NSW has its seventh Premier in a decade! As Gladys Berejiklian takes office and a new cabinet is sworn in today, below are some issues I think that need to be focused on. However, I am not holding my breath.
1) Stop selling off Crown Lands.
(Land that belongs to the Government, which manages the land for the people of NSW)
Did you know that under legislation passed by the Liberals last year (Crown Lands Management Act 2016), that crown land, land owned by the people of NSW can now be transferred to a Government authority by the Minister without public consultation and then sold?
What an insult to the people of our State that more of our publicly owned assets can be flogged off behind closed doors! I doubt that this Liberal Government which is almost clocking up 100 sales of significant public assets will reverse this.
2) Biodiversity protection (or now lack thereof) and tree clearing.
The Local Land Services (Amendment) Act repealed the Native Vegetation Act 2003. The Act reduced the amount of native vegetation that is protected from clearing. The old Act that was introduced under Labor saw a 20% reduction in clearing of remnant bushland and saved an estimated 116,000 animals and their habitat. The new Act passed by the Liberals relies mostly on self-assessment of clearing of native bushland. Really? Who is going to voluntarily report that they cleared more land that they were meant to? Then there is the concept of biodiversity offset. Where one area of sensitive bushland can be cleared if another area is set aside to ‘offset’ the destroyed area. This policy of the Liberals is a step backwards when it comes to protecting native vegetation and the biodiversity of our environment. The old environmental protections for native vegetation must be reinstated.
3) Council Amalgamations.
The majority of residents in Lane Cove are opposed to the forced merger of our local council with Hunters Hill and Ryde Councils. This message was very clear to me when I spoke with many residents during the 2015 State election campaign. Will the new Premier have the courage to stop the remaining forced amalgamation of Councils?
There is no credibility in the claim that larger councils are better. Several larger Councils in Sydney failed two or three of the criteria set by the Liberals to determine the health of a Council. Lane Cove council only failed the criteria that is was not a large Council (Having more the 150,000 residents).
In Lane Cove we are now in our fifth year where we have not been able to exercise our right to vote on who represents us at our local Council.
4) School infrastructure.
I recognise the Liberals have spent some big money on some big infrastructure projects. However, they have cut the budget for school building maintenance and cancelled the program Labor had to replace demountable classrooms with permanent buildings. In our local area, one of our schools has almost half of the students located in temporary demountable classrooms which has seen a significant loss of playground space.
Infrastructure spending is not just about the big projects. The little ones need funding. We need a plan and action to provide permanent classrooms in an area like ours where our population is rising.
5) Housing affordability.
Sydney’s median house price is now $1,100,000. We can tinker with stamp duty for home buyers but that provides little relief. The Liberal’s as a whole need to recognise that our tax system works against first home buyers. An investor on the top marginal tax rate will receive tax deductions of up to $40,000 per annum on an investment property. Whereas, a first home buyer may get a once-off concession on stamp duty and that is it. Reform to our negative gearing tax rules is one small change that can help to incentivise investors to help build new houses and units and as a result increase housing supply. Investors who buy existing housing stock do nothing to help solve the overall housing affordability crisis.
6) Stop privatising the management of our Public Hospitals.
The Liberals are driving an ideology that private for-profit corporations should manage our public hospitals. The new Northern Beaches Hospital in Frenchs Forest will be operated by a private for-profit corporation and will see the closure of two public hospitals. The Liberals have already announced plans to privatise the management of Maitland, Wyong, Goulburn, Shellharbour and Bowral public hospitals.
The last time the Liberals appointed a private company to run a public hospital in the early 1990’s in Port Macquarie it was a disaster. It is important to note that under this ‘ideology’, these private operators will be paid the same Medicare schedule fee for each procedure performed in their hospital. However, unlike the public hospital system where the full scheduled fee is spent on treating a patient, the private operator will have to spend less on treatment in order to make a profit. That means less money will be spent on treating patients – what corners will be cut when these private operators treat public patients?
We need to keep our public hospitals in public hands to keep the interest of patients as first priority. Not making profit for shareholders.
These are just a few issues that I see need to be address in New South Wales and our local area of Lane Cove. However, I am not too optimistic that we shall see any resolutions to these issues under our new Liberal Premier Gladys Berejiklian.
What other issues do you think need to be addressed? I’d like to hear what you think.