NSW Labor Leader Luke Foley North Coast Campaign Launch Speech

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NSW LABOR LEADER LUKE FOLEY

 NORTH COAST CAMPAIGN LAUNCH SPEECH

 FRIDAY MARCH 6, 2015

 

Thank you Justine – it’s wonderful to be here in the Tweed.

Justine, you have always shown that Labor can win and hold seats here on the North Coast.

We have four outstanding Labor candidates here, at this State election.

They’re working their hearts out, let’s give them a huge hand.

 

Ron Goodman in Tweed.

Paul Spooner in Ballina.

Isaac Smith in Lismore.

Trent Gilbert in Clarence.

I acknowledge our Shadow Minister for the North Coast Walt Secord.

And a special thanks to my good friend Annastacia Palaszczuk.

I will never forget that magical Saturday night in January, glued to my TV, switching channels between the Socceroos victory in the Asian Cup Final …

And Labor, under Annastacia Palaszczuk, taking back Queensland.

Annastacia, you honour us with your presence here today.

The people of Queensland stopped the sale of their electricity network by electing a Labor Government on January 31.

The people of NSW can stop the sale of our electricity network by electing a Labor Government on March 28.

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The communities of the North Coast look to government to preserve what is unique about this region, to respect its natural values and to present a plan for the future.

At the coming election, only Labor has that plan.

If you vote Labor – this is what you’ll get.

We‘ll keep our electricity network in public hands.

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

And Labor will permanently ban coal seam gas activity on the North Coast – from the Queensland border to the Clarence Valley, across all seven local government areas of the Northern Rivers.

This election, you can choose a new approach for NSW.

Annastacia has taught us that electoral mountains can be climbed, that every election is winnable.

This thing can be done – and it starts by winning seats right here on the North Coast.

We can all feel the change in the air; in the Victorian and Queensland election results; in the turmoil of conservative politics in Canberra.

This is a time when people are looking for change.

This is a time when people are looking for a new approach.

When you have a Government obsessed with privatising electricity in order to promise second and third crossings of Sydney Harbour…

It’s time for a new approach here on the North Coast.

When you have local hospitals in dire need of upgrades and Mike Baird and Tony Abbott taking $18 billion out of our state's health system…

It’s time for a new approach here on the North Coast.

And when you have double digit unemployment here and young people locked out of TAFE...

It’s time for a new approach here on the North Coast.

Let's be honest, Labor suffered a devastating defeat up here in 2011.

Kristina Keneally put it best on election night 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.

We had to re-examine ourselves, find humility – and change.

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

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

And a bold reform of the way candidates are chosen – with the largest ever community preselections, and our first ever regional community pre-selection in Ballina.

Politics on the North Coast needs change.

Just look at the Nationals record – cuts to health and education, a growing unemployment rate, support for coal seam gas.

And so, at the heart of this election is a fundamental question.

Can we find a new way to make politics work on the North Coast?

A new way to balance protection of the environment with economic development?

A new way to plan our coastal areas in a way that respects local communities and keeps what is special?

I say to the people of North Coast...

...You deserve a new politics, you deserve a new approach.

And that is what I will offer in three weeks time. 

KEEPING ELECTRICITY IN PUBLIC HANDS

Nothing could better symbolise the old politics that the people want us to abandon than the Nationals’ plan to sell the electricity network and the Abbott Government’s plan to pay them to do it.

And they’re now blackmailing the North Coast for basic infrastructure needs.

If the Queensland election tells us one thing – it is this.

You can stop privatisation by voting Labor.

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, $420 a year from every customer goes directly into the pocket of the private billionaire owner.

Will infrastructure be better? Of course it won’t.

There will be more cuts to schools, hospitals and TAFE and the Coalition can’t explain how they will fill the black hole when billions of dollars of electricity profits are lost to the state.

And what if the Coalition fails to sell the electricity network, or fails to get the price they claim they will get?

Well in Mike Baird’s own words, there is no plan B.

If he fails to get privatisation through – or if he fails to achieve his desired price – he can't fund his extravagant promises.

The contrast with Labor’s infrastructure approach could not be greater – a classic example is Grafton Bridge.

Mike Baird and Troy Grant have told the people of Grafton, cop the privatisation of electricity and we will buy you off with a bridge.

The people of Grafton shouldn’t have to make that choice.

The Nationals shouldn’t be blackmailing the people of the region.

And Labor will not play this game.

Labor has confirmed that as part of our $10 billion infrastructure plan –

We will reserve $177 million to build a second bridge over the Clarence in Grafton, and we will do it without privatising our electricity network.

Labor’s plan maintains the budget surplus over the economic cycle.

We will maintain the State’s AAA credit rating.

I am not making extravagant promises that my opponent is making in this campaign – but what we promise, we can pay for.

NEW APPROACH TO HEALTH ON THE NORTH COAST

Friends

The Labor Party that I lead has a new approach for NSW.

Too many North Coast families are in hospital emergency departments for too long.

And too many senior citizens are queuing for up to a year for hip replacements, cataracts and other elective surgery.

Today, Labor recognises the concerted grassroots efforts of staff and patients – who have rightly demanded the redevelopment of The Tweed Hospital.

Recently it was reported that Labor planned to match the $48 million upgrade promised by the Nationals on the back of their electricity privatisation.

This is incorrect.

I’m not interested in matching the Nationals.

What I am interested in is genuinely meeting the needs of the Tweed’s ageing and growing population.

Today I can announce that Labor will provide $211 million for the much needed Tweed Hospital redevelopment.

This reservation from Labor’s $1.7 billion statewide hospital infrastructure fund will deliver stages one, two and three of the redevelopment.

It will include enhancement of specialist units and ward expansions with up to 140 extra beds.

This redevelopment will also deliver up to 22 extra beds in the renal dialysis ward, expansions to clinical services such as the intensive care unit, cancer clinic, operating theatres and upgrades to the special care nursery, stroke unit, geriatric evaluation, medical imaging and pharmacy.

Tweed Hospital is one of the State’s busiest hospitals.

Labor will build the Tweed Hospital of tomorrow and we will do it without privatising the State’s electricity network.

Today I can also confirm that Labor will complete the $90 million redevelopment of Lismore Hospital with a new and expanded emergency department, renal dialysis unit, ambulance drop-off and bay, emergency medical unit and new pathology unit. 

Labor will act on community concerns and provide $2.3 million to deliver a brand new operating theatre at Ballina Hospital and $5 million to upgrade the emergency department.  

A Labor Government will reserve $7 million for a new Ambulatory Care Facility at Grafton Base Hospital.

This will be a crucial addition to delivery of outpatient services in the Clarence Valley.

With an eye to the future, Labor will also plan for future Integrated Care Colocation Centres at Ocean Shores and Evans Head.

By integrated care, I mean a one stop shop for nursing services, oral health, mental health, physiotherapy, podiatry and early childhood services.

This is important to the residents of Ocean Shores and Evans Head who face growing populations – yet currently have no local health facilities and must travel long distances.

Labor will reserve funds for a Regional Multipurpose Health Facility in Tenterfield – to improve health services in the town which have declined in recent years.

And I will ensure our commitment to healthcare on the North Coast is anchored by a core Labor principle.

We will guarantee the public operation of surgical procedures at the future Byron Central Hospital.

Day surgery in public hands – guaranteed under Labor.

Gynaecology, orthopaedics and colonoscopy all publicly provided.

Labor believes in a health system – on the North Coast and all over NSW – run for patients and not shareholders.

This package is the greatest ever commitment to health infrastructure and services on the North Coast.

Fully costed and fully funded.

And not one cent relies on privatising electricity. 

NEW APPROACH TO EDUCATION

There are close to 1.2 million children in NSW schools today.

And between now and 2031, we’ll need 6000 extra classrooms for as many as 270,000 more students.

Huge growth across the board – not limited to any one sector – and it’s happening right here on the North Coast.

At this election, Labor’s bold new approach to education

  • employs 200 new specialist maths and science teachers in primary schools;
  • plans the growth of new schools – and
  • rescues TAFE

Under Labor, every new school will be required to have childcare or before and after hours care facilities on site.

It will be the law of the State.

Over the past four years of Coalition Government, capital expenditure on schools has been savagely cut.

Labor’s priorities are very different.

If elected, we will provide an additional $1.3 billion over and above the existing capital works budget to build and improve our schools and TAFE colleges.

And we’ll do it without selling our electricity network.

Today, out of this fund, I can confirm that Labor will reserve $30 million to upgrade both Ballina High School and Southern Cross School.

Ballina High and Southern Cross schools both have a deep connection with the communities they serve.

Recently, Mike Baird and the Nationals announced they would build a new $40 million so-called “super school” at Ballina High, forcing secondary students from Southern Cross School to pack up and move in.

If the Nationals had have consulted with local parents and pupils, they would have learned that the community does not want Southern Cross school to be closed.

They want their existing schools upgraded and supported.

The Nationals knock-down-rebuild of Ballina High and closure of Southern Cross school fails the test of good policy-making and has angered local families.

Labor has listened and we will act to protect these two good schools and modernise them for the 21st century.

NEW APPROACH TO ENVIRONMENT

There can be no new approach for the North Coast without a bold agenda for environmental protection.

This is one of the passions of my public life.

In 1982, Labor Premier Neville Wran saved the rainforests of Northern NSW – the single most important and visionary nature conservation decision in the history of NSW.

I have walked through those forests – through the great Nightcap National Park, protected in perpetuity by Labor.

And Bob Carr’s Labor Government added further northern icons to the reserve estate.

We in Labor know that not everything in this world can be commodified.

That’s why, if elected in March, Labor will permanently ban coal seam gas exploration and extraction on the North Coast.

Labor will declare a total ban on CSG and unconventional gas mining throughout the entire region – encompassing the Tweed, Byron, Ballina, Lismore, Kyogle, Richmond Valley and Clarence Valley local government areas.

This is an issue where NSW Labor listened to the community and changed.

We stand with the farmers and conservationists who stood up at Bentley.

Let be me clear. Under a Labor Government, any company looking to mine for coal seam gas up here will be wasting their time.

We will not allow them to operate here.

The Nationals – Geoff Provest, Don Page, Thomas George and Chris Gulaptis – simply rolled over to the Liberals.

Here in the Tweed, let me commit to protecting Lot 490 forever by bringing it into the public reserve estate as a regional park., declared under the provisions of the National Parks and Wildlife Act. 

Friends, Labor will create the Great Koala National Park and a series of koala conservation reserves, to save the koalas of northern NSW from extinction.

I am determined that ours will not be the generation which allows the koala to become extinct in the wild.

I also announce today that a Labor Government will move to secure World Heritage Listing for even more of the iconic northern rainforests.

Labor intends that 460,000 hectares in NSW, spreading along the escarpment from the Queensland border to the Hunter should be immediately nominated as additions to the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia’s World Heritage Area.

Our proposals for additions to the World Heritage Area include icons such as the Washpool, Dorrigo and Barrington Tops National Parks.

These rainforests are remnants of the flora and fauna of the ancient super continent, Gondwana. The Gondwana rainforests contain the largest and most significant remaining areas of subtropical rainforest in the world.

NSW Labor will partner with the Commonwealth to give these rainforests the international recognition and protection they deserve.

CONCLUSION

Friends

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, choices to damage the environment and trample over local communities right here on the North Coast. 

And the Nationals are his accomplices.

I believe in something different – Labor has always believed in something different.

We believe in a fair go for all.

We want a decent quality of life for everyone.

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

That’s why I’ll fight every day until this election is done.

What the North Coast needs today is a new approach.

What the people of the North Coast can vote for in three weeks time is a good Labor government.

At this election the choice could not be clearer.

A vote for the Nationals is a vote for the coal seam gas industry and the privatisation of our State’s electricity network.

A vote for Labor is a vote for to keep the electricity network in public hands …

Keep coal seam gas out of here forever.

And to build the schools and hospitals of tomorrow…

It’s a new approach for the North Coast.

Our Pledge to North Coast Hospitals