Published on: May 2021
Budget Estimates and Related Papers 2020-2021
Debate resumed from 6 May 2021.
Mr LEE EVANS (Heathcote) (10:21:50):
It seems so long ago that I started this speech. This is my third attempt to finish it so hopefully today we will do it—cross your fingers. I left off talking about Dine & Discover vouchers, which are fantastic for the community and are an easy way to encourage people to get out and about. Previously the Minister was present in the Chamber. The idea, which has been very well taken up, is that people get four vouchers: two for food and two for experiences. I said previously that Symbio, which is a zoo in my electorate, has had a very big uptake of Dine & Discover. Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday over the past couple of weeks since Dine & Discover has started the car park has been full. There is also some anecdotal evidence. I went to a restaurant that has been taking Dine & Discover vouchers and was one of the first to sign up. The owner said his income is up by six grand a month from the previous 12 months, obviously during COVID, so he is very pleased.
Some other upgrades to note in the budget last year include the Mount Ousley Interchange, which is not necessarily in my electorate but does take in part of my electorate. The interchange will be near the University of Wollongong and will make that area a little bit safer and easier to get through. It will be a loop road into the university and around onto side roads, which will make it a lot easier to get through and will mean that heavy traffic can go straight through without being slowed down by traffic either merging or trying to exit. There has also been a significant budget increase for the Princes Highway upgrades.
Part of that is the Gateway to the South Pinch Point Program, which has now been going for a couple of years. There has been additional funding for the progression of the Princes Highway upgrades. In my electorate that includes making more clearway on the Princes Highway and side roads to make it easier for people to get to work and home again. The pinch point program is nearly coming to an end. There is still a little bit of work to be done, but the work that has been done in my electorate has been welcomed by the public as a great way of improving their drive around the Sutherland shire and further afield.
I note the support for families within last year's budget. Childcare support was part of that. Service NSW opened at Engadine and many people have had a cost of living assessment, where people make an appointment and see what rebates are available for families and single people from the State Government and further afield. One of my constituents reported that she went in as a bit of a folly just to check it all out and see what it was all about. She ended up getting back $1,200 a year. She was a single pensioner and she made it quite clear that that means a holiday for her. She would not have been able to take holidays without getting those rebates back. It put money back in her pocket and she was very pleased about that. I may have reported this but I cannot remember because this is the third time I have tried to finish off this speech: About 3,000 learner drivers have got their P-plates through that Service NSW centre since it was opened in the middle of last year. Because there was a backlog during COVID, it is a great thing that people are taking advantage of it and moving onto their P-plates.
The budget also provides support for families and childcare support, as I said. I have many childcare centres in my electorate and the support from the New South Wales Government has been greatly welcomed. All in all Heathcote has done well out of the budget and I thank the Premier and the Treasurer for their steady hand on the tiller. For more than a year during this crisis our communities in New South Wales have been under strain. We are all a little bit tired and defeated from all the natural disasters we have had, and of course COVID on top of that. All members in this place would understand how hard it has been for the past 12 months to 18 months. I thank the Government for supporting our people in each individual electorate. New South Wales is travelling reasonably well compared to the rest of the States and the Commonwealth through the COVID crisis. I thank the Premier and the Treasurer for all their work and for the hard decisions they have had to make through that period.
I finish by thanking all members of Parliament over the past 18 months. As I said, it has been very hard for everybody. We all have our individual issues within our electorates but we are in this place to make a difference. I think all of us have worked together reasonably over the past 18 months. New South Wales is a good place for people to live and bring up families, with the possibility of future jobs that we will be able to offer people because of the way the State has dealt with the crises of the past 18 months. I again thank the Premier, all Ministers and the Opposition for all their assistance through the period of 2020 and 2021.
Mr CLAYTON BARR (Cessnock) (10:28:59):
I appreciate the opportunity to speak yet again in this House on the New South Wales budget. My speech this year will not be too different to my speech in previous years because, quite frankly, nothing has changed. The budget has a massive structural problem. It has been built into the budget since 2011 under the then Treasurer Mike Baird and has been perpetuated by every single Treasurer since. If members think I am some Johnny-come-lately to this conversation, I encourage them to have a look at all my previous speeches on this issue. Look at the comments I have made in the media and my commentary and opinion pieces over the years. They all say exactly the same thing, whether they are on this year's budget papers, last year's budget papers or the budget papers in previous years. That is, we have a massive problem in this State because this Government is racking up intergenerational debt. It is racking up debt at a rate that is jeopardising our triple-A credit rating. It is getting rid of our income streams. At the same time, it is maxing out the credit card. There is no way out of this. We are in a death spiral to the bottom, without a significant change in ideology.
What we have seen and heard in recent weeks is a Premier who clearly went to an election with a lie and has completely backflipped on a commitment she made. I knew when she made the commitment that she was not going to privatise anything else, that her budget and Treasury position would not be sustainable without continuing to privatise. That structural problem is built into the budget and it will require a massive ideological shift to get us out of the intergenerational hole of debt and the intergenerational hole of poor credit ratings, which means higher borrowing costs. That is where we are headed. I have been saying this for years. I have been telling this Chamber the same thing for years, and members who do not read the budget come in here and make comments to the contrary that are ill informed.
I would suggest that many members of this Parliament, particularly those on the Government benches who have their speeches about the budget scripted for them by Treasury, do not even realise that the budget papers consist of generally five books, and on one occasion six books, and that the budget is more than just the headlines that we are given by the Treasurer in a speech. That lack of knowledge about the New South Wales budget underpins the lack of quality of debate in this House about where we are headed. So I encourage members of this House who want to critique the comments I am about to make to simply go to Budget Paper No. 1, go to the tables and appendices at the back and look at pages D-2 and D-3. If you have a sinew of financial and mathematical ability, read what is in there and you will see what I am saying is 100 per cent true.
I want to start with debt. I congratulate this Government on its very tricky, sneaky language around debt. I refer to the phrase "net debt". This Government has been prosecuting—very sneakily but very cleverly—an issue around net debt in recent years. When those opposite say "zero net debt"—and sometimes many of them forget to say "net" debt—technically at that moment in time or snapshot they are correct. But also, in their heart and in their mind, they know that that is not going to be the long-term position of the State, that it is only very temporary and short term. What the Government has been doing is taking out tens of billions of dollars in new borrowings at the same time as selling tens of billion dollars' worth of public assets. The money from the sales is temporarily in the bank and sits beside the borrowings, and you go, "Wow, put them on a seesaw and it is kind of zero". Yes, it is. But those opposite also know that in relation to that bucket of money from all those assets that the Government has sold and that weighs down one end of the seesaw, the Government is committed to spending that money on projects. That means that the bucket might start with tens of billions of dollars in it, but it is eventually going to be zero. When I say "eventually", I do not mean on the far, far off; I mean in the coming year or two or three years. And those opposite have always known that.
That bucket of money on one end of the financial seesaw, giving us net debt, was always meant to be emptied. So on the seesaw now, the only thing that this State has is the other bucket, which is our borrowings. Those borrowings are weighing down the seesaw of the financial status of this State and those borrowings are going to be left to be paid off by future generations. Those opposite know that. So the clever, sneaky language about net debt is just that: clever, sneaky language. The Government has have been racking up the debt. Here is a fact: When the Government came to power, the borrowings of this State, the debt or the credit card of this State had $22 billion on it. I acknowledge that just three years prior to that it had $16 billion on it. Why did it jump in New South Wales from $16 billion to $22 billion in that reasonably short time? That is a jump of about 20 per cent or 25 per cent.
Well, we had a thing called the global financial crisis and the then Labor Government had to make some really hard decisions. There were some cuts to some services, there were some projects that were cancelled, there were other projects that went ahead and there were some borrowings made. We increased the debt by 25 per cent. Let us cast our minds back to some of the language that was used around the global financial crisis. It was the greatest financial crisis facing the modern world. It was the biggest turn on the head of the economies of many countries of this globe. During that period Labor increased our borrowings by 25 per cent, which in actual terms meant we went from a debt of $16 billion to a debt of $22 billion. Remember those numbers because they are really important. Labor cancelled some projects, we pushed through with some other projects, we cut some services and we kept our finances in good shape.
In fact, New South Wales was the only economy in Australia during the financial crisis that had its credit rating go from "at jeopardy" triple-A to "strong", "strengthened". That is what Labor did during the global financial crisis—$16 billion out to $22 billion. We are currently going through a crisis, which is the COVID pandemic. The Government, in the period from when it first came to office and up to the COVID pandemic, not only had sold more than $60 billion worth of assets but it also had managed to increase the borrowings of this State on top of the $60 billion worth of sales. It also had managed to increase the borrowings of this State by $40 billion, a 300 per cent increase in borrowings—when there was no financial crisis. The Government turned our triple‑A credit rating from "strong" to "weak"—with no crisis. Compare that to Labor in government. Labor steered the State through a crisis, increased borrowings by 25 per cent and strengthened our credit rating. The Government, with no crisis at the time, was responsible for a 300 per cent increase in our borrowings. The State went from a debt of $22 billion to a debt of $66 billion, or $64 billion, and the Coalition Government weakened our credit rating. That is pre‑COVID. What journey are we on now?
The journey we are now on means that our borrowings will go from $64 billion out to $157 billion—another 250 per cent increase on top of the 300 per cent increase that the Government has already imposed on this State. Plus the Government has continued to sell billions of dollars' worth of the State's assets. At the end of the New South Wales budget's forward projections, what does the State have? It has a $160 billion debt, borrowings, that is racked up on our credit card. The Government will have sold more of the State's profit‑generating assets—profits that would have come back into revenue. So our revenue is diminished. The Government has made other ideological tax changes that have led to $5 billion less income from taxation sources. So it has cut that stream as well. We no longer own the assets that used to bring the money in, nor do we charge some of the taxes that used to bring the money in, and at the same time the Government has racked up $160 billion on the credit card.
When the Coalition came to government the debt was $22 billion. By that measure, the Government is 800 per cent more in debt, with less income to pay for it. Who is going to pay? On their watch, it certainly will not be that lot over there. The debt is so large now, it will not be payable by the current generation of taxpayers. It will be an anchor weighing down not only future generations who have to pay it back but also the State, which will have extremely restricted borrowings going forward; will lose its triple‑A credit rating, essentially, by the time the debt reaches $160 billion; and will be borrowing future monies at a higher rate. That means that future budgets will be extremely constrained. That is the model that you lot, who have been in government since 2011, have set up.
Not only that, by legislation the Government has prevented us from paying down debt. The State is not allowed to pay down the debt. We are not allowed to pay back any of the money borrowed. The Government has not paid back any of the money it borrowed since coming to government; it has only paid interest. The Restart NSW legislation, which then Treasurer Mike Bard put in place, stops us from paying back the debt. That money, any excess funds, any funds from the sale of assets, any windfall gains must go into the Restart NSW Fund to be spent on more projects—projects which from the moment they are built or even before they are opened are costing the State money to maintain. They are not income‑generating assets. The Government has not built a single income‑generating asset since coming to government. It has privatised some that will make income and that income will go to those private entities.
So the Government is racking up the debt, getting rid of our income and preventing us from paying down the debt. That is the model it has created. It does not end there because a lot of the assets that the Government has sold were buildings and assets that we used to own and that used to go up in value. The Government sold them. Instead of us owning an asset that is going up in value and against which we could borrow, the Government has sold those buildings and then rented them back because we still need them for the purpose of providing services to the people. We are now renting. The Government has put us on an eternal cycle, a recurrent budget problem, which is to rent the buildings back that we used to own. That is massively impacting our recurrent budget in two ways: First, we are renting buildings that we used to own because we still need to provide services and, secondly, we are building assets that cost money to maintain.
The Government is jamming up the balance in this State between recurrent and capital funding. We cannot borrow more money because eventually the banks will say no and/or the interest charged on the debt will be so high that it will cripple the State's economy. We will lose our credit rating. That is at the capital end. At the recurrent end, the Government is loading us up massively. What do you lot over there do? Every single time you create a financial crisis? They always create a financial crisis; it is what they do. Every time Coalition governments are in power, they create a financial crisis and the reason is because they actually want to attack public services. Whenever there is a financial crisis in this State, and we have seen it three times in this current Government over the past 10 years—
Ms Robyn Preston:
Just give them all a pay rise. Keep throwing pay rises out there. We can't afford it, but you do that.
TEMPORARY SPEAKER (Mr Lee Evans):
The member for Hawkesbury will come to order. Members will make all comments through the Chair.
Mr CLAYTON BARR:
I acknowledge the interjection by the member for Hawkesbury because she just proved my theory. This is what the Government does. This is what conservative governments across the globe do. They create a financial crisis and they immediately attack the public services, which are there to serve the public by providing services that people need. Anyone in regional New South Wales will have seen our services attacked wilfully over the past 10 years. We all know that we have fewer services now. Census data backs that up. Regional areas have lost hundreds and hundreds of public service jobs. Interestingly, they have grown in the city but have been lost from regional areas. We have fewer services. This is the New South Wales budget. I know that some members will criticise me in the House or publicly. But guess what? I have been reading the New South Wales budgets for 10 years. Have you?
I am open to criticism. I am very open to being proved incorrect. I invite members to come and see me with budget books and documents and say, "Mate, you said this, that's not right. Here is where it is not right." Come and see me because I have put nothing on the record that I cannot back up with New South Wales budget papers. I do not write them. The Treasurer writes them every year and has full control over them. I do not make it up. They are the Government's facts and figures. I issue an open invitation to anyone who wants to bring any budget document to me and say, "You were wrong when you said this, and this is why", bring it on. I issue that invitation every time I make a speech on a budget, and not one Government member has ever come to see me and say, "You're wrong. This is where you got it wrong." That is where their criticisms of me fall over. That is where they die an immediate death because they have nothing, no fact with which to unpick these truths.
Yes, the New South Wales budget has a structural problem. Yes, that problem has been brought on by this Government. Yes, it is underpinned by their ideology. Yes, we have intergenerational debt that is 800 per cent higher than when they came to office. Yes, they have sold tens of billions of dollars worth of assets. Yes, they have built new assets that will cost us money every day. Yes, they have turned us from property owners to property renters. That is their legacy which will haunt this State for decades to come. The Government never expected a third term and they are stuck with these landmines now. The Government is using COVID to cover up the massive debt that they have racked up and pretending it was unavoidable. It was avoidable; they chose not to do it.
Ms FELICITY WILSON (North Shore) (10:49:03):
I contribute to debate on the 2020-21 New South Wales budget, which has delivered an economic rebound from the challenges of 2020 and has kept the people of New South Wales COVID safe through continued support for NSW Health. It is fitting that I speak on the budget the morning after the Federal budget was handed down. That budget also aims to support the economic rebound across our country and continues to invest in New South Wales. Throughout 2020 the people of New South Wales weathered the significant storm that was the global pandemic. The consequences of the pandemic particularly affected the movement of people and trade, which impacted the State's ability to generate the necessary revenue to continue investing in and providing the quality of life that our citizens expect and deserve.
The budget lays the foundation for the Government to deliver a stronger future for New South Wales. Our record of strong economic management meant that New South Wales was ready when the crisis came. Now we are using our fiscal firepower to get households and businesses back on the road to recovery and to chart a steady course back to surplus so that we are ready for the next challenge. I congratulate the Treasurer and the Premier on a budget that was designed to build New South Wales back better and stronger by supporting families, businesses and our local communities, including within my electorate of North Shore. The budget includes $29 billion for the largest health and economic support package of any State. Safeguarding the health of the community has been the number one priority in the New South Wales Government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which is why we have committed more than $3 billion to facilitate our COVID-19 health response and enhance our world‑leading health system.
The Government is focused on keeping our community safe while maintaining an open economy by delivering a COVID-19 recovery plan that will create jobs across New South Wales. Through strong fiscal management, the Berejiklian Government has provided an unprecedented support package that has reignited our economy and delivered for our local communities. The budget will support people who are doing it tough by easing the strain of the economic and health crisis, including through the provision of tutors for schoolchildren and record mental health support. The Government has committed $169.4 million over four years to provide vital mental health support so that more people can access the help they need both now and into the future. The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic may continue for some people in our community, which is why it is more important than ever before to invest in a strong, well-rounded and responsive mental health system.
The Government is kickstarting the economy with a blitz of small, local, shovel-ready projects to generate tens of thousands of jobs in every corner of the State. To further support job creation and economic growth, the Government has created the $1 billion Working for NSW fund, which will sustain businesses, create cash flow and retain employees. Looking ahead to the post-pandemic recovery, we are investing in our people and their future by upskilling the New South Wales workforce. That will help jobseekers get back to work and also secure the skills that will power our economy into the future. The Skilling for Recovery training package will be supported by a Government investment of $318.6 million over two years. The program will support school leavers who are entering the workforce by offering more than 100,000 low-cost or fee-free training places.
The budget is delivering where it matters: in health, education, roads and transport. It provides support for families and for those who need it most, and it creates the right conditions for businesses to grow. The budget will provide support to the hospitality and tourism industries, which have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic, through Dine & Discover vouchers that are available to every adult resident to get out and enjoy the best of New South Wales. I am pleased that my community has supported our local businesses through the program and I have enjoyed visiting the businesses that are involved in it. In my geographically‑constrained electorate there are far more dine options than there are discover options. However, one of the most exciting discover options is the singalong for the films Frozen and Frozen 2 at the Hayden Orpheum theatre. My daughter and I will join with our fellow constituents by singing along to Frozen in support of that cinema.
The Government is also reducing taxes through a $2.1 billion payroll tax cut that will make New South Wales the most attractive State in which to run a business and will encourage businesses to hire and retain employees. We are also backing small businesses that do not pay payroll tax with $1,500 digital vouchers to be used for State and local government fees and charges. The budget will build a better New South Wales through a record $107 billion infrastructure pipeline to continue building the roads, rail, schools, hospitals and energy infrastructure for our future. My electorate of North Shore will benefit significantly from that, with continued investment in the game‑changing Sydney Metro infrastructure program. Recently I had the opportunity to go down into the tunnels at Blues Point and walk underneath Sydney Harbour as the tracks begin to be laid for the Sydney Metro project that is coming to my community.
Investment also continues for the Western Harbour Tunnel and Beaches Link project. All members know that Warringah Freeway is the busiest road with the most users of any road in our country. That corridor must be improved for accessibility into and beyond the CBD. The Western Harbour Tunnel is one of our most-needed projects. In the past week Infrastructure Australia gave independent advice stating that tackling the congestion through that project is one of the key priorities for the entire country. The Western Harbour Tunnel and Beaches Link project is progressing through continued Government investment. Early works have started on the Warringah Freeway Upgrade by enabling the delivery of both of those tunnels as well as the portals to enter and exit from them.
The Beaches Link project has been sought by my community since before I was alive, let alone since I have been a member of this place. Military Road and Spit Road form one of the most congested corridors in the country. That has an impact on people who are going about their daily lives. It reduces the time that people have to spend on leisure and with their families. Even more importantly, as a local community member I know the impact rat‑running has had on our local streets. When Military Road and Spit Road are over capacity, the excess traffic spills onto our local streets, which means more congestion and less road safety, particularly for schoolchildren going to and from school during peak hour. It is important for us to reclaim our local streets, where our homes are, so that they feel safer and less congested. Diverting a lot of the traffic on our local streets—which are used as downstream access points to the CBD—through the tunnel will be a significant change for our community and will offer new opportunities to revitalise some of the villages along the Military Road and Spit Road corridor.
While my community loves and enjoys the villages of Mosman, Cremorne and Neutral Bay, which form the heart of those communities, they have a major arterial road running through their centre. The tunnel will open up significant opportunities to invest in the beautification, enhancement and improved amenity of those villages. I am working with the Minister and his team on options for those villages. The budget also provides funding to upgrade local schools in my community, which I will speak about in a moment. Three of our ferry wharves are being upgraded, along with train stations, including at Wollstonecraft, which I visited this morning. I had a look at the work that is being undertaken to upgrade Wollstonecraft station through improved accessibility including new lifts and ramps.
A new wildlife hospital has been funded for Taronga Zoo. Fifteen months ago Taronga Zoo worked throughout the bushfire season to protect and preserve our most crucial native animals and wildlife. A number of koalas in particular were saved from bushfire regions and then nurtured back to health and life at Taronga Zoo. The work of the zoo benefits the entire State and country as well as the future of our wildlife. The Government is investing in that institution in my own backyard. We have the great fortune to be able to support Taronga Zoo in its work. The investments that have been made in our local community and throughout the entire State are vital to ensure that we keep growing jobs, investing in businesses and supporting local families.
The Berejiklian Government is continuing to roll out the largest investment in public education infrastructure in the history of New South Wales. We are providing for our students, who will be our future mechanics, doctors, small business owners and leaders, with an injection of more than $19.7 billion to provide world-class education to students across the State. Those students will reap the benefits of new infrastructure and updated technology as part of the budget. The Government has invested $6.7 billion over four years to deliver more than 190 new and upgraded schools across our State. That ensures local communities have access to modern school facilities, which means our kids will have everything they need to excel.
Local schools in my community have a couple of different investment elements. First, through the Metro Renewal Program the Berejiklian Government is spending an additional $240 million on more than 790 schools across regional and metropolitan areas of New South Wales. That includes seven schools within my community that will have much‑needed upgrades to crucial learning facilities, amenities, administration buildings and recreational areas. Beauty Point Public School and Cammeraygal High School's junior campus will receive significant upgrades to their play areas, to encourage outdoor learning and provide adequate weather protection for students. Significant improvements will be made to the science labs at both Mosman High School and North Sydney Girls High School, to deliver first‑class equipment and technology. North Sydney Boys High School will receive a makeover to its kitchen, prep room and store room for food technology classes.
Major refurbishments will be made to the toilets at Middle Harbour Public School and North Sydney Demonstration School. The program forms an essential part of the Berejiklian Government's commitment to education and also its economic response to the pandemic, because these are shovel‑ready projects which our local schools have identified as priorities that are ready to go and that they have the capacity to deliver. It ensures that we can continue quality education for our students and it is set to support more than 1,300 jobs in the process by encouraging local contractors and suppliers to get involved and help build our schools for the future. The disruption to the 2020 school year has taken its toll on teachers, students and families. We will see 100 new school‑based nurses and more trained, qualified school counsellors supporting the mental health and wellbeing of students and their families.
The Government is investing $120 million to extend the existing program to provide free preschool for more than 44,000 three‑ to five‑year‑olds attending community and mobile preschools. It is providing free extra tuition for all public school students who need it to help re‑engage with their education. In addition, as part of their on‑the‑job training, every teacher in New South Wales will be trained to better understand students' mental health to prevent vulnerable kids falling through the cracks. Success in education is about more than just how much money is spent. Further to the additional resourcing, the New South Wales Government will drive quality outcomes for all students. This includes a $337 million investment over the 2021 school year to deliver intensive tutoring for up to 290,000 students in New South Wales schools, supporting students to recover lost learning time as a result of the COVID shutdowns.
After the challenges presented by COVID-19 throughout 2020, I am excited that local families and school staff will soon see work underway on major upgrades at two of my local schools, Mosman High School and North Sydney Demonstration School. Members would know that my predecessor Jillian Skinner and I have a unified voice in calling for investment in our local schools. Our schools have capacity constraints, but they have done work to maximise their ability to use their land and classrooms to continue to give excellent education to students. Neutral Bay Public School cut a number of its classrooms in half to create two classrooms. They are challenging environments, but the schools have done everything they can; it is our job to take the next step. For instance, the last major upgrade Mosman High School had was in 1991, under a previous Liberal Government.
When they form Government, those opposite do not invest in communities across New South Wales, whereas the Liberal-Nationals Government always invests in every community because it believes that every student deserves the best chance in life and the best educational opportunities. My electorate misses out under Labor Governments. Planning is continuing for an upgrade to Neutral Bay Public School and I am eager to hear more about that in this year's budget. I once again express to the Treasurer and the education Minister my great desire for an upgrade of Neutral Bay Public School; they have heard it from me many times. We have worked with the communities at Mosman High School and North Sydney Demonstration School to co‑design state‑of‑the‑art new buildings and facilities to deliver the learning needs of our students and support school staff. That means getting rid of demountable classrooms while ensuring that we can accommodate future growth.
The much‑awaited upgrade to Mosman High School is progressing, with the State significant development application for the project already lodged and an early contract awarded. At the moment, the designs are out for the community to observe and give feedback on, and people are really excited. Mosman High is in the centre of the village of Mosman, which has significant character and history. People are so excited to see this investment for our students. We will have a modern educational facility with the latest technologies and equipment nestled in the heart of Mosman; this will give our local students the latest facilities and increase the capacity to support the growing school community. The upgrade includes 16 new classrooms, new administration and staff facilities, a new library and a multipurpose gym and hall, along with outdoor and rooftop play spaces and new canteen facilities. Locally, there is strong demand to attend Mosman High. It is a high‑performing school that has an excellent culture. It is known for its creative skills development, academic rigour and inclusion.
I thank principal Susan Wyatt, current P&C president Richard Fechner, past P&C presidents Evan Predavec and Gerhard Beukes, and the entire school community for their input and commitment to getting the design right. We are re‑envisaging Mosman High as a modern place of learning for generations to come. It is an exciting project which will deliver modern resources to local students and I thank the New South Wales Government for its investment in public education infrastructure in this budget. The upgrade to North Sydney Demonstration School will benefit local families now and into the future. An overhaul of the school's facilities includes replacing old demountable classrooms with 16 new and refurbished classrooms, the addition of a school hall, an upgrade to administration facilities and improved outdoor learning spaces. We are wasting no time getting the planning and tender process underway so that construction can start this year.
Extension of time
The state‑of‑the‑art upgrade will ensure that the school can continue to offer excellent teaching and learning facilities to the significant numbers of new families moving into the apartment developments across North Sydney. Historically, planners thought that people did not raise families in apartments, but that is not the nature of living across the globe in dense cities and it is not the experience of people who choose to live in the vibrant hub of the North Sydney CBD and surrounds. They want and deserve access to the same quality of education they would have in suburbs with more land available. My thanks go to principal Fiona Davis, previous principal Myra Wearne, P&C president Luke McElnea, and former P&C presidents Laurens Liberton and David Bond for their continued perseverance and dedication in getting this project off the ground. I acknowledge the hard work and resolve of the entire school community for working alongside me to secure the funding commitment. 
Planning continues for a new Environmental Education Centre at Middle Head, as well as a planned upgrade for Neutral Bay Public School. My electorate is also reaping the benefits of transport infrastructure. The Western Harbour Tunnel and Beaches Link project has $356.3 million allocated in this budget for planning and preconstruction. Not only will it benefit our local community, but it will also benefit those who are upstream and utilising the Warringah Freeway, getting from east to west, connecting to WestConnex or going to the beaches. Community feedback on the Western Harbour Tunnel project has been incredibly valuable. The Beaches Link project environmental impact statement has recently closed and we are looking forward to reading the submissions report once it is publicly available. For the Western Harbour Tunnel component, the Government is focusing on delivering more open and green space, such as revitalising Berrys Bay.
I made a commitment when I came into this place that for every tree removed during construction, two will be planted. The project has also investigated the inclusion of more footpaths and cycleways in our local area. The Berrys Bay commitment is very close to my heart. Members may know that the previous Labor Government put Berrys Bay under a lease licence with the developer of a marina. The developer went through the planning process on multiple occasions to try and put a massive marina overdevelopment in a small bay with heritage buildings, located right next to residential areas and directly across the bay from the dense residential areas of McMahons Point. They were rejected time and again, yet the lease licence was held by the developer and the community had no recourse to try to get back the land for public use, even though it is surrounded by reserves and parkland.
The Government bought back that lease licence and made a commitment to return it to our community as public open space and revitalise the harbourside precinct. We have recently appointed a committee of community members, the Berrys Bay Community and Stakeholder Working Group, which will help facilitate the discussion of community ideas with Transport for NSW. We will work together to ensure that we get the views of our community to shape the design of the future of Berrys Bay. We will make sure that not only is it for the people, it is designed by the people.
The Government is forging ahead with the Sydney Metro. On Monday I was looking over the construction of the metro location at Victoria Cross in North Sydney. The Sydney Metro City and Southwest project has been allocated $2.7 billion in the 2020-21 budget and $8.3 billion over the next four years to continue its delivery. Customers will benefit from new, fully air-conditioned Sydney Metro trains every four minutes in the peak in each direction, with lifts, level platforms, platform screen doors for safety, accessibility and increased security. We are excited about the metro coming to our community.
Construction of Crows Nest's metro station is moving forward, with A W Edwards being awarded the contract to build the new station. Excavation of the station box and tunnelling is now complete, and installation of the rail track is underway all the way between Chatswood and Barangaroo. The Crows Nest station site was recently handed over to A W Edwards, and it has started initial work to build the new station's structure. If members are ever in Crows Nest or even driving through or visiting the vicinity, many kilometres away they will see some impressive cranes over Crows Nest and St Leonards. I understand some of the largest cranes in the world are working on this very deep site underneath Crows Nest. This game‑changing project is an incredibly exciting opportunity for Crows Nest.
Work also continues at the Victoria Cross metro station. Lendlease will deliver the new Sydney Metro Victoria Cross integrated station development at North Sydney, including the metro station, a commercial building above the station and enhancements to pedestrian connections and retail and public spaces. The imagery that Lendlease has released of the place making in North Sydney between Miller Street and Denison is spectacular. It is exciting to think about what this project will do for the North Sydney CBD—walkability, public art and food and activities on the ground plane. It will ensure that people will want to linger and enjoy the area and they will spend their money and time in North Sydney. The area already has transformed significantly over the past 15 years. The best is yet to come. Sydney Metro really is a city-shaping project and not just a transport infrastructure project.
As I mentioned earlier, the Government is working on the Transport Access Program to upgrade public transport, including at Wollstonecraft station. Many workers were on the site this morning building the new lifts, modifying pedestrian access on the existing road bridge and undertaking platform improvements to make safer embarking and disembarking. I imagine the member for Lane Cove has many constituents who also use Wollstonecraft station. They usually walk through Smoothey Park from Greenwich to come and enjoy Wollstonecraft station. With these improvements, our station will be more accessible and safer. There will be a family‑accessible toilet and an upgrade to the pedestrian pathways and stairs.
We on the North Shore are all avid users of public transport. The Government is also investing in the rebuilding of ferry wharves to improve the experience of catching a ferry on our beautiful harbour because there is no better way to commute or spend your time. These projects will deliver modern, more accessible and safer wharves for the benefit of less mobile passengers, parents, like myself, travelling with small children and people with disability. Wharf upgrades currently underway in my electorate include those for North Sydney and South Mosman, with funding allocated to commence planning and design for an upgrade to Taronga Zoo Wharf, about which we are currently receiving feedback. Early last year the community provided their views on the concept design and the environmental review for the North Sydney Wharf upgrade. That is along the foreshore access at High Street. It will include a Kiss and Ride zone, new bicycle parking and a floating pontoon with a covered area and a gangway, in line with the other ferry wharves that have been delivered throughout the Liberal‑Nationals Government's term in New South Wales. The existing wharf will be partially retained for recreational use. This budget provides nearly $3.6 million in funding to continue the planning for this project.
The South Mosman Wharf upgrade includes what has become quite iconic for our ferry wharves, with the floating pontoon and a covered area and seating. It also includes a new lift and stairs. This is a huge change for Musgrave Street wharf in Mosman because to date there has been no ability for people to access the wharf at the bottom of a very sheer wall unless they were able to take a significant number of steps. We are really excited about this change because it means more people will be able to get onto our ferries and the harbour. I look forward to the completion of these two projects and the works progressed on Taronga Zoo Wharf. This budget includes $1 million in funding for the works on Taronga Zoo Wharf. I thank the community for all the feedback they are continuing to give us because we use it to refine the projects. At Musgrave Street we are taking on a lot of the feedback about the look of the lift and the way it complements the very green landscape. We take on this feedback to enhance and improve our designs. We really appreciate everybody coming forward and sharing ideas.
The Government also has invested in changing the way we move following the COVID‑19 pandemic impacts last year. Through our Active Transport Program, the Government has provided funding for North Sydney Council to deliver a number of cycleways, from the Harbour Bridge to Cremorne, for instance. Mosman Council also has funding for a shared zone in Melaleuca Lane near Spit Junction, to encourage walking and cycling. That is between the B-Line bus interchange and local schools and shops. Anyone who has spent much time in Mosman would know that Clifford Street used to enter out onto Spit Road. When the B‑Line bus interchange was built, it completely transformed the use of Spit Junction. With the Beaches Link and the B‑Line, there are so many opportunities at the Spit Junction area to improve the public amenity and the beauty of the area, which our community in Mosman deserves.
The budget provides investment in our wildlife, science and jobs through the new Taronga Zoo wildlife hospital. Behind the scenes, Taronga Zoo Sydney Wildlife Hospital cares for injured and orphaned animals. I took the Treasurer, along with the environment Minister, to visit the wildlife hospital. The environment Minister goes to the zoo quite often, and often with me. He is at the zoo quite a bit. I think the Treasurer was wowed by the wildlife hospital, which is why we have this additional funding. I acknowledge the work that is done at the hospital and the range of animals that are housed and cared for—from small bats through to echidnas and puggles, many different turtles and sea life. The community integrates with the hospital's work by people bringing in animals to the zoo and others housing animals to be transitioned back into their habitats.
One of the biggest issues for wildlife, our marine life in particular, is the impact of single‑use plastics. Often when a marine animal is brought to the zoo and dies, Taronga's zookeepers undertake an examination to discover why the animal died. They have large jars full of plastics, such as fishing wire and straws, that the animals have ingested. Sometimes they find plastic cutlery within the innards of these animals. They find a range of different materials, some of which would have been in our marine environment for a long time. The old plastic rings that were used to hold cans together, which are no longer being manufactured, are still being found in our sea life. We know that our use of plastics is contributing to the number of marine animals dying, particularly turtles. It is horrific to see these beautiful turtles being killed. Taronga's zookeepers not only work to save wildlife, they work on educating about the impact of our consumption and behaviour in the world, on conservation and on changing people's habits and behaviour.
As I said at the very beginning of my speech, this is a budget that is contributing to our entire State. It is also a budget contributing to my community. When I was elected four years ago, I focused on a number of priorities, such as school funding, Berrys Bay and the Western Harbour Tunnel and Beaches Link. The Government is working on seeing these projects through to fruition. I am very proud of this budget and the Government of which I am a member. I commend the budget to the House.