What do the NSW election results mean for engineers?

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With the Liberal Party-National Party Coalition Government returned with a slim majority following last weekend’s NSW state election, the Government, under Premier, Hon Gladys Berejiklian MP will implement the policies it took to the election and continue its existing program of work. 

Although the Government has emerged with a slim majority in the Legislative Assembly (lower house), for legislation which the Opposition does not support the Government will need to rely on the support of cross-benchers in the Legislative Council (upper house) for legislation to pass. This means the Government will have to closely consider the views of minor parties that performed relatively well in the election, such as the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party, during policy development processes. 

In addition, if retirements, resignations, scandals or similar were to strip the Government of its majority in this four-year term, taking time to factor in the positions of the likes of the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers (and/or independents) will be important if stable government is to be maintained.
The following analysis summarises key policy positions on issues which are directly relevant to the engineering profession. The analysis includes announcements by the Coalition before election day, as well as information about the associated policy positions of minor parties/independents.

Registration of engineers
Further to the information provided in our summary/analysis of the election outcome, both the Coalition and Labor committed to introducing compulsory registration of engineers in NSW ahead of the election. Indeed, the Coalition informed Engineers Australia last week that it intends to formally commence the process of delivering on this policy within six months of the election. The Coalition has indicated that its new regime would apply to National Construction Code-related work and not infrastructure, such as bridges and roads. Labor’s pre-election policy stated its register of engineers would have been aligned with the existing register of engineers in Queensland, potentially meaning it would have covered a broader range of engineering disciplines.

While Labor did not win the election, its position is still significant. The reason being that the invigorated Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party lists the following as part of its guiding philosophy:
“Rights – Our freedoms should be enshrined in basic rights in which every Australian is able to live without undue government intrusion. We assert the right to farm free from oppressive green and red tape.”

While it could be argued that the Opal Tower incident warrants “government intrusion”, there is always a risk that some within this minor party could oppose the introduction of a registration scheme. This means Labor’s backing of legislation to introduce compulsory registration of engineers in the upper house could be important.

The NSW Coalition Government has a relatively moderate policy position on energy (especially in comparison to its federal counterpart). In the lead-up to the election, the Liberals promised to “super-charge the roll out of renewables and storage systems for even more households” by:

  • Supporting the roll-out of up to 300,000 solar-battery and battery systems across NSW over 10 years, which, the Government claims, will “unlock” more than $3 billion in clean energy investment;
  • Providing funding for solar-battery and battery system installations via interest-free loans;
  • Enabling households to re-pay the costs of the solar-battery and battery systems through their energy bill savings; and
  • Partnering with manufacturers of solar-battery and battery systems which wish to set up in NSW.

The Coalition has estimated that once this program is fully rolled out, up to 3000 megawatt hours of storage would be added.

The Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party is a strong supporter of coal as an energy source and the energy policy it took to the election states “we do not believe government should divert large sums of public money into intermittent energy sources” and that “all energy sources (should) be assessed on their own economic, social and environmental merits”. The party’s “Action Plan” states:

  • Support the exploration and development of coal and mineral resources where appropriate.
  • Immediate moratorium on Coal Seam Gas (CSG) projects in NSW and a permanent ban in the Northern Rivers until the NSW Government implements all 16 recommendations of the Chief Scientist and Engineer’s report into the CSG activities in NSW.
  • Support the immediate construction of a new HELE (high efficiency, low emission) power plant in the Hunter Valley, utilising the modern technology to ensure the highest standards of efficiency.
  • Support a policy framework that supports investment in affordable, reliable energy generation and supply.
  • Oppose the ongoing use of taxpayers money to subsidise intermittent energy sources.
  • Support the use of nuclear energy as a possible source of power.
  • Oppose further development of interconnectors between adjoining states as such infrastructure would further destabilise our delicate electricity network with NSW taxpayers bearing the cost.
  • Oppose any form of carbon tax.
  • Campaign to introduce education and training programs in all government natural resource agencies to ensure staff understand the benefits of modern agriculture, forestry and mining.

The independent member for Lake Macquarie, Mr Greg Piper MP, has stated:
“While I do understand that society will continue to rely on fossil fuels for some time yet, at least in part, I do believe that the state and federal governments should be doing far more to promote and research the development of renewable energy alternatives.”

The independent member for Sydney, Mr Alex Greenwich MP, has stated:
“I champion 100% clean energy based on renewables and storage, greenhouse gas reduction targets, energy efficiency and solar incentives, particularly for strata and rentals. I oppose deforestation and destructive coal mining, and support expanded national and marine parks. Reducing waste, plastics and pollution from production to disposal is a priority.”

Greens’ policies include:

  • Bringing back a carbon price for industries that release greenhouse gasses, to achieve net zero emissions by 2040.
  • Committing $1 billion to support local community renewable projects and a further $1.5 billion a year in large-scale, publicly-owned renewable energy projects.
  • Increasing clean energy storage infrastructure.

The Coalition has promised to spend an additional $1 billion to fix local councils’ roads and bridges. It has committed $500 million to repairing roads and $500 million to replace timber bridges in regional NSW which are in poor shape.

Other transport policies it has announced include:

  • Accelerating construction of the new Sydney Metro West rail line between Parramatta and the city with funding of $6.4 billion over four years, allowing construction to start in 2020.
  • Further developing Sydney’s rail network as follows:
    • Metro West extension – Westmead to Western Sydney Airport
    • North-South metro rail extension – St Marys to Rouse Hill via Schofields, Western Sydney Aerotropolis to Macarthur
    • Metro South West extension – Bankstown to Liverpool
  • Finish and open Metro North West Line in May.
  • Complete construction of the Metro City and South West through the Sydney CBD and out to Bankstown.
  • Accelerate construction of the Metro West line to more than double rail capacity between Westmead/Parramatta and the Sydney CBD, and provide new rail stations across greater Sydney.
  • Start construction of a North-South metro rail to connect rail to the new airport at Badgerys Creek.

The Liberals have pledged five new motorways, including $16.8 billion for WestConnex.

On the contentious issue of major sporting stadiums in Sydney, the demolition and rebuilding of Allianz Stadium (Sydney Football Stadium) will now be completed (it commenced ahead of the election) and there will be a partial rebuilding of ANZ Stadium (the Olympic Stadium in western Sydney).
The independent member for Wagga Wagga, Dr Joe McGirr MP, has a policy platform of “responsible regional growth”. He said:
“We need modern hospitals and schools, the right jobs for our young people, safe roads and affordable transport to ensure our rural and regional communities continue to thrive.”

Mr Greenwich’s policy position is:
“I oppose the WestConnex and associated road expansions, including the disgraceful Alexandria to Moore Park project. I support public transport over road projects and new bike lanes to fix the missing links.”

This policy area did not attract much public attention in the lead-up to the election among most candidates, including Coalition candidates/leaders.

Premier Berejiklian announced the establishment of a new “Sydney Innovation and Technology Precinct”, to be located at Central-Eveleigh. Software giant Atlassian will be an anchor tenant. On this, Ms Berejiklian said:
“The Sydney Innovation and Technology Precinct will become the digital destination for all of Australia with thousands of people working and learning, and I am delighted Atlassian will be part of this future. We have a record low unemployment rate of 3.9% in NSW but we will not rest on our laurels. We will create 250,000 new jobs across the next four years and these employment precincts will play an important role contributing to that total.”

The other employment precincts the Premier referred to are:

  • A statement of intent has been signed with three universities to create the Liverpool Health and Innovation Precinct based around the $740 million redeveloped Liverpool Hospital. This precinct will be a partnership between the South Western Sydney Local Health District, University of New South Wales, University of Wollongong and Western Sydney University and the Ingham Institute for Applied Medical Science.
  • $12.5 million in funding to develop a Nuclear Medicine and Technology Hub in partnership with the Australian Nuclear Science Technology Organisation at Lucas Heights, which will create up to 5000 jobs.
  • The creation of an integrated Central Coast Education and Employment Precinct around a revitalised Gosford CBD with increased education and job opportunities.

To help improve communication and connectivity, the Government has promised to:

  • Invest more than $300 million in building mobile black spot towers to improve voice and text services across regional NSW.
  • Invest $100 million in regional data centres to improve the speed and reliability of regional internet.

On innovation/manufacturing, the position of independent member for Lake Macquarie, Mr Greg Piper MP is:
“I am very firmly of the view that the State Government should always look first to local manufacturers when awarding tenders to build significant public infrastructure or building projects. We’re dumbing down our ability to manufacture and that’s really going to hurt us in the future. I have been a strong supporter of the ‘Build Them Here’ campaign and I feel very frustrated for our skilled workers who will be wondering just how long their jobs will last, let alone all those jobs which won’t exist for our future needs.”