Speeches

BUDGET ESTIMATES AND RELATED PAPERS

February 17, 2021

 I am delighted to make a contribution to debate on the budget estimates and related papers for 2020-21. I will highlight some of the issues and budgetary concerns in my electorate of Campbelltown and will then, with the indulgence of the House, speak on budgetary matters concerning my shadow portfolios of local government, western Sydney and veterans. I will begin by highlighting some of the issues around health. Before I do, I acknowledge how wonderful the staff at Campbelltown Hospital are and how they work together for the benefit of patients. We have seen that on display by our frontline workers as we navigate our way through the COVID-19 pandemic. Those people have cared for our community and kept us safe. On behalf of the electorate of Campbelltown, I thank them for their efforts. When I speak about health workers, I include everyone from the cleaners to the caterers and the maintenance personnel as well as the nurses and physicians, all of the contractors and everyone involved in that wonderful team at Campbelltown Hospital.

I acknowledge the Health Services Union. Its leaders work passionately hard for the conditions and services at Campbelltown Hospital, particularly Mr Adam Hall, with whom I remain in constant consultation. I also acknowledge Gerard Hayes and his wonderful team at that good union. They do such a great job not only standing up for those workers but also standing up for patients by ensuring that workers get the support they need to provide patients with the care that they deserve and desire. I congratulate our community. Campbelltown Hospital is being upgraded and I welcome those upgrades. They are desperately needed, and I am proud to have fought alongside my local community to ensure that they proceeded. I give credit to our community for their advocacy and their continued campaign to ensure that those upgrades come to fruition.

I note that paid parking at the hospital is wrong. I do not believe it is appropriate for taxpayer money to be used to build a parking lot for the private sector to profit from. I hope the Government understands that many people who will be using that parking lot at the hospital may not be able to afford to pay. We are talking about cancer patients and their carers. Many of them have economic challenges. Any reasonable person could understand the trauma that they are experiencing during such illnesses and that they do not need any extra pressure. Many cancer patients cannot work and many of their carers cannot work because they need to care for their loved ones, and so they have minimal income. I urge the Government to review its attitude towards paid parking and consider the unfair pressure that it places on those people.

I said before that we have wonderful staff at Campbelltown Hospital, and we really do. But a health system cannot rely on the goodwill of health workers alone. They need to be adequately funded. Witnesses at the recent inquiry into health services in south-west Sydney spoke loudly and clearly about the under-resourcing at Campbelltown Hospital and across the south-west. We welcome the bricks and mortar, but let us be clear: bricks and mortar do not cure people; people cure people. And that requires adequate ongoing investment. We know that the upgrades at Campbelltown Hospital are capital investment, but we need adequate ongoing funding to ensure that our workers get the support that they require to provide patients with the care that they need.

Mental health continues to be a serious issue around the Macarthur region and in Campbelltown. The consequences of a lack of ongoing funding for mental health has come to fruition, which has caused much suffering to patients with mental illnesses and their carers. Sadly, many of those patients are adolescents. Most of us in this place have children and know the challenges that they confront as they come into adolescence. Ensuring that there is adequate funding in place for those patients, staff and services is vital. I have lost count of how many representations have been made about adolescent mental health to my office. I hear not only of the agony that those living with mental illnesses are suffering but also of the trauma it causes for their loved ones and their parents, who are often their carers.

My electorate is one of the fastest growing regions in the State, yet not one new school is planned for Campbelltown. The western Sydney belt will have a city the size of Adelaide thrust upon it. Much of it will be to the south of Campbelltown, but we have not heard about planned schools from this Government. We do not want the electorate's students to be left behind when it comes to their education and to ensuring that they have the capacity to achieve their full potential and pursue prosperity throughout their working lives. That will only happen with a good education, and a good education can only happen with adequate resources and infrastructure in place.

Roads continue to be an issue in Campbelltown and more broadly in Macarthur. We are still waiting on the funding for Appin Road, which is one of the most notorious roads in this State and has tragically claimed lives for many years. It has gone on for too long. The Government is aware of it and the community is all too aware. We need to upgrade the road while balancing the environmental sensitivities that surround it, particularly preserving our cherished koala colony to the south of Campbelltown where the upgrades are required and around Smith's Creek, where a colony continues to thrive. We do not want to lose them. We want to make sure that we find that balance between development, including road construction, and saving the koala colony.

The road between Menangle and Spring Farm must link through to provide a vital southern connection. We do not want a half-baked plan. We need a time line for the installation of that vital connection along with the funding to match that time line. Badgally Road is a bottleneck, just as we knew it was going to be as soon as we saw the opening through to Gregory Hills and up Eagle Vale Drive to the Raby Road junction. Ultimately we need replication of the Narellan Road interchange at Raby Road for the northern connection, as well as the Spring Farm Parkway and Menangle Road connection, which includes the extension of Liz Kernohan Drive in the electorate of my friend the member for Camden, to ensure that we have that connectivity. Those three pivotal connections will address the urban population growth and provide the roads that will be required in the future.

Turning to transport, I call on the Government once again to provide the people of Macarthur Heights with the bus services they require. This is not a big project. It is frustrating and disappointing because it involves a route change, not a whole new service, as buses are already in and around that area. A proactive approach involving consulting residents will ensure they get this vital bus service. I urge the transport Minister to review this matter, which I have brought to his attention on many occasions. It would be remiss of me not to take this opportunity to also refer to the ongoing matter of the proposed orbital to the south, with two roads cutting down through Appin. I believe there is a third option that would connect the orbital down through Picton Road.

I think that is a fair and sensible approach to consider, given the arterial nature of the Picton Road and the disruption to the good people of Appin who, let us be frank, all too often feel ill treated, overlooked and undervalued. I have made representations on behalf of the people of Appin before, and I will continue to do so, including trying to minimise disruption whilst achieving a major piece of infrastructure not only for Macarthur but also for the Sydney metropolitan area. If that was completed and done well, people could travel from the Hunter in the north to the beautiful Illawarra in the south without one traffic light and full connection. That is something the Carr Government started and that the current Government did more work on, but much more needs to be done.

Earlier I touched on the Appin Road and planning. We need to have a planning model in place that balances environmental preservation and conservation with giving young western Sydney families the opportunity to achieve the once great Australian dream. We need to find that balance: We want new residents, but we want them to enjoy the lifestyle that we existing residents have enjoyed for so long. That will only happen with a good planning framework and appropriate consultation between the Government and local communities. I believe an engaging, open-door approach from the Government would be welcome. Many residents currently experience more of a dictatorial approach by government rather than a consultative and collaborative approach.

A justice precinct is pending for Campbelltown. Yes, we saw some planning money—I think it was
$1 million or so—but, let me frank, the planning has already been done. I would have preferred to see that $1 million go towards building the justice precinct. Barney Glover and Andy Marks, who lead that fine university and wonderful institution, the Western Sydney University, have worked collaboratively with all other stakeholders to achieve what I think would be a sound development for Campbelltown that would also service the south-west at a time when our justice system carries a heavy load. It is only appropriate that it is in Campbelltown because all roads lead to Campbelltown. Mr Assistant Speaker, I note that you are amused by that. I am sure you would suggest I am biased, given that I am the member for Campbelltown—and you are perhaps somewhat correct. But the reality is this facility, this precinct, would provide for everyone who needs it—from the highlands, up to and as far as Liverpool, and out towards the developing areas of Leppington and, of course, our friends in Camden, who continue to have their court challenged.

We need stadium upgrades and we need to address unemployment. I must acknowledge the hardworking small businesses who have received inadequate support and have suffered deeply through the pandemic. Small business is the backbone of every one of our local economies and the largest employer body in this State. Depending on the area, it accounts for 80 per cent of employment. It is no different in Campbelltown, the Macarthur or the south-west. It also dictates that businesses must get the appropriate level of attention, focus and support from the Government. Yes, there has been some support, but I would suggest it has fallen well short of what is required and people have lost their jobs.

I turn briefly to my shadow portfolio area of Local Government. I am deeply concerned about the financial sustainability issues that we see in nearly every council in this State. We have 128 councils that have struggled through fire, flood, drought and now COVID-19. Local councils were not included in JobKeeper and have missed out on an adequate level of financial stimulus. Investment in local councils would have meant the delivery of infrastructure for local communities, and a legacy of which the Government could be proud. I believe that was a missed opportunity. It would have created and sustained local jobs. Many councils have projects that are scoped, planned, shovel ready and ready to activate with the appropriate funding. Many councils do a great job and are the cheapest in terms of funding projects in their local areas.

Any investment in a local community is an investment in jobs, job security and the local economy. We have seen councils around the State that are financially stricken. I draw the attention of the House to Cootamundra‑Gundagai, whose representatives were here just the other day, pleading with me. I note that they met with the Minister as well as the Deputy Premier, and I appreciate the Deputy Premier's efforts in doing what he can for that community. But we need the Premier and the Minister to pay attention to that community and make sure they address the serious issues it is confronting at this time and will continue to confront without Government action.

I note that my friend the member for Fairfield is in the House. He is another proud western Sydney MP, a fighter for his community and a bastion of western Sydney. The aerotropolis must succeed. It is the engine that will create the jobs that nearly 1.3 million people will need through the western Sydney belt. We have seen lapses in terms of M12 investment. We have seen uncertainty between the Federal and State governments over the planning provisions for the aerotropolis and the establishment and construction of Western Sydney Airport. I am deeply disturbed by the media commentary that I continue to hear about that lack of collaboration. The best outcomes are achieved by working together. I urge the State and Federal governments and the relevant Ministers to sit down, work together and map out a plan so that Western Sydney Airport has every opportunity to reach its full potential and provide the jobs that the people of western Sydney desperately need.

The rubber is not far off the tarmac yet we do not have a planned fuel pipeline. We have a joint user hydrant installation planned for Western Sydney Airport, but the only way the fuel can get to that JUHI is by truck. That means more vehicles on western Sydney roads that are already congested, and failures if the correct planning and land acquisitions are not in place. As a former fuel truck driver, I know that firsthand. But we cannot forget the people of western Sydney when it comes to this budget. The Government has taken $13 million from their pockets in stamp duty—$9 billion in the past five years alone. By comparison, the Government has invested a mere skerrick back into western Sydney. The Government talks big on western Sydney but delivers very little. You cannot blame the people of western Sydney for their frustration and disappointment when, a lot of the time, they only see the Premier and Ministers come out for a five-minute photo opportunity with no follow-up. We need a plan for jobs. We need to see a plan for urban development to ensure that those residents get the infrastructure—roads, rail, health, education—and all of the other social means and policies that they require to flourish and reach their full potential. [Extension of time]

I appreciate the Government members' enthusiasm about the extension of my time, which is certainly welcome, particularly from the member for Ku-ring-gai.

Mr Alister Henskens: We have been overwhelmed.

Mr GREG WARREN: He is awake—excellent.

Mr Alister Henskens: Overwhelmed.

Mr GREG WARREN: You should be.

Mr Alister Henskens: Inspiring oratory.

Mr GREG WARREN: I do appreciate your support and attention.

Mr Alister Henskens: Your mates are behind you.

Mr GREG WARREN: Yes, I know. They are very good friends of mine and I do appreciate their support as well.

Mr Guy Zangari: I am one of many.

The ASSISTANT SPEAKER: Order! Let us not talk about the member's friends.

Mr GREG WARREN: That is right, we cannot get into my friends because I have too many to mention at this time, but I do appreciate their friendship and support—none more displayed than by the member for Fairfield.

The ASSISTANT SPEAKER: Order!

Mr GREG WARREN: Let us not talk about ourselves; let us get back to western Sydney and the jobs that we need created so that we take people off our congested roads. Local jobs for local people is the simple message for the Government. Those jobs will come with adequate investment, but we do not see that investment at this time. We do not see the pipeline or plan for those jobs, whether in Fairfield, Cabramatta, Badgerys Creek, Leppington, Liverpool, Campbelltown, Camden—even down in the Wollondilly. While not considered part of western Sydney, Wollondilly certainly relies on the facilities and services of Western Sydney. I note the Government's continued refusal to build a Service NSW centre in Campbelltown. That is just one example that affects the people of Wollondilly, and southwest Sydney broadly, because it funnels people into those services where they are required.

A subject very close to my heart is our veterans. Many veterans around our nation are affected in many and varied ways. That is clearly displayed in New South Wales. I am of the view that, if it was good enough for veterans to serve our great nation, it is just as good for our nation to serve them well in their time of need. Enormous amounts of money have come from the Federal Government, rallied through the States, for support of veterans, but, to be frank, we could be using it better because we continue to see suicide levels rise and we continue to see the issues that soldiers, sailors and air force personnel have as they transition from military life to civil society. Many of them struggle. We must provide support so that they can transition and have a good life out on the civvy street, as it is known.

I want to see the Government take a more active and engaging role with its Federal counterparts to ensure that provisions are in place for veterans to get the support they require. That will happen only if the Government takes the lead. I note the ongoing discussions around the royal commission into veterans, but I note the many investigations and inquiries that have gone on over many years, with subsequent recommendations, and refer to the Productivity Commissioner's report a couple of years ago. We have not seen the recommendations in that report implemented to be able to test and adjust where we go next. I am accepting of the royal commission, but what I will not accept is millions of dollars—if not hundreds of millions—of taxpayers' money spent on a royal commission, the findings of which are left on a dusty desk somewhere, while our veterans continue to flurry or fall. It is not easy for many of them in many different ways. There should be a more collaborative approach.

In conclusion, budget surpluses are important, budget balances are vital, but budget priorities are essential. In my view, the priority is investment in road, rail, jobs, health and education, not just in my beloved city and seat of Campbelltown but across Western Sydney, and right across New South Wales, a fair and equitable approach based on the needs of communities. It would be remiss of me at this time not to draw the attention of the House to the grants inquiry that highlighted some very disturbing matters as communities missed out. We know, and we heard in the inquiry, that a process was put in place to help communities that were forcibly merged together. That was installed by the then Premier Baird and Deputy Premier Grant. We now have a new Premier and a new Deputy Premier, who changed the guidelines so that the money could be used as investment in the political prosperity of the conservatives in the Liberal and Nationals parties, not in the needs of communities. Clearly money was taken from Canterbury and the inner west. That money was required to help those communities during a very challenging time as they were merged. Ultimately, in line with the cost-shifting agenda of the Government to local government, that is having a serious financial and detrimental effect. I thank the House for its indulgence.

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