‘I’m an outsider who’s now an insider’
PREMIER Gladys Berejiklian will detail her working class roots in a bid to show empathy for the daily struggles of middle NSW and seek voter trust in the race to the election.
The Daily Telegraph can reveal that the new strategy will be matched by a stronger focus on social issues, such as mental health, palliative care, teachers and nurses, in the next six months.
The Premier also sees an ongoing place for hand-out politics - like kids' sports vouchers - to ease hip pocket pain.
In an interview with The Daily Telegraph after a run of government problems, ranging from the Wagga Wagga by-election defeat to cabinet infighting, Ms Berejiklian said: "I want people to know I empathise with what's going on in the home and around the dining room table.
"I get entirely the stress - the topics discussed around the kitchen table - and I think unless people feel that I'm connected to that and I understand that they'll feel detached."
She said while she didn't like to compare herself to past Liberal premiers, "I'm definitely a different demographic and a different background".
She said she was "almost an outsider that's now an insider", adding "but I'll never forget what it was like".
All of this is part of the Premier's bid to show voters she empathises with their struggles - an acknowledgment of the pain NSW families face even as the state is thriving.
She also repeated multiple times in the interview that she wanted to give voters a "stronger better future" - a hint at a possible election slogan.
"My strong pitch is that under the Liberal National government you'll have a stronger better future. You'll have an opportunity to be your best, to get ahead and because we'll make sure we have the economic circumstances but also the passion and the policies to let that happen," she said.
Recent polling has the Liberal Nationals locked 50/50 with Labor, and showed Opposition leader Luke Foley edging ahead as preferred premier.
The Premier will begin opening up on her working-class credentials today in a speech to the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce, in which she will acknowledge that against a backdrop of low wages growth, families are under tremendous pressure.
"Liverpool Chamber of Commerce will expect me to talk about jobs and the economy which I'll do, but what's also important is to talk about …(how) I got to where I am and also empathy," she told The Daily Telegraph.
"There's a lot of stress being felt around households and I feel that I empathise with it because it reminds me of my own upbringing.
"I had parents working shifts different times of the day. They only saw each other for an hour a day and on weekends … I watched my parents juggle everything."
She also described how she effectively raised her two younger sisters when her parents were working, saying youngest sister Mary in particular saw her as a "parent figure".
The Premier has previously talked about her Armenian migrant background and her parents, a welder and a nurse, but this marks a shift to talk more about the struggles her family faced to make ends meet.
She will talk about how they were entertained by visiting family and going to parks instead of luxuries.
Asked the reason for this strategy shift, she said: "I think it's really important to know what motivates me and what makes me tick. Trust is so important. If I want (voters) to invest in me and my government I need to invest in them by sharing the experiences I have to show I understand their struggles."
She said through her life she had "landed on her feet" because of good education and her parents making sacrifices, adding "but I know how fragile that is".
She said she saw cost of living as the "modus operandi" of government and that government must now be a "safety net because wages have not grown".
Asked on her view on 'hand-out politics', such as vouchers for school sport, she said if she was "serious about being empathetic about the struggles families go through, they need a breather", signalling more sweeteners were to come.
In the interview, the Premier also signalled a stronger focus on teachers and nurses.
Pointing out the strong work her government had done on school and hospital infrastructure, she said: "For me what happens inside these buildings is more important than the buildings themselves.
"Taking care of the carers that will take care of us - whether it's teachers or nurses is really important to me. As a community we have to value them more."
Asked about recovering from the Wagga Wagga by-election loss and recent cabinet infighting over seats, Ms Berejiklian said: "A week is a long time in politics."
She repeated previous assurances that she believed she needed to make everything she did about the job about the community. "You can't allow yourself to be distracted."
She also said there was uncertainty about the major parties from voters. "No doubt. That's a factor," she said.