Wednesday, 19 June 1996
Mr Speaker (The Hon. John Henry Murray)
took the chair at 9.00 a.m.
offered the Prayer.
UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY, SYDNEY COUNCIL
Appointment of Representative
(Riverstone - Minister for Education and Training, and Minister Assisting the Premier on Youth Affairs) [9.00]: I move:
That Anthony Paul Stewart, member for Lakemba, be elected as the representative of the Legislative Assembly on the Council of the University of Technology, Sydney, in place of Peter Richard Nagle, discharged, in pursuance of the provisions of section 9 of the University of Technology, Sydney, Act 1989.
I compliment the honourable member for Lakemba for agreeing to take his position on the Council of the University of Technology, Sydney. The honourable member, as a former teacher and having already served on the Council of the Southern Cross University, has a strong interest in educational matters. Of his own volition he vacated the position on the Council of the Southern Cross University. Because the University of Technology, Sydney, is somewhat closer to his electorate he feels that he will be able to take a keener and more active interest in the work of its council.
I pay tribute to the honourable member for Auburn, who was press-ganged into taking his position on the UTS council. He was happy to serve but felt that he did not have the time to put in the effort that the position deserved and therefore requested that he be discharged. I fully endorse the sentiments of the honourable member for Auburn and thank him for his work to date. I thank also the honourable member for Lakemba for the work he has undertaken as a member of the Council of the Southern Cross University and for agreeing to take on this new position on the Council of the University of Technology, Sydney.
Motion agreed to.
SOUTHERN CROSS UNIVERSITY COUNCIL
Appointment of Representative
(Riverstone - Minister for Education and Training, and Minister Assisting the Premier on Youth Affairs) [9.01]: I move:
That Harry Francis Woods, member for Clarence, be elected as the representative of the Legislative Assembly on the Council of the Southern Cross University, in place of Anthony Paul Stewart, discharged, in pursuance of the provisions of section 10 of the Southern Cross University Act 1993.
Many honourable members share my joy and elation at the election of Harry Francis Woods as the member for Clarence. I know that he will have a long and distinguished career, following his distinguished career as the member for the Federal seat of Page. The association that the honourable member for Clarence has had with organisations on the north coast is well known. Over many years he has taken a deep, personal interest in the educational welfare of students and the public. He is keen to take up the appointment to the Council of the Southern Cross University, having had a close association with that university during his term as the member for Page. I am delighted that the Parliament is able to give him a greater capacity to carry on his association with the council.
I know that the Council of the Southern Cross University will be only too pleased to have appointed to its council such a distinguished, high-profile member, who will not only lend a significant ear to the proceedings but will be able to use his significant and forceful powers to ensure that the university receives its fair share of funding - though that is being threatened by the Federal Government - to enable it to pursue an educational agenda that is second to none. I take this opportunity also to thank the honourable member for Lakemba for his work while a member of the Council of the Southern Cross University. His magnificent gesture of stepping down from the council of his own volition is appreciated by me as Minister for Education and Training, and I am sure it is appreciated by the honourable member for Clarence. I wish the honourable member for Lakemba well in his new position as a member of the Council of the University of Technology, Sydney.
Motion agreed to.
APPROPRIATION (PARLIAMENT) BILL APPROPRIATION (SPECIAL OFFICES) BILL
APPROPRIATION (1995-96 DEBT RETIREMENT) BILL
MOTOR VEHICLES TAXATION AMENDMENT BILL
BUSINESS FRANCHISE LICENCES (PETROLEUM PRODUCTS) AMENDMENT BILL
ROAD IMPROVEMENT (SPECIAL FUNDING) AMENDMENT BILL
Debate resumed from 18 June.
(Lakemba) [9.03]: I support the Appropriation Bill and cognate bills. As the Premier and Treasurer have pointed out, this year’s
State budget is the first in many years to pay its way significantly without increasing taxes in any area. Importantly, the budget will provide significant increases in funding for the State’s hospitals, schools, roads and policing, with an additional $127 million for hospitals, $127 million more for schools and funding for an additional 100 much-needed police. Another important aspect of the budget is the decision to abolish loan security duty from 1 July, which will mean that a home buyer refinancing a $100,000 mortgage will save $341 in tax, while the saving on a $200,000 mortgage will be about $741. As honourable members will have witnessed in the past few days, this move has already had a huge impact by forcing the banking sector across the board to move towards a reduction in interest rates. The budgetary measure to remove this tax impediment to home buyers has, in effect, served to put the heat on banks to cut their lending margins and thus provide cheaper loans by scrapping a tax that adds to the cost of refinancing a home or business loan
It is unfortunate that the positive impact and focus of the budget has been tainted significantly by the recent moves of the Federal coalition Government under the shaky direction of Prime Minister Howard and Federal Treasurer Costello to steal $900 million of this State’s revenue. As a result, yesterday the New South Wales Treasurer announced the need to introduce the now infamous Howard and Costello - or HAC - tax amendment. This move is aimed at recouping at least part of the $900 million stolen by the Prime Minister and the Federal Treasurer from this State’s revenue. Despite the unfortunate need to introduce the Howard and Costello tax amendment, it is pleasing to point out that the impact of this tax amendment will not focus on the ordinary person.
Despite the Prime Minister’s election campaign rhetoric and promises, he has unfortunately given the New South Wales Government two distinct choices: either to raise taxes or, alternatively, to reduce much needed services. I am pleased to report that, despite the Federal Government robbing State revenue of $900 million, the Carr Labor Government, to its great credit, has not deviated from its budgetary focus of servicing and improving the core needs of the community. As the Treasurer said yesterday, the Government will not go back on its commitments to supply more computers for classrooms, to employ more teachers, to reduce waiting times for surgery, to put more police on the beat and to protect kids from abuse and neglect.
I am advised that the key elements of the Howard and Costello tax slug include a 0.5 per cent increase in stamp duty on the purchase of a motor vehicle, which will mean about $50 on the purchase of a $10,000 car; extension of the payroll tax base extended to include employer superannuation contributions with a simultaneous reduction in the payroll tax rate from 7 per cent to 6.85 per cent; and a minor increase in land tax from 1.5 per cent to 1.65 per cent on unimproved land with a value of more than $160,000. Clearly, these taxes are the direct result of Mr Howard’s broken promises, creating in return a huge and unexpected fiscal burden for the State that is not based on any form of equitable formula. Despite the huge impact of the Howard and Costello tax slug on New South Wales, the Premier and the Treasurer should be strongly commended for their decision not to raise any taxes that will have an impact on the ordinary person.
The focus of the budget has meant a huge win for the people of New South Wales. The allocation for the health budget is the second increase in spending on health since this Government came to office. The recurrent budget for health of $5.1 billion is an increase of $131 million on the previous budget, and represents a 6.9 per cent, or $332.8 million, increase spread over the past two years. With regard to the impact of the health budget on the Lakemba electorate and surrounding areas, I am pleased to report that the development of the Inner West Hospital on the existing Canterbury Hospital site is firmly on target. The previous coalition Government made the cruel decision to close Canterbury Hospital, leaving 140,000 people within that hospital’s local drawing area without effective access to public health services.
The budget has committed more than $22 million to the Inner West Hospital project at Canterbury. That budgetary move brings the total funds committed by the Carr Government to the new hospital to more than $30 million. The total estimated cost for completion of the project will be $74 million over the next three years. After years of false and failed promises from the previous coalition Government the Inner West Hospital is now becoming a reality thanks to the Carr Labor Government. The new hospital will provide local residents with a high standard of health care and services into the next century, something that the electorate of Lakemba desperately needs, because 90 per cent of residents do not have private health cover. The area has one of the lowest socioeconomic incomes per capita in Australia and there are fewer private motor vehicles per household than in any other part of Sydney.
Clearly, the people of the Lakemba electorate and surrounding areas desperately need to have adequate public health services and standards maintained through the development of the new Inner West Hospital at Canterbury. I commend the Government for its ongoing budgetary commitment towards this important project. The budget also contains record spending initiatives on education and training of 3.7 per cent more than last year. As the Minister for Education and Training has said, the Government is committed to delivering better education for students in New South Wales schools and to making education more accessible and more responsive to the needs of students and industry.
The key initiatives of this year’s budget include the funding of an additional 100 teaching positions this year to provide release for teachers to train in reading recovery. This gives a total of 200 additional positions since the 1995-96 budget; an extra 18 teaching positions for the community language program - a very valuable program in my electorate; a total of 7.5 teaching positions to provide support teachers for small schools - part of a four-year program to provide an extra 30 positions over four years; and $29.6 million for the computers in schools program. The highly successful higher school certificate advice line will operate again this year and will be extended to include the mid-semester break. Finally, $143.6 million has been allocated to TAFE capital works to enable valuable construction work to occur.
I am pleased to report to the House that the budget has committed an additional $1.2 million towards the rebuilding of Hampden Park Public School at Lakemba, which was tragically destroyed by fire in a vicious arson attack in October 1994. Hampden Park Public School was a model school in New South Wales. It had an open layout architectural plan and modern classroom facilities, and was an integral part of the local Lakemba community The total destruction of Hampden Park Public School resulted in 640 students, teachers and staff losing their precious school at a cost to the community of approximately $4.2 million. The new school, which is scheduled to be completed by September 1996, will be a modern, state-of-the-art facility. The total cost of the new school will be of the order of $5 million.
The funds for the reconstruction of the school will come predominantly from the Treasury Managed Fund. However, it is important to point out that, in addition to those funds, the Carr Government has allocated $1.2 million towards the school’s reconstruction. The additional funds will be used to incorporate some special design features in the new school, including day lighting strips for classrooms to reduce the school’s energy bill and increase natural light and ventilation; disabled access to most classrooms in the school, and certainly to all specialist spaces such as the library and administration areas; and improved storage facilities through the use of a compactus system. Importantly, the design of the school will include fire separation within the buildings to prevent the spread of flames. The school burnt down because that design feature was not in place, which meant that, because the classrooms were inter-joined under the roof, the fire was able to spread throughout each classroom. Additional money has been allocated for that purpose, and that problem has been alleviated in the new design.
Finally, the school will feature open courtyards to maximise visibility, to improve the aesthetics of the school and also to improve security features. Work on rebuilding Hampden Park Public School is being expedited and members of the Lakemba local community, particularly the students, teachers and staff, look forward to the completion of the project by September this year. The budget also provides a significant boost in Department of Housing accommodation standards within the Lakemba electorate and surrounding areas. Overall, funding for public housing maintenance and upgrading has increased dramatically in the 1996-97 budget to $202 million - a clear reflection of the Carr Government’s commitment to improving the standard of public housing in our State and certainly in the Lakemba electorate. It demonstrates the sincerity of the Labor Government’s intention to provide quality living conditions for public housing tenants in this State through a program of asset management and improved client service.
Funding includes a maintenance budget of $115 million, which is an increase of more than $12 million on last year’s figure. In addition, the Government has committed another $62 million for upgrading existing housing stock and $25 million to continue the neighbourhood improvement program. I am advised that work carried out under the neighbourhood improvement program has already transformed the lifestyles of almost 500 residents living on public housing estates. The budget will ensure that those transformations are extended to public housing communities throughout the State. In addition to spending on maintenance and refurbishing, the Department of Housing will manage a total construction budget of $351 million during the coming year. It must be pointed out, however, that such expenditure is subject to the Federal Government’s continued commitment to funding public housing through the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement.
The Commonwealth’s $900 million cutback to the State’s revenue has already put this area at grave risk. A question mark hangs over this project because Mr Howard and Mr Costello are pulling the rug from under the Government’s feet. The vital needs of communities - including my electorate, which has special housing needs - are in a precarious situation because of the Federal Government initiatives that have already occurred, and those that are likely to occur in the future. The budget will specifically benefit the people of the Lakemba electorate by allocating much-needed funds to housing projects, and I applaud that approach in Lakemba. The Department of Housing maintenance and upgrading budget for the southern Sydney region will provide for $13,535,000 for maintenance of properties and $5,996,000 for capital improvements to existing housing stock.
That figure includes an amount of $996,000 for the installation of smoke detectors in public dwellings. This has been a contentious issue in the past few months. The funds should deliver at least 6,640 hard-wired smoke detectors to housing stock in the region. The installation of smoke detectors is important to prevent tragedies of the kind that honourable members have witnessed in the past few years that have resulted from fires in public housing stock. A high priority will be given to aged, frail
and disabled tenants, as well as to families with young children, as part of the Carr Government’s commitment to improving standards in public housing. I am advised that this level of expenditure will continue until the department’s program of installing smoke detectors in public housing is completed. The neighbourhood improvement program will be improved radically by the allocation this year of $25 million. The program involves upgrading, refurbishing and redesigning existing dwellings on large housing estates of the Department of Housing, making them better communities and better places for tenants to live.
I commend the Government for its superb initiatives to improve the standard and increase the stock of public housing in the Lakemba electorate and across the State. I know that the Minister for Housing, the Hon. Craig Knowles, has been a driving force behind the initiatives and has paid a lot of attention to the public housing needs of the Lakemba electorate. The ongoing allocation of $52 million through budgetary commitments to the upgrading of the Hume Highway-Roberts Road-Centenary Drive intersection at Chullora has been of great benefit to the Lakemba electorate. The intersection was totally neglected by the previous coalition Government and put on the back burner. The Roads and Traffic Authority has stated that plans to upgrade the intersection by building an overpass were not programmed until well into the next century.
Mr E. T. Page:
That is sad.
It is very sad. It is one of the worst traffic bottlenecks in Sydney. One basically needs a packed lunch and a helicopter to navigate that intersection because it can take up to half an hour to travel a kilometre. I am pleased that the budget commitments to upgrading the intersection will improve traffic flow in the entire region, which I might add feeds the Homebush Olympic site. The intersection is important for the Sydney community, and the upgrading, from my community’s perspective, has been long awaited and is much needed. The works, which I am advised have been expedited and will be completed within the next 18 months. include building an overpass across the Hume Highway and widening Centenary Drive and Roberts Road where the severe traffic bottlenecks occur.
Noise barriers will be put across the front of Strathfield High School to noise-proof the school and to make life easier for students, staff and teachers, who put up with constant traffic noise. The local golf club on the corner will gain significantly from the upgrading. Members of the club take their lives in their hands when they turn into or out of the club premises and severe accidents have resulted from drivers trying to manoeuvre. The upgrading includes the important initiative of a pedestrian overpass, or bridge, across the Hume Highway to Strathfield Boys High School, which will give the schoolchildren a much safer environment. Children take their lives in their hands when crossing the busy Hume Highway to reach their school after they alight from buses. I have been advised of pedestrian accidents and many near misses. Honourable members would not want to learn that a tragic death had occurred because the Government had not been able to commit the necessary funds towards upgrading the intersection.
Th 1996-97 budget is a caring and equitable budget that clearly provides for the core service needs of the people of New South Wales. It delivers the fundamental service provisions of policing, education and health for areas like the Lakemba electorate. The redeveloped Inner West Hospital on the Canterbury Hospital site is a barometer of what a Labor Government is about in electorates like Lakemba and surrounding areas. Lakemba would not have had that health service without this Government, and some people who would have had to spend hours travelling to a hospital service would have died on the way. Accordingly I take great delight in commending the budget, and I am pleased to be part of a Government that cares about the people of New South Wales.
Debate adjourned on motion by Mr Jeffery
ENVIRONMENTAL PLANNING AND ASSESSMENT AMENDMENT (PUBLIC AUTHORITIES) BILL
Bill introduced and read a first time.
(Moorebank - Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning, and Minister for Housing) [9.27]: I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
This bill will remove any doubt that the Director-General of Urban Affairs and Planning and any other chief executive officer of a government department is a public authority within the definition of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act. It was understood from the commencement of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act in 1980, that the director-general was a public authority. Only a Minister, public authority or the Director-General of Urban Affairs and Planning can be a consent authority under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act. Similarly, only a Minister or a public authority can be a concurrence authority under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act. The director-general has been made a concurrence authority in a number of important instruments, including State environmental planning policy No. 1, which deals with development standards, and State environmental planning policy No. 14, which deals with coastal wetlands.
As a result of two recent Land and Environment Court decisions, namely Murray v Hornsby Council
and Rygate and West v Shoalhaven
, the status of the director-general and any other chief executive officer as a public authority has been called into question. The bill will amend the definition of public authority to make it clear that it includes the chief executive officer of a government department, including the Director-General of Urban Affairs and Planning. This amendment also includes a chief executive officer of a statutory State-owned corporation or its subsidiary in the definition. The bill enables a public authority to delegate its functions as a public authority under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act. The bill will also validate anything done or omitted to be done before the commencement. This will ensure that the recent court decisions do not impact on the validity of decisions taken at a time when the status of the director-general and other chief executive officers as public authorities and, therefore, as concurrence authorities and consent authorities was not in question. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate adjourned on motion by Mr Hartcher.
WATER AMENDMENT (CHARGES) BILL
Bill introduced and read a first time.
(Granville - Minister for Land and Water Conservation) [9.29]: I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
The bill will make explicit a power for the Department of Land and Water Conservation to levy annual charges to water users on unregulated rivers. The purpose of these charges is cost recovery, that is, partial recovery of the costs incurred in managing the allocation and use of water in unregulated rivers. The charges will be paid by water users who hold a licence or authority issued under part 2 of the Water Act for a work such as a dam or weir on an unregulated river or watercourse, or where water is to be taken from an unregulated river or watercourse.
Holders of water licences on regulated rivers already pay charges to the department. These are rivers in respect of which the department assures water supply by a storage dam and by operating other works in the rivers, such as weirs and diversion works, which ensure that water reaches the point where it is needed when it is needed. Water users who benefit from the works owned by the department pay part of the cost of operating and maintaining the works, plus a small part of the associated resources management costs. The proposed legislation will make explicit a power for the department to levy charges on what are known as unregulated rivers, where the department does not own or operate physical works to control the flow of water for the benefit of water users. These charges will cover a different type of cost incurred by the department - one that has not been charged at all to this class of water users in the past.
The terms "regulated rivers" and "unregulated rivers" are merely descriptive and do not appear in the Water Act. The power to levy existing charges was introduced into the Water Act in the 1960s. The former Water Conservation and Irrigation Commission concentrated its activities at that time on the development and use of water in regulated rivers. Later, it and its successors - the Water Resources Commission and the Department of Water Resources - introduced volumetric allocation schemes, transfer schemes and embargoes on those rivers, which require highly sophisticated measuring and modelling to determine how flows should be regulated. In the meantime, the issue of licences and authorities to water users on unregulated rivers was not accompanied by the same degree of concern about flow regimes; nor were the costs incurred by the department considerable.
In recent years this scenario has changed dramatically as expanding rural industries and increased population have placed greater stress on our rivers. Yet the previous Government, advised of the changes by the Department of Water Resources, refused to act. These changes have occurred progressively and have resulted in the Government and the taxpayer bearing considerably increased costs. Firstly, the number of water users on unregulated rivers and the scale of their water use have progressively increased over time. Unregulated rivers, most of which are either easterly flowing or flow into the department’s regulated rivers, have become more highly committed to river pumping for town, irrigation, stock and other purposes.
There has also been an increase in the number of water users who rely on regular pumping or diverting of water not simply for drought-proofing their properties. As a result, the impact of one water user on another is demanding more intensive oversight. Secondly, the cumulative effect of increasing water use in both regulated and unregulated rivers is being felt even in major rivers. The Murray-Darling basin, where all governments involved have agreed to limit further water diversions to current levels, illustrates the issue best. Thirdly, the Government is introducing a strategy to ensure an adequate environmental flow regime for rivers across the State. The rivers in question will include those categorised as unregulated, where no departmental dam is used for water supply. Again, the environmental flow regime and the rules required to implement it require assessments, monitoring, modelling and oversight, which, of course, all have a cost.
Fourthly, and lastly, water users are asking for a greater element of security for their access to water from rivers. In light of decisions about environmental flows and in-stream requirements of rivers, along with embargoes or water-use caps, water users are asking for certainty about their future access to water. The Government is taking this matter seriously, but if the result is a scheme that includes specific rules about when and how
water may be taken from unregulated rivers, the department will incur costs in applying the methodology. Those rules will benefit water users on both regulated and unregulated rivers, as will the associated expenditure. That management involves a number of activities which come at a cost.
In the course of managing the sharing of water and its use, the department does the following: it gauges the flow in all rivers through a statewide network of gauging stations; it plans annual and seasonal flow regimes to satisfy environmental and water user requirements; it develops and runs complex hydrological models to predict flows from year to year and from season to season; it investigates the impact of making changes to obtain the optimum benefit to water users and the environment; it develops rules for individual water users to satisfy broader objectives and includes these rules as conditions of licences or authorities; it monitors the actual use of water from time to time and takes action to prevent breaches of licence conditions; it reports on the status of rivers as required by State authorities, such as the state of environment reporting, and to fulfil interstate obligations such as those of the Murray-Darling Basin Commission; in times of water shortage it brings into operation systems for rostering and cutbacks in water use; at all times it investigates complaints and inquiries, protecting the rights of water users; and it carries out water quality testing to determine flow requirements in rivers, among other purposes.
In the past the department has carried the whole cost of all of these activities with no contribution from beneficiaries - the water users. The initiatives I have mentioned will see a demand for increased activity by the department in these fields, with significant costs to the department. The public purse should not be required to foot all bills as in the past; direct beneficiaries should make a reasonable contribution. Another reason for extending the charging base to unregulated rivers is that of equity between water users in the two categories. For many years water users on regulated rivers have been required to pay a water management charge. However, until now no payment has been required by those on unregulated rivers. This is inequitable.
It is not fair to have regulated river users pay the whole charge for this activity because, as explained earlier, it covers all rivers and all water users are involved and benefit to a greater or lesser degree. This is why the Government announced in September last year that a water management charge is warranted for water users on both regulated and unregulated rivers. The Water Act as it currently stands makes it clear that charges on regulated rivers may be raised, but it is silent on charges for unregulated rivers. To put the matter beyond doubt and to ensure total clarity in these charges, they are now specified in the bill.
On the subject of ground water charges, the department already has in place a charging system for bore water licence holders, in addition to the charging system for holders of authorisations on regulated rivers and watercourses. Similar services are offered to bore water users. The amendments to the Water Act contained in the bill tap into the existing provisions of section 22C of the Water Act relating to charges for authorisation holders on regulated rivers and watercourses. It is proposed that an additional category be added to section 22C in respect of the costs of administration of the sharing and use of water in unregulated rivers. It is intended that the amendments will cover the department’s activities, which I referred to previously.
Despite their conspicuous lack of action while in office, I am sure that members of the Opposition agree with the concept of beneficiaries paying for improved services provided by the Government. Direct beneficiaries will not be asked to pay the whole cost, but they should pay their fair share. I add also that the bill does not apply to those who have stock and domestic water rights by virtue of their occupation of riparian lands. Moreover, the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal, which is considering the department’s charging base, has endorsed the Government’s interim charge on unregulated rivers. The tribunal will be setting rural water charges from July 1996 and, provided that this amendment becomes law by that time, has indicated that it intends to set as maximum charges on unregulated rivers the charges that the Government outlined in a submission to the tribunal.
The suggested charges on unregulated rivers range from $80 per year for farmers irrigating 12 hectares or less, up to $250 per year for farmers irrigating more than 162 hectares. The charge for town suppliers and industry was $265 a year for water from unregulated streams. As I said, I expect the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal to endorse these charges for 1996-97. In summary, the bill ensures the recovery of costs associated with the management of the sharing and use of water on unregulated streams. The costs are incurred in the course of management, which allows particular water users to proceed with their activities. I believe it is very reasonable that they pay some part of the cost, along with other water users who are already being charged for this activity. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate adjourned on motion by Mr D. L. Page.
FORESTRY ACT: REVOCATION OF DEDICATION
(Granville - Minister for Land and Water Conservation) [9.41]: I move:
(1) That, pursuant and subject to the provisions of the Forestry Act 1916, this House agrees to the revocation of the dedication of those whole or part areas of State forests indicated on the schedule hereunder.
(2) That the foregoing be communicated by Address to His Excellency the Governor.
The procedure under which State forests or parts of State forests may be revoked is set out in section 19 of the Forestry Act 1916. The section provides for the revocation by His Excellency the Governor, but first it is necessary that a resolution be passed by both Houses of Parliament that a revocation be effected. The State forest dedications proposed to be revoked comprise part of five State forests and one whole forest, as listed in the schedule. Following revocation, these lands will be reserved as national park and some will be subsequently declared as additions to existing wilderness areas. Some of the lands that the Government proposes to reserve as national park involve State forest lands that have been declared to be national forests or that have been set apart as flora reserves under the provisions of the Forestry Act.
The revocation of State forests declared to be national forests, and the revocation of flora reserves, can be effected only by an Act of Parliament, as provided by sections 19A and 25A(4) respectively of the Forestry Act. A bill providing for such revocations has been introduced during this session of Parliament. As honourable members are aware, in April of this year seven new wilderness areas were declared: Barrington, Budawang, Kanangra Boyd, Macleay Gorges, Werrikimbe, Goobarragandra and Warrazambil. Additions were also made to the existing Bimberi and Ettrema wilderness areas. Although State forest lands adjoining those wilderness areas have been identified as wilderness by the National Parks and Wildlife Service, in keeping with the Government’s forestry policy it is not intended to declare these lands as wilderness pending the conclusion of the interim assessment process. However, there are no impediments to the inclusion in the wilderness areas of nonproductive or other State forest areas which may be inaccessible for logging, with the concurrence of State Forests of New South Wales.
The first four State forest areas listed in the schedule fall into this category, that is, they are generally non-productive, and State Forests of New South Wales has agreed to their addition to the national park estate as the first step towards their declaration as wilderness. A substantial part of the first of these areas, being part of Bondo State Forest, for practical purposes is already national park. Following an agreement between the National Parks and Wildlife Service and State Forests dating back to the early 1970s, the State forest lands south and west of Boundary Road have been regarded as national park. Revocation of the remainder of Bondo State Forest west of Barnetts Road, as well as revocation of part of Micalong State Forest south of the Lower Tumut to Canberra electricity transmission line, will result in a well-defined boundary between the Goobarragandra wilderness and State forest lands.
The final boundary of the State forest lands to be revoked was determined following consultation with State Forests of New South Wales. The parts of Yadboro and Yalwal State forests proposed for addition to Morton National Park will eventually be declared as part of the existing Budawang and Ettrema wilderness areas respectively. These two State forest areas are a small part of the State forest lands which have been identified as wilderness by the National Parks and Wildlife Service. State Forests of New South Wales has agreed to the addition of these lands to Morton National Park.
The lands within the last two State forest areas proposed to be revoked, being the Bundella State Forest and part of the Warung State Forest, are to be reserved as the Coolah Tops National Park. The Government’s pre-election nature conservation strategy identified Coolah Tops as one of the new national parks that it would establish. The Bundella
and Warung State forests and associated flora reserves form the core of the Coolah Tops National Park proposal. This Government is about keeping its promises. The proposed park makes a significant contribution to the establishment of a comprehensive, adequate and representative reserve system within the Brigalow belt south bioregion.
The proposal makes a contribution to comprehensiveness by including seven forest communities and swamps; to adequacy by reserving a greater proportion of those vegetation communities which characterise Coolah Tops and support high fauna populations, enhancing their viability; and to representativeness by incorporating flora and fauna communities which are currently poorly represented in existing reserves in the bioregion and New South Wales. The Government recognises that the establishment of this national park will have an effect on the local timber industry. However, as has already been announced, it is prepared to compensate the mill owners at Haggerty and Morrison’s Coolah sawmill.
The Government is looking for 100 per cent re-employment for sawmill workers and will offer an unprecedented level of assistance to the owners and the six remaining mill workers. Government support to those at the Coolah sawmill falls under the forest industry structural adjustment package. Assistance under that package includes business exit assistance for the mill owners, which entails compensating the mill owner’s business based on an independent assessment of value and profits prior to the Government policy’s impact. Options for assistance to the six remaining workers include financial assistance with relocation to a new job, training and special redundancy payments. Jobs are still available with the National Parks and Wildlife Service and also under negotiation is alternative work with other employers in the region.
Officers from the Government structural unit are working in conjunction with TRAIN - Timber and Related Allied Industries New South Wales Group Training Company Limited, the forest industry training company - to coordinate assistance to the workers. A forest liaison officer from TRAIN is in constant contact with the workers. He is negotiating on their behalf for future employment and training and is advising them about other types of assistance available. The mill’s foreman has already received a new foreman’s position at the upper Hunter timber mill and he is eligible for financial assistance for his relocation costs. The Government is committed to assisting those people affected by conservation decisions such as the creation of this new national park. The Government will ensure that those people who have been affected by the decision at Coolah are adequately assisted. I commend the motion to the House.
Debate adjourned on motion by Mr D. L. Page.
FORESTS AND FLORA RESERVES REVOCATION BILL
Debate resumed from 13 June.
Mr D. L. PAGE
(Ballina) [9.50]: I lead for the Opposition in the debate on this bill. At the outset I point out that the bill should not be viewed in isolation but in the context of the larger package referred to in the Minister’s motion for revocation. Within that package is the revocation of very large areas of State forest for conversion to national parks or wilderness. The Minister has just presented to the House a motion about the revocation schedule involving six State forests, including Bundella and Warung State forests, which comprise 2,347 hectares and 7,140 hectares respectively. Those forests are being revoked in order to create the Coolah Tops National Park. Whilst the Forests and Flora Reserves Revocation Bill deals essentially with the revocation of flora reserves within State forests, it is appropriate that the measure be taken in the context of the wider activity of the revocation of large areas of State forests.
The Government is proposing under schedule 1 to revoke flora reserves and under schedule 2 to revoke the State forests in which the reserves are located. Though the Opposition has concerns about some of the revocations, its main concern is the revocation of the flora reserves in the Warung State Forest, which will be part of the Coolah Tops National Park. Opposition members have always believed that Coolah Tops would be a good test of the Government’s oft-declared position of providing a balance between conservation needs and timber needs. Unfortunately, the Government has taken the soft option and has failed to get the balance right. The Government had a unique opportunity to send out all the right signals, but it has sent out the wrong signals. The Government has demonstrated that it is more politically driven than resource management driven. I am not alone in holding that view; that position is supported by many people.
Mr D. L. PAGE:
I shall name them. Despite the fact that the Forest Products Association has in more recent times been extremely cooperative with the Government in the Resource and Conservation Assessment Council process, because basically it has been locked into a position, the association - which the Minister is inclined to describe as being the spokesman for the industry - has criticised the Government’s proposal for Coolah Tops. Mr Dorber, Executive Director of the New South Wales Forest Products Association, said:
The decision has sent a shiver of apprehension through the timber industry on the eve of the public release of the government’s much heralded Forestry Interim Assessment Process. This decision shows how much the government remains a captive of the Green Movement and how little attention it pays to the principles of natural justice, social equity for rural NSW and its own policy requirements for the decision making process to balance the mutual objectives of conservation and maintenance of a sustainable timber industry.
He said further:
The decision will fuel the increasing anxiety within the industry about the government’s real commitment to maintaining a truly viable and internationally competitive rural timber industry.
He also said:
The reversal of the previous decision not to compensate the Company is certainly welcome and should at least alleviate the direct pain they are feeling today. The truth is however that governments destroy their rural base at their peril and that one day we, as a community, will have to come to grips with the green political monster that threatens to devour all that is good in rural NSW.
In those statements the Forest Products Association hardly endorses the Government’s decision on Coolah Tops. The Minister claims that there is universal support for the decision on Coolah Tops, but I assure him that he is wrong. The Government has said that it is fulfilling an election promise. As has been said previously, the Government has already broken 267 election promises, so why would it not break one promise in the interests of providing a commonsense outcome? In any event, so far as the election promise is concerned, the Deputy Leader of the National Party campaigned strongly for non-closure of the mill and for non-conversion of the Bundella and Warung State forests into the Coolah Tops National Park; and he was returned to the Parliament with a record majority. The people in the electorate of Upper Hunter, who are affected by the decision, backed their local member rather than the Government’s position. The Government should not be saying that it has a wonderful endorsement to convert the two State forests to national park, because it has no such thing. In the Minister’s second reading speech he said that the decision to create the Coolah Tops National Park had been endorsed by the RACAC. Technically, that is correct. However, anyone who has talked to those involved in the RACAC will know that not only was the Forest Products Association violently opposed to the decision, but the union and Gavin Hillier were opposed to it.
They don’t control RACAC.
Mr D. L. PAGE:
The Minister knows the truth. State Forests was opposed to the decision. Gerry Gleeson, Chairman of the RACAC, got the other bureaucrats, organised a midnight coup and basically rammed through the proposal, over the objection of the industry, the unions and State Forests. The Government cannot claim that the RACAC has given universal support for the decision; there was violent opposition within the RACAC to the recommendation. Councillors of the RACAC, like the Opposition, regarded the proposal as a litmus test of the Government’s claim that it would provide a balance between conservation and timber industry interests. With the Coolah Tops National Park the Government had an opportunity to get the balance right. A large area could have been preserved as national park and - as the Minister knows - an area that has been logged on a sustained-yield basis since 1916 could have been made available to the timber industry to keep Morrison’s mill going.
The Government chose not to do the responsible thing. I am disappointed that the Government chose to be driven by essentially a political agenda. Evidence on the forestry debate is emerging worldwide. The recent report of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation into the Murwillumbah management area indicated that there is essentially no difference between the number and type of species found in logged and unlogged forests. That finding should send a startling message to many of those involved in the forestry debate in the past 10-15 years. The assumption is that biodiversity is improved by locking up areas, yet the CSIRO study to which I have referred, which cost $400,000, took two years to complete and involved 13 ecologists, came to the interesting conclusion that there is not a great deal of difference in biodiversity between logged and unlogged areas so far as the number and type of animal species is concerned. The report actually went further than that and indicated that there are benefits in having younger forests beside older forests.
I am very concerned that, while new evidence is emerging that forestry is not necessarily bad for biodiversity, the Government is closing its eyes to the opportunity for compromise. That is disappointing for the people of New South Wales, particularly for the people of Coolah. The Minister said that the Government will look after the people of Coolah through the structural adjustment package. Whilst it is better to have some kind of package than no package, the people would be more interested in the continuation of their long-term job prospects than in the provision of limited assistance, which is designed to expire after 12 months, or in some cases after two years. The people would rather have long-term jobs than dislocation and uncertainty. One of the Government’s people, the Hon. Jack Hallam, who is a former Minister with responsibility for forestry, has made interesting comments about the Government’s structural adjustment package. Jack Hallam, a revered Labor Party member, a former leader of the Labor Party in the upper House, a former Minister for Forests in this State, a former Minister for Agriculture, a sort of John Kerin-type hero in the Labor Party, said this on national television about the Government’s forest restructure program:
It’s very poorly administered and it’s not being used effectively. The best example of that is they are retraining people for non-existent jobs.
He had no evidence, did he? Where is his evidence?
Mr D. L. PAGE:
A person of the status that Jack Hallam holds in the Labor Party hardly needs to provide evidence. Surely when he speaks on these matters he would give some thought to what he says, and some credibility could be attached to what he says. Ted Kirkpatrick, who lives in the Tenterfield area and is a former employee at the Drake mill, was given certain undertakings in relation to topping up his allowances so that he
would earn the same income as when he worked at the Drake mill. On that basis he undertook a bank mortgage to buy a house, but it transpired that those involved in allocating money through the Timber and Related Allied Industries New South Wales Group Training Company Limited - TRAIN - for reasons best known to themselves, did not fulfil the undertaking and Ted Kirkpatrick was unable to meet that mortgage commitment. It was not until I became involved and raised this issue in the public forum that the matter was resolved, which is gratifying.
It had nothing to do with you.
Mr D. L. PAGE:
The Minister should speak to Ted Kirkpatrick and have a look at the front page story of the Tenterfield Star
. The Minister probably does not even know where Tenterfield is.
Do you run the Government through the front page of newspapers?
Mr D. L. PAGE:
The Minister did absolutely nothing until he was forced to by my raising this issue in the media, and he knows it. If the Minister does not believe me, he should talk to Ted Kirkpatrick and find out his opinion of the Government’s restructure package.
I had nothing to do with it because I don’t interfere with TRAIN. It runs itself.
Mr D. L. PAGE:
The Opposition knows that the Minister has been involved with TRAIN from the start in that shoddy little deal that occurred at Drake. I know all about it, and the Opposition is coming to get the Minister. The restructure package has a lot of problems; it is by no means running smoothly. There is no doubt that it is better to have a package in place rather than no package, but its administration leaves a lot to be desired. As I said earlier, a former Minister for Forests said that the Government is basically retraining people for non-existent jobs, which will certainly be the case in some instances. The Opposition is concerned about flora reserves in the Warung State Forest, as well as the gradual destruction of the timber industry in New South Wales. The Resource and Conservation Assessment Council is currently looking at a 30 per cent reduction in resource availability, a possible 50 per cent reduction and a possible 70 per cent reduction.
People have been given options, but no socioeconomic impact statement of any quality attaches to those options. If people attend meetings expecting to get quality information about the implications of a 30 per cent, 50 per cent or 70 per cent cut in timber resources in their areas, they will be sorely disappointed. My understanding is that the only socioeconomic information available is a pilot study. It is possible that a more detailed report has been conducted, but it has not been made available. It is grossly unfair not to provide those who attend meetings with qualitative information about socioeconomic impact. If I lived in the relevant areas I would want to know what a 30 per cent reduction in the availability of timber to certain mills will mean. Does it mean that a mill will have to close or that its timber resource will be reduced by 30 per cent, or 50 per cent or 70 per cent? What does it mean?
It is listed there. Go and look at the table.
Mr D. L. PAGE:
The socioeconomic impact has not been made available for each of the 11 areas.
The resource is listed there.
Mr D. L. PAGE:
The resource is listed, but the socioeconomic impact is not. The Government has produced various maps showing the revocation of large areas of State forest, but the Opposition wants to know the impact on communities of that revocation. The Government has asked affected communities to make submissions by 11 July, but they have absolutely no basis on which to make submissions in relation to the socioeconomic impact; nor have they had the opportunity for quality input. The Government will make a Cabinet decision shortly after the receipt of submissions, so the Minister has obviously made up his mind what option he will take. The time between the receipt of submissions and Cabinet making its decision to honour commitments of the Government to wood supply will be so short that the Government will have little opportunity to give meaningful consideration to information provided in the submissions.
The Opposition is particularly concerned about Coolah Tops and the legislation being seen as part of the bigger package. In Committee the Opposition will move amendments to delete reference to the Coolah Tops National Park, notwithstanding the Government’s stance that it is an election commitment. It is the wrong decision from a resource management point of view, it is the wrong decision for the local timber industry, and it is the wrong decision for the management of forestry in New South Wales. Other areas could be protected for conservation purposes. Other areas ought to be made available to the timber industry. Unfortunately the Government has chosen a political option rather than a balanced one, to satisfy a group of people it seems keen to satisfy. An increasing number of people in resource management are concerned about the future management of national parks and wilderness areas.
It is all very well to parade national parks and lock up a number of areas, but we need to consider how to manage them. If they are all locked up and not made available for multipurpose use, appropriate infrastructure and mechanisms will not be in place to prevent major destruction of some high conservation areas. If these areas do not have fire trails, eventually major bushfires will devastate the fauna and flora, and that will have a
significantly negative impact on biodiversity. I beseech the Government to take a more balanced approach on this issue. Coolah Tops is an example of the Government not taking the opportunity to approach this issue in a responsible, balanced way.
(Newcastle) [10.08]: The purpose of the Forests and Flora Reserves Revocation Bill is to revoke the status of certain lands as flora reserve under the Forestry Act 1916 and to revoke the dedication of certain lands as State forest, including part of a national forest, under the Forestry Act 1916. Following the revocation of those areas, they will be reserved in the national parks and wildlife estate as wilderness areas. Prior to the election, the Government gave an unequivocal commitment to the conservation of the national heritage of New South Wales through the policies outlined in Labor’s nature conservation strategy. This commitment to the conservation of New South Wales natural heritage included the declaration of 24 new national parks and six new wilderness areas, as well as additions to nine existing wilderness areas. The revocation of flora reserves and State forests as proposed in this bill is part of the Government’s continued implementation of its pre-election commitment to expand the reserve system by declaring 24 new national parks and protecting additional wilderness areas.
The Government has already demonstrated its commitment to expanding the national parks and wildlife estate by declaring 26 new reserved areas and additions in its first year of office. The Government has also declared nine new wilderness areas and additions. These new areas add significantly to the establishment of a comprehensive, adequate and representative reserve system, which is crucial to conservation of the biodiversity and landscape of New South Wales. The Government has moved quickly, which is important because across New South Wales there is a continuous run-down of our reserve system and of the biodiversity. The time came to act on that when the Government came to power; it did so with a mandate, and the actions that are now being taken are completely within that mandate.
The Government remains committed to adding further areas to the national parks and wildlife estate. This bill is a demonstration of that commitment. The objects of the bill are to revoke the status of certain lands as flora reserve under the Forestry Act 1916, and to revoke the dedication of certain lands as State forest, including part of a national forest, under the Forestry Act 1916. Norfolk Falls, Warung Tops and Jemmys Creek flora reserves are within the part of Warung State Forest proposed to be revoked for inclusion in the Coolah Tops National Park. Coolah Tops National Park is at the western end of the Liverpool Range, about 25 kilometres east of Coolah. Its reservation has been strongly supported for several years by conservation groups. The park is significant for its magnificent forests, including snow gum, manna gum and mountain gum. The forests provide habitat for a wide range of native animals, including wombats and tiger qualls. The high-nutrient forests with old-growth trees have high densities of greater gliders, providing optimum habitat. The park will provide outstanding recreational opportunities, including bushwalking and camping.
The Government has given careful consideration to the boundary of Coolah Tops National Park. In October 1995 the Premier referred the proposal to the Resource and Conservation Assessment Council - RACAC - for consideration. This was to ensure that the proposed national park had the most appropriate boundary in terms of the establishment of a comprehensive, adequate and representative reserve system and the social, economic and environmental interests of New South Wales. A majority of the RACAC members agreed to recommend to the Government that Bundella and part of Warung State forests, excluding leasehold land, be dedicated as Coolah Tops National Park.
Despite the interjections opposite, the RACAC process, which has been outlined by the Minister, has been comprehensive: it has involved all the stakeholders; it has been a consultative process; and it has been an intensive process. Whereas there may not have been 100 per cent agreement by all players, certainly there was agreement by the majority of players. The Government has taken into account all the processes and all the points of view, and has balanced both the conservation interests and the long-term interests of a sustainable timber industry in New South Wales. As the Minister has said, this fulfils an election promise of the Government; it also fulfils the promise of the Government to allow full consultation and to create a representative reserve system across this State. The Minister for Land and Water Conservation, the Hon. Kim Yeadon, has already outlined the significant steps that the Government has taken to address the impact of the declaration of Coolah Tops National Park on the sawmill at Coolah. I add that the National Parks and Wildlife Service is committed to making available employment to any displaced employees to assist in establishing the new national park if the employees wish to pursue this option.
Kerripit Beech flora reserve within Barrington Tops State Forest will be revoked for inclusion in Barrington Tops National Park. This area of 243 hectares will be declared as part of the Barrington wilderness area, which comprises more than 32,000 hectares of Barrington Tops National Park. It has diverse vegetation, including rainforest, tall open forest, woodlands and the southernmost Antarctic beech forests in Australia. It is home to 26 threatened animal species, including the Hastings River mouse, the koala and the New England tree frog. This is a unique piece of country in New South Wales. In fact, it has such diverse flora and fauna species that it could perhaps be designated as
an inland Lord Howe Island. The reserve is very accessible, particularly to the people of the Hunter Valley. These declarations will hold in perpetuity that reserve system for the benefit of both the people of New South Wales and the scientific community. I applaud the Government on this proposal for the Barrington Tops National Park.
Fenwicks Scrub flora reserve - an area of 110 hectares within the Doyles River State Forest - will be revoked for inclusion in the Werrikimbe National Park. I am sure that the honourable member for Oxley will accept that as a great decision by the Government. This World Heritage-listed rainforest will be a significant addition to the rainforest communities in the Werrikimbe National Park, and consideration has been given to the inclusion of this flora reserve in the Werrikimbe wilderness area. However, an unresolved issue concerning a travelling stock route obviates this occurring at this time. The flora reserve remains a valuable addition to the national park and it is intended that it be added to Werrikimbe wilderness area in the future. Once again, this is a unique area of New South Wales, with wonderful diversity of flora and fauna, which is very accessible, particularly to the people of Taree, Port Macquarie, Wauchope and Kempsey. I am sure that the honourable member for Oxley recognises the unique value of that area, as well as the need to have a sustainable timber industry in the area.
An area of 175 hectares of Mebbin State Forest - comprising relatively undisturbed forest on steep terrain - will be revoked for inclusion in the Border Ranges National Park. It will be managed as a remote natural area under the Border Ranges National Park plan of management. Once again, this is further emphasis on the high quality reserves that we have in New South Wales, particularly in coastal areas. I pay tribute to the former Wran Government for its conservation of wilderness areas along the New South Wales coast. The revocation of these State forests and flora reserves for inclusion in the national parks and wildlife estate reiterates the Government’s strong commitment to the establishment of a comprehensive, adequate and representative reserve system and to the protection of wilderness in New South Wales. The addition of these areas of State forest to existing reserved areas, including declared wilderness areas, continues the Government’s expansion of the reserve system that has already seen 26 new reserved areas declared under the National Parks and Wildlife Act and nine new wilderness areas and additions.
The Government recognises that a balance needs to be struck between the conservation needs of the State, national forestry policy approaches, and the determination of the Government to implement a representative reserve system and to ensure a viable, long-term sustainable timber industry in New South Wales based on retaining high value-adding products and improvements in technology. The Government is looking for sustainability and a comprehensive high-quality reserve system for future generations. This bill is part of that process; it is part of the Government’s commitment; and certainly it is part of its election mandate. I have pleasure in supporting the bill.
(Oxley) [10.20]: The Forests and Flora Reserves Revocation Bill is a sleight of hand trick to expand the national park and wilderness areas of the State at the expense of jobs and freedom of access to our natural heritage. The Government talks about looking after the workers in this State, but the Minister for Land and Water Conservation is putting them on the scrap heap. John Laws was right when he said that what the Government is doing to the State is unbelievable. What the Government is doing to timber industry workers and to workers in rural electorates is unbelievable. The Government stands condemned for putting those workers on the scrap heap.
As for the Resource and Conservation Assessment Council process, a meeting will be held at Kempsey on Thursday night; unfortunately I will not be able to attend the meeting but my electoral secretary will be there. The Government gave the people two day’s notice of the meeting: there was an advertisement in the Macleay Argus
yesterday about the meeting on Thursday night. So much for communication and consultation! Kempsey Council did not know anything about the meeting but fortunately it is trying to arrange for a councillor to be there. The Government is devastating our district and rural communities, and the Minister should be ashamed of himself. The honourable member for Ballina referred to compensation, but no assistance will help these men and women to completely overcome the sense of loss at the passing of an era. Also, to many in the industry, logging is all that they know. What else can they do? They have worked in the industry all their lives; they are the descendants of more than a century of pioneering, hard-working people, and it is very difficult for them.
That is why we will keep them in the industry.
The Minister says that the Government will keep them in the industry. What did the Wran Government do to the sandmining industry, which it said it would look after? The Wran Government said that it would provide those workers with jobs in the tourism industry, but it did not create one job. New South Wales has the highest unemployment level in Australia because of the decisions made by previous governments and this Government. The Minister for Land and Water Conservation is the archenemy of workers in this State because he is putting them on the unemployment scrap heap. It is difficult for these hard-working people, particularly those of middle age, to come to terms with learning a new trade and starting again.
The reduction in timber resources is already having an enormous effect on the socioeconomic stability of rural townships. While revocation
planning has been taking place, coupled with delays to the forest assessment process, timber resources have dried up and logging and transport companies have been forced to the wall. What happened to Slater’s Haulage Pty Limited at Wauchope? The Government closed the last mill at Wauchope and got rid of the logging company; a couple of weeks ago 18 employees were given the bullet as a result of what the Government has done to the timber industry. It is a shame, and it is a disaster for the State.
The Minister cannot deny that State environmental planning policy 46 has hit the logging industry by delaying approvals to log on private land. It is interesting that the bill has been presented to the Parliament prior to the series of public consultation sessions to be held by RACAC to brief the community on the interim forestry assessment and draft report. Earlier I referred to a meeting at Kempsey. RACAC was established by the Government to coordinate an interim forestry assessment to identify areas of State forests for logging, and areas to be deferred from logging. The outcomes of the assessment, detailed in the draft interim forestry assessment report, describe identified wilderness areas as deferred from logging. Within the New England identified wilderness area, which went on display last week - it ties in with this legislation - lies part of Nulla-Five Day, Styx River, Lower Creek and Oakes State forests.
Identified wilderness areas have been deferred, although the RACAC process will not conclude until July. The Acting Minister for the Environment said that wilderness areas would be determined by the end of the year. During the RACAC process, participants have been told that wilderness areas will not be determined before the regional forest agreement, which is expected in two years or so. Either the Acting Minister for the Environment and the Government have made hollow promises, or there is a hidden agenda. One wonders whether there is a hidden agenda, given what the Government has been doing. It is vital that peace be brought back to the forests.
The coalition Government did nothing.
The Minister does not know what he is talking about.
The previous Government overlogged by 30 per cent.
Jack boots and all, the Government will not get away with this.
Mr ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Clough):
Order! Members will cease conversing across the Chamber. The member will contain his remarks to the bill being debated.
I am referring to the Minister’s detailed second reading speech. I brought a copy of the speech in case a point of order was raised during my speech. I am sure that all honourable members agree that it is vital to bring peace back to the forests, to free up timber resources and to bring security back to the industry. The bill is premature and the wilderness public consultation process is premature because, as I said - and the Minister referred to this in detail - the RACAC consultation sessions are currently being held to brief the community on the interim forestry assessment and to seek the views of the public on the proposals outlined in the draft report.
As the honourable member for Ballina said, it is time for the full RACAC report to be made public, not hidden behind the scenes. At present I understand that the full details have been made available only to RACAC stakeholders. I suggest that the people of New South Wales are the stakeholders. If they are denied the information in the report, that is tantamount to secrecy. That shows that the Minister has something to hide. I understand that the social impact study, which was done for the RACAC, has not been released because it is a bombshell, and that the economic study has not been released. They are vital components of the interim assessment process but they have not been included in the information given to the public. I have heard that the social impact study is so hard hitting that the consultants were given an additional $5,000 to go back and soften it up.
Is it true that comments on the crime rate were removed from the report? Meetings were held at Kempsey, and comments were reported in the media - everyone is blaming everyone else for the media obtaining the information. People were surprised by the strong comments at the meeting about further unemployment equalling a higher crime rate. The Government wanted to remove from the report any reference to the crime rate. The Federal Government should withhold its contribution of $60 million to the structural amendment package until full information is made available to the public. I do not want to see a cover-up. If public disclosure were a requirement of the Federal Government providing assistance, perhaps we would get part way to the truth of the matter. What is going on in this State with due process?
The Minister also mentioned the five-year, $120 million structural adjustment package. But most of the people affected will leave the industry this year. Is the money being withheld at the moment because too many people are applying and cannot get it? I would like the Minister to answer that question. The assessment process is currently being undertaken by the Resource and Conservation Assessment Council. What is the real story here? Once a forestry reserve or State forest is revoked under the bill it can be turned into a national park. As the honourable member for Newcastle admitted, subsequently it may be added to a wilderness area. That seems to be the case here. What happens then? Access is barred. I spent many happy hours in forestry picnic areas, particularly when my children were youngsters. The picnic areas were
well used by the public and well managed by the Forestry Commission. New South Wales Forests has a wonderful system of fauna reserves. But only the very fit and the young can go into wilderness areas. The old and those with disabilities cannot march many kilometres: they are locked out forever.
A picnic lunch does not equal environmental value.
We cannot pack a lunch now. We cannot take the kids and granny in the car for a Sunday outing into a lovely picnic area. The Minister is denying everyone’s grandmothers and their grandchildren access to lovely picnic areas. He has locked up the areas and locked 99.7 per cent of people out because of his socialist, ecological, harebrained ideas about what he wants to do to this State.
You can be flown in by helicopter and light a bushfire.
Order! The honourable member for Oxley needs no help from the honourable member for Gordon.
Clause 4 of the bill revokes the dedication of State forest at Doyles River, which will be a great loss to the upper Hastings community. The Government’s commitment to expand wilderness areas, protect so-called areas of significant conservation value, and create new national parks will not be supported by rural constituencies once people understand what will happen. All people love wilderness. In Tasmania there are camping lodges in wilderness areas. Cars can be taken into some areas and there are proper walking tracks. In New South Wales the situation is totally different. The system in Queensland is nowhere near as bad as the system in New South Wales.
The people in my area who understand the bush should be listened to. The Government has taken the land by stealth. It has used the public consultation process as a pawn in the political game of acquisition. It wants to lock the people out of public land. The Forestry Act of 1916 provides that revocation of State forests and fauna reserves can be done only by Act of Parliament. This shows how much importance was placed on keeping the Forestry Act intact. The Minister today moved a motion revoking the dedication of certain areas, but the Government has been caught out. It introduced this bill and realised that a mistake had been made, and the motion had to be rushed in today to cover the Government’s backside.
There is a continuing shrinking of forest reserves, which will cause the demise of many rural towns. Industry expenditure on wages, materials and services directly affects regional and State economies. In the hardwood-based industries each dollar of initial log value equates to $12.50 in additional output from the regional economy. So from every dollar there is $12.50 in spin-offs. The Minister should remember that. The industry contributes to decentralisation and has a direct gross output of more than $2 billion - $2,000 million - per annum. In anyone’s language, it is a great industry. The hardwood-based industries in my area on the north coast are wholly dependent on logs from State forests. Hardwood-based industries account for about 60 per cent of employment, 62 per cent of wages and 52 per cent of value-added industries in the main hardwood regions.
However, investment in the hardwood industry has been constrained by uncertain log supplies. This bill will do nothing to strengthen investment confidence. In fact, it is the last straw for some. We have heard about the effect on parts of the Warung State Forest known as Coolah Tops. People will be put out of work there. The honourable member for Newcastle said that this was a wonderful area of forest that will be included in a national park. If it is such a wonderful example after logging has been going on for so long, that proves that State Forests and the loggers have managed the area well. Endangered species are returning to areas that have been logged. Old-growth areas can be enclosed by the canopy, which does not suit some animals. Young forests are vibrant and produce oxygen. Once trees are more than 400 years old they become net producers of carbon dioxide. A fresh, young forest counters the greenhouse effect. [Time expired
(Lismore) [10.35]: In view of what it will do, the Forests and Flora Reserves Revocation Bill would be better titled the further revocation of confidence and continued intimidation of forestry activities bill. I shall refer to what has happened in my part of the world in the Mebbin State Forest. The explanatory note to the bill states:
The objects of this Bill are:
(a) to revoke the status of certain lands as flora reserve under the Forestry Act 1916, and
(b) to revoke the dedication of certain lands as State forest (including part of a national forest) under the Forestry Act 1916.
Once the provisions of the Bill have come into force, the lands affected by the Bill will be available for addition to national parks.
Schedule 2 deals with areas currently dedicated as State forest. Under the heading "Part Mebbin State Forest No. 626 (including part of Mebbin National Forest No. 13)" one would expect to see clear information about what is being dealt with, but these are the words that follow:
All that piece or parcel of land containing about 175 hectares situate in the Tweed Shire Council Area, Parishes of Kunghur and Tyalgum, County of Rous, being part of Mebbin State Forest No. 626, dedicated by proclamation published in the Gazette of 21 December 1917, -
that refers only to an entry in the Government Gazette
stating that 2,400 acres - not hectares, because it was dedicated in 1917 - were to be classed as a State forest -
and parts of No. 1 Extension thereto, dedicated by proclamation published in the Gazette of 30 April 1920 (being also part of Mebbin National Forest No. 13, -
that only states that the forest was increased to 5,460 acres -
notified by proclamation published in the Gazette of 26 April 1940), -
that only states that the forest area has been increased to 9,830 acres -
and being the land so dedicated within the areas delineated by hatching on the diagram catalogued Misc F1233 in the Forestry Commission of New South Wales, subject to any variations or exceptions noted on that diagram.
One would expect the diagram to be on public display and easily seen by anyone interested. After inquiring at various offices eventually, after many phone calls, I finally received the information that I was looking for. I had expected that an area I knew, such as the Mebbin Lagoons Flora Reserve, might have been referred to, but it is not. The Forty Spur Flora Reserve is not included. The Ironbark Grove Forest Reserve is not included. The land referred to is actually a very thin strip of land above the 800-metre contour. It is described more accurately in the following terms:
The area proposed for revocation (175ha) is that part of Mebbin SF which is above the 800 metre contour line and adjoining the National Park. Mebbin SF is a National Forest and as such needs an Act of Parliament to revocate.
After listening to the previous speakers, one would think that a new national park was being created so that the Minister could trumpet to the world that the Government had created another national park. Nothing could be further from the truth. All that has been done is that the title of a strip of land about 100 metres wide along a cliff, which divides the State forest from the national park, has been changed from State forest to national park. That is a simple exercise. If the people concerned had been properly notified and consulted, and if there had been proper advertising, no-one would have had any hassles with it at all. The area is part of the Border Ranges forest area complex that the forestry commission looked after for years. Many people claim that the Forestry Commission destroyed these forests, yet the area is part of the area adjoining Border Ranges National Park that the Forestry Commission has managed for years. After the area had been logged on many occasions, and after the Forestry Commission had managed it for all those years, it was good enough to be turned into a national park, to be declared a world heritage area and to be given a wilderness classification.
I do not want to hear anyone claim that the Forestry Commission did not look after the conservation, scientific and economic values of forest areas. This bill emphasises that the Government and its advisers are a bunch of hypocrites. If the process had been undertaken properly, the people of the north coast would have been only too happy to support the bill. With the exception of those managing the national parks on the north coast, who are doing an excellent job and are good, honest and decent people, I doubt whether anyone in the National Parks and Wildlife Service would know how to do anything properly. I certainly wonder about some of the management staff further to the south, especially those in Sydney, because it is obvious that they know nothing about cooperation, conservation and public relations.
This exercise once again emphasises how badly they manage things. A close analysis reveals that this bill is a sensible exercise, but the process that preceded its introduction is causing problems and difficulties. Why was this done in the middle of the RACAC exercise? There is no good sensible reason, apart from giving the message to decent, honest timber workers, who are being forced out of the industry without a reasonable chance of a decent future, that the Government is doing everything it can to undermine confidence in the timber industry. If the process had been undertaken a little more sensibly, the timber industry may have had a little faith in the process.
It has got plenty of faith in us, mate.
The Minister claims that the timber industry has plenty of faith in the Government. The only reason that those in the timber industry do not tell the Minister exactly how they feel is that the Government is doing its utmost to intimidate the timber industry with legislation like the bill before the House. One mill on the north coast, which I will not name, has been bought off. Workers at that mill will not criticise the Government because they fear losing the compensation offered by the Government. That is a great state of affairs! I know those who work in the timber industry; I deal with them all the time. They put forward two images. One is for the benefit of the Minister, because he has intimidated and blackmailed them and has done everything he can to frighten them out of the industry. But when they have a little confidence in someone they will quietly say what they really think.
The Minister would not be happy about what they are saying. The message I am giving to the Minister is that this change from a State forest to a national park is of little consequence. The Government is changing the administration of the area from a good manager that knows what it is doing to a manager that is yet to prove that it knows what it is doing. Be that as it may, there is no great economic problem with this piece of land in Mebbin Forest, but there are great problems with the process that has been followed. It is about time the Minister started acknowledging what is good for New South Wales, rather than what is good for a group of greenie extremists or for a bunch of bureaucrats who do not know what they are doing. It is about time the Minister started acknowledging what is good scientifically, economically and environmentally for these areas. It is about time he did something about his public relations. If he does that all of New South Wales will benefit.
(Coffs Harbour) [10.47]: I support my colleagues in the debate on the bill. I should like the Minister to tell the House why on earth the responsibility for State forests is to be transferred to the National Parks and Wildlife Service? About two years ago a backbench committee of the former Government was inspecting the forests and flora reserves in my electorate that were under the management of the Forestry Commission. We visited the Norman Jolly reserve which is up the back of the Wild Cattle Creek area. Whilst there we saw one of the rangers from the NPWS showing visitors from Sydney what a great job State Forests was doing in managing the reserve. That reserve is not included in this legislation, but it is somewhat ironic that a ranger from the NPWS, surrounded by hundreds of thousands of hectares of national park in the Dorrigo area, found it necessary to take these people to a State Forests area. I believe, as I am sure he did, that State Forests managed flora reserves better than the NPWS.
As I have said before in the House, the Minister will preside over the destruction of his own ministry. He intends to hand over all these flora reserves - and I would like to know what is on the next list - to the NPWS. The honourable member for Oxley suspects that these areas will initially go to the NPWS and that they will then be designated as wilderness areas. Contrary to what the Minister said, the forest industry in New South Wales, particularly on the north coast, is struggling to survive, and it will eventually end up being run by the NPWS. There will be no timber and no jobs. Forests are a renewable resource. I wonder whether the Minister realises that if the reserves and the resource are taken away from the New South Wales timber industry, the State will have to import timber. The building industry is presently in a slump and the demand for timber is not as great as it could be. Yet the Minister claims the industry is happy. The Minister is heading in the direction of closing the industry and putting people on the north coast out of work and on to the dole queue. The restructure package released by the Minister during the Resource and Conservation Assessment Council process is not sufficient to support the people of the Dorrigo area, or anywhere else for that matter.
Talk to your Federal mates and ask them to give us more money.
The Minister’s answer is that the Federal Government should give his Government more money to back up his policies. If these north coast forests are good enough to be included in national parks they are good enough to continue to be logged, as they have been for more than 100 years. If these forests are good enough to be claimed as wilderness and national parks, they are good enough to be logged on a sustainable basis. That sort of logging has been done for a long time. It should continue, and it will continue if the Minister allows that. Does the Minister know how many people from Dorrigo he will put out of employment?
We are going to create jobs.
The Minister will not create jobs for people in the Dorrigo area. What does he intend they should do? Would he have them do basket weaving? That is all that will be available. This natural resource will be locked up. Timber from these forests is a renewable resource. The Minister should come to Dorrigo, talk to local people and learn what his proposal will do to the timber industry.
I have been to Dorrigo.
The Minister has not been to Dorrigo in his ministerial capacity.
No, not since I became Minister.
Exactly. He is not game to come to Dorrigo now because he knows the reception he will get from local people. I have written to the Minister, inviting him to come to Dorrigo. He will not come and talk to the people who will be put out of work by his proposal. Under the RACAC process production in the local industry will drop from 58,000 cubic metres in 1995 to 10,000 cubic metres under the Minister’s proposal. All the Minister can say is, "Get more money from the Federal Government." The Federal Government gets its money from the same place that the State Government gets its money: from the taxpayers. So apparently the Minister is asking the taxpayers to support an industry that he would destroy - an industry that adds $2 billion to the economy of New South Wales.
The bill is part and parcel of the Minister’s process of destroying an industry that returns substantial revenue to his Government. The Minister will have to find his tax revenue elsewhere. He cannot put these people on the dole queue because we will all pay more than once for that. The bottom line is that the Minister is acting irresponsibly. This bill is part and parcel of his overall plan. What about the people of Coolah? The Minister is destroying an industry there that is keeping people in work and keeping the town alive. He will turn that area with a renewable resource into a national park. Who will go to such a national park? Those without wages cannot afford holidays. Ecotourism is a load of rotten nonsense, and the Minister knows that. But that is the way he is heading. He will destroy his own ministry. That is an absolute disgrace. The Minister stands condemned by the people of New South Wales.
I repeat my invitation to the Minister to come to Dorrigo and talk to the people. He should send members of his RACAC committee to talk to the local people. But they will not go near Dorrigo. As the shadow minister said this morning, the Minister will not release the socioeconomic impact statements, as he is obliged to do. Let the people see what the Minister proposes to do to those communities. There will be no more jobs - the
Minister knows that, I know it, we all know it. The Minister is too gutless to come to Dorrigo and face the people. He should get the process right. This week I wrote to Senator Hill, asking him to conduct a full audit of the Minister’s RACAC process and the way he is handling the forests in this State. The process is flawed, and the Minister knows that. The process has more than a tinge of green; it is totally green. The people of Dorrigo and the north coast generally will not have jobs. Thirteen mills will close because of the Minister’s actions, and the Minister will put timber workers on the dole queue. As I said, this bill is part and parcel of the Minister’s overall plan.
It is about time he faced the Dorrigo people and told them the truth. They know he is lying. As the honourable member for Lismore said, the timber industry has one story that it is keeping to itself and another story to tell the Minister because the Minister has them in fear of what he will do to their industry. The Minister is blackmailing the industry into remaining quiet. He indicates that the resource will go to those who remain quiet, those who have a full union shop. The Minister has not forgotten that he was a shop steward and he wants unions involved in every mill. At the end of the day the union will destroy itself by following the path that the Minister lays down for it. I cannot support this legislation. Under this proposal the bad managers in the National Parks and Wildlife Service will take over from the good managers in State Forests. The revocation of the Coolah Tops land is an absolute disgrace. The Minister knows that this bill will destroy a town. So far as I am concerned, this Parliament cannot and should not support the bill.
(Upper Hunter - Deputy Leader of the National Party) [10.54]: I take the opportunity to contribute to this debate and to focus particularly on the problem that this legislation will create for Coolah and the area known as the Coolah Tops National Park. The Government had an opportunity to reach a compromise: to allow the continuation of relatively minor logging practices that have taken place over the past 60 years in a regrowth area, and to declare a substantial number of hectares as national park in the old-growth high-conservation areas. The operation in that forest involves one cutter and one driver. The other seven employees are located at the mill in town value adding to the raw product. It could hardly be argued, given the size of the forest and the extent of access to the resource, that the operation was not based on a sustainable yield. Therefore, it was in keeping with the highest order of conservation principles.
That compromise would have been acceptable. There would have been an addition to the national park and a continuation of forestry in regrowth areas - I emphasise that this relates to regrowth areas - with a consequent continuation of employment at the mill, with value adding and multiplier effects that this bill will negate. I am not overstating the position when I say that Coolah is devastated by this decision. It is incomprehensible that the Government could be so uncaring and so unwilling to consider a sensible, conservation-based compromise that would result in both sides of the debate being satisfied. To some extent the people of Coolah have been disappointed in the number of members of Parliament, including the Minister and other members of the ministry, and members on the crossbenches in another place, who have all visited Coolah and given the people seemingly false hope. The Minister went to Coolah and gave the people false hope that he was seriously working on a compromise that would provide a sensible solution for conservation of high-conservation areas within national parks and the continuation of logging in regrowth areas.
To a great extent, the people of Coolah trusted the Ministers who visited the area. They took in good faith comments made by the Premier before and after the election and the assurances of other members of Parliament who visited the area that their problems were receiving genuine consideration. It is clear that the entire process, including the committee headed by Gerry Gleeson, was a charade designed only to create an artificial process that would somehow give the Government a basis upon which it could rest a case that the issue had been seriously and properly dealt with. The strong signal being sent to isolated and small communities like Coolah, with a population of 900, and Kandos, another small town with a single mill undertaking low-level forestry activity where the Coricudgy State Forest is now under threat through another nomination, is that this Government intends to wipe out the timber industry for philosophically green reasons. Small operations in small country towns need assistance from the Government and a genuine commitment to regional development, rather than the death blows that are being delivered to towns like Coolah.
I feel the disappointment that the people of Coolah have felt for a long time while this issue has dragged on. I know that many people have put up a tremendous fight. Not the least of those is the Morrison family, its employees and associated contractors. Of course, people other than direct employees have been involved in that fight. The shire council has fought valiantly. I commend the Mayor, Councillor Bruce Rindfleish and other councillors, the general manager of the council, community leaders and the people of nearby communities, including the people from the Merriwa Council, who have lent their support to the township of Coolah in its plight. This is a bad day for the Government. In the end, it will deliver what can only be regarded as a mortal blow to Coolah.
(Granville - Minister for Land and Water Conservation) [11.00], in reply: We heard in debate today a considerable amount of diatribe from Opposition members. This Government has pursued and will continue to pursue a balanced approach to New South Wales forests.
The Government is seeking the revocation of State forests, national forests and flora reserves and their inclusion in national parks - fulfilment of a promise made by the Government to create national parks. I acknowledge the controversial nature of the decision taken in relation to the Coolah Tops area - the main matter raised in debate today by Opposition members. However, the Labor Party promised in the lead-up to the last State election that it would create 24 new national parks. Included in that number was Coolah Tops National Park, which is now being created. Coolah, a relatively isolated town, has adjacent to it a defined area of resources with high conservation values - a factor acknowledged by many who are conducting studies and investigations.
As a result of the controversy surrounding this issue the Government referred the matter to the Resource and Conservation Assessment Council to establish who would be affected. The Government wanted to reassure stakeholders and the general community that all issues relating to the creation of the Coolah Tops National Park had been examined. Opposition members tried to make much of the fact that that process was a sham. Clearly, that is not the case. I acknowledge that all council members did not come to a unanimous decision, but the majority of members affirmed the Government’s original decision concerning the proposed boundaries for Coolah Tops National Park. Opposition members earlier implied that all government agencies, en bloc, reaffirmed that decision. That is not the case. The minutes of the RACAC meeting reflect that State Forests, a government agency, did not support the decision and voted against it, as did other players, including the industry and the union.
Opposition members suggested that the timber industry union and the Government have some sort of cosy deal. However, the decision taken by the RACAC demonstrates that there is no cosy deal. The Labor Party espoused its policies before the last State election. The Government has an agreement with the union on this issue but at times the Government, industry and conservationists disagree on particular matters. On occasions the Government is in agreement with those groups on other issues. It is taking some time to create the Coolah Tops National Park - a complex issue which requires a lot of work by the Government, government agencies and stakeholders. All players do not agree on all things at all times. The decision taken by the RACAC concerning the Coolah Tops National Park reflects a range of views, but ultimately the majority of members on that council endorsed the Government’s decision.
I indicated earlier that this Government is providing and will continue to provide substantial assistance for people in Coolah as it implements its forestry restructuring policy. The Government will continue to work with people in the area to ensure that the maximum possible amount of assistance is provided to them. The Government gets no joy from what is occurring at Coolah. This forestry management and conservation preservation issue, which has dogged New South Wales and Australia for many years, must be resolved. This Government is determined to resolve the issue, which is in stark contrast with what occurred when the former Government was in office. It did nothing. It had no policy and it tried to make out that everything was all right. New South Wales forests were being logged at unsustainable levels. Opposition members do not appear to agree with the statement that I have just made. However, when this Government came to office, New South Wales forests were being logged at unsustainable levels.
All that the former Government did when it was in office was run the big lie. In the period of the former Government the most environmentally important forests that we have - old-growth forests - were being logged at unsustainably high levels. Sawmills in New South Wales were geared to deal only with old-growth logs. There was no provision to enable them to deal with regrowth logs and with value-adding. The former Government kept assuring the industry that everything was all right when it was not. This Government is determined to correct the deplorable situation created by the former Government. The honourable member for Ballina criticised the Government for distributing information relating to the interim assessment process. The coalition when in government in this State had the record of being the most secretive and clandestine government of this country when dealing with forestry issues. The honourable member for Barwon knows damn well that the former Government never provided information to anybody, yet this Government has gone forward and opened the books. I commend the bill to the House.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a second time.
Mr D. L. PAGE
(Ballina) [11.12]: I move Opposition amendment 1:
Pages 3 and 4, Schedule 1, lines 14-36 on page 3 and lines 1-7 on page 4. Omit all words on those lines.
I spoke at some length during the second reading debate of the concerns of the Opposition about this legislation and the creation of the Coolah Tops National Park. The Opposition has moved this amendment to register its complete disapproval of the way in which the Government proposes to revoke these flora reserves to create the national park. The Opposition does not believe it is appropriate in this case to create a national park. The Opposition believes that there was an opportunity to provide a balanced approach which would have met the needs of conservation and the timber industry which would have kept the Coolah mill - the largest employer in the town. The purpose of the amendment is to register our support for that compromised option which I thought the Government would at one stage embrace but subsequently did not.
(Granville - Minister for Land and Water Conservation) [11.13]: The Government gains no joy from the decision made about Coolah but it is necessary in relation to the implementation of its policy. As a result of requests from various quarters we referred the Government’s original decision to the Resources and Conservation Assessment Council for its further consideration to ensure that the Government had done all it could do to create the proposed boundaries for the Coolah Tops National Park. Reference to the RACAC occurred, and the majority of members of the RACAC endorsed the proposed boundaries as put forward by the Government, and that decision was communicated to the Government.
Coolah Tops is a unique small area of forest in a fairly isolated area. Therefore the impact of creating the park will be the closure of the only sawmill in that area for some considerable distance. On the other side of the coin, the Government has given assurances that assistance will be provided under its structural adjustment package. That structural adjustment package is made up of funds from the environmental trusts in New South Wales and also $60 million from the Federal Government. That assistance has been endorsed and supported by the Federal Government. It is an irony that Opposition members have no support for this policy, despite the fact that they created the problem and did nothing when they were in office. Certainly their Federal colleagues have the wherewithal to realise that the policy that this Government is putting in place is appropriate, and they are supporting that policy with $60 million. Opposition members need to resolve their contradiction with their Federal colleagues. This Government will continue to provide assistance to the people at Coolah.
Question - That the amendment be agreed to - put.
The Committee divided.
Mr Armstrong Mr O’Farrell
Mr Beck Mr D. L. Page
Mr Blackmore Mr Peacocke
Mr Brogden Mr Phillips
Mr Chappell Mr Photios
Mrs Chikarovski Mr Richardson
Mr Cochran Mr Rixon
Mr Collins Mr Rozzoli
Mr Cruickshank Mr Schipp
Mr Debnam Mr Schultz
Mr Ellis Ms Seaton
Ms Ficarra Mrs Skinner
Mr Fraser Mr Slack-Smith
Mr Glachan Mr Small
Mr Hartcher Mr Smith
Mr Hazzard Mr Souris
Mr Humpherson Mr Tink
Dr Kernohan Mr J. H. Turner
Mr Kinross Mr R. W. Turner
Mr MacCarthy Mr Windsor
Ms Machin Tellers
Mr Merton Mr Jeffery
Mr O’Doherty Mr Kerr
Ms Allan Mr Markham
Mr Amery Mr Martin
Mr Anderson Ms Meagher
Ms Andrews Mr Mills
Mr Aquilina Ms Moore
Mrs Beamer Mr Moss
Mr Carr Mr Murray
Mr Clough Mr Nagle
Mr Crittenden Mr Neilly
Mr Debus Ms Nori
Mr Face Mr E. T. Page
Mr Gaudry Mr Price
Mr Gibson Dr Refshauge
Ms Hall Mr Rumble
Mr Harrison Mr Scully
Ms Harrison Mr Shedden
Mr Hunter Mr Stewart
Mr Iemma Mr Sullivan
Mr Knight Mr Tripodi
Mr Knowles Mr Watkins
Mr Langton Mr Whelan
Mrs Lo Po’ Mr Woods
Mr Lynch Mr Yeadon
Mr McBride Tellers
Dr Macdonald Mr Beckroge
Mr McManus Mr Thompson
Mr Downy Mrs Grusovin
Question so resolved in the negative.
Schedule agreed to.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Mr Rogan):
I draw the attention of members to the presence in the Speaker’s gallery of Ms Emily Lau of the Legislative Council, New Territories East, Hong Kong.
FORESTS AND FLORA RESERVES REVOCATION BILL
Mr D. L. PAGE
(Ballina) [11.24]: I move:
Pages 6 and 7, Schedule 2, lines 6-37 on page 6 and lines 1-5 on page 7. Omit all words on those lines.
The Opposition is moving this amendment to provide protection for the people of Coolah. The effect of the amendment is to take out of the proposed flora reserves those areas that would not be incorporated into the Coolah Tops National Park.
The Opposition believes that the Government had an ideal opportunity at Coolah Tops to create a balance between the genuine needs of conservation and those of the timber industry but it chose not to do that. It chose to declare the Warung and Bundella State forests a national park. This will result in the closure of the timber mill at Coolah and the loss of a significant number of jobs. The Opposition does not approve of that policy for Coolah or for New South Wales. The Minister has said that there will be compensation, but last week Jack Hallam, a former Minister for Forests, said this about the compensation package:
It is very poorly administered and it is not being used effectively. The best example of that is that they are retraining people for non-existent jobs.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Mr Rogan):
Order! Honourable members will cease conversing while the honourable member for Ballina has the call.
Mr D. L. PAGE:
The purpose of this amendment is to provide employment in Coolah for the people employed currently at the Morrison mill. The people of Coolah will neither forgive nor forget the Labor Government for taking away their mill and their jobs. The Government had an opportunity to compromise but it has gone down the extreme road. It has not done the right thing by the people of Coolah.
(Granville - Minister for Land and Water Conservation) [11.27]: The honourable member for Ballina has far more passion when he has an audience.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN:
Order! If members insist on speaking while a member has the call I will name them.
These issues were canvassed in debate on the previous amendment. Environmental values at Coolah must be and will be protected with the creation of a national park. The Government will fulfil its promise to create a national park in that area. The proposed boundaries were examined by the Resource and Conservation Assessment Council and a majority of members approved the Government’s decision for the creation of the Coolah Tops National Park.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN:
Order! I call the honourable member for Upper Hunter to order.
The assistance package is available for the people of Coolah as well as consultation through forestry liaison.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN:
Order! I call the honourable member for Monaro to order.
The honourable member for Ballina spoke about Jack Hallam, a former Minister for forests. He brought forward no evidence in relation to his accusations. It was 10 years ago that Jack Hallam was a Minister and his use-by date has a 10-year out-of-date stamp.
Question - That the amendment be agreed to - put.
The Committee divided.
Mr Armstrong Mr O’Farrell
Mr Beck Mr D. L. Page
Mr Blackmore Mr Peacocke
Mr Brogden Mr Phillips
Mr Chappell Mr Photios
Mrs Chikarovski Mr Richardson
Mr Cochran Mr Rixon
Mr Collins Mr Rozzoli
Mr Cruickshank Mr Schipp
Mr Debnam Mr Schultz
Mr Ellis Ms Seaton
Ms Ficarra Mrs Skinner
Mr Fraser Mr Slack-Smith
Mr Glachan Mr Small
Mr Hartcher Mr Smith
Mr Hazzard Mr Souris
Mr Humpherson Mr Tink
Dr Kernohan Mr J. H. Turner
Mr Kinross Mr R. W. Turner
Mr MacCarthy Mr Windsor
Ms Machin Tellers
Mr Merton Mr Jeffery
Mr O’Doherty Mr Kerr
Ms Allan Mr Markham
Mr Amery Mr Martin
Mr Anderson Ms Meagher
Ms Andrews Mr Mills
Mr Aquilina Ms Moore
Mrs Beamer Mr Moss
Mr Carr Mr Murray
Mr Clough Mr Nagle
Mr Crittenden Mr Neilly
Mr Debus Ms Nori
Mr Face Mr E. T. Page
Mr Gaudry Mr Price
Mr Gibson Dr Refshauge
Ms Hall Mr Rumble
Mr Harrison Mr Scully
Ms Harrison Mr Shedden
Mr Hunter Mr Stewart
Mr Iemma Mr Sullivan
Mr Knight Mr Tripodi
Mr Knowles Mr Watkins
Mr Langton Mr Whelan
Mrs Lo Po’ Mr Woods
Mr Lynch Mr Yeadon
Mr McBride Tellers
Dr Macdonald Mr Beckroge
Mr McManus Mr Thompson
Mr Downy Mrs Grusovin
Question so resolved in the negative.
Schedule agreed to.
Bill reported from Committee without amendment and passed through remaining stages.
NATIONAL PARKS AND WILDLIFE AMENDMENT (ABERCROMBIE, JENOLAN AND WOMBEYAN KARST CONSERVATION RESERVES) BILL
Bill introduced and read a first time.
(Blue Mountains - Minister for Corrective Services, Minister for Emergency Services, and Minister Assisting the Minister for the Arts) [11.37]: I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
Perhaps it is appropriate that I move the second reading of this bill as the Jenolan Caves are within my electorate. The purpose of this bill is to reserve Jenolan Caves, Wombeyan Caves and Abercrombie Caves as karst conservation reserves under the National Parks and Wildlife Act. The Jenolan Caves Reserve Trust, which reports to the Minister for the Environment, will have the direct care, control and management of those reserves. The reserves will comprise the same land as currently reserved under the Crown Lands Act and managed by the Jenolan Caves Reserve Trust. They will be called the Jenolan Karst Conservation Reserve, Wombeyan Karst Conservation Reserve and Abercrombie Karst Conservation Reserve.
The bill honours the Government’s pre-election commitment of Labor’s nature conservation strategy to pass a karst conservation Act to protect cave sites such as Jenolan Caves and Wombeyan Caves under the control of the Minister for the Environment. Following the March 1995 election the Minister for the Environment expanded on that commitment by indicating that the intention of the proposed legislation was to establish a system of karst conservation areas - Jenolan, Wombeyan and Abercrombie caves will be the first areas protected under the new legislation; to afford karst conservation areas the same statutory protection as national parks, with the additional statutory objectives of karst conservation and conservation of cultural resources; and to establish the caves trust as the statutory authority responsible for the management of karst conservation areas directly responsible to the Minister for the Environment.
The result of this bill will be to enhance karst conservation in this State and to give additional powers and responsibility to the existing Jenolan Caves Reserve Trust. This trust, which is established under the Crown Lands Act, will be reconstituted under the National Parks and Wildlife Act, with a slightly modified membership. This trust is internationally renowned for its best-practice management of Jenolan, Wombeyan and Abercrombie caves. The caves, particularly Jenolan, are popular destinations for tourists, nature lovers and speleologists. Enactment of this bill will be of great benefit to those user groups. It will ensure the continuation of the provision by the trust of the highest standard of public facilities at these cave systems and enhance the conservation of the important natural and cultural heritage values of the caves.
The object of this bill is to amend the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 so as to dedicate certain lands as the Abercrombie, Jenolan and Wombeyan karst conservation reserves and to establish the Jenolan Caves Reserve Trust to have the care, control and management of the lands so dedicated. Karst is the characteristic landform of limestone regions. Karst is formed only in rock which is easily soluble in water, that is, limestone or dolomite. Karst areas in New South Wales are mostly limestone, and Australia is sparsely endowed with caves and karst features. Karst processes produce a large variety of forms including caves, gorges, sinkholes, springs and depositional features such as stalagmites and stalactites within caves. There are approximately 500 outcrops of limestone and marble in New South Wales. Of these, around 100 contain caves and other karst features. Because of their size, variety of formation and the diversity of animal life they contain - including, in some cases, threatened species - karst caves are popular with adventure recreationists and tourists, and have enormous value to science and education. These areas also have historic heritage values and may possess significant spiritual or other cultural values to Aboriginal people.
Responsibility for the care, control and management of karst areas in New South Wales is varied. Some are within the national parks and wildlife estate, others are managed by reserve trusts under the Crown Lands Act, others are on land controlled by other government agencies and others are on private land. Many karst areas face threatening processes such as land clearing, water pollution, vandalism and theft of karst features. The current Jenolan Caves Reserve Trust is a reserve trust under the Crown Lands Act and manages lands at Jenolan, Wombeyan and Abercrombie caves as dedicated under the Crown Lands Act. These cave systems and associated reserves contain important geological features, have outstanding scenic beauty and have become important tourist attractions. Jenolan Caves has by far the most popular show caves in New South Wales, receiving over 250,000 visits each year. Many caves within these cave systems are not open to the general public, and these areas have a significant level of flora and fauna communities and conserve rare and endangered plant and animal species and important cave systems.
The trust is currently responsible to the Minister administering the Crown Lands Act, the Minister for Land and Water Conservation, the
Hon. Kim Yeadon. It has a membership of seven, being representatives of the National Parks and Wildlife Service, the Department of Land and Water Conservation, the New South Wales Tourism Commission, the National Trust, the Australian Speleological Federation, the Oberon Council, and a ministerial appointee. The trust has established a scientific advisory committee consisting of leading karst academics and has appointed staff for the day-to-day management of its lands. It has the power to lease lands and has done so, for example, with Jenolan Caves House. The trust is financially independent, funding its activities from entrance fees to Jenolan Caves, although it can seek support from the Government through the Public Reserves Management Fund. The trust is recognised nationally and internationally as an outstanding manager of these lands.
In 1991, the National Parks and Wildlife Act was amended to enable the declaration of karst conservation reserves under the care, control and management of the Director-General of National Parks and Wildlife. This legislation was introduced by the former Minister for the Environment, the Hon. Tim Moore, and was supported by the current Government, then in opposition, on the proviso that the new category of karst conservation reserve would not be used as a substitute for reservation of an area as a national park or nature reserve, karst conservation preservation and conservation of natural environments and natural phenomena, the study of natural environments and natural phenomena, the promotion of the appreciation and enjoyment of natural environments and natural phenomena, and the care, propagation, preservation and conservation of wildlife.
Karst conservation reserves have a similar conservation status to national parks. Karst conservation reserves can also be declared wholly or partly over subterranean lands - the surface land need not be reserved. Under the 1991 amendments karst conservation reserves are to be under the care, control and management responsibility of the Director-General of National Parks and Wildlife. As yet no karst areas have been dedicated as karst conservation reserves under these provisions, although about 30 karst areas are within the national parks and wildlife estate, including Yarrangobilly Caves in Kosciusko National Park and Bungonia Caves in Bungonia State Recreation Area. There are several reasons why it is appropriate that the lands already managed by the existing Jenolan Caves Reserve Trust be declared as karst conservation reserves and continue to be managed by the trust rather than by the National Parks and Wildlife Service.
The Government recognises the need to change existing arrangements to reflect its strong conservation platform. Under present arrangements, the Crown Lands Act and its regulations do not provide a level of protection for the caves systems concomitant with the conservation status of the caves. Protection of important karst processes and cave fauna can be assured by reservation under the National Parks and Wildlife Act. The legislation will give greater emphasis to the conservation focus of the trust and enhance its reputation as a conservation manager. Karst conservation generally will be accorded greater recognition with the declaration of these high profile cave systems as karst conservation reserves. The Australian Speleological Federation, the New South Wales Speleological Council and the Sydney University Speleological Society have made representations to the Minister for the Environment, the Hon. Pam Allan, seeking confirmation that the independence of the Jenolan Caves Reserve Trust would continue and that the trust would be a statutory authority responsible directly to the Minister for the Environment.
In March this year a representative of the Australian Speleological Federation, Mr Keir Vaughan-Taylor, wrote to the Minister for the Environment requesting that in the Government’s karst conservation legislation specific provisions be included which would enable the Jenolan Caves Reserve Trust to remain independent and to continue its program of reform, particularly at Jenolan Caves. The bill will ensure the independence of the Jenolan Caves Reserve Trust and enable it to continue its effective planning and management programs. It will also increase the ability of the trust to manage use of the karst conservation areas for which it is responsible. Given the importance of show caves to tourists, in particular Jenolan Caves and, to a lesser extent, Wombeyan Caves, and the highly and well-recognised successful management of them by the existing Jenolan Caves Reserve Trust, it is appropriate that the trust, with a slightly modified membership, continue to manage these areas rather than the Director-General of National Parks and Wildlife. This will allow the trust to progress its plans for the future management and protection of the caves.
The Jenolan Caves Reserve Trust will, in effect, be reconstituted under the National Parks and WiIdlife Act as the Jenolan Caves Reserve Trust. Its advisory committees, such as the reference panel and the scientific advisory committee, will continue, as will its leases. Existing contracts, debts and liabilities will be transferred to the new Jenolan Caves Reserve Trust. The trust will continue to be able to apply for funding under the Public Reserves Management Fund to assist it with major capital works. Staff will continue to be employed by the independent trust. Under this bill, the trust will report direct to the Minister for the Environment. Plans of management for the karst conservation reserves will be prepared for the endorsement of the Minister for the Environment. The trust will first have to refer any plans of management to the National Parks and Wildlife Advisory Council for its consideration and advice to the Minister for the Environment. The bill removes any role for the Director-General of National Parks and Wildlife.
The bill contains provisions relating to the membership and procedure of the Jenolan Caves Reserve Trust. These provisions are separate from the existing provisions in schedule 9A to the National Parks and Wildlife Act which relate to the operation of trusts appointed by the Minister for the Environment for the care, control and management of State recreation areas and regional parks. The main distinction is that, whereas a trust appointed by the Minister under existing provisions is accountable to the Director-General of National Parks and Wildlife, the Jenolan Caves Reserve Trust will be accountable to the Minister for the Environment only. The Jenolan Caves Reserve Trust will be appointed by the Minister for the Environment, who will also appoint a chairperson and deputy chairperson from among the members. Members will be appointed for a period not exceeding five years and may receive remuneration as determined by the Minister.
The quorum for a meeting of the trust board is a majority of members and a decision supported by a majority of members at a meeting at which a quorum is present is a decision of the trust. Membership of the Jenolan Caves Trust will be as follows: a person selected by the Minister for the Environment, having expertise in karst conservation and management or in nature conservation, with particular expertise in the conservation of cave dwelling fauna; an Aboriginal person nominated by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs; a person nominated by the Director-General of National Parks and Wildlife; a person nominated by the General Manager of Tourism New South Wales; a person, who has expertise in environmental planning, nominated by the Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning; a person nominated by the Minister for Local Government; a person nominated by the Australian Speleological Federation; a person nominated by the National Trust of Australia (New South Wales); and a person nominated by the Nature Conservation Council.
This wider membership is appropriate to reflect the management needs of the reserves and their new conservation status under the National Parks and Wildlife Act. It will ensure that the interests of caving enthusiasts are protected and the management of the reserves for tourism is effective, and it will also provide for the protection of natural and cultural heritage values. Speleologists throughout Australia have been vigilant in expressing their desire to have important karst areas receive appropriate recognition through stronger legislative protection. Reservation under the National Parks and Wildlife Act will achieve this particularly by giving Jenolan, Wombeyan and Abercrombie caves virtually the same status as national parks and nature reserves. It will enable protection of significant karst sites while permitting access to certain areas for scientific research, public education and recreation. These caves are regarded by many as a national icon and therefore warrant reservation and protection under the National Parks and Wildlife Act.
Use of the National Parks and Wildlife Act will avoid the duplication of a totally separate organisation similar to the National Parks and Wildlife Service by retaining with the Director-General of National Parks and Wildlife responsibility for larger conservation issues such as threatened species conservation and conservation of Aboriginal heritage. This is appropriate and treats the Jenolan Caves Reserve Trust in the same way as other statutory land managers. Reservation of the Jenolan, Wombeyan and Abercrombie caves as karst conservation reserves under the National Parks and Wildlife Act will enable the highest level of protection for the natural and cultural values of those areas. The Jenolan Caves future development study, which is soon to be released, demonstrates the trust’s vision in recognising the pressures that the area faces by considering a range of options which provide for safe access, enjoyable and rewarding visits and, most importantly, protection of the caves and associated reserves. With more than 300,000 visitors each year to the area for which it is responsible, it is essential that the Jenolan Caves Reserve Trust continue its excellent work in managing and promoting the areas for which it is currently responsible.
I have been assured by the trust that a great deal of community consultation has already taken place in the preparation of the study of the future of Jenolan Caves with more than 20 organisations being represented on a reference panel. Membership of the panel includes representatives of the Aboriginal community, the Australian Speleological Federation, the Jenolan Caves Historic Preservation Society, the Jenolan Caves Environment Protection Committee, Oberon Council, the New South Wales Bus and Coach Association, the Australian Heritage Commission, the Department of Urban Affairs and Planning, the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Tourism Commission of New South Wales. I assure the House that the excellent work of the Jenolan Caves Reserve Trust will continue and has the full support of this Government.
I now come to the details of the bill. Clause 1 sets out the name or short title of the proposed Act. Clause 2 provides for the proposed Act to commence on a day or days to be appointed by proclamation. Clause 3 is a formal provision giving effect to the amendments to the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 set out in schedule 1. Clause 4 is a formal provision that gives effect to the amendment to the Public Reserves Management Fund Act 1987 set out in schedule 2. Practical recognition of the importance of karst conservation in this State is overdue. The reservation of these important areas as the first karst conservation reserves declared under the National Parks and Wildlife Act addresses this oversight. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate adjourned on motion by Mr Rozzoli.
LIQUOR AND REGISTERED CLUBS LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (ENFORCEMENT) BILL
Suspension of standing orders agreed to.
Debate resumed from 19 June.
(Barwon) [11.56]: The Opposition supports the Liquor and Registered Clubs Legislation Amendment (Enforcement) Bill 1996. Since the Stone Age, all cultures and races throughout the world have consumed liquor in one form or another. In Australia, it is no different. In New South Wales, country towns were founded in low-lying areas where there was a permanent water supply. History shows that the first prominent building constructed in most towns, including those in New South Wales, was the wine shanty or grog shop. A wine shanty located at Cuttabri, near Pilliga Scrub in my electorate of Barwon, still has a licence to sell wine. It used to be a Cobb and Co horse-change station on the way from Coonabarabran to Moree. Mr Harry Hall, who ran the wine shanty, passed away a few years ago; the Dowd family now runs the Cuttabri wine shanty. I must add that Cuttabri also had a good cricket team a few years ago. Most industries have rogues, thieves and undesirable characters. The liquor industry, including clubs and hotels, is no exception. I must add that 99.9 per cent of the people involved in the liquor industry are decent, honest and hard working.
This bill has its genesis in the facts brought to light by the royal commission, especially in regard to Kings Cross. The bill has two main objectives. The first is to get the rogues, thieves and undesirable characters out of registered clubs in New South Wales and to keep them out. To date the courts have been unable to get them out and keep them out, because the penalties provided have been too light and the courts have not had sufficient power to enforce the law. The second objective of the proposed legislation is to increase penalties. For example, the penalty of a fine of $1,000 will be increased to $5,000. The fine payable for an aggravated offence under the Liquor Act by a corporation has been increased to $100,000, and that payable by an individual to $40,000. The unhappy story of Anna Wood may have been different had the Act been amended earlier. The fine for aggravated drug-related offences under the Registered Clubs Act will be $0.5 million. The Opposition welcomes that provision. The bill will make our community safer and will make it more difficult for crooks, thieves and undesirable characters to become involved in clubs. It will also help to protect the 99.9 per cent of decent, honest, hard-working people involved in the liquor industry. The Opposition totally supports this bill.
(Charlestown - Minister for Gaming and Racing, and Minister Assisting the Premier on Hunter Development) [12.02], in reply: I thank the honourable member for Barwon for his contribution to the debate on the Liquor and Registered Clubs Legislation Amendment (Enforcement) Bill 1996 and for his support. This is landmark legislation. I believe it will be adopted by other States and Territories of Australia as they come to realise that they have similar problems to those highlighted in the Police royal commission. Victoria has had similar problems to ours in its nightclubs and I would imagine parts of this legislation will be included in legislation by other Parliaments.
The amendments are important as they will facilitate the effective enforcement of the Liquor Act and the Registered Clubs Act. I take on board what the honourable member for Barwon said about the tragic events of the Anna Wood case. This legislation is pitched at preventing a repeat of that situation, in the sense that the Director of Liquor and Gaming and I will not be powerless, as we have been previously. As the Anna Wood matter is currently before the courts I shall say only that no reasonable person could fail to be shocked by the revelations before the Coroner. I saw Anna Wood’s parents on television last night; their concerns about the dangers of the drug ecstasy have been vindicated. This bill reflects the concerns of Parliament. It provides for the imposition of a $0.5 million fine on a club or other licensed premises that commits an aggravated offence.
Other honourable members have been as shocked as I have been at some of the disclosures made at the police royal commission. Those disclosures are supported by evidence obtained in investigations made by the Director of Liquor and Gaming and his staff in relation to premises in the Kings Cross area. I put on public record my thanks to the Director of Liquor and Gaming and to his staff who were involved in the covert operations of the inquiry which occurred over several months at Kings Cross and in adjacent areas. They put themselves at personal risk during those covert operations and performed their task in an exemplary fashion. The investigations were conducted without police assistance, as that was denied to us at the time. The Director-General of the Department of Gaming and Racing and my ministry made a decision to go ahead despite the lack of support from the Police Service.
A few weeks ago I suggested that what had been happening in the Kings Cross area was twice as bad as anyone might think it was. The activities in that region are now a matter of history. I thank my departmental officers for their assistance during the drafting of this legislation, which has not been easy. A minority of people in the industry are still concerned about aspects of it. They would not be happy no matter what we did. There has been a consultative process. My departmental officers prepared one draft bill, consulted, made amendments to it, and then brought forward another draft. That consultative process occurring over a period of over six months and two drafts could hardly be an indication of a non-consultative Government and department.
It is essential that the people of New South Wales be satisfied that all steps are being taken to ensure the integrity of those involved in licensed premises and registered clubs. The Liquor Act and the Registered Clubs Act at present make it far too easy for persons of ill repute to become involved in the conduct of licensed premises; the scales are balanced in their favour and not in favour of the decent men and women of this State. The amendments are essential to ensure that the public interest of our community is well protected. I commend the bill to the House.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a second time and passed through remaining stages.
FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS (NEW SOUTH WALES) AMENDMENT BILL
Debate resumed from 13 June.
(Miranda - Deputy Leader of the Opposition) [12.09]: I support the Financial Institutions (New South Wales) Amendment Bill. This is a fairly minor amending bill but it will have a positive impact on the dealings of credit unions in this State in that it continues the process of bringing credit unions within the broader spectrum of competition in the finance market, enabling them to compete with other financial institutions, such as banks. That process has continued over a period of time. As has been said in previous debates, as high technology changes the ways in which banks deliver their services and some banks move out of country areas, in particular, credit unions may have an opportunity to home in on particular market needs of country people and people in some areas of Sydney by providing services to fill the niche market, as distinct from the services that larger banking institutions may offer.
In recent times there has been an exodus of banks from country towns. That has caused some difficulty for people of those towns, the way that business is conducted, and in some instances the viability of the town itself. The rate of change is quite dramatic, and people must be able to cope with those changes. When credit unions are given more opportunity to become involved in those marketplaces they will provide a greater range of services in competition with the banks. One of the benefits of that competition will be that credit unions will have an opportunity to carve out niche markets by offering services that satisfy the various needs of individuals, rather than have large banking institutions offering one type of services and telling people they can either like it or lump it.
The broader the competition, the better the services provided to the people of New South Wales. An important part of ensuring competition is making sure that people have security and certainty about what is happening with their funds. The changes to credit unions that have occurred over some time have been positive efforts to ensure that credit unions offer a secure means of investment and provide services. The amendments before the House will permit retained earnings in the Credit Unions Contingency Fund to be treated as contributions made by credit unions to that fund. This means, basically, that amounts credited to the fund, other than actual contributions made by credit unions, will be credited to various credit union accounts. Those funds may be treated as an asset backing of the credit union, thereby offering stronger security to assist credit unions to compete with other financial institutions.
The second part of the bill dispenses with the right of appeal to the Queensland Supreme Court, having regard to a decision of the Australian Financial Institutions Appeals Tribunal. When tighter credit union legislation was introduced some years ago an anomaly occurred because this State adopted the Queensland regulation. The thinking was that there was no need to reinvent the wheel when there was good legislation to fall back on. Queensland had that legislation, but it provided for appeals to the Queensland Supreme Court. The amendment before the House will delete that appeal provision and provide for appeals to be made to the New South Wales Supreme Court.
These amendments do not impact on appeals to the New South Wales Supreme Court. New South Wales credit unions are the only non-bank financial institutions in Australia to have such strongly based contingency funds for emergencies. The introduction of the financial institutions scheme by all State governments in 1992, based on the Queensland example, resulted in a much higher level of prudential safety and security for credit unions. Credit unions no longer require the high level of contingency funds which actually reduce their competitive capacity. Quite clearly, if credit unions have to put aside large amounts of money for security, they will have less money to compete in the marketplace. If credit unions have to have larger sums in reserve than their banking competitors, credit unions will be at a severe disadvantage. This amendment will make credit unions more competitive with banks and other financial institutions.
These funds will be distributed on an equitable basis. That important factor has been supported by the Credit Union Services Corporation of Australia. The outcome of the Commonwealth Government’s daughter of Campbell report, as it is being called, may be the amalgamation of bank and non-bank regulators. That is in keeping with the move to downsize contingency funds. The proposed downsizing will result in no loss to government revenues. That is an important fact. Otherwise, Treasury would not have recommended putting this measure forward. I have never known Treasury to recommend anything that would result in a loss of government revenues. So I take that as read. This legislation is advocated and strongly supported by
the Credit Union Services Corporation of Australia Limited. The Opposition supports the amendments to the legislation and the Government’s progress with reforms to financial institutions to provide better services through competition for the people of New South Wales.
(Campbelltown - Minister for the Olympics, and Minister for Roads) [12.16], in reply: The last two weeks have been a little surreal. I keep bringing in bills on behalf of the Treasurer, and the shadow treasurer keeps praising them and voting for them. Some of our colleagues would say, "Ron, we’ve got to stop meeting like this." I am happy to have the Opposition’s continuing support on these measures. I commend the bill to the House.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a second time and passed through remaining stages.
APPROPRIATION (PARLIAMENT) BILL
APPROPRIATION (SPECIAL OFFICES) BILL
APPROPRIATION (1995-96 DEBT RETIREMENT) BILL
MOTOR VEHICLES TAXATION AMENDMENT BILL
BUSINESS FRANCHISE LICENCES (PETROLEUM PRODUCTS) AMENDMENT BILL
ROAD IMPROVEMENT (SPECIAL FUNDING) AMENDMENT BILL
Debate resumed from an earlier hour.
(Auburn) [12.18]: I am very pleased to speak in this debate, the ninth budget debate that I have been involved in since I was elected a member of Parliament. This is one of the most exciting budgets to come before this House in all that time. I note the opening words of the Treasurer when he came into this Chamber to read his Budget Speech. I intend to quote the significant opening sentence to honourable members and those in the public gallery, some of them from Bankstown:
For the first time in eight years, New South Wales will pay its way.
And we will pay our way without any tax increases, in fact there will be a small though very significant, tax reduction.
And we will pay our way while still meeting our commitments to better health care, better schools and safer roads.
Like the first Budget of the Carr Government, this is every inch a Labor Budget.
Indeed, until recently one would have said that that was so - until it was discovered at a meeting in Canberra that $900 million was to be ripped from the people of New South Wales over three years. As usual, the aim of the Howard tax was directed at the middle- and low-income families in New South Wales. The budget has been widely accepted by the community. I wish to refer to a number of statements made by trendsetters in the budget area. The New South Wales Labor Council, which welcomed the budget, said that it "satisfies Labor’s traditional social priorities and demonstrates to the Howard and Kennett governments how reform can be achieved without mass privatisation or mass sackings". The State Chamber of Commerce described the initiative in the budget relating to scrapping the tax payable on loan refinancing as "a major victory for small business".
RAMS Home Loans said that the budget was "a boon to home buyers". The St George Bank said that the budget was "a real win for home loan borrowers". The National Australia Bank is reported as saying that the budget would "boost home loan and business lending", which has been evidenced by the current downtrend in interest rates in New South Wales and Australia. Even Prime Minister John Howard said last week to the New South Wales Treasurer when he was in Canberra that the tax that this Government had eliminated was pushing home loan interests down. All honourable members are aware of the Howard-Costello $900 million tax slug on New South Wales. On 18 June the Treasurer, in a press release, referred to what this Government has had to do to recoup that money. He said:
Mr Howard gave the NSW Government two stark choices - raise taxes or cut services. We will not go back on our commitments to put more computers in classrooms, to employ more teachers, to cut waiting times for surgery, to put more police on the beat and to protect kids from abuse and neglect.
The key elements of the HAC tax slug:
•a 0.5 per cent increase in the stamp duty on the purchase of a motor vehicle . . .
•payroll tax base will be expanded to include employer superannuation contributions . . .
•a minor increase in land tax from 1.5 per cent to 1.65 per cent on unimproved land with a value of more than $160,000 . . .
(This does not apply to the residential home and farm land is exempt.)
The Government has had to implement those measures to retrieve what the people of New South Wales lost as a result of the Howard-Costello tax slug.
The Hon. John Howard.
The honourable member made an interesting interjection. I have heard Opposition members refer to former Prime Minister Keating as Keating and other vile names. Opposition members have not used glowing terms to describe former Prime Ministers. People in glasshouses should not throw stones. A booklet entitled "Social Justice Budget Statement", which referred to the aims of the Labor Government in regard to the 1996-97 budget, stated:
The social justice strategy is based on the application of four social justice principles determined by the Cabinet Committee:
Equity: there should be fairness in the distribution of resources, particularly for those most in need;
Rights: equality of rights should be established and promoted, and there should be improved accountability for decision makers;
Access: all people should have fairer access to the economic resources, services and rights essential to improving their quality of life;
Participation: all people should have the fullest possible opportunity to genuinely participate in the community and be consulted on decisions which affect their lives.
The document referred also to social justice initiatives and health priorities for 1996-97. An amount of $5.616 billion is being spent on health. Approximately $42 million is to be spent on major capital health projects to commence in 1996-97. The document referred also to rural and community health, Aboriginal health and mental health and to programs designed to support children, youth and families. The Government is establishing the Child Protection Enforcement Agency which will have an estimated annual budget of $3.4 million. The document mentioned other important issues such as the provision of housing, in particular in my electorate, and work that is being carried out to reduce hospital waiting lists. The document referred to the fact that $75 million will be provided in an attempt to reduce hospital waiting lists.
Auburn will benefit significantly from the provisions in the 1996-97 budget. Auburn electorate, which will house facilities for the year 2000 Olympic Games, has also received a major road funding allocation in this year’s budget. Auburn electorate comprises Auburn, Lidcombe, Berala, Regents Park, Sefton, Yagoona, Birrong and a small part of Chullora. I wish to detail the budgetary allocations that will assist constituents in my electorate. An amount of $877,000 has been allocated to construct a new hall at Auburn school. To date $587,000 has been allocated. An enormous amount of money has been allocated, in particular, for ring-roads in the Auburn electorate - $10,945,000 last year and $9,964,000 this year. Work will be commenced on Olympic Drive from Boorea Street to the Lidcombe overhead railway bridge. When Stacey Street bypass is constructed over the Hume Highway people will be able to travel from Sutherland through to Kissing Point Road, Dundas, on a three-lane highway.
The budgetary allocation this year for the Stacey Street extension is $840,000. People who live in the Bankstown area and use Roberts Road and the Hume Highway will be aware of the delays that are experienced at the corner of Roberts Road and Centenary Drive at Chullora - a matter to which the honourable member for Lakemba referred this morning. Work on the reconstruction of that intersection has commenced. It is expected that the work, which will cost $3,250,000 this year, will take two years to complete. The budget allocation for reconstruction last year was $4,242,357. Work has also been commenced on the construction on the M4 of new access ramps to Olympic Park, which will assist people leaving the M4 at Silverwater - a matter that has caused north Auburn residents and people in the commercial sector great concern.
I referred earlier to the work that is being carried out on the Lucas Heights to Silverwater Road, Dundas, extension. The budget allocation for that project this year is $100,000. An amount of $99,000 has been allocated to implement a noise abatement program on the Hume Highway from Bass Hill to Chullora which will go towards alleviating the noise problems being experienced by families living in Yagoona and Bass Hill. Pedestrian-phased signals will be installed in Wellington Road and Chisholm Road, Auburn, at a cost of $20,000. Auburn Council has been working for some time on the implementation of a local bike plan which is estimated to cost $20,000. An amount of $100,000 has been allocated to improve the traffic signals at Kerrs Road and Olympic Drive. Other budgetary allocations will go towards improving a number of additional roads in the Auburn electorate.
Roads in the Auburn electorate have been well catered for in this budget, even though they were neglected for a long time by the former Government. In 1995-96, 15 new pensioner dwellings were built in the Auburn-Regents Park-Lidcombe area at a cost of $3,839,000. The allocation for new pensioner dwellings this year is $4,328,000. An amount of $2,403,000 has been allocated to construct 60 new pensioner units. Over the next few years the total cost of those units will be $5,360,000. The Carr Labor Government has effectively moved to provide housing for the elderly and the poor. Other capital works programs are being implemented in the Auburn electorate, for example, the construction of the juvenile justice centre at Lidcombe, which has received a budgetary allocation of $1,900,000. This centre will provide young people with better access to the courts. An amount of $4,240,000 has been allocated to build a chemistry laboratory at Lidcombe Hospital.
I am sure that all my constituents in the Auburn electorate will appreciate the fact that major new work will be commenced on Auburn police station - a matter that has been on the agenda of the former Government and this Government for some time. The old Auburn police station, which was built before the 1930s, was the place at which the .303 rifles were stored when Jack Lang was dismissed in 1932. It was believed at the time that the people of Auburn would riot as a result of his dismissal. The old police station will be demolished. I am indebted to the Minister for Police for that allocation of $3.15 million. An amount of $258,000 is allocated this year to move the police to other facilities until the police station is completed. The people of the Auburn electorate have waited many years for the police at Auburn to move from the old station to better facilities in that area, and that is a good step forward.
At Auburn Public School $390,000 has been provided for other public works and $587,000 to upgrade the classrooms. For the Olympics the amount of money provided is quite staggering. Next year for the venues and the work on the Olympic site in the electorate of Auburn $407,436,000 will be allocated for the Homebush Bay rail line to the site, roads, bridges, the Olympic village, and development costs in that area. Under this Government the Auburn electorate has done extremely well by being provided with facilities and upgrades. Money is also provided by the Government for many minor works that I do not have time to list. The Olympic Games will have a great impact on the electorate of Auburn between now and the year 2000.
It was said by the Leader of the National Party, then the Minister for the Olympics, that great benefits would flow to the people of Auburn. I assure honourable members that great benefits will flow to the people of the Auburn electorate because they have taken the first giant step to ensure that they do not miss out on their participation in the Games. I include the people of Lidcombe, Berala, Regents Park, Sefton, Yagoona and Birrong in participation in what is being planned by Bankstown City Council and Auburn Council. Money is also allocated for a bike cycling track to extend from the beginning of Duck Creek at Auburn, through to and along the railway line, and into the Games site to the foreshores of Parramatta River. This will enable people to ride a bicycle or walk on that bike track to the Games area.
Another project by Auburn Council for the Games will establish national houses - such as the house of Australia, the house of Africa, the house of Lebanon and the house of Turkey - which overseas athletes, their parents and friends can visit. There will a national house at Birrong, Sefton, Regents Park, and Berala, and a couple at Auburn and Lidcombe. Auburn Council has planned to have two large television screens installed, one at each end of the Auburn shopping centre. There will also be one screen at Lidcombe and on intermittent days one at Berala and one at Regents Park within the Auburn municipality. Bankstown City Council may have the same plan for Birrong, Sefton and Yagoona so that people visiting the shopping centres can watch the Games and participate in the world-famous 2000 event. Those are some of the benefits that will flow to the people of the Auburn electorate from the Games.
The people in my electorate, particularly the people of Bass Hill and the Auburn patrol, are concerned about crime prevention and public safety. The Government’s major spending initiative in those areas is undertaken through the Minister for Police. There will be provided an additional 100 police officers as part of the Government’s commitment to provide an extra 650 police; an upgrade of police weapons over the next five years; $7.1 million to allow the bushfire services to acquire an additional 110 tankers; and new juvenile centres at Dubbo, northern New South Wales and Lidcombe. That is a small part of the allocation to the portfolio of the Minister for Police.
Auburn police patrol has six new probationary constables. The Flemington patrol, which takes in Lidcombe, has been allocated eight new probationary constables to carry out work in that area. This allocation significantly increases the number of police in the electorate of Auburn to carry out their necessary work. Together with the new police station at Auburn, this is a timely boost to police morale in the local area. It is unfortunate that there is a high degree of crime in the area - not as bad as in some places and not as good as could be achieved - brought about predominantly by social factors and high youth unemployment. All in all the people in the electorate of Auburn can walk safely on the streets knowing that the police are doing their best on the job. Like their local member, the police cannot always work miracles, they can only do their best. The Lord God works miracles; we just do our best. The Minister for Police and also the Deputy Premier and Minister for Health have done well in the Auburn area. There have been new developments in Auburn Hospital to replace Lidcombe Hospital, which was closed down by the previous Government. The major new work in Bankstown Hospital has been significant and there have been good reports from people visiting the new facilities.
The honourable member for Coffs Harbour wishes me to name them. I only have two minutes, it would take me at least a half an hour, and I do not want to take up his time. It is a shame that Lidcombe Hospital was closed by the previous Government. Before the election a directive was made to speed-up the closure of the hospital, making it a very difficult job for the Labor Government to resurrect it. Many of the hospital’s facilities have gone to Bankstown Hospital and to Liverpool Hospital. The honourable member for Maitland and the honourable member for Coffs Harbour do not realise the work that was done at that great hospital at Lidcombe for the elderly in my community in dealing with the various ailments afflicting them.
At that hospital there were a lot of dedicated doctors and nurses, and it is a shame Lidcombe Hospital was closed and split into three: Bankstown, Westmead and Liverpool. I hope and pray that those facilities will be available for those who need them. If assistance is not forthcoming, people can always come to my office and I will assist them to obtain those facilities. I commend the Treasurer, the Premier and the Labor Government on an excellent budget. I am disappointed that the Prime Minister of this country has forced an enormous burden on the people of New South Wales. [Time expired.
Mr ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Gaudry):
Order! I take this opportunity to welcome to the gallery members of the Bankstown Square Community Club.
APPROPRIATION (PARLIAMENT) BILL
APPROPRIATION (SPECIAL OFFICES) BILL
APPROPRIATION (1995-96 DEBT RETIREMENT) BILL
MOTOR VEHICLES TAXATION AMENDMENT BILL
BUSINESS FRANCHISE LICENCES (PETROLEUM PRODUCTS) AMENDMENT BILL
ROAD IMPROVEMENT (SPECIAL FUNDING) AMENDMENT BILL
(Cronulla) [12.39]: I speak in relation to this budget and my words will certainly be a contrast to those of the previous honourable member. It is not often that a State budget has a use-by date that is within a few days of its delivery but that is exactly what has happened with this budget. The Treasurer came into this House to deliver his budget - a right to which he was not entitled as he is not a member of the Legislative Assembly.
He was kicked out of here.
As the honourable member for Coffs Harbour quite rightly said, he was kicked out of this Chamber. This Government could not provide a Treasurer from its ranks from the lower House so he had to come down here at the discretion of this House.
Nagle for Treasurer.
That is quite right. Caucus, after the speech given by the honourable member for Auburn, may well suggest a reshuffle next year, to avoid similar embarrassment, and the honourable member for Auburn might be made Treasurer. The State, like his constituents, would still not expect miracles.
Only the Lord God works miracles; we just do our best.
As the honourable member quite rightly says, the Lord God works miracles while the honourable member for Auburn does his best. I am sure his best would be better than that of the Treasurer, the Hon. Michael Rueben Egan, because he would at least show care and concern, and would have a seat in this House.
I will not have a battle of wits with the Minister for Mineral Resources, and Minister for Fisheries because he is out of ammunition and has been for quite some time. It is not often that within weeks of a budget being introduced it is outmoded, but that is what has happened with this budget.
It superseded itself.
It superseded itself. Last night under the cover of darkness the Treasurer announced the new taxes and repudiated the budget strategy and the promises of the Carr Government.
Thanks to Howard and Costello.
The Minister interjects, but the two names that he should have mentioned are "Kim" and "Beazley", the finance Minister who left this nation with a deficit of $8 billion. That is the legacy of Keatingomics. I shall deal with the effect of the budget, and what it did not deliver, on the Sutherland shire, even though the budget postscript has not yet been made public. The honourable member for Auburn mentioned hospital and health care. Under the Greiner and Fahey governments health care was provided where it was needed regardless of political boundaries. One has only to look at the number of hospitals built in western Sydney when the coalition Government was in office from 1988 to 1995, compared with the number of hospitals constructed from 1976 to 1988 under Labor, to realise which government best served the people of the western suburbs.
The Greiner and Fahey governments spent millions of dollars on the Sutherland shire hospital and were in the process of delivering extra facilities for that hospital, when the work came under attack by councillor Smith. He formed an organisation called Friends of Sutherland Hospital, but where were those friends when they were sorely needed following cutbacks by the present Government? When Councillor Smith was asked for an explanation by the St George and Sutherland Shire Leader
he said, "They seem to have fallen away." One could say that the organisation that Labor so loved has now been lost. So much for that front organisation. Turning to law and order and the promises made by the Carr Government when it came to office, Cronulla police station was on line for -
The coalition had seven years.
Yes, and improvements were made to policing numbers. The previous coalition Government was in a position to deliver half a million dollars worth of extensions to Cronulla police station, but that was wiped in the last budget and in this budget. The Minister for Mineral Resources, and Minister for Fisheries should be concerned about sewerage. Before the last election honourable members heard promises about the upgrading of the Cronulla tertiary treatment plant and how the Labor candidate who ran against me was going to ensure that all that work would be done as soon as the Labor Party was elected to office.
However, I have been informed that in September an environmental study will be displayed for two months. Under the previous Government improvements were made; though I am more than happy to detail those improvements, I am talking about this year’s budget. There were discussion groups with community and water-user input, but we are now told that the issue is up for discussion once again. Under this Government words substitute for action. Residents of Bundeena and Maianbar have been told that their suburbs will not be connected to the sewerage system until next century.
Surprise, surprise, as the honourable member for Coffs Harbour says. The Minister is well aware of the beautiful waterways in my electorate. I thought he would have been talking to his colleagues about ensuring that the sewage treatment plant and sewerage system are provided far more quickly than is proposed. The Government is stalling. Then there is the famous saga of the Woronora Bridge. Every day traffic reports describe the massive traffic congestion in that area. Last night I spoke about Genevieve Rankin, of famous memory. She said that the people of the Sutherland shire did not want the Woronora bridge. Perhaps she should talk to a few stranded motorists in the area and find out about the lifestyle that is occasioned them because the bridge will not be built. When the previous Government was in office that bridge was in the process of being constructed. The pylons stand in mute testimony to the work that was done. They are like hands pointing to heaven, asking when the next stage will come.
People cannot walk on water.
No, but once again this Government is in its element: it is in hot water with the people of the Sutherland shire over its failure to deliver. At least the Government is consistent. Labor was opposed to the Woronora Bridge and did not deliver it. Under the present Minister’s administration that area will remain benighted and traffic jams will continue. Last night I spoke about the Caringbah railway station. When the coalition parties were in office Woolooware and Cronulla railway stations were upgraded. Millions of dollars were marked for the upgrading of Caringbah railway station. Caringbah Chamber of Commerce is improving Caringbah. It worked well with the State Rail Authority but residents have been told that a lift for the disabled will not be provided despite the fact that Caringbah station is one of Sydney’s busiest stations. The previous Government provided a lift and facilities for the disabled at Sutherland railway station, which was acknowledged even by Councillor Rankin. Those are just some of the local deprivations that will be suffered by my electorate as a result of the budget. I should now like to look at the overall budget strategy.
You mean there is one?
Yes, there is an overall budget strategy. It does not accord with economic reality, but there is one. The economic theory was that Labor would be a very dry government; it brought back Ken Baxter.
Where is Baxter now?
He worked for the previous coalition Government, he then went down to Victoria to work for Jeff Kennett, and now the Premier has adopted the view that his recall is part of his Government’s credentials: "We are bringing back someone with a track record to cut down government waste."
He is now spending a lot of time at the Independent Commission Against Corruption.
He is now detailing his experiences under this Government. The Treasurer, Mike Egan, said, "Do not let Nick Greiner do to New South Wales what John Cain did to Victoria in the 1991 election," in the best traditions of Labor Party fraternity, I would have thought. We were told that the actions of the Labor governments in South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania were terrible.
What about Howard and Costello.
I will come back to that.
Wait until Tony Abbott takes his spot. You will end up with Abbott and Costello. That will be the greatest show on earth!
I am sure the Minister has waited years for that one, and I would not deprive him of it. Labor and money are soon parted, which has occurred under Labor Premiers in the States I previously mentioned. Mike Egan said, "No, we will not have the mark of Cain. We will not spend money in this State." Budgets were predicated on the basis of no rises in taxes, no rises in charges because the new, self-styled improved New South Wales Labor understands the link between charges and economic activity. If one increases charges, one reduces economic activity. Mike Egan said, "We will not put the burdens on our people that Victoria put on its people to pay off Tri-Continental, that South Australia put on its people to pay off the State Bank and that Western Australia put on its people to pay off Western Australia Incorporated."
In just a few short months taxes and charges have been imposed. The tragedy is that when the Premier and the Treasurer went to Canberra, then came back and said what a terrible deal they got and how it would necessitate emergency measures, they were talking about less than 2 per cent of the overall State budget. Yet they fashioned a document, suggesting that it was the last word in economic management, that did now allow for flexibility. The economic success story outlined in
the Budget Speech in this House was totally repudiated by the night-time activities last evening of the Premier and Treasurer. This Government obviously believes in equity of punishment. Everybody will be slugged: families, motorists, employers, employees and investors. Taxation measures introduced last night represent broken promise number 258. That is not a bad effort.
In how long?
Since March 1995.
Less than 15 months.
Yes, less than 15 months. It makes one wonder what the scorecard will be at the end of this Government’s term of office. It must have trouble finding promises to break at this stage. Let us look at what was imposed on the people of New South Wales. Payroll tax - a tax on jobs - will hit small business. Small business people are still struggling as a result of the recession we had to have and the unfair dismissal laws introduced by the Brereton-Keating government. In the past five months unemployment in New South Wales has risen by one percentage point. Jack Lang was mentioned earlier. Obviously we have a Premier whose great desire is to be a dole-queue millionaire.
He wants to put a mortgage tax on us, the same as Lang did.
He has gone to land tax.
The same thing.
Yes, it is the same thing. The State conference of the Labor Party will be told that land tax will hit property owners. But land tax is a tax that hits the battlers because it is passed on to goods and foods bought and consumed by the ordinary people of this State. One does not have to be a landowner to be hit by land tax, which is exactly what will happen. The people of this State will pay for the land tax by virtue of increased prices for goods and services. Having gone through land tax and payroll tax, no doubt the Government was groping around in the dark to see what else it could tax. One would have thought an attempt could have been made to work out ways to reduce the cost of government, but no.
Halve the ministry.
As the honourable member for Maitland said, the Government could halve the ministry.
There would be nothing left then.
If nothing is left productivity may rise, which would be an advantage. Let us be in no doubt about the taxes introduced last night: they are here to stay.
What about Harry Woods?
I am glad the honourable member for Clarence has been mentioned. In his inaugural speech he took the economic rationalists to task. What he said gained considerable sympathy. The danger is that economic rationalism is considered as an end rather than as a means. As the honourable member said, in terms of economic rationalism one cannot justify many goods and services that go to the country, but one can certainly justify them in terms of the future of this country and the future of our State because ultimately it is about providing people with homes and jobs, and the ability to bring up a family. If we close down country centres, we impoverish our State. Today, the morning after represents the postscript of this Government. Every speech from this side of the Parliament is a post-mortem of a government that could not provide in its budget document a flexibility of 1.4 per cent.
Debate adjourned on motion by Mr Martin.
[Mr Acting-Speaker (Mr Gaudry) left the chair at 12.58 p.m. The House resumed at 2.15 p.m.
Governor of New South Wales
Petitions praying that the office of Governor of New South Wales not be downgraded, and that the role, duties and future of the office be determined by a referendum, received from Mr Armstrong, Mr Blackmore, Mr Brogden, Mr Chappell, Mrs Chikarovski, Mr Collins, Mr Cruickshank, Mr Debnam, Mr Downy, Mr Ellis, Ms Ficarra, Mr Glachan, Mr Hartcher, Mr Hazzard, Mr Humpherson, Dr Kernohan, Mr Kerr, Mr Kinross, Mr MacCarthy, Mr Merton, Mr O’Doherty, Mr Phillips, Mr Photios, Mr Richardson, Mr Rozzoli, Mr Schipp, Mr Schultz, Ms Seaton, Mrs Skinner, Mr Slack-Smith, Mr Smith, Mr Tink
and Mr J. H. Turner
Manly District Hospital
Petition praying that the present level of services at Manly District Hospital be maintained, received from Dr Macdonald
Petition praying that a polyclinic be provided at Morisset, received from Mr Hunter
Grid Electricity Connection
Petition praying for a grant for grid electricity connection, received from Mr Slack-Smith
North Mount Druitt and Bidwill Policing
Petition praying that a permanent police station be established at north Mount Druitt or Bidwill, received from Mr Gibson
Bulli Pedestrian Crossing
Petition praying that flashing lights be installed at the pedestrian crossing on the Princes Highway between Hopetoun Street and Farrell Road, Bulli, received from Mr McManus
Petition praying that daylight saving not be extended, received from Mr Rixon
Department of Agriculture Budget
Petition praying that cuts not be made to the budget of the Department of Agriculture, which would result in the loss of expertise, services, research and development, received from Mr Beck
REORDERING OF GENERAL BUSINESS
Warnervale Airport (Restrictions) Bill
(Wyong) [2.24], by leave: I move:
That general business notices of motions (for bills) No. 4 have precedence on Thursday, 20 June.
The bill, of which I gave notice yesterday, needs the urgent attention of the House and should take priority over all other matters on private members’ day because at present there is no legal impediment to bulldozers moving in to do preparatory work for construction of a 1,800-metre runway.
On a point of order. We are pleased to agree to the motion that the matter have precedence.
Order! The member may still wish to proceed.
This matter cannot wait until the next parliamentary session. Several of my constituents, including the Hon. M. J. Gallacher in the other place, have requested that urgent action be taken. The matter should take precedence because several people in the affected areas have advised me that the price of their homes has fallen because of uncertainty in the marketplace relating to this redevelopment. I understand that that uncertainty has extended to financial institutions which provide mortgages for home buyers. This matter should take precedence because the House has an obligation to clean up the mess left to us by Robert Webster when he was Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning. He not only left the Parliament and the National Party -
On a point of order. The honourable member for Wyong has an obligation to establish why his bill should be given precedence. At present he is canvassing the substance of the matter; he is reflecting on decisions made by a former government and, therefore, discussing the detail of the matter, which honourable members will have an opportunity to debate shortly.
Order! No point of order is involved.
It makes a change for the honourable member for Ermington to support the National Party. Robert Webster not only left the Parliament and the National Party; he left a legacy whereby 1,000 lots on the Landcom estate just south of the proposed runway will be exposed to aircraft noise and people’s lives will be unbearable. This matter should take precedence because potentially the most affected residents, those on the Watannobi estate, are also recovering from the HomeFund fiasco - another mess created by the previous Government. Proper planning, proper administration and good government demand that the Warnervale Airport (Restrictions) Bill be given precedence as an order of the day for tomorrow.
Motion agreed to.
State Budget Shortfall
(Miranda - Deputy Leader of the Opposition) [2.28]: I move:
That general business notice of motion given by me this day have precedence on Thursday, 20 June.
The Government has announced that it will slug people with hefty tax increases, when it has failed to cut waste or to rein in the size of government, which are things it said it would achieve. I want to make some important points while I have the opportunity. At the first sign of trouble with its budget, the Government hits the workers. It will slug employers, investors, families and motorists. It will miss no-one with these tax increases.
On a point of order.
Order! If members interject while a point of order is being taken, time will be deducted from their member’s speaking time. The Minister has the call on a point of order.
The honourable member is quite clearly canvassing the substance of the motion rather than the reasons for urgency.
Order! There is no point of order.
It is clear this new tax, which the Government is very sensitive about and which is known as the HAC tax - Help Axe Carr tax - will dog the Government for the next three or four years. The Carr Government quite clearly is attempting to fill its $450 million budget hole with taxes for which it is trying to blame Canberra. This tax will, therefore, go down in history as the Help Axe Carr tax.
Order! The honourable member is entitled to be heard in silence. I call the House to order.
It exposes a fundamental flaw in the budget strategy of this Government in that every time it is faced with a slight drop-off in funding it goes to water and puts up taxes. That is its first port of call. [Time expired.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put.
The House divided.
Mr Armstrong Mr O’Doherty
Mr Beck Mr O’Farrell
Mr Blackmore Mr D. L. Page
Mr Brogden Mr Peacocke
Mr Chappell Mr Phillips
Mrs Chikarovski Mr Photios
Mr Cochran Mr Richardson
Mr Collins Mr Rixon
Mr Debnam Mr Rozzoli
Mr Downy Mr Schipp
Mr Ellis Mr Schultz
Ms Ficarra Ms Seaton
Mr Fraser Mrs Skinner
Mr Glachan Mr Slack-Smith
Mr Hartcher Mr Small
Mr Hazzard Mr Smith
Mr Humpherson Mr Souris
Dr Kernohan Mr Tink
Mr Kinross Mr J. H. Turner
Mr MacCarthy Mr R. W. Turner
Dr Macdonald Mr Windsor
Ms Machin Tellers
Mr Merton Mr Jeffery
Ms Moore Mr Kerr
Ms Allan Mr Markham
Mr Amery Mr Martin
Mr Anderson Ms Meagher
Ms Andrews Mr Mills
Mr Aquilina Mr Moss
Mrs Beamer Mr Nagle
Mr Carr Mr Neilly
Mr Clough Ms Nori
Mr Crittenden Mr E. T. Page
Mr Debus Mr Price
Mr Face Dr Refshauge
Mr Gaudry Mr Rogan
Mr Gibson Mr Rumble
Ms Hall Mr Scully
Mr Harrison Mr Shedden
Ms Harrison Mr Stewart
Mr Hunter Mr Sullivan
Mr Iemma Mr Tripodi
Mr Knight Mr Watkins
Mr Knowles Mr Whelan
Mr Langton Mr Woods
Mrs Lo Po’ Mr Yeadon
Mr Lynch Tellers
Mr McBride Mr Beckroge
Mr McManus Mr Thompson
Mr Cruickshank Mrs Grusovin
Question so resolved in the negative.
QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
LANDCOM LAND SALES
I direct a question without notice to the Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning, and Minister for Housing. Have sales of prime undeveloped land to private developers by Landcom, which the Minister announced in October would raise $80 million this financial year, realised only $30 million? Has Landcom been able to sell only eight of the 17 sites earmarked for sale this financial year, thus putting a $50 million hole in the current budget?
The Leader of the Opposition should realise that the National Party no longer controls the planning and housing portfolios in this State. The last time this sort of stunt was proposed by the Leader of the Opposition was in relation to the setting up of a fire sale. The Government has proposed strategic withdrawal of Landcom from the urban fringe for wholesaling its assets to move it back into inner-urban areas for urban redevelopment strategies.
Order! I call the honourable member for Burrinjuck to order.
As part of that strategy we have proposed a staged disposal of Landcom assets on the urban fringe. Frankly, I would have been surprised if Landcom had realised all the properties it put on the market, for the simple reason that that would have suggested that its prices were pitched way too low in the market. The target of $80 million was proposed. The sales results to date are $30 million. I think that does great credit to Landcom as it was selling in a very tight property market.
Order! The Leader of the Opposition, having asked the question, will remain silent while the Minister answers the question.
I draw the attention of the Leader of the Opposition to the fact that the budgets proposed for the next two years actually predicate sales by Landcom on an ongoing basis. Of course, the sales program will continue in accordance with the Government’s policy.
LANE COVE RIVER VALLEY FREEWAY CORRIDORS
I address a question without notice to the Minister for the Olympics, and Minister for Roads. What are the Government’s intentions for the road corridor proposed as the future link between the M2 motorway and the Sydney to Newcastle freeway?
I thank the honourable member for Gladesville for his question and for bringing to the attention of the Parliament
community concern over the future of the road reservation known as the B2-B3 corridor through the Lane Cove Valley, between the M2 and the F3. This corridor was a proposed road link from the end of the F3 at Pearces Corner, Wahroonga, through South Turramurra and the Lane Cove River Valley, to join up with the M2 near Macquarie University. Since his election in March last year, the honourable member for Gladesville has been a constant, diligent and vigorous advocate for the people of his electorate, and in particular he has been concerned to protect the local environment of his constituents.
Order! I call the honourable member for Gordon to order.
I have carefully considered the concerns raised by the honourable member for Gladesville in his recent private member’s statement and the issues surrounding the land reserve. I am pleased to advise the House that the Government will abandon the B2-B3 road corridor. This means that 11 hectares of bushland across the Lane Cove River Valley, near Fox Valley, will be protected from the prospect of any freeway development. Which member opposite did I hear say, "Shame"?
Order! The Minister’s comment does not require members on the Opposition side to react by interjecting. I call the honourable member for Northcott to order. I call the honourable member for Northcott to order for the second time.
The decision protects the bushland and open space for public use without the threat of a future freeway.
Order! I call the honourable member for The Hills to order.
The Carr Government places too high a value on urban bushland to allow a road to be built in this area. Building this road was never on this Government’s agenda. The abandonment of the corridor dispels the fears of environmentalists and residents once and for all by removing the possibility that any future conservative government could built a road that would destroy this environmentally friendly bushland. I have been advised by my colleague the Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning, and Minister for Housing that the Government intends that the bushland area will remain open space. In determining the exact nature and classification of that open space the Government will consult extensively with the local community. The abandonment of the corridor represents a major victory for the honourable member for Gladesville, a big win for the environment, and a big win for the community. It is something that the previous Government should have done, but something this Government has done.
LANDCOM LAND SALES
I direct a question without notice to the Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning, and Minister for Housing. Have any of the undeveloped parcels of land sold by Landcom this financial year been sold at less than market value? Did Landcom attempt to cover this up by seeking lower re-valuations after the sale to justify its acceptance of the tenders received?
We finally got him out of his box. Last week, when I was watching Garry West sitting in the public gallery as the new member for Orange was introduced to the House - and congratulations to him - I was thinking, "What a difference!" Garry West managed to retire with a degree of grace and dignity. This Leader of the National Party is a carcass swinging in the breeze, just waiting to be cut down. The Landcom marketing program is well articulated. It will achieve its objectives over the long term.
Order! I call the honourable member for Coffs Harbour to order.
That will provide income for the Government but, more importantly, it will do good things for urban planning strategies for Sydney.
Order! I call the honourable member for Ermington to order.
TAFE TEACHER SALARIES
I direct a question without notice to the Minister for Education and Training. What information can the Minister give on the latest development concerning the Government’s salary offer to TAFE teachers?
I thank the honourable member for Londonderry for his question. He is relentless in his pursuit of justice for teachers. He never fails to make representations on their behalf. So, might I say, does the honourable member for Fairfield. I am pleased to advise the House that I have today put a new offer to TAFE teachers to resolve the current TAFE salary dispute. This offer has been developed through intensive and productive discussions with the Teachers Federation over recent weeks. Both Government and federation representatives worked very hard for at least 10 days to identify avenues for a mutually satisfactory set of conditions. Those discussions were held with some of the most senior officials of the Teachers Federation, including those representing TAFE teachers. At the time it was clear that both parties thought the talks were fruitful and positive. The key features of this offer, the quantum and duration, were still being discussed with the federation as recently as last Thursday evening. At the last moment, however, the federation leadership spiked all discussions to date, including the quantum and time period. On Friday the federation leadership claimed that no progress had been made in negotiations. It was on this basis - its claim that there was a so-called lack of progress in salary negotiations - that the federation leadership decided to call for strike action tomorrow.
Order! I call the Deputy Leader of the National Party to order.
Clearly, the federation leadership misled both its TAFE teacher members and the general public on this matter. It is curious that in the final meeting at which the Government’s offer of quantum and duration was discussed, TAFE Teachers Association representatives, who had been involved in previous discussions, were not present. This begs the question: were they excluded by their union superiors? Why was the federation leadership so reluctant to allow TAFE teachers to make up their own minds? The package which was negotiated, though not agreed to by the federation leadership, is based upon salary justice for teachers, as well as improved efficiency and flexibility in TAFE colleges. The Government is now offering TAFE teachers a minimum 13 per cent increase to June 1999. This will be achieved through significant improvements in flexibility and efficiency in the TAFE teaching work force.
Increases above this figure are possible if further improvements are agreed to. The 13 per cent offer includes the following steps which would improve the flexibility of TAFE services. Colleges will be open 48 weeks a year instead of the current 36 weeks a year. Operating times will be extended to between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. six days a week, which compares to the existing times of 7.30 a.m. to 10 p.m. on week days and 7.30 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays. TAFE teacher workloads will be accumulated over a term rather than over a week, which will enable colleges to respond more flexibly to customer needs. The elimination of overtime and its replacement by a new excess teaching rate will apply if a teacher’s workload over one term exceeds the required number of hours. Teachers will also have the option to return from holidays a week early to enrol students and to receive credits towards their term load. In the past overtime had to be paid. This offer will make New South Wales TAFE teachers the highest paid teachers in Australia.
Order! I call the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai to order. I call the honourable member for Gosford to order.
The honourable member for Ku-ring-gai should be quiet because so far he has -
On a point of order. The Minister is clearly making a ministerial statement. The Opposition would like a chance to explain -
Order! No point of order is involved.
How much the truth hurts! The honourable member for Ku-ring-gai goes to the media day in and day out -
Order! I call the honourable member for Georges River to order.
- spreading controversies, building up strife and encouraging teachers to strike. The honourable member for Ku-ring-gai makes statements which are clearly incorrect.
Order! I call the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai to order for the second time.
When the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai is confronted with something positive concerning a resolution of the teachers dispute he does not want to hear it. He wants to muzzle people who are attempting to make statements in that regard. I say again for the benefit of the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai: this offer will make New South Wales TAFE teachers the highest paid TAFE teachers in Australia.
Order! I call the honourable member for Ermington to order for the second time.
I ask the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai to listen to the remainder of my answer. Under this formula the average TAFE teacher will receive just under $50,000 per annum by 1999. I remind the federation leadership that the alternative to a negotiated offer of this kind is an arbitrated offer in the Industrial Relations Commission.
On a point of order. The Minister continues to pick on our friends in the Teachers Federation. He continues to launch an attack.
Order! The honourable member for Ermington will resume his seat. He knows the standing orders as well as any other member. He is now on three calls to order.
I urge individual TAFE teachers to consider this offer carefully. Do TAFE teachers realise how much money in their pockets this offer represents?
Order! I call the Deputy Leader of the National Party to order for the second time.
On a related matter, as far as schools are concerned, nothing would give me greater pleasure than to make an offer on the basis of similar discussions. But as the President of the Industrial Relations Commission, Justice Fisher, said yesterday, in view of the documentation put before him he doubted whether the Teachers Federation had been negotiating in good faith. Unfortunately, the Teachers Federation leadership is still conveying the message to schoolteachers that the Government’s 7.1 per cent offer has trade-offs attached. That statement is false. Schoolteachers could have their first 4 per cent today, if they agree. In fact, they could have had it on 31 March. Already most schoolteachers are more than $700 out of pocket. The matter will continue in the Industrial Relations Commission next week.
LANDCOM LAND SALES
My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning, and Minister for Housing. Is the surplus
earned by Landcom this financial year likely to be $75 million, half the surplus of the $150 million for the previous year? How does the Minister justify that the designated sale of Landcom’s best stock of undeveloped land will sharply erode revenue earned by Landcom from next year, possibly by more than $100 million a year? Is this why the Government needs the Howard and Costello - HAC - tax?
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition pretends to be the shadow treasurer.
You pretend to be the Minister. Why don’t you answer the question?
Order! The Leader of the Opposition will remain silent.
A few months ago I had lunch with Nick Greiner.
He was pleased. He thought it was a fresh change.
Order! I call the honourable member for Gosford to order for the second time.
Nick Greiner is on the record as congratulating me on the establishment of the land disposal program - something that was not achieved by the former Government in its seven years in office. The shadow treasurer should look at Budget Paper No. 2.
Order! I call the honourable member for Burrinjuck to order for the second time.
Budget Paper No. 2 states that in 1995-96 Landcom, a trading enterprise which provides returns for the Government - as do all other trading enterprises - provided $48.53 million in dividends to the Government from returns on investment funding and the provision of tax for services and benefits for the people of New South Wales. In 1996-97 the projected dividend is $107 million - an increase of 122 per cent. In anybody’s language the disposal program undertaken by this Government -
Order! I place the Deputy Leader of the Opposition on three calls to order.
This Government’s program to return to the people of this State benefits from assets locked up in land would surely be regarded, even by Opposition members, as beneficial - a 122 per cent increase in dividend payments to Treasury to be put back into services for the people of this State.
Order! I call the Deputy Leader of the National Party to order for the third time.
This will go a long way towards plugging the black hole created by Howard and Costello.
NEW SOUTH WALES TOURISM CAMPAIGN
My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Transport, and Minister for Tourism. What is the Government doing to further promote New South Wales as a tourist destination?
What a good question!
Order! I call the honourable member for Lane Cove to order.
The honourable member for Rockdale has always had an interest in tourism. Earlier today the Premier and I had the pleasure of launching the new New South Wales tourism advertising campaign.
If Opposition members want to talk about advertising campaigns we could talk about NSWow! This $9.2 million advertising campaign with the slogan, "We’ll do wonders for you", is an evolution of the previous campaign, "The Seven Wonders of New South Wales", and will continue to position New South Wales as the premier tourist destination in Australia. New South Wales share of the domestic holiday market continues to grow each year. In fact, compared with 1993, last year we had an increase from 29.4 per cent to 32.9 per cent in all domestic Australian tourism. New South Wales share of holiday nights grew from 30 per cent to well over 32 per cent. To maintain the momentum of this growth in market share New South Wales must continue its record of aggressive marketing and build a stronger brand image for New South Wales.
The "We’ll do wonders for you" campaign was developed by George Patterson Bates and is designed to achieve four aims: first, it will build the brand of New South Wales and develop positioning which makes holidays in this State unique; second, it will create opportunities for the industry to buy into a wide-ranging program which supports Sydney, but builds the profile of regional New South Wales; third, it will back the wholesale program for travel agents with a new cooperative and integrated marketing campaign; and finally, it will ensure that consumers are aware of the hundreds of holiday opportunities unique to New South Wales.
Order! There is far too much audible conversation in the Chamber. The honourable member for Coffs Harbour will cease conversing.
The campaign is based on research conducted with both consumers and tourism operators which revealed the need to up the ante in the marketing of New South Wales as a tourist destination. The research found that New South Wales needed to be presented as a destination of contrasts, ranging from the natural environment of the State’s rainforests to the excitement and
culture of Sydney. But most importantly, the campaign supports the Government’s commitment to build a greater awareness of the major regional destinations in this State. It revealed the need to show why the northern rivers, Byron Bay, the Tweed, the Hunter, Port Stephens, the central west and the outback are ideal locations for a holiday. As well as the 60-second advertisements featuring the various regions, there are region-specific advertisements, such as those promoting the Hunter and the northern rivers tourism region. Contrary to the claims made by the Leader of the National Party on Radio 2CS
news, this Government is doing a great deal to encourage tourists to visit regions such as Coffs Harbour. I was in Coffs Harbour recently with the honourable member for Coffs Harbour to launch the new holiday coast booklet.
This Government understands the importance of tourism to these areas. The campaign provides an umbrella theme and will allow local and regional operators to benefit from both overall and destination promotions. Cooperative marketing, in which operators or regional tourism organisations can highlight their individual products, has already attracted a high level of interest, particularly from tropical and northern New South Wales, the Hunter region and Sydney. Interest has also been shown by regional organisations on the south coast, Lord Howe Island and the outback, and more than $1 million has been committed in total cooperative funds. The campaign supports the New South Wales holidays wholesale program, run in conjunction with 4,000 travel agents across Australia and 39 New South Wales travel centres operated by Countrylink. Advertisements will run on television, in picture theatres, on radio, on buses and on trams in Melbourne, while a series of magnificent still photographs displaying New South Wales will be used in the print media.
Order! I call the honourable member for Ermington to order for the third time.
The new campaign will air on television in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane from next Sunday and in regional New South Wales from the following Sunday, 30 June. Bus advertisements and radio commercials will also begin on 23 June, with cinema and magazine advertising commencing in July. It is particularly appropriate that this new campaign is launched in tourism week. It is a fitting centrepiece for a week during which we celebrate, but more importantly promote, tourism in New South Wales. Tourism injects more than $14 billion each year into the economy of New South Wales. It is the fastest growing industry in this State; every 177 domestic tourists generate one permanent job; and every 18 international tourists generate one permanent job in New South Wales. This Government has a strong commitment to ensure that these jobs and these economic benefits are not quarantined to Sydney but shared in all 16 regional tourism areas of New South Wales. I am confident that the new "We’ll do wonders for you" campaign will assist in reaching that goal.
WAVERLEY-WOOLLAHRA PROCESS PLANT
My question is directed to the Minister for the Environment. Given that the eastern suburbs waste management inquiry recommended in December 1995 that the Waterloo incinerator be closed within two years, will the Government establish an implementation process for the development of innovative waste minimisation, recycling and processing facilities?
I thank the honourable member for Bligh for her question. The closure of the Waverley-Woollahra incinerator is one of the most challenging environmental questions with which this State Government has had to deal. It is interesting that there is mirth among members on the other side of the House, because the known health problems associated with that incinerator are not new.
Order! I call the honourable member for Gosford to order for the third time.
The old State Pollution Control Commission - more recently called the Environment Protection Authority - reported for many years about the health and other risks associated with that incinerator.
Did they give it to you?
Yes, and that is only three or four years old.
Order! I call the honourable member for Vaucluse to order.
This incinerator has known risks and yet there was inaction on the part of the former Government which was not prepared to proceed to closure.
Order! I call the honourable member for Wakehurst to order.
I have got all day, I do not mind; I have got 20 minutes until the baby needs a feed. I am happy to stand here and listen. At the present time the Government is considering the report given to the Government in December last year by a working party chaired by Mr Bob Wilson, the former Managing Director of the Water Board. The Government is currently proceeding on how to implement his report.
Order! I call the honourable member for Wakehurst to order for the second time. I call the honourable member for Wakehurst to order for the third time.
I assure the honourable member for Bligh that this matter is being given very serious consideration by the Government.
Order! I call the honourable member for Eastwood to order.
When the Government received Bob Wilson’s report it did not set a monthly timetable to act on it.
Order! I call the honourable member for Vaucluse to order for the second time. I call the honourable member for Eastwood to order for the second time.
I assure the honourable member for Bligh that the resolution of that matter is imminent and that the Government has taken very seriously the comments of Bob Wilson. I am sure the honourable member for Bligh is familiar with the report, unlike members of the Opposition. The report is not solely about dealing with the particular problems that the waste incinerator generates, but is also about the longer term reprocessing of waste in the eastern suburbs. That was the second part of the honourable member’s question.
Order! I call the honourable member for Vaucluse to order for the third time.
The Government not only intends to act on its promise on the incinerator but to act to ensure that waste currently being generated in the eastern suburbs is not simply left in the streets once that other action is taken.
TOTALIZATOR AGENCY BOARD SERVICES
My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Gaming and Racing. What plans does the Government have to expand Totalizator Agency Board services?
I thank the honourable member for East Hills for his interest in the provision of services to the State’s punters. The success of Totalizator Agency Board betting in hotels and clubs is evidenced by the figures. In 1991 TAB betting in hotels and clubs accounted for 18 per cent of the total TAB sales; it now accounts for 30 per cent of TAB betting. Unfortunately, not all hotels and clubs have sufficient business to warrant the expense of installing TAB ticket machines. To help overcome this problem the TAB has been trialling a new system known as Betlink. In December 1982 an amendment to the Totalizator Agency Board Act removed the restrictions on the TAB putting sub-agencies into licensed premises. The services became known as PubTAB and ClubTAB which account for 30 per cent of the total TAB sales.
Sales trends for both have grown faster than sales in the branches and agencies, from 18 per cent in 1991 to the current 30 per cent. PubTAB and ClubTAB operations are regarded as highly successful but it cannot be said that the system has been entirely without difficulties. The problem remains that pubs and clubs which fail in their applications for a TAB service generally are not happy; this is the single greatest source of complaint about the TAB to the Government, the TAB board and management. In 99.9 per cent of cases the application fails because the Totalizator Agency Board believes it would not be economic to provide a service to hotels or clubs. Insufficient new sales would be generated compared to the cost of supporting both an existing agency and the new PubTAB or ClubTAB. TAB technology staff developed a computer program which allows PC-based terminals from third-party suppliers to be used as a betting terminal. These terminals are currently being produced by AWA Limited and Amtote Australasia Pty Limited. The cost of a PC betting terminal and accessories ranges from $5,000 to $8,000.
In addition, the hotel or club is responsible for the cost of the telecommunications link to the TAB and various other costs related to the operations of the service, for example, race lists. Betlink is a user-pays system. TAB licences the betting software and specifies the telecommunications link to the TAB computer. In November 1994 the TAB commenced trialing the Betlink system on the far north coast of New South Wales. The trial involved the participation of all TAB agents. Some 21 hotels and clubs decided to take part. The TAB agents were commissioned as supervising agents for a group of Betlink sites within an assigned territory. The trial evaluation concluded that the level of new sales obtained in Betlink outlets amounted to 25 per cent of the total Betlink sales. There was a significant transfer of sales from existing TAB agencies, PubTAB and ClubTAB outlets.
Order! I call the honourable member for The Entrance, the honourable member for Hurstville and the honourable member for Cabramatta to order.
A second trial was recommended after the Government came to office because I was not happy with the findings of the north coast trial; not because of anything wrong but it was not a good sample. That trial commenced in the Illawarra area in October 1995. It involved a selection of four supervising agents, with 31 hotels and clubs participating, and it certainly was a far better sample. A number of variations were made to the parameters of the original system in order to improve it operationally and ensure that the commission levels were more equitable to the trial participants - one of the complaints about the first trial on the north coast. The results of the trial reinforced the findings of the north coast region trial.
Order! I call the honourable member for The Entrance to order for the second time.
The level of the new sales attributed to Betlink were low. However, of more significance is the increasing customer preference for placing bets on licensed premises. This is supported by extensive market research during the past six years. The super agents scheme was not considered equitable or successful by the majority of hotels, clubs and TAB agents. I am pleased to inform the House that the TAB will proceed with the expansion of Betlink services statewide over a period of two years through a phased implementation strategy on the basis that service gap areas are targeted first, for example, where the
hotel or club is in excess of three kilometres by road from an existing TAB agency. Further expansion is concurrent with the planned rationalisation of existing cash outlets.
Super agents and Betlink agents in the trial areas will be given three months notice. Betlink agents will offer a continuation of service under modified conditions. The PC technology developed during the trial will be integrated with existing systems that will allow existing PubTAB and ClubTAB outlets to purchase PC equipment to supplement existing TAB terminals. Subject to individual circumstances all future licensed outlet approvals will offer Betlink facilities as an interim step to full PubTAB and ClubTAB status. A considerable amount of new money will probably be involved, a matter that was identified by the betting task force some time ago. There is considerable evidence to suggest that some of that money probably comes from starting price operations.
The proven acceptance of the Betlink concept by customers will allow for greater flexibility in servicing their needs at a time and place that they find convenient. With Betlink as a further service option in addition to agencies, subagencies, branches, PhoneTAB, mainstream PubTAB and ClubTAB, the TAB is positioning itself to meet customer demands while maintaining profitability essential to the New South Wales racing industry. I believe this will go a long way to overcoming some of the problems of honourable members. I propose to circulate a document to all honourable members about the operations of Betlink for the information of their constituents.
LANDCOM FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT
My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning, and Minister for Housing. Was Sean O’Toole appointed to the position of Chief General Manager of Landcom without the position being advertised, without any form of competitive recruitment and without prior knowledge of his department head, Gabrielle Kibble? Why did Ms Kibble subsequently withdraw all financial delegations in respect of land purchases from Landcom staff, including the chief general manager, and maintain personal financial control of Landcom?
Order! As the question contains more than one question, the member will rephrase it.
WATER PRICING REFORM
My question is to the Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning, and Minister for Housing. What benefits will flow from the reforms to water pricing that the Government has introduced?
Today the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal released its determination for Sydney Water prices. The determination sets a four-year pricing path - the first time any water authority has set out its pricing intentions so far in advance - providing long-term certainty and real cuts to water bills for families and businesses in this State. For years business customers of Sydney Water suffered the double penalty of cross-subsidising residential consumers and a regressive tax component specifically related to the value of their real estate rather than the volume of water consumed. Honourable members will remember Tim Moore’s classic example of the shopkeeper at Circular Quay who would have been better off washing his hands in French champagne rather than paying the exorbitant price for Sydney water under the previous Government’s pricing formula. This Government has slashed the cross-subsidies and the tax components and created a real incentive for business to conserve and recycle. Most importantly, we have driven down costs through pricing reform.
A recent analysis of the impact of the State’s pricing reforms and the decision today of the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal is good news for small, medium and large businesses. The results show that water costs of businesses will drop by up to 50 per cent per cent with an average reduction of more than 20 per cent by the year 2,000. For example, a petrol station proprietor in Penrith had an annual water bill of $1,357 when the Carr Government came to office. By the year 2,000 his water bill will be reduced to $362 a year. A shopping centre in the same area will save $12,000 a year, a 20 per cent reduction. The bill of a local newsagent in the Blue Mountains will be reduced by almost $700, from $3,100 to $2,400. Of course, the news gets better. The water bill of a large employer at Pendle Hill will drop from $88,412 to $62,854. That is a saving of more than 30 per cent, a saving that will provide better opportunities for reinvestment in its business and employment for more people in the western Sydney region.
Order! I place the honourable member for Northcott on three calls to order.
The local picture theatre in Parramatta will see a reduction of 25 per cent in its water bills while the water bills of shopkeepers in what is regarded as the biggest shopping complex in this State will be reduced by more than 40 per cent, from $813,000 per annum to $480,000 by the year 2,000.
The Minister for the Environment tells me that it is the biggest shopping centre in the southern hemisphere. These savings are typical of the cost reductions and benefits of this Government’s water pricing reforms. They are savings which are directly transferable to consumers as business is able to reduce its own cost and as a consequence improve levels of efficiency and competitiveness. When inflation is factored in, the reduction in water bills, the savings to business, the opportunity for further investment and the opportunity to create
more jobs become even more dramatic. By doing away with cross-subsidies and the inbuilt tax component of the water bills of business we have not only achieved reduced costs for the business sector -
Water prices rise.
Order! I remind the honourable member for Gosford is on three calls to order.
For 12 months the honourable member for Gosford has had a notice of motion on the business paper that this House notes with concern proposals to raise the price of water and calls upon the Government to protect consumers consistent with its pre-election pledge of no new taxes.
Bring it on.
The honourable member for Gosford just said, "Bring it on." He has had 12 months to bring on his motion. He was in the Chamber one Thursday morning, scared to death that it was actually coming on and he withdrew it. He is so gutless that he would not bring it on.
Order! I call the Minister for the Environment to order.
On a point of order. Reluctant as I am to raise this point of order, the Minister for Local Government is consistently making canine-like noises in my ear. I would ask that he and other members of the Government desist to at least allow other members to hear what the Minister has to say.
Order! No point of order is involved. Obviously some members are discourteous on occasions. I ask that they desist in order to maintain decorum in the Chamber.
The honourable member for Gosford does not have the courage to bring on the motion he has had on the business paper for 12 months, and time passes him by. In answer to a question without notice in 1994, when he was the Minister for the Environment, he asserted that if Bob Carr were ever elected Premier of this State, under Labor water bills would rise by $20 a week. Twelve months ago he put a notice of motion on the business paper to back up that assertion, yet 12 months later we are yet to debate it.
Order! I call the honourable member for North Shore to order.
On a point of order. Despite your ruling a couple of minutes ago, Government members continue growling. I ask that you impound them.
Order! I sought the cooperation of Government members to maintain decorum in the Chamber. Members should not test the patience of the Chair.
Contrary to the assertion of the honourable member for Gosford when he was the failed Minister for the Environment in the former Government, and contrary to his notice of motion, which he does not have the courage to bring on and debate in this House, the facts speak for themselves. For business consumers the overall costs of water bills have reduced on average by 20 per cent and will continue to reduce through to the year 2000 under the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal determination in the next four years, providing certainty, reduction in bills, and the opportunity for jobs, investment and growth. There are examples of reductions of 50 per cent. They are significant wins for business, achieved by greater efficiencies in Sydney Water, reducing the regressive tax component and driving out cross-subsidies. The good news does not stop with business customers. The Government has also managed to maintain domestic water price increases at levels below the consumer price index and driven greater efficiency in the performance of Sydney Water. In real terms residential water rates will fall on average by 2.3 per cent this financial year.
Not in country areas.
I know it is hard for you, Peter.
Order! I call the honourable member for Londonderry to order.
On a point of order. It is common to fraternise across the Chamber, but to refer to honourable members by their first names is not in the best interests of maintaining standards in the Chamber. I ask you to remind the Minister to refer to honourable members by their titles.
Order! Members should refer to other members by their correct titles.
I was responding to the honourable member for Monaro in kind. He might recall that when the National Party lost faith in the honourable member for Gosford, the Leader of the National Party appointed the honourable member for Monaro to be the shadow shadow. In his letter to me he wrote, "Dear Craig". I remind the honourable member for Monaro, following his stupid comment about Sydney Water, that Sydney Water does not cover country districts; it applies only to Sydney water users. Residential customers will see a 2.3 per cent reduction in real terms this financial year with consequent reductions of 0.8 per cent each year thereafter for the following three years.
Order! I call the honourable member for Monaro to order.
By the year 2000 more than $80 million will have been removed from the tax component of Sydney Water bills. This loss of revenue to Sydney Water will be met by efficiency gains with underlying operating costs to property targeted to fall by a further 23 per cent over the
period. This is clearly good news for Sydney Water consumers. In comparative terms Sydney households are currently paying up to $50 less than equivalent households in Melbourne, whilst for a business in Sydney water bills are $1,000 less expensive than its Melbourne counterpart.
Order! I remind the Deputy Leader of the National Party that he is on three calls to order.
In addition the Government has increased pensioner rebates by 6 per cent in the budget, from about $50 million to $56 million, to ensure a proper social safety net for those most in need. In that sense the Government’s reform agenda in water pricing and the water industry is setting the national agenda. The Government is not privatising like the Victorians, it is not selling out to the French like the South Australians, it is putting in place proper systems to drive down the cost of water to business to ensure that it can be more competitive, and to create the opportunity for jobs, investment and growth in this State. Sydney Water is achieving greater levels of efficiency and passing on those benefits to its customers, creating real reductions in costs and greater opportunities for jobs.
LANDCOM FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT
I ask the Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning, and Minister for Housing a question without notice. Why did Ms Gabrielle Kibble, without the prior knowledge of the head of the Minister’s department, withdraw all financial delegations in respect of land purchases from Landcom staff, including the chief general manager, and maintain personal financial control of Landcom?
Order! The Chair granted leniency to allow the question to rephrased. Although the question appears to be different from that asked originally, the Chair will allow it.
I will refer the question to Ms Kibble and provide a more detailed answer.
Questions without notice concluded.
Suspension of standing orders, by leave, agreed to.
Bill introduced and read a first time.
(Ashfield - Minister for Police) [3.29]: I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
Today New South Wales becomes the first State to implement comprehensive, tough new gun laws under the John Howard plan. The bill I am introducing today will make New South Wales a safer place to live. The Carr Government believes that the proposed laws are strict, sensible and fair, and will facilitate a national approach to the control of firearms. We want to make New South Wales a safer place as quickly as possible. These laws represent a cultural change for all Australians. They reflect our decision not to go down the United States path. This legislation puts the public’s right to safety before the privilege of gun ownership. But, whilst our emphasis is on public safety, the Government is also committed to providing support for law-abiding gun owners. These new laws will accommodate the needs of farmers, their families and employees who have a genuine reason to use firearms.
This legislation is a start, but other States must now act. This bill manifests our full acceptance of the resolutions of the Australasian Police Ministers’ Council. We have proceeded with the diligence urged by the Commonwealth. It is clear that the bill will have to be revisited by the Australian police Ministers in July. Issues such as funding for compensation, fit and proper person tests and national training schemes, which are the responsibility of the Commonwealth, are still to be resolved by the Howard Government. Indeed, the Commonwealth bill to provide money for compensation has not yet been passed. To ensure that all views are taken into account, the Government has allowed for public consultation until the end of July. This bill will be widely circulated to all interested parties, including local councils. The Firearms Bill represents the toughest controls on firearms ever enacted in New South Wales. The underlying principles and aims of the proposed Act are that the possession and use of firearms is a privilege, not a right, and is conditional on the overriding need to ensure public safety.
The proposed Act will improve public safety by imposing strict controls on the possession and use of firearms, promoting the safe and responsible storage and use of firearms and facilitating a national approach to the control of firearms. The objects of the bill are to prohibit the possession and use of all automatic and semiautomatic rifles and shotguns except in special circumstances; to establish an integrated licensing and registration scheme for all firearms; to require each person who possesses or uses a firearm under the authority of a licence to prove a genuine reason for possessing or using the firearm; to provide strict requirements that must be satisfied in relation to the licensing of firearms and the acquisition and sale of firearms; to ensure that firearms are stored and conveyed in a safe and secure manner; and to provide for compensation in respect of, and an amnesty period to enable the surrender of, certain prohibited firearms.
The bill I present today has come about principally because of the tragic events that occurred in Port Arthur on 28 April this year. But New South Wales also has a tragic history of firearms massacres. Strathfield and Terrigal remind us of
tragedies which have afflicted the people of this State. The Port Arthur tragedy indelibly scarred the Australian psyche and made us examine our society and laws in a way that few events have ever done before. Let me say at the outset that the Prime Minister has shown historic leadership in the wake of the Port Arthur shootings. He continues to state his case with great personal courage and conviction, as he did at the rally at Sale in Victoria last Sunday. His immediate call for a special meeting of the Australasian Police Ministers’ Council ensured that the Commonwealth’s proposals for effective nationwide control of firearms could be quickly implemented by the States and Territories.
At the meeting of the Australasian Police Ministers’ Council at Canberra on 10 May, 11 resolutions on gun control were agreed to unanimously by the Prime Minister, the Commonwealth Attorney-General and police Ministers from all jurisdictions. Resolution 1 states that bans be placed on semiautomatic, self-loading and repeating action firearms. Specifically, the APMC resolved that all jurisdictions ban the sale, resale, transfer, ownership, possession, manufacture and use of those firearms banned or proposed to be banned from import other than in the following exceptional circumstances: military use, police and other government purposes, and occupational categories of shooters who have been licensed for a specified purpose, for example, contract extermination of feral animals. The APMC also resolved that all jurisdictions ban competitive shooting involving those firearms banned or proposed to be banned from import.
Resolution 2 states that an effective nationwide registration system for all firearms be established. Specifically, the APMC resolved that New South Wales, Queensland and Tasmania immediately establish an integrated licence and firearms registration system, that all other jurisdictions review their existing registration systems to ensure that all systems are compatible, and that these databases be linked through the national exchange of police information - NEPI - to ensure the effective nationwide registration of all firearms. The Council noted that there was an urgent need for funds to upgrade NEPI and for additional recurrent funding. Resolution 3 states that a genuine reason for owning, possessing or using a firearm be established by licence applicants, and that special need be established by licence applicants for licence categories B, C, D and H.
Specifically, the APMC resolved that personal protection not be regarded as a genuine reason for owning, possessing or using a firearm, and that the following classifications be used to define the "genuine reason" that an applicant must show for owning, possessing or using a firearm: sporting shooters with valid membership of an approved club, defined as participants in shooting sports recognised in the charters of such major sporting events as the Commonwealth Games, the Olympic Games or world championships; recreational shooters and hunters who produce proof of permission from a landowner; persons with an occupational requirement, for example, primary producers, other rural purposes, security employees and professional shooters for nominated purposes; bona fide collectors of lawful firearms; and persons having other limited purposes authorised by legislation or ministerial approval in writing, for example, firearms used in film production. Over and above satisfaction of the "genuine reason" test, an applicant for a licence in category B, C, D or H must demonstrate a genuine need for the particular type of firearm.
For licence category C, application will be limited to primary producers. The applicant must satisfy the licensing authority that there is a genuine need for the use of the firearm that pertains to the applicant’s occupation, which cannot be achieved by other means, and that the need cannot be satisfied by a firearm under category A or B. A category C licence holder will be limited to the maximum of one rifle and one shotgun of the types covered by category C. The application is to be approved by the Commissioner of Police, who may impose conditions on the use of the firearm, including the geographical location of its use; and licensing authorities will develop uniform guidelines to be approved by the council.
Firearms collectors should be regulated by means of a licence and permit system designed to test their bona fides. The licensing process should include provision for an initial inspection of storage facilities and for subsequent mutually arranged inspections. All such inspections will be subject to the recognition of the individual’s right to privacy. The onus of defining "bona fide firearms collectors" will rest with each State and Territory. However, the following principles should underpin the regulation of bona fide firearms collectors. The firearms which are the subject of the collection should be of or above a defined age. All firearms in the collection manufactured after 1 January 1946 must be rendered inoperable. Collectors may not possess ammunition for a collection firearm; no prohibited firearm may be included in a collection; an attempt to restore firearms in the collection to useable condition should be regarded as a serious offence and subject to severe penalties; and all operating firearms owned by the collector should be subject to the same level of regulation as any other operating firearm.
Resolution 4 of the Australasian Police Ministers’ Council is that standard basic licence requirements and common licence categories be established. Specifically, the APMC resolved that in addition to the demonstration of a genuine reason, a licence applicant should be required to be aged 18 years or over, be a fit and proper person, be able to prove identity through a system similar to that required to open a bank account, and should undertake adequate safety training. The licence must bear a photograph of the licensee, be endorsed with the category of the firearm and the holder’s
address and be issued after a waiting period of not less than 28 days and for a period of no more than five years. The licence must contain a reminder of safe storage responsibilities. It must be issued subject to undertakings to comply with storage requirements, and to provide details of proposed storage provisions at the time of licensing, to submit to a mutually arranged - with due recognition of privacy - inspection by licensing authorities of storage facilities. It is subject to immediate withdrawal of licence and confiscation of firearms in certain circumstances. Jurisdictions may wish to consider appropriate penalties additional to withdrawal or confiscation for the failure to comply with security and storage conditions. Those resolutions are the subject of further discussion.
The Australasian Police Ministers’ Council resolved that within a regime of uniform firearms legislation, all States and Territories recognise, for visiting gun owners, licences issued in other Australian jurisdictions in order to facilitate the lawful pursuit of sporting and other purposes. A further resolution is that jurisdictions recognise, for a period of no longer than three months, category A or B firearms licences issued in another jurisdiction to individuals who move permanently to a new jurisdiction. For individuals with a licence category C, D or H, the period of recognition will not exceed seven days. It was resolved that the following categories be used in the licensing of firearms. A proper licensing system should recognise the various types of firearms which are available and should be classified in accordance with the relative dangerousness of the firearm and the uses to which the firearm may be put.
The APMC resolved that the following categories be used in the licensing of firearms. Licence category A: air rifles; rim-fire rifles, excluding self-loading; and single and double barrel shotguns. Licence category B: muzzle-loading firearms; single shot, double barrel and repeating centre-fire rifles; and break action shotguns/rifle combinations. Licence category C: prohibited, except for occupational purposes: semiautomatic rim-fire rifles with a magazine capacity no greater than 10 rounds; semiautomatic shotguns with a magazine capacity no greater than five rounds; pump action shotguns with a magazine capacity no greater than five rounds. Licence category D: prohibited, except for official purposes: self-loading centre-fire rifles designed or adapted for military purposes or a firearm which substantially duplicates those rifles in design, function or appearance; non-military style self-loading centre-fire rifles with either an integral or detachable magazine; self-loading shotguns with either an integral or detachable magazine and pump action shotguns with a capacity of more than five rounds; self-loading rim-fire rifles with a magazine capacity greater than 10 rounds. Licence category H: restricted, all handguns, including air pistols.
Resolution 5 is that standard safety training be developed and that completion of that training be a prerequisite for all new licence applicants. Specifically, the APMC resolved that all jurisdictions require the completion of an accredited course in safety training for firearms for all new licence applicants. The course should be comprehensive and standardised across Australia for all licence categories, subject to accreditation of the course syllabus by an appropriate authority and a system of accredited instructors to bring prospective licensees to the required standard with a focus on firearms law, firearms safety and firearms competency. It should be outlined in a firearms safety code which emphasises both safety and storage issues and is distributed to all new licence applicants prior to attending the course of instruction and monitored as to content and the skills of instructors by firearms regulatory authorities. A specialised course should be established for training of persons employed in the security industry.
Resolution 6 of the Australasian Police Ministers’ Council is that the common agreed grounds for licence refusal or cancellation and seizure of firearms be enacted. Specifically, the APMC resolved that jurisdictions set out in legislation circumstances in which licence applications are to be refused or licences are to be cancelled. The following minimum standards are proposed. General reasons: not of good character; conviction for an offence involving violence within the past five years; contravene firearm law; unsafe storage; no longer genuine reason; not in public interest due to - defined - circumstances; not notifying change of address; licence obtained by deception. Specific reasons: where applicant/licence holder has been the subject of an apprehended violence order, domestic violence order, restraining order or conviction for assault with a weapon/aggravated assault within the past five years. Mental or physical fitness: reliable evidence of a mental or physical condition which would render the applicant unsuitable for owning, possessing or using a firearm.
In regard to the latter point, a balance needs to be struck between the rights of the individual to privacy and fair treatment, and the responsibility of authorities, on behalf of the community, to prevent danger to the individual and the wider community. A Commonwealth-State working party, including health officials, police and medical representation, is to be established to examine possible criteria and systems for determining mental and physical fitness to own, possess or use a firearm. The working party should report to the second APMC meeting for 1996, but jurisdictions should not delay the introduction of necessary legislative changes while awaiting its report. Jurisdictions will establish an appeal from a refusal of a licence application and the cancellation of a licence.
Resolution 7 of the Australasian Police Ministers’ Council is that permits be required for every acquisition of a firearm. Specifically the APMC resolved that a separate permit be required for the acquisition of every firearm and that the
issue of a permit should be subject to a waiting period of at least 28 days to enable appropriate checks to be made on licensees in order to ascertain whether circumstances have occurred since the issuing of the original licence which would render the licensee unsuitable to possess the firearm or which would render the licensee ineligible for that type of firearm.
Resolution 8 is that agreed uniform standards for the security and storage of firearms be enacted. Specifically the APMC resolved that all firearms and ammunition be stored in secure conditions as follows. It should be a precondition to the issuing of a new firearms licence, and on each renewal of licence in respect of existing licence holders, that the licensing authority be satisfied as to the proposed storage and security arrangements. Legislation should have the effect of making failure to store firearms in the manner required an offence, as well as a matter that will lead to the cancellation of the licence and the confiscation of all firearms. Measures should be indicated in legislation for the storage of firearms which are specific and clear so that firearm owners and possessors know their obligations and the following minimum basic standards should apply.
Licence category A and B firearms are to be stored in a locked receptacle constructed of either hard wood or steel with a thickness to ensure it is not easily penetrable. If the weight is less than 150 kilograms the receptacle shall be fixed to the frame of the floor or wall so as to prevent easy removal. The locks fitted to these receptacles shall be of sturdy construction. Licence category C, D and H firearms are to be stored in a locked, steel safe with a thickness to ensure it is not easily penetrable and bolted to the structure of a building. All ammunition should be stored in locked containers separate from any firearms.
Should firearms owners or possessors wish to store firearms through measures other than those indicated in legislation, they would have the burden of persuading the firearms regulatory authority that they can provide the level of security not less than that required by the relevant approved practices. In order to govern safekeeping when firearms are temporarily away from their usual place of storage, legislation could provide a statement indicating reasonable precautions to be taken to ensure safekeeping, taking into consideration situations most likely to be encountered. A basic standard that should be included in the statement is that the holder of the licence must take reasonable care to ensure that the firearm is not lost or stolen and must take reasonable care to ensure that the firearm does not fall into the hands of an unauthorised person.
The firearms safety booklet to be distributed to all new licence applicants prior to attending for a course of instruction. It should feature clear and precise information on the obligations as regards storage of firearms. A reminder of safe storage responsibilities will be on the licence itself. Security at gun dealer premises will require the dealer meeting such additional requirements as the firearms regulatory authority deems appropriate having regard to the type of activity of the dealer. Where approval has been given for the possession or use of a firearm for a limited purpose, such as film production, the person authorised must meet such requirements as the firearms regulatory authority deems appropriate, having regard to the type of activity for which possession has been authorised - likewise for artistic purposes.
Resolution 9 was that firearms sales be made only by or through licensed firearms dealers and that all sales be recorded. Specifically, the Australasian Police Ministers’ Council resolved that firearms sales be conducted only by authorised licensed firearms dealers; that the following principles should underpin firearms dealer recording of firearms transactions; that firearms dealers should continue to be obliged under penalty to ensure that purchasers are appropriately licensed for the firearm to be purchased; that firearms dealers should be required to record and maintain details - type, make, calibre and serial number - of each weapon purchased or sold against the identity - name, address and licence number - of the seller or the purchaser; that firearms dealers should be required to provide records to the national register of firearms through the State/Territory licensing authority; that police personnel investigating a crime or checking the compliance of licensed gun dealers with recording responsibilities should have the right to inspect the records of licensed gun dealers without the need to give notice to the licensee; and that special provisions may have to be put in place in those jurisdictions which have remote locations where licensed gun dealers may not be readily available. It may be possible, for instance, to authorise local police officers to certify sales/purchases in such circumstances.
Further agreed principles are that jurisdictions legislate to allow the sale of ammunition only for those firearms for which the purchaser is licensed and that there be limits on the quantity of ammunition that may be purchased in a given period; and that on the purchase of ammunition, the relevant licence must be produced. Resolution 10 of the Australasian Police Ministers’ Council was that controls be placed on mail order sales, the advertising of firearms for sale, and the commercial transport of firearms and ammunition. Specifically, the Australasian Police Ministers’ Council resolved to adopt the following principles in relation to mail order firearms sales: that mail order arrangements will apply strictly on a licensed gun dealer to licensed gun dealer basis; that advertisement of firearms for sale will be prohibited unless the sale is to be conducted by or through a licensed gun dealer; that the movement of firearms covered by licence categories C, D and H must be in accordance with prescribed safety requirements; that the commercial transport of ammunition with firearms will be prohibited; and that each jurisdiction pass the necessary legislation to enforce these principles within their borders.
Resolution 11 concerned compensation and incentive issues. Specifically, the Australasian Police Ministers’ Council resolved that a common basis for fair and proper compensation, based on the value of each firearm as at March 1996, be agreed between jurisdictions to prevent gun owners offering their firearms to the State/Territory which offers the "best price"; that there be a public education campaign to highlight the firearms amnesty and compensation program; to note that the Commonwealth will make a financial contribution to the public education campaign; that a 12-month national amnesty be established, during which the public education campaign would persuade firearm owners to comply, and warn of severe penalties where firearms are not voluntarily surrendered; and that, after the amnesty has concluded, each jurisdiction have severe penalties, which to the extent practicable should be uniform, for breaches of the firearms control laws.
This bill implements those resolutions and has the full support of the Federal Government. The Government believes that a fully national approach to firearms control is imperative. We still believe the best way to guarantee uniformity is for the Commonwealth to assume power in this area. However, as this is not acceptable to the Commonwealth or to the other States, we will be looking to the Commonwealth to ensure uniform provisions in the legislation proposed by each State and Territory. These provisions will ensure that the Australasian Police Ministers’ Council resolutions are incorporated in the bill and are fully endorsed by the Commonwealth Attorney-General. By leave, I table a letter from the Commonwealth Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, the Hon. Daryl Williams, QC, dated 18 June 1996. It is addressed to me, as Minister for Police, and states:
I refer to our previous correspondence and discussions regarding the NSW Firearms Bill 1996. Thank you for providing me with a copy of the Bill. I understand that you intend to introduce the legislation into NSW Parliament this week.
As you are aware, Officers of the Commonwealth Law Enforcement Board and my Department have been consulted on the Bill during the drafting stage. Those officers have advised me that the Bill covers and implements the proposals contained in the resolutions agreed by Ministers at the Special Meeting of the Australasian Police Ministers’ Council on 10 May 1996.
I would like to record my appreciation for the speed with which you have completed this legislation, and my thanks for your cooperation in this matter.
To assist members and the general public, the bill indicates which of its provisions result from the Australasian Police Ministers’ Council resolutions and which reflect the provisions of the existing 1989 firearms law in New South Wales. The bill is a response to the overwhelming support in the wider community to tighten control over the use of firearms and to ensure that Australia does not head down the path taken by the United States, where abuse of firearms is a fact of daily life. I want to stress that this bill does not treat firearms owners as criminals, as some have claimed. Rather, it requires firearms owners to comply with special conditions for the privilege of owning and using those firearms in a free society.
I know that most firearms owners are decent and law-abiding citizens and that these new laws may inconvenience them. However, the Prime Minister, the Commonwealth Attorney-General, and all the Australian police Ministers are convinced that these measures are necessary to ensure that all firearms are used and stored in a safe and responsible manner. I believe that the vast majority of the Australian public supports these initiatives. The Carr Government believes that the proposed laws are strict, sensible and fair, and will facilitate a national approach to the control of firearms. We want to make New South Wales a safer place to live, and as quickly as possible. Our legislation is a start, but other States must also act.
A number of issues remain to be resolved by the Commonwealth and by the police Ministers. Although nothing has been settled yet, issues that may be further considered include: how special need is to be shown; whether special need is to be shown by licence category B applicants; how the national safety training proposals will be implemented; access to category C firearms by other nominated groups, such as sports shooters participating in certain events, and professional contract shooters; the lower age limit for minors with shooting permits; the amount of ammunition that can be purchased in any given period; how to deal with firearms received as gifts or as an inheritance; other purposes, apart from sports shooting, which will be grounds for recognition of interstate licences; and, lastly, the commercial transport of firearms and ammunition.
The Commonwealth also needs to advise how and when it proposes to pay compensation for surrendered prohibited firearms, whether this compensation will be paid for prohibited firearms only or for all firearms which are surrendered, when the proposed amnesty is to commence, and how it and the public education campaign will work. The Commonwealth has said that it will be repealing its Australian rifle club regulations. Over 100 rifle clubs in New South Wales are formed under these Commonwealth regulations. Several Labor Party backbenchers have informed me that the Commonwealth is acting hastily in repealing the regulations under which these clubs are formed.
The Commonwealth has failed to consider the interests of club members, and is attempting to off load an issue which it finds too difficult onto the States. I urge the Commonwealth to allow an especially long lead time in this respect. I intend to take up this issue with the Australian police Ministers and the Commonwealth Government. And I would caution the Commonwealth Government to proceed slowly and to respect the rights of members of those clubs, many of whom are members of the defence forces and police services.
The fees to be charged for licences, registration and permits to acquire are another important matter which is still to be considered in detail. It is important that the Commonwealth lead a national consensus on the types and amounts of fees which are to be payable to ensure that firearms owners in individual jurisdictions are not disadvantaged by higher fees on one State than in another. On the subject of registration fees, I believe it is important that all States which currently do not have registration schemes waive all first time registration fees for the period of the amnesty to ensure that those who register the firearms they already own are not penalised by the introduction of the new scheme. I will be looking to the Commonwealth to reimburse New South Wales for the costs of establishing the new registration system rather than recovering the establishment costs through registration fees levied on firearms owners.
The issue of firearms collectors should also be mentioned. The APMC has established another working party to look at the regulation of collectors. Whatever recommendations that working party makes, I will ensure that no firearms of special historical value are destroyed if they are surrendered as part of the amnesty. One means of preserving antique firearms with unique historical value could be by the issue of a special collector’s licence. This would recognise the unique circumstances of some collections of firearms. If decisions are made about these issues, many of them can be addressed in regulations or in administrative practice. But the regulations cannot subvert the bill. If any changes are required to the bill, the Government will move amendments needed to implement any joint agreed decisions made by Commonwealth and State and Territory police Ministers and after receiving public submissions by the end of July this year - a matter to which I referred earlier.
Turning to the bill itself, part 1 provides for definitions and commencement of the new legislation. The Government proposes commencement of various provisions on different days as a nationally agreed approach is adopted. At present, the Government is aiming to commence the buy-back scheme - which, of course, is subject to the availability of Commonwealth legislation and Commonwealth money - in October this year and to start the registration scheme in January 1997. For example, the provisions relating to compensation in clause 78 and reporting by medical practitioners in clause 79 will apply only when Commonwealth advice on these matters is finally received and a national approach has been agreed upon. Similarly registration, which is provided for in part 3 of the bill, will commence only when proper administrative arrangements are in place, and the Commonwealth has provided the appropriate funding for the upgrading of the national exchange of police information computer system which is required for an effective national registration scheme.
Part 2 establishes a new licensing and permit scheme for all firearms. It is intended that common licence categories will apply across Australia and those who wish to own firearms will have to prove a genuine need to do so. These genuine reasons, which are provided for in clause 12 of the bill, are not unduly restrictive. Genuine reasons for possessing or using a firearm include sport/target shooting. The applicant must be a current member of a shooting club prescribed in the regulations which conducts competitions or activities requiring the use of the firearm for which the licence is sought. Another genuine reason is recreational hunting/vermin control. The applicant must be the owner or occupier of rural land or produce proof of permission to shoot on rural land. The regulations may provide for the manner and form in which any such permission is to be given. I envisage that this requirement might or could be satisfactorily complied with by the completion of a statutory declaration from the licence applicant.
Primary production is a genuine reason for possessing or using a firearm. The applicant must be a person whose occupation is primary production or who is the owner, lessee or manager of land used for primary production and who states that he or she intends to use the firearm solely in connection with farming or grazing activities. Vertebrate pest animal control is another genuine reason for possessing or using a firearm. The applicant must be a professional contract shooter who is engaged or employed in controlling vertebrate pest animals on rural land or who is employed or authorised by a government agency prescribed by the regulations that is involved in the control of vertebrate pest animals. Business or employment are genuine reasons for possessing or using a firearm. The applicant must demonstrate that it is necessary in the conduct of his or her business or employment to possess or use the firearm for which the licence is sought.
Occupational requirements relating to rural purposes is another genuine reason. The applicant must be employed or engaged in a rural occupation that requires the possession or use of the firearm for which the licence is sought. Animal welfare is another genuine reason. The applicant must be an RSPCA or animal welfare officer, a vet, or a person employed by the Department of Agriculture or a rural lands protection board with responsibility for animal welfare or an owner, transporter, drover or animal handler who may need to destroy the animal to avoid suffering. Firearms collection is another genuine reason. The applicant must be a current member of a collectors’ society or club prescribed by the regulations, the members of which collect firearms of the kind for which the licence is sought. I remind honourable members of what I said at the police Ministers conference and at meetings which have taken place concerning the issue of collectors. That matter may be the subject of a special category and may be the subject of a future legislative proposal. There are strong arguments that collectors should have an individual category.
Firearms owners will be licensed to use their firearms for the genuine reason they have specified, and can put forward more than one reason in their application for a licence. As recognised by the APMC resolutions, and impressed upon me by my colleagues the honourable member for Broken Hill, the honourable member for Cessnock and the honourable member for Bathurst, primary producers and professional contract shooters will be given access to some prohibited firearms in recognition of their special needs. Under clause 14 of the bill, primary producers who can show that they have a special need to use the prohibited firearms listed in licence category C, and can show that the special need cannot be met in any other way including by using a category A or B firearm, will be eligible for a category C licence. Under clause 8 of the bill a category C licence authorises the licence holder to use one rifle and one shotgun out of the types specified in category C.
Clause 8 of the bill provides that self-loading rim-fire rifles with a magazine capacity of no more than 10 rounds, self-loading shotguns with a magazine capacity of no more than five rounds and repeating action shotguns with magazine capacities of no more than five rounds will be available to primary producers under licence category C. Clause 16 of the bill provides that professional contract shooters who are employed in the control of feral pest animals on rural land will be licensed to use prohibited firearms under category D, where they can prove a special need. Firearms in category D are self-loading centre-fire rifles, self-loading rim-fire rifles with a magazine capacity of more than 10 rounds, and self-loading shotguns and repeating action shotguns with magazine capacities of more than five rounds. The category H licence is to be issued for pistols.
In accordance with the current 1989 Firearms Act, and now reproduced in clause 16 of the bill, pistol licences are only to be issued for the genuine reasons of sport/target shooting, business or employment or for firearms collections. Implementing APMC resolution 3, clause 16 provides that licence applicants for licence category H must also provide proof of special need like applicants for licence categories B, C and D. Clause 18 provides for the forms of licence and implements APMC resolution number 4. The licence is to be in a form approved by the Commissioner of Police and the bill provides that the licence may record information in different ways. For example, licence information could be recorded by a magnetic strip like those used on automatic teller cards. This will ensure that information such as the licence holder’s address can be recorded in a confidential manner.
Clause 11 of the bill, which implements parts of APMC resolutions 4, and 5 and 6, places general restrictions on the issue of licences. This clause is similar to existing section 25 of the 1989 Firearms Act, and provides that a 28-day waiting period must elapse before a licence is issued; that the Commissioner of Police must be satisfied that the licence applicant is a fit and proper person to have possession of firearms; that all first-time licence applicants must have completed the national firearms safety training course to the satisfaction of the Commissioner of Police; and that the Commissioner of Police must be satisfied that the licence applicant can meet the storage and safety requirements set out in part 4 of the bill.
Clause 11 also provides that a licence must not be issued to a person who is under the age of 18 years; who has been convicted of certain prescribed offences within the last 10 years, who has been subject to an apprehended violence order within the last 10 years or is subject to a recognisance to keep the peace; or who is subject to a firearms prohibition order issued under part 7 of the bill. Again, these provisions are closely based on section 25 of the 1989 Firearms Act. The existing provisions in the 1989 Firearms Act allowing for revocation of firearms licences in certain circumstances, including in cases of domestic violence, have been reproduced in clauses 22 to 25 of the bill. In particular, like in the existing Firearms Act, the Commissioner of Police must suspend a licence if the licensee has been charged with a domestic violence offence or the commissioner has reasonable cause to believe that the licensee has committed, or threatened to commit, a domestic violence offence within the meaning of the Crimes Act 1900.
Order! I acknowledge the presence in the gallery of 35 members of the Liberal Democratic Party from the Fukushima Prefecture Assembly, Japan, and welcome them to the New South Wales Parliament.
Clauses 23 and 24 retain sections 35A and 36 of the 1989 Firearms Act, which provide that a firearms licence is automatically suspended on the making of an interim apprehended violence order against the licence holder, and is automatically revoked if the interim order is confirmed. Clause 24 also provides that licences may be revoked for a number of other reasons, including reasons for which a licence would be refused, contravening firearms law, contravening any licence condition, and where the Commissioner of Police forms the opinion that the licensee is no longer a fit and proper person. Clause 25 continues section 38 of the 1989 Firearms Act by providing that firearms must be surrendered to police, and can be seized by police officers, upon suspension or revocation of a licence.
While applicants for licences must be over the age of 18, minors under 18 will continue to be eligible for the commissioner’s permits under clause 32 of the bill. As is the case under the existing law, minors will continue to be able to use long arms or target pistols under the personal supervision of an appropriately licensed shooter to enable them to receive instruction or, in the case of target pistols, to participate in approved sports shooting events. Again, as under the existing law, the Commissioner of Police will be able to issue permits for other purposes such as film or theatre production or other artistic purposes, and for overseas shooters who are visiting Australia to participate in shooting competitions. One important change flowing from the APMC resolutions is that permits will now be required to acquire all firearms.
These permits are important as they are the start of the registration "audit trail" and put police on notice that a firearm is to be registered. They also enable the police to check that the permit applicant is properly licensed to possess the type of firearm he or she wishes to acquire. An exception is made to this requirement for licensed firearms dealers. Permits to acquire will be issued as soon as possible at the end of a 28-day waiting period. This period is to give the police time to check that the applicant is properly licensed to purchase or otherwise acquire the firearm in question. Part 3 implements APMC resolution 2 to introduce an integrated licensing and registration system for all firearms in New South Wales. The register will contain details of each firearm that is registered to a particular licensed owner and must be updated for every purchase, sale or other acquisition of a firearm.
As stated in APMC resolution 2, all the registration databases of each State and Territory will be linked through the national exchange of police information system, and a working party is considering the best way to do this. Let me stress that the register will not be a public register. Information on the register will only be available to police. Registration is a controversial move. However, it forms one of the central planks of the Commonwealth’s proposals for national regulation of firearms. And let us not forget that Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria, the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory have had registration of all firearms for many years. Indeed, New South Wales has required the registration of pistols since 1927 and it works very effectively.
However, establishment of a registration scheme for long arms will be very expensive and I will be looking to the Commonwealth for financial assistance to ensure that this important part of the controls proposed by the Commonwealth and the APMC works effectively in New South Wales. Part 4 implements the APMC resolution on the safe keeping of firearms. It prescribes the requirements for the safe keeping of category A and B firearms, and those for category C, D and H firearms and for ammunition. However, if a licensee can satisfy the Commissioner of Police that alternative storage arrangements are of the same or a higher standard of safe storage than the standards prescribed in the bill, then those alternative arrangements may be approved. Firearms licensees are required to allow the police to inspect storage facilities at a mutually convenient time, and all licences will contain a reminder of safe keeping responsibilities.
As is provided under the existing law, the police will be required to seize firearms or ammunition that is not correctly stored. The storage requirements are strict as non-compliance can easily compromise safety. For example, if firearms fall into the hands of children or others who are not licensed or trained in their safe use, accidental shootings can occur. And it is crucial to make every attempt to guard against youth suicide and to protect family members from firearms accidents. Part 5 covers firearms dealers. Firearms dealers will be licensed under the new Act and many of the obligations in the Firearms Act 1989 have been carried over into this bill. The bill implements the APMC resolution that all sales are to be conducted by licensed firearms dealers.
An exception is to be made at the request of the honourable member for Broken Hill, the honourable member for Cessnock and the honourable member for Bathurst where a licensed firearms dealer will not be available. In such cases sales are to be witnessed by local police. As primary producers and professional contract shooters will have access to prohibited weapons, some firearms dealers will be licensed to sell and to service those types of firearms. All dealers will be required to record sales and transfers of firearms to ensure that the firearms register is kept up to date and will continue to be subject to existing requirements concerning security of firearms kept on their premises. I recognise that dealers are running a business and many have suffered financial hardship as a result of the APMC resolutions. Indeed, on 9 May, a day prior, they were running very legitimate legal businesses.
The decision made by the APMC rendered part of their business illegal. Quite seriously some of them have suffered severe financial hardship. Accordingly, I intend that when the details of compensation payments have been settled by the Commonwealth, and the compensation scheme has been established, firearms dealers will receive priority for compensation payments. They are also entitled to interest, in my view. Compensation payments will be crucial for many of these people and I ask the Commonwealth when will this compensation be available? Part 6 makes provision for a number of miscellaneous offences. These have largely been transferred from the current Firearms Act but some have been added to enforce the APMC resolutions.
The new offences are: buying a firearm without first having obtained a permit to acquire it; selling a firearm, unless the seller is a licensed firearms dealer, and buying a firearm from someone who is not a licensed firearms dealer; transporting whole firearms - in other words, this does not include firearms parts - with ammunition, and transporting pistols and prohibited firearms without complying with prescribed safety requirements. Part 7 simply continues the existing regime of firearms prohibition orders. Under the existing Firearms Act, and continued in this part, the Commissioner of Police can make an order prohibiting a person from possessing or using a firearm if the commissioner is of the opinion that the person is not fit, in the public interest, to be permitted to have access to a firearm.
Part 8 continues the current practice of appeals to the Local Court against licensing and registration decisions and firearms prohibitions orders. Part 9 contains a number of miscellaneous provisions. Most of those have been carried over from the existing Act. However, two new provisions have been added. Clause 78 provides for compensation to be paid for prohibited firearms which are surrendered during the 12 months amnesty period. The Commonwealth is responsible for determining the compensation that will be paid for each firearm which is surrendered. It has established an expert group which is working on determining the compensation that will be paid for each firearm, but details of compensation and of the valuation process have not yet been made available to the States.
I want the Commonwealth to agree that the highest market value should be paid for each firearm surrendered, regardless of its condition, to avoid any possible arguments on this issue. However, any disputes which do arise on the value determined by the Commonwealth will have to be resolved by the Commonwealth. I also foreshadow my intention to introduce a second bill when Parliament resumes in September, the Commonwealth Compensation Payments Bill, which will implement this part of the APMC resolutions. It is to be hoped that valuation will be offered at current market value to ensure maximum compliance with the APMC proposals. The amnesty will only work if it is nationwide and supported by a properly funded public education campaign.
The success of the current New South Wales amnesty, which is due to end on 30 June, has been ensured by the waiver of licence fees and on a strong public education campaign. More than 9,600 firearms and other weapons have been surrendered during the last 12 months and the New South Wales police already have systems in place to ensure surrendered firearms are dealt with properly and efficiently. To ensure that no delays occur in the processing of surrendered firearms and the payments of compensation, I intend to temporarily increase staff in country areas to deal expeditiously with the firearms which are surrendered. I will also ensure that a comprehensive public education campaign is run to ensure that all firearms owners are aware of their new obligations and of the compensation that will be paid when they surrender their prohibited firearms.
A second additional provision is clause 79. This clause provides immunity for registered medical practitioners who form the opinion that a patient is an unsuitable person to be in possession of a firearm and who inform the Commissioner of Police of this. Finally, I draw attention to schedule 1 to the bill which lists all firearms that will be prohibited in New South Wales. Many of the items in schedule 1 have been transferred from the Prohibited Weapons Act 1989. When the bill is enacted, all firearms will be regulated under the one piece of legislation rather than being split between two Acts as is currently the case. Some of these firearms, but not all, will be available in special circumstances to primary producers and professional shooters under licence categories C and D. Most will not be available at all, or will only be available under commissioner’s permit, as is the case in the existing Prohibited Weapons Act. The Government has stood firmly behind the Federal Government’s push to introduce stricter gun control laws. This bill fully implements the Australasian Police Ministers’ Council resolutions and I believe is an important step forward in making Australia a safer place. It is the beginning of a common, Australiawide approach to safe and responsible firearms control. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate adjourned on motion by Mr Tink
CONSIDERATION OF URGENT MOTIONS
Fisheries Research Funding
(Port Stephens - Minister for Mineral Resources, and Minister for Fisheries) [4.22]: I thank the House for the opportunity to put forward a case as to why this motion is the more urgent of the two motions of which notice has been given. It is urgent that this issue be debated today because in the past few days members of the fishing profession have expressed to me in private discussions their alarm at the lack of any guarantees from the Federal Government for the continuation of critical funding for important ongoing research through the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation. It is important that this uncertainty be resolved urgently. It is unhealthy for scientists, marine and fisheries experts and others engaged in complex tasks, many requiring years to complete, to have this cloud of doubt hanging over their heads.
It is urgent for these guarantees to be forthcoming because New South Wales leads the way in pioneering significant research into fisheries - projects that have implications not only
for the future of the State’s fisheries but also for the health of the nation. Urgency also flows from the fact that a great deal of these research projects are well advanced and are at critical stages. The Government needs assurances from the Federal Government now so that it can formulate plans on how to deal with these problems. It is unlikely that they would be able to be funded from State core budget priorities. Close to $4 million in funds, much of which is tied to the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, is engaged in fisheries research, so it is urgent to resolve the question of continued funding.
On a point of order. Mr Speaker, I seek your guidance in regard to whether this speculative motion is in order. The substance of the Minister’s motion is the possibility of Federal funding cuts. In fact indications are to the contrary, that there will not be any funding cuts, so the motion is speculative, and in accordance with the standing orders it ought not be allowed.
Order! The motion notes the failure of the Federal Government to guarantee funds for critical fisheries research. As I understand it, the Federal Government has not guaranteed funding. The motion is in order.
In view of the attempts by members opposite to try to frustrate this important issue it is vital that urgency is given so the needs of fisheries in this State can be determined. I rest my case: it is essential that this motion be debated to determine the needs of New South Wales fisheries management.
Water Allocation Reductions
Mr D. L. PAGE
(Ballina) [4.24]: Earlier I gave notice of a motion in relation to a meeting next week of the Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Advisory Council. I sought to move that urgency motion because it is a matter of great importance to water users in New South Wales that included among the agenda items for that meeting is a clear indication that New South Wales water users will be disadvantaged compared to water users in other States. This motion is urgent because next week the ministerial council will meet and its decisions need to be in the best interests of New South Wales water users. It is vital that the Minister for Land and Water Conservation, who will represent New South Wales at that meeting, should not involve himself in any arrangements that will disadvantage water users in New South Wales. This may well be the last opportunity that the House will have to send a message to the Minister in relation to the urgency of this matter.
My concern about the urgency of this issue emanates essentially from a number of points in the agenda paper set down for this important meeting next week. Part 7 of the agenda paper, item 17, indicates that there will be a reduction of water allocation to users in New South Wales, making it less likely that diversions will increase. It also indicates that the increase in water allocations in Victoria will be maintained. So clearly New South Wales is prepared to make cuts whereas Victoria is not. Further, the agenda indicates that South Australia will continue to allow its irrigators to develop their existing entitlements towards the level that South Australia has proposed as its final cap. Queensland will allow the prospects of growth in diversions to occur in Queensland but not above levels that Queensland considers reasonable for its final cap.
Those agenda items clearly show that the only State which will be making cuts will be New South Wales. The urgency of this matter is serious for water users across New South Wales because it would be inequitable for water users in New South Wales to make cuts at a time when water users in Queensland, Victoria and South Australia will not. It is interesting to note that the agenda paper recognises this issue of equity in attachment C to agenda item 5 under the heading "Outstanding Issues Identified by the Water Policy Committee that need to be Resolved". The attachment states that it is important that the community perceive that the States are imposing the final cap in consistent ways. It goes on to say:
Changes to existing water entitlement rules will be difficult to implement if those water users who are adversely affected can point to similar water users in other States who have been treated differently.
That in essence is the central reason my motion is more urgent than the motion of the Minister for Mineral Resources, and Minister for Fisheries. New South Wales has a real issue confronting it. The water users in New South Wales are concerned that the New South Wales Government is selling the State short by agreeing to cut allocations when other States are not doing the same and that this will give growers and water users in other States an advantage over New South Wales water users. I am sure if there is a cut in allocations and a final cap applied to the Murray Basin area, equity between the States will be the critical issue.
New South Wales farmers are prepared to make sacrifices in the common interest if that can be demonstrated to be necessary. However, they are not prepared to do so unless other States are willing to make sacrifices to achieve certain environmental outcomes. I call on the Minister to stand up and be counted to ensure that the interests of New South Wales water users are properly represented at this important meeting next week. That is why I seek the support of the House for this motion to take priority.
Question - That the notice for urgent consideration of Mr Martin be proceeded with - put.
The House divided.
Mr Amery Mr Martin
Mr Anderson Ms Meagher
Ms Andrews Mr Mills
Mr Aquilina Mr Moss
Mrs Beamer Mr Nagle
Mr Clough Mr Neilly
Mr Crittenden Ms Nori
Mr Debus Mr E. T. Page
Mr Face Mr Price
Mr Gaudry Dr Refshauge
Mr Gibson Mr Rogan
Ms Hall Mr Rumble
Mr Harrison Mr Scully
Ms Harrison Mr Shedden
Mr Hunter Mr Stewart
Mr Iemma Mr Sullivan
Mr Knight Mr Tripodi
Mr Knowles Mr Watkins
Mr Langton Mr Whelan
Mrs Lo Po’ Mr Woods
Mr Lynch Mr Yeadon
Mr McBride Tellers
Mr McManus Mr Beckroge
Mr Markham Mr Thompson
Mr Armstrong Mr O’Doherty
Mr Beck Mr D. L. Page
Mr Blackmore Mr Peacocke
Mr Brogden Mr Phillips
Mr Chappell Mr Photios
Mrs Chikarovski Mr Richardson
Mr Cochran Mr Rixon
Mr Collins Mr Rozzoli
Mr Cruickshank Mr Schipp
Mr Debnam Mr Schultz
Mr Ellis Ms Seaton
Ms Ficarra Mrs Skinner
Mr Fraser Mr Slack-Smith
Mr Glachan Mr Small
Mr Hartcher Mr Smith
Mr Hazzard Mr Souris
Dr Kernohan Mr Tink
Mr Kinross Mr J. H. Turner
Mr MacCarthy Mr R. W. Turner
Dr Macdonald Mr Windsor
Ms Machin Tellers
Mr Merton Mr Jeffery
Ms Moore Mr Kerr
Ms Allan Mr Downy
Mr Carr Mr Humpherson
Mrs Grusovin Mr O’Farrell
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
FISHERIES RESEARCH FUNDING
Consideration of Urgent Motion
(Port Stephens - Minister for Mineral Resources, and Minister for Fisheries) [4.40]: I move:
That this House views with concern the failure of the Howard Federal Government to guarantee that funds for critical fisheries research will be exempted from the massive budget cuts being planned by Treasurer Peter Costello and Finance Minister John Fahey.
Recently upsetting suggestions have been made that high on the list of areas to be slashed by the Federal Government in its quest to be as ruthless, as unthinking and as unconscionable as possible is the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation - FRDC. The failure of any guarantees to flow from Canberra on sustaining the vital funds needed for ongoing fisheries research matters is a cause for concern, and is causing distress and uncertainty to those engaged in these important projects. Many people have said that cuts to the FRDC would be unthinkable. But if draconian cutbacks to the Australian Customs Service and the number of sniffer dogs engaged in important drug detection work at our ports are contemplated, New South Wales Fisheries has good reason to be concerned, because it appears that anything is possible under this Federal Government.
If Peter Costello and his razor-wielding group, particularly former Premier John Fahey, can consider without conscious thought slashing the exceptional circumstances assistance funding for drought-affected and financially ravaged farmers, as the Minister for Agriculture informed the House yesterday, nothing is sacred. All honourable members must be on guard. It seems that anything will be forsaken in Canberra’s doctrinaire and unfair grab for cash, even though many independent commentators are now claiming the black hole that conservatives speak of is nothing but a figment of their political imagination. There are now grave fears that the FRDC has already fallen into the focus of the conservatives’ bean counters, and that vital research funding may be in jeopardy. If this is the case the situation is parlous indeed, and nothing short of a catastrophe would result in our fragile fisheries and their management.
In this State at least, New South Wales Fisheries is finally assuming a strategic research priority in the development of policies. If the research component of that work was forsaken, the morale of the organisation and the commitment to excellence would be imperilled. The FRDC was established in 1991 under the previous Labor Government. Previously a similar organisation was very much strengthened in the Whitlam era. It was an organisation set up to fund research across the Commonwealth of Australia. It was set up in recognition of the fact that our fisheries have traditionally been handled in a haphazard and ad-hoc manner, with little attention ever paid to the imperative of achieving sustainable development and
the preservation of fish stocks. Where possible, we are now looking at replenishing depleted stocks, and improving the environment and habitat in which our precious species survive. The main aim of the FRDC was to act as a centre for funding projects, matters that sought funding on a competitive basis and which sought approval because they were linked to a perceived major problem, had a specific national benefit if the project was successful, and had long-term flow-on effects.
I am pleased to say that in this extremely competitive environment New South Wales Fisheries has consistently demonstrated its excellence in attracting research funding from the Commonwealth, which is why any reduction in funding would be so devastating to this State and to the country. Many funds are now tied up in critical ongoing research work. Indeed, this financial year New South Wales Fisheries has secured $1.67 million for research, a significant sum that involves critical matters. The aim of the FRDC is to increase the economic, environmental and social benefits to members of the Australian fishing industry and the community and, as I indicated to the House, achieve sustainable use and management of the limited fisheries resource. Let us hope that very laudable aim is able to be preserved in the current Federal climate of slash and burn.
As yet no guarantee has come from Canberra that FRDC funding, a critical Commonwealth obligation to the nation’s environmental benefit and economic needs, will be exempt from the horror round of planned Federal budget cuts. If the tough-talking rhetoric from Canberra is to be believed, these cuts will detrimentally affect almost every aspect of Australian life. Honourable members should realise that the FRDC has so far taken a strategic and balanced view of the fisheries resource. So far it has sought to incorporate resources and skills of the community, particularly the State’s scientists, to achieve better outcomes for the future of fisheries. Funding particular research projects and adopting a national approach has so far helped to fill gaps in the industry’s knowledge and, as a result, promote interest and further research and investigation into matters it considers will give direction and stimulus to the industry.
Projects funded by the FRDC address core information needs for New South Wales Fisheries, which provides in-kind payments for all FRDC-supported projects in the form of staff time and overhead costs. External funding is used to cover travel costs, equipment and miscellaneous costs, as well as support additional staff members required to carry out research. Any effect on the level of funds or the basis on which they are currently provided would be very much regretted and a matter of extreme disappointment. To gain a better appreciation of how devastating any funding cuts would be to the research footing of New South Wales Fisheries and the national interest, it is useful to examine in some detail the number of matters currently the subject of investigation. I am sure I will be joined in this regard by other speakers in this debate. In no particular order of priority, FRDC funds are used to support a project investigating replacements for fishmeal. My colleagues will expand further on that subject.
Honourable members might be interested to learn that the development of one fishmeal replacement at present is an experimental form of pilchard sausages. However, I would not suggest that honourable members opposite put these types of sausages on the barbecue hotplate. Fish seem to thrive on them. They are currently used to feed tuna stocks. I look forward to progress reports on the development of this initiative. In my electorate the Port Stephens Research Centre, which would be absolutely decimated in its operations if any FRDC funds were cut, is pioneering work and advanced investigations into fishmeal replacement products. Another matter linked to FRDC funds is a project aimed at enhancing mulloway stocks in coastal lagoons, a particularly impressive initiative. For those who may be unaware, mulloway is the new name given to the species commonly known as jewfish. It is considered one of the fine species for recreational anglers and any move to encourage their congregation in coastal lagoons is to be applauded.
If the stocks of mulloway species can be built up, it could have significant implications of national importance for attempts to rejuvenate other species. The by-catch trawl gear program is another highly prized endeavour which is being researched in an ongoing manner. New South Wales Fisheries is considered a world leader in reducing the number of sea animals unintentionally caught up in fish harvesting. Honourable members may have heard recently of the ban imposed by the United States on imports of fish that are derived from places with no by-catch reductions, or where it is perceived that some turtle species are captured in nets during fish runs aimed at gathering other fish. New South Wales Fisheries has been caught up in that trade mess, but not because of any evidence that suggests it is not performing its tasks effectively and in a manner sympathetic to the environment and other species. It is a significant research initiative.
Many other research projects receive funding from the Fisheries Research Development Corporation. I am particularly interested in the silver perch research being undertaken at Grafton. Silver perch is considered to have the greatest potential to provide a significant aquaculture industry. The fish meal replacement program is expected to receive a boost from this development. If the research proves successful, it is envisaged that the silver perch industry will provide good quality fish for frozen fish products such as fish fingers. Apart from general consumer interest, products will be generated from a relatively inexpensive but good tasting species. There are still problems with silver perch in terms of the rather dull taste that seems to develop. The Government is keen for a range of things to happen. It is vital that funding is not
reduced. As I said at the outset, this is a matter of urgency. It is important that we send a signal to Canberra today.
(Port Macquarie) [4.50]: The case put forward by the Minister was pathetic. It was based on supposition and speculation that if something happens something else might happen as a consequence. It is similar to the Government’s response to the Lake Cowal proposal: "We do not know what might go wrong, but something may go wrong and, therefore, we will knock it back." The Government has taken the same speculative approach on this matter. The Minister failed to mention that much of the funding for projects planned and supervised by the FRDC comes from non-Federal Government sources. The most recent annual report of the FRDC shows that two-thirds of the funding is provided by non-Federal Government sources. The report for the 1994-95 year shows that the FRDC planned, funded and managed 214 projects worth $34 million, which we all welcome and support. Of that $34 million, the FRDC contributed $11.6 million or one-third of the funding for the projects.
The Government should not be scaremongering by suggesting that all the funding will go by the board if the Federal Government reduces its share of the funding. I understand that there is no evidence that funding will be reduced; indeed, the Minister did not advance any evidence of that. The opposite is the case. At the time of the Federal election the coalition stated in its policy that it would continue current funding arrangements for the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation and conduct a review to ensure funds are used in a manner which progresses both basic and innovative research. Surely, the Minister does not disagree with that. It is always necessary to review the way in which research is undertaken. The Minister has left himself a little open.
The Minister referred to research in New South Wales. This year’s budget for New South Wales Fisheries has been reduced by 1.2 per cent, as the Minister conceded at the estimates committee. That follows a reduction in funding last year, although the Government tried to dress that up as an increase by shifting maintenance funding to recurrent funding. Indeed, over the past couple of years the Government has hacked into funding for New South Wales Fisheries. Honourable members are aware of the present condition of New South Wales Fisheries. This week, one newspaper ran the headline "Fisherman enraged by out-of-date data". I suggest that the Minister get his house in order before he starts kicking the Federal Government.
The Minister has admitted that research funding and daily catch data is more than one year out of date. The Government has been in office for more than a year; it cannot use the tired, worn-out excuse that it was the fault of the coalition Government. As the Leader of the Opposition said, Labor Ministers have had the big white cars for a long time; they have had plenty of time to address these problems. Management of the New South Wales fisheries resource is a fundamental issue for the Minister. I suggest that he get his house in order before he starts kicking the Federal Government about something that may not occur. The position of Director of the New South Wales Fisheries Research Institute has been vacant for months - unless someone has been appointed recently. Last year, I asked the Minister about the security of the director, Dr Bob Kearney, who is world renowned for his expertise and research. He left the department to work in academia.
There was an interesting development in research following the Minister’s review of the consultative mechanisms in New South Wales. It was suggested that the research committee that reports to the Federal research body and makes decisions about Federal research funding - the subject of this motion - be restructured. The Fishing Industry Research Advisory Council comprises a mix of people from the industry, New South Wales Fisheries, merchants and so on who make decisions and advise the Federal Government on the projects in New South Wales that should receive funding. The committee has worked well as part of the Federal system; as the Minister discovered, it is now locked into the Federal system. After the review of consultation in New South Wales, the Minister tried to take control of and stack the committee, as he has done with other organisations. The Government proposes that the committee be restructured so that it is headed by the Director of Fisheries. It would decide what projects in New South Wales received funding from the Federal agency, and New South Wales Fisheries would bid for funding.
What are you talking about?
The Minister should read the report; that is the way in which the committee will be restructured. The Government wants the Director of Fisheries to head the committee that decides which projects will receive funding. That is a contradiction in terms; it shows that the Minister is desperate to get his hands on the day-to-day administration. The budget papers show that $8.2 million has been allocated for research. Of that amount, $4 million will come from the Commonwealth and industry. Once again, contributions will be made by significant outside parties: different levels of government, industry supporters and industry participants, which is as it should be. Last year there was significant debate on kingfish. More research into the kingfish industry is needed.
Should I bring the traps back?
The Minister should undertake proper research; he should have undertaken proper research before he made a political decision. No evidence has been advanced that suggests that the kingfish species is permanently endangered. The Minister refused to research that
matter. The kingfish industry was prepared to make a large contribution towards research, which I understand would have been favourably considered by the Federal body. That contribution would have enabled the fishing industry to research whether traps should be used. The Minister should do his homework. The Government does not want the matter researched because it may not get the answer that it wants. It is similar to the way in which the research institute was treated.
Correspondence between the Minister and the former Director of the Fisheries Research Institute shows what many people have been saying: in terms of research in New South Wales, it is a case of the Minister wanting a certain result, and research being done to substantiate that result. I have a document that contains a large amount of interesting information on lobster and what has happened to lobster stocks over the decades. Obviously, the Minister requested information; Dr Kearney provided him with numerous reports, detailed statistics and data. That elicited a memorandum which I found astounding. It simply verifies that the Minister and the Government only want research that supports their political agenda; they do not want fair dinkum research. It is similar to what happened with kingfish. The document stated, "I have studied the advice you presented me on June 27 on the status of the New South Wales rock lobster fishery and consider the response to my request unsatisfactory. I had sought answers to my questions from yourself as research director at Cronulla, and not an assessment by more junior staff."
The Minister discussed the matter in detail - obviously he is an expert on rock lobster. I do not have time to provide details, but this salutary document shows that the Minister wants to get his hands on the portfolio and to steer, skew or bodgie the research to suit his agenda. As I said at the outset, there is no evidence that the Federal Government intends to cut funding. The relevant Ministers met about a month ago - I presume that the Minister or his representative attended the meeting - which hardly makes the issue urgent. Honourable members are urgently debating, first, something that may not occur and, secondly, an issue that was discussed more than a month ago. It has taken that long for the Minister to raise the matter in the House. All that came out of the meeting was a desire to examine whether research is appropriate and is hitting the mark. What is wrong with that? There is a case for the Government to get its house in order, to sort out its research priorities and to place basic information such as accurate catch data on the record.
The Minister is trying to implement a new system of management that is very much based on accurate catch statistics. The Minister has admitted that the data is one year out of date. Canberra cannot be blamed for that. The Government cannot continue to point the finger at Canberra, for it has been in responsible office far longer. I suggest the Government stop fiddling with the research priorities and appoint a director of research. Politicians ought not be suggesting the research agenda; that is the decision of scientists. Of course we want to see continued research in New South Wales. If there is a realigning of priorities we have to look at that on merit. There is no indication that that is likely to be the case. This is purely a speculative motion. It says more about the Minister’s housekeeping and the way he runs his department than the way Canberra is doing its job.
(St Marys) [5.00]: I join with the Minister in his concerns about the harmful effects of any cuts in Federal Government funding. I do not know where the honourable member for Port Macquarie has been over the last week. I do not know whether she watches television or reads the newspapers and sees what the Federal Government has been doing and why the Premier and the Treasurer had to go down to Canberra to fight tooth and nail to protect the resources of New South Wales. With all those efforts, the result is that there are still major cuts to funding in New South Wales. So for the honourable member to say there is no concern is totally misleading.
As the Minister noted, it was the Federal Labor Government which gave the impetus and the drive for the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation - the FRDC - to be formed. It is now the Federal coalition Government led by the former New South Wales Premier, now Federal finance Minister John Fahey, that is seeking to inflict as much harm as possible on the community with little or no thought for the long-term consequences. The FRDC was created because of Labor’s vision and out of a desire to achieve lasting improvements to the nation’s fisheries, improvements that were solely based on carefully structured and well thought out research.
It was also felt that if there was a competitive process put in place for researchers to attract funds there would develop a positive and hungry environment. It was also envisaged that this healthy rivalry between fishery experts in respective States would produce a pattern of excellence in relation to research projects, but only those projects where benefits could be accrued for the entire nation. It was felt that because only the very best would be rewarded with funding from the Commonwealth through the FRDC, this culture of excellence and initiative would be developed for the national good. That hope is well on the way to being realised after only a few years of existence.
It is these FRDC backed research projects that are helping to repair the damage of the past, wrought more out of ignorance than anything else, and give recognition to the need for improved ecological requirements for enhanced fish breeding. These FRDC supported endeavours are giving insight into population dynamics in fragile fish species. These projects look to find ways in which commercial and recreational anglers can coexist
while at the same time seeking to preserve and rejuvenate the fish stocks and the habitat in which these animals congregate. The bottom line is that these important research initiatives are critical to ensuring the nation’s fisheries survive as an industry and that in environmental terms our waterways and habitat are preserved for future generations. These cutting edge projects would be sacrificed, or at the very least substantially jeopardised, if there was any reduction -
On a point of order. We have been listening for three minutes now and it is quite clear that the honourable member for St Marys is reading verbatim from a prepared speech which is out of order for other than new members and specific sorts of debates in the House. I would ask you, Mr Speaker, to remind the honourable member of the standing order.
Mr ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Clough):
Order! Standing orders do not preclude a member from reading a speech. However, it is an accepted principle that members should not read speeches unless they can vouch that they have prepared the documents themselves. There is no point of order.
I would like to point out that in the paper I am reading from there are no fewer than 20 amendments, all my contributions to the debate. These cutting edge projects would be sacrificed, or at the very least substantially jeopardised, if there was any reduction in funds from the Commonwealth to the FRDC. That would occur through the loss or substantial scaling down of these research projects and would cause untold harm to the industry. However, I am concerned about another aspect that is more devastating, that is the impact such cuts would have on the morale of New South Wales Fisheries, an organisation which is undertaking a significant number of responsible tasks to better manage this precious natural resource, and which is consistently rated at the top of the list in terms of attracting Commonwealth funding. [Time expired
(Maitland) [5.05]: I join with my colleagues on this side of the House in showing concern at this motion of urgency. I would have thought that as a Minister of the Crown the Minister would have every right as a very important person in this State to ring Canberra, to make inquiries and to express concern at the proposed cutbacks. I do not see why we have to waste valuable time here on a talk-a-thon, in an attempted cover-up with this smokescreen motion for urgent consideration. The honourable member for Port Macquarie was quite right, and I quote from Senator Warwick Parer’s press release of 20 May about the national workshop for fisheries research officers which was held in Canberra on 19 and 20 May. At that time the Minister would have been represented. He stated:
The Commonwealth invests tens of millions of dollars annually in fisheries research through organisations such as FRDC and CSIRO, and it is absolutely essential we fund R&D.
I do not believe there is a fisherman anywhere in Australia who does not benefit from research and development. We are talking about a budget that will be brought down later in the year when this House is adjourned. A lot of this talk is pure speculation. As was quoted by the honourable member for Port Macquarie earlier, the policy of both the Federal Liberal Party and National party was to:
continue current funding arrangements for the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation and conduct a review to ensure funds are used in a manner which progresses both basic and innovative research.
It has already been admitted there is a 1.2 per cent cut in the New South Wales budget. Yet I saw on television the Minister talking about the possibility of a reintroduction of a freshwater fishing licence so that carp can be eradicated from the streams. I support that because carp are doing a tremendous amount of damage to our inland water areas. He also went on to say that at this stage the Government would rule out any possibility of a saltwater licence. These licences are not new, they have been discussed before, but it is vital to start to talk about research and development, particularly in fisheries.
If I had asked the Minister in March about concerns with cutting back his budget, what would his answer have been to me? His answer would have been to mind my own business and that the Government will bring the budget down in due course. That shows that the Minister does not have any faith in his portfolio. It would be quite simple for the Minister to ring up and make an appointment with Senator Warwick Parer and say he wants to have a talk because he is concerned there may be savage cuts in the budget.
The Minister talked about new research and development on pilchard sausages, and so on. What has he done about the figure-6 net at Port Stephens? That is still operating, reaping all varieties of fish. Has the Minister eliminated that problem from his own backyard? I can understand the Minister supporting the fisheries management research station because, after all, he was the manager of it. I applaud the Minister for doing a lot of good work as manager of that research station, but he has not yet established to the satisfaction of the House why the matter he is raising is urgent. The Minister has the numbers on his side of the House to have this motion carried. But what benefit is there in taking up the valuable time of the House to consider possible budget cuts? The Minister has no evidence of any such budget cuts. He has not given the House any indication that funding for fisheries research and development will be cut as a consequence of the Federal budget. This motion is a waste of time. The Minister should have enough contacts to make an appointment to see the Federal Minister next month, when this House is in recess. [Time expired
(Rockdale) [5.10]: The honourable member for Maitland must believe in the tooth fairy. He put the proposition that we on this side ought not be suspicious about the possible actions of the Federal Government. This is the same Federal Government which, in recent days, slashed exceptional circumstances assistance funding for drought-affected farmers. It is the same Federal Government which, by fiscal banditry, tried to impose a wholesale sales tax on all government agencies, State or local, without showing any concern or thought for the ramifications of such an action. So it is really stretching things a little far to suggest to honourable members of this House that they should have faith in and not be suspicious of the Federal Government.
The Fisheries Research and Development Corporation was established in 1991 under the previous Federal Labor Government. It was set up in recognition of the fact that our fisheries traditionally have been handled in a haphazard and ad hoc manner, with little attention ever being paid to the imperative of achieving sustainable development and the preservation of fish stocks. The main aim of the FRDC was to act as a centre for funding projects. The corporation dealt with matters in respect of which funding was sought on a competitive basis, on which approval was sought because they were linked to a perceived major problem, had specific national benefits if the project was successful, and had long-term flow-on effects. In this competitive environment, New South Wales Fisheries has consistently demonstrated its excellence in attracting research funding from the Commonwealth. Thus any reduction in funding would be devastating to this State and country.
There can be little question about the importance of FRDC funds. Those funds play a crucial part in the plan developed by New South Wales Fisheries to provide greater certainty in the future of fishing. I could think of no better way to illustrate that need for FRDC funds being guaranteed, and for the Federal Government to keep its greedy hands off this important agency, than to outline to the House the current project being undertaken on the south-east fisheries. If the Federal Government cannot guarantee continued funding via the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, this vitally important project would be in question. This FRDC and New South Wales Fisheries research project is being conducted by experts aboard the vessel Kapala
As the Minister indicated, commercial exploitation of fish stocks on the New South Wales upper slope of what is known as the south-east fisheries began in the mid-1970s. This commercial fishing followed a number of exploratory trawls by the research vessel Kapala
. To understand the context of the present project, it should be understood that during 1976-77 a survey of the upper slope was done by Kapala
. Three areas - Sydney-Newcastle, Ulladulla-Moruya and Eden-Gabo Island - were sampled three or four times during 1976 and 1977. They will be revisited on this current assignment. Data was also collected for commercial species. Large catches of dog sharks, redfish, ocean perch, mirror dory and ling were made. There were also significant catches of gemfish, blue grenadier and spotted warehou. There are probably a few of those on the Opposition benches. Results were included in Kapala
cruise reports. Estimated stock sizes were contained in a report to the South Eastern Fisheries Committee research group.
This was an important research exercise. Through that research the group gleaned the only independent figures for this important fishery. Now, with FRDC funding, the group hopes to replicate the exercise to determine what effect commercial fishing has had. Few fisheries in the world have been researched before commercial exploitation commenced. The initial Kapala
survey was done on virgin stocks, just as commercial exploitation of fish on the slope was beginning. The $235,000 study that was attained through FRDC assistance will hopefully provide fishery-independent estimates of comparative abundance of fish species on the upper slope and document the changes after 20 years of fishing. New South Wales Fisheries will duplicate the 1976-77 survey by sampling the Sydney-Newcastle, Ulladulla-Moruya and Eden-Gabo Island areas twice in the same months and locations, using similar methodology to that used in the first survey. [Time expired
(Port Stephens - Minister for Mineral Resources, and Minister for Fisheries) [5.15], in reply: I thank all honourable members who have contributed to this debate, but particularly the honourable member for Rockdale and the honourable member for St Marys. It is a sad day when Opposition members do not bother to find out how the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation works. It is funded under a system under which Commonwealth allocations are matched by licence fees and other moneys raised by industry. That money goes into a central fund before being allocated. It is sad that honourable members opposite did not understand that.
The shadow minister mentioned 214 projects worth $34 million. That is a sum for the life of those programs, some of which run for three or four years. About $11.6 million is being spent this year. That is not a reduction in funding. The 1.2 per cent cut in the budget is a cut that no public servant likes, and no Minister likes to impose such cuts. But given what happened in the latest round of exercises by Howard and Fahey, we had no option. The honourable member referred to an article that appeared in last Monday’s Sydney Morning Herald
. I think that article was written by a reporter after an extended lunch and involved a dissident fisherman from the south coast. I even doubt he is still a fisherman; I know he does not represent fishermen any more. The matter raised in that newspaper article was of an omnibus nature. I note it did not get any more coverage than that.
As to the catch data being out-of-date, New South Wales Fisheries is reliant on catch data for only two things, the abalone fishery and the lobster fishery. It is immaterial for other activities. That sort of data is not used in management’s day-to-day decisions. It is important in the Federal sphere. That is why it is important for the Federal Government to keep this money coming. The matter of the director of research was raised. There was an inference that Dr Kearney would leave the Cronulla Fisheries Research Institute. He is held in high esteem by those on this side of the House and by all people in fisheries organisations. He has taken up the position of professor of environmental activities at the Canberra university. I wish him well in that role. The new director will be Dr Rick Fletcher, an eminent researcher who has worked in Western Australia. I met him for the first time last Thursday night, when I was at Cronulla for the swearing in of a group of fisheries officers. As to consultative matters, particularly on the south coast, the Opposition shows that it does not know what FRDC funding is all about. Let us have a look at this matter of consultative mechanisms. The request was that the system be dismantled and reformed because it was a waste of time and money. The Government has responded to that.
The honourable member for Port Macquarie should obtain some good advice so that she gets it right in the future. Some honourable members have expressed concern about the fact that the Director of New South Wales Fisheries is to become a member of the Minister’s advisory committee. It was normal for the States to rotate membership with the Commonwealth on the old FRDC. However, there will be two permanent members on the committee including one from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and two permanent members from industry. In the eyes of members of the Opposition this rotational system and the fact that the committee has as a member a New South Wales representative is evil. That is sad. The FRDC is now expertise based. Those Government members who spoke in debate on this matter related the Government’s side of the story well.
Reference was made during debate to the kingfish traps issue. Industry is the only group that is prepared to finance research into kingfish traps. The FRDC representative rejected the request by NSW Fisheries for urgent research into the kingfish species. The decision I made concerning kingfish traps was right. The honourable member for Port Macquarie said that scientists should determine what research is carried out. This Government, which is governing this State, will make those decisions. The people of New South Wales expect this Government to govern. As long as I am in this job I will take a vital interest in this issue and I will ensure that taxpayers’ money is spent wisely and efficiently. Government members understand this issue and speak authoritatively about it. They always get it right. However, Opposition members, who referred to a number of matters during debate, are abject failures. [Time expired
Motion agreed to.
LORD HOWE ISLAND STORM DAMAGE
Matter of Public Importance
(Port Macquarie) [5.20]: I ask the House to note as a matter of public importance the severe storm and rain damage to Lord Howe Island last night and, in particular, the damage to the airport. All honourable members would be aware from media reports of the tremendous storm and rain that hit Lord Howe Island last night. I have not been able to confirm it because it is hard to contact the island, but I believe it was of the order of 16 inches, using the old measurement, which is an enormous amount of rain to be dumped on the island in one night. That has had the effect of local flooding in the low-lying parts of the island. I say to those honourable members who have not visited beautiful Lord Howe Island that this might be a good excuse for them to do so. Lord Howe Island is in my electorate and that is why I have brought this matter of public importance to the attention of the House.
Lord Howe Island has a huge mountain at one end, Mount Lidgbird, another mountain almost as high at the other end and several smaller mountains, which are not nearly as significant, in the centre. Anyone who has visited Lord Howe Island would know that the airstrip, which is quite straight but short, is very hairy to land on. At present the tarmac on that airstrip is bubbled and roughed up by the rain that has fallen on it. The low parts of the island have experienced a significant amount of flooding, but no permanent or significant damage has been caused to private property. Some of the lodges, such as Pinetrees in the low part of the island, have been flooded. The administration office has been flooded and some of the carpets have had to be lifted. But, fortunately, no-one has been hurt and there appears to be no permanent damage to facilities on the island. The real damage appears to be to the natural environment and, most importantly, to the airstrip - the main connection with the outside world apart from a couple of freighters that go to the island each month to deliver goods, and any other private transport such as sailing ships or small aircraft.
I understand from discussions with the island administration earlier this morning, when I was able to get through, that quite an amount of water has seeped under the tarmac of the airstrip and this has rendered it inoperable. I have been told that only about 400 metres are in good enough condition to be used, which is not much use to any aeroplane wanting to land there. The largest commercial aircraft that goes to Lord Howe Island is a Dash-8 which is operated by Eastern Airlines. That aircraft can pull up and take off in a short distance, but
even that would be impossible at present. So the people on the island at the moment will have a bonus holiday if they were planning to travel from the island today or tomorrow. The seas surrounding the island are quite rough. It has not been possible this afternoon to contact anyone on the island by phone or by fax. I have been in touch with the police at Port Macquarie who have also been unable to make contact with Lord Howe Island police. They have no details concerning the damage to the island.
I am hoping to obtain further details from the island’s administrator, Mrs Mortlock, as soon as communications are restored so that we can assess what damage has been caused and determine whether State and Federal governments will provide assistance. This morning I had a brief meeting with the Treasurer, the Hon. Michael Egan, who was most helpful and anxious to receive any details. He was happy to look at the possibility of natural disaster relief funding being made available to the island. Taking a more general look at the situation on Lord Howe Island, it is a world heritage area and a very beautiful place. By dint of that fact it also has a lot of restrictions placed on it. A number of challenges are facing the island - challenges that have not been resolved for some years, such as an adequate sewerage system, a proper garbage disposal system and a new power station. The present power station, though recently insulated, is still very noisy. The intention is to move it away from the main part of the island further to the south. Significant public works problems, such as erosion at Windy Point and a few other beaches on the edge of the island, have to be attended to.
The cost of any work carried out on Lord Howe Island is three or four times the cost of work carried out on the mainland, because obviously all heavy materials have to be freighted over, which occurs on only a few occasions a month when the two freighters visit the island. Obviously it is expensive for anyone building a house or doing any roadworks. Earlier in the year heavy rain at Lord Howe Island caused a lot of road damage. I understand that about $20,000 worth of work has been carried out on roads to the south of the island, but that area was again damaged last night. I note that the honourable member for Port Jackson is in the Chamber. She used to represent Lord Howe Island so I know she is well aware of the areas about which I am speaking. The section of road that runs around one end of the airstrip, which is in a low-lying part of the island, was damaged by the last heavy rain. I know that that section of road is under water at present. Access to a couple of houses on the south of the island and the southernmost lodge is currently cut off because of flooding.
Representations have already been made to the Treasurer for some assistance to repair road damage that occurred earlier in the year because of heavy rain and localised flooding. But that flooding was not nearly as extensive as the present flooding at Lord Howe Island. When we get some details of the damage that has been caused I hope that the Government will look favourably at an application for natural disaster funding. This storm was definitely a natural disaster. It took everyone by surprise. People on the island are coping as best they can, but I know that the administration is horrified at the extent of the damage. One of the other big costs is the maintenance of the airstrip and the airport at Lord Howe Island. If my memory serves me correctly, it was funded with government assistance but it was taken over by the island administration a few years ago.
Recently there were plans to reseal the airstrip because it needed ongoing maintenance. At the best of times Lord Howe Island is quite a wet place; it receives a lot of rainfall, hence the need to do maintenance work more regularly than in other parts of the State. That maintenance work has now become critical. Clearly, aircraft cannot get in and out of the island. Defence force helicopters have been used to take supplies to the island and medical supplies to the hospital, but it is critical that the airport and airstrip be repaired as quickly as possible. I do not know what supplies might be needed, whether they have to be taken to the island, or whether the Lord Howe Island board is able to repair the airstrip to enable people to get in and out of the island.
A number of people have to go to the mainland regularly for business and medical reasons. On occasions we hear of someone who, for medical reasons, is taken out by an emergency flight or by air ambulance. However, that is not possible at present. Another area that has suffered quite extensive damage - though it is probably not as critical because it does not affect access to the island - is a small valley on the way to Middle Beach and the open area looking over Middle Beach on the eastern side of the island. There is a sandy soil valley there and the volume of water that fell on the island overnight has led to quite a bad slip in that part of the island, which will need some repair work carried out. Mount Lidgbird, the largest mountain on the island, has also suffered slippages. That is a popular walking spot and I hope that the walking trail, which is precarious at the best of times, has not been made worse by the rainfall and the slippages.
The other significant beach is Ned’s Beach which is more sheltered and is also on the eastern side of the island. Ned’s Beach is famous for its tame fish and tame ducks where one can feed them, touch them and swim with the fish. Ned’s Beach was sheltered from the winds and rain because the winds were not coming from that direction and its sandy cliffs were not damaged on this occasion. I hope that no big falls of rain occur today and tonight because that would put extra strain on the island. This morning the oval was under water and there was water all around that low-lying part of the island. I have seen minor flooding around the airport, which is also a low-lying area, but I have
never seen the oval under water. That indicates how much water fell on the island; it simply could not get away on time. A significant part of the centre of the island is also under water.
Those low areas do not have a large number of buildings but the buildings that are there have suffered minor flooding and the people concerned have had to remove furniture, lift carpets, et cetera. I will provide to the Government further details as they come to hand. I hope the Government will look at these critical issues. There are a couple of matters I would like to address in reply that relate to the need for ongoing public works on the island and that work would be exacerbated by the rain that has just occurred.
(Blue Mountains - Minister for Corrective Services, Minister for Emergency Services, and Minister Assisting the Minister for the Arts) [5.30]: I acknowledge the seriousness of the circumstances that the honourable member for Port Macquarie has described. On the night of last Sunday and into Monday morning Lord Howe Island experienced a very severe storm when more than 250 millimetres of rain fell. In accordance with emergency management arrangements, known as Displan, the State Emergency Service unit of 16 people on the island responded to this emergency under their local controller, Pauline Skeggs. Seven houses were inundated with water and the occupants were evacuated.
Sixty people at Pinetrees Lodge were relocated to other lodges and the airstrip sustained damage, which included the formation of large potholes in the middle of the strip, making it unusable for commercial aircraft. An assessment was made of the resources needed to restore services to Lord Howe Island in consultation with the local controller, State Emergency Services, Oxley division, which has its headquarters at Taree, and with SES operations headquarters in Wollongong. It was established that the assessment of the airstrip and the supply of oxygen for the hospital were the most immediate priorities. The assessment resulted in a request to Emergency Management Australia for helicopter transport and this morning two Navy Sea Hawk helicopters landed on the island. One of those aircraft carried a RAAF engineer whose job was to assess the airstrip for the landing of RAAF aircraft.
Additionally, that helicopter took in six medical oxygen cylinders that were required by the hospital. The airstrip has been assessed as being suitable for use by RAAF Caribou aircraft which are able to land in very short spaces, and a request has been made to Emergency Management Australia for two Caribou aircraft to fly to the island. The request for those Caribou aircraft has just been approved and they are on their way to Taree this afternoon. The first of those Caribou will fly to the island in the morning, if weather conditions permit, with a Federal Airports Corporation engineer who is qualified to assess the runway for use by commercial airlines.
The Caribou will carry two Department of Community Services representatives who will provide financial and welfare assistance to those in need; nine State Emergency Service volunteers whose job is to assist with the clean-up operations; and approximately 600 kilograms of stores, such as batteries, generators, cleaning equipment, disinfectant and other material that is necessary in the clean-up after a disaster of this sort, especially when services are still out of action. I am advised that these volunteers will remain on Lord Howe Island for no longer than 48 hours. The second Caribou will remain on stand-by at Taree to be tasked, as the emergency services people say, as required.
The people evacuated from Pinetrees Lodge remain accommodated in other lodges. On the other hand six of the seven households evacuated on Monday morning have now been able to return home. There are 400 tourists on the island and approximately 80 of them were due to leave yesterday or today but, not surprisingly, they are prepared to stay on the island for a little longer - they have to in any event. Access to the island by anything other than the RAAF Caribou will be something that is determined by the engineer from the Federal Airports Corporation. He will assess the airfield and will help to decide on appropriate response actions that are required to be put into place.
As the honourable member for Port Macquarie said, the island had its routine resupply by boat, on Sunday so there is no immediate concern about food shortages on the island. Once again the emergency management arrangements in New South Wales have proved their worth. The agencies required to respond to this storm event have done so effectively. I, and the Government, pay tribute to the many volunteers and staff who have been involved in this operation, including the local controller of the SES, Pauline Skeggs, and the acting divisional controller of the SES at Taree, Tracey Provest. Everything possible is being done to restore services and access to Lord Howe Island. The telephone link went down at 11 o’clock this morning but there are attempts as we speak to restore radio communication. Obviously the Government, indeed the whole House no doubt, wishes the best for the residents of Lord Howe Island and the tourists as they recover from the storm.
The natural beauty and significance of the ecological circumstances of Lord Howe Island are well known. I used the environmental plan of management developed for Lord Howe Island a number of years ago as a model for something that has been applied since in my own area of the Blue Mountains. The Government will need no reminder that the natural environment of Lord Howe Island needs to have special attention paid to it in the aftermath of this natural disaster. It is probably apposite that the Chairman of the Lord Howe Island board, whose name I believe is Vivian Ingram, is
also a National Parks officer and, indeed, the Administrator of Lord Howe Island is a former ranger.
For those reasons we can be sure that the National Parks and Wildlife Service will pay particular attention to the consequences of the storm on Lord Howe Island and will contemplate necessary restorative measures in due course. I should also emphasise that the normal response to natural disaster through relief programs that are managed overall by Treasury will be applied in this case as they have been in a number of other cases, even in the last few months. We only await assessments from the Department of Public Works and Services and other authorities on the island before being able to begin, through the Treasurer and his bureaucracy, an assessment of the disaster relief needs of the island, and no doubt an appropriate response will come from the Treasurer in due course.
(Oxley) [5.40]: I support the honourable member for Port Macquarie on this matter of public importance and join with the honorable member and also the Minister for Corrective Services, Minister for Emergency Services, and Minister Assisting the Minister for the Arts in expressing concern at the tragic events. I know that the honourable member for Port Jackson would have liked to have spoken to this motion, because she used to represent Lord Howe Island with great affection. In 1988 when I was the member for Port Macquarie I made a submission to have Lord Howe Island become the electorate office for the electorate of Port Macquarie. I was the member for Oxley before the electorate was changed to Port Macquarie: New South Wales had a redistribution, I went further north and the former member for Manning became the member for Port Macquarie. It was poetic justice that I missed out, although I did put in a good submission to have Lord Howe Island included in the electorate.
I have a deep affection for the enterprising people of Lord Howe Island. Some of the real characters there, without naming too many, include Jim Dorman who has the museum, the Wilsons, the Thompsons and other locals who do a great job for tourism. Lord Howe Island has a great affinity and connection with the north coast, and particularly Port Macquarie. As a matter of convenience, at times Port Macquarie helps the island with policing matters. The facilities of the Hastings library are made available, as are telephones and personnel from the Taree based State Emergency Services. The SES hopes to provide nine personnel to help to clean up the damage on Lord Howe Island. I understand that two Royal Australian Navy Seahawk helicopters carrying emergency medical supplies for the local hospital made their way today to the storm ravaged Lord Howe Island.
I have some knowledge of the local hospital because I spent some time there when I sprained my ankle and broke a small bone while representing the honourable member for Port Macquarie on the island about two years ago, when she had her second baby daughter, Georgia. I witnessed at first hand the hospital’s excellent service. The hospital doctor, who formerly came from Port Macquarie, and I had a good yarn. The hospital staff was tremendous to me after my accident. Lord Howe Island is really the jewel in the crown of all islands. People who have been there cannot help but be impressed by the natural beauty of this unique world heritage listed area. The island caters for many recreational pursuits, whether it be bicycling, walking, swimming or fishing. I am a keen fisherman and have never caught as many fish in my life as I did on the day I went fishing there. It was great to snorkel among the fish at Ned’s Beach. As a conservationist I really enjoyed representing the honourable member for Port Macquarie while she was in hospital having her baby daughter Georgia. As I do in my electorate of Oxley, I interviewed people on every issue under the sun, whether it was kentia palms, cats on the island or shipping. Two ships, the Sitca
and the Island Trader
also carry goods from Grafton to the island.
The airport, which was damaged severely, is the tourism lifeline for Lord Howe Island. It is vital that the Government assists in getting the airstrip operational as soon as possible. With the assistance of the State Emergency Services, Pat Page sent an RAAF engineer on board one of the helicopters to assess the damage to the airport and to determine whether it was safe for aircraft to land. If the airport is deemed to be safe, volunteers from the SES and the Department of Community Services will fly to the island today to help with the clean-up. A lot of rain has been dumped on Lord Howe Island - something like 16 inches. That has created tremendous problems for the 400 residents and the tourists on the island. I understand that very famous holiday resort, Pinetrees, had to evacuate about 70 people to alternative accommodation. I support the motion.
(Port Macquarie) [5.45], in reply: I thank the Minister for Emergency Services and the member for Oxley for their contributions to the debate, and the honourable member for Port Jackson who has taken such a keen interest in the island’s affairs. I was pleased with the up-to-date information I received from the Minister and I join with him and my colleague the honourable member for Oxley in commending once again the fantastic work of our State Emergency Service workers and the many volunteers. Tracey Provost in Taree is a school teacher in her other life. She does a great job. To her and Pauline Skeggs we should all say thank you, as indeed we should to all the other workers who assisted and went to the island. I raise this issue because it is a real emergency that is of public importance. The world heritage listed Lord Howe Island is a beautiful place, one of the few islands that is a living, working, breathing tourist attraction as well as a delightful natural habitat.
I am constantly surprised at the number of people who have not been to Lord Howe Island. I assure them that when they do visit they will run into one or two politicians or former politicians, because they seem to find their way there fairly easily. It is not a hard place to visit. I appeal to the Government for a favourable offer of financial assistance once the full extent of the damage is known. The island has suffered a tremendous downpour and considerable damage. There are a number of other calls on funding for the island and the island board. Most of the island’s income is derived from tourism and the kentia palm industry. There is very little State or Federal Government assistance. I was disappointed that the previous coalition Government reduced some of the road funding to Lord Howe Island. In addition, the island has not been treated kindly by the Federal Government.
Honourable members would think that Lord Howe Island would have received a little more financial assistance from Canberra and I know this is a sore point with the current State administration as well. Another major blow to the island’s tourist industry in the past couple of years was the tragic Seaview airline crash which occurred when that aircraft was on its on its way to Lord Howe Island. Locals as well as tourists were involved in the crash and the operator of the airline was well known. The airline operates out of Lord Howe Island and has revised its management, changed its operations and is now known as Kentia Link. It runs services up and down the coast as well as some freight services to Lord Howe Island. I have received advice today that a licence has been issued to a second airline to operate services to Lord Howe Island; that airline is to be known as Air Pacific, not Kentia Link or the former Seaview. I know that will be a disappointment to some people but it was a tough decision to make. I hope that together with other air services it will soon be able to resume using the air strip.
Another issue crucial to Lord Howe Island is health services. Until recently the island had difficulty attracting a permanent doctor. The issue of land tenure on Lord Howe Island is very complicated. Ownership of land, leasing and the transfer and sale of those land tenures is very controversial. That issue has been raised by a number of members in recent months. I thank the Government for its interest in this matter. I thank the Treasurer, Michael Egan, for the time he made available to me this morning and for the interest he has taken in the events at Lord Howe Island. A number of us will watch closely to see what happens on the island. I was pleased that the Department of Emergency Services was also quick to respond and offer its assistance. When further details are revealed of the extent of the damage to Lord Howe Island, I hope that the Government will be forthcoming to help to repair some of the damage. In doing so the Government might sneak in a few extra dollars to carry out some of the other public works required and other pressing issues that are beyond the financial means of the board without outside help. I am pleased to have the interest of the House in this matter. Lord Howe Island is a significant part of the world, not just Australia. Without doubt it is the most beautiful place that I have ever seen, and I have travelled a fair bit.
Is it better than Port Macquarie?
Yes, I would have to say it is prettier than Port Macquarie. I thoroughly commend visits to Lord Howe Island to check out the damage and then to check it out when it has been repaired.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Extension of Sitting
(Ashfield - Minister for Police) [5.51]: I move:
That the sitting be extended beyond 7.00 p.m.
I indicate for the information of honourable members that the House will adjourn at approximately 10.30 this evening after consideration of some Government business, notice of which will be given to the Opposition, as well as a continuation of the budget debate.
Motion agreed to.
Precedence of Business
(Ashfield - Minister for Police) [5.51]: By leave, I move:
That on Thursday, 20 June 1996, standing orders be suspended to allow:
(1) government business to have precedence of general business; and
(2) passage through all stages of the Warnervale Airport (Restrictions) Bill, notice of which stands in the name of the Member for Wyong.
The Government totally supports the Warnervale Airport (Restrictions) Bill. Obviously, it would be in the interests of the Opposition to ensure that this legislation passes through the Parliament as expeditiously as possible. The House is currently dealing with the budget. The Government has been very generous in relation to contributions from Government members and other legislative programs. A great deal of cooperation has been involved. The Government is keen to ensure that government business have precedence over general business for tomorrow.
(Gosford) [5.52]: It is clear that the Government has an agenda, which is to use this House for its private purposes only. Nothing could demonstrate that fact more clearly than the suspension of private members’ business for tomorrow, other than for the honourable member for Wyong, who will be permitted to introduce and have passed through all stages his
private member’s bill. Why? To save his seat, which the Australian Labor Party acknowledges is in peril because of the airport proposal. More significantly, private members are to be denied the right to introduce their bills. There is a whole list of notices of motions and orders of the day. Members have been waiting, in some cases for many months, to introduce bills; debate on other bills has been commenced and should be concluded. Motions that have been partly determined will be put to one side because of poor administration of this House by the Government.
Parliament has now been sitting for something like seven weeks, yet the Government has been unable to finalise its affairs. Notwithstanding that, the Government wants to make an exception for the honourable member for Wyong so that he, in his imperilled seat, can introduce his bill. The Opposition will be interested to see how serious the honourable member for Wyong is and whether he presents his bill to the Legislative Council, or whether this is a stunt so that during the recess he can attend protest meetings in the Wyong area, wave the bill around and say, "This is something I have achieved for you." The seat of the honourable member for Wyong is in peril.
Order! I call the honourable member for Wyong to order.
The honourable member for Wyong is trying, with the help of his colleagues in the Government, to ensure that the time for private members is totally eroded, except where he is concerned. If ever there were a case of sheer favouritism, it is the way in which the honourable member for Wyong has been treated in the motion by the Leader of the House. The Government is denying every other private member the right to bring forward his or her legislation and the right to bring forward his or her motion. If the Government were serious it would organise appropriate sitting days. If the Government were serious it would have approached all members of the House and asked them what was urgent so that at least business could be organised on the basis of urgency. But the Government did nothing of the sort.
Order! I call the honourable member for Wyong to order for the second time. If he continues to interject he may not have an opportunity to introduce his bill tomorrow.
At least on this side of the House we are all assured of the very real fears the honourable member for Wyong has for his seat.
Order! I call the honourable member for Wyong to order for the third time and remind him of my earlier warning.
The honourable member for Wyong knows well that on Federal figures he would lose his seat. He knows well that his electorate is soft, particularly on this issue, which is why he has taken a great deal of interest in it since 2 March. When the election figures were released on 2 March the honourable member for Wyong got the shock of his little life! He thought all he had to do was keep the branches stacked and he was there for life. He has to do more than stack the branches in the Wyong electorate; he actually has to do some work. He has gone through the polling booths, looked at the figures and found that, lo and behold, his constituents did not vote Labor on 2 March. He realised he has to do something for them.
Ultimately, regardless of the honourable member for Wyong, the acceptance of this motion will trample down the rights of ordinary members, the rights of the Independents, and the charter of reform to which this Government is supposedly committed, but which it now denies when it wants to take away private members’ time on Thursday morning. That has already been done once, last Thursday; now the Government wants to do it again this Thursday. This is clearly not a one-off event because House sitting times have not been well managed. It is obviously part of an overall plan by the Government to deny private members any time to debate their motions or their bills. To single out an imperilled or endangered member like the honourable member for Wyong is really saying something. If he were not imperilled and if he were not endangered he would not do anything at all; he would just let it all happen. [Time expired
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put.
The House divided.
Mr Amery Ms Meagher
Mr Anderson Mr Mills
Ms Andrews Mr Moss
Mr Aquilina Mr Nagle
Mrs Beamer Mr Neilly
Mr Clough Ms Nori
Mr Crittenden Mr E. T. Page
Mr Debus Mr Price
Mr Face Dr Refshauge
Mr Gaudry Mr Rogan
Mr Gibson Mr Rumble
Ms Hall Mr Scully
Mr Harrison Mr Shedden
Ms Harrison Mr Stewart
Mr Hunter Mr Sullivan
Mr Iemma Mr Tripodi
Mr Knowles Mr Watkins
Mr Langton Mr Whelan
Mrs Lo Po’ Mr Woods
Mr Lynch Mr Yeadon
Mr McManus Tellers
Mr Markham Mr Beckroge
Mr Martin Mr Thompson
Mr Beck Mr D. L. Page
Mr Blackmore Mr Peacocke
Mr Brogden Mr Phillips
Mr Chappell Mr Photios
Mrs Chikarovski Mr Richardson
Mr Cochran Mr Rixon
Mr Collins Mr Rozzoli
Mr Cruickshank Mr Schipp
Mr Debnam Mr Schultz
Mr Ellis Ms Seaton
Ms Ficarra Mrs Skinner
Mr Fraser Mr Slack-Smith
Mr Glachan Mr Small
Mr Hartcher Mr Smith
Mr Hazzard Mr Souris
Dr Kernohan Mr Tink
Mr Kinross Mr J. H. Turner
Mr MacCarthy Mr R. W. Turner
Dr Macdonald Mr Windsor
Mr Merton Tellers
Ms Moore Mr Jeffery
Mr O’Doherty Mr Kerr
Ms Allan Mr Armstrong
Mr Carr Mr Downy
Mrs Grusovin Mr Humpherson
Mr Knight Mr O’Farrell
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
PRIVATE MEMBERS’ STATEMENTS
MOWLL ANGLICAN RETIREMENT VILLAGE
(The Hills) [6.05]: The Anglican Retirement Village complex at Castle Hill is the biggest concentration of aged persons in Australia. Almost 2,000 senior citizens live on the 47-hectare site, which was founded by Archbishop Mowll - one of our most distinguished Anglican clergymen - in the late 1950s. At that time Castle Hill was a sleepy village on the outskirts of Sydney; the location was idyllic and peaceful. Archbishop Mowll’s wife, Dorothy, envisaged an extension of war service care through a veterans’ village, while the Archbishop saw the need for a similar place of active restfulness and fellowship for retiring clergy and church workers.
Inside the grounds, Mowll Memorial Village is still an oasis of tranquillity where aged people can lead rich and fulfilling lives free from the pressures of the modern world. The complex is well serviced by Glenorie Bus Company Pty Limited, and a wide range of activities are provided for the residents. A $20 million renewal plan is providing a larger stock of two-bedroom homes more in keeping with modern housing demands. Everything changes, however, at the boundaries of the ARV complex. The village is bordered on two sides by busy main roads - Castle Hill Road to the south and Old Northern Road to the west. To the east is David Road, which leads off Castle Hill Road, and to the north are fields and Oakhill College.
The hardest part about living in the ARV is getting there. Exponential growth in the district has made access increasingly difficult for those living in, working at or visiting the six residential buildings and two nursing homes in the complex. Honourable members will appreciate that one’s reflexes and eyesight deteriorate as one ages, and tasks that once seemed simple, such as turning across a busy road, assume Everest-like proportions. Turning right into two of the three main entrances to the villages has become a personal Everest for many residents, with the challenge and dangers magnified by a number of serious traffic accidents. ARV management estimate that there is an accident a week at one or other of the entry points.
The main entrance to the complex is off Castle Hill Road. Traffic on this road tends to ignore the 60 kilometres per hour speed limit: indeed, if you travel at 60 kilometres an hour, you run the risk of being run over. The right-hand turn is so dangerous that ARV management have advised residents, staff and suppliers travelling from Pennant Hills not to use it. If staff are taking their lives in their hands, what must it be like for residents of the village? The two alternatives to this access point are the entrance off Old Northern Road on the western side of the village and the entrance off David Road. The latter is a no-no for traffic travelling from Pennant Hills; its junction with Castle Hill Road at a combined crest and blind corner is even worse than the main Broughton Avenue entrance.
Moreover, it is planned to restrict this junction to left-in, left-out traffic only when the nearby County Drive connection to Castle Hill Road is completed. There will be no right turn into County Drive, so it offers no solution to the problem facing the residents of Mowll Memorial Village. That leaves the Old Northern Road entrance, which is a couple of hundred metres north of the traffic lights at Rogans Hill. Visibility there is good; the road is flat and has a wide verge on both sides. Despite the fact that Old Northern Road is a busy main road, there is no right turn bay into the village, although there is a right turn bay into St Paul’s Church a few hundred metres further on; indeed, it was a pre-condition of the development consent for the church in 1984.
Last week I received a copy of a letter to the Minister for Roads, signed by 254 residents, visitors and staff of the villages, requesting that a right turn bay be provided at the Castle Hill Road and Old
Northern Road entrances. That is a good indication of how serious the problem has become. The Roads and Traffic Authority has told me on numerous occasions when I have taken up this issue with them in the past that it will be prohibitively expensive to build a right-turn bay on Castle Hill Road, and I accept that. However, the same cannot be said for Old Northern Road. A short right-turn bay there long enough for a bus plus one car would significantly improve safety for this vulnerable group in our community.
The Anglican Retirement Village management tells me it would be happy for the Castle Hill Road entrance to become no right turn both ways if this facility were provided and would instruct residents, staff and visitors to use the Old Northern Road entrance. I ask the Minister for Public Works and Services to request the Minister for Roads to re-examine this issue. ARV has indicated it would be prepared to meet some of the costs if the solution were an appropriate one. I would stress that the villages were there a long time before the traffic problems.
(Smithfield - Minister for Public Works and Services, Minister for Ports, Assistant Minister for Energy, and Assistant Minister for State and Regional Development) [6.10]: I am happy to convey that matter to the Minister for Roads for his consideration.
CABRAMATTA POLICE NUMBERS
(Cabramatta) [6.10]: I congratulate the Carr Labor Government for a vital boost to policing by increases in the Cabramatta patrol. When I contested the Cabramatta by-election and again in the general election it was a constant theme from the then Opposition leader Bob Carr that the Government was going to be tough on crime and on the causes of crime. It was the main issue of concern to residents and visitors of the Cabramatta electorate. When John Newman was the member for Cabramatta he constantly raised the issue of crime and the need for greater policing resources for the Cabramatta patrol, but that largely fell on deaf ears. The coalition Government was not interested in the personal safety needs of the residents of western Sydney and, in particular, the residents of Cabramatta. In March 1995 that all changed and we have seen quite a significant commitment from the Carr Labor Government to enhance the policing needs of the Cabramatta electorate.
On Monday I announced to the community there would be 18 additional police in the patrol which would include three inspectors, two senior sergeants, five probationary constables and eight additional police to form a street safety squad. The allocation of senior police is in line with the recommendations of the United States Mollen Commission and the interim report of the police royal commission, that is, to enhance and fortify senior management of policing in operational risk settings. That need is obviously there in Cabramatta and is one that has been met with the appointment of five senior police officers. Five probationary constables will supplement general policing. That is completely in accordance with Cabramatta’s role as a metropolitan training station. The street safety squad, which numbers eight, is to complement and respond to the additional policing needs of the community in light of the introduction of closed circuit television monitoring. I have spoken on that at length. I will be handing a cheque of $327,000 to the council this week, which is the State Government’s commitment to a capital grant allocation for the installation of CCTV.
The street safety squad is the required policing backup providing the manpower for the system, so that when the cameras detect crime or it is felt by the monitors there is a need for beat police to intervene, that squad will be there. They will not be solely dealing with drug-related crime. They will respond to all of the safety concerns of the town. I am sure I speak on behalf of the Cabramatta community when I say that the additional police will be most welcome. Additional resources are also provided. Additional computers will be put into the station and two additional vehicles will be allocated to the patrol. The Government has come good on its commitment to tackle the crime problem in Cabramatta head on. I do not think anyone in this House would begrudge the Cabramatta community that level of commitment. Local ambulances were reporting 50 or 60 overdose cases a week in the town centre. With the additional street operations of police, that has now fallen to between 10 and 20 a week.
While that is a significant reduction - and the police should be congratulated on their initiatives in dealing with the street level drug problems - certainly more needs to be done, and the Carr Government is delivering those resources. We can expect great results. This is a demonstration of what can be achieved when different levels of government work together cooperatively. All of this has been made possible through a cooperative relationship between the Fairfield City Council and the State Government to achieve a much higher standard of community policing in the area; not only to reduce crime but to reduce the fear and frustration that exists within the community because of the high visibility of drug-related crime. Once again I congratulate the Government for its ongoing commitment to the policing needs in Cabramatta.
GLOUCESTER PUBLIC SCHOOL UPGRADE
Mr J. H. TURNER
(Myall Lakes) [6.15]: I rise in relation to Gloucester Public School, which is in great need of upgrading. During the preparation of our coalition Government’s budget last year I was assured by the then Minister that Gloucester Public School would at last receive the massive upgrade it needed. Of course, the coalition did not deliver its budget, and when the new Labor
Government’s budget came out last year the upgrade for Gloucester Public School was not in it. We were very heartened by the response from the property department of the Department of School Education that we would probably get that funding in this year’s budget. Significant plans were drawn and presented to the school community for comment. They were encouraged to proceed as quickly as possible on the basis that the budget would be brought down very shortly. I understand from reliable sources that the funding was in the budget right up until the Friday before it was delivered. But Gloucester Public School has again missed out on its vital upgrade. It is even worse than that, because last year the school did not receive its cyclic maintenance program.
Acting on advice from the Department of School Education the school was told the upgrade work would be carried out in the 1996-97 budget and that the upgrade would cover cyclic maintenance. Not only does the school not get its upgrade, it also misses out on its cyclic maintenance. Regrettably, this is yet another broken promise. The Government did make that promise to the school. The coalition promised it and would have delivered it in last year’s budget. This year the funding has been removed. I do not know where the money went. I suspect it went to a marginal Labor seat. That is unfair to the people of Gloucester. I suppose the Opposition has to wear some of the blame because 26 years ago Leon Punch wrote to the school to confirm that the upgrade work would start. We have had a number of governments since then. That is neither here nor there - the job has to be done.
Children are attending Gloucester Public School under substandard circumstances. The canteen is a container with a side cut out. Gloucester becomes very hot in the summer and very cold in the winter, and substandard accommodation is simply not good enough for the children attending the school. A large job needs to be done. The plans and program are ready to go and it can happen tomorrow but for the funding. It is very important that this project be accorded priority in the next budget, if not before, if the Minister can find additional funds. In the overall education budget it is not a significant amount of money.
I believe if this school was checked by occupational health and safety officers on behalf of the children and teachers it would fail abysmally. They are in danger and in circumstances which are not satisfactory for the 1990s. I implore the Minister for Education and Training to try to bring forward from next year’s budget sufficient funds to be able to start the work. The plans are drawn, the program is there, the community is ready. If the Government brings forward money from next year’s budget I am sure the Minister would earn the eternal gratitude of Gloucester Public School and, more importantly, the children would have a better school to attend, one which does not have wind blowing through it and rain coming in, and which does not present a health risk.
BELLAMBI NEIGHBOURHOOD CENTRE
(Keira) [6.19]: I bring to the notice of the House a number of projects that have been undertaken by the Bellambi Neighbourhood Centre. Bellambi, within my electorate of Keira, has a Department of Housing estate on the foreshores of the Pacific Ocean. The neighbourhood centre has programs in place to assist children from poor families - and there are many poor families in the Bellambi area. At 7.30 each morning five women attend the Bellambi Neighbourhood Centre to provide breakfast for 20 to 30 young children before they go to school. Those women also make sure those children go to school with a playlunch and packed lunch. Shirley Hudson, Jan Neal, Helen McClafferty, Mary Goodman and Jennifer Dawson have made a commitment to organising that program, which they have carried on for many years. It goes a long way to helping those young children get a good education. Children who go to school hungry have poor concentration and therefore miss out on a good education. These volunteers from the local Bellambi community make sure that those school children get the opportunity for a good education.
At the Bellambi Neighbourhood Centre is a community garden. The vegetable garden has won the Wollongong City Council garden award three years in a row. That is quite a significant feat. Bob Neal, the supervisor of the community garden, received a Rotary Club award in recognition of his work in the garden for the community. Bob Neal works hard to carry out his duties and organises rosters to ensure vegetable plantings at appropriate times as well as watering, weeding and other activities needed to make sure that the garden is very productive. Eight people work on a roster. They receive their vegetables free, with remaining vegetables being sold to local pensioners at a cheap rate. That makes the program self sufficient.
A couple of years ago, because of a lot of vandalism occurring in the Department of Housing estate, the Bellambi Neighbourhood Centre put in place what it called an artwork program. It encouraged young people to become involved in doing artwork on fences and other structures throughout the Department of Housing complex. Instead of graffiti appearing on public buildings and so on, all of a sudden these young people were starting to take pride in the artwork that they were doing on fences, walls and even pavement. That is a program that the neighbourhood centre can be proud of. It continues today with the young people still being involved in other programs with the neighbourhood centre.
Earlier this year a major project that had been organised by the Bellambi Neighbourhood Centre was completed. It was to build four gas barbecue units on the foreshores of the Bellambi boat ramp area and swimming pool area. The program was jointly funded by the Department of Employment, Education and Training and by the Department of Housing. Suzanne Buckman, the housing project officer, was employed by the Bellambi Neighbourhood Centre and she conducted street meetings in the Bellambi housing estate to find out which would be the most suitable area in which to construct those barbecue units. The community was involved in and ultimately made the decision on the placement of the barbecue units.
Application was made to different funding organisations, and ultimately $96,500 was spent beautifying the area. This gave 15 young unemployed persons who lived in the Department of Housing estate some work and some skills. That is the sort of activity in which the Bellambi Neighbourhood Centre is involved. I am very proud to pay recognition to all people who have been involved in those projects. Over the years Bellambi has been looked upon by the media as an area of poor people. That is a negative aspect of the media attitude to Department of Housing villages and housing areas. I pay special tribute to the centre’s coordinator, Robyn Alderton, and applaud the work of the Bellambi Neighbourhood Centre. I have no doubt that it will continue its good work.
UKI PUBLIC SCHOOL UPGRADE
(Murwillumbah) [6.24]: I raise this afternoon the concerns of Uki Public School, within the electorate of Murwillumbah. I have grave concerns about future upgrading of the school. The Uki Public School is bounded by Kyogle Road and Rowlands Creek Road and is bordered by a reserve that extends to Rowlands Creek. This school has experienced steady growth, with 300 students now attending the school. The development of the school is not keeping pace with the growth I have mentioned. Currently, the school requires replacement of many demountable classrooms, a matter that I will cover in a moment. First I thank the Minister for allocating in the budget $50,000 for an upgrade of the administration block. However, that upgrade was basically a refurbishment of a brick and tile building that now houses the school canteen. That upgrading will mean another demountable classroom at the school grounds.
At present the school has four demountable classrooms, two girls toilets, with a total of six cubicles; and two boys toilets, with two urinals and a total of four cubicles. That is not sufficient amenity for the school. The Uki Public School needs two new double classrooms to cope with population growth. The school is requesting two double classrooms, with accompanying withdrawal areas and better toilet blocks, which, by the way, do not have wheelchair access. Many of the demountable buildings leak as well as being very hot. I want to place on record that leaking demountable buildings may not cause grave problem in a light rainfall area, but in the past two months this area has had more than 40 inches of rain, so one can imagine the problems that occur with leaking demountable buildings. Apart from replacement of its demountable buildings, the school needs good covered walkways because of heavy local rainfall. Another matter of concern is the demountable library building. It is intolerable in summer, because the building becomes very hot. The Uki Public School requests provision of a modern library facility that will allow the school to operate in the best possible conditions for the education of the children.
As I have stressed, the population growth in the area is quite significant. I have already mentioned the inadequacy of the toilets. The school needs new toilet blocks and covered walkways, as well as wheelchair access. A request has also been made for construction of a car park. At present the Uki Public School has no car parking at all, even though it employs 25 staff and many volunteer workers. I ask that the car parking matter be assessed. In conclusion I would like to say that the lack of site development at the Uki Public School is deplorable. This matter must be looked at urgently. I congratulate Bernice Dusi, the president of the parents and citizens group, and school council president, Pat Stanton Cook, for the fine work that they are doing, with the support of all teachers and parents in the area. Uki is a community minded area, some 15 kilometres along the Kyogle Road from the town of Murwillumbah. As I have indicated, 300 children attend the school, and that number is growing.
HUNTER DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITY SERVICE FOUNDATION DAY CELEBRATION
(Newcastle) [6.29]: On 7 June I was privileged to be the guest of honour at the eleventh anniversary foundation day celebration of the Hunter Developmental Disability Service. That service was established in 1985 by combining into one administration the Stockton centre, which is near Fern Bay in my electorate, Kanangra at Morisset and Tomaree at Shoal Bay. At that time developmental disability services were separated from mental health services as a result of the Richmond report. Last year the Hon. Ron Dyer and I attended the tenth anniversary celebration. We were both impressed by the wonderful sense of camaraderie displayed by members of staff and clients at that centre. We could not but be impressed by their great sense of closeness and their ability to work together.
They are decent human beings.
As the honourable member for Burrinjuck said, they are wonderful human beings. The vast majority of the 724 clients who reside on those three campuses have severe intellectual disabilities and many of them have sensory disabilities or secondary facility disabilities, with some of them requiring more than one-to-one care. Of the 890 staff who work in the Hunter Developmental Disability Service 771 are in direct care - 590 nurses, 163 housekeepers, and 18 therapy staff. I am sure that this centre would not be able to continue if the staff did not cooperate and work together, whether they be employed in the laundry, the kitchen, in the trades area, outdoors, in the stores, or whether they be clerical staff. All those people work in cooperation with the nursing staff for the betterment of those at the service. I commend the chief executive officer, Ms Lorraine Yudaeff, for the wonderful service provided at that centre. She spoke in glowing terms at the foundation day celebration about the cooperation of all staff.
On that day exceptional service awards were presented to William Flynn, Joy Lewis and John Lovell for 35 years service; Robyn Edgar, Zena Marshall and Kerryn Player for 30 years service; Janice Armstrong, Robert Bower, Eugenia Dunlevie, Janice Healey, Charlotte McDonald, Greg Mitchell and Kathryn Smith for 25 years service; and 20 other people for 20 years service. That represents 830 years service by one group of nurses and ancillary staff in the care of severely intellectually disabled people. What an outstanding achievement! It just shows the dedication of people involved at the Stockton centre. One of the things that impressed me the most was the community involvement in the foster grandparent scheme. Mrs Margaret McNaughton, patron of the foster grandparent scheme, has been deeply involved in that scheme since its inception. It is a credit to those people that they have given of their time to ensure that clients at the Stockton centre, who do not have parents, have constant contact with foster grandparents. [Time expired.
OVINE JOHNE’S DISEASE
(Burrinjuck) [6.34]: Tonight I bring to the attention of the House a matter to which I have referred on previous occasions. I am pleased to see the Minister for Agriculture in the Chamber tonight as the story I am about to relate is one of the most heart-wrenching I have heard since I was elected to this Parliament in 1988. Going back briefly in history, in 1993 I referred in a private member’s statement to ovine Johne’s disease on behalf of Mr Allan McCormack of Walwa merino stud at Gunning. Things have not got better for Mr McCormack; they have got worse. Nobody at the Federal or State level wants to know about his problem. Those who do continually tell him that there is nothing they can do about it. Let me run through the problems that have been experienced by Mr McCormack and his wife Jane. Ovine Johne’s disease was diagnosed in their sheep in 1993. To date the losses they have incurred have totalled $282,400, which represents an amount of $81,600 in 1993, $99,500 in 1994 and $101,300 in 1995. Likely future losses have been estimated at approximately $100,000 per year.
The bank is questioning the future viability of his property because of ovine Johne’s disease - the worst affected property in Australia - yet no assistance has been received from anyone. In 1994-95 Mr McCormack’s property was subjected to drought. Direct costs for fodder, transport and agistment were $262,699 and indirect wage costs and the loss of income from wool and beef amounted to $187,000. To date the only assistance that has been received is in the form of a freight subsidy amounting to $19,291. As if that were not enough, Mr McCormack, because of a tragic accident on the property, is permanently disabled. He has spinal cord damage to his back which is compounded by arthritis. He had a negative income for the years 1994-95 and 1995-96 because of the ovine Johne’s disease and drought.
Mr McCormack applied for a disability pension which was refused on the grounds of assets. He then applied for Austudy which was refused on the grounds of asset value. The prognosis is that Mr McCormack will be in a wheelchair in two years time. He has approached a number of departments, including the Rural Assistance Authority, but all the assistance he is getting is a basic family and parenting allowance which equates to a total income of $109.50 per fortnight. Financially, Mr McCormack is pretty stable, but because of the problems I have highlighted he has reached the point where his confidence in human nature is disappearing. This unique case is heart-rending. Mr McCormack has nowhere to go. He and his wife are worried sick because of his possible permanent disability in two years time. His wife does not know how she will be able to look after him. He cannot sell his property, which is valued at $4 million, because it has ovine Johne’s disease on it. Nobody will buy it. It is quarantined and he has lost his good stud name because of this disease. He simply has nowhere to go. I ask the Minister to do all he can to help this man financially to continue to operate until such time as he is able to get out of his dilemma.
(Mount Druitt - Minister for Agriculture) [6.39]: In the two minutes available to me it would be impossible to respond adequately to this tragic story that has been presented to the House by the honourable member for Burrinjuck about Mr Alan McCormack. I commend the honourable member for notifying me that he would raise this matter today. I will ensure that my
department contacts the honourable member for Burrinjuck to see whether anything can be done by the department, or by other relevant authorities, in relation to this case. This is the worst case I have heard presented to this place. I acknowledge that the honourable member for Burrinjuck raised this matter about three years ago and has pursued governments of both persuasions for some action.
I announced that an active surveillance program is being put in place by New South Wales Agriculture on behalf of the Johne’s Disease Sheep Industry Standing Committee. This will include a number of surveillance procedures, such as a request for all field veterinarians to consider Johne’s disease in the differential diagnosis of causes of ill thrift and wasting in adult sheep. It also includes the tracing of movements of sheep to and from infected properties by district veterinarians from Rural Lands Protection Boards and investigation of the disease status. In addition New South Wales Agriculture has taken steps to fill two vacant veterinary positions at the Centre of Excellence for Sheep Disease Investigation at Orange to handle the increased workload expected from this active surveillance program and investigations into other sheep health problems.
There are a number of issues about Johne’s disease I would like to talk about but, of course, time would not permit me to do that. The New South Wales Stud Merino Breeders Association is having discussions with my department to develop a Johne’s disease market assurance program for their members. Hopefully, this may help in some small way with this gentleman’s problems. Any stud breeder who has encountered Johne’s disease should be commended because obviously the facts raised by the honourable member have had a devastating effect on the gentleman concerned. [Time expired
DEATH OF SANTO NICASTRI
(Wollongong) [6.41]: I pay tribute to Joe Nicastri, whose given name was Santo. Joe died at Port Kembla District Hospital last Saturday, 15 June and his funeral was held today, 19 June, with a requiem mass at St John Vianney’s Catholic Church and subsequent interment in the Crypts of the Sacred Heart at Lakeside, Dapto. Joe was 54 years of age. He leaves a loving wife Angela and daughter Franca. Joe was born in 1941 in southern Italy, where his father owned a small farm. He has one brother, Nick, who also migrated to Australia and lives at Port Kembla. Joe arrived in Australia in 1964 and obtained work as a rigger, first with Electrical Powerline Transmission - EPT - an Italian owned firm that was a vehicle for many people from Italy to migrate to Australia because they were guaranteed employment when they arrived.
Later Joe worked as a rigger with BHP Steelworks at Port Kembla and because of an industrial accident - he was hit by a steel girder at work - was placed on light duties as a storeman. He retired because of health problems about eight years ago. Joe Nicastri was very active in the community and very deeply involved with his church, St John Vianney’s at Fairy Meadow, where many of the masses and other activities were carried out in the Italian language. He was a founding member of the Falenese Association which organises a festival each year, the Madonna Rosario Festival. He was very active in the Port Kembla pollution committee and, when he was working, he was an active member of his union. Joe Nicastri joined the Labor Party in 1979 and was a very active member up until a few days of his death. He was an active member of the Fraternity Club which is the Italian-based club at Fairy Meadow in the Illawarra as well as a member of the Port Kembla RSL Club.
The question that could be asked this evening by members of the House is why am I raising this issue about Joe Nicastri? He was an ordinary man who lived an ordinary life and certainly had many, many friends. Joe and his family exemplify in many ways Australia’s multiculturalism. Joe Nicastri very openly participated within the community. He was accepted by and worked with people in a whole range of organisations. He was willing to work with people from a whole range of backgrounds, provided only that they participated in the activities of the organisation.
Joe was always willing to help others in the community irrespective of their background. It was very interesting to visit his widow on Monday to find people from Joe’s background from the Italian community, as well as from the Macedonian background. When I was there there was an old Australian who would have been freckle-faced and had red hair in his youth. He had called in to extend his sympathy and that of his wife to Angela. This said all the very best things and good things about being a multicultural society. Personally I always found Joe to be something of a hard taskmaster. He supported me in the Labor Party and certainly worked very hard for my election in 1991 and 1995. I knew I was going to get a lesson or a point made when he would lean forward, his eyes open, and start with the comment, "Now listen, Gerry, me boy", with his distinctive Italian accent. If he agreed with something his comment would be, "That’s good, that’s good." Joe Nicastri became the bane of Southern Copper and the mouthpiece for a whole range of people who lived in the Port Kembla area during the difficulties with that plant and the pollution that resulted. Vale Joe Nicastri. [Time expired
BANDIANA ARMY SURVEY CORPS
(Albury) [6.46]: I would like to highlight an event that occurred in my electorate recently when the Army Survey Corps based in Bandiana, across the border in Wodonga, exercised its right of freedom of entry into the shire of Hume, the shire which surrounds the city of Albury. The survey corps chose to exercise this right in the town of Howlong and members of the corps, young men and women, marched into Howlong with their weapons, whereupon they were challenged by Inspector Tarlington of the local
police district. Having shown to him their charter of right of entry into the shire, they were allowed to proceed along the street where the salute was taken by their colonel and the president of the shire, Councillor Bill McDonald, who was accompanied by a number of shire councillors and other people of importance in the town of Howlong - representatives of the RSL and other organisations, the golf club, and my wife and me.
The troops then marched on to the sportsground at Howlong where they were later reviewed by their colonel who accompanied the shire president who reviewed the troops. They then went through a number of manoeuvres which they were privileged to be able to do according to their rights of entry into the shire. It was a stirring spectacle which was enjoyed by residents of the town and shire. I personally felt very proud when I saw these young Australians marching along the street. Such fine young Australians provide us with a feeling of security, knowing we have such people protecting this country.
It is significant that this right of entry into the shire was granted some years ago, but this will be the last occasion that right will be exercised because the army survey corps will be absorbed into the engineers corps. These young men and women will move to a new establishment in Victoria and will no longer be able to exercise this right. It is sad that the people of the shire will not have the opportunity to observe the spectacle of these fine young people marching through the towns. Everyone enjoyed the procession and was proud of it. I commend it to the House.
WARATAH ELECTORATE TRAFFIC ACCIDENT
(Waratah) [6.50]: A tragic accident occurred in the Waratah electorate yesterday morning at 6.15 a.m. on the link road between the F3 Freeway at Minmi and the roundabout at John Renshaw Drive, Black Hill, along Lenaghans Drive. Lenaghans Drive used to be a county road in fairly poor condition, but with a 100 kilometre per hour speed limit. It has been reconstructed and resurfaced to national highway standard with a reduced speed limit of a maximum of 90 kilometres per hour and a two kilometre nexus to the 110 kilometres per hour speed limit on the F3. This particular accident happened on a stretch of straight road with a slight downhill grade. A light twin-cab truck with five workers on board ran into the back of a stationary tabletop truck that was having a wheel changed in the merge lane or break-down lane off the main carriageway. Police inquiries revealed that the twin-cab truck was travelling about 80 kilometres per hour on a 90 kilometre per hour road.
The impact of this terrible crash was so strong that the stationary truck was pushed forward 10 metres. Fortunately the driver was knocked out of the way. However, two people in the driver’s seat of the light twin-cab truck were killed and three passengers in the back were seriously injured, one of whom was transferred to a Sydney hospital for treatment. For approximately 90 minutes he was trapped before he and the bodies of his colleagues were cut from the wreckage. Local residents of Black Hill have been concerned about this road for quite some time. Within the short space of time that that road has been open - certainly less than three years - residents have noted that nine people have been killed. All accidents were clearly the result of driver error. Nevertheless, the road does not provide the expected safety for drivers.
Before the speed zone was set, I argued strongly to the Newcastle traffic committee for an 80 kilometre per hour speed; the residents now ask for a 60 kilometre per hour speed limit. After consultation with the Minister for Roads and his staff I have received a copy of the Roads and Traffic Authority briefing on this particular section of road. I am delighted that Lenaghans Drive will undergo a safety audit, which will be completed by the end of July. A review of the speed limit will then be carried out in consultation with the Police Service. The findings of that review will be discussed again by the Newcastle City Traffic Committee and the authority will investigate the suitability of installing traffic warning devices at either end of the road section.
It is amazing how these accidents have occurred. A rough sketch of this road supplied to me by the RTA indicates that flashing lights are quite clear on the breakdown lane. The accident yesterday occurred not far from the site of the fatal accident two months ago involving a bus that veered to the wrong side of the road killing four people travelling in a car. We have a responsibility to the community to endeavour to reduce the incidence of these accidents. I am pleased that the Minister and the RTA have responded quickly to this serious problem. I look forward to their rapid action in providing a solution. I pledge my full support to the local community to assist in expediting any research for safety measures that may be necessary to improve that portion of Lenaghans Drive and the national highway bypass system to allow people to travel at a speed that they prefer to travel at in free and open spaces. The tragedy is that alongside Lenaghans Drive four traffic lanes are being constructed, to be completed by the end of December 1998. They will completely alleviate the problem. It is a pity that the funds have been provided and the road is under construction but the accidents still occur. [Time expired
Private members’ statements noted.
[Mr Acting-Speaker (Mr Rogan) left the chair at 6.55 p.m. The House resumed at 7.30 p.m.
The following bill was returned from the Legislative Council without amendment:
State Environmental Planning (Permissible Mining) Bill
APPROPRIATION (PARLIAMENT) BILL
APPROPRIATION (SPECIAL OFFICES) BILL
APPROPRIATION (1995-96 DEBT RETIREMENT) BILL
MOTOR VEHICLES TAXATION AMENDMENT BILL
BUSINESS FRANCHISE LICENCES (PETROLEUM PRODUCTS) AMENDMENT BILL
ROAD IMPROVEMENT (SPECIAL FUNDING) AMENDMENT BILL
Debate resumed from an earlier hour
(Keira) [7.30]: It is a great occasion for me to speak to the 1996 budget of the Carr Labor Government. I assure honourable members that things have changed dramatically in the electorate of Keira so far as funding is concerned since our Government took hold of the finances of this State. I should like to detail a couple of areas where funding is flowing through to the electorate of Keira, contrary to what was happening four or five years ago. One of the major roads that traverses my electorate is the F6 which incorporates the steep part of the escarpment at Mount Ousley called the Mount Ousley Road. Over the years there have been many arguments about the problems associated with that road. In the main they centred around the destruction of the quality of life of residents who live in close proximity to the highway and in particular to the Mount Ousley incline. Last year $2 million was spent on noise abatement infrastructure for the lower half of the incline. I have campaigned for a number of years to have that infrastructure extended for one kilometre past residential areas.
In this year’s budget $2 million has been allocated of which $1 million has come from the 3 x 3 levy program. People living alongside Mount Ousley Road will applaud the Government for that funding. At the bottom of Mount Ousley, at the turn-off to Fairy Meadow, 40, 50 and more cars park on an unsealed section off the main road. They belong to residents in the Illawarra, in Wollongong and in Keira who travel west of the escarpment to their employment. A lot of teachers travel to Liverpool and to Campbelltown. Mine workers travel west of the escarpment to mines like West Cliff colliery, Tahmoor, Appin and Towers. No public transport is provided to areas west of the escarpment and I applaud the people who established a major car pooling operation. I have been campaigning for a number of years for a properly constructed commuter car park where workers can leave their cars in a well patrolled and safe area. This year the Minister has allocated $200,000 for the construction of that facility.
I understand that, in conjunction with the Roads and Traffic Authority, Wollongong council has a role to play in selecting a suitable site for the project. I assure the residents of Keira and the car pool commuters that I will be chasing that up to make sure that it happens within a short time frame. Under the 3 x 3 levy program $100,000 has been allocated to provide a bus facility at Wollongong University. That large and expanding university has little access to public transport. The only way to access Wollongong University from the city is by bus. The North Wollongong railway station which services the university is a number of kilometres away and there has been an ongoing problem over many years with students parking their vehicles on the street.
I welcome this initiative and the allocation in the budget to ensure the construction of a proper bus bay facility at the University of Wollongong, which will encourage bus owners to increase services to the university not only from Wollongong and south of Wollongong, but also from the railway station. I understand that if proper facilities are constructed it is likely that a bus service will run from the Sutherland and Campbelltown areas to ensure that students can access the University of Wollongong without using private cars. It is a great idea and I am sure that students will appreciate it. Not only will the provision of a proper bus bay facility remove the problem of parking for residents in the area, it will also facilitate student travel to the University of Wollongong at a cheaper rate than travel by private car. Honourable members are aware of the proposal of the Federal Government regarding the cost of attending universities, so any cost-saving measure this Government can provide will be more than welcome.
In my home suburb of Figtree the intersection of the Princes Highway and O’Briens Road has been a major problem for many years. Not far from that intersection is a high school and a primary school that contain physically handicapped units attended by a number of students. Students who travel to and from those schools have to cross this busy intersection regularly. To attend sport lessons on Wednesdays students have to cross the busy intersection to access Parrish Park, which is a sporting facility just east of the highway at Figtree. I have previously raised the issue of funding to upgrade this intersection. On Monday of this week I had an on-site meeting with the principal of the Figtree High School, the principal of Figtree primary school, Neil Lamb and Graham Brisbane representing the Roads and Traffic Authority, the general manager of Wollongong City Council and one of its engineers, who all agreed that the most sane and safe way to approach the issue was to ensure that right-hand turning bays with proper
pedestrian traffic light facilities were incorporated. I again raise that issue to ensure that funding will be made available in next year’s budget.
I should also mention issues affecting people in the electorate of Keira who are awaiting housing through the Department of Housing. Works in progress within the electorate this year total $2,342,000. This financial year 18 new units will be constructed in Corrimal, 18 in Fairy Meadow, 10 pensioner units will be constructed in Fairy Meadow and 20 pensioner units in Tarrawanna, as well as the Gwynneville supported housing program. The total expenditure for public housing within my electorate is $5,568,000, and will be welcomed by many people who are on the Department of Housing waiting list. The neighbourhood improvement program has been allocated $25 million statewide; the south-eastern region budget for the program for 1996-97 is $2.2 million. Residents who live in the Bellambi housing estate will welcome the program to upgrade services and enhance their daily lives by providing better services, better landscaping and fencing for their yards. For whatever reason, houses within the Bellambi housing estate, which were built quite a number of years ago, were not provided with privacy. Perhaps the bureaucrats thought that the working-class people on low incomes who occupied those houses did not deserve privacy.
They were, too. It was in the 1965-70 period of government. Honourable members know who was in power at that time. I was astounded to learn that people were denied the privacy of their yards. The development program will address that problem. Within the capital works program for schools in my electorate a number of projects have been funded. Corrimal High School, which has an enrolment of 674 students has received an expenditure increase this year of $20,000 to upgrade security. Towradgi primary school has been allocated $80,000 to upgrade administration facilities. Wollongong High School for the Performing Arts has received a grant of $22,600 to upgrade the safety of a hall which is also used by Keira Technology High School. The auditorium, which was built many years ago, has no ventilation or heating.
It is impossible to ensure that students do not suffer from extreme heat when programs are conducted in the summer months. Those allocations should go a long way to relieving a number of problems faced by children who attend those schools. The parents and citizens association, the student body, the teachers and I have campaigned for a multipurpose hall to be erected at Figtree High School. I note that no money has been made available in this year’s budget for its construction. I hope that next year it will be given top priority. The facilities at Figtree High School for speech days, presentation days and other school activities are absolutely abysmal. I will continue to badger the Minister for Education and Training to ensure that funding is made available not only for that multipurpose hall but also for the doubling of the size of the library at Figtree High School.
What about the Steelers?
I must respond to an interjection by the honourable member for Rockdale who wants to know about the Steelers. I cannot say much at this time, but I remember that when the honourable member for Rockdale visited Steeler Stadium with me recently the Steelers absolutely flogged St George. The honourable member for Rockdale is a noted St George supporter. I shall refer to some funding arrangements for Aboriginal affairs, to which the Government is committed. It is imperative that programs implemented in New South Wales or, indeed, in Australia have the full support of the Aboriginal communities on which they will impact. Indeed, policy should be owned and driven by Aboriginal communities. The Minister launched the Aboriginal education policy in February this year and it was well received. In the budget $5.7 million has been allocated for implementation of that program. Aboriginal communities must be assured of getting a fair crack of the whip within the education sector.
However, it is more important for non-Aboriginal communities to learn about the indigenous culture of the country and what Aboriginal communities have to offer. The budget includes an allocation of $25.7 million for Aboriginal housing. That will not only enable work in progress to continue; it will enable 122 dwellings to be constructed. I applaud the Minister for Housing for that initiative. The Minister for Police, who spoke earlier on a serious issue, has ensured that funding is available to employ four Aboriginal police liaison workers, in addition to the 10 Aboriginal police liaison officers appointed last year. It is important that those liaison officers be able to enter Aboriginal communities when there is a problem and that they have the respect of those communities. They can provide support to and consult with Aboriginal families that might find themselves, for whatever reason, on the wrong side of the law. When I was shadow minister for Aboriginal affairs I proposed the establishment of a Cabinet committee on Aboriginal affairs. Such a committee has been established.
Over the next three years, $13.5 million will be spent on improving infrastructure in Aboriginal communities. The Cabinet committee on Aboriginal affairs will drive that expenditure; it will highlight areas to receive funding. I shall be keeping a close watch on what happens to that $13.5 million over the next three years. Recently I visited Dareton, which is beside the Murray River near Wentworth, and examined a recently completed housing project; five houses had been constructed on Namatjira Avenue, Namatjira Reserve. That is only the beginning of a major project in the area. Millions of dollars will be spent by the Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander Commission on that special program. The Cabinet committee on Aboriginal affairs has targeted the Namatjira area, together with three other Aboriginal areas.
Part of the funding will provide infrastructure programs for environmental health. The Government will examine programs such as providing fresh, clean water and a proper sewerage disposal system. Communities will have the opportunity to be involved in tree-planting exercises. Anything and everything will be done to enhance the environment of those four identified communities. But it will not stop there; the program will be expanded. I fully support the program. It shows the community that the Cabinet committee on Aboriginal affairs has grabbed the reins tight and will ensure that we head in the right direction.
(Burrinjuck) [7.54]: I welcome the opportunity to speak on the budget. The Carr-Egan budget is typically Labor: it is big on rhetoric but short on substance. It is anti-rural New South Wales, as usual, and contains no joy for rural communities which have seen a massive withdrawal of Government services in agriculture, education, public works and health. This hoax surplus budget has been created by a massive increase in asset sales, from $164 million to $409 million. The budget does nothing to improve the long-term financial position of New South Wales or the living standards of people in rural New South Wales. It will not boost employment opportunities for rural people who are still reeling from the loss of the public service jobs slashed by the Carr Government.
Basic services and supporting infrastructures, which are vital to rural communities, will continue to be run down. Cuts in capital spending will result in hospitals, roads and Government buildings, such as the one at Cootamundra, gradually deteriorating because they lack the necessary funding for maintenance. The restructure and rationalisation of Government departments has resulted in severe economic penalties for communities; the Cootamundra branch of the Department of Public Works and Services has closed, with the loss of 20 positions, over the past 16 months. The functions of that office, together with several staff, have been transferred to Wagga Wagga and Bathurst. The Eastern Riverina linen service has closed, with its operations transferred to Wagga Wagga - another 12 jobs lost to the Cootamundra township.
The Department of School Education has closed the cluster director’s office, with two positions lost to the township. Redundancy packages and insecurity within New South Wales Agriculture have contributed to a loss of agronomists and a sheep and wool officer. Similar positions have been lost in other rural communities. Thirty-six public sector jobs have been lost to this town, with the resultant loss of approximately $1.8 million in direct wages, which, extrapolated to take account of the flow-on effect on support jobs in the private sector, results in a financial penalty of more than $6.5 million for communities such as Cootamundra. The impact on hospitals and schools is tremendous. For example, closure of the Department of Public Works and Services office resulted in 15 children being removed from school, which has an impact on teacher numbers. Other towns, including Young, Yass, Tumut and Gundagai, have suffered as a result of the restructuring of New South Wales Agriculture and the Department of School Education.
In horticulture and pastoral activity alone, these moves have put at risk the sale of apples, stone fruit, grapes, vegetables, berries, lucerne hay, nurseries and grain crops in the Tumut region, worth more than $100 million. Many growers in the area have blazed a trail in new export markets; they are at the forefront of integrated pest management and reduction in the use of chemicals, producing a quality product of international standard. I have many more examples that show that agronomy and horticultural services and advice from professional officers employed by New South Wales Agriculture are critical to increased employment opportunities, and that generation of revenue is vital to the survival of country towns. The continued success of these diverse horticultural and agricultural ventures, which make a significant contribution to the overall economy of New South Wales, is dependent upon continued advice and assistance from officers of the Department of Agriculture who live locally and understand the needs and problems of the local industry.
In a time of extreme difficulty in rural New South Wales severe pressure is placed on other services of the Department of Agriculture as a result of budget cuts. Rural services, which play a significant role in assisting communities facing extreme financial difficulties, have had their budgets drastically cut. For example, no funds have been allocated to rural community family support this year, compared with the $1 million spent last financial year. Funding for rural financial counsellors has been reduced by almost 50 per cent, down from $1.5 million in 1995-96 to $0.87 million in 1996-97. Drought transport subsidies are down from $20 million in 1995-96 to $5 million in 1996-97.
Labor’s promise that this budget would assist it to recapture its heartland by focusing on health, the bush, community services and education - like all of its promises - is nothing but deceitful rhetoric. A further blow has been dealt to country towns with the budget papers revealing a 10.7 per cent cut in funding, from $75 million to $67 million, for country town water supply and sewerage schemes. I know it is difficult for Government members to understand the problems of trying to cope with inadequate water and sewerage schemes which impact not only on public health outcomes - and certainly environmental matters related to our freshwater streams and storages - but place a further burden on local government.
In other words, the Government has once again hit the battlers, those who pay rates and will now face rate increases to fund any upgrading required to meet the health and environmental standards set by this Government. To prune $8 million off this scheme, which through its grants to local government gives financial and technical assistance for the augmentation of country water and sewerage schemes, places another impost on rural people who, unlike their metropolitan cousins, have in many instances yet to obtain services taken for granted in Newcastle, Sydney and Wollongong. The health needs of rural New South Wales also have been ignored in this budget. The increase of 1 per cent in the recurrent budget does not even keep up with inflation, which is currently running at about 3 per cent.
How are base hospitals such as Wagga Wagga expected to reverse their budget blow-outs? The funding is clearly not sufficient for them to cover their debts. Hospitals such as Wagga Wagga Base will find themselves facing similar budget blow-outs this time next year. The budget is not sufficient for hospitals to recover their debts and meet operating costs. The Minister admitted in March this year that there were chronic budget problems in some country hospitals and specifically that there was a problem with Wagga Wagga Base Hospital. Add that to the Minister’s directive to slash maintenance bills by 10 per cent last year and his failure to provide the $100 million estimate to implement infection control guidelines he introduced last year and one ends up with a dismal future for rural hospitals under Labor.
A classic example of the problems I am alluding to relates to a 12-year-old constituent at Young. Because of the way in which the budget has reduced services and placed great pressure on staff, in terms of stress and overwork, this young girl nearly lost her life. She was in and out of both the Wagga Wagga Base Hospital and the district hospital at Young five times in a matter of weeks. That is the sort of pressure that is occurring in rural New South Wales because the Minister for Health has not realised the problems that his budget cuts are creating, and he does not appear to care about what they are doing to people. The $4 million redevelopment of the Tumut and District Hospital has not even been considered in this budget, despite the acting chief executive officer for the Greater Murray Health Service maintaining that the redevelopment of Tumut and District Hospital was a high priority. I quote from an article in the Tumut and Adelong Times
of Friday, 31 May:
The acting chief executive officer for the Greater Murray Health Service, Terry Mehan, maintains that the redevelopment at Tumut is a high priority.
He said the project was certainly the number one priority in capital works in the former Hume Health area, and among the top three in the Greater Murray.
Mr Mehan went on to say in the article:
If good things come to those who wait, we will have a good hospital up there won’t we?
Yes, we will, if the Government provides the funding so vitally needed to upgrade the hospital for the Tumut community. Hopefully the Minister will see the error of his ways and make sure that occurs in the next budget. This heartless, uncaring Government has also ignored the plight of profoundly disabled children and their parents in the Burrinjuck electorate who have a critical need for respite care facilities, which are basically non-existent. My pleas both in this place and in writing to the Minister have not even been graced with a response. I will read a couple of paragraphs from my letter of 10 May addressed to the Minister for Community Services, Minister for Aged Services, and Minister for Disability Services in which I talked about adult and child respite care needs. I went to the considerable trouble of checking the exact problems that people were bringing to my attention and I put that in a submission to the Minister in the hope, as it turned out the forlorn hope, he would listen to the cries of people in need and supply the appropriate funding in this budget.
I am talking about ten permanent adult residents with disabilities in two group homes at Cootamundra who constantly have their lives interrupted by having thrust upon them total strangers with acute behavioural problems, without any consideration being given to the traumatic impact this has on their placid lifestyles. They need respite care so that those conditions are removed and they can enjoy their placid lifestyles in a similar vein to you and I. In that submission to the Minister I talked about the need for child respite because there are only four respite care beds in the region - one at Griffith and three at Woodstock in Albury, one of which is for emergency only. According to my investigations respite care is required by in the vicinity of 100 children within a 100 kilometre radius of Cootamundra. A few weeks ago I was able to obtain an interim report from SkillShare. The report was undertaken and sponsored by Mission Australia. It was about the community service needs of Cootamundra and other towns. In respect of Cootamundra I quote from the report the findings of the investigations with regard to respite care:
The most important need identified was for a respite care cottage for children (0-18) with special needs. There are over 120 (families/children) in need of this type of assistance within 100 kilometres of Cootamundra. The needs of these children and families include care overnight/on a weekend, and/or when one or both carers are themselves in need of health (or other) care. The children have severe to profound disabilities of a physical, intellectual or behavioural nature, which means that their carers are on duty 24 hours per day.
That is precisely the point that I was trying to bring to the attention of the Minister, and it was one reason that I raised the matter in this House. As it turned out, my efforts in trying to get the Minister to consider the real need for additional funding in that area of the Burrinjuck electorate were in vain. I note in Budget Paper No. 4 funding for respite facilities. That funding came under the purview of
the Ageing and Disability Department program overview under the heading of major works, and in particular new works for disability initiatives - respite centres, various. The completion date is noted as 1998, with a total budget allocation of $3.6 million and $2 million allocated for 1996-97. I would be very surprised to learn that any of that money had gone to a rural community and only too willing to apologise to the Minister if any of the money was allocated to the Cootamundra district and regions of the south-west where the need for it is acute. I have spent the past eight years fighting for the right of people to have access to public lands in national parks and wilderness areas, and I take this opportunity to comment on the way the environmental movement is driving this Government, to the point where it has only a token commitment to preservation. [Extension of time agreed to
I note the commitment to management of pest species. As I said at the outset of my contribution to the budget debate, this is but a token gesture. I say that because the total area of wilderness areas, including those just declared, exceeds more than a million hectares. I note at page 49 of Budget Paper No. 4 an allocation for pest species management in wilderness areas. I know that the allocation is for pest species management in wilderness areas because the Acting Minister for the Environment, the Hon. R. Debus, said, when I questioned him, that the allocation was for management of pest species in wilderness areas. He reiterated that in response to a question asked of him during the estimates committee proceedings on 5 June. At page 44 of the Hansard
proof of those proceedings, in response to a question asked by the Hon. J. F. Ryan regarding a specific allocation of $500,000 the Acting Minister replied that it was for the reduction of feral animal species in wilderness areas.
When the Minister or senior members of the National Parks and Wildlife Service are being nailed down on where they are and are not spending these allocations, one can never get a straight answer. I am interested because the Kosciusko National Park covers a significant part of the State, and 50 per cent of its area has been declared wilderness. It would take a minimum of $2 million to $3 million a year to address even remotely the chronic and acute problems of the park that result from introduced pest species such as weeds and feral animals. So the allocation of $500,000 shows that the Government’s so-called commitment to protecting our native flora and fauna is a joke. The Government is declaring more and more of our national parks wilderness areas at the expense of our native flora and fauna, which the National Parks and Wildlife Service regularly says it is protecting.
However, there is some good news for the Burrinjuck electorate by way of an allocation of $1 million for Main Road 84, in the Binalong area, for the Illalong Creek deviation. That project was identified by the former Government, so the process was well and truly under way. However, the project, which centres on a very dangerous spot on Main Road 84, needs $6.5 million spent on it to make it a safe driving road for all motorists who travel through that part of the country on their way to the Riverina and on to Temora, Griffith and such places. I am pleased that that project has continued under this Government, which has allocated $1 million for the work. I hope the Government takes up the challenge and ensures that the project is finished quickly in the interests of safe motoring for all people in that part of rural New South Wales.
I thank you, Mr Deputy-Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to say a few words tonight. I am always pleased to be able to say positive things about the Labor Party, particularly the Carr Government, and point out how it has abrogated its responsibility to look after all of rural New South Wales. I can appreciate the politics of the Premier and his Ministers in looking after you as the worthwhile member for the rural seat of Bathurst, but I wanted to bring to the attention of the House that not just one pocket of New South Wales contains people in need; in fact, the whole of rural New South Wales has a significant number of people in need. As I illustrated in my private member’s statement today, I know of hundreds of cases of need. In many instances those people do not have the benefit of services that metropolitan people take for granted. I implore the Government to give this matter serious consideration and be a little more balanced in fulfilling its commitments to the people of New South Wales, who, after all, elected Labor to govern responsibly. I hope that in the future the Labor Government will listen to the people and make a positive contribution to rural New South Wales in general.
Mr ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Clough):
Order! Before I call the honourable member for Rockdale I will make a brief statement about a point of order that the honourable member for Port Macquarie raised today regarding the reading of speeches. I was not aware at the time that a standing order covered the matter. Subsequently I became aware that Standing Order 2 provides that where no standing order covers a particular circumstance, the practice of the House of Commons of the United Kingdom is to be followed. May’s Parliamentary Practice
, at chapter 18.1, page 365, sets out that members may not read a speech but may refer to notes and so on. I tender my apology to the honourable member for Port Macquarie. It was my belief that that was the procedure adopted during the many years that I have been a member of this place, but I could not identify the standing order at the time. I now have.
(Rockdale) [8.19]: It has been said before, but I will say again, that this budget is every inch a Labor budget. There are provisions in the budget for more teachers, more police, more spending on hospitals and child protection. This budget also cuts tax. It balances the social justice objectives of the Labor Party with fiscal restraint. As the Treasurer said when delivering the budget in this House:
Last year I said that our first Budget was aimed at setting things right, right from the start.
This budget consolidates the hard work and the progress of our first year in office.
This budget provides for a small surplus - the first budget surplus since 1988-89. At the same time it provides additional funding of $127 million for hospitals, $172 million for schools and an additional 126 teaching positions. It provides also for 100 additional police officers, bringing police numbers to a record level. The budget puts pressure on lending institutions to cut their margins and provide cheaper loans through the elimination of a tax that adds to the cost of refinancing a home or a business loan. It is an historical fact that this measure has acted as a major catalyst in influencing lending institutions to reduce housing interest rates. It is constructive to compare this last Labor budget with the 1994-95 coalition budget when the Hon. Peter Collins was Treasurer. I will bring to the attention of the House a few matters relating to budget surpluses or deficits. The 1994-95 Collins budget had a $353 million deficit, whereas this Labor budget has a $5 million surplus. In 1994-95 Olympics expenditure in the Collins budget accounted for $48 million, whereas under this Labor Government Olympics expenditure will total $442 million - 802 per cent more than the figure in the coalition budget.
The Government, through these budgetary measures, is paying up-front for the Olympics. There will be no financial albatross around the necks of future generations. In 1994-95 education expenditure in the Collins budget was $3,572,000, whereas under this Labor budget $3.924 million will be expended - a 9.8 per cent increase. In health there is a 7.7 per cent increase in the Labor budget compared with the Collins budget. The increase in the budgetary allocation for police is 11.1 per cent more in the Labor budget, and $1.108 million has been allocated to community services - a tremendous 18.7 per cent increase. There is a 7.9 per cent increase in the Labor budget for training, compared with the Collins budget. In 1994-95 the last Collins budget provided $77 million for the environment, whereas this Labor budget provides $91 million - a 17.8 per cent increase.
Through all these measures this Government is honouring the core commitment that it made prior to the last election. This budget contrasts the staid and conservative nature of the coalition with the can-do, honest-to-goodness attitude of the Carr Labor Government. Big ticket items are provided in this budget for the electorate of Rockdale. In fact, the people of Rockdale applaud the Government on the forthcoming additional expenditure for public transport, the upgrading of Arncliffe railway station, the massive Rockdale rail-bus interchange project, road safety measures, road improvement programs and the boost for public housing. These and other measures will help meet long overdue needs in the Rockdale electorate and go a long way towards redressing the years of neglect of the former Liberal-National Party Government.
I will comment specifically on the issues in the Rockdale electorate that this budget will assist. I will deal first with the boost for public housing. Funding for public housing maintenance and upgrading has increased dramatically in this budget to $202 million, a clear reflection of the Carr Government’s sincerity in providing quality living conditions for public housing tenants in this State. This budget will specifically benefit the people of my electorate by allocating funds to particular housing projects. Under the capital works program, works in progress, $784,000 is allocated for the construction of units at Arncliffe. Under new works, $2,184,000 has been allocated for units at Rockdale. The Department of Housing budget for the south Sydney region reflects an allocation of $13,535,000 for the maintenance of properties and an allocation of $5,996,000 for capital improvements to existing housing stock - a massive boost for public housing and public housing tenants in the southern Sydney region, but specifically for many people living in public housing in my electorate.
There is a budgetary allocation of $380,000 to Rockdale Council for road safety and traffic management and a sum of $70,000 in regional road block grants. The roads budget includes an allocation for the installation of important and much-needed traffic control signals at Bay Street and George Street in Rockdale, Princes Highway and Gertrude Street at Arncliffe, and Frederick Street and Watkin Street in Rockdale. Each of those projects has been allocated $100,000. The problems experienced at those intersections will be solved as a result of these budgetary allocations. Traffic signals and other pedestrian safety measures will be installed in Kingsgrove, Bexley North, Bexley and Arncliffe. I congratulate the Minister on allocating $16,000 for the Brighton bicycle route; $60,000 for the Brighton-le-Sands to Ramsgate Beach cycleway; and $25,000 for the Tempe to Kyeemagh cycleway. The latter two projects are part of the Ryde to Botany Bay cycle corridor.
The railways are of great importance in the Rockdale electorate, which has seven railway stations - three on the Illawarra line and four on the East Hills line. As a result of the Government’s recent announcement concerning the new station at North Arncliffe in conjunction with the new southern rail link, there will soon be eight railway stations within my electorate. Naturally, I was pleased on behalf of my constituents that the budget has earmarked $1 million for expenditure on a major upgrading of Arncliffe railway station, $400,000 of which is to be spent in the 1996-97 financial year. This will provide improved passenger and booking office facilities, with work to commence in January 1997. The scope of the work to be undertaken at Arncliffe includes a new platform canopy; upgrading of the station entrance, public toilets, waiting areas, booking office and staff amenities; landscaping at the station entry and
of the embankments; installation of a closed-circuit television security system; and painting of the station buildings.
Mr Acting-Speaker, I know that you, as a great supporter of the rail system, will join me in applauding the actions of this Government on further improving and making more amenable the New South Wales rail system. Arncliffe is a busy station, but it will become even busier with the construction of the new station at North Arncliffe. I believe that the construction, which is due to commence shortly, will bring more residential development to the area and result in several thousand additional residents in the immediate Arncliffe area. The budget also allocates substantial funds for the main Rockdale bus-rail interchange. Rockdale station has two bus-rail interchanges, one on each side of the railway station. The Department of Transport through this budget proposes to upgrade the eastern side bus-rail interchange, a narrow strip running parallel to the railway tracks on Geeves Avenue. The buses enter from the southern side and exit from the northern side, and passengers are picked up and dropped off along the kerbside. The existing layout is clearly inadequate. The street is a major thoroughfare not only for bus passengers but also for shoppers and rail commuters. Rockdale railway station is very busy, and there is considerable conflict between buses, pedestrians and service vehicles. The interchange is crying out for upgrading, and through this budget that process will get under way.
The Department of Transport has proposed the project in the capital works forward program for 1996-97 and 1998-99 at a total estimated cost of $2 million. An amount of $250,000 has been allocated in the 1996-97 budget for studies and design work, which will investigate alternative sites for the lay over of buses, safety issues and a taxi zone, and generally consult with local people and business to make sure that advantage is taken during the study and design period of the input of users of the facility. This will ensure an effective and beneficial bus-rail interchange. The bus-rail interchange is a great initiative, and it will be appreciated by the people of the Rockdale electorate. It comes at the same time as work commencing on the new North Arncliffe railway station, which will link the East Hills and Illawarra lines with the new southern railway running through Sydney airport. As I said, the Government will spend $1 million upgrading Arncliffe railway station.
At this stage I put on record my deep appreciation for the commitment shown not just to my electorate but to the State by the Minister for Transport, who has a genuine and deep commitment to public transport, particularly, railways. The Government has proved to the people of the Rockdale electorate that it is prepared to be positive about improving and extending public transport across the board, not only by preaching the good word about public transport but also through its actions. It is evident to the people of the Rockdale electorate that this Government is delivering public transport not just for them, but for the whole State. That becomes apparent when one considers the $62.9 million allocated for capital works in the transport portfolio which will provide 115 new buses for the State Transit Authority, a new ferry and various other new acquisitions.
The new buses will be special low-floor vehicles, which provide much better access for all passengers whether they be seniors, people with disabilities or parents with young children. I was very impressed when I travelled on one of those buses to visit the Governor at Government House. It was evident to all on the bus that they would be a boom to the people of this State. Also noteworthy is the inclusion of a number of mini-sized smaller vehicles to provide flexible, community-based public transport services. The social and environmental benefits of public transport are clear: less congestion on the roads and less pollution in the air. This Government has a commitment to attracting people back to public transport, and this goal is being met by ensuring that the various services meet the needs of customers.
This Government is making decisions, taking on projects and acquiring equipment and infrastructure with a view to meeting the needs of public transport system customers. The budget provides for the second increase in health spending in as many years. A great achievement and evidence of the Government’s commitment to the community is the $5.6 billion health budget for 1996-97. The $389 million allocated to mental health services reflects the top priority of the Carr Government’s commitment to mental health. An extra $10 million has been allocated in recurrent funding to improve mental health services and $30.1 million in new funding has been allocated for existing and new works under the mental health plan.
Over the years mental health has not attracted the expenditure that is warranted, and I am encouraged that in this budget the Government has put its credentials on the line and made a significant commitment to mental health. As noted in the social justice budget statement further improvements have been made in ethnic affairs. The electorate of Rockdale has a considerable multicultural component. I am always interested in the ethnic affairs policies of different governments. I note from the social justice budget statement that the Government came to office with a view that government advertising and information should better reflect the cultural diversity of the population and that a proportion of the expenditure - 7½ per cent - ought to be allocated specifically to the ethnic media for the provision of community information. The Government has set out to do that.
In December 1995 the Premier, and Minister for Ethnic Affairs issued a memorandum to Ministers to ensure that from 1 February a minimum of 7½ per cent of the campaign
advertising budget allocated to newspaper advertising by government agencies will be allocated for placement of advertisements in non-English language newspapers. Similar targets are also to be met in electronic advertising expenditure. The New South Wales Government advertising agency has responsibility for monitoring and implementing this policy. Advertising is an important issue for people of non-English speaking backgrounds, whose source material often comes from the ethnic press. Unless the Government runs information campaigns and the like in the ethnic press, messages about health or social service initiatives will not get through. This form of advertising is so important that the Government is doing something about it. There have been improvements to the 24-hour emergency interpreter translation service for the Ethnic Affairs Commission, the Department of Health and the Police Service and the improvements have been extended to the Attorney General’s Department, the Department of Corrective Services and the Department of Juvenile Justice. The Government has committed $8.7 million over three years to the multicultural education plan for the appointment of the first 42 of 96 extra community language teachers. It is a tremendous budget.
(Hawkesbury) [8.39]: It is with considerable interest that I contribute to the budget debate this year. I have witnessed numerous budget debates over the years so I am cognisant that the approach to a budget debate varies considerably depending on which side of the House one sits. I have heard enough of the budget debate to note the high level of plagiarism that has occurred among Government members, who have stolen almost line for line many of the speeches of previous Governments, including those of members of the former coalition Government. That is probably as it should be because it is the Government’s role to defend the budget and it is the Opposition’s role to attack the budget. That is the very fabric of our parliamentary system. Despite that, there is a necessity to look slightly deeper into the budget structure.
Two things come to my mind. One is the inevitable smoke and mirrors trick that the Treasury plays on governments irrespective of their persuasion. On this occasion it is just that much more of a smoke and mirrors trick than perhaps it has been in the past. This budget has all the hallmarks of a desperate attempt by the Government to look reasonably respectable and presentable in its budget strategy. But what worries me - and in the years that I have been a member of this Parliament I have learnt to look at these things with some degree of objectivity - is the lack of any long-term vision or economic structure in how the budget is put together. It may be that the budget has come up with a small surplus; it may be that that surplus is phoney and that there is a $450 million hole that will be found despite all efforts at creative accountancy. But over the years deficits have turned into surpluses and surpluses have turned into deficits depending on the way they are looked at. As the saying goes, there are liars, damned liars and statisticians, and there is a certain degree of that in budget creativeness.
But given the circumstances that underscore this particular budget, it is difficult to believe that the budget is a work of fiscal responsibility that is genuinely and responsibly meeting the reasonable social needs of the community. Sacrifices must be made, it seems. It is quite reasonable to expect that Government members and some Opposition members can claim real funding wins for their electorate, but many more members, I suspect, have to look at the downside of that expenditure. I will cite four examples of the effect of the budget in the Hawkesbury electorate. To show that I am even-handed and fair, as I have always endeavoured to be in this House, I will start with the pluses.
I compliment the Government for continuing to fund the development of Windsor Park Primary School, the most recent school built in my electorate in the suburb of Bligh Park, south of Windsor, and particularly for agreeing to the completion of stage 2 of that school where special provision has been made within one of its key buildings for the inclusion of an education stream for multihandicapped and multidisabled children. That is particularly special to me because I have done a lot of work over the years with the disabled and I am deeply cognisant of the problems that occur in the treatment of children aged from nought to five years with disabilities and from the time they pass from the primary school system to the secondary school system. One of the greatest challenges that governments fail adequately to meet, and this budget does not address it, is the post-school options area. Setting that aside, the development of Windsor Park Public School with its specially designed building, structured to cater for a number of multihandicapped children, is an excellent initiative for which I thank the Government.
I applaud the Government for making that contribution to young people with disabilities in my electorate. Unfortunately the downsides far outweigh the good sides. Three areas of expenditure concern me. The first is the complete lack of any funding for major road improvements. Before the Labor Government came to office it promised to widen Windsor Road to a four-lane highway from Kellyville to McGraths’s Hill, the work to be completed within its first term of office. The ink had scarcely dried on the writs when the Government reneged on that promise.
Talk about the seven long years of the coalition Government.
I am pleased at the interjection of the honourable member about what the previous Government did or did not do in the previous seven years because that underscores the reality of what happened. In the circumstances, Labor’s promise to widen Windsor Road was an absolute nonsense. The Government has failed, as
have previous governments, to address the real road problem of the Hawkesbury area - traffic flow through the townships of Windsor, Richmond and North Richmond. Unless that problem is solved, the widening of Windsor Road will have been done for nothing because it will enable traffic travelling from Kellyville to reach Windsor faster but then spend more time waiting in the various parking lots that form the roads through that area during peak hour - and that waiting period is getting longer and longer.
I am not criticising the Government for its non-funding of Windsor Road because I do not think it was a sensible idea in the first place. But the Government has failed to recognise the real road needs of the area or at least to make some provision in the budget to establish design parameters for what may be the solution to the problem. That solution is not to be found in small adjustments to intersections, traffic light systems, and coordinated systems of traffic flow. The road systems require rerouting to bypass the current congested areas. Honourable members realise that the region has flood plain problems and old established historic towns where it is not easy to drive wider roads through existing road systems. There is a need for considerable strategic planning of the road systems through that area.
Even though the Government is not prepared to honour the promise it foolishly made before the election, it should accept the reality of the problem and make much smaller provision in the budget to allow design work to be put in train to solve the problems of traffic flow in that area. That traffic problem not only affects local people, it also affects traffic on the Bells Line of Road through to Lithgow, and across the Windsor Bridge through Wilberforce to Singleton and to the Hunter Valley areas. It is not merely a matter of doing something for the local people but of doing something for many people who travel through the area to other places. A matter that would be of considerable interest to the honourable member for Londonderry, who I understand is following me in this debate, is the ongoing problem of police facilities in the local area. The honourable member for Londonderry smiles and I know he will undoubtedly respond to the thrust of my argument.
The Hawkesbury area is in need of a consolidated, modern and effective policing centre. The former coalition Government acquired a suitable piece of land with enough room to build, either together or in stages, a police station and courthouse complex. Those who know the Hawkesbury area would realise that it is served by the Windsor courthouse, a lovely heritage building built in about 1823 by Governor Macquarie, but hopelessly inadequate to meet the needs of modern courts, and Richmond courthouse, an equally lovely heritage example of the architecture of the time built in about 1860, but equally incapable of meeting the needs of modern court requirements. To join the two would be a good solution. It would have been sensible had this Government followed up on the initiative of the former Government and provided in this budget an allocation for the construction of such a complex, or at least the first part of the complex - a police station designed to take the addition of a courthouse at a more suitable time.
Unfortunately, my very good friend and colleague the honourable member for Londonderry made what was a very rash promise at the time, to open a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week police station in Richmond. In an endeavour to honour that commitment, the Government agreed to build a police station in Richmond on a hopelessly inadequate site which does not have room to incorporate a courthouse facility. The twist is that to establish a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week police station in Richmond the 24-hour, seven-day-a-week police station in Windsor will close, which was not what the community believed was the thrust of the commitment made by the honourable member for Londonderry, which was to provide an additional facility, not an instead-of facility. It is now likely that Richmond police station will be built inadequately to cater for the policing and courthouse needs of the area, and the facility at Windsor will be diminished to provide personnel to man Richmond.
There is even a more curious twist: because the budget has made no provision to build the Richmond police station - it certainly is unlikely to be built this year - the Government has had to provide a considerable amount of money to try to dress up Windsor police station on a hopelessly inadequate and hopelessly unsuitable site as a policing centre for the district, to make it sufficiently adequate to tide it over until a police station can be built somewhere else. The Government is throwing good money after bad. Much of the money put into Windsor police station will ultimately go to waste, but that is very much the underscoring of this budget, and why I say this budget is one of no long-term vision whatsoever. This budget is a knee-jerk reaction to current-day situations to try to make the Government look reasonably good in the short term. The Government will rue, as have previous Labor Governments in Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia, the day that it embarked on this policy of short-term initiative budgets.
The local people will receive very little benefit from the money put into the electorate to upgrade inadequate policing facilities rather than attack the long-term problem of putting into place decent policing facilities to enable the police to do their work properly and to maintain the highest level of law and order enforcement and maintenance that they possibly can, given the resources they have to work with. The effluxion of time will reveal whether Richmond police station is ever built. My guess it that it never will be. I hope that commonsense will prevail and that when a policing centre is ultimately built, it will be built on the Windsor site, which has sufficient capacity to
incorporate a courthouse facility, thus bringing it up to modern standards in both policing and court facilities. I know that the honourable member for Auburn, a doyen of the courts of this State, would appreciate the point I am making about the need for upgraded court facilities.
The third and most classic case of waste in this budget is tied to the greatest single budget item for the Hawkesbury area. Honourable members may say how churlish it is for the member for Hawkesbury to knock an allocation of $93 million in the budget. But it is again an example of a gross waste of taxpayers’ money. I refer to the allocation to upgrade the spillway of Warragamba Dam. If ever there was an irresponsible decision, almost heinous in its absolute criminal culpability, a decision that will impact adversely on the people of the Hawkesbury, it is the decision to build a spillway for Warragamba Dam which may secure Warragamba Dam from collapse under the hypothetical or theoretical one-in-10,000-year flood. The environmental impact statement, commissioned by the former coalition Government at a cost of $10 million, carried out by Mitchell McCotter, leading consulting engineers, concluded that to build a spillway would be irresponsible, and that the effect of a major flood overflowing the dam through the spillway would exacerbate the downstream environmental damage of that flood.
You do not believe that.
I can assure the honourable member for Auburn that I believe passionately in this. The EIS concluded that the responsible thing would be to raise the level of Warragamba Dam to provide a flood-mitigation factor to enable water to be held sufficiently long enough to allow it to be released at a more gradual rate to save downstream devastation. This Government has abandoned that conclusion. In the case of a flood equivalent to that of 1867, which is the highest flood on record, to abandon the recommendations and conclusions of the EIS is to sentence the people of the Hawkesbury to death. There has never been an instance of a major flood in the Hawkesbury that has not taken a toll in lives. In the case of the next major flood, which will come as sure as night follows day, some identifiable person will have sentenced someone else to death. That same identifiable person will have also sentenced the Hawkesbury area to massive devastation and massive economic loss.
If an ingredient in this budget could be judged to be totally and utterly irresponsible it is the commitment of this Government to allocate funds to build a spillway only. As if almost to add insult to injury, the Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning claimed that the Mitchell McCotter $10 million EIS was fundamentally flawed, therefore the Government would commission a further EIS. Who did the Government retain to conduct a further EIS? The Government retained Mitchell McCotter, exactly the same consultants who, at a cost of $10 million to the former coalition Government, delivered an EIS which this Government claimed was fundamentally flawed. I disagree with the Minister that the first EIS was fundamentally flawed. It will be interesting to see how Mitchell McCotter carries a brief to deliver a decision that refutes the work it conducted in the first EIS. I promise this Government that if Mitchell McCotter produces an EIS that suggests that the construction of a spillway only is a valid option, without all the - [Extension of time agreed to
If the Government produces an environmental impact statement that shows that a spillway is only option, without being able to demonstrably approve beyond doubt that the people of the Hawkesbury are safe, I promise that the people of the Hawkesbury will carry the fight to the highest court in the land to overturn what I believe will be an illegal action by the Government. That is the promise that I leave with the Government.
(Londonderry) [9.00]: I support the budget brought down in the Chamber a few weeks ago. Before I talk about my electorate of Londonderry, I shall refer to my good friend the honourable member for Hawkesbury. I cannot believe that someone would lead so much with his chin. It is like walking out and saying, "Give me an upper cut before we start." The honourable member referred to Windsor Road. It was suggested that someone had made a promise about Windsor Road. I am still trying to get to the bottom of that promise. The Government has not completed its first term, so the honourable member for Hawkesbury should not be too harsh in his criticism of anything happening to Windsor Road.
The honourable member for Hawkesbury has been the member for Hawkesbury for nearly a quarter of a century. However, he had the hide to talk about Windsor Road. The Government has been in office for 18 months and has taken action in relation to Windsor Road; the honourable member has been the member for nearly 25 years but he did nothing. As I said, the honourable member is a good friend of mine - and I hope that he remains a good friend. He is very helpful to me, and we work well together. I cannot believe that the honourable member would criticise a Government that has been in office for only 18 months, particularly in the face of his coalition Government’s 25 years of inaction on Windsor Road. A third of the honourable member’s speech was about Windsor Road.
The honourable member also referred to the police station. Once again, the honourable member has represented Hawkesbury for 25 years but has not been able to get a new police station. A week ago last Friday the contracts were signed for a new police station to be built in East Market Street. Tenders are being called for at present. I can assure honourable members that the new police station will be built. The reason that the new police station will be built is not because it will be located in the Londonderry electorate and it is politically
wise from my point of view to put it there. The planning department, the Police Service and the local police were asked about the best location for the police station. It was not a matter of the member for Londonderry saying that the new police station should be located at Windsor; that decision was for the police.
The police told us that the centre of the Hawkesbury policing area is not Windsor but Richmond. As the honourable member for Hawkesbury knows, police there have a large area to patrol. Time trials have shown that the police can get from the new location of the police station to south Windsor two minutes quicker than from the present site at Windsor. Strategically, the new police station should be located not at Windsor but at Richmond. The honourable member for Hawkesbury criticised the Government’s inaction over the past 18 months, yet he had 25 years in which to get something done. The honourable member had the hypocrisy to use his budget speech to criticise the Government for delivering a police station. He spoke as if it is terrible for the people of the Hawkesbury to get a new police station.
The honourable member said that the Government did not know what it was doing because it has spent money on updating Windsor police station. He said that his police station was built when Captain Cook arrived and no-one has touched it since. I have battled to get funding to update a police station not in my electorate but in the Hawkesbury electorate. However, the honourable member said that the Government had the gall to put money into updating his police station to provide a good environment for police to work in. The police station has been there since Captain Cook arrived, and it is falling down. I cannot believe that the honourable member raised that matter.
The biggest point made by the honourable member related to Warragamba Dam. The honourable member has had 25 years in which to get something done about Warragamba Dam. However, no action was taken during the seven long years of coalition Government. Under the previous Labor Government stages one and two of updating Warragamba Dam were completed for safety reasons. Warragamba Dam, even today, would not meet the safety standards of any country in the world; that dam would not be built today because the way in which it was built is not safe. The honourable member said that the coalition Government had an environmental impact statement done that cost $10 million. The previous coalition Government had not one but many environmental impact statements prepared for Warragamba Dam. That Government spent more than $100 million on environmental impact statements for Warragamba Dam, but it did not spend one cent on Warragamba Dam.
The honourable member criticised the Government for making a decision, although it has been in office for only a few months. The Government decided to spend millions of dollars on flood mitigation for the Hawkesbury-Nepean area. No Government has done that before. The Government will also provide funding for a spillway system at Warragamba Dam, which will cost $97 million. For seven years the previous Government did not spend one cent on Warragamba Dam, yet the honourable member for Hawkesbury has criticised the Government because it has committed nearly $100 million to provide a spillway system. The Government has also committed $125 million to update the polluted river. The river nearly died under the previous Government. It is one of the greatest rivers not only in New South Wales but in the world. Everything else would have died if the coalition Government had stayed in office.
I cannot believe that an honourable member could say, "I have been here for 25 years. I have done absolutely nothing in my electorate in regard to Warragamba Dam and policing; but because the Government is committed to spending $400 million or $500 million to these three projects, you are a terrible Government." I shall ask the people of New South Wales if we are a terrible Government and I know what the answer will be. The budget delivered by the Treasurer acknowledges the fact that we are a Labor Government. Most people and most pundits have said that one good factor is that it is a Labor budget. It is the first budget in eight years that has delivered a surplus. Opposition members are going crook and have their knickers in a knot about the fact that the Government has delivered a budget in surplus.
It is honourable and proper to introduce a budget in surplus, particularly as we are leading up to the Olympic Games in the year 2000. Undoubtedly the Olympic Games will probably be the greatest event ever in this country; the Games will put Australia on the map. It is stupid to think that New South Wales could approach the Olympic Games with the conditions left by the previous Government. I do not think that honourable members have mentioned the debt factor in the budget. It is worth noting that when Labor took office in March last year the average debt for every man, woman and child in New South Wales was $3,500 per head. That is a massive debt. At the same time last year, the average debt for every man, woman and child in Queensland was zero. The Labor Government took office well behind the eight ball. Labor in this State has delivered a budget that is in surplus, but all the Opposition has offered has been criticism.
At the same time, there have been increased allocations for hospitals, welfare, schools, police and the environment. In many ways this budget is definitely a Labor budget. Most Opposition members talked about the modest surplus of $5 million. They said that it was false because current expenditure has been shored up by asset sales and other one-off benefits. Imagine if the coalition had stayed in office. Under the coalition Government there was sale after sale. The farm was sold; most of it was gone. The Government Insurance Office
was sold. The sale of the century, the State bank, lasted about two seconds before it was sold. If Labor had not taken office last year, I doubt whether there would have been much left in the State to sell.
The budget contains an extra $127 million for hospitals. Government members have repeated that and it should be repeated because it is factual. There is also another $172 million for schools and the promise of another 100 police to attack the law and order issues. They are starting to filter through the system now. A pleasing aspect of this budget is the pressure that has been put on banks - and it is about time we put pressure on the banks - to cut their lending margins and provide cheaper loans by scrapping the tax that adds to the cost of refinancing a home or business loan. The abolition of the loan security duty from 1 July 1996 will save the home buyer refinancing a $100,000 mortgage $341 in tax. On a mortgage of $200,000 the saving will be a mammoth $741.00. That is good for the people of New South Wales. The capital works project in the seat of Londonderry is something I am very proud of. I came into this Chamber in 1988. I have a very diverse electorate that stretches from Richmond, which is like a country town, to the high mortgage belt of Penrith, and then sweeps down and takes in a big part of the Department of Housing residents in the Mount Druitt area.
When the coalition parties were in government the most that Londonderry received for capital works was about $2.5 million. Some of the electorates in the leafy parts of the north shore get four, five, six times that figure. I am pleased to say that this year in the capital works program the seat of Londonderry has received nearly $8 million. That is a massive increase compared with funding in previous years. The people of Londonderry are very pleased and I am certain it will put many jobs back into the area. In the area of corrective services $1 million will be spent on the expansion of 300 beds at the John Morony Correctional Centre, a minimum security prison. As far as education is concerned Londonderry has received another $177,000 for extra work on stages one and two of the new public school at Cranebrook, of which I am very proud. The school will be built at a cost of $3.5 million.
The electorate of the Minister for Agriculture and my electorate share a TAFE college. It is in his electorate but is also very important to the people in the seat of Londonderry. TAFE received an extra $1.09 billion, a 16.1 per cent increase in capital spending. Work will also commence on 40 new projects, including significant new developments at Bathurst, Campbelltown, Coffs Harbour, Hornsby, Kingscliff, Mount Druitt, Orange, Shellharbour, Wagga Wagga and Wetherill Park. TAFE is very important to the people of my electorate. For a big percentage of them the only chance to get on a level playing field is through education and TAFE is a big part of that education in my electorate. I thank the Minister for Education and Training for what he has done in that area.
Another feature of my electorate, and I am certain it will be featured in every country in the world when the Olympic Games arrive, is the Olympic rowing course. Not only the people of Londonderry and western Sydney but the people of all of Australia will be very proud of this centre when it is completed. There is another nearly $7 million to be spent on this centre. The total estimation for its budget is nearly $37 million. That will be a great asset for western Sydney and a soul booster for the people there.
As far as roads funding in the seat of Londonderry is concerned, there is an allocation this year of $7.536 million. There will be $2.75 million spent on major developments throughout the area. Many minor works will be completed there as well. We will see $2.1 million spent on concept development, planning and investigation of roadside environment for the seat of Londonderry, which has never been done there before, at a cost of $40,000. Concept development investigation for a loud zone program will amount to nearly $11,000. Other minor works will total $50,000 on various road works in the area which brings it to a total of $101,000. We have never seen that type of money before for those programs.
Department of Housing accommodation is very important to the seat of Londonderry - a working-class seat and area. An extra 23 units are to be built in the electorate at a cost of just under $1 million. It may not seem like a lot of money but in the overall picture with the money we are spending on new stock and maintenance, it adds up to a lot of money. Overall the 1996-97 budget will spend $210,000 on maintenance. This is a massive increase. We have been screaming for places to be updated, for kitchens, tiles, broken windows and doors to be mended. Some of these people have been waiting years. I saw a lady a few weeks ago who had been waiting for six years to have a broken window fixed in a Department of Housing home. All those jobs will be done now.
The maintenance budget overall will be over $115 million. This is an increase of $12 million on last year’s figure of $93 million. We are looking suburb by suburb to see what we can do to improve western Sydney and other working-class areas in New South Wales. The money is not there to attack these problems all at once. For 1996-97 The Government is spending $2 million to update the suburb of Bidwill, to give it a new face and see what improvements can be made to make life there better. Mount Druitt was the brainchild of an American who came here and put these plans into action. [Extension of time agreed to.
He thought his plan for Mount Druitt was the way to go. I am certain if he came here today he would be horrified because the plans do not suit the Australian style of living today. People should not have to live in some of the clustered conditions we have in different parts of western Sydney that are the result of bad planning over the years. The $2
million will be very important to the people of Bidwill. The honourable member for Hawkesbury mentioned a new police station. I note when the budget papers first came out one of the first things the honourable member for Hawkesbury did was go to the local paper and say that although the member for Londonderry had been talking about this police station, there was nothing in the budget to suggest there will be a new police station. Last Friday week we signed contracts for the purchase of land in East Market Street which cost $690,000 and tenders are being called for the building of the police station.
As far as law and order is concerned, my electorate has been given a mobile police station to look after the problems we have in western Sydney. It is impossible to put a police station in every part of Mount Druitt, so we will consider the use of mobile policing in the area. If there is a problem at Bidwill or Shalvey or another part of Mount Druitt, the mobile police station will be sent there. It could be there for a few hours or a few weeks. We hope that through this the people receive a better service as far as law and order is concerned. I am pleased with the $124 million budget allocation for the anti-pollution program on the Hawkesbury-Nepean river system. The member for Hawkesbury was there for quarter of a century and did nothing in this regard. We have committed $124 million for a five-year rescue package. It has been applauded by everybody living in the Hawkesbury because they know that this Government is sincere when it says it will look at the problems of the Hawkesbury-Nepean river system and try to save that river system.
The package consists of $100 million to decrease phosphorous from sewage treatments along the river, including the St Mary’s plant; $21.4 million for sewerage pump-out facilities for ships and tree planting programs as well as a bubble system to reduce discharge and phosphorous. I am sure that will help clean up the Hawkesbury River system. Another pleasing part of the budget for the people of western Sydney came via an announcement by the Minister for Transport in connection with train services to commence in about six or eight weeks. The western line will get two additional trains in peak hours, morning and evening, from St Marys to the city and return. There will be additional late express services, at 8.00 a.m. from Emu Plains to the city, and from 6.21 p.m. from Central to Emu Plains. That will be of great benefit to people on the western line.
The honourable member for Hawkesbury spoke about the Government’s planning for our roads system. We are the first to admit that there is a lack of planning, because when a Government is elected to office and looks at what planning has been done for our roads system it soon finds there is very little. The honourable member virtually shot himself in the foot by saying that Labor has done nothing in its 18 months in office about the problems of Windsor Road but, as I said earlier, he was there for a quarter of a century and was a member of the Government for the past seven years and the Speaker of this Chamber. Of course, during that time nothing was done.
Also, there is to be a reduction in journey times for Richmond line customers due to increased express services between Strathfield and Parramatta. The train service for that area has been inadequate. If we are to get motorists off the roads and have them return to using our public transport system we must provide a service that people expect today. That service must be efficient, clean and quick, and it must run to a timetable so that people know they can depend on it. If we do not provide such a service we will have overcrowding every morning and afternoon on the M4, M5, M2 and Victoria Road and every other main artery in and out of the city. By improving services on the western line we are trying to get people out of their motor cars and back onto public transport. All off-peak Blue Mountains trains and selected peak services will call at Westmead. For people along the line from Parramatta to Penrith and St Marys there will be more trains calling at Lidcombe during peak periods, and an increase in the frequency of trains from four to eight trains per hour, providing improved Lidcombe connections for Blue Mountains customers.
This budget has many other funding items affecting my electorate, and I could speak about those for a long time and still have plenty to say at the end of the day. This budget has been well accepted by everybody, except the Opposition. I will refer to some comments made about it. The Sydney Morning Herald
of Wednesday, 22 May, the day after delivery of the budget, contained headlines saying "Budget puts New South Wales back in the Black". It has been a long time since this State has been in the black. It has been eight years, but we are back in the black. Whether it is fancy accounting, as the honourable member for Hawkesbury said, does not matter. We are $5 million in surplus. This Labor Government thought that was the way to prepare for the Olympic Games and provide for its social programs. But, of course, the Federal Government put a spanner in the works the other day when it announced that it would impose an additional sales tax on New South Wales Government bodies. Now we will find ourselves, for the next three years, with a deficit that we did not know we were going to have of $900 million.
Until a few weeks ago people were saying, "What about honest John Howard!" Well, the people are not calling him honest John any more; they call him dishonest Johnny. The longer the Federal coalition is in government the more we will see of the dishonesty of Costello and Howard against the people of New South Wales in particular. Labor took a lot of flak about Labor people in government being arrogant. If Treasurer Peter Costello keeps on displaying his arrogance and smartness on television in the way he has been, he will be Labor’s greatest asset leading into the next
Federal elections. Some believe that Labor got a trouncing in the last Federal election and that the Labor Party will be in the doldrums and in opposition for a decade or two. I say to them: the Labor Party is more resilient than that. It is one party that can bounce back.
Any pundit who thought that Labor would be in opposition for a long time, that we would be knocked down, with broken hearts, never able to get up again, should have a look at the results of the by-elections that took place only a few weekends ago. In Clarence and Orange, two of the safest National Party seats - one in the north and one in the south - Labor picked up swings of 15 per cent and 14.5 per cent. You do not have to be Einstein to work out that that is a massive swing back to the Labor Party. While John Howard and Peter Costello - or Abbott and Costello as they have become known - keep performing in the Federal sphere the way they have been, imposing measures such as this terrible wholesale sales tax on the people of New South Wales, as they did a few days ago, I am certain that the people of New South Wales in particular, and eventually the people of Australia, will bounce back. The Labor Party will bounce back more resilient than ever.
I commend the budget. I think the Treasurer has done a great job with it. The Premier, in particular, has kept most of his promises by setting this budget. We are delivering for the people of New South Wales because we have a social strategy. Announcements were made in the past 24 hours about how we could cope with this $900 million deficit given by the Federal Government. This Government could have cut back on some of its programs. That would have been an easy way to deal with the deficit. But we did not take that action because we have a social conscience. We have been elected to this place to look after the working class in particular of this State and nation. We will look after them. We will not be moving from our social program. We will deliver on that social program for the people who had faith to vote for us.
I close by referring to some statements made by people who traditionally do not support the Labor Party. The State Chamber of Commerce described the budget initiative scrapping tax on loan refinancing as a "major victory for small business" and commended the Government for "holding the line on economic reform and bringing in a budget surplus". This Government will not break the line on economic reform. I can assure the people of New South Wales of that. The National Australia Bank was reported by the Australian
as having said that the budget will "boost home loan and business lending" in New South Wales. The Australian Financial Review
, not a really good friend of the Labor Party, said that the budget tax cut was "a boost to equity and efficiency" in New South Wales. Never a truer word was spoken. The Daily Telegraph
called the budget a "prudent fiscal blend" that marks the Government as "responsible and honest enough financial managers". And we are. Of course, Alan Mitchell, writing in the Australian Financial Review
Mr Egan and his Premier can boast an impressive list of microeconomic reforms - including the restructuring of the power industry and the railways - which will make an important contribution to the current and future budgets.
This budget is a springboard for budgets that will lead us into the year 2000 and see Australia conducting the best Olympic Games that the world has ever seen.
(Davidson) [9.30]: In speaking in debate on the 1996-97 budget I wish at the outset to respond to the comments made by the honourable member for Londonderry concerning the most recent by-elections. The honourable member for Londonderry focused on the Clarence by-election, but I wish to draw to his attention the by-election results for several other electorates. In Orange there was a 2 per cent margin compared with a 3 per cent margin in the 1991 election result. That is no significant victory in itself, but we should compare the 1991 and 1996 results, on a two-party preferred basis, as they are against the same candidates.
I remind the honourable member for Londonderry of the by-election results for the Southern Highlands where the Labor Party ran last, the by-election results in Strathfield where the Labor Party ran second; and the by-election results in Pittwater where the Labor Party’s primary vote, which was lower than the vote for the Democrats, was only 13 per cent - the lowest primary vote the Labor Party has recorded anywhere in New South Wales in a by-election or a general election. The Labor Party does not have a long-term future in New South Wales. I will restrict my comments to the broad State budget and then talk in detail about the projects that affect my electorate. On behalf of my constituents I condemn the bigoted attitude of this Government towards my electorate. Quite simply, my electorate, which has been ignored, has no capital works allocation. Funding has been dragged from those areas where it is warranted and it has been spent in Labor-held electorates.
You are not going to start that again are you?
The Minister for Education and Training will hear it all again. I will give him all the detail that he wants. I will make particular mention of education while he is in the Chamber. People in my electorate do not expect any more or any less than they are entitled to. On merit they are entitled to funding for transport, police, roads, education, health and the environment. My electorate has not received any substantial funding for those areas; rather, programs have been cut in the last 15 to 16 months. This $22 billion budget has an underlying deficit of $500 million. We should not focus on a false or fake $5 million surplus when the real underlying deficit is $500 million. This budget has been boosted by one-
off asset sales. Assets that are sold are gone forever; the Government cannot take them into account in any recurrent budget. Today the Opposition demonstrated how false the Landcom land sales were.
Clearly, this budget is already falling apart and unravelling. Quite simply, the sale of the State Office Block, allegedly a key plank in maintaining a balanced budget, is a fire sale. Several years ago the former Government wanted to sell the State Office Block in Macquarie Street for $150 million. That proposal was opposed by the Labor Opposition at the time - at the peak of the property market. The Labor Party claimed in its election manifesto that it would obtain $100 million for the sale of the State Office Block and in that way it would wipe out some of this State’s debt and balance its budget. This year the Government will effectively be selling the State Office Block for $69 million, less than half of what it was worth four years ago.
Effectively, it will sell it for less than half of what it was worth four years ago because of the effect of inflation. The sale of the State Office Block will not only be a fire sale; it will be sold for $10 million or so below the highest offer. The Government did not even sell the State Office Block to the highest bidder. Quite simply, the budget is propped up by asset sales. There is a real budget deficit and there is no basis for the claim that credit should be given to the Government for having brought down a balanced budget. It is not a balanced budget. Down the track, because of the way in which this Government is spending without any regard for financial management, it will not be able to maintain a balanced budget. The dividend raids undertaken by this Government last year and, to a lesser degree, this year across a number of government trading enterprises were an attempt to balance the budget.
The greatest lie which was demonstrated yesterday relates to the Evatt Foundation, which is funded in large part by the Labor Party but which is also funded Federally to the tune of $300,000 a year. One has to be a member of the Federal Executive of the Labor Party before one can become a member of that foundation. This foundation, which has been funded to the tune of $300,000 a year by the Keating and Hawke governments, will now lose its Federal funding. I note that the Minister for Fair Trading, and Minister for Women is attempting to remedy that situation by giving the foundation at least one grant to maintain its income and to keep it alive. A year ago the Evatt Foundation said that New South Wales had one of the poorest records in financial management, but now, when a Labor government is in power, it said that New South Wales ranked as number one. Nothing significant has changed in the way the budget has been maintained.
The performance of New South Wales has not changed. The way in which this budget has been framed has given the Government no flexibility whatsoever. Several years ago when there were downturns in the economy the former coalition Government had sufficient flexibility, under John Fahey when he was Treasurer and under Peter Collins as Treasurer, to absorb the downturn and the reduction in income and to maintain its credibility without increasing taxes. When pressure is put on this State Government to fill the Beazley black hole created by the Federal Labor Government it increases taxes and tax imposts. Premier Bob Carr, regardless of the promises he made, said, "Let us whack up land taxes and payroll tax in particular." I will take a strong stand on both those issues. Many of my constituents are self-funding their retirements; they are not looking to live off the public purse in the long term. They have investment properties and are seeking to rely on them in the long term once they retire.
Land tax is an insidious form of tax which takes money away from people and makes it uneconomic for them to invest in assets. Those of my constituents who run small businesses or who are employees of small businesses believe that payroll tax will be a major impost and a disincentive for employers to employ staff. The imposition of those taxes goes against the longstanding rhetoric of Bob Carr over many years as leader of the parliamentary Labor Party. A number of other State Government imposts will affect council rates. We will not see them this year but we will see them next year. The fire brigade levy, which has been imposed on local councils, will be passed on to ratepayers by way of additional rates. The Government is also taking dividends from the Waste Management Authority which means that councils will have to pay more to dump their waste. That cost will again be passed on to ratepayers. Ratepayers will be hit consistently not only this year when they get their rates notices but next year they will be confronted with significant rate increases which local government will not be able to absorb.
We heard today that water rates will increase by $25 a year for residential customers, despite the protestations and claims of mismanagement when the Labor Party was in opposition. In that time we saw a real reduction in water charges. However, this Government will be condoning and accepting on 1 March a $25 a year increase in water charges for residential customers. Transport charges are also increasing. To top it all off, there are budget blow-outs in the funding for the Olympic Games which the coalition Government was successful in gaining for Sydney. We do not know the details or the reasons behind some of the blow-outs in that budget. New South Wales is $200 million or $300 million overexpended but the Government refuses to disclose the details to the coalition on a bipartisan basis to help members understand the genuine underlying structure of the financial involvement and commitment of the State to the Olympic Games in the year 2000. If the Minister for the Olympics, and Minister for Roads is genuine about the Olympics he should disclose the details on a bipartisan basis.
The lower north shore and peninsula transport section 22 committee was established under the former coalition Government with the objective of attempting to rectify some of the longstanding transport problems for people wishing to travel from the peninsula to the lower north shore. The Spit and Roseville bridges do not have the capacity to carry the commuting traffic, particularly in the morning peak periods. One of the many recommendations related to transport was to propose that the Minister for Urban Affairs and the Minister for Transport investigate the proposal for a rail connection from Chatswood through to Brookvale. That recommendation was made late last year and both Ministers said that they would consider the report and respond. To date the local members, the local councils and the section 22 committee have heard nothing. Obviously the proposal has not been taken seriously.
Eight months down the track the recommendation has been shelved and the genuine transport needs of people who reside in the peninsula region have been ignored. This problem cannot be ignored. The congestion in peak periods is the worst anywhere in Sydney, but the Government has refused to initiate a planning process. The problem cannot be fixed tomorrow, next year or the year after, but planning is absolutely necessary if it is to be fixed five years or more down the track. Fortunately, under the previous coalition Government the Forest Way was widened. That road was neglected under the former Wran Labor Government. There were frequent accidents on the road, resulting in a high fatality rate. It was one of the worst two-lane roads in New South Wales. Under the coalition Government it was widened to four lanes for its entire length. The primary need of the peninsula and Davidson is the widening of Wakehurst Parkway and Mona Vale Road to four lanes from Terrey Hills to Mona Vale.
The former coalition Government’s planned staged process of widening Mona Vale Road has been ignored. No funding was provided last year and none has been allocated this year. That lack of funding fails to give recognition to the number of accidents involving fatalities that occur on those roads or to provide for a study that would establish the need, based on merit, for expending funds to avoid the repetition of those types of accidents. Police numbers on the peninsula have been reduced under this Government’s administration, despite promises that across the State police numbers would be increased by approximately 650 over four years. Police numbers were reduced by 13 in the last financial year at a time when there was a dramatic need for an increase in numbers because crime rates had risen. Murders, assaults, break and enters, vandalism, and other forms of crime have risen between 20 per cent and 60 per cent on average in the last 12 months.
Since police numbers and resources were taken from the peninsula and from the Davidson, Pittwater and Wakehurst electorates crime rates have increased. The response from the Government seems to be that it does not care. That is simply patently unacceptable. This is an issue that I intend to pursue in the future. There is a high awareness of drug problems with young people in the Frenchs Forest area particularly following the unfortunate death of Anna Wood after ingesting ecstasy. The police do not have the resources to counter the ongoing problem of the availability of drugs - amphetamines, LSD and ecstasy - via some young dealers in the local area, despite the high awareness of police, the community and parents.
Over the last two weekends drug dealers gave away drugs in the toilet blocks in the vicinity of the Glen Street shopping centre, in the Forest Showground, to encourage young people to take and accept drugs and therefore become more addicted in the future. Quite simply the police are powerless to act because they do not have the resources to respond and counter that problem. This problem is typified by a case late last year following acts of vandalism and threats made outside a retirement village in the Davidson electorate. The highway patrol was called and arrived three hours later because there was only one highway patrol to serve the 230,000 people who live on the peninsula. The patrol car at that time had been attending a major accident on Warringah Road. Many elderly people were threatened and feared for their safety, vandalism was occurring and the highway patrol could not respond. That was completely unsatisfactory.
The Manly District Hospital and the Mona Vale District Hospital are located on the peninsula. This Government has moved to cut services at both of those hospitals by merging their budgets and management and has deliberately moved to close down the maternity section at Manly hospital. The Government has threatened to close the emergency department and other services at Mona Vale District Hospital. If this trend continues the population of a quarter of a million people on the peninsula risk being left without satisfactory health care. The people of the peninsula do not expect new hospitals or anything more than they are entitled to: a reasonable level of health care, ambulance services, emergency services, maternity and other services maintained at a satisfactory rate. [Extension of time agreed to
If nothing else, the former coalition Government had a very proud record on the environment - cleaning up beaches and waterways that lead around the peninsula and the Broken Bay, Hawkesbury and Nepean systems. More than $1 billion was spent in five years to clean the system. When that work was 90 per cent complete and the money had been allocated for the last part of the civilised world not connected to a sewerage system - the area around Bungan Beach and Pittwater - to have such a service, the Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning took the money away. Properties in that area remain unsewered. The Minister’s action paid no regard to the health
implications for people who use the beaches, young children who have a history of health problems, or to the quality of the water around the Bungan Beach and Pittwater area.
That area, which is within a half an hour drive from the centre of Sydney, ought to be connected to the sewerage system in the civilised society of the mid 1990s. The Government is ignoring it. The allocation for capital works for schools in the Davidson electorate is nil. In particular no funding has been set aside for a multipurpose centre at Killarney Heights High School. That school has an enrolment of 570 students and the adjourning primary school has in excess of 200 students. The student population of 750 has no multipurpose centre or hall. Every other high school in the State with an enrolment in excess of 320 students has a multipurpose centre, or one being built at the moment. In last year’s budget funding was made available for five schools with enrolments of more than 300; and Davidson was ignored. This year the one school funded was Cobar: Davidson was ignored.
I have no argument about Cobar deserving a hall, but I point out the anomaly that the Killarney Heights student population is two and a half times greater than that of Cobar. And Davidson has been ignored. The designs and plans for the hall were completed more than two years ago. The school community has raised in excess of $100,000 towards the project. The school community has offered to consider the sale of assets - some of the land surrounding the school which forms part of the school property - and has offered that to the Minister. The Minister’s staff to this point has not acted.
I have discussed this matter with the Minister and I put him on notice that I expect some action. He promised that he will organise a meeting between the property group of the Department of School Education, a school hall committee and school council to examine the school’s case and its preparedness to accept sale of portion of the school site if it gets a multipurpose centre to which it is entitled. The Minister is responsible. I will hold the Minister accountable for any deliberate stalling once there is a key agreement. If there is any capital project in the Davidson electorate to which I am committed it is the Killarney Heights multipurpose hall. This budget contains nothing for my constituents. It is a geographically bigoted budget based on political motives that has denied the people of Davidson that to which they are entitled. The State’s financial management is in poor hands.
(Canterbury) [9.51]: Any budget that delivers more on police, teachers, welfare workers and public housing stock must be regarded as a great budget. Any budget that also delivers new hospitals, schools, buses, trains and ferries must be regarded as a progressive budget. The 1996 Carr Labor Government budget is that sort of budget. This balanced budget is a colossal achievement. When referring to the budget the Treasurer rightly said that the less debt we incur now the smaller the interest bills will be for the future. It is interesting to note that it is the first balanced budget brought down in the past eight years, and it has taken a Labor Government to do that. In short, this budget should be hailed as a budget of tremendous gains and no pains for the people of this State. [Quorum formed
I thank the honourable member opposite for providing me with an audience. It shows that if Opposition members become riled they will walk out of the Chamber, therefore requiring a quorum to be formed. This budget should be hailed as a budget of tremendous gain and no pain. It has been recognised as a people’s budget because it concentrates on essential areas of health, housing, law and order and education. Despite the fact that this is a balanced budget, the Government has also managed to increase expenditure overall by 3.6 per cent over that of last year, and for that it deserves to be applauded.
For a number of years traffic generation, which more often than not results in traffic congestion, has been a major concern to my electorate. The Canterbury electorate is situated in both the inner west and south-western area of Sydney. I sometimes think that all traffic travelling to and from the inner west and outer south-west converges on Canterbury. As a result, traffic is chaotic. The allocation for roads in Canterbury has been nothing short of phenomenal. This year Canterbury will receive $5.696 million in road funding, an increase of $277,000 on last year’s allocation. Admittedly the greatest part of that funding is the $3 million towards the Roberts Road-Centenary Drive intersection of the Hume Highway, South Strathfield.
I have spoken about this issue before but that $3 million is only a quarter of what has been allocated to that intersection this year alone. The intersection is located in four State electorates. The $3 million I mentioned is Canterbury’s share of funding for the intersection, one of the greatest bottlenecks in Australia. It is important that measures be taken to improve this traffic link from the south-west of Sydney to Homebush Bay. The project includes a new bridge over the railway line, a flyover from Roberts Road across the Hume Highway into Centenary Drive and also a pedestrian footbridge. It is impossible for pedestrians to cross the road at that location with safety. A high school is situated on one corner of the intersection and a footbridge is essential.
In addition to the six through lanes of traffic at the ingress and egress points of the intersection, an additional lane will be constructed for traffic to enter and exit all points of the intersection. The intersection proper will become an eight-lane road. The previous Government did nothing about planning for this work, given that it is essential for the work to be completed before the year 2000.
Another traffic gain for the Canterbury electorate is a new set of traffic lights at the corner of Fifth and Seventh avenues, Campsie. Some $80,000 has been allocated for that dangerous intersection. Fifth Avenue, Campsie, is a busy, wide road and people are hesitant to cross the hazardous intersection. Needless to say there is great congestion at that location, particularly in peak hour. The only other intersection at which it is safe to get onto Fifth Avenue is at Fifth and Ninth avenues, an intersection which has traffic lights. However, that intersection has reached saturation point and the installation of an extra set of traffic lights a few blocks down is a sound traffic management decision. The Roads and Traffic Authority should be applauded for its foresight in that regard.
Another important traffic funding initiative in the Canterbury electorate is that the RTA, through its budget allocation, will provide $54,000 to improve the Ryde to Botany cycleway, which was initiated in the Canterbury municipality well before anyone ever thought about a cycleway running from Ryde to as far away as Botany, and well before the cycleway became a State Government project. Portions of the cycleway are now 20 years old and some maintenance is required. It is important that the Government take responsibility for transport corridors, such as cycleways, which are more than just recreational areas for people to leisurely ride along on their pushbikes at weekends. They are used by commuters to travel to and from work on pushbikes.
As an alternative to roads, cycleways tend to relieve traffic congestion, and therefore relieve the need for maintenance on roads. The Government recognises this fact. The $50,000 is well received. A set of pelican traffic lights will be erected on William Street, near Kingsgrove Road. William Street at Earlwood, in the Kingsgrove-Earlwood area, is impossible to cross except at a set of traffic lights. The area in question is heavily populated. Residents are aware that the lights are to be constructed and are very happy about it, because the area is a popular pedestrian route from Kingsgrove to Campsie. The Canterbury electorate has done very well out of this budget, and I am grateful for the funding.
I am pleased that the Minister for Education and Training is at the table. Campsie primary school has received funding for renovations. I am delighted with the allocation because last year the school was fortunate enough to receive a total of $1,450,000 for a much-needed new assembly hall and library - a two-storey building with the hall on one level and the library on the other. The project also included an outdoor learning area and brand new toilets. Needless to say, the teachers, pupils and the parents and citizens’ association were delighted. However, no sooner did the project start last year than I was approached by the parents and citizens association to attend one of its meetings. They said to me, "We do not want to sound pushy, but this project will not be too well received unless it is complemented by major refurbishment and restoration of the existing old school."
Canterbury primary school would probably be the oldest school in my electorate. It is dickensian in parts and in need of a good overhaul. I then had to sheepishly approach the Minister in the same vein. I wrote him a very nice letter saying that the Campsie school appreciated the allocation, but that the original school needed to be renovated and refurbished to complement the new school. I did not think I had any hope of getting funding this year, having received $1,450,000 last year. However, the Government has seen fit to allocate an additional $811,000 towards stage two of the refurbishment of Campsie primary school. I am grateful for that allocation. If my calculations are right, the school now needs only an extra $155,000 to complete the project. I am sure it will be forthcoming in the next year or so. I am convinced that those who have children at Campsie primary school, which is one of the most multicultural primary schools in New South Wales, will be delighted with this allocation.
I was successful in approaching the Minister for Transport for some assistance. Last year in the budget $1,520,000 was earmarked for major upgrading of Campsie railway station over a three-year period. I discovered that the major upgrade did not include disabled access, yet Canterbury railway station is the busiest station on the Bankstown line, apart from Bankstown. The Campsie area has large numbers of people with disabilities. I wrote to the Minister and asked him what could be done about the disability access. He wrote to the State Rail Authority explaining the Government’s commitment to providing disability access at railway stations. As a major upgrade of the station was under way, the Minister requested the State Rail Authority to consider what could be done to provide disabled access.
To my surprise, estimates this year show that the total amount allocated for the overall project at Campsie railway station is $1,070,000, an increase of $450,000 on last year. The Government saw the reasoning behind the argument, and decided to do the right thing. The announcement of an extra $450,000 flies in the face of the announcement of the Leader of the Opposition reported in the Bankstown-Canterbury Express
on 3 April this year that the Government had reneged on any proposal to provide disabled access to Campsie railway station. Nothing could be further from the truth, and the budget papers prove it.
This year, under the Government’s public housing program, the Canterbury electorate will pick up an additional 31 dwellings at a cost of almost $2.5 million. The project consists of dwellings ranging from one-bedroom to five-bedroom units of accommodation. In total 17 general housing dwellings and 14 pensioner units will be built. The building of new dwellings is a wonderful achievement in an electorate that is built out, that has no vacant land, and that cannot build a new housing estate on a green-belt area. Yet, the Canterbury electorate has one of the, if not the,
highest waiting lists for public housing in the State. People wait as long as eight years to get into public housing in Canterbury because it is such a good place to live, being so central to the city and to services. People who live in Canterbury do not want to live beyond it. In one year, 31 extra units is a great achievement under the circumstances. The project will be completed within 12 months.
When the previous Government gave estimates of public housing stock to be built, some of the projects would take three or four years to complete. But the total figure was always in big bold print, in the budget figures, which was a distortion of the facts. Each year only one-quarter or one-third of the total would be built. It was quite distorted. I can guarantee this House that the 31 units to be built in the Belfield area this year will be completed by March next year. More than 80 per cent of new public housing is medium-density development designed to both complement local areas and conform with the urban consolidation policies of the Government. It is also important to point out that in the past financial year 11,000 families and pensioners were moved into public housing and off the waiting list by this Government. That is a wonderful achievement. [Extension of time agreed to.
I am enjoying this.
The Government will take the library away from the honourable member for Wakehurst if he does not behave himself.
Is that right? Which library are we talking about?
The Minister for Education and Training, and Minister Assisting the Premier on Youth Affairs knows all about it, as do I. The Wakehurst electorate has fared well under this budget, and the honourable member for Wakehurst knows that. I shall refer briefly to the Innerwest Hospital that will be built in the Canterbury electorate. I shall not speak at length on the matter because my colleagues the honourable member for Hurstville and the honourable member for Lakemba, whose electorates fall into the hospital’s feeder region, addressed this issue in their contributions. This year, the Government has provided an additional $22.5 million for that project. That will bring the total funding provided so far for the project to $30 million, which is 40 per cent of the total cost of the new Innerwest Hospital. The total cost of the project will be about $74 million.
If anyone had doubts that the new Innerwest Hospital was not proceeding in Canterbury, they need fear no more. Some people are doubting that the project will not proceed because a few nasty cynics are still claiming that it will not proceed. Those people are mainly Liberals, independent aldermen and the like, who pretend that they are all for public health in the local area but secretly would like to see the project crash so that they can gain a political advantage. Forty per cent of the total cost of the project has been allocated. I assure anyone who is worried about the future of the Innerwest Hospital project that they need fear no more.
I shall refer to some of the services that will be provided at the new hospital. The hospital will consist of more than 200 beds. It will include general medical and surgical provision. There will also be provision for paediatrics, neonatal care, obstetrics, geriatrics and rehabilitation, intensive care, coronary care, services for mothers and babies, ambulatory care and a full range of community health services. The new emergency unit at the hospital will reflect its role as a key provider of accident and emergency services in the area. The hospital will also have additional operating theatres to ensure minimal waiting times for the residents of Canterbury. All these services will be supported by a range of medical, imaging and other diagnostic services fitted with the latest technology. I can assure honourable members that the new Innerwest Hospital in Canterbury is on target, thanks to the injection of $22 million into the project in this budget.
Funding for local police in the Canterbury area has increased again. Last year, I thought that all my Christmases had come at once when the budget provided for the reopening of the police station that had been closed by the previous Government. The station was initially opened by a former Premier of New South Wales, Eric Willis, and the coalition Government closed it. Last year, the Minister for Police saw fit to reopen Earlwood police station, which has been of great benefit and has contributed to a reduction of crime in the Earlwood area. Lo and behold, this year I am picking up an additional $128,000, which is part of the $328,000 for upgrading of facilities in the Campsie patrol area. That allocation has been well received, particularly by the Campsie police. On a more general note, I point out that these funds are part of the total police budget of $990 million, which includes $45.8 million for the capital works program statewide. It is good to see that the Campsie patrol will benefit from the capital works program.
This budget is a caring budget because it is looking after the regions with the greatest need. I am often told, because I represent an area that is not regarded as a marginal seat, that nothing much ever happens in the Canterbury electorate. Many people tend to think that governments concentrate only on marginal seats. That is not the case with this Government. As I said, under the two budgets delivered by this Government, the Canterbury electorate has managed to pick up a new police station; a new hospital is under way to the tune of $74 million; there is a massive concentration on public housing; and major roadworks are taking place. New school buildings are being constructed and some schools are being renovated. Railway stations are being upgraded, including the provision of access for the disabled.
That shows that the Government concentrates on areas of need, not areas for political gain alone. I shall compare what has happened in Canterbury over the past two years with what happened during the seven years of coalition Government. Under the coalition Government the Canterbury electorate not only lost out on funding; there was more to it than that. Many amenities were removed from the Canterbury electorate. In seven years we lost a school, a courthouse, a family and community services office, a Sydney County Council office, a police station and a bus depot. If Labor had not become the Government in March 1995, the Canterbury electorate stood every chance of losing a public hospital as well. That gives an idea of the difference between coalition governments and Labor governments.
Finally, this budget shows that revenue of $22.4 billion will be collected; of that amount, $22.2 billion will be outlaid. That is an indication that the task of managing New South Wales is big business. The business of managing the financial affairs of New South Wales is massive, but those affairs are being handled in a prudent and responsible way. This is evidenced by the fact that this balanced budget will, as the Treasurer said, ensure that future generations will not be burdened with our debts. It is truly a Labor budget and a budget of the people. With the exception of the Opposition, the budget has been well received by all, including the media and other economic commentators.
(Wakehurst) [10.17]: It has certainly been fascinating to listen to Government members reel off their stories about the lollies they have managed to steal from the lolly shop. One cannot say that they are kids; they are much more professional about the way in which they have ripped off the community in terms of what goodies they are taking from the lolly shop. They have cleaned out the shop primarily for political purposes. They are keen to get stuck into the coalition because they say they suffered under the coalition Government. However, they got a fair go - they got more than a fair go. I recollect that during the years of the coalition Government in New South Wales there was a degree of fairness and equity. Moneys were spent on Liverpool Hospital. I remember visiting Liverpool Hospital and seeing the work that was being done on the accident and emergency services. I remember the moneys that were allocated for Westmead Hospital. I remember the efforts that went into Concord hospital and the huge amounts allocated to it. The Government is so busy getting its slippery little fingers on every last cent that it has left almost every coalition electorate - purely and simply because a majority of constituents rejected the Labor Party - with either nothing or the skeletal remains of what Labor had already picked over.
The Minister for Education and Training says it is unfair. He knows it is not unfair. It is very interesting. This Government’s organisational arrangements - even its organisation in this Chamber tonight - is much more focused on ripping people off than doing anything else. Numerous bills are listed on the paper as Government business. It is now 10.22 p.m., but what have we done for the last few hours? We have heard Labor members listing all the wonderful things they have ripped off from the public purse. Not once has the Minister for Police said he is actually going to do something with that Government business. Will overwhelming incompetence transcend this Chamber and the Government or will a conspiracy to achieve extraordinary things win through in the House tonight? Perhaps the Government has some other political agenda. Maybe the Government wants to see members here on Friday or over the weekend so that it can say it is doing wonderful things about guns.
The taxpayers will have to pay even more money if the Government forces honourable members to stay here, serviced by many staff including the poor people from Hansard
who are already tired, at a cost of thousands of dollars. Who knows? The Government is a past master at ripping the community off and wasting funds left right and centre - mostly on the left and the right with the Labor Party. The electorate of Wakehurst has not seen an awful lot from this budget. Turning first to health, the electorate has seen Manly District Hospital and Mona Vale District Hospital, two hospitals which look after the people in my electorate, have the insides cut out of them. Those hospitals are in a difficult situation. The Minister for Health will not even acknowledge that changes are going on - changes that the local community does not want. He has cut back on the budget so heavily that he is openly admitting that the obstetrics unit at Manly District Hospital will go and that the community mental health services facility has been closed at Dee Why. There has been talk of other specialist units and wards within those two major hospitals closing. This scenario is part of an overall cutback on services in Liberal electorates in this State.
I point out to the Minister for Health that the community of the north shore will not forget what he is doing. We are very angry about the way he is behaving. His lack of consultation, his lack of discussion and his sleight of hand will have a net result that only a shadow of our former health services on the north shore will remain. Those services are integral to the north shore. We will not quickly forget what this Government has done to us. Another essential service on the north shore is police. We have seen a dramatic decrease in the number of police available in our area day to day. I understand the Frenchs Forest Highway Patrol is down to 30 police. On any night, at about 2 a.m., the peak time for accidents, fatalities and injuries,
between Palm Beach and North Sydney there is literally one police highway patrol vehicle on duty, if we are lucky. That is because this Government has sent the money and police resources to the western suburbs and to other electorates in which the Government seems to have much greater interest.
The Minister for Police, who could not run a chook raffle given the evidence of tonight’s episode, obviously cannot run the Police Service successfully. But he does know how to move assets, resources and people out of the north shore. The Government’s shortcomings do not stop with health and police. Education has suffered miserably under this Government. The only thing I can say for this Government is that the Minister for Education and Training needs to rethink his attitude about teachers and their salary increases and to accept the need for a more professional approach to teachers.
Watch what you say.
The Minister says to watch what I say. I know he is not threatening me, he would not do that. He has cut the insides out of the education system on the north shore, as well as almost everywhere in the State. He does not know how to manage the education system. Two schools in my electorate are grateful for a modest payment. Those living in a Liberal electorate have to take the crumbs and be grateful for them. The Collaroy Plateau Public School has been in desperate need of a library for quite some time. The Minister has agreed to fund an administrative centre for that school. He has also agreed to fund a road safety initiative for Manly High School, a selective high school. For those fundings I thank him. Minister, please do not forget - I am sure the Minister is concentrating on what I am saying.
I am; I can hear every word.
I have thanked the Minister, I have done the right thing. Now I am going to give him a serve, which is only fair. I ask the Minister to guess how much other schools in my electorate - Wheeler Heights primary school, Beacon Hill primary school, Beacon Hill High School, Curl Curl North primary school, Cromer Public School, Narrabeen Lakes primary school and Narraweena primary school - were allocated. It is a fairly modest figure. I advise the Minister that not one cent was allocated for any of those schools. Those young people are entitled to a fair share of the educational budget. Although the Minister let them down this year, we hope he will have a modest sense of guilt about this next year and give them some money. I will make sure that next year I give him a list of all the things we need for the schools. I am sure he will respond by telling members that he will support them in the way he has obviously supported the honourable member for Canterbury.
In past years, even last year, members were given a list of budget allocations to local electorates. In past years members received the budget papers and a separate document listing what each electorate received. This year the coalition members received nothing. There were no documents at all to tell us about our allocations. I thought that must have been an oversight. I thought it would come in a couple of days, in a week, in two weeks. Lo and behold, some weeks after the budget, nothing has been received. I checked with the people next door to me. I asked the honourable member for Lane Cove if she had received details of what her electorate received. Her reply was no, she had not. So I checked with the honourable member for Davidson and asked whether he had received a document. His reply was no, he had not. Some of the Labor members have told me they received lists. Why did Labor members but not coalition members receive lists? The reason is that this Government plays silly games when it comes to politics. The Minister is looking shocked. That just shows that this was a conspiracy right from the word go to make sure that nothing was going out to people who happen to support Liberal Party or National Party members.
I did give you some documents.
The Minister points out that in education he gave me a list of two things that schools in the Wakehurst electorate received.
Including Collaroy Plateau.
Including Collaroy Plateau and Manly High School, but none of the others. There was nothing on transport, health, the environment. Opposition members received nothing else. I concede that someone in the Minister’s office must have made a mistake and dropped something off at my office. But, no, there was only that one little item for two schools. I move now to my shadow ministerial responsibilities of environment and Aboriginal affairs. This Government does not have an awful lot to hang its credentials on. It has managed to completely upset police. Not a police officer in the State thinks the Government is any good. Any teacher in any school will tell you that Government members are a bunch of morons who could not manage any sort of education system. The transport people think the Government is hopeless. The environmental groups thought they would get a fair shake from the Government.
Bob Carr, who flies around in helicopters, who plants himself down in the bush, and lights fires in areas where he should not light fires, was supposed to be the Premier with the answers on environmental issues. Talk now to any of the environment groups and they will tell you how disappointed they are because they supported Labor on the basis of its false pretences. Environmental groups, which had been given promises on a whole range of issues, now will tell you that the Government has not delivered on those promises. There were to be 24 national parks established.
The promised national parks did not eventuate. A day or so before the promised 12-month deadline, yes, all of a sudden there were 26 parks - but not the parks that were spoken about 12 months ago! And the funding promised to manage those parks was not included in the budget. Even on wilderness areas the Government has failed. There has been no consultation with local community groups, with no moneys allocated for consultation with relevant groups.
As to air quality, already this year we have had fairly high smog levels in Sydney. I well remember this time of year watching out for Pam Allan who, as sure as eggs are eggs and smog is smog, would issue press releases telling us what a rotten coalition Government we had because the air was dirty. Yet, lo and behold, 18 months after Labor was elected the air is still dirty. Only two weeks ago we saw reports of the deaths of 400 people being attributed to pollution in Sydney. This Government is not delivering on its environmental promises. Much was made about the air quality issue raised a few weeks ago, yet the budget contains no substantial increases to deal with air quality controls. In fact, there is a funding decrease: $961,000 was allocated in 1995 for the metropolitan air quality strategy, but that is down to $945,000 this year, a reduction of 1.7 per cent.
Honourable members with anything more than basic memories would recall that the coalition established the air quality monitoring network and strategy back in 1992 following a smog summit called by Premier Nick Greiner and put under the control of Minister Tim Moore. The coalition acknowledges that Sydney’s air quality is a problem, but we need far more funds than are being allocated by this Government. The Government needs to get serious about this matter. Waste management is a joke under this Government, which promised all sorts of things would be done by the year 2000. Industry still does not know the Government’s starting point for its promised 60 per cent reduction of waste. I was speaking to various industry people today, and they told me they have no idea what the Government wants from industry; they simply know that there has to be some sort of reduction.
Other industry people were telling me today that the only consultation that the Government has had with industry representatives in the metropolitan area occurred at Bankstown last Monday - one lousy, short meeting on waste management! The bottom line is that the Government is not prepared to commit itself to trying to achieve what it has promised. It will fail in general waste management because it is not prepared to consult and work with industry, consumers and others to reduce the waste stream. The toxic waste disposal depot at Castlereagh will close in 1997. What planning has been done to provide alternatives for toxic waste disposal? Absolutely zilch. The Environment Planning Authority has done little because it has few funds and is not being encouraged by the Government to do anything about toxic waste. The Government has not been developing toxic waste strategies or encouraging industry to develop strategies to reduce waste. In essence, the Government has once again failed to consult industry. That is a serious matter.
In national parks management we saw the acting Minister march into the House and heard him tell us about the wonderful things that the Government has been doing but how it was hampered by the Federal Government’s funding arrangements. When I responded to his comments I made it clear that the feral species program was managed abysmally by the Keating Government and that it was the current coalition Government which promised a massive $1 billion for environmental measures, giving some hope that the problems with feral species in our national parks would be addressed. There are a number of matters that I want to deal with but I do not want to detain the House, so I will pass on from the environmental matters to comment on Aboriginal affairs. This is a matter on which this Government has been very disappointing. The Government needs to be far more proactive on the issue of Aboriginal affairs.
The budget has substantial holes in Aboriginal funding, with reduction in moneys that were spent in previous years. The first item of expenditure that I looked at within the Office of Aboriginal Affairs was for employee-related expenditure, which has dropped from $1.687 million to $1.642 million. That is indicative of the fact that the Government is spending less on Aboriginal affairs. Expenditure on health, education, law and justice, under the heading of other operating expenses, dropped from $876,000 to $780,000. There are big questions on the issues of health, education, law and justice, and housing in the Aboriginal community. In health we see massive numbers of the Aboriginal community suffering from health problems, with the life span of Aborigines being far less than that of the non-Aboriginal population. There is a failure to address to any significant degree the issue of Aboriginal education. Some schools in the west of the State must take funds from their global budgets to meet Aboriginal education assistants’ wages. [Extension of time agreed to
Performance measures need to be addressed. A host of issues within the Aboriginal portfolio need to be addressed. Unfortunately, the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs have not set up performance indicators for each of the departments that deal with Aboriginal issues. The Department of Health, the Attorney General’s Department, the Department of Corrective Services and the Department of School Education, to mention just a few government departments, need to be put on some kind of performance contract to achieve outcomes for Aboriginal people. At this stage that is not occurring.
Nothing in the budget indicates, despite the commitments that Labor gave, that the Government has any intention to set performance measurement indicators for those other government departments.
Obviously it is a complex issue when there is a crossing over from one department to another, but the Government made certain promises before the election. If it does not want to be seen to be walking away from the issue of Aboriginal affairs, I would encourage the Deputy Premier and responsible Minister to go about establishing in the next 12 months performance measures to make sure that Aboriginal people start to get a fair go in this State.
I deal now with Aboriginal deaths in custody. In the last 12 months I was the shadow minister for corrective services. Only this morning we had a timely reminder from Amnesty International that last year there were 21 Aboriginal deaths in custody - the worst and highest rate since a review took place some years ago. That is an indication that we have not properly addressed that issue. I do not think it is a political issue; it is more about trying to overcome the corrective services bureaucracy and ensure that there is adequate funding. That comes only from commitment. I encourage the Government to look at that issue with renewed vigour and the level of sincerity that is needed to address the horrific problems confronting Aborigines in custody.
A few months ago when I was talking to somebody in Broken Hill he told me that a lot of Aboriginal people end up in prison in the western part of the State because of domestic violence and the effects of alcohol. I encourage the Government to spend far more money on the drug and alcohol issue and on family counselling in the Aboriginal environment to try to address the issue of violence within the family so that families do not suffer and Aboriginal communities do not suffer from seeing their people incarcerated. There is much more that I could say, as this Government has done so little in so many areas, but in view of the time I will conclude my remarks by saying that I look forward to a much better spirit from this Government.
Debate adjourned on motion by Mr Sullivan.
POLICE INTEGRITY COMMISSION BILL
POLICE LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL
Consideration of the Legislative Council’s amendment.
Schedule of amendment referred to in message of 17 June 1996
Page 62, clause 95, lines 5-6. Omit "(other than section 31BA)".
(Ashfield - Minister for Police) [10.43]: I move:
That the Committee agree to the Legislative Council’s amendment.
(Eastwood) [10.43]: The Opposition supports this amendment which will delete the words "other than section 31BA" in the bill. This will give the Committee power to veto the appointment of the commissioner, to bring the present bill into line with the provisions in the Ombudsman Act. This oversight by a parliamentary committee is extremely important. The integrity of the Commissioner of Police was the topic of some discussion by the media today. I believe these procedures should be carried out. The Parliament has an important role to play. I am pleased that the Government has agreed to this amendment. I support the amendment.
Motion agreed to.
Legislative Council’s amendment agreed to.
Resolution reported from Committee and report adopted.
Message sent to the Legislative Council advising it of the resolution.
DRUG TRAFFICKING (CIVIL PROCEEDINGS) ACT
(Riverstone - Minister for Education and Training, and Minister Assisting the Premier on Youth Affairs) [10.45], on behalf of Mr Whelan: I move:
That this House resolves, in pursuance of section 2(2) of the Drug Trafficking (Civil Proceedings) Act 1990, that the Act is not to be repealed in accordance with that subsection.
It is the intention of the Government to introduce amendments to the Drug Trafficking (Civil Proceedings) Act 1990. The Government had intended to introduce these amendments during the current session of Parliament. However, due to pressure of work both in Parliament and in the office of the Parliamentary Counsel, this has not been possible. Priority has been given to the two issues of major importance to this State, namely, gun control and the setting up of the Police Integrity Commission. It is also of great importance that sufficient time be allocated to the consultation process. The delay in the introduction of the amendments has the benefit of allowing more time for this process to be completed, thus ensuring that any potential problems which may arise as a result of the proposed changes may be identified and fully resolved.
The Act in its current form contains a sunset clause. Subsection 2(2) provides that the Act is repealed six years after proclamation, that is, 3 August 1996, unless either House of Parliament resolves to the contrary. In order to stay this repeal until the amendments can be introduced and to allow the confiscation powers of the New South Wales Crime Commission to continue in the interim, I have moved this motion to resolve that the Act not be repealed. It is my intention to introduce the amendments to the Act at the beginning of the next parliamentary session.
Motion agreed to.
CHILDREN (COMMUNITY SERVICE ORDERS) AMENDMENT (MAXIMUM HOURS) BILL
Bill received and read a first time.
(Riverstone - Minister for Education and Training, and Minister Assisting the Premier on Youth Affairs) [10.48]: I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
This bill was introduced in the other place on 6 June 1996 and the second reading speech appears at pages 16 to 19 of the Hansard
proof for that day. The bill is in the same form as the bill introduced in the other place and I commend it to the House.
Debate adjourned on motion by Mr Jeffery.
APPROPRIATION (PARLIAMENT) BILL
APPROPRIATION (SPECIAL OFFICES) BILL
APPROPRIATION (1995-96 DEBT RETIREMENT) BILL
MOTOR VEHICLES TAXATION AMENDMENT BILL
BUSINESS FRANCHISE LICENCES (PETROLEUM PRODUCTS) AMENDMENT BILL
ROAD IMPROVEMENT (SPECIAL FUNDING) AMENDMENT BILL
Debate resumed from an earlier hour.
(Wollongong) [10.50]: It is important to acknowledge that we have yet another very good State budget, one that this State Government is pleased with and one that has received general commendation throughout the community. I refer to comments that appeared in newspapers at the time the budget was introduced. I quote from an article in the Illawarra Mercury
on Wednesday, 22 May, under the heading, "Illawarra boosted by $123 mil windfall". The article by Geoff Failes states:
More than $123 million will be spent on health, roads, rail and education capital works in the Illawarra in 1996-97.
An editorial in the Daily Telegraph
of Wednesday, 22 May states:
The Budget delivered yesterday is a prudent fiscal blend. For the first time in eight years, the Treasury estimate is for a small budget surplus.
It further states:
. . . those budget estimates are founded on realistic economic growth forecasts.
Further on it states:
Yesterday, both the Treasurer and Premier Carr sought to emphasise the Government’s lustrous Labor credentials, linking themselves to party icon Ben Chifley as fellow keepers of "the light on the hill".
Whether or not this Government attains the same popular status as the government led by the great post-war Labor leader, time will tell.
But by virtue of yesterday’s Budget, they may mark themselves down as responsible and honest enough financial managers.
And that is the basis on which every government must build its reputation.
In an editorial the Sydney Morning Herald
on Wednesday, 22 May headed, "Balancing the Budget" it says:
After inheriting a Budget deficit of $320 million from the Fahey Government, the Carr Government has been able to announce that it will balance the books in only its second Budget. This is despite the fact that the projected Budget deficit for this financial year (1995-96) has slipped from $240 million to a likely $280 million when the ledgers are ruled off at the end of June.
When talking about Mr Egan the article states:
He can point to the fact that there are no increases in taxes as well as increased spending for additional teachers and police, on health (taken over two years) and on community services.
It further states:
The most innovative and welcome aspect of the Budget is the decision to abolish loan security duty on the refinancing of business and home loans. At very small cost to the Budget ($20 million), the Government has removed a significant disincentive for borrowers to shop around for better deals from other banks and financial institutions. It has also removed from these banks and financial institutions a substantial protection from full-scale customer competition. As well as providing significant savings for mortgage holders, it will be another step towards greater competition in the mortgage market and should help exert downward pressure on interest rates.
The Treasurer can take credit that the recent decline in interest rates can largely be laid at his feet; a most effective measure. In other areas of the State headlines appeared in the newspapers which conveyed a perception of the budget, for example: the Lake Macquarie News
- "Carr Government repays the voters who put it in office"; the Bankstown-Canterbury Express
- "Budget a bonanza $28m for projects"; the Western Advocate
- "Thanks Mick: Bathurst fared well"; the Daily Liberal
- "Dubbo big winner in police budget windfall"; the Central Western Daily
at Orange - "Egan balances Budget books"; the Fairfield Advance
- "Budget beneficiaries State funding for city works"; the Hills Shire Times
- "Hills is an $8m winner Budget funding"; the Glebe and Western Weekly
- "City projects get $200m in Budget funds"; the Fairfax Sun - Parramatta
- "Budget big on health"; the Newcastle Herald
- "Government goes for winning balance"; the Newcastle Herald
- "Record funds for projects in Hunter"; the Lake Macquarie News
- "Millions allocated to city for long awaited projects"; the St George and Sutherland Shire Leader
- "State Budget boosts St George facilities"; the Fairfax Sun - Blacktown
- "Police get a boost"; the Lithgow Mercury
- "More cash for new hospital"; the Border Mail
in Albury - "Gain without pain"; the Daily Examiner
at Grafton - "NSW Govt balances the books"; and last but not least an article in a Port Stephens newspaper which is headed "$53m Budget boost in Port".
Except for the members of the Opposition who whinge and whine, this budget has been received very well throughout the community. I refer to an overview of the budget and future projections, prepared by the Evatt Foundation - an erstwhile and objective organisation - and dated 1 May 1996. It commented that New South Wales has the best underlying budgetary position of any State. Under the heading "Budget position: some State comparisons" it states:
NSW’s debt ratio of just over $3,000 per head is the lowest of any State except Queensland, where local factors apply. By international standards, importantly, this level of debt is very minor . . .
If we compare NSW with the conservative-led States of Victoria, WA and SA in terms of structural Budget deficit/surplus (i.e., excluding asset sales) then we find that NSW is in the strongest position. In each of the others, real budget outlays have been falling constantly and dramatically, but still they are either in deficit or in WA’s case a surplus due to local factors like the minerals boom . . .
Queensland also has a very low real fiscal outlay, and although it has a superficially strong surplus, it faces billions of dollars of infrastructure spending in the next five years (electricity, rail, water). At the same time it spends less on social security and welfare than even the conservative States of Victoria, WA and SA . . .
It finishes with the comment, "the Budget position is strong". That is a great accolade paid to this strong, hard-working Government and its hard-working Treasurer. It presents the picture as it relates throughout the State. I will now deal with some of the issues and review expenditure programs that have been undertaken in Wollongong. For the year 1996-97, $56.029 million will be expended on projects in the Wollongong electorate. Quite frankly I am very happy to be known as the $56 million dollar man. I will illustrate some of those programs. The Attorney General’s Department will spend $375,000 in Wollongong on the backlog maintenance program for courts, and that is very important. It is no good having assets that are depreciating and are run down. We must maintain public buildings and services if they are to meet continuing community needs.
Work in progress for the Illawarra Area Health Service, digital subtraction angiography, will have total funding of $1.8 million. This financial year there will be the final allocation of $50,000 which will enable that equipment to be up and running. The estimated total project cost for nuclear medicine at this stage is $973,000 with a final $83,000 to be spent. There is an amount of $27.2 million allocated for this financial year for Wollongong hospitals development. The amount allocated for the Department of Land and Water Conservation estuary management of Lake Illawarra is $658,000. The New South Wales Fire Brigades service has $100,000 allowed for preparatory design work for a new fire station to replace the one located at Port Kembla. The new one will be built at the corner of Green and King streets, Warrawong - a much more centrally located position. The total for that fire station will be of the order of $1.2 million.
The total program for the upgrading of butchery and meat training facilities at Wollongong West TAFE is $330,000, with $100,000 being allocated for this financial year. In the hospitality area for Wollongong, $300,000 will be spent this financial year. Some $9.752 million will be spent in the Wollongong electorate on roads, which includes the widening of the road south of Sydney - 79 kilometres to 83 kilometres - from Gwynneville to Ghost Creek at a cost of $5.15 million; rehabilitation of the F6 through the Wollongong electorate at a cost of $1.613 million; and noise barriers from Ghost Creek interchange to Northcliffe Drive at a total cost of $1.555 million. This is one of the issues I raised when I first started campaigning to win the seat of Wollongong and I am pleased that the State Labor Government is honouring this commitment. Small allocations for a series of programs include directional sign upgrading of Shellharbour Road at a cost of $25,500; improvement to existing cycleways at a cost of $12,180; cycleways for councils, $37,980; the F6 northbound off-load link to Preston Street Figtree, $51,000; Wollongong central business district bus stop adjustment, $30,000; a right-turn bay at Five Islands Road and Flinders Street, $257,000; and a right-turn bay at Cowper Street and King Street at a cost of $75,000. For other road works, road safety has been allocated $273,440 and traffic management $670,580 - a total expenditure of $1,432,680.
The Department of Housing works in progress program of 16 units for Wollongong has been allocated $1.917 billion with $1.743 million to be spent this financial year. Some $335,000 has been allocated for Integral Energy Australia, Kenny Street zone substation distribution works, and file server, replacement and consolidation of miscellaneous property plant and equipment, one at Coniston and one at Bellambi, at a total of $2.926 million. The total expenditure for Landcom is $8.62 million for land development throughout the Illawarra area. The Marine Ministerial Holding Corporation western spoil area land development at Port Kembla will receive $100,000. The office of community housing has two projects in Wollongong at a total cost of $994,000.
The modification to the tug berth and outer harbour reclamation feasibility study at Port Kembla Port Authority will receive a total of $800,000. The State Rail Authority Port Kembla train crew facilities have been allocated $300,000, and the Farmborough trackside noise abatement works will receive $167,000. In the non-commercial area, the upgrade of Wollongong station will receive $700,000 and the Wollongong station upgrading program easy access will receive $650,000. Berkeley Reservoir has been allocated $61,000 and other works total $25,000.
WorkCover accident claims registration database for Wollongong will receive $115,000, with work in progress totalling $236,000. The information systems plan infrastructure and stored
chemicals information database has been allocated $351,000 - again, the product of a hardworking local member. It is important to remember that the budget for the south-eastern region of the Department of Housing provides for $12.921 million to be made available for maintenance of properties, and $6,962,200 for capital improvements to existing housing stock. I am pleased that has been included because that is one of the areas that I have made a point of pursuing.
People who live in Department of Housing properties are entitled to have facilities of an acceptable standard. When I first stood for the seat of Wollongong I was amazed at the pathetic maintenance that had been carried out by the previous Government. People were totally ashamed of their homes. I remember going into one home that had half of its back door missing. The family could never leave home because they had no way of securing the premises. An elderly woman lived in a one-storey unit the foundations of which had moved so much that she could not lock the front or back doors
Another major feature of the budget is the provision of $952,000 for the installation of smoke detectors in public housing dwellings. This should provide 6,350 hard-wired smoke detectors in the south-east region in the 1996-97 financial year. I am pleased that has also been covered in this budget program. Berkeley High School has been allocated $20,000 to upgrade its security provisions; Cringilla Public School, $20,000; and Warrawong Public School, $20,000. Warrawong High School will
receive $113,000 to upgrade security provisions in the intensive language teaching facilities and the school hall.
I have mentioned the upgrading of the hospitality and butchery and meat training facilities at Wollongong TAFE but also $205,000 is to be spent on site works upgrading at West Wollongong TAFE. This will turn that TAFE college, which once had antiquated buildings and temporary buildings, into one of the most pleasant TAFE colleges in the Illawarra. I have raised another matter on behalf of constituents in another electorate not held by the Labor Party. Main Road 396 was neglected in those seven long years of the previous coalition Government. I continually hear complimentary remarks from people who travel on that road from Coolah to Binnaway. Work is well under way and everyone is extremely appreciative of the money allocated by the Minister for Roads. They are appreciative of this Government, which does not only look after its own but looks after those who have needs that should be addressed, and does so objectively and without favouritism. I commend the Treasurer for an excellent budget.
Debate adjourned on motion by Mr Aquilina.
The following bill was returned from the Legislative Council with amendments:
House adjourned at 11.10 p.m.