Thursday, 8 May 1997
Mr Speaker (The Hon. John Henry Murray) took the chair at 10.00 a.m.
Mr Speaker offered the Prayer.
1997-98 STATE BUDGET
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I have given due consideration to the issue of anticipation of debate during the currency of the budget debate. There are many rulings of various Speakers over a long period of time, some of which appear to be contradictory and relate to procedures which are no longer in existence, for example the adjournment debate and the grievance debate. As the budget debate extends over many sitting weeks and covers virtually all aspects of activities of government, and affects all citizens in some way or other, it seems to me that to apply the anticipation-of-debate rule in Standing Order 86 during the currency of the budget debate would be too restrictive to members. I propose that, unless otherwise directed by the House, this rule should not apply during the currency of the budget debate on the basis that the budget debate is not necessarily the most effective means for all issues related to the budget to be raised.
In relation to specific procedures I wish to make the following observations. It has long been the practice, by virtue of various rulings, to allow questions without notice relating to community and business reaction to the budget or seeking further information on the effects of the budget. I propose to follow these rulings and continue to allow such questions. In relation to motions for urgent consideration and matters of public importance I note that matters concerning the effect or application of budget proposals would be in order during the currency of the budget debate. It seems to me that it is appropriate for members to use these procedures to draw the attention of the Government to budget implications, both positive and negative, which are of an urgent and important nature.
While it would not be in order during private members' statements to raise matters which are the subject of a bill before the House, such a rule should not apply to the Appropriation Bill and cognate bills provided other restrictions applying to private members' statements are not infringed. General business notices of motions relating to the budget may be given during the currency of the budget debate. However, I observe that such a practice may be of little benefit to members because of the procedures governing consideration of such matters whereby there is an inevitable time delay before such motions come before the House for debate, with the likelihood that the budget debate will already have concluded. In summary I rule, unless otherwise directed by the House, that during the currency of the budget debate the anticipation-of-debate rule does not apply to any other procedure available to members.
Mr Hartcher: On a point of clarification. The last sentence of your ruling states that the anticipation-of-debate rule does not apply to any other procedure. Does that mean that it does not restrict -
Mr SPEAKER: It does not apply.
FIRE BRIGADES AMENDMENT BILL
Bill introduced and read a first time.
Mr DEBUS (Blue Mountains - Minister for Corrective Services, Minister for Emergency Services, and Minister Assisting the Minister for the Arts) [10.05 a.m.]: I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
The amendments to the Fire Brigades Act now before the House represent the first of two major initiatives by the Government in upgrading the level of fire protection for the community of New South Wales. In the next few weeks I will also introduce the Rural Fires Bill, which will bring about a major and long-overdue restructure of the Department of Bush Fire Services. This bill will put in place a cohesive command structure for bush fire brigades, while preserving the best traditions of local autonomy, which are the hallmark of the volunteer bush fire fighting movement. Together, these amendments to the Fire Brigades Act and the Rural Fires Bill represent a comprehensive response by
this Government to the emergency which struck the State in January 1994.
The amendments to the Fire Brigades Act also will redress the additional problem of fire protection for large-scale urban development in areas of the State which until recent years were largely rural. The changes to the two fire services are being implemented in the spirit of cooperative firefighting which I have overseen through a ministerial task force, culminating in the establishment of the Joint Fire Services Standing Committee. When I assumed responsibility for the emergency services portfolio two years ago I was briefed by Commissioner MacDougall, of the New South Wales Fire Brigades, and Commissioner Koperberg, of the Department of Bush Fire Services, on the two major issues facing them. The first was the ongoing Coroner's inquiry into the disastrous bushfires of 1994. The second concerned the ever-increasing difficulty that the New South Wales Fire Brigades has in adequately covering the burgeoning urban development on the fringes of the State's major population centres, especially on the north-western and south-western fringes of Sydney and areas of regional growth across the State.
In late 1995 this latter problem gained public attention following the tragic death of five people in a house fire in the outer-western Sydney suburb of Claymore. Then in early 1996 the Coroner presented his findings in relation to the 1994 bushfires. These amendments will redress the infrastructure problems of which Claymore is a tragic example. The Rural Fires Bill will address the Coroner's recommendations. In recent years the New South Wales Fire Brigades has been improving the research and analysis tools used when it is deciding where to locate fire stations. Utilising the computer mapping facilities which are now available, the New South Wales Fire Brigades has established those areas within its fire districts where the existing network of stations is stretched to the limit if crews are to respond within minimum time frames, time frames which must be met if serious injury and even death are to be averted.
Even without this technological evidence, the inadequacy of the brigades' infrastructure is obvious in light of the annual increase in the population since the early 1980s. However, since 1984 no additional fire stations have been established in the Sydney area, one of the State's most rapidly growing urban centres. Much the same can be said for the other rapid-growth areas in the State. When I discovered this upon taking office, I directed the New South Wales Fire Brigades to prepare a series of strategic programs to redress the situation in those areas identified as requiring additional fire suppression infrastructure. Soon after I set this process in train the Coroner's report was released in February 1996. The Coroner urged that the Government should "consider urgently reviewing all residential and commercial developments to ensure that they are adequately covered by the NSW Fire Brigades and that sufficient fire stations are provided to ensure reasonable response times are maintained". It was therefore timely that the first of the brigades' strategic programs was completed at around that time. It covers the greater Sydney area, in which a number of locations were identified where additional fire stations are required over the next three years.
On 14 February this year the Premier announced a multimillion dollar building program which will see these new fire stations built in the north-west and south-west regions of Sydney over the next three years at a cost of about $18 million. Other stations will be built on a priority basis after the year 2000, and strategic programs for other areas of need - especially in regional and rural growth areas - will be completed in the near future. On the basis of the advice we received, it was apparent to the Government that the brigades' current level of capital funding would be insufficient even to keep up with current growth, let alone redress the backlog of previous years. Since coming to government we have arranged significant increases in the brigades' capital allocation. These are still insufficient to implement the strategic programs, and it is therefore necessary to put in place another means of ensuring an adequate level of capital funding.
It is significant in this regard that the two fire services - New South Wales Fire Brigades and the Department of Bush Fire Services - raise their capital funds in different ways. The Bush Fire Brigades' capital program is funded by the insurance industry, which contributes 73.7 per cent; the Consolidated Fund, which contributes 14 per cent; and local government, which contributes 12.3 per cent. It is of some relevance that the New South Wales Fire Brigades' new works capital program is entirely raised at present from the Consolidated Fund. In the first part of this decade, under the coalition Government, the unpredictable nature of that funding base was made plain, when in three budgets the brigades received no capital funding for new work from the Consolidated Fund. That meant that no new stations could be built to ensure protection for the State's new communities. Strategic planning was impossible to achieve.
As a result of this bill the funding of the brigades' capital program will be raised in the same manner as the recurrent budget. This change is
proposed to take effect for the 1998-99 budget. The exception to that will be the brigades' self-funding mechanisms, which will not change under these amendments. This amendment has two major effects. First, it introduces a consistent funding mechanism which applies to both fire services. Second, it allows for some predictability in the level of capital funding to the fire brigades. It is important to quantify - and put in context - the additional impost on the contributors that will result from this bill. Using the 1996-97 budget figures, this amendment would have the following effects. In 1996-97 the net recurrent cost of the fire brigades is $244 million. The capital program is $24 million, of which $15 million is funded from internal brigades' sources. The Consolidated Fund contributed $8.8 million. It is that figure that would be subject to the new contribution scheme proposed in this bill. Still using the 1996-97 figures, that represents a 3 per cent increase in the total amount liable to contributions.
In the case of the insurance industry that would represent an additional contribution of $6.4 million. It is relevant to note here that the Insurance Council of Australia has indicated that it has no objections to the additional contribution that the industry is being asked to make under this amendment. In the case of local government, the total additional contribution, spread across the 164 individual contributing councils, would amount to $1.1 million. Rather than attributing the actual capital expenditure in each year to each individual council, the capital contribution will be in the form of a sinking fund. This is more equitable, as the additional contributions for each council will be in the same proportion as its contribution to the brigades' recurrent budget. Again using this year's figures, each council's contribution to the fire service levy would increase by 3 per cent - a small amount indeed when lives are at stake.
The Government appreciates local government's concern that sometimes the percentage increase in the fire service levy exceeds the maximum increase in general income allowed by the Minister for Local Government. In recognition of this situation, last year the Minister for Local Government agreed to include increases in the fire service levy in the heads of consideration under which councils can apply to the Minister for relief from that restriction, commonly known as rate pegging. The bill also seeks to assist local government where the contribution is decided on the relative land values established by the Valuer-General. This has caused significant annual fluctuations in each council's contributions. To overcome this, the bill provides for a five-year rolling average of aggregated land values as the basis for apportioning contributions in fire districts covering more than one council.
This amendment is in accord with a recommendation made by Mr Ken Robson, a former State Auditor-General, in his review of fire service funding undertaken for the former Government. There are also a number of housekeeping amendments in this bill. The financial procedures of the brigades have changed since the Act was introduced in 1989, and the bill will ensure that the legislation reflects current practice. The bill also proposes to ensure that the commissioner is provided with the power to enter into arrangements associated with the outsourcing of the automatic fire alarm system presently operated by the brigades. The system provides an automatic connection to fire stations from premises which require protection. The current system consists of antiquated technology which relies on copper wire connections.
The telecommunications carriers are phasing this technology out in favour of fibre optics. It is proposed that the fire alarm connections - which are required by the Local Government Act and the Building Code of Australia - will be provided by a third party, which will collect and assess the alarms and pass them on to the brigades. This will enable the use of the latest technology to provide a better, cheaper service to the customer, but without the brigades bearing the huge capital cost that would be incurred if they were to provide the system themselves. The bill will also confirm the power of the commissioner to delegate functions contained in the regulations. This is done in accordance with advice from the Crown Solicitor. The main purpose of this bill is to ensure that New South Wales Fire Brigades receives an assured source of capital funding. In conjunction with the Rural Fires Bill, which I will introduce later this session, this legislation will ensure that an equitable level of fire protection is provided to the people of New South Wales. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate adjourned on motion by Mr Hartcher.
NEWCASTLE STEELWORKS CLOSURE
Debate resumed from 7 May.
Mr COLLINS (Willoughby - Leader of the Opposition) [10.17 a.m.]: The coalition amendment to this motion will boost the morale and confidence of the people of Newcastle following the recent BHP announcement to close down steel manufacturing in Newcastle, an announcement that the Opposition, along with the Government, plainly
deplores. It is the Opposition's view that BHP is making a serious error in closing down steel production in Newcastle and that any gains that BHP might make in its competitive position will be eroded should it decide to shift steel making offshore rather than continue steel production at Newcastle.
If BHP does move to shift steel making offshore to some of the booming Asian tiger economies, it will be only a matter of time until the standard and cost of living in those countries increases dramatically, given their exponential growth at the moment. Therefore, the temporary competitive edge that those countries may have on Newcastle and on other Australian manufacturing bases will be removed within the next 20 years or so. I simply ask BHP, in the strategic interests of Australia and the economic interests of New South Wales and those who have devoted their lives to steel production in Newcastle, to reconsider its decision to take these jobs away from Newcastle. The Opposition believes that BHP has made a decision that may have short-term advantages but massive long-term disadvantages for the company and, indeed, for Australia.
The Premier has known for some time that BHP intended to close its Newcastle steel-making operations. This is not news to the Premier or the Government. Indeed, in October last year, when BHP first foreshadowed its Newcastle cuts, the Premier said that he would "move heaven and earth" to protect jobs in Newcastle. If the Premier has moved heaven and earth we need more miracles from the Government, because heaven and earth did not move for the people of Newcastle. They felt nothing except the cold reality of BHP's announcement to terminate 2,500 jobs, which is likely to have a flow-on effect to thousands of additional jobs beyond those directly involved in steel making in Newcastle. Since October last year the Premier has done absolutely nothing, although he said he would move heaven and earth. Last week when the axe finally fell and BHP made its announcement, all the Premier could offer the men and women of the Hunter was hollow rhetoric - higher soundings, as we hear so often in this Chamber.
By contrast, the coalition has a detailed and comprehensive strategy to help the Hunter region to recover from this setback. Our plan has received enthusiastic support in the Hunter. We have gone to the Hunter with alternatives, the promise of additional jobs and a real indication of where the jobs can come from. Honourable members will recall that the country summit was convened in Tamworth on 30 November last year. One of the principal issues arising out of that summit was the relocation of government jobs outside Sydney. In other words, many public sector jobs located in the Sydney central business district could be relocated to regional centres, given modern communications, including the Internet and faxes. The days when every public servant needed to be within arm's length of the Minister sitting in this House are well and truly over, but not for the Carr Government.
For the steelworkers and all those who support them, where is the Carr Government's list of government jobs, departments and instrumentalities that could be relocated to regional New South Wales, and in particular, in this moment of crisis, to Newcastle? There has been absolutely no response. There has been deafening silence from the Premier and his Ministers on this constructive alternative proposed by the coalition. Instead, today the Premier will urge the Commonwealth Government to invest $10 million in Newcastle. After hearing the reaction this morning of the Federal industry Minister, John Moore, I want to offer the absent Premier some advice. Before he starts committing other people's money for his own political purposes he should at least have the courtesy to ask them to make a commitment. Further, he should provide some constructive proposals and ideas of his own before asking the Commonwealth for a handout.
The Premier is also relying on a $5 million donation from BHP. Where is his commitment to the people of the Hunter? The honourable member for Cabramatta is looking extremely puzzled. The Opposition is puzzled, too. The Premier has not given a commitment to the people of the Hunter. The expression on the honourable member's face mirrors that on the faces of all honourable members. Although the Premier is asking the Commonwealth for $10 million and he is asking BHP for $5 million, where is his commitment to the people of the Hunter in their time of need? Where is the list of public sector jobs controlled by the Premier that he will transfer to Newcastle to help to fill the gaping wound created by BHP? The Premier is shirking his responsibilities to the Hunter.
Only the most insensitive person would offer free financial advice to men facing redundancy. But that is all that the Government has done. The Premier has said that those who have been thrown on the employment scrap heap should be offered a bit of advice, some counselling and perhaps a bit of retraining but otherwise they are on their own. The people of the Hunter should not be on their own; they deserve the support of the Government and the Parliament. They certainly have the support of the
coalition in the battle ahead to build Newcastle and to fill the job gap left by BHP's decision. If the Premier thinks that he will win people over by offering free financial advice, that is a direct insult to the workers of the Hunter. It is obvious that the Premier did not meet the same people I met on my visit to Newcastle last week. I talked to a number of people in the street, as well as the mayor of Newcastle.
The people I met asked for State Government intervention. They want to know where the jobs will come from. They did not ask for free financial advice. They want the Premier to be more than a grief counsellor, and that is all he is offering. The only thing he is offering the people of New South Wales is a few hollow words not backed by any policy commitment from his Government. In distinct contrast, the coalition has a realistic plan for the people of the Hunter. It has not conceded defeat on their behalf, but offered a plan that will absorb the Newcastle workers who face unemployment. The coalition's strategy has been developed in consultation with community and interest groups, advocates of development in the Hunter and those who want improvement in services to the Hunter. The only thing the coalition's strategy does not include is defeatist rhetoric.
The coalition, both at the Federal and State level, believes that the time has come for the port of Newcastle to come of age. It could become a high-tech, modern container port, thereby creating a new and viable industry for the Hunter. The experience gained by the New Zealand Government privatising the port of Tauranga is a shining example of how governments can turn unprofitable public assets into viable and successful enterprises. Historically, port privatisation has led to greater efficiency and reliability, and lower port charges. It has stimulated employment and throughput. The coalition wants the Government to take such an initiative to give Newcastle a fresh opportunity and the jump on other ports on the Australian coastline. Yet there has been deafening silence from the Government.
The coalition also believes that the Government should urgently and thoroughly examine opening the airport at Williamtown Royal Australian Air Force base to international and charter flights during the Olympic Games, thereby encouraging people to stay in the Hunter. When one considers that the Premier plundered every hotel in Sydney with yesterday's announcement of a bed tax, I have no doubt that the Government will need every bed available during the Olympic Games. The proposal, which might offer a long-term opportunity for the Hunter, should be investigated and put in place now if it is feasible. The coalition has modest political representation in the Hunter. I refer specifically to the member for Upper Hunter, the Deputy Leader of the National Party, who is known for his modesty, and the Liberal member for Maitland, who together have done a sterling job in representing the coalition. Upper Hunter and Maitland are the only two seats in the Hunter held by the coalition.
Unless the Labor Party does more to support those who have traditionally voted for it the coalition will hold a great many more seats in the future. It is obvious that many disaffected Labor voters are wondering why on earth they vote for the Labor Party when the Labor Party simply takes them for granted. The coalition did not take the people of Newcastle for granted in relation to the minehunter project. Next month the first of a series of six minehunters will be launched at Newcastle. The previous coalition Government worked very hard to get that project for Newcastle. When I was Minister for State Development at about the end of 1992 I visited a number of European ship designers. I had one message for those potential shipbuilders: whoever won the contract should build the ships in Newcastle, New South Wales. I encouraged the Cabinet to support that proposition and the Fahey Government totally supported it. The Keating Government ultimately supported that proposition. This is an example of the coalition working constructively to provide jobs in Newcastle. Despite holding only two seats in the Hunter region, we have been prepared to make that effort. They are our bona fides. Where are the bona fides of the Labor Government?
In the same spirit I have written to the Prime Minister on behalf of the people of Newcastle asking him to consider which defence resources might be relocated to the Hunter region. The Australian Defence Force is considering the possibility of locating a joint headquarters at Williamtown. This is a constructive proposal which would generate jobs in the Hunter region. Members of this House will recall the Premier in this Chamber yesterday mocking my approach to the Prime Minister to consider Australian Defence Force jobs being relocated to Newcastle. The Premier strutted up and down in this Chamber, lied about the terms I had used, and tried to turn my approach to the Prime Minister into a joke. He mocked the whole proposition. That is the approach taken by the Premier to the people of Newcastle. He would rather mock constructive coalition proposals for increasing job opportunities in Newcastle than advocate them himself.
The Premier has been petulant and flippant. He has poured scorn upon a serious proposal which would generate job opportunities for the Hunter. It is the Premier who deserves the scorn, and he will get it from the people of Newcastle. We have come up with realistic and obtainable objectives for the State Government. The Premier has a moral responsibility to do what he said he would do seven months ago - and we are still waiting - that is, move heaven and earth to ensure that the people of Newcastle have an opportunity for prosperity in the future. At the last Federal election the Labor Party discovered what happens when it neglects its heartland. Following my visit to Newcastle last week I suggest the Premier take note of recent political history. He may well find himself in a similar situation at the next State election. I end on this point in relation to unemployment: may the disdain and indifference shown by the Premier greet him when he joins the ranks of the unemployed after the next State election.
Mr NEILLY (Cessnock) [10.35 a.m.]: I support the motion moved by the Minister for Gaming and Racing, and Minister Assisting the Premier on Hunter Development. In response to the comments by the Leader of the Opposition I state that in relation to government activity on the future of BHP no-one has been more active than the Minister in endeavouring to negotiate with BHP and other interested parties. However, much to the chagrin of the Minister, BHP has played its cards very close to its chest and given away virtually nothing. Therefore the Government has not been able to do as much as it may have.
The contributions in this debate from both sides have included many positive points in proposing ideas to overcome the dilemma confronting the people of Newcastle following the announcement by BHP of the impending closure of its steel manufacturing division. To clarify the situation, the bloke who made the announcement, the boss of the steel division, McNeilly, is no relation. Furthermore, I am a long-time shareholder in BHP. I bought shares in night school days, minimum parcels to get an idea of what was contained in company reports. So I have had a first-hand opportunity to observe BHP reports over many years.
Mr Face: We are not going to ask you to declare an interest.
Mr NEILLY: It is already in my pecuniary declaration. The honourable member for Wallsend made a melodious contribution to the debate yesterday. He also used a couple of acronyms. When BHP came to Newcastle in the early part of the century it brought hope and promise. In exiting now it is leaving behind broken-hearted people. It is not the first time BHP has walked out of a community. The fortune of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited was based on Broken Hill. The company now has no presence in Broken Hill. Over the years the people of Newcastle have been extremely loyal to BHP. People in the nearby suburbs had to put up with grime, smog and other pollution. They persevered and lived with it.
Many houses were almost unmarketable during the heyday of BHP because of the discolouration that occurred. Within a few hours vehicles would be covered with dust. But that was part and parcel of a community relying on a steel industry as its major employer to provide the income to enable the community to survive. After the recent announcement the loyalty of the people has worn thin. Over the years that BHP has operated in Newcastle there have been changes. After World War II many people emigrated from war-ravaged Europe. The only employment they could achieve in the Hunter region was at the BHP plant. The steel-making industry in those days relied to a large extent on unskilled labour, and in many instances that is all that could be provided by the immigrants.
In the late 1950s and early 1960s in my area many mines closed or were downscaled because of mechanisation but at least the people displaced had the opportunity to work at the BHP plant. In those days BHP employed about four times as many people as at present. It was an extremely big employer. The downside was that people in the mining towns virtually lived on the site of the mines and they had to travel to get to the plant. A side bonus was the provision of a few extra bus services. BHP is now in its final throes. We will be left with a rod and bar division employing perhaps 500 or 600 people. This development was on the cards. Last year the BHP annual report virtually wrote off Newcastle steelworks. It was depreciated off the books and taken as a special loss - $280 million was written off the company's assets.
BHP is not moving out of steel works and will retain a presence in the Australian steel industry, but I believe that presence will be susceptible to change because the company has equity in steel-making activities offshore. Certainly BHP is no different from other manufacturers and companies that have had a presence in my area. I think of what has transpired in the textiles trade, for example. Many textile companies such as Pacific Dunlop, through agencies such as Bonds, have moved offshore and now manufacture garments in China. The former
Federal Government perhaps erred in its level playing field philosophy, because there has been no spin-off for the people. The current Federal Government is holding off, and will have to re-examine that situation because more companies will move offshore to generate income onshore.
While I was at the barber's last Friday the young girl who cut my hair spoke about the future of her fiancé, a 26-year-old who has worked at the BHP plant in Newcastle for eight years. She told me that her fiancé hoped to be able to work at BHP for another 18 months or so and then come away with about $30,000, representing his accumulated entitlements and some redundancy money. The young girl felt that would give them enough money to put down a deposit on a house. I did not have the heart to tell her that her fiancé's prospects of finding another job would be fairly limited because he is an unskilled labourer, and that even though $30,000 would be good for a home deposit a finance organisation would not accept him for a loan if, as an unemployed person, he did not have sufficient income. Many people in Newcastle will be confronted by similar realities in the coming years.
Many of the ideas that have been expressed about industry that ought to be brought to Newcastle, whilst being philosophically sound in that they would lead to a change in Newcastle's industry base, do not address the reality that the local work force is still to a large extent an unskilled work force. If alternative employment is to be provided, to accommodate the needs of those who are to be displaced it will need to take account of the type of worker becoming available. Employment opportunities for an unskilled work force are not always so readily accomplished. In conjunction with the opportunities to be provided to Newcastle, if everyone plays the game and moulds sympathy into support for Newcastle, we ought to consider the creation of enterprise zones in New South Wales, and there is an onus on BHP in this regard. Newcastle would be the appropriate place to proceed with enterprise zones, because BHP has a site available - and in this regard I am not talking about the steelworks site; I am talking about the adjoining area of Tourle Street, which has been the subject of discussion between the New South Wales Government and BHP in the past 12 to 18 months.
The Tourle Street site has been earmarked as a potential inducement to attract industries to Newcastle. If the Government is to dish out money, it is more appropriate that it come in the form of company inducements, such as payroll tax concessions from the State perspective, investment allowance concessions from the Federal perspective, and limited concessional rating arrangements from the local government perspective. This is the opportune time for the creation of enterprise zones, and it would be an appropriate approach by all parties to the dilemma now confronting Newcastle. A facsimile I received from the Newcastle City Council today pointed out that the council also will be financially bereft. Significant changes of all kinds will occur when BHP in its current capacity moves out of Newcastle. BHP has been a big consumer of electricity and water and has provided handsome rating income for the council. Local authority income from those sources will be diminished, which will perhaps mean that other ratepayers have to pay more.
Newcastle will also lose all of the training opportunities provided by BHP. In the past BHP has provided training for skilled tradespersons and university education. One of my cousins, who is now a professor at the Australian National University, came from a relatively poor family and started his training through BHP. He would not have had that opportunity had it not been provided by BHP. We still have to be thankful to BHP for the opportunities that have been provided. When the announcement about BHP's intentions was made there was genuine sorrow across Australia. All parts of the community were saddened at the news; even the financial pundits stated their opinion that the BHP decision was perhaps too sudden and that the company could have timed its move in a much more generous fashion. I suppose I was not really surprised by this, but the bonus was the significant increase in the value of BHP shares - by about 90¢ - as a consequence of the announcement. So money has been made and there is still money to be made out of this exercise. In a free enterprise society we have our sorrows and we have our gains. It is my hope that some of those gains can be put back into Newcastle to make Newcastle the vigorous place it ought to be and shall be in the future.
Mr SOURIS (Upper Hunter - Deputy Leader of the National Party) [10.46 a.m.]: I am pleased to speak in support of the amendment moved by the honourable member for Myall Lakes. The amendment ought to be supported by all honourable members in a spirit of genuineness. To focus attention on any one of the tiers of government would be essentially to deny that the problem is of relevance to all tiers of government. Previous speakers from both sides of the House have referred to local government, the Federal Government and the State Government. A political stunt that may be designed to focus attention elsewhere, on the Federal Government, ought to be dropped and the House ought to adopt an all-inclusive policy and an all-
inclusive motion. I reside in the upper reaches of the Hunter and was at home when I heard news of the BHP announcement. I, too, felt stunned, dismayed and even betrayed by BHP's announcement.
The wind of change has been upon us for a while. Several months ago there was the news that BHP was undertaking further studies - I suppose that all of the signs were there. However, it really does not matter whether the signs were there or whether they were spotted in the immediate period before the announcement was made. This issue is one that goes back at least a decade in terms of the governance of BHP and, to a certain extent, the relationship of the company, the city of Newcastle and the three tiers of government. I have always regarded BHP as Australia's corporate icon. BHP heads the market capitalisation on the Australian Stock Exchange and is a resource and industrial leader. Anything that BHP does or anything that happens to BHP very much influences the industry index with which BHP is associated, because of the company's predominant capitalisation in the marketplace.
BHP is a multinational company. Although I did not research this, I think it is Australia's only entry in the Fortune 500 list of companies. So it is a significant international player. To a great degree I, and no doubt many Australians, have regarded BHP as a symbol of Australia's prosperity over the years. BHP was always regarded as synonymous with the place of Australia's standard of living in the world. In those days, a decade or more ago, as a measure of our standard of living, Australia's position on a scale comparing gross domestic product per capita worldwide was in single digits. BHP has been the feature of the landscape of Newcastle, the State's second city - as it has been in Wollongong. BHP has been a feature in Newcastle from the days when coal shipping was, as it still is, an important aspect of Newcastle, to the time when steel making was - I suppose I should start to talk of it in the past tense - the predominant occupation in the Hunter Valley.
Not long ago, less than a decade, BHP employed 11,000 people in Newcastle. At that time Australia was largely self-sufficient in steel production. We were able to largely satisfy the demand for steel from domestic sources, except for specialised steel. For example, some of the rail going into the Sydney light rail system has been imported from Belgium because it is not produced locally. Excluding those sorts of products, Australia was largely self-sufficient in steel making. But now Australia is no longer self-sufficient in steel, which is an important and significant product in terms of our national economy and security. We have become dependent on the importation of steel, a basic commodity, which is essential to our economic prosperity in the future. After all, we are talking about a capital intensive aspect of manufacturing from a raw material or a combination of raw materials which are abundant in Australia. One of those raw materials is utterly abundant in the Hunter Valley. It is a shocking indictment of us all, of all levels of government, and of this corporate icon and multinational player, that Australia is so deserted in vision and economic strategy and planning that we are no longer self-sufficient in steel making.
BHP is now down to 2,500 employees in Newcastle. Those positions will virtually all be wiped out. Of course, our initial thoughts are with the displaced workers, their families and relatives, and our sympathy is extended to them. But sympathy does not go far in terms of the future of these people - about whom we have heard during this debate - who are still quite young and have young families and mortgages. This is a very significant social issue for us all. Further, what about the betrayed city? What about the morale of the city, the Hunter Valley and the hinterland? People often refer to the Hunter or to Newcastle and mean either. When I refer to the Hunter I sometimes mean Newcastle and sometimes one of the towns in the valley. I remember in 1988, when I was newly elected, the Premier's Department would often ask me to attend a function in Newcastle to represent the Government or the Premier. The Hunter, its towns and capital, have always been regarded as a close-knit interdependent community.
What about the BHP site? Will Newcastle have to live forever with a constant visual reminder of the shocking betrayal that our leading company has perpetrated on the city and the region? Will it have to retain the massive impact? Any person who ever goes near Newcastle cannot miss the massive impact of BHP. If BHP is going to abandon the city, then it should completely restore and rehabilitate the site so that there is no evidence of it ever having been there. We do not want to see where it has been. If it is going to leave us it should leave a site which bears no memory of or resemblance to the fact that it has been there. After this, BHP will not be welcome and it should remove signs of its former presence. More generally, the issue behind the issue is Australia's overall industrial capacity, which our attention has been focused on since our biggest company has gone through this process. That almost sounds like an involuntary process, but it is a voluntary process, and that is the point.
It dismays us to hear of famous Australian brand names becoming foreign owned and of the
decimation of our car-making capacity of yesteryear. Australia was self-sufficient in petrol refining but is no longer. I do not know how well known that fact is. Refined petroleum is imported from overseas, predominantly from Asian refinery plants which have over the years understood the value of investing in technology and improving capacity. But the fact is Australia is no longer self-sufficient in an obviously most important and strategic commodity. Australia virtually does not have an electronics industry any more. Dick Smith was made Australian of the Year, as if to thank him for discovering the joys of warehousing Taiwanese electronics.
Australia's balance of trade is a massive $26 billion. That figure may not sound large when dealing in vast figures. But if $26 billion of negative results are added to our balance of trade, that is the amount we owe the rest of the world - and this has been going on for a few years, throughout the entire Hawke-Keating regime, and seems to be continuing - and if we continue to do that per annum and allow the effect of it to compound, then very soon the statement which sometimes we laugh at, that we will be owned by the rest of the world, will become a reality. An external debt of $200 billion is no joke. We also recently saw the fate of the famous Rundles. I was shocked at what had happened to Rundles and our clothes manufacturing capacity in New South Wales. This has happened as a result of international competition in an industry where we ought to have a comparative advantage because we are a major supplier of the raw materials, such as cotton, wool, and leather.
Something has gone wrong when Australian industries have such an internationally comparative advantage because they supply the world with raw materials - whether it is coal, iron ore, cotton or wool - but the capacity to value add those materials has gradually diminished to the stage where Australia is virtually no longer part of the secondary industry associated with the raw materials. I have four wishes about this problem. The first is to look to a future when Australia again has a resurgence of investment to value add so that its agricultural and mineral industries achieve a comparative advantage. Next, I would try to see whether, for a change, it was possible to reinstate some corporate citizenship in this country.
Decentralisation and regional development would be my third wish because the de-population of non-metropolitan Australia in favour of metropolitan Australia is our greatest social problem. Fourth, for good measure, I would embrace small business, the family farmer and Australia's innovative capacity by creating a finance facility that would prevent our innovations going overseas to be developed. Australia does not only lose brand name products; often a brilliant invention remains in this country only to the prototype stage before it is purchased by another country with the ability and vision to invest in the research and development to make that innovation a commercial reality and mass produce it for supply to the rest of the world. Australia has missed many similar opportunities over the years.
BHP's decision is the first symptom of the dreadful lack of incentive and commitment by Australian governments and corporations to the nation's future, our standard of living and even our basic desire to build on our advantages. I condemn BHP and its board for failing Australia over the last decade or more. I condemn this leading public company for its failure to adopt strategies, planning and a capital investment level that would secure the future of Australia's steel industry in the twenty-first century. I truly believe that BHP could easily have avoided this decision. There is no excuse for BHP focusing its attention elsewhere and not on investment in production, capital and technology to ensure its core activity remained the predominant feature of Australia's corporate landscape.
The corporate strategy of BHP, the leading company in this country, in Australia is to import steel. What an outrage! How disgusting! I feel ashamed to even say it. As members of one level of government, we must do something. People are pressing all sorts of buttons to see what can be done for the region, the city and, I suppose, for Australia. What can be done? I have written down a few suggestions, though I do not say my list is exhaustive. I endorse also all of the other suggestions that have been made by members who have already spoken on this issue. Newcastle is a coal port; it handles for export nearly 50 million tonnes of steel annually. Australia exports about 100 million or slightly more tonnes of steel. Nearly half of Australia's coal exports go through the port of Newcastle, but I do not diminish Port Kembla's activity in this industry because that is a relevant factor.
Trains laden with coal - some carrying 10,000 tonnes - travel south to Newcastle straight past a very good, new power station that provides about 40 per cent of the electricity generated in the upper Hunter. Those trains also travel past power stations closer to Newcastle to deliver coal for export to other countries to generate electricity, to electrify their rail lines so that they can then cart oil along those rail lines to export to Australia to be used in diesel locomotives in the Hunter Valley to cart the
coal back down to be exported to those same countries! It is absolutely ridiculous! Newcastle exports a vast proportion of Australia's coal, yet there has been no government that has had the vision to use some coal for the electrification of a couple of hundred kilometres of rail line, which carries almost all of the State Rail Authority freight anywhere in New South Wales, including interstate container traffic. That short piece of rail line represents almost 80 per cent of the gross revenue of the State Rail Authority. Nearly 50 million litres of diesel is imported into Australia to cart coal for cheap electricity generation elsewhere in the world. It would not be a bad start for Australia to follow a similar procedure. [Extension of time agreed to.]
Other speakers have mentioned also the excellent airport at Williamtown in the Hunter Valley. Obviously, that airport has considerable development capacity as a commercial airport and freight airport, particularly for fresh or live exports directly to our northern neighbours. Undeniably, that airport's activities and those of the nearby infantry centre at Singleton represent a significant defence presence on which to build something constructive for the future of the region. I hope the Federal Government has similar views about those facilities. Shipbuilding in Newcastle is an obvious avenue for expansion. I include it, as have other speakers, because it can produce more industrial activity for the region. Newcastle is not a container port, as has been mentioned, but it could become one. It could then cater for a considerable amount of maritime container import and export activity, which presently occurs in Sydney and probably congests the Sydney road network with traffic associated with servicing that port.
TAFE can also provide an avenue of hope. Thank heavens for TAFE! It will offer retraining and reskilling of our work force. It would be a good idea to boost TAFE's involvement, presence and range of faculties in the Newcastle and Hunter Valley area. Pacific Power, the Department of Energy and the Department of Mineral Resources are ideal candidates for decentralisation to the Hunter area. If this Government were serious and intent on providing genuine relief for the beleaguered city and valley, it would announce the immediate implementation of decentralisation of those departments.
Overall a regional economic development zone is essential for Newcastle. It cannot be left to the disaggregated forces of the various tiers of government and the motivations of major corporations in the valley to ensure that somebody pulls all of these activities and forces together to provide an economic strategy that is capable of being implemented into the future. It is time we had a zone with power to make sure that all activities can be brought together to ensure a sustainable future with hope for continuing employment in Newcastle and the Hunter region. I am pleased to join with my colleagues, some of whom are from the Hunter, in supporting the amendment. The Leader of the Opposition mentioned that I and the honourable member for Maitland represent areas within the Hunter. The honourable member for Myall Lakes is also a member of the Hunter family. The Hon. M. J. Gallacher, the Hon. J. H. Jobling, and the Hon. Virginia Chadwick are Hunter-based members of Parliament in the upper House. In the Federal Government there are two Hunter-based Senators, Senator Macdonald, based in Singleton, and Senator Tierney, based in Newcastle, and the honourable member for Paterson, Bob Baldwin, is based in Maitland.
The Australian Labor Party and Hunter-based politicians have a significant stake in the region. In conclusion, the motion presented by the ALP smacks of political opportunism. If the Labor Party were genuine it would see the obvious wisdom of incorporating all tiers of government in this motion as a benefit for the Hunter Valley and Newcastle. It should pass up the opportunity to score a cheap political point. If the ALP is fair dinkum, if it is genuine, it will embrace the amendment moved by the Opposition. Many speakers from the Opposition have supported the amendment to the motion.
Mr MARKHAM (Keira) [11.12 a.m.]: I support the motion of the Minister for Gaming and Racing, and Minister Assisting the Premier on Hunter Development which states:
(1) deplores the decision of BHP to close down steel making operations at Newcastle by the end of 1999;
(2) calls on BHP to enter into meaningful negotiations with the State Government, unions and the Beyond 2000 Committee to lessen the impact of its decision on the Hunter region; and
(3) calls on the Federal Government to provide alternative employment opportunities by relocating Commonwealth operations to Newcastle.
What a slap in the face to families of workers who have given their lives to BHP in Newcastle and other areas where steel is manufactured. I grieve with the members from Newcastle who have spoken in this debate because of what BHP has done. I pass my condolences to everyone in the Newcastle area because BHP has decided to kill off steel production
at Newcastle. As both the member for Keira and the Parliamentary Secretary for the Illawarra I say that Wollongong has not escaped this threat. In the early 1980s 22,000 people were employed at BHP's operations in Port Kembla. BHP stated its intentions to close that plant, but a rescue package was put in place by the Hawke Federal Government.
But what has BHP done in the meantime? On many occasions I have said that the company ought to rethink its strategy as far as maintaining its profit viability. The 22,000 work force was reduced to 7,000 and George Edgar, Group General Manager of BHP in Port Kembla, announced that another 2,000 jobs will go. BHP has indicated that it will lift its steel output from 4.8 million tonnes to 5 million tonnes and world best practice says that an organisation should have only 1,000 employees per million tonne of output. On Friday, 4 April, the Illawarra Mercury published an article stating that the steel unions had entered into an agreement that none of their members would be axed during the course of the current agreement with BHP. The article stated:
"We must survive": BHP boss
BHP Port Kembla will start shedding management jobs immediately in "a radical solution" to survive.
That is an amazing statement. In an interview with the media I asked "What is BHP up to?" BHP has been shedding labour for the past 18 years and still has not got it right. BHP shed labour through voluntary redundancies and by driving people out of the work force and shutting down operations, but it still has not got it right. BHP should look to other aspects of its operations, but its easy solution is to shed labour. BHP has reactivated industrial action within the steel-producing cities of this country. Its operation at Port Kembla has not experienced a major industrial dispute for years. BHP personnel no longer calculate lost hours through industrial relations stoppages because the relationship between the company and the workers has been so good. Following this decision by BHP - whose board members could not care less about workers and their families - an article that appeared in the Illawarra Mercury on 6 May under the headline "Port joins BHP strike" stated:
"We won't accept scrapheap"
More than 5000 Port Kembla steelworkers will down tools on May 15 to join a 24-hour national strike against BHP Steel . . .
ACTU president Jennie George said the strike would affect all BHP Steel and associated industry with about 25,000 workers taking part.
This has been industrial sabotage by BHP. The article continued:
AWU-FIMEE Port Kembla branch secretary Graham Roberts said the ACTU would also co-ordinate an action committee to pressure BHP and the Federal Government to ensure the future of the steel industry in Australia.
"We have adopted the theme 'we won't accept the scrapheap - manufacturing counts'," Mr Roberts said. "Workers will not be relegated to the scrapheap."
BHP is walking away from manufacturing in this country and telling the people of Port Kembla that everything is good, steel production and steel milling will be increased - but for how long? What is BHP not telling us? In future Australia will have to import steel, not export it. The only stainless steel plant in Australia, situated in the Illawarra, has been shut. Stainless steel will have to be imported into Australia because BHP is walking away from its production. Early in April, at a meeting of business and community leaders, a BHP general manager, George Edgar, said that there were problems and that for BHP to survive drastic action would have to be taken in the form of shedding labour within management ranks. He said that for the good of the company people will be tapped on the shoulder, given some options but expected to go. That is still going on in the Illawarra and in Wollongong.
It amazes me that BHP has now become involved in real estate, and I have raised this subject in Parliament many times. BHP wants to develop and flog off land in Gipps Street which was part of the mining lease for Kemira mine. At the same time BHP wants to shut down and reduce steel production in this country - totally wipe it out in Newcastle - and reduce the amount of employment opportunities at Port Kembla, as well as shut down operations in other towns and cities throughout this country. Why is BHP so interested in flogging off land? Will that get the company out of its economic problems?
Mr Debnam: Before it pays land tax.
Mr MARKHAM: The honourable member for Vaucluse has a great interest in land tax. If BHP had any thought for the people of Wollongong who have made massive profits for BHP it would give that land back to the people of Wollongong, the people of the Illawarra, the people of New South Wales and the people of Australia as part of a State recreational area. I cannot understand the rationale of BHP wanting to flog off a parcel of land though
it is sacking workers. I assure the people of the Hunter that they have the support of the trade union movement in the Illawarra and the workers at BHP and in many other areas in the Illawarra.
I have no doubt that the coal industry workers, the miners, are giving the same support because in the last few years that industry has suffered an incredible loss of jobs. Companies such as Shell, which has decided to shut down a mine in my electorate at South Bulli because it has access to more lucrative mining reserves in the Hunter Valley and in the Bowen Basin at Moranbah, have shown that multinationals are not worried about families and the men and women who work for them. All they are interested in is profits. I heard the honourable member for Cessnock comment about what BHP stood for in Newcastle. In the Illawarra BHP stands for Bloody Huge Profits and that expression is used regularly. BHP does not really care about its work force or any of the communities in which it operates: all it cares about is bloody huge profits.
Mr WINDSOR (Tamworth) [11.24 a.m.]: Although I have great sympathy for the people of Newcastle and a very high regard for honourable members who have spoken in relation to this motion, particularly those who represent electorates in the wider community of Newcastle, I will not be supporting this motion. I take that stance for a number of reasons. As I said, I express sympathy to those who will lose jobs but the underlying scenario that honourable members should consider revolves around the role of government. The motion calls for some form of intervention from the State and Federal governments and, to some extent, the company.
I do not intend to discuss the steel industry and the international consequences of monetary markets and related issues. I believe that the role of government is not to prop up industry or to make sure that industry stays where it is. The role of government is to create an environment in which industry feels free to grow and to expand and hence employ people in a whole range of areas. Obviously the board of BHP has made certain decisions in relation to the bottom line. Whether or not honourable members agree with those decisions, in a free enterprise society the company has a right to make them.
Some honourable members have already spoken on the broader issues involved in the decision by BHP to close its steel-making operations. I believe that it is a symptom of a greater malaise that cannot be addressed with a rather simplistic rescue package of the kind suggested. The underlying reasons for the closure must be examined in relation to the effect that a State Parliament can have in relation to those decision-making processes. Obviously planning instruments come into the decision-making processes of many businesses. Modern monetary and communication systems make it quite easy for industries to locate here, in other States or in other countries.
The Government should ensure that the development of industry in this State is encouraged because that is the basis of job creation. I do not believe that any member of this Parliament, particularly given the downsizing of the public service, believes that the Parliament can afford to have a public service-led recovery. The Premier is on record at a number of places, including Tamworth, as saying that private investment is the road to recovery for the State and should be encouraged. As I have said, there are a number of things that in my view discourage private investment.
Some minority groups in the environment area that have been invaded by the legal profession delight in holding up worthy industrial developments - and indeed that is happening in Newcastle at the moment. The Minister Assisting the Premier on Hunter Development would be well aware of some of the projects that are being held up in the Land and Environment Court that impact on the job creation processes in Newcastle. I suggest that the Government would be far better off looking at how those processes are being abused by various groups.
The honourable member for Keira spoke a moment ago about the Wollongong area. There is an instance in Wollongong of quite a large industrial development that will generate employment being held up in the courts by one person. Rather than blame the management of BHP and others - the Federal Government, the State Government, the Opposition or whoever else happens to be walking past - a lot more could be achieved if the motion addressed the underlying problems.
To the Premier's credit, he has attempted to address the problem in the Port Kembla area and has been quite savage on some of those who have been against development. One, who has been a prominent member of the labour movement, the union movement, has opposed a major job creation project in the Illawarra. I suggest that this Parliament get behind the Premier and others and modify some of the planning processes so that these
developments can proceed and so that employment can be created. If that is done situations such as have occurred with BHP leaving Newcastle will not occur in the future.
This problem, which has been looming for some time because of international competitiveness and other issues, should have been addressed at an earlier stage. The closure of the BHP plant is an indication of what can happen in other industries. As members of Parliament we should start to determine what is important. If we want jobs for 2,000 people in Newcastle - and I believe we all do - we have to start putting in place policies that will drive that objective rather than hinder it. The present Government and the previous Government, through the Department of Planning and other departments, set up a structure that is hindering job creation rather than providing an environment in which that happens naturally through the private sector. The Premier is on record as having said on a number of occasions that the future of New South Wales is related to private investment.
Mr Fraser: What did he do about Lake Cowal?
Mr WINDSOR: Lake Cowal is a glowing example of the processes of planning carried out by a company but the Government has blocked the process of job creation at Lake Cowal. I hope that the Government and the Opposition, and in particular the planning department, will closely examine that particular proposal to create jobs, because it is very important to people in that part of the State. The greater Newcastle area, I am told - and I may be corrected - has a population of approximately 500,000. I am also told that the closure of BHP will result in the loss of 2,000 jobs. My calculations suggest that that represents 0.4 of 1 per cent of the population that will be directly affected by the closure of the plant. I do not deny that the multiplier effect will make that figure much greater.
Tamworth has a population of approximately 40,000 and, on my calculations, 0.4 of 1 per cent of 40,000, which in relative terms would have a similar impact to the loss of 2,000 jobs in Newcastle, is equal to 160 jobs. There have been suggestions that the Prime Minister should be called in, and I believe he is in the precincts today having discussions with the Premier about the dreadful occurrence of the loss of jobs in Newcastle. I am sure this afternoon in question time we will spend much time in political banter about Newcastle instead of addressing the underlying problem. Why was the Prime Minister not called in when the Department of Education and Training was withdrawn from the cities of Lismore, Tamworth and Wagga Wagga? Why was the Prime Minister not called in when 900 jobs were lost from the electricity industry in the north of the State? Why was the Prime Minister not called in when many hundreds of forest workers were thrown on the dump?
Why is the Prime Minister not in Cooma today when 70 people out of a population of 6,000 will lose their jobs? On my calculations 70 people represents 1.1 per cent of the population, approximately 5 per cent of the work force. The loss of those jobs will have almost three times the effect that the BHP decision will have on Newcastle - almost three times. The State Government has not put before this House or before the people of Cooma any statement about how the loss of 70 jobs will impact on the Cooma community. It has made a decision about a specific government department without reference to the people of Cooma. The Government has made a decision to close Cooma gaol. Honourable members have paraded around this Chamber displaying grave concern for those workers who will lose their jobs. I also have been guilty of doing that. I believe that it is a legitimate process of this House and that as members of Parliament we should do it.
However, if the State Government is suggesting that the Federal Government is at fault, as expressed in the motion moved by the Minister for Gaming and Racing, and Minister Assisting the Premier on Hunter Development, I will not support the motion. I believe we must tidy up our own backyard first. If government has a role to play in relation to job creation, and if it is concerned about 0.4 of 1 per cent of the population being directly affected, as it will be in Newcastle, it should also be concerned about job losses in Cooma. Why has the Government not stated that the closure of Cooma gaol will have massive ramifications for the community? The loss of 160 jobs in Tamworth is equivalent to the loss of 2,000 jobs in Newcastle. Why has the State Government not examined the impact of those decisions on those communities and why has it not done something about it? Why has the Government not reversed those decisions?
Honourable members may be aware that last November a country summit was held in Tamworth at which 150 different organisations came together to discuss problems in the country - which did not include the Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong areas. A number of resolutions were passed at that summit and a number of meetings have since been held with the Premier, departmental officers, the Leader of the Opposition, the Leader of the National
Party and many other interested people, relating to country issues. One issue discussed at the summit was the relocation or current location of government agencies and services. A motion was passed to investigate whether departments whose focus is on country issues could be located in country areas. One example would be the Department of Land and Water Conservation.
For those honourable members who may not be aware of it, the Department of Land and Water Conservation has approximately 1,100 employees based in Bridge Street and at Parramatta. Those employees have very little jurisdiction in relation to the Sydney area and the country summit argued that those bureaucrats ought to be relocated to the areas that they service, that is, country areas. I was somewhat distressed this morning to hear the Leader of the Opposition in his contribution to the debate refer to the tragedy that will befall Newcastle and state that the Opposition was examining the suggestion raised at the country summit about the relocation of government services and agencies. I heard the Leader of the Opposition suggest that Newcastle may be a location for some of those agencies. I do not have a problem with those agencies whose purpose relates specifically to the metropolitan areas of Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong being relocated to those areas, but if the Leader of the Opposition is suggesting that the Department of Land and Water Conservation and other departments that service country New South Wales be located in Newcastle, or Wollongong for that matter, I would regard that as tantamount to leaving them in Sydney, as I am sure many country people would.
That is not to suggest that other government agencies could not be located in those areas, and I would encourage the Premier to closely examine the possibility of relocating other Sydney-based agencies in the Newcastle region. If the Leader of the Opposition and the Premier regard the tragedy that is occurring in Newcastle as warranting an invasion of bureaucracy into that community, I would argue very strongly against it. I am sure the country communities would support me. The word "fairness" has been used on a number of occasions during the debate that has taken place in regard to the loss of these jobs in Newcastle. I would like to spend a little time relating that to country New South Wales.
The State budget was delivered recently and, without wishing to take too many liberties, I want to run some statistics past honourable members. It may be that they can be analysed by the appropriate people at the appropriate time. An analysis of the capital works programs announced in the recent budget suggests to me that although the area west of the Great Dividing Range in New South Wales represents 70 per cent of the land mass and approximately 16 per cent of the population, only 4 per cent of funding for identifiable capital projects will be spent on those communities. That suggests to me that the flow of resources from government has not been fair to the people. Rural people should not demand more than their fair share, but they are receiving only 25 per cent of their fair share.
The budget shows that capital projects funds have been allocated to Newcastle, Sydney and Wollongong. If members of this House are to talk about fairness they should analyse whether the Government is being fair to all. They should ask whether the Government is being fair to the people of Cooma; why it is closing the gaol at Cooma; and why 1.1 per cent of the population in Cooma are not being considered but 0.4 of 1 per cent of the population of Newcastle are. They should ask why the Prime Minister was called in on this issue, and why standing orders were suspended yesterday to debate it. Will the leader of the House suspend standing orders next Wednesday to debate the closure of Cooma gaol?
The broader population is asking those sorts of questions and talking about fairness. It is not fair that 4 per cent of the capital outlay should go to 16 per cent of the population in 70 per cent of the land mass, that is not fair. This House should consider those sorts of issues and create a fair environment statewide. It is not fair that only one of 32 departments is located in country areas while 32 per cent of the population lives in those country areas. Rather than debate a motion which rants and raves, plays a political game and tries to extend the Newcastle debate into the next election year, the House should spend its time more productively by considering the real issues that will affect job creation across the State.
Mr PEACOCKE (Dubbo) [11.42 a.m.]: I express sympathy for the 2,000-odd workers in Newcastle who will lose their jobs by 1999. However, I support the comments made by my friend and colleague the honourable member for Tamworth on the issue as it relates to the whole of Australia, in particular to country areas west of the Blue Mountains, which are suffering as badly as Newcastle. Honourable members will be aware that Dubbo has very close links with the beautiful city of Newcastle, and would like it to be the future port for the whole of northern New South Wales.
The situation which must be addressed by the Parliament is the bottom-line profitability of
companies in this country. We have reached a stage of economic rationalism, when human beings are discounted as people and put down as numbers on a wall. Nobody cares if a man with a wife and children to support is suddenly thrown on the scrap heap. That appears to be the case in respect of BHP's operations in Newcastle. It is understood that large corporations need flexibility to operate as profitably as possible and to occasionally make distasteful decisions, but both Federal and State parliaments over a long period of time have encouraged the growth of bottom-line profitability operations of companies in which employees are not considered. That will create a dangerous situation for the future.
Since 1993, 40,000 employees within the banking system have lost their jobs. There have been mass lay-offs in many large corporations, and that situation will continue. All State and Federal parliaments should address this issue, which has a disastrous effect on the whole fabric of our society and on our future economy. It is time for the State Government, which has a deplorable record in regional development so far as country areas are concerned, to rethink its allocations of money in order to foster growth within inland areas of the State west of the Blue Mountains, and also along the coast.
Newcastle is suffering what all areas of Australia are suffering. In the light of BHP's decision the Government should give priority to developing Newcastle's support for northern New South Wales. At the same time priority should be given to creating infrastructure west of the Blue Mountains so that the best can be gained from the development of Newcastle port for the benefit of the people of Newcastle and northern New South Wales. These issues need to be comprehensively addressed now.
The Government should consider that the loss of one person in a small country town can be devastating to the future of that town and that something should be done about it. We should think about people instead of bottom-line profits of companies and bottom-line expenditure for governments, and should use our resources in a way that will create a meaningful future, a prosperous future, a confident future for the people of our State. We are not doing that. The closure of the steel-making plant in Newcastle was probably prompted by technical reasons, but was also prompted by the attitude that we have allowed to grow in this country: that people do not matter, and that bottom-line profits are all that should be considered.
Mr FACE (Charlestown - Minister for Gaming and Racing, and Minister Assisting the Premier on Hunter Development) [11.47 a.m.], in reply: I thank all honourable members who have contributed to the constructive debate today and yesterday. In the main they have been genuine, although they have covered differing points of view. I make an exception in the case of the honourable member for Myall Lakes. I will dwell on his contribution because if he continues to promote a particular steel company commencing operations in Newcastle he might draw some unfavourable attention to himself. The situation is suspect, to say the least. He has either jumped in headfirst or he has a commitment to that steel company. If that is the case he will have some real worries in the long term.
All honourable members have shown genuine concern about this issue, although their concerns may not all be the same. The honourable member for Myall Lakes has shown an abysmal lack of knowledge as to the events that have occurred, the exception being the issue of the alternative steel producer. He said that although the Government foresaw the BHP closure, it did not do much about it in the last two years. He either does not read the newspapers, he has been living in a cocoon, or he is a candidate for the Rip Van Winkle award of the decade. For the last 20 or 21 months I have headed a bipartisan committee to inquire into the issue. Decisions in relation to the closure were made only last week.
The honourable member for Myall Lakes referred to special zone status. A deferred trade zone or a deferred duty zone was raised by some committee six or seven months ago and has been discussed with the Federal Government, but he considers that to be his idea. He said international flights to Williamtown should be chartered during the Olympics. I do not argue with that, but that has to be a Federal Government decision. He said Newcastle tourism hotels could receive flow-on effects. That would be great for a month, but it will not give displaced BHP workers a job in the long term. He referred to defence headquarters, which is another matter to be decided by the Federal Government.
The honourable member for Myall Lakes said BHP should fully restore the steelworks site and give it back to the people. Nobody would disagree with that. But the decision as to whether BHP would sell the land referred to by the honourable member was not made until last week. The only land the Government has known about is the 107 hectares the Beyond 2000 Committee has been looking at for the
past 21 months. The proposals put forward by the honourable member are unrealistic. The honourable member said that the Government is not doing anything. However, his contribution was only airy-fairy tales. He accused the Premier and me of sitting back and doing nothing.
Today the Premier met the Prime Minister to seek a commitment from the Commonwealth to match the New South Wales Government contribution of $10 million to the Newcastle advantage fund. The honourable member for Myall Lakes pilloried that request. He said that the Government was wrong to try to return some semblance of prosperity to Newcastle in light of this catastrophic event. The fund announced in the State budget - I should add that it was an addendum to the budget, which shows the Government's sincerity on this matter - includes a contribution of $5 million from BHP. Why would BHP not make a contribution? After all, it created the crisis by announcing its decision to close the steelworks operation. This morning the Prime Minister told the Premier that he would seriously and conscientiously consider the request for matching funds from the Commonwealth Government. That shows that most honourable members are trying to achieve a degree of cooperation, unlike some honourable members, whose ideas are fanciful, such as the honourable member for Myall Lakes.
According to the Premier, the Prime Minister has agreed to consider options for the provision of labour-market retraining business programs to assist the transitional committee representing the work force. That is paramount because the Federal Government has cut its labour-market programs. Yesterday I said that each political party has a right to tailor its budget to suit. That is exactly what the Prime Minister and the Premier talked about this morning. The Prime Minister agreed to respond to the request soon. This Government maintains the fundamental view that the Federal Government and BHP should contribute to the Hunter advantage fund. The Premier and I are determined to continue the drive for new jobs and investment in an effort to provide a secure future for Newcastle and the work force.
I shall be fairer in my comments about other contributions to the debate. The honourable member for Monaro made a few observations, but referred mainly to a port corporation. I shall give him a lesson on that later, because obviously he does not realise that the port has been corporatised. He and the Leader of the Opposition referred to the great port model in Auckland, New Zealand. I did not see any great innovations when I viewed that model last year. Before referring to the Beyond 2000 Committee, which the honourable member for Myall Lakes completely forgot about, I shall refer to the alternative steelworks proposal. Journalists at the Newcastle Herald are astute because that proposal is referred to in that newspaper under the headline, "Face dismisses fanciful steel plant proposal". Why would the Government not dismiss the proposal?
The article in the Newcastle Herald refers to a series of events that occurred at the end of 1996 and in early 1997. All sorts of people have been thrashing out proposals for Newcastle. All the proposals were considered and came to nothing. The proposal put forward yesterday by the honourable member for Myall Lakes had not come to me personally but had gone to the Department of State and Regional Development. The department found that this $2 company wanted massive cash incentives, as well as $60 million for a feasibility study. I shall explain that later. A suitable site was not available when the proposal was put forward. Honourable members should bear in mind that at the time BHP had not decided whether to sell the steelworks site. The Beyond 2000 Committee is looking at only 107 hectares and no deepwater port. The company I have referred to wanted to buy the BHP site but it was not for sale. Officers in my department, whom the honourable member for Myall Lakes continues to besmirch, kept records of the goings on earlier this year. One State and regional development file note stated:
Mentioned that she was going down to Brisbane next week to discuss the possibility of a new steel plant for Kooragang Island - said that they were looking for substantial Government Funding - $60M plus the upgrading of the Port and the land at Kooragang. They were also looking at sites in Victoria, Western Australia and at Gladstone, Queensland. When she is in Brisbane next week she will be looking at Equity Partnership Agreements, they will be checking the finances carefully as it is a $1 shelf company run by a husband and wife.
The departmental officer was very astute. A file note written 11 days later stated:
Said that . . . the promoter of the steel plant is a bit of worry - his listing in Who's Who states his hobby as Litigation with Government.
She has been talking to the WA Government and is not getting a good feel. The iron for the [electric arc furnace] will come from WA and at the moment there is only a 70% agreement on the contract. She said that technically the project is very good it will be using technology and will use 90% iron which will be mined in WA and formed into briquets and shipped to the plant to be made into hot and cold steel.
That is similar to what BHP proposed to do with its electric arc furnace. The company involved later
said that it was not really interested in the proposal because it could get a better price overseas for the briquettes. That is what I was told by someone associated with the company on the periphery. The file note further stated:
Want the Government to put US$60M to do feasibility and EIS. Has approached other State Governments and thinks he wants a Dutch auction situation.
She is to go and see Treasury tomorrow about the finance - but does not have a lot of hope of a good outcome.
Furthermore, the file note stated that it appeared that at one time the particular person involved was associated with Mr Bjelke-Petersen. Departmental staff were on the track all the time. Another file note stated:
Regarding an article in Newcastle Herald on 16 Jan. -
the honourable member for Myall Lakes used the article to make his case about me not following up alternatives -
Mr Face quoted that Aus Steel Qld are considering a 1.5 billion dollar steel making plant for the Hunter region. He is an inventor and interested in contacting Austeel re this. He contacted Aust Steel in Qld who said they have no intentions of expanding to the Hunter area and he would like to know the contact number of the appropriate Aus steel company to contact.
But they could not be found. As I said, if the honourable member is associated with this mob he will either jump in at the deep end or take a trip to a little place in Cleveland Street. He does not need to be Sherlock Holmes to find the information I have. The honourable member then referred to the Beyond 2000 Committee. He must have been under a rock. The Beyond 2000 Committee was established in May 1995 to pursue innovative industrial development that could be a model for the rest of the State. I said that the Government has been looking at deferred duty zones. Today's newspaper states that there is no constitutional impediment to deferred duty zones. The introduction of such zones would provide benefits to Newcastle in the sense that 107 hectares of land, subject to planning processes, would be available by August of this year.
The Government is working in cooperation with the community. One can imagine what would happen if that were not the case. The honourable member for Myall Lakes has continued to pillory the Beyond 2000 Committee and its workings. He criticised the Government for not doing anything. At every available opportunity he criticises a wide diversity of union and business people who would not normally work together. The committee is pursuing training and education options for BHP workers. What is wrong with that? It was known that at least a couple of thousand people would go from the steelworks had the electric arc furnace come on line. The committee has also undertaken a skills audit of the work force, and there will need to be a revised audit. The Government met with the committee and with BHP last week.
Set up within the plant, in conjunction with the unions, has been a 16-person transition team. The Premier and I met the transition team on the day we went to the plant. We did not bother trying to make big fellows of ourselves; we sat down in the conference room and discussed with management and unions the changes that would occur, what could be done and what the workers' futures were likely to be. So much for the contribution made by the honourable member for Myall Lakes. I turn now to the contribution made by the honourable member for Monaro. It is apparent that he does not realise that the port of Newcastle has been corporatised. Since corporatisation, only a short time, a great diversification of trade has been achieved - and ever since I can remember that trade has needed to be freed up. The Government has been in constant contact with the port in its corporatised form.
As the honourable member for Dubbo could tell other Opposition members, extremely strong ties have been built with the Orana district and the wool industry. The cotton industry is now the subject of attention. I have continued to visit Dubbo, to talk to the honourable member for Dubbo and to the Mayor of Dubbo, Tony McGrane, with regard to increased and diversified trade for the port of Newcastle. At the end of the month I am to visit Warren once again in an attempt to achieve greater cotton export trade through the port. I would be prepared to give the honourable member for Monaro a full briefing on the corporatisation of the port of Newcastle. It would appear that he would need a road map to find the Hunter region, and I could supply him with that, too. I have already referred to the Hunter Advantage Fund, which the Prime Minister has undertaken to examine closely. The Hunter Advantage Fund is designed to achieve greater marketing of the Hunter region outside New South Wales and internationally, greater assistance to existing industries to help them expand and export, and more incentives to attract new industries to further diversify the Hunter economy and to add to the work of the Beyond 2000 Committee.
On Friday the Government - supposedly an uncaring State Government - will meet with departmental heads. Come November I will have
been in Parliament for 25 years, but I have never before known the directors-general of various departments, from the Premier's Department down, to come to Newcastle or elsewhere in the Hunter to discuss any particular issue. The meeting will announce a new Hunter regional coordinator, the Government having anticipated that job losses would occur in some form or another. The new Hunter regional coordinator will be an additional appointment. Regional coordinators have worked well in two other locations. I might add that the initiative for regional coordinators came from the previous Government. Surely it cannot be wrong for this Government to adopt the policy. The Government wants to bring about a whole-of-government approach. [Extension of time agreed to.]
Friday's meeting, the meeting of the chief executive task force, will include the Director-General of the Premier's Department, the Director-General of the Department of Training and Education Co-ordination, the Acting Director of the Department of State and Regional Development, the Acting Director-General of the Department of Fair Trading, the Acting Director-General of the Department of Industrial Relations and an executive director of strategic projects from the Premier's Department who has been attending to many matters under my portfolio in recent times - not least of which has been the fishermen's cooperative. One could hardly say that the Government and its departments have been standing around doing nothing. The Government is making a real effort to do something for the Hunter region.
As I have said, the chief executive task force will announce the appointment of a new regional coordinator. There will also be a briefing from BHP executives - the Government wants to glean more from the company about what is going to happen. The chief executive task force will meet representatives of Hunter technical and further education and the Hunter Valley Training Company. That is the sensible approach to examine the existing skills base. The task force will also be briefed by the unions. And why would it not be in an industrial city such as Newcastle? Consultation with the unions is important in any region. The task force will have an overview of State Government economic assistance and will examine the role of the Department of Training and Education Co-ordination. It will make a genuine attempt to plot out further actions.
I turn to the contributions made by other honourable members. As I said, all contributions were fairly good. From the observations made by the honourable member for Coffs Harbour, whom I have known almost all his life, I would say that he should visit the Hunter region a little more often. The honourable member for Coffs Harbour spoke about tourism, but it would appear that he does not realise that the Hunter region has been the subject of probably the best tourism sell ever - in the words of the most recent promotion, the David Simmonds promotion, "So much so close". A statewide tourism conference was recently held in the region. The honourable member for Coffs Harbour spoke also about the Hunter Economic Development Corporation, which he said was made up of Labor Party stooges. To my knowledge, the organisation has one card-carrying Labor Party member. I knew the late Gordon Fraser well; he was one of my closest friends. I do not think he would have liked his son to besmirch the reputation of Dr Alan Pattison, who was a great church friend of his. In my opinion, the honourable member for Coffs Harbour got a bit of a bum steer in that regard.
The honourable member for Tamworth spoke about projects that need to be fixed up or that were delayed. I draw his attention to the headline in this morning's Newcastle Herald, which states that the Minister told the council to "fix problem". This Government has hardly been inactive. The honourable member for Tamworth spoke of 500,000 people being affected by the BHP decision. In the two cities directly affected by the BHP announcement there are about 320,000 people. I draw attention to the multiplier effect, having regard to contractors, subcontractors and others dependent on the steelworks. The company with which I served my apprenticeship, and for which I was later an outside foreman, always got 25 per cent to 30 per cent of its work from BHP. Dependence on BHP has been a fact of life for many companies in the region. If the honourable member for Tamworth is doing his arithmetic he should add in a few multipliers.
I understand the concerns of the honourable member for Maitland. I have already extrapolated some of the figures. I understand that about 8,000 people in his electorate are directly affected by the BHP announcement. No doubt that is why the honourable member made such a considered contribution. It appears that the honourable member for Maitland has fallen for a few quick fixes, however. He said that if the BHP site were cleaned up Stockton could become another Gold Coast. I do not think that would be acceptable to the region or of great economic benefit. We need to do a little better than that. I do not think the idea of a hovercraft from Port Stephens to Sydney during the Olympics would be a great income generator, neither do I foresee many hovercraft captains coming from the BHP work force. The idea put forward by the Leader of the Opposition for a train from Newcastle to the Olympic site would probably fall into the same category. The Olympics will run for about three weeks.
The Opposition's proposals are fanciful, bandaid measures. What I have been doing and what the Government has been doing is looking for real answers. The Beyond 2000 Committee and other initiatives are a genuine attempt to do something. The Opposition's ideas do not equate to jobs, but the Government is about jobs and more jobs. The Government is talking about 2,500 full-time, long-term jobs; not transient jobs just for the Olympic period. The Deputy Leader of the National Party made one true statement: this is a broader issue in the Hunter than just Newcastle. I am not sure, however, that BHP would be too happy with the contribution made by the Deputy Leader of the National Party, which would have to be the biggest whack for a corporate entity in this State that I have heard. Still, that is his business.
This motion is about the loss of jobs and the provision of more jobs. The Leader of the Opposition has proposed the relocation of government departments to Newcastle. I take on board what was said in that regard by the honourable member for Tamworth. That is the oldest idea, and we have all come up with it at one time. I draw attention to a few departmental relocations in the time of the previous Government, when the Leader of the Opposition was the Treasurer. There was the matter of the Roads and Traffic Authority at Port Macquarie and there was the Newcastle community services relocation. I have just said that there are about 320,000 people in Newcastle, and 500,000 in the region including Cessnock, Newcastle and Lake Macquarie. The previous Government sent community services all the way up to Lismore. Forestry was moved to Taree. To be fair and objective, I would probably agree with that decision as that move relocated the department closer to the product. Though the Leader of the Opposition said he would move all departments back to Newcastle, the coalition had already moved them. If Labor had not come to office, the coalition would have moved the Department of Housing to Maitland.
Three departments were moved out of the region. The Roads and Traffic Authority was oversighting major improvement works to a national highway and its associated bypasses in the Newcastle-Hunter region, yet the coalition moved everything to Port Macquarie! The Opposition has to do better than it has done over the last couple of days because, though contributions to this debate by Opposition members were sincere, they were just generalities. The Federal Government cannot be written out of this issue. In my earlier remarks I said that these matters are basically controlled by the Federal Government and that since coming to office in 1996 the Federal Government has done nothing but take things out of Newcastle. If the Federal Government were genuine, it would restore some of those services to the Hunter area and regional Australia.
My regard for Liberal Senator Tierney is well known. For the last 25 years I have worked well with many people, regardless of political persuasion, but he is the exception. However, he is the chairman of the Federal Government's regional development committee; he should be putting forward credible solutions for the Hunter because that is the responsibility of the Federal Government. It is time the Federal Government took notice of the Hunter. It is time it came clean and revealed what will be delivered, in much the same way that this State Government is being asked to come clean with its proposals. The State Government has delivered.
I appreciate the announcement to establish the Hunter Advantage Fund. It will not fix all of the problems, but it will go a long way towards resolving them. It is the first step. Much has happened since that announcement and more will happen. The Hunter region is resilient. Things would have been better if this decision had never been taken, but over time it has been proved that this region can recover from adversity. Recovery from the earthquake is a good example; other examples include the events in 1982 and the economic downturn in the mid-1970s. With the development of aluminium smelters at Tomago and the Alcan extension at Kurri Kurri, industry and commerce realised that, despite local opposition, the industrial and product base, and work skills, had to be broadened. Those decisions paid off; the region is now better off.
I express my fear to my colleague the honourable member for Keira about what may happen to Wollongong. That region does not have as diverse an industrial base as the Hunter. Wollongong would have been worse off if a similar decision had been made. Even though it is a fact, many people in Newcastle might not like me saying that Port Kembla would have been considerably worse off as it does not enjoy all the opportunities enjoyed by Newcastle. The picture is far from rosy, but everyone will work together. The last thing we need is political sparring and people trying to talk the place down. Positive attitudes must be revealed. The Government rejects the Opposition's amendment to the motion. The motion calls on BHP to enter into meaningful negotiations with the State Government, unions and the Beyond 2000 Committee, which the honourable member for Myall Lakes did not know existed, and calls on the Federal Government to provide alternative employment opportunities. What is wrong with that?
Mr Schipp: What about the State?
Mr FACE: I have already read the pertinent part: it calls on BHP to enter into meaningful negotiations. The Hunter Advantage Fund has been introduced, we have the Beyond 2000 Committee, and the Premier met with the Prime Minister this morning. It would be better if Opposition amendments were not written on the back of pieces of paper. It would also be better if the Opposition Whip drafted them: the contents of this amendment are disorganised. The amendment states:
That the motion be amended by leaving out all words after the words "Federal Government" with a view to inserting instead:
"and State Government to act to provide alternative employment opportunities by relocating Commonwealth and State operations . . .
The State Government has already announced its plans but the honourable member for Myall Lakes wants us to tell the Federal Government what to do! The honourable member for Dubbo is very persuasive; I am sure he could not tell John Howard what to do! He probably would not even try. I suggest that future amendments be drafted by the honourable member for Cronulla. I reiterate that the Government has received assistance. The debate has been objective, but it will not be the last word on the issue.
The debate is timely. It shows promise that within a week of a major catastrophe affecting one region of New South Wales plans have been set in train to try to remedy the difficulty. From time to time other regions face adversity, but Newcastle is a major manufacturing city that has been a good source of employment. BHP has had its pound of flesh and has done much damage to the environment. Ron McNeilly has given some assurances. I am not like others who have blasted the BHP board members. I will wait to see whether their commitments will be met. The State Government will work with the BHP board and if the board does not meet its commitments, at the end of the day I, like everybody else, will get stuck into them. If the BHP board does not want to be a part of the solution, an end result will not be achieved.
My attitude is: steady as you go, and see what can be done to resolve the issue. At the end of the day we can talk about hovercrafts and about Gold Coast facilities being provided at Stockton, but that will not do one bit of good for the workers now. The skills of those workers fall into two categories: across-the-board skills or, as the honourable member for Cessnock said, very limited skills. It will be a difficult job to place those workers. The State Government will work towards ensuring that retraining takes place to cement a future for the workers and their families.
Question - That the words stand - put.
The House divided.
Ms Allan Mr Martin
Mr Amery Ms Meagher
Mr Anderson Mr Mills
Ms Andrews Ms Moore
Mr Aquilina Mr Moss
Mrs Beamer Mr Nagle
Mr Clough Mr Neilly
Mr Crittenden Ms Nori
Mr Debus Mr E. T. Page
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 Windsor
Mr Langton Mr Woods
Mrs Lo Po' Mr Yeadon
Mr McBride Tellers,
Mr McManus Mr Beckroge
Mr Markham Mr Thompson
Mr Beck Mr O'Doherty
Mr Blackmore Mr O'Farrell
Mr Brogden Mr D. L. Page
Mr Chappell Mr Peacocke
Mrs Chikarovski Mr Phillips
Mr Cochran Mr Richardson
Mr Collins Mr Rixon
Mr Cruickshank Mr Rozzoli
Mr Debnam Mr Schipp
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 Kinross Mr R. W. Turner
Mr MacCarthy Tellers,
Dr Macdonald Mr Jeffery
Mr Oakeshott Mr Kerr
Mr Carr Mr Armstrong
Mr Price Mr Merton
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
SENTENCING LEGISLATION FURTHER AMENDMENT BILL
Suspension of standing and sessional orders agreed to.
Bill introduced and read a first time.
Mr WHELAN (Ashfield - Minister for Police) [12.29 p.m.]: I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
Allan Baker, Kevin Crump, Michael Murphy, Leslie Murphy, Gary Murphy, John Travers, Michael Murdoch, Stephen Jamieson, Matthew Elliot, Bronson Blessington - these animals represent pure evil. These animals deserve never to see the exit sign at the prison gate. These animals are reviled and shunned by anyone who has ever heard of their heinous crimes. There is not a person in our community who does not need protection from these animals and the security of knowing they will never again be free.
The decision of the Supreme Court in redetermining Kevin Garry Crump's life sentence has caused grave concern in the community. Crump and Baker committed one of the most revolting crimes this nation has ever seen. Put simply, they deserve to die in gaol. Every honourable member of this House should be aware, in Crump's case, of what the sentencing judge, Justice Taylor, said in 1974. He said:
If, in the future, some application is made that you be released on the grounds of clemency or mercy, then I would venture to suggest to those who are entrusted with the task . . . that the measure of your entitlement . . . should be the clemency or mercy you extended to this woman when she begged for her life.
That is why the Attorney General, the Hon. Jeff Shaw, this week took an extraordinary action to overcome a problem created by the former Government. In 1993 the Queensland Attorney General, Mr Dean Wells, made an application for the extradition of Crump and Baker to face charges of the rape and murder of Virginia Morse to face these charges which took place in Queensland. The then Attorney General, the Hon. John Hannaford, rejected this application. As a result, Crump and Baker have never been prosecuted for the rape and murder of Virginia Morse.
On Tuesday the Attorney General, following a request made to the Premier by Mr Brian Morse, wrote to his Queensland counterpart seeking the Queensland Government's reapplication for transfer. The transfer will occur only if the Queensland Government can give the assurance that Crump and Baker would serve their full sentence and face new sentences in that State. I call on the Queensland Government to ensure that Crump and Baker are prosecuted for the rape and murder of Virginia Morse. The people of New South Wales demand that justice be done.
The Kable experience has shown this Parliament the invalidity of individual-specific legislation. For this Parliament to introduce and consider Crump-specific legislation, in light of the Kable case, would not only be irresponsible but cruel and unusual punishment for the victims of his crimes. It would be a bill which would be likely to be struck down by the High Court. It would be a bill which would unfairly and unrealistically raise the expectation of the public and victims like Brian Morse. This Government will not inflict more pain, more heartache nor will it raise false hopes.
And so the Government is proposing real change. Proposing legislation that is constitutionally sound is the Government's primary objective so as not to give Crump and these nine other animals any hope for the future. The public expects nothing less. It expects real change not insane responses that will not work. In relation to this class of offenders the Government has responded by introducing this bill. This bill is effectively the toughest sentencing legislation ever introduced into this Parliament. It will provide the bleakest possible futures for these men - amongst the most dangerous in custody in this State.
In 1989 the previous Government introduced the Sentencing (Life Services) Amendment Act 1989 to insert section 13A into the Sentencing Act - the so-called truth in sentencing legislation. This section commenced on 10 January 1990. One consequence of that Act was that all inmates serving a life sentence at the time the Act was proclaimed could apply under section 13A of that Act to the Supreme Court to have their sentences redetermined. This
applied to all life sentence inmates, even those where the original sentencing judge had recommended that the inmate should never be released. Over the years, in various cases, the wording of this Act has been strongly criticised by the courts themselves in considering redetermination applications. Justice Allen in the Crump redetermination said:
If one were giving a prize for bumble footed draftsmanship, sub-section 13(9A) would be a certain contestant.
It is pretty clear. The previous Government brought in a seriously deficient Act and did nothing to fix it, despite ample opportunity. Under the present section 13A an offender with a life sentence which was imposed prior to the commencement of section 13A may apply to the Supreme Court for a redetermination of that life sentence. When an offender applies to the Supreme Court for a redetermination the court has two options: first, to set a minimum and an additional term; or, second, it may decline to set a minimum and an additional term.
If the court declines to set a minimum and an additional term, the offender concerned may reapply to the court after two years unless the court directs that the offender may reapply after a period other than two years, or unless the court directs that the offender must never reapply. If the court directs that an offender must never reapply, the court effectively sentences that offender to the term of natural life. As natural life is the most severe penalty known to our criminal justice system, a redetermining court may only make a determination that an offender must never reapply if the case involves, in the words of section 13A, "a most serious case of murder and it is in the public interest that the determination be made".
When exercising any of its functions under section 13A, the Supreme Court must "have regard to" four matters listed in section 13A(9). These matters are: the knowledge of the original sentencing court that a person sentenced to imprisonment for life was eligible to be released on licence under section 463 of the Crimes Act 1900 and of the practice relating to the issue of such licences; any report on the person made by the Serious Offenders Review Council and any other relevant reports prepared after sentence. The Supreme Court, as I said, under section 13A may have regard to this as well.
The two other factors listed are: any relevant comments made by the original sentencing court when imposing the sentence, and the age of the person at the time the person committed the offence and also at the time the Supreme Court deals with the matter. In addition, the court may have regard to any other relevant matter. I now turn to the amendments in the bill. They are designed to do five things. First, the bill tells judges that we, the Parliament and the community, do not expect these most serious offenders ever to be released. Under proposed section 13A(3A), in order for such an offender to be eligible for redetermination of his sentence the Supreme Court must find there are "special reasons" why the sentence should be redetermined at all. This is a mandatory requirement.
The second thing which the bill is designed to do is to require the Supreme Court, the Serious Offenders Review Council and the Parole Board when exercising their individual functions in respect of the pre-1990 life sentence offenders to: have regard to, and give substantial weight to, any relevant recommendations, observations and comments made by the original sentencing court when imposing the sentence concerned; give consideration to adopting or giving effect to the substance of such recommendations, observation and comments; and give consideration to adopting or giving effect to the intention of the original sentencing court.
I repeat, these are mandatory requirements. If the Supreme Court, the Serious Offenders Review Council or the Parole Board nevertheless decide to decline to adopt or give effect to the recommendations, observations and comments of the original sentencing court, the Supreme Court, the Serious Offenders Review Council or the Parole Board, as the case may be, must state its reasons for doing so.
The bill also specifically requires these three bodies to take into account the need to preserve the safety of the community. This is mandatory. If the Queensland Government cannot give the necessary guarantees about the prosecution of Baker and Crump, as a result of the amendments in the bill, when the Serious Offenders Review Council comes to prepare its report in 2003 to the Parole Board on whether Crump should be released to parole, and when the Parole Board itself comes to consider whether it should grant parole, these bodies will have to have regard to, and give substantial weight to, Justice Taylor's comments when sentencing Crump in 1974. Justice Taylor said:
If, in the future, some application is made that you be released on the grounds of clemency or mercy, then I would venture to suggest to those who are entrusted with the task . . . that the measure of your entitlement . . . should be the clemency or mercy you extended to this woman when she begged for her life.
Those bodies will also have to give consideration to adopting the substance of those comments; give consideration to adopting the intention of those comments; and state their reasons for not adopting those comments if they in fact decide not to adopt them. I also remind the House of amendments to the Sentencing Act last year. Amendments were made to strengthen the rights of victims in making their views and needs known. This included giving the victims register a legislative base; providing a statutory basis for submissions, appearances and representation for victims and their families at SORC and Parole Board hearings; providing for state submissions and appeals in parole matters and enabling the Parole Board to defer parole consideration for up to three rather than just one year.
The third thing the bill is designed to do is to require the Supreme Court, when considering an application from a pre-1990 life sentence offender for redetermination, to have regard to all the circumstances surrounding the offence for which the life sentence was imposed, and all offences of the offender, wherever those offences were committed. Proposed section 13A(4A) of the bill contains this requirement. As a result, in future the Supreme Court will have to consider not just the crime for which an offender received a life sentence but also the events leading up to that crime and the events following that crime. The court will also have to look at the whole criminal history of the offender. The court will, in other words, look at the totality of the circumstances of the case.
I now turn to the fourth aim of the bill, which is to lengthen the period of time which certain pre-1990 life sentence offenders must serve before being eligible to apply for a redetermination of their sentences in the first place. When Parliament introduced section 13A of the Sentencing Act in 1989, provision was made for existing life sentence offenders to apply to the Supreme Court if they had served at least eight years of their sentences. This has now been shown to be manifestly inadequate. Proposed new section 13A(3) increases the waiting period from eight years to 20 years in the case of any offender who, at the time of sentencing, was recommended by the sentencing court never to be released.
The fifth aim of the bill is to lengthen the period of time which a pre-1990 life sentence offender, if that offender has been unsuccessful in seeking a redetermination of his sentence, may have to wait before being able to reapply. When Parliament introduced section 13A of the Sentencing Act in 1989, provision was made for an existing life sentence offender who failed to convince the Supreme Court to redetermine his sentence to re-apply for redetermination after a period of two years, unless the court specified a shorter period. In 1993 Parliament passed the Sentencing (Life Sentences) Amendment Bill 1993 to amend this part of section 13A to enable the court to set a period other than two years. The current bill increases the standard waiting period from two years to three years.
This amendment will bring section 13A into line with section 18(4) of the Sentencing Act - legislation that Parliament passed only last year - by which the Parole Board may refuse to consider a further application for parole until three years have elapsed. The amendment will assist members of the families of victims of pre-1990 life sentence offenders as, in general, if the Supreme Court were to defer a redetermination matter, one would expect that the court would defer the matter for the standard period of three years. Such action would give the families of victims a longer period before again having to endure the redetermination process. Finally, I should bring the House's attention to the fact that the bill provides that the strengthened provisions which I have just outlined will apply to any application lodged on or after today.
To conclude, this bill is a response to the community's deep concern. It is designed to correct the manifest deficiencies of the present law. The effect of such a correction will be that the Supreme Court, the Parole Board and the Serious Offenders Review Council will give due weight to the comments of the original sentencing court at every stage in the redetermination process and in consideration of release. It is no exaggeration to say that the whole process calls for the closest scrutiny of all relevant judgments, reports and other documents. The bill delivers such scrutiny. I commend the bill to the House.
Mr TINK (Eastwood) [12.46 p.m.]: In this afternoon's edition of the Daily Telegraph the Premier is quoted as saying, "The legislation now before the House will ensure Kevin Crump will never be released." The legislation that has in fact been introduced does not do that. The legislation does not guarantee that Kevin Crump will never be released from prison. The afternoon is three-quarters of an hour old and the words of the Premier in the afternoon edition of the newspaper, that the legislation will ensure that Kevin Crump will never be released, are simply not true. The legislation does not do that and the Minister for Police well knows it. In those circumstances the Opposition proposes to amend the bill to make it Crump-specific, to make it
very clear, so far as the Opposition is concerned, that Mr Crump will spend the rest of his days in gaol. This legislation does not do what the Premier promised it would do. It is very important that there be no doubt whatever about the future of Kevin Crump in gaol.
I want to go back over a few things that the Minister raised in debate and to point out my ongoing and extreme disappointment that the Government is not doing more under section 25 of the Director of Public Prosecutions Act to prevail upon the Director of Public Prosecutions to consider an appeal in this Crump matter. The Minister spent quite a bit of time talking about what the former Government had done with legislation. A former Attorney General, in his second reading speech, said that the then Government was conscious that the additional powers given to the Supreme Court should be reserved for only the most serious cases involving the crime of murder and where the public interest so demands.
Later that Attorney General, when speaking about that legislation, said that those cases deserving life imprisonment under the old system would truly receive life under the Act. The problem with the Crump matter and the decision of Justice McInerney is that he decided he was not able to take into account the circumstances surrounding Mrs Morse's death because she was murdered in Queensland and because, as a result, Crump and Baker were only convicted of conspiracy to murder.
Mr Whelan: Vote for the bill.
Mr TINK: We will vote for the bill; you vote for our amendment. The critical point is that it is still open to the Director of Public Prosecutions, and I believe to the Government, to ensure that there is an appeal in the Crump matter, on the basis of the key determination in the judgment of Justice McInerney that he could not take into account the appalling circumstances of Mrs Morse's death. Crump was convicted of conspiracy to murder because Mrs Morse died in Queensland, not in New South Wales. Justice McInerney stated, on page 25 of his judgment, "If I am wrong about this I can be corrected."
The judge indicated that there was a possibility of error in the most important part of his judgment. I plead with the Attorney General, I beg him, to motivate himself to use the full powers available to him under section 25 of the Director of Public Prosecutions Act to consult the Director of Public Prosecutions on this issue. If I were in the Attorney General's shoes I would write to the Director of Public Prosecutions, ask him to come to my office and, even if it took a whole day, go through the judgment word by word, line by line, paragraph by paragraph to get to the bottom of what he meant by his statement, "If I am wrong about this I can be corrected."
For the life of me, I do not know why the Attorney General has not done that. I beg the Government and the Minister to do all that can legally be done to prevail upon the Director of Public Prosecutions. I do not suggest they can direct the DPP but they are legally entitled, under legislation passed by this Parliament, to consult him. For my money, they simply have not done so. Of course, the Opposition supports the bill and can envisage incremental changes over many years to sentencing legislation. The Minister has attempted to criticise the former Government for the truth in sentencing legislation. He undoubtedly does not want to be reminded that the truth in sentencing legislation was introduced to deal with a situation which existed under the Wran-Unsworth Government, whereby convicted murderers were serving an average of 11 or 12 years in gaol.
A reading of the old parliamentary records shows the abysmal record relating to sentences that were served under the former Labor Government. Truth in sentencing was supported by all parties in 1989 because it was seen to be an advance. Problems existed in regard to life sentences being served by those who had been convicted and sentenced before truth in sentencing legislation was introduced. Some difficulties involving retrospectivity are still being unravelled. That is why this legislation is before the House. No-one could possibly quibble with the proposition that the Murphys, Travers, Crump, Baker and others of that extreme ilk should remain in gaol for the rest of their lives. In sentencing the killers of Anita Cobby, Justice Maxwell said:
I would echo the advice proffered, in a case in which the facts were not entirely dissimilar, by a former and distinguished Chief Judge at Common Law, namely, that the Executive should grant to the prisoners the same degree of mercy that they bestowed on Anita Lorraine Cobby in the "Boiler" paddock, Prospect on the night of 2 February 1986. I do not think the community would expect otherwise.
Justice Maxwell was referring to the remarks of Justice Taylor in the Crump and Baker case. I have had the privilege, as have the Minister for Police and the Premier, of meeting Brian Morse and Virginia Morse's brothers. It was a privilege because, as I am sure the Minister will agree, if there is one redeeming feature in this appalling, disgusting, disgraceful mess that was the crime committed by Crump, it is the extraordinary dignity and reserve, but determination, shown by those three
men and their relatives. They would have the best wishes of all members of this House regardless of disagreements about how the problem should be handled. Their dignity and quiet resolve are an inspiration to all, and gives us some faith in human nature.
The Opposition supports the bill. It is alarmed that it does not do what the Premier said it would do. The Opposition is determined to try, to the best of its ability, to give effect to the statement made by the Premier this morning. The Leader of the Opposition has taken the running on this issue and foreshadowed the introduction of legislation, but that did not eventuate this morning because the Government saw fit to give precedence to government business. The Opposition believes that the bill proposed by the Leader of the Opposition was the catalyst for the introduction of this bill. I have studied this legislation, and believe the bill which the Leader of the Opposition foreshadowed introducing must be more than a catalyst. It must be an amendment to the legislation to ensure that Crump remains in gaol. As things stand, there is no ironclad guarantee that the bill will achieve that result, but the Opposition's bill would do so.
I shall not deal with the provisions of the bill in great detail. The effect of it is not really in dispute, except in relation to the key point relating to Crump. Item  of schedule 1 appears to go to the heart of the issue by taking into account what was said by the sentencing judge, and in particular, taking into account the circumstances of the killing should a similar crime be committed in the future, heaven forbid. The Opposition supports the bill, but will seek to amend it because it does not guarantee what the Premier represented it would do, namely, ensure that Crump will remain in gaol.
The Government must meet with the Director of Public Prosecutions - all day if necessary - and have him explain, in words of one syllable, why the key evidence relating to Mrs Morse's murder cannot be taken into account. Justice McInerney said, "If I am wrong about this I can be corrected." I cannot for the life of me understand how the Director of Public Prosecutions can turn his back on that. He has apparently concluded confidently that no appeal is available, although the judge intimated the possibility of error. That matter must be revisited and reconsidered.
If that does not occur, and if the DPP's decision stands, will a copy of his reasons be tabled? The judge said in his judgment that he might be wrong. Will the considered opinion of the DPP remain one of the best-kept secrets of this Government or will his reasons be tabled? Five million people in New South Wales, led by the Morse family and the Hooke family, desperately want to know why no appeal has been lodged in this matter. There must be an appeal. But if there is no appeal, reasons must be supplied. With those comments the Opposition supports the bill, foreshadows moving an amendment, and pleads for an appeal to be lodged or for reasons to be supplied for not lodging an appeal.
Debate adjourned on motion by Mrs Lo Po'.
[Mr Acting-Speaker (Mr Mills) left the Chair at 1.00 p.m. The House resumed at 2.15 p.m.]
Mr SPEAKER: I draw the attention of members to the presence in the gallery of the Hon. Tuan Haji Abdul Halim Bin Abdul Rahman, Deputy Chief Minister for Kelantan State, Malaysia. I welcome him and his delegation. I note that he is sitting next to a former member of this House, the Hon. Peter Anderson.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Routine of Business
Mr WHELAN (Ashfield - Minister for Police) [2.15 p.m.]: I move:
That standing and sessional orders be suspended to postpone the routine of business for the consideration forthwith of all remaining stages of the Sentencing Legislation Further Amendment Bill.
The Government intends to proceed forthwith with the remaining stages of this bill in this House and then forward the bill to the Legislative Council.
Mr Hazzard: What about question time?
Mr WHELAN: Question time will commence at the conclusion of debate on this bill. The Government has no further speakers on the bill. The question of timing is for the Opposition to decide.
Motion agreed to.
SENTENCING LEGISLATION FURTHER AMENDMENT BILL
Debate resumed from an earlier hour.
Mrs CHIKAROVSKI (Lane Cove) [2.16 p.m.]: The Premier is trying to defraud the
people of New South Wales. On the front page of this afternoon's edition of the Daily Telegraph the Premier is reported as saying that the legislation now being debated in the House is designed to keep Kevin Crump in gaol. That is not the case; the statement is not true. It is misleading the people of New South Wales to state that this legislation will keep Kevin Crump in gaol. The best that this legislation can do is influence the Parole Board, which will make a determination about Crump in the year 2003. It is outrageous to suggest that the Parole Board will, as a matter of course, keep Crump in gaol under this legislation. One need only look at the recent decisions the Parole Board has made in relation to convicted murderers. Some of the people the Parole Board has released recently are prisoners who, like Crump, should stay in gaol - and stay in gaol for the term of their natural life.
Last week Archie McCafferty, who was convicted on three counts of murder and two counts of manslaughter, was released from prison and deported to Scotland, where he is virtually a free man. This man, who believed he needed to kill seven people, walked because the Parole Board decided that he was a reformed character. But he is not alone. Mr Graham Potter, who murdered Kim Barry with a severe blow to the skull by a heavy blunt instrument, walked because the Parole Board decided that he should be released. What about Schneidas? Schneidas, who killed a prison officer, walked because the Parole Board decided that he was a reformed man. To suggest that the Parole Board will keep anyone in gaol is absolute nonsense.
When the Parole Board examines these matters it considers the circumstances of prisoners who have been in gaol for up to 20 years. The board will not be directed by this legislation to keep anyone in gaol. It is an outrage for the Premier to lie to the people of New South Wales by saying that this legislation will keep Kevin Crump in gaol. Coalition members want Kevin Crump to be kept in gaol - members opposite should want the same thing. The Government should not leave it to the Parole Board to make a decision. It should pass legislation now that will keep Kevin Crump in gaol with no opportunity of going to the Parole Board. The Crump case is not an isolated one. The Minister in his second reading speech named other people, including the Cobby murderers. The Opposition agrees that they should be kept in gaol.
In making such decisions the Government should ensure that legislation that will keep Kevin Crump in gaol is passed. It should not rely on the Parole Board. The Government knows the board's record. When prisoners appear before the board it says they are model prisoners and are ready to go back into the community. They have spent 20 years in gaol; they have been through the process; they have gone through drug and alcohol counselling and every available rehabilitation program.
Mr Whelan: Read the bill.
Mrs CHIKAROVSKI: I have read the bill, which states that the Parole Board must consider the circumstances. However, the Parole Board is entitled to reject the circumstances. The board may have to give reasons for rejection, but it is not directed by this bill to do anything other than consider the circumstances. If the Government were fair dinkum it would pass legislation that confirmed the sentences imposed on prisoners whose files were marked "never to be released" and ensured that the sentences complied with those words and the prisoners were never released. The Opposition will support the bill, in terms of the amendment moved by the Opposition, because it believes that Kevin Crump should be kept in gaol. He is not alone; there will be others who should be kept in gaol, and Opposition members put the Government on notice that the Opposition will make the same demands about them in the future.
Ms SEATON (Southern Highlands) [2.22 p.m.]: Today I wish to illustrate the depth of feeling and fear in the community about the possibility of the release of Kevin Crump. I speak on behalf of a family in my electorate, the Moore family, who believed that Kevin Crump was in gaol for life, that is until he dies. That was of vital importance to the Moore family, because the lives of the Moore family and the lives of many members of the Morse family were intertwined. Virginia Morse, the murdered woman, had been a bridesmaid of Mrs Carol-Anne Moore, who is now a resident of the southern highlands. Mr Moore also had an important relationship with Virginia Morse and her family, in that the father of Virginia Morse, Mr Frank Hooke, was a very close friend of Mr Moore. When Carol-Anne Moore phoned me three weeks ago she was distraught, anxious and quite disbelieving that Kevin Crump could possibly be considered for parole.
Mrs Moore pleaded with me that the coalition do what it could to keep Kevin Crump in gaol until he dies. She made that request on behalf of the Moore family, the Morse family and all decent people in New South Wales. Anyone who heard the brother of Mrs Morse speak on radio recently and read out the words of the sentencing judge would have no doubt that the Morse family had the right to expect that Kevin Crump would never walk on our streets as a free man, yet now we are facing that
real possibility. For the information of the Minister, I note that today at the seventy-fifth annual conference of the Country Women's Association, which is taking place now at the Sydney Town Hall, the Goulburn branch of the CWA is to move an urgency motion in relation to the case of Crump and Baker that "whole of life prisoners convicted of heinous crimes of this sort remain in gaol for the whole of life".
The motion came about as a result of the Crump case, because women in country New South Wales know what it is like to live in isolated areas with the fear of attack from what could only be described as animals such as Crump and Baker. The president of the Goulburn branch of the CWA, Mrs Alison O'Brien, told me only this morning how much she endorses the coalition's bill, which leaves no doubt that Kevin Crump would die in gaol. The Morse family, the Hooke family, the Moore family and no doubt many others in the community who knew and loved Virginia Morse and who have been indelibly touched by the unspeakable circumstances of her death deserve the peace of mind that there is no doubt that Kevin Crump will ever in his natural life be free.
Mr SCHULTZ (Burrinjuck) [2.25 p.m.]: I speak today on behalf of the brother of Virginia Morse, Robert Hooke, one of my constituents, who resides in Cootamundra. Robert Hooke came to see me two weeks ago in a very distraught state relating to the possibility of this creature being released from prison. He reminded me that the community had an expectation of justice, and particularly the justice that should be appropriate to animals such as Kevin Crump. Robert Hooke reminded me that the judicial system should not even contemplate releasing this evil creature back into society. Today the Minister for Police in the House advised honourable members of his disgraceful flick pass to the Parole Board. The Parliament should legislate to keep Kevin Crump in gaol. It has the power to ensure that Crump dies in gaol, and he should be kept there until he dies.
Kevin Crump, this evil man, perpetrated one of the worst crimes against a citizen, particularly a woman, in the history of this State. He abducted her from her family home at Collarenebri, held her captive and took her to Queensland. There she was raped, tortured, shot and thrown into a river. That is the heinous crime perpetrated by this animal against the sister of one of my constituents. So far as I am concerned - and I know that I speak for other members on this side of the House - the death sentence is the only sentence for this creature. Unfortunately, New South Wales does not have the death sentence. The only alternative for this creature is to lock him up, as I said, until he dies.
It is interesting that, despite the comments the Premier has made on numerous occasions, the Government is introducing a bill that falls short of his public comments. I quote as an example the article contained in the Daily Telegraph of 26 April headed, "'Evil incarnate' Crump should die in jail: Carr". Where is the Premier now in terms of public comment he made then and has made since? Why is the Government not introducing legislation that makes it definite that Crump, this thing, will stay in gaol, where he rightfully belongs? I turn to the comments that Justice Taylor, the trial judge, made to Crump in 1974. The Minister has quoted them today. Justice Taylor said:
If, in the future, some application is made that you be released on the grounds of clemency or mercy, then I would venture to suggest to those who are entrusted with the task . . . that the measure of your entitlement . . . should be the clemency or mercy you extended to [Virginia Morse] when she begged for her life.
What sort of judicial system do we have in New South Wales when a judge overrides the decision made by Justice Taylor and decides to let an animal like this out into society? Where is this State going? Is it any wonder that the mainstream community has lost all faith in the justice system? Why are we as parliamentarians not bringing to the House some credible decision that will make sure that this animal stays where he is?
I will support this bill, but I shall also vigorously support the amendment foreshadowed by the shadow minister. This bill is an appalling indictment of the way that we as legislators determine what should be done to reinforce the ability of our judicial system to impose sentences that the public expect for heinous crimes, such as the one committed by Kevin Crump. Other members of Parliament wish to speak on this matter so I conclude my remarks by saying that releasing Kevin Crump is not an issue restricted to the area I represent; it is an issue in the hearts and minds of all decent people in this State. The community is looking for some guidance from the Government of the day to ensure that this thing - I can only describe him as a thing - remains where he is. Creatures such as Kevin Crump should not be put into protective custody in gaols but kept in the general prison population so that those prisoners who have some decency left can deal with him as they see fit.
Mr WHELAN (Ashfield - Minister for Police) [2.31 p.m.], in reply: I thank all honourable
members for their contributions to this very serious debate. My earlier remarks remain true: the Government wants this legislation to be correct in law; it wants it to be right.
Mr Phillips: But it does nothing.
Mr WHELAN: The Government believes this legislation is right. It does not want a repetition of the unwitting errors that occurred as a result of the truth in sentencing legislation. McCafferty and Schneidas - examples used by the honourable member for Lane Cove - got a big tick under the criteria in the coalition's truth in sentencing legislation. They got the get-out-of-gaol-free card because of errors in the coalition's truth in sentencing legislation, which I have said occurred unwittingly. The same situation applies with Baker and Crump. A legislative impediment is recognised in the revolt shown by all honourable members today. The Sentencing Legislation Further Amendment Bill is not Crump-specific; it refers to everyone - the Murphys; the whole kit and caboodle. This bill will change the prison sentences of 77 lifers in the gaol system.
Mr Schultz: So what.
Mr WHELAN: I agree with that comment. Most importantly, the Government knows it has got the legislation right. The danger with the Opposition's amendment is that if these prisoners appeal, the State legislative program for this bill could be brought into question.
Mr Schultz: You have taken the soft option. You have flick-passed it.
Mr WHELAN: I have taken the option that will keep these people in gaol. This bill will guarantee that they remain in the gaol system.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The honourable member for Burrinjuck has had an opportunity to contribute to the debate.
Mr WHELAN: This bill will ensure that if an appeal is lodged, these people will not be given the benefit of a judicial appeal to the High Court. This Parliament passed legislation that it thought was watertight in relation to Gregory Wayne Kable. Kable killed his wife. He is an absolute madman. State legislation was struck down by the High Court of Australia. With its proposed amendment the Opposition is tempting the Supreme Court of New South Wales and the High Court to overthrow the combined will of every member of this Parliament. Not one member of this Parliament will not vote for the bill.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The honourable member for Burrinjuck will contain himself.
Mr WHELAN: All the Opposition is doing is providing an opportunity for these people - the Bakers, Crumps, Murphys and all the rest - and their slick lawyers in silver suits to apply to the court to bring down this legislation.
Mr Phillips: We represent the people, not the High Court.
Mr WHELAN: I know that. That is what this bill says.
Mr Phillips: Well keep going until you get it right.
Mr WHELAN: The Opposition has forgotten what the Kable experience has shown. It demonstrated the invalidity of individual-specific legislation. For this Government to introduce Crump-specific legislation, as the Opposition wants it to do, would be irresponsible. The honourable member for Burrinjuck mentioned Mr Robert Hooke, a member of the Morse family. The honourable member should tell Mr Robert Hooke that in 1993 the Attorney General failed -
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The honourable member for Burrinjuck will contain himself. Though other honourable members may be upset, they are abiding by the standing orders, and the honourable member for Burrinjuck should do the same. If other members acted as he is, there would be chaos. I urge him to contain himself.
Mr WHELAN: In 1993 the New South Wales Attorney General had the opportunity to agree with the Queensland Attorney General that, in addition to the sentences imposed in New South Wales, Baker and Crump should go to Queensland to be tried for the murder and rape of Mrs Morse, which were Queensland-related offences. I said in my second reading speech that that is what should happen, but they will not get out of gaol unless the Government gets the guarantees concerning Baker and Crump that I outlined.
Mrs Chikarovski: How can you guarantee that the Parole Board won't let them out?
Mr WHELAN: It is much better than the guarantees the truth in sentencing legislation gave about McCafferty and all the rest of them. The
Opposition cannot guarantee that its legislation will not get struck down by the High Court. I can guarantee that it will get struck down.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The honourable member for Lane Cove has made her point and the Minister is entitled to reply. She knows as well as I that the matter will be debated in Committee. If she wants to follow up those matters in detail, she can do that in Committee. At this stage the Minister is entitled to reply to the matters presented to the House.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a second time.
The ACTING-CHAIRMAN: Order! I make it perfectly clear to all members that they are entitled to speak on this matter in Committee. As was indicated in the House by Mr Speaker, all members are entitled to have a say, but I warn members that I will not tolerate raucous interjections.
Mr TINK (Eastwood) [2.41 p.m.]: I move the following amendment:
Page 7. Insert after line 13:
9 Confirmation of life sentences of Kevin Garry Crump
(1) The sentences imposed on Kevin Garry Crump that were the subject of a determination by the Supreme Court under section 13A of this Act on 24 April 1997 (including any sentences that replaced them as a result of that determination) are, by this clause, replaced by sentences (referred to in this clause as the life sentences) of penal servitude for life.
(2) Kevin Garry Crump is to serve the life sentences for the term of his natural life and must not be released on parole under this Act.
(3) The life sentences cannot be changed and no appeal against them can be made under the Criminal Appeal Act 1912 or any other Act.
(4) Section 13A of this Act does not apply in respect of the life sentences.
(5) Nothing in this clause affects the application of Part 13A of the Crimes Act 1900 to a conviction.
(6) Nothing in this clause limits or affects in any manner the prerogative of mercy.
This amendment reflects the objectives of a bill which the Leader of the Opposition would have introduced today but for the fact that Government business took priority. This amendment, in bill form, was the catalyst for bringing forward the debate and finally getting the Government to take action. Unfortunately, the action that the Government has taken does nothing to ensure that Kevin Garry Crump remains in gaol for the remainder of his life. Contrary to what the Premier says on the front page of the afternoon edition of the Daily Telegraph that the legislation will ensure that Kevin Crump will never be released, in reality it does nothing of the sort. The only legislation that will do that is legislation that includes an amendment in the form proposed by the Opposition.
Mr Whelan: On a point of order. The amendment proposed by the honourable member for Eastwood is outside the scope of the bill. The bill is generic and prospective, but the amendment proposed by the honourable member relates to a specific person, and is vastly different from the bill. In my view it is outside the leave of the bill and should be ruled out of order.
Mr TINK: On the point of order. The leave of a bill is determined in part, and to a substantial extent, by the Minister's second reading speech. I listened with great attention to the Minister's second reading speech. He spent a great deal of time concentrating on the problem of Kevin Crump. The Minister asserted that this bill goes a long way towards keeping Mr Crump in prison: the Opposition asserts the contrary. In the Minister asserting that it goes that far, the Opposition is entitled to move an amendment which gives effect to what the Minister is trying to do, but manifestly cannot do in terms of the bill. The amendment is in order because it deals with the very issue that the Minister has been talking about from the first word of his second reading speech.
Mr Whelan: Further to the point of order. If Opposition members want to have a specific bill, that is up to them, but the amendment cannot stand with this bill. It cannot be done with this bill.
Mr Collins: On the point of order. In discussions earlier today the Minister indicated that this bill, to which the Opposition has given consent to passing all stages today, would deal with Crump and other prisoners of that class. That is why the amendment moved by the honourable member for Eastwood is entirely pertinent to this bill. The amendment particularises a prisoner who is in custody - Crump - and that is precisely the reason that the Government's bill is before the Parliament. The Opposition believes that it is entirely appropriate for Crump to be particularised in this amendment. The Opposition seeks the Government's
assurance that Crump will die in gaol: that is precisely why the Government says it has brought on this legislation.
Mr Hartcher: On the point of order. Mr Acting-Chairman, I draw your attention to the long title of the bill, which is the means by which the purpose of an Act is interpreted. The long title states:
An Act to amend the Sentencing Act 1989 and the Correctional Centres Act 1952 in relation to persons who are serving sentences of penal servitude . . .
The amendment relates to a person - in this case Mr Crump - who is serving a sentence of penal servitude. Therefore the amendment relates to the purpose of the bill.
The ACTING-CHAIRMAN: Order! I have sought advice from the Clerk and the Deputy Clerk, who are of the opinion that the amendment is outside the scope of the bill. I can act only on the professional advice given to me. The amendment is outside the scope of the bill because it relates to a specific person, whereas the bill is generic and prospective. The advice I have received concerning the long title of a bill is that it is usually in general terms and is not the only indication of the scope of a bill. In those circumstances I must uphold the point of order raised by the Minister for Police, and rule the amendment out of order.
Mrs CHIKAROVSKI (Lane Cove) [2.46 p.m.]: I seek clarification of item  of the schedule relating to section 22P, to which the Minister referred when he said that Kevin Crump will be kept in gaol for life. I seek clarification of the Minister: if this proposed section is guaranteed to keep Kevin Crump in gaol for life why does proposed section 22P(2) state:
The Board, in exercising its function under this Part in relation to a person to whom this section applies:
(a) must have regard to and give substantial weight to any relevant recommendations, observations and comments made by the original sentencing court when imposing the sentence concerned, and
(b) must give consideration to adopting or giving effect to their substance and the intention of the original sentencing court when making them, and
(c) must, to the extent that it declines to adopt or give effect to those matters, state its reasons for doing so.
If this proposed section is guaranteed to keep Kevin Crump in gaol, why is there an option for the Parole Board to exclude those matters in its consideration and say that it will not give effect to the words of the sentencing judge when it takes into account its consideration of whether it will release a person from gaol - whether it is Kevin Crump or anybody? If the matter outlined by the Minister for Police is an absolute guarantee, then there should not be a discretion for the Parole Board to decide not to take those matters into consideration and to allow those matters to be disregarded by the Parole Board in its determination. I would like a response to this from the Minister, because if there is an absolute guarantee -
Mr Whelan: Tell me what is going to happen in 2003.
Mrs CHIKAROVSKI: But the Minister and the Premier are saying that under this bill they are guaranteeing that Kevin Crump will not get out of gaol. The Minister has just admitted that that is not true. The people of New South Wales, the people in the gallery - including the young men from St Ignatius College - want the Minister to explain how he can say, given the powers of the Parole Board as set out on the schedule, that the bill guarantees that Kevin Crump will not get out of gaol. The Minister cannot, and he knows he cannot. He is not entitled to mislead the House about this matter. The Premier is not entitled to mislead the community and say that under the legislation his Government is passing today Kevin Crump will not get out of gaol: I know, the Minister knows, and everyone else here knows, that that is a complete lie.
The ACTING-CHAIRMAN: Order! The Leader of the Opposition will wait until the Committee comes to order. I remind people in the gallery that they have no part in this debate and I insist that they remain silent.
Mr COLLINS (Willoughby - Leader of the Opposition) [2.50 p.m.]: The Opposition must clearly follow the direction given by the Chair in relation to the amendment. It is regrettable that the Minister did not see fit to indicate that he would seek to rule out such an amendment on a technical ground. Had the Government seen fit and had the Minister so chosen, the Government could have included this amendment in the legislation which the Opposition agrees is urgent.
The Opposition's concern is that the legislation introduced by the Minister in the last couple of hours is flawed in that it does not provide the guarantees to which the Premier has publicly committed himself. Because of the Government's decision to rule out this amendment on a
technicality, the Opposition will now be forced to proceed with separate legislation as foreshadowed in the Parliament. I end on this point, and I put this question to the Minister: after the assurance given by the Premier that Crump will die in gaol, does the Minister say that this legislation will guarantee that Kevin Crump will die in gaol?
The ACTING-CHAIRMAN: Order! I call the honourable member for The Hills to order for the first time.
Mr WHELAN (Ashfield - Minister for Police) [2.51 p.m.]: I cannot believe this - and I hope the students of St Ignatius College and the other people in the gallery are listening -
Mr Phillips: On a point of order.
Mr WHELAN: Yes, I am looking at the Acting-Chairman.
The ACTING-CHAIRMAN: Order! I call the honourable member for Burrinjuck to order.
Mr Phillips: Address your remarks through the Chair, not to the people in the gallery, or to us.
Mr WHELAN: This is how petty debate on a serious issue becomes.
The ACTING-CHAIRMAN: Order! The Deputy Leader of the Opposition took a point of order and in the course of that there was an exchange between the member and the Minister. The Chair would appreciate members directing their remarks to the Chair, not to other members. The Minister should not engage in cross-table debate with members. I hope I have made myself clear. I am trying to conduct this debate in a manner that is fair to both sides. I will not tolerate interjections, nor will I tolerate debate being interrupted by non-parliamentary procedures.
Mr WHELAN: The basic tenet of this legislation is to amend the Sentencing Act, introduced by the former Government, so that it is constitutionally sound in law. One of the major failings in that legislation relates to those who are the subject of this legislation and this discussion. I remind the Opposition that its legislation was so flawed that it enabled Crump and Baker to get a determinate sentence.
Mr Fraser: Why did you not amend it?
Mr WHELAN: It is your legislation and the coalition was in office at the time.
Mr Cochran: Well fix it.
Mr WHELAN: It is being fixed. The coalition was in office when two offenders named Spink and Malcolm were allowed to walk. I quote from what the judge said in relation to these people, these two crims, in his judgment:
You have, in my view, forfeited forever the right to be free in our society and at least some of the witnesses who have given evidence in this case would live in constant fear for the rest of their lives if ever you were released. I recommend that your mental condition, Spink, be closely watched by the authorities of the Department of Corrective Services.
What happened? The former Government let those offenders go. They let them walk out. The Opposition is now trying to play a very cruel trick and hoax on the Morse family and other families of victims. Opposition members should be condemned. The Government wants legislation that is guaranteed to be legal. The Opposition cannot give that guarantee and the community will see the Opposition for what it is.
The ACTING-CHAIRMAN: Order! I call the honourable member for Pittwater to order.
Mr TINK (Eastwood) [2.55 p.m.]: After the Minister's latest contribution he needs to be reminded that when he was last in government the average term in gaol for people sentenced to life imprisonment was 11 years. That is why truth in sentencing legislation was introduced. That is why it was an enormous advance on the revolving door life sentences that were the legacy of the Wran and Unsworth governments. Honourable members are today trying to do more. The question remains: how can the Premier say in this afternoon's paper that this legislation will guarantee that Crump stays in gaol for life when clearly the detail of the legislation will not allow that to occur? The Minister consistently refuses to answer the question whether or not this legislation will guarantee Crump will remain in prison.
The Opposition agreed to the suspension of standing and sessional orders to allow this matter to come on this afternoon. If that can be done the Minister can go one step further and do whatever else is necessary under standing orders to ensure that the Crump-specific material is included in this bill. The Opposition is asking the Minister to do whatever is necessary to go the extra step to allow this amendment. The Minister should not take a technical point when it suits him to keep this amendment out. The bill should be brought back at a later hour and this amendment should be allowed to be incorporated.
If the Minister is taking a constitutional point, he should have the guts to say so. He should take that constitutional point and allow this House to argue about the sovereign nature of this Parliament. He should allow members the opportunity to debate the matter, so that they can state their views one way or the other on the amendment, and the House could then vote on the matter. If it is a constitutional problem that the Minister is asserting in disguise, he should have the guts to state it as such. He should not say it is outside the leave of the bill. The Minister should suspend whatever forms of the House it is necessary to suspend to allow this matter to be properly considered. Do not blame the clerks. This is a matter that should be squarely faced today. The House has the opportunity to face it today and honourable members ought to have the guts to face it today.
Dr MACDONALD (Manly) [2.56 p.m.]: Because there has clearly been some licence taken in Committee regarding this matter, I wish to join with other members -
The ACTING-CHAIRMAN: Order! How does the honourable member for Manly say that licence has been taken in this debate?
Dr MACDONALD: In the sense that we are ranging over the whole purpose of the bill, the intent of the bill, whether or not Crump is going to be kept in custody.
The ACTING-CHAIRMAN: Order! I remind the honourable member for Manly that is a matter for debate. He cannot assume that the Chair has allowed licence.
Dr MACDONALD: I apologise, Mr Acting-Chairman. I was not seeking to besmirch the Chair in any way. I find it absolutely remarkable that the Government seeks to exclude the Opposition's amendment. The bill has been introduced in a hurry, precipitated by the consequences of Crump's appeal under section 13A of the Sentencing Act. This bill is the Government's response to the legislation proposed by the Opposition. The Government has rejected the amendment on a technicality for one reason: it does not want that issue to come to a vote. The Government is afraid that it would have to vote against that amendment. The bill merely addresses the conditions that relate to section 13A of the Sentencing Act in regard to the thresholds to be considered on redetermination. The bill does nothing to guarantee that Crump will remain in gaol. It does nothing to address the even broader issue of those offenders whose files have been marked "never to be released".
The matter raised with me by the Minister prior to the lunch break relating to his concern that the amendment was out of order had nothing to do with the leave of the bill, it was because the Minister did not consider that it was the role of Parliament to be involved in sentencing. He may argue that it is not the role of Parliament to be involved in sentencing, but this is the same government that introduced the Crimes Amendment (Mandatory Life Sentences) Bill in 1996. A New South Wales Law Reform Commission report indicates that it was opposed to the Crimes Amendment (Mandatory Life Sentences) Bill for that very reason. The commission said that mandatory minimum sentences, being in effect sentences passed by Parliament, remove judicial discretion and amount to an unwarranted intrusion on judicial independence.
This was the very Government that introduced that bill. The proposed amendment is consistent with what this Government has done previously. I reject the Government's argument that we should not be involved with the issue of sentencing. Clearly, a precedent has been set. I am not sure that I am comfortable with that; I am merely seeking consistency. The Government introduced the Crimes Amendment (Mandatory Life Sentences) Bill and the Opposition is, in effect, seeking to graft onto that legislation a specific measure to try to provide a sentencing role for Parliament in relation to Kevin Crump. I believe the Government will be shown to be inconsistent, firstly, on the issue of the role of Parliament in respect of sentencing and, secondly, for the way in which it has dealt with the Opposition's amendment. The Government should have accepted the amendment and permitted robust debate on it.
Mr Whelan: That is up to the Clerks.
Dr MACDONALD: No, it was the Minister who raised the matter. There should be robust debate on the amendment followed by a determination as to whether or not it is appropriate. The Government has certainly done significant things to improve the Sentencing Act by introducing the bill but the one thing that the bill does not do is guarantee that Kevin Crump will remain in gaol. An opportunity has been provided to do that and the Government has rejected it.
Mr O'DOHERTY (Ku-ring-gai) [3.02 p.m.]: The Minister evaded the question. The entire Parliament is waiting to hear his answer. Those in the gallery want to hear your answer, Minister. The people of New South Wales are waiting this minute to hear your answer to the question. Do you
guarantee that this bill will keep Crump in gaol? Do you guarantee it? Tell us now, yes or no.
Mr WHELAN (Ashfield - Minister for Police) [3.03 p.m.]: This debate has deteriorated further and further. Opposition members have no right or authority to attack the independent advice that members of Parliament receive from any of the Clerks in this Parliament.
Mr O'Doherty: What is the answer: yes or no?
Mr WHELAN: You will get your answer. Just be quiet for a second. The so-called approach, whether it be in a single-issue bill or in the ruled-out amendment, has all the hallmarks of Kable. The amendment which the Leader of the Opposition sought to make to the bill is subject to all the defects of the Kable legislation and more. As such it would be struck down by the High Court. What I can guarantee, what the Government will guarantee, is that we will do everything and anything to ensure that not only Crump and Baker but other offenders, including the Murphys, stay in gaol, never see the exit sign on the gaol -
Mr Brogden: Guaranteed?
Mr WHELAN: I just said that - never have an opportunity to see the light of day outside prison.
Mr COLLINS (Willoughby - Leader of the Opposition) [3.05 p.m.]: Before the debate is concluded and a vote taken I want to say that this is a missed opportunity for the Government, for the Parliament, to adopt a key amendment this afternoon. The Minister has had the opportunity to take on board the amendment. The Opposition has given him every opportunity to put this legislation through. We concede that, even in its unamended form, the bill is a modest improvement -
Mr Whelan: Do what you want with it. If you are fair dinkum do what -
Mr COLLINS: I am trying to give you credit for the legislation. Please do not interject while I am trying to acknowledge that the Government is making an attempt to improve the legislation. The Opposition acknowledges that.
The ACTING-CHAIRMAN: Order! The Leader of the Opposition will direct his remarks through the Chair.
Mr COLLINS: What the Opposition is saying to the Minister, for the final time, is that the Premier of this State has given a public guarantee to the people of New South Wales that Kevin Crump will die in gaol and that the legislation before the Committee will guarantee it. In response to interjections the Minister has said this legislation will guarantee that Kevin Crump will die in gaol. In closing this debate for the Opposition, I ask the Minister to put on the record unequivocally that, just as the Premier said earlier today, Kevin Crump will die in gaol as a result of this legislation: that the Minister gives the Parliament and the community of New South Wales an unequivocal guarantee that Kevin Crump will die in gaol if this legislation is passed.
Dr MACDONALD (Manly) [3.07 p.m.]: I want to take this matter a little further. There has been an attempt by the Minister to cover his tracks. I am frankly not sure that this legislation will do it. The Minister has claimed, presumably on advice, that the Opposition amendment will end up in the High Court and that the bill will be flawed. I challenge the Minister to introduce an amendment that excludes any person who has previously had his or her file marked "never to be released" from applying for redetermination of sentence. Why does the Minister not address that aspect of section 13A? The concern is not that no-one should be able to access section 13A, because that section is part of the Sentencing Act; the concern is that serious offenders should never be allowed -
No, it does not. It does not provide for that. It has to be taken into account and they have to give reasons if they do not. I am arguing that the Government should introduce a clause to exclude certain categories of offender from applying under section 13A for redetermination. That means that people such as Crump will not have the right of access to have their sentences redetermined.
Mr COLLINS (Willoughby - Leader of the Opposition) [3.08 p.m.]: I am reluctant to seek the call again. This is the third time I have spoken to this debate but I must speak on behalf of the people of New South Wales to ask the Minister: would you please give a guarantee that the legislation you have before the Parliament will guarantee that Kevin Crump will die in gaol? Yes or no?
Mr WHELAN (Ashfield - Minister for Police) [3.09 p.m.]: The only guarantee I can give the Opposition is that if it is foolish enough to move its
amendment in the Legislative Council and it is carried, the legislation will be unconstitutional. The Opposition is not prepared to take advice about the unconstitutionality of its legislation. It has learned nothing from the mistakes in its truth in sentencing legislation. I have received advice from Greg James, QC, the barrister who was involved in the High Court case of Polyukhovich.
Mr Hartcher: He is a Labor hack. Any advice you want you get from him.
The ACTING-CHAIRMAN: I call the honourable member for Gosford to order. I call the honourable member for Lane Cove to order.
Mr WHELAN: He happens to be the best criminal lawyer in Australia.
Mr Tink: With wide experience defending members of the Labor Party.
The ACTING-CHAIRMAN: The Minister will ignore the interjections.
Mr WHELAN: I will not read the advice if they do not want to listen.
Bill reported from Committee without amendment and passed through remaining stages.
The following bill was returned from the Legislative Council without amendment:
Education Reform Amendment (Board Inspectors) Bill.
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, Mr Chappell, 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 Merton, Mr O'Doherty, Mr Peacocke, Mr Phillips, Mr Photios, Mr Rozzoli, Mr Schipp, Mr Schultz, Ms Seaton, Mrs Skinner, Mr Slack-Smith, Mr Smith, Mr Souris and Mr Tink.
Ethnic Affairs Commission Services in the Illawarra
Petitions praying that the removal of the Macedonian and Italian interpreters from the Ethnic Affairs Commission in the Illawarra be opposed; and that the Ethnic Affairs Commissioner be replaced with a commissioner who truly represents the Illawarra community, received from Mr McManus, Mr Markham, Mr Rumble and Mr Sullivan.
Petition praying that Ryde Hospital and its services be retained, received from Mr Tink.
Petition praying that the position of Inspector at Bega police station is maintained and that the Bega police patrol is not downgraded, received from Mr Smith.
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.
Home Invasion (Occupants Protection) Bill
Petition praying that the House support the Home Invasion (Occupants Protection) Bill 1996, received from Mr Sullivan.
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.
Berkeley Recreational Facility
Petition praying that a recreational facility be built in the Berkeley area, received from Mr Sullivan.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Precedence of Business
Business with precedence notice of motion No. 1 postponed by Mr Hartcher.
REGULATION REVIEW COMMITTEE
Mr Shedden, as Chairman, tabled the report entitled "Report Upon Regulatory Developments", dated May 1997.
Ordered to be printed.
PUBLIC ACCOUNTS COMMITTEE
Mr Rumble, as Chairman, tabled the report entitled "Proceedings of the Biennial Conference of the Australasian Council of Public Accounts Committees, Sydney, 10-11 February 1997", dated April 1997.
Ordered to be printed.
QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
1997-98 STATE BUDGET
Mr COLLINS: My question is directed to the Minister for Tourism. Was $80 million wiped off the value of tourism companies listed on the Australian Stock Exchange yesterday, with $41 million of that loss incurred by four Sydney hotel companies? Does that show that the Government's 10 per cent bed tax not only slugs backpackers, country visitors and overseas tourists but also hits the investments of countless ordinary Australians?
Mr LANGTON: I have no idea what happened on the share market yesterday.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I place the honourable member for Ermington on two calls to order.
BIRTH DEFECT PREVENTION
Ms HALL: My question without notice is directed to the Deputy Premier, and Minister for Health. What is the Government doing to promote awareness of the importance of folate in the prevention of birth defects?
Dr REFSHAUGE: I thank the honourable member for Swansea for her keen interest in health care services, and in particular for her interest in the needs of pregnant women and their babies.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Fairfield to order.
Dr REFSHAUGE: One of the most important roles of the health system is to promote community awareness of important health messages; and few messages are as important as those about how women can prevent their babies from being born with birth defects. Research suggests that any woman thinking about becoming pregnant should be taking vitamin B group supplements known as folate. It has been shown that folate or folic acid can prevent 70 per cent of neural tube defects - conditions most commonly known as spina bifida and anencephaly. Health professionals and groups such as the Northcott Society and the Spina Bifida Group of New South Wales have been working tirelessly to increase community awareness of the significance of folate. The New South Wales Health Department has also produced information pamphlets and posters about the importance of folate in pregnancy.
Statistically, it is difficult to tell how great an effect this message is having, but the latest report of the New South Wales birth defects register shows that the number of babies being born with spina bifida has dropped by more than 50 per cent. In 1992, 80 babies were born with neural tube defects, spina bifida and anencephaly; in 1995, only 33 were born with neural tube defects. That is a dramatic reduction. There may be other reasons besides folate intake for the drop in this number. However, it is believed that folate is having a significant effect on these serious conditions. We cannot afford to be complacent; it is crucial that we continue to spread that message. Spina bifida and anencephaly arise from problems with development of the spine or brain. This occurs very early in pregnancy, and often before a woman even knows that she is pregnant. That is why women who are contemplating pregnancy should take folate before they become pregnant. Often by the time a woman finds that she is pregnant the crucial time for the protective effects of folate has passed.
It is not clear exactly how folate works. The understanding is that at a very early stage the bones of the spinal column, as they develop, need folate to totally encircle and protect the spinal cord. If folate is not present in sufficient quantity or if for some reason more folate is needed then the bone does not join fully around the spinal cord. That can lead to spina bifida, which can have significant effects including total paralysis downwards from that point on the body. If the affected point is high on the spinal cord, effects can include anencephaly, that is, a lack of development of the brain. These days
health professionals advise that although folate is found in all green vegetables, in strawberries and many grains, and is also used as an enhancement in most breakfast cereals, women contemplating pregnancy should be recommended to take folate in tablet form, to make sure that if they are at risk they receive the higher level of folate and have that protection for their babies.
Now is not the time to congratulate ourselves, although the work that has been done is important and should be recognised. We should maintain our vigilance. The Northcott Society and the Spina Bifida Group of New South Wales should be congratulated on the work they have been doing. They have been at the forefront of making sure that women contemplating pregnancy understand this information. In recognition of the good works those groups have been doing, the Government has today provided a $10,000 to the Spina Bifida Group, which will use the Northcott Society in the spending of that money to continue with community education. This is an initiative that is joining community groups with the Government for the protection of our children for the future, something about which all honourable members can be very pleased.
CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE BY TEACHERS
Mr STEWART: I ask the Minister for Education and Training what disciplinary action has been taken by the Department of School Education in relation to 16 departmental officers following the advice of Mr John Slattery.
Mr AQUILINA: In March the Government asked former Supreme Court judge Mr John Slattery to review the files of 16 officers of the Department of School Education in relation to failing to notify or investigate incidents of suspected child sexual abuse. Today I can inform the House that Mr Slattery has provided his advice on those 16 officers. Mr Slattery has advised that 14 of the 16 officers could be liable to disciplinary charges under section 84 of the Teaching Services Act. He recommended that the department investigate those cases and consider disciplinary charges. The department has acted immediately. On Tuesday, 6 May, two officers were charged. Yesterday, 7 May, the remaining 12 officers received charge notices.
Because the names of many of these people are subject to suppression orders by the Wood royal commission it is inappropriate for me to name them or their place of work. I should emphasise that not all of the persons involved are teachers. I should also point out that none of these personnel is the subject of allegations of improper conduct of a sexual nature or sexual abuse. The departmental charges relate to failure to properly report or investigate such allegations. My message to departmental personnel is this: if you protect paedophiles or fail to report suspected child abuse, your job is on the line. I remind the House that, in order to ensure that all teachers are aware of their mandatory duty to report suspected child abuse to the Department of Community Services, training is being provided to all teachers by 30 June.
I am advised that most teachers have already received this training. Under the Teaching Services Act disciplinary charges can lead to penalties including reprimand, fine, demotion or dismissal by the director-general. The persons charged have 14 days to respond to the charges. Under the Act, a prescribed officer must then reach a decision on the evidence as to whether the charge is proved, and, if so, determine the proper penalty. The charges will be handled with due process and according to the principles of natural justice, and with the normal opportunity to appeal to the Government and Related Employees Appeals Tribunal.
CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE BY TEACHERS
Mr O'DOHERTY: My question is addressed to the Minister for Education and Training. What is the most senior rank of person who has been charged, and does the Minister have full confidence in the administration of his department?
Mr AQUILINA: I have already indicated that I am not going to identify the persons or their place of work. I will not give any further detailed information in relation to this matter. The details were examined by the Wood royal commission. They were referred to Mr Slattery, who has made various recommendations in relation to those matters. Those matters are now being handled in the appropriate way. To provide any further detail at this stage would be to undermine those investigations and the places where these people work and the positions they hold.
1997-98 STATE BUDGET
Mr MOSS: I ask the Premier what concerns have been expressed to him about the effect of the new land tax on millionaire properties.
Mr CARR: Terrible reports continue to reach the capital about the crisis in the millionaire class. I must warn the House that the following are quite heart-rending stories and if honourable members feel at this stage that they do not have the stomach for
the stories they should leave the Chamber now. I know that some Opposition members have the stomach for this.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Eastwood and the honourable member for Northcott to order. I call the honourable member for Northcott to order for the second time.
Mr CARR: Security has briefed me that next week there will be a blockade of Parliament organised by a group known as the Point Piper Property Rights Defence Committee. I think they will form a new guard next. I have been told that some of these poor dears, many of them down to their last cup of caviar, are so enraged by what the Government has done to achieve equity that they are going to march on Parliament House. Susan Renouf is one of them - and I am told she is going to be taking special precautions with her jewellery collection, lest Mr Egan's attention is drawn to it. Others are selling their priceless collections of Cuban cigars and vintage port. One sad letter received in the Premier's office today says, "Your Government's manic determination to build hospitals in western Sydney and light rail trains to the country at the expense of the achievers in our society will deprive our family of a second Bentley."
The Government is preparing itself for a vicious electoral backlash. At this stage, I am forced to concede that the seat of Vaucluse is likely to be a Liberal win. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said, "This is a tax-and-spend Government." No wonder he is being hailed as the new John Maynard Keynes! Yes, this Government does tax those who can afford to make a contribution; many of them have been avoiding taxation, but our measures picked them up. We are taxing those people and we are spending, on a hospital in Lithgow, hospitals in south-western Sydney, on Countrylink rail services to rural New South Wales -
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Coffs Harbour to order.
Mr CARR: - and on a rescue package for Newcastle that I challenge the Federal Government to join us in supporting.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Lane Cove to order.
Mr CARR: The honourable member for Lane Cove was asked at a luncheon in Parliament House yesterday whether she was aiming for the Liberal leadership. She used that tired old cliché, "Yes, I've got a baton in my knapsack." The Government is paying for 100 new police whose first assignment will be to solve the biggest missing person case in Australian history: find the Leader of the Opposition! He must be somewhere. It is the biggest mystery since the disappearance of Lord Lucan. None of the taxes introduced in the budget will equal the amount lost by the coalition with Luna Park. As a result of the Government's budget, the director of BHP - who made $1 million in stock options when workers were told they were going to be fired - will be worse off. Through this Government's initiatives steelworkers, farmers and battlers will be better off. In other words, this Government has presented a big, bold Labor budget.
STATE RAIL AUTHORITY CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER
Mr PHOTIOS: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Transport, and Minister for Tourism. Did State Rail Authority boss, David Hill, tell a meeting of fellow chief executives of the Rail Access Corporation, Freight Rail Corporation and the Rail Services Authority on 1 May that he will be responsible for the entire New South Wales rail network? What right does David Hill have to impose his authority on these separate corporations, which are supposed to report independently to the Minister?
Mr LANGTON: David Hill is the Chief Executive of the State Rail Authority, which is one of four rail organisations. I was not at that meeting.
Mr BECKROGE: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Agriculture. Can the Minister advise the House what effects the drought is having on New South Wales?
Mr AMERY: The honourable member for Broken Hill is obviously very concerned about rural areas.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I place the honourable member for Lane Cove on three calls to order. I call the honourable member for Oxley to order.
Mr AMERY: Apart from other Government members, the honourable member for Broken Hill is the only member who has raised a rural issue with the Government. This week the drought worsened, a great country budget was delivered, yet nothing was heard from the Opposition. Much concern was expressed about how much the Regent and the
Hilton charge for beds, but no mention was made of the battlers struggling in rural areas that are affected by an ever-worsening drought.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Bega to order. I call the honourable member for Coffs Harbour to order for the second time.
Mr AMERY: Opposition members should never be allowed to call themselves country members. It is with some regret that I inform the House that the drought declarations released today show that approximately 40 per cent of the State is now affected by drought. Unfortunately, that is a substantial increase from last month when 27 per cent of the State was declared to be drought affected. That increase followed many months of improvement in drought conditions, after a good harvest year which produced record crops. It is unfortunate at this important time when our farming industry gears up to plant winter crops that following one of the driest Aprils in history the drought has now spread to roughly 40 per cent of the State. I am sure I join all members of the House in hoping the situation is only temporary.
During last month the only significant rainfall in the State was on the north coast, and other parts of New South Wales have had a few light rain showers which appear to have had little benefit to allay the concern of many farmers. Today I shall release a general statement and the drought map. Regrettably, the map will show that the drought, which has always been around the Broken Hill electorate, has worsened. Of course, many parts of that electorate have never been drought-free. Though some parts of the State have had some relief, Broken Hill has worsened. The drought is now spreading to places like Condobolin and Wagga Wagga, through the central west, into Goulburn and to Cooma, which has always suffered from the drought, and further north to the Queensland border.
Mr Photios: And to Woolloomooloo, where he lives.
Mr AMERY: I hope I am a Minister in this House long enough to see the honourable member for Ermington grow up.
Mr Schultz: You won't be.
Mr AMERY: The honourable member for Burrinjuck has said it all: he knows that no Minister can expect to stay in office that long! I agree, I do not expect to be a Minister long enough to see the honourable member for Ermington grow up. In the major grain growing areas farmers are anxiously waiting for rain, to allow sowing to proceed. If rain falls in the next four to six weeks, more than four million hectares of winter crops can be sown. Everyone can appreciate how delicate the situation is as we approach the last few weeks of any good chance in which to sow the seeds to harvest a good crop from four million hectares. It is important to get that much-needed rainfall. Last year New South Wales had a record wheat crop.
Unfortunately, any delay in sowing beyond next month will mean lower yields, which will dramatically affect not only the rural economy, but also the general economy. In many areas farmers now hand feed stock or move stock for agistment. Even if rain is received in the coming weeks, it is unlikely that the number of drought-declared areas will reduce before spring because with the approach of winter pasture growth will be slow. In the past month the parts of the central and south-west region that have been declared drought affected include Dubbo, Wagga Wagga, Goulburn, Gundagai, Yass and Nyngan, to name but a few. Many other areas, such as Cobar, Balranald, Hay, Wentworth, Narrandera and Deniliquin have been affected by the drought for some time.
I assure honourable members and farmers that the Government will continue with its program of drought assistance for farmers. I assure the honourable member for Broken Hill that I want farmers to know that the Government will continue to urge the Federal Government to get its act together and finalise a national drought strategy, something which I believe the farming community is calling for and about which all State Ministers are now getting anxious. Through the Agricultural Resource Management Council of Australia and New Zealand process the Federal Government seems to be dragging its feet in bringing forward a national drought policy. At successive ARMCANZ meetings over the past two years this issue was deferred time and again because of the dithering of the Federal Government. I will have more to say, should the House permit an urgency debate this afternoon, on the issue of a national drought strategy. I would hope that the House will give urgency to that matter.
Finally, I repeat that the Government will continue its support of farmers and rural communities affected by the drought. The Government's support for farmers goes beyond the usual transactional subsidies which are subject to review. I point out that transactional subsidies, whilst they have always been a traditional method of aid to the farming community, are up for review this year. In about 1994 the former coalition Government
finalised an agreement with the former Federal Labor Government to set up a national drought strategy which would bring in drought preventative measures at the expense of transport subsidies. Now that the national drought strategy is out the door, the Government will have to address the issue of transactional subsidies.
The Premier has said time and again that the Government will continue its practice of providing welfare payments through organisations such as the Sydney City Mission, the St Vincent de Paul Society, the Smith Family, and so on. In an answer to an earlier question today, the Premier indicated that the Government may have to call upon those organisations to assist people at Potts Point. Seriously, the genuine concern is for country areas and that is where genuine welfare may be needed should the drought continue. During these financial difficulties the Government remains committed to providing funding for financial counselling services. Although it will be subject to a national drought strategy, I assure honourable members that the Government's role in financial counselling services will be preserved. That commitment has been recognised in discussion papers which have been issued through the ARMCANZ process.
The budget delivered this week contained a bonus for farmers in rural communities, particularly in the drought-affected areas which I will announce today. During the budget debate other initiatives will be announced, including an increase of 20 per cent for the eradication of weeds, and an increase in funding for research into acid soil. The Government will give a commitment to shift more jobs to the bush and hopefully improve rural economies, which will give more jobs in country towns. An extension to the inter-generational transfer of farms to include exchanges between siblings, announced in the budget, will assist many farmers and save them from paying various government duties. Next year all farmers who send their children to school, whether in a drought-affected area or not, will get $50 per child back-to-school allowance. Whilst these are not exactly drought assistance measures, honourable members can be assured -
These honourable members should not pretend they care for country areas. Government members know what they care for - it is on record. We know who they are campaigning for. One gets thrown out of the House because he is fighting for the people of Vaucluse. He is bagged by the Premier because he looks after bed taxes at the Hilton, the Sheraton, and other places. That might be his priority, but a lot of people in rural New South Wales are hurting as a result of the drought.
The regions I have announced today will be declared as drought-affected areas. It is also important to note that information provided through the rural lands protection boards has made it necessary for the Government to retrospectively declare a number of places as drought affected. They include Forbes for April 1997, Division D and part of Division C bordered by Division C in the west, Henry Lawson Way in the east and the Mid Western highway in the south. At Nyngan retrospective declaration was announced today for April 1997 relating to Division A south of the Mitchell Highway to Cobar Road; Division B north of the Gradgery Lane to east of the Macquarie River, and the whole of Division C.
In the Yass area, in the electorate of the honourable member for Burrinjuck, a very helpful member, the whole district has been retrospectively drought declared. Whilst new areas have been declared today, some parts of the State will remain in drought from previous months. They include areas around Wentworth, Narrandera, Hillston, Hay, Condobolin, Brewarrina and Balranald. The situation for those places, whilst they see the drought getting worse for the rest of the State, has not changed for many months. We are looking at a range of packages.
Through the ARMCANZ process I hope to be able to talk to the Federal Minister at a special meeting to be held at the end of this month. I acknowledge the work of the Premier. This morning he raised with the Prime Minister a drought strategy to deal with the problems that have arisen. The Prime Minister gave the Premier an assurance that he will pursue this with the Minister for Primary Industries and Energy. Having this issue raised at the highest government levels gives hope for some success for the drought strategy.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Ermington to order for the second time.
Mr AMERY: As the Minister for Land and Water Conservation said, Opposition members do not care a thing about their own constituents. Next week, during the debate on the budget, a list of drought-affected areas will be spelt out and defined by me and other Government members. The Premier can boast that this is the best country budget since the McKell Government, delivered in this House by the best Labor Treasurer since Jack Lang. I remind honourable members that 40 per cent of the State is drought declared.
I call on National Party members to get behind their Liberal Party country members and start raising a few concerns, not only during question time but perhaps by putting questions on notice or in private members' statements about matters other than the Sydney CBD. Honourable members opposite should start standing up for farmers and the communities which are affected by the ever-worsening drought. I thank the honourable member for Broken Hill for his important question.
STATE RAIL AUTHORITY CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER
Mr SOURIS: Does the Minister for Transport deny that plans to bring the four separate rail authorities under the direct control of David Hill are due to be announced as early as tomorrow? As the champion of the rail restructure does the Minister support this move?
Mr LANGTON: There is no such move.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Pittwater to order.
Mr LANGTON: I give the House and the honourable member an absolute, total and categorical denial that there is any suggestion of amending the existing legislation in relation to rail. It is working very successfully and it will continue to do so.
ASSISTANCE FOR SPORTING MOTHERS
Mrs BEAMER: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Sport and Recreation. What is the Government doing to assist the mothers of young children to participate in sport and recreation?
Ms HARRISON: I thank the honourable member for her question which highlights a very important issue for all women in the community. The New South Wales health promotion survey highlighted that women are only half as likely as men to participate in sport and that women with young children are even less likely to be involved. To help address this issue the Government has established a child care pilot program to encourage and support women with young children to participate in sport and other recreational pursuits.
Honourable members will recall that last year I gave a fairly thorough description to the House of the problems facing women in pursuing a sporting career or just recreational sport. Thorough consultation has taken place since the announcement that the Government put aside $100,000 for this project. I am happy to announce to the House today that four child-care facilities will be established or upgraded at venues, which allow women to participate in physical activity. One will be established in the Warren shire at the multipurpose Warren sporting complex. One of the benefits of this location is that it will enable the local aged community to assist in operating the child-care centre.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Ermington to order for the third time.
Ms HARRISON: There will also be a mobile child-care service in the Canterbury-Bankstown area which will cater for women from diverse cultural and language backgrounds. There will be another one in inner Sydney, at the Wunanbiri preschool, where the program will focus on young Koori mothers and work with the Mudgin Gal Aboriginal Women's Cooperative to provide sporting and physical activity opportunities.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Pittwater to order for the third time.
Ms HARRISON: The fourth project will be in Albury and will be conducted in the greater Murray area and will focus on providing child-care options for women with children under the age of five living in remote rural communities. The shadow minister for health continues to interrupt. It is interesting to note that last time I rose in this House to speak on women's issues the honourable member did exactly the same thing.
Mrs Skinner: On a point of order. The Minister indicated that I interrupted. I did not interrupt.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! There is no point of order. The Minister will wait until the House comes to order. I call the honourable member for Strathfield to order.
Ms HARRISON: You are about as accurate as a $2 watch.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for North Shore to order.
Ms HARRISON: The program has strong support from all sectors of the community, including the Department of Health and local government bodies which are strongly supportive of the initiative and working closely with the Department of Sport on these projects.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! There is far too much audible conversation in the Chamber. In the last minute I have called four members to order. Members will cease conversing while the Minister replies.
Ms HARRISON: In reaching this decision a number of factors were taken into account and there was liaison with the Department of Community Services. The Department of Community Services informed the Department of Sport that licensing is not required for the establishment of this type of occasional care. However, it was agreed that to ensure that long-term viable creche facilities were established at selected facilities the proposed modes of operation would need to be capable of fulfilling regulatory requirements. The Department of Community Services had agreed to support my department in the establishment of these pilot programs. The women's sport unit of the department has been investigating different options to ensure the success of the pilot program. The four pilot programs were to be funded to a maximum of $25,000 each.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I place the Minister for Local Government on three calls to order.
Ms HARRISON: All applications for the pilot program were assessed against the following essential and desirable criteria. The first essential criterion is the extent to which the pilot programs would target the development of best practice models of child care from the following areas: non-English speaking background; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander background; rural and remote communities; mobile child-care service; and supporting organisations which catered for both men and women. The second essential criterion that was considered was the facilities and services needed.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to order.
Ms HARRISON: There was an assessment of what was currently available or thoroughly planned that would cater for women's participation in physical activity. The third essential criterion was that the facility would be able to fulfil, or be close to fulfilling, the desired child-care regulations outlined by the Department of Community Services. The fourth essential criterion was the extent to which the project was supported by the municipal recreation planning and local government acceptance of the responsibility to ensure that the project met all local government building requirements. The fifth essential criterion was management arrangements for the completed facility and its operational viability in the future.
We added three desirable criteria to those for consideration. One of those was evidence of broad community consultation and support for the project. The second was any innovative features of particular interest. The third was the level of involvement of the department in the planning and development of the project to its fruition. The four projects that have been selected for the pilot program fitted those criteria. I would like to go through those one at a time and explain how they fit that criteria. The Wunanbiri preschool targeted the Aboriginal community. The description of the project in that area is: to relocate the preschool to a more suitable site and to develop a program in conjunction with the Mudgin Gal Aboriginal Women's Cooperative to encourage women with young children to participate in physical activity. The preschool is currently licensed and the relocation will also meet DOCS requirements.
South Sydney council has supported the project, and management of it will be given to the acting director of Wunanbiri and the project officer of the Mudgin Gal Aboriginal Women's Cooperative. There is broad community support for this project from the Wunanbiri board, the Mudgin Gal Aboriginal Women's Cooperative, the Aboriginal Medical Service Cooperative and DOCS south-east area. The service will be located in the grounds of Cleveland Street High School, which has strong links with the Aboriginal community, and the school is situated opposite numerous sporting facilities. The second successful program is the non-English speaking background women's carers cooperative. This target group, of course, consists of non-English speaking Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women requiring a mobile child-care service.
The establishment of a mobile child-care service dedicated to providing child-care support for women from a non-English speaking background or who otherwise would not be involved in sport or recreational activities fitted within the scope of this program. The proposed service meets DOCS requirements outlined in the application, and Canterbury and Bankstown councils both support this project. The management of this particular project will be given to the Non-English Speaking Background Women's Carers Cooperative, to the full-time and part-time coordinators. Community consultation has taken place on this project and a labour market survey conducted through Canterbury council indicated that innovative strategies were
needed to address the problem of lack of participation in sport and recreation -
Mr Collins: On a point of order. I am extremely reluctant to interrupt the Minister for Sport and Recreation, given the fascinating detail of her answer, but it might be that she could proceed by way of a ministerial statement on future occasions, given the length of her answer. I hope that the Minister is drawing to a rapid conclusion.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The point raised by the Leader of the Opposition has some validity. The Minister should conclude the answer.
Ms HARRISON: I think the Leader of the Opposition is a bad sport but, considering the time of day, I will make information available to those honourable members who require it.
Mr J. H. TURNER: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Fisheries. Did the Minister mislead the Governor of New South Wales when he recommended that ocean haul and ocean prawn trawl fisheries no longer be regulated as share-managed fisheries by claiming he had complied with all legal requirements? Did the Minister fail to meet his legal requirements by not consulting with the relevant commercial fishing industry bodies, as required by the Act?
Mr MARTIN: The question is obviously from a very pompous lawyer who does not understand the process. The process is that when regulations are made a document is prepared which says they can be made legally, and that is the case. The answer to the honourable member opposite, who only concentrates on fine legal points, is no.
Questions without notice concluded.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Consideration of Urgent Motions
Mr WHELAN (Ashfield - Minister for Police) [4.14 p.m.]: Notice has been given of two motions for urgent consideration. However, given the time, little purpose would be served in speaking to the motions as sessional orders require that private members' statements commence at 4.15 p.m. I ask that the Minister for Agriculture and the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai consent to withdraw their notices and to have them dealt with at their option. It should be noted that the Leader of the Opposition agrees to that course.
Pursuant to sessional orders business interrupted.
PRIVATE MEMBERS' STATEMENTS
LAKE MACQUARIE RAIL SERVICES
Mr HUNTER (Lake Macquarie) [4.15 p.m.]: I wish to bring to the attention of the House the concern of residents of Lake Macquarie in relation to rail facilities and the trial of the XPT service in Lake Macquarie. I request that the Minister for Transport advise the House of progress in relation to the upgrading of car parking facilities at Wyee station. I appreciate that the car park at Wyee station is under the control of Lake Macquarie City Council, but I ask the Minister to speak to CityRail to inquire about the feasibility of upgrading that facility to expand the car park at the station for rail commuters.
I ask the Minister for Transport to organise for CityRail to liaise with me and with Lake Macquarie City Council on the issue of pedestrian safety at Wyee station. That station is separated from the car park by Wyee Road and a pedestrian safety problem exists because commuters are forced to cross that very busy main road to gain access the car park. It is an issue that needs to be discussed and I would appreciate the Minister intervening and arranging for CityRail to join me in discussions with Lake Macquarie City Council.
I am sure honourable members are aware of the $1.3 million allocated for the upgrading of Morisset railway station, which was officially opened on Friday, 19 April 1996. The improvements, including lifts to the station, the erection of canopies and upgraded security, have certainly helped many of the elderly population, the disabled and parents with young children. The Minister recently announced that an additional $500,000 would be dedicated to Morisset station for further upgrading. In November last year the Minister visited Morisset station, spoke with local community representatives and listened to their concerns. In February he announced that the station would be further upgraded. I ask the Minister to advise the House on the progress of that upgrading work.
I wish to bring to the attention of the House the problems associated with car parking facilities at Dora Creek railway station, which have not been adequately maintained for some time. I know that the residents of Dora Creek and many people who
gain access to CityRail services through Dora Creek railway station want the car park improved. I ask the Minister to speak to CityRail to see what work can be done there to improve the commuter car park. Finally, one of the main concerns of the people of the electorate of Lake Macquarie, and I believe the electorates of Swansea, Charlestown and Wallsend - in other words, the city of Lake Macquarie - is the current six-month trial of the XPT service stopping at Fassifern railway station. For the information of honourable members, $1.5 million has been spent on upgrading work at Fassifern railway station and the official opening of the station was conducted on 31 May 1996. New work included the installation of lifts, erection of canopies, improvements in landscaping and the installation of security cameras on the station.
Members of the local community have been lobbying the Government for some time to have the XPT service stop at Fassifern. The XPT service stops at Wyong and Newcastle but Lake Macquarie, a city with a population greater in number than Newcastle and Wyong, was not serviced by the XPT. As I mentioned, the Minister visited Lake Macquarie last November. He visited Morisset station and Fassifern station, where he met a delegation of local residents who outlined the reasons that they believed Fassifern station should be a scheduled stop for the XPT service.
I am pleased to say that the Minister announced a six-month trial and that trial commenced on 3 February. We are now three months into that trial period and I would be interested to have a progress report from the Minister. Local residents hope that, at the conclusion of the trial, the XPT service will be maintained to a city with a population of 170,000. At this stage I take the opportunity to congratulate the Fassifern stationmaster, Mr John Gorman, and his staff and the local community who are very interested in the station, for promoting the service to the local community. [Time expired.]
Ms SEATON (Southern Highlands) [4.20 p.m.]: I draw attention to the Bradman Museum in Bowral, which is not only a landmark tourism attraction in the southern highlands but a living monument to one of the great living Australians, and certainly one of the greatest Australian sportsmen of all times - Sir Donald Bradman. He has never sought the accolades that Australians so readily give to him. Indeed, the Don is by nature a most modest Australian, quick to avoid the limelight in which Australians are keen to place him. It is that quality which ironically serves to increase our affection for him and our desire to celebrate his sportsmanship, fair play, natural sporting talent, pride in being Australian and, in his own way, being one of our greatest ambassadors.
It was only the knowledge that the Bradman Trust and the Bradman Museum would, through sponsorship and encouragement, serve Australian cricket and, most importantly, Australia's young cricketers and cricketers with disabilities, that persuaded Sir Donald Bradman to allow the cricket oval and museum in Bowral, his home town, to bear his name and legacy. The people of Bowral and the southern highlands are proud of their link with the Bradman story. The Bradman Museum is one of the jewels in the crown of southern highlands tourism. It attracts international visitors, interstate visitors, schoolchildren and cricket lovers. It is an important year-round single destination in the region, and a catalyst for visits to other attractions in the area, including gardens, historic houses, fine food and wine, crafts, and country leisure activities.
The ideals of the Bradman Museum have attracted the support, financial and otherwise, of many leading citizens who have put their time and expertise into completing the second stage of the museum. The Prime Minister, the Hon. John Howard, recognised the importance of the Bradman Museum when he agreed to open the building last year. I hope I have established the importance of the Bradman Museum to both State and local tourism.
The Minister for Tourism has been approached in regard to the erection of a sign on the Hume Highway, northbound and southbound, to advise motorists of the correct freeway exit to the museum at Bowral. Such signs have been erected for major museums in Sydney, such as the Museum of Fire in Penrith. Bradman Board member Garry Barnsley made representations to the Minister, and I am disappointed that the Minister for Roads refused his request. This is an outstanding opportunity for the Minister for Tourism, together with the Minister for Roads, to make a positive decision that will benefit the southern highlands, sport, and the celebration of the contribution of cricket to the community. Although Sir Donald Bradman would never seek it, it would allow more Australians and international visitors to share the great Australian qualities we admire so much in the Don.
KARIONG COMMUNITY BAPTIST CHURCH TENTH ANNIVERSARY
Ms ANDREWS (Peats) [4.23 p.m.]: On Sunday, 27 April, the Kariong Community Baptist
Church celebrated its tenth anniversary with a special service conducted in the Kariong public school hall, followed by a family picnic lunch. Kariong is a relatively new residential area. For those who do not know, this formerly sparsely populated area, located on a plateau at the top of Woy Woy Road, was developed by the Department of Lands and completed in approximately 1984. Landcom commenced appropriation and works in 1985, and those works continue today.
The Gosford Baptist Church saw the urgent need to service the growing needs of the Kariong population and in December 1986 the church asked Pastor Graham Weir to explore the Kariong-Somersby area as a potential outreach ministry of the Gosford church. So it was that in March 1987 the Gosford Baptist Church approved Pastor Graham Weir as "a church planter in the growing Kariong-Somersby area", according to a leaflet produced on the occasion of the tenth anniversary. The inaugural Sunday morning service of the Kariong-Somersby Christian Community Fellowship was held on 26 April 1987 at the Kariong progress hall. Night services were conducted at Somersby hall, later moving to the Kariong progress hall. At that time the congregation totalled 20, quickly grew to 70, and now on any Sunday between 100 and 125 people attend the morning service. A change of name to the Kariong Community Baptist Church, which was approved by the Baptist Union, took place in June 1990, with 50 foundation members.
Largely because of generous support from Frenchs Forest Baptist Church, together with loans from the Baptist Union, the church was able to purchase a dwelling on two acres of land at Kariong on which it hoped to build a church, finances permitting, which would have a multipurpose function. Kariong has no indoor sporting facilities. The church continued to expand in the Kariong area and in February 1995 the Sunday services moved from the progress hall located in the old area of Kariong to the Kariong public school hall. In February 1992 the Kariong congregation welcomed Melissa Baker as a pastoral assistant.
Pastor Graham Weir and his wife, Rose, are held in high esteem not only by the Baptist Church congregation at Kariong but by the entire population of that predominantly young community. Pastor Weir resides in close proximity to Kariong and he and his wife are called upon to assist members of the community in a wide variety of ways. They have never resiled from meeting the many demands made of them and are well known for their kindness, understanding and generosity. I pay tribute to them today. They are supported in their care of the Kariong Community Baptist Church congregation and the Kariong community at large by a number of members of the congregation, including many husband-and-wife teams: the Colleys, the Campeys, the Bartletts, the Bakers, the Neils, the Rosses, to name but a few of the church's activists.
Ministries administered by the Kariong Community Baptist Church cover a wide variety of activities which assist the very young, teenagers, adults and senior members of the congregation. Pastor Weir is well known in that area for his efforts on behalf of young people. He serves on the council of Kariong Public School and is on the 355 committee of the Kariong Youth Centre. Since the age of 15 years, Pastor Weir has been a regular visitor to Mount Penang Juvenile Justice Centre and takes a particular interest in the wellbeing of young juveniles. As a minister of religion and long-time friend of those at Mount Penang, Pastor Weir and a team from the Kariong Community Baptist Church visit the centre once a month not only to provide a church service but to take time out to talk to the boys at the conclusion of the service. I convey to Pastor Weir, Mrs Weir and the entire congregation of the Kariong Community Baptist Church my heartfelt congratulations on its tenth anniversary. I wish the church continued success in its work in that area.
KINDILAN CHILD CARE CENTRE
Mr J. H. TURNER (Myall Lakes) [4.26 p.m.]: I apologise to the Minister for Education and Training for not advising him of my intention to refer to the Kindilan Child Care Centre this evening. However, the issue is not contentious. Kindilan is a long day care centre with a special-needs teacher, and has developed a reputation for caring for children with special needs. It takes referrals from paediatricians, early intervention centres, occupational therapists and speech pathologists. Their special-needs children are usually children of working parents and parents with disabilities who are unable to care for their children at home.
Funds should be allocated more equitably for the care of children with special needs if it can be demonstrated that adequate facilities are available. Kindilan cares for 10 children who are mildly to moderately disabled. If they are given a chance at this early stage of their life they can be mainstreamed, which is extremely important for the children and their families. Debbie Yealland, the special-needs teacher at Kindilan, is fully qualified to care for children with special needs. Last year the centre received funding of just over $10,000. That money, together with various other funds, including
funds that were carried over, gave them about $18,000.
This year the program was continued in the belief that similar funding would be available. Apparently funding is usually made available early in the year but that did not occur this year. About a month ago the centre was informed that it would receive funding of $5,200. The special-needs teacher has worked on the basis of full funding and has already exceeded that figure. As a measure of her dedication and that of Kindilan, she told me she is prepared to continue working with the children in any event.
The purpose of my private member's statement is to reinforce the need for the special-needs teacher to be fully funded so the children can receive the very best attention to enable them to be mainstreamed and so that their families have the benefit of the children being cared for. Kindilan has 10 children with special needs, and I understand that there are children with special needs on the waiting list. The children who have been enrolled at Kindilan for up to two years have received one-on-one teaching throughout that period. If funding is reduced, that one-on-one teaching will not be able to continue and the children will not receive the necessary attention that they are currently receiving in a professional and loving way. As I said, Mrs Yealland is prepared to continue teaching these children but she has personal commitments that must be met.
Removal of the special needs teacher because of a lack of funding would affect the routines established at Kindilan centre; the children without disabilities would also be disadvantaged. I have written to the Minister about this matter. I ask him to earnestly consider increasing the level of funding for the special needs teacher at Kindilan. If not, the least he can do is provide the same level of funding as last year. Certainly, the case could be made for a higher level of funding because an additional special needs teacher is required for the children with special needs on the waiting list at the Kindilan establishment and to complement the wonderful work being done there. I ask the Minister to give due consideration to a request for sufficient funding for the special-needs teacher. If funding could be provided for an additional special-needs teacher, I am sure the community would be most appreciative.
BELMONT SANDS RESIDENTIAL DEVELOPMENT
Ms HALL (Swansea) [4.31 p.m.]: I formally oppose a proposed residential development in my electorate. I touched on it yesterday during my speech in the debate on BHP. Tonight I draw the attention of honourable members to the proposed development known as Belmont Sands, the name given by BHP. The proposal is a 1,400-home residential development in a very environmentally sensitive wetland area between the coast and the lake. The area could be one of the most beautiful coastal wetlands in the State. BHP has proposed a joint venture with a partner to be selected who meets BHP objectives. That will mean money for the shareholders. BHP has chosen to forget the people and exploit the area as best it can, as was shown yesterday.
It is proposed that 44 per cent of the site be used for residential development, 11 per cent for roads and other public usage, 25.6 per cent as wetlands and 19.3 per cent as beach. The area that BHP proposes to give back to the public, that is, the wetlands and the beach, cannot be used. BHP will develop the remainder of the area and get what it can out of it. The background to this matter is that the Belmont Sands area - or, as I like to call it, the Belmont or Jewells wetlands - had the most beautiful coastal wetlands before BHP arrived on the scene and decided to wreck it. The area stretches from Redhead to Blacksmiths. Maps of the area dating back to 1892 show that the water used to flow to the sea via Nine Mile Creek, and into Lake Macquarie by way of Belmont lagoon.
BHP's activities in the area have devastated the beautiful coastal wetlands. It mined for coal in the area under the Belmont wetlands, at John Darling colliery and Lambton B colliery. BHP took all the coal out of the area, and then closed the mines and sacked the workers. Honourable members have heard that before! In the 1960s BHP started sandmining operations in the area, and that continues today. BHP Titanium Minerals Pty Ltd has applied for a further exploration licence to continue sandmining the area in order to ensure that it does not miss out on anything before the commencement of the residential development; it wants to take the cream off the top of the land. BHP has argued that the area needs to be rehabilitated because it has been devastated by activities - activities conducted by BHP.
BHP wants the area rezoned for development. As I said, BHP's development proposal includes the return of the beach and wetlands to the community. BHP has flattened the dunes and degraded the area, including ripping out the vegetation. The whole environment has been destroyed. A local environmental study was conducted on behalf of Lake Macquarie City Council. The position adopted
by the council is one of support for BHP and its proposal. I have spoken to council officers and councillors, some of whom seem to be totally intimidated by BHP. They want the beach, but say that it will not be returned to the public if the development does not proceed. I then asked them what BHP would do if the development did not proceed. Would BHP put a fence across the beach to stop people from walking there? I asked the councillors what difference it would make.
Councillor John Jenkins has convened the coastal alliance group, which has widespread community support. The group is working to save this area for the people and residents of Swansea electorate. It collected the signatures of more than 6,000 people on a petition. BHP should listen to the community. It must give back to the community; it cannot simply keep taking from the area or exploiting it. It cannot forget the people and degrade the area; it cannot turn everything that it touches into wasteland. BHP owes the people of Lake Macquarie these beautiful Jewells wetlands.
SOUTH COAST TRANSPORT INFRASTRUCTURE
Mr ELLIS (South Coast) [4.36 p.m.]: Sydney's 2000 Olympic Games carry a heavy investment gamble for the future of New South Wales. By the time this event comes round, billions of dollars will have been spent both directly and indirectly in the hope that income will be generated for the State's economy beyond 2000. If the gamble does not pay off it will be because of poor planning and lack of vision rather than anything else. The Government has said that regional New South Wales will derive benefits from this investment. It must be said that regional New South Wales has the most to lose if the gamble does not pay off. The Government must ensure that any investment in Olympic infrastructure has a utility purpose beyond the year 2000, and that spending must generate wealth beyond a break-even point and beyond the year 2000.
A major infrastructure investment arising out of the Olympics is transport, because its impact will be felt for decades to come. This is an ideal opportunity to upgrade rural transport links to the city and to enhance future opportunities for country businesses. The Government has said that direct transport links to Homebush will allow better access to the Olympics for country people, particularly those from the south coast. However, we should be looking at this from a different perspective: improved transport links from the city to the country, rather than the other way round. If the Olympics are perceived to be a catalyst to encourage our tourism industry, surely the priority is to get overseas visitors beyond the city precincts and deliver them to the country.
It is true that the Olympics will be crucial in exposing Australia to the rest of the world. What will we do after that exposure? What is the follow-up plan? It would be a shame if we did not capitalise on that exposure. Real income will come 10 years or 20 years after the event. The Shoalhaven is one area that can derive tremendous benefits from a well-thought-out marketing plan, provided this premier tourist destination is given the chance. Because of poor transport links to the catchment market, we are not realising our potential. The electric rail link terminates at Dapto with an archaic changeover to a diesel service to Bombaderry, provided the seemingly endless track repair work causes no disruptions. I am informed that there is a possibility that the rail link will be converted to a bus service. In that case, bussing over winding, narrow roads, adding to the journey time, is hardly an advanced step.
We also have a beautiful bay into which overseas visitors could sail by hydrofoil ferry from Port Jackson. But we have no quay, no marina and no viable road transport system to take them further - we have no modern support infrastructure whatsoever. What we have is a transport network little changed since the last war. Shoalhaven City Council estimates that at the current rate of expenditure all roads in the Shoalhaven could be sealed in 300 years. This is a major embarrassment. We should recognise the potential of the Shoalhaven to our broader tourism industry and support it accordingly. We need an improved rail link, completely electrified to Bomaderry, preferably a bullet train linking this region through Sydney to Newcastle. The Princes Highway has to be realigned and improved to reduce unrealistic travel times currently experienced by travellers. The airfield at Albatross should have a modern civilian air terminal, with regular flights from Mascot.
Jervis Bay has to have a world-class marina backed up by five-star accommodation. It has the potential to become the Riviera of New South Wales; certainly better than the Gold Coast and more friendly to the environment. We need to make it easy and attractive for tourists to get to the south coast to spend their dollars. At the moment we are in effect saying that we do not want their money. The Government is not pro-active in encouraging the tourism industry on the south coast and will never do so unless it spends meaningfully on first-rate services. We need to look beyond the year 2000,
and not squander the opportunity for rural New South Wales to pull itself out of the economic rut it has been put in. Keeping the tourists in Sydney will not help the economy of this country one iota, and it is this Government's heaviest responsibility to ensure that generations to come do not pay for the folly of its short-sightedness.
SYDNEY WATER METER READERS
Mr LYNCH (Liverpool) [4.41 p.m.] This afternoon I draw to the attention of the Minister for Land and Water Conservation, who is in the House, and of the relevant Minister a serious situation affecting a number of my constituents, although I should point out that it is not restricted to constituents of my electorate. Three of my constituents to whom I have spoken are in a similar position. They cannot be publicly identified because of their fear of the consequences for their employment. The constituents are all employed by meter service contractors, which organisations are contracted to Sydney Water. The role of the employees is to read Sydney Water meters at both residential and commercial premises. Obviously, their work in residential areas involves walking around the streets in all sorts of weather. They get either too hot or too cold, and sometimes both on the same day. They do not have the liberty some of us have of working in airconditioned offices most of the time.
The objective of their job is to press readings from the water meters into a computer-linked counter that the readers carry with them. Not too many years ago, meter readers were employed directly by Sydney Water, formerly the Water Board. As I understand it, from explanations given me by my constituents, during the time of the previous Government that arrangement was altered and the work was farmed out to contractors. My constituents tell me that happened in about 1993. The change meant that the day labour of direct employees was replaced by the work of employees of contractors. The standards and conditions of employment of meter readers have deteriorated dramatically. They are far worse off as employees of contractors than they were as employees of Sydney Water. The most obvious characteristic of the employees of contractors is that they are almost all casual employees rather than being permanent employees.
In practical terms, the change in employment status has meant that they have had no overtime payments of any sort. They work not just five days a week but also on Saturdays, with no extra rate of payment for the extra work. The employees often have to work well in excess of eight hours a day during the week, without any overtime payment. As well as that, and even more seriously for many of the employees, they are forced to work for eight weeks and then have four weeks off, which is obviously something that can be quite unsuitable. However, because the employees are all employed on a casual basis they effectively have no recourse to resolve the problem. Their difficulties do not end there. Not long ago the prices they are paid for their work were reduced unilaterally from 55¢ a meter to 48¢ a meter. As they are paid on a piecework basis, that resulted in a significant reduction in their income.
The nature of the work has not changed in any significant manner from the time the workers were employees of Sydney Water. The only things to really change are the wages and conditions of the workers and the role of the contractors. One of the employees concerned, a constituent of mine, has described the contractors as parasites. They do not do any meter reading themselves but are said to merely sit in offices and receive the benefit of payments under the contract in return for the work done by the employees. The plea that the employees concerned have made to me is to be employed directly by Sydney Water. That would certainly go a long way towards dealing with the casualisation and overtime issues I have raised. In my view, it would also significantly remove an extra unproductive level of employment - that of the contractor. On the face of it, there would certainly seem to be considerable logic to that proposal.
At present the meter readers are dressed in the same uniform as board employees. The only difference in appearance is the addition of a label that says, "Sydney Water Meter Service Contractor". In all other ways they are indistinguishable from direct employees of Sydney Water. The implement they carry with them for the readings is owned by Sydney Water, not by the contractor-employer. Moreover, the employees have to answer general questions from members of the public, just as if they were direct employees of Sydney Water. Another approach that might be of assistance would be to specify in the contracts issued by Sydney Water wages and conditions of employees. I am most concerned about one incident which was repeated to me anecdotally. Apparently a contractor submitted a tender that would have allowed much more reasonable wages and conditions but that contract was not taken up and was unsuccessful with Sydney Water. I discussed this matter with the Minister responsible shortly before making my contribution, and I ask him to examine the issue to determine
whether there is a proper way of delivering justice to these employees who are constituents of mine.
Mr YEADON (Granville - Minister for Land and Water Conservation) [4.46 p.m.]: The honourable member for Liverpool has raised an issue of significant concern to a number of his constituents. He has said that he has raised the matter with the Minister, and I am sure that the Minister will give this issue serious consideration with a view to hopefully resolving some of the problems.
Mr WILLIAM McKAY VICTIM COMPENSATION PAYMENT
Mr CHAPPELL (Northern Tablelands) [4.49 p.m.]: I have previously raised with the Attorney General the case of my constituent Mr William McKay of 45 Grey Street, Glen Innes. I raise the matter again in view of what Mr McKay clearly considers to be an unsatisfactory reply by the Attorney General, particularly addressing the question of principle that he has raised, even if Mr McKay has virtually accepted the fact that he will be stuck with paying a substantial contribution towards the Victims Compensation Tribunal. The details are simply that my constituent was involved in a scuffle that led to him being charged for assault occasioning grievous bodily harm. That matter went to court and was dealt with. Evidence was heard and the trial judge found that no reasonable jury would convict on the charge. The charge was, of course, dismissed. However, on advice, Mr McKay did plead guilty to a lesser charge of common assault. On that basis, following several different processes over time, he was required to pay to the Victims Compensation Tribunal some $10,500, which sum was eventually reduced to $3,000.
Mr McKay's point seems to be logical, hence I raise it again in the hope that the Attorney General might take this issue on board and consider the principle involved. Mr McKay was charged with an offence of assault causing grievous bodily harm. The matter went to court and the court found in favour of my constituent; in other words, he was found not guilty of occasioning actual bodily harm. However, because of section 42(2) of the Victims Compensation Act, when a conviction is held, even if it is subject to section 556A of the Crimes Act first-offence clause, the person can still be required to make that contribution to the Victims Compensation Tribunal. Mr McKay is saying clearly that the court has found him not guilty. He pleaded guilty to a lesser charge only on legal advice. Mr McKay also says that he was advised by an officer of the court that he had no right to appeal against that - although he did of course have that right - and that by the time he found out that he had the right of appeal the time for his appeal had passed.
Mr McKay says a technicality with the Victims Compensation Act obliges people exonerated of a charge of causing actual bodily harm to pay compensation to the tribunal and, therefore, to the victim even though they are not guilty. Mr McKay is perfectly right to again raise that issue with me and ask me to draw it to the attention of the Attorney General. He says that there is a logical absurdity in the law, but not in the way it was administered on this occasion, because he has accepted legal advice that it is correct in law, as it stands, for the Victims Compensation Tribunal to charge him. Mr McKay says that the law is wrong.
The second point and main reason for raising this matter is to try to see that real justice is done. My constituent claims that he had evidence to present at the proper tribunal hearing to demonstrate that, though he admits to a bit of a scuffle and assault, it was a two-way event. The only reason he pushed back against the other party was to protect his wife, otherwise he would have been pushed on to his wife, who was sitting on adjacent steps. He resisted the push and, consequently, the other party fell back and injured his wrist - there is some doubt whether that was a new or old injury.
Mr McKay pleaded guilty, but in substance says he was not guilty of any offence because of this technicality. After hearing all the evidence the court found him not guilty of assault occasioning actual bodily harm. Therefore, he believes he should not have to pay that compensation. He has asked that the principles under section 42(2) of the Victims Compensation Act be reviewed so that people in a similar position will not in future be required to pay to the Victims Compensation Tribunal. I shall put the matter in writing, but I have placed it on the record to demonstrate that justice appears to have been denied to my constituent.
WYONG ELECTORATE COMMUNITY SERVICE AWARDS
Mr CRITTENDEN (Wyong) [4.52 p.m.]: On Sunday, 27 April, it was my privilege to attend the Toukley sailing club to present Mr Bill and Mrs Joan Cheal with the Premier's award for services to the community. Bill Cheal is one of those gentlemen in my electorate who carries out a great deal of voluntary work on behalf of the Toukley sailing club, of which he has been secretary for 30 years. Bill is acknowledged as the person who keeps that club viable; he does all the organisational work. In
fact, he does more by providing support for younger people who wish to become involved in sailing. It is not uncommon for Bill to be at his office at the club. On every occasion I have rung the Cheal residence during working hours his wife Joan invariably informs me that Bill is at his other home - the Toukley sailing club.
Bill Cheal is one of those who make enormous contributions to the community in which I live and am proud to represent. He is always willing to advise young people who want to learn sailing. In winter on Saturday afternoons he conducts yatchsmanship classes for people to learn the finer techniques as well as gain practical experience in the summer. If anyone has a problem with their boat, whether it is a leak or the boat coming adrift, Bill is always there to repair the problem. All too often in today's society we hear that young people have nothing to do and that facilities need to be provided for them. Bill and Joan Cheal do precisely that.
Bill repairs old boats and hires them for $40 for an entire sailing season. Certainly that provides ample scope for any young person, particularly in my electorate, to become involved in sailing. The tragedy is that last season there were more boats than people to take up the offer. I wonder sometimes whether people do not avail themselves of opportunities. Certainly a great deal of information was provided to local schools about these opportunities to learn sailing. I hope more young people take up that generous offer in the future.
Mrs Joan Cheal runs the canteen for the club on days when races are held. She organises volunteers to assist and she does an excellent job with catering. Though the Toukley sailing club might not be tremendously big - members would number around 50 or 60 - its members are dedicated. The club presents a family atmosphere and brings a sense of community to Toukley. Perhaps that is what society today misses most. As the central coast grows and new residents move into my electorate, more than ever we need to maintain and build upon the community spirit, the common goals and aspirations that can be achieved so often through sport. Bill and Joan Cheal certainly achieve that through their involvement with Toukley sailing club. I commend their great interest in young people and in sailing.
Mr FACE (Charlestown - Minister for Gaming and Racing, and Minister Assisting the Premier on Hunter Development) [4.57 p.m.]: I compliment the honourable member for Wyong on his contribution. Bill and Joan Cheal and their family are well known in the upper central coast area through their connection with the Toukley sailing club. My portfolio covers charities and non-profit organisations, and I often see tremendous voluntary work being done by many people. Quite frankly, if voluntary services were to disappear, governments at all levels, of all political persuasions, would have to find considerable amounts of money to match the efforts of those who give so freely of themselves with such dedication, in most cases without seeking any reward. The honourable member for Wyong is obviously close to the non-profit and charity groups within the Wyong electorate. I too compliment Bill and Joan Cheal for the magnificent contribution they have made to that area.
Mr MERTON (Baulkham Hills) [4.58 p.m.]: I raise the rights of a traditional family that is not receiving true recognition from this Government. Mrs Mary Norris of Baulkham Hills contacted me about her desire to obtain a copy of the original birth certificate issued for her son Damien because the original one had unfortunately been damaged. She wrote to the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages and in return received a certificate that contained a number of errors. Her maiden name had been misspelt and the name of one of her children had been omitted. But most of all she was concerned to read on the certificate the heading, "Previous children of relationship" instead of "Previous children of the marriage", as appeared on Damien's original birth certificate.
Mrs Norris has refused to acknowledge that this document is a copy of Damien's birth certificate. She is quite right; how can that document be a true copy when the original wording has been altered? Mary Norris and her husband, Bernard, are happily married and have eight children. The birth certificates of all her other children indicate children of the marriage; Damien and his family are entitled to have his certificate state this fact. On behalf of Mrs Norris I made representations to the Attorney General. The director-general of his department responded:
From 1992 the registry began to record all previous children of a couple on birth certificates of subsequent children regardless of the marital status of the parents.
The director-general further stated:
This was in response to parental demand and to enable a more complete picture of Australian families and fertility rates to be compiled for statistical and planning purposes.
So much for statistics. What about the rights of a married couple and children of marriages? Their rights have been totally ignored. The director-general further stated:
Records going back to 1952 have been converted to this new format.
This means that anyone born after that date who requests a copy of his or her original birth certificate will not receive a true copy of the original. I fully accept that there are people who choose to live in relationships and there are children born within those relationships and their birth certificates are recorded accordingly. That is their right. But what about the rights of others? The Government must also consider the rights of those who are members of the traditional family. The Norris family believe in the sanctity of marriage, and so does the Merton family. We have marriage certificates of which we are justly proud, and we believe that children of our marriage are entitled to have birth certificates which also proudly indicate that they are children of the marriage. I represent the many traditional families throughout the community who wish to have their children's birth certificates state that their son or their daughter is a child of their marriage.
I call upon the Attorney General to issue a true and accurate copy of Damien Norris' original certificate to replace the statistical version that has been supplied. In essence the document that has been supplied is not a true copy of the original document. It is materially wrong! Mr and Mrs Norris are concerned Australian parents, and they quite rightly demand that they be given a true copy of their son's birth certificate which states that Damien is a child of their marriage, not their relationship. In this age, when people seek rights and make claims about discrimination, the Norris family, and others, who have children of their marriage are discriminated against because birth certificates state that their child is a child of the relationship, not of their marriage. Many Australians are proud of having children of a marriage; other people are entitled to form views as to what they may do. That is a right they have. People who are married are entitled to have a birth certificate which states that they have a child of their marriage, not of their relationship.
Mr FACE (Charlestown - Minister for Gaming and Racing, and Minister Assisting the Premier on Hunter Development) [5.03 p.m.]: I will refer the representations of the honourable member for Baulkham Hills to the Minister, on behalf of Mr Bernard Norris and Mrs Mary Norris, regarding the errors of that birth certificate. No doubt the Minister will respond to the honourable member on this matter.
Private members' statements noted.
House adjourned at 5.04 p.m., until Tuesday, 13 May 1997, at 2.15 p.m.