NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet says he will not privatise more government assets and will instead go deeper into debt to fund new infrastructure projects in a significant shift from the Coalition’s long-standing and divisive asset recycling program.
Perrottet on Tuesday confirmed a future Coalition government would not sell any more state assets and would borrow money to build future projects, while at the same time promising no new taxes would be imposed on households and small businesses.
“I said we are not privatising assets; I can’t be clearer,” he said.
Perrottet said investing in infrastructure projects, which create jobs and stimulate the economy, was a major part of the government’s plan to bring the budget back into surplus. To pay for it, he said the state would need to go deeper into the red before coming back into surplus.
“Our debt position in NSW is sustainable, manageable and affordable,” Perrottet said, adding that 60 per cent of the state’s current $116 billion infrastructure pipeline was financed through debt.
The state’s overall debt position is expected to reach $187 billion by 2026. Shadow treasurer Daniel Mookhey warned that signing the state up to borrow even more while interest rates surged was dangerous.
“Mr Perrottet is plunging this state further into debt to pay for the stuff-ups, the bungles and the blowouts when he decided to buy our ferries and our trains from overseas,” he said.
“The premier is trying to win this election by promising money that taxpayers do not have as he tries to buy four more years in power.”
As for Perrottet’s promise to stop privatisation in the next term of government, Mookhey said: “I don’t believe him.
While Perrottet suggested his government would wade further into debt to meet its future infrastructure commitments, Mookhey said the Coalition would come under intense financial pressure to back down from its fresh privatisation promise and ultimately sell more state-owned assets.
“The only way that the premier can pay for his unfunded infrastructure promises is to put Sydney Water and Essential Energy on the chopping block,” he said.
The sale of government assets to fund projects including rail lines and motorways has been a trademark of the Coalition’s 12 years in power, having received more than $30 billion from the sale of the state’s poles and wires, $20 billion from WestConnex and $5 billion from the controversial ports deal.
Perrottet had previously been hesitant to rule out the future privatisation of state assets and said the government’s asset recycling scheme had been the key to delivering big projects. On Monday, he ruled out the sale of Sydney Water and Hunter Water.
While ruling out new taxes, Perrottet backed in his government’s major election cash splashes, including a $500 million energy rebate, and rejected any suggestion it was contributing to inflation.
“Families right now are struggling to make ends meet … that’s not stoking inflation,” he said. “We back families of western Sydney every single day.”
Labor analysis of election commitments since January 1 suggests the Coalition government is outspending the opposition at a rate of almost two-to-one.
Including grants from the sale of the WestConnex motorway, the government has promised to spend about $8.6 billion since the start of the year, while Labor’s election spending commitments add up to just over $4.8 billion.
The raising of Warragamba and Dungowan dam walls, construction of the Northern Beaches Link as well as plans for four new metro lines are among the major infrastructure projects the Coalition has committed to, but not yet budgeted for.
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