You are here: Home / Media / “I expect the highest standards …” An interview with NSW Premier Nathan Rees (Part 2)

“I expect the highest standards …” An interview with NSW Premier Nathan Rees (Part 2)

Last month Kelly Lane and Nicholas McCallum interviewed the NSW Premier. There were more questions that needed to be asked. So we sent them by email and the Premier has provided the following responses reports the South Sydney Herald in November 2009.

Background: It was announced in the mini-budget that the Government was quitting the Australian Technology Park (ATP) in Redfern via sale of a 99-year lease. In the budget speech the sale of the ATP was dealt with simply as the divestment of a business park – the only consideration was “there is no evidence of market failure”. There was no recognition of this site for its historical technological innovation role and preservation role. The unique cultural and heritage values of the place cannot be understated. It was the bastion of Australian ingenuity and engineering excellence called the Eveleigh Locomotive Workshops. Part of the ATP is housed in the adaptively reused Eveleigh Locomotive Workshop building. This building also houses an extensive, largely intact, “state-of-the-art” heritage machinery and tool collection complete with steam systems and assemblages and an “active” 1880s operating heritage blacksmithing shop. The machinery collection and the operation of the blacksmithing bays are part of the interpretation required under a Conservation Management Plan for the site. In selling the site to a private buyer the Government is also selling the machinery, and the operating blacksmithing shop.

Question 1: Why is the Government “divesting” itself of such an important cultural industrial icon that has been state-owned since the 1870s? How does the Government expect a profit-seeking private buyer to see any commercial benefit from owning this state-registered machinery collection both static and operating? Why would a private owner want this sort of responsibility? What mechanisms will the Government put into place to safeguard the collection and perpetuity of the operating heritage blacksmithing shop, and oversee that the Conservation Management Plan (open to revision every five years) is not watered down but is adhered to?

Last November the NSW Government had to make some tough decisions through the mini-budget process. The Government is currently ensuring everything is in place before taking the ATP to the market for sale. Sale of the ATP will only be finalised once the Government has considered all market responses and is happy that best outcome will be achieved for the site. It is very important to understand that anybody who purchases the ATP site will be required to adhere to the heritage listings and management plan for the site as required by law.
Question 2: Why doesn’t NSW have gross feed-in tariffs for solar-powered homes?

The NSW Government’s Solar Bonus Scheme will pay people 60 cents per kilowatt hour for electricity fed back into the grid from rooftop solar panels – making it one of the most generous schemes in Australia.

In adopting a generous net tariff scheme, the Government has balanced the objectives of supporting people who install solar but also minimising the costs for those electricity customers not able to install solar panels, such as renters and low-income families.

Question 3: There have too many stories about the poor behaviour of Members of Parliament reported in the media in the past year. Given this, do you think that political parties have a responsibility to ensure that prospective candidates know of their obligations to perform in an ethical manner? What is the ALP and Government doing to encourage ethical behaviour?

I have said on many occasions that I expect the highest standards from Government Members of Parliament. That’s what the public expects and that’s what I expect.

Question 4: Governments of all persuasions have privatised a whole range of things is there any service which you think can only be provided by Government?

I think the Government should always be responsible for important frontline services like health and education.

Question 5: The Medically Supervised Injection Centre has saved lives, as even Barry O’Farrell and John Brogden before him have said. But a Coalition Government would close it. Would your Government give consideration to making it permanent, and not a trial, and give some consideration to more of these sort of places across the State?

The trial of the Medically Supervised Injecting Centre has been operating since May 2001. In July 2007, legislation was passed which extended the trial for a further four years to 31 October 2011. The continuation of the trial was primarily to establish a longer-term evidence base about its effectiveness. It’s true the data so far is very good with measurable improvements for local residents, fewer deaths, fewer discarded needles and thousands of people referred for treatment. Cabinet will consider the centre’s future at a later date, informed by the evidence.