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Thursday, July 29, 2021

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Back on Track

NSW State leads growth in all economic indicators, with AAA rating

Premier of New South Wales Mike Baird has been in office for just a short period of time, but he has won the hearts of the common man, who envisages him as charismatic, approachable, simple and most importantly, able to deliver. While the Liberal Party and the Premiership in NSW suffered a dent in their image because of ‘wine gate’, all this seems to have been relegated to the annals of history as this young Premier and his new team of Ministers have made a positive impact by coming together and returning the State to AAA rating. Premier Baird has also made inroads in communicating with various Indian community groups and associations, and contributing to the success of multicultural initiatives through active participation in events such as the UIA India Australia Friendship Fair, Parramasala and Deepavali festivities.

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Premier Baird has a strong vision for New South Wales and with just over a year before the State elections, he has a huge task on hand to complete initiatives that will give people confidence in the abilities of his party, and of course, help them return to power for another term.

Premier Baird spoke exclusively to Vish Vishwanathan and Arijit Banarji shared his vision of the future, and his plans to support the Indian community in NSW.

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Vish V: Hon Premier, a simple question to start with. What is your vision for New South Wales?

Premier Mike Baird: The vision is quite simple: to return NSW to lead our national economic growth, delivering services more effectively for better outcomes. In the infrastructure space, achieving $20billion for securing our water, removing congestion on our roads and upgrading our schools and hospitals to higher standards, which includes $6billion towards improved facilities for Rural NSW. During the last 5 to 10 years, NSW lagged behind in all important indicators such as economic growth, jobs growth, retail sales, business growth, among others. But our determination has brought NSW back to leading the growth in all those economic indicators, with AAA rating. A lot of work has been done, and there is much more to do. Services have improved considerably in health, education and infrastructure, and we have a major infrastructure agenda for road and rail projects.

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VV: The common man’s perception is that the NSW government is doing well across various sectors, and service delivery is much better. What is your formula for this success?

Premier: We had clear plans before we came to Government. We have really good, experienced people in the team with strategies in place. For Health we have Julius Skinner with long years of experience; for Education we have a Minister with a passion for education; our Transport Minister is dedicated to customer service and my own background in Treasury has certainly helped to keep finances and budget under control. More importantly, the political will is also necessary, as well as the challenge to take tough decisions. It is this determination that has won back the AAA rating for the State.

VV: How will you ensure judicious spending by nominated agencies, local governments and councils, to ensure value for money?

Premier: That (achieving value for money) is one of the major challenges. Currently procurement for major projects is done through individual agencies such as Roads or Transport. However Infrastructure NSW will oversee major projects to share the experience and delivering of value

for money. Recently a major contract was signed for North West Rail Link, and contracts are in progress for the delivery of South West Rail Link with savings of hundreds of millions of dollars. However, I agree that we have more work to do with local councils.

We are in the midst of implementing local government reforms which will include procurement reforms to achieve value for money.

VV: What would be the attraction for Indian companies to invest in NSW, instead of other States?

Premier: Our plus points are AAA Rating of the State, a robust economy, most diversified economic portfolios such as mining, agriculture, financial services, health, education, good governance, overall framework for encouraging investment, level playing…. In a nutshell, NSW is the place to invest.

VV: How do you feel about Indian Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi’s impending visit to Australia, as he may also visit Sydney briefly?

Premier: We are very excited! We know that the Indian Prime Minister is very supportive of infrastructure, and we wish to pursue mutual opportunities in this area. It is also significant that both, the Prime Minister of Australia and Prime Minister of India, are very keen on infrastructure development.

VV: Labor has stated that they will support a community languages program. The Indian community seems uncertain of your government’s stance on this issue….

Premier: First of all, Labor’s commitment for community language program needs to be verified with costings. However, we have a strong commitment for this initiative. The next generation needs to be ‘Asia ready’ in terms of engaging with Asia for business. We need to do much more to support Asian languages in our primary schools, and we will focus on this.

VV: The Indian community is growing fast in NSW with over 150,000 people settled here, but we lack a Community Centre. Would you consider perhaps allocating land for this?

Premier: I am aware Minister Victor Dominello and CRC Chair Dr. Harinath are together looking into this. We are certainly open (to any proposal).

VV: Are there any plans to offer concessions for Bollywood film units that are shooting in Sydney and NSW?

Premier: We have a major program to support Bollywood movies and a Bollywood movie is being filmed here now. Undoubtedly such initiatives in support of Bollywood movies will bring benefits to tourism in NSW.

VV: Do you plan to visit India soon?

Premier: Yes, next year and mainly to promote opportunities in Infrastructure and Tourism investment.

While Premier Mike Baird has proven results of growth, a clear objective in continuing NSW’s march of progress, and is supportive of initiatives from the Indian community, only time and the elections will tell if his plans come to fruition

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