Budget Estimates and Related Papers 2021-2022

I am delighted to address the House regarding the Government's budget and the financial challenges that the State is confronting, as well as the effect the budget is having on my local community in Campbelltown and the Macarthur region. I take this opportunity to touch on matters in my shadow ministerial portfolio areas to ensure that some of the issues confronting veterans, the local government sector and families across western and south-western Sydney are also noted by this House.

In 2015 when I was first elected and given the privilege of being the member for Campbelltown, I had one aim: to create a better Campbelltown for everyone. I believe each member of our community deserves their fair share. There is a very strong feeling not only in my electorate of Campbelltown but also right across western and south-western Sydney that inconsistent decisions were made during the pandemic about restrictions and other rules that were imposed upon us. There is still much fury and anger across the west and the south-west at the Government for making those isolated decisions, which put in place a system and process that unfairly and adversely affected people's livelihoods.

I believe the Government has missed a massive opportunity to provide funding and stimulus to the local government sector. Many councils have programs and capital works in place that have already been scoped, planned and funded; they just need the finances to actually go and do them. If the Government had decided to provide adequate funding to councils then it would have created direct stimulus for every community across New South Wales, securing local jobs and building a legacy of infrastructure for communities to enjoy whilst also growing local economies at a time when they seriously need it.

The financial status of many councils is in dire straits. That is why we are seeing many special rate variation applications, particularly in merged councils and even after harmonisation. The Central Coast Council, for example, is looking for additional funds to subsidise what was ultimately a bad decision by the Government to forcibly merge those councils. As we now know, that is the case in nearly every—if not every—merged council across New South Wales. The financial status of many of those councils is not sustainable. Quite frankly, communities, local families, local businesses, ratepayers and workers should not have to pay the price for a bad Government decision. Opposition members called it out when those councils were forcibly merged, and we will continue to call it out.

To add further insult to injury for many of those communities and councils, the Government has left them high and dry. The Government made the decision to forcibly merge them and has now left them high and dry. The Government is not providing adequate funding to ensure the financial sustainability of the councils, which is having a direct effect on communities in two ways: Communities and ratepayers are having to cough up and pay the price, whilst services and job security have also been reduced throughout local councils. That is unacceptable. We know that the local government sector, local councils, are the closest level of government to community and play a vital role, particularly over the course of the past few years with the pandemic and in fire‑affected areas. Many of them are still recovering from drought, and many of them continue to be affected by flood. Councils, our State emergency services and other volunteers have all been at the front line of those challenges, supporting their communities.

The Opposition knows that of course the State plays a vital role when it comes to supporting veterans. Yes, the Department of Veterans' Affairs is a Federal government body but that does not mean that the New South Wales State Government does not need to make adequate representations. We know that funding comes via conduits from the Federal Government to the State Government and are allocated accordingly. It would be wrong of me not to express sincere disappointment, on behalf of every fellow veteran in this State, that this Government did not even put in a submission to the royal commission on behalf of the veterans of New South Wales.

When the Opposition realised that submissions were needed, we put in a submission to try to set some of the terms of reference. Once those terms of reference were set, we also made a final submission. I think that is quite fitting and appropriate. I did that on behalf of the Labor Opposition but I also did it on behalf of every veteran in this State. The disappointment among the veterans community about the Government not making a submission is very serious. That said, I understand the Government now is taking steps to do so, and I welcome that from the Government. I note witnesses have been appearing at the royal commission yesterday and/or today as well as at other various times. We need to see the outcomes being implemented. We have seen report after report, with findings and recommendations that simply have not been adopted. We do not want to see that happen again with the current royal commission.

I know the royal commission is very thorough and is looking into everything. But, most importantly, once those recommendations and findings are handed down by the royal commission, we need to see a collaborative approach from all levels of government to provide veterans with the support they need to transition from military life to civil society and to address the many serious issues that veterans continue to confront. Whether it is employment, mental health or physical injury, it is vital that they get the attention they need and deserve. If it was good enough for service personnel and veterans to serve our nation, it is good enough for every government to serve them in their time of need. Earlier I touched briefly on the effects of the pandemic and subsequent restrictions across west and south-west Sydney. We are not seeing adequate investment in west and south-west Sydney. Quite frankly, all we have seen are tolls, taxes, privatisation and removal of revenue from west and south‑west Sydney, particularly in terms of stamp duty and a serious disparity between what is being taken out and what is put back in.

I note many major road projects are delayed, resulting in cost blowouts. That is unacceptable. We have not seen this Government make any appropriate representations when it comes to the extension of the South West Rail Link from Leppington through to the aerotropolis. This is a vital piece of infrastructure because, as we know, that will connect the two major airports—Kingsford Smith and the aerotropolis. Every piece of research shows that if there is no public transport link between those two primary and secondary airports, it limits the opportunity for that secondary airport to prosper. We cannot have that. Also, a heavy rail link will ensure that the aerotropolis and Western Sydney Airport have every opportunity to achieve their best in terms of freight. There have been many reports and it has been stated that freight will play a vital role in the success of the Western Sydney Airport, but it will not just be about the success of the airport: It will be about the jobs that need to be created. We know that approximately 1.3 million people—a population the size of Adelaide's—are destined to be located between that western Sydney belt of St Marys and Campbelltown or down through the Macarthur. That is an enormous amount of people going into an area in a reasonably short time and not too far into the future.

We have not seen adequate planning or budget allocations from this Government for a hospital. Adelaide has four hospitals; this Government has not planned to build any extra hospitals. I acknowledge we have seen upgrades around it. I know members opposite will be happy to point that out. But they are not on anything near the scale of what we actually need across the west and south-west. It is good to see health services buildings upgraded, but it is not a silver bullet. We have to have adequate staff, health workers, nurses, physicians, clinicians and everything else associated with the health service in place. We have to look after the people who are working in that field. They do not go to work just to get paid. They go to work because they want to care for patients, and that includes every allied health worker, every nurse and every doctor, clinician and physician.

I urge the Government to get serious in negotiating and working with these workers. On Tuesday I saw the biggest rally I have ever seen out the front of this building. It was a display of the frustration and the pressure that the sector is under at the moment—and the Government must pay attention. The Government must consult with those staff and provide them with the support that they need. They are the ones that have already supported us through this pandemic and they continue to do so. It is just as good for this Government to support them whilst they are supporting us.

I draw the attention of the House specifically to my electorate of Campbelltown and to the broader Macarthur region. The Campbelltown Hospital upgrade continues to progress. I welcome that upgrade. I was proud to work with our community to secure $632 million for it. But the reality is we do not have adequate funding in place for our allied health workers, nurses, clinicians, doctors, physicians and everyone else. We live in an enormously growing area. That hospital services much of the outer south-west, including Camden, Wollondilly and the Southern Highlands. It supports Liverpool Hospital, which is another fantastic hospital, filled with many amazing workers and staff. But the problem is the rate of population growth compared with the budget allocation for health and other services. The disparity between the two is just continuing to grow because adequate funding is not being put in place.

I must draw the attention of the House to the fury over the Government building a car park and making people pay for it. Ultimately, the car park has been built with taxpayers' money and now taxpayers—that is, patients, carers and workers—have to pay to park. Let us be honest, some of those workers are on the lowest wages in the industry. I commend the Health Services Union, which has been standing with those workers and fighting for a better outcome. I also acknowledge my colleague the shadow Minister for Health, Ryan Park, who has been standing with those workers and fighting for better outcomes in the sector. But it is a gross display when a government uses taxpayers' money to build a car park and then makes the same taxpayers pay for parking. It is inappropriate and just simply unjust and unfair.

When talking about our road network and transport services, it would be remiss of me not to mention yet again the urgent requirement for the upgrade of Appin Road. Yes, we have seen some upgrades to the south, further down towards the Illawarra. But, more specifically, the 10.5 kilometres from south of Fitzgibbon Lane to the roundabout in Appin needs to be upgraded. We need to keep ensuring that the Outer Sydney Orbital is connected. I have always been of the view that the orbital would be best connected to Picton Road. That would not disrupt our valued koala habitat and would recognise the sensitivities of all of our wildlife, particularly given the uniqueness of the area between the Nepean and Georges rivers. Everyone wonders why Campbelltown has the only disease-free koalas. It is because of those two rivers and the longstanding fight by community to ensure that our koalas are looked after. They must be a priority.

We need to have a holistic and collaborative approach when it comes to property development and providing the houses that people and young families want. I want to see young families and people able to afford to buy their first homes. I understand that a lot of that is based on supply. But I also understand that balance can and must be found when it comes to property development in green‑space areas. That balance is based on the needs of our economy and the supply and demand requirements of the industry and our requirement to build houses. Upgrading the Appin Road and conserving our valued and cherished koala habitat are equally important. The Government must work with all stakeholders to find that balance.

I also note the connection of Liz Kernohan Drive at Menangle and the Hume Highway. The Government's commentary has been very disturbing in recent times. I hear that it is going to place limitations on the on and off ramps. That is unacceptable. We do not want to see the same mistakes made to the south, in connecting Menangle Road and Liz Kernohan Drive to the Hume Highway, that we saw at the Narellan Road intersection. My colleague the member for Camden would be very aware of that, as it borders our electorates. He would understand, too, the frustration that the Narellan Road created for the community over many years. That could have all been avoided. I am not blaming anyone, because respective governments were involved, but we do not want to see the same mistake made again. Let us be honest: If we build the Menangle Road to Hume Highway interchange to the south and get it right in the first place, we will not be going backwards and forwards and having that same mess. It will be cheaper as well, because costs are forever going up, so why not get it done right the first time? It is so important.

Our students, teachers, mums and dads have done an amazing job through the pandemic, whether in homeschooling or quite simply in making sure that our students continue to be educated and have every opportunity to be educated. But the reality is that we require maintenance upgrades in Campbelltown and broadly across the Macarthur—again, this is population forecast. We are seeing a disparity in plans for building new schools and upgrading the ones that we have. I credit all our staff who work in our schools, as well as our teachers, the mums and dads, and our students, who have worked so hard and done so well during the pandemic, which has provided unique challenges. But the reality is that we cannot get locked into that. We need to have a broader, more holistic view on education funding in Campbelltown and across the State. We need those new schools, particularly in my electorate and the Macarthur region, as we continue to grow. We need to upgrade the schools that we have. That will provide the staff with the resources that they need to provide our students with every opportunity to get the best possible education.

In terms of transport, I continue to be disappointed. I look forward to meeting with the new transport Minister to discuss the bus requirements through Macarthur Heights. We also need to make sure that Campbelltown gets Service NSW back in our city. It should never have been closed. It was an outrage at the time and it has infuriated my local community. It also affects the electorates of Camden and Wollondilly because the only one is in Gregory Hills. It is compacted all into there. It is simply not enough. Campbelltown is the regional city of the south-west. It is the regional city and epicentre of Macarthur. For it not to have a Service NSW is nothing short of ludicrous. I will continue to fight, with our community, to get Service NSW back into Campbelltown. The Government should never have taken it away in the first place, but we will continue the fight. I will work with the Government in every possible way to ensure that our community gets its fair share, and Service NSW is one of those major priorities. We are a growing but beautiful region. The strength of our people is resilience. The best thing about where I live and our community is our people. I thank them for everything they have done during very challenging times. I thank the House.


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