Rural and regional NSW

Privatisation Public Interest Debate

Labor does not value investment in the regions because Labor simply does not understand the regions. We should not be surprised at that because it is in Labor’s DNA to turn its back on New South Wales regional areas. They believe that “NSW” stands for “Newcastle, Sydney and Wollongong” and Federal Labor sees “NSW” as “never send it west”. In the past, Labor has not wanted to invest in communities. Labor has a track record of doing that and is starting to show that it is heading down that path once again. At this point in time, regional communities are playing a waiting game. They are waiting to see which projects will be cut. They are waiting to find out which regional communities will miss out. I say to Labor members opposite in this Chamber, stand up for your communities. I bet Labor members would not even know which projects have been put into their local government areas.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I call the member for Gosford to order for the first time.

Mr PAUL TOOLE: Will those communities miss out? Will they have their projects cut? I note that the Labor members in the House probably have not even contacted the Federal Labor Government about the need for those projects. Will it be projects like the Great Western Highway upgrade, a project that this Government is investing in, a project that is creating a safer and more reliable journey over the mountains, a project that will save lives? But, no, we have the member for Maitland mocking people in regional New South Wales. The Muswellbrook and Singleton bypasses, will those two important projects happen? I ask the question. We need to know because—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! The member for Gosford will come to order. The member for Maitland will come to order.

Mr PAUL TOOLE: —at end of the day, those are critical projects that are unlocking opportunities in the Hunter. I know the Labor Opposition has been a little bit busy, but has the Opposition been developing policy to build a stronger regional New South Wales? The answer is no. Are they busy in talks with the Prime Minister about trying to convince him not to neglect the regions? Again, the answer is no. But guess what they have been doing—and they are really good at this—they have been knifing their own members. They have done that to the shadow Minister. They should stand up for him.

Mr Clayton Barr: Come on!

Mr PAUL TOOLE: And you over there, the member for Maitland, you got up at the conference and—

Ms Jenny Aitchison: Like when you knifed Barilaro?

Mr PAUL TOOLE: —spoke about how much of a great bloke he was, and then you knifed him in the back straightaway.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! I call the member for Maitland to order for the first time.

Mr PAUL TOOLE: You did not actually stand up for him—the only person who stood up for you and stood for regional New South Wales. At your conference, did you speak about regional New South Wales? Let’s put it on the record. You spoke about regional New South Wales twice.

Ms Jenny Aitchison: How is that relevant?

Mr PAUL TOOLE: How many times did you speak about Newtown? Thirty-nine times.

Ms Liesl Tesch: You weren’t at the conference when you spoke about—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member for Gosford will have her opportunity to speak in debate.

Mr PAUL TOOLE: How many times did you speak about taxes? You spoke about taxes on 71 occasions. I will give you the opportunity, the person over there who hates farmers and the Right to Farm Bill. I will give you the opportunity. Get on your feet today and rule out your methane tax. You are happy to talk about taxes but you still will not come to the party and rule that out. This Government is investing $19.4 billion into roads and transport projects across the State. Those are big and small projects, and they are not being completed alone by the Government. Those opposite should grow a spine and stand up for something. They should stand up for regional New South Wales.

I call on the Leader of the Opposition to back up his words with actions and show where he stands. Does he stand for everyone in the State? What about standing up for New South Wales, full stop? New South Wales is getting short-changed in the Federal budget. I have not heard boo from those opposite—not one media release. No‑one is calling on the Federal Government to receive our fair share. I have seen more spines on jellyfish than on this lot opposite.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! The Clerk will stop the clock. A number of Opposition members are on two or three calls to order. Members will cease calling out across the Chamber. The Deputy Premier has the call.

Mr PAUL TOOLE: Again I say it is time for the member for Kogarah to stand up for New South Wales and reject Federal Labor’s plans to make cuts to the regions. If he does not, it will be a clear message to the people of Bega, Cessnock, Maitland and Lismore that their projects are on the chopping block. The members who represent those electorates have a chance to stand up in the House today to put on record that they are fighting for those projects that have been put forward to the Federal Government. We need a Labor Party that is not just the voice of the unions and the factions; we need a party that stands up for regional New South Wales.

Mr CLAYTON BARR (Cessnock) (17:06): If I had a message to my Federal parliamentary colleagues about investment, it would be to invest in courses so that the Deputy Premier, and the Leader of The Nationals, might learn truth-telling. Then he could become more au fait with the truth and the facts and he could stop standing at the lectern and making things up willy-nilly to suit his paradigm.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The Deputy Premier, and member for Bathurst, will cease interjecting.

Mr CLAYTON BARR: I start with a story about my son and his mates and their weekends. They are a little bit like the State and Federal Coalitions when it comes to plans. It goes a little bit like this. My son wakes up on Saturday or Sunday morning and says to his mate, “I want to go to the beach.” His mate says, “Yeah, let’s go to the beach.” They both agree, “Right, we’re going to the beach.” Then an adult walks into the room and says, “How are you getting there?” They say, “We don’t know.” The adult asks, “How much is it going to cost?” They answer, “Oh, we don’t know.” The adult says, “What are you doing for lunch?” They say, “Not sure.” The adult then says, “How are you getting home?” They say, “Don’t know.”

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The Deputy Premier will come to order. He will cease calling out across the Chamber.

Mr CLAYTON BARR: I use that analogy because that is what it has been like for the past nine years when we had both Federal and State Coalition governments making announcements and what they might call “plans” for the State and the country. When this lot opposite got voted in, for the first three years of their four‑year term they blamed the then Federal Labor Government for the fact that they could not do anything, despite controlling the Treasury books. For the next nine years they had their Coalition colleagues in Federal Parliament, which is a little bit like my son and his mate, and they had control of the Federal and State Treasury books. The Federal Labor Government has been in office for less than six months and yet this New South Wales Government, which has been in office now for almost 12 years, is throwing bricks at things that might or might not happen. After 12 years controlling Treasury, the Government does not get to behave like my teenage son and his mate, with no plan, no costings, no accountability and no facts.

Mr Mark Coure: Point of order—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The Clerk will stop the clock. What is the member’s point of order?

Mr Mark Coure: My point of order relates to relevance. As much as I would love to hear a story about the member’s son—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I will listen further to the member for Cessnock.

Mr Mark Coure: His family story is going nowhere.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I have heard the point of order. I will listen further to the member for Cessnock.

Mr Mark Coure: It is going nowhere. The motion is about regional Australia—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member for Oatley will come to order.

Mr Mark Coure: It is a serious topic. We are taking it seriously.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member for Cessnock has the call.

Mr CLAYTON BARR: I do not know how to make it any simpler. I thought about bringing crayons, but that would be hard for Hansard to interpret. I tried to simplify it as best I could. What has happened to those promises and commitments? After almost 12 years, the Government does not get to come in to this place and say any project is critically important to it because it would have already done it if that was the case. It does not get to come into this place after a nine-year partnership with its Federal colleagues and say, “It was always critically important; we just could not get the money over nine years.” If it were important, the Government would have done it, and it has not.

I draw members’ attention to the Dungowan Dam business case, which of course the Government will not release because it does not want transparency. The Minister made reference to it, so I will respond to it. The Federal Government, or Infrastructure Australia, has responded to the business case, which is secret from the rest of us. It said that the project has a benefit‑cost ratio of 9c in the dollar. Not 19c, not 90c but 9c in the dollar. It has only progressed this far because Government members would have a pally-wally, a beer and a slap on the back with their mates, like Barnaby Joyce, and say, “Yep, we’ll co‑fund it. How much is it going to cost? It doesn’t matter; we’ll just co-fund it. What’s the benefit going to be? It doesn’t matter; we’re just going to co-fund it.”

Responsible governments do not do that. At the Federal and State levels we have racked up incredible debt. Each project and each dollar is important. If at the same time we say to our teachers, nurses and frontline workers that we cannot afford a decent pay rise for them, we have to equally balance the Government’s other projects. The Government is invited to provide a new business case to the Federal Government. Members opposite should get off their backsides and do it.