INFRASTRUCTURE NSW chairman Nick Greiner says asset sales are ‘‘absolutely unavoidable’’ if the state wants to tackle its infrastructure backlog, and people ‘‘correctly’’ want Newcastle’s rail line removed.
Mr Greiner, the former Liberal premier who was appointed to head the new independent government advisory body, said NSW residents, bureaucrats and the government, needed to ‘‘get real’’ about how to fund the massive injection of infrastructure spending that was needed.
Speaking in Sydney for the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce, Mr Greiner said NSW’s reputation internationally as an infrastructure procurer had been ‘‘trashed’’ and the O’Farrell government had inherited ‘‘a first class shambles of global proportions’’.
Mr Greiner, who with chief executive officer Paul Broad is producing long-term infrastructure plans for the government, said asset sales, state debt and increased taxes were all unpopular but ‘‘you’ve got to get the money from somewhere’’.
He did not directly advocate the sale of the state’s power industry, but left little doubt of his opinion.
‘‘The government has an electricity inquiry going, and it has said it will wait for the outcome,’’ Mr Greiner said.
‘‘I think it is fair to say that Infrastructure NSW and I personally have made submissions to that, and I think almost everyone in the room can guess what our views are, because they are the only sensible views.’’
He also criticised the federal government’s national broadband network as
‘‘old Labor philosophy’’.
Mr Greiner said he favoured preserving a corridor for high speed rail should it ever be built, and noted broad support for light rail.
‘‘Everyone you can find is in favour of light rail because it seems easy, it seems nice, environmentally friendly, not too expensive,’’ he said.
‘‘There are any number of light rail projects, the Lord Mayor [of Sydney] wants one down George Street ... there are some who want light rail in Newcastle because they correctly think you should take the rail line which nobody uses out of Honeysuckle,’’ he said.
‘‘We want to make sure that there is a rational approach to the costs and benefits of light rail that is integrated into the planning of whatever area it is.’’
‘‘... But I do want to fire a bit of a warning shot, the notion that light rail here there and everywhere ... is somehow the answer to an integrated vision for the future of transport for Sydney is not as likely as perhaps some people think.’’