A crazy three weeks of Budget Estimates have just wrapped up here in NSW Parliament. So, what have we learned?
One of my key responsibilities as an Upper House MP is to hold the Government to account on their promises, actions and budgetary spending. Unsurprisingly, this round of Budget Estimates has revealed yet again that the Coalition Government is still failing to fund essential services, failing to care for vulnerable people, failing to act on climate blunders, and failing to manage public money.
Where is the Coalition’s climate adaptation plan?
For the past six years, the Government has promised to produce a state-wide climate adaptation plan, and failed at every turn. At every opportunity I have grilled different Ministers about this, and watched as they all scramble to give me an excuse as to why they are so far behind the rest of Australia on this. During this Budget Estimates, the Treasurer proudly boasted about his climate adaptation “strategy” — which is no more than a plan to have a plan, the very plan they promised six years ago. Yes, cut through the spin and the truth is that this latest announceable takes us further away from a real plan to help our state adapt to the climate catastrophe we are living in.
Perrottet defends his Government’s corruption
I demanded answers from the Premier this week — about his Government’s corruption scandals piling up week after week, about the alarming amount of political donations that the Liberal Party receives, and about his Budget that allows big business to profit at the expense of the vast majority of people trying to make ends meet. Wealthy corporations have profited throughout the pandemic and continue to do so while millions are burdened with a cost of living crisis, and at the same time the Government has denied millions of workers a fair and liveable wage by refusing to scrap the wage cap.
Cutting through the Coalition’s “Women’s Budget” spin
In our Greens’ Budget response, I called out the Government’s so-called “women’s budget” as nothing more than insulting spin. In Budget Estimates, I forced the Minister for Infrastructure to admit that more streetlights (yes, you read that right!) are not a budget item for women, but simply a standard infrastructure spend that benefits everyone. I reminded a number of other ministers that early childhood education is also not a women-specific initiative, and asked when they were going to scrap the public-sector wage cap, something that would actually markedly improve the economic security of almost 300,000 women in our state.
After I grilled the Minister for Women’s Safety about the Government’s failure to fund the development of the essential Illawarra Women’s Trauma Recovery Centre, the very next day NSW Health jumped into action and are now in talks with the Centre to secure a site for this Australian-first domestic violence frontline service. This project is something I have been staunchly fighting for alongside the incredible Illawarra Women’s Health Centre for almost three years. We need to keep up the pressure to make this vital service for victim-survivors of domestic violence a reality.
Since we came out of lockdown last year, there has been a marked increase in drink spiking in our community, with many young women visiting clubs and pubs falling victim to this horrible crime. I questioned the Attorney General, the Police Minister, the Minister for Women’s Safety and the Hospitality Minister about this, and the answers I got from each of them confirmed that the Government is doing next to nothing to deal with this incredibly alarming issue. After some pushing, I got a commitment out of the Hospitality Minister to work with industry and police to take greater action on drink spiking crimes.
Vulnerable people have been put on the backburner for too long
Across the state, vulnerable people have long been suffering because the system views their needs as an afterthought, instead of a priority. Whether it be reforming our broken child protection system, protecting women and their children from domestic violence, assuring basic accessibility for people with disability, or just listening to the voices of children in need of support, the Coalition Government has placed the needs of vulnerable people in our community on the backburner for too long.
My questioning revealed that the Government is chronically underfunding the Ageing and Disability Commissioner, so much so that he is unable to fulfill his statutory duties. The Commissioner confirmed that for just $3 million a year — pocket change for this Government — they could fix this, and I pushed a number of Ministers and the Premier to look into this urgently.
I grilled the Attorney General and the Minister for Disability Services on their failure to support the democratic right of Deaf and hard of hearing people to serve on jury duty. Neither Minister could give me an answer as to why NSW is stuck in the past and refusing to make this important but simple reform of our laws.
Police Minister says peaceful protesters are “environmental vandals”
The right to protest is under attack in NSW and across Australia. We now have some of the most draconian anti-protest laws in the world. When I confronted the Police Minister about the aggressive and authoritarian police tactics used on peaceful climate protesters, he called them “environmental vandals”. I was quick to remind the Minister that the real environmental vandals are the Liberal-National Government!
Join the fight to protect the right to protest by emailing key MPs urging them to take action! Since the Government passed their draconian anti-protest legislation (with the full support of Labor) back in March of this year, I have moved disallowance after disallowance motion attempting to overturn this draconian law. At every turn, the Coalition and Labor have voted against the fundamental right to protest.
And that’s not everything that happened! Budget Estimates also revealed that:
Premier Perrottet is scarily defensive of his penchant for privatisation (of our public transport, electricity assets, and essential infrastructure) which is leaving communities behind
Not a single Minister can explain why NSW is one of only two states in Australia that is refusing to adopt the Minimum Accessibility Standards for new homes built — I pushed the Premier to commit to reconsider his Government’s position
The Greens will always back the RTBU’s right to industrial action — meanwhile the Coalition refuses to be held accountable for their failure to meet worker’s demands for safer conditions and fairer pay
Under the Coalition Government, we have been dealt with lemon after lemon in public transport assets — in the past it’s been failed light rails, cracked trams, and now it’s ferries breaking down every other day
As always, Budget Estimates raised more questions than it answered, and my team and I will continue working hard until the end of the parliamentary year to hold the Liberal-National Government to account, continuing to push them to actually do their job of properly looking after the people of NSW.