – even though the trains won’t fit through the Blue Mountains.

Labor stands for Australian jobs.

The Liberals and Nationals send these jobs offshore.

The New South Wales Ambulance Service fleet is one of the largest in the world.

The 1,500 vehicles cover about 120,000 kilometres every day.

Today I give a guarantee.

Under Labor all ambulances will be built here.

And all ambulances that need to be repaired, restored and rebuilt will have that work performed on our shores.

That will protect and secure jobs here.

This is a vote of confidence in the Hunter’s skilled manufacturing workforce.

 

Relieving the pressure on our overcrowded hospitals

Our hospitals are under enormous pressure.

Patients wait at every stage.

They wait for an ambulance, they wait in emergency, they wait for a bed and they wait for elective surgery.

Patients crowd emergency departments as many can’t get to a bulk billing GP.

That’s why a Labor Government will establish Nurse Walk-in Centres, to relieve the pressure - by providing a free alternative treatment for very minor ailments.

We also need to tackle our elective surgery waiting lists.

There are seventy-five thousand patients waiting for elective surgery in New South Wales, including fifteen thousand elderly patients awaiting cataract removal.

Today, I announce that a Labor Government will deliver a one-off Elective Surgery Acceleration Plan to slash waiting lists for non-urgent elective surgery such as cataract removal and hip and knee replacements.

For our senior citizens, a cataract means they can’t drive, can’t see their grandchildren, can’t read the paper.

Currently, many patients can wait for almost two years for these procedures.

We will conduct a one-off elective surgery blitz for thousands of patients, conducted outside the busy winter and summer periods.

 

Domestic violence

We remain the only state or territory in Australia which hasn’t joined Our Watch, which was established to drive nationwide change in the culture, behaviours and power imbalances that lead to violence against women and their children.

It is a powerful resource and one we should be a part of.

Under Labor, New South Wales will be.

 

Investing in our children’s education

It’s taken three Premiers, four Treasurers and seven budgets for the Liberals and Nationals to work out there’s a soaring school age population in our state.

Six years of neglect means we now have a school overcrowding crisis.

When Labor was last in Government we built and opened on average over five new schools each year.

In six years of Coalition Government, that figure plummets to an average two new schools per year.

When the Liberals and Nationals came to office they savagely cut the school building budget.

And half of the new schools and expansions announced in this budget have been previously announced.

We’re now in a crisis – a school age population boom, not enough schools and at the same time one in five of our teachers have already reached the retirement age.

100,000 children receive their education in demountable class rooms.

Labor will do so much more.

We will have an unprecedented school building program.

We will do what those opposite won’t do – give the Greater Sydney Commission the power to seize surplus Government land from other departments and agencies in order to build and expand schools.

Under Labor the policy of the state will be that every new school built must include childcare or before and after school care facilities, on site.

Every primary school student will be taught a second language.

And every child will have access to at least 15 hours of affordable preschool education per week, in the year before school.

When it comes to investing in our childrens’ education, Labor will always do so much more than the Liberals and Nationals.

 

Delivering affordable housing

Our state’s capital is one of the least affordable cities in the world when it comes to the cost of housing.

Sydney’s median house price tops $1.15 million.

Average Sydney house prices are now over 12 times the average annual income.

First home buyers make up less than eight per cent of those taking out home loans.

And just one per cent of rental properties are affordable for those on the minimum wage.

Yet this Budget does nothing to deliver any more affordable and social housing.

The Liberals and Nationals won’t act.

Labor will.

My commitment is that the next Labor Government will introduce mandatory affordable housing targets that will deliver thousands of new homes every year for those on low to middle incomes.

25 per cent of dwellings constructed on government-owned land that is being redeveloped will be designated as affordable housing.

15 per cent of dwellings constructed on privately-owned land rezoned for housing will be designated as affordable housing.

UrbanGrowth’s work will be refocused to ensure its top priority is to assist first home buyers.

And a Labor Government will work with a Federal Labor Government to reform negative gearing.

Labor’s plan sets aside real homes for people on middle and low incomes.

Labor’s plan will give first home buyers a fair chance.

A fair chance they are currently denied by the Liberals refusal to act.

 

Local Government Reform

This Government’s undemocratic and detested policy of forced council mergers is in chaos.

Rejected by local communities.

And now, rejected in the courts.

Premier.

Swallow your pride.

Admit defeat.

Abandon your forced council mergers.

I make this commitment:

A Labor Government will allow local communities to determine their own futures.

We’ll allow local plebiscites on demerging forcibly-merged councils.

We’ll introduce caps on electoral donations and spending.

And we’ll ban developers from being elected to councils and making decisions in their own interests.

These reforms are necessary to bring democracy and fairness back to local communities, throughout the entire State.

 

Protecting our environment

Reckless assaults on our urban and natural environment are a defining characteristic of this Government.

Just look at:

  • The needless destruction of century-old trees, planted as a tribute to the original ANZACs, along the Anzac Parade and
  • The return to the bad old days of land clearing.

And now, not even our national parks are safe from the conservatives.

Internal government documents reveal secret plans to construct a motorway through the Royal National Park.

This is Australia’s oldest national park, created in 1879.

The second oldest anywhere in the world, after Yellowstone in the United States.

The Americans wouldn’t come at an idea as silly as this.

Not even President Donald J. Trump would plough a motorway through Yellowstone.

Labor, the party that built the finest national park system in the world here in New South Wales, won’t have a bar of a toll road being carved through one of our state’s most popular, most visited national parks, a mecca for our citizens and for tourists, a refuge for hundreds of plant and animal species, and 300 species of birds.

I make it clear today that a Labor Government, upon coming to office in 2019, will act to nominate the Royal National Park for World Heritage Listing.

We will save one of the most special natural places on earth, the Royal National Park, from the Liberals.

 

Investing in our regional communities

To boost regional NSW, Labor will support the sale of the state’s share of the Snowy Hydro scheme to the Federal Government – conditional on guaranteed ongoing public ownership of this Australian icon.

Under Labor, every dollar of the proceeds from the Snowy Hydro will be spent in regional New South Wales.

The $4 to $5 billion in expected funds will be used to improve regional school, TAFE, hospital, road, energy, water, cultural and sporting infrastructure.

100 per cent of the funds spent on desperately needed infrastructure in regional and rural New South Wales.

The Nationals commit 30 per cent of the Snowy Hydro proceeds to regional communities.

Labor commits 100 per cent.

The Illawarra is a major economic contributor and our Jobs Action Plan is a comprehensive strategy to back the region’s potential.

We’ll secure the future of the steel industry - and we’ll grow jobs in the tourism industry with an upgrade to the WIN Entertainment Centre. 

And unlike those opposite we’ll upgrade the Appin Road.

Labor will end the neglect of the Central Coast.

We will support the refurbishment of town centres and build the Woy Woy underpass.

In our Far West, in Balranald, Bourke, Brewarrina, Broken Hill, Central Darling, Cobar, Walgett, Wentworth and the unincorporated area – the challenge is a significant drop in population.

From 1991 to 2015 it fell by more than 11,000 – to just under 48,000.

Business has difficulty attracting and retaining staff, because of poor connectivity and infrastructure.

Once again, the Nationals won’t act.

But Labor will.

Today I commit a Labor Government to abolishing payroll tax for all small and medium businesses in Far West New South Wales.

In May, I asked the Premier to waive payroll tax for flood-affected businesses in the North Coast region for 12 months.

There’s been silence.

So today, Labor re-states our commitment to help the people of that region get back on their feet.

 

Conclusion

There is a better way for New South Wales.

Labor understands that people’s pay packets aren’t growing, but their bills never stop growing.

So we’ll tackle the electricity companies super profits and return the money to the people.

Labor knows that our schools, our preschools, our technical and further education colleges and our hospitals are the very foundation of a good life for all of our citizens.

Labor has positive policies and long term plans to spread prosperity beyond Sydney’s CBD to all regions of this state.

Labor is focused on the future, focused on a fairer New South Wales delivering opportunity for all.