GOVERNOR’S SPEECH: ADDRESS-IN-REPLY
Fifth Day’s Debate
Debate resumed from 24 September.
(Wollongong) [8.11 p.m.]: It gives me pleasure to speak in the Address-in-Reply debate. I will not deal with all the points raised by the Governor in the Speech he delivered on 16 September 1997, but I will deal with those comments that referred to the Illawarra generally and to the Wollongong electorate in particular. The Governor said at page 2 of his speech:
New South Wales continues to lead Australia’s economic growth and business investment.
While the State has achieved the nation’s second lowest unemployment rate . . .
Notwithstanding that, the Government wants to continue to generate jobs and to address the question of youth unemployment, particularly in the regions. One body of thought tends to include rural areas in the regions. In my view, "regions" also covers the Illawarra, the Hunter and the central coast - major urban areas and important job generating areas on the fringe of the Sydney metropolitan area. I will refer to some of the decisions and projects for 1997-98 that were announced in the budget brought down in May 1997. As a result of that budget, of the order of 2,600 additional jobs will be generated in the Illawarra area this financial year. The Government is funding a number of projects that will continue that level of employment and generate other employment.
Services that were not available in the area in the past will be provided by the Labor Party in the future. Let me give honourable members a few examples. The $50 million Wollongong Hospital clinical services building is nearing completion; the outer structure of the building has been completed and the fit-out phase has been reached. Twenty per cent of people in the Illawarra who need health care currently go to Sydney for medical treatment and will now be able to be treated in the Illawarra, generally at Wollongong Hospital and, to a lesser extent, at Port Kembla hospital. The basic objective of that project is to ensure that no more than 5 per cent of Illawarra patients who need medical treatment have to leave the area for it. Some areas of specialisation can be justified only at a State level, and as Sydney is the hub of all activity in this State, logically those services will be provided there.
Each year many hundreds of Illawarra people still have to travel to Sydney to get elementary, standard services that should be available in their area. To that end we have seen the commissioning of a several million dollar second linear accelerator at Wollongong Hospital, a facility which was officially opened earlier this year by the Premier. People who were unable to be treated because of overloading on the existing linear accelerator, which was established at Wollongong, now do not have to go to Sydney; they can receive treatment in the Illawarra. The $25 million major redevelopment of an interchange between the F6 expressway, the Northern Distributor and Mount Ousley Road is continuing. This financial year $13 million will be spent on that major interchange bridge and associated roadworks. The capacity of the F6 from Gwynneville through to Ghost Bridge at Figtree will be increased from four to six lanes and sound barriers will be constructed.
Most of a $7 million allocation has been expended on a sound barrier program further south on the F6 to service the needs of those whose residences adjoin the expressway at Figtree, Mangerton, Mount St Thomas, Berkeley and Lindsay Heights in the Wollongong electorate, and Dapto and Mount Brown, which is south of Dapto, in the Illawarra area. That will greatly enhance the quality of life of those people. The previous Government refused to do anything about the sound problems in the area. The sorts of problems that those people have had to put up with for many years are now being addressed by this Government. People living in Phillip Crescent, Mangerton, were experiencing noise problems, and an associate professor was requested to take sound level readings. The sound levels in those homes were found to be extremely high, so much so that if similar levels had been recorded in a factory, its operator would have had to install a range of sound-deadening equipment and provide ear protection in accordance with occupational health and safety regulations.
Those people were living under appalling conditions, yet the previous Government said, "Because it is not a new expressway, we will not spend money on erecting sound barriers." This Government has reversed that irresponsible and socially unacceptable approach, and those people are now able to live in and enjoy the amenity of their homes without suffering from continual traffic noise from the expressway. A number of people who were
badly affected in the past boarded up their front windows to try to deaden the sound. Some people enclosed their front verandahs and used them simply as a barrier against the noise coming from the expressway. This project is a major plus for those residents, and for the Illawarra generally. The entertainment centre which was promised by the former Government is now under way. For the information of honourable members, former Premier Greiner promised to provide an entertainment centre in the Hunter and in the Newcastle and Illawarra areas as a bribe to ensure that people in those electorates continued to vote for him at the 1991 election. It did not work.
Premier Greiner started to deliver in the Hunter - the entertainment centre at Newcastle showground was completed - but neither he nor former Premier Fahey delivered in the Illawarra. When this Government was elected to office it began that process and is delivering a facility that the Illawarra should have - one that will be a great boost to our tourist industry and will be of benefit to people there who currently have to go to Sydney to watch shows and other entertainment. Of course, that will mean more jobs in the Illawarra and a significant enhancement of quality of life in the Illawarra. It will be of benefit to anyone who attends functions in the entertainment centre and will ensure that the Illawarra Hawks remain in the National Basketball League. The National Basketball League had told the Hawks that if its facilities at the snake pit at Gwynneville are not improved it will be out of the league. So this decision by the Government guarantees that the Illawarra Hawks will continue in the national basketball competition and I have no doubt that one of these days the Hawks will take out the premiership for the Illawarra.
The Government has also recently announced another job generation and quality-of-life-enhancing initiative by providing $1.5 million for a recreational and small boat harbour in the outer harbour of Port Kembla. I pay credit to the work undertaken by Eric Ramsay when he was the local member from 1971 to 1984. He tried to get a facility so that trailer boats had access to a boat ramp in central Wollongong but nothing could be done. It was one of those problems that could not be solved and there never seemed to be light at the end of the tunnel. I pay credit to Carl Scully, the Minister for Ports, for taking the bit between his teeth and giving the inner areas of central Wollongong a major new initiative - a boat ramp and boat launching facility. This facility will also enhance access for small boats in the outer harbour, which is currently susceptible to north-easterly swells. While boat owners pay a lease for their boat site, they have to provide any facilities such as a walk-up to boats or a jetty. At the moment it is a depressing and makeshift harbour. The construction of good quality facilities will be a major boost to the Illawarra and a major enhancement to the quality of life.
Money continues to be expended on Lake Illawarra, particularly on its foreshore. In the present budget two-thirds of a million dollars will be provided and work is continuing on the lake foreshore in Windang. That work will tidy up some problems and also offer the opportunity for the Koori community of Illawarra to display their culture in a natural setting. The first stage of that project is open and another major stage will be constructed to the south of the present completed area. That will add to the tourism potential, the quality of life and the recognition of the importance of the Koori community’s culture in Wollongong.
Another major boost which provides direct job generation and increases the range of services is the increase in recurrent expenditure budgets for the area health service. I calculate that increase to have been 30 per cent-plus since the March 1995 election. All of the phoney, fraudulent, so-called productivity savings forced on the Illawarra Area Health Service in the seven long, dark, barren years of the Greiner and Fahey governments have been turned around. The area is starting to get the services that it deserves and which the first area health service board, of which I had the honour of being the chairman, worked hard for during the 1980s. Today a range of services is being provided for the first time and the money is there to pay for them.
Last of all in terms of job generation and increasing and enhancing the range of services is the commencement of the construction of the new $1.1 million fire station at Warrawong to replace the antiquated fire station at Port Kembla. I was at the site yesterday morning and it was a pleasure to see the construction crew clearing the site in preparation for the laying of the foundations. All of those job generation activities will benefit the Illawarra. They will generate jobs, provide extra services and increase the quality and standard of services for the benefit of Illawarra residents. A major boost to the area has been the 2,600-plus jobs from the 1997-98 budget. It is difficult for the members opposite to comprehend how constructive, positive and forward thinking this Government is in meeting the needs of an area of the State that was much neglected by the coalition Government. They sat on the backbench
and on many occasions were shamefaced by the decisions that were made.
Major potential increased activity through Port Kembla harbour is currently being considered by the Ministers involved with the Rail Access Corporation and the Port Corporation. In the not too distant future I hope that a major announcement will be made that will lead to a significant boost in the throughput of goods on Port Kembla harbour. There is also potential for a major increase in jobs in the private sector with the designation of an ecopark at the old power station site at Tallawarra. When it comes to fruition the park will be a major boost to broadening the area’s economic base. As members are aware, over the decades the Illawarra tended to be a BHP company town and we paid a high price for that narrow economic base. In decades past BHP guaranteed prosperity but it also left us vulnerable when BHP decided to significantly shed jobs during the 1980s.
No matter how much the Government does, the private sector has to pull its weight. One of the areas of concern in the Illawarra is that the private sector is not following on those developments by providing encouragement to the local community with an expansion in manufacturing. The Governor referred in his Speech to the environment, and one project that I have been very keen about is the permanent creation of a national, regional or special park which would preserve the catchment areas of the Nepean dams and the Illawarra State recreational area. [Extension of time agreed to
All of this is a revelation to the members opposite. They are ignorant about what is happening in their own State. It is important that I take the time to slowly explain these things. Having been a teacher, I have learned to speak slowly and repeat myself because there is always someone who never quite understands what is said the first time. In terms of the park, the Wollongong City Council has been engaged in an activity called fair trading with land-holders who have land on the escarpment and escarpment face. By an arrangement with the council, land or area that is crucial for the preservation of the escarpment can be donated or quarantined. I pay tribute to the work of many volunteers from industry, landowners, community environmental activists and the staff of Wollongong City Council.
From the national park in the north to the Macquarie Pass park in the south land-holders have agreed - it is all signed and sealed - that areas of the escarpment should not be developed. The council has traded in the sense that it has indicated that it will look favourably on proposals for additional subdivisions in the lower areas of properties which will not impact upon the visual amenity. As a member of the Public Accounts Committee last week I flew to Perth. I was astounded at how much the range to the east of Perth has been desecrated by unrestricted urban development. What could have been a green backdrop to the Perth coastal plain in many areas is totally developed as residential subdivisions with no amenity. Quarries are in full view of the major urban areas south-east of Perth. This could have been avoided, to the advantage of Perth, but it has been lost.
Fortunately in the Illawarra the escarpment has been saved. Establishment of the park is the answer to preserving for future generations the great beauty of the Illawarra - the beaches, the narrow coastal plain, the rainforest and the beautiful green escarpment providing a backdrop to the urban areas. Within five minutes from anywhere in Wollongong one can be in the bush, in the rainforest. We have been fighting to preserve that asset. I think we have managed to do it but I would like to take out a little insurance that the situation will not be reversed. Creating a special park or regional park will guarantee preservation of the area.
The Governor stated in his Speech that this is a caring government. It cares about ordinary people and it is concerned to ensure that people’s lives are improved as much as possible. On pages 3, 4 and 5 of the Governor’s Speech seven issues demonstrating the Government’s caring nature are mentioned. The first is the Government’s delivery of unprecedented growth in health-care funding over three successive budgets. Spending is nearly $1 billion more than it was when the Government was elected. Secondly, the Government will introduce legislation for a comprehensive reform of the health-care system. This is crucial to ensuring that residents anywhere in New South Wales have the best health system anywhere in Australia - hopefully anywhere in the world.
Thirdly, the Government will shortly finalise its program to improve services for people with disabilities - again, an area much neglected by the previous Government, which took a very Philistine view towards people with disabilities, to the extent that it was ashamed to be associated with them when they returned victorious from the Paralympics. That attitude has not existed with this Government. We intend to improve services for people with disabilities. Fourthly, the Government intends to uphold and strengthen the public education system. It could be said that in the view of the previous Government private education was pre-eminent and
State education was provided for young people who could not afford private education until they were eligible to leave school. They were seen as being expendable. That is not the view of this Government. The reforms of public education that will be announced and legislated will make sure that public education is something of which we can all be very proud.
Fifthly, the Government will introduce a youth policy to improve services to young people and to increase their opportunity to be involved in decision making. People of my age - I do not regard myself as old - were not concerned about getting a job in the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s. It was assumed that people leaving school could get a job. The only people who did not get a job were those who did not want a job. Now many young people desperate for work, desperate to establish themselves in the work force, are simply unable to get a job, for the simple reason that there are not enough jobs for them. Society has to face that issue and make sure that all young people finishing their education enter an environment in which they can get a job if they want one. That should be our aim. That is not the present situation. While the State Government cannot direct the Federal Government, we should influence the Federal Government to create such an employment environment.
Sixthly, as part of the action plan for women the Government will establish a council on violence against women. The report released by the pay equity task force will be the basis of future action to ensure that women are justly rewarded for their work as compared with men. Seventh is the important matter of continuing the process of reconciliation of the Koori community with the general community. We have started down the path but there are many paces still to go. The Governor was truthful in stating:
Recent Federal Government decisions exert increasing pressures on the State Budget.
He listed some of them. They include direct cuts in Commonwealth funding and the decisions taken by Commonwealth bodies which deprive the State of revenue or compel the State to incur unplanned but substantial increases in expenditure. This country is being run by a socially irresponsible Federal Government. All its members are concerned about is looking after themselves and their immediate backers. They are not concerned about looking after this nation and doing what is in the best interest of the overall community. The Federal Government has totally withdrawn funding for dental services. Many elderly or disadvantaged people will have to put up with dental conditions which are totally unacceptable in the last few years of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first century. Community services cutbacks are a disgrace. The Governor stated in his Speech:
General purpose payments to the State were reduced as a result of the requirement at the 1996 Premiers Conference that States make fiscal contribution payments to the Commonwealth to help cut its Budget deficit.
That is a reference to the State’s budget deficit, not the Commonwealth Government’s budget deficit. The Governor continued:
In real terms over the three years from 1996-97 to 1998-99 this will mean a reduction of $529 million.
In its 1996-97 Budget the Commonwealth announced the imposition of so-called "efficiency dividends".
We have been down that track before. We know all about productivity savings in the New South Wales health system. Productivity savings and efficiency dividends involve just cutting, slashing and burning - denying services to people who should be getting them. The Governor’s Speech continued:
These effectively cut a range of Federal specific purpose payments, including some for social welfare.
These "efficiency dividends" have had a great impact on the people of New South Wales. They have, for example, resulted in cuts of $31 million in public housing and at least $7 million in vocational education and training.
These unilateral decisions by the Commonwealth have not only put heavy burdens on State Budgets, but have placed unprecedented strains upon the Federal system itself.
It is about time Little Johnny Howard -
You mean the Prime Minister?
No, Little Johnny Howard. If he were doing his job he would be the Prime Minister, but he is Little Johnny Howard because he is not doing the job. Fundamentally, he is trying to apply his dry, hard-nosed, uncaring, unsympathetic, callous, economic rationalist approach, so that those who are the least powerful and the least able to look after themselves have to suffer in order to make his life and the lives of his supporters easier. [Time expired.
(Oxley) [8.41 p.m.]: This Address-in-Reply debate is taking place only because the Premier, and no-one else, prorogued Parliament. We had to go through all the costly pomp and ceremony mid-term because the Premier wanted to trot out for the public of New South
Wales what they are paying for, and of course he got His Excellency the Governor to read a speech that I suspect was prepared by Treasury. Despite the cost to taxpayers, we are now going through the motions of the reopening of Parliament. Funds would have been better spent on services - something that has disappeared from the agenda of this self-serving Government. In his Speech His Excellency the Governor said:
You have been called together to consider the Government’s key legislative and policy proposals . . .
They gave nothing to Coffs Harbour hospital.
What about Coffs Harbour hospital? Six beds were closed there recently. As the honourable member for Coffs Harbour says, we could very well ask what is in it for our country electorates? I welcome the provision - mainly from the Federal Government - of $1.2 billion for rural and regional roads, particularly for the Pacific Highway. But, apart from that, there is little joy in the Governor’s Speech for anyone who lives outside the city. This State Labor Government has not done anything constructive for rural New South Wales. Now it will try to abolish six country seats, to try to get rid of country representation and to make way for larger urban Labor constituencies. The Government is trying to rort the boundaries. When I was first elected to Parliament I had something like 46,000 electors, but the member representing the Balmain region had 28,000 electors. Talk about one vote, one value! It is always a rort under Labor. My constituents have seen no evidence of Labor’s promise of job security, social justice and/or financial responsibility.
The Government has identified its core responsibilities, as set out in the Governor’s Speech, namely, health, education, transport and police services. Well, they have all copped a hiding in the bush. The commitment to developing the natural resources of the State is a joke. What has the Minister for Land and Water Conservation done? He has virtually shut down the timber industry. He has locked up the forests and he has put in limbo a further 691,000 hectares of valuable resource. Where is the economic security in that? Just today he tabled papers relating to the cost of water. One can only imagine that the price of water will go up, and that will kill off the irrigators. The honourable member for Coffs Harbour referred to the Coffs Harbour hospital. What has the Government done there?
They promised it in 1994.
And nothing has happened. Where is the social responsibility for health care in this State? Whole wards at Kempsey District Hospital have been closed and Wauchope District Memorial Hospital is struggling under budget constraints. A few years ago the Federal Government made its position with regard to dental funding very clear. Dental treatment is a State responsibility and the Federal Government provided three years additional funding before handing that responsibility solely to the State. Now the wait for dental treatment in Kempsey is years. The constituents of Oxley have been turned away in pain. There are no funds, there are too many on the waiting list and the situation is critical. The mid-north coast health area now has three dentists, compared with the previous compliment of five. There are no physiotherapy facilities at Macksville hospital. Whilst it is acknowledged that it has been difficult to recruit additional physiotherapists to rural areas, many patients come from outlying areas and often they make the journey only to return home without treatment. That is just not good enough.
Promised ambulance services have been shelved. The ambulance station at South West Rocks has still not been built. I received an iron-clad guarantee from the coalition when it was in office that the station would be built, but Labor has put that much-needed facility on the back burner and it will be some time yet before that occurs. The Nambucca Heads community raised funds to build and pay for its own ambulance station. The expected South West Rocks ambulance station commencement date is still some time away, despite a windfall. Only a month or so ago the Government received a windfall when it sold a block of land in South West Rocks owned by the health service for $570,000.
What did it do with the money?
Well, it says it is going to help to go towards a new ambulance station, but let us get it started. The Government has the money. The block of land was paid for by the people of South West Rocks, who raised the funds to buy it in the first place -
And this mob has stolen the money.
I would not go that far because I am a pretty nice sort of fellow. However, the sale provides more than enough to give the people of South West Rocks the security of an ambulance station, and I believe construction should
start now, not after next year’s budget. If it is not started after next year’s budget, I assure the House there will be a riot in the bush.
They can’t sell the electricity.
Well, where is the money coming from? Whilst on the subject of health, concerns have also been raised about the closure of wards in Kempsey hospital. A couple of weeks ago a "ward closed" sign was placed on the children’s ward at the hospital. My constituents fear that this is a sign of further cuts to health services in the Kempsey-Macleay area. The wonderful hospital auxiliary at Kempsey has raised many thousands of dollars over the years to provide services at the hospital, and they are now seeing these services closed or downgraded, and that is very sad indeed. Next Sunday a large public meeting is planned at South West Rocks to highlight the difficulty of getting doctors to work in country areas. At the moment country doctors are overworked. Many work seven days a week and are on call virtually 24 hours a day.
The recent campaign by the State Government to recruit doctors to country areas has not worked. We must look positively at the alternatives available to entice doctors to rural New South Wales. This involves an examination of the immigration laws, as well as the policies of the Australian Medical Association and the Federal Government. If city doctors will not move out to country areas, we have to get qualified doctors from overseas. At the moment they are permitted to stay in Australia for only two years, but that period should be extended to five years, provided they sign a contract to stay in country areas. That may go part of the way towards addressing the problem, but it needs to be addressed by the Federal Government, the State Government and even local government so that doctors have an incentive to work in country areas. Access to health services is a right and not a privilege. Country hospitals are now underresourced. Who can blame the doctors for not leaving the city when they cannot get proper resources in the country?
The Minister has slashed operating hours in rural hospitals, making it an unattractive option for doctors to base themselves in the country. Rural hospital working conditions must be improved to attract doctors from the city. The Chamber of Commerce at South West Rocks has stated that the number of doctors' surgeries has dropped from three - one with two doctors, one with three doctors and one with one doctor attending each afternoon - to two. I know this to be the case because I live in that area. One of the doctors is leaving the two-doctor surgery at the end of 1997 and the remaining doctor has said he will close his surgery if he cannot find a replacement. There has been a massive drop in the number of doctors. The majority of the people in the region are retired, having moved to the area from all parts of New South Wales. There are insufficient medical resources for the current population.
Everyone needs to work together, including government and the community, to find a way to encourage doctors to come to country areas. The mid-north coast has a large ageing population because retirees are moving to the area and that calls for action. Not enough doctors are available to service these people, who use medical services four times more frequently than younger adults do, and that is the reason for the heavy demand on them. Though doctors cannot be forced to move to the country, incentives should be given to encourage rural practice. This also demonstrates a need for the return of the hospital board management system, where the community previously had a voice. However, it no longer has a voice at the local level or access to information about staffing and services.
The Minister has stolen the local voice from the rural health service at the local hospital level. I nominated members on the hospital board and even people who voted against me. I nominated them because, apart from their politics, they were committed to health services and did an excellent job. However, the hospital boards were abolished. I did not mind who was a board member provided they did a proper job. Board members were informed of what was required, but now it is a closed shop, a secret service, where information is unavailable and people become suspicious. Though people may not like what they are told, if they are told the truth they will at least respect the members and accept their decisions. Rural waiting times are at an all-time high and staff morale is probably the lowest I have ever known. Nurses are overworked but still do a tremendous job. Assistance should be given to health care professionals. Six beds have been lost from Coffs Harbour and District Hospital and many constituents from Urunga and Nambucca Heads have expressed their concerns.
Order! The honourable member for Oxley needs no assistance from the honourable member for Coffs Harbour. In spite of his advancing years, the honourable member for Oxley is capable of making his contribution on his own.
I think I am about the same age as you, Mr Deputy-Speaker. I hope you are also retiring at the next election because younger people are needed in Parliament. Another matter of concern about which the Government has made a big song and dance is the erosion of services in rural New South Wales. This has been manifest in the transfer of fisheries officers from South West Rocks and Nambucca Heads. The Minister for Fisheries had the audacity to suggest that fisheries offices are still operating when the doors only open one day a week. The fisheries officer from Nambucca Heads was transferred to Coffs Harbour. However, he did not go there, so I do not know who is doing the job. The officer from South West Rocks has apparently gone to Port Macquarie. He is not even acting as a fisheries officer but is dealing with acid soil areas in the Ballina area, which is an important issue. However, I would like to know which fisheries officer is taking his place. In a letter dated 21 January the Minister advised:
I can assure you that there is no proposal to close Fisheries offices at South West Rocks or Nambucca Heads.
The Minister is playing with words. Services are needed where the fishing is. South West Rocks and Nambucca Heads have the oyster industry, amateur and professional fishers and thousands of tourists each year, yet no fisheries officers. Fisheries officers and services should be available but instead services are being scaled down.
That is very clever.
It is very fishy to me, but it amounts to a scaling down of services to amateur and professional fishers and that is not acceptable. The Minister for Transport was recently at the table but he has left the Chamber in order to try to make up for the bad press he received on television tonight and to put his dunce’s hat back on. Rail services are of concern to me. Many people have written to me about this matter. Not all of them voted for me. They are former supporters of the Labor Party - I received only 65 per cent of the vote. I have received stacks of letters about the luggage services and cloakroom that David Hill and the Government want to close and, in particular, the elderly are concerned about luggage handling.
At half past seven this morning I took my father to Central station so that he could travel to Albury by XPT. I witnessed first-hand elderly people boarding the train. As my father is close to 89 years of age I carried his luggage and put it on the rack. Yet without luggage services how can elderly people be expected to carry their luggage? We have a social obligation and responsibility to the elderly and those unable to carry their luggage. The Government needs to examine this matter closely; it will ignore it at its own peril. I received advice that State Rail proposes to close the luggage room at Central railway station on 20 October. This will affect Countrylink and XPT passengers in my area and elsewhere in New South Wales. To their credit, the unions have stalled the issue, but David Hill, who was appointed by the Government and seeks a Federal seat for the Labor Party, has confirmed that 30 positions at Central station and 100 in country areas are under review. He stated:
The reforms were meant to cut costs and increase efficiency, while at the same time maintaining service levels.
What a backhanded statement! Is this double-speak for cost cutting? The State Government has a social responsibility to provide services to the people of New South Wales. I request the Minister, with all his present worries, to intervene and reject any proposals to cut Countrylink staff and services. I cannot understand why the Government is trying to take on so much in such a short time. When the coalition was in government a few things went wrong because it tried to do too much too soon. The honourable member for Port Macquarie, an excellent member and one of the younger members needed in this place, is also concerned about the future. [Extension of time agreed to
Police and community youth clubs play an essential role in rural communities, particularly where there is high unemployment and other socioeconomic problems. The Minister for Police has acknowledged the valuable services that the movement provides daily to thousands of young people throughout the State. In Kempsey the PCYC steering committee is concerned that the momentum of the local PCYC project has stalled. There has been much financial support but the community has yet to see the results of their endeavours. I am grateful to the Minister for seeding funds of $5,000. A truck was fitted out as a mobile unit and is ready to go, but a full-time police officer must be assigned to the project to ensure its success. The arrangement was for a constable from Kempsey police station to be attached as required, along with a permanent attached officer under the PCYC movement, building up to two permanent officers, as they have at Port Macquarie, but that has not eventuated. Any member who wishes to see an excellent PCYC should go to Port Macquarie because it is outstanding. It would be a shame if all the good work and the community support the program has received were put at risk. I ask the Minister for Police to staff this worthwhile program, before the
review is completed, so we can try to cope with the pressures of juvenile law and order.
More police officers are needed in the Kempsey, Hastings and Nambucca areas. People in my electorate should feel safe in their homes and on the streets. The police are working hard under extreme conditions. They are under a lot of pressure and suffer from stress. A lot of police officers are ill and are either on short-term or long-term sick leave. Those police officers are exercising their rights under occupational health and safety laws, but they should be replaced if they are on sick leave for more than three months. These police officers are not on the beat, which makes it hard on the other police officers, which in turn places extreme pressure on them.
Many people in my electorate are yet to be convinced that the Olympics will do anything for them. I support the Olympics. However, the Minister for the Olympics must reveal any hidden liabilities that the Labor Party has added to the original Games bid. The Government should provide timely and comprehensive information on the full cost of the Olympics to New South Wales taxpayers. The Auditor-General has said that he wants to look at the books. I do not want to look at the books; if the Auditor-General is satisfied, I am satisfied. The process has to be open. The Auditor-General should be able to look at the books to ensure that all is well. There is a lingering perception that the New South Wales public faces an unexpected financial liability because of the construction of the Olympic stadium - a liability that was never part of the original Games planning. It was supposed to be built and paid for by private enterprise.
The Carr Government has not come clean on any changes that it has made that may create risk for the taxpayers. Perhaps that is why we have not got our new courthouse at Macksville; perhaps that is why the honourable member for Bathurst is complaining about what is happening in his electorate. I am becoming sceptical about this. I call on the Minister to lay the cards on the table - only he knows the true story. He has to ensure that public confidence is retained for the Games. It is time he told us everything he knows. New South Wales taxpayers are the shareholders and they need to know what essential government services - whether of a recurrent or capital nature - have been deferred or cut as a result of the Olympic priorities. We have to know where it is going. If people cannot get a hospital bed, their teeth fixed, transport into town or a decent education for their kids, they will be pretty unhappy with the situation. People in rural New South Wales believe that they have been ignored. The Government should not forget the little people. I have always fought for my constituents - the little people - because they are least able to help themselves.
A recent report to the Federal Government on regional employment warned governments on regional office closures. The report suggests that Federal and State governments should assess the total economic impact of decisions to close regional offices and not just the savings to a single department’s budget. The report found that flow-on economic benefits from the closure of regional offices could be up to double the direct impact, and suggested that governments find a method to weigh up these across-the-board impacts against the immediate savings from the closures. These closures have an impact on services such as health, education and police. Therefore, the net losses may well outweigh the gains.
I refer to the Carr Government’s complicated Children (Protection and Parental Responsibility) Act, a concept initiated by the previous Government and trialled in Orange and Gosford. The Government has tried to have it repealed. The Government wants to water it down. The Government talks tough when it comes to law and order, but it does nothing. I challenge the Minister for Land and Water Conservation to introduce just terms compensation for private land sterilised by a blight. The imposition of controls such as wetlands and conservation agreements over private land should be compensated. The introduction of a State environmental planning policy by a government that changes the nature of land use in a way that leads to a decrease in value of the land or loss of income because the land can no longer be used in a particular way gives rise to compensation.
You cannot plant crops on a wetland.
The Minister could not plant anything. I invite him to a farm -
I can never find you when I am out there.
The Minister does not have the courtesy to tell me or the media when he is coming. He is scared of demonstrations, which is his own fault. There is currently no obligation on the Government to acquire or compensate for land affected by State environmental planning policy. Farmers should be compensated for the loss of potential income from uncleared land on their properties. For example, SEPP 46 - which prevents
farmers from clearing land for agricultural production - does not include provision for compensation for land-holders affected by it. Legislation is necessary to apply to future decisions - I am not suggesting that it be retrospective - to ensure that governments take into account such factors, including compensation costs, when determining use and possible restrictions applicable to private property. That is a way to get confidence back into the rural community. Private members' days must be upheld by the Government to protect the rights of all members of Parliament. The Government has tried to ram its agenda through this place. The Parliament is for all members, not just for Ministers. Finally, there was no need for this Address-in-Reply debate. If the Parliament had not been prorogued we would not have had to go through the pomp and ceremony and the cost involved in opening this session of Parliament.
Order! I acknowledge the presence in the gallery of Mr Mike Carlton and Mr Steve Chase and their staff. The cream of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation is with us.
(East Hills) [9.09 p.m.]: I congratulate the Governor on his Speech, which outlined the Government’s programs for this session of Parliament. I join the Governor in his expression of sympathy to Prince William and Prince Harry on the loss of their mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, whose life was cut short in tragic circumstances in Paris not long ago. I was particularly touched by the number of my local constituents who called at my electorate office to sign condolence sheets which were made available by the Premier’s protocol staff. I join the Governor in extending my sympathy on the death of Mother Teresa and to the families and friends of victims of the tragedy which occurred at Thredbo on 31 July.
The Governor highlighted the impact of Federal Government cutbacks to the State’s finances and programs, and in particular to the shameful manner in which New South Wales and Victorian taxpayers are required to subsidise other State taxpayers. That is a $1.3 billion impost on the people of this State. Accountability is essential for the Parliament, for government, for government agencies, for police, teachers and public servants, for the business sector, and for unions and non-government organisations which operate within our society. In retrospect, every decade is characterised by momentous events, public attitudes and lasting reflections. The decade of the 1980s was characterised by greed, by Gordon Gecko immortalised by Michael Douglas in the movie Wall Street
, by the rip-tear-bust attitude of business, by debt at any price, and by a complete lack of accountability.
We have not yet reached the end of this decade, but I will make some observations about what might be said by commentators, writers and philosophers, who will go into reflective overdrive when that milestone is reached. Certainly this decade will be known for responsibility and accountability. However, we have a little over two years to implement measures to ensure that one section of society - a very important one which hitherto has remained immune from the strictures of accountability, the judiciary - is made accountable. Legislation and regulation ensure controls over the groups I referred to previously. They are held to account by those to whom they are responsible and, at the end of the day, by our community.
I agree with the doctrine of separation of powers and with the importance of maintaining that doctrine, but the appalling saga which I shall now relate to this House is, I believe, one of the reasons for the strong community disillusionment, disenchantment and at times outright anger at the perceived arrogance and out-of-touch attitude that is increasingly being displayed by the State’s and nation’s judiciary. We are now facing a collapse in faith in our judicial system which is in danger of destroying the very fibre of our democratic society. Honourable members would be aware of my many speeches in this House as a result of which the media highlighted the injustice suffered by Chelmsford victim Barry Hart. Barry Hart was not only tortured in Chelmsford hospital, resulting in physical damage, brain damage and severe and chronic psychological damage, but has had to fight for justice and fair and adequate compensation for the wrongs committed against him for 24 years through what can only be described as the most oppressive, maleficent and inhuman treatment imaginable by the legal system.
Justice Michael Kirby, the then Chairman of the Law Reform Commission, said in 1983 that Hart’s story brought no great credit on the legal profession of this country. I now accuse the judiciary and the legal profession of this State of corrupting due process, of incompetence, bias and a conspiracy to deny Barry Hart natural justice. It is my duty to speak out about the appalling injustice that the legal system of this country has done to this man, a victim of the Chelmsford Private Hospital hellhole. I cannot remain silent when an innocent man has been destroyed by our so-called justice system.
Honourable members may be familiar with the ABC television program run by senior barrister Stuart Littlemore called Media Watch
, in which he pans the media for inaccurate reporting. Who watches the courts? Who judges the courts? Judges should not attempt to rewrite history. Court judgments are public records and as such must accurately record the evidence and facts upon which judgments are based. Court transcripts must also be true and accurate records of evidence given in court. The Hart case is an indictment of this country’s legal system. The innocent victim in this case is destroyed and the guilty go free. It is a disgraceful state of affairs.
There is no doubt that Barry Hart was tortured in Chelmsford. He has had all the symptoms of severe, chronic, post-traumatic stress disorder, and has had them since his unlawful detention and abuse in 1973. He was not medically diagnosed as suffering from this debilitating psychiatric illness until 1993. Indeed, Mr Hart was seen on national television being carried from the New South Wales Court of Appeal on a stretcher on 6 June last year after it had completely denied him justice and dismissed his appeal with costs - the same Court of Appeal that had in 1986 stopped disciplinary proceedings against Dr Herron for misconduct by claiming that Hart was persecuting Dr Herron and had allegedly abused the process by delaying making a complaint to the medical board. Dr Herron was a leading doctor in the deep-sleep treatment at Chelmsford.
Mr Hart was taken to Sydney Hospital by ambulance, where he had convulsions in a bed in its casualty ward, reliving the abuse he suffered in Chelmsford. The shock of the decision and finding himself in a bed in a hospital brought about this reaction. The abuse he suffered in Chelmsford is as fresh to Mr Hart as if it had happened only yesterday. Mr Hart has received no legal recognition and no compensation for this serious illness. At the time of the 1980 Hart v Herron
trial, post-traumatic stress disorder was not a recognised psychiatric illness. Mr Hart appealed the 1980 trial verdict on damages, claiming that the amount of damages awarded was grossly inadequate and that exemplary damages which were withdrawn by the trial judge, Justice Fisher, should also have been awarded. He had received a jury verdict against Dr Herron for false imprisonment, assault and battery and negligence, and against Chelmsford hospital for false imprisonment.
After refusing to consent to any treatment, Mr Hart made a request to see Dr Herron, whom he had not seen for two months. He told a nurse he did not intend to stay at the hospital and was given a tablet on the pretence that it would settle him down. It knocked him out. He was strapped down and kept sedated for 10 days with massive amounts of barbiturate in toxic and potentially fatal doses. A current of electricity was blasted into his brain on six occasions by Dr Herron. Whilst being subjected to this abuse Barry Hart became cyanosed through a lack of oxygen in his blood. His temperature rose to 39.9 degrees, his respiratory rate increased from 16 to 50 breaths per minute, and his pulse rose to 150.
He went into shock, was incontinent of urine and faeces and suffered double pneumonia, pleurisy, deep vein thrombosis, a pulmonary embolism, anoxic brain damage and severe and chronic post-traumatic stress disorder. For the false imprisonment Mr Hart received against both defendants the total sum of not $1 million dollars, not even $100,000, but $6,000. His out-of-pocket legal expenses, none of which he recovered, were more than that amount. He received $18,000 for the repeated assaults and batteries, which was taken by legal aid. It now claims that Hart owes it $150,000 in costs. He received $36,000 for past and future loss of earnings.
Hart had never been unemployed since leaving school. Before Chelmsford he ran a gymnasium at Coogee Beach for 13 years, was a professional model, and had just graduated as the best student in an acting course at the New South Wales Arts Council. He had been told by his teacher to continue his studies in New York with one of the world’s best acting teachers, Stella Adler. He bought with his savings a home unit at Bondi Beach, land at Surfers Paradise and new motor vehicles. The Chelmsford injuries made Hart virtually unemployable. He now lives on a disability pension. Appeals by Dr Herron and Chelmsford wanting a new trial - they also claimed that the damages were excessive - and cross appeals by Hart on the amount of damages awarded and an adverse cost judgment which deprived him of over half the costs of the 1980 trial followed the jury verdict. There were 48 appeal points against the trial judge, Justice Fisher, including failing to adequately address the jury on how to assess damages.
Justice Fisher took the view when addressing the jury that Hart’s treatment was an unfortunate minor incident that had resulted in no permanent damage and that the trial was a waste of time and money and of limited importance. He took issue with three independent medical specialists who had all diagnosed brain damage, but he made no comment about the fact that Dr Herron could not get one medical practitioner in the world to go to court
in his defence. Justice Fisher brought down a judgment in the absence of the jury, preventing the giving of evidence by witnesses to whom Mr Hart had complained bitterly over and again about being tricked into taking a knock-out drop and being treated without consent.
After Justice Fisher had excluded the evidence as being prejudicial he became an advocate for the defendants and invited the jury to consider in their deliberations the fact that Hart had allegedly not complained to anyone about being tricked or held against his will. He frustrated Hart’s barrister’s attempt to have a witness for the defendants - who claimed that Hart had given an alleged oral consent to the treatment - identify Hart in court. He made Hart stand up and come forward so that witnesses could identify him. Mr Paul Bacon, a former jury member at the 1980 Hart trial, contacted me in recent times. The concerns that he outlined to me include:
1. The jury sat for nearly 4 months with complex evidence to consider and yet it was expected to reach a verdict within six hours.
2. There was no mention of any time limit when the jury retired to consider its verdict and some jurors had, on the final day of summation, brought sleeping attire with them believing that they would have days if necessary to consider their verdict on all matters concerning damages.
3. About 4 hours passed before an officer of the court came into the jury room to inform them they would be dismissed if they did not reach a verdict soon.
4. As a consequence the foreman had the time limit confirmed by the trial judge and as a result considerable disbelief and panic occurred resulting in a totally inadequate amount of damages being awarded.
That statement was made by Mr Bacon, a person who served on the jury. He also said:
5. The jury were also guided by the judge informing them that any moneys would be paid by the defendant and not by his insurance and that they should ignore Mr Hart’s barrister’s estimation of loss of earnings as being unrealistic and that they must be guided by his direction.
6. The jury was understandably confused. Despite evidence from 3 medical specialists that Hart had suffered brain damage and despite the fact that the defendants had called no medical witnesses the judge told them that Hart was physically healthy and not particularly brain damaged.
7. Had the jury known about the criminal conduct in the trial by the defendants that came out of the Royal Commission and the evidence of the psychological damage I feel quite sure that had they been given the opportunity to do so the jury would have awarded astronomical damages.
The juror, Mr Bacon, believes that his good faith has been abused. He is utterly disillusioned by the legal system and he wants the Hart case corrected. The jury foreman, the late Ray Ratcliffe, also recorded the fact that the jury was underbriefed, was pushed for time and had little idea how to work out damages. Updated medical examinations and reports have confirmed that Hart suffered brain damage and severe chronic post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the treatment he received at Chelmsford. Armed with this damning evidence from the $15 million Chelmsford royal commission which found:
1. The defendants had conspired to pervert the course of justice.
2. Altered and forged an unsigned consent form on two occasions to hide from Mr Hart’s solicitors and their own insurance company the fact that they had not received a written consent to treatment from Mr Hart.
3. That Dr Herron had deliberately lied about his knowledge of the alteration of the consent form.
4. That Dr Herron had threatened one of the eye witness nurses to the conspiracy-that she would "hang along with them".
the New South Wales Court of Appeal, in a disgraceful decision, chose to ignore this vital evidence. Honourable members might rightly think that the evidence from the royal commission tends to show at the very least prima facie evidence of the most serious criminal conduct. Certainly Justice Slattery thought so in his report. Not so Justice Priestley who wrote the judgment in the Court of Appeal which described the evidence in the royal commission - which I might add included the sworn evidence of eye witness nurses, the sworn evidence of police forensic expert Detective Sergeant Alt, copies of the forged document and the evidence of Dr Herron from the 1980 trial. He described this evidence as only supporting a conclusion that Dr Herron acted badly in 1977 in concert with others when dealing with a situation where no written consent to the appellant’s treatment was available at a time when questions were being raised about the treatment. [Extension of time agreed to
Justice Priestley went on to say:
Evidence of concealment of the lack of written consent and of conduct designed to create the impression of written consent having been given in the regular way does not seem to me to be evidence of consciousness by Dr Herron of no consent at all having been given but at most consciousness of no written consent not having been given and of the difficulties that might follow the unavailability of that best and readiest means of proof.
What kind of judicial nonsense is that? The evidence before the court also included the fact that Dr Herron had deliberately lied about his knowledge of the alteration. Justice Priestley said that all that had
happened was that this doctor had acted badly. It appears that the New South Wales Court of Appeal was in a bind. In 1986 it had permanently stayed proceedings against Dr Herron arising out of evidence from the 1980 trial on the grounds that Hart had allegedly abused the process by delaying lodging a complaint with the investigating committee of the medical board for three years after the 1980 trial. Despite the fact that Dr Herron had appealed wanting a new trial following the jury verdict, despite the fact that he tried to get the Attorney General to take contempt of court proceedings against Hart and 60 Minutes
; and despite the fact that Dr Herron had sued Hart and Channel 9 for defamation, the New South Wales Court of Appeal claims that nothing happened following the trial, that "silence reigned" after the trial and that it must have been "a cruel blow" to Dr Herron to have received Hart’s complaint when he thought that the events were behind him.
The matter of the abuse of process was heard in the first instance by Judge Ward of the disciplinary tribunal. After a two-week hearing in June 1986 in which both Hart and Dr Herron gave evidence, he found that there had been no delay by Hart. Judge Ward quoted the continual litigation between Hart and Herron in support of his findings. Although the Ward judgment was before the Court of Appeal, there is no mention of Judge Ward’s finding in its judgment. The judgment was written by Justice Michael McHugh, and Justice Priestley and Justice Street agreed. After permanently staying disciplinary proceedings on the totally spurious grounds that nothing happened after the 1980 trial, along comes a royal commission with evidence of the most serious criminal conduct by the defendants.
The Court of Appeal was placed in the position of not only having to judge the same matter twice; Justice Priestley was in the position of judging his own previous decision. In order to allow Hart to succeed in his appeal he and the Court of Appeal would have had to overturn his own previous judgment. Not only had the court before it evidence of serious criminal conduct; such behaviour by a medical practitioner I believe would have constituted the most serious professional misconduct. The legal and political fallout from such a decision would be great, hence I believe the nonsensical decision that evidence of criminal conduct is, in the court’s view, "acting badly". Justice Priestley at the very least should have excused himself and stood down from hearing the case. The Court of Appeal dismissed Hart’s appeal with costs. It also claimed that it had read the transcript and the evidence and could find no error in the trial judge’s conduct.
On 10 April this year Hart applied for special leave to the High Court. The written submission to the High Court summarised the abuse Hart had suffered in Chelmsford, including his unlawful detention at the hospital and treatment without consent. It claimed, among other things, that the evidence from the royal commission proved that a false case had been presented to the court in 1980 by the defendants and that, as such, a miscarriage of justice had occurred, which was reflected in the amount of damages awarded. Also it claimed that the Court of Appeal had failed to properly, or at all, address the compelling evidence from the royal commission and the untenable forensic position of Dr Herron at a new trial on damages and exemplary damages. Listed in the submission was all the evidence of the defendant’s criminal conduct and the witnesses who could be called to prove the case.
The special leave application was dismissed with costs on the grounds that it would be "a serious erroneous exercise of the court’s authority for it to allow Mr Hart to pursue exemplary damages so long after the trial". It is an outrageous decision considering that the evidence of the criminal activity did not see the light of day until the royal commission in 1990, and Mr Hart has been continually engaged in litigation with Dr Herron ever since the trial ended. The High Court has placed its seal of approval on medical practitioners being sued for malpractice to alter and change medical records to hide their culpability, to tell lies under oath about their knowledge of such alteration and to engage in long and protracted legal proceedings, such as appeals and defamation actions that are never proceeded with, to delay the truth from being discovered and justice being done.
What is going on? There is obviously something very wrong. I have received letters, statements and statutory declarations from persons who were present at the High Court proceedings on 10 April which indicate that the High Court was biased and had no intention of granting Hart special leave. These documents claim that one of the three judges on the bench - and I am led to believe that it was Justice Toohey - said in the most intimidating tone of voice to Mr Hart’s counsel during his oral address, "Is this a case about punishing a doctor?" There was no audible reply but there was audible murmur in the court from those who were present.
The written submission which the bench claims to have read left no doubt what the case was about. The witnesses claim that from the tone of voice it appeared that the bench had already made up its mind and that it disapproved of the case.
However, the question does not appear in the High Court transcript. After receiving eye witness accounts and a copy of the transcript I wrote to the registrar of the court pointing out that I had been informed by my constituent Barry Hart that the transcript of the hearing was not correct and that it was important that court transcripts should be correct and accurately recorded. In my letter of 9 May to the registrar I said:
My constituent, Mr. Barry Hart, the appellant in the case has informed me that the transcript of the hearing is not correct.
It is the clear memory of Mr. Hart and others who were present and have made statements (copies enclosed) that a direct question was asked to Mr. Hart’s Counsel by one of the judges on the bench - it would appear that it was Justice Toohey - the question being:
"Is this a case about punishing a doctor?"
The question does not appear in the transcript.
It was apparently asked early in the proceedings and was reported on by the press and heard by persons attending court.
I am led to believe that the proceedings were tape recorded and I would be pleased if you would provide me with an unabridged copy of the tape.
I am sure that you would agree that transcript evidence should be correct and what is said accurately recorded.
I very promptly received a letter from the Chief Executive and Principal Registrar of the High Court of Australia. I will not read the whole letter. He said:
There were no omissions. In your letter you refer specifically to one of the judges making reference to punishing a doctor. There are in fact two places in the transcript where a reference to punishment occurs. First, in lines 14 and 15 at page 9 . . . Second, lines 7 and 8 at page 12 . . . A copy of the audio tape of proceedings is enclosed.
I now make the most serious assertion in this Parliament that one can make of the highest court of this land. That is that this is simply wrong. The High Court has either doctored the transcript or the audio tape and, if that is the case, the High Court of this land has lied to a member of Parliament of this State. I consider that is the most serious matter that I have ever raised in this House in all of the time that I have been a member here. I am now going to refer to the House a number of statutory declarations made by people on oath who were present on that day. I start with one by television ABC journalist Geoff Sims, who states in his statutory declaration:
I attended a High Court appeal in Sydney on 10th April 1997 in the case of Hart against Herron.
I sat in the third row of the Press seating.
I recall hearing one of the judges ask a question in these words, or very similar: Is this a case about punishing a doctor?
The question was apparently addressed to Mr Hart’s counsel in regard to the claim for exemplary damages against Dr Herron, but may have been addressed to the fellow judges. The judge asking the question sat on the left of the Chief Judge, Sir Gerard Brennan - in other words, from where I sat, he was on my right.
I remember the incident clearly. I discussed it with several other witnesses afterwards. We all had similar recollections.
The tone in which the question was asked led me to conclude that the judge was suggesting that punishing a doctor should not be contemplated.
And I make this solemn declaration, in accordance with the Oaths Act, 1900, and subject to the punishment by law provided for the making of any wilfully false statement in any such declaration.
I have a whole lot of other statutory declarations which I could read to this House but time does not permit me to do so. But I am pleased and happy to provide them to anyone in this House who wants to pursue them. This is an absolutely serious matter when the High Court of this land has lied to a member of Parliament taking up a matter on behalf of his constituent. Why has the High Court lied? I believe it is clear evidence of bias. I regret the conclusion that must be drawn that judges talk to each other. Justice McHugh, who was on the appeal court when dealing with Barry Hart’s case, was a High Court judge and perhaps talked to other judges. Justice Priestley, who sat in judgment on Hart in early 1986 and sat in judgment again on Hart’s appeal in 1989, should have excused himself from the court, as did Justice Kirby when he heard a case against Hart in the appeal court because he had written to Hart when he was heading up the law commission in this State.
This is a very serious matter. I believe it does show clear bias. The only way that justice will be satisfied, that I believe the public will be satisfied in this case, is if this case is revisited. I have asked that of the Attorney General in a written submission that I have made to him. In summing up I say this. Justices McHugh, Priestley and Street in 1986 claimed that nothing happened following the 1980 trial, that silence reigned, that it must have been a cruel blow to Dr Herron to receive Hart’s complaint in 1983 when he thought the matter was behind him. Nothing about the problems of Mr Hart; they were ignored. They ignored the evidence before them from Justice Ward, who found that there had been no delay on Hart’s part because of Dr Herron’s appeal, Hart’s court appeal, the defamation case against Hart and Channel 9, and the writing to the Attorney General regarding 60 Minutes
. In 1996 the
appeal court had heard Hart’s appeal, including the new evidence from the royal commission which the royal commission said could constitute charges under the Crimes Act and which counsel assisting, Brian Donovan, QC, called criminal and evidence of the guilty mind.
Of course, now, in light of the appeal court, the judge has heard the same matter twice and rejected exemplary damages. Hart has really not received proper justice. Dr Herron could have been struck off for such conduct. How could all of this be found when they stayed permanently the proceedings based on completely spurious fiction that nothing had allegedly happened in the Hart case after 1980? These are serious matters and I believe they are matters that go to the heart of the public confidence in the court system. [Time expired
(Lachlan - Leader of the National Party) [9.39 p.m.]: In speaking in reply to His Excellency the Governor’s Speech I note first that the Carr Government has finally recognised that the State of New South Wales has developed an endemic illegal drug problem under Labor administration. The recognition was tardy. After all, it has been a full month since the National Party pioneered a new and comprehensive strategy on drugs. I am tempted to say "too little, too late" when I discuss this Government’s mishandling of the illegal drugs issue. While it has certainly been too late for the severe addicts who have died of overdoses in the past months of inactivity by the Carr Government, I will not undermine what little confidence the community still has in law and order in this State by saying that it is too late for all of us.
But I will not let Bob Carr off either, because unless the pressure is kept on the Premier he will just continue his world championship record in navel gazing. Without pressure from the National Party, Bob Carr will just continue to wallow in self-pity. So what recommendations from the Nationals is Mr Carr going to adopt? He nominated tougher gaol terms for drug traffickers and dealers, a government-funded education program to warn young people of the dangers of illegal drugs, and rehabilitation measures for addicts. The proof Mr Carr must now supply to the public is to do rather than to talk.
Let us first examine the tougher sentencing option of the New South Wales National Party. Bob Carr says that the courts are not handing out tough enough sentences. The New South Wales National Party agrees. The difference is that he is the Premier: he can do something more than pay lip-service. He can and should immediately introduce legislation to put major dealers and traffickers in drugs away for a minimum of 50 years - with no excuses of broken homes and weak character: do the offence, go to gaol for half a century. It can be done. Other nations in our region already do it. Mr Carr would have the support of the Nationals to do it, if he could find some backbone. If the laws are not tough enough - and they are not - he should make them tougher. That is what New South Wales taxpayers pay him for: to do his job; no more, no less.
On an education program to warn young people about drugs, Mr Carr’s Government can immediately allocate funds for such a worthwhile purpose. Tonight a drug forum was held in the Parliamentary Theatrette. Speaker after speaker - including the sister of a young female who died last year after taking ecstasy tablets at a school function - called for proper education, not just the lip-service that the Government has been paying. Mr Carr could immediately find $75,000 by taking back that sum of money he gave earlier this year to the small homosexual community in Sydney to run a travesty of sport called the Gay Games. That amount would provide a healthy kick-start for a schools-based drug education program. That is a far more acceptable use of the money than Mr Carr and Treasurer Egan gave it for - a publicly funded junket to allow a delegation of prominent Sydney homosexuals to holiday in San Francisco on the pretext of winning business for New South Wales.
Rehabilitation is the third point picked up by Mr Carr from the Nationals, but again he needs to take further action. He has not specified what rehabilitation measures he may introduce, nor what funds will be found to operate them. This is an example of Mr Carr deliberately turning a deaf ear to sound advice. The Nationals have recommended a New South Wales trial of the Israeli rapid detoxification method as a likely central platform of any rehabilitation project. The National Party is the best qualified to speak on this recommendation, because it is the only party with a member who has bothered to see the process first-hand in Israel. I refer to Mr Bill Rixon, the member for Lismore. The National Party is the only party that has bothered to have public meetings to assess what the public wants on drug control measures. The National Party is the only party that has made an effort to research the issue, to talk to the victims of drug-related crime and the families of drug addicts.
The National Party knows that the Israeli method pioneered by Dr Alex Waismann is both effective and cheap - surely a viable prospect for any government to consider. The only other aspect of the New South Wales Nationals’ drug strategy Mr
Carr has not stolen is the idea of assisted employment to get recovering drug addicts back into normal society. There is a good reason for Bob Carr not picking up this idea. His Government, this Government, has been unable to maintain anyone’s job, let alone create jobs for people who need them desperately. Today the jobs are literally flying out of New South Wales. The Boeing Aircraft Corporation - the firm known the world over for the jumbo jet, a company that has operated here for 60 years - has had enough of Bob Carr’s ways of doing business. Just weeks ago Boeing announced that its 250 Sydney jobs are going elsewhere. They are not ordinary jobs; they are highly specialised jobs for some of the best technologists that the world has. Like many other companies, Boeing is going to Queensland and taking those specialist people with it.
Not just jobs but also vital high-level technology has been lost in the Boeing debacle - technology identified as the future economic saviour of Newcastle when BHP closes down there in 1999. The New South Wales economy cannot afford to lose these jobs. Yet Mr Carr has let Boeing slip away. That sends a most negative message to other high-tech firms such as British Aerospace, which will build aircraft in the Hunter thanks to the forward planning and hard work of the Federal coalition Government. It is ironic that the Federal coalition has a better idea of industry needs at ground level. It is normally the preserve of a State government to be most aware of local needs. But the Carr Government has no idea of what is happening outside this House in the real world.
The Carr Government knew more than a year ago that BHP would eventually cut jobs in Newcastle. Yet in that same region lies the potential for a vast new shipbuilding industry, an industry that should have flowed on naturally from the minehunter project, which was so successfully established by the former New South Wales coalition Government. Armed with the early knowledge that BHP would close up, did Bob Carr take an order book and head off to Asia to win orders to build more ships in the Hunter? After all, the minehunter project has shown that New South Wales can build vessels of world-class quality. But no. Mr Deputy Speaker, you can read for yourself the Government’s speech, cover to cover, but like the work of fiction it is, it cannot reveal a new shipbuilding order - not one new order. But such orders do exist. Two days ago the Malaysian Government announced plans to have six patrol boats built. There is not a skerrick in the project for New South Wales, but Germany, on the other side of the world, got the whole job. How come, Mr Premier? With the world’s most modern shipyard in Newcastle and a proven track record in building military vessels, how come?
The Government cannot get business even when it is handed to it on a plate. The Governor’s Speech does not mention the Boeing fiasco, nor the dozens of firms suffering financially just because they chose to operate in New South Wales. However, in the Speech there is an incredible claim, an extraordinary claim, that the Carr Government has allegedly created favourable conditions for business investment in New South Wales. Some conditions! The highest workers’ compensation conditions in Australia, making it prohibitive to employ workers in any industry; and the highest payroll tax burden in Australia, again penalising people who want to give jobs to unemployed people.
In Cowra in my electorate - a town better known for winery and other primary production - there is a growing furniture export industry. There are now three family furniture businesses in Cowra each supplying export markets. In total, this trifecta of factories provides the best win for 92 Cowra people - steady jobs. Country towns such as Cowra grab opportunities when they can. They combine loyal, skilled work forces with entrepreneurial spirit and away they go. What is stopping these factories from employing 900 people rather than 92? The answer is simple: punitive payroll tax. Whenever a family business or any other small business attempts to grow, it is slammed by the heaviest of tax burdens. It is insane that in New South Wales an employer is punished with higher and higher tax for every new job created. Meanwhile, our manufacturing rivals Queensland and Victoria know that business needs fostering: they offer tax breaks and other incentives to get people into employment.
But even crippling payroll tax is not the end of the Carr Government’s punishment of the business sector. The hat-trick is this State’s bizarre anti-dismissal laws, which deter even the keenest employer from taking a chance on an unknown prospect. In New South Wales an employer will receive no help at State level if he endeavours to create a job - but God help that employer if someone already on his payroll has to be let go. The average small businessman will go broke trying to defend himself against an unfair dismissal claim in New South Wales. The message to employers from the Carr Government is: we will kill you financially if you try to employ anyone and we will hit you
again if you dare to try to stop employing anyone. Bob Carr robs employers, coming and going.
The economic suffering caused by the Carr Government’s poor administration is worst in primary industry. The Government has claimed it will develop the natural resources of the State to lift rural productivity. But in my electorate, the Lachlan Valley, farmers are being made scapegoats for the environmental lobby. Without any scientific or environmental evidence, Lachlan Valley farmers have been forced to give up 100,000 megalitres of their water entitlements for the environment, plus a further 30,000 megalitres. That means a massive loss in farm production, hardship for the shops in the towns of the Lachlan Valley, and a potentially firm no from the bank when any Lachlan Valley farmer tries to get a loan to develop his farm and provide a better standard of living for his family. The scene is repeated to varying degrees across every farming valley.
The Premier was shortsighted when on 22 July this year he announced a new inland marketing corporation policy. He was shortsighted when he tried to rally support for the IMC, which embodies the concept of an international freight export terminal at Parkes in central western New South Wales. Yet at the same time, although the viability of that whole process is dependent upon an increase in horticultural production in the Lachlan Valley, his own Ministers are curtailing, cutting back and contracting the basic element of productivity in the Lachlan Valley - water. On the one hand he seeks to announce the glamour and extrapolate a dream for the future of increased productivity and of accessing the burgeoning markets of Asia to arrest Australia’s declining market share in Asia, but on the other hand his own Cabinet colleagues - and I guess they report to him - are restricting the capacity of farmers to respond to that demand and to the vision of an inland marketing corporation with an export abattoir at Parkes.
It is a ridiculous contradiction in terms, and indeed it reflects the Premier’s incapacity, first, to understand what is going on with his own Cabinet Ministers and, second, to appreciate that one cannot have productivity without water being available at a realistic price if one is to be profitable and increase the share of agriculture being marketed to South-east Asia. That is what the Carr Labor Government calls water reform. But water is a resource to be used. It is there to be used by city residents, to sustain the environmental needs of watercourses, and also to be used in farming. The former coalition Government knew all of this, and it ensured that every sector received a fair allocation of water. The division of water by the coalition was always based on scientific data and expertise.
This Labor Government, however, wants all water locked up as if it were a museum exhibit. It is yet to make a decision based on scientific proof, and that is the Achilles heel that in practice will drag down its water policy. The Government’s so-called water policy has been predicated on the continuing fraud of adequate community consultation. The Government has given the bush virtually no time or actual avenue to pursue any attempt at consultation. The deception is continued by the Carr Government with its repeated claims to be conducting rural community impact statements before it makes decisions on cutting railway staff, department branch offices, TAFE funding and rural road funding - all matters that you, Mr Acting-Speaker, have raised at various times publicly in your disgust with your own party.
To this day, Mr Carr is yet to publicly reveal one of these alleged documents, and the reason is dishonesty. I believe that these documents, which Mr Carr vowed to reveal at the country summit, have never been revealed. Where are his rural community impact statements on the regressive policies that his Government has embarked upon since March 1995? They simply do not exist, and I challenge Mr Carr to prove otherwise. The Minister for Roads, Carl Scully, admitted to the estimates committee earlier this year that country districts will lose millions of dollars in road funding this financial year compared with last year. Bourke, in the far west of the State, with one of the highest incidences of crime against the individual, will lose $6 million, which means that road infrastructure development in the west will be wiped out.
Dozens of other districts also fare badly. Harden, in the south-west of the State, will lose $1.5 million; Lismore, on the north coast, will lose $2.5 million. Lismore, of course, is adjacent to the seat of Clarence, where, we are told, the new Minister for rural decentralisation, Mr Woods, comes from. Yet the Government is ripping $2.5 million out of that area. The Blue Mountains, the electorate of the Minister for Emergency Services, will lose $1.9 million; Narromine will lose $3.1 million; Inverell, in the north-west, will lose $1.4 million; Gosford will lose $1.7 million; Cooma-Monaro, in the cold country in the south-west, will lose $3.6 million; Cowra, in my electorate, will lose $6.2 million; and Ballina, on the north coast, will lose $3.7 million. The list goes on. It must be remembered that these are the figures provided by Mr Scully’s office. Wagga Wagga will lose $4.4 million; Muswellbrook will lose $4 million; Tenterfield will lose $3.6
million; and Holbrook will lose $1.1 million. Country districts simply cannot absorb this level of road funding and still have a sufficient standard to ensure general motorist and road freight safety.
Be it the rural constituency, the home of the increased growth in terms of mining, timber, agriculture and, hopefully, value adding, or be it an inner city suburb such as Paddington - and I welcome the Paddington branch of the Liberal Party to the gallery tonight - which is now in the centre of probably one of the most recognised real estate areas in the world, one of the fastest growing price areas, one of the highest demand areas that we have seen -
Indeed, it could be a future National area. There is no doubt that this Government is letting down both the inner city suburb of Paddington and country areas such as Tibooburra, Narromine and Monaro.
What about Murwillumbah?
And Bathurst, Vaucluse and Murwillumbah as well. Be it daylight saving at Murwillumbah and Tweed Heads, road rage in Vaucluse, or public transport for Paddington, this Government has failed the test of the people.
[Interruption from gallery.
Mr ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Clough):
Order! If the people in the gallery interrupt, they will be removed.
We must appreciate the feeling that is in the community, which tonight has been reflected by the people in the gallery. They feel so strongly that they have come to the Parliament to demonstrate the passion they have against the Labor Government deserting them. This Government stands condemned in the bush and in the city by the Left and the Right. The ultimate condemnation came when about 850 delegates at the ALP’s annual conference last weekend rejected the Premier and the Treasurer - something that has been unknown in the history of this State. And they rejected the Government twice! They rejected it on electricity and on the parental responsibility Act. The Government has been rejected by its own members. It is divided, and it is trying to grab hold of the last threads of political presence in this State. The ALP in New South Wales was torn apart by its own members when 850 faceless, non-elected delegates controlled the Government and booed the Premier of the State out - something unprecedented in the history of this State.
Order! On behalf of the honourable member for Vaucluse, Mr Debnam, I welcome to the Parliament members of the Paddington branch of the Liberal Party.
(Lake Macquarie) [9.59 p.m.]: It is my pleasure to join - [Quorum formed.
I am pleased to participate in this debate. I should like also to make comments on the Governor’s Speech and to join with the Governor in expressing my sympathy and that of the constituents of the Lake Macquarie electorate to the sons of the Princess of Wales, Prince William and Prince Harry. I arrived in London shortly following the death of the Princess and it was certainly a city of mourning. It was incredible to witness the outpouring of affection towards the Princess. Many of my constituents availed themselves of the opportunity to come to my office to sign the condolence papers made available by the Premier. The Governor also mentioned the passing of one of the world’s great humanitarians, Mother Teresa. Also in his Speech he said:
I extend in this place the heartfelt sympathy of the people of New South Wales to the families and friends of the victims of the immense tragedy at Thredbo on July 31.
I again pay tribute to the members of the police, rescue and emergency services supported by hundreds of volunteers. In circumstances of great difficulty and danger, they all displayed skill, endurance and courage above the call of duty - the Australian community spirit at its best.
The Government is committed to working with the people of Thredbo to help them rebuild their community, in the full sense of the word.
Last Saturday the Minister for Emergency Services, Bob Debus, visited the Lake Macquarie electorate and attended the official opening of the State Emergency Service local headquarters at Boolaroo. At that function I had the pleasure of introducing the Minister to the assembled SES workers. The Minister handed out certificates of appreciation from the Government to members of the State Emergency Service from Lake Macquarie who travelled to the disaster area at Thredbo to participate in the rescue effort. Again in this House I congratulate those people on their efforts at Thredbo.
The Minister was in the Lake Macquarie area to officially open the new fire control centre, to which the State Government has contributed funds. Also, he handed over keys to a new tanker for the Lake Macquarie reserve brigade and a new tanker
for the Cooranbong bush fire brigade. I hope at the end of this week I will have the pleasure to travel to Cooranbong to present that community with a bushfire flag and to inspect the new appliance and upgrading of works taking place at the fire station. The Governor in his Speech outlined some of the Government’s objectives. He referred to economic growth, job creation, security, social justice, protection of the environment and financial responsibility. He said:
Within this framework, the Government is determined to meet fully its core responsibilities for the State’s health, education, transport and police services.
This was demonstrated in the May budget by the Government’s allocation to the Lake Macquarie area of vast sums to boost many of the projects sought for some time by the local people. When speaking to the appropriation bills I referred to the $3 million allocation towards the construction of Toronto courthouse, the $2.8 million allocation for the upgrading of Toronto High School and the allocation of in excess of $3 million to build the Westlakes polyclinic at Toronto. Funds in excess of $4 million have been allocated via the Roads and Traffic Authority for upgrading roads in the area and more than $4 million has been allocated to extend the Westlakes sewerage scheme to Cooranbong.
Certainly the restructuring of the Police Service has seen an increase in police numbers within the Lake Macquarie electorate. Morisset now has 24-hour-a-day police coverage, something the local community has long pushed for. At Toronto extra highway patrol officers have been stationed and that is good news. The police complement at Boolaroo will be boosted to almost 20 police personnel as Boolaroo is currently being upgraded to become the Lake Macquarie local patrol headquarters. This is good news for the Boolaroo, Teralba and Speers Point areas, which have pushed for an increase in police presence, which will now occur in a few weeks with the official opening of the new patrol headquarters. The Governor stated:
The Government has delivered unprecedented growth in health care funding over three successive budgets. The Government is spending nearly $1 billion a year more than was spent in the budget before we were elected. No other government in Australia has demonstrated such a strong commitment to providing better hospital and health care.
In the current year, all Area Health Services will receive funding increases, flowing from a $223 million increase announced in the May budget.
That certainly has flowed through to the Hunter region. Whilst in opposition I campaigned for increased funding for the Hunter Area Health Service. At that time it was estimated that the area was $16 million to $18 million underfunded, something which the former coalition Government admitted but did nothing to rectify. Certainly over the past few years under the Carr Labor Government and under the stewardship of the Minister for Health, Dr Refshauge, the Hunter Area Health Service budget has increased by over $16 million, that is, $16 million more in real terms to spend on health in the Hunter region. Much of those funds will go towards community health. Approximately $5 million will be allocated to the construction of the Westlakes polyclinic at Toronto. The Governor said also:
The Government will uphold and strengthen the public education system of New South Wales. It repudiates any attempt to downgrade or denigrate public education.
The Government is determined to improve student literacy. This financial year, funding for the State Literacy Strategy will rise by nearly 20 per cent to $59.8 million.
As I pointed out in debate on the Appropriation Bill and as I mentioned earlier, Toronto High School is undergoing a multimillion dollar upgrade. The school was damaged by fire in 1994 and a $2 million rebuilding program was undertaken. The Government is fulfilling an election commitment and is further upgrading the school, making it capable of catering for 1,000 students. Close to $4 million is now being spent on new blocks for art, computer and general learning areas, a new food and technology area, and buildings for major projects in technology and applied studies. When that project is completed early next year Toronto High School will be able to boast that it is one of the most modern high schools in the Hunter region. The Government is putting its money where its mouth is and strengthening the public education system.
The school at Wyee is being upgraded. Country kit classrooms are under construction at the moment. The Minister has announced improvements to Arcadia Vale and Biddabah public schools, with new classrooms. In the past few years many millions of dollars have been poured into schools across the Lake Macquarie area to provide the excellent facilities deserved by students. Money is also being spent on computers and connections to the Internet, along with many other initiatives in the education system. The Governor also spoke about changes in the criminal law. He stated:
You will be asked to consider other changes in the criminal law.
A growing problem in our society is the use of knives as weapons. Measures are being drafted to strengthen safeguards and penalties.
Legislation will be introduced to establish specific offences and penalties for food tampering and extortion.
The Government will introduce amendments to the Bail Act 1978 and the Correctional Centres Act 1952 to transfer certain custodial responsibilities from police to correctional staff. This will free police for other operational duties.
More than $4 million is being spent on building the Toronto courthouse. Under normal circumstances the police would have responsibility for the courthouse cells but, because of the changes taking place, those duties will be undertaken by personnel of the Department of Corrective Services, which will leave local police available for other operational duties. The Governor also stated:
The Government is strongly committed to the public transport system of New South Wales.
Rail services to Griffith and Broken Hill have been restored, providing a lifeline for the people of regional and rural New South Wales.
Services have been restored and in the past two years many improvements have been made to rail services in the Hunter region. With each timetable implemented an improvement to services has been made. Finally, with the trial of a stop at Fassifern, the city of Lake Macquarie has an XPT stop. The original six-month trial from February was extended, meaning that a full 12-month trial will take into account both summer and winter and the Christmas vacation period. It is my hope that the trial will demonstrate the necessity for the XPT stop and that the stop becomes a permanent feature, something senior citizens of the area have been pushing for some time.
In the past few years major improvements have been made to railway stations in my electorate. At Morisset significant improvements include the installation of lifts, canopies and closed-circuit security cameras and major landscaping work. The recent extension and raising of the platform will make for easy access to the trains for elderly citizens. A major upgrade costing more than $1 million has been undertaken at Fassifern. Access lifts and closed-circuit security cameras have been installed and other improvements have also been made. At Wyee, Dora Creek and Awaba minor adjustments have been made to improve railway stations. It is clear that the Government has improved public transport in the Hunter region, particularly on the western side of Lake Macquarie. The Governor stated:
The State Transit Authority in 1997-98 will purchase 145 air conditioned buses at a cost of $49 million. These buses will meet the standards set by the Disability Discrimination Act, featuring a flat floor and wheelchair access.
The State Transit Authority is upgrading safety for passengers and staff. Security cameras and protective screens for drivers are being installed in 200 buses to reduce violent behaviour and vandalism.
On Monday the Minister for Transport and the Minister for Roads visited the Hunter region to launch a new safety trial on government buses for young schoolchildren. We have all heard of tragedies in which students have alighted from buses and then run out into the path of an oncoming vehicle. The new initiative that is being trialed on government buses in Lake Macquarie and Newcastle will see the installation of a flashing 40-kilometre per hour sign on the back of buses. The sign is activated when a bus stops to pick up or drop off students, requiring passing motorists to slow down to 40 kilometres per hour. [Extension of time agreed to
The trial of the new initiative in the Lake Macquarie electorate will cover the Biddabah Public School and St Paul’s High School. I am delighted that part of my electorate has been included in the trial, which will take place from the end of this year into the first term of next year. I hope that the initiative, once proved successful, will be introduced across the State. The Governor said further:
The Government has a firm commitment to the road network in regional and rural New South Wales. The current budget provides more than $1.2 billion for rural and regional roads.
Nearly 70 per cent of the capital and maintenance program this year will be spent outside Sydney.
As I outlined earlier, more than $4 million is being spent on roads in my electorate. As recently as April last I announced the expenditure of a further $300,000 on safety improvements along Main Road 217. Most of the improvements were completed by July or August. A number of safety hazards along the road have been eliminated. Left-turn lanes and extra guard rails have been installed, dangerous electricity poles very close to the side of the road have been removed and several areas along the road have been improved.
On Thursday last the Minister for Roads visited my electorate and met several local community groups to discuss further improvements to Main Road 217. He met representatives of the Morisset Chamber of Commerce to discuss issues concerning the Morisset main street, being Main Road 217. He then travelled to Toronto to meet the Toronto Chamber of Commerce and discuss congestion problems. The Minister met representatives of environmental groups at the Toronto wetlands to discuss the proposal for a deviation through the wetlands and saw at first hand
the difficulties associated with trying to construct a deviation through the wetlands. He received a request from the environmentalists that the Government consider seriously an alternative such as a western bypass of Toronto. The Government should consider that proposal before proceeding with a deviation through the wetlands.
The Minister travelled to Five Islands wetlands - an area between Teralba and Speers Point - which has become a major bottleneck on Main Road 217 because all the suburbs south of Speers Point join on to that road. There are long delays during the morning and afternoon peak periods. That section of road is in desperate need of upgrading. The landcare group with which the Minister met understands the needs of the road users in the area and has agreed to the road being expanded and the bridges being duplicated, so long as there is full consultation and as little damage as possible is done to the wetlands. I hope that the Minister undertakes to conduct an environmental impact study to ensure that minimal impact occurs to the wetlands when the road is constructed. If possible, the wetlands should be regenerated because parts of it were badly damaged when the original road was built. These days environmental factors are taken into account - that was not the case when the road was constructed some 20 years ago.
The Governor said that the Government will continue to balance resource development with the protection of the environment. I am glad that the Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning is in the Chamber this evening. He knows about the balance between resource development and the protection of the environment. He has had a close hand in the approval of the expansion of the Pasminco Ltd zinc lead smelter which is located in the Lake Macquarie electorate. It was difficult to get a balance with the right environmental conditions placed on that upgrade to ensure that the local community, particularly the young children living near the smelter, was ensured of a safe and healthy area in which to live. However, we had to ensure that jobs and the economy of the lower Hunter area and Lake Macquarie were sustained by allowing that plant to continue. Many hundreds of jobs depend on the continuing operation of that smelter. The Minister required in excess of 50 conditions on that upgrade. I do not have the exact number in front of me.
In particular, the people of Lake Macquarie welcomed the condition that by the end of 2000 Pasminco must cease all effluent discharges into Lake Macquarie. No more heavy metals will go into the lake - no more lead, zinc, cadmium, mercury or selenium. Pasminco is initiating ideas and is pushing forward with them. It is building artificial wetlands through which it can filter its discharge water. Any discharge water that goes into Cockle Creek and down to Cockle Bay, which forms part of Lake Macquarie, will be almost fresh drinking water. This action will eliminate major pollutants going into Lake Macquarie. Other conditions placed on the company include meeting World Health Organisation standards for lead in air and SO2
emissions. I call on the Minister to ensure that the company is forced to meet those conditions of consent and that the local community is a safe one in which to live.
Prior to the election the Labor Party committed itself to protecting many of the precious bushlands around the foreshore of Lake Macquarie. I congratulate the Minister for the Environment on declaring last November the Lake Macquarie State Recreation Area, which took in six parcels of foreshore bushland around the lake and established it as a State recreation area. This year she has allocated funds for the continued maintenance and development of the recreation areas. A local community advisory committee has been established that includes people who are interested in and have links to many of those parcels of land, such as the local councils and environment groups. The committee has met and put together a plan of management for the Lake Macquarie State Recreation Area. The Government is ensuring that the Lake Macquarie environment is looked after.
At the opening of Parliament the Governor outlined the Government’s plan for the forthcoming 12 months. Many of the things he outlined will directly affect the people of the Lake Macquarie electorate. I will work with my colleagues to ensure that many of the proposed legislative changes occur. Unfortunately, the Federal Government is hellbent on cutting funds to the States, as was mentioned in the Governor’s Speech:
Recent Federal Government decisions exert increasing pressure on the State Budget.
• direct cuts in Commonwealth funding; and
•decisions taken by Commonwealth bodies which deprive the State of revenue, or compel the State to incur unplanned but substantial increases in expenditure.
The Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning, and Minister for Housing knows how the Federal Government has cut funds to housing, which has directly affected the number of Department of Housing dwellings to be constructed in the Lake Macquarie electorate. Many dwellings were on the
drawing board and have been delayed or postponed because of the Federal Government’s cuts.
Funding is down by $200 million nationally over the next two years.
That is a disgrace and I condemn the Federal Government for that. The waiting list for housing continues to grow in my electorate. The Government will do its best to ensure that those people are provided with accommodation. I congratulate the Minister on the work that he has done and the funding he has found for the neighbourhood improvement scheme in the Booragul townhouse area. I am working with that community to ensure that scheme progresses and that there is an improvement in that neighbourhood. The Commonwealth dental scheme has been abolished. In the Hunter area only half the number of people previously treated will be able to be treated. A fantastic dental scheme was running in the Hunter and it was cutting into the waiting lists. The dental scheme has been abolished by the Federal Government and the waiting list will increase in the Hunter.
The State Government is putting money into that area, trying to cope with the difficulty. Unfortunately, the Federal Government does not believe it should fund a dental scheme. People in my electorate are being affected. I have received a number of complaints from those who cannot get dental services. The Federal Government has imposed these cuts on the States. Despite the cuts in funding by the Federal Government, there have been massive increases in health, increases in education, and increases in the police numbers in the Lake Macquarie electorate. The Government is also protecting the environment of Lake Macquarie. I commend the Governor’s Speech to the House.
Debate adjourned on motion by Ms Seaton
House adjourned at 10.29 p.m.