Doorstop Interview: Domestic manufacturing; federal election results; 2023 state election

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CHRIS MINNS MP
NSW LABOR LEADER

LYNDA VOLTZ MP
MEMBER FOR AUBURN

SUBJECTS: Domestic manufacturing; federal election results; 2023 state election.

DONNA DAVIS, LORD MAYOR OF PARRAMATTA: Councillor Donna Davis Lord Mayor of the City of Parramatta and it’s great to welcome you here today to our city and to BluGlass Proprietary Limited, I’m here with the State Member for Auburn Linda Voltz and Chris Minns, the State Opposition Leader, and I’ll now hand over to Lynda to have her talk to you about this wonderful industry.

LYNDA VOLTZ, MEMBER FOR AUBURN: Hello everyone, well, thank you for coming out to the bulkhead of Western Sydney. This is where a lot of the real work in NSW goes on. We’re at BluGlass today, one of our important manufacturing areas in Silverwater. They do advanced manufacturing here, exporting overseas, value adding and doing so much for the NSW economy and it’s all based on what comes out of our universities and the research and development that our universities do. So it’s a fantastic facility, we’re very proud of it as we are all our manufacturing down here in Silverwater and this is the future for NSW.

IAN MANN, CEO BLUGLASS: Well, thanks I’m very happy to host this visit today, Australia’s only listed semiconductor manufacturing company here. We’re very proud of the development technology that we’ve done over the years, all spun off from Macquarie University and spearheading what we think is the next generation of laser diodes and other semiconductor material properties.

So with that, I think I’ll hand over to Chris.

CHRIS MINNS, NSW LABOR LEADER: Thank you. Thanks Ian, thanks Donna, thanks Lynda. What a privilege to be here at BluGlass to hear about their experiences, making and manufacturing semiconductors for export around the world partnering with firms in Silicon Valley and really bringing cutting edge technology to the marketplace, not just in Australia, but right around the world. The technology that’s being produced in the factory behind us are elaborately manufactured goods based on research and development done at local universities. It’s wonderful to see it established right here in Western Sydney. And it’s also great to hear that so many of the employees are graduates of Australian universities, UNSW, Macquarie, UTS. Speaking to Ian and the leadership team here at BluGlass, the reason they chose Western Sydney was because of its proximity to the research hub and Macquarie University and also the wonderful labour and talent that exists right here in Western Sydney. We have to understand the changing nature of the workforce in Australia. We have the goods, we have the know how, we have the expertise, we have world leading universities, there is absolutely no reason why we can’t make and manufacture goods for the entire world. This is the jobs of the future, it’s wonderful to see it located right here in Western Sydney. We want to make sure that future governments continue to invest in research and development to make sure that children, young people, university graduates have access to the jobs of the future.

Look secondly, I want to congratulate Anthony Albanese on his election as the Prime Minister of Australia. It is extremely difficult to be elected prime minister of this country, particularly from opposition, particularly if you’re a Labor leader, of the last 10 elections we have lost seven and won three. And so Anthony’s elevation to the Prime Ministership is a great testament to his resilience, his hard work, his vision for the country. I also think it’s a great story about Australia, that a kid from council housing commission, who grew up with a single mum can rise to the highest elected position in this country. Anthony will be a wonderful Prime Minister, we know his heart is in Sydney and in Western Sydney and in NSW and I know he’s going to be fighting every single day for the interests of the people of this state, notwithstanding all the other states and their competing priorities and calls on his time.

Look, I think there’s been a lot of talk about the teals and the effect of the independents on the vote on Saturday, I completely understand that there’s clearly been a sea change when it comes to the composition of the Federal Parliament. There are many more independents that have been elected for conservative seats right across Northern Sydney and in the Eastern Suburbs. I truthfully don’t think there’s been enough that has been spoken about when it comes to the cost of living and the burning a hole in the pocket for families that live in Western Sydney in particular. Obviously, it’s of interest to many people to see seats switch from Liberal candidates and MPs to teal candidates, but a big part of the last federal election was the cost of living impact on millions of families across Australia, but particularly in Western Sydney. And the difficulty many families have in paying their mortgage, paying for tolls, paying for costs, fees and interest rates that are undoubtedly going up in the coming months. They’re doing it tough, and they didn’t see from the outgoing Federal National Liberal Government, that they were doing enough to put downward pressure on the cost of living and to make sure that their wages kept pace with the increasing costs for the average family. It used to be the case that a single income would get your kids through school and allow you to pay off the mortgage. Then it was two incomes in a family to get your kids through school and to pay off a mortgage. Now for many people, even that is not enough. And I’m speaking to families who’ve been saying to me consistently over the last six months, what more can we do? We already worked full time jobs, mum and dad, for example, are already working around the clock. They’re already making sure that their kids are in childcare. And they’re spending time away from the family to pay off the mortgage. But we’re seeing the costs associated with the average family go through the roof.

And the last point I’d make before we go to questions is I’ve seen the NSW Treasurer make many comments about the internal politics of federal Liberals. But his priority needs to be on this state, on the cost of living for average families, and he needs to explain what he and the Premier are doing to drive down the cost of living for families, particularly in Western Sydney and make sure that their wages keep pace with the crushing costs of working and living and raising a family in Sydney.

JOURNALIST: You said it is extremely difficult for the Labor Opposition leader to be elected Prime Minister. Do you, having seen that victory, see it as extremely difficult for you to be elected Premier?

MINNS: I do, I think it will be very difficult for Labor to get a majority government in New South Wales. We’re completely cognisant of the task in front of us. No one would be looking at the result on Saturday night and taking anything for granted. We’ve got an uphill battle, many voters will be discerning about state issues and federal issues, and hey’ll make a decision based on what’s best for themselves and their family and the future of the state. So I think we’ll live and die based on our performance in the run up to March. And I promise, anyone who thinks that we’re taking the next state election for granted because Labor won on Saturday needs their head read. We’ve got a big hill to climb, were determined to do it, but we’ve got a long way to go.

JOURNALIST: There was some gains in Western Sydney, they weren’t huge, do you think that’s enough for you to be elected?

MINNS: I have to look at the results more closely in many ways they were patchy. So in the North West there were big swings towards Labor in the Federal seat of Parramatta there was swings towards Labor in some booths and away in other parts of the electorate. So I think that there are many people in Western Sydney looking at those results and deciding that there’s particular issues that are affecting them and their families. Overwhelmingly however, those that live west of Parramatta are saying to me and I think to federal candidates, we want people to have real solutions and ideas to the crushing cost of living crisis in NSW at the moment, and that’ll be the challenge for me, and it’ll be the challenge for the NSW Premier as well. I’d like to say that should be the priority of the NSW Treasurer, but he seems to be obsessed with internal federal political machinations. He needs to get his eye on the job, because it’s only getting more expensive to live and work in Western Sydney.

JOURNALIST: On the Western Sydney gains, I mean, do you take, you said it’s going to be really difficult, but do you take any heart from what happened on Saturday night and do you think that it does translate to the state level. Are you a little bit buoyed by the result?

MINNS: Obviously to see a Labor government win proves that if you can make a case and you can execute it, you’ve got a united team, and you can make that case every single day in the election campaign, then you’ve got a shot at winning. But I just want to make this point, that we know we’ve got a big hill to climb. We know that many families and many communities in Western Sydney are at the moment, looking at both political parties and independents and deciding what’s best for their families and for the state. And that is our sole priority. And I don’t want anyone to believe, particularly my show, my members of parliament and my shadow ministry, I don’t want them thinking the next election will be a cakewalk, it will be very difficult. We will have to fight for every vote for every seat and make sure we’ve got practical ideas and policies to make this state better.

JOURNALIST: What do you think the Labor party can learn from seats like Fowler?

MINNS: Look, I think the message is clear, we have to listen to the community and South Western Sydney, particularly voters in Fowler. They want local candidates that understand the issues in their electorate. They want to make sure that local candidates for example, understand how hard it is to live in Western Sydney, the cost of tolls, fees, fines charges and interest rate rises, and they want a member of the community who represents that in federal parliament and in state parliament. There’s a few key issues that are important when it comes to Fowler. That community was subjected to curfew, a lockdown and a different set of rules applied to them than it did to the rest of Sydney. In addition to that they’ve had to pay an increase in tolls as a result of the privatisation of the toll network in Sydney, and many families any many communities believe they’re being forgotten by the traditional governments in Federal Parliament and State Parliament. Now, the political party that steps up to the plan to make their life easier, and a vision for the future, I think has got a good shot of getting their vote, but they’re up for grabs and they’re telling both political parties, we want you to listen to us and come up with solutions to make life easier.

JOURNALIST: So you don’t think Kristina Keneally being parachuted in [inaudible]

MINNS: Look self evidently that did play a part. It would be I think, silly for me to stand here and say that that wasn’t the case. Plus, we have to listen to the local community. Now, I felt that Kristina Keneally has made a huge contribution to NSW, I want to make the point that I thought she went out with grace on Saturday night and on Sunday praising her opponent, acknowledging that it was a tough fight. All we can do at state Labor is focus on the future and make sure that we’ve got candidates running particularly in Western Sydney who understand what the pressures are in that part of NSW and are prepared to fight on their behalf when they get into Macquarie Street.

JOURNALIST: [INAUDIBLE] Are you worried for them, how likely is it that the infrastructure agenda will actually come to fruition and the policies made in collusion now we’ve got two competing Governments?

MINNS: I think part of the reason why you see so much disenchantment in Western Sydney is primarily because the Eastern suburbs or communities east of Parramatta, have got so much new public transport infrastructure and those that live West of Parramatta have got toll roads. So it’s new public transport for the East, toll roads for the West. And to make matters worse, to add insult to injury you’re seeing a massive increase in population to communities West of Parramatta. So for example, the Blacktown local government area will have to take an additional 200,000 people in the next 15 years, 190,000 for Camden, 180,000 for Liverpool local government area. These are huge increases in population for communities that are already doing and tough when it comes to an infrastructure backlog. They’re seeing new train stations and new rail lines open in other parts of Sydney, I think not unfairly, they’re saying when’s our turn.

JOURNALIST: How concerned are you, Labor went backwards, they won the election but the primary vote of Labor went backwards from the last federal election to on Saturday. How concerned are you that it’s going to be really difficult to win a state election with a primary vote that low given we’ve got optional preferences, so you don’t get that help from those Green preferences at a state level. How concerning is that primary vote for you?

MINNS: If the question to NSW Labor is, is the next election going to be tough, the answer is yes, it will be really difficult. And no one in our team is taking anything for granted. We know we have to go door to door and make the case for Labor. And we have to do two things at the same time. I think not unfairly demonstrate to the people of Sydney and NSW what the Liberal Party in the National Party are doing the wrong, that’s our job, they haven’t been perfect. But not just stop there we then have to finish the sentence if you like and explain what we would do differently. What are our policy offerings? What new ideas would we bring to the table in a challenging economy in a difficult budget environment to make NSW better? I think we’re up to the task but I am in no way under any illusions about how difficult that will be. It will be difficult.

JOURNALIST: The Centre for Western Sydney says there’s an opportunity to have these kinds of advanced manufacturing facilities in Western Sydney. Currently, it’s quite hard, the minority, it doesn’t count for most of the jobs. How do you attract these kinds of facilities to Western Sydney so the people there who are dealing with rising cost of living expenses have access to well paid jobs?

MINNS: That’s a great question and you’re absolutely right. We believe in Western Sydney, that’s the main thing. We’ve got world class education out here in the western suburbs. We have wonderful universities that are pumping out great graduates as well as research and development to start new industries. This is the thing that all political leaders must understand, we must believe in the capacity and the opportunity out here in Western Sydney. Now part of that is twofold, firstly, it’s to make sure that we’re continuing to invest in research and development. The factory that’s behind me came about as a result of a grant that was awarded to Macquarie University that broke a new technology. That technology is now being exported around the world, we could do it again and again and again. That’s what successful advanced economies around the world are doing in Singapore, in Germany and other parts of the world. So let’s grab what they’re doing in other jurisdictions and in other countries, we can replicate it here in Western Sydney, I’m convinced of that. Second point here is, you’re right, there’s two ways of attacking cost of living – there is to make sure that families can pay the mortgages and that their wages keep pace as best as possible with the rising cost of living. That means good well paid jobs for Western Sydney. I believe it can be done but it means looking at where there can be value add for industries like this. Where can they grow not just with new markets, but can they have even more value add to the products that they’re distributing to other countries to finish? I’m convinced that we can do it, but it does require a culture shift and a policy shift from the NSW government.

JOURNALIST: How do you think that the Premier will go with negotiating with Anthony Albanese?

MINNS: I hope well, I mean, my overriding hope for the next nine months before the state election is that NSW does well, that it’s – that the state government and the federal government negotiate on behalf of the interests of the people of the state. There’s no room for politics when it comes to the challenging economic environment that we all face over the next nine months. We know interest rates are going up. We know there’s a squeeze on the NSW budget. And we know that communities in Western Sydney and regional NSW need help, they need help from the federal and state governments. So I would expect full cooperation between the Premier and the Prime Minister and the fact that they’re from different political parties shouldn’t matter. I just make this last point, the relationship between NSW Liberal Premiers and Liberal Prime Ministers have been particularly bad over the last few years, so maybe the relationship will get better.

JOURNALIST: Sorry, you’re out here today, you’ve obviously seized on the fact that you know, Western Sydney, the West is where it will be won. The Premier’s not out today, the Premier still hasn’t commented on the election. He’s yet to, you know, have any sort of answer any questions about the direction of the Liberal Party. Do you think it’s strange that Dominic Perrottet would, I guess, shirk the media on a day like today when there are clear questions to be asked?

MINNS: Well look, I mean, I think that the big question people in Western Sydney would want to ask him is what are you doing for us? I mean, how have you heard the message from the results on Saturday? Are you listening to our communities when we say we want investment, we want infrastructure, we want our fair share of taxpayer dollars being spent in the state. That’s the primary objective, I think, of any NSW Government certainly this Premier, and the last 24 hours, 48 hours and even prior to election day, mostly, the NSW Liberals seem to be obsessed with themselves. Commenting about the moderates versus the conservatives, the impact of the teal voters in Eastern Suburbs and the Northern Beaches of Sydney. I mean, let’s just put that to one side, we’ve got major problems in the state, cost of living is going through the roof, families need help, their priority and focus needs to be on this state and not on their own political party.

JOURNALIST: Through the federal election, we’ve seen different issues spoken about in the outer suburbs compared to in the inner-city seats. The Liberals failed to talk across all issues. Do you think Labor did and can for the upcoming state election?

MINNS: Well, I mean, it’s an interesting question, I think that that’s the variegated nature of having so many electorates, that’s our representative system. And we can’t tell the voters what they’re interested in. At the end of the day, they tell us what the major issues are in parts of Sydney close to the CBD, the interests were obviously different to what’s happening in Parramatta and Penrith and Leppington and Camden. Political parties have to be agile to the extent possible you need to have a vision for the future of the state. We’re beginning to articulate that, standing on the same side as families, making sure that we can make a dent in the cost of living, believing in Western Sydney, its manufacturing capacity, its commitment to young people. And I think finally, acknowledging aspiration, everybody no matter where they live in NSW, if they’ve moved to this country as recent immigrants or if they’re second or third generation or they’ve been here forever, they want to get ahead they want to make sure that their family can get ahead and do what’s best for their children. NSW is an aspirational, state and political parties need to reflect that in their policies and their directions.

Thanks everybody.

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