Honourable Member for Davidson
Motion of Censure
Mr CARL SCULLY (Smithfield—Minister for Police) [3.52 p.m.]: I move:
That this House:
(1) deplores the conduct of the member for Davidson in his dealings with Warringah Council, Landcom and the Department of Urban Affairs and Planning about the development of land at Oxford Falls in his electorate, prior to his purchase of property in the development; and
(2) censures the member for Davidson for misuse of his position as a member of the Legislative Assembly and breach of the code of conduct adopted by this House by failing to declare his interest in purchasing property when influencing the approvals policy planning standards for the development.
I move this motion to censure the honourable member for Davidson for wilfully disregarding the rules relating to conflict of interest for members of Parliament and for failing to inform the House about the circumstances of the allegations. As honourable members well know, the New South Wales Parliament has a code of conduct relating to conflicts of interest. So it was with great interest that I read the article in Monday's edition of the Sydney Morning Herald by journalist Robert Wainwright concerning dubious activities by the honourable member for Davidson—activities that reflect an outrageous conflict of interest and an outrageous abuse of his office as a member of this Parliament.
The story is a simple one. The honourable member for Davidson manipulated the planning process to design a dream housing site for himself at public expense, abusing the courtesy extended by Landcom of informing members of Parliament about subdivisions in their electorates. The story goes back some years. In April 1996 Landcom acquired the Crown land for that subdivision. The honourable member for Davidson, who originally wanted this area preserved as Crown land, suddenly started to take a keen interest in the site, urging the Government to rehabilitate an abandoned quarry across the road and to pursue appropriate development on the site. Out of the blue, the honourable member for Davidson began to seek briefings and site inspections. A fax from the Department of Land and Water Conservation dated 12 September 1996 cites the honourable member for Davidson as the main activist regarding the former quarry. Following these representations, Landcom wrote to the Department of Land and Water Conservation, stating:
It is Landcom's view that the marketing of this development and the general amenity of the surrounding area would benefit if the disused quarry site was rehabilitated to a stage to facilitate passive recreational activities.
The honourable member's first intervention had succeeded. At this stage there appeared to be no real local opposition to the subdivision. A letter from Landcom to State Lands dated 14 October 1996 advised:
Landcom has not received any adverse feedback or objections.
Not quite, because the very next day the honourable member for Davidson continued his unusual one-man campaign over this single development site, seeking an on-site briefing from Landcom. The meeting was documented in a briefing note by the Department of Urban Affairs and Planning, which reads:
Meeting requested by the member for Davidson to discuss Landcom's subdivision works and a proposal to complete restoration of the adjacent Crown land at Wearden Road, Oxford Falls.
The honourable member discussed with Landcom officers the size of allotments, views, parks, reserves and the number of allotments. Following these discussions, Landcom made a number of extraordinary concessions, including preserving extra land as parkland. But the honourable member's interest did not stop there. He wanted even more input and roped in his old mates at Warringah Council, where he had recently been deputy mayor. On 3 February 1997 the mayor of Warringah Council wrote to the regional manager of Landcom on behalf of the honourable member for Davidson, stating:
Mr Humpherson is concerned about the Wearden Road development and feels there is an opportunity for it to be a showpiece, which could include the following features: a height of two storeys, greater boundary setbacks for two-storey dwellings, require homes sitting to optimise use of natural sun, minimum landscape areas, dual flush toilets.
A similar list of demands appeared two months later in Warringah Council's local approvals committee. The committee's minutes of 8 April 1997 state:
Representations have been made to council by Andrew Humpherson MP, Member for Davidson. He has requested that council consider the implementation of a variety of building controls to reduce the scale of housing at the Wearden Road subdivision.
As a result of that meeting Warringah Council issued a local approvals policy relating to this subdivision.
Mr Brad Hazzard: Point of order: You should have just tabled your speech, Carl. It's a boring piece of rubbish anyway.
Mr SPEAKER: What is the point of order?
Mr Brad Hazzard: The Minister has been quoting extensively from a document, and the standing orders require that he produce and verify the document upon which he is relying.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! It is my understanding that the Minister has to verify the document. It is not my understanding that he has to produce it. It is a matter for the Minister whether he produces it.
Mr Brad Hazzard: Could you direct him to verify the document?
Mr CARL SCULLY: They are my speech notes.
Mr Brad Hazzard: That is absolute arrogance. The Speaker has just told you to verify the document.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The honourable member for Wakehurst will resume his seat. I will hear further from the Minister.
Mr CARL SCULLY: I have some notes in relation—
Mr Brad Hazzard: He cannot be allowed to make assertions without you—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The honourable member for Wakehurst will resume his seat. I said that I will hear further from the Minister.
Mr CARL SCULLY: I have notes in relation to documents that are publicly available and I am entitled to refer to them.
Mr Brad Hazzard: Are you going to verify them?
Mr CARL SCULLY: I can verify them.
Mr Brad Hazzard: Point of order: The Minister has to verify these documents. He is talking rubbish and making a spurious attack. Mr Speaker, at the very least you should demand that he verify the documents he is relying on.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The honourable member for Wakehurst will resume his seat. Is the Minister vouching for the accuracy of the information?
Mr CARL SCULLY: Yes, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is all that is required.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The honourable member for Wakehurst will resume his seat.
Mr CARL SCULLY: Warringah Council issued a local approvals policy relating just to this subdivision, despite the fact that it was already governed by an existing local environmental plan. Landcom briefing notes tell the story. They state:
The meeting was instigated by Andrew Humpherson, who does not like the appearance of large dwellings with current minimum size setbacks and who seeks to take control of the building style materials and set-outs from the purchases of Landcom lots on this estate.
Subsequent to this meeting council issued a draft approvals policy for comment.
I believe this document was cobbled together in haste in order to satisfy the wishes and concerns of the local member of Parliament. Landcom proceeded to object to the local approvals policy because it was site specific. It was highly unusual because, as I said, the area was already covered by a local environmental plan.
Mr Brad Hazzard: Point of order: This is a serious assault.
Mr SPEAKER: I want to know what the point of order is. I will assess the seriousness of it.
Mr Brad Hazzard: I put it to you that this is a serious matter and it is necessary for you to consider the gravity of what the Minister said. The Minister just said these documents were publicly available, and he verifies them. Now he is saying they are Landcom briefing notes. They are not publicly available documents. I call on the Minister to produce the documents or be ruled out of order. He cannot make these scurrilous assertions without verifying them.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The honourable member for Wakehurst will resume his seat. I asked the Minister whether he vouched for the accuracy of the comments he is making, and he said he did. That is all that is required.
Mr Brad Hazzard: Point of order: He said they were publicly available documents, and he verified them. In the next breath he said they were Landcom briefing notes. They are not publicly available. If they are, he should produce them.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Minister has vouched for the accuracy of the comments he is making. That is all he is required to do.
Mr Brad Hazzard: That's not right.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The honourable member for Wakehurst will resume his seat.
Mr CARL SCULLY: He can put in an FOI if he wants to get copies. They are all publicly available documents. The honourable member for Davidson is not making points of order. A senior developer and manager of Landcom wrote in a file note on 24 April 1997 that "the standards would in all probability reduce the return of a loss". The honourable member for Davidson asked council to put all these requirements on the Landcom development to force down the price. In other words, Landcom could have got more money for the land but for his actions. The same public servant hit the nail on the head when he pointed out that "the local approvals policy, and the aims it seeks to establish, are politically motivated and specifically target the Landcom development".
The interest of the honourable member for Davidson in this site grew more and more intense, and Landcom became more and more annoyed and suspicious. One Landcom officer wrote in frustration, "Why pick on Landcom and this project in particular?" Landcom officers wanted to know why council were now demanding landscaping in excess of council's normal requirements, why there were to be 50 square metres of open space, again in excess of council's normal requirements, and why there was to be car parking, yet again in excess of council's normal requirements. The height restriction, in particular, drew the ire of the regional manager of Landcom, who in May 1997 wrote:
The draft local approvals policy lacked … streetscape consideration for streets which include lots which slope down to the streets. For such lots the maximum height of seven metres will reduce the height of buildings along the street frontage to single storey dwellings. This result will accentuate the height difference between the lots on the higher side of the road where dwellings will extend the full seven metres from ground level. Such a restriction does not appear to serve any justifiable design or planning function. It does if you are planning to buy on the higher side of the street. It does if you are seeking a windfall at taxpayers' expense.
Landcom could not understand the desire of the honourable member for Davidson to buy land! There was no public disquiet. There were no objections.
Mr Brad Hazzard: Point of order. The standing orders require that if it is a publicly available document, and the Minister verifies it, we can see that publicly available document. There is no publicly available document. These are alleged, probably spurious, confidential Landcom briefings on which his Government made decisions on what would happen with that land. The Opposition did not. The Minister is trying to accuse the honourable member for Davidson of doing something wrong. The Leader of the House must produce these documents, and if he does not he is breaching the operation of this Parliament and the way it should run.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I have sought advice on this matter. I indicated earlier that the Minister has to verify the accuracy of his comments. He has done so. That is all the House has the power to seek from him. If the Minister were reading from a letter, he would have to identify it, although he would not necessarily have to table it. There is no point of order.
Mr Brad Hazzard: So a briefing note is not the equivalent of a private letter?
Mr SPEAKER: No, precisely not.
Mr Brad Hazzard: This is just ridiculous.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The honourable member for Wakehurst will resume his seat. The Minister has the call. The honourable member for Wakehurst will have an opportunity to participate in the debate.
Mr CARL SCULLY: My concern is that when the honourable member for Davidson was asked about this by the Sydney Morning Herald he said, "My office wouldn't have kept files on local issues going back that far." We are only talking about nine years ago. My recollection is that in my office every single file is kept in relation to every representation as far back as 1990, and I have asked a number of my colleagues about that. This is not true! It is unbelievable! So either there are no files or, if there were any, he has not kept them. Why are there no files? It is because there were no complainants other than two: one from a woman whose concerns were allayed very quickly and the other from the honourable member for Davidson. The honourable member for Davidson has clearly breached the code of conduct that requires him to take all reasonable steps to declare any conflict of interest.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The honourable member for Wakehurst will maintain the dignity of the House.
Mr Brad Hazzard: I am maintaining more dignity than he is.
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Mr Brad Hazzard: Point of order. I draw your attention to page 59 of Decisions from the Chair and to decisions by Speakers Weaver, Maher and Kelly.
Mr Alan Ashton: They don't mean anything and you know it!
Mr Brad Hazzard: That's right, they don't mean anything to this Speaker or your Government. You just keep quiet.
Mr Alan Ashton: They go back 20 years.
Mr Brad Hazzard: Under Labor they probably do. I want this Speaker to show that they do mean something. You just bring some dignity into this place, Alan. Mr Speaker, you have referred to it as a letter and not as a briefing note, and I accept your deliberations on that. However, if that is the case, all three Speakers required that a member reading a letter during debate must indicate by whom it was signed. I call on the Minister to tell us who signed these memos, letters, or whatever he calls them, and let us know what we are actually debating.
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister did not make reference to a letter. He is not reading from a letter.
Mr Peter Debnam: Yes, he is.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! He made reference to notes the accuracy of which he has verified, and that is all that the Chair can compel of the Minister.
Mr CARL SCULLY: Clearly this is a tactic to try to deny me time to put the case on the table. That is their defence. The honourable member for Wakehurst has used my speaking time. In reply I will have an opportunity to put the rest of the matter in a nutshell. I have more material. There was a concern by Landcom. The honourable member for Davidson used his position as a member of Parliament to ask a government agency and a council to change the way the subdivision went ahead and then he bought it at auction. That must raise a question mark! It must raise a question of ethical conduct. By the way, who signed the transfer document? Who witnessed it? The honourable member for Gosford. The plot thickens. What did you know and when did you know it?
Mr Chris Hartcher: Point of order: The Minister has raised a further point in this debate which is not covered by the motion, and that is me. So let us hear what the Leader of the House has got to say about me or any other member of Parliament, because he has got no evidence and has nothing to say.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I accept the point of order of the honourable member for Gosford.
Mr CARL SCULLY: I want to hear why the honourable member for Davidson did not declare this conflict of interest. Why did he use his position as a member of Parliament? He should be stood aside until the air is cleared. [Time expired.]
Mr ANDREW HUMPHERSON (Davidson) [4.07 p.m.]: I am pleased that a number of people are in the gallery. I trust that anyone who reads Hansard in the future will dwell upon why we are dealing with this distraction at a time when other more pressing matters should be debated in this House and dealt with by the Government. On behalf of the Government and Landcom, the Leader of the House raised the question why I cared so much about this area and why I would fight to reduce the scale of inappropriate development and overdevelopment, and that is a good way to start my response. This is an area very close to where I grew up.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The honourable member for Bathurst will come to order.
Mr ANDREW HUMPHERSON: Where I now live with my family is about one kilometre from where I lived when I moved to the area. It is an area very much characterised by bushland surrounds. People choose to live in the area and are very protective of it. In many cases some generations of families remain there. It is not an area that people normally choose to leave, except because of age or career changes. I grew up in this area and am very familiar with it. I used to walk in the surrounding bush with friends, following the creeks and observing the flora and fauna. I can recall the 1979 bushfires that went through the area, the fires of the early 1980s, and the 1994 bushfires too. So it is no surprise that I am very passionate about the area, as are other people who live there. My record on opposing inappropriate development and overdevelopment is not confined to the immediate area. It applies right through my electorate, and it applies also to the period of five years I spent on Warringah Council.
By coincidence, tomorrow night I am holding a public meeting at Davidson High School to oppose excessive development proposed on the Glenreagh shopping centre site. On Monday morning this week I met with residents of St Ives who are concerned about the inappropriate and excessive five- and six-storey development that Frank Sartor, as the Minister for Planning, is imposing on them. So I have a long history, which I am proud to say has been consistent, of opposing inappropriate and excessive development. The Labor Party does not understand that. It does not appreciate that we have strong empathy with local communities, and that we understand and appreciate the affection that people have for their local environment and the character of their neighbourhoods. That is the consistent position I have taken, and it is one that the Liberal Party and the Coalition share.
This area has been the source of a local issue that dates back to 1987 and before. In 1987, when I was first elected to council, the primary issue on which I stood in that particular part of what was then the D Riding of Warringah Council was to close the longstanding quarry there because it had grown to the extent that it was causing a major disaster for the residents who lived in Wearden Road. I pursued that issue for a number of years. I acknowledge and thank those in the local community who have contacted me in the last 48 hours.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Government members will come to order.
Mr ANDREW HUMPHERSON: In response to the Sydney Morning Herald assertion that there was no local concern about the issue of development in this area, they have told me that is totally false. A number of people have said they clearly recall the level of opposition to, and concern about, development. Amongst those people, apart from residents, are two former members of Parliament—two former members for Wakehurst in fact. Allan Viney, a former member, has been in contact, and so has Tom Webster. Tom Webster, as honourable members should be aware, is not only the former Labor member for Wakehurst but also a former Warringah councillor who was serving on Warringah Council at the time I made my representations. He has endorsed what I have said, and has done so as a longstanding and very well regarded man of integrity in the Warringah area. Tom and I have not agreed on every issue.
Obviously he is on the other side of politics. But he certainly is well regarded, and many people in the area have the utmost respect for him, even though he did not receive the support that was his due from the Labor Party when he lost office. As reported in today's Manly Daily, he said that he recalled great community concern about development in this area. He went on to say:
Even though we were on opposite sides of the political fence he (Mr Humpherson) and I were keen on ensuring that new subdivisions had as many environmental and design controls as possible.
Ninety per cent of the area we are talking about was bushland, and the council of the day was trying to—and Andrew was part of this—preserve those areas as much as possible.
I acknowledge the comments made publicly by the former member for Wakehurst—indeed, a loyal Labor Party member. This week a journalist also approached me after the article appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald. This journalist, who arrived in the parliamentary gallery some four to six years ago as a journalist with the Sydney Morning Herald, informed me that the Government had given journalists these exact documents in a detailed dossier—the same dossier that was handed to journalist Robert Wainwright approximately one week ago! So these documents were provided to the Sydney Morning Herald approximately five years ago, when they were deemed at the time by the Sydney Morning Herald not to be a story. Curious, is it not, that approximately five years later they are returned into the hands of the Sydney Morning Herald and another journalist decides that it is a story!
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The honourable member for East Hills will come to order. The honourable member for Heffron will come to order.
Mr ANDREW HUMPHERSON: I question the motives that some have in providing those documents. They are not public documents; they are Landcom file notes, which are not readily available to anybody else in the community but were available to the Government and, in particular, the Minister for Lands. Is it any surprise that the Minister for Lands would be providing this aged dossier to the Sydney Morning Herald? Not when you take into account the criticisms I have made in recent months, particularly of his handling of both the Justice and Emergency Services portfolios.
As I said, I have been contacted by a number of residents who have verified that there was strong concern about overdevelopment in the area and that this was a serious issue. On 15 February 1992—shortly before I became a member of this place—an article appeared in the Manly Daily regarding concern about the State Government of the day considering an urban release at Oxford Falls, in the Narrabeen catchment area. It referred to concern about the Department of Housing as it was then, and cited as objections that much of the land proposed for this zoning was capable of urban development and the department did not wish to have its hands tied in future. So the Department of Housing was trying to press forward with development of extra land, and more land, in the Oxford Falls area. This was in the wake of the Red Hill development, which was one of four rezonings that occurred in approximately 1990 against the council's wishes and against the wishes of the local community.
The Red Hill development was regarded by many residents as a poor example. Certainly many people in the area of what is Corymbia Circuit, Carnarvon Drive and the Oxford Falls Valley were concerned about the large number of dual occupancies, and the large scale of development, and brought their concerns to my attention and asked me to make approaches and representations, which I did. It should not be any surprise that some nine or ten years later I do not have a file on that matter, because it has not been raised with me ever since. But I did my job then, as I do now, and as I would advise members of Parliament to do, that is, to fight for the public interests in their areas.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The honourable member for Wakehurst will come to order. The honourable member for Heffron will come to order.
Mr ANDREW HUMPHERSON: I have to say I was not completely successful in trying to curtail the scale of development in that particular area, but I think I was at least effective in my attempts. I do not resile from attempting to fight for the interests of my community. All facts on this have been disclosed and are on the public record as far as my role is concerned. A code of conduct did not exist at the time, but if there had been I would have complied with it. It was public knowledge that I actually approached the council and Landcom on this matter. It was not a private exercise.
In fact, I cite an article in the Manly Daily of 18 January 1997 depicting me and a senior development manager by the name of Ian Wilson from Landcom standing on the site. So it is a bit rich for anybody to suggest that this was a private exercise, when every member of the community was aware of what I was doing, and everyone in that local area knew I was fighting for their interests. I do not think there is any suggestion that this was anything but public. I fought for approximately six months, from 1996 through to the early part of 1997, to the best of my recollection, but I do not recall the council ever coming back to me at the end to tell me the result of its dealings with Landcom. Obviously there were some restrictions, which I presume Landcom must ultimately have agreed to.
My wife and I did not make a decision to purchase this portion of land until shortly before it went on the market, because we had other plans. What I did as a private individual was completely separate from what I did as a local member of Parliament. I would recommend that members of Parliament do what I did—I would do it again—and that is to fight as strongly and as effectively as they can, within the constraints in Opposition, to ensure that there is not inappropriate development or overdevelopment in their area, to preserve the character and amenity of the communities they represent, and to look after the lifestyle and interests of the people they represent. The real issue today is why the Labor Party is pursuing this matter, wasting the time of the House, and diverting attention from other more pressing issues.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Liverpool.
Mr Brad Hazzard: Remember Lizzie Kernohan.
Mr Peter Debnam: Just remember your maiden speech, mate.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat.
Mr Peter Debnam: Just remember your maiden speech and how far that got you for years, you grub, you filthy grub.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The honourable member for Liverpool has the call.
Mr Michael Richardson: Are you going to reprise your maiden speech today?
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Mr PAUL LYNCH (Liverpool) [4.20 p.m.]: Thank you, Mr Speaker. In response to that cacophony from the Opposition, I simply note that that is characteristic of the Tory bullies they are. They are happy to throw out allegations against people. They are happy to get stuck into people, but whenever they are faced with an argument in this place they whinge and moan. They are happy to dish it out but they do not like to be on the receiving end of allegations. It is worth making the point in relation to the comments of the Leader of the Opposition about me that he did not apply that standard when people on that side of the House attacked me twice before I was in here. All I had the temerity to do in this place was put up the arguments to their face, something none of them is prepared to do. The State parliamentary Liberal Party stands condemned for one of two things in this place. Either it is harbouring someone on the frontbench who should not be there and should not be in this House or it is so dysfunctional because of its factional warfare that the only items it gets in the Sydney Morning Herald are its internal factional brawling, and the evidence it is leaking undoes one of its members.
Mr Chris Hartcher: Speaking of the Sydney Morning Herald, what about the Department of Housing when you rorted housing commission tenancies for your preselection?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The honourable member for Gosford will resume his seat.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The honourable member for Gosford will resume his seat.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Gosford to order.
Mr PAUL LYNCH: I am not surprised that the honourable member for Gosford is upset because one of the interesting aspects of this infamous deal he is now talking about, the infamous lot 87, is that the transfer document transferring ownership to the honourable member for Davidson has his signature on it, and so do the mortgage documents. There are a number of issues about that, not the least of which is the intellectual adequacy of the honourable member for Davidson in relying upon the honourable member for Gosford as a lawyer.
Mr Chris Hartcher: I was not his lawyer.
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Mr Chris Hartcher: I did not act in any legal capacity.
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Mr Chris Hartcher: We want to know about the Housing Commission. Tell us what you did with the Housing Commission tenancy lists.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The honourable member for Gosford will resume his seat.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The honourable member for Gosford will resume his seat. If issues are raised in the debate that the honourable member for Gosford feels compelled to deal with, he can seek the call and participate in the debate.
Mr PAUL LYNCH: I also note that the honourable member for Gosford is terribly excited about the Department of Housing at a time when his Government had the ministry.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The honourable member for Liverpool will address the Chair, not the honourable member for Gosford. The honourable member for Liverpool has the call.
Mr Brad Hazzard: Point of order: The standing orders require that if there is to be a substantive attack on a member, including the honourable member for Gosford, which has occupied this scurrilous member's time for the last minute and a half—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I understand the point of order, and I concur.
Mr Brad Hazzard: He has to move a motion.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The honourable member for Wakehurst will resume his seat. The honourable member for Liverpool has the call.
Mr PAUL LYNCH: It is worth noting that the Opposition response to this motion has been twofold. One is to take unmeritorious points of order to prevent the Leader of the House and me from presenting our arguments. That is a fairly good indication that they have no substantive defence.
Mr Brad Hazzard: That point of order was just verified, mate. You ought to listen to what is going on here.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The honourable member for Wakehurst will resume his seat.
Mr PAUL LYNCH: In relation to that interjection, I rest my case. The second aspect of the defence is what the honourable member for Davidson said, which is precious little. There is no substantive argument by the honourable member for Davidson dealing with the allegations contained in the motion and in the speeches. There is nothing in detail from the honourable member for Davidson. The best he could do was to get up and say that he is really interested in trying to get good development in his area. That is fine, but he bought a property in the middle of that development and it is the only development that we can find in that area for which he put up a building code to the council. That has happened in no other development.
Mr Barry O'Farrell: Point of order: He bought the property at auction.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! This is an explanation.
Mr Barry O'Farrell: Are you saying that Landcom is crook?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Deputy Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to order. The honourable member for Liverpool has the call.
Mr PAUL LYNCH: As I say, the substantive Opposition defence is to take unmeritorious points of order. The extraordinary thing about this is not only that the honourable member for Davidson lobbied about a particular development—that is perfectly natural. But he then bought a property and now they cannot find the documents in his office. What documents does he get rid of, only the ones that relate to property that he bought? The only job he is fit to have is not on the frontbench but as the official shredder for the Liberal Party [Time expired.]
Mr CHRIS HARTCHER (Gosford) [4.25 p.m.]: I move:
That the motion be amended by leaving out all words after "That" with a view to inserting instead:
(1) deplores the conduct of the member for Fairfield in seeking to influence for his own benefit the planning deliberations for Orange Grove;
(2) further deplores the conduct of the member for Fairfield in Parliament House on the night of 14/15 September 2000 as set forth in the report of the Independent Commission Against Corruption; and
(3) censures the member for Fairfield for misuse of his position as a member of the Legislative Assembly and for bringing the Parliament into disrepute by his conduct."
Mr Carl Scully: Point of order: That amendment is outside the scope of the original motion. The honourable member for Gosford is not entitled to amend a motion with words that are completely beyond the scope of the original motion. It is out of order and should be struck out.
Mr CHRIS HARTCHER: No, it is not. There are precedents. The motion is capable of amendment, as are all motions. There are precedents that allow it to be amended for a contrary censure as established by the practice of this House. It is not contrary to the motion. It is a motion of censure relating to planning.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I have heard enough on the point of order. I have heard a number of censure motions debated in the past. On this occasion the honourable member for Gosford has moved an amendment to insert not only the name of a person other than the honourable member for Davidson, but also the rationale for purporting to amend the motion to censure that other person. That is not an amendment to the motion. It is a separate motion that has nothing to do with the motion before the House. It is not a reversal of the censure motion, as the honourable member for Gosford member has claimed and for which he claims there is precedent; it is in fact a different motion of censure. Therefore, I rule the amendment out of order.
Mr CHRIS HARTCHER: The honourable member for Davidson fights for his area, as does every member of this Parliament. The whole idea of being a member of Parliament is that you fight for the area. You look after your area, make sure that it keeps its ambience, make sure that its residents are looked after, make sure that you protect their interests. The honourable member for Davidson is a member of integrity who has served this Parliament well since 1992. Everything he has undertaken has been for the benefit of his constituents. What the honourable member for Davidson does at a public auction in public with his own money in his own time is a matter for him.
Every member of this Parliament is fully aware of that. The Leader of the House has moved this motion because there is no business before the House and to create mischief. The House will sit tonight to deal with motions for urgent consideration and matters of public importance. The Leader of the House has no business for the House to deliberate upon. Accordingly, he seeks to create as many mischievous motions as he can. The real issue that this House should be debating is the conduct of members opposite, especially the Minister for Energy in the Orange Grove controversy, the honourable member for Strathfield in her local planning and the honourable member for Liverpool in rorting Housing Commission tenancies for his own preselection purposes.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The House will come to order.
Mr Milton Orkopoulos: Point of order: The honourable member for Gosford is clearly flouting your earlier ruling and raising issues you have ruled out of order. He cannot continue to do that. He must address the substantive motion that is before the House. His amendment was not accepted as a legitimate amendment to the resolution, yet his is arguing and naming the very people—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I have heard enough on the point of order. I uphold the point of order. Having ruled the amendment out of order because it was outside the leave of the motion, the honourable member for Gosford cannot introduce into the debate material relating to that amendment.
Mr CHRIS HARTCHER: The Minister for Energy was the subject of an Independent Commission Against Corruption inquiry into his conduct. [Time expired.]
Mr STEVE WHAN (Monaro) [4.30 p.m.]: Today the member who is the subject of this motion has been given the opportunity to explain exactly what he did and whether at any stage he declared to the officers of the council to whom he spoke that he was interested in this land.
Mr Barry O'Farrell: Point of order: I refer to the standing order relating to the reading of speeches. We know this has been given to him by the Premier's office.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! There is no point of order. I call the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to order for the second time. I will not allow spurious points to be taken merely to waste time.
Mr STEVE WHAN: It is interesting to see evidence of the glass jaw of members opposite. They are happy to stand in this Chamber and slag off members opposite them in this Chamber without any foundation, yet they are unwilling to answer serious accusations that have been referred to in this place today.
Mr Andrew Constance: Point of order: I take offence to "slag" and words of that type. This is coming from a bloke who was a whiteboard monitor in Ros Kelly's office—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The honourable member for Bega will resume his seat.
Mr STEVE WHAN: It becomes clearer just what a glass jaw members opposite have, and why the honourable member for Davidson was unwilling to address the matters concerning him today. He has not answered the questions about whether his conduct was ethical, whether there was any corruption in people who hold public office in seeking to use the privilege of public office to manipulate the design for a land release, whether he systematically used his position of public office as the honourable member for Davidson to gain vital commercial information that at the time was not public, or whether at any stage in this process he told council officials who were involved that he was interested in purchasing the land. In the entire 13 minutes or so during which the honourable member for Davidson spoke, he did not answer the accusations that have been made in this place today. That is an absolute disgrace.
Mr Brad Hazzard: Point of order: The honourable member for Monaro is speaking outside the leave of the motion. Nowhere in the motion is there a reference to even the Government alleging corruption. The honourable member for Davidson has made it quite clear that, when he was negotiating, he had not even looked at the block of land. The honourable member for Monaro did not listen to what the honourable member for Davidson said.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! the honourable member for Wakehurst will be able to participate in the debate at the appropriate time. There is no point of order. The honourable member for Wakehurst will resume his seat.
Mr STEVE WHAN: The honourable member for Wakehurst has given us a great demonstration of why one of the other Opposition members approached Chainsaw Tink and asked him to come back into the job. The performance of the honourable member for Wakehurst as the Leader of the House has been exposed as pretty weak today.
Mr Michael Richardson: Point of order—
Mr Brad Hazzard: Point of order—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The honourable member for Wakehurst and the honourable member for the Hills will resume their seats.
Mr STEVE WHAN: What was the comment earlier today about enthusiasm not being an excuse? The honourable member for Davidson became involved in a Landcom subdivision. He made representations to Warringah Council. He requested the council to adopt some building policy controls, which included controls on building heights, landscape and other building requirements. All this is alleged in the Sydney Morning Herald article. We have seen Landcom raising questions about his involvement in the process, yet we have had no answers today in response to any of those accusations.
We have seen no adequate defence from the honourable member for Davidson throughout the whole process. He failed to explain why he did not declare to the officers that he was interested in the block of land. He stated in this Chamber that he does not have any record of it. How many members of this place write letters to their council or provide advice to their local council and then not keep copies of it? I think every other member of this place would keep records. The honourable member for Davidson has failed to answer the case against him today and that is why this motion should be supported. [Time expired.]
Mr BRAD HAZZARD (Wakehurst) [4.35 p.m.]: In almost 15 years as a member of this Parliament, I have to say that this is one of the weakest and most hopeless representations by the Labor Party on any motion—
Mr Andrew Constance: And misrepresentation.
Mr BRAD HAZZARD: —and misrepresentation that the Labor Party has brought before this House. Moreover, the Leader of the House was carrying on before with silly language. Then we had the Z team, Wet Behind the Ears Whan and Loopy Left Lynch, trying to argue a case that they know is simply not true. As I said, I have been a member of Parliament for 15 years, and I hold a practising certificate as a lawyer. I have been an arbitrator in the courts. I assure honourable members that if there was one iota of wrongdoing, I would be the first to say it, but I can tell honourable members opposite that there is not one iota of wrongdoing to this.
Mr Steve Whan: Oh, we trust you—not.
Mr BRAD HAZZARD: The honourable member for Monaro may say that, but I have represented a number of people on his side of politics in relation a number of issues. If they wanted to pipe up, they would tell him that I know what integrity means. You, sir, are not the epitome of integrity.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Government members will cease interjecting. The honourable member for Wakehurst will address the Chair.
Mr BRAD HAZZARD: In this morning's Manly Daily a former member for Wakehurst, the person who held my position in the Wranslide years, Tom Webster, made it clear that there is not one thing that Andrew Humpherson has done wrong on this issue. I quote:
Former Wakehurst Labor MP Tom Webster, who served on Warringah Council from 1991 to 1998—
so he knows Andrew Humpherson very well because they were both on the council—
said he recalled great community concern about developing the national park.
Mr Barry O'Farrell: Who was that?
Mr BRAD HAZZARD: Tom Webster, the former member for Wakehurst, the person who represented my electorate before I did.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Members of the Opposition will cease interjecting. The honourable member for Wakehurst will address the Chair. I call the honourable member for East Hills to order.
Mr BRAD HAZZARD: The Manly Daily stated:
"Even though we were on opposite sides of the political fence, he (Mr Humpherson), and I were keen on ensuring that new subdivisions had as many environmental and urban design controls as possible," Mr Webster, now a valuer, said.
The honourable member for Heffron should be quiet.
Ms Kristina Keneally: Where did he say that he had done nothing wrong?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Heffron to order.
Mr BRAD HAZZARD: Tom Webster is saying that Andrew did absolutely nothing wrong. I point out to members opposite that the history of the Government in relation to the northern beaches has been to push more and more density in the area known as Red Hill—in fact, almost every area on the northern beaches. Red Hill was a hot issue back in the early 1990s. Despite the honourable member for Davidson having behaved as an environmental crusader for his area who was standing up for the public on the northern beaches to try to closely examine properties that were being developed by Labor through Landcom, and despite his standing up for the people who wanted to have environmental constraints brought to bear so that we did not have the same continuing overuse and excessive density, it still came back to Labor having control. You people made the decisions.
Mr Alan Ashton: Your government—
Mr BRAD HAZZARD: No, that is wrong. The member for East Hills does not know. He should have a look. In 1997 Labor was in government. In fact, the member was not here. At that stage we had Doug Shedden here, a gentleman with some integrity. The former Labor member for Bankstown would not have sat here and taken part like a monkey. Because Andrew Humpherson gets a big tick on the tests of credibility, honesty, propriety and acting in the interests of the public, members opposite are carrying on. Compare that with Orange Grove and Joe Tripodi. Compare that with what you people have done.
Mr Michael Daley: Point of order: Mr Speaker, you have already made a ruling today about bringing a member into disrepute.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I uphold the point of order. The honourable member for Wakehurst will address the motion.
Mr BRAD HAZZARD: It is relevant because evidence was given by Mr Bargshoon that Joe Tripodi was so concerned about his credibility—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Wakehurst to order for the second time.
Mr BRAD HAZZARD: At the end of the day this is just a farce. Members opposite are like stuffed monkeys, going through the motions and playing games. They are trying to delay the debate on the big issues: lifestyle, disability, better circumstances for Aboriginals in New South Wales, better conditions in hospitals. Stop the waffle and get on with the substance! [Time expired.]
Mr ANDREW HUMPHERSON (Davidson) [4.40 p.m.], in response: I thank the honourable member for Gosford and the honourable member for Wakehurst for their personal support and contributions. I have heard nothing from the other side that warrants a further response from me.
Mr CARL SCULLY (Smithfield—Minister for Police) [4.41 p.m.], in reply: It is quite extraordinary. Very serious allegations have been raised in the media and in a censure motion in this House that cannot be dismissed superficially and flippantly by the honourable member for Davidson. He should address those concerns. This is how he defended himself: "I love the area." "I have lived there a long time." "It was a strong issue." "It's an old story." He has got to be kidding. The defence to the censure of misusing his position as a member of Parliament to gain an advantage requires a serious response.
On the face of it, he has at least a conflict of interest and question marks against his integrity and ethics in his role as a member of Parliament. If anyone in this House asks a State agency and a council to come to a meeting and puts his concerns on behalf of the community, then council officers and agency personnel are entitled to believe the meeting is for the purpose of constituents, not personal gain. I do not mean just financial gain. Whether there was a financial gain would require greater scrutiny, but it looks questionable.
Mr Chris Hartcher: What evidence have you got?
Mr CARL SCULLY: It looks questionable. His defence is, "I don't have any files." His defence is that he was overwhelmed; there were hundreds of constituents marching towards his electorate office. What a load of poppycock. There were virtually none. Landcom itself said no adverse comments came to its attention. [Quorum formed.]
That is the Opposition's substantive defence: it has called a quorum because the member does not want to hear more of the allegations. He should be saying, "Here are the details. This is why it was not unethical conduct." My concern is that no defence has been put forward to the allegation that the honourable member for Davidson misused his position. I cannot think of another member on either side of the House who would seriously think it was okay to call meetings, ask for changes to be made, turn up at an auction and bid successfully and then have the gall to say here, "I do my job as any MP would, fighting for the public interests in your area. I was not completely satisfied in curtailing the development." It is unbelievable. It was not a private exercise. He wants us to believe that he woke up on the morning of the auction, had a chat over breakfast with his wife and decided to buy the property. That defies belief.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The honourable member for Wakehurst will resume his seat.
Mr CARL SCULLY: The Landcom memo written two days after the auction sums it up by saying it should be noted that the most expensive lot was purchased for $420,000 by Andrew Humpherson MP, who expressed the view that the completion and presentation of the estate was better than he expected. Why would it not be? He in fact designed the suburb and the lot he purchased. Why would it not be better after the pressure he brought to bear in getting the council to bring in the local approvals policy over its LEP. These are things he has to answer.
There is a scandalous conflict of interest. The honourable member for Davidson actually said his defence to not divulging the conflict of interest was that we allegedly did not have a code of conduct for that. That to me was a roundabout way of saying, "I am guilty as charged, but my defence is that you brought in the code of conduct to deal with conflict of interest after the alleged conflict." There has always been an expectation that significant officials, of both private companies and governments, will disclose a conflict where it occurs. The conflict is not a problem provided someone behaves appropriately. It is up to the Leader of the Opposition to stand the member aside. He should be removed from the Opposition front bench because an appropriate inquiry needs to be put in place to test these questions. If he had given us chapter and verse, properly defending his integrity and explaining how he declared the conflict of interest, and answering these charges, I would probably say, okay, let us move on
Mr Chris Hartcher: Point of order: Did the Minister stand aside when his private car was used to convey a dog from house to house? When he used his car to convey a dog all over Sydney did he stand aside when those allegations were made?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The honourable member for Gosford will resume his seat. I call him to order for the second time.
Mr CARL SCULLY: I am happy to talk about the member for Fiji, Andrew Humpherson. Let us not talk about frisbees on the beach when he misused public money for a private benefit for his family. This guy has form. He has had his hand in the till before and it looks like he has his hand in the till again. I want some answers. The Swamp Fox also has questions to answer. Any lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client.
Mr Brad Hazzard: Point of order: The standing orders require the Minister to refer to the honourable member as the honourable member for Gosford, and not by any nickname. If he wants to start talking about a canine issue he should talk about the dog on the back seat of his ministerial car.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I uphold the point of order. The honourable member for Wakehurst will resume his seat.
Mr Brad Hazzard: He should refer to the case of Scully and the dog on the back seat of his ministerial car.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The honourable member for Wakehurst will stop wasting the time of the House.
Mr CARL SCULLY: If the honourable member for Wakehurst wants to go over history we can go over how he stole $100,000 from an old woman by changing her will.
Mr Brad Hazzard: You really are a low-life and you know it.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The honourable member for Wakehurst will resume his seat.
Mr Brad Hazzard: You, sir, are a scoundrel and a crook.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The honourable member for Wakehurst will resume his seat. I cannot allow four members to stand in the Chamber screaming at one another. That behaviour is disgraceful and does nothing to enhance the regard in which the Chamber is held. If a remark is made to which a member takes objection, the member has the right to ask for it to be withdrawn. I will allow the honourable member for Wakehurst to do that but I will not allow any further screaming across the Chamber.
Mr Brad Hazzard: What the Minister just said is offensive and beyond belief. I ask you to ask him to withdraw it immediately.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! If the honourable member for Wakehurst finds the remark offensive I ask the Minister to withdraw it.
Mr Brad Hazzard: And he should apologise.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! It is a matter for the Minister whether he apologises. I have asked him to withdraw the remark.
Mr CARL SCULLY: In response to his request I say this—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I remind the Minister that the honourable member for Wakehurst has taken offence at the remark.
Mr CARL SCULLY: I am happy to withdraw the remark that he had a will changed to steal money from an old lady. I am happy to withdraw that remark.
Mr Brad Hazzard: Mr Speaker, I ask again—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I understand the honourable member for Wakehurst.
Mr Brad Hazzard: He is a low life and he needs to apologise.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Minister knows what he has said is not acceptable. I ask him to withdraw that statement.
Mr CARL SCULLY: I am happy to withdraw that statement. In this case a member of Parliament had another member of Parliament act as his lawyer. [Time expired.]
Mr Chris Hartcher: Mr Speaker—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I understand that the honourable member for Gosford wants to make a personal explanation. As there is a question before the Chair I cannot entertain a personal explanation until I have dealt with that question.
Question—That the motion be agreed to—put.
The House divided.
Mr J. H. Turner
Mr R. W. Turner
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.