Despite crushing defeats in both Queensland and Victoria, the Liberal Party has a comfortable lead in New South Wales as the state election approaches.
Opinion polls have consistently placed the Coalition government ahead of the Opposition, while voters consider Premier Mike Baird more ‘likeable’ than new Labor leader Luke Foley.
Mr Foley has only had two months in the top job to impress voters, but this is also Mr Baird’s first time running for premier after being promoted when former premier Barry O’Farrell resigned over an undeclared bottle of wine.
With talk of a deeply unpopular federal Coalition government leading to large swings toward Labor in both Queensland and Victoria, will Mr Baird be able to maintain NSW as a Liberal stronghold?
The New Daily looks at the major policies likely to influence the outcome of the March 28 election.
Sale of poles and wires
Privatisation has been rated by New South Wales residents as their most important election issue.
The sale of half of the state’s electricity network, which is Mr Baird’s signature election policy, will reportedly create $20 billion worth of revenue to be spent on infrastructure, schools and hospitals.
Labor is against the privatisation policy, and has vowed to fund its more modest $10 billion infrastructure plan through business tax.
A similar privatisation plan in Queensland was rejected by voters and was said to be one of the issues which caused the Liberal-National Party Coalition to lose a massive 34 seats.
The Coalition has big plans for roads, with Prime Minister Tony Abbott frequently visiting Sydney to promote the $14 billion WestConnex motorway scheduled to begin in May.
The project will widen the M4 between Parramatta and Homebush to four lanes in each direction, and a toll on the road would be reintroduced.
Mr Foley said Labor would proceed with the first stages of WestConnex, but would dump the third stage, which involves building a tunnel between Haberfield and St Peters to link the M4 and M5.
Mr Abbott said motorists would be “singing in their cars” when they began moving again, but Mr Foley said the tunnel would dump traffic in the already congested area of St Peters.
Both Labor and the Coalition have plans to build a second Sydney Harbour Bridge rail crossing, but Labor says it will not begin construction until 2022, while the Coalition says its project will be finished by 2024.
The Baird government’s public transport proposal hinges on the $8.3 billion North West Rail Link, a rapid transport rail system linking Epping to the Bankstown line and the CBD.
The government has also pledged another $600 million to a Parramatta light rail system, as well as a South East Light Rail network.
Labor’s public transport plans are almost identical to the Coalition’s, with Mr Foley promising to complete all public transport projects that are currently underway, which include the North West Rail Link.
Corruption has plagued both the Liberal and Labor parties, with the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) implicating more than 10 government MPs.
Several Liberal seats have fallen to Labor in by-elections after the resignation of MPs such as Tim Owen and Andrew Cornwell, who both accepted prohibited donations from a developer.
Labor has also been embroiled in corruption claims after the ICAC investigation caught several influential Labor frontbenchers.
Mr Baird said he was “determined to clean up politics in New South Wales” while Mr Foley said a Labor led by him would be “honest”.
Labor has pledged to spend $96 million to fund an extra 840 nurses, as well as legislate three-to-one nurse-to-patient ratios in emergency departments and paediatric wards.
Mr Foley said Labor would also introduce nurse-led walk-in medical centres in an attempt to take pressure off emergency departments, where the state average wait is 208 minutes.
If re-elected, the Baird government has promised $5 billion to upgrade more than 60 hospitals.
Mr Baird’s suggestion that the new Northern Beaches Hospital be made private, however, has been unpopular with voters, with many warning people would not be able to afford care.
Coal seam gas
Coal seam gas mining was a major issue under former Premier Barry O’Farrell, who introduced measures to fast-track coal mining leases.
Thousands attended rallies against the coal seam gas industry as licenses covered over six million hectares, including state forests.
Both parties have promised to crackdown on CSG licenses, with the Baird government extending a ban on all new exploration licenses for another year, as well as revoking licenses.
Mr Foley said his government would permanently ban coal seam gas activity on the NSW north coast as well as in Sydney’s drinking water catchment areas.