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NSW State Election: 10 questions with John Barilaro, National Party

[alert color=”949494″ icon=”9881″]The following response from John Barilaro arrived in our office considerably after the deadline and the day after we printed the March Bulletin paper edition. We had noted in the March paper that we did not get a response. We include it here with the others to allow our readers to make informed comparisons, as was the intention.[/alert]

Jobs: 

With unemployment in the state topping 6% and at its highest level since June 2009 (according to Randstad) and youth unemployment even higher particu-larly in regional areas, what employment strategies can you suggest for Monaro?

UNDER Labor the NSW unemployment rate was below the national average on seven occasions, NSW had the slowest jobs growth, slowest economic growth in the country for a decade, poor consumer and business confidence and low housing approvals.

Since the Liberals and Nationals came into to Government in 2011, there have been 126,500 jobs created, the second highest number in the nation since April 2011 (behind WA). Since 2011, the NSW unemployment rate has been below the national average 33 times – including 14 in a row. Recent ABS figures show that employment has grown by 9,600 jobs over the last 12 months and unemployment has fallen dramatically from 9.8% down to 5.3% over 12 months within the Monaro region. The Liberals and Nationals Government have increased the payroll tax rebate and lifted the payroll tax threshold providing incentives for business to create new jobs. Of course, we recognise that there is more to do, which is why we have a plan to create more jobs by rebuilding our regional hospitals, schools and roads. While our political opponents would kill jobs by shutting down productive regional industries, only the NSW Liberal/Nationals can be trusted to improve our local economy.

Asset sales:

Should NSW sell remaining electricity assets (poles and wires and generators) as proposed, to raise money for infrastructure in urban areas? Why or why not? In what ways does this issue affect the Monaro electorate?

THERE’S been plenty of misinformation that we’re “selling” off electricity assets. That is not true. We are long-term leasing some city-based electricity assets, while ring-fencing the country-based Essential Energy. That’s non-negotiable – I fought for Essential Energy to not be leased, and it will remain 100 percent in public hands. Steve Whan was a Cabinet Minister when the previous Labor Government flogged off the generators at two minutes to midnight, without a mandate from the people. We have a plan to turbocharge infrastructure spending across NSW. It is a courageous policy, but unlike Labor, we are going to take it to the people of NSW to seek a mandate. Labor’s plan is to cut $1 billion in funding for existing projects – already budgeted and underway across regional NSW – and then only offer people in country areas $1.5 billion in investment after the election. Our plan will see $6 billion across the State reinvested. Locally, that will be invested into roads, schools and hospitals.

Education:

For primary and secondary schools in Palerang and Queanbeyan, what should be priorities for the next government?

THE NSW Liberals and Nationals have undertaken the biggest reforms in decades in school education, vocational education and training, early childhood and university sectors. As a Government we were the first state to sign up and commit to the NDIS and the first state to sign up for GONSKI investing $1.8 billion in education; this along with our Local Schools, Local Decisions reforms and Resource Allocation Model where schools are funded on a student’s needs basis. A benefit mostly aimed in improving regional and rural education, giving our children all the support needed, so that they can reach whatever dreams and goals they desire. We have added an additional 760 teachers to our schools and committed nearly $3.2 billion to improving school infrastructure. Recently the Minister for Education Adrian Piccoli and I announced a $10 million boost to education facilities in Queanbeyan. The project will combine the distance education facilities at Queanbeyan Public School and Karabar High School in a new facility on the Queanbeyan High School site, providing a 500 student, Kindergarten to Year 12 Distance Education School for South Eastern NSW. We have achieved a lot however there is still much more to do.

Education:

What is your position on reported plans to privatise course providers and raise fees at regional TAFE colleges, specifically Queanbeyan and Cooma?

IT’S SIMPLE, the Liberal and Nationals in Government will not privatise TAFE. This isn’t about TAFE, teachers or politics, it’s about students and it’s about ensuring our TAFE system is sustainable. In order for the Labor Party to deliver their promises, it will cost more than $400 million – where is that money going to come from? One job loss is one too many, but we needed to reform our TAFE system. Our reforms to vocational education and training mean there are more than 60,000 additional training places in 2015 across NSW. The Liberal and Nationals Government has increased Vocational Education and Training (VET) funding by 11 percent over the last four years. Smart and Skilled is a NSW Government initiative that gives people the skills they need to get a job and advance their careers, it will give NSW the skills it needs for jobs now and in the future. As a former small business owner who has relied heavily on the TAFE system for apprentices, I know how important vocational education and training is for people in the Monaro. The NSW Government is investing $4.5 million dollars to upgrade the carpentry and joinery workshop at Cooma TAFE; we would not be investing into this project if we did not believe that Cooma TAFE will go from strength to strength under this reform. TAFE NSW is currently experiencing its peak enrolment period when the bulk of TAFE’s annual enrolments, of which there were more than 500,000 in 2014, are processed. In fact demand for courses is high across the TAFE NSW Institute network with high demand courses at Cooma TAFE including aged care, carpentry, information technology and the tertiary preparation certificate.

Health services: 

What are your next term priorities for primary medical care, auxiliary services and hospitals serving Palerang and Queanbeyan?

WE’RE achieved a lot in health, delivering more timely and quality care to more patients. We have increased the recurrent health budget by 20 percent since Labor was booted out of government. We have delivered a record Southern NSW Local Health District budget of $332.5 million in 2014–15, representing a 6.3% increase – or $19.8 million increase – on the 2013–14 budget. There are 62 more full time equivalent nurses have been employed in the Southern NSW Local Health District since March 2011. We have delivered a new $1.75million renal dialysis unit at Cooma Hospital – long called for within the local community and finally delivered by the NSW Liberals and Nationals Government. We funded new medical equipment at Cooma Hospital Announced April 2013 $65,000, committed funding for the first CT (Computed Tomography) scanner to be installed at Queanbeyan Hospital. We committed $1.2 million to begin construction on the new Jindabyne HealthOne; allocated $27.5 million for admitted and non-admitted mental health services (this is an increase of $800,000 over the previous year’s budget). Funded an additional 1,526 mental health patients as well as $1.7 million for the provision of the Housing Assistance Support Initiative (HASI) for people with a mental illness as well as an extra clinical nurse/midwife specialist and educator dedicated to community mental health services has also appointed. I’m proud of what we have achieved in health and passionate about continuing to deliver positive outcomes for the people of this region.

Environment:

Please state why you do, or do not, support renewable energy plants, whether wind or solar, in Monaro, other than rooftop solar.

WIND farms have been a hot topic of conversation in the local area for some time. There are many who are uneasy about their introduction and the health, environmental and visual concerns associated with them. I’m not against wind farms, but there must be community consensus and they must be built in the right areas.

Environment:

What is your position on current or possible native vegetation retention legislation?

THE Nationals are the only political party that will fix Labor’s native vegetation mess. Native Vegetation Act is on borrowed time. Many farmers found the previous regulation excessively complicated and ambiguous. NSW Government is carefully developing our response to the Independent Biodiversity Legislation Review which recommends replacing the Native Vegetation Act, Threatened Species Act and parts of the National Parks and Wildlife Act. I acknowledge how long it has taken to get to this point – in a difficult Parliamentary environment we have made good progress. While there is no doubt we all wanted action sooner, this is clearly one of the most highly contested policy areas in Government. The NSW Nationals’ insistence on an evidence-based, non-ideological approach to this issue has been vindicated, and we now have a roadmap to a more productive future for our farmers. The new regulation will deliver a common sense approach for landholders by lifting regulatory burden and delivering a balanced regime of environmental protection and efficient agricultural management. These changes are not about winding back environmental protection. The regulation will deliver real and practical differences, giving farmers the trust they deserve and providing them with advice and support to get on with sustainable farming.

Transport:

What is your position regarding the proposed $85 million (so far) Ellerton Drive Extension (EDE) roadway in Queanbeyan. (Under amalgamation, costs may also affect Palerang ratepayers). Please comment in light of what you know of community opinion and that, as proposed, it is to be paid for largely by taxpayer funds and ratepayer loans to a developer (with an EDE-dependent subdivision in the wings). Relevant is that council engineer has estimated that it would take only 5% of the current traffic off Monaro St.

THIS is a political football has been kicked around for decades. This is councils plan, but we provided $4 million in 2011 for planning studies. While this is councils plan it is my job as local member to kick the can for funding, which I have done – I have secured $25 million to get this ring road built. This is an affordable and sensible solution to ensure we share the traffic burden. The number of vehicles on Queanbeyan roads will double to 46,000 by 2031.The new road link is crucial to ensuring the existing Queanbeyan road network isn’t crippled by our growing population. Residents have raised concerns about noise and environmental concerns. Council has undertaken community consultation as a part of the development work. A comprehensive stakeholder engagement plan is being further developed to identify, understand and manage likely stakeholder issues in the community. Environmental issues will be addressed in the Review of Environmental Factors which is currently being prepared.

Tourism:

What is your position on a proposed rail trail between Bungendore and Captain’s Flat? If elected what would or could you do to realise it?

THE Expressions of Interest (EOI) guideline states that the NSW Government supports, in principle, the adaptation of disused rail lines as rail trails across NSW where there is strong local community support. We need to make sure we get the process right and to do so we have set the project up as a pilot covering two rail corridors, which are the most advanced in terms of community and organisational support for rail trails in NSW. The EOI guidelines however make it clear that this pilot process will help inform further investment in rail trails along other disused rail lines across the State.

I have requested NSW Trade & Investment to gather work already completed by proponents of projects on other lines, including Captains Flat to Bungendore Rail Trail, in order that we are in the best position for further potential investment following the successful completion of this pilot process. n

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