State Economy



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SpeakersSpeaker; D'Amore Ms Angela; Iemma Mr Morris
BusinessQuestions Without Notice, QWN


STATE ECONOMY
Page: 8318

Ms ANGELA D'AMORE: My question is addressed to the Premier. Can the Premier inform the House of risks to the New South Wales economy, following comments by the Leader of the Opposition?

Mr Chris Hartcher: Now that's a Dixer.

Mr MORRIS IEMMA: It is a very good, detailed question formulated after a thorough examination of the budget, which I note the member for Terrigal had a cursory glance at the other day in relation to Kincumber fire station.

Mr Chris Hartcher: Are you going to build it?

Mr MORRIS IEMMA: Yes, and we will staff it too.

The SPEAKER: Order! I call the member for Terrigal to order.

Mr MORRIS IEMMA: It was the second budget-in-reply speech delivered by the Leader of the Opposition and the biggest magic pudding we have seen so far. It was a string of rehashed and cobbled together announcements, all coming from the same pool of money. I note that the Leader of the Opposition is still drawing on the proceeds of last year's announcement that he would sell the electricity retailers. Last year there were no ifs or buts; just spend the money. Last year he said that he would spend the proceeds on infrastructure. This year he is spending it somewhere else.

Mr Barry O'Farrell: No.

Mr MORRIS IEMMA: Yes.

Mr Barry O'Farrell: You weren't listening.

The SPEAKER: Order! Members will cease interjecting.

Mr MORRIS IEMMA: It was a reference to the fact that last year he said he would set up a community infrastructure fund and this year he made reference to it. He did not say what he meant by last year's infrastructure fund. He left out the words "electricity retailers" because he is still working out what his position on it is. Twelve months ago his position was that he would privatise electricity and establish a community infrastructure fund.

The SPEAKER: Order! I call the member for Epping to order.

Mr MORRIS IEMMA: Then it was, "I will sit on the fence." Then it was, "I will support but with conditions." Then it was, "I will support with those conditions but not in its current form." The latest proposition is, "I still want to think about it in its current form and see if I can make my mind up as to exactly what it is that I stand for when it comes to the State's electricity industry. Nevertheless, in my budget-in-reply speech I will make reference to an infrastructure fund that I announced last year. I will spend the proceeds but I will not say where they come from." If you cannot work that out—and we will assist the Opposition here—that was his position on energy. We heard a lot in the speech of the Leader of the Opposition about debt.

Mr Brad Hazzard: Do you want a signed copy of the speech?

Mr MORRIS IEMMA: Yes.

The SPEAKER: Order! I call the member for Wakehurst to order.

Mr MORRIS IEMMA: But there was not one word from the Leader of the Opposition, who feels the State's debt levels are too high, as to which infrastructure projects he would abandon, suspend or put back to reduce the State's debt levels. The Leader of The Nationals has had plenty to say about the budget in coastal areas and rural New South Wales. If he feels that the debt levels are too high—namely for borrowing to build the New South Wales of tomorrow today, borrowing to build economic infrastructure, renewing the electricity network, renewing our ports, improving the capacity of our farmers to get their produce to the ports and into export markets, or the ability of our manufacturers to get their goods to ports and to export markets to earn revenue—he could assist his Leader by going through Budget Paper No. 4 and informing the House in his response to the Budget which of the projects he would abandon.

The SPEAKER: Order! I call the Leader of The Nationals to order.

Mr MORRIS IEMMA: We have heard all week about wages. But was a wages policy referred to in the budget-in-reply speech? No, of course not. Not even a starting point. There was nothing about a wages policy. There was nothing about an infrastructure policy. There was nothing about an economic policy for New South Wales. Not surprisingly, given that the Opposition went to the last election with no transport policy, the speech in reply to the budget said nothing about what the Leader of the Opposition would do to build transport for New South Wales. There was, however, something about benchmarking. The Leader of the Opposition has proposed that we set targets and benchmarks and report on the performance of government agencies. What a good idea!

The SPEAKER: Order! I place the member for Wakehurst on two calls to order.

Mr MORRIS IEMMA: That is something that agencies have been doing for some time and was pulled together back in 2006 when over 4,000 groups and individuals came together to help the Government develop the State Plan to set targets in 34 key areas of Government. And guess what? We keep it all secret! Yes, it is all updated regularly on the Government website but don't tell anyone! If that was too difficult for the Leader of the Opposition to understand as he raced out of the Chamber on budget day and went up the stairs to Level 8 to collect his budget papers, I remind him that in the packet there was Budget Paper No. 3, in which government agencies report their progress on State targets and what they spend.

We then come to the proposal by the Leader of the Opposition for school and hospital capital works: he will seek submissions from teachers and nurses. The Leader of the Opposition will get the nurses from emergency departments into offices to fill out a submission. There will be $834 million spent this year on hospital redevelopment or new hospitals—$2.3 billion over the next four years—and there will be 31 new school and TAFE college projects totalling $700 million. Yet the best the Leader of the Opposition can come up with is to ask teachers and nurses to fill out a submission.

If the Leader of the Opposition had bothered to read the Budget, he would have discovered one thing: when you build a new hospital you actually improve the working conditions of the staff that work there. That might come as a surprise to him, but it is something that does happen when you spend money on capital works. The teachers and nurses ought not to hold their breath on receiving an outcome from their submissions if the Leader of the Opposition should ever sit on this side of the House.

I now come to how The Leader of the Opposition would pay for the school and hospital car park upgrade. For the benefit of the Leader of The Nationals I advise that he would start by taking $205 million from farmers to pay for that proposal. The Leader of the Opposition discovered an item in the budget of $1.75 billion, which he described as a windfall revenue gain to the State to be hypothecated to the car parks. On examination of that $1.75 billion, $1 billion is from Commonwealth grants, including $205 million for drought assistance. Good work, Barry!

The SPEAKER: Order! I call the member for Epping to order for the second time.

Mr MORRIS IEMMA: That is part of the windfall revenue gain the Leader of the Opposition referred to. That pool of funding also includes $168 million from the Commonwealth for public hospitals. The next one is not surprising because, as we heard yesterday, The Nationals will never support water for the environment. The amount also includes $129 million for environmental water flows, which will help restore health to our rivers. That is the windfall gain the Leader of the Opposition talks about. The final amount is $49 million to help combat the equine influenza. The Leader of the Opposition is either too lazy or simply does not care to analyse the budget. That is the windfall gain that he said he would spend on those car parks. It is less than the Government is spending on capital works for hospitals and schools, and it would deny farmers drought assistance, the horse industry equine influenza compensation and environmental flows for our rivers.

The SPEAKER: Order! I call the member for Hawkesbury to order.

Mr MORRIS IEMMA: That is the so-called windfall gain referred to by the Leader of the Opposition.

The SPEAKER: Order! I call the member for Hawkesbury to order for the second time.

Mr MORRIS IEMMA: Then the Leader of the Opposition spoke about housing and the shared equity scheme. Remember the last time they dabbled in housing? We had to bail out the Home Fund disaster. Far from helping battlers into a home, this scheme would drive prices up, not down. It would boost demand in the housing sector, without a single measure to address the supply issue. On the Opposition's own assumptions, it would cost an estimated $632 million over four years, adding pressure on spending in other areas. The Leader of the Opposition did not mention the measures the Government has taken already to assist families into their first home, such as providing 33,000 additional lots at moderate prices by increasing supply.

The SPEAKER: Order! I remind the member for Wakehurst that he is on two calls to order.

      Mr MORRIS IEMMA: The biggest impediment to home ownership is the nine interest rate rises, the legacy of John Howard and Peter Costello. I was sure that I had heard about this shared equity scheme before. It struck a chord. Sure enough, the shared equity scheme has been recycled from a proposal in 2006 by the former Leader of the Opposition, the member for Vaucluse, and Malcolm Turnbull. I thank the Opposition for its endorsement of the Government's policy to increase the participation rate at preschools to 95 per cent. While the Leader of the Opposition worked on his magic pudding, the Government commenced its investment in preschool education. By 2011 preschool participation rates will be at 95 per cent, thanks to our current investment plan.
The Department of Community Services, assisted by my colleague the Minister for Community Services, has advised that currently 72,000 children, or 83 per cent of four-year-old children, are receiving a preschool education in New South Wales. If the Opposition had bothered to read the budget, it would have found that we are providing an additional 10,500 children the opportunity to attend preschool two days a week. Whilst the Leader of the Opposition was fixing the photocopier, we were getting on with the job of investing in additional preschool positions. I am advised that the Leader of the Opposition's plan would lead to an oversupply of almost 20,000 places, or preschool spots for 40,000 children who do not exist. The mums and dads across New South Wales better get ready.