NSW opposition leader Luke Foley has outlined the Labor Opposition’s reply to the NSW Government’s 2017 Budget, focusing on education, electricity and renewable energy, infrastructure and regional NSW.
Education and school funding
Mr Foley said a Labor Government would have a school building program that will ensure unused public land goes towards school infrastructure. This will be achieved by the Greater Sydney Commission being given the power to seize surplus government land from other departments and agencies for much-needed schools.
Labor will also legislate that every new school built includes childcare or before and after school care facilities on-site. This will help achieve the pledge that every child will have access to at least 15 hours of “affordable preschool education per week, in the year before school”.
As well, every primary school student in NSW will be taught a second language.
For the youth, Labor announced a jobs scheme for the state’s apprentices and trainees. It estimates the scheme will create thousands of jobs for young people every year.
Mr Foley said 63,000 fewer students have enrolled in TAFE after the Coalition Government cut budgets, identified campuses in regional and rural areas for sale or closure and started sacking teachers and support staff. Another 500 were terminated this year, bringing the total to 5,700 since the Liberals and Nationals got their hands on TAFE.
He committed a Labor Government would require 15 per cent of all jobs on NSW Government construction projects, valued over $500,000, to be allocated for apprentices/trainees, indigenous people and the long term unemployed.
He also committed Labor to re-build TAFE, by guarantee at least 70 per cent of NSW vocational education and training funding going to TAFE.
Electricity and renewable energy
Mr Foley said a Labor government would re-regulate the electricity market to attempt to lower the price of power in NSW, which has approximately doubled since it was deregulated and bills “are set to increase annually by an average of $300 for residential and $900 for commercial users a year.
He said Labor would also use proceeds from the transfer of the Snowy Hydro to invest in renewable generation across regional NSW, set a minimum solar tariff for households with rooftop solar to be paid for the power they generate, and “massively increase solar energy generation on the rooftops of government buildings”.
With Sydney public transport and roads, Labor would prioritise the Western Sydney Metro over the Northern Beaches tunnel.
Mr Foley committed to the Western Sydney Metro following the current government specifically excluding in the Budget the fast rail link in favour of the Northern Beaches Tunnel.
With the Badgery’s Creek airport, Labor has called for the creation of a joint Commonwealth-New South Wales Western Sydney Airport Co-ordination Authority to coordinate land use and surface infrastructure. The authority would focus on essential connections such as electricity, water and sewerage for the airport’s surrounding employment zones.
Labor would also like to see the building of a rail connection from day one so people can get where they’re going and avoid congestion on the roads. A fuel pipeline corridor – similar to the underground pipeline from Kurnell to Sydney Airport – also needs to be reserved and construction of it accelerated as the current plan to supply jet fuel by road will not be sustainable.
Luke Foley has laid out his commitments to regional and rural NSW if elected in 2019, including that 100 per cent of the proceeds of a Snowy Hydro sale will be spent on regional infrastructure.
He said Labor’s support for selling the state’s share of the Snowy Hydro scheme to the Federal Government is conditional on the proceeds being spent in regional NSW. The sale would also be on the conditional guarantee of ongoing public ownership of the Hydro.
All of the $4 to $5 billion in proceeds would be used to improve regional schools, TAFE, hospitals, roads, energy, water, cultural and sporting infrastructure, he said.
Mr Foley promised to continue visiting the regions to hear directly from local communities. Recently, Mr Foley travelled to the North Coast, Monaro, the Upper Hunter and this time last year visited Menindee Lakes as part of two-day tour of Broken Hill.
Special treatment for Far West NSW, where regional town populations are falling and businesses are unable to attract and retain staff, would include abolishing payroll tax for all small and medium-sized businesses in the Far West.
In the Illawarra, Labor promised to assist the steel industry, and upgrade to the WIN Entertainment Centre.
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