NSW rivals flex their economic muscle in western Sydney
The NSW premier and the man gunning for his job have both pitched themselves as stable economic managers in a pre-election showdown in the crucial battleground of western Sydney.
With just over three weeks until election day, Premier Dominic Perrottet and Opposition Leader Chris Minns pitched their different visions to the region's voters on Thursday.
The premier seized on Labor's decision to shelve two western Sydney multibillion-dollar Metro rail projects.
"Labor's lack of a plan is the reason they are already cancelling Metro lines," the Liberal leader told the Daily Telegraph's Future Western Sydney event.
"This is the short-term thinking that doesn't set up our state for future success.
"Our responsible economic management means that we can deliver these things."
But Labor leader Chris Minns insists he is having an honest conversation with voters about the budget, which needs to be balanced.
The party has said it will halt work on business cases for two Metro lines, from the new western Sydney airport to Bankstown and Glenfield, if it is elected.
The most recent polls have predicted Labor will emerge victorious from the March 25 election.
Mr Minns defended Labor's position, saying state debt had spiralled out of control.
"You've got unsustainable budgets that need to be paid off by future generations of Australians and I think the debt levels are just too high," he said.
The state's $78 billion debt was set to rise to $116 billion by the end of the upcoming budget cycle, Mr Minns added.
He defended his party's commitment to western Sydney infrastructure, saying a rapid bus network would ensure the airport was accessible when it opened.
"The premier is talking about the (Metro line) from Westmead to the aerotropolis, but the reality is that's 20 or 30 years away."
Mr Perrottet insisted the state's debt was manageable and pointed to his government's delivery of a series of major infrastructure projects over the last 12 years.
"There's good debt and there's bad debt," he said.
The government inherited a $30 billion infrastructure backlog when it came to power in 2011 but had since steered the state through a series of severe natural disasters and the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr Perrottet said.
"What we need to do is continue to build infrastructure, which drives economic growth and drives jobs growth," he said, adding this would create real opportunities for western Sydney families.
Later, the pair suspended hostilities, with Mr Minns acknowledging they would likely be friends if they were not political enemies.
Mr Perrottet agreed, saying: "It's slightly awkward that we're trying to end each other's careers."
The debate came as Labor pledged $1.1 billion over three years to upgrade roads in western Sydney and regional NSW.
The party's "local roads not toll roads" plan includes $75 million for Bandon Rd in Richmond and another $50 million for Hill Rd in Wentworth Point, both in western Sydney.
The Perrottet government pledged $1000 in rebates for small businesses to cover costs like buying outdoor seating and liquor and trades licences.
The $40 million scheme will offer small businesses with fewer than 20 employees rebates of up to $500 over two years from July.