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TDA’s chat with NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet

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Billi: What do you think is the biggest issue facing young people today?

Perrottet: Well, I think obviously the future of work is incredibly important and we’re looking at housing as a major challenge for many young people. And I’ve often said, you know, we can’t have an Australia that can’t house its children and we should do everything we can to make housing more affordable, particularly when it comes to rent as well, and find those protections for stability.

And it’s really important that we provide stability for people. And we’ve made a number of changes in that space to make a difference. But I also think home ownership is crucial, but also looking to the future and making sure that we’ve got the best jobs possible and being ahead of the game there and looking. If you look to the future and you look to where the economy’s going, we ensure that our young people have the best education and the best opportunities going forward.

Billi: You mentioned housing and education. You’ve just announced a savings fund for each child in New South Wales, which when they turn 18, they can use to access education and having what’s the pitch in 30 seconds?

Perrottet: Well, we want to make sure we set up our kids for future success. And every child can earn up to $49,000 by the time they leave school and put that towards getting better education and also getting into the property market. What a great thing that will be. And I believe our responsibility is to make sure our children have much better opportunities than we have. And I think this fund will make a real difference.

Billi: A similar scheme exists in Canada and that found that it benefited high income families over low income families. Do you expect similar results in New South Wales?

Perrottet: No, because we made a really important change here, and that is for families that are on family tax benefits from the Commonwealth Government that what we do, what we what we do as part of that is put $200 in without a co-contribution. So for those families who are on a low to middle incomes, they will only have to pay $4 a week, contribute $4 a week, whereas if you’re not on family tax benefits, you’ll have to contribute.

Billi: It’s a fact, though, that the more money you put in, the more money the government will give you. Right?

We do. We do a co-contribution for everyone. But for those families who are from a lower socioeconomic background, we automatically put $200 in every year.

But there’s a gap between the number of families that are on the family tax benefit and the ones who aren’t on that but still can’t afford to make that $400 contribution.

Yes, but if you know, if you are on a if you are on family tax benefits, which is around 300,000 families across New South Wales, you won’t have to make a contribution at all and we will put $200 in.

Billi: I just want to be really clear. You don’t see how this policy could deepen existing inequalities.

Perrottet: No, I think every child, absolutely every child would be better off right across New South Wales.

Billi: But in terms of existing inequalities, will this policy?

Perrottet: I think it will make it much better. I think it’ll make it much better because by helping families who have lesser means, by giving them an annual contribution of $200 without them having to put $1 in themselves, $200 from the government, that will ensure that our young people are set up for success.

Billi: Let’s move on to housing. Well, this fund can’t be used for renting a house. Most of our audience are renters. Yes. What is your government doing to ease the renting crisis?

Perrottet: Well, the first thing we did last year was ban rent bidding. And we saw this is happening at many open homes. So real estate agents can’t play tenants off each other. So that’s the first thing we changed. And then recently, we’ve made an announcement that if we are reelected, I will move away from no fault evictions and into reasonable grounds.

So reasonable grounds will need to be provided. And the other change we made, which I think is important, is in relation to extending the lease period. So giving contracts which have 3 to 5 year leases and that will create greater stability. And that works for both, I believe, home owners, the landlords and tenants, because it provides them with an opportunity to discuss greater long term leases.

And I think that’s incredibly important. And the other one is bond rollover. So making sure that if people are moving from their home, they don’t have to go and save the money again, The bond that they’ve already paid can be used for the next time.

Billi: The coalition has been in power for 12 years in New South Wales. What has it done to be proactive about the longer term issue of housing supply?

Perrottet: A lot. We’ve built a lot of homes in New South Wales and that’s a good question because that’s where you make the biggest impact. That’s where you make the biggest impact. And the more we open up supply, the more we get rezonings done in that faster way in a way that works, keeps the character of communities. But at the same time ensures we build the infrastructure, the track, the public transport.

By doing that, we’ll build more homes and that provides greater opportunity.

Billi: So what has the coalition government actually done to help?

Perrottet: Built hundreds of thousands of homes. And our accelerated infrastructure fund has been crucial in doing that too. So that’s kind of the smaller infrastructure. Water, sewerage, making sure that’s implemented and installed as quickly as possible and and we’ve led the way. I mean, if you look at the the economy, particularly before the pandemic, construction was driving it, and that’s important for jobs growth on the way through.

But ultimately the end, it’s really important to get people into homes and do it more homes than ever before. But we’ve got to keep going in a way that also is supported by the public transport. And that’s why we look at, you know, particularly western Sydney, how we continue to build those metro trains for the future. The more we build then that leads to developers obviously opening up supply and building more homes.

Billi: I want to move to health care. When we asked our audience what was important to them, a lot said nurse to patient ratios. Most Australian jurisdictions have now either committed to or implemented mandatory nurse to patient ratios. Why not in New South Wales?

Perrottet: Well, we’ve invested a lot in terms of our health system and when it comes to nurses, we’ve we in the last budget put together a 10,000 extra nurses, doctors, allied health professionals. And we think the approach we take works.

Billi: Now, do you think nurses think that it works?

Perrottet: Well, there are different views, and I understand that there are different perspectives in relation to this. But ultimately, we have to do everything we can to ease the burden in our health system. I’m very proud of the fact that New South Wales has the strongest health system in the country and we don’t have ratios. But what we’ve shown during the pandemic is that in terms of emergency presentations, we’ve been able to make 77% of patients on time compared to 67% around the country.

So our investments make a real difference. But going forward, we really want to look at how do we improve the health system. We’ve got to look at new ways of doing things and at a national Cabinet level, that’s something that every state Premier and Chief Minister is focused on working with the Commonwealth Government on. But we need better integration of the system.

At the moment you’ve got a federal health system that works against the state system and one of the biggest challenges we face is people being being able to access a GP when they need one. So where we’re taking on pharmacy reform are giving pharmacies a greater opportunity to issue scripts and medications and vaccinations and at the same time setting up urgent care clinics which are not really in our jurisdiction.

I partnered with Dan Andrews, the Victorian Premier, in this space, to set up 25 urgent care clinics, which means that families across New South Wales don’t have to go to an emergency department.

Billi: I just want to stay on nurses. I know we’re limited for time. You have a plan as you laid out, to attract more nurses, but what are you doing to ensure that they stay there once they are there?

Perrottet: Well, we’re doing a lot. Nursing is such an important profession and we have so many nurses who have done an incredible job during COVID. But the way that we’ve supported the health system ensures that there’s less pressure on the New South Wales public health system than any other health system in the country. And we’re seeing we saw what we’ve seen that during the pandemic. And if you want to be a nurse, the best place to be a nurse is right here in New South Wales.

Billi: Let’s move to education. A recent Productivity Commission report found that in the past ten years, funding for the state’s private schools is increasing at a faster rate than public schools. Why is that?

Perrottet: Well, what I can say about our investments in public education is it’s been at a record high. But, you know, when you look at those figures, you’ve also got to look beneath them in terms of this particular investments we’ve made in our public education system in relation to tutoring. And we know, particularly during the pandemic, many of our kids were going backwards because they weren’t having face to face learning.

So we put in a significant tutoring program to make sure none of our kids go backwards. And the Productivity Commission also said this is one of the key areas where we can drive better educational outcomes.

Billi: But why is the funding for private schools increasing at a faster rate than public?

Perrottet: Well, that’s obviously that’s a relationship between state funding and federal funding when it comes to independent schools. We predominantly fund state schools in the public system here in New South Wales, and we’ve put record funding. And I’m very proud of the fact that New South Wales was the first state to sign up to Gonski and those Gonski changes. We looked at all areas of government funding and made a significant investment into our public education system. And I’m very much focused on getting better outcomes in education and that’s exactly what we’ve done. And we’ve also led the way with our recent announcement of once again working with Dan Andrews on making pre-kindergarten free for every child.

Billi: If reelected, will you give teachers a pay rise in line with inflation?

Perrottet: We’ve got a fair and balanced approach when it comes to wages. So we’re offering a 6% increase over the next two years and end that. That is, if you look around the country that’s leading the way. I think Victoria’s about one and a half per cent per year to 3% over two. It’s and it’s, you know, I want to give as many pay rises as I can.

But when you’re managing the state’s budget and state’s finances, you’ve got competing priorities. I think the approach we have is fair and balanced. We’ve also provided a new spot at a number of schools across New South Wales for rewarding excellence in teaching, which will be positions of over $150,000. So that’s a very significant increase to attract the best and brightest into the profession.

And we’re also reducing the period of time it takes to study a masters from two years to one year. So we’re looking at new and innovative ways of doing things, and I think that’ll attract the best and brightest into teaching. And the other issue that teachers face as well as admin, and I want teachers doing what they do best and that’s teaching. That’s what they love doing. And we’ve got to ensure that they’re not getting caught up in running basic admin when they want to be in the classroom teaching.

Billi: Let’s move to the environment. It feels like every few months as another natural disaster in the state. How are you preparing for the next natural disaster that will inevitably come?

Perrottet: Well, I’ll answer in two ways. The first one is on emissions reduction, and I’m very proud of our action on climate change in that space. And we will have, you know, a 70% reduction by 2035, and that’s leading the country. And we’re very proud of our record in that space. In fact, WWF just came out and said New South Wales is the gold standard when it comes to climate change policies.

But natural disasters, you’re right, and I’ve seen that firsthand as Premier and I’ve spent over a month over the last 12 months in flood affected communities and seen firsthand the devastation that those flooding events caused. And many members of our community are still struggling, trying to get back on their feet. So I think we worked really hard on the creation of a reconstruction authority.

We can’t keep doing things the same old way and rebuilding in the same order. All why we need to do things differently. And that’s why we are unlocking land in safer areas and making sure as we build back, we build back in a much stronger and more resilient way. Also, when it comes to infrastructure and we have damage to our roads and our bridges, we simply just do you know, we simply just put them back in the same in the same way.

I’m a strong supporter of betterment, so we actually put more money in than we would have otherwise done. But that’s going to ensure in the long term, our communities are in a much stronger place when the next natural disaster happens. Because, you know, we are a country where there are floods, there are bushfires, and we need to make sure we don’t just do the things that we’ve done in the past because we’ll just be in the same position next time.

Billi: I want to talk about vaping. You recently admitted that you have the occasional vape and you also shared what your favourite flavour is. What message does that send to young people?

Perrottet: Well, I mean, the first the first thing I’d say is you shouldn’t smoke. And I’ve made that very clear. And when it comes when it comes to vaping, you know, we’ve invested a lot in making sure those public health messages are loud and clear.

Billi: But is that undone by then the leader of the state saying that he vapes?

Perrottet: Well, no one’s perfect, No one’s perfect. And I found vaping occasionally has helped me get off cigarettes and you can in New South Wales with a prescription and that’s the right approach that we have taken here in New South Wales. But there’s no doubt there’s a challenge with many young people vaping and we need to do everything we can to make sure those public health messages are very clear and we certainly have that in New South Wales and I’m very pleased that we’ve taken that approach.

Billi: Do you think that the health messaging is very clear, given how widely available and use they are?

Perrottet: Well, I think it’s a problem. Vaping is a problem. Smoking cigarets is a problem and we need to make sure young people are very aware that the harm that that causes.

Billi: So what are you doing to make sure that they are aware?

Perrottet: Well, we put a $12 million program together. Our public health messaging, and that’s getting into schools. That’s getting into public advertising so that young people particularly are aware of the dangers of smoking or vaping. And that’s incredibly important because obviously our number one area is to make sure people’s health care is looked after.

Billi: Lastly, in your eyes, what is the most important quality in a leader.

Perrottet: Conviction doing what you believe is the right thing to do? Standing up to vested interests. You get into politics to make a difference and if you have strong values and you stick to them. I think that’s the most important trait in a politician. You’ve always going to have competing interests, always have different opinions. And that’s one of the great aspects of being in politics.

People don’t always agree with you. And whether that’s in the public, in the media, whether that’s around the cabinet table, but ultimately, if you do what you believe is right and have the courage of their convictions, I think that is by far the most important trait.

Billi: How do you make yourself out of ten on conviction?

Perrottet: Well, that’s for others. That’s that’s that’s for others to define, not me.

Billi: Thank you so much for joining The Daily Aus.

Perrottet: Thanks, Billi.

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