I acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we meet, the Gadigal people of the Eora nation, and pay my respects to their Elders past, present and emerging.
And I acknowledge any Indigenous people here with us today.
A public transport system for everybody
I would love to start today with a simple principle: That Public Transport is a basic service any Government must deliver for the benefit of its citizens.
But the truth is where I have to start today is with a simple concession: the government of New South Wales has fundamentally failed in delivering that basic service.
The next NSW Labor Government will confront deep problems in transport in this city and State. That, unfortunately, is my starting point today. That’s especially frustrating because I have to tell you, I really do not believe good public transport is that hard.
There are plenty of so-called ‘wicked problems’ in public policy, full of tricky tradeoffs and unintended consequences – a State Government infrastructure program that fundamentally favours east over west, while fundamentally failing to get boats that fit under bridges, isn’t one of them.
Just build the train tracks where you build the houses, right?
Now it’s true that a good, modern public transport system does not exist in isolation.
It does not compete against other transport modes: A good public transport network is multi-modal, fully integrated and complements roads and active transport.
And it’s true that public transport is not an end in itself.
It isn’t about rail lines or stabling yards or a train carriage.
It's about people - The Sydneysiders and citizens who ride the system, drive the system, and make the system work.
But I promise it is not as hard as the Perrottet Government makes it look.
The Government’s priorities on public transport have been wrong
After twelve years of Liberal Government the cracks are showing - literally. And we are left with a legacy of public transport that is frankly less safe and less reliable, used by fewer people.
Their legacy is new ferries they can’t steer; a New Intercity Fleet they refused to repair for years and a new financial engineering trick, the Transport Asset Holding Entity, that created new financial and safety risks.
And even the light-rail system that serves my community in the Inner West, shut down for almost a full year because it was riddled with cracks.
The fact is an unreliable public transport system is the “new normal” under this Government
That’s not just rhetoric: the passengers know it.
On-time running is down on our train network - it is the worst since the pandemic - and patronage is down on almost every mode.
The numbers defy the government excuses about strikes or weather or pandemic. The industrial peace in late winter made no difference – and let’s be clear: The Perrottet Government was a party to that dispute.
This didn’t just happen to them.
Some days the Premier and his ministers clearly just wanted the fight. They called their workforce terrorists.
And if the election wasn’t due in March, what took months too long might have taken years.
A Minns Labor government will look for solutions, not conflict, and we will work with the transport workforce in good faith.
And when London public transport is bouncing back faster than Sydney, I don’t think rain or COVID can be the problem.
People have lost confidence in the public transport system.
400,000 people abandoned Sydney public transport during the pandemic – and no research suggests they’ll be back next year.
This is also a government that’s never really got that access to public transport is both a need and an aspiration for people living everywhere in Sydney, not just for those in Sydney’s North and East.
In rapidly growing areas in the West and South West public transport services simply haven’t been delivered.
And there are dense communities like Wentworth Point which people moved to on a promise from the government that they would get public transport links that have simply never arrived.
When communities miss out on public transport, they don’t just miss out on a cheaper, toll-free commute. They miss out on a better quality of life.
They miss out on access to the good jobs that follow the establishment of mass public transport.
A recent study found that a 1 per cent increase in public transport access leads to a 0.5 per cent increase in businesses and employment opportunities.
And they miss out on the health benefits of their communities becoming more walkable, and on spending less time in the car.
These shouldn’t be things that are only accessible to people living in the leafy established suburbs of Sydney’s North and East.
Growing communities in Western Sydney deserve them too.
There is an alternative
So what’s the alternative? I want to share with you NSW Labor’s key priorities to turn this around.
One of the many things that changed when Perrottet became Premier was the end of the former Transport Minister Berejiklian’s focus on improving the passenger experience.
Today I pledge that a Minns Labor Government would take a different approach.
We will return to first principles and we will work each and everyday to restore people’s confidence and trust in our public transport system. We’ll do that by focusing on them.
We want to get public and active transport doing what it is meant to do – moving people, connecting our regions and making Greater Sydney an even better place to live, work and raise a family.
Transport should be a public asset we can rightly be proud of again.
This is what will drive us:
First: Put the public back in charge of their own journeys
Second: Recognise that we need people to run our public transport network
Third: Put active transport at the heart of transport planning
Fourth: Create rapid links to Western Sydney airport while there’s still time
Fifth and finally: Build things here … let me explain.
Putting people back in charge of their journeys
Firstly, people want to regain control of their journeys, especially after COVID.
People want to have more accurate information, reliable services and a choice of modes to inform their decisions about how they move around our city and State.
Yes, the pandemic put the inevitable move to more working from home into hyperdrive.
Work patterns have permanently shifted. And yes, people’s travel patterns have shifted too – but people are still traveling. We will always travel. But now we are traveling at different times and for different reasons.
So that means that the public service provision has to change too.
With that comes major opportunities.
We flattened the curve during covid. Now we can flatten the peak on public transport - possibly permanently - and better utilise the transport infrastructure that we have.
We need more frequent services all day rather than only during the traditional morning and evening peaks. We need more turn up and go services.
The service offering has to change to be convenient, reliable and dependable for what we need now.
And pricing needs to be fit for purpose too. The next version of Opal must be about leveraging these changes, from ticketing to payments, and all the opportunities that digitisation presents.
Our modern lives are run via our phones, and our phones should be a passport for the public transport system: providing information and feedback, offering choices, and even allowing us to pay as we move through the network.
It should take you seconds to work out the best way to get where you are going, before you set out.
Real-time, accurate information so we can weigh the time, cost and environmental impact of our choices.
Technology can give people that information and put passengers in charge of their journey.
But people can only make use of that information if it is helps them navigate public transport services which are fully integrated with one another:
Buses that link up with trains, tram stops and train stations where you can charge a scooter or park a bike: seamless transitions between modes so that passengers can again be in control of their journeys.
We need to deliver real “last-mile” options, the share bikes, electric scooters, and better walking and cycling infrastructure to make the journey to public transport easier and improve our quality of life, no matter where you live.
And the station or terminal where the last-mile starts must be so much more than just a platform and a lift.
As a starting point, they must be accessible for everyone.
Stations can be hubs for other essential services. Why couldn’t you drop off your dry cleaning, pick up a parcel, get some groceries or a meal, charge your phone – or grab a coffee that tastes like a coffee?
Our stations, wharves and transport hubs should be focal points for the communities they service, not just as transit points, but as places for people to connect and manage the tasks of the day.
Finally, we need to make sure public transport is a cost-effective and attractive way to travel, especially as the cost of everything - including petrol - goes up and up.
Cut-price public transport on weekends, holidays and during major events will help people out of their cars, and have them walking through areas like the CBD and the urban centres of greater Sydney, enjoying what local businesses have to offer.
With improved safety across the network, and more late-night transport options to support the night time economy.
Better technology options and passenger information so people know what’s happening on the network in real time.
If we get this right, we can make public transport the mode of choice for people when they leave their house.
Respecting the workforce
Secondly, we must recognise and respect the people that run our public transport system.
Restoring trust in our public transport system starts, first and foremost, with government rebuilding its relationships with the very people that make the system function, that ensure the trains, buses, trams and ferries actually turn up – its workforce - the drivers, ferrymasters, the platform staff, cleaners, mechanics and maintenance staff, the administrative and professional roles, the security officers, and the dispatchers and control room personnel.
Without them, nothing would move, nothing would work.
If the people on the inside don’t have confidence and faith in the system and how it’s managed, how can we expect those that use it to?
Again, the solution here is not rocket science. A Labor government will replace conflict with cooperation, confrontation with partnership.
We will work with those that know the system best to make the system work better for everyone.
Above all, we will respect and value frontline staff, not vilify them.
Indeed, rebuilding workforce morale – which only a change to a Labor government can truly do – is essential if we are to rebuild a system that meets the ever-evolving needs and expectations of the end user, the public.
Active transport: Not just an afterthought
Thirdly, we absolutely cannot continue to think about the infrastructure people need to ride or walk as an afterthought.
Riding and walking remains the cheapest way to move around.
It’s good for public health and good for the environment.
It’s good for productivity, too.
People who drive everyday – tradies, emergency workers, carers – need people riding and walking. Badly.
If just 5% of all car trips under 5km were shifted to walking or riding, speeds on our roads would increase by 50%.
Mode shifting busts congestion and grows the economy.
To zero in on one place where we really could make a difference, consider the pick up and drop off each day at our child care centres and schools.
40 years ago, 70% of kids walked or rode. Now, two-thirds of them are driven to school.
It’s a big reason our kids don’t get enough exercise – but it’s also a big reason the roads around our school are unsafe. In fact, road trauma is the number one killer of children aged 14 and under in this country, and the most dangerous time to be on our roads is the afternoon at school pick-up time.
And in every conversation I have about this, parents tell me they want the option for their families to ride or walk, but that it’s just not practical or safe.
I know this in my own life, believe me. I have three kids under 8 – I don’t for a minute judge the decision of any parent or carer to drive their kids.
So the State Government should be working with local governments, building footpaths and cycleways, safe crossings, helping establish walking buses, and delivering a fully integrated, safe, accessible and reliable public transport system.
But that’s just an example: a public transport system that puts people back at its centre, will have a multiplier effect, giving passengers of all kinds options about their journey and control over their journey.
Better information for individual travellers and better options for people to walk and ride will lift performance across the transport network.
Western Sydney Airport
Fourth, we should recognise that the centrepiece of the new city is Western Sydney Airport – it truly is Sydney’s signature infrastructure project – now slated to open in 2026.
Its success is crucial for the future growth and development of our city.
Yet when the airport opens there won’t be rapid bus links – the deadline for a State Government project is already passed – and they haven’t yet sought Commonwealth funding from the newly elected Albanese Government, and there’s already been one Federal Labor Budget.
There are now real questions about how we are going to get people from growing South West Sydney to the new airport without these public transport links.
What if the planned Metro extension from St Mary’s to the airport also ends up being late?
We’re facing a very genuine risk in 2026 that a new airport will open with no public transport connections.
Western Sydney Liberal and Labor Mayors alike are worried.
They don’t want their communities to miss out on the transformative impacts new services and employment opportunities the new airport will bring.
It shouldn’t have to be this way.
So instead of getting into a blame game, the approach of a Minns Labor Government would work with a Federal Labor Government to make sure that the transport infrastructure needed by growing communities in Western Sydney keeps up with population growth and with the development of major infrastructure and employment areas.
Build them here: Boosting domestic manufacturing
Finally, NSW should have our own destiny in our own hands – which is why a Minns Labor Government will build things here.
Building industries in New South Wales that provide apprenticeships, training and vibrant and viable industry so that our kids will have jobs and skills into the future.
And the public transport system in New South Wales is a cornerstone for demand for advanced manufactured goods which is a priceless opportunity to do just this.
The NSW Government should have the vision to see public transport through that lens.
But the Perrottet Government does not. A Minns Labor Government will.
NSW has a long and proud history of building transport infrastructure like trains and ferries.
And the communities that built them are still proud of the work they did.
In places like Broadmeadow and Cardiff where they built the Tangaras and the Waratahs, like Chullora where train maintenance has been happening for decades, or at the old State Dockyard in Newcastle that built the famous Freshwater Class Manly Ferries.
It was a terrible mistake for the Liberals to abandon our local manufacturing industry, and instead look for cheap off-the-shelf products built overseas.
They promised the public that there would be savings, and that they’d get value for money. Instead – they got what they paid for.
The McKell Institute’s Build It Here report revealed that the six major international procurements it examined experienced increases to their budgets of between 40 and 50 per cent, negating the cost savings originally used to justify awarding the tenders to international bidders.
It also revealed that the offshoring of those projects cost us more than 7000 direct and indirect jobs.
It’s clear that the government’s transport procurement policies have failed.
And we have seen a reduction in our manufacturing capacity and our skills base as a result, both things that you cannot just build back up overnight.
But there is a big opportunity here.
It’s an opportunity to help boost our domestic manufacturing sector so we can build the trains, trams, ferries and buses of the future.
It’s an opportunity to build low emissions, high tech transport infrastructure right here in NSW.
And we know that there are already businesses right across the state who are keen and ready to expand.
All they need is certainty and a pipeline of investment.
That’s why Labor has announced that if we win government, our policy will be to begin the procurement process for the next set of trains to replace the ageing Tangara fleet.
We’ve also announced that our policy is a 50% minimum local content target for transport rolling stock, increased tender weightings to 30% for local content, jobs creation, small business and ethical supply chains, and a TAFE manufacturing centre of excellence in Western Sydney.
Because we know that the private sector capital is there, and the willingness to invest is there.
Not just with trains, but with Zero Emissions Buses too.
A public transport system that works for you
My simple message here today is that I want a public transport system that works for you; that works for the people of NSW.
I want a public transport system that puts people back in control of their journeys.
On 25 March next year there will be a clear choice.
A choice between more chaos. More fights. More erosion of basic public services. And less transparency under the Liberal Government.
Or the people of NSW can have a government that will work for them.
End the fights.
Put the public back into Public Transport.
Build things here again.
A Government that will fight for, not against, the people of NSW’s right to have safe, clean and reliable trains, buses and ferries services that show up on time.
A choice to transform the public transport network into a system that puts people at the heart, and makes New South Wales a better place to live.