March 30, 2022

PETE DAVIS, HOST: We thought we’d catch up with Federal Labor Member for Shortland, Pat Conroy to ask Pat if this area, the Hunter region, were winners or losers, and Pat is on the line this afternoon. Hello, Pat.
PAT CONROY, MEMBER FOR SHORTLAND: Good afternoon, Pete. How are you?
DAVIS: Yeah, good thank you mate. So I suppose the question is: the Hunter region as a whole in the Budget was winners or losers do you think?
CONROY: Sadly I think we were losers, and we were losers for a couple of reasons. One, it’s a very cynical Budget just designed to get this Government to the election rather than putting in place a plan to get us to the next decade, so that’s why I think the region loses out firstly. And secondly, it doesn’t have a plan for dealing with the long-term decline in wages and the huge cost of living pressures. So the average family is $3,500 worse off, the average worker is going backwards and has had their wages cut by the equivalent of nearly $1,400 this year. So that’s why I fear to say our region is a loser.
DAVIS: Were there any positive aspects of the Budget for the Hunter region last night at all, or was there nothing at all?
CONROY: No, no, we should acknowledge that there were some positives in it, and it’s very important that politicians don’t just slag the other side. So the $100 million to start the preparatory work to turn the Port of Newcastle into a hydrogen and ammonia hub is welcome. It adopts the hydrogen policy that Labor released prior to the 2019 election, and I welcome them copying it. And that’s good news for our region because it means that we can grow the Port and diversify it and try and compete with the rest of the world on exporting clean hydrogen. So that’s good news.
DAVIS: Okay, well at least there’s something, I mean there was at least one thing there that we received. But I guess as you say though, I mean they could have been a little bit more generous.
CONROY: Absolutely, and what was clear is that there is no assistance for aged care and we are facing an aged care crisis. Anyone who’s got a parent or a grandparent in aged care knows how that sector is really doing it tough. There was no funding to help solve the GP crisis that our region is facing at the moment. Health is the number one issue that people talk to me about after cost of living, so nothing in health and ageing was really disappointing. And as I said, the cash handouts will help people in the short-term, but long-term this Government doesn’t have a plan to lift wages, and that’s the only way we can get better standards of living for our families and deal with housing affordability.
DAVIS: Yeah, and I think that’s the thing for me is, you know I am one of these people who like our politicians to look towards the future. I mean, I think a lot of people feel that our politicians sometimes are looking towards the next election, and when it comes to Budget announcements and that sort of stuff, you’d be hoping as a member of the community that you get at least something out of each Budget, but in some cases that probably doesn’t happen.
CONROY: No, no, that’s right, and this Budget delivers zero initiatives for the seat of Shortland which I find really distressing to be quite frank. We’ve got some really important needs in this region. That should go beyond politics. So I would have loved it if they matched the commitment I announced last week for a permanent dredge for the Swansea Channel.
DAVIS: Yeah.
CONROY: I would have loved if they’d matched my commitment for a grouting fund so that builders can build taller buildings in our CBDs like Charlestown to get more jobs, more homes in. So they’re two small things that they could have announced in this Budget that would have improved our area. And as I said, people want a plan. They don’t care necessarily which party comes up with it, but they just want a plan. They also want politicians to recognise when the other side of politics is doing something right, and that’s why it’s important that I acknowledge the hydrogen announcement, but other than that it is a very cynical, shallow Budget, and in the end, what will we have to show for it? One trillion dollars’ worth of debt that we all have to pay off, and that’s a real, real challenge.
DAVIS: Yeah it is, it certainly is. Now just before you go, with the federal election, you know, just around the corner, how confident are you and the Labor Party of getting back government? Do you feel as though there’s going to be a change in the air in your opinion?
CONROY: Well I am optimistic, but I certainly am not taking anything for granted, and I think anyone who went through 2019 knows that you shouldn’t count your chickens. All we can do is put forward our best case and hope that the Australian people judge us on that. And this is the first time we’ve got a Prime Minister running on their own record since 2007. We’ve had a new Prime Minister at every election since then. I think that people should judge Mr Morrison on his record, and I think that record is pretty poor, and they should look at the policies we are going to do to help people which is invest in health to solve the GP shortage, get more secure jobs which will lead to wage rises, deal with cost of living, reduce the cost of childcare, cut electricity bills, and really make a meaningful impact on people’s lives, and give people a bit of stability.
DAVIS: Yeah, and that’s what they need.
CONROY: That’s right.
DAVIS: Alright mate, good to talk to you Pat, and best of luck if we don’t talk between now and the election, and I do appreciate you coming on.
CONROY: Anytime Pete, have a great afternoon.