Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Leader of the Opposition Michael Daley shaking hands after the People’s Forum held at the Western Sydney University Kingswood campus. Picture: Jonathan Ng
Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Leader of the Opposition Michael Daley shaking hands after the People’s Forum held at the Western Sydney University Kingswood campus. Picture: Jonathan Ng

Daley’s debate disaster puts Berejiklian in front

MICHAEL Daley was exposed by failing to know key budget details last night in the Labor leader's crucial head-to-head with Premier Gladys Berejiklian just three days out from the NSW election.

In the leaders' most significant clash of the campaign, Mr Daley could not recall budget figures on education, stadiums and TAFE - all key policy planks of his campaign.

Facing each other and 100 undecided voters in the knife-edge seat of Penrith, Ms Berejiklian was overwhelmingly voted by the crowd as the winner of the clash: 50 votes in her favour, 25 for Mr Daley and 25 undecided.

 

The pair were grilled about cost of living measures, mental health care in hospitals and support for teachers in schools with both leaders ruling out further privatisation of state assets or opening another coal-fired power station.

Both took the opportunity to make their bold pitches to NSW voters in front of the audience in The Daily Telegraph and Sky News People's Forum at Western Sydney University in Kingswood hosted by David Speers.

What the audience asked at the People’s Forum.
What the audience asked at the People’s Forum.

However, under questioning on trades and training from audience member and plumber Jordan, Mr Daley couldn't explain how much more he would spend on TAFE, a key policy for Labor and said he would have to check.

He claimed he would spend $3 billion more but when the Premier called him out on that, he said he needed to clarify.

"Hang on Michael Daley… you're not sure … how much more you're spending on schools and you're not sure how much more you're spending on TAFE?" Mr Speers said.

Gladys Berejiklian. Picture: Jonathan Ng
Gladys Berejiklian. Picture: Jonathan Ng

On Gonski funding, he also stumbled on how much a Labor state government he led would contribute to the education funding model. He later had to clarify state Labor would contribute $2.7 billion towards the total state-federal Gonski funding of $7.4 billion.

As expected, the stadiums debate was one of the fiercest topics of the night with Mr Daley unable to give a figure for how much he would spend on works for Allianz stadium.

When the Premier pressed Mr Daley by saying his plan would cost little less than her government's, he repeatedly could not say how much he would spend on getting the Moore Park arena up to scratch.

Opposition Leader Michael Daley. Picture: Damian Shaw
Opposition Leader Michael Daley. Picture: Damian Shaw

The Berejiklian government has committed to spending $2 billion to knock down and rebuild Allianz stadium as well as refurbishing ANZ Stadium in Sydney Olympic Park.

Mr Daley has pegged his campaign on halting the knockdown of Allianz - which he has failed to do with demolition beginning last week - and has vowed to stop taxpayers from footing the bill for the rebuild.

He made his pitch to voters on giving them "hope" for a "better way" forward for the state while Ms Berejiklian warned the state would go "backwards" under a return to Labor government.

"When we came to power the budget was an absolute disaster, NSW was coming last in every indicator, unemployment was the highest in Australia ... We've turned that around," she said.

The final week of the campaign for Labor has been marred by divisive comments Mr Daley made about Asian immigration with the party desperate to reset their narrative.

The leaders were also grilled about the possibility of a hung parliament.

A question from the audience. Picture: Damian Shaw
A question from the audience. Picture: Damian Shaw

Mr Daley said he would take the support of minor parties like the Greens and Shooters to have "confidence and supply". "We'll take the support of anyone the people dish up," he said.

Ms Berejiklian absolutely ruled out forming government with support of the Shooters, saying they go against her values but was open to discussions with other parties.

Audience member Simon Hillel from Werrington backed the Premier for her clarity but conceded there was some anger in the crowd about toll roads.

"The M4 seemed to get a lot of people off-side with Gladys but generally I thought she spoke better."

On Daley he said: "To me it was a big fail. He wasn't able to answer questions, he was evasive, he couldn't get the figures."

Penrith mum Ivy Torres Wong agreed: "I think from her we got a more clear picture of things, however I am worried where all this money is going to come from (for infrastructure)."

 

HE SAID

"We are going to spend $2.2 billion … rebuilding perfectly good stadiums that most of you will never walk into."

"If there is a hung parliament there will be no coalition and no deals."

 

SHE SAID

"When we first came to government the budget was a disaster and NSW was coming last in every single indicator."

"For every dollar we invest over 10 years … depending on the stadium, it's about three dollars for each dollar invested."

 

THEY SAID

By Danielle Le Messurier and Adella Beaini

After the forum, Western Sydney voters were largely unimpressed with Michael Daley's failure to reveal costings on key election promises such as TAFE, education and stadiums, with one describing his performance as "a big fail".

After 100 "undecided" voters flooded into The Daily Telegraph/Sky News People's Forum at Western Sydney University, it was open slather as residents of all ages and backgrounds challenged the leaders on their plans for NSW over the next four years.

While many were pleased with Labor policies to deliver cashback on the M4 and nurse-to-patient ratios, they said it was clear the Opposition Leader hadn't done his homework.

It's the first state election for nursing student Cari Williams, 20, who attended the debate with her mum Lindy, 47.

Ms Williams, from Kellyville, said Premier Gladys Berejiklian was "much better prepared" while Mr Daley "seemed to be avoiding questions a bit more and not knowing figures".

"I was a bit surprised that Michael Daley didn't seem to know the exact figures behind one of his parties main sort of things - TAFE should be one of his party's biggest areas and he didn't have the figures ready," she said.

Lindy agreed, saying Mr Daley seemed "quite vague and light on with some of his answers".

"I do feel he wasn't as across the information he should be knowing," she added.

Cost of living and infrastructure was front of mind for Penrith mum Ivy Torres Wong, 31, who spends about $30 a week on tolls on the M4.

Ms Wong said she felt both leaders "had good points" but was more impressed with Labor's plan to deliver cashback on the M4 and better hospital staffing.

The audience’s seats are filled.
The audience’s seats are filled.

However she left the debate feeling conflicted, saying: "Gladys talked better and was very good at justifying her points … however I am worried about where all this money is going to come from (for infrastructure) and if it's going to cost me more money," she said.

Semi-retired Werrington County resident Simon Hillel, 57, said he would support Ms Berejiklian after the forum, describing Mr Daley's performance as "a big fail".

"It was a 70-30 on the performance I witnessed in there," he said.

"He (Daley) wasn't able to answer questions, he was evasive, he couldn't get the figures."

But Fairfield West student Andrew Cham, 20, disagreed.

He was planning on voting for the Coalition but said he would now vote for Labor because Mr Daley "did a better job addressing issues with transportation and education".

Schoolteacher Peter Mayes, 67, from Riverside Girls in Gladesville, said he left the forum feeling undecided after asking both party leaders what they will do to help teachers at public schools.

"The school gets their budget and they have to budget the money out. Even if they got more money I still won't get more money for what I need when I use my own money to pay for students' textbooks and stationery because they can't afford it," Mr Mayes said.

"I am still not convinced because I find it very difficult between the two because Gladys was very good and passionate which is what I like and Daley is very much the same with facts and figures and it's the Gonski we really need."

Penrith resident Earth Waratah, 47, said he was "disappointed" by both leaders and said they gave no "real answer" when it came to dealing with youth mental health.

"I leave undecided and neither deserve a vote from me," he said.

Western Sydney University vice-chancellor Dr Andy Marks said the forum showed both leaders that families from the west are worried about more issues than they think.

"They spoke about issues on domestic violence, health, and social wellbeing and it shows that these are the real things that matter and it's clear the people have spoken," Dr Marks said.

"After last night, both sides have been put on notice and families are discussing issues at the kitchen table and it's more than just about economic growth and it shows how people really feel."