Budget 2020 speech

Monday, 22 March 2021

This year's New South Wales budget is probably the most important in our State's history. It is a budget that reflects the challenges of 2020 and will lead us out of the health and economic crises presented by COVID-19. Made possible by the strong economic management of Treasurer Perrottet and the New South Wales Government, this budget will deliver for our State. Locally, we are providing critical infrastructure for our community in the area of health through a $105 million acceleration of the St George Hospital redevelopment. This will fast-track the delivery of a new integrated ambulatory care precinct, increase bed capacity and enhance outpatient services.

In transport, we are providing critical infrastructure through the New South Wales Government's $824 million More Trains, More Services program. This will boost peak‑hour services to stations like Mortdale, Penshurst, Riverwood, Narwee and Beverly Hills. The Government has committed funding to deliver additional commuter car parks at Riverwood and Beverly Hills stations. We are providing critical roads infrastructure through the widening of King Georges Road, congestion busting on the Princes Highway, and improving traffic flow and safety at the intersection of Forest, Bonds and Boundary roads at Peakhurst. We are providing critical emergency services infrastructure through the redevelopment of Hurstville police station and critical environmental investment through $3.9 billion in funding to natural habitats. We are investing in a record $107 billion infrastructure pipeline and a skills and training blitz to create employment and jobs across New South Wales, not just in my community.

I will start by discussing a subject that is very close to my heart, St George Hospital, which has yet again benefited from this Government's budget. Having started out as a humble cottage of six beds and one children's cot, St George Hospital is now known as a world-class institution with some of the finest nurses and doctors in the world. The hospital opened its doors in November 1894 and cost a mere £750 to construct. The land was purchased for £850 and offered picturesque views of the country all the way to Botany Bay and out across the Pacific, according to local newspapers at the time. By July 1897, a new wing and additional nurses' quarters had been opened and plans for further alterations and improvements to the hospital had been drawn up. St George Cottage Hospital was rapidly expanding, as was the population of the St George area. In 1898, four years after it opened, the hospital had admitted 107 patients and performed 17 operations.

In contrast, there were over 65,000 admissions to St George Hospital in 2016-17 alone. By the early 1920s, St George Cottage Hospital had become known as the St George District Hospital and was making a name for itself as one of the leading hospitals in the State. Throughout the best part of the twentieth century, further improvements and extensions were carried out at St George Hospital. With the eventual certainty of ongoing government funding through many successive Liberal governments, it was transformed into the multimillion‑dollar institute it is today. If members look over the past 40 years, they will see it was the Askin Liberal Government that made significant building upgrades to St George Hospital and the Greiner and Fahey upgrades that delivered the six-storey car park on Gray Street. The O'Farrell‑Baird‑Berejiklian Government saw stages one, two and three of the upgrades to St George Hospital.

Without this record investment, our community would not have seen the reopening and refurbishment of the hydrotherapy pool previously closed by Labor. Nor would we have seen the multimillion-dollar expansion of the emergency department that was completed in 2014 or the $277 million seven-storey acute services building that followed in 2017. I am proud of this Government's commitment to supporting health services and infrastructure in our area, and in particular of the fact that with the recent budget announcement we are still committed. Our local community's proudest achievement has been the ongoing redevelopment of St George Hospital, with a total investment of over $700 million since 2011. As part of the 2020-21 State budget, the New South Wales Government announced the next stage of the redevelopment of St George Hospital two years earlier than expected.

A $105 million injection of funds will kickstart the $385 million integrated ambulatory care project, creating hundreds of local jobs while ensuring that our community gets the best health facilities in the State. Since 2011 the hospital redevelopment has included an eight-level acute services building, a new emergency department—which, with two young kids, I have unfortunately used on a number of occasions—additional inpatient beds, a new intensive care and high dependency unit, a new cardiac unit, a new sterilising services department, new operating theatres, an upgraded hydrotherapy pool and, more recently, a new and improved birthing and delivery unit. I have spoken with doctors in recent weeks. Planning for stage three has already commenced and works are set to start in late 2021.

It is not only health that will benefit under the budget; local road projects across the electorate of Oatley and elsewhere in the State will also benefit. Investment in our road transport network will ensure that residents across New South Wales spend less time commuting and more time with family and friends. Across my own electorate we have seen investment in the widening of King Georges Road, a project that has been talked about for generations. It has been talked about for over 45 years. For too long motorists have experienced significant congestion along that road corridor, particularly during peak weekday periods. Our Government has recognised that and it has acted. The proposed improvements are designed to deliver a faster, more reliable journey. King Georges Road will receive a $40 million injection for its widening between Stoney Creek Road at Beverly Hills and Forest Road at Hurstville. Each and every day thousands of motorists are set to benefit from the widening of 1.5 kilometres of King Georges Road from two lanes to three lanes in each direction. That will significantly reduce congestion and make the corridor a lot safer.

Furthermore, the M6 extension will also ease congestion across our network by connecting President Avenue at Kogarah with the new M5 motorway at Arncliffe. That project will remove over 2,000 trucks a day from surface roads and will return local streets to local communities. For us it is about creating an integrated transport solution across New South Wales. As part of that integrated transport solution the four‑kilometre underground motorway will ease congestion and allow users to bypass up to 23 sets of traffic lights on the Princes Highway between St Peters and Kogarah. It will contribute to a more accessible, more livable and more productive Greater Sydney. The network also includes the recently completed widening of the M5 and the extension of the M4, which has resulted in thousands of jobs and reduced travel times across New South Wales.

The M5 Belmore Road on and off ramps have also enabled local residents to get to and from work sooner—not just residents from my community, the electorate of Oatley, but for residents in the electorate of East Hills as well. Those ramps have reduced congestion and improved the flow of traffic on the motorway, helping thousands of motorists who use that route each and every day to spend more time with their families rather than sitting in traffic. That project, in conjunction with the widening of the M5 East and the duplication of the M5 tunnel, is bringing much‑needed relief to thousands of motorists across Sydney. The new M5 has provided twin underground motorway tunnels, which are nine kilometres long, from Kingsgrove to a new St Peters Interchange at the site of the old Alexandria landfill facility.

The St Peters Interchange has provided motorists with connections to Alexandria and Mascot. It also includes connections to the future Sydney Gateway, the M4-M5 Link and the M6 extension. Local streets and intersections around the St Peters Interchange are also being upgraded to ensure safe and efficient connections to the new M5. Importantly, though, the project will protect six hectares of new open space in St Peters, it will create 12 kilometres of shared paths around St Peters, it will generate over 4,400 jobs and it will have no impact on Wolli Creek bushland. As part of the M5 and M8 projects, my local community also saw upgrades to the King Georges Road interchange at Beverly Hills, which until now has been a well-known bottleneck for south and south‑west Sydney motorists.

In saying that, our Government recognises that a successful road system is not just about the grand projects; it is also about consistently improving and updating our local roads. That is why we have delivered much‑needed local projects including a roundabout in Beverly Hills at the intersection of Edgbaston Road and Melvin Street, which was completed last year. We have also responded to community safety concerns by swiftly delivering new pedestrian crossings around the Mortdale, Penshurst and Oatley areas, as well as school crossing supervisors for Oatley West Public School; Peakhurst Public School; Mortdale Public School, where my son goes; and St Joseph's at Oatley, my former school. Those localised projects, along with our major projects, are all aimed at improving road safety and ensuring that motorists return home from their destinations. I thank Minister Constance for his incredible commitment and service to this role. I look forward to keeping the House up to date on any further developments in the local area.

The budget included major announcements not only for our road network but also for our public transport network. Our Government put to the people of New South Wales its plan of getting on with the job and delivering for them. One area where that could not be more evident is across our public transport network. Our Government has delivered and is continuing to deliver train station upgrades across our network, including in my electorate. Making public transport more accessible is a priority for the Government, as patronage on our rail network is at a record high. In the past five years the number of trips has increased by over 100 million to 400 million trips per year, representing a 30 per cent increase in patronage. As a result, not only are station upgrades being delivered across the network but we are also making access to our rail network easier than ever before.

Commuter car parks are being built across New South Wales. I am proud to say that we have delivered that for Oatley station. We have also secured much‑needed funding for the Riverwood and Beverly Hills stations as part of the 2020-2021 budget. The Beverly Hills commuter car park is currently in the community consultation phase. Discussions with council have already commenced and construction is expected to begin sometime in the next year or two. That is a huge win for local residents, particularly for those who live in Beverly Hills and Penshurst, as it will ease traffic congestion along King Georges Road, make public transport more accessible and provide much‑needed after‑hours parking for access to restaurants and the Beverly Hills cinema. The Riverwood commuter car park is no different; it is at the same planning stage. I look forward to informing the House on further updates as they become available.

In total the Government has added more than 10,000 parking spaces, with an additional 8,000 spaces either in planning or under construction across New South Wales. Our record level of infrastructure investment since coming to government in 2011 is already delivering other significant boosts to our rail services. In 2019 the Premier and the Minister for Transport and Roads opened the new Sydney Metro Northwest. The Sydney Metro is Australia's biggest public transport project and is the first fully automated railway in Australia. The Sydney Metro Northwest is just the first stage of that amazing project.

This is a government that continues to deliver. For example, recently the More Trains, More Services program was announced. That will extensively transform our rail network, particularly on the Illawarra line. More Trains, More Services is a 10-year strategy to increase services across the network to keep up with ever‑increasing patronage. Currently we are at stage two of that rollout, which includes digital system development, infrastructure upgrades and new trains. That will benefit both T8 and T4 customers in my electorate. I look forward to keeping the House up to date on any further public transport developments across my electorate.

Our Government has also continued to invest in protecting our local communities. Recently I attended my local area command's monthly community safety precinct meeting at Kogarah. It was encouraging to hear the great news that the New South Wales police continue to keep the community safe. Crime statistics show that all major categories are either stable or falling. Policemen and policewomen across the State continue to deliver time and again, putting their personal safety on the line to ensure that our communities are protected. I am proud to be part of a government that recognises that incredible work by investing accordingly and by allowing those officers to continue that daunting task.

An example of that investment is the $29 million in last year's budget that was announced by the Government to upgrade or redevelop Hurstville Police Station. The multimillion‑dollar police station is a big win not only for my electorate but right across the St George area and for the electorates of Rockdale and Kogarah. That will ensure local police have the resources they need for many generations to come. The location of the new police station is yet to be determined but it will take into consideration feasibility, land space and accessibility. More information will be made available in the coming months, following consultation with community and council, and design phases. My local community is thrilled by the announcement.

It is not just infrastructure that the Government is investing in. The Government recognises the incredible efforts of police officers, who have worked tirelessly alongside the community to keep crime rates low. That is why it has taken the major step to fortify the Police Force into the future with the investment of more than $583 million over four years to deliver 1,500 extra police. I look forward to keeping the House up to date on any future developments of the new Hurstville police station. One of the Government's greatest achievements in this budget and previous budgets is its investment in skills and the TAFE system. The Government has a strong appreciation for how important investment is in skills, both for the individual and for all of New South Wales. When we invest in TAFE we are investing not just in students' futures, but also in the State's future.

Our plan to expand and boost funding to TAFE across New South Wales is bold and ambitious. It will include 700,000 free TAFE courses and an additional $227 million in new funding for TAFE over four years. We look forward to seeing the results of that investment in the development of our skilled and trade industries across New South Wales. We are fortunate as a government that our plan is being overseen by a wonderful Minister for Skills and Tertiary Education, the Hon. Geoff Lee, who has a thorough understanding of and passion for the TAFE system. The Minister's hands-on experience and enthusiasm for skills development is tangible. Last year I was joined by the Minister to tour the new $4.2 million health training facility at St George TAFE in Kogarah. The facility is part of the Government's ongoing investment in capital works projects across the TAFE network, totalling $179.5 million across 25 projects.

Health and wellbeing are among the fastest‑growing courses across TAFE NSW and that is reflected locally, where enrolments have been surging in recent years. The new facilities have been built to reflect current industry practice and will deliver a much‑needed increase in local training capacity to match growing demand in the St George area. The Government's significant redevelopment of St George Hospital means there is strong demand for a skilled health workforce. I am proud to be part of a government that is committed to expanding training opportunities in the St George area. The multimillion‑dollar investment will equip students with the real‑world skills they need to excel in the health sector. [Extension of time]

The new facility has a particular focus on nursing and aged care, reflecting a higher demand for those workers. It is another example of the Government recognising employment trends and responding to them accordingly. With a strong focus on business and the economy, the Government understands that equipping students with job‑ready skills means equipping businesses with job‑ready employees. That is why it not only is investing in capital works projects but also has developed a $30 million TAFE NSW Skills for Business initiative. It is fantastic that when the Government invests in skills, it is also investing in small business and local economies. Further, the Government acknowledges that the cost of TAFE and tertiary education can be a burden on many individuals and families.

In a win for vocational education students, the New South Wales Government is investing $54.3 million to make government‑subsidised traineeships fee free, which began last year. This is a game changer for small and medium businesses in the St George area, allowing trainees to focus on practical training. That investment, coupled with the $285 million initiative that has made apprenticeships fee free, demonstrates that the Government is serious about getting people back into work and addressing the skills shortages in New South Wales. Investment in TAFE is beneficial to all of us; the Government is investing heavily in modernising the TAFE system that is developing skilled students, equipping businesses and driving local economies.

Another cornerstone of the Government's budget, which is making life easier for the people of New South Wales, is the rollout of Service NSW across the State. No matter what part of New South Wales they live in, we want to make sure all residents are able to access the rebates on offer to ease cost-of-living pressures. Service NSW centres are delivering much‑needed access to government services in a friendly, helpful and timely manner. Service NSW was introduced in 2013 by the Government as a one‑stop shop for vital services such as getting birth certificates, seniors cards, fishing licences, driver licences and renewing vehicle registration, which is so important for working families. I have witnessed firsthand the amazing work of Service NSW at Hurstville—and Rockdale, for that matter—and welcomed the Premier and the Minister for Customer Service to the newly opened centre at Roselands.

When I was doorknocking, the cost of living was continuously raised as one of the most important issues facing the people of the St George area. Under the directive of the Government, residents can now access over 70 rebates and incentives including Energy Switch, free rego, Active Kids and Creative Kids. As a result, $583 is the average saving of a resident in New South Wales who has visited a cost of living specialist. The Government has announced that households that use gas and electricity could save hundreds of dollars on their energy bills with the expansion of our popular Energy Switch service—a very good initiative. Perhaps one of the most popular rebates in my electorate is the Active Kids program. In the first 18 months of the program New South Wales residents have claimed more than one million Active Kids vouchers, saving over $100 million in sports registrations. The Government has made it a priority to reduce childhood overweight and obesity rates in New South Wales. Through the Active Kids rebate program, almost half of all school‑enrolled kids are enjoying the benefits of exercise.

A personal favourite of mine is the New South Wales Government's free FuelCheck app, which allows customers to locate the closest or cheapest service station to them. The app includes a "favourite stations" function, allowing users to save their favourite petrol stations. A "my trip" function utilises Google Maps, ensuring that users can find the cheapest petrol station on their journey and directing them to that station. Finally, there is a "trends" page showing the cheapest day of the week to fill up and the day's price range. I look forward to what Minister Dominello has planned in his continued efforts to reduce red tape and paperwork while increasing the rebates available through Service NSW centres.

The Government is building safe, just, inclusive and resilient communities in New South Wales through the budget for 2020‑21. We are incredibly fortunate to have an Attorney General who is committed to ensuring justice for victims of domestic violence. Violence in the home can control the life of the victim. It causes fear, psychological harm and often physical harm. The Government is focused on ensuring that all people can safely flee domestic violence if and when the need arises; that is why it has invested a record $431 million in domestic violence prevention across New South Wales, including in the St George area. The Government is also focused on driving grassroots initiatives in order to prevent domestic violence and it has committed more than $1 million to grants programs since its inception.

The latest rounds of grants programs provided up to $1,200 to 34 communities across New South Wales, from Parkes to Port Stephens and from Broken Hill to Bega. The money goes towards coastal walks, candlelight vigils and coffee clubs—just to name a few. Those projects are empowering local communities to stand against domestic and family violence. The achievements in preventing domestic violence include new legislation to improve victim support with the launch of survivor forums, the Government's partnership with the Our Watch organisation, and countless other initiatives. Those initiatives go a long way. Last year the Attorney General and I delivered $40,000 to Kingsway Community Care on behalf of the Government to go towards the opening of a refuge in the St George area. The funds will support repairs and maintenance for the new premises, including bathroom renovations, driveway construction, painting and much‑needed other services. It will be a place for victims to call home while they begin to navigate the very difficult path to recovery. I thank the Attorney‑General for that.

Investing in our schools means investing in our communities. This Government is rolling out 200 new and upgraded schools across the State, including four in my own electorate: Penshurst Public School, Penshurst West Public School, Hurstville Public School and Hurstville Grove Infants School. I am pleased to update the House that Penshurst Public School is officially open. The new school includes 47 brand new classrooms, a brand new library, hall and covered outdoor learning area in addition to open‑play spaces, including playing courts, seating, shade structures and running tracks around the school. There are also new administration and staff facilities, along with new staff and student amenities. Recently the great Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, and the fantastic education Minister, Sarah Mitchell, opened the new Penshurst Public School. Last year Minister Mitchell also joined me to officially open the Penshurst West Public School upgrades. Those upgrades include new modern teaching spaces and facilities, seven new learning spaces and classrooms, a new student amenities building, a special programs room and enhanced open spaces.

The New South Wales Government's record investment in new and upgraded schools is on top of the $1.3 billion to wipe the existing school maintenance backlog to zero and the $500 million Cooler Classrooms Program to provide air conditioning to more classrooms than ever before. Furthermore, our Government is aiming to reduce the cost of before‑ and after‑school care by up to $225 per child per year via a capped rental subsidy program of up to $15,000 for providers who run services on New South Wales Government school grounds. The $120 million strategy over four years includes $50 million to help schools buy new equipment and expand their facilities. When those opposite were in government, they closed schools—100 in fact—but we are building and rebuilding up to 200 of them over our term in government.

On a personal note, last year my son, James, completed his second year of schooling. He is now in year 2 at Mortdale. It has been a delight to watch James grow and learn. Like so many students across New South Wales, James is benefiting from bold and ambitious investment in our schools and in education. Fittingly, my wife, Adla, is a high school teacher. Her passion for education is inspiring, and that passion has certainly rubbed off on me. I am incredibly proud that our Government is continuing to invest in our education system across every facet of this State. I look forward to keeping the House up to date on any further developments of our education system in the Oatley electorate. The people of New South Wales are proud of how we tackled the challenges of 2020. Under this budget, our State will bounce back stronger and even better than before, and local communities like mine will grow even stronger.