Doorstop Interview: Cost of living in NSW; small businesses; ferries; tolls; flu vaccines; federal election

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CHRIS MINNS MP
NSW LABOR LEADER 

STEVE KAMPER MP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR SMALL BUSINESS

JASON YAT-SEN LI MP
MEMBER FOR STRATHFIELD 

SALLY SITOU MP
FEDERAL MEMBER FOR REID

JASON YAT-SEN LI, MEMBER FOR STRATHFIELD: Good morning everybody, I’m Jason Yat-sen Li, I’m the Member for Strathfield. Welcome everybody to the electorate. We’re here at the Infinity Cafe and Bakery, a local business that has done it tough but has been incredibly resilient through the pandemic. I’m here with Labor Leader Chris Minns, Shadow Minister for Small Business Steve Kamper and I’m really happy to be here with our new Federal Member for Reid Sally Sitou.

I’ll hand over to Sally Sitou now.

SALLY SITOU, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR REID: Thanks, Jason. And it’s great to be here in this wonderful business in the heart of Reid. We know that families are facing a pressure valve situation at the moment. They are experiencing the rising costs of electricity prices, childcare fees, groceries, and we just need to be making sure that we are helping them relieve some of that pressure. And we have a set of policies that will bring down electricity prices, bring down the cost of medicine and make childcare more affordable. And that’s going to be a significant relief for families because we know these aren’t luxury items, these are essential items that they need. So I’m really happy to be here with my Labor colleagues, and I’d love to introduce NSW Labor Leader Chris Minns.

CHRIS MINNS, NSW LABOR LEADER: Well, it’s great to be here with Sally and Jason and Steve Kamper and Nick and Will over here in the corner, thanks for having us boys, we really appreciate being here in Infinity Cafe in downtown Homebush. Big congratulations to Sally, a wonderful achievement to be elected to the Commonwealth Parliament. I think there’s only about 1,200 people who’ve ever been elected to the House of Representatives in Australia’s history, it’s a relatively young democracy at the national level and to achieve it is a huge one. You’ve done the Labor Party very proud, you’re going to be a fantastic Member of Parliament. And it’s great to be down here talking to some local small businesses about what’s ahead in the next 12 months. We need to put politics to one side and focus on supporting small businesses as they deal with the rising cost of inputs to a small business like this. The Labor Party, the Opposition is concerned and I’m sure state government is concerned as well about the rising costs, particularly for small businesses. We heard this morning that we can expect a major increase in electricity prices for the July quarter. We would like to know from the NSW Government what plans they have in place to decrease the costs for businesses and families as they deal with what will undoubtedly be a tumultuous 2022. If the current rate of inflation for the last quarter is replicated for the next 12 months, we can expect inflation to rise 6.8 per cent year on year, wages are remaining flat and we’ve got real concerns that thriving small businesses like this one and others in the community may struggle because wages are not keeping pace with the cost of living. Now, this is a problem that’s being faced with countries around the world but genuinely, we need to be real about it and we need to understand that all political parties, all leaders of political movements must come up with solutions to drive down the cost of living and make it affordable to live, work and raise a family in a very expensive city like Sydney and of course in regional NSW as well.

But one other question before I pass on to the Small Business Shadow Minister, Steve Kamper and that is the question of these doors on the Indonesian built ferries that are circulating on Sydney Harbour at the moment. There are very concerning reports that a customer nearly got his fingers cut off as a result of a door slamming on one of these ferries. Now we’ve been warning about these Indonesian built ferries for a long time, we think they’re inferior to the existing ferries that are operating on Sydney Harbour. The excuse thrown up by the private operator in fact was that it was the passengers fault for moving around the ferry as it was crossing Sydney Heads. Now, there are no street signs in the ocean I’m not sure how a foreign visitor coming to Australia would know that the ferries about to cross the Heads and it was about to be extremely dangerous. This comes off the back of the fact that the ferries don’t fit under bridges on the Parramatta river, they don’t operate in swells above four meters, they’ve routinely closed down and won’t fit on the port’s Ferry Terminal at Manly when there’s low tide and we also know that there’s been cracks to the rudder, cracks to the hull and cracks to windows on these foreign built vessels. We need to make sure we get domestic manufacturing done right. I think it’s time we back Australian know how and Australian manufacturing. We also know from studies into foreign build trains, trams and ferries that the original savings that had been promised by offshoring these jobs never materialised, they were either over budget, over time, or more than likely both. We think we can get a better deal right here in NSW and we think it’s time for a rethink about domestic manufacturing and what young Aussies can do right here in NSW.

Steve.

STEVE KAMPER, SHADOW MINISTER FOR SMALL BUSINESS: Thank you, Chris. And good morning all it’s great to be here with Nick and Will at the wonderful Infinity Bakery. And engaging with Nick and Will this morning it was really interesting to actually understand what pressures they’ve got on the front line. And with the with the current inflation numbers, especially the last quarter it’s putting enormous amount of pressure on businesses like this. It’s put an enormous amount of pressure on the consumer in terms of their what they spend at the counter every morning and these pressures are flying through, right through to the operations here. We’ve got staffing pressures that they’re encountering, we need to consider what the government needs to be considering what we can do for small business. What we need to also appreciate these small business operators, they have relationships with their staff, they’re all one family here and they’re all feeling the pressure together. They like to be able to pay and look after their staff and cover the cost of living increases because the cost of petrol, the cost of tolls that’s burdening these workers, they’re feeling it, but there’s pressure on the business at the same time with the value of the spend. So what we need to be focusing on is how we can actually help small business through this situation, the cost pressures that are put on them, the pressures with staff, all of these issues are what we’re here to actually understand this morning and work out where we move forward.

Thank you.

JOURNALIST: All right, you mentioned that medication should be made cheaper, do you think the flu vaccine should be free?

SITOU: I think what we should be doing is ensuring that everyone gets vaccinated, I had my local jab at the pharmacy in North Strathfield and we know that there is a huge flu season that’s coming up and we should be encouraging everyone to be getting vaccinated.

JOURNALIST: Chris, what are your thoughts on it, do you think the vaccines should be made free? [inaudible]

MINNS: I’d like to congratulate the NSW Government for their announcement in relation to the flu vaccine, it should be free, it should be made available. One thing we have to consider in relation to the COVID pandemic over the last two years is the incidence of flu in the community actually dropped, primarily because there wasn’t a lot of movement within the community during the lockdowns. As a result we basically had two years of not a deep influenza season. The decision to make the flu vaccine free is a good one, it follows the Queensland Government’s announcement of several weeks ago, we’re not going to get in the way of a good idea, when the government makes the right call, we’ll back them, we need to keep people safe during the winter months.

JOURNALIST: The Premier is today delivering his Western Sydney State of the Region address, what do you think are the top priorities of people in Western Sydney?

MINNS: Tolls. Tolls, tolls, tolls. The impact of tolls on people that live in Western Sydney has been devastating. It’s a secret tax on people that use those motorways. They’re effectively being penalised because a series of governments haven’t built public transport infrastructure within their communities. And as difficult as it is at the moment, with a lack of infrastructure and virtually no access to decent public transport, it’s about to get worse. So for example, the population growth in Blacktown local government area will go up 200,000 in the next 20 years. Camden will go up 180,000 extra people. Liverpool an extra 190 1000 extra people. Bankstown Canterbury about 145,000 extra people, but they’re not getting access to decent public transport to get to and from their homes and to the workplace. It seems to me over the last 10 years those that live east of Parramatta  have access to brand new public transport, those that live west of Parramatta, have access to brand new toll roads, and it’s burning a hole in the pocket of millions of families who simply can’t afford it.

JOURNALIST: The Australian is reporting that the MP Dai Le is facing questions of eligibility to stand following revelations today that say on her Electoral Commission Declaration that she had never been a subject or citizen of any country other than Australia, but in fact Ms Le was born in Vietnam [inaudible] do you have any concerns about her eligibility?

MINNS: I’m not going to make a comment on that because obviously there’s a technical legal inquiry that needs to be made in relation to that eligibility and given I don’t know the circumstances or even Dai Le’s past, her relationship to a foreign country or another country, it’s just not known by me, so I’m reluctant to make a comment about it. Obviously, there’s a process to follow and I expect, the recently elected member of parliament as well as political parties will follow that.

JOURNALIST: And now back to people in Western Sydney, what about the crime, you didn’t mention crime, don’t you think that’s a top priority for people in Western Sydney given the number of I guess, fatal or gang land shootings that’s happened in the past few weeks?

MINNS: Well, I think that question you asked me what was the number one priority for families in Western Sydney and I guess I can only report what they’re telling me and telling Jason and telling Sally and telling Steve, our communities are being hit by tolls. It’s one of the big input costs that is rising, along with many others. My suspicion is that electricity prices will become more and more a major issue for the household budget. And of course, we’re expecting another four potentially interest rate rises between now and the state election in March. So number one issue, I imagine is the rising cost of living. It’s typified by the decision of the government to privatise WestConnex and a toll road infrastructure in Sydney. Does that mean we’re not worried or focused on crime? No, not at all. But I suspect that the rising cost of living is burning a hole in the pocket of families in Western Sydney. And for many of them if this continues without any help from the NSW Government, and to be fair to recently elected federal Labor government, they’ll start to feel like they’re losing their future. It used to be the case that a single income could get your kids through school and pay off your mortgage, then it was two incomes, to pay off your mortgage and get your kids through school. Now for thousands of families, that’s not even enough. And they’re telling me and my colleagues what more can we do? We can’t work an extra day, there’s not there’s not extra hours in the day that you can put into your office. They’re already spending enough time away from their families. This is the primary issue that we need to start focusing on it as we head into the state election but not just for political sake but for families that live right throughout the state.

Thanks everybody.

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