Is NSW the best place it can possibly be to live, work, run a business and raise a family?
That’s the question that drives our government every day we have the privilege of serving the people of Australia’s premier state.
When the Liberals and Nationals came to office in 2011, the gulf between where NSW was and where it should have been was immense.
Our economy was floundering. Critical infrastructure was creaking from neglect. Housing supply had tanked. So big was the clean-up job that much of it is still underway, particularly clearing the infrastructure backlog. For the last two years, the NSW infrastructure budget has hovered around a historically unprecedented $73 billion, reflecting the enormity of the job at hand.
But we are getting on with building the NSW of the future, and our commitment to infrastructure has helped turbocharge the economy, catapulting it from last to first, which has not happened in decades. Businesses are investing heavily in NSW because they see a bright future.
All of that means jobs for the families who call our state home, with NSW currently enjoying the lowest unemployment of any state at just 5 per cent. Importantly, rather than our record infrastructure investment blowing the budget, we have built NSW to a point where it is in its strongest budget position in decades.
After years of Labor’s planned projects that never amounted to more than glossy brochures, we bit the bullet and asked NSW to support our asset recycling reforms, genuinely changing the game and making the renewal of NSW possible.
The infrastructure revolution is still underway, and we are keenly aware that the benefits aren’t being fully felt just yet.
But these projects are more than just words on a page or lines on a map, and it is important not to lose sight of just how much they will mean to people once the dust settles.
When you can catch a train from Rouse Hill to the city — something so unimaginable a few years ago that it’s still hard to believe it’s actually happening. When you can drive from Parramatta to the airport, or Newcastle to Sydney, without stopping at a single traffic light. Or jump on the light rail out to the SCG. These projects will eliminate drudgeries that have become part of our everyday lives — the carpark crawl along Parramatta and Pennant Hills roads; the choice between a bus or a $150 cab ride from the CBD to northwest Sydney; the awkward train-bus, bus-train shuffle to the cricket.
For too long NSW settled for “good enough”. We won’t let it happen again. So how do we keep it up — keep building a better NSW while keeping the budget under control?
The reality is, we can’t expect today’s economic success to continue of its own accord. Western Australia was stung badly when the mining boom ended and it wasn’t ready for the next phase.
Part of the answer is continuing our asset recycling program when it’s in the whole state’s best interests.
But just as it took fresh thinking and a leap of faith from citizens to back asset recycling and unleash the current wave of growth, we must keep thinking outside the box.
From where I sit, complacency is enemy No.1.
The coming years represent another vitally important window for NSW to embrace bold reform.
NSW has come a long way, but “good enough” will never be good enough while we are on the job. We won’t rest until NSW really is the best place it can possibly be to live, work, run a business and raise a family.