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Michael Daley – The Challenger

By James Hutton on February 18, 2019 in People

Heir to the throne, by Paul McMillan (@paulmcmillanphoto)

Voters will be heading to the polls on March 23 to elect the 57th Parliament of New South Wales. We caught up with the man who is vying to be our next premier, NSW Labor leader Michael Daley…

How are you Michael? How have the last few weeks been?

It’s been hectic, but I feel really good. I feel really positive. People are saying to me, “Are you feeling the pressure?” I feel responsibility more than pressure, because I think this government’s been behaving really badly. I think they mistreat people. I don’t think they respect communities. I just see how poorly they treat things, like the environment, and I feel very strongly that we can’t afford another four years of them. So I feel a very heavy responsibility to make sure I put my best foot forward so that I can sell a positive message and give the people who don’t want to re-elect this Liberal government a really good, positive choice.

I’m feeling really energetic, and the locals are so proud. I went down to Coogee with my wife the other night after we saw a movie at the Ritz. We had a date night and saw A Star is Born, which is fantastic. We had a couple of drinks at Bat Country, across the road from the Ritz, then went down to the Coogee Bay for a bit of a dance. A lot of locals I didn’t even know were coming up and saying, “Good on you, mate. We’ve been following your career for a long time. You’re one of us. Hope we get another premier from the area…” It really surprised me. It’s really good.

Did you have one of Wardy’s hotdogs at the Bay?

I didn’t have a hotdog, no. We had dinner at Ummarin Thai before that. I’m trying to stay nice and slim for the election.

When you mentioned the Liberals treating the environment poorly, can you give us a specific example of what they have done that’s been shithouse?

Well, cutting 800 trees down for the light rail is top of the list in our local area, including the century-old fig trees on Anzac Parade. They were planted to see the Anzacs off to war, they welcomed them home and they’d no need to knock them down. Randwick Council and a whole raft of others including me came up with an alternative plan to move the alignment of the light rail slightly so that all those trees could be saved, and Premier Berejiklian, who was transport minister at the time, didn’t listen to anyone, and now they’re all gone. It was one of the world’s most beautiful boulevards and now it’s like there’s this gaping hole of light.

It does look a bit shit at the moment…

It’s terrible. And in George Street, in the city, they undergrounded the power lines for the light rail “because of the aesthetic value for the locals”. But if you drive up Alison Road and Wansey Road now, along Anzac Parade, it looks like Spiderman’s been going from building to building. Apparently the aesthetic value doesn’t matter for our locals, only the other locals.

Was the tree chop-down part of the original plan or did that change after it was approved?

No. This was the problem. The original plan was flawed, and the premier said she wasn’t going to entertain any changes whatsoever, because she was afraid of the raft of changes that the City of Sydney was going to demand, down in Devonshire Street. So her solution was, “No changes for anybody.” So when Randwick Council and others popped up and said, “You don’t need to do this. You can move it by 10 feet, by three metres, and save all those trees,” she just said, “I’ve told you, we’re not moving. We’re not making any changes at all, and that’s it.” It was bloody-minded and it didn’t need to happen, and now they’re gone forever.

Is there any truth to the conspiracy theory that the Australian Turf Club wanted it on the other side of the road, so it was moved to keep them happy?

No, no. What happened was, the original plan had a good idea, and it was a good idea, to put the tram stop in the forecourt of the racecourse, because the racecourse is not used all that often. When it was not being used it would be a free pedestrian space and waiting space for people who wanted to catch the light rail. It was great. And on race days you’d pull in and walk straight through the gates, then at the end of the day straight out of the gates, straight on to the light rail and off you’d go. But some of the very smart locals in our area sat down and did the calculations for the number of passengers that the government said 45-metre trams could carry, and they worked out that the numbers were wrong, that they couldn’t carry anywhere near what the transport minister, Berejiklian, said at the time. The government then reacted by increasing the length of the trams from 45 metres to 67 metres, and guess what? They didn’t fit into the forecourt of the racecourse.

Remember, Council then said, “We’ll run it down the middle of Alison Road, like you’re doing in George Street, because if you move it over to the northern side that wall along Centennial Park is actually a dam wall. There are a whole raft of trees down there you need to get rid of and there’s a bicycle path that you’ll need to get rid of.” But the government refused. So they moved it into Centennial Park. They had to excise part of Centennial Park. They found out that it wasn’t just a retaining wall, it was actually a dam wall. I can’t remember what the exact cost was, but it was $60 million extra, or something like that, to replace the dam wall – a 10-foot wall where trees and a bike path used to be; it didn’t need to be that way.

Do you think we need a light rail at all?

In the Infrastructure New South Wales 2012 Report – and it wasn’t a Labor Party committee, it was Nick Greiner, former Liberal premier, and Paul Broad – they said, “Don’t do a light rail.” They said that it won’t carry any more people than the buses, that it will interrupt traffic flows, that it will disrupt business and it will be a waste of money. And they were right on every count. It carries very, very slightly more people than buses in the peak. Four lanes of traffic have gone forever, on Anzac Parade and Alison Road, including dedicated busways, both ways. Businesses have gone broke. The stops are a kilometre apart, so good luck if you’re an old person trying to get onto it. And it will destroy traffic. It’s going across South Dowling Street, not underneath it, across it at grade. So every four minutes, both ways, in the peak, you have to stop traffic for 30 seconds so the longest tram in the world can cross it at grade, not in a tunnel.

So what is the actual purpose of it?

I can see how it would be handy for the hospital, if someone needed to go to the Children’s Hospital… But the buses took you there anyway.

There’s also the racecourse and the university, but a lot of the students live on campus anyway, don’t they? Will locals from Coogee, Maroubra or Clovelly Beach use it to go into the city for work?

Well we’ll all have to because they’re going to stop the buses. They’ll run some express services with the light rail, but at nine o’clock in the morning express buses will cease so you’ll have to use the light rail; there will be no buses after that. It will take you longer to get into the city than the buses took.

If you win the election, what are your plans to fix that?

Just pray it works, because they’ve signed a 15-year contract with a private operator to run it.

With the Spanish company that’s building it, Acciona?

Yeah, so they’ve locked a 15-year contract in after having been told by the experts not to build it. The original cost was $1.6 billion; we’ve heard today it’s going to hit $3 billion. They don’t know when it will be finished. It’s supposed to be open now. They don’t know when it will be finished, they don’t know how much it will cost and they have given evidence, under oath, that they don’t know the answer to either of those questions. They don’t even know when they will know when it will be finished, and they don’t know when they will know how much it will cost!

Pretty good if you’re a Brazillian backpacker holding a stop/slow sign at a zebra crossing; you’d be making a bloody fortune…

Well, you thought you had a year’s work but you’ve probably got three years of work now. It’s probably the only good thing.

You grew up at Maroubra Beach? Born and bred?

Born and bred in South Maroubra, Dan Avenue in South Maroubra. Mum and Dad, they moved there in 1965 and they’re still there. I’ve got two brothers and a sister. My sister lives at Hillsdale, my brother Paul bought the adjoining semi, my other brother Pete lives about four streets away and I’m at Chifley, just down the track, so we’re all still in the area.

So you’re a ‘real’ local…

Never leaving.

Conceived on the golden sands of Maroubra Beach?

I’ve never been near that intricate detail with my mum and dad. I was born in November 1965; I’ll have to go back and see what event there was in February of 1965. I never asked Mum and Dad that, but I might.

What are your fondest memories of growing up around the Eastern Suburbs?

Oh god, there are so many. Just the fun and freedom of being a little kid, that you could just wander everywhere with no shoes on. We’d play street cricket until 10 o’clock at night, go down the beach, walk up through the rifle range, which we called ‘the bush’ back then. South Maroubra was just called ‘the bush’.

And the good thing about those days, which still exists in the Eastern Suburbs, is that everyone knows everyone. I said in my first speech, my maiden speech in parliament, “There’s no six degrees of separation in the Eastern Suburbs. It’s about one and a half.” Everyone knows everyone. Mums and dads knew each other, brothers and sisters knew each other. Different families knew each other from footy, or netball, or surf club, or from school…

And it’s still like that now…

Even a former boyfriend, “I used to go out with him, or her…” It’s like that now. It’s a village. It’s still got that village atmosphere and that’s why I want to make sure that the place is never overdeveloped, because if you take that village atmosphere out of the Eastern Suburbs it won’t be the home that we all grew up in. And it’s survived for a long time. There’s still a wildness about Maroubra. Maroubra Beach still has a bit of the ’50s about it. There’s still bushland at South Maroubra, which we turned into a national park. That’s been one of my greatest achievements. And the bushland out along Bunnerong Road, there’s still pockets of horses out there. There’s still a bit of wildness out there. The city hasn’t quite wiped it out and I’m determined that it won’t.

Do you mind if other parts of Sydney get overdeveloped and ruined?

I think I’ve said that no area should get ruined by overdevelopment. Sydney’s growing and everyone needs to take their fair bit, and we have. And locals have whinged too much about that, but developments like what’s happening at Eastgardens now, that’s really taking the Mickey and I’m not happy about that. That got pushed through by the state government without anyone really having their say. And we’ve never minded taking our bit, but you’ve just got to make sure you do it well and in the right place, so that suburban streets and communities don’t get wiped out and changed.

Do you think Sydney is ‘full’?

Well, no one ever talks of London being full, or New York being full, or San Francisco being full, but what we’ve got to make sure we do is come up with alternative transport methods to other areas before Sydney gets really choc-a-block and uncomfortable. We need to talk about fast rail services into the Hunter and along the Central Coast. Imagine a one-hour rail service from New- castle into the city. You can go and live at Hamilton Beach and work in the city. Imagine a fast train down through the Illawarra and Goulburn. They’re the next big things. We need the federal government to help with that sort of funding, and we need to do it before Sydney really becomes choc-a-block and uncomfortable.

How many people came into Sydney over the last five years?

I’d have to look at the statistics. I don’t know.

Is it about 100,000 each year?

It’s more than that.

What do you think is a sustainable number of people that could come into Sydney each year?

It’s arbitrary to point to a particular figure, because so much depends on it. It’s like saying, “What’s the perfect size for Sydney?” Well, you’ve got to look at people’s jobs, how you can do density well, the good design of buildings, how you get people around. That’s why a metro to Parramatta is our number one priority. A 20-minute trip between Sydney and Parramatta metro would be a huge game changer.

But as far as the Eastern Suburbs is concerned, people have still got to remember that we’re a peninsular – there’s only one way in and one way out. We don’t have heavy rail. The light rail carries the same number of people as buses. It’s getting pretty choc-a-block on the roads now so people shouldn’t think the Eastern Suburbs, like anywhere else, should become a dumping ground. It all needs to be done thoughtfully and well.

So does the Labor Party have a specific population policy?

No. There’s an independent body, or it’s supposed to be independent, called the Greater Sydney Com- mission. It’s supposed to take the politics out of planning, and they set the number of dwellings for a five-year period for each area of Sydney. I’ve said that it is unfair that there are some areas that are getting off without taking too many and other areas are getting clobbered. I recently announced that if I become the premier I want them to have another look at those figures and distribute the density of Sydney more fairly.

Do you think quality of life in Sydney now is better than it was, say, five years ago?

That’s a difficult question. I think it is for some people and not for others, and I think that particularly in western suburbs of Sydney there have been some massive overdevelopments out there, and commute times have been very long for certain people.

A few years ago I could guarantee a parking spot in my street, now I’ll quite often have to park half a kilometre away in the beach car park…

Well, it is difficult, and it’s always been a difficult area for that. That said, I want my kids to have the same gift that I do. That is, a chance to live in our area. One of my daughters has already given up. She’s gone to live in St Kilda. She just couldn’t afford to buy.

St Kilda’s still pretty good; not as good as here though…

St Kilda’s an unreal place, but it’s sad for us because we don’t see each other. She wanted a change, of course, but so many young people are just giving up, forgetting about not only buying, but renting. So we do need some new stock to try and give our kids in our area a fighting chance to do what we did and live in our area. We’ve just got to make sure we do it thoughtfully, that it’s designed well and we don’t make the area choc-a-block.

I feel like if your parents are rich and generous then you can stay in the Eastern Suburbs, but if your parents aren’t rich, or they’re rich and not that generous, you haven’t got a hope in hell…

And that’s what we need to guard against. The Eastern Suburbs has always been an area where everyone’s equal. If you think you’re better than someone else, you get your head knocked off down the beach or your friends will bring you down to earth. No one’s better than anyone. It doesn’t matter whether you grew up in the housing commission of South Maroubra or South Coogee, or in Bondi, everyone’s treated equally. I don’t want to see it become an enclave for rich kids from the North Shore whose parents have bought them a unit, or being the remnants of rich people only. There’s a real egalitarianism in the Eastern Suburbs and if we lose that it won’t be the place I grew up in. And you know what? We’ve kept it. It’s still there and I’m confident that with some nurturing and caring government policies we can keep that.

I spend a lot of time at Bronte and I look at the changes down there, even just over the last five years it seems like it’s becoming a suburb of haves and have-nots. How do you address that continual erosion of equality of opportunity?

It’s very, very difficult, because we have a free market in the housing area. God’s not making any more land and there’s pressure on that. It’s definitely a challenge and that’s why we do need to make sure that there are some home units built, because there is air space, but you’ve just got to make sure you don’t overfill the place, that the buildings look nice, that there’s parking underneath the buildings so you can get the cars off the street, and you give people a fighting chance to stay in the area.

You attended Marcellin College, is that right?

Yeah, I did infants school at St Joseph’s at Maroubra Beach. That’s now St Mary – St Joseph Catholic Primary School. I did primary school at Lurline Bay. And then I did high school at Marcellin College in Randwick.

And you studied law as a young bloke while you were working for Customs?

Yeah. I left school and I went to Sydney Uni for a couple of months to do law there. Hated it. Hated uni life.

Why?

Just too much idle time and I had no money. I hated being poor so I worked two nights a week in the bar at the Randwick Labor Club. I had a car because I’d saved up from my paper run from when I was a young bloke and bought a car in Year 11. I used to drive to school.

We’re actually short a couple of Beast magazine deliverers this month…

I was one of the coolest kids at school because I had a car in Year 11, and my paper run paid for that. When I left school and worked two days in a bar, I had no money. I’d have two lectures on Monday, then I’d go back on Wednesday and have nothing on Friday. I thought, “This is a waste of time.” My dad said, “Go and get a job and have a look at whether you can study your law part-time.” So I joined Customs, spent 13 years in Customs, and I had a great experience there, learned so many things, and I studied law at night.

Why did you choose law?

I’ve always wanted to do law. I was fascinated by logical thinking and all I ever wanted to do since I was eight years old was get into parliament, and I knew that law was such a great preparation for parliament because it taught you how the machinery of society works. It’s perfect preparation for parliament, along with being on the local council.

Do you have any small business experience?

No, but what I did do is I represented a lot of small businesses, particularly franchisees, in the law – a lot of mums and dads who had bought franchises who were getting ripped off by the franchisor. I did recognise, while I was at the private legal practice that I worked in, that I had a weakness in business, in corporate governance and business knowledge, so I asked Nick Whitlam for a job at the NRMA as an in-house lawyer. I worked as a corporate lawyer there and learnt a lot about corporate governance in business.

So you’d have a good grasp of how bloody hard small business can be…

Nothing beats running a small business, but I do have a good understanding of the sacrifices they make and the risks they take, and the hours they work.

What made you decide to have a crack at politics?

It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do; it’s in my blood. Apart from that, I’ve always been the sort of guy who just liked to get involved and roll their sleeves up. I’m never backward in coming forward, I always have an opinion on something, and I thought, rather than sit back and be a spectator and criticise other people for making mistakes, get in and have a go yourself. I thought I had a lot to offer and I’ve been pretty lucky in my career. I’m still here after 23 years of public life, probably about 13 in parliament.

Probably about to be premier as well?

I’ll give it a crack. I’ve got the ball and I’m running it up hard.

You started off as a local politician at Randwick City Council back in 1995 and served as deputy mayor from 2000 to 2004; what were your main achievements during your time there?

One of the things I regard about Randwick City Council when we were there was that we gave it a real environmental focus. And one of the good things we did was to put gross pollution traps in all the drains leading out on to the beaches. They’re a mesh that can pick up things about as small as a cigarette butt, so plastic bags, which are such a scourge, and a lot of other pollutants now get caught in the gross pollution traps that we put in, from memory, in the late ’90s. Also, people go down to Coogee Beach now and look at what a beautiful place it is. That was a Labor man, Chris Bastic, who did that. He did the Coogee Beach Redevelopment Plan, so all the pine trees down there, all the lighting, all the paving along the promenade, that was a Labor man who did that, and I’m really proud of that. I’m showing my age that I can remember it.

Why did you choose the Labor Party?

I was attracted to the Labor Party in the ’90s. I’m a latecomer to politics. I didn’t join the Labor Party until 1992. I was about 27 when I joined. I was attracted to the environmental credentials of the Hawke and Keating governments, and also the fact that I liked the vision that Paul Keating had, that if you get the finances right, if you get the numbers right, they’re important settings for ordinary people. People think economics is boring. In government, finances are boring, but if you get it right you can make a real difference to people’s lives. The Liberal Party is the party of individualism, and of selfishness, of make a buck and get out. The Labor Party is that party that is all about fairness and looking after people who need a hand. Making sure that when you go to work you don’t get ripped off by your boss, and that you come home safely. It cares for people. It’s just a more nurturing party.

Plus, the Labor Party’s perfectly positioned to look after the environment. Liberals have never cared about it, and if you look at what’s happening in Menindee and Broken Hill now, with the fish kills, we’ve had a Royal Commission that’s handed out its findings today and basically pointed a finger at some of the deliberate policies of the Liberals and Nationals in New South Wales that have caused damage to it. If you really want to look after the environment, it’s the Labor Party that can get it done.

So what did the Liberal Party do to cause the fish kills?

It’s very complicated. It’s a long, complicated issue. Basically there’s always been a rule on the Barwon-Darling River that when the water level dropped to a certain extent, when it got really low in times of drought, you had to stop extracting water so that it kept flowing, so that it kept flushing out. That gave the fish an opportunity to move around the river if there was blue-green algae. The Liberals did away with that and said that even if the river gets to a critical level, irrigators could still pump water out.

So when I went to Menindee and Broken Hill a couple of weeks ago I was astounded to see that the Darling River is not even a river anymore; it’s a series of stagnant pools, and these big, beautiful fish were struggling for their lives. At 52 degrees the water must be 35, and these big Murray cod, 40 kilos each, are gulping for air, boiling in these dying ponds because it’s not flowing. And that’s not because of the drought. It’s because the Liberals and the Nationals allowed too much water to be sucked out by certain people upstream.

So if they hadn’t let that water out, all this wouldn’t have happened?

No, it wouldn’t have happened.

Why did you make the move from local to state politics?

I always intended to get into state politics. My long-term aim was to replace Bob Carr when he retired. When he left in 2005 there was a preselection and there were about five candidates who were chosen. I won that ballot and I’ve made the most of it ever since.

Do you have any interest in federal politics?

I like the fact that I can go home every night and kiss my kids goodnight, even if I’m late. I watch Matt Thistlethwaite now, who is doing a great job, he’s got four daughters under eight and he will fly out to Canberra on a Sunday afternoon, he’ll come back in on a Friday afternoon, then he’ll be with me having dinner at the surf club or footy club on Friday night. On Saturday he’ll be with me at a netball function, on Saturday night he’ll be with me at another function and on Sunday night he flies out again. People don’t understand how much families give up when a spouse or partner – a mum or dad – is in politics. It would be a great honour to represent the federal parliament, and yes, you can touch any issue in the world from there, but you can do a lot of good in state politics and I do value being able to go home and kiss the kids goodnight and give the wife a hug.

What are your main achievements during your time as Member for Maroubra?

Looking after Malabar Headland, making sure Maroubra Headland stayed free of development. That national park up there that Peter Garrett secured with our help, in the western part of the headland, that’s bush that we used to play in when we were young and it is there now, a national park, protected forever. If you haven’t gone for a walk on the boardwalk through that national park from South Maroubra to Malabar, do it. It’s one of the most spectacular views in Sydney. That’s a huge achievement.

Managing to defeat the Liberal Party’s priority precincts and keeping the area free of a bucket load of inappropriate development is also a big achievement. People trust me in the area to look after them and safeguard our area, and that’s one of the times I was really pleased not to let them down. We won that battle. We’ll be ready for the next one if it comes. Bringing the M20 bus to Botany, the M10 bus to Maroubra and the M50 to Coogee – those big, red metro buses are dynamite. People love them. I’m worried now that they’ll take all of them away because of the light rail. They’re taking so many bus services away now, but those red metro buses are a great achievement and I was really happy to get them delivered.

In your view, what are the main challenges we currently face in New South Wales?

There are a number of them and I’ve got to be careful not to forget our friends in the bush. People are sick and tired of governments that don’t pay attention to them. They just pop up in an area and declare this project’s coming, or that development’s coming, and you don’t have a say. I want to give people the respect back, of listening to them. I’ve got a saying that I’ve always lived by in my time in public life. If you want to find an expert, they’re easy to find – they’re called locals. You listen to them because they know their area back to front and they’ll tell you what they need.

I worry that the Liberals have sold all of our public assets. All of our electricity industry has gone, $70 billion worth of assets have been sold, like the port. Port Botany made $220 million a year. Electricity made billions of dollars a year for government. There’s now pressure on schools and hospitals. And, of course, the cherry on top, the big insult to everyone, is this wanting to spend $2.2 billion on stadiums. There’s a better way to do that, and I’ve announced that.

What’s your policy on the stadiums?

Well, if we take Allianz Stadium, for example, it’s the stadium that’s served the Eastern Suburbs well. The Roosters supporters call it home. I’ve been to many matches there. The Liberals want to knock it down completely and put a $730 million stadium there and they want the taxpayers to pay for it. They want to knock ANZ Stadium down – that was the original plan – and build a new one, $1.5 billion, make the taxpayers pay for that as well. And they signed a deal with the NRL that said, “If we don’t knock all three stadiums down and rebuild them from scratch, and make the taxpayers pay for all that, then you’ve got the right to take the grand final and all the State of Origin out of Sydney, even though it’s not played at Allianz Stadium.” What government would sign such a deal?

Can’t the NRL do that anyway?

They can. They can do that now. They have always been able to dictate where the NRL Grand Final and the State of Origin is played.

Who should pay for it?

Well, there’s a better way. I’ve said, in relation to Allianz Stadium, that there’ll be a loan given to the SCG Trust at generous rates.

Is that the same arrangement as the Turf Club’s new grandstand, for example? Was that funded by a government loan?

I can’t remember how that was funded, but there aren’t limitless funds. If you spend $2 billion on stadiums it means you can’t put it into schools and hospitals. So I’ll give them a loan, but they’ll have to pay it back.

Otherwise the government takes ownership of the asset?

No. They’ll just have to pay it back. It’s just a loan facility. So the taxpayers get their money and, if I be- come premier, it will be spent on schools and hospitals, and they’ll still get a new or refurbished stadium. If the Liberals knock it down I’m not going to just leave a rose garden there. I’ll build a new stadium. It won’t be the grandiose $730 million stadium because it’s full very few times during the year. My preferred option would be to give it a serious renovation – more changing rooms and toilets for women, better treatment of women athletes and spectators, improving some of the safety aspects there. I’d make it quicker and easier for people to get the pie, hot dog and drink at halftime. But I’m not convinced there’s a need to knock it down and spend $730 million – three quarters of a billion dollars – to put a new shiny stadium there. It’s a good stadium, it’s a great place to watch footy, you give it a serious reno and off we go.

So the money that the Libs are proposing to spend on those stadiums is money that would otherwise be spent on public schools and hospitals?

Correct. There’s only one pot of money.

The last state Labor government, which you were a minister in, was riddled rotten with crooks; have they all been cleared out or are there still a few lurking in the ranks?

I wouldn’t say it was riddled rotten. It was a government that still did a lot of good things. It’s dead and buried now because the people put the cleaners through it. Over. There were two or three people who did the wrong thing. They’ve all been caught now. They’re in jail. They deserve to be there. It shows the system works. I’m grateful the system did work. It’s why we need a strong ICAC, why I didn’t agree with Mike Baird and Gladys Berejiklian cutting the ICAC budget. But then after this mob came to government we had an ICAC inquiry into rorts in the Central Coast and the Hunter. Eleven of those Liberals and Nationals have hit the wall, including a premier.

Unfortunately it doesn’t matter what line of work you’re in, from time to time there are crooks who want to look after themselves, breach the trust and break the law, in any walk of life. What’s important is that there’s a system there – an independent system – that can catch them and prosecute them. I’ve got no sympathy whatsoever for people who do the wrong thing in public life. I’ve been in public life for 23 years. I’ve not had a hint of impropriety levelled at me, and I won’t, because it’s not hard to do the right thing.

You’ve been criticised for thanking Eddie Obeid in your maiden speech; can you respond to that?

Yeah, sure, and this appeared in the Herald the other day…

That’s where I saw it…

Yeah, so after I was elected I was given a list of names of members of parliament who had come out to Maroubra and handed out – or said they were coming out to hand out – how to vote cards for me, and they said the done thing is that you thank the members of parliament who worked for you on the day, and his name was on the list.

So it was as simple as that?

I just thanked him for working on the day.

I thought that you guys were mates or something…

No, I’d never met him until I walked into parliament.

A few months back there was a massive public backlash against the Liberal state government, Alan Jones and the racing lobby, particularly Racing NSW CEO Peter V’landys, when Alan Jones publicly chastised Opera House CEO Louise Herron for refusing to promote their stupid horse race on the Opera House sails; do you have anything to say about that whole saga? Do you think that the racing lobby and media personalities like Jones have too much influence in politics?

I like a day at the races. I do like going to Randwick and standing on the grass with a nice suit on, looking at my wife with a nice dress and hat on. And we take the kids out; it’s a good family day. But I think the lesson that came out of that was that people shouldn’t take for granted that they can impose their business model on other parts of Sydney and use public spaces for those sorts of purposes. The misunderstanding there was the racing industry never wanted to use the Opera House. They wanted to hang some banners off the bridge briefly, for six minutes, the barrier draw. It was the government that said, “You’re not getting the bridge, you have to use the Opera House.”

What makes them think that they have the right to hang shit off the Opera House or Harbour Bridge in the first place? Who else gets to do that?

Well, anyone can make an application for it and it’s up to the government whether they allow it or not. It was meant to be a six-minute promotion and it just went horribly wrong, didn’t it? It was a debacle all round. I don’t know what we’ll do next year.

What are your thoughts on pill testing?

I wish kids wouldn’t take drugs, but…

Have you ever had a pill?

No, never. I’m a dag, mate. I’ve never had one. I was too scared to put that stuff in my body. I just wouldn’t do it. My view is that just telling young people not to take drugs is not working. It’s naive to think young people are going to listen to advice from their oldies. They don’t, never have, and they’re not doing it now. What we’ll do is have a drug summit, like the very successful drug summit in 1999.

For the injecting room?

One of the outcomes was the heroin injecting room at Kings Cross. That was very controversial, but now we know it’s saved thousands of lives. There have been many overdoses there but not a life lost. I’ll listen to the experts. I’ll listen to the police. I’ll listen the community, to kids, to parents and doctors, and we’ll make up our mind – if I’m the premier – based on the best expert advice about how to come up with a raft of measures to keep people safe at these music festivals.

Back in 2014 the Liberal government responded to a spate of alcohol-fuelled violence by enacting lockout laws, effectively killing off Sydney’s night time economy with a net loss of 176 venues; what are your thoughts on that policy, and how would you have handled the situation?

I’ve just created a portfolio called Shadow Minister for Music and the Night Time Economy, and it’s the only one in the world. We’ve been sitting down with venues in Sydney CBD, particularly music venues, live music venues, contemporary musicians, and we’ve got a whole raft of policies to help these businesses flourish, including getting a whole bunch of regulation out of their way.

At the moment, like with noise pollution and noise complaints, we have five different bodies that deal with it. We want to make it one. When you go to put an application in to start a new small bar or wine bar, or music venue, there are layers and layers of bureaucracy. There are five approvals you need. We’ll make a one-stop shop for them. And we’ll reward venues that look after their patrons by going above and beyond the call of duty to keep them safe, but we’ll be keeping, in the CBD, the integrity of the lockout rules intact.

So you won’t change the timing of the lockouts?

No. There’s a review mechanism set up in the legislation. We won’t be changing that. One of the things we need to do, just like drink driving, is to change the culture of young men. Alcohol, testosterone. It’s not okay to get pissed and/or take drugs and go and belt someone. That’s just not okay, and I think what we’ve seen in the last few years is a growing community awareness in that regard, where people will pull one of their mates up who’s acting like a dickhead. And in due course, just like drink driving, I think social change and the movement of social attitudes will make Sydney a much safer place, but I don’t think we’re quite there yet.

What does the future hold for Michael Daley?

Well, hopefully I’ll be the third premier from the seat of Maroubra. There have been four members from Maroubra since the seat was created in 1950. The first one, Bob Heffron, was premier, the second one, Bill Hague, was a minister, and the third one, Bob Carr, was premier. The fourth one, Premier Daley? Let’s hope so. I hope the locals back me in. They always have.