NSW Budget Reply Speech 2016

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Legislative Assembly, NSW Parliament

23 June 2016

Madam Speaker.

This budget fails our community.

It fails the pupils and parents in our schools.

It fails the patients in our hospitals.

It fails the paramedics and police, the nurses and teachers, who can’t afford to buy a home in our State’s capital.

It fails to plan for a sustainable future.

We might be disappointed.

But we cannot be surprised.

This Budget comes from a Government that spent the last year campaigning to increase the goods and services tax (GST) to 15 per cent.

It wants to increase the GST and use the billions in extra revenue, not to invest in our state’s schools and hospitals, but to fund massive tax cuts for corporations.

Yet Treasury advised that an increased GST would add tens of thousands of dollars to the cost of a new home, making it even harder for first home buyers.

The aim was to make every household pay more to give large corporations a tax break.

The assault on household budgets doesn’t end there.

Mr Baird is now the highest taxing Premier in our state’s history.

Electricity, public transport and tolls - the Government wants families to pay more.

Next week, electricity bills will go up, not down. 

The Government could and should have backed lower prices for households and small businesses.

But they went to court to put the prices up.

Because of their privatisation program, the Government wants the electricity companies to be making super profits.

So electricity prices go up.

Regular commuters face a twelve and a half per cent increase in their weekly train fares come September - at a time when inflation is a fraction of that.  

And soon there will be a toll imposed on the existing M4 - making commuters pay $45 a week for a road that is currently free.

Over a year they’ll pay an extra $2,300.

Worse still, the toll on the M4 can increase above the CPI – making the toll more expensive every year.

 

Madam Speaker.

This government’s defining characteristic is its arrogance – a self-importance that sees it dismiss legitimate community concerns.  

The government has trashed local democracy – sacked elected mayors and councillors, forced mergers, gerrymandered boundaries and cancelled elections.

All this while integrity reforms have been stonewalled.

This Government has no respect for our history and our heritage.

It wilfully, spitefully destroys century old trees along Anzac Parade – even though trams and trees co-existed there for decades.

At Parramatta, it will not even talk with the community about how the War Memorial Swimming Pool can be kept along with a new stadium.

This government knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.

Destination NSW says that our state’s key tourist attractions are its physical beauty and natural experiences.

Being clean and green is also central to our reputation as a premium agricultural provider to Asian markets.

Given the economic importance of these industries, protecting our environment is not only the right thing to do – it also has a real economic value.

But whenever there is a choice to be made, this Government goes against the environment and against sustainability.

Just look at:

  • The heavy new penalties for peaceful protestors alongside the reduced fines that apply to rogue mining companies that damage prime agricultural lands
  • The 1950s thinking that allows sewage to be dumped into Sydney Harbour at 25 locations
  • The weak regulations for particulate air pollution when we know its lethal health effects
  • The return to the bad old days of land clearing – even while the Local Land Services have had their funding cut
  • The culture war being waged against cyclists with new penalties that have nothing to do with improving safety

Labor stands for the protection of our natural environment and our urban heritage.

We will repeal the laws that criminalise peaceful protest and ensure there can be no repeat of the desecration of Anzac Parade.

And we will have land clearing laws that protect our beautiful native bush and our unique animals.

 

Madam Speaker.

The Department of Education reported earlier this year that there is a $10.8 billion shortfall in funding for the school places we must deliver over the next 15 years.

By 2031 we must find places for almost a quarter of a million more school children.

165,000 more children will be attending our public schools.

The Government’s boasted all week about increased funding for schools’ capital works.

Take this additional funding over the next four years announced in the Budget.

Then, make an assumption that the increased allocation will continue beyond the forward estimates.

Add all other current and promised expenditure on new schools and upgrades of existing schools.

Under the Baird Government it will take 45 years to deliver the new schools that are required within the next 15 years.

At the rate New South Wales is delivering new classrooms it will take until 2061 to deliver the school places we must provide by 2031.

30 years behind schedule.

In this budget, the Government announces one new school for the fifth budget in a row, and still not a sod has been turned.

This is why I’m so angry at the waste and mismanagement, the cost blowouts on this Government’s watch.

Hundreds of millions of dollars have been wasted on the shambolic rollout of the failing Learning and Management Business Reform (LMBR) software project.

In transport the Government stumbles from one budget blow-out to the next.

The Westconnex road project has blown out by $6.8 billion.

The Metro South has blown out by $1.5 billion, the inter-city fleet renewal by $1.1 billion and the CBD light rail by $500 million.

$38 million has been squandered on a footbridge no one uses to a promised stadium that the Government will now not build.

Labor knows that education is central to the long-term success of our people and our society.

The OECD says that the “quality of schooling in a country is a powerful predictor of the wealth that countries will produce in the long run.”

We live at a time when a property boom is delivering rivers of gold to the government’s coffers.

And the Premier boasts of the billions the government is making from asset sales.

If we can’t secure the future of our state’s schools now, when can we?  

Today I call for immediate action.

The Government should urgently audit all public land – across each  department and every agency – to identify priority sites for new schools.

The single largest expense when it comes to building new schools is the cost of purchasing land.

Turning unused and under-used government land in areas of great demand for additional school places into sites for new and expanded schools just makes sense.

A Labor Government will drive an unprecedented schools building program.

Across Sydney and the Central Coast we’ll give the Greater Sydney Commission the power to force other government departments and agencies to hand over landholdings that have been identified as suitable locations for new and expanded schools.

88 per cent of the new school places our state needs must be delivered in metropolitan Sydney.

This government’s addiction to selling off our public assets has seen prime sites for school expansions and new schools flogged off.

The cost of purchasing land in coming years to meet the future school needs of our growing population will be much, much higher than the proceeds of these public land sales now.

Labor will create a new uniform planning code for schools.

We will build schools where they are needed and when they are needed.

The planning code will also ensure that every new public school will include either on-site childcare or before and after-school care to make life easier for working parents. 

Our state’s future prosperity will rely on our close economic and cultural ties with Asia. 

But the number of students studying Asian languages is dwindling.

We need to invest in language education.

Learning a second language improves the overall academic performance of our kids.

It helps them succeed and excel. 

That is why, under the next Labor Government all primary school students will be taught a second language and we will properly fund our Community Language Schools.

This will bring our schools up to speed - not just with other states, but with the rest of the world.

Madam Speaker.

Labor believes that children should have every opportunity for a good start in life.

We will ensure that every child in this state has access to affordable, quality preschool for the recommended 15 hours per week in the year before school.

The Auditor General has exposed how this Government has failed children.

New South Wales runs last for preschool participation. We fall well behind every other state and territory.

Our families continue to pay the most for preschool anywhere in Australia.

Every child deserves the best start in life and preschool is key to making that happen.

Madam Speaker.

It is the role of Government to provide a strong and affordable public education system.

This Government doesn’t value public education. It doesn’t believe in TAFE.

The Government sees TAFE as a cost centre – not as a centre for learning.

The Government is running down TAFE – it sacked teachers, cut courses and hiked fees.

The Budget tells the tale – a staggering 126,000 fewer students than there were in 2012.

Fourteen and a half thousand fewer students with disabilities.

Five thousand fewer teachers and support staff.

Funds have been moved from TAFE to private providers – many of whom have been proven to act unscrupulously.

I announce today that a Labor Government will move immediately to establish a Private Providers Investigations Unit.

The unit will investigate those dodgy training providers who are breaking the spirits of our young people.

We will target the shonks and restore confidence and stability to the sector.

Labor will always be the party that stands up for TAFE.

That is why we have introduced a bill to guarantee at least 70 per cent of public funding for vocational education and training to one of this State’s great institutions - the TAFE Commission.  

 

Madam Speaker.

Elective surgery waiting times and lists in New South Wales are now the longest on record.

Since this government was elected five years ago, elective surgery waiting times have blown out to 229 days.

Patients in our state face waits longer than in Canada, the United Kingdom and New Zealand. 

Our elective surgery waiting times are the second worst in Australia.

There are now more than 74,000 people waiting for elective surgery. 

Almost half of those patients are waiting for orthopaedic surgery or cataract removal.

It is the elderly and families in Western Sydney, the Central Coast, the South Coast and regional centres who are really feeling the brunt of these unacceptably long waits.

Yet there was no mention in the Treasurer’s budget speech of the impact on our hospital system of billions of dollars of Federal cuts that will take effect from 2017.

 

Madam Speaker.

Innovation and regulatory reform can help us grow a stronger economy.

In last year’s Budget Reply, I said that we must accept the reality of the digital age and legalise, and properly regulate, ride-sharing services like Uber.

Embracing the sharing economy is part of my vision for our state’s future.

Enabled by smart technology, people are finding new ways to share goods and services.

But the state’s laws have not kept pace.

A common regulatory standard for short-term accommodation services, such as Airbnb, is overdue.

I propose a state-wide planning policy to harmonise the hodge-podge of regulations local councils are currently applying.  

Thousands of people are already earning extra income, and thousands more are enjoying the extra choice, that services like Airbnb provide.

And the visitors contribute to regional economies – 80 percent of listings in Sydney are outside of traditional tourist hotspots.

If you are simply renting out a space in your primary residence, governments should not tie you up in red tape.  

A state-wide, consistent, clear planning instrument will eliminate regulatory uncertainty and benefit neighbours, home owners and tourists.

 

Madam Speaker.

The Climate Council has ranked New South Wales as last among Australia’s states and territories when it comes to renewable energy.

There are now fewer people employed in our state’s renewable sector than there were in 2011.

Other states are securing renewable energy investments, but we lag behind.

In 2011, the Government published its draft Planning Guidelines for Wind Farms.

Five years on, the guidelines have still not been finalised.

The result is that regional areas have missed out on billions of dollars of investment.

The Commonwealth Department of Industry, Innovation and Science says there are twenty-two wind projects proposed for New South Wales valued at 5.7 billion dollars.

But these projects are being obstructed by the planning system.

The regulatory uncertainty created by this Government doesn’t help communities and it doesn’t reduce carbon emissions.

Labor supports a clean energy future for our state, and planning mechanisms that provide certainty for the community and industry.

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

It has all the ingredients to be a national hub of clean technology industry – world class institutions such as the CSIRO and the Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources at the University of Newcastle, a highly skilled manufacturing sector and long experience in commercialising innovation.

As with research and development in clean energy and battery storage, the Hunter can also lead the way with driverless cars.

Driverless cars will be with us sooner than many might think.

The driverless car industry is forecast to be worth more than $90 billion globally by 2030.

This emerging technology has the potential to transform our road system – improving traffic efficiency, cutting congestion and reducing the road toll.

I want New South Wales to be in on the ground floor – open for business for this exciting emerging industry.

Legislation should be introduced to facilitate the entry of driverless cars to New South Wales.

We should legalise the testing of autonomous electric cars on designated public roads.

The Hunter should become the centre of expertise for adapting and integrating driverless vehicle technology into our everyday lives.

And we should be making sure that land release areas and substantial new developments are future proofed - built with support infrastructure for electric cars.    

 

Madam Speaker.

While supporting new industries, our state should also build on its traditional strengths.

Last month Labor announced our steel plan to secure thousands of jobs in the Illawarra and across New South Wales with a ‘whole of life’ procurement assessment that will see 90 per cent of the steel used in major infrastructure projects made in Australia. 

There will also be a Steel Industry Advocate, based in the Illawarra, appointed to undertake a thoroughgoing review of the sector, with a particular focus on innovation, research and development.

 

Madam Speaker.

Sydney is Australia’s professional services capital.

Over 125,000 people are employed in the high skill, high wage jobs of the legal, accounting and management consulting sectors.

Last year I convened discussions with the professional services sector to consider limited legal liability for partnerships.

These would combine the organisational flexibility of a traditional partnership with the limited legal liability of a corporation.

Limited liability partnerships exist in many countries, including the United Kingdom. 

Our businesses should have the right to organise themselves in the same way as do their international competitors.

I commit Labor to this reform.

It will further cement our leading position in the provision of professional services - particularly as the market for these services becomes increasingly global.

 

Madam Speaker.

150,000 people pass through Sydney Airport each day – passengers, airport workers, meeters and greeters.

It’s Australia’s busiest airport – a major piece of national economic infrastructure.

Yet only around 20 percent of the airport’s users travel to or from the airport by public transport.

If this could be lifted to 40 percent, there would be 30,000 fewer people travelling on the roads around the airport each day.

In 2012 the Government promised to enhance public transport to Sydney Airport.

But four years later there is still only one bus to the Kingsford Smith Airport – the 400 from Burwood to Bondi Junction.

Not one new bus service announced by this government will go to Australia’s busiest airport.

The Government won’t act, but Labor will.

We’ll provide additional bus services to the airport, including a new service from Sutherland and St George.

And we won’t stop there.

Action is needed to reduce the traffic nightmare around the airport.

It’s a drain on state and national productivity.

The $13.40 station access fee is a major disincentive to travelling by train.

The starting point of any infrastructure plan should be to get the most out of the infrastructure that already exists.

Labor removed the station access fee at Green Square and Mascot stations – and saw passenger numbers at these stations surge.

A lower station access fee means more people travel by train.

My commitment today is that the next Labor Government will enter into commercial negotiations with the privately owned Airport Link Company to secure a reduced station access fee of $5.00.

And we’ll also eliminate the fee completely for the airport’s 29,000 workers.

We will support public transport, to cut congestion at Sydney Airport.

 

Madam Speaker.

One of the first acts of the Coalition when it came to government in 2011 was to close down the permanent Parliamentary Budget Office.

It established only a temporary parliamentary budget office for six months every four years, with temporary staff and much diminished responsibilities.

Today I commit to lifting the quality of debate in this state on fiscal, financial and economic matters by re-establishing a permanent Parliamentary Budget Office.

It will prepare costings of election promises for party leaders and independent members, and also prepare costs of proposed policies from members of Parliament at any time.

It will improve the standard of policy making and legislative decision making in New South Wales.

Labor also commits to modernising parliamentary petitions - that most ancient of a citizen’s rights - by accepting electronic petitions as well as paper ones.

The Commonwealth and Victoria have permanent parliamentary budget offices.

The parliaments of Queensland, Tasmania, the ACT and the Northern Territory all accept e-petitions.

Under Labor we will have a modern parliament.

The public needs to have confidence in the democratic process and in the administration of this state.

After years of scandal – corruption inquiries, the dodgy Free Enterprise Foundation, resignations, the walking ATMs and the scandalous campaign in East Hills - the public knows the vital importance of the Independent Commission Against Corruption and the New South Wales Electoral Commission.

But this Budget disgracefully slashes funding to the ICAC.

When it was investigating Labor Party figures it, rightly, received the funding it required to do its job.

Now that it has shifted its attention to Liberal Party identities, it is forced to make do with 20 fewer staff.

Labor supports the Independent Commission Against Corruption and the commitment I make today is that a future Labor Government will always provide the ICAC with the resources it needs to do its job properly.

The Premier should think again, make the same commitment and restore the funding.

The Electoral Commission should also be provided with more resources, so that it can operate a properly resourced flying squad to tackle the dodgy donors and shonky lobbyists - with a particular focus on local government.

 

Madam Speaker.

The government’s budget ignores a raft of health and education priorities.

This government’s assault on local government and cuts to the Independent Commission Against Corruption reveal an arrogant contempt for the very institutions of our democracy.

There is a better way for New South Wales.

Labor brings new ideas for innovation and reform to grow opportunity and prosperity in our state.

Labor understands that our urban and natural environment is not the enemy of, but a pre-condition for, a prosperous economy. 

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

Labor is focused on the future, focused on a sustainable economy delivering opportunities for all.