Australia

NSW Labor uses budget response to deliver pitch to voters

NSW Opposition Leader Chris Minns has used his budget reply speech to convince voters to return Labor to power, promising to increase local manufacturing, provide toll relief and deliver more free preschools faster.
Mr Minns delivered his budget reply speech in state parliament on Thursday, responding to the state budget handed down by Treasurer Matt Kean on Tuesday.

Mr Minns warned the real focus of the budget was winning the state election next year in March, and an austerity budget would follow from the Liberal-National coalition if that happened.

Families, child care and preschools are a large focus of the budget, with Mr Kean promising to unlock the economic potential of women by making it easier for them to return to work after giving birth.
Among the policies are a $1.4 billion commitment to subsidise preschool, up to $4,000 per child annually, as well as committing to universal free pre- kindergarten by 2030.
Mr Minns will use his speech to lay out a plan to build 100 public preschools in primary schools during an elected Labor government’s first term.

“Parents will tell you they can’t wait until 2030 for the Liberals and Nationals to start acting on delivering accessible and affordable preschool,” Mr Minns said.

Newly built primary schools would have preschools on site, while underused existing schools would host the rest.
Labor has criticised the government’s universal plan as lacking substance, and said its policy was more proactive.
The party’s other targets include the Transport Asset Holding Entity (TAHE), which it will likely attempt to tie closely to Premier Dominic Perrottet, who established the entity Labor will abolish if elected.
The state-owned corporation controls transport assets and charges operators such as Sydney Trains for access.

TAHE required an emergency funding injection to prevent the state’s accounts being qualified by the auditor-general earlier this year.

Labor has long described the entity as a budget con and part of a larger plan to privatise public transport.
Privatisation will be another Labor target at the election, especially of the state’s toll roads.
The government will provide quarterly rebates to frequent users, while Labor has pledged to use toll revenue from the Harbour Bridge and Tunnel to offset tolls on privately owned roads.
“While the premier would hand the Harbour Bridge or Harbour Tunnel over to private operators, Labor will retain this in public ownership and put all that money into toll relief,” Mr Minns said.
Local manufacturing and procurement will be another focus as Labor seeks to return to government after being out of power since 2011.

The party has criticised the government’s procurement policies in recent months, particularly in relation to transport.

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NSW is still waiting for cracked Spanish-built trams to return to service, and the continued use of new ferries built in China are under review.
“When the NSW government decided to build trains, trams, buses and ferries overseas our state lost thousands of manufacturing jobs and we spent billions of dollars on transport infrastructure riddled with defects,” opposition transport spokeswoman Jo Haylen said.
Mr Minns wanted to restore the “proud history of building in NSW” and it would be his first priority if elected.
“This will not happen overnight, but I back NSW made and I am determined to get the ball rolling,” he said.
Labor will set a target of 50 per cent minimum local content for rolling stock contracts and increase tender weightings to 30 per cent local content.

The NSW Jobs First Commission would also be established as an independent body to oversee local industry growth and advocate for businesses bidding for government contracts.

Place of originNSW Labor uses budget response to deliver pitch to voters

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