Headlines so far
By Millie Muroi and Angus Thomson
Good afternoon, I’m Millie Muroi, and I’ll be taking over our live election coverage for the rest of the day.
It’s been a hectic morning, but for those just joining us, here’s the lowdown of what’s happened so far:
- LGBTQ protesters and Christian groups clashed outside a church where NSW One Nation leader Mark Latham was speaking in Sydney’s south-west last night. Two people have been arrested and charged.
- Premier Dominic Perrottet once again denied he called NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard to arrange an ambulance for his unwell wife Helen, after he was asked about the call on Sky News last night.
- Labor leader Chris Minns spoke at Moorebank, pledging to reveal the full extent of Sydney’s multibillion-dollar toll deals to the public if his party is elected.
- A group of protesters wearing koala onesies and masks surrounded Environment Minister James Griffin and laid at his feet outside a pre-polling booth in Manly this morning.
- You are allowed to vote in person even if you are positive for COVID-19 on election day, but the NSW Electoral Commission is asking voters to consider their situation and take steps to reduce the risk of transmission (mask and hand sanitiser).
- More than 600,000 people have already voted by casting an early ballot.
COVID-positive people allowed to vote
By Billie Eder
Election day is just around the corner (March 25), and with COVID-19 still a concern for many people, here is some important information for you ahead of Saturday:
- If you are positive for COVID-19 on election day, you are allowed to vote in person, but the NSW Electoral Commission is asking voters to consider their situation and take steps to reduce the risk of transmission (mask and hand sanitiser).
- It is important to note that telephone-assisted voting is ONLY available to people who are blind or have low vision. It WILL NOT be available to COVID-positive voters.
- If you are going to be interstate on election day, you can search for an interstate polling location here, or you can visit an early voting centre in your area ahead of Saturday. You can find a list of early voting places here.
- If you aren’t sure where you can vote on election day, or don’t know which electorate you’re in, you can find a list of polling places in your area here.
- Postal vote applications closed at 6pm on Monday, March 20. If you have received a postal vote, it must be returned by Thursday, April 6.
- If you, or someone you know, needs help with translation services, you can contact TIS National on 131 450 and ask them to call the NSW Electoral Commission on 1300 135 736.
- And finally, if you do not vote on election day (and you haven’t voted early or requested a postal vote) you will be issued with an apparent failure to vote notice. The penalty for not voting is a $55 fine, which you must respond to within 28 days of the issue date. Being sick on election day with COVID-19 is considered a sufficient reason for not voting.
Protesters posing as dead koalas surround minister
By Angus Dalton
A group of protesters wearing koala onesies and masks surrounded Environment Minister James Griffin and laid at his feet outside a pre-polling booth in Manly this morning.
The six protesters held “koala killer” signs and are part of a group of about 10 demonstrators from the Bob Brown Foundation who have been campaigning against native logging over the past few days in Griffin’s seat.
“They died around [Griffin] because his government is logging their unburnt habitat,” a spokesperson for the protesters said.
Last year, Minister for Agriculture Dugald Saunders rejected calls for a moratorium on native logging made through a petition tabled to parliament with 20,000 signatures.
The NSW Greens are campaigning with a $300 million plan to transition from native logging to a sustainable plantation timber industry and Manly independent Joeline Hackman said ending native logging would be a condition of her support on the crossbench in the event of a hung parliament.
In April last year, Griffin unveiled a $190 million strategy to double koala numbers in NSW by 2050. The strategy mostly involves using $107.1 million to protect and manage 47,000 hectares of koala habitat.
Labor has promised to spend $80 million on a Great Koala National Park on the NSW Mid North Coast, which the party said could protect 20 per cent of the state’s koalas. The endangered marsupials are predicted by a parliamentary inquiry to become extinct in NSW by 2050.
Ambulance chief organised ambulance for premier’s wife
By Billie Eder
Going back to the premier’s press conference earlier, Dominic Perrottet was again asked about calling NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard about his unwell wife Helen, which resulted in an ambulance being organised to take her to hospital.
“I will make these facts very clear. Early on … that morning, my wife came home from the gym and she was in pain. I then went to work, I was looking at arranging a physio for Helen, and then after an event I spoke to Helen who was in immense pain, paralysed in bed and in tears.”
Perrottet said he then spoke to Hazzard about the situation because he is “a friend, and someone who has been around health for many, many years.”
“Brad [Hazzard] said that sounds like it could be a spinal injury, so you should be careful. He just happened at that time to be with the head of NSW ambulance and a senior medical specialist,” Perrottet said.
“He [Hazzard] put me on speaker, I spoke to them and went through what Helen’s symptoms were. They said, you need to take her to hospital, she will need an ambulance.”
“The advice I have received, subsequent to that, since this information came to light, was that the head of NSW ambulance had categorised it as a low priority and arranged an ambulance to come out.”
‘Not acceptable’: Perrottet condemns violent confrontation
By Billie Eder
Premier Dominic Perrottet has called last night’s confrontation in Sydney’s south-west disgraceful and unacceptable, during a press conference in Quakers Hill this morning.
Perrottet said the election campaign had so far been “run in great spirit” and had been based on policy rather than personality, “and that’s exactly how campaigns and elections should be run in this country.”
“There is no place for violence in our state full stop, particularly though during election periods there should be a sense of respect, of tolerance towards people with different views,” Perrottet said.
“Now I know that there are people that have very strong views on a whole range of issues that are different from each other. Diversity should be celebrated and accepted, and people should remember that ultimately we treat people with respect.”
“We can have different opinions, that is a good thing in a society…but violence is not acceptable in any form, anywhere in NSW.”
Labor to cap toll charges, make road contracts public
By Angus Thomson
Opposition Leader Chris Minns spoke in Moorebank a short time ago, outlining Labor’s plans to make toll road contracts public if it wins government on Saturday.
Minns said the Coalition’s privatisation of public assets had led to a culture of secrecy around government contracts, and businesses and commuters had a right to know the details of the contracts the state government is entering into on their behalf.
“These contracts are not the personal property of the Liberal and National Party. They belong to the taxpayers of this state,” he said. “Most motorists in NSW would demand, at the very least, to know the details as to how much they’re being charged to use toll roads in Sydney.”
Deputy leader Prue Car also reaffirmed Labor’s pledge to cap toll charges at $60 a week.
“My message to the voters of western Sydney … is that you can vote for a $60 cap on the tolls you pay per week,” she said. “That will make a real difference to cost of living for you and your family.”
Labor leader Chris Minns has promised to table to parliament key details of the lucrative agreements between the state government and the private sector if he wins Saturday’s election, as part of his plan to reform tolling.
The opposition has campaigned heavily on the financial burden of Sydney’s patchwork of tollways, arguing it represents a confluence of the Coalition’s privatisation agenda and the cost-of-living crisis gripping the state.
During its 12 years in office, the Coalition government has sold the tolling concessions for several major motorways to consortiums led by international road operator Transurban, generating billions of dollars for the state’s coffers.
‘A very violent event’: Police expected a peaceful protest in Belfield
By Billie Eder
Staying with the police press conference for a moment, where Superintendent Sheridan Waldau has said that police were aware ahead of time the Belfield protest would happen on Tuesday night.
“We worked with the event organisers and the protest group to ensure that this was going to be a peaceful event. We had no indication that there would be any violence at the incident. We did have a number of police resources on the scene,” Waldau said.
“We did not expect 250 people to come from that event and have a violent confrontation in the street.”
Waldau said that police are only aware of one protest group at the event, and that at this stage they believe the people involved in the confrontation had come from the church hall.
“The protest group appeared to be peaceful, and they were standing, they were being shielded by the police … these people were there to protest for their own beliefs and there was an event occurring which they were there to protest against,” Waldau said.
“This was meant to be a very peaceful protest, and unfortunately it has turned into a very violent event.”
Police commence investigation into Belfield confrontation
By Billie Eder
Police Superintendent Sheridan Waldau has just spoken at Campsie police station, where she addressed the media about the protest and confrontation outside St Michael’s Church in Belfield last night.
“About 7pm last night a violent confrontation occurred within Margaret Street at Belfield where a number of people were gathered for an event at a church,” Waldau said.
“A group of protesters – of about 10 people – were in the vicinity of Margaret Street, where the church was, when a mob of about 250 people from the event rushed down the street and police were present on the scene.”
Waldau said a number of projectiles were thrown at police and members of the public, but that no one was seriously hurt as a result.
“We were able to push the protesters into a police vehicle and move them safely from the scene of the incident.”
“This type of violence is not to be tolerated by NSW Police, so we will commence an investigation into the incident. So far there have been two persons charged as a result of the incident and we are reviewing numerous amounts of footage.”
Perrottet denies special ambulance request for wife
Over to the premier now, and Dominic Perrottet has denied he called Health Minister Brad Hazzard to receive a faster ambulance response for his sick wife Helen.
Perrottet was grilled on Sky News over a call he made to Hazzard and Ambulance Commissioner Dr Dominic Morgan which resulted in an ambulance being sent to his house.
Perrottet said he wasn’t looking for special treatment and doesn’t know if the commissioner personally ordered an ambulance for his wife to avoid prolonged wait times.
“My wife was sick at the time and was paralysed in bed and I actually spoke to Brad Hazzard in relation to that matter and an ambulance was organised in the ordinary course,” Perrottet said.
The premier said he was on his way back from an event at the time when he made the call to Hazzard.
“I spoke to Brad to get his advice in relation to the situation. Brad was actually randomly enough with the head of ambulance [Morgan] at that time,” he said.
Read the full story here.
Watch live: Minns, Perrottet hold duelling press conferences
We’ve got duelling press conferences coming up between both the NSW opposition leader and premier.
NSW Labor leader Chris Minns and member for Londonderry Prue Car will be speaking in Moorebank on toll roads about 10.15am. Meanwhile, Premier Dominic Perrottet is scheduled to speak about 10.20am on first home buyer options in Quakers Hill alongside Treasurer Matt Kean and Metropolitan Roads Minister Natalie Ward. You can watch both press conferences below.
Minns’ press conference:
Perrottet’s press conference:
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