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State Budget

Hansard ID: HANSARD-1323879322-137439

Hansard session: Fifty-Eighth Parliament, First Session (58-1)

State Budget


Before I call the member for Hawkesbury, I remind all members how lovely it has been in the Chamber for the past 30 minutes. We can do it again for 30 more minutes and then I am out of the chair and it will be the next chair's problem.

Ms ROBYN PRESTON (Hawkesbury) (15:14:33):

Mr Temporary Speaker, I hope you retain that memory for quite some time. Enjoy it. I move:

That this House:

(1)Commends the previous Government for its triple-A credit rating.

(2)Condemns the Government for consistently making misleading statements that there is a massive budget deficit.

(3)Calls on the Government to maintain this State's triple-A credit rating without contributing to inflation through pay rises to its union mates.

The previous Coalition Government can stand proudly on its economic management record—

Mr Stephen Bali:



—which was reinforced by maintaining this State's triple-A rating. I hope I do not have a running commentary from Government members on every sentence I speak.

Mr Stephen Bali:

As long as it's right.


The member for Blacktown might learn something from this if he listens. The triple-A rating is the highest possible rating that can be given to a company or country and is awarded only when there is an extremely strong capacity to meet financial commitments. This gold standard means that a triple‑A‑rated borrower can usually secure a loan at a lower interest rate because there is much less risk that the loan will not be repaid. Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States have a triple‑A credit rating. The previous Liberal-Nationals Government considered that achievement as a goal to strive for and maintain, even having endured a global pandemic.

New South Wales was the only State in Australia with a Moody's triple-A credit rating, which was retained despite allocating about $45 billion to support people and businesses and to bolster the health system to combat COVID-19. Those back-to-back triple-A ratings recognise the previous Government's strong economic management during COVID-19. That was due to our diverse, resilient and flexible economy and world-leading response to COVID-19. The State's ability to manage our record $108.5 billion infrastructure pipeline in the previous term of government—as we continued to invest in our economy, transport, health, education and innovative technologies—kept us excelling.

At this point, I acknowledge former Premier Dominic Perrottet and former Treasurer Matt Kean for maintaining an enviable standard of economic management of the State. The notion that the previous Liberal‑Nationals Government left a massive budget deficit is false, misleading and irresponsible. I am sad to say that every member of the Minns Labor Government has been indoctrinated to say that statement in almost every motion they move. It is like they have a motion template that starts off with that untruth, and the dribble flows on from there.

There is no denying facts; they speak over the top of the lies. In fact, the strong financial management of New South Wales under the previous Coalition Government supported our credit rating and enabled the previous Government to continue to deliver on its record $112.7 billion infrastructure program. New South Wales remained on track to return a surplus in the 2024-25 financial year. The State's net debt was projected to stabilise at about 14 per cent of gross State product by June 2026 compared with a projected 26.5 per cent for Victoria on 30 June 2026. The Minns Labor Government is clearly focused on different priorities to the previous Liberal-Nationals Government. People will look back at the Coalition's time of office and applaud the projects that were delivered. I am talking about NorthConnex, WestConnex, Sydney Metro Northwest and upgrades to Central Station.

Mr Matt Cross:

And Woollahra Station.


I thank the member for Davidson. Members of the Minns Labor Government like to stand for photo opportunities and say, "We went to Central and spoke about how great it is that we have this new appearance with everything upgraded." They cut the ribbons for something that we delivered. The education Minister, and Deputy Premier, has talked about how no education money was spent. There were 180 new or refurbished schools built in the previous term of the Coalition Government, and 280 new or upgraded hospitals were also delivered. That is a proud and undeniable legacy left by the previous Coalition Government.

The challenge for this Minns Labor Government is the legacy that it will leave: pay rises for those who handed out at polling booths and contributed to its political campaigns. It has to now give the payback that it promised. For 16 years, we lived in the Bob Carr "Build Nothing" days—the dark days of neglect and no infrastructure. He built nothing at all. The Liberal-Nationals Government had to come in and support the people of this great State. It was not great then, but look at it now. We drive on fantastic roads. Not long ago I went up on NorthConnex, which is an amazing piece of infrastructure. I am proud of what we on this side delivered as a government. I would like to think that the Minns Labor Government could deliver something. It thinks that it can. I am yet to see that. Let us not have that template pulled out again and again, because what those opposite talk about is actually not very true. The truth is that they might cut the ribbons, but we build the infrastructure.

Mr DAVID MEHAN (The Entrance) (15:20:53):

The Government opposes the motion, not because it comes from this failed Opposition but because this motion is so factually wrong. It is factually wrong on an economic basis, and it is factually wrong on a historical basis as well. I will address each part of the motion in turn. The first part deals with commending the previous Government for its triple-A credit rating. Let me set the correct historical foundation for today's debate. On Saturday 26 March 2011 Premier Barry O'Farrell and Treasurer Mike Baird of the then newly elected Coalition Government inherited a triple-A credit rating from Moody's, handed to them by the outgoing Labor Government. They also inherited a triple-A credit rating from Standard and Poor's, handed to the incoming Coalition Government by the outgoing Labor Government.

If anything, the former Coalition Government maintained a triple-A credit rating on those two standards for some years. But an accumulation of massive gross privatisation and transfer of expenditure onto the general public from the privatisation of government assets, the massive spending program in excess of the money made through privatisation and blown out at every stage by mismanagement and overruns, and the underinvestment in our frontline public services with its wages cap policy meant that by 7 December 2020 Standard and Poor's said, "We're taking that triple-A credit rating off you. You're downgraded. You're double-A plus."

If we are going to talk about the previous Government's triple-A rating, let us be clear: The former Government saw a downgrade in the credit rating from Standard and Poor's during its time in office. Following the election of the incoming Labor Government earlier this year, it inherited triple-A from Moody's and double‑A‑plus from Standard and Poor's. Treasurers Baird, Constance and Berejiklian never earned a triple‑A credit rating; they maintained it. Treasurer Perrottet lost one, and Treasurer Kean maintained it and put things in a perilous position. It is simply wrong to say that the Liberal Party's triple-A credit rating was a creation of the former Government. At best, it barely maintained ratings inherited from the former Government.

The second proposition of the motion is that it condemns the current Government for consistently making false statements on the budget deficit. I will simply refer those opposite to page 5-1 of the last Kean budget, "Fiscal outlook". The aggregates say it all: the aggregates for 2020-21—a deficit; the aggregates for 2021-22—a big deficit; the aggregates for 2022-23, the year of this budget paper—a deficit; the projected aggregates for 2023‑24—a deficit. They are damned by their own budget papers. We inherited the largest deficit ever inherited from an outgoing to an incoming government, $7. 8 billion. On the settings inherited on the changeover in government earlier this year, we are heading for $188 billion in debt, which called for the incoming Government to get down to work immediately to try to address it and repair the budget.

The third point of the motion "calls on the Government to maintain this State's triple-A credit rating without contributing to inflation through pay rises to union mates". I am pleased to advise the House that the current Government has done that. Following the first Mookhey budget and the first budget of the new Labor Government in September, Moody's reassessed its credit rating and on 24 October maintained the triple-A credit rating for the State of New South Wales. On 27 October Fitch, another ratings agency, affirmed our triple-A credit rating. On 22 November, just this week, Standard and Poor's maintained our double-A plus rating despite the former Treasurer saying that Labor's policy of investing in our State's public servants would destroy the budget and wreck the economy. Labor's first budget has done nothing of the sort. Labor's first budget has invested in our frontline workers. Labor's first budget has addressed the perilous position that we inherited from those opposite.

It was all down to the good work of Treasurer Mookhey, comprehensively supported by finance Minister Houssos, whose comprehensive expenditure review did a huge job in finding $13 billion of savings that we could then redirect to Labor's priorities and help us immeasurably in repairing a perilous budget position inherited from those opposite. New South Wales has demonstrated excellent financial management. That is the statement made by Moody's, and Standard and Poor's. The Treasurer said to this House in September that Labor has begun the hard work of reducing New South Wales' level of debt. We on this side have done that. The gross debt of $14.8 billion in the first Mookhey budget will be lower by 2026. Compared with our predecessors, the net debt is $10.5 billion lower. We are achieving what we said we would achieve in opposition. We are repairing the budget, delivering for the people of New South Wales and investing in our public services without privatisation.


I thank the member. Before I call the next member, I welcome in the gallery Saim, who is doing work experience in the office of the member for East Hills. Welcome, Saim. I hope your time in this Chamber does not dissuade you from your interest in politics.

Mr MATT CROSS (Davidson) (15:28:14):

I support the motion moved by the member for Hawkesbury. It is an important motion, which talks about the economy. It talks about the importance of the triple-A credit rating. It talks about the importance, I believe, of paying down debt and making sure that we are paying down deficit. It also highlights the very interesting relationship between the Australian Labor Party and its Ministers and union bosses. As we all know, Ministers have to disclose their diaries once every three months. The first six months of ministerial diary disclosures have come out, and members opposite might be interested to know that we have the tally board of which Ministers have met how many unions. The overall figure of meetings that took place between Ministers and union bosses comes to 353. Now, let us look at the leaderboard. In third place we have none other than the Treasurer with 44 meetings—right up there with more than one a week. In second place—any guesses?

Mr Mark Hodges:

The member for Blacktown.


No, he is not a Minister yet. We have the Minister for Health, who is on 44 meetings.

Ms Robyn Preston:

Except paramedics.


I acknowledge the interjection. Yes, what happened to paramedics? The Minister who had the most meetings with union bosses was none other than the Minister for Industrial Relations, with a solid 73 meetings. But there is a wooden spoon award. I am sure that the other Ministers will be very disappointed. Steve Whan has not met a single union yet. Every three months I look forward to when the ministerial diary disclosures are made so that I can update members on the leaderboard of all the union meetings. In terms of the importance of the triple-A credit rating, I want to be very sincere now and say that, when I was an adviser to Mike Baird as Treasurer—

Mr Mark Coure:

Senior adviser.


I was actually a senior adviser. At the time the Treasurer took the triple‑A credit rating so seriously that he told me once that, if we ever lost it, he would resign. I do not know if that is public information but, under the Baird Government and Baird Treasury, the triple‑A rating was always maintained. In terms of the Labor Party, we all know that for Eric Roozendaal the triple‑A credit rating meant a free trip to New York every December because he had to visit the Moody's ratings agency. The interesting thing is Moody's actually had an office in Sydney, but he still used the excuse to go. I find it very interesting. We asked a question to the current Treasurer about whether he is intending to visit Moody's in New York too. What was his answer? He said, "I will meet all my reporting obligations for my overseas travel and meetings as required." He has not ruled out taking the trip.

But let us look at triple-A credit ratings across the nation. New South Wales has a triple‑A credit rating under Fitch and Moody's. Victoria lost its triple‑A credit ratings in December 2020. Who was in government then? It was the Labor Party. The Australian Capital Territory, or the Socialist Republic of Canberra, lost its triple‑A credit rating in September 2023 under a Labor-Greens Government. Queensland lost its triple‑A credit rating in 2009. Who was in government then? It was the Labor Party. South Australia lost its triple‑A credit rating in 2012—under what government? It was a Labor government. In the last six seconds of my debate time, I note an interesting article with the headline "Mookhey clears runway for AAA credit rating loss from NSW budget".

Ms KAREN McKEOWN (Penrith) (15:32:24):

I oppose this motion and I note the contribution of my friend the member for the Entrance, who has absolutely demolished the claims made in the motion by the member for Hawkesbury. As the member for the Entrance noted, the multitude of errors, falsehoods and contradictions contained in this motion include ignoring that it was a Liberal‑Nationals government that lost the triple‑A credit rating from Standard and Poor's in December 2020; denying the five straight budget deficits delivered by Treasurer Perrottet and Treasurer Kean; and pretending that the first Mookhey budget has done anything other than uncover $13 billion of savings, plug $7 billion of unfunded programs and reduce State debt by more than $14 billion. I take particular issue with the attack the Opposition makes on the commitments this Government has made to rebuild essential services, including to pay our essential service workers fairly. Far more than good credit ratings, good economic management is about improving the lives of our citizens. That means respect and reward for people whose work is vital to our community. The Treasurer said in this year's Budget Speech:

… paying people enough to provide for their family is right morally; it is correct economically; and it is vital if we want to rebuild essential services to the world-class standards NSW demands.

If we want a world‑class health system, we have to train, recruit and retain enough health workers to staff our hospitals. If we want young people to have more opportunities than we did, we need to stop denying that there are teacher shortages—as those opposite do—and instead act to solve it. That is what we are doing. The Minns Government has removed the arbitrary wages cap the conservatives introduced, which only served to stoke confrontation, and we are replacing it with a bargaining system that fosters cooperation. That includes the ministerial engagements that have been happening since we have been elected. It is called bargaining. We actually consult. We created a $3.6 billion Essential Services Fund to share the fruits of reform with those who deliver them. Another decade spent holding down people's wages will result in more inequality, a weaker economy and worse public services.

Not only is the motion wrong in its facts; it is wrong in its focus. The true measures of economic success are the lives of our people, not just the ratings financial analysts make. For people in my community, it means good hospitals, good schools and good public transport. In Penrith it means publicly owned infrastructure so that tolls do not add to the cost of living. The motion should commend the work of our Government for stabilising our State's financial position and for rebuilding our essential services and doing so without flogging off any more public assets. The people of New South Wales gave Labor a clear mandate. They did not fall for the former Government's spin on its record of privatisation and economic mismanagement in March this year, nor should this House accept it today.

Mr MARK COURE (Oatley) (15:36:25):

I take the opportunity to speak on this absolutely wonderful motion. I thank the outstanding member for Hawkesbury for moving it. Over the past 12 years, we on this side have had a proud record of financial management in this State. We saw record spending when it came to education, health and transport in New South Wales. And, of course, over the past 12 years we saw an infrastructure revolution in New South Wales. We saw new and improved hospitals and schools built. We saw upgrades to train stations. We saw commuter car parks.

And in the past nine months of this Government, what have we seen? What has been Labor's track record over the past nine and a bit months? It is a good question. Let me tell members about Labor's track record. Labor members will not tell the truth about their track record over the last nine months, but I will. We saw cuts to the Active Kids rebate, the Creative Kids rebate and the First Lap rebate. I think I need some audience participation. We saw cuts to First Lap, cuts to Active Kids—

Mr Jordan Lane:



I thank the member for Ryde. We also saw backflipping. We saw nothing in the budget to deliver pay increases for certain public servants. We saw a backflip and a broken promise when it came to privatisation of government-owned land. We also saw cuts, lies and broken promises over the past nine months. Look at the previous Government's track record when it comes to new and rebuilt hospitals. We on this side built new and improved hospitals across New South Wales including Liverpool Hospital, Shellharbour Hospital, St George Hospital, Blacktown Hospital to Ryde Hospital. We also saw Albury, Cessnock, Bathurst and Bankstown in the budget two years ago. There was $1.3 billion for Bankstown. Is that work experience kid in the gallery? They are getting a hospital at Bankstown, which we started last year under our Government. There was a billion dollars a couple of years ago for a major, significant upgrade to Nepean Hospital. There was $1.4 billion for a major rebuild and redevelopment of Westmead Hospital. The Liberal-Nationls built new and improved hospitals and upgraded schools and, as part of our transport infrastructure revolution, we upgraded stations and built community car parks, not to mention metros right across Sydney.


The time for consideration of general business notices of motions has expired. I set down resumption of the interrupted debate as an order of the day for a later hour. The House will now proceed to Government business.