Howard revs up Libs as parties eye off western Sydney
The "overwhelming presence" of Anthony Albanese in NSW Labor's election campaign is telling of how the party will handle the state's books if elected, John Howard has told the Liberal faithful.
The former prime minister also laid into federal treasurer Jim Chalmers for lacking an economic plan in his first budget as both major parties rallied in key seats in western Sydney six days out from Saturday's election.
Opposition leader Chris Minns took to the stage in Parramatta to pledge constitutional change to protect Sydney Water and Hunter Water, which he claims will be privatised by the coalition.
Further west in Penrith, Premier Dominic Perrottet promised to saw 20 per cent off the weekly Opal public transport cap at a cost of about $1.1 million a week.
His announcement came minutes after Mr Howard warmed up an adoring crowd with tales of his 1996 federal election victory and warnings about Labor governments.
After claiming federal Labor's only economic plan was raising taxes, Mr Howard said Mr Albanese's "overwhelming presence" in the rival party's state campaign launch made it appear like a mini-launch for the prime minister's re-election.
"You have to ask yourself is that because under Minns, Labor's economic approach would be very similar to that of Albanese in Canberra? The answer to that has to be a resounding yes," he said.
"The Labor Party's election plans for NSW have an unambiguous, undeniable hole of $11 billion."
Last weekend, Mr Howard was one of the few Liberal icons to show his face at the NSW Liberals' campaign launch, which did not feature federal leader Peter Dutton, former prime minister Scott Morrison or other federal MPs.
A week after revealing his Kids Future Fund, Mr Perrottet tweaked a 2019 election policy to cut public transport costs, taking the weekly Opal cap to $40 for adults and $20 for concession card holders from May 1.
"That means more money in the hip pockets of western Sydney families when they need it most," he said.
Speaking in Parramatta, Mr Minns said he would legislate to put Sydney Water and Hunter Water in the NSW Constitution to forbid their sale without an act of parliament, despite Mr Perrottet's insistence he would not privatise any more assets.
"At the last state election, the government misled voters about the sale of our toll roads," the Labor leader said.
"Mr Perrottet was able to sell the remaining stake without any legislation to parliament. Parliament got no say at all, despite this being a blatant broken promise from the coalition."
Labor also committed $75 million for 250 full-time-equivalent school counsellors to increase coverage in more schools.
The Greens, noting sweltering temperatures in the city's outer suburbs on Sunday, called for a "climate-smart" western Sydney that included an green-belt urban boundary and a home buyback scheme for the lowest parts of the Hawkesbury-Nepean floodplain.
It also reiterated a call to make public transport free, following the lead of some European cities.
Independent candidates Helen Conway, Larissa Penn and Victoria Davidson protested bus cancellations on Sydney's North Shore by riding a crowdfunded one-off bus route created by frustrated commuters.
"Bus timetables have become a farce. How is anyone supposed to be able to plan their daily commute if they can't rely on the published schedule?" Ms Davidson said.
Transport for NSW and private operators are faced with widespread driver shortages, despite promised salaries above $70,000, sign-on bonuses and other incentives.