Thursday, 17 April 1997
Mr Speaker (The Hon. John Henry Murray) took the chair at 10.00 a.m.
Mr Speaker offered the Prayer.
PARLIAMENTARY PRECINCTS BILL
Bill introduced and read a first time.
Mr PRICE (Waratah) [10.00 a.m.]: I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
All Australian parliaments, with the exception of the parliaments of New South Wales and South Australia, have some form of statutory definition of their parliamentary precincts. Because there is no statutory definition of the precincts of the Parliament of New South Wales, there is concern that the management and control of the Presiding Officers may not extend to its grounds. The Joint Select Committee upon Parliamentary Privilege considered the situation in regard to the New South Wales parliamentary precincts. In its report, which was tabled in 1985, the committee recommended that a statute be enacted physically defining Parliament House and its precincts and vesting their control in the Presiding Officers. Honourable members may recall that the Hon. Rodney Cavalier was chairman of that committee. The matter was raised and deferred and eventually came under further scrutiny several years later.
On 12 March 1991 Cabinet approved the release of a draft discussion paper entitled "Parliamentary Privilege in New South Wales" submitted under the hand of the then Attorney General, the Hon. John Dowd, after extensive consultation with the Presiding Officers. The paper considered 29 recommendations from the 1985 report by the Joint Select Committee upon Parliamentary Privilege. Recommendation 5 of the discussion paper also recommended that a statute be enacted physically defining Parliament House and its precincts and vesting their control in the Presiding Officers. Copies of the paper were circulated to honourable members and relevant community organisations. The paper formed the basis of a wide-ranging debate in the Legislative Assembly in the final weeks of the autumn 1991 session, mainly on matters unrelated to the bill. However, no objections were made in regard to recommendation 5 of the report. Honourable members might recall the lengthy and serious debates not only in the Chamber but also in committees to try to determine how the Parliament should proceed in relation to the report made available at that time. The 1995 joint select committee report is the genesis of this bill.
In addition to a lack of statutory definition of the New South Wales parliamentary precincts, the title of the land is fragmented. The present status of the precincts is unalienated Crown land, as to the major part; land resumed under the Macquarie-street Land Resumption Act 1879, which is vested in the Minister for Land and Water Conservation; a small section dedicated for public recreational purposes that was revoked in 1955; and another small parcel of land originally dedicated for library purposes in 1934. There has never been a plan of survey for the land and, consequently, uncertainty has always surrounded the location of the boundaries of the parliamentary precincts. The joint select committee in preparing its report sought the views of the then Presiding Officers, the Hon. L. B. Kelly, former Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, and the Hon. J. R. Johnson, MLC, former President of the Legislative Council, on what they considered to be the parliamentary precincts and the means by which they exercised control. At that time the Hon. L. B. Kelly advised:
Ownership and control was something successive persons in authority have decided it better to assume the existence of rather than try to prove.
The then President offered a definition of the precincts, based on the usage and assertion of control. He stated:
I consider the precincts of Parliament House to be the area bounded by the front fence facing Macquarie Street, the dividing wall, or line, between the Parliamentary premises and Sydney Hospital, the building alignment fronting Hospital Road, and a dividing line upon which a fence existed - prior to the present building operations being carried out - between Parliament House and the State Library.
I know of no legal basis which would support the foregoing but it is highly desirable to me that the Parliamentary buildings and the land occupied or used by Members in their
Parliamentary duties should be regarded within the Parliamentary precincts.
The Hon. J. R. Johnson's description includes land that was previously within the precincts of Parliament but that now comprises parts of the new State Library building and the Domain terrace. The Domain terrace, although open to pedestrian access, is not a dedicated public road or footway. A substantial part of the new State Library building, including the restaurant and book-stack areas and part of the annexe to Parliament House, mainly comprising a section of the car park area and plant room, is built under the Domain terrace. Honourable members may not fully appreciate what that means: but we have neither a horizontal survey of this property nor a vertical survey. So, who owns what? Who is responsible for maintenance or failure? Is there a lease to be determined? Is there rent to be collected? A number of significant issues need to be developed and formalised to ensure that the Parliament is secure and legally defined.
The boundaries of the parliamentary precincts were made more uncertain by the erection of the Macquarie Street annexe to the State Library. The annexe for the most part is built on land that was formerly within the parliamentary precincts, while the annexe to Parliament House extends to the small strip of land generally dedicated for library purposes. Notwithstanding that building operations commenced in the 1970s a plan of survey was never prepared for the site. Parts of the parliamentary precincts overlap some of the subterranean sections of the State Library. This, together with a lack of precise boundary definition, has resulted in uncertainty about which organisation has control of and responsibility for certain areas, including parts of the surface and substrata of the Domain terrace.
To facilitate the proposed statutory definition, and to define precisely the title boundaries of the parliamentary precincts, Deposited Plan 841390, being a plan of survey, has been prepared. A copy of the plan of survey and a plan without survey information are in the Speaker's Square for the information of all members. Because of the construction of the annexes to Parliament House and the State Library and the construction of the Domain terrace, it is not possible to implement adequate security arrangements for parts of the parliamentary buildings. For a law-making institution, the negligence that successive parliaments have displayed over the years is, to say the least, appalling. We must attempt to keep our own house in order, and I hope that this bill will provide the mechanism to do just that.
The intention of the bill is not only to define the House and its precincts but also to give some guidance and authority to the Presiding Officers on governing and directing the Chambers and parliamentary precincts on this site. The principal concern relates to the proximity of the parliamentary buildings to the strip of land at the rear of Parliament House, which is vested in the Royal Botanic Garden and Domain trusts, and to that part of the Domain terrace under the control of the State Library which is used by the public as a walkway for access to the Domain. Concern has been expressed also about the Nightingale walkway, which adjoins the parliamentary precincts. The walkway is under the control of Sydney Hospital and is also used extensively by the public
I will deal briefly with the Domain and, in particular, the Botanic Gardens at the rear of the parliamentary buildings. Honourable members might assume that the portion between the steel fence and the kerb on the roadway is part of the parliamentary precincts. It is in fact part of the Botanic Gardens. The matter has been raised with the trust on several occasions. For many years the trust has expressed concern about the alienation of that section of its property and the ceding of it to the Parliament. The trust has pointed out that the road is not a dedicated road; it is something that it approved of at some time in the past but it does not necessarily approve of it at the moment. I believe that the fears that the trust has expressed have been allayed to some degree. The trust has considerable concern about the future of the Moreton Bay fig trees in that location.
I have had some discussions with senior officers from the Botanic Gardens, who have stated that they do not believe those trees will be damaged. In fact, they will have free access to those trees to ensure that they are always maintained. The trust was concerned that the Parliament might attempt to provide angle parking access at the rear of the House. The trust has been assured that that will not occur and that the gardens, in the short term at least, will be preserved. It may be that future parliaments will determine to redecorate the area in a style similar to that used at the rear of Sydney Hospital. However, parking at the rear of Parliament House is already a matter of concern and there is no intention to exacerbate the problem by providing additional parking space. Security difficulties are emerging from the use of the Domain site as a mass public venue. Direct access to Parliament House, even with the steel fence, can present problems under certain circumstances.
It is essential that the Parliament ensures that the area is kept secure and that the police have a
right of access under certain circumstances. VIPs arriving at Parliament House must feel secure. Given that they no longer have vehicular access to the Macquarie Street entrance to Parliament House, the Hospital Road entrance must always be kept secure and available to them - a matter to which I will refer later. At this stage it is appropriate to compare the proposed legislation with that of other Australian States and Territories. I have already said that the New South Wales Parliament is one of only two Australian parliaments whose precincts are not defined by statute. A number of other parliaments have included security and penalty provisions in their legislation. The South Australian Parliament is the other parliament that has no definition
The Federal Parliament introduced its parliamentary precincts legislation in 1988. That legislation, which defines the parliamentary precincts by reference to a diagram in a schedule to the Act, provides for a parliamentary zone that includes the precincts and extends to the banks of Lake Burley Griffin. The purpose of the parliamentary zone is to prevent the erection of buildings within the area, unless approved by resolution of each House. The legislation also provides for security, the making of arrangements for security of the Parliament with the Australian Federal Police and the charging of persons who offend against the Act.
The most recent legislation relating to parliamentary privilege was introduced by the Northern Territory in 1992. The Northern Territory Legislative Assembly (Powers and Privileges) Act, as well as defining the parliamentary precincts, provides for the removal of members and non-members from the precincts on the order of the Speaker. The legislation also provides that a fine or a term of imprisonment may be imposed on a non-member who commits an offence against the assembly. The unicameral Northern Territory Legislative Assembly has the advantage, as some would see it, of being a single-house assembly. Therefore the controls are very much confined to the office of the Speaker.
The security and good management of the Parliament in Canberra are very much enhanced because of its geographic location. An examination of the Canberra legislation will assist honourable members to gain an understanding of the proposed legislation should they have concerns about the way in which it is structured. The Northern Territory Legislative Assembly, though not located in so clearly defined a geographic area as the Federal Parliament, is well defined and was structured with security in mind. In spite of the considerable public use made of the Chamber out of session, it is entirely secure; it provides easy access to the public and allows the police to provide protection if necessary. The Tasmanian and Queensland parliamentary precinct legislation includes penalties for offenders who trespass or commit an offence. What legal definition is this Parliament facing? That will be more easily understood if we look at the history of this Parliament, which dates back to 1829. An article entitled "Parliament in a hospital" by Donald Ellsmore in Australia's First Parliament, to which all honourable members have access, states:
Parliament has occupied its present site in Macquarie Street since January 1829, when Governor Darling appropriated part of the wing of the General Hospital, formerly occupied by the Principal Surgeon, for the accommodation of the Legislative and Executive Councils. The central building, with its hipped roof and double-storey verandah, is the former north wing of the "Rum" Hospital, as it was known, erected between 1811 and 1816. The Chambers of the two Houses were added to the north and south ends of this building in the middle of the last century to meet the needs of the growing Parliament. Further buildings were added throughout the 19th century, with even more additions this century and, although there have been serious proposals to raze the site and to build new Houses of Parliament, the old building today stands proudly beside the multi-storey new wing which completes over 170 years of continuous building activity on the site.
Parliament moved to Macquarie Street, from Bent Street, in 1829, when the Legislative Council was increased to 15 Members, including the Governor. The Council met for the first time in the northernmost ground floor room of the former Principal Surgeon's quarters on 21 August, a room now adjacent to the present Assembly Chamber. The room above was retained for Executive Council meetings and four of the remaining six rooms were allocated for Committee use and for the Clerk's room and offices . . .
Sittings of the Legislative Council were not open to observers until 1838 when approval was given for the public and the press to attend. In an extraordinary move, indicative of the frugal basis of many future decisions to be made about the parliamentary buildings, galleries were constructed within the already cramped Council Chamber to accommodate pressmen and up to 40 other persons. Not surprisingly, these were described by one critic as "abominable little galleries, like side boxes in a theatre".
There are those who today would say that we should spend nothing on parliaments, and I am sure some members present in this Chamber would say we have not done enough.
Mr Jeffery: Build more side boxes.
Mr PRICE: I do not suggest that we build more side boxes. The article further states:
When the Legislative Council was increased to 36 Members in 1843, the Colonial Architect, Mortimer Lewis, presented four schemes for new accommodation to a Select Committee of the old Council. He was directed to erect a new Chamber adjoining the existing Chamber, with a gallery to seat at least 50, with retiring rooms for the Speaker and Members . . .
The new Chamber had a simple classical facade. Its double-storey height was outlined -
Honourable members can see examples of that within the Chamber. With my engineering background I have never been able to understand why the columns and the peaks of the arches do not appear to match up with the roof beams. They seem a little out of kilter. Nevertheless, it holds up. The Chamber accommodates us well and will continue to do so.
Mr E. T. Page: Engineers only build what architects draw.
Mr PRICE: Well said by an engineer, Mr Minister. The chair is here and part of the traditions of this Chamber. The article continues:
In 1856, when the two-tier or bicameral system of government was introduced, two parliamentary Chambers were required. In August 1855, a Select Committee of the Legislative Council recommended that a new Chamber be erected at the southern end of the existing buildings for the use of the Legislative Assembly after its election. However, the Legislative Council moved into the new Chamber in May 1856, two months before it was fully finished while the Assembly occupied the old Council Chamber.
The prodigious activity on the goldfields had created an acute shortage of labour and building materials throughout the 1850s in New South Wales and all attempts to obtain a suitable building failed. As a temporary measure, the Governor and Executive Council approved the purchase of a pre-fabricated iron building in Melbourne originally imported from England. It was dismantled and freighted to Sydney and erected and modified by a Sydney contractor within a few months.
The cast iron frame of the building was clad externally with moulded and corrugated iron panels, forming a classical facade to Macquarie Street. It was lined with softwood boards salvaged from packing cases used for shipping the components of the structure from Melbourne. The interior was finished with polished cedar joinery with elegant papered walls over a hessian support, punctuated with gilding on the mouldings. The original wall-mounted bracket gas light fittings were made in the colony.
The gas light fittings were about the only parts of the Chamber provided by the colony itself, apart from the money to buy it. The article continues:
In 1859, following the introduction of the two-House system, the number of Members in the Assembly increased to 80. The Assembly called for an exchange of rooms, but the Council demurred and the Legislative Assembly Chamber was lengthened and redecorated. Gas lighting was introduced to the Chamber to replace the original oil lamps. An anti-room behind the ministerial bench was built "to which at any time the Minister or Ministers may retire for conference, or other matters which frequently require retirement".
That prevails in our Parliament today. The article continues:
The lobbies and corridors were improved, a bar was established at one of the windows in the refreshment area and the Reporters' Gallery in the Legislative Assembly was altered to allow greater visibility of the proceedings in the Chamber.
It is of interest to note that the House on this site had always been the subject of conjecture and concern and as a result of continuing concerns, not only of the legislators but of the public, a new building was proposed. The article continues:
These measures were considered temporary for The Sydney Morning Herald of 29 August 1859 announced that "New Houses, worthy of the Colony, will shortly be built, and designs from architects throughout Europe have been called for, in order that they may be worthy of that great institution they are intended to shelter".
In 1861, 20 architects entered a competition conducted by the Department of Public Works for a new design for Parliament House. It was won by Henry Lynn of Dublin, who proposed a grandiose scheme of neo-Gothic buildings inspired by the Palace of the Doges in Venice. The arrangement of roofs, spires and towers was also reminiscent of the Houses of Parliament, Palace of Westminster, in London. The building itself was enormous and was to stretch between the Barracks and the present site of the Mitchell Library. The Sydney Mail praised "the charm of the design", but prophesied that its scale and the funding required to realise it would keep the new Parliamentary structure on the drawing board.
The cost of . . . the selected designs would be half a million sterling, and in the present decrepit condition of our public finance it is not very easy to see how the money is to be spared . . . we are straining even our credit to raise money for railways, and the public is already getting alarmed at the size of our "national" debt.
I am not sure what has changed in the past 120 years, but we seem to be making some progress. The article states:
Though £100,000 was placed on the loan estimates for 1863 to enable construction to begin, no action was taken and Parliament had to be content with the modest improvements undertaken in 1860, which have nevertheless left a very distinctive mark.
During the winter recess of 1860 a new timber-framed refreshment room, now demolished, was erected at the back of the old premises and the central ground floor rooms, previously used as the refreshment rooms, were adapted for use as a library and reading room.
The library was furnished with "plain, but nicely finished shelves" and the reading room "furnished with a due regard to the comfort of those who are in the habit of frequenting it . . .
There were some significant changes. In 1888, in a function attended by Sir Henry Parkes, a foundation stone was laid for the new Parliament by Lord Carrington. It still exists on a site now occupied by the State Library. The article states:
The Macquarie Street Resumption Act had been passed in 1879 to enable the Government to resume all the land north of
Parliament House for the new building. However, no further action was taken until the Standing Committee on Public Works reviewed the matter in 1897.
That was 100 years ago. We are finally getting around to defining the precincts of the Parliament. The church adjacent to the building at the time has since been demolished so those changes are significant. I now return to a matter of great concern to members of Parliament, and that is security. The Presiding Officers as delegates of the Parliament have control of the parliamentary precincts and are responsible for their security. They are empowered to restrict the areas to which the public has access and may order the removal of persons trespassing on, or causing a disturbance in, the Parliament and its precincts. The recent disturbances in the public gallery, even in the last sitting week, would put security very much in focus for honourable members of this Chamber. Browning, in his House of Representatives Practice, in referring to security of the Federal Parliament - which is also of relevance to this Parliament - states:
Responsibility for the maintenance of security in the parliamentary precincts is vested by the Parliamentary Precincts Act in the Presiding Officers. Before the passage of the Act this jurisdiction was based on custom and practice and the inherent powers of the Presiding Officers to maintain proper arrangements for the functioning of Parliament. Measures to improve the security of the Parliament were introduced in 1978 following a number of potentially serious incidents over previous years which impressed on the Presiding Officers the need for security arrangements to be kept under constant review.
Security brings into conflict two principles basic to Parliament's traditions and usage. On the one hand, there is the undeniable right of people in a parliamentary democracy to observe their Parliament at work and to have reasonable access to their representatives. On the other hand, Members and Senators must be provided with conditions which will enable them to perform their duties in safety and without interference. This is basic to the privileges of Parliament and a balance must be struck between these two important principles.
Motion, by leave, by Mr E. T. Page agreed to:
That standing and sessional orders be suspended to permit the conclusion of the second reading speech on the Parliamentary Precincts Bill forthwith.
Mr PRICE: When there is no instrument or legislation stating what is regarded as the parliamentary precincts there is inconsistency in decisions of the courts as to the extent of the precincts. Whilst some court decisions have held that the Presiding Officers' control extends to the grounds of the Parliament, the extent of such control is not free from doubt. The bill, by defining the parliamentary precincts and by also providing that the Presiding Officers are vested with the power to control the precincts, removes any doubt that such authority includes the grounds of the Parliament. I should stress here the need to guarantee our VIPs free and safe access to this establishment, including both the building and its grounds. The bill, in conjunction with the arrangement made with the police, will facilitate that process.
For many years concern has been expressed by successive Presiding Officers and the Police Service in regard to certain aspects of the security of this Parliament. The principal concern results from the proximity of parts of the parliamentary buildings to the strip of land at the rear of the Parliament and to access ways used by the public which abut onto the parliamentary precincts. To facilitate the provision of more appropriate security measures, the strip of land between the spear fence at the rear of the Parliament and the Hospital Road kerb, and extending across the driveway, is to be included in the parliamentary precincts.
The bill further provides for the creation of a parliamentary security zone over the Domain terrace and Nightingale walkway, which abut upon the northern and southern boundaries of the parliamentary precincts. This will enable the Presiding Officers to enter into arrangements with the police to restrict public access over the walkways on ceremonial occasions, or in the event of an anticipated, threatened or actual disturbance directed at, or in the vicinity of, the Parliament. Those honourable members who have viewed the Domain terrace and seen the exposed area such as it is, and the easy access that is available, would appreciate that the need for further security in that area is vital. Over recent times there have been occasions when the safety of parliaments, the police and the public have been endangered by demonstrations directed at parliaments, and there have been instances of personal injuries and property damage being sustained. Given the increasing need for a higher level of security, the Presiding Officers have already instituted additional surveillance and inspection mechanisms in order to ensure the safety of members, House staff and the visiting members of the public.
To complement the higher level of security, the bill provides that an authorised officer may give directions for persons to leave, or, if they fail to do so, to be removed from the parliamentary precincts. An authorised officer for the purposes of the legislation includes a presiding officer, an authorised parliamentary officer, or a police officer acting in conformity with a memorandum of understanding or
a specific authorisation given by a presiding officer. A person who has been lawfully directed by an authorised officer to leave or not enter the precincts may be dealt with in accordance with the law and be fined for failing to obey any such direction. A direction to leave or not enter the parliamentary zone can only be given by a police officer, who may arrest and charge a person who fails to comply with such a direction. Referring to the memorandum of understanding, police officers cannot enter the parliamentary precincts as of right in the ordinary course of their duties without the consent of at least one of the Presiding Officers. Browning's House of Representatives Practice also states:
For most practical purposes, Parliament House is regarded as the only place of its kind and one in which the two Houses through their Presiding Officers have exclusive jurisdiction. Thus in Parliament House the police are subject to the authority of the Speaker and President and their powers are limited by the powers and privileges of the respective Houses. Such limitations are not based on any presumed sanctity attached to the building as such, but on the principle that the Parliament should be able to conduct its business without interference or pressure from any outside source.
Police have no power to enter Parliament House in the ordinary course of their duties without the consent of at least one of the Presiding Officers, in practice conveyed through the Serjeant-at-Arms, the Usher of the Black Rod or the Security Controller. The police have no routine security role within the building or precincts but may be requested to provide a policing response to major disturbances.
Police may not enter Parliament House for the purpose of interrogating anyone or executing a warrant without the express consent of the Speaker or President.
The bill further provides that a memorandum of understanding will be entered into between the Presiding Officers and the Commissioner of Police regarding the exercise by police officers of functions in the parliamentary precincts and the parliamentary zone in relation to the security of the Parliament. The memorandum will deal with such matters as the preservation of the security of the Parliament and the role of the police in this regard, the security of visiting dignitaries, the control of demonstrations, the roles of Parliament House staff and the police in the control of demonstrations, the entry of police onto the precincts, the pursuit by police of felons onto the precincts and the role of police in the event of an emergency. The bill also preserves the existing police powers which cannot be exercised on the parliamentary precincts.
The bill vests title to the parliamentary precincts in a corporation called the Presiding Officers for the State of New South Wales. The corporation is created for the purpose of the Act and to enable title to the land to vest in the Presiding Officers as delegates of the Parliament. The affairs of the corporation are to be managed and controlled by the Presiding Officers. The corporation will be a statutory body representing the Crown. The corporation may grant leases in respect of any part of the parliamentary precincts to be used for commercial or other purposes. However, except as prescribed by regulation, any such lease, together with an option for renewal, cannot exceed eight years.
I mention here that since 1983 the State Library's car park loading dock, some of its service area and part of its restaurant have been located within the parliamentary precincts. This arrangement has never been formalised, and it is intended that following vesting of title in the Presiding Officers the affected areas will be leased to the State Library and that the lease will be registered on the title to the parliamentary precincts. Eventually it may also be necessary to enter into a lease with Australia Post in respect of part of the precincts on which the post office is located. The bill also provides that no part of the parliamentary precincts can be compulsorily acquired without an Act of Parliament and the corporation cannot sell or dispose of any part of the parliamentary precincts.
In relation to the extension of the parliamentary precincts and the parliamentary zone, should it become necessary at some future time to alter the boundaries of the parliamentary precincts, or to relocate some of the Parliament's functions to another site, the bill provides that the definition of the parliamentary precincts may be amended by resolution of both Houses. The bill similarly provides that the definition of the parliamentary zone may be extended by resolution of both Houses. The bill specifically preserves the powers, privileges and immunities of the Parliament, each House, the members and committees of each House, the joint committees of the Parliament and the Presiding Officers of each House under any other law. The Parliament and its members have special rights, immunities and privileges known as parliamentary privilege, which is considered necessary for the operation of the Parliament. Erskine May's Parliamentary Practice defines parliamentary privilege as follows:
. . . the sum of the peculiar rights enjoyed by each House collectively as a constituent part of the . . . Parliament, and by Members of each House individually, without which they could not discharge their functions, and which exceed those possessed by other bodies or individuals. Thus privilege, though part of the law of the land, is to a certain extent an exemption from the general law.
Browning's House of Representatives Practice also states:
Parliamentary privilege relates to the special rights and immunities which belong to the Parliament, its Members and others which are considered essential for the operation of the Parliament. These rights and immunities allow the Parliament to meet and to carry out its proper constitutional role, for Members to discharge their responsibilities to their constituents and for others properly involved in the parliamentary process to carry out their duties and responsibilities without obstruction or fear of prosecution.
Privileges are not the prerogative of Members in their personal capacities. It has been stated
In so far as the House claims and Members enjoy those rights and immunities which are grouped under the general description of "privileges". They are claimed and enjoyed by the House in its corporate capacity and by its Members on behalf of the citizens whom they represent.
It is therefore essential for the proper function of this Parliament that these rights be specifically reserved and not made subject to the bill. In conclusion, the bill removes any doubt as to the extent of the power of the Presiding Officers to maintain law and order in the parliamentary precincts, and complements the security measures recently introduced. Positive legal definition of the precincts of the Parliament will greatly assist in this process, and the bill also clarifies issues concerning police access and the privileges of both Houses. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate adjourned on motion by Mr Jeffery.
JURY AMENDMENT (MAJORITY VERDICTS) BILL Second Reading
Debate resumed from 19 September 1996.
Mr IEMMA (Hurstville) [10.42 a.m.]: The Government opposes the bill. The question of majority verdicts in criminal trials is a question of the utmost importance. Some time ago the Government set in train a process to ensure that, if and when this item of reform is addressed, it is done in a thoughtful and considered way, contrary to what the Opposition shadow minister has done. There is no need for undue haste in regard to this matter. Unanimous verdicts have been a fundamental feature of our criminal justice system for many decades. Regrettably, the nature and timing of this bill does nothing other than demonstrate the complete opportunistic manner in which the Opposition has brought this bill forward.
What makes the action of the honourable member for Eastwood in introducing the bill so completely intolerable is the haste with which it has been done. The honourable member wanted to beat the Government to the punch, and introduced his own legislation instead of waiting for the outcome of the deliberations of the Attorney General's Department. That is an art form that the honourable member is seeking to perfect through constant repetition. Since introducing this bill he has done it again with the bill relating to detention after arrest. However, that is a matter for another day. In regard to majority verdicts, the honourable member for Eastwood thought it particularly opportune to take advantage of the anticipated completion of the retrial of Hakki Souleyman. That is the case to which he referred at some length during his second reading speech.
By any reckoning it was quite irresponsible, if not improper, of the honourable member for Eastwood to refer to that case as he did. The events of the retrial justify my criticism of the way in which the matter was dealt with. The honourable member referred at length to the actions of the juror who held out, and used that as the basis for his argument for a change to majority verdicts. Unfortunately, what happened afterwards highlights the dangers of a knee-jerk reaction to media comment about some trials not resulting in an appropriate verdict. If anything, that case highlights the necessity for caution; it highlights the desirability of awaiting the results of the investigation by the Attorney General's Department and the production of some empirical evidence of the need to move to majority verdicts, statistics about why such reform is necessary and evidence about how it will save the taxpayer money.
Honourable members will be aware that the honourable member for Eastwood isolated the Souleyman case as a heaven-sent demonstration of the need for majority verdicts. It has become public knowledge that at Souleyman's first trial the jury was undecided as to whether Souleyman should be convicted as an accessory before the fact to murder. In fact, the vote of the jury was 11 to one in favour of conviction. The honourable member characterised the differing opinion of that one juror as "quite unreasonable". Indeed, he said, "It is obvious that the attitude of that one juror was completely irrational." It is a source of embarrassment to the honourable member for Eastwood that all 12 jurors at the retrial agreed with that "irrational" individual and found Mr Souleyman not guilty on the murder charge.
The honourable member should not use that as an example for a change to majority verdicts. The Souleyman case should serve as a caution to the
honourable member. Those in favour of majority verdicts often argue that such verdicts, firstly, minimise the possibility of a verdict being prevented by a rogue or perverse juror who is unreasonable and unrepresentative of the community - the very example used by the honourable member for Eastwood; secondly, minimise the possibility of a verdict being prevented by a juror being nobbled; and, thirdly, avoid the added cost, delays and stress to victims caused by mistrials. Against those claims, however, very real arguments can be made to proceed with caution along this path. Two such arguments are, first, that majority verdicts in reality undermine the hallowed principle that the guilt of an accused person must be proved beyond reasonable doubt. That is enshrined in section 80 of the Federal Constitution. Secondly, the frequency of jury disagreement is low and does not merit the destruction of one of the fundamental features of jury trials.
When referring to the statistics relating to hung juries, the honourable member for Eastwood cited a Parliamentary Library Research Service study on hung juries by Dr Gareth Griffith, and quoted figures which show that between 1993 and 1995 the number of hung juries doubled from 3.6 per cent to approximately 6 per cent of trials. Even a figure of 6.2 per cent is very low, and, instead of sounding a bell for the honourable member for Eastwood to proceed along this track, it should have acted as a caution because approximately 94 per cent of trials result in a verdict. Notwithstanding the comments made by the honourable member in his second reading speech, 6.2 per cent is a very low figure. The Souleyman case has turned out to be a sobering illustration of the argument against majority verdicts.
The significance of unanimous verdicts in guaranteeing proof beyond reasonable doubt was discussed in two judgments in the High Court in 1993. In Cheatle, the first case, the court affirmed that the requirement for unanimity is one that, at a Federal level, is considered so important as to be enshrined in the Commonwealth Constitution. I shall quote directly from a decision of the court that same year in the case of Black, in relation to hung juries. Justice Deane said:
A juror who conscientiously holds out against a majority and thereby prevents unanimity has not failed properly to do what [he or she was] chosen to do. To the contrary, he or she has done no more than discharge his or her duty to both the accused and society. Any suggestion that a minority juror should democratically submit to the view of the majority is antithetical to the jury process under the common law of this country.
While majority verdicts do not force a minority to submit, they introduce the notion that a majority is acceptable and able to be acted upon, regardless of the genuine beliefs of the minority. Given these arguments of principle that are said to support the requirement for unanimous verdicts, the introduction of majority verdicts in criminal trials is not something to be undertaken lightly. However, that is not to say that the question of reform should not be considered. The Attorney General has received a number of submissions from the legal profession and from the community seeking the introduction of majority verdicts in New South Wales. Cost saving, along with the possibility of rogue jurors, is the central rationale offered in many of the submissions put to the Attorney from the community and the legal profession.
In October 1995 the criminal law reform division of the Attorney General's Department sought information from the other Australian jurisdictions in which majority verdicts are allowed. That information included the extent to which majority verdicts have been returned, the length of the trials in question and the nature of the charges to which they relate. It was expected that such information would allow some quantification of cost savings that might be expected should New South Wales move down the majority verdict path. Unfortunately, little information was provided by other jurisdictions.
Following consultations with the Director of Public Prosecutions, the director of the criminal law review division and the Director of the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, it was agreed that it would be appropriate to conduct a 12-month research study into all New South Wales trials involving hung juries, with the results being classified according to defence type and duration of trial. On 13 May 1996 the Attorney authorised the Director of the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research to interview jurors from relevant trials for the purpose of such a study. Both the Chief Judge of the District Court and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court have expressed their support. The study was commenced with a pilot following the mid-year court vacation and is expected to be finalised within 12 months. The results will provide a firm empirical basis upon which to consider any necessary reforms. The honourable member for Eastwood has since introduced his private member's bill.
The bill proposes that in all criminal trials where a jury of 12 members are unable to reach a unanimous verdict after more than six hours of deliberation, a majority verdict of 11 jurors will be
allowed. The bill thereby allows majority verdicts on the above terms for all offences, including murder. In this respect the bill goes further than that which applies in other jurisdictions, except for the Northern Territory. The honourable member for Eastwood acknowledges the 1986 report of the New South Wales Law Reform Commission, which stated that there was no need for the introduction of majority verdicts in New South Wales. He concedes the significance of the arguments voiced against majority verdicts and is aware of the research study being undertaken.
The honourable member for Eastwood provides no justification for his haste in introducing such a bill while the study is still in progress. It could hardly be said that there is a pressing need, bearing in mind that unanimous verdicts have been regarded as an essential feature of jury trials in New South Wales for many decades. Majority verdicts should not be introduced unless and until the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research study provides firm empirical evidence of need and utility. Any legislation before such time is manifestly premature. In introducing the bill the honourable member for Eastwood is serving only political ends. He has no desire to serve the administration of justice. It is for that reason that the Government opposes the bill.
Mr SCHULTZ (Burrinjuck) [10.55 a.m.]: I support and compliment the honourable member for Eastwood on introducing the Jury Amendment (Majority Verdicts) Bill. The object of the bill is to amend the Jury Act 1977 to provide for majority verdicts by juries in criminal trials. The bill inserts a new provision in the Act - proposed section 55F - to enable juries in criminal trials to deliver a majority verdict if, in the case of a jury of 12 persons, 11 of the jurors agree on the verdict. The bill also inserts a new provision in the Act - proposed section 56 - to enable a court to discharge a jury of 12 persons after six hours of deliberations if it finds that the jury is not likely to reach either a unanimous or majority verdict. The provisions relating to the discharge of jurors in existing section 56 are re-enacted for juries consisting of less than 12 persons.
It is interesting that the Government is opposing the bill and ironic that we, as parliamentarians elected by the people, operate on majority decisions. The New South Wales Parliament operates on this system and has done for many years. It is a democratic system that relies on decisions by the majority. When the vote is taken on this bill, it will pass or not pass through this House as a result of a majority decision by members. Having said that, I wish to quote from the New South Wales Parliamentary Library Research Service Briefing Paper No 6/96, page 4 onwards, relating to majority jury verdicts. Section 2, entitled "The Law in New South Wales", states:
In its 1986 report on The Jury in a Criminal Trial, the NSW Law Reform Commission that, "In accordance with the common law rule, criminal verdicts in New South Wales must be unanimous". It is explained that the common law rule applies because it has not been abrogated in the Jury Act 1977. Section 56 of the Act, which speaks of the jury agreeing on their verdict, recognises the common law position. Before the Jury (Amendment) Act 1987 the trial judge could discharge a jury that was unable to agree after deliberating for a minimum of at least six hours. That time requirement was removed in 1987. Section 56 provides:
Where the jury in criminal proceedings have retired, the court in which the proceedings are being tried may discharge them if it finds, after examination on oath of one or more of them, that they are not likely to agree on their verdict.
The Law Reform Commission went on to say that, "The common law requirement of unanimity means that neither a conviction nor an acquittal can be secured without the concurrence of the whole jury", and, further, that "Unless the Crown decides that the accused person should not be retried, the accused person will be put on trial again".
Majority verdicts are permitted in civil proceedings in NSW. Thus, section 57 of the Jury Act 1977 provides:
Where the jury in civil proceedings have retired for more than four hours and they are unable to agree on their verdict:
(a) in the case of a jury consisting of 4 persons, the decision of 3 jurors; or
(b) in the case of a jury consisting of 12 persons or, pursuant to section 22(b), 9, 10, or 11 persons, the decision of 8 jurors,
shall be taken as the verdict of all.
Section 58 of the Act then provides for the discharging of a jury in civil proceedings which cannot agree on either a unanimous verdict or a verdict under section 57 after a minimum of 4 hours of deliberation.
Section 3, which is entitled "Majority verdicts in other selected Jurisdictions", highlights just how far behind New South Wales is in comparison to the rest of the States in the Commonwealth of Australia. That section states:
Majority verdicts in criminal trials (except for capital cases) have been available in several Australian jurisdictions for many years. The first jurisdiction to alter the requirement of unanimity was South Australia in 1927, followed by Tasmania in 1936. Western Australia adopted majority verdicts in 1960 and the Northern Territory in 1963. An example from these provisions is that the South Australian Act allows for majority verdicts where a jury is unable to reach agreement after
deliberating for a minimum of 4 hours. Where there are 12 jurors, a majority verdict of 10 or 11 jurors will suffice. At least 10 jurors must concur where there is an 11 member jury.
In England majority verdicts were introduced in 1967 under section 13 of the Criminal Justice Act. The legislation allows a 10 to two or 11 to one majority verdict to be returned if the jury has been unable to agree after 2 hours deliberation or such longer period as the court thinks reasonable having regard to the nature and complexity of the case. Where there are 10 jurors at least 9 must agree.
In the United States, there is a requirement of unanimity for federal jury trials. However, in 1972 in two five-to-four decisions, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of majority jury verdicts in State criminal trials.
Of the Australian jurisdictions the latest to adopt majority verdicts in most criminal trials is Victoria under the Juries (Amendment) Act 1993, which came into operation in 1994. Following that amendment, section 47 of the Victorian Juries Act 1967, which is headed `majority verdicts in criminal inquests', provides:
(1) In this section "majority verdict" means -
(a) if the jury, at the time of returning its verdict, consists of 12 jurors - a verdict on which 11 of them agree;
(b) if the jury, at the time of returning its verdict, consists of 11 jurors - a verdict on which 10 of them agree;
(c) if the jury, at the time of returning its verdict, consists of 10 jurors - a verdict on which 9 of them agree.
(2) Subject to sub-sections (3) and (4), in any criminal inquest if all the jurors after at least 6 hours deliberation are unable to agree on their verdict, a majority verdict may be taken as the verdict of all.
(3) A court must refuse to take a majority verdict if it appears to it that the jury have not had a period of time for deliberation that the court thinks reasonable having regard to the nature and complexity of the inquest.
(4) A verdict that the accused is guilty of murder or treason or of an offence against the law of the Commonwealth must be unanimous.
(5) If on the trial of a person for an offence it is possible for a jury to return a verdict of not guilty of the offence charged but guilty of another offence with which he or she has not been charged and the jury reaches a verdict (either unanimously or by majority in accordance with this section) that the accused is not guilty of the offence charged, a majority verdict of guilty of that alternative offence may be taken as the verdict of all if the jury are unable to agree on their verdict on that alternative offence after a cumulative total of at least 6 hours deliberation on both offences.
Thus, under the Victorian legislation jurors must deliberate for at least 6 hours before a majority verdict can be given. Also, under section 47(3) the Court can refuse to take a majority verdict where it does not consider that the period of deliberation is `reasonable having regard to the nature and complexity of the inquest'. Verdicts in cases dealing with murder, treason and offences against the Commonwealth continue to be unanimous.
4 ARGUMENTS FOR MAJORITY VERDICTS IN CRIMINAL TRIALS
In the Second Reading Speech for the Bill abolishing the requirement of unanimity in Victoria, the Minister said:
The government believes the requirement of a unanimous verdict is a potential source of expense and unfairness where a single, determined juror holds out doggedly and for peculiar or improper reasons against the common view of the remaining 11. A hung jury will lead either to a retrial or, on rare occasions, to a decision by the Director of Public Prosecutions to discontinue the prosecution. The first outcome is an unjustifiable waste of public money, especially when the trial has been long and expensive. Many may see a decision to discontinue a prosecution in these circumstances as unjust. Majority verdicts, which have been introduced in the United Kingdom and several other Australian States do not eliminate the chances of this happening, but they significantly reduce them. They strike an appropriate balance between the principle that guilt should be determined beyond reasonable doubt and the need to manage courts efficiently and fairly.
Expanding on these themes, a recent article in The Bulletin set out the basic arguments for majority jury verdicts in criminal trials in these terms:
•to avoid the `rogue' or perverse juror, that is, the person who is unreasonable, or unrepresentative of the community, or the person who for whatever reason sets out to make jury deliberation difficult. The article mentions in this context the controversy surrounding the acquittal of former Queensland Premier, Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen on perjury charges in October 1991. It emerged later that the jury foreman, Luke Shaw, who held out for an acquittal against 10 of his fellow jurors, was a member of the Young Nationals with links to the Friends of Joh group;
•to avoid the possibility of one juror being `nobbled'; that is, to avoid the possibility of the corruption of a juror, through bribery or intimidation;
•to avoid the added cost and delays of mistrials, which involve an unwarranted burden on the state and the accused person; and
•to overcome the fact that the traditional basis of jury membership - a group of the defendant's peers or equals - is increasingly at odds with reality. `In a pluralistic, multicultural society, the chances of being judged by 12 of your actual "peers" are remote'.
The last argument did not figure in the NSW Law Reform Commission's review of the case for and against majority verdicts. The Commission did, however, make note of the following additional arguments which are often cited against the unanimity rule:
•that it forces juries which are unable to agree to reach verdicts which are compromises;
•that the rule is undemocratic because it allows a small minority to frustrate the decision of the majority; and
•that the rate of acquittals is too high, and that the unanimity rule is the cause of this.
In its 1980 report on The Jury in Criminal Trials, which ultimately recommended that the unanimity requirement should be retained, the Canadian Law Reform Commission added two further arguments in favour of majority verdicts:
•the unanimity rule is a sham. While receiving the apparent concurrence of all jurors, many verdicts in fact represent either a compromise among the jurors, or a verdict in which a minority acquiesced because of coalition or verbal pressure; and
•the requirement of unanimity is inconsistent with, or at least anomalous when compared with decision making rules for other democratic institutions. Legislative bodies, appellate courts, administrative tribunals and practically every other body in which group decisions must be made, decide on the basis of some form of majority vote. Why not jury verdicts?
It is said in addition that majority jury verdicts in criminal trials have operated for many years in other comparable jurisdictions without any apparent detriment to the jury system as such. Further to this, and perhaps most persuasively of all, it can be argued that there is no evidence that majority verdicts have had any adverse effect in practice in these jurisdictions; there is apparently no pressure to rescind majority verdicts; nor is there any suggestion that majority verdicts have resulted in unfair convictions. That is not to say that dissatisfaction with aspects of the jury system and the administration of criminal justice generally has not been expressed in these jurisdictions, as elsewhere. It is only to suggest that it would seem that such dissatisfaction has not focused on the operation of majority jury verdicts.
Currently in New South Wales all 12 jurors must agree on a verdict or there is no result. For some time the Opposition has been greatly concerned about the doubling in the number of hung juries from 3.2 per cent in 1993-94 to 6.2 per cent in 1994-95. That is why the honourable member for Eastwood has introduced this bill. The Opposition has fully considered its position and believes it is time New South Wales adopted majority verdicts. They are already available in England and in South Australia, Tasmania, Western Australia, the Northern Territory, and Victoria. However, majority verdicts should not be delivered on a 10 to two split because that implies an element of reasonable doubt. I support the bill and compliment the honourable member for Eastwood for introducing it.
Mr LYNCH (Liverpool) [11.09 a.m.]: Mr Speaker -
Mr O'Farrell: You don't know anything about majorities, you are a leftie. A left majority is an oxymoron.
Mr LYNCH: As usual the interjection from the honourable member for Northcott is unintelligible and illiterate. I know considerably more about getting majorities in ballots and more about this topic than he does. Unlike the honourable member for Northcott and most other members opposite, I have had practical experience of running jury trials. Because of Leo McKern and John Mortimer, there is a phrase that has become more commonly used than it once was. That is the phrase about the golden thread that runs through English common law. The phrase is used with a certain amount of hilarity in the television series "Rumpole of the Bailey", but it certainly reveals a deep truth about our justice system. It is a fundamentally important principle that persons charged with a serious criminal offence must be tried by a jury of their peers.
Historically that has meant - and I hope that it will continue to mean the same for some time to come - that before the Crown can secure a conviction, the jury must be unanimously satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty. In other words, it is an integral part of our system of law that an accused person is entitled to be tried by a jury of his peers and the jury must reach a unanimous conclusion. By definition, if each member of the jury does not come to the same conclusion, the jury is not satisfied beyond reasonable doubt of the guilt of the accused. In the other case, a number of people think the accused should be convicted and a number of people do not think the accused should be convicted. Historically, that decision has not been regarded as a conviction beyond reasonable doubt. That principle is enshrined in clause 80 of the Australian Constitution, which provides that every Australian charged with a Commonwealth offence has the right to be tried by a jury - and the jury must reach a unanimous verdict before that person can be convicted.
Opposition members have implied that the present system is becoming too expensive and it is all getting a little bit too hard. They are saying that people who may not necessarily be guilty should be thrown in gaol to save money. After listening to the honourable member for Burrinjuck I was left with the impression that if the Opposition has its way there would be no jury trials or decisions by judges. People who are charged would automatically be imprisoned. The Opposition's regard for the rule of law, which I would have thought the conservatives would have had some respect for, has gone out the window. Members opposite are essentially saying that anyone who is convicted of an offence should be thrown in gaol.
In that context it is ironic that the honourable member for Eastwood argued in his second reading speech that although 10 years ago the Law Reform
Commission said no to majority verdicts, things have changed and majority verdicts must now be introduced. The case he pointed to in order to justify that claim involved the tragic death of Toula Soravia. One of the people charged as a result of that incident was Hakki Souleyman. Souleyman faced two counts. In his first trial the result was a jury decision of 11 to one against Souleyman. I should point out that the votes of jurors are not normally revealed, and the only reason the numbers are known in this case was that letters were sent to newspapers. Because of the 11 to one decision there had to be a retrial.
The retrial proceeded, notwithstanding the best efforts of the honourable member for Eastwood - inadvertently, I am sure - to disrupt that procedure. On one of those two counts in relation to which the earlier jury had found against Souleyman 11 to one the jury unanimously acquitted him. If the majority verdict system had been in operation at the time of the first trial Souleyman would have been convicted on both charges, notwithstanding that the jury at the second trial clearly believed that he was innocent. If majority verdicts had been in operation a person who was found to be innocent would have been gaoled. It seems to me that the Souleyman case is not the best argument in favour of majority verdicts; it is the best argument against them.
The other argument used by the honourable member for Eastwood and other Opposition members is that the number of cases in which there have been hung juries has substantially increased. They quoted from Briefing Paper No. 6/96, which was prepared by Dr Gareth Griffith on behalf of the New South Wales Parliamentary Library Research Service. That briefing paper states that the number of hung juries has increased from 3.2 per cent in 1993-94 to 6.2 per cent in 1994-95. On the face of it, the incidence of hung juries has doubled. The bill may or may not have some connection with those figures, but there is certainly no evidence that it does. The precise breakdown of the decisions in those cases is not known. We do not know whether the increase to 6.2 per cent resulted from juries voting 11 to one, 10 to two or nine to three. It may well be that some of the decisions were 11 to one, in which case the bill might address the issue. It is statistically possible that the increase resulted from majority verdicts of 10 to two, in which case the bill would have absolutely no effect on the way those trials proceeded. Retrials would be inevitable because the bill provides only for 11 to one majority verdicts.
On that basis the bill is fundamentally misconceived because there is no evidence about the reason for the increased number of hung juries. The sensible and logical position of the Government is that if there is a real problem it must be fixed: if the golden thread of the English common law must be unravelled and put together again, so be it. However, the Government will not unravel the golden thread until it is sure that is necessary. We do not know that the reason for the increase is the number of 11 to one majority verdicts. The honourable member for Hurstville indicated that some time ago the Government asked the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research to carry out a 12-month study into the problem. If there has in fact been a significant increase, and if the problem of hung juries can be cured by 11 to one majority verdicts, perhaps old common lawyers like me might be persuaded that changing the law has merit. However, at the moment there is no evidence to suggest that the Opposition's proposal will make any real difference.
The honourable member for Burrinjuck used the simplistic argument - indeed, one might say the simpleton's argument - that majority verdicts should be introduced because that is how things are done in a democracy, and that is how decisions in the Parliament are made. The Parliament makes majority decisions to pass legislation, but Parliament is not making decisions about the guilt or innocence of people charged with indictable offences for which they may be sentenced to gaol. That is a fundamentally different decision. The argument of the honourable member for Burrinjuck contains an even greater flaw. If his argument is followed through, this bill is a nonsense. If the logic of his argument is followed through, this bill should provide for seven to five majority verdicts, not 11 to one majority verdicts. The honourable member's argument either stands on its own ground - that is, there should be a majority decision or a 50 per cent plus one decision - or it does not. That is what the honourable member wants, but that is not what this bill does.
The honourable member for Burrinjuck suggested that at present a person cannot be judged by a jury of his or her peers because of the jury selection system. If that is correct, that is an argument for straightening out the jury selection process; it is not necessarily an argument in favour of introducing majority verdicts. The honourable member clearly does not understand how juries are selected or what they look like. I have seen enough juries in enough courts in this State to know that juries are indeed representative of their local communities. It may well be that if the honourable member found himself before a jury at Liverpool he might find he was not being judged by his peers, but I know as a matter of fact that the juries at
Liverpool are genuinely representative of the local community. It would not take much effort to find that out. As I said, the principle of unanimous verdicts is significant. If there is clear evidence that the law needs to be overturned, so be it. However, we do not yet have clear evidence of that.
Mr RICHARDSON (The Hills) [11.18 a.m.]: I listened with interest to the comments of the honourable member for Liverpool. Some of the points he made have validity. This issue hinges on the criminal standard of proof, that is, the words "beyond reasonable doubt". The standard of proof in civil proceedings, of course, is different; it is not proof beyond reasonable doubt but proof on the balance of probabilities. That goes to the heart of this bill. The honourable member for Liverpool referred to the possibility of seven to five verdicts. Clearly, if only five members of a jury voted to convict, the charge would not be proven beyond reasonable doubt. That is not what the bill introduced by the honourable member for Eastwood proposes.
The bill simply suggests that if one juror, and one juror only out of a jury of 10, 11 or 12 does not agree with the rest, that could result in a majority verdict. There is a huge difference between the disagreement of one out of 12 and the disagreement of five out of 12. New South Wales appears to have set itself above most of the rest of Australia and most of the rest of the English-speaking world, because since 1927 in South Australia majority verdicts - 10 jurors out of 12 - have been in place in criminal trials; in Tasmania majority verdicts have been in place since 1936; in Western Australia they have been in place since 1960; in the Northern Territory they have operated since 1963; in the United Kingdom they have operated since 1967; and in Victoria they have been in place since 1994. The only two Australian States that are currently holding out on majority verdicts are New South Wales and Queensland.
Given the result in the famous "Joh's Jury" perjury trial, I am surprised that members of the Labor Party would oppose the bill of the honourable member for Eastwood. In that case there was a juror who, the implication is, was to an extent biased in favour of the accused person. The individual juror held out and Joh Bjelke-Petersen was acquitted. I do not want to canvass that particular decision, but it does show that an individual juror can exercise an enormous influence within the jury room. It is possible under the current system for a single juror to be bribed or coerced into holding out when a unanimous verdict might be impossible. It is possible for a person who entertains doubts about the guilt of an accused to be coerced or persuaded by other jurors into accepting a majority verdict, perhaps so that jury members can go home.
I am sure that the honourable member for Liverpool, had he remained in the Chamber, would agree that jury members decide that the case has gone on for long enough and that they want to go home. The honourable member for Liverpool spoke about his concerns that the bill of the honourable member for Eastwood covers capital crimes. I, too, would have genuine concerns about that if this State allowed capital punishment. Fortunately, that is not the case, and therefore those concerns do not apply. I would hope that this State never returns to the position mentioned in Gareth Griffith's excellent briefing paper of juries being compelled by starvation to reach a unanimous verdict. I suspect that we have long since advanced beyond that point. The Griffith document refers to a paper written by Gerry Maher, Lecturer in Jurisprudence at Glasgow University, who in 1988 held that "unanimity is not a necessary pre-condition of establishing proof beyond reasonable doubt". The briefing paper states:
Maher commented that, for legal purposes, proof beyond reasonable doubt can be characterised as "probability at a level of practical certainty, that is the situation where the prosecution case shows that by appeal to these generalisations [about human acts and the human environment] the only consistent and coherent story which can be made of all the (credible) evidence of a case is that the accused is guilty".
The question before honourable members is: whether the fact that there is one juror who is not absolutely convinced of the guilt of an accused means that the case is not proved beyond reasonable doubt; or are we saying, conversely, that for a person to be found guilty the standard of proof should be not beyond reasonable doubt but beyond any doubt whatsoever? That is not the case in any jury system in the world, and it is certainly not the case in New South Wales. That is why I believe that the argument advanced by the honourable member for Liverpool and the honourable member for Hurstville tends to fall rather flat. Members of the Law Reform Commission when discussing this matter could not agree themselves, so it is clear that they had not been able to apply that standard of proof to their judgment - they were not able to say that beyond reasonable doubt they all agreed unanimously that unanimous jury verdicts should be maintained.
The Cheatle case and the Black case are germane to this debate. In the Cheatle case the High Court decision was unanimous but in the Black case it was not. Among members of the High Court there is a clear difference of opinion in regard to vexed issues such as this. That was so in the Wik case and
in the Kable case, which I brought before the House on an earlier occasion. It is, in fact, rare that the High Court should be unanimous on these issues. While it was unanimous in the Cheatle case in supporting unanimous jury verdicts, there were nevertheless elements of doubt that were thrown up in the independent decisions of the various judges. In that case the High Court said that the requirement of unanimity:
. . . constitutes one of the hallmarks of the common law institution of criminal trial by jury in that there is a significant difference in nature between a deliberative process in which a verdict can be returned only if consensus or agreement is reached by all jurors and a process in which a specified number of jurors can override any dissent and return a majority verdict. The requirement of a unanimous verdict ensures that the representative character and the collective nature of the jury are carried forward into any ultimate verdict.
As I said before, the High Court is certainly not unanimous in every matter that is brought before it, and evidence from the legal and criminal justice systems of other jurisdictions indicates that majority verdicts seem to work well. South Australia has had majority verdicts for some 70 years now, and I do not think any of us would consider South Australia to be the sort of place where justice is neither done nor seen to be done. The Black case is enormously germane to the bill. In that case Mr Black appealed to the High Court on the basis of the instructions that had been given by the judge to the jury. The instructions given by the judge had been given historically in every criminal trial in New South Wales. Among other things, the judge reminded jury members:
. . . you have a duty, not only as individuals but also collectively. No one of you should be false to the oath you took but in order to return a collective verdict, a verdict of you all, there must necessarily be discussion and argument and a certain amount of give and take and adjustment within the scope of that oath.
It makes for considerable public inconvenience and expense if a jury cannot agree and it is most unfortunate indeed if such a failure to agree is due to some unwillingness on the part of one or more members of the jury to listen to and consider the arguments of the rest of the jury.
In the Black case the High Court held that the instruction given was inappropriate because it tended to suggest to jurors who might have some doubts about the evidence that they ought to be going along with the majority view. Indeed, that is what happens currently within the jury room. There may well be a persuasive member of the jury - a persuasive foreman or somebody who is articulate and has understood what might be a very complex matter that has been placed before the court. That person, by the force and weight of his arguments, may well decide the course of the case.
To suggest that does not happen now is to deny human nature. One reason a juror may not find a person guilty is that he basically does not understand the evidence, it may be too complex for that juror, in which case discussions in the jury room may help to clarify his or her mind about the guilt or innocence of the accused. Black's case has led to the significant increase in the number of hung juries from 3.2 per cent in 1992-93 to 6.2 per cent in 1994-95. According to Gareth Griffith, that is acknowledged by Mr Justice Allen, who stated:
The practical effects of Black must be recognised if there is to be a rational approach in debate to the continuance of the requirement that the jury's verdict be unanimous. Any change to that requirement is one which will require legislative intervention.
Indeed, the honourable member for Eastwood has done just that: he introduced a timely and appropriate bill, and I encourage Government members to change their position about it. The cost to the community of not having majority verdicts is not the only consideration; the cost to the victims of crime should also be considered.
Pursuant to sessional orders business interrupted.
ARMENIAN GENOCIDE COMMEMORATION
Mr COLLINS (Willoughby - Leader of the Opposition) [11.31 a.m.]: I move:
That, whereas 24 April 1997 marks the occasion of the eighty-second anniversary of the commemoration of the genocide of the Armenians by the then Ottoman Government between 1915-1922, this House:
(a) joins the members of the New South Wales Armenian community in honouring the memory of the 1.5 million men, women and children who fell victim to the first genocide to the twentieth century;
(b) condemns the genocide of the Armenians and all other acts of genocide committed during our century as the ultimate act of racial, religious and cultural intolerance;
(c) recognises the importance of remembering and learning from such dark chapters in human history to ensure that such crimes against humanity are not allowed to be repeated;
(d) condemns and prevents all attempts to use the passage of time to deny or distort the historical truth of the genocide of the Armenians and other acts of genocide committed during this century;
(e) designates 24 April in every year hereafter throughout New South Wales as a day of remembrance of the 1.5 million Armenians who fell victim to the first genocide of this century; and
(f) calls on the Commonwealth Government to officially condemn the genocide of the Armenians and any attempt to deny such crimes against humanity.
On 25 April Australia will commemorate the anniversary of its baptism of fire. Australians will remember that day in 1915 when young Australians strode ashore below the steep slopes of Gallipoli on the faraway Dardanelles Peninsula. It is a day that we have come to regard as decisive in our national history and definitive of our national character. But as the allies gathered near Anzac Cove the previous night, another momentous event was unfolding in nearby Constantinople. The same sun that set on that Anzac armada also cast a portentous shadow over the bodies of hundreds of Armenian community leaders who had died that day at the hands of the Ottoman Government of Turkey. They were political, cultural, business, profession and religious leaders, and their deaths marked the beginning of a terrifying genocide, the first of the twentieth century.
These two historical events might differ in character and severity - one cost hundreds of Australian lives, the other cost 1.5 million Armenian lives - but they have each come to represent something profound, meaningful and powerful to their respective peoples. It is an interesting accident of history that the peoples of Australia and Armenia celebrate, just one day apart, what are arguably their most important national occasions. It is not an accident of history that people choose days of national tragedy in which to vest such significance. The genocide of 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of the Young Turk Government from 1915 was a purposeful attempt to eradicate the Armenian people.
Living primarily on ancestral lands in the eastern provinces of the Ottoman empire, the Armenians represented a physical, political, cultural and religious obstacle to an homogenised Turkic empire. The architects of the genocide - Ismail Enver Pasha, Mehmed Talaat Pasha and Ahmed Djemal Pasha - were inspired by a will to replace the multiethnic and multireligious Ottoman empire with a pure Pan-Turkic empire stretching from the Bosphorus to central Asia. At that time more than half the approximately 2.5 million Armenians were systematically exterminated. They were executed using all of the available technology to coordinate and carry out the terrifying campaign. Cipher telegrams were used to transmit messages and modern transport was used to transport sections of the population en masse to death camps in the Syrian Desert. Many people were executed in their towns and villages or on death marches towards the desert camps of Deir Zor in Syria. Those Armenian males not executed were conscripted into the Ottoman army, disarmed and put in special labour battalions. Most were either literally worked to death or killed when they outlived their usefulness.
Most Armenian political, religious and cultural leaders were arrested and murdered, beginning with the arrests on 24 April 1915. The remaining population of the elderly, women and children were rounded up by special organisation death squads and either forcibly converted to Islam, raped or massacred. Of the survivors, most were deported from their ancestral lands and exiled around the world. While the genocide was being carried out, almost all major powers condemned the Ottoman Government's campaign of executions. Yet it continued unchecked. History will forever record that odious fact, in the same way it will record the world's seeming inaction over genocide in Germany, Eritrea, Cambodia, the former Yugoslavia and, as we speak, in the jungles of Africa.
All successive Turkish governments, but for that of Damad Ferit Pash, who was in power immediately after World War I, have denied there ever was a genocide; instead they have claimed that the Armenian population, caught in a so-called war zone, was merely relocated for its safety. Today in Ankara there is even a mausoleum honouring the principal architect of the genocide, Talaat Pasha. Perhaps history can be denied, but it cannot be forgotten. These traumatic events may be decades old, but the memory of the Armenian people will not dim with the passing of time. Today, members of the Armenian community in Australia number between 30,000 and 35,000, and come from more than 20 countries. A number of those Armenians are present in the gallery today.
For the past three decades the Armenian community has played a significant role in helping shape the vibrant, cosmopolitan culture that characterises my electorate. I am fortunate to have witnessed what the community has achieved in that time, especially during the past 16 years as the member for Willoughby. Having left war-torn countries in the Middle East, many Armenians established small businesses which thrive decades later in today's competitive environment. In citizenship, as in commerce, the Armenian community is invaluable to our nation. I know that Armenian community leaders make great efforts to instil values of citizenship within the young members of their community.
Australian Armenians are encouraged by their parents and teachers to become active and involved in community organisations. They are taught the importance of creating a society where tolerance is commonplace, where hard work is rewarded, and where individuals are given every opportunity to reach their full potential. Nothing could be more Australian than the Armenian fair go mentality. Especially during times of adversity the Armenian community has mobilised and worked towards a common purpose. Like many honourable members, I vividly remember 7 December 1988, when news began breaking of the horrific earthquake in the Republic of Armenia, which resulted in tens of thousands of deaths.
I well remember walking into the Armenian Cultural Centre that day, where scores of workers had already started the job of collecting emergency supplies to dispatch. That effort was matched by the contribution of the Government, of which I was privileged to be a Minister. It is no surprise that the Armenian community responded so quickly and purposefully. Throughout their history the Armenian people have endured enormous hardship, faced genocide, and more. But the enduring characteristic of the Armenian people is survival and growth, and most of the Armenians who have made proud new lives here are the children or grandchildren of the survivors of the genocide. A handful of the survivors live among us. Although those survivors, like our Anzacs, will leave us one by one in the years to come, we will honour their memory and regard them as sentinels, as reminders, that we must never, ever forget. I commend the motion to the House.
Mr CARR (Maroubra - Premier, Minister for the Arts, and Minister for Ethnic Affairs) [11.40 a.m.]: On behalf of the Government I support the motion. In 1988, when I was Leader of the Opposition, I attended my first Armenian genocide commemoration, a day I vividly remember. I recall the unique atmosphere in the concert hall of the Opera House that evening, an atmosphere at once mournful and vibrant. It was vibrant with the celebration of the special culture of the Armenian people, their literature, their music and their dance; but it was mournful with the vivid recollection of the terrible tragedy that lies at the heart of the Armenian experience this century.
Why is it appropriate that the New South Wales Parliament commemorate the Armenian genocide? First, because it was the first known genocide of the twentieth century. This century will be seen as a tragic one, in which crimes against humanity dwarf all except, perhaps, those of ancient times. The first great genocide of this century was that which befell the Armenian people. Second, it is appropriate that the Parliament carry this motion because the Armenian community is part of the Australian community. Armenians in Australia understand that we welcome them to our shores as part of one of the world's unique cultures, and they wear their Australian citizenship with pride.
That is what we mean by our multiculturalism. They are the reasons why it is appropriate for the Parliament to weigh the implications of this motion and endorse it with the support of all members. In February the visit of the Armenian Patriarch reminded us of the ancient character of Armenian civilisation. The Armenians can be traced back to Roman times. They were a Christian community that made a significant contribution to the development of the Christian faith in its earliest history. The Patriarch embodies that history and he is a custodian of that faith, that culture, that history.
We reflect on the sheer scale of the Armenian genocide and its implications. That genocide began on 24 April 1915 with the slaughter of more than 200 Armenian leaders in Constantinople and was extended throughout the Ottoman empire and Asia Minor, and by 1918 almost three-quarters of the Armenian population had been put to death. Adolf Hitler is on record as justifying the Nazi genocide of European jewry. He said he could get away with it because, after all, who in the 1940s recollects what happened to the Armenians.
Those chilling words from the Nazi tyrant remind us that the Armenian genocide ushered in a century of huge crimes against humanity: it was the first of a series of crimes in this century. Some half million survivors fled Turkey, Asia, and the Middle East to rebuild their lives in countries that offered a refuge, including Australia. Once again our country was able to offer a generous and welcoming shore to people who had sustained terrible hardship, and had survived monstrous treatment in unhappier parts of the globe. Today more Armenians live outside the Republic of Armenia than within it. We reflect that there was a cultural genocide. Today, on our planet, cultural diversity is a great goal.
The destruction of churches and the elimination of peoples is the destruction of cultural diversity on this planet. We think of this when we think about the Balkans, the Hungarian minority in Romania, the hill tribes in South-east Asia, the indigenous people in Australia and North America and some of the terrible genocides in Africa. When we witness those events we witness the elimination of the globe's cultural diversity. This is something
we are forced to reflect on following the experience of Armenians this century. Surviving monuments and artefacts of Armenian civilisation are testimony to that nation, as is their acceptance of Christianity as a State religion in the year 301. The remaining churches represent a unique cultural and architectural style and reflect the rich Armenian civilisation. Today, as a result of the work of Armenians around the world - including that in Australia and the United States - an increasing number of people are aware, first, of how tumultuous Armenian history has been, and second, of the scale of crimes committed against them which began in 1915. Turkey must face up, as Germany has, to crimes committed in its name.
The Armenian people are right to insist that this great crime against their people, their culture and the universal rights of humankind must be acknowledged. Today there is an independent State of Armenia that embodies the cultural achievements, history and religious faith of its people. This homeland offers them a sense of security and belonging that they did not possess in 1915. Above all it is built on a commemoration of the tragedy that lies at the heart of Armenian history in this century. We in the New South Wales Parliament, speaking on behalf of the people of this culturally diverse and democratic State, acknowledge that tragedy. We stand alongside representatives of the Armenian people in our State in saying that the world must acknowledge this tragedy that we commemorate today.
Mr PHOTIOS (Ermington) [11.50 a.m.]: As a citizen of Australia whose grandparents fled the Turkish occupation of Kastellorizon Island in the Mediterranean Sea, I appreciate the full dimension of social and human tragedy at both the personal and family level that followed the chilling tragedy of this appalling genocide. Honourable members can witness tragedy at a community level but there is something that is very reassuring about the Australian Armenians of today. Debates such as this in Parliaments throughout the world celebrate in a solemn way the significance of one of the world's most horrendous genocides.
As the member for Ermington, a previous member for Ryde, and Minister for Multicultural and Ethnic Affairs in the previous Government, I had the good fortune, like members of both sides of this House on a very bipartisan basis, to have Armenian Australians among my friends. It is extraordinary that these hardworking people are committed to their personal and family lives and to a nation and environment which in many ways is far removed from 24 April 1915 - so distant as to be a mere memory for most of the relatives and descendants of the genocide. For those people whose personal space is dictated by the issues of contemporary Australia, there remains in their hearts, minds, bodies and souls a very special memory for the tragedy, the devastation and the appalling disgrace on the face of humanity that was inflicted on 1.5 million human beings of Armenian descent.
It is a credit of the first order that both in small measure here in the Chamber and among the 35,000 Armenian Australians throughout our nation, today we are remembering, and will continue to remember, the significance and the tragedy - for the community and for the world equally - of a devastation that we must never forget. Those who can perform their daily chores and endure the stress and trauma of contemporary life but can still, with so much sincerity, remember the devastation that was inflicted upon so many - they deserve the credit of all of us and our complete support.
From 24 April 1915 until 1923 a systematic, barbaric, inhuman and appalling tragedy was inflicted upon a small race of people by a giant. The Ottomans and the Turks can never be forgiven for what they inflicted on the Armenian community. In the very least the Turkish Government of today should pause, remember and admit - in much the same way that modern Germany has in large measure faced up to the reality of the Jewish genocide by Adolf Hitler. There is in the hearts and minds of fellow human beings a great void in the absence of that admission and that apology.
As one who, like the Leader of the Opposition and the Premier, has participated in many Armenian events, as has the honourable member for Gladesville, who will shortly speak in this modest but important debate, I know very well that in the hearts and minds of all of us who have been with Armenians and felt and lived the tragedy with them there is a real respect for their demand for the acknowledgment of this genocide by the Turkish Government. On 2 May 1996 I said:
Even today, I and others around the world note that the perpetrators of the genocide continue to deny their heinous crime. I want to restate the history without censorship, on a bipartisan basis. I also want to offer to those direct descendants and to those who share the hurt of the tragedy and devastation of that loss our absolute determination to remember, now and in future years as the anniversary of the loss of the 1.5 million Armenians is noted, the crimes for which they were positively condemned, which allegedly provided the Ottomans with the justification to commit genocidal crimes again and again.
Shame on the perpetrators of that genocide. [Time expired.]
Mr WATKINS (Gladesville) [11.55 a.m.]: It is a great honour to speak to this motion by the Leader of the Opposition. It is important to note that in New South Wales there is a bipartisan approach to this issue, and it is good to see that the Premier and the Leader of the Opposition are strong advocates for the Armenian cause. I am especially pleased that the Premier is to be a guest speaker at the Armenian genocide commemoration next week. It is apt that the Leader of the Opposition and I take part in this debate because our electorates are blessed with the highest concentration of Armenian people living in Sydney.
Speaking in this debate is a sombre and sacred duty, for it commemorates the lives and tragic deaths of those 1.5 million people. That genocide, which has become known as the first genocide of the twentieth century, was largely hidden under the cover of a major international conflict, World War I. As we know, it began on 15 April with the slaughter of Armenian intellectuals in Istanbul, and the massacre of other Armenians soon followed all over Turkish Armenia and Asia Minor. Between 1915 and 1918 and in the years following, about 1.5 million out of 2.5 million Armenian people were put to death. A mass of displaced survivors, traumatised and grief stricken, were then forced to flee in a diaspora that was a precursor to a sad list of similar movements this century.
Despite the existence of official and eyewitness accounts, the Armenian genocide is often referred to as the forgotten genocide. But in recent times, with a growing awareness of the Holocaust and a commitment to the prevention of the crime of genocide, there has been an increasing interest in and awareness of the issues raised by the Armenian genocide. In Sydney that is supported by the work of Professor Colin Tatz at Macquarie University at the centre for genocide studies. There, with the strong support of the Armenian community, important work is being done in researching and revealing to modern Australia the tragic reality of the Armenian genocide. That tragedy is alive in the memory of all Armenian people and it must remain alive.
Australia has provided a haven to many victims of that tragedy and today approximately 35,000 Armenians live here. The victims and their descendants are custodians of the tragedy they experienced. In remembering the tragedy they remind us all that acts of genocide must not happen again. Their sacred act of remembrance must touch us all. The memories they cherish should become part of our memory. I commend the Armenian people in Australia for their courage, vitality, skills and energy. In Australia they have gathered strength and courage to rebuild their lives and they have done so with exceptional success. The Armenian community has much to be proud of. It has developed a social infrastructure which supports and promotes the needs and aspirations of its people.
Education is especially important to Armenians, and they run three very successful schools in Sydney. They have also established a kindergarten for the young and a nursing home for the aged; they excel in business and professional fields; and they contribute actively to the economic and political life of this country. One of the most important recent events for the community in Australia was the visit of His Holiness Kapekin I, the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of all Armenia. His Holiness was a humble, humorous and inspiring speaker; a brilliant man. He is a great world churchman who had comforting and challenging words for the Armenian community in Australia.
His words echoed with the beauty of the Armenian homeland, the determination of the Armenian struggle and the sadness of the Armenian experience. I was especially moved by his discussion of what it means to be an Armenian in Australia today and the movement from refugee status to full inclusion and engagement in the society they have chosen to live and work in and embrace. This is at a time when their ancestral home is at last safe and secure. Since independence Armenia has entered a new period of rejuvenation and its future is bright. His Holiness stressed the importance of the now-independent homeland of Armenia to all Armenians, and spoke of the importance and relevance of the ancient Armenian culture and faith to all Armenians in Australia. I am sure his visit will live long in his memory and in the memories of local Armenians.
The motion rightly calls on this House to honour the victims, condemn the genocide, recognise the need to remember and learn, condemn attempts to distort the historical truth, and designate 24 April as a day of remembrance in New South Wales. It also calls on the Federal Government to act to condemn the genocide. I urge the Federal Government to do so. If it does, it will not be standing alone. The European Parliament in 1987, the duma of the Russian Parliament in 1994, the Canadian Parliament in 1996 and many others have done so and the Australian Federal Government should do the same. It is a great honour to speak in support of this motion.
Motion agreed to.
LAKEMBA ELECTORATE STREET PROSTITUTION
Mr STEWART (Lakemba) [12.02 p.m.]: I move:
That this House congratulates the Government for its initiatives in terms of significantly reducing illegal street prostitution along Canterbury Road and in surrounding areas.
At the outset, it is important to note that this motion has implications and applications for the entire New South Wales community. This is because illegal street prostitution is not only a problem in my electorate and surrounding areas, it is also beginning to spread from its more traditional Kings Cross-Darlinghurst base to other inner city areas, some parts of Parramatta Road, the Great Western Highway at Blacktown, the Hume Highway at Liverpool, the Newcastle region and other parts of regional New South Wales. The vast majority of the New South Wales community would not like to have - as is the case within my own electorate - illegal street prostitutes, with their clients, their pimps and their habits, operating in or near residential amenities and streets.
Sydney is soon to host the 2000 Olympic Games and the world spotlight is already on this city and this State. I am sure that Sydneysiders and the wider New South Wales community do not want this city and State depicted in terms of endless red light districts and towns where illegal street sex and other associated vices are freely available and visible. Putting that issue aside, there are other, more important problems and concerns relating to the operation of illegal street prostitution and its effects on the wider community. Unregulated, illegal street prostitution is, I am advised, the major catalyst for the spread of HIV infection and hepatitis B throughout the heterosexual and gay communities in New South Wales. I have been advised by police that the majority of illegal street prostitutes along Canterbury Road suffer from major drug addiction, many are heroin addicts and many are known carriers of hepatitis B and HIV infection.
I have been further advised that many illegal street prostitutes that operate along Canterbury Road, and in the Belmore, Lakemba, Wiley Park and Punchbowl regions, will provide their clients with unprotected sex for an additional payment of $10 or $20. Unprotected sex is freely available from these street prostitutes. Given that street prostitutes and heroin addicts fall into the highest risk category for HIV and hepatitis B infection, the fact that unprotected sex is freely available from illegal street prostitutes causes extreme alarm and concern to the public at large. In an attempt to address these concerns and in the face of the huge public outcry about the spread of HIV infection, a mobile needle exchange unit began along Canterbury Road and surrounding areas several years ago. The program involved a van driving around to the vicinity of street prostitution to provide the prostitutes with free syringes and condoms. Those items were also provided to habitual drug users.
In July last year I was astonished when I was informed that during 1995 the mobile needle exchange service, which is linked to another service in Canterbury Hospital, distributed a total of 175,729 syringes but could account for only 112,925 syringes being returned. It has me baffled how such a service could be called an exchange program when, during a period of 12 months, more than 60,000 deadly needles were not returned to the exchange program. Many thousands of deadly used syringes have been dumped on local streets and in public amenities. It is well known that the majority of such syringes are dumped by street prostitutes, most of whom are heroin addicts. Residents in the area of Drummond Street, Belmore, have told me that in the past it was a daily ritual to pick up used syringes from their front yards, and Canterbury City Council has had to employ full-time specialist cleaners whose sole job is to pick up used syringes from local streets frequented by street prostitutes.
Another service which is being provided for illegal street prostitutes is the Sex Workers Outreach Program or SWOP. The SWOP service, together with the mobile needle exchange program, has now been moved off the streets and to a special unit at Canterbury Hospital where the services can operate in a more regulated and accountable environment, an environment that does not affect the amenities of residents in surrounding areas. I thank the Minister for Health for his support because it is clear that these services had, to a large degree, outlived their usefulness and were not, so far as I am concerned, servicing their clientele effectively. Results have proved that. Importantly, there needed to be proper accountability for their operations and that has now occurred under this Government.
The SWOP program, which previously operated in local streets and along Canterbury Road, was moved to Canterbury Hospital and is now a viable operation. I believe it should remain at Canterbury Hospital. The SWOP program provides street prostitutes who operate in the vicinity of Canterbury Road with free condoms, syringes and lubricant. The program was moved to Canterbury Hospital because local residents, Canterbury City Council and I considered that the SWOP program was operating in dramatic contradiction to recent
strong police initiatives aimed at eliminating illegal street prostitution within the electorate of Lakemba and surrounding areas. In fact, I was advised by local police and local residents that the SWOP program and its workers were encouraging additional street prostitution and not eliminating it.
The fact that unprotected sex was freely available in the area demonstrated that so far as the focus and initiative of SWOP was concerned, it was not working on the streets. It needs to be pointed out that occurrences of illegal street prostitution along Canterbury Road and surrounding areas is not an age-old phenomenon in the Lakemba electorate. Strong public concern about this issue can be traced back to the early 1980s. In fact, the first public meetings were held in 1979 when the issue arose in the local community. From 1989 to 1995 illegal street prostitution had become prolific in the area. During the coalition's seven years in office it totally failed to address the problem of street prostitutes in my community.
In March 1989 a local anti-prostitution group headed by Barbara Coorey, who is now a councillor on Canterbury City Council, addressed the situation by carrying out an extensive survey throughout my local area. The area surveyed comprised Punchbowl through to Canterbury. A total of 2,464 residents and business people were surveyed and 93 per cent said they were aware of street prostitution, were gravely concerned about it, and wanted the Government to do something about it urgently. It was not until 1995, when the Carr Labor Government was elected, that this problem was finally addressed. For seven long years while the coalition was in government this problem was ignored by them, leaving my local community to fend for itself without adequate police or proper resources to deal with the situation.
The results of seven years of neglect by the coalition have been catastrophic for my local community. Residential and public amenities have been devastated because of the impact of illegal street prostitution, which has been well documented in this House. The Carr Labor Government, through the initiatives of the Minister for Police, has had the guts and integrity to tackle this problem and to do something about it. In October 1995 the Minister initiated Operation Crystals. Illegal street prostitution is at long last being eliminated and is being dealt with effectively by local police.
Today I am pleased to inform the House that the Carr Labor Government, unlike the previous coalition Government, has not ignored the pleas and needs of residents of the Lakemba electorate and surrounding areas. The Minister deserves great credit for his positive and prompt action on this difficult matter. Operation Crystals has been one of the most successful police operations to be initiated in the last 10 years in this State, and the results are obvious. Since its inception 208 arrests have been made and 309 charges laid relating to street prostitution offences. Amazingly - and this is testament to the great work of the police - there has been a 100 per cent conviction rate for 208 arrests. Prostitutes, pimps and clients are getting a dramatic message from this Government about illegal street prostitution: get off the streets, and give the streets back to the community. [Time expired.]
Mr TINK (Eastwood) [12.12 p.m.]: I sympathise with the honourable member for Lakemba in relation to prostitution along Canterbury Road. It is a longstanding problem which, as the Minister for Police recognised on 16 April 1996, has concerned previous governments - plural. Despite the criticism levelled at the Opposition by the honourable member for Lakemba, it is important to remember the words of the Minister for Police on 16 April, as reported in Hansard, that this has been a matter of concern to a number of successive governments. And so it should be.
Street prostitution can result in personal tragedy. In one extraordinary case reported in the Sydney Morning Herald on 11 October 1996, a 15-year-old girl was arrested on Canterbury Road, Lakemba only eight days after having been charged with prostitution in the same area. She was granted bail on the condition that she live at her mother's house. Within a day she and her mother had argued and the girl had fled back to the same area. That example underscores the human tragedy involved in street prostitution. We are often critical of individuals, but at a personal level, taking into account parental responsibility and other factors, life for some people is hard and complicated. The problem is a huge concern to the community generally, and at the end of the day that must be the primary focus of our concern.
The Disorderly Houses Amendment Act is designed in part to draw people away from street prostitution and into a more ordered and less obvious environment. However, the Opposition has some extraordinary concerns about that Act, and in particular about the way in which local environment plans are being dealt with by the Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning. The Opposition's view is that the Act involves decriminalisation, not legalisation, of brothels. The Minister's attitude to local environment plans of various councils is, in effect, that prostitution is now legal, that the brothel
industry is now legal, as distinct from being decriminalised. The Opposition has a problem with that, and plans to revisit the issue.
This morning I spoke with the shadow minister for local government in preparation for this debate. He reinforced his extreme concerns about the implementation of the Act. It is important to refer to that Act in the context of this debate, because the situation in Lakemba played a significant part in its enactment. It is also important for another reason: I understand that some councils in the general Lakemba area are concerned about the operation of the Act. In June 1996, the then Mayor of Bankstown, Councillor Lee, expressed concerns about the operation of the Act. Those concerns have been borne out recently by other councils in the area. It is important to put these matters on the record to show the concerns held by the Opposition and certainly by some local councillors about the great deal of work that still has to be done with the Disorderly Houses Amendment Act.
I hope Government members will impress upon the Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning the concerns of many people about the way local environmental plans are being interpreted under the Act. It is certainly not the way the Opposition understood or anticipated they would be interpreted. The other issue I wish to raise is that of policing in the area. Whatever success police have had in recent times in dealing with street prostitution, it is obvious that it has been achieved under the existing patrol structure. I know that the Commissioner for Police has targeted a number of inner western Sydney patrols for some radical surgery and certainly that is also the view of the Minister for Police.
There has been much discussion about what Professor Walker first raised in his Council on the Cost of Government report on police stations, in which he said that the distance between police stations in the inner west was governed by the speed at which a horse could gallop, because the stations were built in the nineteenth century. Therefore, the current location and organisation of inner western police stations is governed by nineteenth century transport concepts built around the speed of a horse. It is important to put on the record a matter which is highly relevant to this debate. The Opposition believes it is far too simplistic to reorganise police stations in the inner west based on the fact that they were designed around the speed of a horse.
In many inner western locations, many middle ring suburbs of Sydney, there is a significant increase in the density of housing. Areas are changing dramatically in terms of the number of people who live there, the growth in village-style living, the growth in local community living and reliance on public transport. A lot more people are walking rather than driving and are more and more focused locally and living in increasing density. Whilst the speed of a horse might have been responsible 100 or 120 years ago for determining the distances between police stations, it remains nevertheless a valid reason to have a significant deployment of stations in that area because of the population density and the changing demographics. I am not familiar with the proposals for the inner west but honourable members certainly know of some of the draft plans.
The police commander in my area has briefed me on what is happening in the area, but I do not know what is happening in Lakemba. The proposal in the Walker report is that Lakemba and Campsie patrols be amalgamated into Canterbury patrol. Other amalgamations are proposed for the patrols that police the Canterbury Road area. I make the point that whatever successes have occurred have occurred under the current system. I am concerned that patrols being amalgamated into larger commands and police leadership becoming more remote from local communities will result in a loss of local knowledge. Also, patrol commanders will focus on problems such as prostitution, about which the honourable member for Lakemba is rightly concerned.
The current system provides for three commanders, who focus on local issues; under the proposed amalgamation of Lakemba and Campsie patrols with Canterbury patrol there will be only one commander. Under the Walker model the commander would undertake work relating not only to Canterbury but also to Campsie and Lakemba. That would result in a derogation of the good work undertaken by the police to solve the crime problems in Lakemba, particularly those relating to prostitution. I have some sympathy for the honourable member for Lakemba. I hope that progress is being made to police illegal prostitution. I wish the police well. It is worth recording that the problems are occurring under the current system, not the proposed system. I am concerned about the impact of the proposed system on policing. In conclusion, it is fair to say that this has been a genuine concern of multiple governments, not simply the current Government. [Time expired.]
Mr GAUDRY (Newcastle) [12.22 p.m.]: I join the honourable member for Lakemba in congratulating the Government on its initiatives to reduce significantly illegal street prostitution along Canterbury Road and in surrounding areas. I
congratulate the honourable member for Lakemba on his persistence in standing up for his community. That support has led the way for action to be taken against illegal street prostitution. I discussed with the honourable member the concerns in my community because, as has been said, illegal street prostitution is a problem in many areas of the State. It is certainly a problem in Islington, a suburb in my electorate. The people of Islington have been under constant harassment and stress because of illegal street prostitution. It is ironic that much of the preliminary work for reforming the Disorderly Houses Act was done in the city of Newcastle, which is a sea port, because unregulated prostitution in brothels had been occurring for a long time.
Amendments to the Disorderly Houses Act were seen as an opportunity to regulate the industry, to ensure that the industry was not having an impact on residential areas and to enable the city council to oversight the industry. One unforeseen and collateral result of that was an increase in street prostitution. I suppose there was an economic imperative for that increase - perhaps sex at a lower price, if I may put it that way. The increase in street prostitution has been accompanied by a fear in the Islington community. They are concerned also about the link between prostitution and the drug industry, and about trawling of streets by potential customers and hoons on the lookout for street prostitutes or simply wanting to involve themselves in the excitement of it. Pimps do not operate solely to assist prostitutes but also to put fear into the community. Women and young girls in the area are being propositioned by potential customers, and used condoms and needles are being found on the streets. Add all those matters together and the result is of great concern in the community.
I pay tribute to the Minister for Police. I raised this matter with him after discussions with the honourable member for Lakemba. Existing police resources in Newcastle have been targeted at police prostitution. On 26 February this year the police, representatives of the council, community representatives and I attended a public meeting with 80 to 100 residents, who expressed in no uncertain terms their total dissatisfaction with what has happened to date. That meeting resulted in a multidisciplined approach in terms of a community audit and invocation of a similar response to that received by the honourable member for Lakemba in relation to Canterbury Road. Recently the police conducted an operation similar to Operation Crystals; seven charges relating to soliciting in view of dwellings and prostitution in view of a public place were laid.
Such problems are causing distress to those living in the area. Most of the dwellings are old-style houses that front on to the street. People are exchanging sex for money on verandahs, on footpaths, in cars and outside homes. Such conduct is not compatible with the amenity of the neighbourhood, quite apart from the fact that it is an illegal activity that induces fear, confusion and concern in the community. I congratulate the honourable member for Lakemba on his diligence in pursuing this matter. I congratulate both the Minister for Police and the Police Service in my area on acting in conjunction with the community. [Time expired.]
Mr KERR (Cronulla) [12.27 p.m.]: This is an important issue for this House to debate. All honourable members have similar concerns to those expressed by the honourable member for Lakemba. The honourable member mentioned the needle exchange program. The disturbing figures he provided, which show an imbalance in the number of needles being distributed and the number being returned, indicate that it is not a needle exchange program but a needle supply program. The relationship between the sex industry and drug addiction has resulted in increased crime over the years. Honourable members will recall that the problems in the Bligh electorate in the inner city prompted the Parliament to establish a prostitution committee to undertake an investigation.
The genesis of the investigation was the anti-social behaviour of prostitutes and their clientele in the inner city. Large numbers of needles were being left on streets and footpaths, and could clearly have resulted in injury or even death to members of the public. That problem remains. As honourable members have said, a large number of illegal establishments continue to trade in the sex industry. The problem is no longer confined to the inner city but has spread to the suburbs. It is a matter that will require very strong action by the Government. The manifestations of the illegal activities are clearly unacceptable to the public. This most serious problem is growing and needs to be checked and reversed.
Mr WHELAN (Ashfield - Minister for Police) [12.30 p.m.]: I thank the honourable member for Lakemba and the honourable member for Waratah for speaking to this very important motion. I am well aware of their particular concerns about this matter. Both of their electorates suffered from the failure of the former Government to address this issue appropriately. I am pleased to be able to say that the Carr Government is taking steps to address street prostitution all over the State. In the Lakemba
electorate, Operation Crystals started in February 1995 and is an ongoing operation targeting street prostitution on Canterbury Road. Operation Crystals is conducted by the Georges River district vice enforcement squad. It is part of an intelligence-driven rostering system. As the honourable member for Lakemba said, street prostitution has been visibly reduced along Canterbury Road. Up to 31 December 1996 the yearly statistics relating to street prostitution on Canterbury Road were 180 arrests, 267 charges and 29 client arrests.
Under Operation Crystals the police have utilised a number of strategies in relation to street prostitution. These include providing high-profile patrolling to discourage clients; providing covert operations targeting clients, prostitutes and minders; providing high-profile police patrols to discourage clients; ensuring constant liaison with council and local members; providing education and training to local patrols to improve service delivery in response to prostitution issues; ensuring up-to-date intelligence on prostitutes; utilising available district and regional resources; monitoring court proceedings and penalties; requesting "No Standing Zone" signs in problem areas to discourage cars from stopping; liaising with other agencies, including taxation and immigration authorities; and providing education and training to local patrols to improve service delivery.
The honourable member for Newcastle has also brought to my attention his concerns about street prostitution. I am advised that on 26 February a public meeting was held at Islington which revealed an extreme state of anxiety and public concern regarding street prostitution. Approximately 80 local residents attended that meeting. A multi-focus police response was initiated immediately. A police caravan is regularly deployed, the minimum rostering being Thursday and Friday plus one other week night every week. The caravan is staffed by two police officers and is supported by well-known community figures. Foot and bicycle patrols are undertaken from the caravan; any suspect vehicles are to be stopped and all appropriate intelligence gathered and, if appropriate, action taken. The police are tasked to speak to as many local residents as possible, providing feedback on the policing activities.
The highway patrol has been specifically tasked to carry out mobile and stationary random breath-testing and speed enforcement using slant and KR10 stationary radar. It is to establish a stationary position and stop vehicles that are to be subject to a vehicle examination regarding defective equipment. Detectives are rostered on late-night shifts, that is, shifts from 9 p.m. or later. The police have assisted in the formation of the Islington Residents Action Group, which has met and is being supported by police and the local council. Planning is proceeding to conduct a safety audit in the Islington area. A local area traffic management plan has been devised by police, with consultation with the community and local council currently being conducted. The objective of this plan is to minimise undesirable traffic movements generated by activity associated with street prostitution.
I am advised by Inspector Andrews, the Acting Patrol Commander at Newcastle, that the initiatives that have been put in place in Islington are proving effective and are currently meeting community expectations. I am also advised that Operation Crystals has been initiated in the Islington area. On 4, 5 and 6 April the operation resulted in the arrest of seven people for street prostitution and related offences. I am pleased that the successful operation - piloted in the area of the honourable member for Lakemba - is being run in other areas of the State. I will be seeking further reports on the future of Operation Crystals, and I hope that its operations, whether in Islington, on the south coast or elsewhere, will be as successful. The honourable member for Wollongong has expressed his concern about the level of prostitution in Wollongong. It is my hope that as a result of his reporting to me the patrol commander in Wollongong will adopt the very successful Operation Crystals. Local police in all areas should be congratulated on their initiatives in this matter. I am sure that all honourable members will join me in expressing their thanks to the police for the job they are doing.
Mr STEWART (Lakemba) [12.35 p.m.], in reply: It is pleasing that concern about this issue has been reflected on both sides of the House. This is a very important issue to the community at large; it is not merely a parochial issue. Street prostitution is being dealt with very effectively by the present Government for the first time in many years. I am pleased to note that those Opposition members who contributed to the debate clearly recognise that the Government has achieved results in this matter. The honourable member for Eastwood spoke of the human toll involved in street prostitution. He mentioned in particular the case of a 15-year-old girl who had been engaged in prostitution on Canterbury Road and was caught and arrested twice fairly recently for that offence. Her case was certainly not an isolated one; girls as young as 12 and 13 have been engaged in prostitution on Canterbury Road. The situation is horrific and has to be dealt with.
The honourable member for Eastwood related to the House his extreme concerns about the
operation of the Disorderly Houses (Amendment) Act. While Opposition members may have concerns about the legislation, they did not express those concerns when amendments to the Act were moved. The Liberal coalition put forward no opposition to that legislation. There is a requirement for discussion about these issues in the context of local communities. It should be understood that illegal street prostitution does not have a real impact on the operation of brothels. Investigations have shown that prostitutes who work in brothels are not the same prostitutes who work on the streets. Prostitutes who work on the streets are often heroin addicts, people who are destitute financially, people who live unregulated lives and people who want to live in an unregulated environment. Involvement with a regulated brothel is not what they want. Street prostitutes operate within metres of legal brothels, yet still do not seek employment in those brothels. The issues of the Disorderly Houses (Amendment) Act and of street prostitutes are separate.
The honourable member for Eastwood spoke of recommendations made in the Walker report for the amalgamation of the Lakemba and Canterbury police patrols. It would appear that the honourable member has not done his homework in this regard. Police work on Operation Crystals has been carried out by the Georges River patrol district. Operation Crystals was established under the direction of the Minister for Police and is a specialised police operation dealing with street prostitution not only in my electorate but in other cities and regions of the State. It is clear that this difficulty is not being treated as a parochial issue, and that is the correct approach. I suggest that the honourable member for Eastwood re-examine this aspect. Operation Crystals is working because a specialised police squad is involved in its operation.
It is worth noting that the current legislation may need review. I speak particularly of the Summary Offences Act, which deals with street prostitution. As has been demonstrated in this debate, the person who is most commonly charged under the present legislation is the prostitute, who is basically the victim. The prostitute is often a destitute person, someone in very poor circumstances. There is no strong legislative emphasis on the clients or on the pimps. In the not-too-distant future I will be talking to the Minister for Police and the Attorney General about the possibility of strengthening the existing legislation in that regard. Strengthened legislation is required; the community is asking for it. The Victorian prostitution control legislation makes a clear client designation, and, rather than the focus being on the prostitute, that is what is needed in this State.
As a result of the hard work instigated by the Minister for Police and certainly as a result of the actions of the Carr Labor Government the people of New South Wales are now able to reclaim their streets. The Lakemba electorate and, indeed, the whole Canterbury area were left for dead for seven years under the previous coalition Government. They have now received the attention they deserve and need. For the first time illegal street prostitution has been visibly reduced. I thank not only this Government, but also the local council committee that is dealing with the prostitution problem. Councillors John Hatzistergos and Barbara Coorey were at the forefront of initiating action to eliminate street prostitution. I appreciate also the efforts of the police, who have worked hard to achieve the outstanding results I have placed before the House. [Time expired.]
Motion agreed to.
NORTHERN BEACHES MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES
Debate resumed from 10 April.
Dr REFSHAUGE (Marrickville - Deputy Premier, Minister for Health, and Minister for Aboriginal Affairs) [12.40 p.m.]: I oppose the motion moved by the honourable member for Wakehurst. Community mental health services have not been downgraded. They have not been reduced; they have not been cut. In fact, since this Government came to office mental health services have been significantly enhanced. The honourable member for Wakehurst is wrong, wrong, wrong. The centre at Dee Why to which he referred was not closed; it was moved and reopened just down the road at Queenscliff. Services were not reduced and all of the centre's clients receive the services they need. I am advised that moving the centre was not part of any rationalisation or budget cut. The centre was moved to ensure that, as far as possible, funds allocated to mental health were applied to meeting the needs of the mentally ill.
When the centre was at Dee Why it was in premises rented on the private market. That meant that $35,000 of the centre's budget was being eaten up by landlords. I am sure the honourable member for Wakehurst will agree that health spending should meet health needs and not line the pockets of landlords. The money saved from this move went straight back into mental health services on the northern beaches. As well, before the move was undertaken, all staff, clients and their families were consulted. The assertion that mental health funding has been cut on the northern beaches or anywhere in
New South Wales while I have been Minister is a gross lie. Some time ago I issued a directive to all area health services that there was to be no reduction in mental health services and funding was not to be reduced; administrative changes could be undertaken, but resultant savings had to be redirected into extra mental health services. That is exactly what happened in relation to the Dee Why centre.
The position taken by the honourable member for Wakehurst on this issue is not only wrong; it is hypocritical. If he were really concerned about the plight of people living with mental illness, he would have done more when his lot were in office. It is no secret that when Labor came to office New South Wales had the lowest proportion of spending on mental health services in Australia. I have done, and continue to do, my level best to reverse this disastrous situation. Since coming to office I have increased spending on mental health by a massive $20 million. I have launched a $5.5 million package for child and adolescent mental health, an issue that was totally neglected by the previous Government. That package will focus particularly on youth suicide, which, as the honourable member knows, is an important issue on the northern beaches.
Only last week I introduced amendments to the mental health legislation that will dramatically improve health outcomes for people living with mental illness and for their families. As well as these statewide initiatives, a number of service enhancements to mental health services have been provided for the northern beaches. The honourable member for Wakehurst may not want those to occur. He may say that my changes are wrong and should be reversed, but he would be asking me to reverse an $800,000 enhancement for an additional 10 mental health beds and a supplementation of $80,000 for an extension to the 24-hour crisis team. If the honourable member for Wakehurst wants me to reverse those changes, I ask him to explain to his electorate why I should take away from the northern beaches almost $1 million of extra funding. I appreciate that moving the centre from Dee Why to Queenscliff may have inconvenienced some people, and for that I apologise. However, I am advised that every effort is being made to ensure that the service is as accessible as possible.
Mr ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Mills): Order! The Minister has the call. The honourable member for Wakehurst will have an opportunity to reply to the debate.
Dr REFSHAUGE: However, wherever the centre is located, it will be more convenient for some and less convenient for others. If the honourable member for Wakehurst wants to look after only two or three people or a particular section of his community, he should say that the others do not matter. The motion is hypocritical; the claims in it are grossly wrong. It is a lie that is being peddled by the honourable member for Wakehurst. If he had any commitment to people with mental illness, he would congratulate the Government on almost $1 million extra funding. If he continues in this fashion, I am certainly happily to tell his electorate that he, as a member representing people in that area, wants that funding removed. I am prepared to put extra funding into mental health, but if he continues to say my policies are wrong he is saying to his community that he does not want extra mental health funding.
The honourable member for Wakehurst is behaving disgracefully by trying to politicise an important change in mental health, that is, increased funding. If he wants to stick with the record of the previous Government when New South Wales had the least funding for mental health of any State in Australia, he is deluding himself and not properly representing his community. The Northern Sydney Area Health Service has informed me that the centre at Queenscliff is operating well. The activity data clearly demonstrates that the number of clients accessing the service has not decreased. I am advised that the majority of clients are happy with the service. This absolutely ridiculous motion should undoubtedly be rejected by this House. I repeat to the honourable member for Wakehurst that if he wants me to change my policies, that means he is telling me to remove $1 million of mental health funding from his electorate.
Dr MACDONALD (Manly) [12.46 p.m.]: I support the motion. I am concerned by the Minister's recent decision to effectively downgrade mental health services in the Manly-Warringah area. It is well known that there has been a long battle to maintain services that have been downgraded and great concern about the failure to provide proper mental health services in the area. Mental health services have become more essential in the Manly-Warringah area since deinstitutionalisation effectively threw many people out into the community and inadequately provided for them. Before I talk about the issue specifically I bring the attention of the House to the increasing evidence of the mounting burden that mental illness will place on the community. I touched on that matter yesterday during my contribution to the second reading debate on the bill introduced by the Minister to amend the mental health legislation.
It is important to try to work out a systematic way of allocating funding for mental health services. Attempts have been made to do this by trying to measure the overall impact of particular mental illnesses. As a result of research carried out by the World Health Organisation, which produced a report in 1996 called "Investing in Health Research and Development", we now know that in 1990 mental health disorders accounted for 16 per cent of the total burden of disease. There is no evidence that 16 per cent of funding is allocated to mental health services. Because of the potential for gains from effective treatment of mental disorders, the funding for mental health services should be more than 16 per cent.
Following deinstitutionalisation, when asylums and old institutions were rightly closed, the Manly-Warringah area received a larger number of those suffering from mental illnesses than many other places. That is because of the large number of boarding houses, lodging houses and cheaper accommodation in the area, and because it is an interesting and attractive place to live. That influx of former patients has not been associated with an upgrading of community mental health services. Some of the Minister's remarks in this debate when he sought to justify the Government's position were somewhat callous and lacking in understanding. Those seeking community mental health services are often the most disadvantaged and disempowered in the community and the least able to travel the necessary distances. The Minister claimed that those attending the Queenscliff centre are happy with the service and that there have been no reductions in services. I refuse to believe that. In 1993 and 1994 the Dee Why centre, which was operating effectively when it was closed, treated 10,937 people who were not in-patients.
Many of them would have transferred to Queenscliff, but what about the silent number who have not transferred to Queenscliff and are now denied access to services? The statistics do not take those patients into account because they cannot travel to Queenscliff, as public transport services are very poor within the Manly-Warringah area. Accessibility and decentralisation of services is important. The centralisation of services has made them less accessible to those who are in need. It is sad that this decision has been made in this day and age when the Government should be seeking to augment community mental health services and make them more accessible.
Mrs SKINNER (North Shore) [12.51 p.m.]: I am gravely concerned about this matter, as are my colleagues the honourable member for Wakehurst and the honourable member for Manly. Yesterday during the debate on the Mental Health Legislation Amendment Bill I raised concerns about cutbacks in mental health funding, particularly to community-based services. The Minister nodded in support when I spoke of the need for an assurance that funding to community-based services would not only continue but would be enhanced. Numerous mental health groups representing carers and parents and friends of those being treated, as well as people within the health system, have expressed concerns to me about the cutbacks to mental health funding in the northern Sydney area. The facility the subject of this debate is, of course, in that area.
The cutbacks have been achieved by sleight of hand. They have been achieved by supposedly transferring positions, facilities and services from the community-based sector to the hospital-based sector. There is then no way of tracking down whether the funding has in fact been allocated to mental health services. Senior people in the health bureaucracy in the northern Sydney area have assured me that that funding is being lost. That is confirmed by a letter written by the Acting Chief Executive Officer of the Northern Sydney Area Health Service, Tina Clifton, which was circulated widely last June. The letter indicated the kinds of measures which would have to be adopted in the northern Sydney area to accommodate the cutbacks in funding by the Government. Under the heading "Mental Health" the letter stated that reductions appeared inevitable but the area health service was willing to postpone the mental health strategies for six months.
Of course, that six months has now passed. The letter also referred to the inevitability of mental health services in that region losing $5 million. The closure of the Dee Why facility is an example of what happens when those kinds of measures have to be adopted. That facility had 10,000 people on its books. They have had to transfer to the Queenscliff service, which is already overloaded and which is five or six kilometres distant from the centre that they had been used to attending. That leaves the area desperately short of mental health services.
In the bipartisan approach taken yesterday to amendments to the Mental Health Act the Minister and speakers from both sides of the House agreed that maintaining funding for mental health services is an important issue and that we needed to be sensitive and caring when talking about mental health patients. I cannot understand how the Government can cut funding to mental health services so that a facility like the Dee Why centre has to close and then claim that it is a caring and sensitive government. The patients from the Dee
Why centre desperately need treatment from dedicated and committed service providers so that they can live as independently as possible.
It is criminal to reduce community-based services which are so effective in assisting those who need them. In an area that has been forced to face the downgrading of so many facilities, the loss of a centre such as the one at Dee Why cannot be justified. It is like the asset strategic planning project, about which the Government has gone quiet. I am sure that the honourable member for Manly, the honourable member for Wakehurst and the members of the Northern Sydney Area Health Service will not forget those recommendations, which were to close and downgrade hospitals. The most draconian option was to completely close Manly, Mona Vale, Ryde and Hornsby hospitals and to open two hospitals to replace them. When that proposal is married to the others, the plan is a disguise for a reduction in services. Shame on the Government! [Time expired.]
Mr HUMPHERSON (Davidson) [12.56 p.m.]: I am pleased to support my colleagues the honourable member for Wakehurst and the honourable member for Manly. We are joined in principle by the honourable member for Pittwater, who shares our concerns that the 250,000 people who live on the Manly-Warringah peninsula are not being provided with the facilities to which they are entitled, not only in mental health but also in general health. There were two mental health centres on the peninsula. Many people in the northern beaches area have mental health problems. For many years the centres at Dee Why and Queenscliff were maintained under coalition governments.
The centre at Dee Why, which was closed by the Minister, was located in private premises. The centre was well patronised, with about 10,000 patients using it annually. Many of the patients of the Dee Why centre were suffering from severe mental problems. They deserve the support of the Government, but that support has not been received. Since the Carr Government came to power two years ago, they have had every right to believe they have been neglected, ignored and cast aside.
The means the Minister uses to make changes, particularly on the north shore and on northern beaches, is by leaking messages in one form or another through various health authorities and by using headlines in newspapers. That creates great uncertainty among those who are affected and their relatives, who provide support and care. During the past two years the Minister has treated these people as pawns. He has played games with them, and he has continued to do that today. The Minister tried to deliberately distort what the honourable member for Wakehurst sought to do: draw the Parliament's attention to the way the Minister is running the system on the northern beaches. The Minister is not prepared to fund the maintenance of mental health services on the peninsula. The forced closure of Dee Why was done solely to save a measly $35,000 - no more than the cost of maintaining his ministerial car for one year.
Pursuant to sessional orders business interrupted.
PUBLIC BODIES REVIEW COMMITTEE
Report: Guidelines for Reporting Performance
Mr SULLIVAN (Wollongong) [1.00 p.m.]: The Public Bodies Review Committee was established:
To examine the annual reports of all public bodies and to inquire into and report on:
(A) The adequacy and accuracy of all financial and operational information;
(B) Any matter arising from the annual report concerning the efficient and effective achievement of the agency's objectives;
(C) Any other matter referred to it by a Minister or the Legislative Assembly.
At its first meeting the committee realised that it needed to establish the type of information that public bodies were expected to report on. That information had to meet two criteria. First, it had to satisfy the requirements of various Acts of Parliament that set out what various public bodies must report. Second, it had to satisfy the requirements of best practice in annual reporting. The private sector has developed quite extensive literature on annual reports, and awards are given for the best presentation of annual reports. The committee felt it needed to establish basic guidelines that are neither rigid nor prescriptive. Because of the diversity of public bodies and their charters the committee felt that there was not one simple criterion for reporting performance. The committee resolved that every public body needed a clearly defined set of objectives and valid measures of performance by which it could determine whether it had achieved its objectives.
A subset of that requirement is that the organisation has to be able to directly influence the achievement of its objectives. A classic example is a fire brigade going to a fire. The time that the
appliance takes to get to the fire is, to a certain extent, influenced by traffic conditions, the distance from the station to the fire and so on. Those elements are beyond the influence of the brigade and will affect its performance measurement. The committee determined that the valid measurements that organisations use should be reasonably consistent. But it found on examination of a number of public bodies that they simply changed their objectives from year to year, and thus there was no way of comparing one year's performance with the next year.
The committee believes that the discrepancy needs to be addressed. A classic example is the consumer price index. Whenever the basket of goods is changed, the Australian Bureau of Statistics has to change its calculation. There is an overlap when two different baskets of goods are being measured, and there is a transition period when some allowance has to be made when comparing one basket with the other. Performance objectives should be appropriate, practical and useful and they should embody targets. The report enunciates that performance measures should be relevant, meaningful, valid and complete. The committee found that every report should contain a statement of financial information. The emphasis is that reports must convey the essential financial position of the organisation in a way that allows an outsider to interpret expenditure, the source of funds and any peculiar circumstances applicable to that financial year.
I was very impressed with the financial report of Pepsico, an American company. It had a balance sheet in a standard format on one page, and a written explanation of the balance sheet on the adjoining page. Similarly, it had a profit and loss statement in the traditional accounting format, and adjoining it a written explanation of the purport of the statement. The committee will look at such measures when it applies the guidelines and assesses public bodies' annual reports. The committee has identified more than 700 public bodies, so it will not be possible to assess every one of those bodies each year. Because of time constraints the committee will choose public organisations on the basis of comments made by the Auditor-General, referrals by Ministers, or recommendations of the committee's secretariat after it has waded through reports.
It gives me great pleasure to speak to the first report of this committee on the guidelines for reporting performance. The report is significant and with the passage of time it will be seen to have had a major impact on the way in which public bodies in this State report their performance from year to year. Hopefully the consequence will be that people reading the annual reports of public bodies will have a better understanding of exactly what that body has done and how it has performed in achieving its stated objectives. I commend the report.
Mr RICHARDSON (The Hills) [1.10 p.m.]: I commend this report. Recently the committee had a good chance to assess the practical application of its guidelines. The reports of three government bodies - the Community Services Commission, the Ageing and Disability Department and the Department of School Education - were put to the test; they were evaluated by the Auditor-General, the Treasury and our committee's consultant. Applying the guidelines to the interpretation of the three groups, there was a degree of consistency in the merits of their reports. The department that came out at the bottom of the heap was the Department of School Education. Members of the committee felt that there was a real tendency by the Department of School Education to confuse programs with outcomes.
The 1995 report referred to activity rather than to the results of that activity. For example, the report referred to the number of students undertaking the English as a second language program but did not refer to the outcomes or how well the students had progressed. That was a matter of concern to the committee and it decided to interview officers from the Department of School Education. That interview took place on 19 March, when Mr Stephen Buckley, the Assistant Director-General of Corporate Performance, Department of School Education, and Mr Phillip Daniels, relieving Director, Executive Services, Department of School Education, appeared before the committee.
A number of matters were brought to the attention of Mr Buckley and Mr Daniels and some were fairly contentious, particularly in light of the fact that the department's 1996 report is due for release. The committee hoped it could exert some influence with regard to the 1996 report and that the department would provide a more thorough summary of what it was doing. One of the issues dealt with by the committee, child sexual abuse, was not referred to in the department's 1995 report. I asked whether the department considered that issue was important or worth commenting on and Mr Daniels said that the royal commission had obviously influenced the department's decision to report on child sexual abuse and, indeed, the department intended to report on it in 1996. He went on to say that he felt that one of the challenges for the department would be to address that issue appropriately in the report.
The Opposition wonders whether the release of the 1996 report of the Department of School Education has been delayed because of the Minister's inability to sign off on the reporting of that issue, which has resulted from revelations in the police royal commission. I hope that the work of the committee and the assistance given to Mr Buckley and Mr Daniels on 19 March might result in appropriate reporting of the issues surrounding child sexual abuse, particularly by the case management unit within the Department of School Education, in the 1996 report and in the future. It is a matter of extreme concern to the committee, particularly as the department referred in its report to "Happy and Safe Schools". [Time expired.]
[Mr Acting-Speaker (Mr Mills) left the chair at 1.15 p.m. The House resumed at 2.15 p.m.]
Mr Speaker announced, pursuant to the Public Finance and Audit Act 1983, receipt of the performance audit report entitled "Redundancy Arrangements", dated 17 April 1997.
Ordered to be printed.
Mr SPEAKER: Pursuant to standing orders, I table a list detailing all legislation unproclaimed as at 16 April 1997.
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 Beck, Mr Blackmore, Mr Brogden, Mrs Chikarovski, Mr Collins, Mr Cruickshank, Mr Debnam, Mr Ellis, Ms Ficarra, Mr Fraser, Mr Glachan, Mr Hartcher, Mr Hazzard, Mr Humpherson, Dr Kernohan, Mr Kerr, Mr Kinross, Mr MacCarthy, Mr Oakeshott, Mr O'Doherty, Mr D. L. Page, Mr Phillips, Mr Photios, Mr Rozzoli, Mr Schipp, Mr Schultz, Ms Seaton, Mrs Skinner, Mr Smith and Mr Tink.
Petition praying that Ryde Hospital and its services be retained, received from Mr Tink.
Riverwood Police Station
Petition praying that Riverwood Police Station not be closed, received from Ms Ficarra.
Taree and Old Bar Policing
Petition praying that adequate police be provided for Taree, that forward planning be undertaken for a police station at Old Bar and that the Old Bar police patrol be increased, received from Mr J. H. Turner.
Petition praying that the Manly Cove foreshores be protected, and that the Manly Council policy that limits the height and scale of any Manly Wharf development be respected, received from Dr Macdonald.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Postponement of Business
Motion by Mr J. H. Turner agreed to:
That business with precedence notice of motion No. 2 be postponed until tomorrow.
QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
STATE TRANSPORT BUDGET
Mr COLLINS: My question is directed to the Minister for Transport.
Mr Knight: Why don't you ask the Premier?
Mr COLLINS: Why does the Minister not ask the Premier? Has he heard of dorothy dixers?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the Leader of the Opposition to order. I call the member for Vaucluse to order.
Mr COLLINS: I address my question to the Minister for Transport. Following a $205 million blowout in the Minister's budget, has he been ordered to report to the Cabinet budget committee on a bimonthly basis to ensure that he meets his rail performance targets and sticks to his budget? Does
this extraordinary intervention by the Minister's Cabinet colleagues mean that his portfolio finances have been taken out of his hands and effectively placed in receivership?
Mr LANGTON: No.
Mr MILLS: My question without notice is directed to the Premier, Minister for the Arts, and Minister for Ethnic Affairs.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I place the honourable member for Wakehurst on two calls to order. The member for Wallsend will wait until the House comes to order.
Mr MILLS: What action is the Government taking to curb problems arising from violence and illegal drugs in schools?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I warn members that the Chair's tolerance is being tested. The Premier will wait until the House comes to order.
Mr CARR: Yesterday the Senior Children's Magistrate of the Children's Court of New South Wales, Mr Stephen Scarlett, made some tough comments about drugs and violence in schools. His views on unacceptable school behaviour are shared by the Government. The Government does not tolerate violence or a culture of drug use in our schools. All students need to understand that if they dabble in illegal drug use they are dabbling in criminal behaviour and they must face the consequences of that. If they experiment with drugs, they are also risking their own health, jeopardising their education, hurting their families and, in some cases, risking their own lives. It is simply not worth it. My message to young people is that life is better without drugs.
As former Children's Court Magistrate Barbara Holborow said this morning, the boy in question committed a serious crime, stabbing his victim with a flick knife. The victim could have been killed. We do not want knives in our schools; we do not want drug dealing in playgrounds; and we do not want kids or teachers being hurt in violent incidents. My Government has already acted on violence and bullying in schools and strengthened drug education. According to the Department of School Education, between 1995 and 1996 violent critical incidents decreased by 13 per cent. The Government spends $70 million a year on student welfare programs and anti-violence measures. The Government has allocated 40 extra teachers to work with students with severe behavioural disorders. Over the past 12 months 10 specialist drug education consultants visited every government secondary school throughout the State to conduct a detailed needs analysis. I have been briefed by the consultants on their findings. They found that teachers needed more information, training and teaching materials.
Mr O'Doherty: Is that why you cut the training budget?
Mr CARR: Old Midnight-to-Dawn interjects. He was caught out the other day saying on radio that the Government's approach to teachers involved in child sexual assault allegations was a witch-hunt, a denial of natural justice - there is no danger about that. On another radio station the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai said, "These investigations must continue." No wonder he left radio 2GB in the condition it is! Recognising the danger caused by outsiders coming onto school property, earlier this month the Government announced a doubling of penalties for intruders to $2,000. All primary and secondary schools have received additional funds for the purchase of specialised resources to supplement their drug education programs. Today I am able to announce further measures. Cabinet last month approved the creation of two new specialist schools for students with severe behavioural problems. The Government has committed -
Mr Collins: How many students does that involve? Twenty-four students - big deal!
Mr CARR: The Leader of the Opposition has never had anything positive to say about education in this State. He is always negative; he never has a positive idea or policy. Under his leadership the Opposition is the most negative team of whingers and whiners in the State's history. The Government has committed $3 million in the first year for this program. The schools will deal with about 60 students at a time and will be located in Sydney. This is an initiative that will go to the heart of the problems of drug dependence and violence by overcoming the difficulties that lead young people to resort to such activity, such as low self-esteem and a record of abuse.
I am proud that my Government on coming to office allocated an additional $5 million over four years to increase drug education in primary and secondary schools. There is no single or simple definition of a drug problem in New South Wales schools; it varies from region to region and from age group to age group. One evening in the next week I shall visit Cabramatta to see for myself the battle being waged by police against heroin. While the
main problem in that community is heroin, in other areas it is alcohol, and in some schools it is cannabis. The extra funding provided by my Government is enabling a flexible, targeted approach.
I hope to be able to make an announcement next week about the Government's plans for a specific drug education program for Cabramatta. Already in place is one of the best drug education programs in the country. In fact, a delegation from the Victorian Parliament visited this Parliament on Tuesday to interview representatives of the Department of School Education about the Government's approach. It should be remembered that schools reflect the broader community. We cannot expect schools alone to solve the problems of violence and drug use; they need the support of parents, the news media, members of Parliament - the support of us all.
STATE TRANSPORT BUDGET
Mr PHOTIOS: I ask the Minister for Transport, and Minister for Tourism whether the budget committee of Cabinet has approved an allocation of $1,124 million for all rail services for the next financial year, a cut of $281 million on the Minister's formal submission. Does this mean more job cuts, fare increases, cuts to services and no new capital works?
Mr LANGTON: The budget committee has not finalised its deliberations. The budget will come down on 6 May.
GUN LAW REFORM
Ms MEAGHER: I address my question to the Minister for Police. What has been the effect of government action to reduce the number of guns in our community?
Mr WHELAN: The honourable member for Cabramatta has asked a very timely question. Almost 12 months ago the people of Australia were stunned by the tragedy of the Port Arthur massacre. On 10 May 1996 police Ministers from across Australasia resolved to introduce uniform national laws based on the removal of prohibited firearms and the licensing and registration of firearms. I am proud to say that New South Wales was at the forefront of the development of new firearms laws. Indeed, New South Wales led the development of new firearms laws in this country. Yesterday I submitted proclamations to the Governor in Executive Council which will mean that from 1 July this year New South Wales will have the toughest gun laws in its history. Next week I will table the regulations for the Firearms Act.
More than 77,000 firearms and prohibited weapons have been removed from the New South Wales community, making our community much safer. Interestingly, the number of banned firearms being handed in in New South Wales is now running ahead of the number in Victoria. To build on those successes, I intend to extend the buyback program. That means that from 1 July direct payment will be available for gun owners handing in banned firearms at new direct-payment centres. Permanent centres will be located in western and south-western Sydney, and mobile direct-payment centres will be located throughout rural New South Wales.
New South Wales led the development of new firearms laws in this country. Tomorrow the Act will be gazetted and from 1 July New South Wales will have the toughest gun laws in its history. For the first time there will be a comprehensive firearms registration and licensing system. The regulations have been the subject of extensive consultation with both pro- and anti-gun lobbies. The response to the publication of the draft regulations last October was overwhelming. In total more than 5,000 letters and 500 submissions on the new laws have been received. As a result, the deadline for consultation was extended. This has ensured that the new laws are not just good enough but will be the best that New South Wales has ever had.
A $6.8 million implementation program has been planned. All current licensed shooters and every household in New South Wales will be sent details and application forms for the new firearms registration and licensing system. The record of the Labor Government on these firearms laws is one of which we all can be proud. New South Wales was the first State to support John Howard's calls for new laws. It was the first State to introduce legislation based on the resolutions of the Australasian Police Ministers' Council. That legislation went on to become the template for uniform laws throughout the nation.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Northcott to order.
Mr WHELAN: Honourable members will recall that on an historic Saturday sitting last June New South Wales became the first State to pass new firearms laws.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Vaucluse to order for the second time.
Mr WHELAN: To ensure that the new firearms laws were properly implemented, New South Wales led the fight for proper funding for the States - ably assisted by the police Ministers in Victoria and Queensland. As a result, New South Wales received $12.1 million for the firearms buyback and implementation of new laws. I repeat that to date 77,000 firearms and prohibited weapons have been removed from our community. Close to $40 million has been paid to the owners of banned firearms. Commonwealth figures show that in 1997 the New South Wales buyback scheme received nearly 21,000 banned firearms. During the same period Victoria collected 19,000 banned firearms.
The current indications are that by the end of the buyback scheme there will have been a significant increase in the number of banned weapons handed in in this State. The initiatives I am announcing today will ensure that that is the case. From 1 July firearm owners in New South Wales will be able to access direct payment for prohibited weapons. This will be available from permanent centres located in western and south-western Sydney, which will serve those areas as well as Sydney, the Blue Mountains and the Illawarra. Mobile direct payment centres will operate throughout regional and rural New South Wales during the final phase of the national buyback of prohibited weapons. Gun owners handing in prohibited firearms at these centres will receive immediate payment. The centres will operate until the amnesty ends on 30 September 1997. It is up to everyone to ensure these laws are effective and workable.
MINISTER FOR THE OLYMPICS OVERSEAS TRAVEL
Mr ARMSTRONG: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for the Olympics. Did Mr Peter O'Connell contribute financially to the Minister's trips to the United States of America in July and December 1993? Was Mr O'Connell, who is now a director of PBL Enterprises and responsible for its gambling operations, subsequently appointed to advise the Government on the Olympic Stadium float?
Mr KNIGHT: Peter O'Connell has been a friend of mine for more than 25 years.
I will get to your connection with Mr O'Connell in a minute, just you wait.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Ermington to order. I place the honourable member for Vaucluse on three calls.
Mr KNIGHT: Peter O'Connell has contributed to election campaigns for me and that has been declared in public funding returns, on the public record. In answer to the question as to whether he was appointed as adviser to the Government on the stadium float, the answer is no. He has never worked for the Government on any Olympic matter. He has been appointed by the Premier to other government bodies, but not those connected with the Olympics. He was a member of the Australian Museum board and at one stage was a member of the Rail Access Corporation board, but he no longer holds those positions as his present duties require all of his time and effort. It is a reflection of the standard of Opposition questions that the Leader of the Opposition, desperate to protect his leadership, would attack Peter O'Connell when he knows that on numerous occasions Peter O'Connell has given unpaid commercial advice to the wife of the Leader of the Opposition. The Leader of the Opposition has taken him to coffee and thanked him for the advice.
Mr Collins: How dare you attack my wife.
Mr KNIGHT: You took him to coffee and thanked him.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Minister will remain silent. I remind members that the forms of the House allow a member to make a personal explanation at the end of question time. To hurl allegations across the Chamber, as happened just now, is not permitted under the standing orders.
HUMAN TISSUE CLONING
Mr SULLIVAN: My question without notice is directed to the Deputy Premier, Minister for Health, and Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. With the rapid advances in cloning technology, what steps is the Government considering to prevent the possibility of experimentation in cloning human tissue?
Dr REFSHAUGE: Many complex and controversial issues are associated with artificial reproductive technologies, but none is more topical than cloning, now that we know it is possible to clone sheep. I know National Party members get excited about that prospect. Wait until we get to transspecies fertilisation with the National Party and sheep! Sheep cloning has caused much community
concern. The potential to clone human beings is no longer just the realm of science fiction; it is a reality. Everyone can relate to that. Imagine a vast army of cloned vertical corgis descending on Macquarie Street! Imagine three Leaders of the Opposition with all the whingeing and whining in triplicate! No! The community is horrified at the possibility of cloning human beings.
The New South Wales Law Reform Commission, and the National Health and Medical Research Council have also expressed concern about cloning and transspecies fertilisation. The council was so concerned about these practices that it developed guidelines to prohibit experimentation with intent to produce two or more genetically identical individuals, including the development of human embryonal stem cell lines with the aim of producing a clone of individuals. The mixing of human and animal gametes to produce hybrid embryos is also prohibited by NHMRC guidelines. The Law Reform Commission has already indicated that it considers the practices of human cloning and transspecies fertilisation to be totally abhorrent. The commission also considered that a code of practice would not be adequate to protect public interest, that legislative action was required.
The Carr Government is committed to research and development for community benefit. Opportunities are available to develop a cure for cancer through the development of gene therapy. People can be assisted to have babies through in-vitro fertilisation and that sort of research will be encouraged and supported. Only this morning I announced an $11 million investment by the Government in health research and development. The Carr Government is more than doubling its prior contribution to health research funding for this State. Approximately 30 years ago research funding was so low that the Federal Government decided that a significant injection of funds for research was needed. My father was Commonwealth Director-General of Health at the time, but, unfortunately, as he was a Melbourne graduate the vast bulk of increased funding from the national Government went to Melbourne.
However, I am delighted to say that the significant boost in funds today by the Carr Government will provide more funding to health research in New South Wales than the Victorian Government provides to its research institutes. This Government is putting money into research for things like cardiovascular disease, cancer, mental health, diabetes, asthma and blood-borne infections - all vital research. There are times when research is out of step with the community, and cloning and transspecies fertilisation are clear examples. The community will not accept or tolerate the creation in laboratories of aberrations of nature. It is now technically possible for transspecies methods to be used to fertilise the ova of an animal such as a gorilla with human sperm. This will not happen in New South Wales. This year the Carr Government will introduce legislation to ban the practices of human cloning and transspecies fertilisation. The community can be assured that the Carr Government will not allow experimentation and research on those procedures, which the people of New South Wales clearly do not accept.
RESTRICTED FISHERIES REGULATIONS
Mr J. H. TURNER: Did the Minister for Mineral Resources, and Minister for Fisheries stack a telephone hook-up to obtain sham support for his proposed restricted fisheries regulations? Have major fishing industry organisations today rejected outright the Minister's claim of unanimous support for the regulations?
Mr MARTIN: Opposition members are sensitive because they have been caught playing a horrible political game on the fishing fraternity of New South Wales. My major problem is that the Opposition is creating havoc in the fishing industry. New South Wales is about to introduce restricted fisheries before issuing shares and taking appropriate action, as requested by the industry, under the 1994 legislation. Last week the irresponsible Opposition moved disallowance of a regulation. The upper House has moved disallowance also and has yet to debate it. The disallowance was clearly rejected in this House. I am in a major damage control mode to protect fisheries management.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Chair has some difficulty understanding why a number of members feel compelled to laugh every few seconds. The Chair allows some leniency when there is a humorous interjection or an interjection of some consequence, but there is no need for members to laugh at bland statements. I remind members that last week a member was removed from the Chamber for acting in a similar manner. I warn members that the Chair will not hesitate to direct that members be removed from the Chamber if they continue to act in this manner. I assure members that members of the public in the gallery do not see any humour in the actions of members.
Mr MARTIN: Major problems have occurred and damage has been created to the industry. I am in the process of trying to control that damage. That damage has been created by the irresponsibility of
members opposite. It has been created by bloody-mindedness in the upper House. My department has no fall-back position if the regulations are disallowed. There will be a free-for-all in the fisheries of the State; three thousand boats could move into the Hawkesbury River tomorrow and scrape it dry. The Opposition's irresponsibility is obvious. The Government is trying to do the right thing but this totally irresponsible Opposition is working with a bunch of disaffected fishermen, a handful of them. If the Leader of the Opposition does not show leadership he will be tarred along with them.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Leader of the Opposition will have an opportunity to make a personal explanation at the end of question time should he so wish.
Mr MARTIN: At 2 o'clock on 11 April a conference was called involving quite a few participants, including John Aldritt from region 5, Denis Brown from region 6, John Gallagher from region 1, Ron McDermott from region 4, Willie Sneesby from region 1, Ross Abercrombie from region 6, Athol Clark from region 3, R. Howard from region 3, Shirley Massey from region 6, Paul Thompson from region 4, Kath Bell from region 7, Tracey Farrell from region 2 -
Mr J. H. Turner: Name and branch?
Mr MARTIN: The honourable member interrupts and asks for the branch, but I inform him that most of these people belong to the National Party.
The honourable member for Myall Lakes interrupts. He was interviewed on radio and said that when the coalition came to office -
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The honourable member for Myall Lakes will cease interjecting and the Minister will disregard the interjections.
Mr MARTIN: The interjector from Myall Lakes was very proud to say on radio last week that under the coalition the number of fishers went from 5,000 to 1,900 -
Mr Kerr: On a point of order. Mr Speaker, you directed the Minister to ignore the interjections and he has continued to respond to them.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I uphold the point of order.
Mr MARTIN: The participants included Ron Innes from region 6, Barbara Radley from region 1 and Robert Toyer from region 2. Before I go further, I point out that on ABC radio last week the honourable member for Myall Lakes proudly claimed that in the former Government's seven years of office it reduced fishers from 5,219 to 1,981; and it was proud of it. The Government does not want to lose one fisher. The Government has been decent and honest and has tried to work through this issue. The Opposition is proud of its actions in trying to wreck the fisheries in this State. I will go through the document from the New South Wales Commercial Fishing Industry because there is a claim that there is a stack on. The document, referring to the meeting, stated:
The purpose of the conference call was to discuss the possible ramifications on the commercial fishing industry of a proposal by Mr John Turner MP (Shadow Minister for Fisheries), to move to disallow the regulations relating to the introduction of restricted fisheries in NSW.
My department was involved in the hook-up. Instead of flying all these people to Sydney and working out the fall-back position, we did it cheaply by a telephone hook-up which cost just over $1,000. At the end of that hook-up my public servants opted out.
Mr Armstrong: Eddie Obeid would have been better, Bob.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the Leader of the National Party to order.
Mr MARTIN: Yesterday the Leader of the National Party asked me questions, and he got it wrong. If he wants to ask me a question today he should do so, but get it right. He should not react just because Richard Amery said that he does not release any press releases or ask any questions.
Mr Kerr: On a point of order. My point of order is two-pronged: firstly, the Minister must address members by their proper titles, yet he referred to the Minister for Agriculture as Richard Amery; secondly, the Minister continues to respond to interjections.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I uphold the first part of that point of order.
Mr MARTIN: I would like to table the resolutions from that hook-up, post public servant involvement. I make it clear that we need to know the fall-back position: what does the industry want should the upper House move to rape and pillage a fishery of New South Wales. The documents contain
the minutes of the conference call. It is appropriate that members opposite, instead of trying to score political points, try to understand the fisheries of this State. I seek leave to table the documents.
Leave not granted.
AUSTRALIAN QUARANTINE AND INSPECTION SERVICE CLOSURE
Mr BECKROGE: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Agriculture. Will the Minister advise of the effects on meat producers and consumers of the decision by the Federal Government to close down the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service?
Mr AMERY: I commend the honourable member for Broken Hill for his continued interest in livestock and rural matters.
Honourable members opposite might interject, but I remind them that the honourable member for Broken Hill is a true country member. He shares the concerns of other members about what is going on with meat inspection. Honourable members who saw the ABC program last night may also share his concerns. The issue of meat inspection in the State's domestic red meat and poultry abattoirs is one the Government regards very seriously. Public attention has focused on this country's food inspection systems since reports of food poisoning in recent times, especially in Victoria. Honourable members would be aware that the AQIS will be withdrawing its meat inspection service from the State's domestic abattoirs on 30 June this year. On 1 August 1996 the Federal Minister for Primary Industries and Energy, John Anderson, announced that these changes would take place.
Mr Armstrong: On a point of order. The question was: will the Minister respond to suggestions that the AQIS will close down, now that it is to withdraw its services from the meat industry. The question was clear.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! No point of order is involved.
Mr AMERY: After 30 June meat inspectors will be employed by abattoirs and not by the AQIS. Some abattoir operators claim the deadline of 30 June does not allow sufficient time to put in place new procedures to ensure that we maintain the highest possible standards of meat inspection.
Mr Schultz: That's nonsense.
Mr AMERY: It is nonsense?
Mr Schultz: It is nonsense, I know a bit more about it than you. While you were in the police force I was in the abattoirs.
Mr AMERY: Get your colleagues to give us a policy on meat inspection. However, Minister Anderson has instructed the AQIS to meet the 30 June deadline. In other words New South Wales abattoir operators have no choice but to comply by that date. With this in mind the New South Wales Meat Industry Authority has established a comprehensive set of guidelines to be followed when abattoir operators take over the responsibility of providing their own inspectors. Those guidelines will ensure that meat inspection in New South Wales is not compromised as a result of the AQIS withdrawal.
Six detailed procedures will need to be met by abattoirs if they are to remain licensed. First, meat inspection staff employed by abattoirs will need to meet rigorous standards before they can be employed. Many of them, in fact, will be staff currently employed by the AQIS. Second, anyone seeking to be employed as a meat inspector will be required to be registered on an approved persons list established by the Meat Industry Authority. An important point that sets New South Wales apart from the rest of Australia is that the Meat Industry Authority will retain overall control of all meat inspection services.
Mr Schultz: The Meat Industry Authority cannot pick up the rorts that are going on now. It cannot pick up the substitution that is going on now.
Mr AMERY: Have you finished? The authority will conduct regular monthly audits of all abattoirs to ensure they continue to maintain the highest quality meat inspection procedures. There have been concerns about self-regulation.
Mr Schipp: Calm down!
Mr AMERY: I know you support the Victorian system.
Mr Schipp: I do not support them.
Mr AMERY: You went down there to be briefed by them, did not you? The practice of self-regulation is not new to food industries. New South Wales can be very proud that the dairy industry, for example, over the past 10 years has moved to a
system of self-regulation which has maintained the highest standards of food quality. I am confident that the meat industry can do the same but only with appropriate safeguards. The New South Wales Government will always have a watchdog role to play, unlike Victoria, which contracted out to private enterprise the role of the watchdog. In other words, Victoria not only has the private involvement in meat inspection but it also subcontracts out the auditing of that inspection to private companies - that is the difference between Victoria and New South Wales.
The Meat Industry Authority will accredit all inspectors and will conduct regular audits of all domestic abattoirs. The current procedures in export abattoirs will remain unchanged in the foreseeable future, although trials are being conducted in five export meatworks around Australia which, if proven to be successful, could see export abattoirs go the same way as domestic ones - that is self-regulation. Last night the ABC's 7.30 Report focused on those trials and raised a number of concerns, some of which I share, most notably the reluctance of some of our trading partners to accept products from self- regulated abattoirs.
We need to be mindful of our very valuable export markets and I ask the Federal Minister, John Anderson, not to be driven by ideology which may put at risk those markets. I think I speak for all members of this House when I say that we urge him to proceed with great caution. Finally, despite the withdrawal of the AQIS from meat inspection at domestic abattoirs, I am able to assure consumers in this State that the Meat Industry Authority, a State Government statutory body, will continue the oversight of abattoirs, and that will ensure that the highest standards of meat inspection are maintained.
I hope that answers the question. I can assure the honourable member for Broken Hill that the AQIS is not closing down. But there has been some concern over its closing down some of its responsibilities as far as meat inspection is concerned. I ask all members of the House, particularly members of the National Party, to urge their Federal colleague, the honourable John Anderson, to take on board the community's concerns and to proceed with great caution on this matter.
MINISTERIAL CODE OF CONDUCT
Mr SOURIS: My question is directed to the Minister for Mineral Resources. The ministerial code of conduct states:
A Minister shall not use information obtained in office to gain direct or indirect private advantage for himself or herself, or for any other person.
Has the Minister or his office contravened this code by forwarding confidential departmental mailing lists to the New South Wales Labor Party for fundraising purposes?
Mr MARTIN: If the Deputy Leader of the National Party has any such allegations he should say so, because to my knowledge that is a scurrilous lie.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Northcott to order for the second time. I place the honourable member for Wakehurst on three calls to order.
OLYMPIC FACILITIES CONSTRUCTION
Mr WOODS: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for the Olympics. Will the Minister inform the House about timber usage in the Olympic Games infrastructure?
Mr KNIGHT: It is a pleasure to get a question from the honourable member for Clarence, who is interested not only in rural matters but in ways that his electorate and his constituency can benefit from the Sydney Olympics.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I place the honourable member for Pittwater on two calls to order.
Mr KNIGHT: Sydney's Olympic bid included environmental guidelines for ecologically sustainable development. These guidelines specifically included a section on planning and construction of Olympic facilities. In developing new facilities the Government has embraced the environmental guidelines and is willingly meeting these high standards of ecologically sustainable development. The Olympic Co-ordination Authority - OCA as it is more commonly known - in developing all Olympic facilities produced an environmental strategy in September 1995.
This strategy provided for the establishment of a construction materials expert advisory panel to review life-cycle analysis of construction materials. One of the first measures I undertook upon becoming a Minister in the Carr Labor Government was to ban the use of rainforest timber from all Government projects, including Olympic projects, unless it was plantation grown. This ban included a complete ban on rainforest timber being used in formwork for construction.
The Deputy Leader of the National Party interjects and says that the former Government announced that three years ago. He is right: it announced it, it just did not implement it. It did not do anything. When I became the Minister for Public Works and Services I found that under the former Government rainforest timber was being used in formwork on concrete pours on government sites and thrown away afterwards. Members of the former Government were a bunch of environmental vandals.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I place the honourable member for Burrinjuck on two calls to order.
Mr KNIGHT: Another example of adopting ESD principles was to specify in the Olympic construction guidelines that timber should be sourced from sustainably managed sources. There has been support from some quarters for one form of international certification administered by the Mexican-based international body, the Forest Stewardship Council - FSC. The FSC has certified a number of forests in Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Europe.While Australia currently does not have a national timber certification system which identifies timber procurement from sustainably managed forests, authorities have indicated that such a system may occur in the next two to four years, depending upon market demand. However, the Olympic Co-ordination Authority is and will be diligent in ensuring that ecologically sustainable development guidelines are in force. Further, the OCA's policy is to purchase Australian products whenever they are available, and that is good news for the Australian timber industry and good news for rural interests in this State.
There is something here about rural matters that might interest the Leader of the National Party. The new Sydney Showground and the Olympic Village, both of which will be using timber as structural elements, will use supplies from sustainable managed sources. Within the showground, timber structures will be used for exhibition halls, the woodchop arena and the horse and pony pavilions. Plantation-grown radiata pine from South Australia and slash pine from Queensland are to be used in the exhibition hall roof structures. The deck structure for the woodchop arena will use about 140 cubic metres of spotted gum from managed forests in northern New South Wales. The horse and pony pavilions will use about 100 cubic metres of Tasmanian oak from managed forests in Tasmania, and some plantation pine. The Tasmanian Forest Practices Board, which has overall responsibility for forest practices in that State, has advised the OCA that Tasmanian oak is a generic marketing name for a range of Tasmanian timbers with similar properties. They include species such as Tasmanian ash and alpine ash.
In addition the Forests and Forest Industry Council of Tasmania has formally advised that Tasmanian timber construction products are sourced from sustainably managed resources. The OCA has sought assurances from relevant State timber authorities that the source of timber used in the construction industry is managed resources. These sensible policies are assisting Australian companies and Australian workers, and the Australian environment. This Government's support for the New South Wales timber industry, together with strong input on the industry's behalf from both the honourable member for Clarence and the honourable member for Bathurst, will ensure that the Olympic facilities for the Sydney Games will be second to none will and also provide jobs for Australians.
RESTRICTED FISHERIES REGULATIONS
Motion by Mr Whelan agreed to:
That standing and sessional orders be suspended to allow the tabling of a document relating to the New South Wales commercial fishing industry.
Questions without notice concluded.
CONSIDERATION OF URGENT MOTIONS
Higher Education Funding Cuts
Mr WATKINS (Gladesville) [3.13 p.m.]: My motion deserves priority because funding cuts are causing concern in homes, classrooms and universities throughout New South Wales. It is urgent because the decisions of the Howard Government are having an impact even now on the choices being made at universities - the subjects to be studied by students and decisions by university staff about whether to accept redundancy packages that have been offered. In certain New South Wales tertiary institutions staff are making decisions this very day about whether they should retire or accept the redundancy packages they have been offered. Other staff are making decisions about whether they should undertake new research projects.
The motion is urgent because in primary and secondary school classrooms throughout New South Wales students are making decisions about their future, selecting the subjects they will study this year and next, and considering their future
employment prospects. The motion is urgent because careers advisers are attempting to work out the courses they should suggest their students undertake. It is urgent that this House send a message to the Federal Government, which is considering its next round of budget cuts. Finally, if for no other reason, this matter is urgent because its consideration may prevent some of the turmoil we witness almost nightly on the television news about student protests at universities and places of higher education. If this House can do something to give comfort to the students in those institutions, it will be time well spent.
New South Wales Economy
Mr PHILLIPS (Miranda - Deputy Leader of the Opposition) [3.15 p.m.]: The Opposition's motion deserves priority because the Government has remained absolutely dumb, has made no comment, on the economic report released in Victoria some days ago. Debate on this issue will provide an opportunity for the Government to explain to the House why it has not commented in detail on the report. It will give the Government a chance to explain to the House whether it believes the content of the report is accurate. The New South Wales Government has not done so publicly, nor has it done so in this House. The people of New South Wales deserve to hear from the Government; they deserve an explanation as to what the Premier intends to do about the Victorian report.
Mr Gibson: On a point of order. I take the same point of order at about the same time each day that this House considers an urgent motion. The honourable member opposite must prove to the House that his motion deserves priority. He is not at liberty to ask why the Government has not commented on a particular report. The standing orders do not provide for that. The honourable member has to prove why it is more important for this House to debate his motion than the one proposed by the honourable member for Gladesville.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I uphold the point of order.
Mr PHILLIPS: The Government will have an opportunity to explain to the people of New South Wales why growth in New South Wales is the second worst of all States in Australia and what the Government proposes to do about the fact that growth in New South Wales now only exceeds that of Tasmania. It will give Government members an opportunity to get on their feet and explain to the House what they intend to do about the lagging economic conditions in this State. It will provide an opportunity for the Government to explain to this House why Victoria now outperforms New South Wales in five of the six primary economic indicators in this nation. It will provide an opportunity to the Government to explain what it proposes to do about the lagging economy and about the fact that investment is not coming to New South Wales. That is an urgent matter. One of the primary reasons that it is urgent is because only this morning a report was published by Drake International -
Mr Gibson: On a point of order. I am reluctant to take a point of order but the honourable member is not entitled to refer to the substance of the motion; he must prove why his motion should have precedence over that of the honourable member for Gladesville. That does not give him the liberty to say that his motion is more important and then to debate the motion. The honourable member is attempting to debate the subject, rather than state why his motion is urgent.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I uphold the point of order.
Mr PHILLIPS: The motion is urgent because the Victorian report became public only this morning. That report indicates that the anticipated change in net hiring by industry in Victoria - that is, the anticipated extra jobs that are available in Victoria - is twice that in New South Wales. There is nothing more urgent to debate in this House than the lack of investment in this State, the lack of growth and the high inflation rate that is leading to a reduction in job opportunities. It is an extremely urgent matter for the House to consider today and the Government does not like it one bit.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The behaviour of the honourable member for The Entrance is out of order and I place him on three calls to order.
Mr Gibson: On a point of order. If members of the Opposition do not like the standing orders of this House they should try to change them. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition is totally out of order.
Mr Rozzoli: What is your point of order?
Mr Gibson: I am pleased you asked me. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition must prove why his motion should be granted priority. He is not permitted to delve into the substance of the debate, and that is exactly what he is doing. He is not proving to the House why his motion should be heard in preference to the previous motion.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I uphold the point of order.
Mr PHILLIPS: Clearly this report - [Time expired.]
Question - That the motion for urgent consideration of the honourable member for Gladesville be proceeded with - put.
The House divided.
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 Crittenden Mr E. T. Page
Mr Debus Mr Price
Mr Face Dr Refshauge
Mr Gaudry Mr Rogan
Mr Gibson Mr Rumble
Mrs Grusovin Mr Scully
Ms Hall Mr Shedden
Mr Harrison Mr Stewart
Ms Harrison Mr Sullivan
Mr Hunter Mr Tripodi
Mr Iemma Mr Watkins
Mr Knight Mr Whelan
Mr Knowles Mr Woods
Mr Langton Mr Yeadon
Mr Lynch Tellers,
Mr McBride Mr Beckroge
Mr McManus Mr Thompson
Mr Armstrong Mr O'Doherty
Mr Beck Mr O'Farrell
Mr Blackmore Mr D. L. Page
Mr Brogden Mr Peacocke
Mr Chappell Mr Phillips
Mr Cochran Mr Photios
Mr Collins Mr Richardson
Mr Cruickshank Mr Rixon
Mr Debnam Mr Rozzoli
Mr Downy 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 MacCarthy Mr R. W. Turner
Dr Macdonald Mr Windsor
Mr Merton Tellers,
Ms Moore Mr Jeffery
Mr Oakeshott Mr Kerr
Mrs Lo Po' Mr Kinross
Ms Nori Mr Schipp
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Mr Clough Mrs Chikarovski
HIGHER EDUCATION FUNDING CUTS
Mr WATKINS (Gladesville) [3.30 p.m.]: I move:
That this House condemns the Howard Federal Government for its cuts to funding for higher education.
Few issues that will ever be debated in this House are as important as the education and future of our young people. The provision of the highest quality of education to as many young people as possible is essential to our future as a nation and to the happiness and security of those young people. Unfortunately, that future security is now at risk because of the vicious attack on higher education by the Federal Minister for Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs, Amanda Vanstone, in last year's budget - an attack supported by the Howard Government. The impact of that attack on universities in this State is only now becoming clear. All thoughtful commentators have emphasised that education is necessary for the future of our society.
In a recent report on the higher school certificate Professor McGaw identified research that supported what is clear to most of us: the future for young people is in further education and training, and that further study after year 12 is essential if they are to have the flexibility, skills and ability to maximise job and career opportunities in the future. A recent publication by Rifkin entitled "The End of Work" tells an even more dramatic tale and warns about the future evaporation of jobs for young people. Clearly, the well trained will be able to cope best with the fairly depressing employment future. Universities have a critical role to play in that future, and that is why this debate and the actions of the Federal Government are so depressing to contemplate.
In this nation, but especially in New South Wales, we are witnessing a widespread determined and deliberate attack on higher education - an attack on staff employed in higher education, university students, communities that support universities, families of young people at university and, depressingly, young people currently in our primary and senior schools. The most depressing aspect of the attack is that the main victims are young people,
especially the thousands of children currently in primary and high schools and young children dreaming of a secure work future. Parents hope that their children will be able to secure better futures than they enjoyed and that education, particularly higher education, will be able to provide that security.
What is most distressing, particularly for the New South Wales Labor Government - and, unfortunately, it is so predictable - is that children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds will suffer the most from the attack. The people whom Howard cynically calls the battlers, the mob, will bear the brunt of the attack. Unfortunately, the children with parents who are professionals - children of the wealthy and the privileged - will be protected because they will always be able to afford higher education. It is not surprising that universities have again become places of protest and turmoil. Recent reports have shown that all groups are united in opposition to the Federal cuts. The depth of community concern is strong, but unfortunately some of it has been misdirected at vice-chancellors, university councils and senates.
Universities have been put in the invidious position of having to pass on the cuts forced on them by the Federal Government. The anger in the community is real, despite attempts by the Federal Minister to scapegoat the critics of her brutal and dumb incompetence in attacking our universities. Those who stand up for universities are attacked by the Minister for being selfish, elitist, hysterical and hypocritical. It is worth detailing what the Minister and the Federal Government have done. The package of reforms announced in the 1996-97 Commonwealth budget will have a significant impact on higher education. First and foremost, the budget cuts of 4.9 per cent add up to $1.8 billion over three years. These cuts will impact on teachers, student numbers, research and the future employment of staff in universities. Universities cannot cope with such a massive attack. The cuts have already impacted on class sizes, teacher to student ratios, courses being offered and, indeed, the very future of some institutions.
All universities have had to make unpleasant and educationally unacceptable choices. At Macquarie University, where I am a member of the governing council, cuts have been made across the board in different departments. At the University of New South Wales the cuts have resulted in the wholesale destruction and loss of St George campus, a campus held in high regard by the educational community for its teacher education courses. Unfortunately, the university has decided to close the St George campus so that it is able to cope with the Federal cuts. That will have a devastating effect on teacher training in the south-western and southern suburbs of Sydney. The second reform, as the Federal Government calls it, relates to the higher education contribution scheme.
Ms Seaton: Who introduced it?
Mr WATKINS: I am glad that question has been asked. The introduction of the HECS scheme was opposed in some quarters. At the time it was regarded as a reasonable step in ensuring that young people were provided with the widest possible choice, and was matched by massive support for our tertiary institutions. The difference between the HECS scheme as introduced and the HECS scheme as reformed by the Federal Government is that the Federal Government wants an unsustainable contribution while at the same time slashing funding to universities. The reforms mean that the HECS component is a strong disincentive for young people to attend university and for university students to choose certain courses. The blunt, unavoidable reality that students are being actively discouraged from attending university is the black heart of the reforms.
The reforms are impacting on lower income graduates and children from working class backgrounds. The families and local communities of many students from working class backgrounds may not have a tradition of leaving school and attending university. Although they may have liked the idea of doing so, many are now asking themselves whether they should bother because the cost of a specific course is prohibitive and they will be lumbered with a high debt on completion of the courses. For those reasons many are now deciding not to attend university. The third matter to be considered is the introduction of fee-paying undergraduate places. That matter has caused vitriolic opposition in universities recently, including the unfortunate protests at the University of Technology, Sydney and the University of Sydney.
Implementation of full fee-paying undergraduate places will result in a two-tier system. Deregulation of the undergraduate market will ensure that wealthy students will be able to pay for a degree. Unfortunately, that option has been embraced by the University of Sydney, and I would not be surprised if the University of New South Wales does the same. That will exacerbate the differences between universities. The Sydney Morning Herald education writer, Luis Garcia, clearly identified that trend on 20 April when he quoted Dr Simon Marginson of the Centre for the Study of Higher Education at Melbourne University. Dr Marginson was of the view that some universities - especially older, well-established city universities - will prosper while smaller, newer regional universities will struggle. He suggested that that will result in the closure of some smaller
universities or radical changes being made to them. That is bad news for regional New South Wales and students who live outside Sydney. The older sandstone club universities will thrive by increasingly attracting students who are willing to pay, and the smaller, newer regional universities will be under ever-increasing pressure. [Time expired.]
Mr RICHARDSON (The Hills) [3.40 p.m.]: It astounds me that the Government should have to mount attack after attack on the Howard Government, which is actually doing a fine job - a much better job than the State Government is doing. The reason for the attacks is that the Government does not have any good news to bring to the House or the people of New South Wales. It has to kick the Howard Government, which is doing a good job, to try to obfuscate its own errors. I have a substantial interest in this issue because I have two children at university. One is in his honours year at Sydney University and one is at Charles Sturt University, one of those regional universities to which the honourable member for Gladesville referred. I have had fairly lengthy discussions on this issue with my son. He feels understandably hot under the collar about this. Certain people at his university have fed him a line, which he has tended to swallow.
I take honourable members back to 1989, during the term of office of the Hawke Government, when the higher education contribution scheme was introduced. That scheme is not a product of the Howard Government; it was the product of a Labor government. It was brought about through dire necessity and it attracted the same degree of opprobrium as the current changes seem to be attracting at the moment in certain quarters. At that time the same pressure groups and interest groups were objecting to the introduction of the HECS, and similar opposition was mounted against the introduction in the mid-1980s of the scheme allowing the admission to Australian universities of overseas students who paid full fees. Those initiatives are now being built on in the context of the economic necessity created by the former Keating Labor Government.
Honourable members may remember former Federal Treasurer Ralph Willis talking about the surplus his Government would deliver to the people of Australia in late 1995. That surplus very quickly evaporated into an $8 billion deficit - an $8 billion black hole that has been debated by this Parliament on a number of occasions and that has caused the financial screws to be tightened on every Federal Government department, on every taxpayer and on the States of Australia. The House should make no mistake: that is the real reason that changes have been made to HECS and to university funding. The responsibility is to be laid at the door of the former Federal Labor Government. The Daily Telegraph editorial of 9 April stated:
The arrival of a full fees-for-degrees system at Australian universities was inevitable - just as was the uproar accompanying its introduction.
I am sure that sounds familiar to all honourable members. The editorial continued:
It has led to claims that education has been hijacked by the rich and thick, while the poor and deserving will have to scramble for learning.
But despite the noise and protest, Australia's tertiary system has not been corrupted.
In fact, the capacity to charge full fees for degrees will give university administrators greater flexibility.
And perhaps most pertinent, the universities had no choice.
The universities had no choice because of the $8 billion Beazley black hole. The University of Sydney forecasts that even after charging students $3 million in the first year of the scheme, it will struggle to meet its budget. It is important that two fixed provisions accompany the introduction of fees for degrees. One is that ordinary students not be dumped from classes for fee-paying students - an assurance universities give readily. Also, Senator Vanstone insists that Federal Government policies will create an extra 10,000 publicly funded places in 1998. More university places are being created at a time when the number of people in the 17-24 year age group is declining.
The House is debating this fatuous motion that has been moved by the honourable member for Gladesville, who does not fully understand the implications and ramifications of Federal Government policy. I have some concerns about the increase in the HECS charge, as would any parent of children at university. But it is still possible for kids to get a degree. When I was at university in the 1960s there was no such thing as universal free tertiary education. From 1973 until 1989 Australia enjoyed the provision of free tertiary education but that provision became unsustainable. The previous Labor Government recognised that it was unsustainable and introduced HECS, a scheme that has proved to be so successful that it has been adopted by other countries.
The previous cost of HECS was about 23 per cent of the cost of a higher education course, though that varied depending upon the course undertaken. It was about 36 per cent of the cost of an arts course and 13 per cent of a course in medicine. There is no question that the cost has increased. Senator
Vanstone would agree that it is regrettable that financial circumstances have made it necessary to increase the HECS fee. But there is still no doubt, as my children will attest, that those who are fortunate enough to graduate from a university course do better in life than those who have not been to university. I stress that there will be no reduction in the number of government-funded undergraduate places. Indeed, the number of places is being increased.
In 1998 there will be 10,000 extra undergraduate places over the 1996 number, a substantial benefit of the Federal Government policy that should not be underrated. That policy is providing a greater flexibility to universities, more government-funded places at universities and more access for our young people to university education. Many people in my electorate have expressed to me their opinion that it was a base inequity that overseas undergraduate students were allowed to pay full fees to attend Australian universities when Australians were not allowed to do so. I do not believe one can argue against that on an equity basis. As I have said, in the next couple of years there will be an increase in the number of government-funded undergraduate places and additional places will be available to those who are prepared to pay for them. I do not recognise an inequity in that, and I am sure that other honourable members on this side of the House do not consider it an inequity either.
The Labor Party line appears to be that fee-paying places - which I stress are an option for universities, and only after they have filled their quota of government-funded places - are a mechanism designed to permit dumb kids from rich families to get university places. There are, however, many students who will move out of a government-funded place in their second-choice university or who will go on to do a higher degree and will pay for those places, thus leaving the government-funded place that they would have occupied free for a student who otherwise would not have got in. In that there is a degree of equity, which the honourable member for Gladesville has not mentioned. Universities overall will have a 1 per cent cut this year on what they planned to have but they will still end up with more money than they had last year. [Time expired.]
Mr TRIPODI (Fairfield) [3.50 p.m.]: I support the motion that condemns Federal funding cuts to Australian tertiary education and, more specifically, universities. These cuts are a direct attack on investment in our richest, most productive, flexible and enduring resource in this country - people. This assault on human capital embodies an attack on a generation of people who will have the responsibility of chartering this nation in the future. These cuts have forced universities into the unenviable position of either cutting teaching staff, spreading the curriculum, cutting research and community services or imposing higher funding obligations upon students. Senator Amanda Vanstone has snookered every university board in this country: either they cut courses and student intakes or impose charges for them. This is a shameful proposition by that Minister. I cannot agree with the Minister's proposition, nor can I agree with the responses by universities. The simplistic response by universities to the financial squeeze seems to be to introduce and extend fee structures.
The University of Sydney took this response last week. Given the make-up of its senate, and as many of its fellows have either a direct employment or academic link with the university, I did not find that response surprising. Hence I understand, but do not necessarily agree, with that university's decision to increase fees rather than pursue other budget tightening responses. The theoretical proposition of the previous speaker is that fees to fully fund extra positions will not subtract from or harm publicly funded positions or, more accurately, existing positions funded by the higher education contribution scheme. This featured as the central argument amongst senate fellows at the University of Sydney when they recently voted to support full fee-paying positions. However, this argument is a complete fallacy as was confirmed by statements made by the University of Sydney Vice-Chancellor, Gavin Brown, two days after the senate vote. In the Daily Telegraph on Thursday, 9 April, an article on page 7 stated:
Fees from local university students who failed to gain a place on their academic record may still not cover the full costs of their course, University of Sydney Vice Chancellor Gavin Brown said yesterday.
This constitutes a dilution of per capita funding to each academically meritorious entrant and a transfer or subsidy to the academically limited children of the wealthy - the poor subsidising the rich! Senator Vanstone has generated a system whereby the intelligent poor subsidise the unmeritorious rich. This is the new definition of equality or equity under Senator Vanstone.
Mr Richardson: Do you really believe that?
Mr TRIPODI: Of course I believe it. Having forced this decision upon universities, Senator Vanstone refused to take responsibility for it. On 10 April the Sydney Morning Herald reported that the Minister for Education, Senator Vanstone, attacked claims by the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sydney, Gavin Brown, that universities were being forced to introduce full fees. The article reported:
Senator Vanstone said yesterday that those institutions . . . had done so "as a deliberate choice" to avoid cuts to academic staff numbers.
She describes it as a choice to reduce staff, academics and students or to impose charges to allow students to attend university. These Federal cuts have decimated the great system that Federal Labor introduced to fund the expanded number of positions it created. HECS was a program with integrity because it guaranteed and actually enhanced equity. The previous Federal Government's HECS program did not deter access to higher education. However, today we cannot be so relaxed in our assessment of HECS. The actions of the Howard Government to increase the overall level of HECS are unfortunate, but the real tragedy is its decision to lower the threshold at which former students are expected to repay their debts.
Under recent arrangements, $21,000 is the approximate income level at which people commence to pay off their HECS debt. If recent media reports can be believed, many couples have been compelled to defer their decision to have children and purchase homes simply because of the level of debt that they will incur and the early repayments required under the new arrangement. It is people like those who live in Fairfield and those from migrant working-class backgrounds, or any working-class background, that will be denied opportunities under this Federal Government. [Time expired.]
Ms SEATON (Southern Highlands) [3.55 p.m.]: The motion of the honourable member for Gladesville shows the depths to which the Carr Government has sunk and the desperation it has reached. It has no idea and has driven the New South Wales economy into the ground, and now looks for someone to blame. This motion is a dishonest representation of Federal Government policies. The Howard Government inherited an $8 billion black hole after 13 years of Australian Labor Party Government. The effect of that black hole is to threaten access to education, health and community services by those who really need it, the same people that the honourable member for Fairfield mentioned - the less advantaged in the community. They are the very people who deserted Labor in droves and voted for the Howard Government in March last year.
The honourable member for Gladesville has got it wrong. It is useful to consider what happened during the Lindsay Federal by-election when the people had their say about the Howard Government's tertiary education policy. The people of Lindsay liked the policy so much they increased Jackie Kelly's majority. Why did that community consider the Howard Government's education policy to be so successful? It knew that the Federal Government was making tertiary education available to more people than ever before. The policy is an equity issue.
Mr Stewart: As long as you are rich.
Ms SEATON: The Howard Government is determined to ensure that as many people as possible have access to university, not just if they are rich. Universities must be accessible to as many people who want to attend. It is interesting to focus on the University of Western Sydney. When the New South Wales coalition came to office in 1988 it recognised the need for more tertiary education opportunities in Sydney's west. Premier Greiner made many commitments to the University of Western Sydney. People from the Lindsay electorate attend that university along with people from western Sydney and many constituents of Labor members. Indeed, many people from my electorate are students there. That university is the result of a commitment by the former State Government, and many people who would not normally have had access to university - especially women with children, working women, people undertaking part-time degrees and people trying to juggle families and work - now have access to tertiary education closer to their homes.
I have visited the University of Western Sydney on several occasions to attend graduations and a recent seminar. I congratulate the staff on the presentation and success of those events. The honourable member for Gladesville was brave to move this motion because it gives me the chance to make the House aware of some comments in the Sydney Morning Herald on 15 April by Luis Garcia about how interested the honourable member for Lakemba, the honourable member for Badgerys Creek, the honourable member for Fairfield and some members from another place are in New South Wales education. It is interesting to note from this article that the honourable member for Fairfield managed to attend only 25 per cent of the meetings of the governing body of the University of Western Sydney
Mr Stewart: How many?
Ms SEATON: A quarter of all meetings; 25 per cent. It is important to note also that the honourable member for Badgerys Creek represents an area in which many students attending the University of Western Sydney reside, yet she managed to attend only 14 per cent of meetings of that university's governing body. I am sure those
honourable members will thank the honourable member for Gladesville for giving me the opportunity to make the House aware of the exact level of interest they have in education, particularly in western Sydney. The Howard Government is working hard to repair the damage caused to the economy by the Labor Government and to widen opportunities throughout New South Wales for young people to access tertiary education. It is allowing them to contribute to their own education and to defer the cost until they start to earn. This is also an opportunity for more tertiary teachers to find employment in the system, with overseas full fee-paying students - [Time expired.]
Mr STEWART (Lakemba) [4.00 p.m.]: I am amazed by some of the comments made by members of the Opposition about this important issue, which concerns all Australians. It certainly concerns the future of Australia because without education we have no future. To watch education being destroyed by the Federal Government, which has no understanding and certainly does not want to apply any equality or equity to education, is dismaying. I presume the honourable member for The Hills is here today to represent the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai, who is absent. That is quite amazing because from time to time he has whinged about education, but has not put forward a constructive education policy.
The honourable member for Ku-ring-gai did not turn up today for one of the most important debates in this country - the future of higher education. Instead, he sent along this fledging Perry Mason to put up a bit of an argument - and we watched him strut around. Reference has been made to the significant impact on Australia following the demolition of higher education. In the next three years there will be budget cuts of 4.9 per cent, a total of $1.8 billion. Higher education contribution scheme - HECS - fees have been increased to the extent that it is now impossible for kids from the western suburbs, kids from working class backgrounds, to participate in higher education.
To put cream on the cake of killing off higher education opportunities for young kids - students in the western suburbs, students from working class backgrounds - HECS fees now have to be repaid at lower income levels. As soon as a former student is out in the work force, trying to earn a living and still on a lower income level, he or she will be hacked to pieces by the HECS fee increases. The most infamous change, the introduction of fee-paying undergraduate courses for Australian students, has had a devastating effect on the ethos of Australian higher education. We have already seen the effects at the University of Technology, Sydney, where demonstrations and sit-ins have occurred over the last two weeks, but not because of what UTS is doing. I attended UTS council meetings and I know that it did not support the introduction of undergraduate fees. UTS supported looking at this matter in the context of other budgetary constraints, but that has not been done.
The University of Sydney had to bite the bullet. The vice-chancellor of that university publicly and totally caned the Howard Government. The vice-chancellor made comments about Amanda Vanstone that I would not repeat in this House. The University of New South Wales, St George campus, has been demolished as a result of budgetary cutbacks. The vice-chancellor of that establishment told the world that he had no choice in the decision to close the St George campus. Why is he doing it? Because the money is simply not there; the care is not there. The Southern Cross University, at Lismore, is another victim and it is assessing its future. It is, or is one of, the most successful regional universities and is now reassessing its Port Macquarie campus and its Coffs Harbour campus. They are both situated in Liberal-National electorates and feel that they should get some return from a government that is supposed to be recognising their needs.
The first thing they get is a kick in the guts. Those regions are experiencing unparalleled unemployment. Opportunities for younger generations are being put aside and left for dead. So the coalition should not speak this codswallop today about the Federal Government doing something for higher education - it is destroying it. To say anything but that is totally inconsistent with what has been put forward. There has been a reduction in growth places at universities, which is of great concern. The University of Western Sydney has been used worldwide as a model of equity, access and egalitarian education. But what is happening? Growth places have been reduced by Federal Government cutbacks. The same happened at the Southern Cross University, where the impact of cutbacks is devastating.
I applaud any action aimed at eliminating the hacking plans of Amanda Vanstone and the Federal Government to destroy higher education in this country. We need to stand up in a united, bipartisan way and recognise the deficiencies of the Federal Government and do something about it, before it is too late, before our future is taken away through this economic rationalistic vacuum cleaner called the Federal Government. The honourable member for Southern Highlands should be ashamed to say anything to the contrary. She should go back to her
children and tell them that she stood up to destroy their educational future. [Time expired.]
Mr WATKINS (Gladesville) [4.05 p.m.], in reply: It is worth cutting through some of the verbiage and restating what the debate is about: it is about cuts of $1.8 billion to higher education over three years, together with the introduction of fee- paying undergraduate places, something that is new to this nation. Increases in the HECS fees of between 35 per cent and 125 per cent have been imposed on students. That is a threefold attack on education, which effectively undermines the whole concept of equity of access to higher education. Senator Vanstone's fears about going to universities - and I am glad that the honourable member for Southern Highlands mentioned Jackie Kelly - have nothing to do with her weight or her dress sense. Those factors should not have been brought into the debate a couple of weeks ago.
Senator Vanstone's fears about going to universities are about her attack on the status, viability and future of higher education in this State. I know that if she dared to go to Macquarie University, my university, she would see the anger and confusion amongst students, their families and staff. Students have to face the realities of cuts to courses, increases in class size, cuts to staff, forced redundancies, and a refusal by the Government to consider pay increases for academics. This is the legacy of the decisions that were made in the most recent budget. I am disappointed that the shadow minister for education is not here, because this debate would have given him a real chance to put his views on the record about the Federal Government's changes.
Unfortunately Opposition members have to support the Federal Government's changes; they feel that they have to remain loyally aligned - and as they are doing that they are watching this precious system go to waste. Surely their responsibility is to listen to their communities and make a strong statement. The honourable member for The Hills made some interesting comments. The most unusual was his justification for the Federal Government's actions on an equity basis. He argued that because overseas students had been paying full fees for some years, that was inequitable: Australian students should also have the right to pay full fees.
The payment of fees by overseas students has been a very valuable export earner for this nation. The honourable member for The Hills said that it was okay because full fee-paying was only an option. That is like the choice given to people offered redundancy. They are told they can take redundancy immediately and be paid $150,000, or wait 12 months and be paid $20,000; it is their free choice! It is clear what the universities are going to do. They will not walk away from that choice; they will introduce full fee-paying positions for undergraduate courses. It is easy for members who are on the boards of universities to understand why they are doing that: there is no other option.
The honourable member for Southern Highlands delivered a depressing political speech in which she voiced a blind defence of Mr Howard. As a member of his party she feels she has to do that - but not Jackie Kelly. The honourable member spoke about the attendance of members at university council meetings, but that does not add anything to the debate. If we went back through the records and pulled out the list of attendance by members of the Opposition when they were in government I think we would find much the same.
Some members of the Opposition would have been particularly enthusiastic, while others for a whole range of reasons would have been unable to go to certain meetings. That does not add to the debate and it does not help. No-one, not Jackie Kelly nor anyone on that side of the House, believes that what the Federal Government is doing is good for education. The honourable member suggested that it would enable more tertiary teachers to find employment. I cannot respond to that. The reality is that in every institution academics are facing redundancy and losing employment. [Time expired.]
Motion agreed to.
PRIVATE MEMBERS' STATEMENTS
Mr ROGAN (East Hills) [4.10 p.m.]: I wish to speak on a subject that is of increasing concern, particularly to men over 50 years of age: prostate cancer. I am motivated to speak because of an ongoing campaign in the Newcastle region in which my older brother is involved. He is endeavouring to draw more public attention to this problem as he himself has been diagnosed with, and is having treatment for, prostate cancer. He does not mind my referring to him as he wants to be very public in his campaign. This matter has been highlighted in a document from the Commonwealth Department of Health and Family Services in a summary of the review prepared by the Australian Health Technology Advisory Committee. It states:
In 1994, 2590 Australian men died of prostate cancer, compared with 4810 male deaths from lung cancer. Over 62% of prostate cancer deaths occurred in men aged 75 years and over and 41% in men aged 80 years and over.
The New South Wales Cancer Council is currently doing research and drawing this problem to the attention of the public. When I spoke to representatives of the council I was advised that many men who ring the council say that they are disappointed, and some angry, because in their view more emphasis is given - understandably and rightly - to cervical and breast cancer among women. It would appear that little attention is given to prostate cancer, which is a major killer of men. The document from which I have just quoted also states:
In recent years, the reported incidence of prostate cancer has risen dramatically in Australia but mortality rates from the disease do not reflect this trend. This has led to the conclusion that the rise in reported incidence has been due to more intensive medical surveillance following the introduction of prostate specific antigen (PSA) testing.
The increase in the number of PSA tests performed in Australia indicates that, despite a lack of evidence of its effectiveness, de facto screening for prostate cancer is already occurring.
However, there is a lack of consensus in the medical profession over the effectiveness of screening tests and available treatments for prostate cancer. There is no agreement about whether early detection of prostate cancer reduces premature mortality. There are those who believe a screening program may do more harm than good by identifying cancers that would never have become clinically apparent, thereby exposing men to an escalation of investigation and treatment with significant attendant morbidity. Others consider that by not offering screening, the longevity and quality of men's lives are being comprised.
It is clear that this is a major issue for men over 50, but seemingly it is not given the public attention that it requires. After having read a lot of material I cannot decide whether screening is the most effective way to go. Certainly I am given to understand by the Cancer Council that a lot of research work is being done to determine a more effective screening procedure, such as that for cervical and breast cancer in women. We need far more public education and more money for research. I deplore the Federal Government's announcement in November last year. The Federal Minister for Health has scrapped the men's health policy that was developed by the previous Labor Government. This was a significant step forward by a female Minister for Health in the Federal Labor Government, Dr Carmen Lawrence, but the policy has seemingly now been reversed under the current Federal Government.
CLARENCE TOWN SEWERAGE SCHEME
Mr BLACKMORE (Maitland) [4.15 p.m.]: Dungog Shire Council in my electorate has requested the provision of a sewerage scheme for the village of Clarence Town. Honourable members are only too well aware that previously the Department of Public Works and Services offered a 50 per cent subsidy for the construction of sewerage systems. It was very difficult for small towns to fund sewerage schemes without imposing rates that were well beyond their ratepayers' means. The Government has now announced a revamped subsidy scheme to provide small towns that have fewer than 1,000 residents and low growth rates with a subsidy of up to 75 per cent of the cost of new schemes where the cost per block exceeds $4,000.
On 13 March the Minister for Public Works and Services announced extra funding assistance to Great Lakes Council to upgrade the Nabiac and Coomba Park sewerage systems - a 75 per cent subsidy. This scheme would be applicable in the Dungog shire because the village of Clarence Town has a population of 650 people, 330 ratepayers, a growth rate of 2.5 per cent per annum and 470 blocks. The estimated cost is $6 million. To support the Dungog council in its application the Healthy Rivers Commissioner, Dr Peter Crawford, said in his final report that both the upgrade of Dungog sewage treatment plant and the provision of a sewage treatment plant for Clarence Town should be accelerated. The draft regional environmental plan for the Williams River recommends that there be no further residential development in Clarence Town without the provision of a reticulated sewerage service.
The provision of the REP will constrain residential development in Clarence Town, and a sewer service for the village becomes a matter of urgency. Effluent disposal problems in Clarence Town continue, particularly with the discharge from aerated treatment systems which finds its way into the Williams River and the Seaham weir pool. The Williams River is a major water supply source to the Hunter Water Corporation, which serves Newcastle and the lower Hunter in the coalfields area. Hence the need to protect water quality in the Williams River is a very high priority. The Hunter Catchment Management Trust is supportive of the council's endeavours to provide reticulated sewerage in Clarence Town, as is the Department of Public Works and Services. Those endeavours have been on foot for more than 20 years, not only with the
New South Wales Government but also with Commonwealth governments.
The investigation, planning and design of the scheme has been undertaken on a 50:50 subsidy basis with the former Public Works Department. The total cost of the work to date is $125,000 and this confirms the council's ongoing commitment to provide sewerage to Clarence Town. The council is asking for a subsidy grant of 75 per cent to reduce the council's share of the capital cost of the scheme to $1.5 million. Provision of a non-interest bearing loan for this commitment would reduce the loan-servicing cost to $135 per annum and the total cost to $367 per annum per assessment. The total annual cost to the taxpayer would be $505 per assessment - an affordable sewerage scheme. I ask that there be a bilateral and uniform approach to enable this urgent work to be carried out on the basis of the 75 per cent subsidy announced by the Government. After all, the lower Hunter's water supply is at risk of contamination from sewage flowing into the Williams River.
MASSACRE OF CANA
Mr THOMPSON (Rockdale) [4.20 p.m.]: Tomorrow, 18 April, is the first anniversary of what is now known as the massacre of Cana. Just 12 months ago Israeli shells rained down on a United Nations camp at Cana in south Lebanon where hundreds of women, children and elderly Lebanese civilians were sheltering. More than 100 innocent people were killed in the incident. The carnage occurred after more than two weeks of shelling and bombardment of Lebanon by Israeli ground, air and naval forces. Throughout that period more than 200 Lebanese civilians were killed and substantial parts of more than 40 villages, towns and city suburbs were destroyed. More than 500,000 people were displaced as a result of the attacks, having to flee their homes and live as refugees in tents, public buildings and schools.
Code named "The Grapes of Wrath", the Israeli operation was not limited to military targets. Residential areas, power stations, roads, a hospital and even an ambulance were wiped out in indiscriminate attacks. As always, it was the innocent civilian population that bore the brunt and took the consequences of the military action. As I said at the outset, this occurred only 12 months ago. Next Sunday I intend to join with the Australian Lebanese Solidarity Committee at a commemorative function in Hurstville where I will once again offer my condolences to the people of Lebanon for the tragic loss of so much innocent life. Many of my constituents came to Australia from Lebanon as refugees from conflict. Many still have family, friends and relatives in Lebanon, and many of them have lost loved ones. The tragedy at Cana was felt personally by them, as it was by all Lebanese Australians and for that matter the wider Australian and world community.
A United Nations report on the incident suggested that the bombardment of the United Nations camp at Cana was not merely a terrible mistake but a deliberate act. The whole world was a witness to the horror and I know I will never forget the radio report I heard in which a British Broadcasting Corporation radio journalist graphically described the tragedy in the immediate aftermath of the shelling - the terrible toll of human life and the unconscionable suffering inflicted on innocent people. It is a fact that for about 20 years Israeli forces have occupied part of southern Lebanon even though the United Nations, through resolution 425, has branded the occupation illegal and demanded withdrawal of those forces. I can understand that while Israeli troops continue to occupy Lebanese territory efforts will be made to dislodge them. No-one condones terrorism - certainly I do not - but I firmly believe it is the legitimate right of people to fight against occupation of their land by a foreign power, particularly so when the world body, the United Nations, brands the occupation as illegal.
I know that if a foreign power occupied part of Australia, I would vigorously support efforts to get rid of that power and re-establish Australian sovereignty over Australian land. I do not believe the position in Lebanon is any different. I know that the people of my electorate agree that there has been too much killing and too much destruction. That is why they and I support United Nations resolution 425, which demands the unconditional and complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from Lebanon. I have tried very hard to be totally objective in my assessment of the situation in southern Lebanon, but no matter which way I look at it the one constant issue remains as the prime cause of conflict and barrier to peace - that is, the continuing occupation of southern Lebanon.
As I said earlier, many of my constituents came from south Lebanon and they have an obvious concern for their old homeland and for their family and friends who are still there. It is on their behalf particularly that I will continue to demand that United Nations resolution 425 be implemented and that the human rights of all people be respected. If the killings, destruction and human rights abuses are to be stopped, Israeli forces must withdraw completely from Lebanon. Then and only then will true peace have a chance to take root, and to grow and flourish to the benefit of all.
NORTHERN NEW SOUTH WALES DISASTER RELIEF FUNDING
Mr CHAPPELL (Northern Tablelands) [4.25 p.m.]: On two occasions in February this year - 13, 14 and 15 February and 26 and 27 February - severe flooding rains fell across much of the slopes and tablelands in northern New South Wales. I have been told that five or six inches of rain fell in an hour on some properties and I know those falls were mirrored in many areas in the region. The rain was the cause of massive damage to roads and some bridges, more severe in some shires than in others. The rain I refer to was far in excess of normal rainfall rates in the region and the infrastructure was not designed to cope with it, hence the resultant massive damage. In many similar situations a disaster declaration has been forthcoming. As a result, funds have flowed to local councils for repair of roadworks.
I understand that as yet no such declaration has been made. Several councils in the region are seriously concerned about whether or not they will receive funding support from the State Government to enable them to undertake essential bridge repairs and replacements. The amounts involved in many instances are far beyond the capacity of the small local councils, particularly given the economic difficulties they have experienced in recent years attempting to sustain road infrastructure. I am speaking of amounts in the hundreds of thousands of dollars in several council areas. For example, the total damage bill in Guyra shire was $255,000; in Uralla it was $177,000; in Glen Innes municipality - a very small area - it was $98,000; in Dumaresq shire it was $500,000; and in Severn shire it was $800,000. Armidale, Tenterfield and Inverell were all affected but thankfully to a lesser extent.
Mr Speaker, you are aware of just how significant some minor local roads and a number of trunk roads are to members of the local community - to enable them to get their children to and from school, get themselves to and from town for shopping, get their cattle to market and so on. The maintenance of the roads and their restoration to reasonable trafficable conditions, and certainly safe condition, are absolutely essential to these councils. The councils have laboured valiantly to repair roads wherever they could and I know they have been dipping into other funds available to them in order to undertake absolutely essential repairs as quickly as possible. The storms were not isolated to my electorate. I know that shires in the electorates of Barwon and Tamworth - such as Gunnedah, Manilla, Barraba and Bingara - were also affected. I believe they also sustained damage running into hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Clearly, this was a major disaster at the regional level. Council claims were sent to regional offices of the Roads and Traffic Authority and have been forwarded to head office. As yet there has been no indication about whether the claims by council for disaster funding will be approved. I have raised this matter this afternoon with the Minister for Roads, who has promised to investigate the matter. I am also aware that the decision regarding the declaration of disaster is not specifically in his hands; it is the responsibility of another Minister. I ask that the seriousness of the situation, particularly the impact on road infrastructure in a number of shires and rural areas, be taken into account as a matter of urgency.
I ask that pressure be applied wherever necessary to enable the disaster declaration to be made so that the RTA can make the necessary funds available. As I have indicated, there is great urgency in relation to this matter. Many people have been seriously disadvantaged for a number of months, because the flooding rains have damaged roads and washed away bridges. It is important that these issues be attended to as quickly as possible. I know the councils involved will do whatever they possibly can at a local administrative level to sort out their funding and cash flow if they receive an indication from the Roads and Traffic Authority and from the Minister that the funds will be approved. I call upon the Minister for Roads to do whatever he can to have this matter dealt with expeditiously, and for the councils to be advised at the earliest date that the funds have been approved.
INFORMATION TRAINING RESEARCH ACTION CENTRE REPORT
Ms HALL (Swansea) [4.30 p.m.]: On 28 February this year I launched a report entitled "Northern Perspectives", which was written and researched by Christine Sheeley, of the Information Training Research Action Centre - ITRAC - on the central coast. The report, which was funded by the Keating Government, dealt with family experiences of people living in the north of the Wyong shire and was based on a study of 20 families, 10 from the Gwandalan-Summerland Point area and 10 from the Blue Haven-San Remo area. It explored the quality of life of families with dependent children, and the bread-and-butter issues of living in a rapidly expanding area. The findings of that study were serious.
The rapid population growth in the area has not been matched by a growth in jobs, transport, and sporting and child-care facilities, and there is no
support network for young families. The study revealed that Wyong Shire Council was poorly regarded by most of the women who were interviewed, largely because they believed the Gwandalan and Summerland Point area in particular had been neglected by the council. It is referred to by people in the area as the forgotten north. The women's beliefs were reinforced when the council forgot to include those areas on the map at the front of its annual report. The women place great value on the area for raising their children, but believe necessary facilities have not been supplied to them. They are concerned about the lack of sporting and other facilities for their teenage children.
Last year I arranged for a student from the University of Newcastle to work in my office. She prepared a report entitled "The Jumping Tree", which reinforced the report prepared by ITRAC. It concluded that no local youth centres or recreation areas were available in the area for young people, and that there was a great need to improve facilities. The name of the report was a reference to the way council had treated young people when, without consulting them, it cut down a tree from which children used to swing and jump into the river.
In a newspaper article Doug Eaton, the Mayor of Wyong Shire Council, is reported as having said, "Many [people in the area] had a limited understanding of the services provided by Wyong Council to residents in the region." He believes the report is hogwash and that it means nothing. Mr Eaton should be made aware that it is the council's job to make sure people in the area know what services it provides. He should welcome the ITRAC report as a valuable resource rather than criticise it. The newspaper article further stated that, "Mr Eaton said the person who compiled the report should have sought comment from the council . . ." I refer Mr Eaton to the bibliography to the report, which relied heavily on the 1982-84 corporate plan and on many other documents prepared by the council. The council was consulted. Mr Eaton got it wrong again. Shame! [Time expired.]
DEATH OF Mr MICHAEL GREEN
Mr BROGDEN (Pittwater) [4.35 p.m.]: In the early hours of Sunday, 16 March 1997, 18-year-old Michael Green of North Narrabeen, together with two of his friends, was hit by a car whilst walking along Powder Works Road, Elanora Heights, on their way home from a party. The following day, Monday, 17 March, his parents agreed to take him off life support, and Mike passed away. Thankfully the two other boys survived. Earlier this week I met with Mike's mother, Chris Green, in her home, and heard her anger and frustration about the laws regarding driving under the influence of illegal drugs.
Chris and John Green are now the parents of seven children ranging in age from three to 27. By her own admission, Mrs Green is known around Narrabeen as the lady with all the kids. During the hour I spent with her she spoke about her family and about the grief they and Mike's friends are suffering because of his death. She showed me photographs of her son and told me about his popularity amongst his siblings and his mates. She also brought from her bedroom a container holding Mike's ashes. Of all the things Mrs Green said to me in that one hour I was most touched by her words, "It was not just another road accident. Everyone lost someone special." In recent weeks Mrs Green's grief has been overcome by her anger towards the inadequacies of our laws relating to driving under the influence of drugs. It is clear that the Crimes Act and other traffic legislation to some extent deal with driving under the influence of alcohol and driving under the influence of drugs.
The laws are explicit, almost to the nth degree, with regard to driving under the influence of alcohol. They are, however, not so clear with regard to driving under the influence of drugs. On 10 April, as a result of the incident which led to Michael Green's death, Gary Winter was charged at Manly Local Court with negligent driving causing death, failure to stop and render assistance, and administer a prohibited drug. I am advised that police laid the third charge following a blood test. Yet despite the seriousness of the charges, police do not have the power to take away his driver's licence. This man, who only a month ago killed somebody, still has his driver's licence. In contrast, if he had been pulled over for driving under the influence of alcohol, particularly at a high level, the law clearly states that police have the power to suspend his licence.
Unfortunately this matter has to be dealt with by the courts, and until it is dealt with he can continue to drive his car and potentially put others at risk. I acknowledge that the Government has announced a review of the law, and I am happy about that. I urge the Government to act swiftly and to provide police with the power to deal with those who drive under the influence of drugs. I agree that at this stage testing is not simple. That is possibly why - as indicated in the 1993 Staysafe 20 report - very few charges are laid for driving under the influence of drugs. In one sense people may be encouraged to drive under the influence of drugs rather than alcohol because they know the tests are difficult to carry out.
It is clear that there is not an anomaly but a gaping hole in the law. The fact that a driver has committed an offence by using illegal drugs should be an initial consideration in deciding to immediately suspend a driver's licence, particularly when the driver has been involved in a vehicle accident. However, when a driver who has used illegal drugs has been involved in an accident serious enough to cause damage to property, injury or, sadly, death, that driver should have his or her licence suspended immediately, with charges dealt with in due course. I hope that the Government will consider this matter on its merits. I want to be able to tell Mrs Green that the Government is considering the matter and that it will provide some justice for her and others.
ETHNIC AFFAIRS COMMISSION ILLAWARRA SERVICES
Mr SULLIVAN (Wollongong) [4.40 p.m.]: I draw to the attention of honourable members aspects of the proposed restructure of Ethnic Affairs Commission services in the Illawarra, in particular the launch of a major new initiative, which is generally regarded as an improvement, to extend services but based on the use of a telephone. A consequence of the restructure is that the two interpreters presently residing in the Illawarra who provide services to two large ethnic communities in the Illawarra - the Macedonian community and the Italian community - will be required to relocate to Sydney. Interpreter representation at meetings with government departments, in court and so on will be undertaken by people employed on contract; in other words, interpreters will be employed to provide a specific service for a particular client.
The Macedonian and Italian communities in the Illawarra have grave concerns about the proposed restructure. As a result, more than 60 people attended a public meeting on 24 March 1997 to discuss this matter. I thank the chief of the Ethnic Affairs Commission, Mr Stepan Kerkyasharian, for attending the meeting. I shall not detail all the matters raised. There is concern that restructuring would have a negative impact and services provided would not be effective in meeting the needs of the local community. It was resolved at the meeting that a deputation be appointed to meet the Premier, as Minister for Ethnic Affairs, and officials from his department. That meeting is currently taking place in the Premier's meeting room.
The deputation comprises Mr Felix Bronneberg, regional organiser for the south-east region of the Public Service Association - of course that union covers the two interpreters - Mr Paul Matters, secretary of the South Coast Labor Council; Mr Ilija Dimoski, Ethnic Affairs Commission interpreter; Mr Dimino Piras, Ethnic Affairs Commission interpreter; Mr George Angeleski of Work Focus at Warrawong, which is charged with the task of finding employment for people from non-English speaking backgrounds; Mr Sparse Karoski, former President of the Macedonian Welfare Association; Ms Heather Stanton, committee member of the Deaf Community of the Illawarra Incorporated; and Pat Drummond, secretary-treasurer of the Deaf Community of the Illawarra Incorporated.
While restructuring may result in services being expanded in some areas, it may have the unforeseen negative impact of reducing people's ability to meet interpreters face to face and have ongoing contact. Court cases often continue for some time and involve meetings with legal representatives. Interpreters are required to gain knowledge of a case and may have to attend several court sittings. In such circumstances the use of one interpreter for the duration of a court case is much more effective than different interpreters attending court each day. One point to be made about people who often come from limited - [Time expired.]
LOOK AT ME NOW HEADLAND OCEAN OUTFALL
Mr FRASER (Coffs Harbour) [4.45 p.m.]: I draw the attention of honourable members to an ongoing debacle in Coffs Harbour that has been aggravated by the Government. Honourable members who were in the House before the 1995 election will definitely remember Look At Me Now Headland, because there was a localised battle with Greens and other people who adopted a NIMBY attitude - not in my back yard - in relation to an outfall of highly treated effluent into the Pacific Ocean at that headland. It was such a great issue that the Labor Party decided to run its 1995 election campaign on it. However, voting for the Labor candidate in the Coffs Harbour electorate fell by 6 per cent. Not to be outdone, the ideological push by most people in the area was taken up by the Government. The Minister for the Environment and the Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning have decided to turn Look At Me Now Headland into a nature reserve. They have foisted on the people of Coffs Harbour a $220 million solution, for which the people of Coffs Harbour must pay.
At the time the shadow minister for public works, now the Minister for the Olympics, told the Coffs Harbour electorate that the Government's proposed solution would not cost Coffs Harbour
ratepayers one cent. However, the Government's solution will cost ratepayers $220 million. The solution includes closing existing outfalls in Coffs Harbour and installing a deepwater ocean outfall for highly treated effluent, and reusing reclaimed water. Much to the dislike of local residents, in the latest edition of On Tap, a community newsletter on the Coffs Harbour sewerage strategy - the words "on tap" indicate that the reclaimed water can be used as drinking water - the Government has proposed putting effluent into not only the Coffs Harbour water supply but Bucca Bucca Creek, which is near where I live. More than 120 people draw their water supply directly from that creek, yet the Government -
Mr E. T. Page: Did you declare a conflict of interest?
Mr FRASER: I do not draw water from that creek, but residents who live near me do so.
Mr E. T. Page: The creek is near you. The restructure will affect you, so you should have declared an interest.
Mr FRASER: The verbiage coming from the Minister is the same as what is going into the creek - effluent. In On Tap the Government is saying that the reclaimed water is not good enough to flow into the ocean but is good enough for the local water supply and for drinking. That is lunacy. It is time the Government woke up. If the water is good enough to be allowed to flow back into an inland waterway - the effluent is high in phosphates, and the Minister should realise that blue-green algae is a problem in all waterways and is caused by phosphate - why is the water not good enough to flow into the ocean? Why must the people of Coffs Harbour pay $220 million for an ideology generated by a few greens and supported by the Labor Government? On Tap states that government departments have been directed to undertake trials although no environmental impact statement has been prepared. The water will be used in forests and on crops without an environmental impact statement being prepared. The latest statement on this issue released by the Department of Health states:
We are pleased to see a serious study of management practices for reclaimed water re-use on recreational areas including playing fields.
The department says it wants to see the study, but it knows that the study will prove that the viruses and bacteria that cannot be taken out of the effluent will cause direct problems for people using the playing fields. The polio virus, for example, will live in soil for up to 170 days. Apparently this effluent cannot be put directly into a deepwater ocean outfall and thus save money for the people but it can be put on playing fields and into water supplies. No water treatment company or government body will give guarantees of virus removal. Everyone knows that strains of the hepatitis virus from A to F and beyond, have now been identified; there is a virus that changes and that can live in soil. The Government is prepared to put the effluent on playing fields and into the water supply but is not prepared to dilute it by a ratio of billions to one and pump it into the ocean. The people of Coffs Harbour will pay for the Government's approach. Here in Sydney the same Government talks about putting in an outfall with primary treated effluent at Cronulla. The Government can lift its game and clean up the effluent in Sydney, but it will put the problem on to the people in Coffs Harbour. That is not good enough. [Time expired.]
MANUFACTURED HOME PARKS
Mr CRITTENDEN (Wyong) [4.50 p.m.]: I speak of the position of people in mobile home parks who own their own home and rent a site, a patch of dirt, from the park owner. Many honourable members would be aware of my long-standing interest in this matter. It was in fact the subject of my first speech in the House. Subsequent to that, I moved amendments to the legislation that had the effect of removing the iniquitous no-fault eviction clause and removing the issue of premiums and commissions on the sale of mobile homes when in fact no work is undertaken by the park owner. Honourable members will also recall that in September 1991 the coalition Government could not see its way clear to support the reasonable propositions I put forward. Fortunately, the coalition changed its mind in 1994 after pressure from the former member for South Coast, John Hatton.
Presently the main issue in the ongoing saga of manufactured home estates, relocatable home estates or mobile home parks - whatever the CCIA, the Caravan and Camping Association, is calling the parks these days - is that of excessive rent increases. Last Saturday, 12 April, I met with 125 residents of the Heritage Mobile Home Park in my electorate. I point out to the House that this is not the first time I have had to speak in this House about this particular park. The matter that most concerns residents at the Heritage Mobile Home Park is the substantial rent increases that have occurred. I understand that there was a $1.50 per week rent increase on 1 October 1996 and an increase of $1.50 per week is proposed from 17 April 1997; this will bring the average weekly site rental to $92 per week. Some people still have trouble grasping the fact that these so-
called tenants pay $92 per week to rent a patch of dirt on which they locate their substantial house, which they own and which has a value probably in the vicinity of $60,000.
People pay $92 per week to rent a small parcel of land roughly 12 metres by 20 metres on which they locate a manufactured home or mobile home that they own. The Minister for Fair Trading has endeavoured to address some of these problems through services such as the Park Occupants Information Service, POIS, which was established in Toukley. From my discussion with the residents last Saturday, it appears that the problems are substantial and POIS has not dealt with them adequately. The real problem is one of achieving justice in the Residential Tenancies Tribunal. I have spoken with the tribunal's chairman, Ms Sally Chopping, about the unique situation of people in mobile home parks who in fact own their own homes but not the land on which the homes are situated.
Many residents believe that they are simply not being treated equitably when matters are raised in the tribunal. Apparently the tribunal carries out comparative assessments of rents charged in other parks and reviews so-called market rentals, when in fact market forces are non-existent. Residents of mobile home parks who own their substantial homes are a captive market and park owners enjoy the monopoly for the simple reason that these so-called tenants have to move their houses at a cost in excess of $10,000 if they are not happy with a rent increase. If they do move, they are by no means sure that the rents charged at new park locations will not increase at an exorbitant rate also. People are locked in and the tribunal is still not working to provide an equitable solution to the problem.
I have read judgments that have been delivered, and it would appear that some tribunal members still refer to these parks as caravan parks. They are anything but caravan parks. Residents of mobile home parks, not only residents of the Heritage Mobile Home Park but residents of mobile homes generally, believe that the tribunal is letting them down. I brought to the Minister's attention on Tuesday other issues raised at the meeting last Saturday. The Minister is investigating all issues that arose from the meeting. As honourable members would be aware, the Minister has been sick both yesterday and today and cannot be here to respond to my statement this evening.
I was disappointed last night to hear that a member of the Legislative Council, Mr Gallacher, had launched a personal attack on me in respect of this issue. The matter requires commitment and dedication; it does not require grubby political grandstanding. Mr Gallacher would do well to help the residents of the Heritage Mobile Home Park by consulting his Liberal colleague, the Mayor of Wyong, Councillor Eaton, who wrote to me on 2 January to say that there was a definite timetable for drainage works to be enforced at the park and that the work would be concluded by 31 March 1997. That has not yet occurred. [Time expired.]
GARRAWARRA CENTRE FOR AGED CARE
Mr KERR (Cronulla) [4.55 p.m.]: This evening I draw to the attention of the House the situation of the Garrawarra Centre for Aged Care. Honourable members will recall the demonstration outside Parliament last week and that a deputation of concerned people met the Minister for Health. I have subsequently received representations from constituents in relation to the Garrawarra hospital and believe it is important that their concerns be placed on the record. One letter I have received reads as follows:
Recently Dr Andrew Refshauge, Minister for Health (NSW), announced cuts to services at Garrawarra Hospital. My family are gravely concerned about this! At present my father . . .a World War Two Veteran, is suffering from dementia. His prognosis is not good and as such his current Respite stay at Garrawarra may be extended to a permanent placement at the centre.
My emphasis is on May, as it is unclear as to the availability of a bed for him. Specialist Geriatrician, Dr George Stathers, of Southcare has told me, as my father's principal carer, that he is "not supportable in a home environment". All efforts are being made to provide [him] with safe and secure accommodation.
I interpose to point out that Dr Stathers is widely known and very highly respected in the Sutherland shire and beyond. The letter continues:
Other families are in this situation and as our population ages, more families will confront the Health issues of aged people ie: Dementia, Alzheimers and frailty. As politicians, as representatives of electors, your duty is to represent the community as a whole. Somehow, I cannot see that cutting back on services to some of our most vulnerable citizens, people who in their early years, contributed much to the building of our society and way of life, is a responsible step to take.
I point out that a week from tomorrow we will commemorate Anzac Day. Many of our older people were prepared to lay down their lives to ensure the protection of our way of life and our democracy. Another letter I received recently reads as follows:
I write to you and other local M.P's to record my concern regarding the threatened impending changes at Garrawarra Centre for Aged Care.
My elderly Mother . . . was a resident there for several years before her recent death.
The care and attention given to her was excellent; all staff worked hard to maintain exemplary standards - usually under difficult and de-moralised conditions.
There are unique units at Garrawarra caring in very specialised ways for a whole range of geriatric conditions and it will be totally detrimental to the shire community to change this facility.
I have also received a letter from the Sutherland Shire Home and Community Care Consumer Forum, which states:
I am writing on behalf of the Sutherland Shire Home and Community Care Consumer Forum. At our last forum, great concern was particularly expressed at the down grading and reduction of respite care, at Garrawarra Nursing Home and Respite Facility. We are sure the New South Wales Government would realise that this represents an error in priorities.
In the present economic situation, the welfare of carers is paramount. Their disappearance will cause a surprising rise in expenditure. It is obvious that carers must have respite. Garrawarra is an essential part of this respite. The plan to close off some areas, we feel, is an error in judgment.
Garrawarra needs to be expanded - not downgraded. Disabled and frail aged will suffer from this downgrading. As you would appreciate carers today are an integral part of the economic management of the disabled and the aged. This group does not stand alone, they and the people around them represent a sizable part of the community.
Carers contribution is valuable. Young carers need to be kept on their feet and older carers need to be kept alive.
That letter demonstrates the pressing need to maintain this facility. However, as the letter stated,
Garrawarra needs to be expanded, not downgraded. On behalf of the needy, their relatives and carers, I appeal to the Government to put their minds at rest and make a decision for expansion and upgrade.
Private members' statements noted.
QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
MINISTER FOR THE OLYMPICS OVERSEAS TRAVEL
Mr KNIGHT: I wish to provide some supplementary information to an answer I gave earlier today to a question asked by the Leader of the National Party. I was asked a question without notice alleging impropriety against Peter O'Connell, who has been a close personal friend of mine for over 25 years. In the heat of responding to that scurrilous attack by the Leader of the National Party, I made reference to Peter O'Connell also having given unpaid assistance to the wife of the Leader of the Opposition. I regret involving Dominique Collins in my response. While what I said is true and suggests no impropriety on her behalf, her personal business affairs are not relevant to the proceedings in this House. Personally, I like Dominique Collins and I do not wish to cause her any embarrassment. I was not intending to make any adverse reflection on Dominique Collins, nor did I do so, but was pointing out the hypocrisy of her husband's position. That is an allegation, namely, the hypocrisy of the Leader of the Opposition, that I certainly stand by.
House adjourned at 5.02 p.m., until Tuesday, 22 April 1997, at 2.15 p.m.