NSW Election Newsletter – Issue 2

9 March 2015

With the Government entering caretaker mode last Friday, the NSW election campaign has lifted a notch with a second leaders’ debate, personalised buses heading to the regions, larger-scale announcements, and of course regular leafleting at Sydney train stations.

Over the weekend, Premier Mike Baird lifted his defence against Labor’s criticism of his electricity assets privatisation plan, announcing that a re-elected Coalition Government will appoint former ACCC chair Allan Fels as Electricity Price Commissioner to sign off on future transactions and ensure that privatisation will not increase electricity prices.  Premier Baird also announced that companies bidding for the state’s ‘poles and wires’ would need to sign an agreement stating that prices would be lower in 2019 than in 2014.

While electricity privatisation is the ultimate point of difference between the two parties, a new battle ground has opened up on coal seam gas (CSG).  The Coalition sought to neutralise Labor’s pledge to impose a moratorium on CSG activity across NSW this week by announcing the cancellation of a third CSG exploration licence covering much of metropolitan Sydney.  Meanwhile, Luke Foley, seeking to strengthen Labor’s campaign for the Nationals-held seats of Tweed, Lismore and Ballina, announced Labor would implement a permanent ban on CSG in the Northern Rivers region.

Elsewhere this week the Government responded to the inquiry into political donations reform, led by businesswoman Kerry Schott, accepting in principle 49 of the 50 recommendations, which if implemented would see donations appear online in real time in the months preceding an election.

In other developments, the Coalition announced new law and order commitments, including police station upgrades, and Premier Baird and Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian today announced a $100 million upgrade to Parramatta River ferry services, although acknowledged that additional ferry services would be several years away.  Labor meanwhile pledged an additional 500 paramedics at a cost of $46.6 million over two years, and flagged changes to stamp duty for first home buyers by allowing payments in instalments over five years.

While a notable absence during the Queensland election campaign, Prime Minister Tony Abbott appeared with Premier Baird in Sydney on Sunday.

The weekend finished with the second leaders’ debate, held at the University of Western Sydney, with a mixed verdict on the outcome.  The live audience of undecided voters awarded the debate to Premier Mike Baird while a poll undertaken by debate hosts, the Seven Network, favoured Opposition Leader Luke Foley.

With writs officially issued by Governor David Hurley on Saturday to direct the Electoral Commissioner to conduct the election, the first official week of the campaign is now underway.

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