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Budget 'black hole' barbs as NSW leaders face off

The NSW premier and the man who wants his job have accused each other of having budget black holes, during their first televised debate ahead of the election.

Labor Leader Chris Minns said Dominic Perrottet had been a constant advocate for asset recycling and privatisation his entire professional career.

"Yet we're all expected to believe on the eve of an election campaign, he's all of a sudden decided privatisations are out," he said during the Seven Network debate broadcast on Wednesday.

The comments followed the premier ruling out privatising public assets to fund future infrastructure, saying major projects would be funded through managed state debt.

Mr Minns said NSW was at risk of entering a debt and deficit spiral, after racking up $78 billion in debt during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the coalition government planning $50b of unfunded infrastructure.

Interest payments on that $50b could range from $6.8 to $8.6b a year, more than it takes to fund the state's police force, he said.

"I don't believe it's sustainable and I think that's one of the leading reasons why the premier, with his infrastructure black hole, is likely to sell assets rather than go to that level of debt."

The premier hit back saying: "The only party with a black hole is Labor."

A Labor government would put the state's finances at risk with its promise to scrap the cap on public sector wages, responsible for about 40 per cent of the state's expenditure, Mr Perrottet said.

"Chris can't even tell you how much that will cost," the premier said.

"We are the only state in this nation with two AAA credit ratings. Our debt position is sustainable and affordable."

NSW Treasurer Matt Kean was left crowing after NSW Treasury's economic update didn't upset his plans to return the state to surplus in 2024/25.

"This update shows despite the economic challenges, the NSW economy is in good shape to withstand the headwinds," Mr Kean said.

Asked about his party's female representation on International Women's Day, the premier conceded the party needed to up its game.

He was unsure if the party had improved female representation since the last poll, as the Liberal Party scrambled to finalise 15 candidates shortly before nominations closed at midday on Wednesday.

Labor has 46 per cent women candidates, while 48 per cent of shadow cabinet members are women and half its leadership team is female.

"That should just be the norm if you're running to be the elected government in NSW in the year 2023," Mr Minns said.

Less than a third of the NSW Liberal Party's parliamentary team are women.

Earlier, Labor announced a $13.8m specialist service to help women navigate underpayment and sexual harassment would be available in NSW for the first time in 18 years if the party wins government.

The premier announced $7m for grants to research ovarian and other gynaecological cancers.

Both leaders ruled out deals with the Greens in the event of a hung parliament and legalising marijuana in the next term of government.

They defended their decisions to send their children to non-government schools and appeared to know the cost of tolls for their chauffeur-driven car trips between home and the office.

The debate came before a system fault forced the halting of every Sydney train on Wednesday afternoon, frustrating commuters and soon-to-be voters.