We’re into the final weeks of the NSW state election campaign, and the competition is heating up. What seemed like a shoo-in for Labor to bring an end to 12 years of Coalition rule is now being described as “the closest contest in decades” as the Coalition claw back potential supporters.
Cost of living pressures are top of the agenda for voters in the state that makes up almost a third of the country’s population. So too is the housing crisis, with the state capital, Sydney, currently the only one in Australia in which house prices are going up. New data has shown that the number of rentals in the state below $400 a week has more than halved in the previous 12 months and voters are crying out for some serious action here.
Climate change, as always, is another key issue, with independent candidates, who did well at the federal election, looking to “squeeze” the Coalition on that front in seats where Labor wouldn’t have a chance.
NSW too has been buckling under the weight of industrial action, with chaos being wrought upon the transport network that has drawn the ire of voters. Nurses and teachers have also been on strike for better wages and working conditions and there is certainly a “mood for change” in the air.
The Coalition has made gambling reform a key electoral issue, a plan which, while popular, doesn’t appear to be top of the agenda for many voters. It’s a risky play the Libs have engaged in and it awaits to be seen whether or not it will pay off.
But whether Labor Leader Chris Minns, who, it has been reported, struggles to be recognised in his own constituency, can captain his ship into the port of victory is another question. Much like in last year’s federal election, the Labor Party appears to be benefitting from being ‘not the other guys’. However, in a state that has seen previous Labor and Liberal governments collapse under corruption scandals, will it be enough to convince voters a change in government will really change anything at all?
Here’s what you need to know about what each party is standing on and what they have promised.
NSW Liberal Party
The ruling Liberal Party, in coalition with the Nationals, has said that they want to focus on growing the economy to “keep NSW moving forwards.”
To that end, they’ve promised a $1 billion upgrade to regional roads and another $1 billion to upgrade the roads in Western Sydney. They want to add four new Sydney Metro routes, hire more bus drivers, and deliver more parking spaces across Sydney’s fringe.
In terms of healthcare, they’re looking to recruit 10,000 additional workers, spend $11.9 billion on new and upgraded hospitals across Sydney and the state, and have promised free contraceptive pill and UTI treatments from pharmacies for a 12-month trial.
On education, they want to spend $8.6 billion on new and upgraded schools, increase admin workers by 200 to lighten teachers’ loads, and give 15,000 of them permanent positions. They also want 600-top quality teachers added to public schools and 500 new preschools through Western Sydney and regional areas.
With the environment, they’ve got a $190 million plan to double the koalas in the state by 2050 by protecting 47,000 hectares of habitat and increasing national park areas. They also want to replace existing coal-fired power stations with renewables, get electric vehicles up to 50% of new car sales by 2030, and support green hydrogen.
Cost of living help comes in the form of cutting energy bills by $250 through a $500 million rebate scheme, encouraging long-term leases and giving renters more rights, and continuing their $750 toll-relief rebate scheme. Small businesses can also get $10,000 over two years to cover.
Women’s rights have been a big issue for the Coalition and, on that front, the NSW branch is looking to hire five new magistrates to deal with the backlog of domestic violence issues, review DV sentencing practices, and spend $2 million to support women re-entering the workforce.
The brief outline above is in addition to the Liberal’s master plan on pokies, which they want to make cashless by 2028.
NSW Labor Party
NSW Labor is pitching “a fresh start” after 12 years of Coalition rule with an end to corruption, privatisation, and more support for health, schools, and jobs.
“Labor will make choices to repair our essential services – we’ll make tough choices to protect the budget and we’ll choose to end pork barrelling across the state,” Minns said at the Party’s campaign launch on March 5.
To do so, it’s promising $1.1 billion on road improvements in Western Sydney and regional areas, $225 million to improve evacuation routes during flooding, and scrap construction speed limits when road works aren’t actually happening. They also want to replace old NSW trains with a new fleet that will be built in NSW and improve bus services.
In healthcare, Labor wants to enforce a nurses and midwives minimum per shift and hire 1,200 more of them plus 500 more paramedics. They’re planning to build two new hospitals, upgrade two more, and increase capacity at a further two. They’re also looking to spend $70 million for three new helicopter ambulance bases in regional NSW.
For the education sector, Labor say they will build 100 new public preschools in their first term and spend $60 million upgrading existing ones. They also plan to make 10,00 casual teachers permanent while auditing teachers over how they can reduce their workloads. Six new public schools have been promised alongside new TAFE manufacturing centres for free apprenticeships.
On environment, Labor wants a Great Koala National Park between Kempsey and Coffs Harbour and a Georges River Koala National Park between Glenfield and Appin. They also plan to have NSW on 50% renewable energy by 2030, create 13,000 jobs in the renewable sector, and make the environmental offsets system much tougher.
Cost of living and housing help is on offer through outlawing evictions, ban rent bidding, and spend $30 million on a build-to-rent scheme on the South Coast. They want to spend $722 million on a first homebuyers scheme to cut stamp duty and will cap tolls on Sydney roads at $60 per week. The 3% public sector pay rise will be scrapped and replaced with ‘sector-by-sector’ negotiations.
Labor is going hard on women’s rights, offering $13.8 million to boost workforce participation through training and support programmes. They will also build a new multicultural domestic violence centre in southwest Sydney, double the funding for women’s health centres, and hire an additional 25 sexual violence counsellors.
When the Coalition made gambling a key priority, Labor said they would only commit to a trial of cashless gaming machines run by an independent panel. They also want to reduce the number of machines across the state, ban ‘VIP Area’ signage, and limit the amount you can put in a machine to $50.
The NSW Greens are never going to take government and Labor has ruled out doing any deals or agreements with them. However, the party currently has three state MPs and three lower house representatives, meaning they could make up a sizeable portion of the crossbench.
Their policies are pretty eye-catching and they have so far promised to make all public transport free in NSW, reverse the privatisation of the bus and train network, restrict toll road costs, and fast-track the transition to locally-made, zero-emissions busses. They also want to make it easier to bring your pet on public transport.
In healthcare, the Greens want to hire 1,500 more paramedics in regional NSW, create non-emergency patient transport systems, expand Medicare access to mental and dental care, give nurses a pay rise, increase reproductive healthcare, and fund access to psychedelic therapy.
In education, the Greens are backing a 15% plus inflation pay rise for teachers, training up 12,000 more teachers, giving every public school an additional counsellor, providing universal free childcare, making TAFE free again, and wiping student debt.
The environment is the Greens’ home turf and they want to expand NSW protected areas by 20.4%, end logging in public forests, stop illegal land clearing, create a Sydney marine park, and remove shark nets, They also support Labor’s policy of a Great Koala National Park.
On the cost of living, the Greens are advocating for complete public ownership of all energy generation and grid assets, public support for households to replace their old gas appliances and an overhaul of the rental system with more affordable public housing.
The Greens also want to phase out coal and gas by 2030 and charge a Climate Disaster Levy on coal exports to raise $7 billion for a Climate Recovery and Transition Fund.
In addition, it has said it would “end the drug war” by legalising cannabis and banning strip searches and drug dogs.
Their most out-there policy perhaps is the mandatory sterilisation of all new puppies.