NSW election debate has Michael Daley stumbling over education funding figures

Updated March 21, 2019 14:46:36

NSW Opposition Leader Michael Daley was unable to remember the exact figures of his key education funding promise during the final televised debate before Saturday’s poll.

Key points:

  • Labor has pledged to spend $64.5 million on TAFE over four years, but Mr Daley gave a different figure during the debate
  • The debate was the last televised event with both leaders before Saturday’s poll
  • The event was held in the key marginal seat of Penrith

Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Mr Daley went head-to-head in front of an audience at Penrith in Sydney’s west last night.

Labor has campaigned heavily on education spending — committing to injecting tens of millions into what they say is an ailing TAFE sector losing students.

But during the debate Mr Daley struggled to answer several questions about education funding promises.

At first he went on the attack over the Coalition Government’s TAFE record.

“We have to rescue TAFE. TAFE’s been dismantled by this government,” he said.

“There are 172,000 fewer students in TAFE now than there were eight years ago.”

But when asked how much more the ALP had pledged on TAFE, Mr Daley paused and seemed uncertain, before saying it would be about $3 billion.

Ms Berejiklian interjected: “What? No.”

He then said: “I’ll just check that figure and get back to you.”

Labor has promised to make TAFE free for 600,000 students over the next 10 years, costed at $64.5 million over four years.

Funding for the remaining six years has yet to be announced.

Labor has also promised to put $2.7 billion into public schools, which would make NSW the first state to meet the Gonski funding recommendations.

But during the debate, the Opposition Leader seemed unable to remember the detail of this promise as well.

“I can’t remember the exact figure David, I’ll have a look at it, I just can’t remember off the top of my head what the figure is,” he said to Sky News host, David Speers.

“But it’s 100 per cent [funding], with the Commonwealth, of Gonski funding — at the moment it sits at about 77 per cent.”

Mr Daley today said the pressure of the campaign led to some “blunders” by both leaders.

“The Premier announced a new toll on the M4 which she corrected. I got capital and recurrent spending mixed up in education and TAFE and that’s what happens sometimes in the pressure of a campaign.”

Stadium demolition is ‘political spite’

The two leaders also clashed over the hotly contested refurbishment of the Sydney Football Stadium (SFS).

The Premier said it was a clear financial return to rebuild the SFS from scratch.

“The return would be phenomenal,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“For every dollar we invest over the next 15-20 years, it’s about $3 for every dollar.”

Mr Daley was pressed to explain exactly what it would cost to fulfil his promise.

But he said the burden would fall on the Sydney Cricket and Sports Ground Trust.

“It’s not how much I’m going to spend on it — it’s how much these people [the public] are going to spend on it, and I’ve said they won’t spend a zot,” he said.

“I’ll have the newly constituted Sydney Cricket Ground Trust take out a loan for a refurbishment of Allianz Stadium.”

He said he still believed it was possible to rebuild despite the current state of the stadium.

“Yesterday I was with the deputy government architect who commissioned and built the thing, … he said that it needed a simple refurbishment,” Mr Daley said.

Questions were also raised about policies including mental health, nurses, toll roads, Warragamba Dam, shelters for women, and a tree canopy for western Sydney.

Sky News and the Daily Telegraph asked the 100 people who attended the debate if the two leader’s performances had swayed their vote.

Half said they would return Premier Berejiklian to power, 25 said they would vote for Mr Daley and 25 were undecided.

Topics: state-elections, alp, government-and-politics, liberal-national-party, nsw, sydney-2000

First posted March 21, 2019 07:48:09

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