GOVERNOR'S SPEECH: ADDRESS IN REPLY
Second Day's Debate
Debate resumed from an earlier hour.
(Charlestown) [7.30]: I believe that the Governor, Rear Admiral Peter Sinclair, and his wife work very hard at the office they hold. I hope their work is appreciated by the Government and that there is an affirmative judgment made that the
Governor and Mrs Sinclair should continue to serve this State. I believe that the Address-in-Reply debate gives members an opportunity to address the Chamber on a wide range of matters, matters that in the main affect our electorates and the well-being of those we represent. Police and emergency services are referred to in the Governor's Speech, which states:
The Police Service remains under intense public scrutiny. The Government has embarked on a comprehensive reform program designed to make the Police Service more efficient, open and accountable.
During 1993, the Minister for Police and Emergency Services instituted a wide range of legislative and other reforms in the areas of accountability, integrity and management. However, more needs to be done.
This year the Government's reforms will focus on addressing the major issues of drug security and the handling of complaints against police officers. Major legislative changes in both areas are planned for introduction this year.
In addition, a comprehensive review of the police discipline system is being undertaken. Significant amendments to the role of the New South Wales Crime Commission are also being considered following the recommendations of the Joint Select Committee upon Police Administration.
I refer to the Police Service in the Newcastle-Hunter area. I draw to the attention of the House an incident which at first appeared to be nothing more than a difference of opinion as to whether a police officer had acted responsibly. Not only was it a question of whether the officer acted responsibly, but whether he did so in compliance with the law and without emotion. On 13 November 1993 an incident occurred at the Newcastle wharf at the South Steyne floating restaurant. I do not propose to go into the why's and wherefore's of the incident, although I will refer later to a matter into which I believe there should be some investigation. I understand that the Ombudsman is currently making inquiries.
The family involved in this incident are constituents of mine. The wife, Mrs Elizabeth Cleary, has placed in my hands certain material and requested certain action. It is not my role to be judgmental in this matter. However, I would be less than responsible as an elected member of Parliament if I were not concerned about the incident and matters associated with it. Mrs Cleary raised with me how her family had been dealt with, not only by the Police Service but by the media. She wanted to know whether the family had any rights in a supposedly democratic country where people are treated equally under the law. I am concerned that there is a public perception that people in public life and in senior positions have no rights and that their families should suffer.
It most disturbing that the Cleary family was effectively barred from entering their home by a television crew which was outside the home for many hours. Mrs Cleary pointed out that her husband had been issued with a Police Service directive to say nothing about the incident which occurred in November the year before. However, everyone seems to be running to the media with immunity, except her husband. I am not condemning the media; it has a responsibility to report news and matters of public interest, but what happened did not happen by accident. Someone is feeding the media.
I propose to highlight one media outlet and the way the Cleary family has been harassed by a television journalist. The behaviour that has been reported to me leaves a lot to be desired. The Cleary's daughter, Jane, is the subject of a major part of the events of November last year. She now works at police headquarters. She was finally located by a journalist from "A Current Affair". However, the person who answered her telephone at police headquarters was a woman who had recently returned from maternity leave. The women had changed desks.
The woman received a tirade of abuse from the journalist. The journalist stated that she was lying and various expletives were used. The journalist was very heavy-handed. The woman who answered the phone knew nothing about the situation until she asked Miss Cleary what it was about. Is this acceptable behaviour? The same media organisation, "A Current Affair", was virtually camped on the family's doorstep and excluded the family from their home for almost five hours one evening recently.
I have been furnished with a letter of complaint from Mrs Cleary. She has also given me a series of questions relating to this affair. The media is not so much interested in the incident of 13 November last, but her husband's pursuance of brothels in the Newcastle area - however, Mrs Cleary believes that both are inextricably linked. I have lived in the Newcastle area all my life. I know how things work and I have also been a member of the Police Service. In that time I saw things I considered to be a joke - such as SP betting, illegal gaming clubs, and sly grog - so I can relate to Mrs Cleary's concern. Brothels existed then and they exist now. Any person, a police officer or otherwise, who tried to stop them would be very brave indeed.
Newcastle is no different from any other city or town in the world. There are those who belong to the monied families, who are currently referred to as the establishment and believe that they have a God-given right to run and control everything in industry, commerce and politics. There is another section of the community - the one consisting of those who believe they have the right to run everything that is illegal and outside the law. The Chief Secretary and Minister for Administrative Services in the Chair would know of my grave concerns about a lot of things that have happened with respect to illegal gaming. Everybody accepts that and it is tolerated. Any person who interferes with those illegal operations is either dealt with or discredited. Those people continue to go on doing as they like and live on their ill-gotten gains.
It is true that illegal clubs and SP betting no longer flourish as they did in the past because checks and balances within our community have minimised those activities. Brothels have been around since BC. Past and present governments have had ample
opportunity over the years to take away the sinister and corrupt adjuncts to this industry by legalising it. However, to use the vernacular, no one has had the guts to do it. Until some government, regardless of political persuasion, has the guts to legalise brothels, our society will continue to have sinister problems of illegal brothels. I speak with experience as a policeman and as a person who has been in public life in this Parliament for more than 20 years.
Many people in Newcastle are saying that Mrs Cleary's husband is a crusader and that he ought to let sleeping dogs lie and accept what goes on. He is opposed to the continuance of brothels, but he has become the victim because of his sworn duty. Perhaps I misunderstood when I entered the police academy; when I was sworn into the New South Wales police force, as it was known in those days - my comprehension was that police were to uphold the law and detect breaches of law, not neglect it or allow selective people to do what they like, when they like, and how they like.
The whole issue concerning brothels has been the subject of a lot of publicity. The Newcastle Herald
has given the issue what I believe could be described as a fair amount of coverage. It should in no way, shape or form be condemned for that. It is its responsibility and right to bring matters of interest to the attention of its readers. In fact, I believe it has reported fairly various people's comments about what has occurred in the courts. If my memory serves me correctly, the Newcastle Herald
, in one of its editorials, took a similar view - that this would always be an issue until governments accepted responsibility for it. However, people will form their own opinions. For that reason one could be forgiven for thinking that Superintendent Cleary was the villain of the piece.
I repeat that the Newcastle Herald
has never said that but, because of its coverage, this issue has become extremely controversial and emotive. Let us put this matter in its right perspective. Who wrote to Mrs Cleary's husband stating that, under the Disorderly Houses Act, the case against brothels should be proceeded with? This matter was not instigated by Superintendent Cleary; rather it was instigated by the then Deputy Commissioner of Police and present Commissioner of Police, Mr Lauer. That is not a criticism of Mr Lauer. I do not condemn Mr Lauer. He, like Superintendent Cleary, was doing his duty. Superintendent Cleary did what the law said he should. According to Mrs Cleary, Superintendent Cleary contacted the Commissioner of Police on numerous occasions and kept him appraised of the matter.
Superintendent Cleary received briefings from the Commissioner of Police. He met with the commissioner to discuss this brothel issue. So it could hardly be said that he was operating alone. At law, Superintendent Cleary had no option other than to act. He notified the Police Service and the commissioner every time these matters went to court. According to Mrs Cleary, he has never been told, officially or unofficially, to back off. One disturbing aspect in this matter, about which the whole community should be concerned, is the meeting of local brothel keepers that took place in Newcastle towards the end of 1993. According to Mrs Cleary, the purpose of the meeting was to get rid of her husband. Brothel owners were concerned because he had closed brothels under the Disorderly Houses Act.
I have been informed that, as a result of that meeting, Superintendent Cleary forwarded a briefing note to the regional commander, Assistant Commissioner Donaldson, North Region. The State Protection Group of the Police Service contacted Superintendent Cleary to assist him in providing security for his family. The State Protection Group would not have become involved in this matter if what I am saying was not serious. Superintendent Cleary informed the State Protection Group that he considered any attacks by brothel owners would not be of a physical nature; rather they would be attacks on his credibility. Mrs Cleary says that, as the events of 13 November last year started to unfold, she became convinced - this is the serious aspect of this matter - that there was a major conspiracy to attack her husband's credibility and reduce him to ridicule to ensure that brothel keepers continued to flourish in Newcastle.
Another matter was reported to me by a policeman of reasonably high rank. His mother lives in the Fern Street area of Islington in Newcastle, where brothels have been established for a long period. The owner of one brothel in that area, which was the scene of a murder years ago, informed Superintendent Cleary that brothel keepers were out to get him and discredit him. The women heard the same also. Because of the seriousness of the documentation given to me by Mrs Cleary I have no option other than to furnish this material to the Independent Commission Against Corruption for investigation of these serious allegations. As each day passes this matter becomes more serious. Yesterday afternoon an honourable member who represents the Hunter region received an unsigned letter which concluded with the words, "Yours very sincerely, the Ladies of Zaara Escorts". Later I received the same letter.
We all received that letter.
I acknowledge the interjection of the honourable member for Oxley. Yesterday afternoon several other members of Parliament received this letter. The letter refers to the fact that the premises of this escort agency have been declared a disorderly house. The letter refers also to Superintendent Cleary and it mentions the Minister for Police and Minister for Emergency Services, but not in derogatory terms. On page 2 the letter states:
Police officers have called at the premises since the summons was served and openly stated that they did not agree with the action being taken by Superintendent Cleary. It is strongly suspected that some of the evidence which is incorrect in the affidavits was put there deliberately by the police to assist the ladies in defending their case.
That quote in itself is sufficient to warrant an inquiry. The letter states that agents have been to this establishment and it nominates six other locations where similar businesses are conducted. On the third page of the letter the authors appear to be attempting to stop things from occurring before 14 March - a date which they have nominated - when this matter will apparently again go before the courts. I make no judgment in regard to this matter, but events of recent months and allegations raised by Mrs Cleary could be an attempt to discredit her husband so that he will not appear in court on 14 March, or it could be an attempt to have Superintendent Cleary charged so that the case falls over.
This whole business becomes more sinister as the days go on. As I have said, this letter has been received by a number of members of Parliament. I was told, after inquiring this morning, that this letter could represent contempt of the Supreme Court of New South Wales. There is a considerable amount of conflict concerning the brothel issue, both in revelations that have been made to me and in the letter which has been sent to members of Parliament. Some people might say that this is an overreaction. They might ask why the Ombudsman and the Police Service cannot investigate this case themselves. [Extension of time agreed to
I believe this matter needs to go to the ICAC for several reasons. In the main, we are talking about officers of superintendent rank and above. This case has to be dealt with in a credible way. All the papers surrounding this brothel issue should be sent immediately to the ICAC so the matter can be properly investigated. We must determine whether or not what is being alleged is true. The Clearys must be interviewed about the brothel allegations and the circumstances surrounding events that have transpired since 13 November last year. I have lost faith in investigations by police about police. It is pretty hard for me to say that considering my background. Let me highlight the reservations I have. For the last five years I was subjected to horrendous attacks on my credibility. I was subjected to investigations by various government bodies. My family and those close to me suffered. Everyone concerned tried to cover up what is now known as the Thomas Colquhoun affair.
Material received through freedom of information discloses that former Assistant Commissioner Col Cole said that this matter effectively concerns a personality clash between me and Colquhoun. He did nothing, even though I reported the matter to him. No matter how much I complained there was a cover-up to protect Colquhoun and to discredit me and those associated with me. I have been cleared on every count. I do not propose to go into all the details concerning that matter because I know who the conspirators were. I brought this matter to the notice of this House after years of harassment and after placing questions on the notice paper. The current Minister was sympathetic about the way in which I was being treated. I compliment him and the Chief Secretary and Minister for Administrative Services, who is in the Chamber, on being scrupulously fair, regardless of the fact that I am an Opposition member.
Both Ministers have shown strength in this matter which arose at local party level. There has never been any suggestion that it emanated from Sydney. The Office of the Ombudsman, after conducting an inquiry, informed me that if I, the Minister for Police and the Chief Secretary had not done what we did, I and those around me would not have received any justice. My lack of confidence in those who investigate complaints against police is understandable. I have explained to this House why I have a lack of confidence in those who investigate complaints against police.
One more very good reason that this matter needs to be independently assessed is whether, as alleged by the Clearys, the incident of 13 November was a set-up. I am not in a position to say, nor would I deem it my right to make a judgment as to whether it was a set-up, stemming from the brothel issue and the fact that the brothel owners had made a decision to get Superintendent Cleary. Whether the events of that night of 13 November were merely a coincidence and were seized upon subsequently to discredit Superintendent Cleary, I am not in a position to say. That is probably the more reasonable view. What the links are between the city venue brothels, and who owns them, I have no knowledge of, but from what I have been told they are quite hair-raising. I believe that the papers ought to be sent for immediately by the ICAC. Mrs Cleary works at police headquarters. We are not dealing with a woman who has come in off the street; she works at police headquarters, adjacent to her husband. She describes them as explosive and describes who is named in them, and the links made between the owners and criminals.
I believe that any investigation will put to rest once and for all the continuing police rumours about the credibility of our commissioner. The allegation one hears constantly in police company is that Chief Superintendent Moeller enjoys patronage from the commissioner because he assisted him as a member of the internal affairs branch during the now famous Hakim case. I am saying this to have the matter cleared up. The police continue to say that Moeller is in his present position as a result of this. This House well knows that I have had a personal friendship with the commissioner for many years. It is with that in mind that I believe it is unwarranted for the commissioner to be attacked in this way, that the reason behind any action is the friendship. It is said that the commissioner protects Chief Superintendent Moeller. A simple search of his job application and the process of his appointment will put that matter to rest once and for all.
I bear no ill will to Chief Superintendent Moeller. I have known him since his days as a detective constable when we both worked in the Newcastle area. Of course, the aspersion will be that this case is a consequence of my friendship with the
Cleary family. I have an obligation to bring matters to notice on behalf of my constituents. It is true that I have known Mrs Cleary since childhood. I have known her husband for a long time, prior to joining the police force when I worked with him. I am not offering any judgment in this matter or arguing the Clearys' case; that is for others to do. The Clearys are getting no special treatment from me. I am putting that on public record before someone tries to make something sinister out of it. I have spoken earlier about rights. It seems that if you know someone, or are married to them, you are supposed to let everyone walk all over you, and some people treat others unfairly because of that relationship.
Naturally I am concerned about what I am doing here today. The easy way for me would be to walk away and do nothing. I emphasise that I expect reprisals, but after 21 years that is nothing new to me. That is part and parcel of this job, especially when dealing with people associated with activities - such as brothels - that are outside the law, yet continue to make out a case for their continued illegal activity to be tolerated. This is the first time I have said these things in this Parliament, but I am sick to death of it. I want to make it clear that I will take action in every form that I can if my wife - who is a police person - is subjected to any reprisals because of what I have said. I am heartily sick of her having cop what she does on a daily basis, and that is why I am revealing it in Parliament tonight as part of my duty as a member.
I will give the House an example, and I will clarify it because it is something I will not tolerate any longer. There are two sergeants who work at Newcastle police station who think they have the right to persecute my wife in a variety of ways because I am a member of Parliament and that she should be treated differently in everything she does or tries to achieve. I have stood aside for too many years and seen her spirit and dedication to the Police Service - and the Minister has complimented her on that on many occasions - over 22 years service destroyed by these people.
How would honourable members like to walk into a sporting venue, as I have in the past 12 months, and have one of these despicable sergeants say, "Tell your cook to get to work on time". It is about time she was treated as a separate and distinct person in her job. She is getting no favours, and never has. The only burden she has to bear is being married to a Labor politician in a conservative organisation. When it suits them, they tell me to tell my wife to get to work on time, but they cannot have it both ways: they cannot treat her as a leper because of me, but tell me to chide her to get to work on time. Discrimination of women in the Newcastle police headquarters is far from solved and is probably the worst case of discrimination I know of in New South Wales.
This issue is about the rights of members of Parliament. In the years I have been in Parliament I have seen those rights stripped away. I am sick to death of my family being treated as they have been over a period of years. I can handle it; I am a big boy. In addition to handing information over to the ICAC, questions will appear on the notice paper in the next few days, which are based on questions asked once again by my constituent, Mrs Cleary. She says she and her family will get no justice and the complaint concerning those questions will be given to the Ombudsman who, I understand, has an inquiry under way. Since the complaints have been handed to me, Mrs Cleary has become aware of further reprisals involving a former police person who is now working elsewhere.
Since I asked Mrs Cleary to give the information to the investigatory bodies, things have hotted up. Late last evening I was told that a now resigned police officer - a former detective senior constable, Michael Pont - was taken off detective duties, because of having been in trouble, and was put on to general duties at Newcastle. He is now trying to discredit Superintendent Cleary. This is an amazing revelation - amazing because I have now learned that one of the police who came to the scene of the incident on the South Steyne
on 13 November 1993 was former Senior Constable Pont. According to Mrs Cleary, Pont rendered virtually no assistance at the scene and was reluctant to do anything in regard to this matter until the time of his resignation from the New South Wales Police Service.
It is amazing that this discredited former senior constable of police is now working for a Newcastle based insurance organisation, NIB - known as Newcastle Industrial Benefits. I find it amazing that a highly reputable insurance organisation, such as NIB, whose chief executive, Mr Colin Rogers, is a man of impeccable integrity whom I know well through family affiliations, would have this man running around the State. As late as yesterday at Hornsby, Pont said to a police person, who will come forward with some relish, that "I am investigating my former boss, Superintendent Cleary, for fraud". According to Mrs Cleary, it is well known that antagonism exists on Pont's part towards her husband. On whose authority is this man operating? Whose bidding is he doing? Is he still connected with the police in Newcastle? It begs a whole host of answers.
Another matter which needs thorough and urgent investigation is the allegation that various actions which have been taken since 13 November 1993 in regard to the withdrawing of charges against the person Fries constitute a conspiracy to pervert the cause of justice. I am not making a judgment but in the information I am handing to the ICAC there are claims that subsection (4) of section 103 of the Licensing Act has been ignored in that the only way the matter could be dispensed with is before a magistrate, that is before the court. Yet the matter has been dispensed with by negotiation within the Police Service with a variety of civilians, one of them a solicitor who is a part-owner of the licensed premises at which this incident occurred. What makes it more serious is that apparently it was handled without reference to what is now a missing file. The file is supposedly missing. How often have we heard about the case of the missing file?
The advisings that were given by Mrs Cleary's husband and numerous legal persons about the course embarked upon to have the matter dispensed with by conciliation appear to have been ignored. Other legal opinions indicate that a case may exist where people have conspired to pervert the course of justice. Whether the Clearys acted responsibly on the night of 13 November 1993 is not for me to determine. The Clearys have indicated to me that when they asked what they were expected to do when their daughter found herself in this situation, they were told that they should never have become involved. Superintendent Cleary posed that question to an assistant commissioner of police and put a hypothetical question to him: "If I stumbled across my daughter being raped by two people behind a bush, what would be the situation?" The reply was, "You would do the same; you would not involve yourself".
What stage have our Police Service and society reached? The sooner this matter is cleared up, the better it will be. I take it that because the police see something happen they have no rights. If what happened to Cleary's daughter had happened to my daughter, I would have taken the same action as he did. What happened about that obligation to have these people sworn? If it is suggested that when police see incidents involving their families they should walk away and neglect their sworn duty, it is time a set of guidelines were introduced setting out their rights and obligations. I repeat, as I have said throughout this contribution, that I am not passing judgment in this matter, nor have I come to any conclusions. I believe that it is imperative for the matter to be cleared up, not only for the benefit of the electorate I represent but for the good running and order of the Police Service in the Newcastle area, a service which, despite what I have revealed today, has served the city of Newcastle and its environs well.
These isolated incidents involving only one person or a small number of persons create a perception in the community that all members of the Police Service are doing the wrong thing. This matter follows hot on the heels of the Independent Commission Against Corruption report on the Police Service, which makes it all the more imperative that it be dealt with independently. My relationship with the present Minister for Police has been good. Though he and I do not share the same political philosophy, I am aware that he does an extremely good job in what is not the easiest of portfolios to administer. He is not in a position - and nor am I - to determine exactly what happened in the matters I have raised.
An unfortunate aspect is that in the immediate future there will be those who will be for and those who will be against what I have divulged, but I am satisfied in my mind that unless the issue is clarified the concern and animosity surrounding the incident will hamper the good work of the Police Service in Newcastle. The Commissioner of Police, Tony Lauer, has to be able to do his job effectively, but if that is to happen matters such as the one I have raised must be resolved and not allowed to run like a festering sore. The only way to prevent a recurrence is to carry out a complete investigation. [Time expired
(Ku-ring-gai) [8.0]: I share the concerns of the honourable member for Charlestown regarding the matters he has raised. All honourable members are aware of the pressure on those in political life and on their spouses. I join with other honourable members in commending the Governor for his Speech earlier this week on the opening of this session of the Parliament. I send him personal greetings, as someone who has had the opportunity to work with him on the committee for the Governor's prayer breakfast. I echo the sentiments expressed by many other honourable members about the marvellous job that Rear Admiral Peter Sinclair and Mrs Sinclair do in fulfilling their public duties.
I welcome the Government's program outlined by the Governor. This year the Government's program is all about the continuing process of building a better community. My theme for this contribution to the debate is: building and belonging to a better community. As we head towards the end of the 1990s and put our cars on the last stretch of that highway that leads to the year 2000 we need to think about building and belonging to a better community. It is well worth spelling out some important principles for leadership in the 1990s if we are to build and belong to a better community. The first is that the skills, gifts, talents and abilities of the community are vested in individuals. Therefore individuals who improve themselves improve their society.
A second important principle is that one of the roles of the community is to provide for its members some of the essential things that they cannot provide for themselves; for example, a widespread and well developed education system - education for life - a health system that is available to all, and the sorts of things that the community provides to its members. On one's own one could not provide anything like the health or education benefits that people can obtain as a community. The third principle, which goes hand-in-hand with the first two, is that our sense of community is based on the principle of service. When individuals serve the community their achievements benefit the whole. The role of government is to serve people, as individuals and as members of a united community. The Government must be the leader in building a better community. It can do so by creating a climate in which individuals can succeed for themselves and for their families.
I should make specific reference to some of the important things that are part of the process of building and belonging to a better community, for example, the worth of the individual. As I have said, it is in the individual that the skills, knowledge and talent of the community reside. I believe also in the power of individual enterprise. People strive for achievement in their lives as a way of fulfilling a basic human need to contribute to their own well-being. As they do so they contribute to themselves
and to their families. The task of government is to set the climate in which individuals can not only have goals and dreams but also reach them.
An important part of the process is the community. People have a basic need to live together as a community; I believe that we are meant to live together as a community, as a united cohesive society that works together for the common good, but having regard for one another's needs. To my mind that is how people are supposed to live. Anything that diminishes that takes away from the good government of our society. I am proud to be a member who supports the Government, which is building a better community based on those types of principles that are important to me as a member of Parliament and a member of my community. Those principles are embodied in the achievements of the Fahey Government.
When one examines the programs outlined in His Excellency's Speech, one finds that the principles to which I refer are embodied also in the program of the Fahey Government. I shall focus on several items in that program, rather than commending the broad strategy, before moving to speak about my community. I should say a special word about the family. Undoubtedly in this International Year of the Family the focus will be and has been on families. Many words have been spoken and there has been much rhetoric about families, what they can do and what can be achieved for them. What the Fahey Government has set out to do in the International Year of the Family is vital to the process of building a better community.
I commend the Government for its enterprise in establishing a special unit that will co-ordinate the International Year of the Family activities and the many specific and individual programs - too many to enumerate here - that will directly benefit the lives of people who are trying to improve their family relationships. There is no shame in saying that sometimes our families are not ideal; often family relationships break down and need healing and repairing. If we have any shame about saying that, and if we hide that fact as a society, we will not be able to restore and repair our families. The breaking down of relationships within families has an enormous impact on society, probably the most enormous impact of any developments occurring in Australia today. Sadly, the breaking down of family relationships involves emotional, sometimes physical and often economic costs. It causes emotional scars that can take generations to heal. The solution lies in allowing people to focus on the quality of their family relationships. This is the year in which that should be done.
The solution lies in allowing people to say that without judgment we do not always get these important relationships right. There is no shame in seeking advice and help that is being offered by the Government in the International Year of the Family. The solution lies also in discussing more openly as a society the things that we value. Foremost among those things must be the family. We must clearly identify the family relationships and values that we regard as important. We must clearly understand what has to be done by us as individuals and as a community to protect families. At one time I worked for a company - and I am sure many people have worked for companies of this type - which specifically excluded spouses from the annual Christmas function. That is a small thing. The Chief Secretary and Minister for Administrative Services reminds me that it is no small matter to be a spouse. That is how my wife felt. Along with others who worked for that company I offered to pay for my spouse to go to the Christmas function. The response I was given by one of the executives was that the concern was not about cost. He said that to have spouses there would inhibit the socialising of the staff.
I deliberately turn my back on values of that type. I do not want to be a party to those values. They are the values that will bring down our society. That executive said that having spouses at such a function would inhibit the socialising of the staff. What about inhibiting the strength of families? That business depended upon family people turning up to work every day and doing their bit to be loyal to the company. I ultimately left that company. That value system is upside down. It is symptomatic of some ways in which society operates.
The division between work and family is often a division that we force on ourselves. When the pressure is on it is often our families that suffer most. Honourable members know a lot about that and I do not have to labour the point, but it strikes me that this is what is important about the family and our community. Beyond work and the status we try to create for ourselves as individuals in this consumer society, beyond all the external trappings of our lives, beyond all of that it is our families that define us, that sustain us, and that create us as beings within a society. It is our families that teach us what community is about; it is our families that give us meaning and comfort, and importantly it is our families that can restore us through appropriate relationships. If we restore values, we will go a long way to restoring society. I am proud to be part of a Government that is committed to that value in the International Year of the Family.
I want to briefly focus on economic strategy because part of my theme of building and belonging to a better community is being a responsible economical manager of the resources of a State such as New South Wales. It is not about getting good numbers and not about pure economic theory alone. I think that sterile approach has largely been discredited in Australia. That is good. It is about the heart as well, and in New South Wales we clearly have both. We have a Premier with heart and he is managing an economy that is clearly the best performing and most accountable in Australia. There is no doubt about that.
It is about being responsible in the way we treat the money that is entrusted to us by the people of this State. Accountability is important and what is it aimed at? It is aimed at delivering services to
families and to people; it is about building and belonging to a better community. That is why the good economic performance of New South Wales over the years, and the continuing program to reduce the deficit, is important. I want to leave the big picture, the macro-picture if you like, and turn to some key local concerns in my role as the member representing the people of the electorate of Ku-ring-gai because there, too, I am committed to building and belonging to a better society. I have been the member there for just on 18 months and we have achieved a lot in that time. I have seen great growth in that community. It is a marvellous community to represent. The people of the community are terrific. It really is a joy to represent them and work with them to achieve what they want in their society.
It is the community that cares for each other, that knows the value of families, and that knows the value of standards. It is the community that knows that when you turn your back on those things you start turning your back on a good society. There are some issues that I intend to concentrate on in the coming years but particularly during the next 12 to 18 months. There are a number of local concerns that I have identified and will continue to raise with the Government. The first is law and order. A key part of the commitment to building a better community is a commitment to law and order. I talk about it broadly. It is not just a question of providing a better police and justice system, although clearly the Government is doing that. It is wider than that and goes to the heart of the values of our society.
For example, what types of activities and entertainments are there for some of the young people in our society? I am pleased that within the past few months I have been able to persuade the State Rail Authority to provide a lease for a group called Fusion, a youth organisation which, with me as patron, is about to open a youth cafe in Hornsby. It will be based on Hornsby railway station in a formerly disused building which was known as the station master's cottage; although I am led to believe that it was never in fact the station master's cottage. It is now known as Jack's Island, which was the old name for Hornsby. Jack's Island Cafe will have its official opening very soon. I am pleased to say that the cafe will be a place where the young people of my electorate will be able to come for drug free and alcohol free fellowship and entertainment. It will be a place where they can come into contact with people who have good values; and a place where they can go to try to stay away from some of the less salubrious activities in which some young people have been involved in in recent years.
Sadly, even in Hornsby and places such as Berowra a problem has emerged of under-age drinking. It is something that needs to be addressed and the youth cafe project will certainly help. There is a great awareness among the professionals in the field, the police and other agencies, of the need to take care of this youth problem, particularly late at night and on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. I have spoken to the Minister for Police and also to senior police in my electorate about further police patrols, particularly in Berowra, which has had a problem with vandalism late at night after the last train. As a result, a number of initiatives have been put in place, some of which involve further police patrols; others involve the return of beat police at certain times to patrol in Berowra; there is a whole range of issues. I am not entirely sure that those initiatives will be enough and I will continue to press the point with the Minister for Police to try to get further police strength in Berowra. I would like to see beat police return full-time to the Berowra patrol area, and that is something I will continue to work on.
I want to speak about health in my electorate and just briefly touch on Hornsby hospital. Hornsby and Ku-ring-gai district community hospital has been part of the district for 60 years. It is the place, as I so often say, where many of our friends, relatives and members of our family have been born. My brother was born there. It is a great part of the community and is regarded very highly by the people of Hornsby and Ku-ring-gai. The hospital provides world-class treatment for its patients but its infrastructure and buildings are ageing. The Department of Health has as one of its priorities the redevelopment of Hornsby hospital. It is a bit down the list, too far down for my liking, and I will continue to raise with the Government and the Minister for Health the need to commit funds as soon as possible to the first phase of the development work for rebuilding the hospital, and thereafter to follow that with the second phase. I commit myself to continuing to work on that with the Minister for Health.
I want to speak now about the environment. The people of my electorate guard their environment very jealously. Indeed, they are very concerned about the environment, as so many people are these days; but it is probably fair to say that in my electorate there is a very high degree of awareness about the need to protect our environment. Part of that is due to the debate that has taken place in the past 10 years in this country; but the other part is due to the fact that so many people live in the Hornsby and Ku-ring-gai areas because of their very special environment. There is Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park; the Mookamurra Nature Reserve; Berowra Waters and the Berowra Creek area and some of the waterways in the national park. Parts of the Hawkesbury River also run through the electorate. There are some fantastic natural bushlands and natural environments. Sadly, it is showing signs of having been closely associated with urban development for decades, none the least of which are the signs that emerged recently in Berowra Creek, a creek which is seriously under stress. It is not by any means beyond repair, and the repair process has already begun. As I said in a statement to the House yesterday, I was very pleased that the Government, through the Hawkesbury-Nepean Catchment Management Trust will implement one of my key concerns for the area, which is a catchment management committee for Berowra Creek. That will begin the process of community understanding of the problems of the creek and a community solution for cleaning up the creek. [Extension of time agreed to
The problems of Berowra Creek belong to the entire community and the creek belongs to the entire community. It is not just a problem for the Water Board or the council's stormwater system, or the industry that impacts on it, or those of us who live in the catchment area who discharge sewage and urban runoff into that catchment. It is all of those things combined and more. A community solution is needed to clean it up. The community cares, and I know my community will be involved in the clean up of that creek. I am hopeful of a meeting within the next couple of weeks with senior representatives of the Water Board. I will continue to press the Government for nitrate removal to become a feature of the effluent treatment in the two sewage treatment plants in the area - at Hornsby Heights and West Hornsby. The removal of the nitrates from the effluent will involve a cost and the community needs to understand the questions of costs, although as a Government we need to commit ourselves to doing that. I will continue to press that with the Ministers involved and also with the Water Board. I have spoken about that elsewhere and I will not labour the point.
I turn now to education. I am committed, as we continue to build and belong to a better community, to growth in our schools. The schools in my electorate are doing a marvellous job in educating young Australians. Also, many schools are involved in community and adult education programs. Honourable members opposite who are smiling may well be jealous of what is happening within schools in my area. A new hall is about to be commissioned at Wahroonga Public School involving a great community effort and Government investment of $500,000. The bush school, as it is called, still requires further redevelopment. I shall continue to press the Government to develop its buildings because, as with Hornsby hospital, it has many old wooden buildings.
Wideview Public School is commencing a building program. Hornsby Heights has new library facilities. Redevelopment of the library and administration area at the Berowra Public School is being carried out for its centenary. As the school patron I shall take part in those celebrations later this year. I do not want to single out too many schools for fear of offending some people through omission. I am close to all members in the education community in my area. I wish to commend the work that is being done. In particular, I wish to speak about the development of Ku-ring-gai High School as the first creative arts high school. That designation was given by the Minister as a result of a program we were involved in last year. Performing arts high schools are in existence, but this creative arts high school will focus on the visual and performing arts, drama, theatre, media, radio, television, and print, as well as the more traditional pursuits of music.
The Ku-ring-gai High School will become a centre of excellence for the entire region and the Sydney metropolitan area. It may even draw people from other parts of the State. Residents from the Central Coast would be interested in the programs being offered at that school. Tom Richmond, his staff and Beverley Peter, the director of schools, are developing programs in co-ordination with the committee of which I am a member. They are committed to developing Ku-ring-gai High School as a special creative arts school, an exciting development that will continue over the next few years.
I wish to refer now to sporting facilities. My electorate is extensive and further sporting facilities are required in suburbs such as Berowra. I have been supportive of a program for the building of a pool complex at the Berowra Community Centre. I shall continue to talk to the Minister for Sport, Recreation and Racing about that. I am aware of private sector interest in the project. I am of the view that this is an ideal way of funding community facilities because the private sector will gain benefit from such facilities. A proposal for a skateboard ramp is being developed as a result of representations made to me by a 15-year-old youth. Recently I put him in touch with other people who came to see me last week about the same proposition. The community is trying to build a better community and my role as a local member is to help facilitate that wherever possible.
There are many issues of concern in the Brooklyn area, and I have been working on those. I am still endeavouring to secure resolution of a dispute between the State Rail Authority and Hornsby Council over the use of the public wharf at Brooklyn. At one point slippage of the seawall has occurred and a legal dispute has arisen as to who has responsibility for rectifying that. I do not care who does it provided it is rectified so that the public wharf can be used by the Dangar Island ferry and many other users. When the tide is high people often are forced to make alternative arrangements. That is not good enough; it has been continuing for too long. I hope to have the matter settled this year.
Dredging needs to be undertaken off the Gut at Brooklyn because of spillage from State Rail works many years ago. State Rail wants that area dredged and has allocated the resources to do so; it has submitted an environmental impact statement and development applications to the Hornsby Council. There was toing and froing between the council and the State Rail Authority. As a result the process must begin again because the time for the development approval has expired. That should be undertaken as soon as possible and I shall continue to raise that matter with the Minister.
I am addressing many issues relating to Brooklyn, but one outstanding matter is the need to dredge the navigation channel. As a result of a meeting I set up with the Public Works Department and Hornsby Council progress has been made. The Public Works Department may be able to fund that project on a more realistic basis than the 50-50 funding they were offering Hornsby Council. I accept that Hornsby Council would not be able to meet 50 per cent of the cost. A number of my constituents have continued to raise that matter with me and I shall endeavour to work out a solution to the problem.
On the issue of local planning, I welcome the decision of the Minister for Planning, the Hon. Robert Webster, to agree to my request to exempt Hornsby Council from the blanket policy for dual occupancy. Hornsby Council did an excellent job in coming to grips with the need to increase the consolidation of our urban area. Many residents did not approve of the way the dual occupancy provisions of the various State planning laws were being applied in their area. They raised those issues with me and other local members representing the Hornsby Council area, including the former member for The Hills, Tony Packard.
It was following representations that the Minister granted permission for the council to be exempt from the blanket policy, provided it demonstrated its commitment to areas of medium and high density housing. The local environmental plan prepared by Hornsby Council has been sent to the Minister who, in due course, it is hoped will approve it. As a consequence, local planning will have been determined by local people. I am committed to that concept, and the Government has delivered it for the people of the Hornsby shire. The same offer is open to people in the Ku-ring-gai shire. However, the Ku-ring-gai Council has not yet seen fit to discuss the matter in a meaningful way with the Minister at the negotiating table in order to reach a solution similar to the one reached with Hornsby Council. I urge the Ku-ring-gai Council to do so because many of my constituents are concerned about planning in the Ku-ring-gai shire, especially relating to dual occupancy.
People in that community are not aware of exactly what rules will apply. On certain occasions the council seems to apply different criteria. If the council has certain criteria about dual occupancy and a policy to approve them all, it ought to inform residents. In some cases proposals are going backwards and forwards to council and, ultimately, to the Land and Environment Court. This is not in the interest of good government. I urge the council to review its dual occupancy policy and, in particular, to enter into negotiations with the Minister similar to those undertaken by Hornsby Council.
In terms of traffic management, I seek a quick solution to some of the problems with the Pacific Highway and welcome the initiative of the Minister for Transport and Minister for Roads to have a study prepared for the upgrading of the Pacific Highway between Hornsby and Chatswood. I have had a briefing on the draft proposal. That will provide a much better deal for my constituents who use the Pacific Highway in the morning and evening peak periods. The proposal will improve the capacity and flow rate and, in turn, will alleviate another problem of major concern to my northern constituents, which relates to the intersection between the freeway and the highway at Hornsby. Sometimes vehicles on that intersection are banked up for more than a kilometre. In my many discussions with the Roads and Traffic Authority it has been suggested that the traffic lights favour the freeway at key peak times. I believe that suggestion is necessary and I urge the Roads and Traffic Authority to keep it in mind when finalising plans for that part of the Pacific Highway.
Traffic management issues in Wahroonga continue to be a problem. Last year, at my request, the Roads and Traffic Authority began talks with Ku-ring-gai Council about some of those issues. One principle I wish to mention is that in general residential streets should not have to bear the burden of through traffic travelling, in many cases, to the city or, indeed, to the Central Coast if they are travelling in the other direction. A traffic management scheme is needed which will give residents some certainty that their streets will remain residential in character. Earlier today the Minister for Transport spelled out the magnificent achievements of the Government in relation to trains. My constituents have benefited from improved on-time running, an increased number of seats, and improvements in rolling-stock and safety. During the term of office of this Government there have been many improvements to the train system.
One matter I continue to press with the Minister is the need for additional services - not necessarily additional seats, because the number of seats has been increased - in the morning peak hour for people living north of Hornsby. My speaking time is about to expire, and I wish to once again reiterate that as the member for Ku-ring-gai and as a member of the Fahey Government I commit myself to building and belonging to a better community. I am not referring only to my electorate, where the community and I are working together to build and belong to a model community, but also to being a member of the Fahey Government, which is building a better community for the whole of New South Wales as we move towards the year 2000. The role of the community is to respond to those efforts and to ensure that the New South Wales community continues to be a model for the remainder of Australia.
(Port Stephens) [8.30]: My contribution to the Address-in-Reply debate will be in two sections, the first relating to Port Stephens and the second relating to some of my shadow portfolio responsibilities. His Excellency the Governor, Rear Admiral Peter Sinclair, has done an excellent job for New South Wales. He comes from Tea Gardens, which is in my electorate. I express my sincere regrets about the treatment that has been meted out to him in relation to his reappointment and the way that issue has been debated in the media. In this country there is a time and a place for everything. The treatment given to this issue could be described only as very poor.
The honourable member for Oxley asks, "By whom?" In the first place the issue was obviously raised with the media by members on the Government benches. The way the issue has developed and been speculated upon, but not decisively answered, has caused only distress to the Governor's family and the people of my electorate, where he is respected as an excellent citizen and where he will always be a favoured person. Certain issues raised in the Governor's Speech concern me.
At the outset I should like to refer to some problems associated with local government. There are three local government areas in my electorate: Great Lakes, Port Stephens and Newcastle.
For a long time many of us have worked hard to improve the image of Port Stephens Council. I must record that there is disquiet in my electorate. Of all the correspondence I have received during the six years I have been a member of this place, the greatest amount has been in relation to a matter that has been recently referred to as the rezoning of Fern Bay, which is in the electorate of Newcastle. It is not for me to pass judgment on the council rezoning of that land, but there is a major level of disquiet in my electorate about it. I have in front of me a letter addressed to the Director of the Local Government Department, Mr Payne. The letter reads:
As a Councillor of Port Stephens Council I write to you today -
The writer is very concerned about the rezoning of land at Fern Bay from 1(a) to 2(d). The letter continues:
At Council's meeting of December 14 the Mayor . . . declared an interest and refrained from chairing or voting at this meeting.
At a Special Meeting of Council on December 21 . . . after a rescission motion was signed by 3 councillors, the Mayor chaired the meeting and voted for the rescission motion. (The vote was 6-5 against this motion).
After this meeting the Mayor approached each of the 6 councillors who voted against the rescission motion individually, and in front of witnesses, mentioning that he had word from the developer that we were to be summonsed and where did we wish this act to happen - at our place of residence or at the Council Chambers - as he did not want to upset families prior to Christmas.
The only reason for my writing to you today is that I felt truly intimidated and uncomfortable by this statement, although I have not changed the way I voted.
Since December 21 the question of the rezoning was brought forward from the mandatory (regular) 3 months to an Emergency Council Meeting of January 25th, 1994 where 3 motions were put to a meeting of a Committee of a Whole. (These motions being successful.)
A rescission motion was lodged and debated on February 1st with the vote being 6-all and the Mayor exercising his casting vote.
I urge your Department to investigate this matter and send all the relevant information to ICAC.
That is the text of the letter that was handed to me. It would be prudent for people in this Parliament to highlight the need to ensure that the due and proper processes of the law are observed. The Minister for Local Government and Co-operatives and the whole Parliament should be cognisant of what has happened before any judgments are made. It is important to exercise integrity, and integrity must be seen to have been exercised. I have not been able to find out why the mayor changed his mind. He refused to talk to the Newcastle Herald
and has had no contact with the media. All in all, there is great disquiet in my electorate. I urge the Government to be aware of the problem so that it does not make any rash judgments.
I turn now to the recent bushfires. As the Governor said in his Speech, the bushfires were a matter of grave concern. Twenty units from the Country Fire Authority of Victoria attended a major emergency in Port Stephens. That highlighted a matter that is important to the people of my electorate. The Victorians are very much better supplied in communications, training and equipment. If the Parliament does not address that issue, the same problems will recur in eight to 10 years' time. The fact that the Victorians had 20 units, a 20-channel communication station, mobile workshops and a disciplined and able team of people highlighted what good training can achieve and how training can be improved. The people of my electorate were impressed by the uniformity, first-class equipment and the use made of that equipment.
Recently I have had quite a deal to do with firefighters in my electorate and the consensus is that the issue of communications particularly needs to be addressed. I look forward to any hearing at any time and to being able to put forward my electorate as a typical New South Wales coastal electorate that is able to contribute to firefighting needs in the State. The electorate of Port Stephens is a long way behind other electorates such as Sutherland, Baulkham Hills and the Blue Mountains that have first-class equipment. I make that offer to the Government. The people of Port Stephens will be only too happy to contribute to any inquiry at any time. I hope any such inquiry will be ongoing.
For the past six years Nelson Bay Road has caused major problems in my electorate. Over a six-year period there have been 15 deaths and more than 500 serious accidents on that road. In 1988 Premier Greiner promised that the road would be rebuilt. During the by-election campaign in 1988 he promised that the road would be totally reconstructed. Major safety improvements are still needed to that road. The problems have not been addressed. If it has any semblance of decency the Government, which is obviously out of control, must address these problems.
In 1987 the Labor Government started the Hunter fringe area sewerage program. On the eve of the 1988 election the people were told that sewerage could be provided without a levy. Every light pole in my electorate had a blue and white sign on it that read, "Vote 1 Liberal-National - Sewer Without a Levy". In the Port Stephens electorate people are paying yearly $70 a property, a payment that will continue for 24 years. With 133,000 contributors in the Hunter region, that amounts to about $10 million a year, which is equivalent to the dividends that the Government takes from the Hunter Water Board. In addition, every person who built a new home post-17 February 1989 is liable for a $2,963 contribution to the Water Board, plus an application fee, plumbing fees and inspection fees.
Many pensioners reside in my electorate. Those who have borrowed the maximum to obtain housing are in the intolerable situation of having to pay an
extra $3,000. They are either forced to sell their houses or they suffer the trauma of being unable to connect to the sewer. I urge the Government not to go through the exercise of telling people to obtain a commercial loan. Pensioners cannot do that, and people who have borrowed the maximum - young couples with families and often families with only one breadwinner - are forced to pay. I urge the Government to seriously consider its promises of 1988, and to seriously consider what it is doing for families. Honourable members have heard the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai talk about families. Families are being unbelievably squeezed by this Government. It is intolerable that they are $1,600 worse off than they were five years ago. It is even more unbelievable when the sewerage charge is added.
The Government must plan for the Raymond Terrace bypass. The first bottle-neck on the journey from Sydney occurs at Raymond Terrace, as the expressway virtually finishes at Hexham. Anyone who travels north and south knows that it is the major bottle-neck, with massive traffic holdups, particularly at Christmas and Easter. The honourable member for Myall Lakes knows it is a major problem, as his electorate is to the north. He and I have continually approached the Government to expedite expenditure on that bypass.
The challenge for the Government is that if that money is made available at the appropriate rate, the road can be completed by Christmas 1996. That is not unreasonable. However, if the money does not flow, construction will extend well beyond that time, which would be intolerable not only for the people of the Port Stephens electorate but for people who travel the Pacific Highway in New South Wales. I urge the Government to consider seriously the issue in the formulation of the forthcoming Budget. The Commonwealth has provided money, and the State has a commitment to do so.
The shortage of police in Port Stephens has been a major concern for a long period. There are no major problems in Nelson Bay. There are peak workloads at Christmas and holiday times, but it is reasonable in winter. At Christmas more than 6,000 people congregate in the Nelson Bay-Shoal Bay area. Major problems occur on New Year's Eve. We are trying to sort out ways to make the area alcohol free and to sort out some of the unruly behaviour that occurs. If it is not handled properly we will have another Byron Bay, Kings Cross the way it was years ago, or The Entrance. Something must be done about the challenge and the warning. I commend the police. Last year 50 police were brought into Shoal Bay but it still was not enough. Considering the mess and the alcohol problems, the challenge exists, but extra resources are required beyond the level of those which can be provided by the local police inspector from local stations. It will probably require 200 or 300 police to enforce the laws that need to be enforced.
I highlight the needs of air force families in my electorate. Many people who are associated with the Royal Australian Air Force base at Williamtown have major problems with pre-schools, community facilities and many other State supplied services, which reflect on their lifestyle. It is important that we recognise that these families, through recent taxation and social security rulings, are being disadvantaged. We must do all we can to ensure that is sorted out, in addition to ensuring that family facilities are provided for people who remain in the area for an average of two years. Some of my shadow portfolio responsibilities are fisheries, forests, lands, agriculture and soil conservation. The Governor on page 9 of his Speech - a speech that I consider one of the poorest that a Governor has ever been given to read - indicated that the Government will introduce legislation to improve fisheries management in New South Wales. He said:
As well as modernising the State's fisheries legislation, my Government will liaise with the fishing industry with a view to introducing a system of property rights into fisheries management. Such statutory rights would enable fishermen to conduct their fishing operations increasingly as a business, and would ensure more comprehensive management of the industry, whilst protecting fisheries resources for the future.
The Speech was given to His Excellency to read, but that part of it is nothing short of hogwash. Considering property rights and the problems occurring along the coast of New South Wales, the system has been proved a failure. Systems in other countries that went through the dry economic Thatcherite-Reaganite activities that were proved to have failed absolutely are now being thought of in New South Wales 10 years afterwards. People who are thinking up these ideas are geared to a Treasury concept of getting two-thirds of the fisheries budget - $12 million to $13 million - out of a user-pays system. Part of the plan is to freehold the fish resources of the State, which is unforgivable. Fish in the sea are publicly owned resources. [Extension of time agreed to.
Fishing rights are a problem that is about to confront this State, and the warning should have been heeded by the Government. There is a saying around the Sydney Fish Market that the Minister for Fisheries, the honourable member for Clarence, has his ears painted on his head because he does not listen and he cannot hear. That is repeated to me up and down the coast. At seven meetings on the New South Wales coast, the fishing rights proposal as put by the bureaucracy of New South Wales Fisheries was unanimously rejected, so much so that at four of the meetings the Director of Fisheries said he believed there should be an amateur fishing licence and that the bag limits set by the Government were far too large.
One in four people is a recreational angler and tackle shops alone have an annual turnover of $125 million in this State and $400 million nationally. There has been no consultation on this matter. The Minister has the audacity and the stupidity to tell people that he will ram the legislation through the Parliament. I will do all I can to see that there is justice and that there is consultation before the legislation is introduced. The oyster industry is near and dear to me. In six years it has been ruined because decisions have been made on a political basis
instead of on sound scientific data and advice. The once great industry of this State, worth $35 million, is on its knees. Families are bankrupt. Oyster farmers on the South Coast are being hounded out of the industry. There is division. The regulations are unmanageable and impossible to enforce.
I warn the Government to be careful of what it is doing or it will send further families to the wall. The coast of New South Wales must be regularly surveyed and where it is agreed that the Pacific oyster is out of control restrictions should be removed and Pacific oysters should be allowed within the estuaries affected. But in estuaries where the Pacific oyster does not occur not one oyster should be allowed to be transferred in. In estuaries where the Pacific oyster is considered controllable there should be 100 per cent commitment from the oyster industry and the officers of New South Wales Fisheries to ensure that the Pacific oyster is controlled. The situation should be monitored sensibly and soundly, and with a lot of common sense.
I now turn to forest matters. The Government's policies for ensuring the supply of wood have been absolutely pitiful. Short-term politics has been the driving force in much of the Government's decision-making. It has sought political advantage instead of long-term ability to manage the forests. The Opposition has a commitment to hardwood plantations. Labor will adopt conflict resolution procedures. The Government has tried to promote conflict for short-term political advantage. In 1992 there was a demonstration outside Parliament House. National Party members were chanting like schoolboys at the gates of Parliament House. One of them was even sitting on the back of a timber jinker with a mobile phone in his hand trying to direct the protest. The Government does not have a commitment to resolving conflict and it has not properly managed forestry.
Five environmental impact statements in a row have been failures, the last costing more than $1 million. Five in a row have been rejected. Five major court cases were lost by State Forests and still the Government is not learning how to settle problems and get it right. That reflects poorly on Government administration. Labor will have contractual wood supply agreements. The waste problems of New South Wales will be addressed. We will look seriously at an education system for forest management in New South Wales. I had tertiary training in agriculture nearly 30 years ago. When I visit tertiary training institutions today I see that none of the natural science courses other than that at the Australian National University offer anything on forestry technology and activities. The ANU School of Forestry in Canberra is run like a secret society, but it is the only place where knowledge about forestry can be passed on. And we wonder why we have conflict!
A Labor government will provide a high level of education in forestry matters. It will be an ongoing program that will take years. It will continue well after I have finished to serve in this Parliament. If we do not adopt this approach there will be no future for our forestry industries. Honourable members opposite do not even think about sustainability. If we do not quickly achieve sustainable yields we will be derelict in our duties in representing the people of New South Wales. We will have penalty systems and ways of sorting out the cowboys in the forests. Even State Forests at times has done the wrong thing. Are our forest industries doing the right thing by selling Australian hardwoods at $300, $400 and $500 a cubic metre when, with a minor degree of value adding, the return could be $2,000 to $3,000 a cubic metre?
I now turn to agriculture. People in the National Party seem to think they have a mortgage on rural issues, but I serve notice that from now on Labor - as it has in the past three years - will be active in highlighting the weaknesses of the Government's rural policies. I turn first to the Letona cannery. Despite votes in this Parliament the Government sat on its hands and neglected its responsibilities to ensure that there was a speedy resolution to the winding up and restructuring of the Letona cannery. It is a scandal. Yet to prop up the honourable member for Murrumbidgee the Government put up $5.5 million towards a United States owned, ConAgra owned, industry activity at Griffith. Government members should think about where they are coming from. A foreign owned company got $5.5 million but the Government could not even get the receiver to expedite the Letona issue so that the cannery could be restructured to take the season's crop. Honourable members opposite ought to hang their heads in shame at what they have done for rural New South Wales.
The honourable member for Murrumbidgee talks about the rice-growers co-operative. The coalition is nothing short of disgusting, and that is what this matter is all about. Suddenly there is interest in sugar when the industry is highlighted. Mark my words: the Opposition will undertake many things to ensure the sugar industry in the Murwillumbah and Tweed areas is given a fair go and the white shoe brigade from the National Party does not get hold of all the land. The Government has a group of people who want to do nothing about the buffalo fly. The problem with ticks is also disgusting. Notice is hereby given that the Government can expect many attacks and its members will be cringing by the time the Opposition is finished. The polls will determine which is the better party.
(Myall Lakes) [9.0]: I do not know that I have the nerves to follow that tirade. I was shaking in my boots after being whipped by a feather from the Opposition. I congratulate the Governor on his Speech and I thank him for giving such a far-ranging and visionary address to the Parliament. I should comment on some of the mischievous speculation in the press about his replacement. I note the Speech was given on 1 March and not 1 April; the reason the journalist wrote the story must be that he mixed up the months. His Excellency, Rear Admiral Peter Sinclair, has carried out an admirable job.
Why do you not reappoint him?
I am not the Premier of New South Wales. I am sick and tired of the media in this State indulging in such speculation. Today in this Parliament in a debate about cleaning we heard that the media attempted to portray a school with litter problems. However, the purported school was a park. The press must answer to some of its scurrilous reports. Someone either sold them a dump at the reception on Tuesday or they decided the opening of Parliament was an opportune time to attempt to run a ridiculous story.
I have a strong commitment to the Governor system. I am a monarchist and I believe we should retain the Governor. The Governor's Speech covered a range of activities in New South Wales. It reflected how well the State is progressing under the Fahey-Armstrong Government. No doubt at the present time New South Wales is confident in the direction of the Government and in its leadership. I have received positive feedback from my constituents about projects being undertaken in the electorate. Under former Premier Greiner we experienced a period of change; it was a necessary change after 12 years of Labor. Sometimes the change was agonising because we had to implement drastic cutbacks.
At the present time in Victoria we are witnessing a sense of déjà vu as Mr Kennett has to undo, change and redirect that State after a colossal period of Labor Government. I am sure change will also hurt South Australia and Western Australia. One of my National Party colleagues in Victoria told me before the election that it would take 10 years to undo what the Labor Party had done. I am pleased that after six years in office this Government has made the changes and is allowing the people to reap the benefits of those changes in a better community.
The main issue in my electorate relates to roads. Although there was a tragedy today in my colleague's electorate of Oxley, no doubt the road system is far better than it was six years ago. I pay tribute to my friend and colleague the honourable member for Barwon for that achievement during his stewardship of the roads portfolio. Under the previous administration rural New South Wales and the North Coast were deprived of road funding. Everyone says that our roads are now better, not worse.
More money is always welcome, but the improvements so far have been significant. In my electorate the dual carriageway of approximately 20 kilometres has been completed and will open this month. Construction of the Taree dual carriageway bypass is now commencing. The $360 million Pacific motorway project to be trialled in my electorate will open a further 50 kilometres of dual carriageway and add approximately 75 kilometres of dual carriageway through my electorate that contains the three black-spot areas of rural New South Wales. I thank the Government and the honourable member for Barwon for putting the efforts into the road system. Of course, the 3 x 3 program ensured a great deal of money flowed into rural areas, all of which was directed to the road system.
The extension of the Sydney expressway has an indirect benefit to my electorate because the travelling time to Sydney is greatly reduced. In the past month we have been working on providing a new airline service to my electorate. Thanks to this Government and the farsightedness of former Premier Greiner, Premier Fahey and former Deputy Premier Wal Murray, my electorate has fared well with transport and roads. It is not by accident that under the stewardship of the honourable member for Barwon the road toll has been reduced by almost two-thirds. He does not seek praise but he has helped to save many lives in New South Wales.
This year is the International Year of the Family and I am pleased to be involved because it provides an opportunity to reflect on traditional values. The family has changed, but certainly not to the expectations of the gay mardi gras. It is wrong for the homosexual population to portray in the coming mardi gras the traditional values that we ascribe to families in the manner they wish. I do not begrudge them their mardi gras, but to attach themselves to the International Year of the Family is drawing a long bow. We have traditional values and people are seeking to redefine the family. A few days ago at the launch of the International Year of the Family the Premier announced a number of proposed activities. I will certainly be encouraging everyone in my electorate to become wholeheartedly involved and to participate in those activities. I will ensure that not only do we consider activities to celebrate the year of the family, but to make the family a better unit for many years and to reappraise the family situation as we head towards the year 2000.
One small initiative the Government has achieved is the introduction of enterprise agreements. Enterprise agreements allow for flexibility so that families benefit. For example, if a woman who wishes to work has young children who attend pre-school or a day care centre, an enterprise agreement with her employer can facilitate her working hours so that her children might be involved in activities that will enable the mother to work during that period of time and be available to collect her children at the end of the activity and supervise them. There is nothing sadder than latchkey children or those who, through no fault of their own, have to forgo time with their mother or father due to the economic pressures of running a family unit. Enterprise agreements are a significant step forward in enhancing family life. That view might seem obtuse, but if enterprise agreements are given a go, they will prove a worthy aspect of the industrial reforms that have occurred in this State in recent years.
I have always had great concern for the aged, especially those in the Myall Lakes electorate, which has a large population of retirees. Many of them come from Sydney and many are from country areas. Institutionalisation of the aged has always concerned me. It is wrong to peremptorily put old people into retirement homes - unless of course they want to go themselves - or to otherwise institutionalise them. The policy of the Government to keep people in their
homes as long as they can remain there, through a variety of programs and incentives, is to be applauded. Every day in my electorate I become aware of older people forming loose peer groups to support other older people within their community to stay in their homes and enjoy quality of life in their day-to-day activities. I am pleased to be part of a Government that considers these issues.
The Government has re-emphasised Senior Citizens Week and was most proactive in making that week a calendar highlight in New South Wales, to ensure that seniors in our community enjoy themselves and look to new goals and directions in the coming year. Although retirement villages and nursing homes are needed, I am pleased that great support still exists to encourage people to remain in their homes. I am also pleased, though, that the Government has supported many initiatives on retirement homes in the Myall Lakes electorate. not least being the retirement home being built on Crown land lease at Old Bar. That home will provide great assistance to the people of the Old Bar, Great Lakes and Taree areas, and coincidentally will also provide employment in the Old Bar area.
A wilderness proposal in an area called Barrington Tops has created much emotion in the electorate. The proposal is to take 67,000 hectares of national park and forestry area, and to sterilise that land from any forestry or recreational activity or use other than walking. That proposal effectively would remove a recreational area that has been economically viable for more than 100 years. In 1989 a plan of management was put together by the people of the Gloucester region, including various environment experts, environmentalists, council representatives, union representatives, community representatives and others. That most sensible plan provided legitimately for 27,000 hectares of wilderness, with other areas being kept for forestry or national parks. That plan achieved great success within the community. Regrettably, the Wilderness Society chose to overlook that document and made a claim for the whole 67,000 hectares, including areas where I have walked with women pushing babies in strollers through the bush - an area that could hardly be called wilderness.
That matter is yet to be decided by Cabinet, but I ask and hope that the Cabinet and the green movement considers the win-win compromise put forward by the thinkers in our community, by those opposed to the Wilderness Society proposal. That compromise is a wilderness area of about 27,000 hectares, with some national park being left for those not nimble or agile enough to walk into and enjoy areas that have been available for more than 100 years. The forestry area can be retained as an economic base for keeping residents of towns such as Dungog and Gloucester in employment. There is no doubt that we need wilderness. I subscribe to that view, but the grab by the green movement for chunks of land that are not really wilderness can only add bitterness to the debate. I hope the green movement gives consideration to compromising its grab for land in the Barrington Tops area.
Tourism goes hand in hand with national parks, wilderness and forestry areas, which provide much scope for recreational activities. If I could express a somewhat parochial view, I happen to represent one of the prettiest electorates in New South Wales. Myall Lakes, as its very name suggests, is idyllic. Mr Acting-Speaker raises his hands in dismay, but I am afraid that the attractions of the electorate of Lismore could not compare with those of Myall Lake, Smiths Lake, Wallis Lake, the beautiful Boomerang, Bluey's and Burgess beaches, the hinterlands up to Barrington Tops, Gloucester and all those wonderful areas.
We are desperate to ensure that our area is foremost on the tourism calendar. To that end I congratulate the Government on introducing the outstanding "Seven Wonders of New South Wales" program, which we are featuring. Already, in its infancy, the program has brought an increase of up to 25 per cent in tourism in New South Wales. My electorate is benefiting from that increased tourism. We were happy enough to receive from the Hon. Virginia Chadwick, the Minister for Tourism, a $100,000 grant. On Monday I will be giving the Great Lakes Tourist Authority a $10,000 grant.
What size whiteboard does she use?
What an unintelligent, stupid interjection from a shadow minister! Every area in New South Wales got exactly $100,000, unlike what happened with Ros Kelly, who wrote the details on a whiteboard and then rubbed them out. She gave all her mates the money. The honourable member, if he pretends to be a shadow minister, should consider his interjection next time he makes one. I will be sending a $10,000 cheque to the Great Lakes Tourism Authority for its tourism plan. That excellent initiative will enable us to plan for many years into the future to ensure a continuation of tourism.
However, a low impact tourism destination holiday place is needed in the electorate to add a touch to its tourism potential and employment opportunities. We are well planned on the ground for an expansion of tourism. A very active TAFE college runs tourism hospitality courses which have great potential. TAFE is continuing to run those courses, and trained people will be available. That provision is another initiative by this forward looking Government to satisfy the educational needs of the citizens, especially the young people, of New South Wales. In addition, the emphasis of courses can be changed so that people can get into their chosen areas.
I am excited by the trialling in the electorate of the excellent TAFE pathway project, in which students in years 10, 11 and 12 do vocational courses at high school if they do not want to go on to university. Not everyone wants to go to university. The Fahey-Armstrong Government has been deeply conscious of education needs in developing areas; the Myall Lakes electorate is certainly a developing area. The new Cape Hawke high school recently opened. The Forster high school moved to the previous Cape Hawke school site, where $2 million has been
expended on upgrading. The new Hallidays Point school has also been formed. There was such anxiety about getting that school into operation that it was relocated in Forster while a new school was built at Hallidays Point.
The Government recognises the need to continue and advance the educational changes put in place in the early days and it is pleasing to see that even teachers who were against some of the Government's proposals during the early part of the Greiner Government are now saying, "Yes, it works"; "Yes, it is good"; "Yes, we were wrong". I will not request an extension of time, but in my few remaining minutes I should like to say that law and order in my electorate is a concern. However, my electorate has an excellent police force, dedicated to the eradication of problems that often beset country and coastal areas.
I am pleased that the Minister for Police announced recently that the new Forster police station will soon become a reality. When I was first elected, Forster had only seven police officers. It now has 15 police officers, but they are still working in temporary premises - a garage. The Labor Government housed the police officers in that temporary accommodation and they have been waiting for a new police station ever since. It looks as though Forster is about to get its new police station, and that is an advantage. Law and order in my electorate has been enhanced greatly by the implementation of alcohol-free zones - an initiative of the Government - and many activities in my electorate have benefited therefrom. I could mention other areas, but there is no doubt that the State of New South Wales is in good hands under the Fahey-Armstrong Government.
Mr J. J. AQUILINA
(Riverstone) [9.20]: I am delighted to have the opportunity to respond to the Speech delivered by His Excellency the Governor. His Speech was presented in excellent fashion, although the text left an enormous amount to be desired. The New South Wales Parliament used to hold an official opening after every parliamentary election. It was an opportunity for the elected Government to present its program to the people. In those days programs had vision, and spelt out the aims of the Government and what the Government hoped to achieve. However, we now have an official opening every year. Pomp and ceremony every year! The Governor, the judges and the vice-chancellors are marched out, all in their festive array. The Governor is presented by the Government with a speech to read.
We have the pomp and ceremony, but we do not have the vision. Those who read through the Speech would be really hard pressed to find anything of substance and anything meaningful that looks forward to what should be achieved in the next 12 months. The Speech announces a few committees and a few inquiries. The Government is all for committees and inquiries! They are the answer to everything. Whenever something goes wrong the Government says, "We will establish an inquiry". If something needs to be done, "We will set up another committee". It is understandable, therefore, that some reference should be made to committees and inquiries in the Governor's Speech. Where is the vision? Where is the program? What is being achieved for the welfare of the people of New South Wales as a result of the Speech?
I should like to analyse education training, as I would be expected to do. It was very hard to hear in the other place among all the pomp and ceremony, with so many people jammed into that small Chamber. I strained to hear something that was in some way innovative. Unfortunately I was to be disappointed, as were hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren and students at TAFE colleges in the State, as were hundreds and thousands of parents of schoolchildren in the State. What was announced in the program? The TAFE-HSC pathways - nothing new. We had it last year. It was an absolute flop because the Minister cannot manage programs she announces. The HSC pathway program was to have been piloted in 1994 for 1,200 young people. Unfortunately, the Government announced the project but forgot to tell the teachers and the students about it.
When enrolment in the HSC pathways program closed, 400 students only had enrolled out of the entire State, not the 1,200 for which I had criticised the Minister because I felt, at that stage, that too few places had been provided. At the last minute they scurried around and got a couple hundred more students to enrol. This year only 600 students are enrolled in the HSC pathways program, a program that everyone supports, including me, and which is acknowledged as a very worthwhile program, but once again has failed and has been failed by the Government because the last people to hear about it are the teachers in our schools and our TAFE colleges and the students who are supposed to be benefiting from it.
The Governor announced also joint secondary schools TAFE programs. Big deal! New South Wales has had those programs for 10 years. What is so new and so innovative about those programs? If one continues, one finds mention of a special education policy 1993 and a special education policy plan 1993-1997, but nothing is spelled out. What does this all mean? It is just so much mumbo-jumbo. There is no vision. There is no foresight. The Hon. Virginia Chadwick is shooting from the hip when it comes to education policy, and it happens time and time again. If it were not for some initiative on the part of her bureaucrats, we would have no initiative at all. She is failing to provide leadership. She is failing to provide any kind of initiative direction. She is failing to assume any degree of responsibility for this very important and vital portfolio.
The Governor's Speech made much of the Government's claimed commitment to the family. Again, that has a lot of platitudes. I put it to the Minister and the Government that there are few areas of government policy that could have a greater effect on the long-term welfare of families than the education of our children. Few family values can be
argued to be more important than the inculcation of a spirit of honesty in our children. It is a pity, therefore, that the record of the Minister for Education, Training and Youth Affairs so far this year has been characterised by lies and dishonesty - precisely the wrong values to promote in families. In the absence of any leadership on education issues, all the Minister can do is spout lies. In six days during February and March, the first month of the school year, she lied at least 14 times - that is a lie every 10 hours on those six days. This is not an idle boast. Each of those lies can be documented specifically, chapter and verse.
Let us take, for example, her claim on 31 January in the Sydney Morning Herald
, "Each year since 1988 there has been an increase in spending in government schools". That claim is totally misleading. It fails to account for the increase in pupils enrolled and inflation. Since the Hon. Virginia Chadwick assumed the education portfolio, total recurrent education spending has fallen from more than 29 per cent of the total budget in New South Wales to just more than 26.7 per cent. The Minister for Health knows that only too well because his portfolio, which was second to education, has overtaken education in terms of budgetary expenditure in the State. Those figures can be obtained from page 199 of Budget Paper No. 2 for 1991-92, as compared with Budget Paper No. 2 for 1993-94. At the same time, pupil enrolments have increased to what the Hon. Virginia Chadwick has called "record numbers" - her words, Sunday Telegraph
, 30 January. In the Daily Telegraph Mirror
of 31 January, the Minister for Education, Training and Youth Affairs claimed:
Mr Carr's figures are outdated and failed to include the Government's recent push to strengthen teaching numbers.
The Minister said this in response to an analysis by the Opposition showing that education funding in New South Wales was worse than that in any other State and any other Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development country. The Opposition's analysis showing lower per pupil spending and higher pupil-teacher ratios than other States and underdeveloped countries is based on three reports, each of which was released in December of last year and January of this year.
These reports are the most up-to-date, publicly available, comparative statistics on education funding. The reports include: "Education at a Glance: OECD Indicators", Centre for Educational Research and Innovation, OECD, Paris, released in December 1993; "Statistical Annex, National Report on Schooling in Australia 1992", Australian Education Council, released in January of this year; and "Schools Australia, 1993, Preliminary", Australian Bureau of Statistics, released on 12 January 1994. Where is Mrs Chadwick's documented evidence for all her bogus claims, her lies and her dishonesty when it comes to educational statistics as far as New South Wales is concerned? No data released by Mrs Chadwick suggests that the statistical picture has changed. In fact, every indication is that things have got worse since the statistics were collected. On 1 February 1994, the Minister claimed on 2BL news:
When one looks at the cutbacks including sacking of teachers in other States, our commitment to education is very obvious and very high.
These words flow very freely from the lips of the Minister for Education, Training and Youth Affairs but they belie the facts and the truth. What are the facts? Even after the sacking of thousands of Victorian teachers, New South Wales pupil-teacher ratios are still the highest in Australia. The Australian Bureau of Statistics figures released in January show that last July, after the teacher sackings in Victoria, the New South Wales pupil-teacher ratio was still 14 per cent worse than that of Victoria. Even the further cuts in Victoria since then still leave New South Wales as the worst State. The extra 190 teachers this year will not decrease the pupil-teacher ratio; they will merely meet increased enrolments under the 1988 staffing formula, as the Minister has admitted. Again I refer to the 2BL news of 1 February 1994. On the same day Mrs Chadwick stated on the 2GB news:
New South Wales has one of the best education systems in the country because class sizes have not changed for four years.
In fact, we continue to have the worst funded system in Australia precisely because class sizes have not decreased in four years. If anything, they have increased. I have statistical evidence to back that statement as well. Four years ago 2,500 teacher positions were cut. I need not remind honourable members or the public of New South Wales that Labor is committed to the restoration of those 2,500 teacher positions, and we will do so in our first term of Parliament come May 1995.
Every comparison of funding per pupil since then has shown New South Wales to be the worst funded State. The fact that class sizes have not been reduced proves that this is still the case. Again, on 2BL news on 1 February 1994 - the Minister should stay off the airwaves because every time she goes on and tells more of her lies she gets the Government and the Premier into more trouble - the Minister said, "The staffing formula for schools has not changed since 1988". Where has the Minister been all this time? Is she so lazy that she does not even know what is going on in her department? Does she let her bureaucrats run it and let it run away from her?
The simple statement punctures all the Minister's other claims. It appears to be the only true statement the Minister has made in this debate. New South Wales education funding has never recovered from the cut of 2,500 teachers announced in 1988 and implemented in 1989. It was this cut which made New South Wales the worst funded State in Australia. It is a fact that teacher increases have kept to the staffing formula that keeps New South Wales the worst funded. This statement also rebuts Mrs Chadwick's misleading suggestion that new teachers this year represent an increase in resources per student. Quite simply, they do not.
A spokeswoman for Mrs Chadwick stated in the Sydney Morning Herald
of 21 February 1994, "Class sizes have not risen since 1988". The facts are: under Labor class sizes fell consistently from 1976 to 1988; since then, class sizes have increased to an average of 27.4 pupils, with 15 per cent of classes with 31 pupils or more. I need not remind any member of this House that 30 is supposed to be the ceiling for the teaching of classes - not 31, 35 or 36, as is very much the case with composite classes. Mr Acting-Speaker, you very well know that that is the case with some schools in your electorate. A spokeswoman for Mrs Chadwick stated in the Sydney Morning Herald
of the same date:
Schools have been operating under the same staffing policy of one teacher to 25 pupils in primary school and one to 35 pupils in high schools.
What are the facts? Around 80 per cent of primary school students, approximately 350,000 children, were in 1992 - and are presently - in classes of 26 or more. That fact is published by the New South Wales Department of School Education "Statistical Bulletin" put out by the Minister's bureaucrats, dated 1992. The staffing agreement states that class sizes in primary schools "need not exceed 30". However, in 1992 around 15 per cent of classes exceeded this limit. There has not been a staffing policy of one teacher to 35 pupils in high school for the last 19 years. I would like the Minister to point to anything within her bureaucracy, within any of the papers prepared for her, that shows that it has been policy for the last 19 or 20 years to have 35 pupils per class. That is a blatant lie. The Daily Telegraph Mirror
of 21 February 1994 quotes Mrs Chadwick as saying:
There has been no rise in the number of composite classes across the state.
That is probably the most barefaced lie of all. In 1987 the number of composite primary classes was 3,417. That is a departmental figure, taken from the Department of Education "Statistical Bulletin", page 9, of 1987. In 1992 the number of composite primary classes reached 4,700. Again, that is a figure from the "Statistical Bulletin", page 18, of 1992. The department should stop printing these statistical bulletins, because every time it does it reveals the barefaced lies of the Minister and the way in which the Government is creating falsehood after falsehood when it comes to public education. [Extension of time agreed to
There has been an increase of 1,283, or around 40 per cent, in composite primary classes since Labor's last year in office. These three lies were all told on the one day. The Minister does not only lie to journalists and the public, she also lies to her friends, including an old friend from the good old days - none other than Kathryn Greiner. Mrs Greiner interviewed Mrs Chadwick on 2UE on 20 February. Mrs Greiner said:
Let's take the issue then of the composite classes. Have composite classes increased by 40 per cent?
Mrs Chadwick replied:
No they have not increased by 40 percent . . . it certainly isn't 40 percent.
I have already explained to the House that the official statistics of the Minister's own department show that the increase since Labor's last year in office was 37.5 per cent, or around 40 per cent in round terms. The staggering thing about that lie is that the Minister was prepared to lie to an old friend. What is she prepared to do to the general public of New South Wales? In the Sydney Morning Herald
on 21 February 1994 she said, in reference to principals being gagged in regard to the Opposition's class size survey:
It was the first time Mr Carr had not approached the minister's department for information, despite past requests for data on class sizes, violence, computer numbers and other education issues.
The Opposition has had no co-operation from the Minister's office when seeking basic information. The Minister's office has failed to give the Opposition a personal briefing on the English and history syllabus, despite numerous requests in 1993. What does the Minister have to hide? Why did she refuse to allow departmental officers to give the Leader of the Opposition and me a briefing on the English and history syllabus? That should have been common knowledge. I, as a member of Parliament, and as shadow minister for education had the right to that sort of briefing and that sort of information. The Minister has refused to give the Opposition a copy of the first quality assurance report, despite announcing that it had been released and despite repeated requests from the Opposition.
I do not know whether honourable members would believe that she has refused me permission to visit schools in New South Wales - an elected member of Parliament and shadow minister for education, not a candidate or Joe Blow in the street. I have to kowtow to officers in the Minister's office to obtain entry to schools in New South Wales. More often than not I receive verbal and written advice to the effect that I have not received permission. This Government likes to run its schools like a dictatorship. Principals are disgusted with the way in which they have to watch their p's and q's. Honourable members should look at the department's code of conduct, which states that if principals speak out in any way against the official government or ministerial line they will be hauled before their regional directors and asked to account for themselves. They will have a black mark against them when they go for their merit promotions. This is the type of tyranny we have in our schools today. Teachers are looking over one another's shoulders. No one is prepared to speak out on educational issues because of fear of being reported to someone higher up or being asked to atone for what has been said.
The code of conduct refers not only to matters of policy but also to educational issues. The year before last we had a disgraceful situation where a principal on the North Coast was hauled over the coals. In fact, he was locked out of his office, the keys were thrown away and the locks to his office were changed because he dared, at a public assembly in his school, to make some statements that in some way were critical of the education policies of this Minister and
this Government. What a disgraceful affair that was! Eventually, of course, he took the matter further, was reinstated and his office keys were returned to him. The Opposition has never received any significant information from the Minister's office. I do not even receive the same information which is sent to schools and many Government members. I, as shadow minister for education, have to try to obtain my information by various means, whether it be something as simple and as straightforward as a school memorandum or a syllabus that has been publicly released.
I wish now to deal with the lie about the bushfire heroes. On 16 February I drew attention to the fact that the Department of School Education was refusing to reinstate lost leave to volunteer firefighters in the Blue Mountains who happened to be teachers, despite the fact that the Government had announced that other public servants would get back their lost holidays. Journalists who rang the Department of School Education were told by the department that teachers would not get back their leave because they were on school holidays when the fires occurred. The Minister did a backflip and reversed the department's policy. But, worse, she claimed that there had never been such a policy. A spokesperson for the Minister's office lied to journalists and said that the department had never told teachers that they would not get back their leave. The Minister has a lot to answer for if this is the way in which she runs her department. She is tripping up departmental officials left, right and centre. She is changing policy on the run and, in so doing, is making her departmental officers look foolish and, in some cases, even stupid.
Both the department and the bushfire volunteers confirmed that the Minister's statement and the statement by the spokesperson for the Minister were lies. Effectively, the Minister was labelling those bushfire heroes as liars. That is reprehensible when those people gave up in excess of two weeks of their holidays to help fight fires on behalf of people in other areas. I will deal now with the recent saga of lies and misinformation in relation to the Barnes affair. Poor old Chris Barnes was accused five years ago of having stolen higher school certificate papers. Two years ago he was acquitted by the court, which said that he had no case to answer. Because of an inquiry by the Ombudsman he was subjected to torture for a further two years. He is now being subjected to further torture because this Minister has announced an inquiry but she has failed to make that inquiry independent. On 1 March the Minister, on Alan Jones' 2UE radio program, had this to say about the Barnes affair:
. . . the matter that went to court was in fact a matter to do with an allegation that the papers were stolen . . . there were two different charges: one of cheating and one of theft.
That statement is false. The Minister does not know her facts or she is deliberately telling untruths. Barnes appeared before Mr K. Quinn, a Local Court magistrate, on the charge only of misprision of a felony. The other two charges were not proceeded with. Mr Barnes never went to court on an allegation of theft; the Minister lied again. On 1 March, on the same Alan Jones 2UE radio program, the Minister said:
There is no mechanism for me to instruct the Board of Studies.
Again that statement is false. The Minister could have taken the following steps: she could have carried out her functions under section 19 to determine whether the general method of assessment of candidates for recognised certificates involved an appeal process which was fair and impartial; she could have requested the Premier to initiate a special inquiry under section 82 of the Public Sector Management Act. A short, sharp four-week to six-week inquiry would have brought justice more quickly than the report of the Ombudsman. The final lie occurred earlier today during question time in another place. The Minister, as recently as this afternoon, could not help telling a lie to help get herself out of trouble.
The Minister espoused the same lie that she had espoused on two other occasions in her duplicitous costings of Labor's education policies. She stated today that Labor's policies would cost over $300 million each year. In fact, using New South Wales Treasury's method of calculation, Labor's education policies - which are equivalent to 2,500 additional teachers - would cost around $117 million each year when fully implemented in Labor's fourth year of government. Time after time, almost on a daily basis, the Minister for Education, Training and Youth Affairs is resorting to lies, false claims and downright untruths to get herself out of the mess she created through her own inefficiency, ineptitude and laziness. It is about time the Minister started to get her facts right. If she continues in this way she will not only undermine her own authority as Minister, and her own credibility in this important portfolio, but she will undermine the credibility of the entire Department of School Education and those important instrumentalities that are so vital to students of this State.
I mention a matter relating to my electorate of Riverstone and to education, that shows the duplicitous nature of this Government. This evening I had the pleasure to entertain the former captain of HMAS Nirimba
, Captain Geoff Cole and his lovely lady Lyn. Nirimba
, which was a naval base in my electorate, has been closed down. It is a unique institution of great tradition and history, a learning institution through which over the past 40-odd years more than 12,000 apprentices have passed. It was, and continues to be, the hope of everyone in the western area of Sydney that that naval base would be turned into an education precinct with a university campus attached to the University of Western Sydney, a major TAFE college and two senior school colleges, one run by the Catholic Education Office and the other by the Department of School Education.
For months this Government has had the opportunity to respond. All we have received to date is one press release from the Premier saying that the education precinct has been approved. As the local
member, and as an advocate for the western area of Sydney, I would like to see more ink on the paper and more commitment on the part of this Government. I would like to see a bit of timetabling, a bit of guts to make sure we give some assurance to the people of western Sydney. Unless we have that assurance very soon, we will miss the boat for 1995. Thousands of young people who depend on this Government to provide them with educational leadership and educational opportunity will miss the boat. The Premier should tell us now what the future of HMAS Nirimba
will be. [Time expired
(Lismore) [9.50]: The shadow minister for education has managed to vent a whole lot of spleen, obviously because he was not happy working for the Department of Education, was not happy working with children. That showed up in the 28 minutes of rubbish we have just heard. The honourable member then spent two minutes talking about his own electorate. Even then he showed how little he really cares for his people and once again went on with a whole lot of rubbish and criticism. It would be well to remind honourable members what this debate is actually about. The autumn session of the New South Wales Parliament commenced on Tuesday this week with the official opening by His Excellency Rear Admiral Peter Ross Sinclair, Governor of New South Wales. Following the long-established tradition of the Westminster system of government, the Chief Justice, university chancellors, lord mayors, service chiefs from the army, navy and air force and judges moved into the Legislative Council Chamber to witness the occasion.
After the arrival of the Governor, the Usher of the Black Rod, clad in his traditional black suit with white lace, crossed to the Legislative Assembly to knock on the door three times before entering this Chamber to invite members of Parliament to move in procession to the Legislative Council Chamber. The Governor then made his Speech which outlined the legislative and financial proposals to be debated during the Fourth Session of the Fiftieth Parliament of New South Wales. The topics covered indicated the wide range of responsibilities faced by a Government that has real concerns about the welfare and future of the people of this State. When honourable members look at those topics, ranging from family and community services through to ageing, education and training, initiatives for women, urban renewals, transport, health, indigenous people and many other matters, we begin to understand how well His Excellency set the pace for this coming session.
The Governor referred to the tragic fires that occurred in many parts of this State. In my own part of the world, because of the work of our own people and our own fire brigades, we were perhaps more fortunate than people in other parts of the State. In my electorate conditions were as severe as anywhere in New South Wales. We had temperatures of over 40 degrees, strong hot westerly winds, absolutely zero water in the grass and zero humidity, making conditions horrific for fire fighting. But with the help of fire brigades from as far south as Bellingen through to the Queensland border, under the control of our fire control officer Peter Ryan, we were able to minimise damage. On Saturday in Kyogle I enjoyed a barbecue and a parade of 40 firefighting units which were congratulated by the people of my area for the work they had done.
In Australia we can expect extremes of climate. We go from dramatic fires and drought through to heavy rain and floods. I am proud of the emergency services in my area - the full range from firefighting, flood, rescue, and volunteers - for the work they carried out. Even while I speak, my area has turned a full circle once again. It is pouring rain in that part of the world and the lower lying areas are suffering minor flooding. The last report I received was that the rain was not heavy enough to cause major problems. However, all these things indicate our need to be ready for all sorts of problems in the extremes of climate experienced in Australia.
The Governor also mentioned that this is the International Year of the Family. I record that I would like to see prominence given to examples of loving family relationships that set a role model for the way young people should live and provide strength for our community. Too often today young people do not see the sort of role model of which we would all be proud. As I look around the Chamber, the majority of people here are role models for exactly that sort of good living -
Order! Perhaps the honourable member for The Entrance was being disrespectful to the Chair. I did not quite hear his comment but I hope it was not disrespectful.
In the International Year of the Family I would like to see strong consideration given to these matters. I would not like to see the International Year of the Family spoilt with debate about what a family might or might not be. I would like to see prominence given to the positive side of family relationships. The North Coast is a very desirable residential area and therefore many aged people reside there. I am pleased the Governor mentioned in his Speech how important housing, health and recreational services are to the people of the area.
I have two sisters living in the area.
I am pleased that the honourable member for Auburn has interjected. The services the people of the Lismore electorate get from their local member are such that even members of the family of the honourable member for Auburn have moved to the district. Education for young people is most important for families, whether that education is provided in pre-schools or special schools. The Lismore electorate has a special school at Casino called Jumbunna. That is an early intervention centre which takes quite young children who have some form of disability. Those children are given stimulation to enable them to develop their full potential more
quickly. That special school has much higher costs than have normal pre-schools. Recently the Government has been able to help the school continue its good work by making a one-off grant of $15,000 to keep it going this year.
The children who attend that special school can then go to special schools such as Wilson Park or attend special classes at other schools. A greater co-operation and relationship has been developed between the special school and the special classes at other schools in the district. That is a model I have supported for some time. The teachers from the special school are able to have in-service training and provide resources for the teachers and children in other classes. Teachers who have specialist training could become isolated in other schools, but by mixing with their colleagues from special schools and the Wilson Park school they have the opportunity to continue to develop their specialised professional training.
The Lismore area has excellent primary and secondary schools. Schools in the area have taken up the pathways program. A small school in the Clarence electorate - a part of the region in which I am extremely interested - this year has accepted the enrolment of 17 mature-age students in years 11 and 12. The school has a total of about 20 year 11 and year 12 students. For it to take on 17 mature-age students makes one realise how well the school has promoted the pathways program. I congratulate the teachers and citizens of the Woodenbong School. The Lismore electorate also has an adult education community college whose staff have been working with the Aboriginal community and have established an Aboriginal institute. Both the adult education community college and the adult education Aboriginal institute are working extremely well. The TAFE college at Wollongbar is a regional college that is complementary to the expanding services provided by other colleges in the district.
The big success story in my electorate is the Southern Cross University, which was established by legislation introduced by this Government. I am pleased to say that the reputation of the university is becoming known far and wide. The tertiary scores required for entry to the university are increasing, so much so that it is becoming difficult to gain entry to the university. That signifies the high standard of education available at that fine university. As more people move into the electorate employment and economic development become more important. With that in mind the Government has set up business advice centres. I mention specifically the centre at Casino run by Ashton Gough and Shirley McNaughton. With the assistance of the Government they have established a rural advice service and an Aboriginal business advice service at Casino. That service deserves special mention. With the help of Ashton Gough and Shirley McNaughton, along with the work done by Russell Kapeen at Coraki, real advances have been made.
When I was first elected as a member of this Parliament, in 1988, I visited the Aboriginal people at Coraki and was told that there were 200 able-bodied people in the town, but only one of them was employed, part-time. Since then Russell Kapeen and other Aboriginal people in the town have revived a nursery and got it going. That nursery is growing and supplying wholesale to other nurseries the vine to which the Richmond birdwing butterfly is attracted and on which it breeds. The work done at that nursery has led to an increase in the population of the Richmond birdwing butterfly and it is becoming common throughout the Richmond Valley. Russel Kapeen has entered into cleaning contracts with the Richmond River Council. He and his friends have established an art gallery at New Italy that is doing extremely well. They have undertaken a vegetable project whereby local people are learning all about market gardening. Recently I had the pleasure of presenting an award of $15,000 to them as a prize they won in a statewide competition.
While speaking about the Aboriginal people of Coraki, I should congratulate "Four Corners" on the program it presented about Box Ridge and the people of Coraki. The presentation was perceptive and explained the difficulties faced by those people and the progress they have made. In a district that is growing as quickly as is the Lismore region it is important that small businesses be given opportunities to develop. The reduction in State taxes and charges and deregulation have helped to create opportunities for business expansion. I mention specifically two businesses that are doing very well. Norply was a plywood mill in Kyogle. After the disastrous closing down of the timber industry in North Queensland that company moved to Kyogle and set up a peeling factory. The gluing section of the company was located in Sydney. The company went bust. The people of Kyogle and Lismore bought out the company and have put it back on its feet.
When the original owners operated the factory in Kyogle about 30 people were employed. Norply has now moved its gluing section from Sydney to Kyogle and has expanded the company. The company employs almost 100 people and is producing a quality product; it cannot meet all its orders. If the company were able to gain access to greater resources, it would be able to value-add in a way that would be of economic benefit to New South Wales and improve the unemployment situation in Kyogle. Another firm that is expanding and doing well is Bindaree Beef at South Gundurimba, which is just out of Lismore. The company had a small abattoir that was taken over by local people. At that time the abattoir employed 30 people. Those who took over the company have worked hard and expanded it. Bindaree Beef now employs 100 people and sends products all over southern Queensland and northern New South Wales. That shows what can be done in country areas through decentralisation when a government is willing to support business. Power supply is most important for the expansion of businesses in regional areas. [Extension of time agreed to.
It is interesting to note how public sector reform has flowed through to public utilities. Back in 1988 Pacific Power tried, with public consultation, to expand the power network from Lismore to Mullumbimby by means of a new high tension line. At that time the proposal met with a lot of opposition, because the consultation process was not as good as it could have been. Pacific Power found at that time that the need for the high tension line was not as urgent as it thought it might be because it had encouraged consumers to use power more wisely. When the company recommenced the consultation exercise it worked much more carefully with the people. As a result, although there has been some fairly heavy discussion and some people are yet to be completely convinced of the need for the line, most people in the area - whether they see the need for the line or not - have congratulated Pacific Power on the way it approached the matter of deciding exactly where the line should go and the way it has worked with the people.
Expanding areas such as there are in the Lismore electorate can have a major problem with law and order. People were very concerned about what had been happening in some streets of Lismore and in the town of Nimbin, a very beautiful town but one with a major drug problem. I am sure any honourable member who visits the Lismore electorate will find a visit to Nimbin rather enlightening. However, in the past such visits could have been spoiled by some irresponsible people in the area. I am pleased to say that, with new patrol commanders in Casino, Lismore, Sanderson and Dawson, and the new district commander in Goonellabah, stronger and more innovative action is being taken by local police. Additional police officers will allow the reintroduction of foot patrols and as a consequences more co-operation from the people in the district. Thus the police services will be delivered more effectively.
One problem confronting police relates to drug use and drug related crime. There is a strong move by some people in the area to legalise or decriminalise marijuana. I object very strongly to any such suggestion. Having been a teacher for 28 years, I have seen at firsthand what marijuana can do to students. One of my most brilliant students took his life as a result of his involvement with marijuana. On many occasions parents come to my office with sad stories about marijuana use. I have seen for myself how young people who had tendencies towards schizophrenia or other medical problems have gone off the deep end and had their lives destroyed by that substance. I could never condone the legalisation of marijuana.
Decriminalisation of possession of a small amount of the drug or the issue of on-the-spot fines may be ways of lessening the backlog in the courts, but I am yet to be convinced of the wisdom of those proposals. We must ensure that the courts can deal swiftly with such criminal activities because, as honourable members know, justice delayed is justice denied; in some cases, punishment delayed is also justice denied because such delays can lead to the committal of further offences. Dealing speedily and justly with such offenders could perhaps solve many of the problems. I am pleased to mention that repairs and improvements have been carried out to both Casino and Lismore police stations and the new court rooms in Lismore are approaching construction, with alternative court room accommodation having been organised while the new court rooms are being built. Things are moving along well in that direction.
The North Coast has one of the best climates in the world - even better than Myall Lakes, I might say. The North Coast has an ideal climate and rich soils. The diversity of agricultural products is as great as one would see almost anywhere in the State. In addition to the traditional activities of beef cattle raising and dairy farming, there are goats, sheep, pigs, deer, horses, emus and ostriches. Among the crops grown there are the traditional corn or maize and a full range of cereal crops - wheat, oats, barley, and soya bean. The North Coast is becoming famous for its macadamia nuts, but pecan nuts are also grown, together with an extensive range of vegetable and fruit crops, including mangoes, peaches and plums. Tea and coffee are in production. The one common and essential ingredient necessary to make crops successful is excellence. Two farms may be side by side. One farmer may produce top quality mangoes while the other farmer is not quite as careful. During a season, when the farmers are looking for a niche market for their fruit to market, one farmer may be getting $50 per case while his neighbour is getting only $15. The story is the same whether the crop be peaches or whatever. Excellence is most important in agricultural produce.
The extension work of NSW Agriculture is most important. Field days, trials, and district shows are all very important if our part of the world is to make its contribution towards the $5.8 billion worth of agricultural product produced in New South Wales. At the same time we have to be eternally vigilant because the North Coast, being subtropical, can have problems with cattle tick. Cattle tick is quite capable of surviving right through into Victoria. Those honourable members who have been reading the agricultural papers will have noticed that only recently Victoria has had trouble with bush tick, which indicates just how far cattle tick could spread if uncontrolled. Cattle tick spread could be absolutely disastrous to the beef industry of New South Wales. When cattle tick was first introduced into Queensland in the last century, up to 50 per cent of herds died from tick fever. The same could happen if cattle tick were to spread into Victoria. That part of my electorate keeps the cattle tick problem under control and at the same time protects the remainder of New South Wales. It is a point we should all keep in mind.
The North Coast is very attractive to the honourable member for Auburn because of its ideal environment and climate. Many writers say it is the best in the world. The mountains, the hills, the alluvial plains, the creeks, the rivers, the forests and the grasslands all need to be maintained and cared for.
Planning, and balancing rural residential needs as against agricultural pursuits all need to be carefully considered. I am pleased that the current debate on wilderness has led to many people beginning to realise just how important the environment is to the local people. What concerned me in relation to the wilderness debate was the bad advice -
From the Minister for the Environment. He gave you bad advice.
No, not from the Minister for the Environment but advice he appears to have received from some of his advisers. I was pleased to be able to approach the Minister and correct that advice. I know the honourable member for Bathurst will be surprised, but I support the views of the Colong Foundation for Wilderness on that matter. The Colong Foundation for Wilderness nominated part of the Border Ranges National Park, which truly was wilderness and did not contain any tourist areas. The Border Ranges National Park has national heritage status and the romantic name of Lost World Wilderness was put forward. But then some advisers of the National Parks and Wildlife Service advised that all of the national park, involving 60 kilometres of tourist roads and miles of tourist walking tracks, should be included in the wilderness.
Is the honourable member saying that the Minister did not take his own initiative on this matter?
I am saying that a good Minister delegates and then checks to find out what is going on. A good Minister speaks to the local member and receives sound advice. That is what happened on this occasion and that is why it is known all over New South Wales that National Party members on the North Coast are sensible, well-educated environmentalists. They do not go around with a string of letters after their names, yet they have enough brains to understand that some people have not received adequate education. I am pleased to know what is happening. Of course, we need to look closely at the development of our roads, airports and railway structure. The Macpherson Ranges have provided a major barrier between the North Coast and southeast Queensland. I shall continue to mention the importance of the east Mount Lindsay crossing of the Macpherson Ranges to that part of the world. I remind honourable members that the Governor said in his summing up:
. . . I now leave you to your important responsibilities to further the welfare of all citizens in New South Wales.
The New South Wales Government and I take that challenge seriously. In the coming year the Government and I, as a local member, will be doing everything possible to ensure the future welfare of the citizens of the North Coast and, indeed, all New South Wales citizens.
(Auburn) [10.20]: Honourable members will note that on the lapel of my coat I have a blue and white badge that has the familiar words London, Paris, New York and, more important, Auburn - the Auburn electorate being the centre of the year 2000 Olympic Games. Members of the Liberal Party would like a boundary redistribution so that the Olympic Games are held in a Liberal electorate - but they will be held in the Labor seat of Auburn. My sister Carmel and her husband, Richard, and my sister Mary and her husband, John Browning, enjoy living in the electorate of the honourable member for Lismore. They know the honourable member and speak favourably of him. The honourable member for Lismore has expressed views about the North Coast. However, the reality is that the North Coast is slowly but surely becoming Labor, and it will be a Labor electorate by the year 2000 because every seat north of Sydney will be in Labor Party hands.
I commend the Governor for his Speech, though not the rhetoric. I was pleased when the Governor visited Lidcombe Hospital in my electorate. If the Government remains in office after the year 1995, it will lead to the demise of Lidcombe Hospital. The hospital celebrated its centenary and the Governor said to the master of ceremonies, "Everyone can take off his coat". The Governor took off his coat and put it on his chair. That is His Excellency's nature. So why does the Government want to sack him? Tell me the truth. I was astounded by the nonsense I heard from the Premier today. The Governor is a man of the people and should have another term as Governor according to tradition.
You want a republic.
If Australia became a republic tomorrow, the Governor would be the President or Governor of New South Wales but without the English connection. As I said earlier today during the debate on the fall of Singapore, my uncle was the great-great-grandson of an Irishman who came to Australia as a consequence of fighting for his liberty. Every year that I have been a member of this Parliament I have heard various speeches. Since this Government came to office every year I have heard the Governor's Speech. I do not wish to appear cynical but the Government does not have the ability to gain the numbers in order to pass legislation. The Government knows that the Parliament has to meet, thus presenting the facade of a parliamentary democracy. Parliament will spend three weeks debating the Governor's Speech but very little legislation will be dealt with; it is being held back because the reality is that the Government does not have the majority to pass legislation.
Recently I said at the Regents Park branch meeting of the Australian Labor Party that Parliament will sit for only 35 days in this year. Someone asked whether he could have my job - and preselections are imminent! I questioned whether he would really want it. We should be sitting more and dealing with important legislation. However, legislation is not being dealt with because the only legislation that is passed is that agreed upon or introduced by the Opposition - which is really the government - with the support of the Independents, Ms Clover Moore, Mr John Hatton and Dr Peter Macdonald, the honourable
member for Manly. I say that because I picked the habit up from the Minister for the Environment, the honourable member for Gosford. Instead of addressing the Leader of the Opposition as the honourable member for Maroubra or as Leader of the Opposition, he addresses him by his first and last name. Honourable members should be addressed by their correct titles because that is the tradition. The Minister for the Environment, should not use his supercilious television antics.
He loves Wilson Park, and I shall return to that in a moment. The honourable member for Lismore stated also that 1994 is the International Year of the Family; it is a year that should be created for the family. The idea is not rhetoric; it is to unite the family, to bring back the family. The incidence of violence in society stems from broken marriages and the failure to enforce discipline in the home or in the schools. Also, people are not taught to respect personal property and other human beings. We no longer have love and affection for each other. Back in the days when I was younger and my father was alive, we used a wonderful word - mate. In those days people were mates and could talk to each other. On many occasions driving up to Oberon and other country areas in my youth, hitch-hikers could be picked up without any problems. However, today people are terrified to do so. Violence is blamed on television and many other things, but I believe it stems from lack of communication with our family, and a lack of love and affection.
Earlier in debate on the motion relating to the fall of Singapore a lovely comment was made about a man who said, "I held your husband in my arms and all I could do was pray over him and send him to God. He was dead". That man fought in the war. Thousands of men died so that we can have our wine, our dinners, and our arrogance - but we must get down to reality, and, more importantly, this is the International Year of the Family. However, 17,000 families of lorry owner-drivers in Sydney - they are in the electorates of the honourable member for Cronulla and the Minister for the Environment, but not so much in the working-class electorates - will not be celebrating the International Year of the Family because they are being financially destroyed.
When I became the member for Auburn, my electorate had an ethnic affairs office, a housing commission office, a health care office and a GIO office. Those offices have now all been closed by the Government of which you are a member, Mr Acting-Speaker. Those offices dealt with family issues. My office is now the housing commission office because people come to me to do something about their housing problems. The Government has closed those offices but the Opposition will re-open them as soon as possible after March 1995. I wear a badge which refers to Auburn, because the Auburn electorate is a great place to live and I represent a great group of lovely people.
Mr Acting-Speaker, you come from Lismore and you have told us it is a lovely place. Indeed, Lismore is a lovely place and a good member represents the electorate, but you must have a wider vision. I said to a Liberal member of Parliament, whose name I will not mention but who is now in the Chamber, "Why don't you come out to Auburn?" He said, "How do I get to Auburn?" He has not been past the North Shore. Where is Auburn? It is where the people live. It is where the Olympic Games will be held. Auburn has 20 per cent unemployment, it has poverty, it has many problems with regard to violence but it does not have an ethnic affairs office or a housing commission office.
The ethnic communities in my electorate are forming a committee to undertake billeting during the Olympic Games. The committee will be advertised throughout the world. It will say to the parents, uncles and aunts of athletes who will stay at the Olympic village, "We know you cannot afford the exorbitant charges of hotels on the North Shore, in the eastern suburbs, Kings Cross and Sydney, but you do not have to pay that money because you can come and live with a family of your own nationality in Auburn". Auburn has them all - the Turks, the Greeks, the Arabs, the Croatians, the Serbians. You name them, Auburn has got them, and they are all good people. The relatives of the athletes will be able to stay in the homes of these good people free of charge. I would like to be with one of those families in their home the day their child wins a gold, silver or bronze medal. I include in that the Aussies, who are also in my electorate. When one of their children wins a medal I would like to be in their home. It does not matter that the electorate is poor and has a high rate of unemployment. That is what the people of Auburn want to do because they are good people. Who on the Government side cares about this? No one cares.
Oh, you care? You do not even know how to get to Auburn, but you will want to go there for the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympic Games. Let us get out to Auburn and experience the reality of it. Before Sydney won the bid for the Olympic Games there were three hospitals in my electorate: St Joseph's Hospital, which was run by the nuns; Auburn District Hospital, which is still there; and Lidcombe Hospital. They all played an integral part in servicing the community. St Joseph's Hospital is gone but its palliative care and rehabilitation units are still servicing the electorate. Those units are good for the people who use them - there is no problem with that - but St Joseph's Hospital was a magnificent hospital.
On one occasion I made a speech to the local council after a massive hailstorm had wiped out 40,000 windows and 4,000 roofs. I said to the aldermen, "People in our electorate are suffering, we have got to get out there and do something". They said, "Yes, we have got to do something". I then made the mistake of leaving the dais and fell over and broke my leg. The reason I mention that is because that accident put me in a cast for seven weeks. When I wanted to go to Auburn District Hospital, I was told there would be a five-hour or six-hour wait before I could be admitted. I was taken straightaway to St Joseph's Hospital and was taken in.
My mother had a terrible headache and went to St Joseph's Hospital. She had a massive stroke at that hospital, she was cared for and she died that night. It was a great hospital and it was staffed by great people. The palliative care and rehabilitation units and the village for the elderly are great, but 30,000 people moved through the casualty section of St Joseph's Hospital every year. There is an old saying, "Nixon couldn't tell the truth, Washington always told the truth, and some people today do not know the difference". That is how I would describe the Minister for Health. He gave $2 million to Auburn District Hospital to pay for the care of the 35,000 people a year who went through St Joseph's Hospital but who now go through Auburn District Hospital. That money is there but there is still a three-hour, four-hour or five-hour wait before admission.
The January bushfires were tragic. Friends rang me from overseas to say how tragic the fires were. My wife covered the bushfires on the Central Coast for her newspaper. I had gone to Queensland to pick up my children. We came back down and we could not get past Newcastle, so we spent our time on that side of the bushfires. Yesterday the Premier told us that the Government would help people who did not pay their insurance or did not have sufficient insurance. I agree with that. People do get into financial difficulties. But when that hailstorm hit Auburn in 1990, what happened? Nothing. Auburn received not one penny from the Government. An amount of $300,000 was given to Bankstown Council to undertake repairs and maintenance to its wrecked equipment, but not one penny went to Auburn. The people of Auburn had to fend for themselves. At that time I said to the Premier, the Hon. Nick Greiner, "I would never do to you what you have done to the people of Auburn". The people who suffered in the bushfires deserve to be compensated; so did the people of Auburn.
In 1989 when St Joseph's Hospital was closed, 25,000 people were on the waiting list. In 1993, 40,000 are on the waiting list. The Government must realise it has to do something about that. The Premier rightly said that apart from all the integral parts of an administration, a State government is basically about three things: health, education and transport. I thank the honourable member for Eastwood, Andrew Tink, for helping an elderly woman in his electorate. I telephoned him and asked whether he could help her, and indeed he did. It was good that I could talk to one of my colleagues about a serious problem. He was able to do something, although the elderly lady was very independent and decided that she did not want the help. However, the fact is that he attempted to help. That is what we are here for.
I come now to the most serious issue about which I am concerned: the environment. The Minister for the Environment is in the Chamber. In the Auburn electorate there is a beautiful park right on Parramatta River called Wilson Park. The plan was that when the ferries came to Parramatta, passengers would be dropped off at Wilson Park, the ferries would go down to Parramatta and everyone could board them. Someone miraculously discovered that the company which previously owned the land had buried toxic waste there. Unfortunately for the people of Auburn - but fortunately for the people who previously owned and sold the land in 1992 - the toxic waste erupted from the ground and onto the park and people were affected by acid. The park is now closed.
I have written many letters to the Minister for the Environment, who is not even bothering to listen because he knows he is not on a roll in relation to this issue. Wilson Park will be his death knell because of his failure. Incidentally, Wilson Park does not belong to Auburn Council; it belongs to the State Government. It is the Government's land; Auburn Council is merely the trustee. The Minister for the Environment said that it might cost $2 million to rectify the problem but the council could do it because the Government would not. Auburn Council intends to send the problem back to the Minister and tell him that it no longer wants the trusteeship of the land unless the Government does something. The Minister for the Environment allocated $250,000 for a little more experimental work to ascertain if there was any way of remediating the problem. [Extension of time agreed to
The same member for Gosford - the Minister for the Environment, who is the ultimate joke - is good on wilderness. He does not understand that the word wilderness is composed of two parts - wild and ness. He is not wild but is Ness. He would not know what the wilderness is, for he has never been out of his own little patch with houses all around him. Recently in this Chamber he was at sea and was incompetent in the way he handled a question about his portfolio. Fortunately, the honourable member for Strathfield came to his aid with a supplementary question. If he had not, the Minister would have been dead and Opposition members would have been laughing. Each time the Minister sees Tony Sansom, the endorsed Labor candidate for Gosford, he shakes. At least Tony Sansom pays his $1,040 in wine bills every year. I am sure the Minister will make sure that is taken care of. The environment is an important issue, particularly as it relates to Wilson Park. I am confident that after my contribution to this debate he will ensure Wilson Park is protected for future use.
I will turn my attention to more important matters such as transport, rather than dwell on the fantasy of having this man as Minister for the Environment. I do not know how the people of Gosford tolerate him. I like him as a human being, so long as I can keep my distance from him. He invited me to lunch but I was unable to make it. I will invite him and the honourable member for The Entrance to lunch and provided I can leave after the first half hour we should have an interesting time.
The transport system is a cause of concern. I was approached by a lawyer recently - and honourable members should not get upset simply because I mention the word lawyer - and he asked me when there would be class actions. When I asked him why
he wanted to know, he said he was representing 15 people who have been assaulted, harassed or terrified because of poor security on the trains, but they do not have enough money to sue individually. He said that if it were possible to have a class action they could join together to sue the State Rail Authority.
One of my many occupations was as a station assistant, working shifts covering 24 hours a day. The job of station assistants was to secure the stations. In the 18 months that I carried out that work in 1973-74, I did not see one act of violence or vandalism. I travelled by train today on a new Tangara which had spray paint all over it. The cost of travel from Bankstown to Sydney in March 1988 was $12 a week; in February 1994 it is $17.80. In March 1988 it cost $12 to travel from Parramatta to Sydney and in February 1994 the cost is $17.80 - a 48.3 per cent increase in rail fares. If rail fares have increased so greatly, why is there such a problem with violence on trains, and in schools?
I refer to an article in the Review Pictorial
of Wednesday, 2 March 1994 entitled "School principals, police chiefs meet". I organised and chaired a meeting that was called to discuss not so much violence in the schools but violence when children leave school. In October a vicious machete attack took place on a young boy at Regents Park station, in the suburb where I live. He was cut up and his friend was held down and kicked. Those boys came from Birrong Boys High School. The problem of violence on trains will not be resolved unless the Government provides additional police on railways or in the area.
I have a press release by the principal of Birrong Boys High School. He suggested that each high school should have access to one police officer who would liaise between the school and police. That has been agreed to and it will take place. A meeting of student leaders will be held at Birrong Boys High School to discuss the issues associated with violence in the community. That was my initiative. Every captain and vice-captain from every high school in my electorate, whether they be Catholic, Muslim or public school children, will be present to discuss the matter. The prevalence of graffiti was condemned and it was resolved that any graffiti in public places should be removed. I propose to introduce legislation to outlaw the use of spray cans as graffiti instruments.
They are already outlawed.
Is the Minister for the Environment telling this House that he wants spray cans legalised so they can be used to spray graffiti?
I said they are already outlawed.
That proves a point. Graffiti is all around Sydney, even on trains, though it has been outlawed by the Government, which cannot enforce the law. We can deal with this issue. If an under-age person is sold alcohol in a hotel, a $5,000 fine is involved. But it is fine to sell that person cans of paint for graffiti. At Regents Park people had to walk past walls where four-letter words had been written in spray paint. This matter can be resolved only by legislation. These principles were enunciated at the meeting between principals of high schools, police chiefs and me. Everyone has a right to be safe, especially in public places. It is terrible that a meeting has to be held between principals and police chiefs to emphasise the fundamental principle that everyone has a right to be safe, particularly in public places.
The next point that was enunciated was that everyone has a role to play in stamping out violence, and young people have a vital role themselves. We intend to make sure that young people in schools in my electorate govern themselves and try to resolve the problem. The high school principals all believed that their schools were places of safety and security because of their well developed pupil welfare programs. I accept that because I know that Ross Beckhouse from Birrong Boys High School and Ross McBride from Birrong Girls High School are good disciplinarians. They have a good system for dealing with problems within the school, as do the Catholic schools and other schools. Parents of children at the Christian Community High School at Regents Park are fearful that their children will be attacked. These matters must be resolved, and it is up to the Government to resolve them.
I refer now to road transport. The honourable member for Myall Lakes spoke about the 3 x 3 program. He is behind the times; it is now the 5 x 5 program. He said most of the money is going to country roads. St Hilliers Road in Auburn, which is a continuation of Silverwater Road, has been under construction for the past four years. Each time I ask questions about it I am told it will be finished one day; they will finish it. Four years have been spent constructing one and a quarter kilometres of roadway, yet 20 kilometres of dual highway has been completed in a year and a half in the electorate of the honourable member for Myall Lakes. That is hypocrisy.
I shall speak now about breast cancer prevention. My wife's mother died of breast cancer, which is of serious concern in the community. A lot of money is spent, and rightfully, on AIDS prevention. Additional funds should be made available for research into prevention of the number one killer of women - breast cancer. I call on the Government to put its rhetoric aside and provide more for research into breast cancer. My wife, Karen, tells me that her mother used to attend Westmead hospital and wait for up to five or six hours, in terrible pain, to have chemotherapy. Prevention is better than cure, and money is needed to find the prevention. It is a tragedy, and if money is not made available for that purpose and the disease is allowed to spread, money will have to be spent on chemotherapy and proper treatment.
More school funding is needed. Recently a tragedy occurred at Lidcombe TAFE. Thirteen young men wanting jobs turned up to do a course in concreting, rigging and scaffolding. The course was funded by the Federal Government but, because the
policy was to have a minimum of 15 students, the course could not start. I kicked up a big stink and we managed to find 15 students. The principal, Mr Peter Wright, to his eternal credit, agreed to go ahead with the course. I am upset that three of the students dropped out - one went to Fiji - and the course collapsed. The college had advertised the course but if we had known about the minimum number requirement something could have been done.
I congratulate Mr Wright on his effort. An officer at the Commonwealth Employment Service told me that the course could have started with fewer than 15 students. The CES was providing $40,000 for the course and paying $45,000 to the students for doing the course. There was a fighting chance. I have invited the principal to speak to the Mayor of Auburn, who has now started an employment committee in my area. The Federal member, Mr Laurie Ferguson, and I will take action.
Mr Acting-Speaker, I think you mentioned Southern Cross University. I have been to that university and I am a great supporter of it. The idea of having Seniors Cards is great but why do my staff in my office have to photocopy every single page to be given to the seniors? It is incredible. Finally, in the last minute of my speech I wish to thank people in my electorate. I refer to some of the councillors on the local council: Chris Cassidy, for the good work he does; Councillor Pat Curtin; and Mayor Stan Hedges, who has been there for many years and done a great job; and Councillor Shirley Haslem. On Bankstown Council I thank Councillor Grant Lee, Councillor Bill Lovelee and Councillor David Blake. I thank George Dunn, the former mayor of Auburn, and Councillors John Hachiti and Lee Lam, who have worked very hard for the community. There are many people in the community who go unsung - Barnie Donaldson; Dave Eagleson; Peter Cox, who was a member of this Parliament; Olive Cox; John Donnellan; Vince Cribb; Charlie Kensie; Stan Green and Edna Fox. These are people in the community. Frank McGlynn from the St Vincent de Paul Society and Tom and Dot Bolderson are also good people. There are many more who could be mentioned for the work that they do for the community. [Time expired
Debate adjourned on motion by Mr Kerr.
House adjourned at 10.50 p.m.