Premier deals with the problem of power – and a pig mask

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Heathcote MP Lee Evans talking with  Helensburgh Butchery's Jason Rooke during a visit to the suburb on Monday morning. Picture: Robert Peet

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Heathcote MP Lee Evans talking with Helensburgh Butchery's Jason Rooke during a visit to the suburb on Monday morning. Picture: Robert Peet

While visiting Helensburgh on Monday, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian shied away from commenting on the fall in the Liberal party’s vote at the Wollongong and Shellharbour council elections.

In both elections, the Liberals primary vote fell compared to the 2011 results and it was likely the party would lose seats at the Wollongong council table.

But Ms Berejiklian claimed not to be aware of the party’s performance in the region.

“I’m really, really pleased the community has had its say,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“I’m someone who doesn’t really like to see a lot of party politics in local government. I think the community should have a say in who they vote for.

“There’s been swings to us and from us all over the state. It’s really been a mixed bag, which is what you’d expect.”

She declined to be drawn on commenting on the likelihood that Labor could be in control of Wollongong City Council for the first time since its infamous sacking.

“That’s a matter for the community,” she said. “I’m not going to comment on what the community does.”

The Premier was in Helensburgh to let businesses know about an upcoming government scheme to help deal with rising power prices.

Not everyone was pleased to see the Premier strolling down Walker Street.

One man wearing a pig face mask tried to confront her, crying out “dump this government. This government has to go”, while another asked “what’s she selling off in Helensburgh?”.

Ms Berejiklian said the government’s new scheme would see businesses being able get help upgrading equipment.

“A number of businesses will be able to apply to have a big discount on new equipment they purchase in order to put down the pressure on their bills,” she said.

“We’re estimating an average small business will save around $2000 a year if they upgrade their equipment.

“We know it takes a lot of money to upgrade your equipment and that’s why our scheme will ensure that you’ll get up to a 50 per cent discount.

“The government will pay for half of the new equipment.”

Ms Berejiklian also said she was pleased Kiama MP Gareth Ward had made it home safely after his drama in New York last month.

“Absolutely, looking forward to seeing him tomorrow when parliament goes back,” she said.

When asked if the incident would place his position of Parliamentary Secretary for the Illawarra and South Coast at risk, the Premier said “no, absolutely not”.

Lesson to be learnt: HSU

Saturday’s election results demonstrate that the Liberal plan to part-privatise Shellharbour Hospital is ‘’politically toxic’’ according to a health workers’ union.

Health Services Union NSW secretary Gerard Hayes said the shift away from the Liberals at Shellharbour polling booths sent a clear message.

Mr Hayes said the HSU had run a concerted campaign against the government’s proposal to redevelop the hospital under a public-private partnership.

‘’This election result shows how toxic the planned privatisation of Shellharbour Hospital is,’’ he said. ‘’Voters in Shellharbour know that hospital privatisation will put multinational shareholder profit ahead of patient need. That is why they have hammered the Liberals.

‘’There is a big lesson that the Liberals need to learn from this result. Gareth Ward should be shaken to his core. He needs to move quickly to rule out privatisation. If he doesn't, our campaign will intensify and we will work even harder to hold him and his government accountable for privatising a crucially important public hospital.’’

Last week Health Minister Brad Hazzard said the proposal was ‘’under review’’.

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