GOVERNOR'S SPEECH: ADDRESS IN REPLY
Seventh Day's Debate
Debate resumed from an earlier hour.
(Baulkham Hills) [7.30]: In the Governor's address to the Parliament he outlined a wide range of programs and initiatives which are to be undertaken by the Government throughout this year. His Excellency's Speech began with reminiscences of a great event, namely, the winning of the bid for the Olympic Games 2000 - and a tragic event, the destruction of much of the State's bushland and some property as a result of the recent bushfires. He also focused on the initiatives to be undertaken by the Government in this, the International Year of the Family. This year, six years from the end of the decade and the beginning of a new millennium, family values and values of security have been refocused in the community. As Australia recovers as a nation from a bitter and prolonged recession - a recession that we had to have - and as the tragedy of long-term unemployed people continues, we have the responsibility as a community to take a step forward for security.
Parliamentarians have a responsibility to bring communities together because, as concerned citizens, we cannot accept or tolerate a society that moves into a new millennium with the travesty of young people on the unemployment scrap-heap. In this, the International Year of the Family, in addition to the special initiative which the Government will undertake to assist and support all families throughout the State and to reinforce the value of the family as the central organisational unit in society, we must take care that as a community we have both the moral courage and the economic will to tackle the problem of youth unemployment. In an ever changing society, with the constant pressures for increases in economic competitiveness, training and skills are fundamental to the future development of our young people and their ability to take their places in the society of the twenty-first century.
In that regard the Government's program for education and training is extremely important. In my own electorate of Baulkham Hills are many fine examples of primary and secondary schools - public and private - as well as the excellent Baulkham Hills TAFE College. The continued emphasis on funding and improvements in services in educational institutions, combined with the dedication of teachers and the support of parents, means an opportunity for our young people to obtain the necessary skills to face the future. Geoff Miller, the director of Baulkham Hills TAFE College, has advised me that the college has sustained an increase in enrolments of 6 per cent over the 1993 figure. That has been the result of commencing new courses such as an associate diploma in business, microcomputing, spreadsheets, and a certificate of community support.
Approximately 300 year 11 and year 12 students from local government and non-government high schools will this year attend joint secondary school-
TAFE courses such as accounts, clerical, hospitality, travel and office computing courses with the college. We also have responsibilities to the ageing within our society and the Government recognises the importance of services to the elderly. I am committed to ensuring that our seniors are provided with the best quality lifestyle in their latter years, following their many years of service to the work force and the community in general. It will be my privilege once again this year to host the senior citizens concert in the Don Moore Community Centre at North Rocks. Since my election to State Parliament in 1988 the seniors concert has become an annual event. More than 500 people attend the concert each year and it gives me a great deal of pleasure to organise this event as my personal thankyou to the seniors in my electorate.
I know that many honourable members present will be aware of my strong interest in family and community services and I am happy to report to the House that the Minister for Community Services, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Minister for the Ageing has agreed to visit the Baulkham Hills area on Monday, 11 April 1994, to meet with community service leaders and discuss a number of issues. In him we have a kind and compassionate Minister who is prepared to respond to community needs. The Government recognises the distress caused to the community by the current high levels of unemployment and has introduced programs aimed at assisting the most disadvantaged in the labour market. The programs will enable approximately 40,000 people to find work or work related training placements in 1992-93.
The establishment of the Greater Western Sydney Economic Development Board indicates the importance of western Sydney as an employment and manufacturing centre. I might also add that, because increasing numbers of residents in my electorate have been born in other countries, I recently invited the Hon. Helen Sham-Ho to visit the electorate to help me explain to the new residents how, in my role as their State member of Parliament, I can assist them with any problems they may experience. My staff also help those seeking employment by assisting with the typing of curriculum vitae and it is good to know that I can now call upon members of the Asian community within the Baulkham Hills electorate who have offered to assist with any translations that might be required.
The Government has made a major commitment to the women of New South Wales. I have long been a strong supporter of job sharing for women. However, I do not just give lip-service to such policy issues; I put policy into action. Within my electorate office are two extremely competent ladies performing the role of electorate assistant in a job sharing capacity. This has worked very successfully for a couple of years. Betty Ingels is a lady with a wealth of experience in electorate offices. Her husband is retired but Betty is keen to maintain her role within the electorate. Ros Rigby is the mother of three growing lads and the extra income earned from her three-day stint in the electorate office helps to supplement the family income.
Apart from a stable environment for the work force and the development of schools and training and the nurture of our families, it is essential that society has a strong emphasis on law and justice. The Government will introduce a comprehensive package of reforms following the review of the implementation of the Victims Compensation Act by Mr Cec Brahe, Deputy Chief Magistrate and former Chairman of the Victims Compensation Tribunal. Those reforms are aimed at clarifying the definition of an act of violence and the nature and determination of compensation.
Substantial reforms to the law of evidence will be introduced following public consideration of an exposure draft bill. The Government will release the white paper on future directions in juvenile justice this year. During my time as Minister for Justice I was keen to ensure that community consultation on future directions in juvenile justice should take place. The white paper addresses issues such as youth crime prevention, legal services for juveniles, the Children's Court and sentencing. It is essential that we take every possible step to ensure that juvenile offenders are prevented from entering into a life of crime. While maintaining high standards and requiring a sense of fair play and justice so far as young people are concerned, it was my wish as Minister to develop a sense of reconciliation as opposed to retribution. I believe that that will be carried out well by the Government, as will be revealed in the white paper.
Following the recent tragic bushfires a comprehensive review of New South Wales fire management and legislation is being undertaken by a Cabinet subcommittee chaired by the Deputy Premier, the Hon. Ian Armstrong. During my term as emergency services Minister I held discussions with the insurance industry to bring about significantly increased funding for our hard working volunteer bush fire brigades. The New South Wales volunteer bush fire brigade workers are probably unique. They are people who have immense commitment and dedication and a concern about society. They are people who subject themselves to enormous risk to their personal well-being. But they have the drive, the incentive and the desire to look after people. I assure honourable members - as you well know, Mr Deputy-Speaker, because of the area you represent - that without the help, assistance and nurturing of the members of the New South Wales volunteer bush fire brigade, people from the country especially would not enjoy the security that they have at present from the threat of fire.
The services rendered by the volunteer workers and many other people during the recent bushfires saved New South Wales from a tragic situation. I salute and commend the people involved in emergency services throughout New South Wales. When I was Minister I was concerned to ensure that adequate funding was available to cover more vital equipment, such as tankers, emergency vehicles and other life-saving tools. We made changes to the funding structure that will ensure that the Bush Fire Fighting Fund will receive from insurance companies an increase in contributions from 50 per cent to 73.7 per
cent. That is an important part of the New South Wales Government's policy of providing adequate protection from fire for the people of New South Wales.
The Government is committed to ensuring that health resources are placed close to where people live. I have been closely associated with the relocation of the children's hospital to Westmead. The new children's hospital is due to open early in 1996. It will provide a facility of world-class medical excellence to service the children and families of western Sydney. The planning of the new hospital has been focused on providing quality care for the children and their families, in friendly surroundings. I acknowledge the presence of my dear friend the honourable member for The Hills, who attended the tree planting day, the first stage of the landscaping planned to complement the new buildings. We had the privilege of meeting many of the families of young people who had received treatment at the existing children's hospital. That was a memorable day. The new hospital at Westmead will be close to most of its patients, as 55 per cent of all school-age children in New South Wales will live within a 25 kilometre radius of the Westmead site.
All honourable members are aware of my continuing involvement with the transport and roads portfolio in my role as parliamentary secretary to the hard working Minister Bruce Baird. This Minister is committed to improving transport safety in New South Wales. That work will continue. I was pleased to note recently the positive approach by some honourable members to the F2 expressway proposal. If the motion moved by the honourable member for Kogarah had been accepted by the House, it would have frustrated and delayed the wishes of the people of New South Wales, who in 1988 and again in 1991 voted for the Government and gave it an express mandate to build the F2. I am pleased that construction of the F2 will proceed. That project will provide a realistic and adequate system of road transport for the people living in the northwestern part of Sydney.
And will provide bus lanes.
As the honourable member for The Hills kindly reminds me, it will provide an element of public transport in the form of the bus lanes in both directions. To deal with a more local level of transport, the upgrading of safety in the vicinity of schools has been a major initiative of the Government in the past 12 months, with the introduction of school zones, wombat crossings, and education programs in schools with special emphasis on bus safety for schoolchildren. From this year's State roads budget, $8.4 million has been allocated for the Baulkham Hills electorate, with total State funding this year for road improvements under the 3 x 3 program being increased $20 million to $230 million.
Clearly the Government has a mandate and commitment to take action to improve New South Wales roads after 12 years of neglect, delay and inertia by the former Labor Government. I have mentioned that I was pleased that the Parliament rejected the motion moved by the Opposition that would have frustrated the people of the State who wanted the F2 project to proceed. I was appalled that Labor Party members would have the gall to try to delay a project that had the support of at least 66 per cent of the people who live in the region. That demonstrated that Labor Party members care little about the interests, aspirations and desires of the people of northwestern Sydney. The shadow spokesman for roads comes from Kogarah and would know little about the problems that exist in northwestern Sydney. I understand that someone has invited him to visit the area and see at first-hand the problems. I doubt that he will avail himself of that opportunity.
The Government wants to ensure that adequate transport facilities are provided for the people of northwestern Sydney. In this debate I have been able to touch on only a few of the many issues raised by the Governor in his Speech, which outlined the continuing agenda of improvement for New South Wales that is being pushed by the Fahey coalition Government. It would be remiss of me when looking to the future not to remember the dictum: strategic planning is useless unless there is a strategic vision. The Olympic Games have become a symbol of the strategic vision for the people of New South Wales moving into the next millennium. New South Wales is this nation's economic and social power-house - its largest and most populous State; a State abounding with natural and human resources.
The Olympic flame must shine as a beacon, not to be extinguished at the end of the Games period but to serve as a focal point for the development of our infrastructure and community before the Games, and as a reminder of the way that we as a community are capable of building mountains and moving beyond them. At the conclusion of the Governor's Speech he committed the Government to a program of reform, demonstrating its ongoing endeavours to ensure that the people of the State receive high quality services provided in a financially responsible and efficient manner. But beyond the words of his conclusion the spirit of his speech said far more. Beyond management and the delivery of services parliamentarians have a special responsibility to play a role of leadership within the community, to encourage people in the local regions to work together to build a better State. [Extension of time agreed to
We must work not only to build a better State but, when the Olympic flame is extinguished, to ensure it continues to be the greatest State in Australia. For some reason members of the State Opposition believe that they have a monopoly right on social justice and equity. Nothing could be further from the truth, for it is the architects of the New South Wales right of the Australian Labor Party and, most particularly, the Prime Minister, who have presided over the greatest inequities and redistribution of wealth that this nation has ever seen. The Labor Party does not have a moral hold on equity and social justice. It is not those who talk loudest about being socially just who have the right to make that claim, but those who actually deliver social justice.
I am proud to belong to a Government that sees the community developing in a way towards equity that provides opportunities for the disadvantaged, that provides access for the disabled, that provides openings for prosperity for all citizens, no matter their gender or ethnic background or their position in the socioeconomic strata. We are delivering the goods, not talking about doing it. It is easy for the champagne socialists to claim the mantle of social justice; it is far more important to the people of New South Wales that they have a government that not only cares about their society but delivers leadership that is both socially just and economically good.
(Keira) [7.52]: It gives me great pleasure to participate in the Address in Reply to the Speech delivered by the Governor to this Parliament on 1 March this year. I should like to deal with a number of matters referred to in the Governor's Speech. First and foremost, I want to speak about the indigenous people of this State. In his Speech the Governor said that legislation will come before this Parliament at some time in the future to address the Commonwealth Mabo legislation. I hope that is done soon so that some of the unfounded fears in the community will be allayed. Australia witnessed the passing of truly historic legislation when the Native Title Act was passed by both houses of the Federal Parliament in December last year. Never before has Australia spent as much time and energy seeking to achieve a truly just settlement of the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The legislation was a watershed in the dealings of government with indigenous people. It is trite to say that the Native Title Act is not the optimum resolution of the challenge presented by the Mabo decision of the High Court. The legislation is a compromise between the needs and aspirations of indigenous people on the one hand and the economic demands of land developers on the other. It is a workable medium; a national solution has been achieved. I assure the House that the world looked closely at what was being done late last year in Canberra so far as the Mabo legislation was concerned. Many people throughout the world have applauded what was achieved. It is now up to this Government to bring forward legislation to ensure that the Federal legislation is made workable in New South Wales.
When enacting the Native Title Act the Federal Parliament did all it could to protect native titleholders and to give certainty to other titleholders. However, the Act only goes so far, and, because of the pre-eminence of the States in relation to the issue of land title, it is now up to the New South Wales Government and other State governments to enact validating legislation. Where is that legislation? Until such legislation is introduced ordinary titleholders will not have 100 per cent certainty of title. Honourable members are aware of what has happened in the media during the past few months. A program has been put in place to create confusion and, worse, derision within both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities.
It was totally hypocritical of the Minister for Land and Water Conservation to parade around New South Wales claiming that the Commonwealth Government had mucked up native title when it was the New South Wales Government that had screwed up. The Minister put the willies up new and potential titleholders at Crescent Head and Pambula, when his Government, the rabble opposite, has the responsibility of validating those titles. That must be done as soon as possible. It is regrettable that the Government has not indicated that such legislation will be introduced during this sitting of Parliament. The Minister had his tail between his legs over the whole affair. One minute banner headlines were quoting the Minister about uncertainty of title. The Commonwealth Government then weighed in and the Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, Robert Tickner, set the record straight. The next minute the Minister for Land and Water Conservation was pouring cold water over the whole affair. It was amazing.
Since the Mabo decision was handed down in June 1992 the New South Wales Government has had time to prepare its response to the challenges in the judgment. One would have thought that by now simple validating legislation could have been passed. I again call on the Government to ensure that such legislation is introduced as soon as possible. The draconian draft Native Titles Bill of last year is not needed. Everyone who read that bill was appalled by it. The State Aboriginal land council was distressed by the contents of that legislation. I have no doubt that most of that bill will be scrapped and workable legislation will be introduced in its place. I hope the Government takes heed of my comments. The Commonwealth has expeditiously established a workable regime in the form of the Native Title Tribunal.
The New South Wales Government only has to fit in with that regime. I am surprised that the Government has suddenly branded the Native Title Act as complex. The Government has obviously not looked at its own Real Property Act lately. Recently Robert Tickner called for negotiation and mediation as the best ways to settle native title claims. That is just plain common sense. New South Wales does not need the sort of obstructive behaviour exhibited by Premier Court in Western Australia. Most native title claims can be dealt with quickly and inexpensively without recourse to litigation. The Native Title Act makes provision for parties to negotiate and, if necessary, seek mediation through the tribunal.
I understand that the Wiradjuri people have lodged a land claim with the Native Title Tribunal in relation to an area of land known as the Wellington town common. I have correspondence going back a number of years concerning that claim. The claim has been raised with the Minister in New South Wales. I hope he does everything in his power to allow it to proceed. The claim is potentially quick and easy to settle. The common has been in existence since the last century and Aboriginal people have maintained an association with the land over a long period of time.
In the Australian
of 25 February the deputy mayor of Wellington was reported as saying that most people would support the claim. The Government should use the available machinery to show the people of New South Wales how easily native title claims can be settled. The Government should take advantage of the availability of that machinery. It can play the silly games that Premier Court wants to play at the expense of indigenous people or it can construct a fair and just settlement for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in this State. In his Speech delivered on 1 March the Governor referred to the International Year of the Family. Honourable members should remember that the International Year for the World's Indigenous People has just concluded. That was directed at Aboriginal and indigenous families throughout the world. The introduction of native title legislation is another opportunity to deal with issues affecting Aboriginal people.
I turn to recent events in Wilcannia. Honourable members talk about an economic revival, generating jobs and giving people productive lifestyles, but nothing is being done to address the horrendous problems of the unemployment rate in Wilcannia, which is practically 100 per cent. Earlier this year a number of public meetings were held in Wilcannia. Only a month or so ago I travelled to Wilcannia and spoke to a number of people who are concerned about what is happening there. I did not speak only to Aboriginal people; Gloria Clarke, the chairperson of the land council, gave me a good account of what had happened at the public meetings held in Wilcannia. Brian Toohey, the community development program officer, drew attention to a number of issues that need to be addressed before the problems at Wilcannia can be dealt with. I also met Senior Sergeant John Tallis. He explained some of the media reports that are being bandied about in the capital cities of Australia about the horrific imprisonment rate of Wilcannia residents. Honourable members will undoubtedly remember the claims that the number of people who had been imprisoned in Wilcannia was equivalent to every person living in the town being gaoled 25 times a year.
That was far from the truth. In fact, three Aboriginal liaison officers working out of Wilcannia police station are trying to address the issues raised at that particular meeting. One thing that came through loud and strong from my talks with the sergeant and Robert King, the mayor, as well as Gabrielle Selhorst, the General Manager of the Central Darling Council, is that Wilcannia needs a full-time co-ordinator from the Office of Juvenile Justice to co-ordinate programs operating in various areas. That still has not happened. It is imperative that it does happen if these family issues are to be addressed in the International Year of the Family, and there is no better place to start than with the Aboriginal families of Wilcannia. All honourable members should take these issues on board; in particular, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and the Minister for Justice should ensure that a full-time officer is employed at Wilcannia to co-ordinate the programs.
I wish to refer briefly to what the Minister for the Arts said yesterday in question time in relation to the Bangarra Dance Theatre and the Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Co-operative. It is important that Aboriginal culture is recognised. The Minister has done the right thing by ensuring that an area at Walsh Bay is provided to enable Aboriginal culture to expand and to enable Australians as well as overseas visitors to gain a better appreciation of Aboriginal art and culture. In his contribution to the budget debate last year the Minister said that funding would be allocated to this program, and I am pleased that he has backed up that statement.
I can remember writing to the Minister for the Arts and the Minister for Roads, Bruce Baird, and the Premier on 28 October 1992 supporting an application by Bangarra for premises within the city to be made available so that their world renowned theatre and dance can be performed for the people of Sydney and New South Wales, giving them a better appreciation of Aboriginal art and culture. On 6 May Bangarra opens its season at the Enmore Theatre. I encourage all honourable members to view what they have to offer and the programs that have been put in place. This will provide a better understanding of the professional world renowned actors, dancers and performers that Bangarra is turning out.
I should like to refer to legislation that was not mentioned in the Governor's Speech but which has been around this Parliament for a number of years, that is, the Aboriginal Ownership of National Parks Bill. Tim Moore, when Minister for the Environment, was keen to ensure that Aboriginal people in this State were recognised. He brought forward legislation to allow four different areas of New South Wales to be handed back to Aboriginal people so that they could control their destiny through a management committee. Those four areas were Mootwingee National Park, which is just outside Broken Hill, Mount Grenfell, near Cobar, Mount Yarrowitch at Armidale, and Lake Mungo in central New South Wales.
A joint legislation committee was set up to examine the legislation. The chairperson of that committee was the honourable member for Strathfield, Paul Zammit. After examination by the committee the legislation went to the Government with our full endorsement. Last year, being the International Year for the World's Indigenous People, was the right year for that legislation to be introduced. The Government failed to pick up the ball and run with it. Nothing in the Governor's Speech indicates that the legislation will be introduced this year into the Parliament. The Government should be doing something about it. That legislation should be supported by Cabinet and introduced into the Parliament. It was the dream and vision of the former Minister for the Environment, Tim Moore. No doubt he would be interested to know what the Government intends to do with that excellent legislation, which has remained on the shelf collecting dust somewhere in this Parliament for far too long.
I wish to refer briefly to the coal industry. I am glad the Minister for Mines is present in the Chamber. Because of time constraints I shall raise only a couple of issues. In the week before last, during question time, the Minister commented on the coal industry and the then current negotiations for coal sales to Japan. Australia has been dudded to the tune of $US3.80 over the price of Australian coal - our coal. Even though the Japanese are the greatest price negotiators in the world, Australian coal producers visiting Japan cannot help trying to cut each other's throat and undermining one another's negotiating position.
One should bear in mind the money being received in this country through coal production and what has occurred in the past four or five years concerning efficiency in the coal industry. There is an ever increasing rate of coal production, with an ever diminishing number of men doing the work. I refer to employment figures published in Minefo
, the mining magazine, of January 1994. The total number of employees has dropped by 14.9 per cent, from the December 1990 figure of 16,992 to 14,458 in June 1993. However, the total saleable production in that period went from 80 million tonnes up to 84.5 million tonnes, a 0.7 per cent increase. There has been a massive reduction in the number of people working in the industry but an increase in production.
I am disappointed that the Minister has not made a statement concerning the problem at the Helensburgh Metropolitan colliery. The management wrote letters to union officials saying they were not wanted any longer and if those seven men did not take redundancy on Monday of this week the company would sack 70 men. If that is the way industrial relations in the coal industry are going in this State, the system leaves a lot to be desired. It is the jackboot tactics we have seen in the past in other areas of the world and it is not what this country wants. The Minister must be concerned that a coal company could employ those sort of tactics and, threaten men who have worked in the industry for many years. Apparently the company considers the services of the union officials are not in keeping with the directions of the coal company and therefore the company does not want to retain them.
The Minister knows as well as I do that seniority in the coal industry is something that has been guarded, and will continue to be guarded, for many years. For any company to threaten 70 other men with the sack if seven men do not take voluntary retirement is something we do not want in this State and in this country. I assure the Minister that the coal industry will not tolerate it. I have no doubt that mining companies throughout this country would be very concerned about what happened at Helensburgh. [Time expired.
(Bega) [8.12]: It gives me great pleasure to participate in the Address-in-Reply debate to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor, Rear Admiral Peter Ross Sinclair. I congratulate His Excellency on his Speech in opening the fourth session of the Fiftieth Parliament. It gave a clear indication to the Parliament that the reforms of the Fahey Government will continue. The Governor is well received by the people. The Opposition caused turmoil in regard to who would be the next Governor. I am pleased that the Governor has accepted the Premier's offer to extend his term for 12 months. When a person takes up public office it is important that his or her spouse be seen as supportive. Mrs Sinclair is such a person and is a great ambassador for our State. On the two visits of the Governor and his wife to my electorate in the past couple of years, Mrs Sinclair has given wonderful support to His Excellency. As all honourable members know, our spouses are given very little recognition for the support they give us in carrying out our duties.
A couple of weeks ago His Excellency and Mrs Sinclair visited my electorate. When in my electorate the Governor visited the Eurobodalla area. We visited two schools, one of which was Moruya High School. The standard set by the school was exceptional, as was the conduct of the children. I congratulate all the students, the staff and the principal, Marian Marsden, on their excellent performance during the Governor's visit. The other school we visited was Ulladulla Primary School. The Governor, Mrs Sinclair and dignatories walked through a guard of honour formed by the primary school children all the way down the assembly area. I congratulate Beryl Wade, the principal of the school, the pupils and the teachers on their beautiful display. During the Governor's visit we attended two receptions. A reception was held in Batemans Bay for people who had performed community work for service clubs and other organisations within that area. A dinner was attended by 200 people, who very much enjoyed having the Governor and Mrs Sinclair in their town. The major event for which the Governor visited my electorate was the opening of the Milton Show.
In the initial stages of his Speech the Governor referred to the continuing reforms of the Fahey Government. Reform was a hallmark of the Greiner Government and I am pleased that it will continue, even though much work has already been done. I am pleased to be part of a Government that is continuing a process of reform. In 1988 when this Government took over from a Labor administration that had been in power for some 12 years, it inherited a debt of approximately $46 billion. Because of the extraordinary waste of the former Labor Government, reforms were extreme and hurt a lot of people; but the payoffs are coming. Australia went into recession. The Labor Party was in great glee for a couple of months when the depths of the recession were felt in New South Wales. The coalition Government made reforms early - certainly earlier than States under Labor administrations, which were faltering because of huge debts and collapsing government enterprises. New South Wales therefore was in a far better position to cope with the recession than was any other State in the Commonwealth. New South Wales is coming out of the recession stronger than the other States, according to almost every economic indicator. The reforms, if continued, will place our children and the future of New South Wales in a good position.
I pay tribute to those involved in securing the Olympics for Sydney in the year 2000, particularly the Premier, the Minister for Transport and Minister for Roads, and the committee that organised the bid. I had the opportunity of visiting the Homebush site with members of the Royal Agricultural Society. I know that it is of great concern to some country electorates that the Royal Agricultural Society will be moving from the showground to Homebush. I am pleased to inform those electorates, particularly my electorate of Bega, that the RAS is fully behind the Government's move to the Olympic site at Homebush. It realises that the site at Moore Park is limited. Any necessary future alterations would be subjected to fire regulations and will be difficult to implement. The RAS will occupy new buildings at the Homebush site, which will be used for the Olympics before being transferred to the RAS.
I should like to make mention also of the January bushfires. I cannot remember large bushfires as close to city areas as the January fires, which threatened the city of Sydney. Even though many large fires have wreaked havoc across country areas, this was the first time that such huge fires had threatened the metropolitan area. The January fires wiped out some 800,000 hectares, destroyed 188 houses and, unfortunately, was directly or indirectly responsible for the loss of four lives - one victim died of a heart attack that could have been precipitated by the fires.
There are lessons to be learned from the bushfires, and we should have lasting memories of them. I congratulate the committee, under Deputy Premier Ian Armstrong, that is deciding new structures and authorities for management of both public and private land. Phil Koperberg, of the Bushfire Council, probably will have sole control over all areas both public and private. He will be able to enforce hazard reduction and winter burning-off and also impose penalties on those who do not take preventive measures. One body with extensive authority will be able to decide that action must be taken and that there are no options. I am pleased that Cabinet is considering these issues.
I am delighted that last Saturday the Minister for Police and Minister for Emergency Services and Phil Koperberg visited the Bega electorate to attend a barbeque. About 600 people attended the barbeque, which was held at the Moruya racecourse, to thank volunteer bush fire fighters. There were fires in that area, in particular near Broulee and Batemans Bay, and some houses were destroyed. As luck would have it, and as a result of the efforts of the volunteer bush fire fighters, many houses in danger were not destroyed. Fires reached the rear of houses in Broulee and Batemans Bay. The volunteers stayed in the area for many days after the fires were put out. They were blacking-out the area, making sure a fire was under control and putting a fire out where necessary. There is not much glory attached to that work. I was proud to be present when the Minister and Phil Koperberg thanked the volunteer bushfire brigades and members of other emergency services for the wonderful job they had done. The volunteers have certainly earned recognition for their efforts. It is now up to the Government to ensure those volunteers are backed up with the right equipment, sufficient finance and the right laws to ensure backburning is done correctly to prepare ground for the next major fire. Australia has regularly suffered from fire, flood and drought.
The Governor mentioned health issues in his Speech. I am proud to say that major upgrading at Batemans Bay and Moruya hospitals - $3 million and $5 million respectively, a total of $8 million - has been carried out. During the next five or six months various sections of upgraded work will be opened; the first being the opening of Moruya hospital accident emergency section in the next few weeks. Each hospital has a new 15-bed ward - a total of 30 new beds. At Moruya hospital the theatres have also been upgraded. Those capital works improvements will make those hospitals top grade establishments well into the next century. Two theatres have also been opened in Bega hospital, which for many years had been in need of upgrading. Those theatres are now first class and can deal with orthopaedic and other necessary surgery. The Bega electorate reaches as far north as Ulladulla, where the South Coast electorate, represented by my colleague John Hatton, commences.
A hospital located at Milton is used by residents of the Bega electorate. They have expressed great concern about capital and recurrent funding for that hospital. A recent report by the Illawarra Area Health Board stated that the lower Shoalhaven was not getting a fair proportion of recurrent expenditure and should have received about $6 million more. The report recommended that $3 million should be allocated to that area almost immediately. A great push is being made for extra facilities and beds in Milton hospital. I have told Mr Hatton that I would be only too happy to ensure extra funding, capital or recurrent, in respect of any moves he may make and to support him in every way I can.
I turn now to education and some of the Government's achievements in the Bega electorate during the past few years. Last year the Minister for Education announced that Moruya High School would get a new multipurpose hall. Planning for that project has been done. I believe tenders are out and construction should commence shortly. Stages one and two of a new primary school at Broulee should relieve overcrowding at both Moruya and Sunshine Bay public schools. Recently I announced that the Minister for Education indicated to me that planning will start now for the Tathra Primary School upgrading, a school which for many years has been endeavouring to get extra funding for halls, libraries and classrooms without great success. At one stage a previous government did all this planning but then tried to stall; and attempts to gain funding met with little success.
I am confident that in the next Budget the Minister will give the Bega electorate, though it is not guaranteed, funds to secure additions to the Tathra
school. Since the 1991 elections Ulladulla has been part of the Bega electorate. On visiting the Ulladulla Primary School I was shocked at the number of old buildings there. No school in the Bega electorate could compare with it in that regard. I made sure that I saw the Minister on a number of occasions, and I pushed very hard to make sure that school came up to standard. The same applies to the Ulladulla Public School, where planning has commenced. We are hopeful that funds will be made available in the forthcoming Budget so that a start can be made on halls and libraries and also on the many classrooms for the Ulladulla Public School.
Planning should commence on the proposed Merimbula High School. That project has been mooted for a number of years. Eden High School, in the electorate represented by the honourable member for Monaro, is being done up and extended with new classrooms. That school is attended by a number of students from the Bega electorate. The school in adjoining Bega is up to capacity and cannot take in any more students. I recommend, however, that rather than having another building program at Bega or Eden, a school should be built in the centre at Merimbula, with access for people at Tathra and Merimbula. Work should commence on that school shortly. Though this fact is not widely recognised, the South Coast has been experiencing tremendous growth rates and is one of the fastest growing areas in rural New South Wales. The South Coast has industries that are taking advantage of the recovery in the economy. I refer in particular to tourism, which has been hamstrung in the southern end of the Bega electorate because of the recession in Victoria. The dairy industry, however, is going through a good period and is coming into a very good season. [Time expired
(Kogarah) [8.32]: A few issues raised in the Governor's Speech a couple of weeks ago require some comment. I wish to refer to some problem areas in my electorate of Kogarah. A major problem relates to police strengths and police building. The Kogarah electorate has five or six high schools and a number of primary schools. Kogarah station has an inadequate area for these people to disburse and a very bad hooligan element congregates around the railway station. It is obvious that the police do not have the strength to adequately deal with that problem. I ask the Minister for Police and Minister for Emergency Services to look at the problem facing Kogarah police. The Minister shares a boundary with me and I am sure he is aware of the problems. There are continuing problems with vandalism and graffiti. Boys from my alma mater, Kogarah Marist High, are often involved in scuffles with students from other schools in the area. The police presence should be increased to try to overcome problems.
Do they race cars, too?
My area has two major problems. One problem relates to the Bill Whalley Reserve in Percival Street, Bexley, and the other problem concerns Dolls Point, where for many years young people have congregated and raced their cars, much to the annoyance of local residents. I am pleased that the honourable member for Murrumbidgee raised that issue: police assistance is needed to combat the problem. Pensioners in my electorate have been waiting seven years to obtain Department of Housing accommodation. That is just too long.
Young families in my electorate have a seven-year wait for a three-bedroom or four-bedroom house or townhouse. That is an unacceptably long wait. In one case a Mrs Jenkins, who is 100 years old, is renting privately a top floor unit because the department cannot find a ground floor unit for her to move into. This lady is still on the waiting list for Department of Housing accommodation. That is appalling. People well into their eighties and nineties are waiting up to seven years for Department of Housing accommodation. If this Government has any heart at all - I am sure that somewhere there must be some semblance of a heart - it will look into these matters.
There is a problem with transport generally. There is no doubt that the on-time running figures that the Minister for Transport and Minister for Roads constantly quotes in this House are fake. I catch a train every day to this place and elsewhere. I do not use a private car. Trains are consistently late. When they are cancelled no information is given. Commuters find out a train has been cancelled only when the next train arrives. Public transport is not what it should be. We must be genuine in our attempts to attract people back to it. My electorate has road problems. Every time I have spoken to the Address-in-Reply debate or to the budget debate in my 10 years in this House, I have raised the issue of the railway overbridge at Allawah. I ask the Minister for Roads to look at that problem.
There has been enormous development in Hurstville, with the development of Westfield - and further development is taking place. Traffic is being funnelled either into the Treacy Street underpass at Hurstville or the overbridge at Allawah. It is a two-lane bridge and is grossly inadequate. The bridge should be rebuilt as a matter of urgency. Early construction should take place of the county road down Elizabeth Street and Swan Lane to meet up with Park Road so as to disperse traffic on to the Princes Highway and to the beach at Ramsgate.
There is still a problem with maintenance and basic construction works at schools in my electorate. A problem at the Sans Souci Public School has recently been brought to my attention. A large number of the toilets are inoperable, taps are leaking and cisterns do not work. That is a dangerous and unhealthy situation. I ask the Minister for Education, Training and Youth Affairs, Minister for Tourism and Minister Assisting the Premier to look at that matter. For some time Carlton Public School has been requesting major construction work. The principal of the school, Mr John Warren, and his staff are doing
a magnificent job with the facilities they have. The school has not had any major construction work carried out for many years. It is desperately in need of an assembly hall and many other facilities. I have written to the Minister and asked her to give priority to the construction of urgently needed facilities at that school.
In question time today the Minister for Health referred to the new cancer centre at St George Hospital. I congratulate the Government on the magnificent work it has carried out with respect to construction at St George Hospital. The new ward block is magnificent. I see it regularly because my mother is constantly in and out of St George Hospital. It is an excellent building. However, it has some problems. I do not want to carp; I genuinely want to put on record my congratulations to the Government on what it has already done. A couple of weeks ago the Minister and I opened the cancer centre. It is a magnificent facility. Radiotherapy and chemotherapy services are being provided at St George Hospital. Previously patients had to travel to the Prince of Wales Hospital for these services. The Kogarah electorate and the St George area generally have an ageing population. People need these services to be provided near where they live. That is now happening at St George Hospital.
As I said, I do not want to carp, but the Minister should be aware of the problems caused by the privatisation of hospital cleaning services. I have seen these problems with my own eyes. The cleaning standard at the hospital, and at many other hospitals for that matter, has greatly deteriorated since the cleaning service was privatised. The standard of cleanliness is not what it should be in a hospital. I am sure honourable members have heard reports of an increase in infections such as golden staph at that hospital and other hospitals. I also put on record that I direct no criticism at the police in Kogarah under the leadership of Inspector Paul Chaplin. I think the police are doing a magnificent job. I understand that Inspector Chaplin is the officer in charge of the patrol command in the absence of the chief superintendent. He is doing the best he can with the available staff. Clearly, more staff is needed.
I want to touch briefly on the transport matters that the Governor raised in his Speech. The first line of the Governor's Speech under the heading of transport referred to the Government's integrated transport strategy. For the information of the Minister for Transport and Minister for Roads, there is no integrated transport strategy; there is only a discussion paper. It is referred to by the Minister only when he feels it is convenient. The Minister threw a document across the table at me the week before last when we were debating transport issues generally. He said, "We haven't got a transport strategy? Here is the transport strategy". On the front it says "Transport strategy", which is fine. However, when one opens it one sees that page 1 reads, "A draft for public discussion".
Later this month the Minister will have been in the job for six years, and still there is no integrated transport strategy. I really wonder at the Minister for Transport and Minister for Roads. He has substituted photos in the newspaper for policy, making decisions, and actually doing something about improving public transport. The people in this State, particularly in this city, who need to use public transport are sick and tired of the inaction - poor trains, late trains, dirty trains and unsafe trains. They are sick and tired of not having toilets at railway stations and having to deal with the new automatic ticketing machines. Almost invariably they are switched off because they are not working or will take exact money only because they have run out of change.
All honourable members would know that there is not a cynical bone in my body but if I were cynical I would, perhaps, suggest that this is almost a deliberate ploy by the Government to deter people from using trains. Everything about travelling by train is hard. I was at Gosford railway station recently. Though $20 million has been spent on renovations, there are no escalators or ramps, just a tiny lift which is broken down more often than not. Twenty millions dollars, and there is not an escalator and there is not a public toilet on the public concourse. To use the public toilet one has to buy a ticket and go down on to the platform. Heavens above! When is the Minister going to understand that attracting people to use public transport is about providing basic facilities - trains that run on time, trains that are not cancelled, trains that are clean, trains that are safe, and basic facilities at the stations?
The Minister seems incapable of understanding that. His approach to transport planning is based on a public relations strategy rather than a public service strategy. He should understand that he has a major responsibility. In 12 months' time the people of this State will judge the Government on its lack of action over the past six years, particularly the Minister for Transport and Minister for Roads. The Government will be thrown out because it has failed to provide the basic services which taxpayers have paid for and which they expect from the Government. An example of the disintegration of our public transport services is the Minister's decision to axe the Bondi train-bus ticket. It was a simple and convenient ticket which has now been replaced by two. I wonder whether the Minister calls that progress. Does he call it integration?
We know that City Circle is saturated and that it cannot carry any more trains during peak hour. But the Minister should genuinely look at rail links which would not use City Circle such as the ones the Labor Party has suggested, the cross-regional links from Hornsby to Parramatta and Liverpool. In government next March the Labor Party will investigate the feasibility - the Government should do it now - of joining the Illawarra line with the East Hills line and thence across to Liverpool and Parramatta. There is more and more pollution in the city, particularly in the west. The children of western Sydney have an extraordinarily high rate of asthma, which is directly
related to pollution created by private motor vehicles in the city. The problem can be reduced only be getting more cars off the road by encouraging people to use public transport that meets their needs.
We have heard nothing from the Minister about his plans to expand CityRail's capacity. We found out last week that even the airport link is now in jeopardy - even after the Minister has announced it on 13 separate occasions. Each time there was a big smiling photo of the Minister. Now the proposed train service to the airport has fallen apart because one of the major members of the consortium has pulled out. Publicity has replaced substance in all the transport authorities. The Minister spoke yesterday about new on-time running figures for the buses. It was interesting that he should raise that yesterday because a very good friend visited me yesterday after catching a bus into the city. He said, "I was surveyed about whether the buses are on time". I asked, "How did it work?". He said, "When I was on the bus I was given a survey form and told to fill it out and give it back before getting off the bus".
Again, there is no cynicism in me but the people conducting the survey could not get on a bus which was not running, and they are not likely to get on a bus that was running late. The passengers are asked what they think of the bus service they are on; they are not asked what they think of bus services generally and whether they are on time. It is pretty easy to engineer a result which shows that on-time running figures for buses are fantastic. The figures are as fake as the Minister for Transport. They are as fake as the bus that he painted up to try to look like a tram to run around The Rocks. As I said when he did it, rather than dress up the bus to look like a tram, the people of this State would like him to dress up and act like a transport Minister.
Is that what you have been trying to do? It is not working.
I am glad the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai interjected. An interesting article in the Sydney Morning Herald
of 11 February headed "The Misery Line" was written by journalist Chris McGillion, who moved from the inner city to the Blue Mountains and who travels by train each day. The article reads:
"Abandon hope, all ye who enter here" read the sign over the gate to hell in Dante's Inferno. It should be the motto of the railways . . . We seem to have forgotten the value of collective ownership . . . and things public are regarded as necessary evils . . . We resort to "services" like public transport reluctantly and wash off the dirt and grime as quickly as we can when we're done.
In other words, just when there's more call than ever on public transport, there's less willingness to invest in it in the interests of sane planning, environmental consciousness, or just plain proof that we really can get along together in a civilised way . . .
Timetables are not made to inform passengers. They are used as a form of sensory deprivation in the gulag.
On and on the article goes. It shows the experience of everyone who catches the train. I am sure the Minister for Transport would have trouble spotting a train. If he went out in his white car and played spotto with his kids and they pointed to a train and asked, "What is that, Dad?" he would not recognise what it was. How many times does he catch a train? The honourable member for Mount Druitt is a daily train traveller, as I am. We catch trains. We talk to people on trains and we know what it is like to travel by train. I wish the Minister would do the same. I mentioned automatic ticketing machines. They are millions of dollars over budget, years behind schedule, and still not working properly. I see queues of people every morning at Kogarah station. There are sight-impaired people, the elderly and people who cannot reach the machines. The machines cannot ask for proof of a person's pensioner status. The ticketing machines allegedly were designed to save money but they are working the other way. Revenue is dropping because people cannot use them. They are not - to use those horrible words - user friendly. The Minister seems to think that if the machine is nicely painted and has flashing lights then it must be good. But the people of this State want a little more than that.
What has the Minister done with roads? He stole $52 million that was given by the Federal Government to the State Government in untied grants. A couple of years ago Premier Greiner convinced Bob Hawke that Federal road grants should be untied. Nick said, "We will still spend it on roads". Sure! That $52 million from the Federal Government has gone from the roads budget this year into consolidated revenue to prop up this Government's Budget. The people who pay petrol and road taxes know that they are being cheated; they know their taxes are being stolen from them to prop up the Government's Budget. Thousands of hardworking, creative and dedicated public servants are employed in the transport sector. I only hope their morale holds out long enough so that they can serve under the Australian Labor Party after March next year. We are committed to providing New South Wales with an integrated, safe, efficient and environmentally responsible transport system. We know where to put the public in public transport: we put them first. [Time expired
(Wakehurst) [8.52]: It is a pleasure to speak in the Address in Reply to raise issues of concern within my electorate and in the broader sense. His Excellency Rear Admiral Peter Sinclair gave his Speech at the commencement of this fourth session of the Fiftieth Parliament, and I acknowledge that he and his wife Shirley have made enormous contributions to New South Wales in the functions of the Governor and his wife. I continue to be impressed by the dedication and sincerity with which they attend to their vice-regal duties. As recently as four weeks ago the Governor and his wife attended the Cubby House Toy Library in Dee Why, which is in the heart of my electorate, to acknowledge the navy cycle team on its journey from Queensland to Nowra. As the team passed through, His Excellency ensured that he was present, basically to say hello and to acknowledge the team's good endeavours in raising money for the disabled. Again
he impressed everyone with his concern for those less fortunate in our community. I pass on the best wishes of my electorate to His Excellency and his wife Shirley.
Notwithstanding the best efforts of the Opposition - and I cannot say those best efforts amount to very much - it has been another good year for probably the best government in Australia, that is, the Fahey-Armstrong Government. This Government is presenting to the people of New South Wales the right mix of reform and, if you like, a steady-as-she-goes recipe. We are looking at corporatisation in many areas, but it is with care and concern for members of our community. If we look at members of the Opposition, we must ask whether they are much of an opposition. They certainly cannot touch the sides of the Government; they have not caused us the slightest bit of worry in the last few months. They jump up and down with silly little censure motions, but no one in the big wide world takes very much notice, except to say that obviously the Opposition does not have too much to complain about.
The most senior shadow ministers are in a maelstrom; they have lost direction. One could safely say the Opposition frontbench is in disarray. Nothing is certain in the Labor Party any more except that it has a lack of stability, a lack of clear-cut policy directions, a lack of honesty and a lack of integrity. What hope is there for the Labor Party? None! Bob Carr has slipped from a magnificent record last week of 26 per cent down to 22 per cent. He is still on the great big slide. I remember an article a couple of years ago, probably in the Sydney Morning Herald
, headed, "Carr crash". How prophetic that this man who is trying to lead the Labor Party out of the wilderness is getting it even more lost, more dehydrated and more confused. The Leader of the Opposition has totally lost touch with the roots of Labor.
Never let it be said that I do not have respect for the Labor Party; I do. In fact, I believe the proud traditions of the Labor Party should be respected, and if Opposition members stuck to their guns, if they behaved in a sensible and sincere way, it would certainly add more to the level of respect that I have for those proud traditions. The problem is that no members of the Opposition are adding to that respect; they are demeaning it. I am sure that many people who are traditional Labor voters worry when they read the paper each morning and learn of the issues that the Labor Party raises in this place. It is a worry for Bob Carr when he cannot give a bit of support to his right-wing colleagues Paul Whelan, who is not so hot in Ashfield, and Peter Anderson, who is looking anything but happy in Liverpool. Perhaps cappuccino Carr or Etruscan sculpture Carr or American history Carr simply does not have the ability to bring great force to assist his important frontbenchers.
Is there anything the Government can say that is supportive of what Labor is doing in New South Wales? Not an awful lot. Andrew Refshauge, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and first leader of the left-wing faction, seems to be lost. Each year as he presents his speeches he says the same things over and over again. He talks about the terrible focus involving private funds in providing hospital services to the public, but he is talking like a 1950s Labor man. While he does that, his senior Federal Labor Minister is announcing in Western Australia policies similar to those that this coalition Government has been implementing for the good of the people of New South Wales. But Andrew Refshauge plays the game, closes his eyes and pretends that it is not happening. It does not matter that he can use all this champagne socialist jargon; he really does not have even the starter's gun to get going on the right policy for New South Wales.
What worries me about the honourable member for Marrickville is that he is also hypocritical. If we look at his debates over the last couple of years, it seems that he and the Leader of the Opposition interchange and plagiarise each other's speeches. They love talking about the gap between reality and rhetoric, but they both use the same terminology. When one looks at the precise terms of what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition says, one sees that entire paragraphs can be taken out of one speech one year and re-read the following year. I guess that is a reflection of the lack of innovative ideas. How ludicrous, how stupid, how nonsensical when he sits and tells Government members that we are silvertails and do not know what the average person is thinking.
In February 1993 he commenced one of his statements by saying, "Having gone to a whole range of toffee-nosed schools and having dealt with the likes of those opposite" - how ridiculous! How stupid! The Deputy Leader of the Opposition attended Knox Grammar School. I am not knocking Knox because it is a great school, but what a stupid, simplistic and facile attitude when debating substantial issues in this House for the direction of New South Wales and the needs and care of its people. I feel sorry for the Labor Party at present. I look forward to the time when it will have leadership in some depth on the frontbench. I look forward to when the Opposition can be effective and does not waste time with silly censure motions aimed at Ministers such as the Minister for Police, who is doing a great job and being far more sincere and dedicated in his approach to his task than any member of the Opposition could hope to be.
My electorate has faced issues in the last 12 months, some of which were addressed by His Excellency. The bushfires, of course, caused major problems in Wakehurst and in neighbouring electorates, especially Pittwater and Davidson. With great luck and much hard work by the bush fire brigade we were able to avoid the consequences of those devastating fires. I place on record my general acknowledgment of the hard work, dedication and sincere way that the people who belong to the bush fire brigades went about their work. In particular I acknowledge the work of the Beacon Hill bush fire brigade, as that unit is located in the heart of my electorate, right on the edge of bushland. I arrived a
little early for their annual general meeting last Sunday but I had a cup of coffee and a chat with most of the fellows. The level of dedication of the people who take up the cudgels for the bush fire brigade never ceases to amaze me. I also place on record my formal thankyou to Bill Herbison, the Warringah-Pittwater fire control officer, and to Tom Thomson, who spent many years training many of the officers who now contribute in such a wonderful way.
I turn now to education. His Excellency said that the Government is concentrating on schools as the centre of its public education system. That is entirely appropriate. I, for one, view the schools in my electorate as performing a critical function. They provide a focus for community hopes and aspirations in Wakehurst. They stimulate a oneness of purpose, and I will never cease to enjoy the experience of visiting schools, to take part in the activities with the children, to share in their learning experiences and to meet with the dedicated teachers who assist in each of the schools in my electorate. I should like to take the House on a walk - literally - through my schools, but I cannot, so perhaps I can refer to a number of them.
Narrabeen school is a small but very spirited school. This year it has about 123 students and as a result, a teaching principal, Mr Catts, who has been working hard since the beginning of last year to make a small school work well. I have been invited to visit that school many times and on the last occasion I was there the cyclic maintenance had been completed and the school was looking great. The efforts made by the staff, the parents and citizens, and the children to improve the inside of the school were certainly to be admired. Further south is Wheeler Heights, which is under the direction of Rosemary Pye, and Collaroy Plateau school under the direction of Marjorie Mackie. These two schools are not as small as the others but they provide quality education and they have a different emphasis which make them, if you like, attractive to different groups of students. Certainly Wheeler Heights school has a strong emphasis on environmental issues. It has a lovely shade house in which the students produce many rare and endangered eucalypts that they send to the South Coast.
Like the honourable member for South Coast.
Like the honourable member for South Coast, as the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai says. Collaroy Plateau school has a wonderful dance group and a great emphasis on music. Marjorie Mackie is constantly out and about, letting the community know what a wonderful school it is. The principal of the Fisher Road school for the disabled is Susan Baresic. I could go on all night with superlatives about the wonderful work done at that school for children who are in need of that little bit of extra love and care. Two years ago I was pleased to play a part in getting the outside balcony areas raised so that children in wheelchairs and on crutches could get into their classrooms.
Cromer school is the biggest school in my electorate. Beverley Adkins, the principal, offers a wonderful program for gifted and talented students. The whole school has a sense of purpose in creating an environment where education has a paramount role in the lives of the children. I am disappointed that the 40 kilometres an hour speed zone promised by the Roads and Traffic Authority has not reached the two side streets next to Cromer Public School. I will be looking forward to the Minister addressing that problem as soon as possible.
Trish Cavanagh is the principal of North Curl Curl Primary School. I had the delight a few weeks ago of attending the school when sixth grade students were given their prefect status. The children and the staff have an unbelievable spirit of community values. I certainly add my support for that school. Mr Tom Bradford is the principal of Dee Why Primary School, with students from more than 30 different nationalities. It is certainly a centre of multiculturalism. Mr Bradford has successfully turned that school into focusing on multiculturalism, which has been of huge benefit to the school, and I congratulate him and the school generally on that. I was pleased that he was confident enough of me to invite me to take part in his quality assurance program. I was equally pleased to see the school did so well.
Les Beckenham is the principal of Beacon Hill school. The first time I was introduced to the school was when it had a problem getting some work out of the Department of School Education. The property services department seemed to be a bit slow on the uptake, but with a little push that was fixed up fairly soon. The school has had its cyclic maintenance and is looking great. That is another school with a great group of kids. The kindergarten class has a wonderful little white rabbit that epitomises the good will and spirit of the children of that school.
The principal of Brookvale school has gone about turning it into a dedicated focus for multicultural activities. It has a huge range of students and last year they managed to get a band up and running within six months of their speech night. I congratulate them. Manly High School is a selective school. Terry Buggy is at the helm and with the capable assistance of many teachers and senior students he is progressing that school from being a general school to a selective high school. In its general school sense it was an excellent school but in its selective role it is performing a fantastic function. The number of students trying to get into the school every year is increasing. I am pleased that the Minister for Education, Training and Youth Affairs is to visit that school in two weeks' time to open a library extension involving expenditure of almost $400,000. That wonderful new facility recognises the needs of the school.
Peter Page is the principal of Cromer High School, a centre of excellence. It is a general high school. Last year Premier Fahey visited the school and was enormously impressed with many aspects of
it. I wish to comment on its dance teacher, Deirdre O'Connor. The dance and music at that school are excellent. Judy King is the principal of the wonderful Beacon Hill Technology High School, which extends the boundaries of high school education and places an emphasis on technology throughout the system.
I must add my voice to the concerns about the lack of funds being expended on breast cancer. It is extraordinary that though six women a day die from breast cancer in Australia, we are spending only the equivalent of 20¢ per woman per year on that disease. I appreciate that there are other pressures on the budgets, but the reality is that we should be spending at least 10 times more than $1.4 million on fighting breast cancer in women. I add my voice strongly against those who are making the silly decisions to spend a pittance on such a vital issue of women's health.
I have dedicated my last three years to try to increase child care facilities in my electorate. I am bitterly disappointed that Greentrees kindergarten may close tomorrow as a result of a conflict that exists between the private owner of the kindergarten and the private owner of the freehold. Until about 5 o'clock today 100 three-year-old and four-year-old children were to be without a pre-school until the Minister for Community Services, after many discussions and a great deal of worry, was able to offer $67,000 to refit Narraweena school, which is only a couple of hundred metres up the road from this kindergarten, into a kindergarten. I am committed to getting more child care for the electorate of Wakehurst and I want to do that with great gusto and enthusiasm. I want the Minister for Community Services to seriously consider funding a child care centre. It is not just the west or the south that needs child care; the north needs it too.
The Federal Government must get its act together.
I want to see the Federal Government get off its butt and give some decent money to this State so it can be put into child care. I am grateful for the endeavours of members of the Staysafe committee. I look forward to the continuation of my term as chairman, and to being a productive member of the committee; and I enjoy working with my Labor, Liberal and National Party colleagues on the committee. I express my thanks to members of the Police Service in my electorate, particularly senior police officers Inspector Ted Gilligan, Inspector Neville Keogh and Chief Superintendent Bill McIntosh, for their hard work. Also, I look forward to the establishment of a better transport system in the electorate of Wakehurst. It is about time that a decent transport system operated from the city to the peninsula. I know it will involve a considerable amount of money and a lot of consideration, but I look forward to assistance from the Government and some viable options. [Time expired
(Mount Druitt) [9.12]: I congratulate the Governor, His Excellency Rear Admiral Sinclair, on his reappointment. Obviously, no thanks are due to the Premier of New South Wales who, as has been publicly stated in this House and elsewhere, planned to replace him. The extension of the Governor's term of office was probably one of the few issues in respect of which the Labor Party and the National Party had a common goal. The release of the Opposition's alternative program was a first in an Address-in-Reply debate. Honourable members will note the contrast between the positive initiatives outlined in the speech of the Leader of the Opposition and what most people believe are boring proposals by the Government.
On page 11 of the circulated copy of the Governor's Speech, under the heading "Law and Justice", brief mention was made of legal profession reforms. Under the heading of "Consumer Affairs" the Leader of the Opposition mentioned real competition for conveyancing consumers. From the outset I must say that the so-called great microeconomic reform of conveyancing has been botched, as the Opposition warned it would be when the legislation was debated in this House two years ago. It has delivered more control of conveyancers to the Law Society of New South Wales, to the extent that the Opposition questions whether there will ever be fair competition between solicitors and conveyancers involved in the real estate field.
It should be noted that while the Governor's Speech highlighted the Legal Profession Reform Bill as a positive for the Government, the Fahey Government's Attorney General, the Hon. John Hannaford, has referred to it as a disaster. Playing to a captive audience - although it was difficult to say who was the captive - at a meeting of the Law Society of New South Wales, Mr Hannaford, as reported in last Saturday's Sydney Morning Herald
, attacked scrutiny by the Trade Practices Commission envisaged by this reform. The reason for his concerns are obvious. The Trade Practices Commission represents outside scrutiny of the legal profession - scrutiny which the profession's supporters have resisted in this House for many years. An article in the Sydney Morning Herald
of Saturday, 12 March 1994, under the heading "New regime for lawyers condemned `disaster'," and referring to Mr Julian Disney said in part:
. . . NSW's Legal Profession Act was a good example of effective reform but added that it could have gone further.
Mr Disney went on to outline some dangers. The report states:
Dangers included delays in achieving reform, and "a tendency towards a one-size-fits-all approach" which had more to do more with trading corporations than the interests of ordinary Australians. But it could be a "useful blunderbuss" to force the legal profession to face reform, he said.
I emphasise this point. The article continued:
While he supported the increased involvement of non-lawyers in the provision of legal services, he warned of the creation of new monopolies, such as one run by a small clique of licensed conveyancers and lawyers.
The Conveyancers Licensing Act has been in operation since October 1992. The intended effect of the Act was to not only break the long-held monopoly
of solicitors on conveyancing, but also to introduce competition, a real microeconomic reform for the benefit of the conveyancing consumers in New South Wales. It is in respect of that point that I believe a number of questions must be asked. If this was such a microeconomic reform, why are there only five licensed conveyancers when the Act has been in operation for more than 16 months? Why did it take six months for the formation of the Conveyancers Licensing Committee? Why did it take nearly 10 months for the committee to issue the first certificate of eligibility, which was not issued to a conveyancer already practising in New South Wales but issued as a result of the Federal Government's Mutual Recognition Act and complementary State legislation?
Why did the setting up of the mechanisms which were necessary to bring the Act into operation take so long that the 12-month appointment of provisional committee meetings, as prescribed by the Act, was exceeded by another three months, bringing the constitution of the committee into doubt and perhaps resulting in decisions of the committee being of no effect and putting the Law Society nominees in a position of greater influence than was intended by the Act? It was not intended by the Act but obviously was intended by the Government. How does one become a conveyancer and compete with members of the Law Society in the conveyancing field? First, in order to obtain a conveyancer's licence under the transitional provisions of the Act, conveyancers - after compliance with the two-year rule which is now in reality four years - must have their accounts inspected by Law Society trust account inspectors. That was not the purpose of the Act, which provided that all accounts may be inspected but not necessarily by the Law Society.
By a practice of the Government and the Conveyancers Licensing Committee, that duty was given over to the conveyancers' only competitor - that is, the Law Society of New South Wales. If they survive that scrutiny, applicants are required to pass three examinations assessed by an examining subcommittee comprising a majority of lawyers. In other words, to be licensed as conveyancers, applicants are required to pass the scrutiny of four lawyers nominated by the Law Society and a report by Law Society trust account inspectors. Is it any wonder that, the Law Society being the representative body of the applicants' competitors, there are only five licensed conveyances in New South Wales? Is it any less a wonder that conveyancers, disappointed and disillusioned with the committee, fought so hard to ensure that licensed conveyancers would be appointed to the Conveyancers Licensing Committee? That begs the question: is this system of scrutiny and licensing the level playing field that is supposed to exist between conveyancers and members of the Law Society?
At the annual general meeting of the Liverpool-Fairfield branch of the Law Society a senior officer of the society expressed the view that licensed conveyancers are a subclass of solicitor. It was suggested that history might repeat itself in the course of time - perhaps in 10 years - and, as they were in 1935, conveyancers may effectively be phased out and given the opportunity to become solicitors. It was further stated that conveyancers would be seven day wonders. Obviously, the people who have been given the duty of regulating and policing conveyancers have no real commitment to their continued operation in this State. It was also reported at the meeting of the Law Society that trust account inspections and other responsibilities of the society under the Conveyancers Licensing Act would be used to keep the number of conveyancers limited. Is this position, as publicly expressed, the official policy of the Law Society? Does not this declaration of intent underline an obvious conflict of interest that exists between the conveyancers and the regulatory body, their competitors, the Law Society of New South Wales?
The Law Society has now clearly shown that it cannot, as a professional union, represent the interests of its lawyer members and administer the statutory provisions of an Act against the only legitimate competitors of its members. The senses boggle at the proposition of a system under which the Government regulates the Opposition. In the market-place that proposition becomes even more absurd. The only possible resolution from the Law Society's point of view must be to either eliminate the competitors or, failing that, to absorb them into the larger establishment. Both options are easily explained; they cannot be justified as being in the public interest and serve well the interests of the members of the society as prescribed by its constitution.
If such actions and statements are not questions of dishonesty or the ability to conduct oneself fairly, then they must be a fulfilment of the obligations of an organisation as prescribed by its charter, a charter that expresses the reasons for the organisation's existence. One of the principal objectives set out in the society's memorandum and articles of association is to "represent generally the views of the profession". Such an objective is not conducive and clearly admits to little if no objectivity. In relation to the issue of double standards, the society has made a number of complaints regarding advertising by conveyancers. No doubt motivated by its members, the society has sent these complaints to the Conveyancers Licensing Committee, assuming they will be discussed at the time an application for a conveyancer's licence is being determined. Obviously the complaint is made while the eligibility of an applicant is being assessed.
I understand that in such cases the Association of Property Conveyancers has always acted courteously and quickly. I suppose one would expect that of a professional body that has been granted its present status under an Act that has now passed through this Parliament. However, when an offensive advertisement, endorsed by the Law Society and misinforming the public about conveyancers, was placed by the South West Slopes Law Society in the Daily Advertiser
in Wagga Wagga and an article written by Wayne Sharwood, solicitor, on behalf of that society appeared in the same publication, they
were made the subject of a written complaint by the Association of Property Conveyancers. Guess what? No action was taken. That advertisement, of which I have a copy, states:
Buying or selling your home may be the most important investment you ever make.
That is true, but the advertisement then says in bold print, "Only A Solicitor can - ". The advertisement then reads, "Ensure that the transaction proceeds smoothly and trouble free". That is false; conveyancers are also able to do that. The advertisement continues, "Advise you about your mortgage and your dealings with financial institutions". That is also false; conveyancers are also able to do that. The advertisement continues, "Advise you about taxation consequences (capital gains Tax: Stamp Duty, Land Tax etc)" and "Suggest the best way to buy your property (e.g. Joint names, through a company etc)". That is all misleading because all of those duties can be fulfilled by a licensed conveyancer. I might add that all of those duties are fulfilled by a secretary in a lawyer's office.
Service costs are also a matter of concern. Different standards seem to be expected from conveyancers and lawyers. I understand that licence applications by some conveyancers are rejected on the basis of practice requirements if the Law Society report alleges that there may have been some undisclosed agency costs or service fees relating to the ordering of survey, building and pest inspection reports or the arranging of insurance policies for purchaser clients. If a conveyancer's licence application is rejected on that basis, the only course open is a very expensive appeal to the Supreme Court. No one, of course, condones the practice of accepting undisclosed commissions. However, the New South Wales Solicitors Manual states, under the heading, "Solicitors as agents for insurance company":
That is obviously referring to the Law Society Council:
- referring to a general ruling on the conduct by a solicitor of another business . . . and to the not uncommon practice for solicitors to act as agents for insurance companies as a convenient means of dealing with their clients' fire and general insurance requirements, was of the opinion that this business would fall within the Council's general policy under the heading above referred to.
The receipt by a solicitor of commission on premiums paid through his agency is referred to in Lund's Guide to Professional Conduct as follows:
The general principles of full disclosure to the client and no retention without his consent apply to all commissions received by a solicitor, unless they are of a minor nature (for example, the commission paid by an insurance company on a premium relating to a client's house insurance policy).
I understand that the amount is commonly between $40 and $70. It would seem that it is not uncommon for solicitors to obtain trivial commissions when executing conveyances. Is it then the case that one rule applies to conveyancers and another to solicitors? According to the standards set by the Law Society's manual, to which I have just referred, undisclosed commissions to solicitors of trivial amounts are tolerated. But when the same practice involved small amounts of money, and even when it was questionable whether the service fee was undisclosed, the Conveyancers Licensing Committee uses this as an excuse to reject a licence application.
That happened in the case of Mrs V. Aird of the Hermitage Conveyancing Company at Penrith. Her application has been rejected, and I understand that she now must now take the matter before a court. She was a successful conveyancer whose references would be the envy of any solicitor. However, she has been targeted by local solicitors because her business is too successful, a fact known throughout the Penrith real estate industry. She must now appeal her case to the Supreme Court. However, bearing in mind the printed attitude of the Law Society in the New South Wales Solicitors Manual, I call upon the Attorney General to request the Conveyancers Licensing Committee to review its attitude to trivial discrepancies and, more particularly, to this matter.
Every action of the Law Society that influences and affects the operation of the Conveyancers Licensing Act must be examined and measured in the context of the society's charter and the statements made by one of its most senior officers. Licensed conveyancers provide an important professional service - some call it a specialised legal service - but that does not turn conveyancers into lawyers or affiliate conveyancers with organisations that represent lawyers' interests any more than the Australian Medical Association represents dentists or optometrists. The importance of the long-term survival of independent conveyancers is evidenced by the disproportionate effect five licensed conveyancers are having on the conveyancing market. Licensed conveyancers have had to realise the expediency of the Law Society's role under the Act.
The conveyancing public, licensed conveyancers and even lawyers are quickly realising that licensed conveyancers are not lawyers and that the Law Society should be removed from the provisions of the Conveyancers Licensing Act if there is ever to be fair and open competition in the market-place. The fundamental questions about the Law Society's control of its competitors - the conveyancers - are simply these. Is the society able to be objective? Will the society be consistent? I have just highlighted the case of Mrs Aird, who has been refused a licence because of a matter referred to in the solicitors' manual as trivial. In my view that is imposing the death penalty for a charge of offensive behaviour. Is this action consistent?
I refer to a number of cases reported in a document titled "Disciplinary Reports" issued by the Legal Profession Disciplinary Tribunal. I am not suggesting there is anything wrong or untoward about these cases. I will merely use the name Freeman to identify the first case. In that case the solicitor altered a contract for the sale of land so as to avoid
the payment of penalty stamp duty. The tribunal considered the role of solicitors in conveyancing transactions. A finding of professional misconduct was made and the solicitor was fined $8,000. I remind honourable members that a monetary fine was imposed in that case. The solicitor was not suspended and continued to practice, but in the trivial matter to which I have referred a licence was refused.
Another case involved a person called Ellison. In that case a solicitor misled a client on numerous occasions for a period in excess of two years as to the progress of the client's third party claim. The solicitor was fined $7,000 and ordered to pay compensation - another monetary fine. The solicitor was not suspended or struck off and continues to practice. Another case involved a person called Weingarth. In that case a solicitor signed mortgage documents, falsely stating that she was a witness to the mortgagors' signatures. The solicitor signed a statutory declaration that falsely stated that she had witnessed the clients' signatures and taken declarations. The solicitor was found guilty of professional misconduct and was fined $1,000.
Is the society's attitude consistent when monetary fines are imposed on solicitors in cases of malpractice while conveyancers are being refused licences as a result of much lesser offences? When determining serious allegations against solicitors, the Legal Profession Disciplinary Tribunal imposes monetary fines and allows them to practice. Yet when Law Society inspectors go after a conveyancer they expect the ultimate penalty of refusal of a licence for a matter which, at the worst, is trivial by the standards of the legal profession and questionable when one hears from the clients who are supposed to be the victims of the so-called crimes. No complaints are made by the clients. As a matter of fact, I have references to support these cases. I use the Legal Profession Reform Act and the Conveyancers Licensing Act as examples in response to what the Government is doing in the legal area. I ask that the Attorney General address these matters in the next 12 months. I believe reform in that area is much needed, as are amendments to the Conveyancers Licensing Act.
(Murrumbidgee) [9.32]: I congratulate the honourable member for Mount Druitt on his wide-ranging speech. With 20 minutes to go he was talking about lawyers and with only one minute remaining he was still talking about lawyers. I hope that all the lawyers feel suitably chastened after that admonition. It gives me great pleasure to speak on the Address in Reply to the Speech delivered by His Excellency the Governor, Peter Ross Sinclair, on 1 March. As in all cases there are bouquets and there are brickbats, but the bouquets for the Government's performance in matters affecting the electorate of Murrumbidgee are outstanding.
In the overall picture one can talk about the winning of the year 2000 Olympic bid, an idea first mooted by Nick Greiner and brought to fruition by Premier John Fahey and his able-bodied helpers who went to Europe to boost Sydney's bid. It will give Australia a shot in the arm. It will put Australia on the map. It is hard to talk about it other than in the abstract, because it has not happened. As an Australian I feel that the country has so much to offer the rest of the world and that the Olympic Games will be a showcase for Australia in the year 2000. The construction programs undertaken by the Government to ensure that the Games will run successfully are admirable.
There has been a remarkable lack of dissension from the various bodies involved. The private sector is co-operating in a magnificent way, which bodes extremely well for the hosting of the worldwide Games in the year 2000. The Olympic Games will create an extra 90,000 tourism-related and Games-related jobs as well as generating in the vicinity of $3 billion worth of revenue for New South Wales in the next 10 years. New South Wales has a lot going for it. I remember the revolutionary changes brought about by Nick Greiner, and they have continued. The Standard and Poor's triple-A ratting still stands. Standard and Poor's commented particularly on the deficit and debt reductions in this State during 1992-93, reversing the trends of previous years. New South Wales is the prime tourist destination in Australia. It accounts for approximately 70 per cent of all international visitors and about 30 per cent of all domestic visitors.
In my electorate of Murrumbidgee I doubt whether any previous government has a record such as this Government has been able to achieve. This year $5 million has been spent on health in the Murrumbidgee area. A brand new hospital has been opened in Ganmain-Coolamon and a brand new hospital has been opened at Leeton, as have nursing homes, and of course area health boards have been established. Although area health boards have been spectacular in regionalising services and have brought together infrastructure that will provide an improved medical technology service, I hope they will ensure delivery of health services to people in the more remote areas. As in previous years, the Governor's Speech outlined the gap that exists in the understanding of honourable members in this place, other than members of the National Party such as myself, about what it means to live in a remote area. Remote areas do not have public transport, buses or trains, or taxis. It is a debilitating factor for development in country areas.
The Government has performed well in the area of education. Initially I opposed Minister Chadwick's initiative to spend more money on Yanco Agricultural High School. It was a boys' school, one of the few boarding schools in this country maintained by a State Government. But it was decided that it was not fair that in a country area it should remain a boys' school only. It is now a very successful co-educational school. It has been transformed in stages. The construction of new dormitories and rooms for female students has begun. It is functioning well, against all the predictions of doomsdayers. My attitude has been reversed entirely, as I have seen the success of the transformation. I must have been influenced by the
old boys and the young boys at the school who were adamant that they did not want girls in their school. But on an equity basis, when one thinks about it, it was high time a government spent money in that area for such a worthy purpose.
Ardlethan Central School has a new administration block as well as telematic learning programs. I should like to remind honourable members that the new distance education equipment available in country schools, with its overheads, computers, microphones, faxes, et cetera, puts kids who live hundreds of miles apart into one classroom. It takes a little while to get the kids to adjust, but once they do it is just like a single classroom. Suddenly, the skills of a teacher in Urana, perhaps 100 miles away, the only teacher in the area who can teach Japanese, are available to students throughout the region via distance education. The hall at Leeton Public School is magnificent. I did not realise it would be quite as big, but it is marvellous.
Mrs Lo Po':
You were very lucky.
I have to agree, we were lucky. I do not think too many more halls are being built these days. But that is what enhances the quality of life in the country and encourages people to stay in country areas. It provides them with an education equal to anything students can get anywhere else. A lot of great things have been done in my electorate, apart from mundane things, but they cost a lot of money and require a lot of organisation. The sewerage augmentation scheme in Griffith has been extended to the villages around Griffith. It is an unusual country town with surrounding villages left over from the old days, lending quite a charm to the region. They are all connected to the sewerage system, which has been a marvellous acquisition.
The main differentiation between country areas and city areas is the ability of Ministers and governments to devise an appropriate set of rules, regulations and laws. Although we are all one people, there is a big Dividing Range. Unfortunately, we are finding that much of the legislation and regulations that work very well in city and coastal areas that are densely populated is not adequate for the more remote areas of this State. As an example, I refer to a little town called Barmedman, with a population of about 160. It has had a mineral pool for about 40 years. Nobody has ever climbed out of that pool and felt sick or has had to be taken to hospital; in fact, no one has even had a serious accident there. The water is a little bit turbid - I know that - and there is a bacteria content in the pool. However, we really do not need people who know all about public health laws relating to swimming pools trying to apply the types of laws that would apply, for example, to North Sydney pool, where 30,000 people might be in the pool over a weekend. The mind boggles. It is probably just about like a soup by the time Monday morning comes around.
A soup of what?
I will leave that to the Minister's imagination. On a big carnival weekend 400 individuals might use the Barmedman pool. Unfortunately, health officials said the pool had to be closed and that it could not possibly operate outside the health regulations. That, of course, endeared them to the locals no end. The biggest single feature in Barmedman is the mineral pool. There has been much toing and froing. Signs now have to be put up. The original signs were of the skull and cross bones type saying, "If you swim here death is certain". The signs conveyed that sort of message; however, they have since been modified. But it has taken an endless battle with bureaucrats and Ministers to try to get some sort of accommodation for a pool in a remote area that, unfortunately, is subject to the same public health laws that apply in city areas. I could draw the same analogy with regard to education. There is a different system of education in remote country areas which accommodates for distance. If that can apply to education, why not to other things?
Many bureaucrats have a definite reluctance in relation to the installation of mobile mammography units in the more remote areas. These units are vital. Mr Acting-Speaker, you mentioned that about six women in Australia a day die from breast cancer. I suggest to the House that if men had a similar problem with some parts of their bodies, the required unit would be on every street-corner. Such is not the case. Women are working very hard to overcome the problem. One woman has raised over $300,000. In my town people have raised something like $30,000 in the space of six months - all for the acquisition not of a stationary mammography unit but a mobile unit.
A mobile unit is needed to go to remote areas. As I said earlier, there are no trains, buses or taxis for these people to utilise these sorts of services. I sometimes wonder whether the Minister for Health really understands the enormity of the problems of regional boards, where inveterate empire builders are in full power, in full sway and in full flight. They do not want mobile mammography units because they do not make any money out of them; but they would make money out of stationary mammography units. Unfortunately, such considerations are coming to the fore much to the detriment of women living in country areas.
There are many aspects of the Governor's Speech that I would like to speak about, but my time is running out. We all know that the business of democracy, unfortunately, is inevitably under threat. One of the places where it is most under threat is within the Parliament of New South Wales - and in every other democratically elected Parliament - in the way in which we conduct our business. As honourable members know, I am chairman of the Regulation Review Committee. That committee has been designed to try to make regulations more democratic, more acceptable to people. Ministers and governments do not seem to realise that laws, legislation, rules and regulations are not something that belongs in a supermarket; they are not something that the individual can come along, pick up and say,
"I don't like that one, I'll put it back". Once we have the legislation or the regulation, that is what we are lumbered with, whether we like it or not.
Is it too much to ask that legislation, Acts or regulations be acceptable to the community? The only way they will be acceptable to the community is to ensure that is what the community wants. Perhaps the cost of democracy is high - the cost of trying to ensure that legislation is fair and equitable. But there are costs associated with ensuring that it is fair to the community at large. That is something governments will have to take on board more and more. At the moment bureaucrats are saying to their Ministers, "Look, we are carrying out all this work for the Regulation Review Committee. It is costing a bundle; it is costing a fortune; we cannot get through our work". In reality, they do not want to do it because they are being questioned; they are being asked to justify their decisions.
It is not unreasonable to ask governments why the same demands should not apply to legislation brought into this Parliament. At present in New South Wales there is no formal assessment procedure to test the merits and weaknesses of legislative proposals. Usually the only formal information Parliament receives to explain each bill is the explanatory memorandum prepared by the Parliamentary Counsel. Occasionally white papers and, more recently, exposure draft bills have been prepared, but these are done on an ad hoc basis. Parliament, to a large degree, depends on the amount and quality of information furnished by the bureaucracy, through the Minister, to the Parliament.
The course followed by a government department in dealing with its proposals and presenting information to the Minister is really left to the complete discretion of that department, in just the same way as it happens with the Regulation Review Committee - only now departments are being brought to account. In July 1986 the New South Wales Government issued a handbook setting out the procedures by which the Cabinet system operates in New South Wales. This handbook was specifically issued to assist Ministers and officials involved in the preparation of documents to be submitted for Cabinet consideration. The handbook, which is still current, does not impose any obligation on a Minister to carry out an assessment of the economic and social costs and benefits, both direct and indirect, of the proposed action, apart from its financial impact on government funds.
The handbook does not require the Minister to make an assessment of the alternative options or to advise Cabinet of the course that would involve the greatest net benefit or the least net cost to the community. No mention is made in the handbook of the need, in appropriate cases, for a consultation program or of giving the public relevant notice of the proposal so that comments can be sought and evaluated. The automatic confidentiality accompanying most Cabinet proposals limits the potential for community discussion on them. If members want to know more about that, they should just ask the backbenchers. These factors limit Parliament's ability to produce useful legislation.
I believe that the Government should move as a matter of priority to correct the lack of assessment criteria in relation to the presentation of bills coming before the Parliament. Such an action would produce a more informed Parliament, a more informed public and a reliable base for decision-making. Legislation committees are no substitute for Parliament's own scrutiny. In fact, sometimes they are a waste of time. Last year one of them presented no recommendations, merely a summary of evidence taken at several days of hearings. If bills are accompanied by proper supporting information assessing those proposals, the need for such committees will fall away, together with the substantial cost of them. The greatest fear of every leader of this House is that he or she will suddenly run short of business. This practice works against adequate assessment and is not in the interests of the community. We need less legislation and more of it to be properly considered. People want to have more say in government and their views genuinely examined. I will give a short but all too typical example of such legislation. On 2 July 1991 the then Minister for the Environment introduced the National Parks and Wildlife (Aboriginal Ownership) Amendment Bill. This is what the legislation committee said of it:
Although the Minister's second reading speech and media release examined the reasons for a number of the principal provisions no attempt was made to provide the public with any thorough dissection of this complex legislation including its operational costs and benefits. No comparison was carried out of the merits of the schemes operating in other Australian States or Territories that had formed the basis for the legislation.
If I bought half a dozen cars in varying condition and without any specifications or lists of defects, how many would I sell? None. As long as this state of affairs remains the New South Wales public will suffer. I previously touched on this subject in the House during the debate on the mining bill in 1992. Without going into the various aspects of it, the Parliament had to be satisfied with three pages in Hansard
even though the bill ran to 181 pages. Had that bill been a regulation, its lack of assessment would have been unacceptable under the Subordinate Legislation Act. That is a ridiculous situation. I can say categorically that departments prefer putting up a bill to putting up a regulation. A bill is seen as a soft option these days because a regulation has to be financially and socially justified. That is what our Regulation Review Committee has achieved. When the 1993 Mabo legislation was introduced in the Commonwealth Parliament the accompanying explanatory memorandum devoted only one paragraph to the financial impact of the legislation. The paragraph apologised for not being able to determine the effect of the bill other than to say that the major burden would fall on the States. That example suggests that amateurism in the presentation of legislation is not restricted to New South Wales. I commend the Governor's Speech. [Time expired
(Newcastle) [9.52]: It is a pleasure as the member for Newcastle to contribute to Address in Reply to the Governor's Speech.
A good electorate.
It is a good electorate and a city showing the benefit of years of work on behalf of the citizens of the city since the earthquake to ensure its physical and economic recovery. An important part of the Governor's Speech, the part on urban renewal and infrastructure, relates to Newcastle. It states:
My Government is planning strategically for sustainable urban development. To this end, two discussion papers, Sydney's Future and an Integrated Transport Strategy, were released in October 1993 for public comment. The key strategic directions presented in the reports will enable a better environment to be created in response to water and air quality concerns and will support the maintenance of a competitive regional economy. Final strategies will be completed during 1994.
"Sydney's Future" as it is quaintly called, in effect is a greater metropolitan regional strategy for the Illawarra, Sydney and Newcastle. Whilst the draft of the strategy was accepted as perhaps an idea for the future, many concerns have been raised with me by Newcastle people about the potential impacts of the policy on lifestyle and particularly economic development in the Newcastle region. If there is one thing that is deficient in the document, it is a commitment to infrastructure development and assisting economic development in the region. It is understandable that the Government is reviewing its 1988 metropolitan strategy because that patently has not been successful.
Sydney is continuing its urban sprawl to the west with huge population growth in that area. There are problems with the disposal of sewage, blue-green algae in the Hawkesbury-Nepean and the whole waste problem of Sydney. The document anticipates that the region's population will grow by 800,000 to 5.2 million by the year 2010. It is expected that 100,000 people will move to the Newcastle-lower Hunter area and perhaps 80,000 homes will be built there in the next 20 years. Local government, political representatives and the community will not accept that type of growth unless it is underpinned by preceding economic development and good planning so that existing infrastructure is not overstrained and the quality of life in the Newcastle area is not lowered.
I turn specifically to water and water quality. On 17 January the Hunter Water Corporation put out a blue-green algae alert for the lower Williams River that stated that the Williams River, the principal water supply for the whole lower Hunter area, feeding into the Grahamstown Dam, the principal water supply to Newcastle, is being impacted on by developments in the Williams River catchment. If that problem is being experienced now, we must question whether the extra 100,000 people could be supplied with water and sewerage services without upgrading of the infrastructure beyond the planned upgrading of the Grahamstown Dam.
When I questioned the Hunter Water Corporation at a regular briefing - I commend the corporation for conducting the briefings - between the corporation and the Hunter task force I was advised that the corporation had not been contacted and that a submission from the corporation had not been sought in relation to the draft discussion paper "Sydney's Future". Water is important for the home and for industry, and the implications should have been taken into account in the first draft. Future planning must take into account a comprehensive review of existing infrastructure in relation to population movements. Newcastle is at present undergoing urban consolidation, a very sound policy. Through the Building Better Cities program and the Honeysuckle project $100 million will be spent in the area over the next four years. This will assist with urban consolidation, particularly in the Honeysuckle area but also in the areas surrounding the inner city. A quarter of the money will be spent in the development of housing on the Honeysuckle in accordance with an affordable housing strategy in the inner city area.
There is development pressure right around Newcastle - in the Maryland-Minmi area, west of the lakes, from Pinney Beach south of Swansea to Fern Bay in the north. Tremendous pressure is being applied for the release of land. That is of great concern to me and to many people in the Newcastle area because without the very best planning controls Newcastle may suffer the same sort of problems being suffered by western Sydney today. There should be more consultation with the community by the Department of Planning in relation to the development of the "Sydney's Future" document. Any plans for the increase of population in the Newcastle area should be accompanied by government proposals for economic development of the area.
I refer to the integrated transport study, which is to go along with the "Sydney's Future" document. Newcastle has its own Hunter region integrated transport study. It has been a little slow because of the lack of up-to-date statistical information when the consultancy brief was carried through in the first stage. The one weakness is that the Government persisted in refusing to accept the Civic to Newcastle railway link as part of the overall study. That attitude weakens the study and precludes a comprehensive look at the overall transport needs of the Hunter Valley. The retention of that rail link has tremendous community support. I was pleased to read this morning in the Newcastle Morning Herald
of a consultant's plan linking the Hunter Street Mall and the foreshore via a proposal for upgraded access across the railway line with controlled crossings. That is an important step being taken by city planners.
One negative aspect in relation to transport in Newcastle has been the failure of the Hunter Port Authority and other planners in the Newcastle area to take advantage of the one-off chance given by the Honeysuckle Building Better Cities funding project to examine the heavy truck transport routes linking the port to the F3 freeway, in particular the west of the lake transport route. The people of Carrington in
particular have had great difficulty with the existing level of port traffic, whether it be with the current loading of wheat from the Graincorp building and the overnight movement of trucks in Denison Street or the loading of cargoes from the new cargo terminals. Over the past two to three years the residents of Carrington have applied pressure so that they could work with the Hunter Port Authority to achieve a better transport route. Unfortunately, that joint consultation has not come to fruition.
The Hunter Port Authority and the city planners must take urban industrial interface into account and do something about the transport links to enable residents to continue their pleasant lifestyle close to the city. The developments at Honeysuckle are progressing, whether at the Carrington site where Mirvac will invest and build houses on the new residential estate; the fisherman's wharf, which has been completed and has fishing vessels tied up; the Wickham Public School, which is to be recycled into accommodation units; or the Civic Workshops, which are progressing rapidly towards completion. Evidence can be seen of public sector investment and private sector investment in regard to Mirvac. Everyone in Newcastle will be delighted when the investment level is again lifted and more and more of the Honeysuckle development comes on stream.
The port of Newcastle had record exports last year. Significant investment in the port is being undertaken by Port Waratah Coal Services with the building of a second wharf at Kooragang Island, which is progressing rapidly. The good news for the Newcastle metalwork industry is winning the topside module contract, which is being built for Esso-BHP by Transfield. It will stay the drift in jobs that has occurred in the industries in the past few years. The determination on 15 December that the three minehunter tenderers - Transfield, Australian Defence Industries and Australian Submarine Corporation - have all chosen Newcastle as the preferred site is good news for New South Wales and Newcastle in particular. I pay tribute to the city businesses that are obviously committing themselves to bidding for the project. Businesses and industries have lifted their quality assurance standards, something that has occurred in Newcastle over the past few years, with more and more industries making sure that they are quality assured to the highest level, which will enable them to bid for this work.
I pay tribute also to the Trades Hall Council for its role in industrial relations in the city, because no doubt the three tenderers gave consideration to the sound industrial relations policies and practices in the Newcastle area. Whichever tenderer is successful in obtaining the contract, the minehunter will be built in a very tight time frame. The first minehunter must come off the slips in the first year. This will mean that city businesses keen to be involved in the project should at this stage be in contact with the three prime tenderers to make sure they know who the principal subcontractors will be, which will enable them to enter negotiations as quickly as possible and get them on board for this important project. As I have said, the contracts are worth $1 billion for six ships; and there is potential for Newcastle and New South Wales to obtain 60 per cent of that work.
We should all continue to work to ensure that as much employment as possible comes to Newcastle. No doubt Newcastle has a difficulty with unemployment. Figures released this week showed youth unemployment at 32.2 per cent and general unemployment at 16.3 per cent, with many people caught in a long-term unemployment trap. That certainly shows that much work needs to be done. It is pleasing that the work force is increasing. Jobs are being created in the area, but further initiatives are still necessary.
I refer briefly to the specific subject of policing in the city. I pay tribute to the police in the Hamilton and Mayfield districts for their professionalism and ability to work in the twentieth century under nineteenth century conditions - that is a disgrace. I have written to the Minister for Police inviting him to visit Newcastle. I am sure he would appreciate conditions in Hamilton and Mayfield being improved out of sight. Something must be done about the condition of Hamilton police station: there is inadequate accommodation, inadequate working conditions and no public waiting area. The charge area is next to where people stand at the counter; witnesses, victims and aggressors or offenders are together in the muster room. The situation is untenable and something must be done about it. I pay tribute to Inspector Max Ebrill of the combined patrol. I also offer my condolences to the family of Inspector Terry Dooker, former patrol commander of the Hamilton patrol, who passed away earlier this year.
I congratulate Mr Kevin McDonald on being awarded the prestigious Newton-John award for his work in environmental studies and the tremendous amount of work that he has done for the Shortland Wetlands Centre and his work in ensuring that Newcastle would be selected as the No. 1 site in New South Wales for the Ramsar conference. Kevin McDonald has been a great worker for the Newcastle environment. Like many honourable members, I pay great tribute to those volunteer and professional firefighters who were involved in fighting bushfires at Fern Bay in January. [Time expired.
(Northern Tablelands - Minister for Small Business, and Minister for Regional Development) [10.12]: It gives me great pleasure, as it did all of my colleagues in this House, to reply to the address by His Excellency in opening this session of Parliament. Indeed, as we have come to expect, the Governor gave us a good run-down on the Government's programs for this year. He touched on all those areas that we would expect to be reported on, matters such as health, education and training, transport and roads, urban renewal and infrastructure, the environment, employment and economic development and, of course, each of those areas of Government policy impacting directly on the electorates of each and every one of us.
I guess it is always the case that we can, in looking at our own electorates, find areas of need. This year I would expect that none is as worthy of serious consideration by the Government as health care. Though His Excellency was able to speak of the Government's continuing drive to improve health care delivery, he made special comment on the Government's commitment to the delivery of the highest possible quality of customer focused health service. Despite that, and despite the almost heroic attempts of the Government to keep up with funding the ever increasing need for the health budget in the light of cutbacks from Medicare funding from Canberra, each of our electorates has pressure points that need to be addressed. I hope the needs of the Northern Tablelands will be addressed by the Government and particularly by the health Minister this coming year.
This year the New South Wales health budget is in excess of $5 billion - an enormous amount of money out of the State's Budget. It is increasing in real terms each year, and it seems as though the increase in the level of commitment of the New South Wales health budget is almost in reverse proportion to what we get back from the funds we contribute to Canberra by way of the Medicare levy. In recent years there has been an enormous improvement in many aspects of health care delivery in New South Wales. We can all point to higher equipment levels in our hospitals, to new clinical procedures, to ever improving technology, to entire new hospitals in some areas, particularly in the areas of high growth population, and major redevelopment of many of our hospitals or parts of our hospitals throughout the State. That has been achieved only by the State Government continuing to divert an increasing proportion of its budget to health services rather than to ancillary costs, particularly administration.
The Government has had to cut deeply wherever it could into the administrative costs of health care delivery. Honourable members have seen the reduction in health administration at the regional level. Some health administrations were grossly overgrown, had blown out of all proportion to their original intention and were absorbing a huge amount of the health budget. Many of those have been eliminated by way of the restructuring of area health boards throughout the State. Indeed, the Government is also continuing to work on the restructuring of the Department of Health itself to see that the funds absorbed by that huge bureaucracy will once again be directed to expenditure on actual health care services. However, much has yet to be achieved.
In my electorate the new area health board has identified a range of infrastructure requirements that are way overdue for consideration, and not only the present Minister but also his predecessors have all been aware of that. I have marched them all through the Armidale and New England Hospital to point out to them the need for refurbishment in a number of areas. Clearly, we would love to see an entirely new hospital but, to be realistic, that will be difficult to achieve in the next few years given there are populations much larger than Armidale and the area that it serves which have no hospital at all. It is difficult to get on to the priority list for such a massive expenditure of $50 million to $80 million or whatever might be required to satisfy that need.
The capital funding that has been identified by the New England Region Area Health Service as priority funding includes the construction of a new Armidale hospital emergency care unit which is estimated to cost some $1.7 million; the overdue construction of a new Inverell hospital emergency care unit for some $900,000; the redevelopment of Armidale hospital's east wing medical care unit at about $800,000; redevelopment of Armidale hospital women's and birthing unit at $0.7 million; and construction of an entirely new hospital at Tenterfield for about $2.7 million. That represents one of those golden opportunities for us to capitalise on the program, if we can, that is represented by the multiple purpose units. If only the Federal Government would get on with that program we could certainly fill it up with another 10 or dozen projects each year until the real needs of the people in smaller communities were met.
We can add redevelopment of Tingha hospital which, although in the electorate of Barwon, is attached to the Inverell District Hospital and that looks like costing about $800,000. Armidale and Inverell hospitals both need new services, maintenance, and so on, all of which add up to about $8.5 million. We do not expect that we will get it all at once but we certainly expect to convince a review team that the Minister for Health has agreed to send to my hospitals in the next couple of weeks that the need is genuine, that our priority requirements are real and that some money ought to be flowing into our region for health services in the near future. Health is just one matter where all local members have some serious resource needs. I am pleased that the Minister has responded after a number of discussions with him over recent months and more particularly since that priority listing was given to me by the New England Region Area Health Service. I am sure that some results will flow from that.
There are a number of matters that I would like to touch on but I know that time is short. I guess the one area of particular focus for me as Minister for Small Business and Minister for Regional Development is that of the economic development of New South Wales. It is true that we are experiencing a considerable resurgence in the economy at present, and figures released today in Canberra again point to significant growth rates which would seem to indicate that we have really begun to escape the clutches of that long, drawn-out recession. It has been an inordinately difficult time, no more so than in rural areas, particularly those depending on wool, where wool prices have been disastrously low and under the cost of production. Certainly in the grain belt and other areas that have been beset by drought for up to three and four years, not just the farmers but the businesses that supply the farmers and the businesses that depend on good farm cash flow in order to
survive in country towns have had a terrible grubbing the past few years. For many it will be quite some time before they do recover, even if they have several good seasons in front of them.
As Minister for Regional Development I have perhaps been more frustrated in the past several years by those who might have been expected to invest in the local economy not having the courage or the necessary financial wherewithal to do so. Investment in new businesses and the refurbishment and growth of existing businesses in country towns has been lower than expected. Country areas of New South Wales have been suffering the same very high levels of unemployment and the resulting social ramifications as have other areas of the State. Particular areas of the State - those at the two extremes in one sense - have been suffering from the pressures of high rates of population growth, for example along the coastal fringe, where the population growth rates have been high but there have been no jobs to go with them.
Unemployment rates in country areas are much too high. In many instances they are much higher than those parts of the metropolitan area with the highest rates of unemployment. The other area of particular concern to me is the depopulation of the Far West of the State where many rural towns, particularly those entirely dependent on agricultural industries, have experienced a loss of population and a drift of people to the coast and to the cities. The Government has done its best to divert some economic activity into those areas. There are some glimmers of hope. Every now and again on my trips around the State I have been pleased to learn that people are prepared to invest, even in the smallest country towns, to generate real jobs. The jobs may only come in twos and threes, but they are real jobs and are tremendously important.
Turning to the improvement in the economy, I have no doubt that the successful bid for the Olympic Games 2000 has consolidated the change of attitude needed by the business community. It seems to me that New South Wales now has the best opportunity for many years to capitalise on the ground swell of interest and commitment to growth in this State resulting from the successful bid. At present New South Wales is the focus of significant attention. The Government has the responsibility of capitalising on that focus and turning it into economic development and jobs. At a recent luncheon with members of the Consular Corps in Sydney the renewed interest in Australia, particularly in New South Wales and Sydney, was perfectly obvious from anecdotal evidence that was being swapped around the table by people from around the world.
Many Europeans who have been suffering fairly difficult economic circumstances - particularly those in the middle European countries that have suddenly broken away from the tyranny of communist dictatorships and so forth - are looking for a new start. Many are looking to Australia for that new start. To some extent that attention reflects the renewed interest in Australia caused by the successful bid for the Olympic Games 2000. The opportunity for New South Wales to attract new businesses certainly emerged strongly at the luncheon with the Consular Corps. New South Wales must be smart enough to take advantage of those opportunities. We cannot do it on our own, of course, because many policy areas are controlled by the Federal Government.
I have already mentioned to my counterpart in Canberra that Federal policies must be responsive to some of the opportunities in order for New South Wales to take advantage of opportunities for business investment. Given those conditions, new businesses with skilled personnel and capital investment will set up in New South Wales. In summary, it seems to me that the Olympic Games will present us with a once in a lifetime opportunity to showcase all that New South Wales does well, not only in terms of sport. I do not want to focus only on the short-term advantage offered by the Olympic Games, good as that is for national pride. Because of the renewed focus of interest, New South Wales will be able to capture the interest of the extensive international market-place in our technology and services. Earlier today in question time I spoke about the service industries that are such a rapidly growing sector of the Australian economy.
New South Wales is particularly good at staging cultural and other events. Our educational institutions are world leaders in various areas of research and so on. New South Wales will be able to showcase all of those attributes as a result of the attention focused on the State because of the winning bid for the Olympic Games 2000. It is up to all of us - and I intend to do some work on this aspect during the next few weeks - to focus on ways of capturing new business from now until the Olympic Games and probably for decades beyond the turn of the century. I should like to give a simple example of what New South Wales can do. It is well recognised that Australia is a long way from many parts of the world.
Over the years many people have said to me that one has to travel a long way to visit Australia. We should be saying, "Yes, it is a long way, but whether you are coming at the time of the Olympic Games or before, make it the trip of a lifetime. When you come to Australia, do not come for three or four days or three or four weeks, but come for three months. Let us show you Australia. Stay for a while because we can show you things you will not see anywhere else". A marvellous new promotion for tourism in New South Wales has captured a great deal of attention, not only domestically but internationally. The campaign promotes the fact that people can have a lifetime experience as tourists in New South Wales. The tourist promotion is but one example of the things that New South Wales does so well. As the responsible Minister, I am aware of a great range of businesses, industries and service industries - either long established or newly commenced - that are leading the world in so many aspects.
New South Wales has industries that are quality assured to the highest international standard. In fact, some industries have been the first to be accredited to the highest international standard. New South Wales
is able to lead the way and the new focus of attention on Sydney and New South Wales is a golden opportunity to do so. I would like to detail a range of Government achievements in regional development. I could list the many hundreds of jobs that have been created throughout the small business sector in New South Wales, but time does not permit me to do that. Let me say that the New South Wales Government remains absolutely committed to economic growth and job creation. The Government will continue to seek out every possible opportunity to put resources in the right places, and to ensure that impediments to business investment and job creation - bureaucratic control and red tape - are eliminated.
That will not be easy. The community clearly expects the Government to control the many costs to business - for example, the costs of occupational health and safety and so on. The Government must constantly review those costs to make sure the right action is being taken. The Government has a very good track record and, in many respects, has shown a clean pair of heels to the rest of Australia. Honourable members only had to listen to the answer given by the Treasurer today in response to a question about the economic performance of New South Wales - particularly the way in which New South Wales taxpayers have subsidised other prosperous States in Australia, such as Queensland and Western Australia - to realise what great opportunities exist for the State. Indeed, great opportunities are available but New South Wales would be much better able to capture and exploit them if it received a fair shake from Canberra.
I will conclude my reply to His Excellency's Speech by saying that the Government is committed to growth and to the creation of jobs. It will continue to work as harmoniously as it can with the Federal Government, so long as that Government's policies are the right policies. The Federal Government needs to bite the bullet on a number of issues, such as industrial relations reform, which, unfortunately, it has squibbed out on. A number of other microeconomic reforms for the benefit of Australian industry are long overdue. The New South Wales Government needs and deserves such reforms, bearing in mind the difficult decisions it has taken in relation to microeconomic reform in the past five or six years. As always, it was a great pleasure to listen to His Excellency dealing with the breadth and quality of the Government's program for New South Wales for the coming year. I compliment His Excellency on the job he is doing as Governor of New South Wales. I continue to be a proud member of a Government that is setting the right scene for better business for the people of New South Wales.
Debate adjourned on motion by Mr E. T. Page.
House adjourned at 10.32 p.m.