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Social Good Summit Australia, March 5 2022

05 March 2022

I begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land and pay my respects to their Elders, past, present and emerging.

Thank you for the invitation to join your Summit.

We gather at a difficult time for our state.

The floods that have ravaged vast swathes of northern NSW, parts of Sydney and elsewhere are taking a distressing toll.

Lives have been lost, and businesses and homes destroyed.

As a government, we will continue to mobilise every resource available to help those in need.

Right now, the priority is on managing the immediate impacts and providing rescue and relief operations.

The focus will soon switch to recovery.

It will inevitably be a tough and long road to rebuild lives, livelihoods and communities.

But we will be there every step of the way.

Observing these sad and tragic events however, I’m struck by how much we continue to see the best in people.

The bravery of our emergency service personnel is remarkable.

It is worth remembering that so many of them are volunteers.

They simply want to help their friends and neighbours in a moment of need.

But we also saw everyday citizens pitching in.

Whether they used their own boats to ferry people to safety, or opened their homes to someone who has lost their own, or made meals for strangers at emergency centres, they made their own contribution.

My question is whether or not we are doing everything we can to avoid the worst climate impacts.

The flood has been described as unprecedented, for good reason.

But it comes only a year after the devastating floods that hit the north east of NSW.

And little more than two years after the worst bushfires this state has ever seen.

Then, we saw people huddled in coastal towns framed by blood red skies.

Now, we see people scrambling onto roof tops or any piece of higher ground they can find.

The forecasts of climate scientists about the prevalence of extreme weather events, made for decades now, are being sadly vindicated.

So how do we summons all the capacity for ingenuity available to us to protect our citizens from the catastrophic effects of climate change?

This was the challenge I turned my mind to in 2019, when I began the work to transform environmental and climate policy in NSW,

On a daily basis, I saw people determined to choose their cause and use their voice.

Sometimes it was a local landcare group, volunteering their time for a small but precious piece of local bushland.

On other occasions, it was investors, technologists, climate scientists, energy producers, environmentalists, capitalists and farmers.

We didn’t always agree on every element but because we had a shared understanding of the goal and faith in the power of ideas, we made enormous strides.

We did so by embarking on a shared enterprise.

We discarded the nonsense that said acting on climate change was an existential choice between our economy and our environment.

The fact is, we can enhance our environment, our way of life and our prosperity by acting on climate change.

In New South Wales, that is exactly what we are doing.  

We have legislated - with cross party support - the biggest renewable energy investment plan in the nation’s history.

As a consequence, we’re unlocking $37 billion in investment and have accelerated the path to net zero.

We are also guaranteeing cheaper, more reliable and cleaner energy.

That’s what small businesses and households across NSW want.

They don’t want ideology.

They want a prosperous and resilient economy built on productivity and innovation that also reflects our commitment to a sustainable planet.

Taking action on climate change is an example of how investing in a healthy environment supports a healthy economy. 

The reality is that our economic prosperity does not come at the expense of the environment, it depends on it. 

Our farmers depend on predictable weather patterns for their crops. They are at their best when they free from drought, flood, hail and disease. 

Our workers do best when our summers are not shrouded in smoke. 

Our economic prosperity is also built on the strength of our society: our commerce depends on our security and safety. 

Our contracts depend on the rule of law and a judicial system that is free from corruption. 

Our businesses depend on an educated society, filled with aspiration, creativity, determination and the skills and expertise to make their aspirations a reality. 

Our workers depend on a transport system thatsees them spend more time plying their trade and at home with their family rather than in traffic. 

Our economy is at its best when our society affords every person the opportunity to contribute to our country and pursue a career, no matter the wealth of their parents, the colour of their skin, or their gender.

Just like good climate policy is good for our economy, good social policy is good economic policy. 

Addressing the structural barriers to unleashing the economic potential of every person in NSW is going to be my focus as treasurer of NSW. And there is no bigger structural barrier to the prosperity of our state than those faced by more than half of our population.    

I want to make sure a girl born today has the same opportunities as a boy born in the hospital room next door.

That hasn’t always been the case for their mothers and grandmothers before them.

Women are underrepresented in our trades, our offices and our boardrooms.

Female workforce participation rates remains about 10 percent lower than men, and they are more likely to work part-time.

The most recent NSW Intergenerational Report found the economy would be 8 percent larger by 2060 if women’s participation reached parity with men.

That’s the equivalent of $22,000 more annual income per household in today’s dollars.

We need to remove those barriers, because to succeed as a state, we need all our best and brightest having the genuine option to participate fully in the economy.

That is why the NSW Government has commissioned the Women’s Economic Opportunities Review.

Its mandate is broad because there is so much to do.

The Review will consider how to improve women’s economic participation and security, including support for women as they enter, re-enter and stay in the workforce.

We want to enhance the gender mix across industries, unleash a new wave of female entrepreneurs and increase workplace flexibility.

The Review will span workplace equity, the gender pay gap, improving leadership opportunities and the affordability, accessibility and quality of childcare for parents.

If we close those gaps across pay, opportunity and participation, the legacy will be immense.

We can grow the economy, improve living standards, and boost lifetime earnings and financial security for women.

And we can unlock the choice and opportunities that every woman deserves.

And that is the essence of my approach.

To always ask: how can we mobilise our resources, our authority and our capabilities in the name of a better society.

Because that commitment to progress, that commitment to do good, depends on all of us.