25 February 2016

Ms TRISH DOYLE (Blue Mountains): Today I make note of the disastrous impacts of the budget of the Baird Liberal Government on the lives of ordinary people who live and work in New South Wales. This Government is running an ideological agenda through this Parliament, which attacks the basic principles of the social contract that has stood at the heart of our egalitarian society for decades. In recent years our counterparts in Federal Parliament have made much of the opportunities and excitement available to Australians in the twenty-first century. Malcolm Turnbull, the member for Goldman Sachs, tells us that there has never been a more exciting time to be an Australian. As a result of his cuts to the pension, the wrecking of the national broadband network, and privatising Medicare payments, we can all look forward to his vision of an innovative and agile future. Indeed, people will need to be agile and innovative when they are 70 with no pension and nowhere to live in Malcolm's dystopian future.

We are told that this is the Asian century and Australia is well placed geographically, economically and politically to take advantage of all the opportunities it will offer. What use is rhetoric like this to people in New South Wales when our Premier and his Ministers are quietly and methodically pulling apart the social programs that ensure every citizen has the opportunity to participate? The suburbs and regions of New South Wales are being left behind by this Government as it becomes ever more impossible to buy a home. It is ever more costly to travel to and from work, and it is ever more difficult and expensive to retrain or develop skills for new employment opportunities.

There are a number of reasons that housing in New South Wales is so expensive. Our Premier is addicted to stamp duty and that is why he has made no effort to reign in the cost of housing in New South Wales. Every time a house or apartment is sold in this State, Treasury takes a cut of more than 35 per cent. The stamp duty bonanza in New South Wales last year is responsible for the budget surplus, not prudent financial management by the Premier. Let us remember that Mike Baird was so incompetent and negligent as Treasurer that he managed to lose track of $1 billion one year when it fell down the back of his ministerial office couch. It comes as no surprise to learn that Mike Baird has presided over growing inequality in New South Wales. Our State is now the most unequal throughout Australia. The top 1 per cent of income earners take home 10.5 per cent of the State's income and the top 10 per cent of income earners take home 35 per cent of the State's income. The rest are left behind.

There is no excuse for this growing inequality given the resources and opportunities that are available to the State Government to assist low-income earners and the marginalised in our society. In part, because of the lazy and crippling addiction this Government has to real estate stamp duty, they have no appetite to address the flipside of the housing affordability crisis, which is the absolute death of public and social housing throughout Sydney and our regions. Busy cities must have workers. This Parliament must have workers. Nothing would be done in this place without the hard work of cleaners, caterers, building maintenance workers, electricians, the New South Wales police special constables, as well as the parliamentary services staff and public servants who keep the place running. Most of those workers, like most of the workers in our hospitals, schools, local government offices and big corporate office blocks, are on middle incomes. For those workers, housing that is within a reasonable distance of their workplace is beyond their reach. We need a government that is willing to invest in affordable public and social housing, and one that will support the workers who keep this city running.

Instead of a caring, compassionate and helpful government, we have Casino Mike. He would rather gift public land to his mates in the property development and gambling industries than keep a roof over the heads of marginalised, vulnerable or working-class people. It bewilders me that he thinks it is acceptable to run his cheesy and avuncular routine on Facebook and in the media, renting DeLoreans for Facebook video stunts and trying to one-up Malcolm Turnbull in the selfie stakes while doing everything he can to undermine the social safety net that vulnerable people rely upon and exist within. Mike Baird might be a nice guy, but he is a bad Premier. He is a bad Premier because when you take away the $600 per day social media consultants, the goofy grin and the selfie sticks we are left with a former merchant banker, a stooge for big business and a conservative ideologue.

It is clear that this Government has it in for TAFE. The most charitable thing anyone could say is that Mike Baird has probably never met a TAFE student or a teacher outside his political career. He did not go to TAFE, and his children probably will not go to TAFE. His friends do not work at one of the campuses that he is gutting and flogging off. Mike Baird's Smart and Skilled policy is dumb and ham-fisted. It attacks people who are trying to learn skills and a trade so they can earn a living. I know a young man from the Blue Mountains who is a first year apprentice. He discovered the extent of the cuts when he enrolled in Nirimba TAFE. Working as an apprentice, his income before tax is $530 per week.

On his first day of TAFE he drove himself 63 kilometres to the nearest campus at Quakers Hill and was asked to pay $530 for the first fee instalment. He also had to pay $158 for a drawing board and $27 for special pencils and drawing squares. In the second week he was asked to pay a further $540 for fees and he was told that there were three more instalments. This young man is fortunate and savvy. He worked throughout his later years of high school, including through his Higher School Certificate [HSC], so he has money in the bank to cover these exorbitant costs. For a young person who did not work during their HSC, and whose parents may not be in a position to stump up the thousands of dollars to cover these costs for their adult children, the choice becomes either accumulate significant debt or give up on learning a trade through TAFE altogether.

The situation facing TAFE students and teachers is dire and any Liberal or Nationals member who argues against this is having us on. We have seen enrolments plummet, fees skyrocket and eligibility tighten. Not a month goes by without news coming to light of yet another crook in the private vocational training industry being caught rorting public money or ripping off students. Aside from, perhaps, the banking and finance sector, the private vocational education and training industry is possibly the worst offender of corporate racketeering we have ever seen. The scheme works like this—the Federal Government pays a private college $18,000 to deliver a course; the private college pays a broker $5,000 to recruit a new student; the broker pays a sales representative between $800 and $1,000 to sign up each student; and the sales representative gives a "loan" to the student of a new laptop or an iPad as part of the sales pitch. The student is then lumped with an $18,000 debt for a qualification, which they must repay once they begin earning $54,000—less than the national average. Most of these private sector rip-off merchants are offering low-quality education and giving kickbacks to sales staff, who bribe students with flashy devices, only to have the students end up with an $18,000 debt to the Federal Government.

That is the racket that Mike Baird and the Liberals want to sign us all up to by de-funding TAFE and forcing it to compete with the private sector. What absolute nonsense. The Premier might want to push his pro-business agenda, but I do not think the private vocational training sector is actually competitive with TAFE in the first place. Rather than telling TAFE to compete on price, we should force the private sector to compete with TAFE on quality. But I guess it makes sense to Mike Baird and his way of thinking, in a roundabout way. Why would you fund TAFE properly and provide quality public education, if at the same time you were cutting jobs left, right and centre? In Mike Baird's New South Wales there is no point training to be a maintenance engineer, because he is slashing jobs in train maintenance crews. There is no point getting a certificate IV in community services because he is closing down women's refuges and squeezing service providers of funding. In fact, in the Premier's twisted, broken logic, his cuts to TAFE make perfect sense.

Now, instead of paying lip service to survivors of domestic violence and making it more difficult for women to escape violent relationships by cutting funding to the sector, the Premier needs to sit down and listen to the service providers who provide support to victims of domestic violence day in and day out. I recently convened a roundtable meeting in the Blue Mountains, alongside Labor's shadow Minister Kate Washington, to hear from service providers about what they see as priorities for reform and change. The message from the more than 50 industry representatives could not have been clearer: We need the Government to take this issue seriously, fund our services, and make sure there is adequate capacity at refuges so that women and their children are not turned away when they are most in danger. We need the It Stops Here: Safer Pathway recommendations to be implemented in full and for the Government to put its money where its mouth is on domestic violence prevention and support. A representative of the Save Our Women's Services told us:

We spoke to every refuge in NSW, government and non-government, and the key message we received, loud and clear, in fact it was unanimous, was that no-one wanted to undergo another damaging round of tenders. Many people told us staff were already threatening to leave if it happened again—the initial process had been so destructive, illogical and stressful—so we made it our number one recommendation to the Government.

She went on to counter the Baird Government's spin and lies about service provision in New South Wales. She said:

One of the things that we have found very difficult to counter in the media, and that the Government has repeatedly thrown back at the Opposition, is the Government's claim that not one refuge has closed in NSW. Our last count found there are only approximately 14 specialist domestic violence refuges left, and it's true that none of the buildings have closed, but just because the same buildings are being used doesn't mean it's the same thing.

Some of the statistics available to us reveal waste and mismanagement by this Government, which comes at the cost of quality services for vulnerable women. Prior to the Going Home Staying Home program, there were more than 100 women's domestic violence services operating in New South Wales. As the Save Our Women's Services representative pointed out, there are now just 14 domestic violence women's refuges. All refuges are full almost every day of the year. In the Blue Mountains we have one of the few surviving women's domestic violence refuges, yet our refuge is full every day. This closure of refuges has led to an over reliance on temporary accommodation. But despite this chronic shortage, last year the State Government spent almost $14 million on housing people in motels and caravan parks. Not only is this a huge waste of money, it puts women at risk because these motels and caravan parks become well known as crisis accommodation and are easily accessible to the dangerous and abusive partners these women are escaping.

Mike Baird needs to fund specialist services and support victims of domestic violence in practical, tangible ways. But more than that, he must also lead the way on cultural and social changes to tackle domestic violence. At the recent Labor State conference, alongside Helen Westwood and the Australian Services Union, I facilitated a meeting of trade unionists, community sector workers and specialist domestic violence support workers to discuss legislative and workplace changes that will support victims of domestic violence. The Australian Services Union has recently resolved with the Australian Council of Trade Unions to push for paid domestic violence leave to be incorporated in the national employment standards. New South Wales needs paid domestic violence leave so that victims can take control of their lives at times of crisis. We need this enshrined in employment law so that victims of domestic violence can have confidence that their jobs will not be put at risk and their employers will support them when they are most in need.

If Mike Baird is serious about tackling domestic violence in New South Wales, he will not just reverse the regressive cuts to refuges and crisis services but direct his Government's various agencies and departments to incorporate domestic violence leave in their own internal employment agreements and then prepare legislation to enshrine it in law for other workplaces throughout the State. Critical reforms such as these should be the focus of Premier Baird's budget, not privatisation, cuts to services and ideological attacks on the vital work of our public service. It does not matter which area of government you look at, Mike Baird and his big business mates are looking for ways to corporatise, privatise or sub-contract it out to the lowest bidder.

Look at our transport system. The Government is quietly and methodically undertaking a privatisation process with our trains, buses and ferries. On the one hand, they are spending more than a billion dollars fine-tuning an already semi-privatised revenue collection system that will appeal to prospective buyers, and now they are fattening the assets base for market—by spending public funds improving stations and infrastructure—but running the razor through maintenance crews and station staff and outsourcing security services to the NSW Police Force instead of retaining their own personnel. I would be quick to welcome the investment in improved stations and new rolling stock if I did not hold very deep suspicions about the motives of the Baird Government.

Government members are gold plating the asset base just as they did with the poles and wires network in anticipation of selling it off. In the short term, they will increase fares and plead with the public to accept higher fares as a trade-off for the flashy new stations. But once we have forgotten about the price hikes they will set about selling it all to a private operator. The private operator will then make a fortune from the assets we built and paid for, while slashing jobs and services that we rely upon. It is privatisation 101. When one asks Baird Government Ministers if they will guarantee that these public assets, which we paid for, will stay in public hands, their mealy-mouthed response is always, "There are no current plans to privatise X, Y or Z."

Well, we are worried about the future plans of this Government. It is what this Government has in store for us in the years to come that I am worried about, because stealing public assets and fencing them to its business partners in corporate Australia is its reason for being here. We should not be surprised. Selling off assets and privatising the functions of the State are part of the Government's political DNA.