Federal Election 2016 : State By State key Issues – NSW and Victoria

New South Wales: Housing, healthcare and infrastructure among the big issues in NSW

New South Wales has always been a critical state to the outcome of a federal election and is likely to be crucial come election day on July 2.

The Coalition won 30 of the state’s 47 seats in 2013, but redistributions have altered the landscape and a number of margin seats are up for grabs.

Philippa McDonald takes a look at the key issues likely to swing votes in NSW.

Housing in the nation’s least affordable city

Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten chose the NSW ALP Conference to announce that if elected he would abolish negative gearing.

“We’re doing this because 30 years ago, houses cost around 3.2 times average income – today it’s 6.5 times average income,” he told the party faithful.

For now, changes to negative gearing appear to be off the table for the Government and investors will still benefit from concession for their investment properties.

The real estate sector said the real challenge for first home buyers was a shortage of supply.

Even with interest rates at record lows, many homeowners are paying up to 30 per cent of their income on their mortgage and Sydney remains the nation’s most unaffordable city, with young families increasingly choosing to live in regional cities.

The Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute’s Executive Director Ian Winter told the ABC late last year: “In recent years, there’s been an 82 per cent fall in the number of low income households living within 10 kilometres of the city, which just means they’re being forced to live further and further away from where the jobs are, commute times lengthen and congestion worsens”.

University of New South Wales Cities Research Centre Director Bill Randolph said federal governments had “a range of policy levers that could affect housing affordability”.

Professor Randolph said the Turnbull Government could ensure the NSW Government’s planning policies “deliver affordable housing as part of urban renewal, that’s the best we could hope for”.

NSW Council of Social Services CEO Tracy Howe said the federal budget was “silent on the issue of housing and homelessness”.

“There’s a growing group of people who just can’t afford to pay rent and get into the housing market,” she said.

Concern over future of health system, aged care, Medicare

NSW Nurses and Midwives Association’s General Secretary Brett Holmes said the Government was more concerned with Defence than adequately funding the health system.

“We commit billions to bombs and submarines, but we can’t commit to the long-term health of Australians,” he said.

The NSW Nurses and Midwives Association and the NSW branch of the Australian Medical Association (AMA) are also deeply concerned about the impact of the Federal Government taking $57 billion over 10 years from the nation’s health budget, which is due to take effect in 2017.

“The New South Wales proportion of that is $17 billion,” Mr Holmes said.

“Our state is growing, it’s clear we simply won’t be able to meet the future quality and standards [of medical care] that people expect.”

While the NSW Government welcomed the restoration of $1 billion funding over the next three years, that was little consolation according to the one of the state’s largest health unions.

“Combine that with the $650 million cut in bulk-billing incentives for diagnostic imaging and pathology and the freeze on GP medical rebates, you’ve got co payments by stealth,” Mr Holmes said.

The nurses union said recent cuts of $1.2 billion over four years to aged care “punishes older people, particularly those with complex medical needs”.

AMA (NSW) President Associate Professor Saxon Smith said the future of Medicare was also playing on people’s minds.

“Labor is talking about preserving Medicare but the challenge is the failure of successive governments, on both sides of politics, eroding Medicare to the point it’s now on the precipice, it’s never kept pace with inflation,” he said.

Associate Professor Smith said further evidence of the strain on NSW Health was the 20 per cent increase in presentations at emergency departments, when there had only been a 5 per cent growth in population.

Labor leader Bill Shorten said if elected he would introduce legislation to protect Medicare.

Support for ‘essential investment’ in Gonski funding

Funding the Gonski plan of education reforms continues to be a battle ground between the NSW Government and their federal counterparts.

NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli has found himself clashing with his federal Coalition colleagues over fully funding Gonski.

While Treasurer Gladys Berejiklian has questioned Labor’s costings.

“NSW has significant concerns about Labor’s ability to honour Gonski in light of costings from federal Treasury showing their policies leaving schools billions of dollars short,” she said.

Public school principals and teachers unions have expressed “profound disappointment” with the funding uncertainty.

They point to economic projections and have said improvements to education through the reforms “would provide returns of $72 billion to the Australian economy”.

They have called on all politicians “to support this essential investment in our nation’s greatest resource, our children”.

The Association of Independent Schools of NSW (AIS NSW) said it would “be seeking clarity from the Federal Government around its budget announcements for schools as much of the detail is currently unknown”.

“The commitment of additional funding for students with disability is welcome, however this will not address the fact that more than 100 independent schools in NSW receive no additional funding for these students under the present funding arrangements,” acting chief executive Michael Carr said.

In a statement, NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley said: “For NSW the election boils down to Labor’s plan to fund our schools and public services fairly or the Liberals’ and Nationals agenda to cut education and health investment in favour of big business tax cuts.”

Labor has promised to spend an extra $4.5 billion on the nation’s schools between 2018 and 2020, fully funding the Gonski agreements it struck when last in office,” Mr Foley said.

Transport and infrastructure plans and proposals

Sydney’s second airport is likely to be open for business by the mid 2020s but debate has raged over the lack of a firm commitment to a rail link to Badgerys Creek by both the Coalition and Labor.

Tourism and Transport Forum (TTF) CEO Margy Osmond said a rail link was vital to the airport’s operation.

“You need a rail link to the airport from moment one, not just for the travellers but especially for all of those who work at the airport,” she said.

Ms Osmond, whose organisation also represents airlines, also called for the new airport to be “curfew free“, which would spark lively debate in the fast growing region at the foot of the Blue Mountains.

In the latest federal budget, $115 million was earmarked to remove powerlines and conduct an Environmental Impact Statement.

There are several ‘big ticket’ projects underway in greater Sydney and NSW, partly funded by the Federal Government – from the $20-billion 60-kilometre Sydney Metro, light rail, the Parramatta light rail and improvements to regional roads, rail and a proposed inland rail freight link.

Infrastructure Minister Paul Fletcher said a $5.6 billion upgrade to the Pacific Highway would finally ensure four lanes would be available the length of the highway by 2020.

“The toughest battle is to have a Federal Government which is not only willing to write the cheque for public transport, but has a real interest in the strategic development of key infrastructure,” Ms Osmond said.

Regional concerns over backpacker tax, mining plans, drought

Farmers have called on the major parties to reconsider changes to the backpacker tax, despite no offering in the budget.

The proposal is for a new 32.5 per cent tax on every dollar working holidaymakers earn.

Farmers have advocated for the much lower rate of 19 per cent from the first dollar.

NSW Farmers President Derek Schoen said they feared for the worst unless there was a turnaround.

“The reality is around 38,000 backpackers work in agriculture each year or around 25 per cent of the total labour force in the industry, when the backpackers stop coming it will be disastrous for the industry,” Mr Schoen.

Mr Schoen had already met with Nationals Leader Barnaby Joyce, who in the race to keep his New England seat out of the hands of former MP Tony Windsor, is keen to keep everyone happy.

However, the wider region of this seat, located in the state’s north-west, has a range of contentious issues and projects where uncertainty abounds.

The proposed Shenhua Watermark coal mine near Gunnedah, the Caroona coal mine proposal close by and Santos’ Coal Seam Gas Project in Narrabri are all divisive issues in the local community.

Drought too continues to bite in the far west and counselling services organisation Interrelate had its funding cut in the federal budget.

The casualty is support for families in Cobar, Warren and Walgett which had been offered since July 2014.

In a statement, Interrelate said in less than two years its workers had provided emotional support individually to almost 200 people and another 600 in groups and workshops.

Victoria : Victorian voters say cost of living, transport key issues

People on the streets of Melbourne say the cost of living, housing and transport are key issues which will influence their vote ahead of the 2016 federal election.

A straw poll of voters in the city’s CBD saw some sneer with distaste when speaking of a lengthy election campaign.

Others said they wanted more stability in political leaders and the introduction of same-sex marriage.

Beryl, from Bayswater in Melbourne’s east, is planning to lodge an informal vote for the first time.

She is a pensioner who finds it hypocritical for politicians to speak of the need for Australia to live within its means when they stand to receive generous benefits when they retire.

“I just think they’re ratbags, I think they’re out of touch,” she said.

“This year, honestly, I can’t see myself voting for any of them.

“I just don’t have any trust anymore with politicians, I don’t believe a word they say.”

Aaron is a swinging voter from Brunswick.

The key to winning his vote?

“Somebody who shows up, who looks like they know what they’re doing, I haven’t seen it yet,” he said.

Infrastructure funding is one of the biggest political issues in Victoria.

The Federal Government has refused to fund two multi-billion-dollar transport projects, and the State Government claims Victoria is missing out on its fair share.

But cost of living pressures seem front of mind for many voters.

MJ and Josh, a young Melbourne couple, said they were concerned about daily costs.

“I do hope they allow gay marriage soon,” MJ said, before adding that the rising cost of housing was her main concern.

Josh was more worried about funding for health and education.

“I do think those other issues should have been sorted out by now,” he said.

Recent migrant Henna said easy public transport was important, particularly as a family.

“Travelling with them, they sometimes become really difficult, especially when you come into the city,” she said.

This will be the first time she casts a vote in an Australian election.

Henna said she thinks about her children’s future as the biggest influencing factor, but has not yet decided how she will vote.

“Only those for whom we are the priority, the people are the priority,” Henna said.

“And they not only say, but they act.

“So let’s see who does it, who wins our hearts here.”

Along with the swinging voters are those who are loyal to one particular side of politics.

Tony is proud to declare that he is a Labor man.

“I don’t know what this Government’s going to do, you know? Maybe for the poor people [Labor] will be good,” he said.

“Cost of living is getting very dear.

“I’m not really confident for Labor to win, but I reckon they’ve got a good chance.”

Simon from the safe Coalition seat of Higgins, in Melbourne’s south-east, believed the country needed some stability.

“I think the most important thing is that we keep the economy in the right direction which will give people in Victoria the opportunity to create a good life for themselves,” he said.

“The most important thing I think is we have political stability.

“I think people are sick of the revolving door and that sort of thing.”