Priorities for the incoming Labor Government
30 March, 2023

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Committee for Sydney

Statement / 30 March 2023

Priorities for the incoming Labor Government

This week we welcome a new NSW Government. The Labor party, led by Premier Chris Minns, will form government. It is unclear if Labor will form a majority government, with a few seats still too close to call. However, the government has hit the ground running with Premier Minns sworn in, along with seven Ministers.

A new government will mean big changes for Sydney.

In what follows, we take a look at Labor’s election promises against our Priorities for the next NSW Government. We note which Minister, if already sworn in, will look after the relevant portfolio for each priority area, which are:

  • Improve access to housing
  • Keep Sydney moving
  • Address the climate crisis
  • Unleash the future economy
  • Make Sydney the cultural capital of the region
Improve access to housing

We’re yet to find out who the Minister for Housing will be. Rose Jackson held the portfolio in opposition while Paul Scully was Shadow Planning Minister. Currently, Penny Sharpe, Minister for the Environment, Minister for Heritage and Vice-President of the Executive Council, has housing in her interim portfolio responsibilities, until a full Cabinet is sworn in next week.

To improve access to housing, the NSW Labor Government has promised to:

  • Address housing supply by:
    • Introducing a target of 30% affordable, social and universal housing on surplus public land
    • Creating new housing targets on Metro lines.
  • Abolish or reduce stamp duty for 95% of first home buyers by:
    • Making first home buyers exempt from stamp duty on a property up to $800,000, and eligible for a concessional rate for properties between $800,000 and $1,000,000
    • Removing the choice between stamp duty or a land tax for first home buyers.
  • Deliver a fairer deal for renters by
    • Appointing a rental commissioner to be an advocate and voice for renters
    • Introducing a portable bond scheme, so bonds can be transferred from one property to another
    • Banning secret rent bidding
    • Allowing pets in rentals.

We are glad to see a real emphasis on increasing housing supply, including the supply of affordable and social housing. We also commend the government’s focus on addressing issues in the rental market, which is becoming increasingly unaffordable for Sydneysiders. In regards to stamp duty, we advocate for the abolition of stamp duty for all homebuyers, eventually shifting to an annual land tax for all property owners.

In our view, there are three key moves to improve access to housing in Sydney:

  • Fund social, affordable and Aboriginal housing
  • Boost housing supply by focusing growth around rail stations
  • Put NSW on a path to phase out stamp duty.

You can read the full list of associated actions we recommend to government in our paper, Priorities for the next NSW Government.

Keep Sydney moving

Jo Haylen is the new Minister for Transport, and John Graham retains his shadow portfolio as Minister for Roads.

To keep Sydney moving, the NSW Labor Government has promised to:

  • Build trains, buses and ferries in NSW by:
    • Setting a target of 50% minimum local content for future rolling stock contracts by the end of their first term
    • Beginning the procurement process for the next set of trains to replace the Tangara fleet in their first term.
  • Toll caps and an overhaul of toll roads by:
    • Introducing a $60 weekly toll cap
    • Appointing Professor Allan Fels AO, former chair of the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC), to lead an overhaul of the toll network
    • Keeping the Sydney Harbour Tunnel toll concession in public hands and returning revenue from the Sydney Harbour Tunnel and Sydney Harbour Bridge to drivers in the form of toll cashbacks.
  • Build Parramatta light rail stage two by:
    • Providing an additional $200 million in funding to finalise planning and procurement, and get work underway.
  • Improve NSW buses by:
    • Establishing an industry taskforce to assess the findings and recommendations of the NSW Legislative Council’s Transport Committee, and work to improve bus services for passengers across the state.
  • Increase active transport by:
    • Investing an additional $15 million per year over four years, for walking and cycling infrastructure
    • Prioritising funding for greenfield developments, where the availability of footpaths and cycle paths that connect to community hubs like schools and stations doesn’t keep up with the development of new homes.

It’s great to see a commitment to the Parramatta light rail stage two, along with planned action to improve Sydney’s buses. Although Sydney has had a transport infrastructure boom over the last decade, we cannot not stop now. We need to ensure transport infrastructure connects the region and keeps up with our growing population.

In our view, there are four key moves to keep Sydney moving:

  • Commit to building fast rail from Sydney to Newcastle
  • Continue to develop Sydney’s future rail network
  • Continue the active transport revolution
  • Upgrade Sydney’s high streets.

You can read the full list of associated actions we recommend to government in our paper, Priorities for the next NSW Government.

Address the climate crisis

Penny Sharpe is the new Minister for the Environment, Minister for Heritage, Vice-President of the Executive Council. Minister Sharpe also has energy and climate change in her interim portfolio responsibilities. 

To address the climate crisis, the NSW Labor Government has promised to:

  • Commit to net zero by 2050 by:
    • Legislating to guarantee net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and an interim target of a 50% reduction by 2030
    • Establishing a Net Zero Commission to develop the plan to net zero by 2050, monitor and review the plan and trajectory, including impacts on jobs and industry, as well as energy prices/
  • Accelerate investment in renewable energy assets by:
    • Creating the NSW Energy Security Corporation with a $1 billion investment to partner with industry on projects that provide affordable, accessible and reliable energy.
  • Stop floodplain development by:
    • Adopting a proactive approach to planning and mitigating against the impact of floods
    • Charge one Minister with responsibility for drafting new rules, and streamline planning processes to stop new developments on dangerous Sydney floodplains
    • Commit $225 million for a Western Sydney Floods Resilience Plan to commence immediate work on projects including evacuation roads, levees and critical communications infrastructure that will help improve and bolster flood prevention and evacuation infrastructure across Western Sydney
    • A balanced approach to lowering the maximum capacity of Warragamba Dam while ensuring the replacement of any lost capacity in drinking water.

We are delighted that Labor intends to legislate net zero emissions by 2050 and develop an associated plan for achieving net zero.

We also welcome the promise to accelerate investment in renewable energy assets. The rapid growth in rooftop solar means a need for rapid and strategic investment in community scale batteries – to soak up solar during the day, reduce peak demand in the early evening, and share low-cost renewable energy across the community. Equally the pace of grid scale renewable energy and storage needs to ramp up, as we replace ageing coal-fired power stations and deliver decarbonisation.

The Committee has been advocating for an end to floodplain development across Sydney, addressing the deficit in evacuation infrastructure, and reducing the risk to lives and property. We welcome the decision not to raise the Warragamba Dam, and to take flood risk seriously. The need to build redundancy in Sydney’s drinking water supplies is much needed and should be in place before any decision to reduce our limited drinking water capacity. In our view, there are two key moves to accelerate decarbonisation and climate adaptation:  

  • Accelerate renewable energy and storage investment at both the community and grid scales 
  • Commit to meaningful climate adaptation, including reducing exposure to flood and extreme heat. 

You can read the full list of associated actions we recommend to government in our paper, Priorities for the next NSW Government.

Unleash the future economy

Daniel Mookhey is the new Treasurer and Minister for the Gig Economy. Minister Mookhey also has industrial relations, small business, industry and trade, jobs and investment in his interim portfolio.

Prue Car is the new Deputy Premier, Minister for Education and Early Learning. Minister Car also has skills, TAFE and tertiary education in her interim portfolio responsibilities.

To unleash the future economy, the NSW Labor Government has promised to:

  • Grow domestic manufacturing by:
    • Setting up a NSW Jobs First Commission – an independent, expert body to oversee the implementation and growth of local industries, supporting and advocating for local firms in bidding for government tenders
    • Establishing TAFE Domestic Manufacturing Centres of Excellence – starting with Western Sydney, the Hunter and Illawarra
    • Setting a target of 50% minimum local content for future rolling stock contracts – like Victoria
    • Increasing tender weightings to 30% capturing local content, job creation, small business and ethical supply chains.
  • Boost local procurement from small businesses by:
    • Including a local supplier element to tender weightings, which gives priority to small businesses in the area close to the projects they are tendering for
    • Increasing the threshold for direct procurement with small business from $150,000 to $250,000
    • Increasing the proportion of government expenditure through procurement with small business from approximately 12% now, to 20% by 2026, and 30% by 2030
    • Only requiring small businesses to provide relevant insurance when a contract is awarded, and not when submitting a tender
    • Pre-qualifying small businesses as suppliers through a single form
    • Simplifying contracts for whole of government schemes and key goods and services programs.
  • Improve engagement between small business and government by:
    • Establishing a NSW Business Bureau to navigate regulation and processes, as well as engage with overseas markets
    • Creating a Charter for Small Business to provide small business with a voice and seat at the government policy making table.
  • Better fund public schools by:
    • Creating a $400 million Education Future Fund
    • Establishing a permanent and ongoing literacy and numeracy tutoring program.

We welcome the government’s commitment to setting up a NSW Jobs First Commission and establishing TAFE Domestic Manufacturing Centres of Excellence. These initiatives will help to improve people’s skills and make sure there are relevant jobs for them to apply them.

However, we think there is more opportunity to strengthen the knowledge economy in NSW – to address some of our biggest challenges, most notably climate change and economic diversification.

In our view, there are three key moves to unleash the future economy:

  • Increase government investment in R&D
  • Make it easier to start new companies and create new jobs
  • Build education and talent pathways for the jobs of the future.

You can read the full list of associated actions we recommend to government in our paper, Priorities for the next NSW Government.

Make Sydney the cultural capital of the region

John Graham, Special Minister of State, Minister for Roads, Minister for the Arts, Minister for Night-time Economy and Music. Minister Graham also has Aboriginal Affairs and Treaty, Tourism and Multiculturalism in his interim portfolio responsibilities.

To make Sydney the cultural capital of the region, the NSW Labor Government has promised to:

  • Champion arts, culture and creative industries by:
    • Developing a new strategy that includes a broader cultural and creatives sector, move focus beyond major cultural institutions in the city’s east, and make culture central to the story that NSW tells about itself. 
  • Revive the live music sector by:
    • Investing $103 million in the state’s live music industry
    • Introducing a $250 minimum fee for musicians at commercial events that receive public funding
    • Modernise laws that impact the gig economy, including the introduction of worker’s compensation entitlements and a portable entitlement scheme.
  • Make outdoor dining permanent by:
    • Making current temporary rules permanent
    • Giving power to local governments to decide what works best for them and their communities by removing a need for businesses to apply for permits via the NSW Government.

We’re thrilled to note these promises strongly align with our recommendations for how to make Sydney the cultural capital of the region. An emphasis on supporting the smaller arts organisations, and individual artists, is essential right now. We hope Sydney will soon support a more diverse cultural offering – in terms of scale and frequency of events.

There are five key moves to make this happen:

  • Develop a new arts and culture plan aimed at growing small to medium sized arts and cultural organisations in Sydney
  • Deliver a major Indigenous cultural space at the Museum of Sydney
  • Make Sydney a ‘Plug & Play’ city with flexible and adaptive policies that unlock cultural activities everywhere
  • Ensure adequate funding for arts and culture organisations and institutions so we continue to grow a vibrant city
  • Fund high quality sporting facilities across Sydney.

You can read the full list of associated actions we recommend to government in our paper, Priorities for the next NSW Government.