Doorstop Interview: Fast rail, NSW Government debt and deficit

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CHRIS MINNS, NSW LABOR LEADER: Chris Minns here, the New South Wales Labour Leader, a few issues on the agenda this morning. What I wanted to speak about is the government’s announcement in relation to fast rail first. Mr. Perrottet’s the third Liberal premier in the last 12 years to promise fast rail for the people in New South Wales.

 

12 years of promises and not one track has been laid. I think the people of New South Wales would rightly be very cynical that on the eve of a state election campaign, the New South Wales Government is out there again promising fast rail for the people of New South Wales. But at the end of the day, how many announcements need to be made going back how many years for fast rail to actually get up and running?

 

I think this has become one of those issues for many voters and look at it they see an election coming and they’re almost assured that the New South Wales Liberal Party will stand up and promise it. If they’re elected in 2023, I guarantee you in the run up to the 2027 election, Mr. Perrottet or his successor will be standing on a platform somewhere promising fast rail to the people of New South Wales.

 

We need long term solutions to the problems facing New South Wales. We need realistic, audited and budgeted proposals to fix the problems facing the state of New South Wales. And I think at the end of the day, looking at yet again, the New South Wales Liberals and Nationals promising fast rail for the umpteenth time will be met by serious cynicism by the taxpayers of this state.

 

I wanted to talk a little bit about treasurer Kean, particularly in the run up to the budget which is due to be released in a couple of weeks time. I think It’s really important to note that while Mr. Kean is extremely focused on internal Liberal Party politics, he’s not focused on the cost of living crisis facing the people of New South Wales or the debt bomb that he’s leaving to future generations of taxpayers in this state.

 

To put it in perspective, there’s been something in the order of $10 billion worth of new money announcements in the last week from the New South Wales Government. We’re expecting billions of dollars more to be spent in the coming week.

 

And I think it’s really important that we start to look at the amount of debt that’s been wrapped up in New South Wales, under the stewardship of Mr. Perrottet and Mr. Kean. When the government was elected in 2011, it was $20 billion worth of gross debt. We are looking at gross debt in New South Wales equalling $160 billion in the state of New South Wales, over 20% of Gross State Product. Debt that we’ve never seen before, in Australia’s largest state.

 

This is the highest number and the highest percentage of debt accumulated by any government in this state’s history, and I haven’t heard much from Mr. Kean about when New South Wales will get its triple A credit rating back, whether there’s any intention from the New South Wales Premier and Treasurer to focus on the state of the finances, and what the implications are for the state budget of paying so much money in interest on that accumulated debt.

 

To put it in perspective, the interest we’ll have to pay on the gross debt accumulated by Mr. Kean, that debt bomb, is the equivalent each year of the entire police budget and twice the New South Wales tape budget. So this is not a victimless crime. The taxpayers of this state will have to pay off the billions and billions and billions of dollars racked up by Mr. Kean, as a result of their budget management and their privatization agenda in the state of New South Wales. I’m happy to take questions.

 

JOURNALIST: I just wanted to get your opinion on the fact that there are sort of no guarantees as to when the travel time between Central and Gosford would be 25 minutes. Do you have any comment on that?

 

MINNS: Yeah, I mean, I think if the Premier is going to stand up and promise hundreds of thousands of people that the travel time from Gosford to the Central Station will be 25 minutes, he’s got an obligation to say when that exactly will happen. And I think that’s why a lot of people are cynical about this announcement.

 

He’s the third Liberal Premier in the last 12 years to promise fast rail and not one track has been laid yet straight. As we get close to a state election, all of a sudden, the fast rail announcement’s been dusted off, pulled out of the bottom drawer and presented to the people of New South Wales in a media release.

 

We need to be serious about the promises. We’re going to go to the next election with what we’re actually going to do to make the lives of the people in New South Wales better and what infrastructure plan we can reasonably and responsibly and believably rollout because at the end of the day, there are big problems facing this state. But I think coming up with cynical election time promises isn’t the way to govern the state of New South Wales.

 

JOURNALIST: And just sorry, one more just to play devil’s advocate, I mean, the Federal Labor Government has promised as much, you know, 500 million for this project as well. Wouldn’t they need the support of the state to complete their vision?

 

MINNS: Absolutely. But I mean, I think you’d look at the New South Wales Liberal government’s record in relation to fast rail extremely sceptically, particularly when you consider we’ve lost the triple A credit rating, we’ve racked up $160 billion worth of gross debt, there is a cost of living crisis facing the state of New South Wales, money is needed to meet our energy costs. And at the same time as all these things are happening, the New South Wales Premier and Treasurer expect us all to believe that notwithstanding the fact they’ve been promising faster over the last decade, now they’re really serious about it, and the money will start flowing? I’ll be honest, I believe it when I see it.

 

JOURNALIST: If you were the leader, would you be pushing for a fast rail line? Or is that something that you wouldn’t be prioritizing?

 

MINNS: Look at the end of the day, we need to make sure that the Metropolitan rail system in Sydney and the connections between Sydney and the Central Coast and Newcastle are up to date, that we do have long term plans to meet our capital requirements right throughout New South Wales, and that we could do it in a believable manner.

 

But, I don’t think the Liberal Party given their track record over the last 10 years should be believed in relation to what they’re going to produce in relation to fast rail or major infrastructure projects. In the last two weeks. We’ve had Infrastructure New South Wales recommend the cancellation of major projects in this state. You’ve had Rob Stokes publicly say that he believes major infrastructure projects should be delayed or cancelled as a result of that report.

 

And at the same time, you’ve got the Premier saying, here’s a whole bunch of new spending to go out the door. We want to see the state of the books, but whatever we promise will be budgeted, it can be accepted by the taxpayers of this state, and it will be consistent with our obligations and the prevailing economic circumstances.

 

JOURNALIST: Realistically, the money is actually going just towards a section of the of the railway between Tuggerah and Wyong, it’s about 10 Ks. I mean, do you think that really, realistically, is paving the way towards a fast rail future or is this just a blip in the scheme of things?

 

MINNS: Yeah, I think the Premier is being a bit cynical when he says that travel times between Gosford and Central will be 25 minutes when he’s only laying out 10 kilometres worth of track. As I said, he is the third Liberal Premier in the last 12 years to promise fast rail. We haven’t seen a single track laid over the last decade and a bit. Now all of a sudden that’s going to be turned around and this new piece of infrastructure will be provided? I’m very sceptical about it.

 

Anything else guys? Thank you very much, everybody.

CHRIS MINNS MP
NSW LABOR LEADER

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