MINISTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT
Motion of Censure
(Lane Cove) [4.23 p.m.]: I move:
That this House censures the Minister for the Environment for her indecent and undignified language and behaviour in the House, including the obscene public gesture in the House on 22 October 1997 when the public galleries were crowded with young schoolchildren.
In moving this motion I am conscious that the behaviour of members of Parliament is very much in the news today, as it is too often. Often that news is not complimentary but attacks us for our behaviour in this House. The motion is to censure the Minister for the Environment for her behaviour in this House, which brings the House into disrepute.
Mr Speaker, as you have done on a number of occasions, on 22 October 1997 you drew the attention of the House to the presence in the gallery of a number of schoolchildren from Stroud primary school. You may recall that you named one of those young students, Halley Tull, who was undergoing treatment for a tumour. You asked the House to set a suitable example for the schoolchildren in the gallery. Within moments of your uttering those words the Minister for the Environment made an obscene gesture, a gesture which not only reflects poorly on the behaviour and standards of the Minister but which also reflects a contempt for the House and for you, Mr Speaker, as someone who believes in the need to maintain dignity and decorum within this Chamber.
That is not the first occasion on which this Minister has cheapened this House. The Minister was described by the Sydney Morning Herald
as having a "propensity for rudeness and aggressiveness", a propensity which she has continued to show in this House, and in so doing has caused this House to fall into disrepute. On 10 April this year the Deputy Leader of the National Party asked the Minister for Transport about attacks on bus drivers at Kingsgrove depot. In his usual manner, he counted off points on his hand. Hansard
for that day states:
Mr SOURIS: . . . Do these attacks include a driver bashed by three girls, a driver stabbed with a blood-filled syringe, a passenger and a bus driver bashed by a group of
hoodlums, a driver punched for refusing a passenger free travel, and last weekend’s attack on a new driver on his first night by three men, who also bashed a passenger?
Ms Allan: It is not a wet dream.
Mr SOURIS: Did I hear right?
That sort of language is totally unacceptable in this Chamber. It may be acceptable in Labor Party caucus rooms. It may be the sort of behaviour that you learn at an Australian Labor Party conference - I do not know, I have never attended one - but it is not the sort of behaviour that you, Mr Speaker, or members of this Chamber should condone. It is not the sort of behaviour that is acceptable in the lower House of the New South Wales Parliament. On a number of occasions, Mr Speaker, you have taken a very strong stand against members of the coalition for using inappropriate language or gestures. Members have been removed from the House for inappropriate language and behaviour and you have often spoken about the importance of appropriate behaviour in this House. Indeed, after your election as Speaker you said, when you thanked the House for the honour conferred on you, that the standard and relevance of parliamentary debate and the performance of members must meet community expectations.
You said that, especially in this age of television, the way we conduct ourselves is of prime importance, and that citizens often criticise the performance of members within this Chamber. I am sure that the children who witnessed the obscene gesture that was made by the Minister for the Environment would not have walked away from this building with a very positive impression of that member of Parliament, nor indeed of any of us. They may have been confused about whether they were in fact sitting in this historic Chamber or were witnessing some of the more unacceptable behaviour that we have seen exhibited by thugs at recent sporting fixtures. Mr Speaker, you are not the only one who has espoused the importance of dignified behaviour in this Chamber. Indeed, the Premier, a man who obviously enjoys sermonising, stated on 2 May:
Let us all in this House and in this Parliament dedicate ourselves to lifting the standard of debate and to seeing that the public can be proud of this Parliament. Let us ensure that the language that we use is the language that we would want to use in our own homes. Let us ensure that the schoolchildren of New South Wales can watch debate in this place and take pride in the standard that is being achieved by their representatives. Let us on both sides of the Parliament dedicate ourselves . . . to ensuring that we lift the standard of debate in this place.
The Premier should spend a bit more time expressing those sentiments to members of his front bench, in particular the Minister for the Environment. The Minister for the Environment should be censured for bringing this House into disrepute. She should be sent a clear message from all honourable members that such behaviour is totally unacceptable in the Parliament. This Chamber has a reputation for robust debate. On occasions members have been moved by the heat of debate and may have said things that they regretted. But that is not so in relation to the Minister for the Environment. Not only did she make the obscene gesture that I referred to and utter the words as recorded in Hansard
, she has been unrepentant or unconcerned that her actions have reflected poorly on this Chamber and on all members in this House.
It is fair to say that there is a strong view in the community that the standard of behaviour in our parliaments is appalling. There is also a view - I am not sure about this, given the tenor of this debate - that if there were more women in the Parliament that standard would improve. I am sure that the female members of this House have often had it said to them that if there were more women in the Chamber, it would be less aggressive and the way in which we conduct ourselves would be of a higher standard. The behaviour of the Minister for the Environment completely undermines that view. Her flagrant disregard for any standards of behaviour in this House does not encourage the public to believe that a change to or improvement in the behaviour of this House would occur if more women became members of Parliament. That is a matter of great regret.
This Chamber is the people’s House in New South Wales. We not only represent the views of our constituents but we are expected to make decisions on the future directions of our State. Whether we are Premiers, Ministers, backbenchers, Government members or Opposition members, we should all be leaders in our community and we should all set an example by our behaviour. This is no more true than when we are in the Parliament on public view. There is an obligation on all of us to observe the highest standards of behaviour and, should we fail, we should acknowledge our failure and express our regret. We should avoid at all times bringing this House into disrepute. The Minister for the Environment has failed the test of behaviour and she has failed to express any regret. Mr Speaker, she is clearly contemptuous of your attempts and the Premier’s entreaties to improve the conduct of members in this House. Her failure is even more telling because as a Minister she has a leading role in this State’s Government and she is part of the
very public face of this Parliament. Her actions, her words, her attitudes towards this Parliament are deserving of censure. I commend the motion to the House.
(Blacktown - Minister for the Environment) [4.34 p.m.]: Given the gravity of this motion, I am astonished that the honourable member for Lane Cove did not use all the speaking time allocated to her. I doubt whether any members of the media are listening to this debate as it is such a minor issue, but if they are I say to them that we should be nominating the votes that Kerry Chikarovski will get at the next ballot for the position of Leader of the Opposition in this State. The honourable member’s cohorts are all here today. The honourable member for Northcott, the puppet master, and the honourable member for Burrinjuck are in the Chamber. I am disappointed in the honourable member for Dubbo. I am devastated by his presence in this Chamber. The honourable member, in the twilight of his career -
On a point of order. The matter before the House is about the censure of the Minister for the Environment. It has nothing to do with any members on this side of the House. Mr Speaker, I ask you to bring the Minister back to the matter that is being debated by the House.
Order! There is no point of order.
The honourable member for Dubbo, in the twilight of his career, is showing an extreme lack of the intelligence that up until now I have always credited him with. He is in cahoots with the honourable member for Lane Cove and the honourable member for Northcott to destabilise the Opposition leader. Today is Kerry Chikarovski’s big day and she is attempting to censure -
On a point of order. I hate to take up the Minister’s time by taking a point of order but the motion before the House refers to the censure of the Minister for the Environment. She has been speaking for 2½ minutes but she has said nothing about the censure motion. Mr Speaker, I ask you to draw her back to the motion.
On the point of order.
Order! I will hear no more on the point of order. This is a wide-ranging debate in which latitude is given to all members. The Minister may continue.
Today, when the honourable member for Lane Cove could have demonstrated to the New South Wales community that there is a future for a woman Opposition leader, she has wasted the time of this Chamber talking about insignificant and unparliamentary signs that have been made in the Chamber.
She did not need the help of the honourable member for Georges River. Did she need the help of the honourable member for Georges River in caucus today? Has the honourable member for Georges River been promised a spot on the front bench? Is that why she is in the Chamber? She is here to support Kerry Chikarovski. Government members listened in silence to the drivel espoused by the honourable member for Lane Cove, but she cannot go anywhere these days without her small bodyguard of seven members. I assume that the honourable member for Albury is on Chamber duty, so that leaves about five or six members who are helping the honourable member for Lane Cove. Today the honourable member for Lane Cove is being sought after by the media. They want to know what she will do now that the Opposition leader has experienced the biggest loss in his political career. What will Kerry Chikarovski do? What will be her next step?
I am disappointed in the honourable member for Northcott. He has not been giving the honourable member for Lane Cove appropriate advice. Why did he let her waste 12 minutes of her precious time - time that she could have spent looking for numbers? I am not challenging my leader and I am not featured in the Woman’s Day
- sacred journal that it is - as saying that I want to be the leader of my party. The honourable member for Northcott let the honourable member for Lane Cove waste 12 minutes today - the most important day of her political career. Today she talked about an issue that she knows is unimportant, because she did not even use her allocated speaking time. She spoke very slowly and with great dignity because she thought that it was appropriate for the occasion. As I said earlier, she wasted 12 minutes of her time. What is the honourable member for Eastwood doing while we are debating this matter? If he is listening to the debate I say to him, "Kerry wasted 12 minutes of her time." What is the honourable member for Gosford doing? He was in the Chamber earlier. The honourable member for Eastwood and the honourable member for Gosford are probably speaking on the phone to each other. Let us hope that they are not wasting too much of their time.
On a point of order. It has been fascinating to listen to the debate that has occurred over the last five minutes, but it is about time that the Minister came to the point of this serious censure motion. If she cannot express herself in words she should revert to using the sorts of symbols and signs that she used before, which is what this censure motion is about.
Order! There is no point of order.
A few months ago I had the opportunity to talk to a journalist who was writing an article for the Sydney Morning Herald
about the honourable member for Lane Cove. I always try to be fair when I am approached by journalists about those types of articles. For example, a journalist approached me for my opinion of Wendy Machin when the former member for Port Macquarie decided to retire from politics. I was more than happy to give what I considered to be a dispassionate appraisal of a significant career in this Chamber on behalf of the National Party.
On a point of order. I ask that the Minister be brought back to the thrust of the censure motion. She has not at any stage tried to justify what she said in this Chamber or to speak to the censure motion.
Order! No point of order is involved.
Why is the honourable member for Lane Cove so delicate, Alby? You and I go back a long way; we have been here since 1988. She has not been here that long. Why are you trying to protect her? You guys should leave the Chamber now and let us get on with the real job of debating why the honourable member for Lane Cove has decided to waste 12 minutes today on the most trivial censure motion that has been before this Parliament in this Government’s term.
That is disgusting!
It is disgusting.
You, with your two-fingered gestures, are disgusting.
What am I hearing? That is astonishing behaviour from the honourable member for Georges River. She will have a heart attack if she keeps talking like that. Settle down, get out to the gym, get those pecs working. When I spoke to a journalist a couple of months ago about the honourable member for Lane Cove I decided to give a dispassionate assessment of her performance in opposition. I am a very fair person and I had been able to speak fairly about Wendy Machin. But I had difficulties about the honourable member for Lane Cove. I am sure that the honourable member for Lane Cove read the article. It was a fascinating and well-written article accompanied by a fantastic photograph, and it appeared at a time when the honourable member for Northcott was mischievously wandering around trying to undermine his leader, the honourable member for Willoughby, Peter Collins. My basic message to the journalist at the time was that the honourable member for Lane Cove was underachieving and needed to do more. She has an important shadow portfolio; she is the shadow minister for corrective services.
One of her predecessors, Michael Yabsley, who is still regarded as a guru within the Liberal Party, almost had the then Government on the run when he was the shadow minister for corrective services. He dressed up in overalls - a look which was not very feminine; he was fantastic. He was grabbing headlines and making every post a winner. That is what being in opposition is all about. When the honourable member for Georges River gets on the Opposition’s front bench she will show them. That is why she is supporting Chris Hartcher and Kerry Chikarovski. I said to the journalist that the honourable member for Lane Cove was underachieving, she was not looking at the big picture. I thought that she might take my fantastic political advice in that article and focus on some issues that related to either emergency services or corrective services. Unfortunately, here we are some months down the track and she is focusing not on the big issues but on non-issues.
She is focusing on you.
And that is significant. You have said it all, Alby. She is focusing on me about a superficial issue at a time when the Liberal Party is in crisis. I am sure that you contributed to it this morning, Alby. I reckon that you contributed hugely because you have strong moral views about a lot of issues. You would have joined with those mischievous underminers to get Peter Collins. Guess what, Alby? One of the upshots of your little mischiefs today is probably to elevate Kerry Chikarovski to the leadership of the State Liberal Party. I wish her luck because I want to see more women as role models. But can she please focus on some significant issues? It really is important. I am sick of reading about Kerry Chikarovski in the Woman’s Day
. One marriage destroyed by politics. Is that all, Kerry? One marriage only?
On a point of order. I refer to your previous ruling about personal attacks on members.
Order! I advise the Minister to abide by previous rulings.
I forgot because we are not talking about nastiness and tackiness; we are talking about well-managed high moral practices. [Quorum formed.
The censure motion is a complete and utter waste of time. If the motion is to be made a priority on a day when the leadership of the State Opposition is at risk, then one wonders what the honourable member for Lane Cove would do if she ever got into that august position. Because of the political priorities exhibited by her today, I suspect that she will be edged out in the stakes for the leadership by the honourable member for Eastwood or the honourable member for Gosford. But she should not fret too much, because over a number of years both major political parties, and even smaller parties and independents, have demonstrated a willingness to give women an opportunity at senior leadership level. And if a party is desperate enough it will support anyone. Even if she does not get the leadership she can look forward to accompanying Chris Hartcher or Andrew Tink on all those fantastic opportunities on the campaign circuit in the next 12 months.
I feel some pity for Peter Collins. Whatever is said about Peter Collins - and Opposition members could say a lot more, as they regularly do - occasionally he tries to focus on issues, whether in portfolios that he has held or as the Leader of the Opposition. He does not try to waste the time of this Chamber, on probably one of the most important days in our political lives, on the sort of inanity that we are experiencing today. The fact that now only three or four members remain on that side of the Chamber, apart from the honourable member for Lane Cove, it is not surprising that Kerry has not proceeded with this resolution today. After all, perhaps it is an absolute waste of time in terms of her leadership aspirations and there would be no use her being on the phone anyway.
The honourable member for Lane Cove should have been seeking to demonstrate her ability by talking about some purposeful issues. Why is she not talking about the many theoretical issues in law and order, social services, community services, environment, health and emergency services? Why is she talking about the most inane matters? We could have abuse from the honourable member for Georges River but ultimately it is a waste of time. The member for Lane Cove initiated the debate and is participating in it. Good luck!
(Albury) [4.49 p.m.]: I am relieved that the Minister for the Environment made no effort during her contribution to justify what she said in this Chamber on 10 April or the gesture that she made on 22 October. Unlike some members on the other side of the Chamber, I view these matters very seriously. It is all to do with standards. I was particularly distressed that on both the occasions mentioned a great number of primary schoolchildren were in the public galleries. I was disappointed that a Minister of the Crown and a member of this House should say what she said and make the gesture that she made.
It would have been better had the matters been dealt with at the time rather than today. Had that been the case, I am certain that the Minister would have been relieved and pleased to take the opportunity to apologise for what she had said and done and to have the matter dealt with in that way. From where I sat I was able to see the Minister very clearly. I clearly heard what she said and clearly saw what she did. I noticed immediately afterwards, from the body language that she displayed and from her chastened personal demeanour, that she realised that what she had said and what she did were wrong: that she should not have said what she said and that she should not have done what she did. I am certain that her chastened personal demeanour indicated that she regretted what she had said and done. I am sure she would have welcomed the opportunity to apologise and have the matter put aside and not dealt with in this manner.
I speak in this debate because I am concerned that if something is not done about the Minister using such language and gestures, gradually, as time goes on, such language and gestures will become more common in the Chamber and gradually the standards of this place will deteriorate alarmingly. I speak on this motion simply because I believe that a line has to be drawn, that these sorts of things should not occur. If we are not careful the rude, the vulgar and the offensive will take over and begin to run this place and good order and discipline will disappear altogether. That would be a very sad day for this Parliament and its reputation, for the members of this House, and for the people of New South Wales.
This debate is all about what is appropriate. Some years ago I served for five years at sea with people who from time to time used language of a type that the Minister used in this Chamber. But those people knew when that language was
appropriate: when to use it and when not to. It is surprising that the Minister should have used that language in this place while young children were sitting in the gallery. It is an insult to them, to this House, to the members of this House and to the people of New South Wales that a Minister of the Crown should act in that way. As I said, I was pleased that the Minister made no attempt during her contribution to justify in any way what she said and what she did. I personally believe, for all her bravado here today, for all of the things that she has tried to do, that deep down inside she feels ashamed of what she said and did. I would hope that members will never see a repeat of it in this House from her or from anyone else. I would be very disappointed if anyone on the other side of the House tried in any way to defend what the Minister said and did.
(Cabramatta) [4.54 p.m.]: I am appalled at the standard of debate in this place. I cannot believe that the New South Wales Parliament is debating one of 10 digits of the Minister for the Environment. It is beyond the pale. This place costs a lot to run each week and there are people in New South Wales who are demanding legislative reform. But what do we have from the Opposition? It has moved to debate a finger. That is extraordinary. If it was one finger, maybe the Minister was scratching. If it was one finger, maybe it was a reflection of a premonition about the number of votes Peter Collins was going to get in the party room today. If it was two fingers, maybe the Minister was showing off the latest manicure that she had. As we know, the Minister for the Environment is one for clothes: she likes to swan around during question time and recline in split skirts, and makes sure that she is seen on the camera parading in front of her colleagues to demonstrate the history of deportment that is so important for female politicians to be accepted in the Labor Party!
If two fingers were involved, maybe it was the victory sign. However, Opposition members have talked about demeanour and body language. I cannot understand why the House is debating such matters. They are impossible for Hansard
to record. They are not matters that form the record of this place. It is extraordinary that members have said that as the Minister is smiling today she must have done something really bad. Come on, grow up! We are missing an opportunity to put the Parliament to good use. I realise that we are on the downhill slide to Christmas. I understand that the history of Opposition tactics at such times is to frustrate the Parliament, to cost the taxpayers of New South Wales more to keep the Parliament going. The honourable member for Lane Cove has raised a discussion about a finger. She has the hide to talk about the necessity of members of Parliament holding themselves out to schoolchildren as models of good behaviour, decorum, modesty and standards.
What kind of model is she trying to pose? She lent her name to the Gattellari campaign, for a man who is a model of good standards to the women that he met in his youth! She joined her name to that of the likes of Ron Casey, who is also a great model within the community on issues of race and the status of women! It seems to me that when stuck for any other way of obstructing the business of the Parliament the Opposition descends to the most absurd tactics. The level of hypocrisy in the debate has been astounding. When the honourable member for Lane Cove talked about being a model of modesty, decorum, good fashion and good legislating I cast my mind back to the mugs campaign, in which her greatest talents were put to use in effecting reform and change for the women incarcerated in sweatshops. She thought that a hotline number on a coffee mug would release them from servitude. They are the standards we have come to expect from the honourable member for Lane Cove. So it is no surprise today that she has introduced the digit censure. I feel very sorry for the people of New South Wales: they have had to pay for this ridiculous exercise. I feel very sorry for Peter Collins: the gesture has been misinterpreted as representing the number of votes that he received in the party room. I feel very sorry for the Opposition: if the honourable member for Lane Cove is the best hope it has for leadership it will not look any better in 1999 than it does now.
(Georges River) [4.59 p.m.]: What can we say? That speech was typical of the standard of debate that we have come to expect from the Australian Labor Party, particularly the female members. I have a great deal of respect for the honourable member for Port Jackson. I see her at functions, but I am sure that none of the female members opposite would go to a public function and stick up one or two digits, because it would let people know what sort of women and members of Parliament they were. Members on both sides of Parliament have grown to respect the honourable member for Albury, because he is a gentleman. He was moved by what occurred and the appalling lack of standards. I have been a member of this House only since March 1995. Much of the behaviour that occurs in this Chamber is a disgrace and would never occur in private enterprise boardrooms or at management committee meetings of community groups. A member of Parliament would never stick his or her fingers up in public, because if that were to occur the member would be censured by the community.
Order! The honourable member for Cabramatta made her contribution and will remain silent. Members will listen to the debate in silence.
That type of behaviour is shameful not only for a Minister of the Crown but for any member of Parliament, whether in the Chamber or out in public. Comments such as "wet dreams" and two-finger gestures are disgusting, whether the member be male or female. Members opposite may laugh, but I suggest they would not like such behaviour reported in their local newspapers. Some members of Parliament think that their local newspapers do not get to hear what they say or see what they do in this place. However, I am sure the constituents of the Minister for the Environment would be appalled to know that she gives two-finger gestures to the shadow minister across the floor of this Chamber. I am sure that they would not be impressed by her knowledge of her portfolio. I can assure the Minister that she is not particularly loved in my electorate, in which the local government councils have to find the money to employ a river keeper to improve the quality of the Georges River because they know they cannot rely on the State Government to do so. When the Minister was invited to visit Corowa at the time when I was the immediate past president of the Australian Local Government Women’s Association, the comment was made in that community that the Minister showed a great deal of aggression. The Minister is known for her provocativeness, her level of language both within and outside the Chamber, and her aggressiveness. Every member has a right to be aggressive in this place.
Order! I call the honourable member for Port Jackson to order.
In an adversarial way, constituents expect their members to argue matters of policy, but they do not expect members to be personally vindictive, as the Minister has been. Her comments are often personally oriented, tasteless, unprofessional and undignified. She is the epitome of unparliamentary behaviour. I do not consider her to be a good role model for women in politics. The Minister’s behaviour and the response it generates in the Parliament have done a great deal to turn women off ever getting involved in politics, because they simply could not be bothered. Members of this House are spending time debating this censure motion this afternoon because it is important. As the honourable member for Albury said, standards in this House are declining.
If members on this side of the House do not make their feelings known to members of the Government, our colleagues, the media, Mr Speaker and the public, they are as guilty as is the Minister of bringing this House into disrepute and lowering the standard of behaviour. I am not proud of that type of behaviour; I do not want to be part of it. I do not like the catcalling, and I do not like all the personal remarks. Members of this House could get a lot more done if they stuck to dealing with the issues and policies - after all, that is what people want. This is why politicians in general are not held in high esteem. All honourable members make jokes about the matter, but politicians in general are not held in high regard because the standards of behaviour in this Parliament are dropping all the time.
Speak for yourself.
I do speak for myself. I take my job very seriously, and I devote a lot of time to it. Hopefully I would never seek to emulate the behaviour of the Minister for the Environment. I believe in robust debate, that is what this place is all about: members are expected to represent their constituents. But constituents do not want members of Parliament to act unprofessionally, they do not want them to use unseemly, disgusting gestures, and they do not want them to swear and carry on in an undignified manner.
(Badgerys Creek) [5.04 p.m.]: I would like to make a few comments about what have been described as the standards of debate - the standards that the Parliament sets, which members say they will go by - and the utter hypocrisy of members opposite. I do not want to talk about shadow, trivia or thin air. I want to talk about some of the things that have occurred in the other place and the things that members opposite are going to do about them. If one were to talk about things of real substance that we most value in this place - that is, misleading Parliament and breaching parliamentary privilege - what could one say about Opposition members? They are the most politically opportunistic group of people I have ever known. Last night the opportunity dawned on them and they asked themselves: what will we do? I am sure somewhere along the line last night the grinder was spinning, sharpening the knives. Today, in the most gross move of hypocrisy, members opposite dudded their leader. They abandoned opportunity for the sake of opportunism and ignored their views about parliamentary privilege, telling the truth in this place and their opinions of their leader. For reasons of
opportunism, they decided to dud the Leader of the Opposition. The honourable member for Lane Cove was grinning all the way to the party meeting rooms.
I am talking about matters of substance. Members opposite have been talking about the most trivial of issues when what is occurring in the other place is the real substance of debate in this House: ensuring that people in this place tell the truth. Why do members opposite say that does not matter? They do not care about the substance of debate. It is annoying to have to listen to talk in this place about whether the Minister should apologise, do this, that or the other. I defy members opposite to tell me why this House should continue to debate this motion when they cannot defend one of the real issues for debate in their party room: what has been said about their leader. Today Opposition members had guts: they did not simply put the knives in their leader’s back, they put them right into the middle of him. This debate is not about matters of substance, matters of Government policy, or the policies of the Minister. The Minister has always been willing to cop it as much as she has been willing to dish it out. People with glass jaws should not throw dirt. The Minister has been able to dish it out, and she takes it as well.
Members of the Opposition in the other place have also shown the most vile hypocrisy. On the first day this matter was raised Opposition members heard their leader say that if Mr Nader, QC, found there was no substance to the allegations, he would move for Mrs Arena’s expulsion. What have members opposite said? They have said that this is an opportunity to lighten the load of the Leader of the Opposition by tossing him out. They do not give a damn about what then happens. They do not care whether lies were told in the Parliament, or that nothing said by Mrs Arena was found to be true. It is outrageous for members opposite to suggest that the community will find their leader guilty of conspiracy. I hope that he is made aware that is what they are saying about him. I find this whole issue absolutely trivial, when members of this House should be talking about policies, the coastal issues - [Time expired.
(Blacktown - Minister for the Environment) [5.09 p.m.], in response: I thank my close colleagues the honourable member for Badgerys Creek and the honourable member for Cabramatta for participating in this debate on my behalf. The honourable member for Port Jackson was keen to participate in this debate and I am disappointed that because of the limitation on the number of speakers she was unable to do so. The Minister for Fair Trading would also like to have taken a glove in this debate because of the sorts of things that have been said, particularly by the honourable member for Badgerys Creek when she referred to the hypocrisy of Opposition members.
Though I have some sympathy for the point made by the honourable member for Cabramatta that taxpayers’ money could be better spent on something other than this debate, a certain element within me feels privileged that after 2½ years as a Minister, I have finally been chosen by the Opposition to be the subject of one of its countless and pointless censure motions. During the 2½ years this Government has been in office I have been asked only four questions without notice by the Opposition. I am not sure whether the honourable member for Georges River is one of those lucky people. I know she likes to posture about her strong commitment to the environment, but I do not know whether she is able to translate that posturing into having the guts to ask a question in the Parliament about a relevant issue.
This year I have not been asked a single question without notice from that lot opposite. I do not know what they are frightened of. I have been asked plenty of questions by members on this side of the House and I look forward to participating in those frank and fruitful interchanges within the Parliament. There have been no such questions, policy releases or positive suggestions from the other side of the House. The shadow minister, Brad Hazzard, has put out very few press releases. On a day when the whole future of the Liberal Party in this State is at stake, all the House has heard is absolute trivia. Not a day goes by without the Leader of the Opposition, Peter Collins, being confronted by some crisis. The Government has watched closely the machinations of the coalition. Little did Government members know that when they came to Parliament today Franca Arena’s name would not be on the front pages of tomorrow’s newspapers. Peter Collins’ name will be on those front pages because, unfortunately, Franca Arena will not be tomorrow’s news. Tomorrow’s news will be about Peter Collins and his political future, and whether the deft hand of the honourable member for Lane Cove will seize the knife and plunge it into the heart of the Leader of the Opposition, Peter Collins.
Unfortunately, she will not be successful if she wastes her time moving piddling motions such as this. Why is she wasting her time, our Parliament and taxpayers’ time? Why is she not talking on the phone like the honourable member for Gosford and the honourable member for Eastwood? I have just remembered that the honourable member for Northcott has just taken his rather bulky presence out of the Chamber and he is probably on the phone
for her. That is typical of Liberal Party women. They have to rely on people within their party to do all the dirty, nasty, horrible work for them rather than say, "I have leadership qualities, I can be a great leader, I can project for the Liberal Party, I can fill the vacuum."
We can look after ourselves. We do not need any advice.
I must apologise because my voice is not as loud as that of the honourable member for Georges River. She demonstrates a fantastic capacity in question time to push her voice across the Chamber. Though Government members listened with great reverence to her so-called intelligent comments in this debate, she kept trying to shout us down. The honourable member for Badgerys Creek had to shout to make herself heard. The honourable member for Cabramatta was trying hard to get her point across but the honourable member for Georges River shouted her down. Why do we have such a loud noise in the Chamber? Why do these women opposite feel the need to project their voices so loudly when they could be doing something purposeful such as issuing press releases or developing policy?
The Labor Party when in opposition had large folders of alternative policies, which it took to the electorate in 1991 and in 1995. The Labor Party almost beat the Greiner Government in 1991 because it had fantastic policies on the environment. It beat John Fahey in 1995 because of those great policies. What are members of the Opposition doing? They should be developing policies instead of wasting their time. The honourable member for Lane Cove should be doing something about emergency services instead of putting out fallacious press releases about national park entry fees for bush fire fighters. She should be doing research instead of wasting the Parliament’s time and wasting my time. I have more important things to be doing than to release my frustration in this ridiculous way just for the sake of being here.
Because Government members are fascinated by what is happening in the State Opposition, we know that it is important for them to get the dirty water off their chests over the next few weeks, but this is not a purposeful way of achieving that. Because I have been in opposition I know it is difficult to make the hard yards. I am more fortunate than the honourable member for Lane Cove because I had not been a Minister before I went into opposition. I did not have the privilege of having Luis Garcia, who could smarten me up in the morning, blow my nose, tart me up and push me out. When I came into opposition I immediately got down to the grind of preparing press releases.
You are just so personal and tactless.
Your voice is so loud. It should come from the chest.
Pursuant to sessional orders business interrupted.