We are the change: Keneally

Premier Keneally with sons Brendan, Daniel and husband Ben Keneally

By Neena Badhwar

She came, she won with her charming smile, always ready to talk, recognize and respect. Kristina Keneally has conducted herself well during her tenure as Premier of NSW. Elections are on now and the big questions is: are the people really after a change only because they want the change or as Ms Keneally puts it ”˜A change does not mean a change of government’.

“We are delivering better by having negotiated close to 6 billion dollars from the COAG health reform and another 2 billion for transport from the commonwealth government.”

“But Mr. O’Farrell does not want this money which I got after going back and forth bargaining for the state of NSW,” Keneally claims, “While Mr. O’Farrell wants to give it all back. When the Commonwealth government offered $1.5 billion Mr O’Farrell said take it. When the government offered $2 billion Mr. O’Farrell said take it. But I finally was able to convince and got more money for the people of NSW.”

Keneally outright criticizes O’Farrell’s ”˜urban sprawl’ in the west she says “Parramatta is the heart beat of Sydney. We need to give it infrastructure so that people can live and work close by and we have promised better transport system by promising Epping-Parramatta rail link.”

“We are the change,”says Keneally. And she promises to keep the Indian community in focus with extra community language funding, strong multicultural standpoint and is more than willing to consider a request by the Indian community for a place of its own as she knows that the Indian community down under is now a growing, sizeable number with a voice of its own.


Here are answers to some of the questions TIDU asked Premier Keneally.


Q1. The scandals which have rocked Labor government since Mr. Bob Carr left , there seems to be signs of infighting, change of leaders has left the party quite vulnerable  with weak leadership all along so much so that Labor is trailing badly at the polls. What is your opinion and what are you doing to stop further slide?


I’m enjoying this campaign, this is the political fight of my life and I’m embracing every day of it.


Because it isn’t just a fight for me, it’s a fight for NSW’s future.


It’s about choice between two very different futures for NSW families.


We are easing the costs of living for NSW families with my fully funded Fairness for Families package which will increase the NSW Energy Rebate to $250 for households on under $150,000 a year, cap public transport fares and cut government fees and charges.


We are delivering 1400 extra nurses for our hospitals and rolling out $5.5 billion in COAG health funding for the public health system.


And we are building the Parramatta to Epping Rail Link and Western Express, which Barry O’Farrell has confirmed he will rip out from the people of western Sydney.


So far we know that Barry O’Farrell will cut 6700 jobs, axe two heavy rail lines for western Sydney commuters and give $2.1 billion back to the Commonwealth.


Barry O’Farrell needs to come clean about what else he has planned for NSW ”“ because everything we have heard so far will hurt NSW families.


Q2. Polls are predicting that Labor is going to lose”¦what is your opinion?


If these poll numbers are true, Barry O’Farrell will have a blank cheque to do whatever he wants. He will have unprecedented power to push through privatisation of services.


We already know Barry O’Farrell’s policies will cut more than 6,700 jobs in NSW in the energy sector to fund his energy policy and with his plans to cut the Parramatta to Epping Rail Link.


An O’Farrell government would be bad news for workers and bad news for job security.


My Government has delivered the second lowest unemployment rate in Australia at 4.9 per cent ”“ below the national average, Victoria and Queensland.


Barry O’Farrell is already proposing job cuts ”“ he needs to come clean about what he is really planning for NSW workers.


With a blank cheque, Barry O’Farrell will go too far ”“ and it will be families that will pay the price.


When he’s been forced to provide the detail of his policies, they all have one thing in common – they hurt families.


Q3. The timing for energy sale before the close of the parliament has not been viewed right? Political analysts have described your action as something that you were avoiding scrutiny and choke the democratic process by calling early recess to parliament. What do you say?


The Parliament is prorogued prior to every state election ”“ it’s a long standing practice in NSW before the election once both Houses have ceased sitting.


Now, I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: the buck stops with me.


That’s why the Treasurer and I, along with key members of the electricity bid team, appeared before the parliamentary committee in January to answer any questions put to us.


The NSW Government has made its position clear ”“ there will be no further privatisation of energy assets in NSW.


The onus is now on Barry O’Farrell to outline his energy policy ”“ which he refused to answer on 29 separate occasions during his appearance before the committee.



Q4. Although there is a good law and order situation under your government. The Indian community has specifically been caught with robberies, mugging (Indian students), thefts (Indian homes), Vandalism (Indian temple, Auburn). What are you doing to help the Indian community on these issues?


This Government takes the safety concerns of international students very seriously.   Racism will not be tolerated in NSW.


The NSW Police Force has been working with educational institutions to provide safety information to international students for some time and is contributing to a national approach to international student safety.


In addition, NSW Police conduct presentations at orientation weeks at universities and international schools.


Where necessary, police provide a more intensive local response, such as the high visibility policing operations and community consultation that are conducted in the Harris Park area.


Multicultural Community Liaison Officers and Crime Prevention Officers from Parramatta and Rosehill Local Area Commands also regularly engage with the community over any concerns.


Police have implemented intense local community information campaigns, aiming to provide personal safety and crime awareness information to students.


The NSW Government stands at the ready to assist the Indian community and international students should any problem arise.


Q5. Premier we thank you for so many initiatives you have taken to help and recognize Indian community’s achievements ”“ Community Language grants funding boost, Parramasala, $50,000 grant to UIA for two years, roundtable and other meets to diffuse Indian student crisis, Premier’s Indian subcontinent community awards and much more. If you had been there as a leader for 3-4 years then the Labor Party would be in much better shape.


The Indian community has made such a significant contribution to the development of NSW, and as Premier I am delighted to be able to show our support for the community.


I was proud to create the Premier’s Indian Subcontinent Community Awards to recognise volunteer work in NSW.


I also established the Premier’s Council on International Education to support the needs of international students and particularly the many Indian students we are fortunate to welcome to NSW.


I strongly believe that differences in language and culture strengthen our society and our economy. That is why I have doubled the funding for Community Language Schools, to $8.1 million over four years. This will increase funding from $60 to $120 per student a year.


And this is why I have serious questions and concerns about the fact that the opposition is still clinging to their “Practical Multiculturalism” policy.


This policy included renaming English as a Second Language (ESL) to Teaching English as a First Language (TEFL).The ESL program is to assist children from non-English speaking backgrounds.


It is called English as a second language because that is the factual nature of task at hand. Learning English as your second language is a different educational challenge to learning English after growing up in an English environment.


It is illogical, un-factual, and just ridiculous to suggest otherwise.


In comparison, my government has amended the Community Relations Commission and Principles of Multiculturalism Act to reflect principles of multiculturalism


Can the community expect more from your government in the form of a piece of land to build  an Indian Community Centre of our own?


I would be more than willing to consider such a request from the Indian community. I have had the pleasure of working with many Indian community groups and festival boards and I encourage any interested parties to formally contact my office. It sounds like a very promising proposal.


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