Senate debates

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Statements by Senators

New South Wales State Election

12:45 pm

Photo of John WilliamsJohn Williams (NSW, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak about the important day coming up in New South Wales this Saturday. Of course, it is the state election. The New South Wales people have a simple decision to make: do they re-elect the Liberal-National government of Mike Baird and Troy Grant? I make the point that four years ago when a coalition government was elected to power in New South Wales the state was running at No. 7. What I mean by that is that, of the six states and two territories, it was seventh out of eight on performing economies. It is now No. 1. It has gone from No. 7 to No. 1 in just four years.

The people of New South Wales have an option: re-elect the coalition government led by Premier Mike Baird and Deputy Premier Troy Grant or be fooled by the untruths and scaremongering by the Labor Party and the trade union movement. Even the Labor leading lights of previous years are disgusted with what they are hearing. Who said this? Who said:

… lie after desperate lie is being thrown at the public in an attempt to frighten the electorate into rejecting the Baird government’s … sensible reforms …

Senator O'Sullivan might ask the question: who would have said that? Was it Premier Mike Baird? No, it was not. Was it Deputy Premier Troy Grant? No. It was actually former New South Wales Labor Treasurer Michael Costa! I will repeat what he said: 'Lie after desperate lie is being thrown at the public in an attempt to frighten the electorate into rejecting the Baird government's sensible reforms.' Mr Costa also said the unions have already cost the New South Wales public $10 billion by knifing the power privatisation he and Morris Iemma attempted in 2008.

Here is another quote. Former federal resources Minister Martin Ferguson said recently that the New South Wales trade unions and New South Wales Labor are deliberately misleading the public by telling them the proposed privatisation of the electricity networks will drive up electricity prices. Mr. Ferguson said:

"It's … creating unnecessary fear and trying to scare people into voting for Labor not on merit but on misinformation … In many ways I am ashamed of the Party."

Former state Labor Treasurer Michael Egan said in 1997:

I am pressing on with electricity privatisation because, as I have pointed out on numerous occasions, I think it is the best course for New South Wales … job creation in New South Wales and every community throughout every nook and cranny …

In July 2008, former Labor Premier Barry Unsworth said:

“Transport, health, public security: all these matters are ones which in my view have a greater priority than who delivers electricity through your meter … the problem we have got here is that we’ve got some Luddites here in NSW that can’t comprehend that.”

Then we have former Prime Minister Paul Keating backing privatisation, as does former Labor leader Mark Latham. The ACCC, the Productivity Commission and peak business organisations have all called for privatisation.

It is amazing that the Electrical Trade Union is running around the state claiming the sky will fall in if New South Wales power assets are privatised, and yet, when Labor was in power, electricity prices increased by 60 per cent over five years. Sixty per cent over five years is how much electricity prices went up when the Labor government was in power in New South Wales. The Australian newspaper of 11 March reported that Australians who live in states with privatised electricity supplies have faced smaller price rises over the past two decades than their counterparts in other states.

The fact is New South Wales are leasing, not selling. They are not going to privatise the whole network. They are going to lease 49 per cent of the power assets. One thing is that Essential Energy is going to be quarantined from that lease. It will remain in public hands. If you go out to rural and regional New South Wales, Essential Energy is the provider. So I am very pleased that the Nationals have secured the quarantine from that lease of Essential Energy.

Of the $20 billion expected to flow from this leasing, $6 billion will be spent in regional New South Wales. This will be spent on roads and bridges, on health and education, and on helping our regional communities. An example is health. Health has always been a big priority for the Nationals. Nationals members live in rural communities and they do not just read about problems like the distance to hospitals and medical services; they live in their communities and experience the very same problems.

Look at what the Nationals members in regional New South Wales have delivered. I refer to Kevin Anderson, the member for Tamworth. Kevin fought hard to secure $100 million from the state for the Tamworth Hospital upgrade on top of the federal government's $120 million. The new hospital includes 81 additional treatment spaces, including 32 extra beds. Kevin Anderson also secured $300,000 for the upgrade of the Gunnedah hospital emergency department.

There is great news, also, for people in the Northern Rivers. When the people wanted a champion to take up the fight to have the Lismore Base Hospital upgraded, they turned to the member for Lismore, Mr Thomas George. As a result, a re-elected Nationals team in government will deliver $180 million to finally complete the Lismore Base Hospital. That is a great win for Thomas George in that area. There will be a helipad on top of the main tower, new operating theatres, a maternity suite, a paediatric unit, a medical imaging centre and more beds. The Northern Rivers community is grateful they have a local champion in Thomas George.

The communities of Inverell and Armidale are rejoicing at news delivered to them by the member for Northern Tablelands. In the company of state Nationals leader Troy Grant, local member Adam Marshall announced the Armidale Hospital redevelopment would get $60 million and Inverell District Hospital—Inverell is where I live—would get a $30 million upgrade. For many, many years both communities have been crying out for an upgrade and, again, it has taken a Nationals member to deliver in a New South Wales coalition government.

Just down the road from here in the Monaro electorate, John Barilaro stepped in and got the Cooma dialysis unit up and running and got an upgrade of Cooma District Hospital. When it comes to health, this New South Wales coalition government has spent over $1 billion upgrading hospitals and has outlined plans to spend another $2 billion in the communities I have mentioned, plus in areas such as the Tweed, Mudgee and Coffs Harbour.

Likewise, in relation to roads and bridges, I was in the Upper Hunter recently for the announcement of some excellent road funding. Hopefully this Saturday the member for Upper Hunter, George Souris, will be handing the baton across to Michael Johnsen, the Mayor of Upper Hunter Shire Council.

Four years ago the Nationals announced Resources for Regions, and it was estimated $160 million would be spent in mining-affected communities. In fact, $217 million flowed in, and this program will continue. Resources for Regions is allowing the upgrade of major roads in the Singleton shire, $2 million for an overtaking lane on the New England Highway and $4 million for Muswellbrook Shire Council to upgrade a number of local roads used by mining-related vehicles.

I come back to the record of the Nationals in government in New South Wales: $13 billion for better roads, hospitals and schools; more than 2,000 extra nurses, teachers and police in our communities; 25,000 more jobs in regional New South Wales; and a plan to invest $6 billion into new and improved roads, rail networks, water supplies and hospitals.

The facts can certainly be lost in the hysteria and, as I have said in this chamber before, there should be no mining on prime agricultural land, and the Liverpool Plains is off limits. But we have people like the failed Independent, Peter Draper, who was thrown out by the people at the last election and is attempting get his old job back, running around claiming to be the Messiah when it comes to mining. Mr Draper was in state parliament as the member for Tamworth and did absolutely nothing when Labor handed out licence after licence—he sat there mute.

Before I finish, I want to say thank you and well-served to five retiring Nationals. Firstly, Andrew Stoner steps down after a stellar career serving the people of Oxley since 1999, and having been Leader of the New South Wales Nationals from 2003 to 2014. Andrew will always be remembered as the man who kept the Nationals together during some tough times, when there were plenty who were predicting the demise of the party. He kept the party together, and I wish him and Cathy and family all the best for the future.

Another former party leader, George Souris, also retires on Saturday. George has been the member for Upper Hunter since 1988—that is what you call electorate loyalty. He was state leader from 1999 to 2003 and in his time held a number of ministerial portfolios. I wish Vassy and George all the best as George finally walks out of Macquarie Street.

Bowing out also is the member for Ballina, Don Page, taking a break for the first time since his election to the seat in 1988. Don was also Deputy Leader of the Nationals from 2002 to 2007 and a minister in the current government. My best wishes go to Don and Liz.

My namesake in state parliament, John Williams, lost his seat due to a redistribution. We refer to him as John 'not Wacka' Williams, to distinguish between John and me. John was a great champion of the far western region and flew his aeroplane around so that he could cover the 250,000 square kilometres of the electorate.

To my good friend Jenny Gardner MLC: all the best to you, Jenny, after many years of good service. (Time expired)