Jobs and Skills for Western Sydney

16 March 2021

Public Interest Debate


Mr ANOULACK CHANTHIVONG (Macquarie Fields) (17:28): — It is good to see the Member for Castle Hill back in the Chamber; we wish him good health now and forever. I welcome this debate. I move:

That the motion be amended by leaving out all words after "That" and inserting instead:

this House:

(1) Calls on the Government to support jobs and skills in Western Sydney and throughout New South Wales by prioritising the use of local businesses in government procurement and ruling out any further privatisation, campus closures and job cuts at TAFE.

(2) Notes that the Government's new M5 East toll is a tax on jobs, growth and skills development in south-west and western Sydney.

The original motion is somewhat ironic and I would say almost laughable. Over the past 10 years, successive Liberal governments have shown no interest whatsoever in jobs and skills in south‑western and western Sydney.

In truth, the only jobs they have been concerned about are their own, the only skills they have shown are the dark skills of politicking, and the only parts of Sydney they have been interested in are the ones they have endlessly pork-barrelled.

It was not based on economic or social need but on political favouritism, which always means south-western and western Sydney miss out.

Let me explain. When it comes to skills, this Government excels in many. Pork-barrelling? Tick. Deflecting? Tick. Obfuscating? Tick. Spin? Tick. Shredding documents? Tick. Dodgy deals with developers? Tick. Not building schools in western Sydney? Tick. That is just to name a few.

One skill this Government does not have is acting with integrity. But to be fair, integrity has never been a strong point of conservative governments in Australia.

The people of south-western and western Sydney have seen that time and time again. My time does not allow me to fully explore this Government's lack of integrity, but I very much look forward to reading the coming reports from the Independent Commission Against Corruption inquiries. Incidentally, that is another agency that this Government tried to hamstring through budget cuts.

I am always happy to debate this Liberal Government when it comes to economics and jobs because frankly it can use all the spin it wants, but I have the truth. In terms of jobs, this Government's focus is squarely on protecting its members own jobs and rewarding fat cat bureaucrats on salaries of $500,000 plus.

Somehow this Liberal Government rationalised that it was okay to give icare executives, who have been underpaying injured workers, exorbitant pay rises worth tens of thousands of dollars whilst deliberately amending legislation to reduce the pay of nurses, teachers and other frontline public servants to a crummy 0.3 per cent.

A moderate 2.5 per cent pay rise as legislated would have injected much‑needed funds into the local economy, especially in western Sydney. Some $3 billion worth of spending would have stimulated the economy, helped us recover, kept people in jobs and helped tide businesses over to withstand the economic shock until we got back to normal.

The Government failed to recognise the devastating flow-on effect of such a short-sighted Scrooge mentality.

Let us add short-sightedness to this Liberal Government's skill set as well.

It is similar to the disastrous imposition of the new toll on drivers during the middle of a pandemic. I am of course referring to the M5 East, which had been toll free for its existence.

We have a new tax on an old road with the same number of lanes. It was built by Labor and fully paid for in 2000 but it is now tolled by this Liberal Government.

This Government shows no concern for the financial burden that toll places on the people of western and south-western Sydney who use the road every day to get to work. It is a tax on south‑western Sydney workers who every year have to either pay thousands in tolls they cannot afford or get caught up in heavy congestion on suburban streets and lose hundreds of hours of family time or be unable to pick up their next job because they are stuck in traffic.

I took the liberty of doing some quick economic analysis of my own from publicly available information about how much the M5 East toll is costing the western Sydney economy. According to my spreadsheet, with about 40,000-odd vehicles using it on a daily basis, this year alone we are talking about a tax of about $135 million. That is a tax on the people of south-western Sydney, on skills development and jobs growth.

We can add callous disregard to this Government's dark skills set.

I could go on; I wish my contribution could go for 10 minutes.

We know this Government does not act in the best interests of the people of western and south-western Sydney.