John Robertson's 2012 budget reply speech
We live at a time of rock-bottom trust in politicians.
Tags: Barry O'Farrell
A poll this week found that just 22 percent of Australians trust Parliament.
The State of politics is in a terrible way.
In Opposition, Barry O'Farrell promised change. He promised to be different.
Instead, with just one 30 minute speech on Tuesday, his Government has torched its credibility.
With a Budget built on broken promises.
A litany of deception that will not only decimate the already fragile trust in politicians – but also hurt hardworking people with severe job and service cuts.
Never before has this Parliament been presented with such a secretive batch of Budget papers.
You need a precision microscope to spot the sneaky $1.24 billion worth of cuts to services and programs.
Cuts not broken down by department.
Cuts that will menace the most vulnerable in the months and years to come.
But Madam Speaker, this Budget starts to look even trickier when you have a look at what it does dare to announce.
The Premier promised he would have more public servants not less.
- Now he's axed 15,000 of them.
The Premier promised he would never privatise electricity.
- Now the generators are being sold.
The Premier promised he would not allow home ownership to become a distant dream for young people.
- Now he's axed the $7000 First Home Buyers grant for 85% of purchasers.
The Premier promised he would never allow hunting in our State's national parks.
- Now families won't be able to picnic without a bulletproof vest.
Madam Speaker, this is the Premier who swore before the election he wouldn't privatise Port Kembla.
Then pounced like a bear on a honey pot as soon as the people's backs were turned.
This is the Premier who swore he wouldn't use road cameras as cash cows.
Well, he must have had his fingers crossed behind his back.
Because in the next disingenuous breath he's rolled out 148 new cameras.
He's hiked speeding fines by 12.5 percent.
And he's collecting an extra $180 million in revenue.
The Premier is milking the cow for all it's worth.
After all the years and years that the Coalition railed about road safety cameras and posed as the motorists' friend, never before has $180 million a year in revenue been dredged up from so wretched a place.
This is the most cynical, deceitful cash grab in the history of NSW.
At the same time as this Government cuts the roads Budget by $400 million...
And the completion of the Pacific Highway duplication and the M4, M5 extensions remain a distant fairy-tale...
These speed cameras are going to be everywhere - with the Premier waiting at the bottom of every hill with his hand stretched out.
The Premier's failure to properly implement the Resources for Regions program is yet another stunning example of his breach of trust.
This was a plan to return fair proceeds to our State's mining communities.
Two Budgets in, there's just one hitch – the Resources for Regions program contains barely any resources.
While our mining communities contribute billions to the State's coffers – this Government can only be bothered to provide $9.9 million when it promised $160 million.
In a way, it's poignant to witness the moral decline of a Premier who said he'd be different.
Who once emblazoned the promise of a new era of honesty and accountability into his Contract with NSW.
Before the last election, Barry O'Farrell had an opportunity to be up front and honest about his real plans for NSW.
Instead he chickened out.
He chose to slither around in sophistry.
To hide behind weasel words like the phrase 'no plans'.
No plans to privatise electricity.
Just like he had no plans to privatise Port Kembla.
And no plans to privatise Port Botany.
Out in the real world, when a Mum in a shopping centre hears a Premier say he has "no plans" to do something she thinks that means it's not going to happen.
Only in this Government's compromised moral universe is the opposite true.
Make no mistake – behind every cut lies a human face.
And the Premier's broken promises in this Budget are going to hurt real people.
I think of the pensioner who won't be able to pay their privatised electricity bill.
The special needs students at Hunter River School in Maitland – and hundreds of others who'll continue to endure mouldy carpets and leaky roofs.
- All because of this Government's cuts to school infrastructure funding.
Madam Speaker, I think especially today of the 10,000 sacked public sector workers.
- Many of whom voted for this Premier because they trusted him when he said he wouldn't touch their jobs.
The firefighters, the hospital cleaners and the radiographers.
The soil scientists and TAFE teachers.
The classroom aides, the Community Services workers and the people who work in our justice system – just to name a few.
Their jobs won't be quarantined – and the second they vanish without trace – other staff will have to be dragged from the frontline to fill the gaps.
The Government's death by 10,000 cuts to public services in this State.
Sometimes it's the little touches that betray a Government's priorities.
In the Treasurer's 30 minute speech on Tuesday, there was not one mention of the Hunter.
Not one mention of Western Sydney.
Not one mention of the Blue Mountains.
And the lone mention of the Illawarra was to ambush Port Kembla – placing hundreds more jobs under a cloud.
It seems that with this Government's massive majority, these regions of our State have been forgotten without trace.
Just take a look at hospitals.
After 15 months of Barry O'Farrell administering the hospital Budget…
- Western Sydney emergency wards at Fairfield and Blacktown are on their knees.
After 15 months of Barry O'Farrell administering the hospital Budget …
- John Hunter is in crisis.
Ambulance paramedics forced to tend patients in the carpark because there aren't enough beds.
And the Hunter's cancer services at breaking point – with many sufferers forced to travel to Sydney for life-saving care.
On Tuesday, the Newcastle Herald reported that a Mr Charles McGregor, from Belmont, was forced to wait six weeks for urgent treatment because of the shortage of oncologists.
Last month, the head of medical oncology at Calvary Mater Hospital made a desperate plea for more funds.
This Government's response?
A Budget speech that failed to even mention the Hunter.
Failed to mention Fairfield and Blacktown Hospitals.
And failed to devote even a single extra cent.
In education, the Government has made history for all the wrong reasons.
Our schools have been turned into battlegrounds due to the Government's unwillingness to consult on its key education reforms.
And now it's handed primary and secondary schools a budget that goes backwards in terms of real funding.
It's ripped $40.9 million from the TAFE and Vocational Education and Training Budget.
It's put literacy and numeracy programs on the backburner.
It's abolished the HSC portfolio – a simple credentials folder that graduating students present at job interviews.
And it's scrapped the HSC advice line.
The HSC Advice Line allowed a student anywhere in NSW, to access trained teachers for help with their exam preparation, for the cost of a local call.
This service wasn't just there to solve a Year 12 physics problem.
- It frequently doubled as a lifeline and referral service for students experiencing worries about the future and the pressure of expectation.
The decision to scrap this $656,000 program – a drop in the ocean of the State Budget – is as mean and petty as you can get.
It is also very disappointing that the Budget fails to make any real mention of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
The needs of people with disabilities must be dealt with in a bipartisan way.
The O'Farrell Government should stop grandstanding and start negotiating with the Commonwealth on a launch site for the NDIS.
The NSW Labor Opposition is ready and willing to do all it can to help.
The supreme tragedy of this Budget is that it's cut so harshly when it could have built infrastructure and supported jobs.
Instead it's brought insecurity to the doorway of every family in NSW.
The Government is doling out the medicine – but it threatens to knock out the patient.
Particularly with business and consumer confidence already so low.
Layoffs soaring on this Premier's watch.
And the NSW economy the softest on the mainland according to the national accounts figures released just last week.
In the lead up to the Budget, leading economists were telling the Premier that slashing jobs would be bad for the state economy.
Chris Richardson, chief economist at Deloitte Access Economics, warned against a sack and burn Budget.
AMP chief economist Shane Oliver said (and I quote):
- "The danger is that it comes at a time when lots of private companies are cutting back as well. It adds to an air of negative sentiment."
As we now know, the Government didn't listen.
Instead, it plans to make 15,000 more people unemployed.
Madam Speaker, there's a reason confidence is stalling.
There's a reason the economy is down.
The Premier would have you believe his job and service cuts were forced on him by fluctuations in the GST.
GST receipts are actually going up, not down – just not up by as much as the Government unrealistically forecast.
Instead the slump in our State economy – and the resulting deterioration of the State Budget – has one explanation and one explanation alone.
And that's the Premier's failure to keep his promise to build infrastructure and fix this State.
The Premier is borrowing the money with nothing to show for it.
He's given NSW a mortgage but he's not building the house.
In this Budget, you would think that with a
- $7.6 billion explosion in borrowings
- Record mining royalties
- Increased GST revenues and the Government moving to privatise every conceivable asset
It would be cashed up to immediately start delivering on its infrastructure promises – not delay them further.
To support jobs – not cut them.
Instead Madam Speaker, the Premier is still asleep at the wheel.
When it comes to infrastructure, he is more conflicted than Hamlet.
After two budgets, Barry O'Farrell still can't even tell us his infrastructure plans.
Premier, why is it that after fifteen long months, you are still failing to fast-track roads and rail?
And when will work finally start on the M4 East?
The M5 expansion?
The Pacific Highway duplication?
The Parramatta-Epping rail link?
After 16 years in Opposition to get your plans together and nearly 16 months in office, why haven't you got on with it?
Where is all the money going?
For the last fifteen months, the people of NSW have been promised an Infrastructure Priorities List.
Nick Greiner was meant to release it at the end of 2011.
But like a temperamental chef, he’s never ready and we now hear the State’s going to be fobbed off until at least September.
The State Transport Masterplan is still months away.
Meanwhile, the planning review is dragging on longer than the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
With a Green Paper and White Paper to come before any action is taken.
So many key policy areas are in limbo.
Every waking moment, the Premier should be sending a message to investors and the world that NSW is open for business.
Instead, companies are being forced to shut up shop on his watch:
- 500 jobs gone at Kell & Rigby Construction.
- 200 at Bonds and Reckitt Bencksier manufacturing.
- Hundreds more at Rio Tinto, Bluescope Steel, Norsk Hydro, Qantas, ANZ, NAB and Westpac.
- And last month's devastating announcement of 2000 positions slashed at Hastie Industries.
There once was a time when Premiers acted as energetic champions for their States.
Premiers like Bob Carr would walk over hot coals to keep jobs. in this State.
They'd be scheduling crisis meetings. Calling in CEOs.
Yet this Premier hasn't lifted a finger.
He promised 100,000 new jobs.
But instead – jobs are walking out the door in NSW.
He's allowed our State to drift to the bottom of the pack.
He’s broken his promise to make NSW number one again.
In Opposition, Barry O'Farrell promised to restore integrity to NSW politics.
But after breaking promise after promise, the Premier has proven that he can't be trusted.
At last year's state election, the Labor Party learnt the hard way what happens when you lose people's trust.
But make no mistake.
Labor has learned its lesson.
And no-one absorbed it more intently than me.
People rightly expect their political leaders to be honest and fair dinkum.
So let me be clear – unlike the Premier, I will only promise what I can deliver.
I will not make promises that I have no intention of keeping.
And I will be clear and upfront about my values and the different priorities I would bring to Government.
In this Budget, there are many things Labor would do differently.
Things which reflect our different values, our different priorities.
First and foremost, we would support jobs.
In last year's Budget speech, I predicted that the Government's Regional Relocation Grant scheme bribing people to move from the city to the country would prove a monumental dud.
And so it's turned out.
The Government projected 10,000 applications a year.
Instead they’ve received just 636.
Among the top 5 suburbs people are claiming the $7000 grant from is Adamstown.
And among the top 5 suburbs people are moving to is Charlestown – just a few minutes down the road.
Plainly this program has to go.
That's why last September I announced that Labor would redivert this $188 million to a regional jobs fund.
Today, I can advise that I will be introducing a Private Member's Bill to create a NSW Jobs Commission.
And that's because unlike Barry O'Farrell – as Premier, my number one focus will be jobs.
We urgently need a body to drive jobs growth across the State and support regions like the Illawarra and the Hunter hit hard by mass layoffs.
Labor's Jobs Commission would strategically map out future employment opportunities.
It would identify skills shortages and develop a skills profile for each region.
Labor's Jobs Commission would be independently overseen and comprise a chairperson and part-time members.
It would evaluate regional development funding initiatives and conduct regional impact studies into proposals that cut or relocate public sector jobs.
And it would prepare an annual report to the Parliament on issues impacting jobs growth in NSW.
This is an idea whose time has come – and I urge the Coalition to support it when the Bill comes before the House.
Madam Speaker, Labor would also take a different approach towards educating our children.
Labor would immediately reverse the Government's absurd abolition of the HSC advice line and HSC portfolios – at a total cost of $1.256 million.
While the Premier didn't learn the lessons of the last election –
I and my party have.
I'm determined to ensure anti-corruption bodies are fully resourced – wherever the crooks may be.
That's why Labor would immediately restore the budgets of the Independent Commission Against Corruption and the Police Integrity Commission – sliced by $700,000 in this Budget.
Madam Speaker, the final commitment I make reflects my values.
I was, I am and I always will be opposed to electricity privatisation.
So today, I issue families a helping hand to cope with the monster price rises from the Premier's broken promise selling off our State's generators.
This Premier promised to place downward pressure on the cost-of-living.
Instead he passed on an 18 percent electricity price rise last year – with a further increase of up to 18 per cent to come following yesterday's IPART determination.
What this means is that under Barry O'Farrell's watch, average families will be forking an extra $587 each year just to keep the lights on.
When electricity was privatised in South Australia prices rose 30 percent.
If you're a pensioner on a fixed income or a struggling family, just imagine the hit.
Last year, more than 18,000 households had their electricity disconnected.
I for one firmly believe that no child should ever have to do their homework in the dark.
That's why today I announce that Labor would allocate an additional $55 million over five years to the Energy Accounts Payments Assistance Scheme.
This scheme is designed to help some of our State's most financially-stressed families who can't pay their electricity or gas bill because of an emergency.
It operates with vouchers issued through charities such as St Vincent De Paul, Anglicare and the Salvation Army.
Labor would raise the value of the EAPA voucher from $30 to $40.
And the maximum allowable household claim from $480 to $640 a year.
This $55 million funding boost would deliver help to an extra 8,000 needy families.
Increasing the voucher amount was supported by the Energy and Water Ombudsman in 2010.
The previous Labor Government committed this funding – but this Government has failed those most in need.
Labor is determined to compensate the people for Barry O'Farrell's broken promises.
I said last year that this Premier will go down in history as the Premier who lost the surplus.
And after Tuesday's budget… He still hasn't found it.
Instead, he has trashed promise after promise.
His promise not to cut jobs.
His promise to enhance – not cut – services.
His promise not to privatise electricity.
His promise to remove speed cameras.
To protect first-home buyers. To protect services and jobs.
Premier, in this Budget, you've cancelled your Contract with NSW.
You've rubbished your reputation, you've incinerated your integrity and there's no turning back.
How will you get the Budget back to surplus and the debt under control – yet still deliver your election promises?
What other services will you cut? Who else will you sack?
How many more speed cameras will you install?
When will you introduce your congestion tax?
And what else will you privatise?
After just 15 months of this Premier, there aren't many assets left for a short-term sugar hit.
Last year, this Government had no plans to privatise Port Botany.
This year it had no plans to privatise Port Kembla.
Will the Port of Newcastle be next?
Will you sell off CityRail – or our State's bus network?
When will your addiction to breaking your promises end?
Barry O'Farrell was the Premier who came in raising such high expectations.
- 15 months later, he has dashed them
While the Government fails to get this State moving, cuts the heart out of programs and breaks its compact with the community…
While it serves up the same old, same old obfuscations and excuses…
I say it is Labor who has learnt its lessons.
It is Labor who will be up front and fair dinkum with the people of NSW.
And in doing, it is Labor who will change to meet the challenges facing NSW.
, John Robertson
, National Parks