OPINION

OPINION: Our new Premier needs to step up

Mark Buttigieg MLC.
Mark Buttigieg MLC.

Premier Perrottet's record as Treasurer has been one of higher taxes, skyrocketing fines, higher tolls, flogging off our public assets and economic mismanagement of our state's workers' compensation system. New South Wales cannot afford more years of Perrottet's approach that is only increasing our cost of living.

Our state is in the grips of both a health and an economic crisis. Over 170,000 jobs were lost in the last month alone. We need a roadmap towards economic recovery that does not hit the pockets of our hardworking residents.

The cost of living has gone through the roof for Sydney residents. A key contributor to this has been the flogging off of our public assets. Over the past ten years, $93 billion of publicly owned assets have been sold to private owners. Our new Premier has overseen a great deal of this, such as the sales of our Sydney desalination plant, public land, the Sydney Motorway Corporation, several ports, power stations, and electricity assets, amongst many others. Unfortunately, Premier Perrottet has indicated he wants to continue privatising taxpayers' assets and unfortunately, this will only hurt the people of New South Wales.

Privatising our public assets ensures that the cost of living rises for all of us. We all know that our power bills have absolutely skyrocketed; this is the result of selling off valuable electricity assets to private owners. Often workers get paid substantially less by private operators, which sees less money in the hands of our residents to spend in small businesses within our communities.

Privatisation also means that earnings from our toll roads go to private companies as well. We are the most tolled city on the planet. Putting tolls on old roads like the M5 East is costing people thousands. Labor built the road and the public has paid for it already. This is completely unfair to slug households with even more costs.

The M5 East alone will make over $10 billion for its private owners after the road was toll-free for 20 years. This money is going to a private toll monopoly that collects astronomical revenues and pays record bonuses and salaries to their executives instead of delivering crucial infrastructure.

In 2015, Premier Perrottet started our state's government-owned insurer iCare, with a $4 billion surplus and his economic mismanagement as the responsible minister led to a deficit of $268 million. Disgracefully, our new Premier was ultimately responsible for ripping off thousands of injured and dying workers. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that as many as 52,000 injured workers had been underpaid up to $80 million. Over the last year, only 94 workers have been repaid.

Under Dominic Perrottet, iCare was referred to ICAC multiple times. The agency overpaid dodgy doctors for incorrect medical care and fraudulent price gouging. As Treasurer, Mr Perrottet was exposed for billing iCare $700,000 for a political advisor with ties to the US Republican party for his own office. Not only was this disgraceful, but it was unlawful too.

Premier Perrottet oversaw iCare, trying to eject 17,500 sick and injured workers from the scheme. Instead, he handed out $4 million in salaries and bonuses for just eight people and when three executives left iCare, they received a $1.2 million payout. When Labor tried to prohibit bonuses at iCare, he voted against it. Rewarding executives and underpaying injured and dying workers is not acceptable.

We cannot have the former Treasurer mismanage our state as he did with iCare. Premier Perrottet also needs to stop flogging off the assets of our taxpayers, just as his party promised at the last election. Life has been getting harder for working families, household expenses have rapidly increased. Our Premier needs to get our economy going and ensure our residents are not slugged with more taxes, tolls and fines.