Monday 25 June 2001
Mr Speaker (The Hon. John Henry Murray)
took the chair at 10.00 a.m.
offered the Prayer.
APPROPRIATION (PARLIAMENT) BILL
APPROPRIATION (SPECIAL OFFICES) BILL
INSURANCE PROTECTION TAX BILL
STATE REVENUE LEGISLATION FURTHER AMENDMENT BILL
Debate resumed from 22 June.
(Keira) [10.00 a.m.]: After looking in some detail at the various documents that make up the appropriation bills for 2001-02, I indicate my support for the bills and for the budget that the budget papers comprise. As the Treasurer said in his opening comments in delivering the budget in this place:
The Budget is socially responsive and financially responsible.
In a difficult and turbulent economic period, the budget sets out plans to continue to enhance the fundamental human services of health, education, community services and law enforcement while at the same time allocating $577 million in capital expenditure for State asset acquisition—an increase of 11.5 per cent. Significantly and importantly, the record $5.581 billion capital expenditure allocation aims to sustain 85,000 direct and indirect jobs. The strategic nature of this budget in employment, education, transport, health and information technology demonstrates a Government that is committed to providing services and opportunity to families across the State.
The budget's focus on rebuilding the State's education infrastructure is great news. The provision of new schools and expanded technical and further education campuses is fundamental. However, the strategy of upgrading older facilities within an expanded maintenance program will be particularly welcomed by parents, students and teachers alike. The task is massive but it is getting off to a good start with the allocations in these bills. The budget supports the education of our children in more ways than simply the provision of building infrastructure. There is a particular focus on supporting students with behavioural problems with additional teachers, teachers aides, district level guidance officers and mentoring programs. Judging from my discussions with teachers in recent months, I am confident that they will support an attempt to encourage these students and to provide a circuit breaker for other students. This policy area of supporting individual students and school communities where behavioural problems are disrupting the school's program requires continued focus and innovation. I have come to appreciate that this is a significant area where government and departmental management must work co-operatively with teachers.
The other exciting area of education policy is the announcement that $21.6 million will be spent establishing e-learning accounts for each student and teacher to give access to email and the Internet. Every bit of this initiative is in the best traditions of Labor in encouraging equality of access to these exciting tools of learning. The e-learning accounts, together with the replacement of 90,000 computers and the provision of 25,000 additional computers and supported by the $10 million Technology in Learning and Teaching program, will set the scene for the introduction of computer skills assessment for students in years 6 and 10. A sound grounding in information technology and computing skills in this day and age is a sound grounding for employment and further learning. I applaud the record $7.6 billion budget allocation for education and training.
I applaud equally the huge allocation in the budget—some $8.2 billion—for health generally. These record funds, when viewed as a package together with the three-year funding cycle previously announced by the Minister and the sensible restructuring announced in the doctors and nurses metropolitan health plan, should give confidence that the ever-increasing demands on health can be managed effectively. I acknowledge that the changes to the electricity and gas rebates will benefit pensioners and I note particularly the Treasurer's comment in his Budget Speech that "no pensioner will be worse off". With expenditure increasing to $67.5 million, there is a clear Government commitment to this fundamental support for older families.
The changes to financial institutions duty taxes, although flagged previously, are certainly welcome. However, the surprise announcement in the budget that this New South Wales Labor Government will lead the way by abolishing the bank accounts debit tax early is even more welcome. I echo the Treasurer's call that the Prime Minister promptly follow that leadership and ensure that New South Wales is not adversely affected as a result. These two tax changes, along with the increased rebate for pensioners, have been warmly welcomed by many of the families whom I represent in this place. They know that these initiatives are real tax cuts that will give them modest amounts of extra spending money.
A number of families whom I represent have been hit particularly hard by the collapse of HIH Insurance. People are distressed that a shonky builder and a shonky insurer have conspired to delay the completion of their dream homes, families are facing huge medical bills because FAI failed to pay its accounts, and small businesses are unable to trade because insurance was not available to them. The recent months have been difficult. However, people have appreciated the leadership shown by the New South Wales Treasurer, the Premier and the Minister for Fair Trading. That is why I support so confidently the Insurance Protection Tax Bill, which is a cognate bill.
This bill gives effect to the Government's well-considered plan to help people who were let down so badly by some of the captains of industry in the HIH debacle. This represents consumer protection in the best traditions of Australian Labor Party governments. I find it particularly interesting that the Leader of the Opposition, the Leader of the National Party and the shadow Treasurer did not bother to mention this important initiative when they spoke in this debate. New South Wales families can only wonder about how the leaders of the supposed alternative government have no contribution to make to this discussion. The families, shareholders and small businesses so badly shaken by the HIH debacle must be shaking their heads in bewilderment and saying, "Thank heavens for a Labor Government."
I shall be a little parochial and talk about the commitments in this budget for the area that I represent. There is direct investment in restructuring the Illawarra economy to stimulate jobs growth. Some $5.3 million has been allocated for infrastructure works in the port of Port Kembla and $10.5 million has been directed as a community service obligation to support the southern and western coalfields access to the Port Kembla coal terminal. Some $3 million of the $10 million Illawarra Advantage Fund has been allocated and there is continued funding within the Department of Urban Affairs and Planning portfolio for the Shaping Illawarra project and the Living Centres program. Both of these programs aim to secure employment investment. The $500,000 Regional Filming Fund and the new $600,000 Film Industry Attraction Fund will be available to Film Illawarra as it pursues its charter of attracting film production to the region. Film Illawarra is an initiative of the faculty of creative arts at the University of Wollongong, which for the past two years has been recognised nationally as the University of the Year.
Transport infrastructure investment is supported to the tune of $104 million on roads. Health expenditure will increase by 7.5 per cent to $246.3 million, with $34.7 million to be spent on capital projects such as the refurbishment of Coledale District Hospital and the continued rebuilding of Wollongong Hospital. There is $7.9 million in major capital spending on education and training facilities, and I have no doubt that there will be additional funding when minor capital works programs are announced. As those programs unfold, I will be looking for funding for improved teaching space at the Wollongong High School and for the performing arts. I will be looking to see the Corrimal primary and infant schools consolidated on one site, and I particularly hope to see some funding for improved security measures at Corrimal High School and reconstruction of the kitchen facilities at Woonona High School. I hope to see those projects funded under the minor capital works program that is to be announced.
The $26.4 million that has been allocated to improve and replace public housing stock across the region will be well spent and well received by tenants and their families. The $58.9 million to be spent by the Department of Community Services on disability services will make life easier for many families and individuals. The four additional case workers at the office of the Corrimal Department of Community Services will certainly be welcome. As a long-time advocate of the contribution made by the arts to the development and cohesion of communities, I am delighted that there is a $100,000 budgetary allocation for the arts portfolio in the Illawarra area. I conclude by quoting from the editorial of the Illawarra Mercury
on Wednesday 30 May 2001, which stated in part:
If you had to single out two areas of expansion in government spending in the Illawarra and South Coast, Health and Education would come out on top. So, on balance, we can feel reasonably comfortable with the region's allocation in yesterday's State Budget.
The editorial went on to state:
Overall, it is a reasonable and responsible Budget, remarkable because it is the sixth successive surplus Budget the Carr Government has delivered—and this after the state had to carry the enormous cost of the Olympic Games.
What telling comments from a regional newspaper—the Illawarra Mercury
—that in its editorial often rightly criticises governments of all political persuasions in Australia. From time to time that newspaper also appropriately acknowledges when governments do the right thing. The comments to which I referred are quite appropriate on this occasion. There are many well-considered and strategic decisions on a statewide and local scale in this budget. As a member of a government with ideas and energy, I talk about them with confidence and enthusiasm. I commend the bills to the House.
(Cronulla) [10.12 a.m.]: The honourable member for Keira, who referred in his speech to the good points in the Government's budget, was not able to talk about those good points for a full 20 minutes. He quickly ran out of good things to say. That is not surprising.
Size does not matter.
The honourable member for Keira said that size does not matter. That is obviously what the Treasurer thought when it came to making budgetary allocations for the Cronulla electorate. The Treasurer waxed lyrical about his budget and about budget surpluses, but those surpluses and the consequent falling standards in the services supplied by the Government have been carried by the people of New South Wales. Those who are aware of the lack of government services in the areas of public transport, health and law and order would know that the real social cost of this budget surplus is being borne by the people of New South Wales.
One has only to look at the Budget Speech of the Treasurer to realise that he has been carried away by his own ambition. Unfortunately, he was not carried away far enough for the economic safety of the people of Cronulla. The social benefits in this budget do not withstand any detailed analysis. The honourable member for Keira, who spoke earlier in debate, referred to HIH Insurance. The Treasurer talked in pious terms about corporate governance, but his Government presided over the WorkCover debacle. We now have an admitted unfunded liability of $2.18 billion. Let us put the HIH failure and other corporate failures in perspective, in particular for workers in the Illawarra, St George and Sutherland shire areas.
I noticed that you voted against the proposal.
In response to the honourable member's interjection, let us look at the ill-considered workers compensation legislation that was introduced in this House. The honourable member might remember that in 1987 the Unsworth Government took the line that it could not afford to go on funding workers compensation. A number of honourable members, who were not then members of Parliament, took part in demonstrations because Unsworth reduced workers benefits. When Greiner became Premier workers benefits were increased.
That is ancient history.
It is not ancient history to workers who benefited under the scheme introduced by Greiner. When the name "Della Bosca" is translated into English it means Unsworth—something which honourable members should not forget when they speak to their branch members. An electoral price had to be paid. It is a great pity that Labor members did not look at the subtitles when caucus elected Della Bosca to Cabinet. Let me refer to what happened.
What did you do?
Premiums went down and benefits were increased during the Coalition's term in office. When the Coalition Government left office there was a surplus of $800 million. The honourable member for Keira asked earlier what the Coalition did when it was in office. I ask the honourable member why the Carr Government turned an $800 million surplus into a $2.18 billion unfunded liability? What caused that financial haemorrhage? Unless we know what causes the problems we are not able to offer solutions. The Opposition, in voting against the legislation introduced by this Government, was attempting to obtain more information.
Nobody has committed warfare on the workers of New South Wales to a greater extent than the Unsworth and Carr governments. Over the years they have reduced benefits for workers. The workers never had it so good as when Fahey and Greiner were in office. I again ask Government members: What happened in those days? The Coalition Government appointed actuaries to determine the reason for the blow-out in workers compensation and it corrected that problem. That is something that this Government has not done. We have been told that it is the lawyers and not the workers who get the money. To quote that well-known Government spokesman, the honourable member for Auburn, "Lawyers are not leeches."
I will not express any opinion about lawyers, but if honourable members read the speeches that have been made by the honourable member for Auburn they will see a justification for the work of the legal profession. When lawyers quote figures to show that they are not responsible for the blow-out we are told that it is a rorting of the system, which says a great deal about this Government's view of the integrity of the working class. I digressed for a moment to answer interjections and I must return to the leave of the bill. The financial stewardship of this Government is scandalous. There has been unremitting warfare on those people in society who are least able to afford it.
The most fundamental task of any government is the maintenance of law and order—the protection by the State of people and property. What we have seen is an absolute abdication of that role. Local government in my area has had to take up that role. When Kevin Schreiber was mayor he appointed community enforcement officers as there was not a sufficient police presence in Cronulla. I will refer later to legislation dealing with community enforcement officers and I will refer also to what this Government is doing in that area. There was provision in the 1994-95 budget for the upgrading of Cronulla police station—an upgrading which was crucial to that area and which will vastly improve a front-line police station. I cannot emphasise enough that Cronulla, a beachside suburb on a railway line, has tens of thousands of visitors in summer. Because of antisocial behaviour that can be attracted to beachside suburbs it was essential to have a strong police presence. We have seen a systematic reduction in policing in Cronulla; a lack of police presence.
That's absolute rubbish! You're the bloke who wouldn't even put up cameras.
Let us talk about police.
How long were you in power? How many police did you put there? None.
Cameras are not a substitute for cops.
You are the phantom in your electorate.
I wonder why the Parliamentary Secretary is not calling for cameras in Engadine, which has a problem.
Don't worry about me.
Why has the honourable member not approached Sutherland Shire Council?
We have more police than you ever put there.
If cameras are the answer to crime, why are cameras not being installed by the Sutherland Shire Council? Because it is using money taken from the waste problem.
Every council in New South Wales puts in its own cameras, you fool.
I do not quite understand the significance of that comment.
Every council that has cameras puts in its own: City of Sydney, Cabramatta.
A number of councils have rejected the concept of installing cameras. The former Parliamentary Secretary responsible for policing should understand that policing is a State Government responsibility, not a local government responsibility.
Cameras are. Nowhere else in Australia. Who runs them in Perth?
If we are to talk about Perth, I would be grateful if the honourable member could get the report.
You have the report.
Where is it?
You have the report.
No I have not. I have also requested the council, under the freedom of information provisions, to produce that report. Cronulla police station should be restored to its original numbers and a charge room should be included as part of the police station—a proposal supported by former senior police. This budget once again betrays the people of Cronulla. I shall now talk about the environment because we have a particular problem in Port Hacking with noxious weeds.
Called Bob Debus.
That is probably right. The Minister for Transport is also the Minister responsible for ports. I have placed on notice a question to the Minister as follows: What progress has been made in the removal of noxious weeds from Port Hacking? I am still awaiting an answer. This serious problem affects all areas of the Sutherland shire and particularly the use of that waterway. In his Budged Speech the Treasurer talked about e-line learning and a high school in Caringbah. There is a high school in Caringbah and, not surprisingly, it is called Caringbah High School. The Treasurer talked also about Korean being taught at Caringbah High School, but the fact is that Korean is not being taught at Caringbah High School. When the Treasurer was asked at a press conference about e-line learning he said, "Oh, look, speak to the Minister for Education. I write my budget with a pen. I don't know anything about computers." He has misled Parliament; he does not know anything about computers. That should be a warning to secondary students throughout the State that if they do not study or work hard they may end up the New South Wales Treasurer! It would be a good career move to work and study hard and to know what you are talking about.
He is an old St Pat's boy.
He was a St Pat's boy at Sutherland. That might explain a bit.
It is a great school. He may well have been the first student enrolled! Burraneer Bay primary school is an excellent school. The staff and the school culture provide great education. The teaching and parental involvement of that school is a model for public school education. Unfortunately, what is not a model for public schooling is the condition of the buildings at and infrastructure for that school, which have not been addressed by this budget. Teachers and parents who give their all are entitled to receive a bit of support from the State. Woolooware High School is another excellent school and a few weeks ago I was fortunate to see a production of the musical Godspell
at that school. However, for some weeks in that area a sewerage line has been open but will not be repaired as it will cost $80,000. The need for repairs and maintenance to school buildings is in stark contrast to the millions of dollars this State Government spends trying to advertise the benefits of State education. The best way to advertise the benefits of State education is to maintain schools, and support teachers and parents by providing them with the appropriate tools. I turn now to Sutherland hospital and the excellent work being carried out by its staff.
Thank you—and by the Government with an $80 million development.
The honourable member should not be thankful because much of the unpaid overtime being worked results from the Government not providing the necessary assistance at that hospital. During the 1995 election campaign I mentioned the promise about bed numbers. When the Sutherland hospital upgrade is completed the hospital will have fewer beds than the then shadow Minister, Dr Refshauge, promised.
It is smoke and mirrors.
It is smoke and mirrors. The patients and staff at that hospital have to put up with the consequences of the smoke and mirrors. Two of my constituents have waited months to undergo orthopaedic surgery.
It might just be the doctors.
Now we have an attack on the doctors. The Minister for Health repeatedly tells us during question time how this Government is co-operating with the doctors and also how co-operative the medical profession is. Certainly I have received co-operation from the executive director of the hospital whenever I have written to her. She is doing everything possible, but in the twenty-first century it is not good enough to have elderly people suffering pain. It may be that with elective surgery lives are not threatened, but it is despicable that people should remain on a waiting list and continue to experience pain and suffering. They are just two constituents who have come to me; how many others are out there?
Give me their names and I will investigate it.
I am happy to do so. I have been to the hospital. I will certainly write to the honourable member.
As the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health I will investigate it.
You can investigate it. I will give you the names.
You still won't get a result.
We will see. It will be interesting. I will keep the House informed. This matter is to be continued.
So will I.
It's the bad news letters he signs.
Is that right, a division of labour? No doubt the Minister signs the good news letters. I will find out which letter I receive or which correspondent I hear from. When Bruce Baird was Minister for Transport he said during the 1995 election campaign that a lift would be provided at Caringbah railway station. Now in 2001 finally that lift is being installed, but its completion date is way over time and will cause disruptions to the train service on the Illawarra line.
Again, as the shadow Minister for Transport says, that is all part of the suffering of the people of Cronulla. They have had trains run late and cancelled late. The shadow Minister spoke at a public meeting at the Sharks Leagues Club about that. How often have commuters coming back from the city in the mid-afternoon had their trains terminated at Sutherland and had to wait? Reliance on the reliability of trains is considerably less than it was in 1995 when the Carr Government came into office. In answer to one of my questions on notice the Minister for Transport admitted that more than one in five trains were delayed or cancelled across New South Wales. That is incredible.
The commuters at Cronulla, Woolooware and Caringbah stations all have tales to tell about falling services. Station staff work under very difficult conditions. The honourable member for Heathcote was speaking early about cameras. The performance of cameras at railway stations could not be described in any way, shape or form as a success and is nowhere near what was promised. Decreasing standards is a common theme in health, public transport and education, and people are paying for this with a decreased quality of life. The Government is failing in the basics for which a State Government is elected. It is a bit rich to talk about HIH when the Government is presiding over the financial haemorrhaging of the workers compensation scheme, a scheme that has operated in New South Wales since 1926 and, for the majority of the time, was a self-funded scheme that was able to deliver services to this State.
(Tweed) [10.31 a.m.]: In the 2000-01 budget, the Carr Government's sixth surplus budget, the Tweed electorate won a healthy share of the record $5,581 million. The funds will be spent on upgrading schools, hospitals, roads and other public facilities, and local people and businesses will also benefit from new tax cuts worth some $1,215 million over the next four years. The budget comes up trumps with more spending on community improvements and more tax cuts to help families and small businesses in the Tweed. The New South Wales Government's total capital works and services allocation for the Tweed is $117.3 million in 2001-02, and this will sustain some 1,700 jobs. Key areas of expenditure this year are $70 million on roads, more than $16 million on health, and more than $12 million on education.
While 42 per cent of New South Wales' population lives outside Sydney, the Government is spending some 48 per cent, or more than $3,000 million, of its $6,000 million capital works and maintenance budget outside the State capital. That is a fantastic achievement for Country Labor and for country New South Wales. The 28 per cent of New South Wales people who live in non-metropolitan areas—outside Sydney, Wollongong, Newcastle and the Central Coast—will receive some 34 per cent of the budget. That is expected to sustain some 32,500 jobs in country communities. Of that, more than $1,900 million will be spent in the coming year providing health care to rural and regional communities, which is a 52 per cent increase in funding since 1995.
The record health capital works budget of $549 million will pay for the completion of six major hospital projects outside Sydney, including work at Tweed Heads hospital in my electorate. I know the community is looking to the completion of that facility next year. As well as capital works, the hospital is receiving recurrent funding, particularly for the mental health unit that will be incorporated in stage three. That is something dear to my heart and something I spoke about in my first speech in this House in 1999. I am delighted it is coming to fruition. Funding for mental health is something I have always championed.
Families and businesses will receive direct benefits from the New South Wales budget. They will no longer pay some State taxes on their bank accounts when the debits tax is abolished on 1 January 2002. This budget will also help small businesses by cutting other taxes that regularly niggle traders and contractors. Specifically, the New South Wales Government will abolish stamp duties on superannuation and franchise agreements from 1 July and lift thresholds for stamp duties on leases from $3,000 to $20,000 and hiring arrangements from $6,000 to $14,000 from 1 July. The budget suspends the $100 million a year electricity distributors levy from 1 July and further cuts payroll tax from 6.2 per cent to 6 per cent from 1 July 2002. The budget is trimming State taxes.
This year an extra $577 million will be spent—nearly 12 per cent more than last year's $5,004 expenditure. The Government continues to attack State debt and slash the annual interest bill. Since coming to office in 1995, when the net debt was some $12,000 million, the Carr Government has trimmed that burden to $7,500 million and expects to bring it down to less than $5,000 million by 2005. That is a considerable achievement. It will save nearly $1,000 million a year on interest payments compared with 1998. That is money that can be redirected into hospitals, schools and policing. It is a measure of the Government's sound financial management that the Treasurer can repeatedly cut taxes and increase expenditure on community needs and still deliver budget surpluses year after year. It is an outstanding record that suggests that continued prosperity and security for our children is achievable under the Carr Labor Government.
The budget will have some significant impacts in my electorate. Among the major initiatives, I would like to mention education, and particularly the behavioural initiative package, which is providing funding for the Tweed Heads and Ballina district. The initiative under this package that is receiving plaudits in my electorate is the establishment by the Department of Education and Training of a new special school at Tweed Heads and a tutorial centre in Murwillumbah. This important initiative reflects the Government's initiative to ensure that all students have the opportunity to reach their full academic potential. The special school to be constructed at Tweed Heads will have up to 18 students from year 5 to year 10 who will receive special assistance to increase their literacy, numeracy and social skills, and to gain their school certificate or other accreditation. Students at the school will be supported by a principal, two classroom teachers and a teachers aid.
Teaching staff across New South Wales are looking forward to the expansion of this initiative. One of the greatest bugbears of teachers is that they have not been supported in the past to the extent they would have liked when dealing with students with behavioural problems. This initiative has been well received by teachers and parents, notwithstanding some of the criticism that has come from the New South Wales parent and citizens associations. When they see how this program is meant to function they will understand that students taken out of classes into the special schools will receive very special assistance, almost one-on-one tutoring, with the aim of getting them back into the classrooms, if that is desirable, or having them trained and in a position to move into TAFE so they can continue with their education and constructively contribute to society as they mature.
I welcome members of the Hornsby Probus Club to the gallery. I trust they enjoy their visit to Parliament.
I am sure they have enjoyed hearing about some of the good projects that have come to the Tweed and my electorate. If they ever have time, they should leave Hornsby and come up to the Tweed. It is nice and sunny and warm up there today. They would be in shirt sleeves. They would not need their coats. They would probably go for a swim even at this time of the year. They know that the Tweed environment delivers sunshine, warm beaches and warm surf. I will not claim all the credit.
A tutorial centre will be established in Murwillumbah. Obviously, we need more than one facility. The tutorial centre will not be run full time, but it will provide students with behavioural difficulties with time out from their normal classes. I am hopeful that the tutorial centres work as well as we anticipate they will. In this day and age one cannot leave school without some sort of educational qualification or preparedness to pursue some other sort of training. No-one would argue that without some sort of qualification one gets left behind. It is not like the old days when people could leave school at 14 or 15, get a job sweeping the back room of the shed, the supermarket or the factory and move up the ladder. Those sorts of things do not happen in the economy and society in which we currently live. We have to be prepared to extend a hand to everyone.
The budget of the Minister for Transport, and Minister for Roads, the Hon. Carl Scully, will have a big impact on my electorate. The Minister has been to my electorate on a number of occasions. I could not miss this opportunity to mention the Chinderah to Yelgun section of the Pacific Highway upgrade, which is soaking up $160 million of the Minister's portfolio. The upgrade of that section of road to a dual carriageway is well on track for completion by the end of next year. Those who have had the good fortune to visit my electorate would have noticed the 28 kilometres of roadworks. I draw the attention of honourable members to the fact that it will not be a tollway, as proposed in 1995 by the Coalition. Just last week I was at the site to inspect the completed tunnels under Cudgen Road, which will carry the dual carriageway.
I understand that some sections of the road will be sealed in the near future. I hope that the good weather with which the North Coast is blessed continues so that the roadworks can be completed on time. Since the completion of the Tweed Heads bypass the site of the overpass at Sexton Hill has been a pedestrian accident black spot. The road is divided, so that Banora Point now has an East Banora Point and a Banora Point community. Students from Banora Point have had great difficulty crossing the dual carriageway. The completion of the Sexton Hill pedestrian overpass will enable students to get themselves to and from school each day, which will be a relief for many of their parents. They will no longer be bound to transport their children everywhere. I look forward to its completion as soon as possible.
The budget has provided a tremendous housing boost for the Tweed. Consequently, $11 million will be spent on building 72 new homes for people in need. We have a long waiting list because many people, particularly from the southern climes, migrate to my area only to find themselves in need of public housing. I wish it were closer to 720 homes, but we are grateful for the 72 that will be built, two of which will be dedicated to Aboriginal housing. Multistorey units will be constructed in Tweed Heads to house our aged citizens, and disabled people and their carers. Recently I attended a meeting of carers, who had quite a few questions about the development and viewed the initiative quite favourably. I understand that the plans have been through council. However, I cannot report whether it ticked off on the development application.
I understand that through Rent Start and rental subsidies this year the Department of Housing will provide $36,000 to assist poor families and households in regional and rural New South Wales to secure affordable homes in the private rental market. Obviously, an allocation has been made to the Department of Housing in the Tweed electorate. Rental assistance assists people to afford things that would otherwise be out of their reach. Tourism, which is so much a part of the economy of the North Coast, has received an allocation of $8 million, which includes initiatives under the recently launched three-year Feel Free umbrella-brand communications strategy to promote holidays in the regions of New South Wales. The Minister for Tourism has visited my electorate on a number of occasions. She has been very warmly welcomed by tourism operators and businesspeople because of her enthusiasm for her portfolio and her good work.
Last year the Minister launched the Touring by Car short breaks initiative to highlight and assist businesses in regional New South Wales to achieve a greater degree of success. Some $500,000 has been provided to develop the Gateway Centre at Tweed Heads, which is a small part of the initiative to attract visitors into the Tweed and direct them into many of its facilities in towns, down the Tweed Coast into villages, into Murwillumbah, or into the hinterland and the national parks, which attract so many people to my electorate. I have previously mentioned the health budget, and I will return to that topic briefly to emphasise its importance. I have already brought the attention of the House to the hospital and the mental health unit to be established within it. The New South Wales Government has provided extra funds for the treatment of people who require dental assistance.
The New South Wales Government's new plan, the oral health fee-for-service scheme, will make inroads into the backlog of dental patients. Essentially, that backlog came about because the Howard Government cut funding for the Commonwealth dental scheme in 1996. The Howard Government failed to continue the funding that had been established by the previous Federal Labor Government. I am still calling on the Howard Government, or any other Federal government, whether it be Labor or the Coalition, to provide funding for the dental scheme, because dental health, which is expensive, is critical particularly to people on low incomes and the elderly. In this year's budget the State Government has increased funding for the oral health scheme.
The Minister for Health is taking notice of what the people of New South Wales require. My office has already received calls from people expressing nothing but support for the oral health initiative; they understand that it was the Howard Government that failed to make a commitment to fund dental health in the scheme of things. The police portfolio contains several new initiatives, one of which is the firearms register. The firearms register in my election is up and running, providing some 50 jobs, which is fantastic. The Murwillumbah township is most appreciative of that initiative. The Chamber of Commerce has expressed its appreciation for the fact that 50 new government jobs have come to Murwillumbah.
The budget has an allocation of funding to upgrade the firearms register technology, as well as $3 million in the police portfolio for the continued roll-out of Livescan, the digital fingerprinting database. Initially, Livescan will be installed in Lismore and extended to Tweed Heads. That is great because it takes a fair bit of time for police officers in charge of the fingerprinting unit to travel from Lismore to Tweed Heads. I look forward to the database being operation in Tweed Heads, which will save travelling time and policing time. I commend the budget to the House.
(Ku-ring-gai—Deputy Leader of the Opposition) [10.51 a.m.]: Government in this country is in need of fundamental reform. As I have argued elsewhere, government problems in this country at present are due to structural problems to some extent. Notwithstanding the fact that this year we celebrate the Centenary of Federation, our Federal power-sharing arrangements are far different today than they were in 1901. The overlapping of responsibilities between State and Federal governments, and to some extent local governments, has produced an outcome that does not produce the best democracy in this country, and it certainly leaves taxpayers, residents, voters—whatever term one wants to give them—out of the equation.
One example of that is the health system, to which the honourable member for Tweed referred. Undoubtedly Budget Paper No. 4 shows that this year the State Government will spend in the order of $529 million on health care in this State, much of which will be directed towards hospitals. However, it is a fact that in this country at present two governments, State and Federal, have responsibility for health matters; two governments, State and Federal, have responsibility for the level of service that people receive when they go to hospital; and the reality is that two governments are very happy to blame each other when residents complain about the quality of health care in our hospitals.
First and foremost, one reason government in this country should be reformed is to ensure that the people of Australia understand who is responsible for failures in the delivery of services in this country. Health is a classic example of State governments blaming Federal governments and Federal governments blaming State governments. That simply highlight why that sort of reform is necessary. Second, some areas within the State's purview need reform. As I address my remarks today to Budget Paper No. 4, that document clearly makes this obvious. A cursory glance at Budget Paper No. 4 may superficially impress: a total State asset acquisition program of $5,581 million, a claim of a 58 per cent increase since 1994-95, and claims of an average 8 per cent increase over this period. However, a more detailed analysis of this year's budget and budgets in past years tells another story. Annual programs are being underspent.
For example, the 2000-01 budget claimed that in 1999-2000 there had been a boost of 16.2 per cent in asset acquisition. This year's papers reveal that what was planned as 16.2 per cent ended up as only 8 per cent. An examination of expenditure on policy areas pierces the Government rhetoric about so-called record spending. For instance, in 1994-95, 36.3 per cent of total asset acquisitions were in the transport sector. In this year's budget the figure is just 34 per cent—a significant real decline over the seven years Labor has been in power.
In many critical areas expenditure is falling. State Rail's 1999-2000 annual report shows that capital works in progress fell from $794 million to just $250 million. That fall of more than $500 million occurred in a year in which the State experienced its worst rail crisis, a year in which in a very real sense people's lives were both lost and threatened on the State's rail system. At another level, the daily experiences of our citizens tell yet another story—a story of poor service delivery in areas like health, education and transport as creaking infrastructure fails to be maintained or to expand in line with both population growth and technological advances.
There are no better examples than, for instance, the Windsor Road debacle, where catch-up road planning across Sydney has again been shown as a disaster for people forced to cope with inadequate roads, who are forced to leave home earlier and earlier each day, who return to their families later and later each day and who have to go through the horrors of hell between home and their workplaces. Another example is the State's rail system, country and city, which constantly underperforms and which last year was demonstrably dangerous for users due to lack of maintenance and investment. A further example is the hospital system across New South Wales where, despite burgeoning demand for services, the Government, in its latest program, is rationalising the provision of services like emergency departments.
I contend that the problem highlighted by this situation is one that generates an enormous dissatisfaction amongst the very people who sent all of us in this place to Parliament. At successive Federal and State elections we see an increasing disenchantment in the body politic. We see an increasing drift away from major parties like the Liberal, Labor and National parties towards minor parties and independents. We see the rise of One Nation as a legitimate protest vehicle in the eyes of many people—all because the structures of government in this State and in this country are no longer addressing the needs of those people. Unless we start to address those needs, we will continue to see that drift. I remind members opposite who may take some comfort from the 1999 State election that outside Newcastle, Sydney and Wollongong more than one in four people voted for independent and minor party candidates and that, notwithstanding the strong swing to Labor in the cities, Labor's vote outside Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong did not increase in that election.
The reality is that no matter how well intentioned, no government has the funds, or will ever have the funds, to renew and upgrade the State's infrastructure to a level that New South Wales citizens should be demanding in the twenty-first century. It is a bold and broad statement, but consider the facts. This year's budget papers reveal total State revenues at $32 billion—up from about $23 billion, or 30 per cent, since 1995. So there has been a very healthy increase in the State's revenues. This year's Asset Acquisition Program totals $5.6 billion. In June 1999 the value of total State sector infrastructure-related assets—a figure which does not exist within the budget papers; an oversight which I believe should be corrected—was put at $115 billion.
In other words, the State's infrastructure assets are valued at $115 billion. If it involved replacement value, the figure would be more than $400 billion. Much of that infrastructure, like similar infrastructure in hospitals, ports, schools, corrective services and roads, is old. It is life-expired and in need of renewal, even before one gets to the need for enhancements to make it worthy of this twenty-first century. For example, people have only to try to use the State's rail system if they are disabled—especially if disabled and in a wheelchair, a senior or a parent with young children. Whichever way they turn they face barriers and impediments, stairs, gaps between platforms and carriages, and underground tunnels which are a turn-off in today's safety conscious communities.
If we were to have a thoroughly modern system, the type of system that operates in many other countries, with real time information, integrated stored value ticketing, a closed ticket barrier system to eradicate fare evasion, modern airconditioned rolling stock and stations that provide real service and protection for users, the cost of the upgrade would be substantial. Tellingly, despite the known predilection of the Minister for Transport for grandiose public relations promises, even he will not promise commuters this type of enhanced rail system. We have total State infrastructure to the value of $115 billion and a renewal and replacement program of only $5.5 billion per annum, less than 5 percent of the total. Clearly, no taxpayer-funded asset acquisition program will ever be able to cope with the catch-up, the current demand for infrastructure across the whole of government, and the need to replace old life-expired infrastructure, or meet the cost of enhancing it further.
The only possible way that consumers' needs are going to be met in these areas will be through greater participation of the private sector. But before I move to that area, I simply want to make the point that I am not alone in my view that governments are failing because of their failure to reform the democratic processes. The failure of government is being reflected in a turn-off by the citizenry of this State and of this country. Claude Smadja, the Managing Director of the World Economic Forum, delivered the Sir Robert Menzies Lecture for 2000. In part he talked about "the failure of government" that I have referred to, and he described it thus:
It is the failure of confusing two things—confusing the fact of the day, that the era of big government is over, and the fact that owner governments are a relic of the past, with what in fact should have been the priority of redefining and reasserting the role of government in the twenty-first century.
I believe that we have an opportunity to redefine and reassert the role of government. We have an opportunity to restore the customer focus of government at both State and Federal levels; and to address the real issues affecting the people of this State and nation, and in that way do our jobs effectively—but, more importantly, to start to overcome the disenchantment of so many in the electorate with the political process.
One of the keys to achieving this—in fact, I believe the only key for a State government to achieve this—is public-private partnerships, notwithstanding the fact that, as the honourable member for Coffs Harbour recently said, the introduction of the goods and services tax delivers $8 billion a year in additional revenue to State governments. Even that will go nowhere towards meeting the real needs of people in the twenty-first century in relation to State services. Clearly, it has to be achieved through what is known as public-private partnerships. In case this might be of concern to some of the left of the Labor Party in this House, I would make the point that it has been embraced by the Blair Government and by the Bracks Government—governments, certainly in the case of the latter, who take the left of the Labor Party to their bosoms and have key left Labor personnel at the heart of their governments.
It is important to state what public-private partnerships are. They are not about saying to the private sector, "You bear all the risk. You put out all the money to provide the extra resources." Equally, they are not about bureaucrats thinking it is a way to get around Treasury restrictions on borrowing limits, or saying, "If we get the private sector involved, we do not have to go cap in hand to Treasury to seek borrowings or supplementation for these projects." Public-private partnerships are an appropriate sharing of risk between the public and private sectors, and are designed to bring the best of both sectors to the enormous task of remedying the supply of State services and improving the level of State infrastructure.
This is not a particularly new concept. We have had examples of public-private partnerships in this State for some time. Some of the easiest to remember are the State's toll road systems: the M5, M2 and M4, which have been public-private partnerships. Because the Government could not afford to build them, it said to the private sector, "Build these roads and you can collect tolls on them for 25 years. At the end of that period they will become the property of the State." The State's motorists have been provided with a choice between using the motorways or travelling on the toll-free stretches of road that traverse the same area. I have to say that, notwithstanding recent figures relating to tollways—which I believe are due more to the GST and petrol pricing—overwhelmingly tollways have been embraced by motorists in this country. That is an example of how public-private partnerships can work well.
Other examples of public-private partnerships in this State include, in the health area, the Port Macquarie Hospital, Hawkesbury Hospital and the supply of many hospital car parks; and in rail transport, the new southern rail system, the Pyrmont light rail system and the fourth-generation trains. I should have mentioned first, of course, the Sydney Harbour Tunnel, which is perhaps the most prominent example of a public-private partnership. There are also examples of such partnerships in the water and sewerage area, in social housing and in respect of the Olympics. The point I want to make is that it is not radical technology, but it is radical that we seek to move a long way further down the track. Greater public-private partnerships offer a better customer focus in the delivery of State services. Put another way, if we can find incentives for the public sector in the same way as we provide incentives for the private sector, the outcomes would be better for the people of this State.
By way of example, in Melbourne, where public transport services have been franchised—not privatised, not sold, but franchised for set terms—rail commuters have access to an enforceable customer charter which provides refunds to passengers when services fail to meet targets. Private sector companies operating Melbourne's public transport system are required to pay compensation out of their own pockets when services fail. We cannot replicate that system in Sydney. CityRail has repeatedly either failed to set the types of specific targets published in Victoria or to embrace the concept of refunds. That is because any refunds under our system would be provided by one set of taxpayers to another set of taxpayers, whereas in Victoria the refunds are provided by the private sector to rail commuters. It is a very real penalty and provides an incentive to improve services.
The reason for the need for incentives in this area is very obvious. The budget papers this year report the progress of easy care access upgrades of eight CityRail stations—Allawah, Engadine, Fairfield, Katoomba, Regents Park, Rockdale, Summer Hill and Wollongong. Last year's budget papers set a total estimated cost for these stations at $28.05 million. This year the budget papers indicate that the figure has risen to $36.26 million, an increase of $8 million or approximately 30 per cent. Put another way, the blow-out in cost is equivalent to upgrading between three and four additional railway stations. Is a penalty paid for this non-performance? No. Can commuters or taxpayers be assured that someone will be held accountable for the blow-out? Again the answer, regrettably, is no. Under a public-private partnership model the private sector provider would be held accountable and taxpayers would receive compensation through penalty payments.
However, it does not stop there. Last year each of the eight easy-care station projects was underspent. Last year's budget stated that $21 million would be allocated this financial year for the projects. In reality the budget papers show that less than half of that amount has been spent. Underspending on the projects totalled $10.26 million. Is anyone held accountable for that, under the present arrangement? No. Would this type of underspending have occurred under a public-private partnership [PPP] arrangement? No. Another benefit of the public-private partnership system is that it makes politicians far more accountable for their promises. If they say it is going to be delivered, it will be delivered on time.
Each of the easy-care stations has suffered a blow-out in timing of between one and two years. In total, across the 10 projects, eight years have been lost in completion. Under the present system, no-one is held to account for a failure to deliver improved service to our commuters. Such delays are unheard of under public-private partnership arrangements. To my mind, New South Wales needs to urgently embrace the public-private partnership approach. There are clear economic benefits to be gained but, more importantly, there are other benefits which I think pertain to the way in which average Australians relate to their governments and perceive politicians' determination to address issues that affect them.
In the short time that remains for my speech, I simply make the point that we need to embrace public-private partnerships. I am concerned that the State Government is dragging its heels. I am concerned that the State Government is putting fences around the operations of services when, clearly, overseas experience shows that significant savings—in the order of 20 per cent—can be generated from public-private partnerships being fully involved in the financing, building, and operation of government services by reinvesting the savings back into providing additional services that people in the twenty-first century should receive. I am speaking of attempts that should be made to renew existing State infrastructure; I am speaking of trying to ensure that infrastructure that this State currently has will benefit from additional savings that could come out of a public-private partnership scheme to provide people with the additional services that they should be demanding.
This State also urgently needs a State infrastructure plan that is non-political, realisable—unlike Action for Public Transport 2010—and deliverable; a plan that does not omit a quadrant of Sydney where Liberal electorates are situated. In this year of Federation, in the context of Federal-State relations it should be possible to convince people to engage in a debate on the State level, improving the operation of government by seeking to unlock the benefits and virtues of the private sector, in a way in which that has been done by Labor governments in Australia and overseas, for the benefit of the people of this State.
(Auburn) [11.11 a.m.]: I note with interest the Treasurer's speech, which was delivered in the Legislative Assembly. Of course, the Treasurer is a member of the Legislative Council. It would be very nice if he were a member of the Legislative Assembly because it is the Legislative Assembly that ultimately creates government through the budget.
You would make a good Treasurer.
I thank the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I accept his observation: I, too, think I would make a wonderful Treasurer! The wonderful Treasurer we do have is actually a member of the upper House. One day I would like to see the Hon. Michael Egan as a member of this House. He would make a great contribution to this House because his budget is a great contribution to parliamentary democracy. I hope that the Labor Party will see fit, if the Hon. Michael Egan is so inclined, to nominate him for a seat in the lower House and that he will join us as Treasurer in the lower House. This is a constitutional issue. Under the Constitution there is no basic foundation in regard to who should create the government; rather, it is that body of the Parliament that can secure the budget which becomes the government.
I refer to some of the highlights of this Government's capital works program as it affects the Auburn electorate. The funding comes through various Ministers, but from the Treasurer's budget papers. I notice that the Bicentennial Park Trust, which administers Bicentennial Park—a very popular and successful park which on Saturdays and Sundays is enjoyed by many people who live in western Sydney—has received an allocation of $1,964,000 for upgrading. Major works undertaken by the Department of Corrective Services at Silverwater gaol, which is one of this State's major gaols, will be funded by an allocation of $3 million. Improvements undertaken at Berala Public School will involve an allocation of $152,000 for preparation of the plans and application for council approval. The Berala primary school has been in existence for 100 years and has made a great contribution to the wellbeing and development of people who live in Regents Park, Berala and west Auburn. The demountable classrooms and old classrooms will make way for a modern new school which is estimated to cost $5 million.
I thank the Minister for Education and Training for upgrading Berala school, which was so greatly in need of improvement. A battle was waged by me as the local parliamentary representative over the past 10 years. The school finally has an improvement program and will become a modern and new public primary school, providing education for approximately 37 different nationalities. Auburn West Public School has received an allocation of $1,528,000 and a tender process has been implemented to provide improvements for that primary school. An allocation of $1,928,000 has been made for the new Newington Public School at the Olympic site. Improvements to the schools represent major capital works which will employ a lot of people who live in my electorate and provide education for people who are poor and face a lot of difficulties. The average annual salary of people who live in my electorate is approximately $27,000.
The amount of $125,000 will be provided for the Department of Health's Lidcombe DNA testing laboratories. An allocation of approximately $3.5 million has also been made to the Department of Housing for new unit accommodation in Chester Hill, Auburn, Yagoona, Bass Hill and Sefton. A juvenile justice centre will be established at Lidcombe and Department of Juvenile Justice activities will move from its current location to Minda. There are various other State Government projects that affect my electorate: I will not mention each one in detail. Suffice to say that the State Rail Authority's main train capital works program at Auburn is worth $7,761,000. Airconditioning of compartments account for expenditure of $6 million and an allocation of $77,000 has been made for rolling stock.
The budget also provides for easy access to Regents Park station at a cost of $1,800,000, and that project is almost complete. The person who wants the honour of first using the lifts that are being installed at Regents Park is Mr Neil Willis, who has been using Regents Park station for the past 60 years. He is now in his eighties and, instead of walking up and down the stairs, he will be able to take a lift to the station platform, as will many others who use the station. I have lived in Regents Park for 50 years and I have used the station on many, many occasions. I know that the installation of the lift will be a great improvement. The total budget allocation for the Transport and Roads portfolio is $2.141 billion, $20 million of which will be expended on redevelopment of the Olympic Games site.
The honourable member for Cronulla, in his contribution, referred to speed cameras. I draw to the attention of the House to the installation of two new speed cameras on the Hume Highway. One of the cameras has been installed east of The Boulevard, Strathfield, as one travels east to the city, and one has been installed just past the Ashfield shopping centre, approximately one kilometre to the west of the shopping centre as one travels west. I note that $20 million has been allocated for the installation of more speed cameras in the Strathfield area. I obtained a driver's licence 37 years ago. In all the time I have been travelling from Regents Park to the city via the Hume Highway I have never seen an accident occur in that area where the speed cameras have been installed. I estimate that in any year I travel along the Hume Highway which would be on average 240 times in the area where the speed cameras have been installed.
When the installation of speed cameras was first discussed in this Parliament in 1989, the then Minister for Transport, the Hon. Wal Murray, organised a briefing for members of this House, including me. At that meeting it was guaranteed by the Roads and Traffic Authority [RTA] that, if the introduction of speed cameras was agreed to, the cameras would be installed only in black spots and would not be used solely as a revenue-raising device. More importantly, that statement was made by the Hon. Wal Murray in this House, yet the speed cameras began to be introduced in non-black spot areas during the term of the previous Coalition Government. For the benefit of honourable members who have not heard of a man named Gordon Campbell, I inform the House that he is the Premier of the Province of British Columbia. The previous British Columbia Parliament consisted of the New Democrats Party [NDP] with 40 seats and Gordon Campbell's Liberal Party with 33 seats in 1999. Part of his election platform was a guarantee to the people of British Columbia that he would remove every speed camera. Out of the 79 seats the Liberals now hold 76 in 2001.
It just goes to show how Labor—
It goes to show how incompetent the Opposition is because it has not even picked up this event in British Columbia. It takes a Labor member of Parliament to bring it to the attention of the Opposition. I appreciate the $5,400,000 the Minister for Roads has allocated to the electorate of Auburn for major and minor works connected with road safety, traffic and transport issues. An amount of $259,000 has been allocated for roundabouts, $1,490,000 for infrastructure, $35,000 for the Auburn Council safety program, $45,000 for the upgrading of Olympic Drive and Vaughan Street, $100,000 for Rawson Street and Dartbrook Road, $81,980 for other safety work, and $30,000 for pedestrian access and mobility programs. There will be block grants for regional roads of $162,000 in the Auburn Council area and $40,880 in the Bankstown council area. I appreciate all the money that has been allocated by the Minister to the seat of Auburn.
The Minister for Health has a budget this year of $7,773 million, of which $179,500 has been allocated for the upgrading of Auburn and Westmead hospitals. The major upgrading work will commence very soon with the preparation of plans and specifications. I believe that the Department of Public Works and Services is preparing its submission for the contract for the renovation of Auburn hospital to make it a great western suburbs hospital. I hope that the start of the renovation work will be funded in next year's budget. People for years have been knocking Auburn hospital and saying that it is not doing what it should be doing. This will be a great shot in the arm for the hospital. It kills the rumours that Auburn health care is sick.
The health committee of Auburn Council was set up for political purposes and is controlled by the Liberals and the Independents on the council. I assure members of that committee that Auburn hospital would have been closed within three years if the honourable member for North Shore became Minister for Health. That is what some doctors and some administrators in the Western Sydney Area Health Service wanted. Now, because of the good work of Craig Knowles, the Minister for Health, it will be much harder—virtually impossible—to close or further downgrade Auburn hospital. In my electorate office I receive many complaints about non-inpatient dental services. We have allocated $1,285,000 for people who cannot afford private dental work. This compares with $1,352,000 for drug addict inpatient services, and $10 million in relation to HIV, yet I cannot get Peter Miloae and his two children, my constituents who desperately need dental work, at Westmead because there is not enough money. This is something that the Federal Government should look at very seriously because—
Don't blame the Federal Government for your—
It is a Federal Government obligation. I would like to see the Federal Government give a bit more to help the poor. It is all right for the honourable member for Coffs Harbour; he does not have the poor electorate that I have. His is a beautiful electorate with nice people, and I love the nice people.
Mr ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Lynch):
Order! The honourable member for Coffs Harbour is giving those in the public gallery an appalling impression of the way in which members behave.
One of the most important aspects is the retention of Auburn hospital's emergency and casualty, coronary, and intensive care units. That hospital will be retained, thanks to the Minister for Health. I have been lucky enough to persuade Auburn Council and the police ministry to build a joint council-police station at Auburn, which now houses 220 police in the patrol area. Poverty makes it a very difficult area. The little thugs in Rickard Street, Wellington Road and Cumberland Road should beware: their days are numbered. We will not tolerate them any longer. People are saying that enough is enough and we are calling on the police to push these gangsters out of the area so that people can live harmoniously in west Auburn without having these little thugs push them around. The police will do the job in the very near future.
The Bankstown patrol is doing a great job at Bass Hill. I congratulate the police of Auburn and Bass Hill patrols on their work in protecting the community as best they can. I returned to my home after being away and within half an hour someone had walked into my home and stolen my laptop computer. The police have not been able to get it back. The police have a great deal of difficulty but they overcome it with good work. I am sorry to see the departure of Sergeant Seedsman, who was our community liaison officer. There are 48 different nationalities in the electorate of Auburn, and we need to set up liaison with the leaders of all the communities so that we can deal with the issues of the little thugs. The Bankstown courthouse and Lidcombe Children's Court should be preserved for the benefit of the people of Auburn.
New school works will be carried out at west Auburn, Berala and Newington. Birrong primary school recently received a $1,500 cheque for a peace garden. The children were excited about building the garden. I saw the plans and spoke to the teachers. That small cheque will be the start of a great project for the students. Of the 14 primary schools in the electorate of Auburn, 10 benefited greatly, each receiving a cheque for $3,000. All of the 200 students at North Auburn school were sent to the Olympic Games. Four primary schools did not participate but many children would have attended with their parents. I thank all the school principals and teachers who assisted the children to get to the Olympic Games. Sefton High School, a very good school, is in desperate need of help. I have spoken to the Minister and he will see what renovations can be carried out at the school. The demountables at West Auburn school will be replaced over the next 18 months, so the children will not freeze in winter and sweat in summer, and they will be able to use their libraries.
The contract for upgrading Auburn West Public School, at a cost of $1.9 million, has been let and work will commence shortly. More than 80 tradespeople and suppliers are expected to be involved with the project. The State Government is to be commended for responding to the needs of the local community to help the poor and desperate people whose only hope is to get their children a good education. That is being achieved by the Minister for Education and Training. Birrong Girls High School has received $3,000 for extra books at the new library. I thank and congratulate all the principals and schoolteachers in my electorate for the excellent work they do. I include the support staff who back up the teachers in a hard area. I turn now to the court system and the Attorney General's Department. I recently gave evidence at a trial. I congratulate Nicholas Cowdery, the Director of Public Prosecutions. A small article in the Daily Telegraph
recently headed "So many wrongly convicted" stated:
NSW residents would be shocked by the number of innocent people serving time in the state's gaols ...
"I think people would be shocked to find out how many people have been wrongly convicted ...
It is extremely important that individuals who are to be tried and have allegations made against them be given appropriate access to finances to enable a proper defence in court hearings. It is an incredible indictment that even one innocent person should serve time in our prison system. It is easy to make an allegation; it is difficult to disprove it; and it is even more difficult to try to clear an individual's reputation after that allegation has been made.
I congratulate the Premier of New South Wales on the fine job he has done with the budget. I note that the budget for the Independent Commission Against Corruption [ICAC], the Ombudsman and the Police Integrity Commission has now been increased to $40 million. That is a lot of money to keep the integrity of government in New South Wales afloat. In the future it may be of advantage—this is only my view; it is not government policy—for someone to think about abolishing the ICAC, the Ombudsman and the Police Integrity Commission, and formulating a New South Wales State Integrity Commission combining the ICAC, the Ombudsman and the Police Integrity Commission under one roof so that they can work together for the benefit of the people of New South Wales.
I now turn to the budget for the Parliament of New South Wales. I congratulate the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly on his vision over the last six years with regard to new technology. I did not know much about computers, but because the Speaker provided me with a computer I had to learn how to use it, and I am indebted to the Parliament for that. Given the continuing attacks on members of this House and members of the other place, in the very future we will need to put together an education package to educate the community about the role of members of Parliament. The Standing Ethics Committee, which is an offshoot of the Committee on the Independent Commission Against Corruption, should not only deal with ethics issues with regard to members of Parliament but should also be funded to educate the community about issues that affect members of Parliament.
The Daily Telegraph
, the Sydney Morning Herald
and the television media are not here to say anything good about what happens in this Parliament; they are here only to make our lives as miserable as they possibly can. If we were able to put together a good education and community relations package, we would find ourselves in a much better position. I notice that this year the education staff has been increased to two. I congratulate the Treasurer and the Premier of New South Wales on bringing down a brilliant budget that assists the people of New South Wales in difficult times. I commend the bills to the House.
Debate adjourned on motion by Mr Stoner.
WESTERN SYDNEY REGIONAL PARK (REVOCATION FOR WESTERN SYDNEY ORBITAL) BILL
Debate adjourned from 20 June.
Mr J. H. TURNER
(Myall Lakes—Deputy Leader of the National Party) [11.33 a.m.]: The Opposition will not oppose this legislation but wishes to express some concerns which I will outline in a moment. Naturally, we are very pleased about the Western Sydney Orbital, which is a Federal Government initiative that is now coming to fruition after some considerable time. The Federal Government will provide all moneys for the project, totalling some $1.2 billion, although it will be managed by the Roads and Traffic Authority [RTA]. We hope that the Minister for Transport, and Minister for Roads and the Premier will not claim benefit for the project. However, we echo the words of the Minister, and suggest the Minister might consider matching the Federal Government's funding of $1.2 billion by spending a similar amount on State roads. We hear such suggestions from the Minister from time to time in relation to State Government funding.
One of the matters of concern for the Opposition is that we wonder whether the RTA is paying for the road twice. In 1996 the RTA contracted with and paid the Department of Urban Affairs and Planning [DUAP] for the purchase of 106.5 hectares of land, which was required for the Western Sydney Orbital. In 1997 the land was transferred from the RTA to the National Parks and Wildlife Service and became part of the Western Sydney Regional Park. Once the boundary of the Western Sydney Orbital was finalised, the land was to be reverted to DUAP and then on-sold to the RTA. I stand to be corrected by the Minister in his reply, but it appears that the RTA paid for the land for this project in 1996 and, under this bill, the RTA will again pay for the land. I note that any proceeds from the sale of the land would be applied to the Sydney Region Development Fund. I apologise to the Minister for not raising this matter with him earlier; I literally saw it as I was sitting in the Chamber making notes. I did not mean to ambush the Minister in that regard, and I would be happy to hear his comments on the matter in his reply.
Another matter of concern to the Opposition is that an extremely convoluted system brought the issue to where it is today. As I have said, since 1996 the land has gone through the hands of the RTA, DUAP, the National Parks and Wildlife Service, then back to DUAP and the RTA, and some land will go back to the Western Sydney Regional Park and some funds will go in a different direction. The way in which this matter has been handled since 1996 indicates a significant lack of cohesion between government departments and therefore Ministers. There is therefore confusion within the ranks in that regard. A further matter that is of significant concern to the Opposition, as well as to other groups in the community, is that the legislation pre-empts the representations report that has not yet been completed. Whilst I recognise and understand that there is no legal impediment for the matter not to proceed, and indeed the Minister wants to have some certainty that the Western Sydney Orbital project will proceed and that those who are interested in the project can start to work on it, it is a dangerous precedent for these sorts of decisions to be made whilst there are significant outstanding requirements still to be carried out.
The Opposition's inquiries reveal that the representations report may not even be available until about August. Given that outstanding matters are yet to be addressed, one wonders why it is necessary to push this legislation through at this time when it could have been brought on as a priority when the House resumes in September. Having said that, the Opposition will allow the legislation to proceed but will consider carefully the final representations report and reserve its right to be critical of the Government should that report somehow impede or impact on the project overall. As I have said, the Opposition has concerns about how much money has changed hands and how many times it has changed hands, and the legislation is silent on that aspect. I presume that some form of commercial price will be organised and paid. The Opposition is also concerned about the extremely convoluted way in which the matter has come to the stage where the RTA now must purchase the land from DUAP and it must pass through five or six departments.
(Smithfield—Minister for Transport, and Minister for Roads) [11.38 a.m.], in reply: I acknowledge the contribution of the shadow Minister for Roads. I appreciate his support for the legislation and the constructive way in which he has approached this debate. I will now deal with the issues he has raised. The preference of the Government was to gazette the Western Sydney Regional Park. We could have pursued the course of action of not dedicating the park until we had greater clarity on the boundaries of the Western Sydney Orbital. However, agreement was reached between DUAP, the RTA and the National Parks and Wildlife Service that we would proceed to declare the park and that when greater clarity on the proposed boundaries of the Western Sydney Orbital was known it would then be excised into DUAP, and ultimately the RTA, for the construction of the orbital. This course of action has been taken with this legislation.
The shadow Minister raised the question of double payment. That is not the case. The advice I have received is that the RTA paid DUAP for 106.5 hectares, including the 4.8 hectares the subject of this revocation. The revocation totals 18.2 hectares, so the remaining $3 million of compensation is for the remaining 13.5 hectares that have not been paid for by the RTA. That is a separate amount. I hope that makes the situation clear. Different amounts have been mentioned and land has been vested in various agencies, so I can understand the confusion in the process. But, certainly, no double payment has been made. In response to comments on pre-empting the representations report, the Government has followed a process that is not all that dissimilar to that undertaken in the Eastern Distributor project, in which land was vested in the RTA prior to approval to enable DUAP to approve a legal activity. In relation to the Parramatta rail project, land was vested in DUAP to enable it to approve a legal activity.
If this land remained on the books of the National Parks and Wildlife Service, technically DUAP would not be able to approve the activity because it would be contrary to an Act of Parliament. Vesting the land in DUAP, and having it parked there pending the environmental process, enables DUAP to approve it if it so wishes. I do not believe that it pre-empts any environmental process, because the project is still subject to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act and DUAP's independent assessment. I thank the Opposition for its support of the bill. This is a bipartisan project, and I acknowledge the support of John Howard and John Anderson. They have allocated $350 million to the project and the balance is to be financed by user charges.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a second time and passed through remaining stages.
LONG SERVICE LEAVE LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL
Debate resumed from 20 June.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a second time and passed through remaining stages.
APPROPRIATION (PARLIAMENT) BILL
APPROPRIATION (SPECIAL OFFICES) BILL
INSURANCE PROTECTION TAX BILL
STATE REVENUE LEGISLATION FURTHER AMENDMENT BILL
Debate resumed from an earlier hour.
(Oxley) [11.46 a.m.]: The 2001-02 State budget is indeed a typical Labor budget and every inch a Labor budget—a phrase the Treasurer is fond of using. It is a high-taxing and big-spending Labor budget which fails to take advantage of the opportunities available to New South Wales. The budget entrenches record taxation levels. Since 1995 State taxes have increased by 33 per cent, or an additional $1,095 per year for every man, woman and child in New South Wales. That gives New South Wales the unenviable reputation of being the premier taxation State. The budget takes the windfall from the GST receipts and fritters away opportunities. It fails to address basic services and to make improvements to priority areas in country New South Wales, particularly to my electorate of Oxley on the mid North Coast.
Basic services such as rail, schools, hospitals, police and roads have progressively run down over recent years. I had hoped that the budget would address that but, unfortunately, it did not. Country areas were deprived of funding for years as it was rightly directed towards the Olympics. However, we have not now seen any compensation for that in country areas. Instead of restoring services and spending to generate employment and stimulate the regional economy, the budget continues the pattern of pouring huge funding into the city. For example, capital works for hospitals in regional New South Wales received only $92 million out of a total $430 million, just 21 per cent. Clearly, more than 21 per cent of New South Wales residents live outside metropolitan areas.
The budget allocation for education and training is 22 per cent and no new police stations have been provided, yet an additional $30 million has been allocated to the Olympic precinct. After a while country people start to resent the continuation of funding into the city at their expense. Earlier I referred to basic services. I point out that the total State budget expenditure for schools in 1995 was 25.5 per cent. In 2000-01 the figure dropped to only 22 per cent. It is apparent as I travel throughout my electorate that many schools have demountables, that basic maintenance is not taking place, that they are overcrowded and that funding is not coming from the Government.
Specifically, Frederickton Public School—just north of Kempsey—has been waiting for improvements to its heritage-listed buildings. It has had demountables in situ for something like 30 years. And there is still no allocation in this budget! Students and teachers have appalling conditions at Byabarra Public School, a small country school in between Wauchope and Comboyne, about which I have spoken in this place. Children are crammed into demountables and teachers do not have adequate facilities, not even a staff room as such, at Crescent Head Public School, which is in a beautiful town just east of Kempsey. Again no allocation has been made in this budget to correct that situation. There are no permanent classrooms, only a demountable, at Herons Creek Public School, another small country school just to the south of Port Macquarie.
Baz Luhrmann came from there.
That is true: Baz Luhrmann comes from Herons Creek—and the Boral timber mill put it on the map. Herons Creeks Public School is overcrowded and the children suffer because of the less than adequate facilities. I am pleased to give credit where it is due: that is, to the Government's commitment of $1 million—which is long overdue according to parents, citizens and teachers—to improve Wauchope Public School, one of the larger public schools in the district and probably in New South Wales. It is overcrowded and cramped to the extent that the kids do not have sufficient playground facilities. The budget talks about increasing police numbers, as it should. The Minister promised an additional 2,100 officers in the 1999 election, yet the official police strength as at 30 April 2001 is actually 55 fewer than at that time. The Minister is running out of time to make good his promise. People in country areas are suffering as a result of the lack of police resources.
In New South Wales there are 1,063 assault cases per 100,000 population, compared to a national figure of 736 assault cases per 100,000 population. A funding cut of $21 million to address organised crime is a matter of concern to the residents of New South Wales, particularly country New South Wales. The Minister needs to address the many problems we have recently heard about the police assistance line. The Minister does not have police walking the beats and patrolling areas, and they are not being serviced properly through the police assistance line when they are in need. Again, that illustrates that this budget is not delivering basic services. In the electorate of Oxley the official police strength as at June 2000 was 153 officers, 24 of whom—or 16 per cent—were on sick leave, stress leave or restricted duties. Therefore, a high proportion of the so-called official police strength was not present or available to members of the public when needed. The raw number of police officers should not be considered; we should consider how many police are available and on duty to tackle crime. This budget, whilst providing some additional police, does not go far enough. I say to the Minister that the official police numbers ought not include people on long-term sick leave, stress leave or restricted duties.
I have received a lot of complaints from members of the Wauchope community that the police officers assigned to the area increasingly have to cover a much broader area—as far south as Laurieton, up to Kundabung, and indeed into Comboyne and the upper Macleay. On a Saturday night when members of the community have problems—usually involving young people and alcohol—they contact the station, only to be told that the officer is posted at Laurieton or perhaps Kundabung. A commitment is needed in this budget to have police where they are needed: that is, a physical police presence in towns, with officers not having to cover vast areas in country New South Wales. A frequent complaint about Nambucca Heads police station in Bowra Street is that when a crime occurs the station is closed because officers are out covering wide distances. Sometimes they are engaged in taking prisoners to and from court or the lockup, as the case may be, and they are not available when they are needed. I urge the Government and the Minister to make good on the promises about police and, more particularly, the numbers need to include operational police officers on the beat so that they are available to the community. This is not about the police assistance line people or those on restricted duties.
This budget provides an additional $350 million to hospitals, which is welcomed. However, on the figures I have seen, an extra $521 million is needed just to maintain the current level of services. The Government needs to seriously address the fact that the demand for public health is increasing. An amount of $350 million—$127 million of which is from the Federal Government—will be provided but it will not be sufficient to maintain, let alone improve, services to public health patients, which is a major need and concern in my electorate. The same could be said about any district hospital in Oxley, which includes Kempsey, Macksville and Wauchope. Beds are not available because they have been closed. Ten beds have been closed in Macksville hospital and eight have been closed in Kempsey. There is a suggestion that more beds will be closed, despite what the area health service tells us. The proof of the pudding is in what is actually available. Fewer operations and fewer beds are available at district hospitals, and the waiting times are getting longer.
The continuing trend is that patients are told that they cannot have an operation at the district hospital and that they have to go to a base hospital. People in the Oxley electorate must go to either Port Macquarie or Coffs Harbour base hospitals. That is probably a reasonable proposition to a city-based bureaucrat, but it is not reasonable for people to have to travel from the upper Macleay down to Kempsey—it takes an hour to get from Bellbrook to Kempsey. They may then be told that they have to go to Port Macquarie, which is another 45 minutes even by ambulance. The same can happen in the Nambucca area. A person who lives at Bowraville or beyond—such as at Taylors Arm, Medlow or Thumb Creek—may take an hour just to come down to Macksville, and he or she may then be told to go to Coffs Harbour. It is simply not good enough. The trend of squeezing district hospitals, closing beds and restricting surgery has continued unabated. The long waiting lists prove that those matters are not addressed by this budget.
In March 1999, 9,000 people in rural New South Wales were on waiting lists for surgery. By March 2001 the figure had more than doubled to 19,311. Recently I learned of bonus payments to senior bureaucrats. For example, the area health service people have said that everything is fine and that funding will be increased to improve services, but at the same time they are closing beds and receiving bonus payments for wringing savings out of district hospitals. That is particularly galling to people in need of medical treatment.
Earlier I spoke about the provision of roads being a basic service. In real terms, using a reasonable assumption for inflation, road funding in the budget has been cut by $70 million. I refer specifically to the cut in funding from $19 million to $13 million for State black spots. Councils in regional New South Wales need help with local roads and the Federal Government has delivered that assistance with the Roads to Recovery program. In my electorate $4 million has been allocated over four years to the Hastings Shire Council, $3 million to Kempsey Shire Council and $2 million to Nambucca Shire Council. That money will be used on roads that have been literally untouched for decades, and residents have agreed that it is about time something was done.
The Government failed to meet my challenge in 2001-02, and I challenge it again to match Federal funding for rural shires. As the Parliamentary Secretary, the honourable member for Newcastle, would know, the vast network of roads in rural shires has been neglected for many years. An example of that is the Comboyne to Wingham Road, which, although commercially important, is a dangerous road. Twenty years ago the people of Comboyne were promised that the road would be sealed, but that has never been done. I challenge the Government to deliver to country people by providing funding for roads such as the Comboyne to Wingham road and the Comboyne to Kendall road, which, to the credit of Hastings Shire Council, is slowly being sealed. I have previously invited the Parliamentary Secretary to inspect the Maria River Road between Port Macquarie and Crescent Head.
There are nice tea-tree plantations along that road.
It is beautiful through there and it could be an important tourist route but, sadly, it has been neglected because councils simply do not have the funds to improve the roads and take advantage of those opportunities. The Oxley Highway is an important State Highway with a heavy traffic volume. The section between Wauchope and Port Macquarie does not have any overtaking lanes and a number of fatalities have occurred there. It is about time that the Government made a commitment to improve the Oxley Highway by constructing overtaking lanes, straightening bends, and ascertaining the correct position for realignment of the road. The Federal Government delivered $1 million to eliminate a black spot on the Oxley Highway but the State Government has committed no funds whatsoever. I am pleased that the Government has continued its commitment to the Pacific Highway, particularly the upgrade of the section of road from Moorland to Herons Creek and planning for the upgrade of the section between Kempsey and Eungai, as well as other planning works.
Staff numbers at country rail stations have been cut. Country areas do not have reasonable public transport and the Government should make a commitment to improve Countrylink services; it should not reduce them. The budget should have delivered to the Oxley electorate on issues relating to land and water. Unfortunately, it did not. Fish kills came into focus during the devastating floods in March, particularly on the Macleay River. Funding is needed to remediate some of the flood mitigation works that have been undertaken in the past to prevent flooding recurring. There are acid sulphate problems and river erosion. The Nambucca and Macleay rivers are silting out with gravel. Dredging is needed in certain areas of the river and funding is required to raise houses at places such as Smithtown and Gladstone. The budget does not address those issues.
Unfortunately, funding for the Rural Assistance Authority has been cut from $28 million to $6 million. Funding for the Department of Agriculture has been cut from $232 million to $224 million. Dairy farmers in my electorate are disappointed that the budget does not provide any compensation for loss of quotas, which came about during deregulation of the dairy industry from July last year. Those farmers are still crying out for assistance from the Government. In summary, despite massive revenues, a surplus and new taxes such as the fishing tax—the only reduction in tax being a minor reduction in the payroll tax rate, although the threshold has not been reduced—the budget has not delivered to the people of country New South Wales. In fact, it has ignored the opportunities that were available to restore basic services.
(Cabramatta—Parliamentary Secretary) [12.06 p.m.]: I congratulate the Carr Labor Government on its seventh budget. It is a sound financial plan for New South Wales that once again demonstrates this Government's strong economic credentials by continuing to retire the State's debt while improving the quality and accessibility of services to the people of New South Wales. It is a budget that has been deservedly applauded by nearly all sections of the community from economic commentators and the business and finance sectors to welfare groups, families and ordinary Australians. In fact, the day after the budget was handed down Ross Gittins, the economics editor for the Sydney Morning Herald
, described the budget as a combination of clever politics and good economics.
Good politics and good economics equal good, sound government—so sound, in fact, that the State Opposition has yet to find fault with our approach, let alone come up with one of its own. Opposition members have been engaged in the usual obligatory carping in the media that the budget has no substance. Their refusal to question the Government on the budget in this House demonstrates not only its tacit agreement with Labor's financial management of the State but its own bankruptcy in political and economic ideas. Indeed, for an Opposition to manufacture a reason to leave the Chamber during question time the day after the budget was announced signals the fact that it has no alternative plan for this State. Time and again in this place we see its sheer absence of policy and its complete inability to offer anything remotely resembling an alternative vision for the people of New South Wales. However, just for a moment it is possible to feel a twinge of pity for the Opposition because even its traditional constituency has given this Labor budget a big tick. The Australian Industry Group has said:
This is a sound strategy for building industry confidence and generating economic growth over the coming 12 months.
The Business Council of Australia welcomed "the significant investment in infrastructure and people, the early phased removal of the debits tax and the abolition of the $100 million a year levy on electricity suppliers". The State Chamber of Commerce said that the schools maintenance and construction program "should stimulate work for small and medium sized businesses". The financial sector has overwhelmingly applauded the removal of the debits tax as good news for customers and has urged the other States to follow suit. That applause has come from the big end of town because the Carr Government has delivered tax cuts, rebates, record levels of capital works expenditure and its sixth successive surplus. It is also delivering on retiring the State's debt. New South Wales is in top shape.
As every honourable member of this place knows, all politics are local. A sound budget for New South Wales is of minor consequence unless it delivers for the people of my constituency. I am proud to be able to tell the House unequivocally that the people of Cabramatta are better off because of this budget. Everyone in New South Wales has been required to pay tax when withdrawing money from their bank accounts or using their credit cards. The bank accounts debits tax is a regressive tax, treating pensioners and millionaires alike. As of 1 January 2002 the bank accounts debits tax will be abolished, leaving families and pensioners with savings of between $20 and $60 a year. This saving to pensioners will be coupled with an increase of $31 per annum in their rebates for gas and electricity.
It is an indisputable fact that the elderly in our community are suffering as a result of the introduction of the goods and services tax. Their predicament has been made worse by Prime Minister Howard's failure to deliver on his $1,000 compensation promise. Howard's budget commitment of a one-off $300 payment to pensioners leaves them at least $700 out of pocket. But the New South Wales Carr Government has helped to make up that shortfall by putting money back into the pockets of that group in our community which needs and deserves it most.
Education has been a priority of this Government since it came to office. It is a priority that I wholeheartedly endorse. Education is the key to unlocking the future for the young people in my electorate. It guarantees them access and offers them social mobility. Education opens up employment opportunities and equips them with the self-esteem that they need to meet the challenges of the future. The Government has a vision for education, and it has led the world in connecting school-aged students to the Internet. This budget builds on that achievement by ensuring that all teachers and students receive their own email account as part of a new e-learning program.
Students in the Cabramatta electorate with learning difficulties have not been ignored by this budget. A new school will be established at Canley Vale, and up to 18 students from years 5 to 10 will be enrolled at the new school, where they will receive specialist assistance to increase their literacy, numeracy and social skills. These students also will receive support to assist them to successfully reintegrate into mainstream education, TAFE or employment, depending on their individual needs. This commitment ensures that students with severe behaviour difficulties have access to a higher level of support than at any time previously. The people of Cabramatta also will benefit from the Government's commitment to increase funding to upgrade older schools and for school maintenance. Lansvale Public School will receive $80,000 towards the construction of a permanent administration building, which will replace the demountable that the school has endured for a number of years. The new permanent building will greatly enhance the school environment.
Earlier this year I received representations from Helen Hawkes, the President of the Canley Vale School Council, and Mr Tony Fornasier concerning the condition of the school buildings and the number of demountable classrooms at Canley Vale Primary School. Following my representations to the Minister for Education and Training, $50,000 was allocated for the development of plans for the construction of a new school. Last week the school principal met with representatives of the Department of Education and Training to discuss the next step in the planning process. I am advised that planning is progressing well. The application for funding for the construction of a new school was received too late to be included in this year's budget. However, I would like to take this opportunity to assure the teachers, students and community of Canley Vale that I will continue to strongly represent their interests to ensure that we are included in the 2003 budget and that the dream becomes a reality.
On 27 March the Premier announced an action plan to curb the supply of heroin in Cabramatta and assist users to break the cycle of their addiction. The Government will spend $6.7 million in 2001-02 and in excess of $18.8 million over the next four years. The plan includes enhanced police powers in relation to drug houses and searches. It includes also establishment of a City Watch program to bring local businesses and police together to develop solutions to local crime. City Watch will be run under the auspices of the Community Relations Commission, which has budgeted $100,000 per year for the next four years, fully funding its operational costs.
Further, the action plan includes compulsory drug treatment for local drug users arrested in Cabramatta, the expansion of drug rehabilitation and treatment services in south-western Sydney, and expanded early intervention programs, including community drug education. Drugs and drug-related crime undermines the rich cultural diversity of Cabramatta, destroys the lives of users and their families and erodes community pride. And, despite the rhetoric of some, there is simply no quick fix, no magic wand. However, this budget fully funds the action plan announced by the Premier—a plan that has been overwhelmingly endorsed by the Cabramatta community and has the right blend of law enforcement and treatment options. It is a plan that brings us that much closer to achieving the Government's and the community's goals.
The increase in the number of homeless on the streets of Cabramatta and Fairfield greatly concerns me, and I have had a number of discussions with council, the police and local welfare providers about the best way to combat this tragic problem. I am pleased to be able to advise of a number of initiatives to assist the homeless men that have been fully funded in this budget. A new Street Team to help people affected by drug and alcohol abuse will hit the ground in July as part of a package of initiatives to assist the people of Cabramatta. Included in the package is additional emergency accommodation for homeless people, new counselling services to support families and a mobile child care unit.
The new DOCS Cabramatta Street Team will operate seven days a week and provide out-of-hours on-call coverage. It will work with people who may be affected by drug or alcohol abuse and who may be homeless or suffer from mental illness. The Street Team will be located at the Cabramatta police station. The team will seek to reconnect people with their families where appropriate, or link them to support services. Furthermore, an extra 50 beds—40 short-term and 10 long-term crisis accommodation beds—will be funded by this budget through the Department of Housing. This is a positive step towards helping people break the cycle of poverty, drug and alcohol dependence, and homelessness.
The residents of my electorate are highly dependent on their motor vehicles, and as a result they place a high priority on a good road network. This budget allocates $23.4 million for road and transport infrastructure and services in the Cabramatta electorate. Those allocations include more than $2.7 million for widening works on Cowpasture Road, $200,000 for a right-turn bay on Cabramatta Road at Townview Road, and $34,760 for a red bus priority lane to improve transport efficiency. However, the need to increase the public transport options for the people of south-western Sydney remains a priority. It is a priority that is fully understood by one of our local members, the Minister for Transport, and Minister for Roads, Carl Scully, and the budget includes more than $16 million for construction works on the Liverpool to Parramatta transitway. This project will provide reliable high-frequency bus services for up to 18,000 passengers daily, connecting major employment, housing and educational centres in western Sydney. This budget is an effective combination of social conscience and fiscal responsibility, and I am pleased to have had this opportunity to commend the bills to the House.
(Albury) [12.18 p.m.]: Considering that this Government has had access to a greater level of funds than any other government in the history of New South Wales, this budget leaves a lot to be desired, particularly as far as the people of my electorate are concerned. It is interesting that the level of income for the Government will continue to increase as property values continue to rise and as receipts from the goods and services tax are realised and begin to flow to the States. The people of New South Wales are now paying higher taxes than the people of any other State in the Commonwealth.
In this State, in the year 1999-2000, the taxation level was $2,359.51 per annum, while in Queensland it was only $1,419.42. While State taxes are up, and getting higher, every other indicator for this State continues to get worse. Crime has increased, hospital waiting lists are at an all-time high, and they continue to rise. This is a major problem for the people of the Albury electorate, particularly as we have a relatively new hospital, with excellent facilities. The people of my electorate are still desperate for operations that they need to relieve their pain, and they just cannot get those operations.
Business in this State continues to labour under high State taxes. Although the Treasurer has announced a reduction in payroll tax from 6.2 per cent to 6 per cent, that rate is still far too high and will remain a tremendous burden on business. In addition, high levels of workers compensation and other imposts on business continue to make it difficult for business to prosper in this State. We should not forget that in 1995 the Treasurer promised to cut payroll tax to 4 per cent by 2000. In 2001 the Treasurer says that it will be reduced merely to 6 per cent. With steady salary increases, the proposed cut of 0.2 per cent will make very little, if any, difference to payroll receipts. Constantly rising land values will see the rate of land tax increase, receipts from gambling income will also rise and the goods and services tax [GST] will provide an ever-growing source of income for this State. Under these circumstances, the Treasurer could surely have been a little more generous in returning to the people of New South Wales a greater measure of this State's record income.
Gambling addiction continues to be one of this State's greatest social evils. It swallows huge slices of income from many families who can ill afford to lose it. The Government has received gambling receipts totalling $1.5 billion but has found only $12.5 million to counter this evil addiction and to help its victims. It could surely find at least twice that amount for those poor, weak individuals for whom the necessity to gamble is not a pleasure but a destructive force that decimates families and ruins people's lives. I applaud the early removal of the debit tax from bank transactions. Taken together with the Commonwealth's removal of the financial institutions duty in July, this will amount to a useful saving for most people in New South Wales. I am especially pleased this tax will be abolished because it is bad in principle to tax people's savings and bank transactions. With record taxation receipts of $31,329 million this year, New South Wales is the country's highest-taxing State—and there will be certain increases in receipts as the GST rolls in. Where is the vision for New South Wales in this budget?
Business in my electorate is burdened with high payroll tax and, and with the promise of only a 0.2 per cent reduction, there is no real relief in sight. Roads in my area are crying out for attention. Putting aside the fiasco of the deviation of the Federal Hume Highway at Albury, work is desperately needed on roads such as the Riverina Highway east of Albury, which is known as the road to the Hume weir. The poor state of this road was an issue as long ago as 1978—even earlier. At that time the then president of the Hume Shire said that the Department of Main Roads had planned to upgrade the road as early as 1956. It is now 2001 and that road—it is not a long section of roadway—is still awaiting upgrading. It is obviously a long-running issue.
In June 1981 the then Labor Government promised to provide a mere $300,000 to upgrade a short section of the road from Albury to the airport. In 1984 a further $3.5 million was promised to complete the road to the Hume weir, but nothing happened. In September 1987 work was expected to commence "soon". In the meantime, a number of fatal accidents occurred on that dangerous stretch of road, which claimed six lives in less than a year. Many of the victims were young people, particularly apprentices at the army installations who travelled on the road from the army camp to Albury. Several accidents occurred on the road's dangerous curves and lives were lost. In 1991 a 4.2 kilometre section of the road was upgraded at a cost of $1.6 million. However, we are still waiting for this Government to complete work on the highway east of Albury.
The Government is the beneficiary of a record income, but there are record waiting lists for elective surgery in our public hospitals. When Labor was first elected it promised to halve waiting lists in its first 12 months in government and found $64 million to fund that program. However, the program did not achieve its aims. My constituents are waiting for pain-relieving operations that they cannot have. We have an almost brand new hospital, highly skilled doctors and dedicated staff in all areas of the hospital, but people cannot access the theatres or the beds because this Government, which has received a record income, will not provide the money necessary to fund the required level of health care activity. People are waiting and waiting. Surgeons have even withdrawn their services from the Albury Base Hospital in protest at the lack of funding and lack of opportunities for them to perform necessary operations.
There has been talk for some time of introducing greater co-operation in health provision across the border, and I believe the relevant New South Wales and Victorian Ministers are shortly to make an announcement to this effect. It is rumoured that there will be cross-border health co-operation but that the administration of the Wodonga District Hospital and the Albury Base Hospital will be carried out in Wodonga, with the latter subject to decisions made by those at Wodonga District Hospital. I, for one, would be reluctant for that to occur—although I know that many people would be pleased if the administration of health care in the Albury area is taken out of the hands of the Greater Murray Area Health Service, which has caused problems in our region through its inept management of health issues.
Cross-border co-operation has some precedents as some time ago the New South Wales Government contracted out to the Victorian Government arrangements for the birth of children in my area. Mercy Hospital lost the right to provide obstetric services in Albury and all children born in the Albury-Wodonga area are now born at Wodonga District Hospital. As a result, mothers in our area must travel to Wodonga to give birth, although children born in Wodonga to Albury residents receive New South Wales birth certificates. It is a very strange arrangement, and I wonder whether the cross-border health arrangements will be equally strange. I believe a new health district should be established on the border that is removed altogether from the Greater Murray Area Health Service. The new authority could provide health care on both sides of the border and be funded jointly by New South Wales and Victoria in proportion to the number of people served. It should be a stand-alone, cross-border health service.
For some years there have been moves to replace the John Foord Bridge over the Murray River at Corowa. When it was built in the horse and buggy days it was quite a good bridge that served a useful purpose. Transport has changed over the years, and that bridge is long overdue for replacement. Calls for a new bridge became desperate as far back as 1996. I am now pleased to note that the budget papers show that this year Main Road 86, Corowa, a new bridge and approaches over the Murray River—a project that will cost a total of $15 million—will receive $6,350,000 in funding. Thanks to the intervention of the Commonwealth Government, this long-awaited project will now proceed. I look forward to the day when that bridge becomes a reality in my electorate. I thank the Commonwealth Government for what it has done in relation to that project.
For some years now I have been doing all that I can to secure a multipurpose hall for James Fallon High School. I had hoped that there might be money in this budget for that excellent school, which is handicapped to some extent compared with other high schools in that area because its multipurpose hall is totally inadequate. Most of the other high schools have adequate assembly or multipurpose halls, which serve those schools well, but James Fallon High School is struggling because of its inadequate hall. Unfortunately, no money has been made available in the budget for that project. I had hoped that the Minister for Education and Training, having served as a teacher at that school, might have been a little more generous in relation to it. I take this opportunity to ask the Minister to give consideration to making such funding available next year. The staff, parents and students at James Fallon High School and I would be pleased if the Minister saw his way clear to support the establishment of such a multipurpose hall.
Albury ambulance station, which is as old as I am, was built in 1934. It is still going and so am I. I do not need replacing at this stage, but it does. Albury ambulance station is located in the middle of the main street of Albury—a totally unsuitable location. Ideally, a new a ambulance station should be built at the new base hospital site. To me, that is a logical and sensible proposition which would not cost a lot of money. I had hoped that money would be allocated in this year's budget for a new ambulance station in Albury, but when I searched through the budget papers I discovered that no money had been allocated. I hope that commonsense prevails and that one day we will see a new ambulance station alongside the new base hospital.
There are a number of dangerous intersections and traffic black spots in the city of Albury, just as there are in every other city. However, a number of black spots in Albury need urgent attention. The intersection at Kaitlers Road and Hume Highway currently needs attention because of the number of deaths and serious accidents that have occurred at that site over the years. We require a major solution to traffic problems at that intersection. However, in this year's budget there is a reduction from $19 million to $13 million in funding for black spot remediation works. We might have to wait a little longer for relief for the problems at that intersection.
What did Albury electorate receive in the 2001-02 budget? It received $6,350,000 for the Corowa bridge, $1 million for planning for the Hume Highway deviation, and $460,000 to refurbish some rooms at Albury TAFE. Albury constituents also received an assurance that a multipurpose facility would be constructed at Henty hospital in the near future. Taking into account the fact that the Government received a record income this financial year, Albury electorate has done rather badly.
Debate adjourned on motion by Mr Lynch.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Bill: Suspension of Standing and Sessional Orders
Motion by Mr Aquilina agreed to:
That standing and sessional orders be suspended to permit the resumption of the second reading debate on the Freight Rail Corporation (Sale) Bill forthwith.
FREIGHT RAIL CORPORATION (SALE) BILL
Debate resumed from 21 June.
(Ku-ring-gai—Deputy Leader of the Opposition) [12.35 p.m.]: Before I debate the merits of this bill I point out that it is not available in printed form. When I checked with the Procedure Office 20 minutes I ago I was told that the original bill had been withdrawn by Parliamentary Counsel because of an error and that second copies of the bill had not arrived. Notwithstanding that, and because I am the shadow Minister for Information Technology and have read the bill on line, I will not delay the House. It is just an indication that the Government rushes legislation through this Chamber without paying any regard to the usual forms of the House. It is simply incredible that a bill is being debated in this House without a hard copy being made available to honourable members.
The Opposition will not oppose this bill either in this Chamber or in the Legislative Council. The bill is remarkable, in that normally when legislation comes before the Parliament, particularly for the sale or disposal of an asset, it sets out quite clearly how the asset will be disposed of. This bill provides for the sale of a State asset, in this case FreightCorp, by any one of three methods. Under the first method, the business undertakings or assets of FreightCorp will be sold to the purchaser. Under the second method, FreightCorp will be converted from a State-owned corporation to a company and incorporated under the Corporations Law, and the shares of that company will be sold to the purchaser.
Under the third method, the business undertakings or assets of FreightCorp will be transferred to a new company, and the shares of that company will be sold to the purchaser. The Government has indicated that it has included three methods of sale in the bill to ensure that it will be able to use the sale method that achieves the best outcome for New South Wales taxpayers. The Opposition certainly hopes that that is the case. The National Rail Corporation was established in 1993. The Federal Government's decision in 1997 to announce the sale of the National Rail Corporation virtually forced this decision upon the State Government. As I said earlier, it is a decision that the Opposition supports.
I state at the outset that this is further evidence of the Government's lack of preparedness to be upfront with people. During the 1999 State election campaign the Minister for Transport campaigned against the then State transport spokesman by stating that, under a future Liberal government, rail assets would be privatised and "flogged off", to use the words of the Minister for Transport. It is clear that, at that time, the Treasurer and the Minister for Transport knew that it was inevitable that the Freight Rail Corporation would be privatised. Once again it is clear that the Government will not take residents and taxpayers into its confidence. More importantly, it is clear that the Government is largely campaigning against the ratepayers of this State.
The Government claimed that it was against privatisation. Clearly, the privatisation of FreightCorp, which had long been discussed prior to the 1999 State election by a high-powered working committee of officers, was always going to go through. During the State election campaign the Minister for Transport also claimed that jobs would be threatened by the election of a State Liberal government, particularly in the area of rail. Jobs are being threatened by the sale of FreightCorp. I accept what the Minister said in his second reading speech, that is, that an agreement has been worked out with the unions to ensure certainty of employment for at least three years after the sale.
I refer honourable members to the rural and regional impact statement that was tabled in relation to the sale, which clearly demonstrates that, under a Labor Government, jobs in FreightCorp were slashed from 4,000 to 2,500 up until June 1999, and that those figures have now levelled out at around 2,000. My simple point is that when the Minister for Transport and others seek to lecture members on this side of the House about cuts to public sector work forces, the Minister's record in that regard, not just with FreightCorp but across all rail agencies, makes him more than answerable to the same claim and responsible for failures in the delivery of services.
In September 2000 the Government announced its intention to sell the Freight Rail Corporation, which was driven largely by the Federal Government's decision about the National Rail Corporation and by increasing competition in private freight rail operations not just in New South Wales and along the eastern seaboard but across Australia. The Opposition has supported private rail freight operators. We believe it has provided a better outcome for rail freight users. The sale of FreightCorp is a logical extension of this area of government monopoly activity being opened to the winds of competition—something I am sure the honourable member for Liverpool will support.
A Legislative Council inquiry looked into the sale of FreightCorp. The inquiry, which was chaired by the Hon. Jenny Gardiner, did an enormous amount of work for which we should all be grateful. The fact that there exists a rural and regional impact statement is testament to that committee's work and also to the fact that the Government needs the support of the Opposition, and some Independents and minor parties in the upper House, to get this proposed legislation through. During his second reading speech, the Parliamentary Secretary was at pains to refer to each recommendation of the inquiry. Whilst we can quibble with some of those recommendations, and no doubt members in the other House will do so when given the opportunity, the Government has sought to address them.
The only substantive issue I should like to address is the community service obligation [CSO] payment to FreightCorp of $73 million. This was an attempt to ensure that uneconomic freight from rural and regional areas has access to rail transport. Without that payment that freight would find its way on to roads and that, clearly, would have a negative impact on local communities across the State. I am concerned—and a bit confused, I must admit—that I have not received a briefing note specifically in relation to CSOs. The second reading speech is as clear as much of the accounting that underpins the workers compensation legislation. References to "above-rail" and "below-rail" may be a cute way to present the concept, but it does not reveal much to those who are interested in it.
The Opposition believes the $73 million should be opened up to all operators. I accept that part of the money will now find its way to the Rail Infrastructure Corporation, but it is clear that part of the money will remain tied up with the Freight Rail Corporation. We have always believed that the money should go with the freight. In other words, if freight from regional or rural New South Wales is uneconomic to put on rail, it ought to be deemed to have access to a CSO payment, which should be competed for by the variety of private rail freight operators in New South Wales. I am happy to indicate that the Opposition will not oppose the proposed legislation in either House.
(Riverstone—Minister for Education and Training) [12.43 p.m.], in reply: I acknowledge with gratitude the Opposition's support for this important bill. I should like once again to state the three primary objectives of the proposed legislation. The first objective is to achieve economic benefits for New South Wales, including improvements to rail freight and to enhance employment opportunities and benefits for country and regional areas. The second objective is to maximise the combined value to New South Wales of FreightCorp and the State's interest in national rail. The third objective is to minimise the commercial risks to the Government. The Treasurer gave a number of guarantees in relation to achieving those objectives: to maintain New South Wales rail lines and passenger services in public ownership, to provide support for rail freight operations in rural and regional areas through a combination of above-rail and below-rail community service payments and to guarantee jobs for all FreightCorp employees.
A rural and regional impact statement on the proposed legislation contained considerable detail about community service payments, which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition commented on during this debate. It should be noted that community service payments fall into two categories: first, below-rail payments to Rail Infrastructure Corporation to maintain the rail infrastructure and, second, above-rail payments to FreightCorp or other rail operators to carry goods or to operate trains. I advise the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the House that all sale methods will result in substantially the same outcome, that is, FreightCorp will be acquired by a purchaser of the National Rail Corporation. It was only after March 1999 that the Commonwealth Government indicated that public sector businesses, including FreightCorp, would be excluded from bidding for the National Rail Corporation.
The two-page briefing note on community services obligation payments was delivered to the shadow Minister's office earlier this morning and provides additional information on CSOs than that provided in the rural and regional impact statement. Again I point out that the bill contains some precise objectives and, as outlined, some specific guarantees. In the eyes of the Government, and I trust also in the eyes of the Opposition and the community of New South Wales, the proposed legislation will deliver the commitments it undertakes to deliver. I commend the bill to the House.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a second time and passed through remaining stages.
APPROPRIATION (PARLIAMENT) BILL
APPROPRIATION (SPECIAL OFFICES) BILL
INSURANCE PROTECTION TAX BILL
STATE REVENUE LEGISLATION FURTHER AMENDMENT BILL
Debate resumed from an earlier hour.
(Liverpool) [12.49 p.m.]: I support the Appropriation Bill, and cognate bills. This year's budget is good news for the Liverpool electorate. The 2001-02 budget papers contain an allocation of approximately $72 million for capital works and services to Liverpool. This continues a trend since the Carr Government was first elected in 1995 of substantial allocation of capital expenditure and expenditure for services in the Liverpool area. Inevitably part of that flows from the fact that my electorate is undergoing quite dramatic growth, which ultimately requires the development of further facilities and services. Just as importantly and just as notably, it is also about Liverpool getting its fair share of resources. Historically, much of western Sydney, including Liverpool, has not received its fair share as communities have developed and, members on this side of the House are interested in redressing what has been an historic imbalance in the allocation of resources to population.
The first aspect of the budget I would like to touch on is roads and transport. The first allocation of money I refer to is extraordinarily welcome, not just to me but I am sure to many in my electorate, and that is the allocation of $2.5 million to commence the long overdue widening and development of Hoxton Park Road, specifically between Hill Road and Banks Road. Also money has been allocated to commence the planning of the widening of Hoxton Park Road between Banks Road and Cowpasture Road. That money is a small part of the total sum that eventually will be required, but it is the first allocation and it comes after substantial representations by me, by the local council and by many residents. New release areas in Liverpool have grown dramatically. Many residents find the only way to get where they want to go is along Hoxton Park Road, and clearly that road is inadequate for the volume of traffic it currently carries. The need for its widening is undeniable.
A sum of $3.8 million has been allocated for the widening of Cowpasture Road south of Elizabeth Drive. Like Hoxton Park Road, Cowpasture Road is being overwhelmed by traffic stemming from the substantial urban residential development in south-western Sydney over a number of years. In particular, the widening of Cowpasture Road will provide great relief for the suburb of Cecil Hills, which has developed rapidly. A large number of people have moved to the suburb in a comparatively short space of time. Congestion is so serious that each morning it takes the residents of Cecil Hills 25 minutes to get from the suburb onto Cowpasture Road. That is clearly an intolerable situation, and widening Cowpasture Road will go a long way towards solving that problem.
In this budget $2.4 million is allocated for the Liverpool to Parramatta transitway in the Liverpool electorate. The overall project has been allocated a total of $54 million in this year's budget. It is a particularly important innovative transport development for south-western Sydney and for Liverpool in particular. The concept of a transitway is essentially to provide a train on tyres. Buses will be running on the transitway every five minutes in peak periods and every 10 minutes outside those periods. The transitway will connect housing estates with employment and education opportunities. It will provide a dramatic time reduction for people who want to travel from Liverpool to Parramatta and vice versa.. I am delighted that money continues to be allocated for the project. It is proposed that the transitway will be operational by 2003. It will be a great benefit to the residents of Liverpool and western Sydney
Other notable allocations of money are $250,000 for Governor Macquarie Drive; $315,000 for Elizabeth Drive, where it intersects with Reservoir Road, Meadow Road and Maxwell Avenue; and some $70,000 for the intersection of Bigge Street and the Hume Highway. One other project referred to in the budget is the Western Sydney Orbital. I make two comments about that. That it is being funded by tolls is an absolute disgrace. I have made that comment here before and I guess I will continue to make it. It is unacceptable that every time a new major road is constructed in western Sydney, we have to pay a toll. Western Sydney is a victim of regional and rural Australia, because the people who make decisions about these matters thought that people living in rural and regional Australia might be appalled about the provision of a totally public-funded road for western Sydney.
The second point I would make about the Western Sydney Orbital is that there is a major issue about its route. The preferred alignment referred to in the environmental impact statement in relation to Cecil Hills is thoroughly unacceptable to the residents of Cecil Hills. At a moral level, it is just appalling that any road agency, whether it is the Roads and Traffic Authority or anyone else, can put a line on a map indicating where a road will be built, let people buy their houses based on the information on that map and then change the line on the map. It is outrageous.
Education receives substantial benefits from this budget. Public education is critical to a functioning and effective democracy. I am delighted that significant sums of money are being spent on education in Liverpool, including a $181,000 allocation to Cecil Hills Public School for the first stage of a $6.7 million project to develop a totally new public school in the middle of a new release area. Prestons is having a second school constructed. The school will be just outside my electorate but it will serve many families that reside in my electorate. The total cost of the project will be $6.9 million, of which $250,000 is being provided in this budget.
The TAFE budget has also been very generous to Liverpool this year. A sum of $3.7 million is going to Miller TAFE for an indoor building construction and training area that will allow full-scale wall and roofing courses to be pursued. It will also have an occupational health and safety centre for rigging, scaffolding, demolition supervision, explosives and asbestos removal training. Some half a million dollars will be spent on Liverpool TAFE for the development of a flexible learning centre, and $5.3 million will be spent at Liverpool TAFE to develop the south-west Sydney education and training centre. They are all very welcome additions to the infrastructure of education in south-west Sydney and in Liverpool in particular. A number of general programs statewide were announced in the budget, such as the email network. Obviously that will also have benefits for the residents of Liverpool.
Having said that, no matter how good the budget is there are always some matters one would like to have sorted out that are not contained in it or which might be covered in other programs. I take this opportunity to advise that there is a problem with Liverpool Girls High School. On 23 May I had the opportunity to inspect the school. The school sent me a letter, part of which reads as follows:
I would like to draw your attention to a matter that I feel needs urgent attention but for which unfortunately funds have not been provided for at this time. At the back of the school buildings but well within the grounds is an "unmade" roadway that teachers need to park their cars along since car parking areas are limited given the size of the staff and time-limited parking in neighbouring streets.
In recent years Liverpool Girls High School has had to outlay considerable amounts of money in filling areas of subsidence along the roadway.
The problem is associated with the line of sewer pipes, which were replaced about four years ago. Recent advice from plumbers on site suggests cracks along the pipes, which cause subsidence every time it rains. We have been advised that unmade car parks are not part of the maintenance contract and since laying of pipes was not the work of the current maintenance contractor (DPWS Building Group) it has no responsibility for rectifying the situation.
Subsidence causes problems for accessibility to car parking and it represents a serious OHS problem since students and staff walk along the roadway to access the school oval and demountable classrooms. There is also concern for the effect that the subsidence may be causing to the foundations of the adjacent building (less than 2 metres from the pipes) where buckling of doorway frames is already evident.
Obviously, as a permanent solution, the pipes need to be dug up and replaced. The bandaid treatment of continually filling the potholes and areas of subsidence with road base is only masking the problem and is an ineffective use of funds.
Allocating money to this project takes it away from valuable education programs.
The school is the victim of not only subsidence but also corporatisation and contractualisation. The provider of maintenance at the school is the Department of Public Works and Services building group, which has refused to solve the problem. The group says two things: first, the problems are with work done at a time when it was not the maintenance contractor and, therefore, it is not responsible for the problems; and, second, it says that because the subsidence is occurring on an unmade road that is being used as a car park, the work is not included in its contract. Perhaps raising the issue in this forum will reduce the enthusiasm of the department for economic rationalist rhetoric and it will be tempered with a bit of commonsense. The parents and citizens association of Marsden Road Public School wrote to me on 2 June about problems at that school. Several weeks ago I had the opportunity to inspect the school and see those problems referred to in the letter from Karen Wilson, the president of the association. The letter stated:
I am writing on behalf of the P&C committee of Marsden Road Public School to seek your support and ideas to help improve the schools sick bay. At present we are using an old bag room that is not sufficient and not satisfactory to be classified as a sick bay for the many children who fall ill or have an accident at school. The location of the area is inappropriate as it is directly opposite an open door way with only a portable screen to keep the elements away from the area.
There has been a dramatic increase of classes at Marsden Road and with this growth spurt it places a great strain on the available facilities within the grounds, including the lack of a proper sick bay. The current sick bay is located in a small and limited area in which would be improper to treat sick or injured children. Office staff that are monitoring children in the sick bay do not have a direct observation and are situated away from the room. There needs to be improvement so that the sick bay can have the security of an office staff member being there are all the time.
The children's needs are what come into account and a sick child needs to feel safe and comfortable in a sick bay area. The P&C would appreciate any help or support from you in this matter.
As I understand the position, after representations by me that matter is now under review. I hope that the department will be able to resolve the problem. The provision of funding for public education is very important to my electorate. There has been a very substantial allocation of money in this budget, and I welcome that. Recently, I had the opportunity to discuss these issues with the Public Education Lobby, which has held a number of meetings at Liverpool. One issue I discussed was its concerns and my concerns about ongoing funding for education and the green paper on the private funding of public facilities. Perhaps this is not the place to embark on a long discussion about that, but I note my concerns about the green paper.
There seems to be an assumption that the privatisation of public education ought to be pursued, at least in support services, and that somehow anything privatised is necessarily better than public in relation to the provision of services. I find that to be based on ideology rather than analysis. There are a large number of very bad examples of how the public-private partnership has failed, and we should be very reluctant to go down the path of becoming too involved in it. Raising money for that sort of work is far cheaper if the Government raises it than if the private sector raises it. I make those points now as part of the contribution to an ongoing debate about the funding of public education.
Public housing in my area also received substantial funding in the budget. Some 104 new homes will be built in Liverpool at a cost of $8.5 million. Liverpool is suffering from a housing crisis, as is the rest of Sydney. Perhaps the housing crisis in the inner city and the eastern suburbs receives more media coverage, but the housing crisis in western Sydney is more acute. Liverpool has a higher level of homelessness than it has had at any time since the Great Depression. The lowest rent for a unit in Liverpool is about $155 per week, which is about $50 more than it was four or five years ago. It is now getting to the stage that private housing is almost unaffordable for a number of people if they are not employed.
The only solution is a substantial allocation of funds to construct public housing. There is a fair amount of economic evidence that the private sector is not able to provide low-cost housing. Providing extra subsidies to people who want to rent and who do not have a great deal of income does not solve the problem; it serves only to raise the level of private rental. Although the money allocated to Liverpool in this budget will not solve that problem, it is, nonetheless, a substantial contribution to try to solve the problem.
Although the budget is very positive for Liverpool, no document is ever perfect. One aspect of the budget that causes me concern is Junee Prison. Much to my regret, Junee Prison is run by Australian Correctional Management [ACM]. I have a number of concerns about ACM's continuing management of Junee. ACM is notorious for its parent company, Wackenhut. Any company with the antecedents of Wackenhut and the performance of ACM is unfit to run institutions in this State. The behaviour of ACM in running detention centres is now notorious. It is so bad that even the Federal Minister is calling, or considering calling, an inquiry. A number of issues with ACM and Wackenhut are highlighted in an article by David Lapido entitled "The Rise of America's Prison-Industrial Complex", New Left Review No. 7, Second Series, January-February 2001.
A number of issues about ACM and private prisons generally are also set out in the book by Paul Moyle entitled Profiting from Punishment: Private Prisons in Australia: Reform or Regression
. Amongst other things Paul Moyle points to research that indicates that privately managed prisons are actually more expensive to run than publicly run prisons. The commencement of Junee as a private prison occurred under the previous Coalition Government. It is worth noting that the process commenced with a report commissioned in 1989 by Kleinwort Benson, a firm of merchant bankers. The report that commenced the process was concerned purely with financial matters, and not the whole range of other equally important issues. ACM was awarded the contract to manage the prison in 1993. After a renewal of its contract the management contract was to expire in 2001. It was due for renewal from 1 April 2001.
Much to my regret and disappointment, ACM was awarded the contract that commenced on 1 April 2001 for a five-year period with an option to extend the contract for a further three-year period. There are very grave issues about privatising government institutions. If anything, these issues are even greater when correctional institutions are concerned. The continuation of the contract this year flies in the face of the then Opposition's position in 1990 and of the current Government's position subsequent do that. A simplistic analysis would say: What is wrong with privatising a prison? There are those of us who have difficulty privatising anything. But privatising a prison is a lot more serious than privatising some other institutions one might want to privatise. When those objections are raised some people would say, "There is nothing wrong with privatising a prison because you are not actually privatising punishment. All you are doing is privatising its administration."
The concept of privatising punishment strikes at the very core of political structures within the State in which we live. On that point, however, any administration of punishment inevitably involves the allocation of further punishment. Prisoners can be subject to disciplinary proceedings within private prisons that may materially affect the length of time they are in prison and there are concerns about classifications, which are often carried out by the administration of private prisons, all of which go directly towards the allocation of punishment. Attempting to draw an almost metaphysical distinction between administration and determination of punishment, and saying that part can be privatised and the other cannot, is an argument that does not hold up terribly well.
There are also some real issues about conflict of interest. The point about running a private prison, as is the running of any private organisation, is to make a profit. Clearly, that is the entire rationale on the part of the owners of the prison. It must be in the interests of the owners of prisons to have more troublesome prisoners, prisoners who are more difficult to manage, moved away from their prisons. Prisoners who are easier to manage cost them less time and less resources. Paul Moyle quotes examples from other private prisons, although not Junee, about prisoners being transferred and particular types of prisoners not being accepted into private prisons because of financial pressures and incentives on the part of the managers. It is of some concern and regret to me that Junee Prison continues to be managed by a private firm rather than by the State.
Some $500,000 has been allocated in the budget for facilities for mental health treatment in Liverpool. One of the hidden issues in Liverpool is the number of people who require treatment for mental disabilities. The inability to provide such treatment is a result of the inadequacy of facilities, and that has been a problem for some time. I hope that the $500,000 will make a significant contribution to the improvement of those facilities and, therefore, the improvement of the underlying problems. I commend the legislation to the House.
Debate adjourned on motion by Mr R. H. L. Smith.
[Mr Acting-Speaker (Mr Mills) left the chair at 1.09 p.m. The House resumed at 2.15 p.m.
PARLIAMENT HOUSE SECURITY
Honourable members will recall that on Wednesday 20 June 2001 my attention was drawn to the presence of a stranger in the Chamber. Subsequently at that sitting the honourable member for Hornsby raised the issue as a matter of privilege with a request that a notice of motion he had prepared be debated at a later hour of the day. I reserved my ruling on the matter as to whether a prima facie case had been established, with an undertaking to report back to the House.
On Friday 22 June 2001 Mr David Brodrick attended Parliament House and reported to the security manager that he was the person who had entered the Chamber on 20 June. He subsequently submitted a letter of apology regretting his foolish action in carrying out a dare with a friend. I accepted his apology. While this is a serious matter and technically a contempt of the House, I am of the view that no untoward motive was intended as a discourtesy to the House on the part of Mr Brodrick. Also, the business of the House was not impeded. Therefore, I rule that a prima facie case is not established in this matter.
However, members can be assured that with the security device at the entrance to Parliament House the likelihood of a person entering the building with a weapon or other dangerous implement is limited. While I do not have a final report with recommendations possibly to overcome future similar breaches, I can assure the House that every practical step is being taken to ensure that such a situation does not recur.
ASSENT TO BILLS
Assent to the following bills reported:
Gas Supply Amendment (Retail Competition) Bill
Local Government Amendment (Graffiti Removal) Bill
Crimes Amendment (Computer Offences) Bill
Industrial Relations Amendment (Leave for Victims of Crime) Bill
State Revenue Legislation Amendment Bill
Companion Animals Amendment Bill
Firearms Amendment (Trafficking) Bill
First Home Owner Grant Amendment Bill
VARIATIONS OF PAYMENTS ESTIMATES 2000-01
tabled variations of the payments, estimates and appropriations for 2000-01 in relation to the Department of Community Services and the Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care, in terms of section 26 of the Public Finance and Audit Act 1983.
tabled variations of the receipts and payments estimates and appropriations for 2000-01, arising from the provision by the Commonwealth of specific purpose payments in excess of the amounts included in the State's receipts and payments estimates, in terms of section 26 of the Public Finance and Audit Act 1983.
North Head Quarantine Station
Petition praying that the head lease proposal for North Head Quarantine Station be opposed, received from Mr Barr
Willoughby Paddocks Rezoning
Petition praying that the Legislative Assembly will advocate for the retention of all vacant land in the area historically known as the Willoughby Paddocks and its development as public parkland for the enjoyment of the community, received from Mr Collins
McDonald's Moore Park Restaurant
Petition praying for opposition to the construction of a McDonald's restaurant on Moore Park, received from Ms Moore
Petition praying that the Carr Government establishes a public inquiry into State taxes, with the objective of reducing the tax burden and creating a sustainable environment for employment and investment in New South Wales, received from Mr Debnam
Petition praying that the House notes the concern of Malabar residents at the closure of Malabar Police Station and praying that the station be reopened and staffed by locally based and led police, received from Mr Tink
Randwick Police Station Downgrading
Petition praying that the House notes the concern of Randwick residents at the major downgrading and possible closure of Randwick Police Station and praying that the station be staffed 24 hours a day by locally based and led police, received from Mr Tink
Cronulla Police Station Upgrading
Petition praying that the House restores to Cronulla a fully functioning police patrol and upgrades the police station, received from Mr Kerr
Manly Police All-terrain Vehicles Trial
Petition praying that the all-terrain vehicles currently being trialled by Manly police be permanently retained, received from Mr Barr
Redfern, Darlington and Chippendale Policing
Petition praying for increased police presence in the Redfern, Darlington and Chippendale areas, received from Ms Moore
Inner East Sydney Policing
Petition praying that the House prevents the closure of Woolloomooloo, Paddington, Redfern and four other inner eastern suburbs police stations and praying for adequate police resources, including uniformed foot patrols, in the inner east area, received from Ms Moore
Surry Hills Policing
Petition praying for increased police presence in the Surry Hills area, received from Ms Moore
Inner East Sydney Police Resources
Petition praying that there be an immediate increase in police resources in the inner east, that there be an increase in the uniformed police foot patrols to deter crime and that an effective police recruitment drive be developed to properly resource community policing, received from Ms Moore
Eastern Suburbs Police and Community Youth Club Closure
Petition praying that the House stops the Board of the Police and Community Youth Club New South Wales Ltd from closing and selling the Eastern Suburbs Police and Community Youth Club, received from Ms Moore
Genetically Engineered Food
Petition praying that the House suspends the commercial release and trials of genetically engineered crops, supports the implementation of mandatory labelling of food derived from genetic engineering and funds independent scientific research to investigate the potential risks to health and the environment, received from Ms Moore
Mona Vale Hospital
Petition praying that services at Mona Vale Hospital be retained, received from Mr Brogden
Chatswood High School
Petition asking the House to support the retention and refurbishment of Chatswood High School, received from Mr Collins
Non-government Schools Funding
Petition praying that the Government reimburse the $5 million in funding that has been withdrawn from non-government schools and reverse its decision to withdraw a further $13.5 million in funding in 2001, received from Mr Richardson
Vaucluse Electorate School Closures
Petition requesting funding for public schools and opposing the merging of local schools, received from Mr Debnam
Frederickton Public School
Petition praying that priority be given to the construction of buildings at Frederickton Public School, received from Mr Stoner
Queanbeyan Preschool Services
Petition praying that funds be made available to construct a new and permanent preschool in Queanbeyan, received from Mr Webb
Thirroul Railway Station
Petition calling on the Minister for Transport, and Minister for Roads to fund easy access facilities at Thirroul railway station, received from Mr Campbell
Tumut Regional Roads Upgrade
Petition praying that regional roads in the Tumut area be upgraded and that a regional roads summit be conducted, received from Ms Hodgkinson
Yarrahapinni-Stuarts Point Intersection
Petition praying that measures be taken to improve the intersection of Yarrahapinni-Stuarts Point and the Eungai Rail turn-off on the Pacific Highway, received from Mr Stoner
Bus Passenger Safety
Petition requesting that the practice of allowing bus passengers to stand while in transit be discontinued, received from Mr J. H. Turner
Cardiff Railway Station Disabled Access
Petition expressing concern at the difficulties experienced by disabled and elderly patrons in accessing Cardiff railway station platform, and praying that Cardiff railway station be included on the Easy Access program and a lift or ramp installed, received from Mr Hunter
Frenchs Forest Traffic Arrangements
Petition requesting that a right turn signal be provided for north-bound traffic on Forest Way, Frenchs Forest, to enable vehicles to turn right safely into Adams Street, received from Mr Humpherson
M5 East Tunnel Ventilation System
Petition praying that the Government review the design of the ventilation system for the M5 East tunnel and immediately install filtration equipment to treat particulate matter and other pollutants, received from Ms Moore
Queenscliff Geographical Names Board Classification
Petition praying that the House reinstate Queenscliff as a suburb with the Geographical Names Board, received from Mr Barr
Hawkesbury-Nepean Catchment Management Trust
Petitions praying that the House reinstate the Hawkesbury-Nepean Catchment Management Trust as soon as possible, received from Dr Kernohan
, Mr Merton
, Mr O'Doherty, Mr Rozzoli
and Ms Seaton
John Fisher Park
Petition praying that the Government supports the rectification of grass surfaces at John Fisher Park, Curl Curl, and opposes any proposal to hard surface the Crown land portion of the park and Abbott Road land, received from Mr Barr
Petition praying that the practice of supplying stray animals to universities and research institutions for experimentation be opposed, received from Ms Moore
Manly Lagoon Remediation
Petition praying that funds be made available to assist in the remediation of Manly Lagoon, received from Mr Barr
Somersby Plateau Environmental Protection
Petition praying that the House support the protection of the environment on the Somersby Plateau, that no sandmining be permitted on the Somersby Plateau without the consent of Gosford City Council and that the proposed sandmine, to be located near the intersection of Peats Ridge Road and the F3, not be permitted to proceed, received from Mr Hartcher
Petitions praying for legislation to allow for more flexible zoning in relation to the operation of brothels, received from Mr Glachan
and Mr Torbay
Blue Mountains National Park Fire Management
Petition praying that the boundary of the Blue Mountains National Park in the vicinity of Bowen Mountain remains as it is, in accordance with recommendations of the local Rural Fire Service—the Grose Vale Brigade—and that the management of the fire buffer zone remains within the jurisdiction of the Rural Fire Service, received from Mr Rozzoli
White City Site Rezoning Proposal
Petition praying that any rezoning of the White City site be opposed, received from Ms Moore
Bega Valley Shire Council
Petition praying that extension of the term of the administrator appointed to oversee the affairs of Bega Valley Shire Council be opposed, received from Mr R. H. L. Smith
Prince George Reserve, Vincentia
Petition praying that the Government require Shoalhaven City Council to re-exhibit the areas deferred from gazettal in the Vincentia and Environs Local Environmental Plan, and that lot 3 DP 810820 Vincentia (Prince George Reserve) be restored to public reserve status, received from Mr W. D. Smith
Pambula District Hospital
Petition praying for increased funding for nursing and medical care at Pambula District Hospital, received from Mr R. H. L. Smith
QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
WEAPONS IN SCHOOLS
My question is directed to the Minister for Education and Training. Why did he single out for public humiliation a 15-year-old student at Cecil Hills High School who did not have access to a weapon, when his department's own unpublished figures reveal that a staggering 1,430 students have been suspended from government schools over the past two years for carrying a weapon?
It's not going to go away.
Order! The Leader of the National Party will remain silent.
I am not going anywhere. I am not going anywhere from this Parliament. I stand by my statement to this Parliament of 29 May 2001.
Order! I call the honourable member for Bega to order.
Again, I make the point that I stand by the statement I made to this Parliament on 29 May 2001. In relation to the issue concerning weapons at schools, it needs to be remembered, of course, that a prohibited weapon can be a large number of things. For example, it may be a ruler that is being used in an offensive way. That falls under the definition of "weapon".
Order! I place the Leader of the National Party on two calls to order.
A prohibited weapon may be, for example, a pair of scissors that is used in an offensive way, or it could be a tool from an industrial arts class that is used in an offensive way.
Order! I call the honourable member for Wakehurst to order.
All of those matters which the Leader of the Opposition raised come within the terminology of a prohibited weapon, and if used in an offensive manner, they are the subject of a serious incident report.
BOMBALA SEWAGE TREATMENT WORKS
My question is directed to the Minister for Education and Training. When will he provide for the relocation of sewerage works that are currently next to the primary and high schools in Bombala where students and teachers say that the smell is so putrid that at times they cannot work or eat their lunch, and where there is a high incidence of nausea and vomiting?
I understand that the sewerage works at Bombala were in fact attended to a fortnight ago. I will check out the details and make sure that that is the case.
Order! I call the honourable member for Wakehurst to order for the second time.
If that has not been attended to so far, I will give the honourable member accurate information on when it will be attended to.
My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Public Works and Services, and Minister Assisting the Premier on Citizenship. What is the latest information on reports of alleged extremist groups in New South Wales?
Last November the Premier took a principled stand and spoke out against attacks on places of worship in New South Wales. It was an important stand, which I wholeheartedly support as I am sure do all honourable members.
Order! I call the honourable member for Wakehurst to order for the third time.
Australia is one of the few societies in the world that has a record for being both harmonious and tolerant. An attack on a mosque, a church, a temple or a synagogue has no place in our democracy. Unfortunately, in our society, there are still a few hate-mongers who are willing to spread contempt and hatred towards others.
Order! I call the honourable member for Coffs Harbour to order.
In 1998-99, the New South Wales Anti-Discrimination Board received 266 race-related complaints including 26 complaints of racial vilification. Last year the board received 2,281 race-related complaints, including 28 complaints of racial vilification or incitement to racial hatred. This figure represents only a slight increase, but any increase in the number of incidents is unacceptable. In addition to discrimination and vilification, incidents of racially based harassment and vandalism occur with a disturbing frequency. Racist activity comes in waves. For instance, in recent months, there also have been reports of racist stickers being placed around Bondi Junction, targeting Asians and Jews. The most recent are stickers that have read: "Wanted! Aryan Soldiers", and the stickers give a Summer Hill address.
The latest New South Wales information compiled by the Executive Council of Australian Jewry shows that since 1 October last year until this week there have been 125 reports of incidents of violence, harassment and threats against the Jewish community and its institutions. New South Wales comprises 125 out of 277 incidents that have occurred nationally. Honourable members of this Chamber, particularly those who represent electorates on the North Coast, would share my concern about recent reports on alleged Ku Klux Klan [KKK] activity in the northern rivers region. The Government has been advised by the Richmond Local Area Command that police officers have not seen any full-scale organised activities involving the KKK in the Casino area. However there have been reports of an individual undertaking some bizarre activities. The most recent media coverage emanated from a court appearance by a Mr Colin Houston. Casino police say that on 2 April this year, Houston, while wearing a white gown with a symbol—
Order! The honourable member for Wakehurst will remain silent.
Point of order: The Opposition would just like to make it clear that while we understand the importance and significance of this issue, we are concerned that the Minister is raising this issue in the same way as the Minister for Education and Training invited copycat by raising another issue in this way in the House. This Minister is proceeding in the same way and is running the same risks.
Order! The Leader of the Opposition will resume her seat. The Minister has the call. Once again, the Chair could not hear what the Leader of the Opposition said.
Houston, while wearing a white gown with a symbol similar to a triple-K emblem on it, became involved in an argument with a local Aboriginal person. Houston pleaded guilty to offensive behaviour and received a fine. Five months earlier, on 11 November 1999, police attended Houston's home where they found triple-K paraphernalia. On 3 March 2000 police were called to the Box Region Aboriginal Mission at Coraki on the North Coast to investigate wooden crosses which were burnt at the entrance to the mission. Police reports state that, upon arrival of the fire brigade, the crosses were in a pile on the ground. However, the media reported that they were planted in the ground; again, there have been contradictory reports. But police say that there is no evidence of the link between the incidence and the presence of a formalised Ku Klux Klan chapter.
Experts such as Jeremy Jones of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry in Sydney, who monitors and studies racist activity, say that there are only a handful of people in the entire State who will don triple-K garb for photographers and television cameras, and there is no guarantee that these individuals have any real connection to the America-based racist group. But, as a Government, we must, and do, treat any report of racist activity seriously. Honourable members would agree that any Aboriginal person witnessing a person purporting to be a member of the triple-K would find the experience deeply disturbing. For the record, for the past two years, a person by the name of Peter Coleman has dubbed himself the leader of the Ku Klux Klan in Australia. He has been reported as saying that Aborigines were "beyond help" and "there is a Jew under every rock" in Australia.
Honourable members of this Chamber would be interested to know of the project between the New South Wales Community Relations Commission and the B'nai B'rith Anti-Defamation Unit in Sydney. The Government has decided to provide half of the $100,000 needed for an anti-racism program. Central to the project is a publication entitled "I am not a racist, but", which will be distributed to New South Wales homes. The publication will canvass why people hold racist views, trends in racism, combating racism and responding to racist incidents.
In addition, the Community Relations Commission and B'nai B'rith will establish a "Courage to Care 'Fair Go' Award" which allows the community to nominate individuals who create goodwill and tolerance. The Premier will present the award to an outstanding New South Wales citizen or community group. There is a lesson here for all honourable members—whether Government, Liberal, National or Independent—about the duplicity of racist groups. For instance, the recent experience of the honourable member for Monaro emphasises the need to be vigilant in dealings with extremist groups. Last week he publicly acknowledged that an extreme right-wing group had duped him. It transpired that he had signed an international petition by the Citizens Electoral Council, the Australian wing of the infamous Lyndon LaRouche group from the United States.
LaRouche, who has served a prison sentence for fraud, is a well-known conspiracy theorist who espouses economic theories. For instance, he claims to believe Queen Elizabeth is involved in drug trafficking, Henry Kissinger is a British intelligence agent and the United States should colonise Mars. While we may not have credible information regarding a firm Ku Klux Klan presence here, the LaRouche organisation is both real and active around Australia. For instance, in the 1999-2000 financial year the Australian Electoral Commission published information which shows that the LaRouche affiliated organisation, the Citizens Electoral Council, raised nearly $1.5 million. That is more than the $996,000 raised by the Australian Democrats. Fortunately, when the document I referred to was brought to light last Tuesday the honourable member for Monaro said that he had been duped and immediately admitted his error. He told Australian Associated Press:
A lot of stuff comes across our desk and anything that is to do with some economic reform has some interest.
In addition, he told ABC radio:
It was a busy time and one has these things thrust in your face. I guess that's where it lay, but having found out more information I have contacted these people and have had my name removed from this petition.
There you have it. It is a warning for all honourable members that they should not sign everything that comes across the desk. Extremist groups are enough of a problem without their being able to claim that they have the support of respected public officials.
My question is directed to the Minister for Agriculture. What is the latest information on cutting-edge research into the use of vegetable oils as alternative fuels and related matters?
I thank the honourable member for his question and for his interest in environmental matters, including alternative fuel sources. Pollution from motor vehicles and the cost of fuel are driving people to think about alternative fuel sources, particularly non-petrol and non-fossil fuel alternatives. Wind power, solar energy, ethanol and compressed natural gas have all been studied as a fuel source. I am pleased to advise the honourable member for Lake Macquarie that we can say now with some degree of confidence that vegetable oils can also be used quite effectively as a non-petrol fuel source for motor vehicles. New South Wales Agriculture invested extensive research into biodiesel in the mid-1980s. I acknowledge the work of the former Minister for Agriculture. He sponsored a Mitsubishi Triton utility that drove between Sydney and Orange in 1993. It was powered solely by canola oil. It ran very well and won its class in the Energy Challenge event.
Now New South Wales Agriculture has agreed to help the Biodiesel Association of Australia to progress the development of biodiesel or non-petrol fuel based on natural plant oils. It can also be produced from waste oil and grease. The Biodiesel Association of Australia is a growing organisation based in southern Sydney that aims to promote alternative reliable energy sources. Biodiesel is specifically focused on using vegetable oil and animal fats by a process called esterification. This removes the glycerol from the fatty acid and results in a product similar to petrol but without all the byproducts. Exhaust fumes from biodiesel fuel contain up to 80 per cent less greenhouse gas emissions than diesel fuel exhausts. Biodiesel fuels also contain no sulphur and have low toxicity. They also have the potential to be produced locally at reasonable rates.
Though it is early days, we should be encouraged by the research and the co-operation with the Biodiesel Association of Australia. New South Wales Agriculture, with its heavy involvement in vegetable production, has agreed to help the Biodiesel Association of Australia expand its information network. It will link the organisation with industry groups and other valuable networks. It will provide industry and production information wherever possible. It will also involve the organisation in seminars, conferences and workshops relating to the oilseed industry.
I understand that the Biodiesel Association of Australia also has its own plans to establish a crushing and production facility in New South Wales. Current diesel consumption in Australia is about 11.56 billion litres a year. The Biodiesel Association of Australia has an ambitious plan to corner 10 per cent of that Australian diesel market by 2011. This will need the production of one million tonnes of vegetable oil each year by our farmers. Annual Australian production of canola alone reached 860,000 tonnes in 1997. Almost half of that, 310,000 tonnes, came from New South Wales. This was worth about $280 million to our State's farmers at the farm gate. By 2005 New South Wales production is predicted to be more than double that—about 750,000 tonnes a year. Most of this will be produced along the central, southern and northern slopes of New South Wales.
It is time. I was told two weeks ago that you would be the Leader of the Opposition by now. Two weeks later you are four weeks away from being leader. There is an ever-increasing potential with the emergence of a viable and sustainable biodiesel market. There are also opportunities for waste products to be used to make this fuel. For example, McDonald's, with its 135 restaurants across Australia, produces 1,100 tonnes of recycled frying oil each year. That is just one food chain, and there are many other food chains and individual businesses. We can see the potential for the industry to use what is otherwise a waste product. We should all be open to the potential for alternative fuel sources in this country. If those alternative fuels can involve a significant benefit to our farmers, I welcome further examination of this potential new market. I am sure that the Minister for the Environment is also keen to explore another alternative use for one of the waste products from our food industry. I thank the honourable member for Lake Macquarie for his question and I will keep him and the House advised of the progress of this exciting project.
CABRAMATTA HIGH SCHOOL
My question is directed to the Minister for Education and Training. On 27 February when the Minister held a press conference to attack evidence by Detective Sergeant Tim Priest, why did he not first check with local police, who in fact had recorded an incident on 19 February in which students and teachers at Cabramatta High School were terrorised by a gang of up to a dozen thugs?
I repeat that Cabramatta High School is a strong, well-respected coeducational high school.
Order! I call the honourable member for Gosford to order.
The school has a student support unit and an enthusiastic, committed staff serving a diverse community. Before I made those comments on 27 February, as I think the honourable member said, I had checked with the school community, the principal and the school staff. They were adamant about their statements. I make absolutely no apology for going to the school and for supporting and upholding the reputation of a good school. It has a good academic record and a strong Higher School Certificate performance. It has consistently high enrolments. Currently it has 940 students, 97 per cent of whom come from non-English speaking backgrounds. Many of the programs operating at the school promote an understanding and appreciation of cultural diversity. Languages offered at the school include Vietnamese, Chinese and French. Excellent Aboriginal programs are also in operation. The community, staff and students regard the school as a safe and happy place in which to learn. It is a fine example of public education, and I am proud to be a Minister supporting it.
PYRAMID SELLING SCHEMES
My question is addressed to the Minister for Fair Trading. What is the latest information on pyramid schemes in New South Wales?
I thank the honourable member for Wallsend for his question about this important and growing area, which is the new frontier of consumer protection. The Internet is big business. Millions of sites operate worldwide, offering opportunities for both consumers and businesses. On-line services provide consumers with unparalleled access to information, and sellers have similar opportunities to reach markets in every part of the globe. However, the "business opportunities" and "investment advice" to be found on the Internet are not always legitimate.
Crooks and scam artists quickly become expert in using cyberspace. They are ready to take up any and every opportunity to fleece the unsuspecting and the gullible. Many thousands of people risk losing their money through so-called "opportunities", which turn out to be little more than updated versions of old scams that have always appeared by mail or phone. As Minister for Fair Trading I am most concerned about the pitfalls associated with the Internet. Today I take this opportunity to again warn the public about the dangers of scams and schemes, and especially about their latest electronic versions.
Scams trap people by claiming that quick money can be made for little effort. They are particularly attractive during hard economic times or for those facing financial difficulties. Unfortunately, thousands of people fall victim to their promises and end up losing their money. Of course, these schemes are not new, and most members of this House would be aware of the different types. Over the past couple of years some of the almost legendary scams, such as the "Edward L. Green" chain letter and the Nigerian mail scam, have become commonplace on the Internet. Pyramid selling schemes are old favourites, and I have previously issued a number of warnings about them. Pyramid schemes are an illegal form of multilevel marketing. In genuine multilevel marketing, participants earn commissions from the sale of products including clothing, cosmetics, and so on. The genuine marketing schemes offer business and income-earning opportunities through repeat sales to customers.
By contrast, however, pyramid schemes do not sell products; they just try to sell hollow promises. Their main feature is that earning money and gaining promotion depends on recruiting other people into the operation, rather than selling a product or providing a service. They depend on an endless supply of new recruits for their continued existence—and the Internet has created a whole new recruitment outlet. Pyramid schemes are outlawed in New South Wales under the Fair Trading Act. Participants face fines of up to $22,000 for an individual and up to $110,000 for a corporation. There are also heavy penalties under the Commonwealth Trade Practices Act. Recently, a new pyramid scheme called "#1 Money Making Opportunity" was drawn to my attention. In this scam, participants are asked to send $US6 to six separate people whose addresses are listed in an article on a web site.
The article then directs the participant to search out new newsgroups, message boards and chat sites on the Internet, with the aim of placing the scam in a further 200 locations. The scam promises that if you play "fairly and honestly" you can make up to $50,000 in 20 to 60 days. Obviously, scams of this nature are of grave concern to Fair Trading authorities throughout the world. They spread rapidly—like a virus—and need to be removed from legitimate sites as quickly as possible. That is why today I have written to the Director of the New South Wales Liberal Party asking him to remove the "#1 Money Making Opportunity" from nswcoalition.com
where it was recently found. In cyberspace it is easy to hide. No-one knows you. All you need is an Internet name—and crooks can have many names in many locations. The Internet makes it even easier for high-tech touts to hide, shutdown, or move on. I urge all members of the community not to be duped by the latest proliferation of scams coming to a web site near you.
TREATED EFFLUENT POLICY
Mr D. L. PAGE:
My question is directed to the Premier. Given the policy conflict between the Department of Land and Water Conservation, which supports the return of treated effluent to our river system to assist environmental flows, and the Environment Protection Authority, which advocates maximum reuse of treated effluent on land, can the Premier clarify his Government's policy on this important matter?
No, but I will report back to the House when I can.
SMALL BUSINESS MONTH
My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Small Business. What has been the response to Small Business Month?
Before I answer the question of the honourable member for Kogarah, I wish to draw to the attention of the House a matter of importance to small business that has come to my attention in the last couple of days. As honourable members would be aware, this Government's landmark Retail Leases (Amendment) Act, which was passed in 1998, has been held up by the Federal Government's long delay in amending the Commonwealth Trade Practices Act. I am pleased to say—and I am sure all honourable members, especially the honourable member for Lachlan, would be pleased to hear—that the Federal Government has now agreed to accept Labor's amendments to the Trade Practices Amendment Bill (No 1) 2000. This will allow us as a Government to—
Point of order: By the Minister's own admission, this has nothing to do with the question.
Order! What is the point of order?
My point of order relates to relevance. We would be happy to listen to the Minister afterwards if she is prepared to make a ministerial statement.
Order! The Minister's answer is relevant. The Leader of the Opposition will resume her seat.
The Federal Government's acceptance of Labor's amendments to the Trade Practices Amendment Bill (No 1) 2000 will allow this Government to proclaim our Act, now that we will be, at last, able to draw down section 51AC of the Trade Practices Act. I congratulate Joel Fitzgibbon, the Federal shadow Minister for Small Business and Tourism, on achieving this outcome—something that the Federal Liberal Government could not be bothered doing for more than two years. The theme of this year's program of events in May was "Small Business Month—make it your business". I am pleased to report that more than 22,000 owners, operators and staff of small business across New South Wales did make it their business to go to more than 266 events around the State.
The last Small Business Month was a great success, but this year has shown a remarkable 100 per cent increase in attendance. Small Business Month was an opportunity for the Government and the community to salute our small businesses in New South Wales that have created three-quarters of all net new jobs in the last five years. This herculean effort should not go unmarked. One of the chief aims of Small Business Month 2001 was to make the broader community aware of the vital contribution small business makes to the economy and to our daily lives.
Order! There is far too much audible conversation between members. That warning includes the honourable member for Fairfield and the honourable member for The Hills.
The Department of State and Regional Development, which co-ordinated Small Business Month, delivered a public information campaign through regional and metropolitan radio and newspapers. This included a four-page liftout in the Daily Telegraph
, web site activity and more than 5,000 information kits. The kits included copies of the department's latest portrait of the small business sector, "Small Business—Big Impact". This tells the story of small business in 2001 and beyond, with snapshots of employment, exports, innovation, e-commerce, regional development, future challenges and new frontiers of growth. Small Business Month 2001 was the Government's way of giving something back to the men and women who put in the long hours—and put their savings on the line—to create jobs and wealth in the community.
In an unprecedented show of support we were joined by more than 130 public and private sector partners, along with sponsors Australia Post, Microsoft and Ansett Australia. Another crucial aim of this year's activities was to support the small business sector with information and the skills programs. The information and training requirements of our growing small business sector are as diverse as the sector itself. The seven themes of the program were marketing, business growth, exporting, innovation and technology, finance, getting started, and compliance. The varied formats included workshops, expos, briefings, conferences, seminars, trade days, launches, and courses. People involved in small business from Sydney to Broken Hill and from Albury to Yamba had the chance to pick up practical ideas and advice from some of the sector's top experts.
Order! I place the Deputy Leader of the Opposition on two calls to order.
The American retailing guru Ric Segel spoke to retailers around the State about how to wow their customers. I attended one of his presentations, as did the honourable member for Dubbo.
Order! The Leader of the Opposition will cease interjecting.
I saw at first hand how inspirational our retailers found that presentation. An interactive breakfast seminar hosted by business commentator David Koch was beamed by Sky Channel to 40 locations around the State. A team of experts answered wide-ranging questions from the audience on current business, management and marketing topics. At Microsoft's "Do IT Your Way" seminars at North Ryde, operators of small business from all industries were shown how to keep their existing customers and how to keep increasing their profits. At a trade day and seminar in Penrith, butchers learnt about the industry's latest technology and businesswomen tried the great networking game at a day-long workshop in Parramatta. Exporters gained insights into doing business in Asia at the launch of the New South Wales Exporters Network in Sydney. Farmers discovered how to develop commercial opportunities from salinity at a seminar in Deniliquin.
Order! Members who wish to discuss matters with their colleagues should do so outside the Chamber. That warning includes the honourable member for Pittwater.
Approximately 15,000 people attended the Asia-Pacific's biggest ever information and communications technology event, now
2001, held at Darling Harbour in the second week of May as part of Small Business Month. In May another spectacularly successful Australian Mercedes Fashion Week was held, as was the thirty-third Premier's Exporter of the Year Award. I am pleased to advise that fashion week achieved excellent sales, including export sales, and I look forward to reporting to the House on final figures when they are available. During May I was presented also with a report on the future of manufacturing entitled "Securing Our Manufacturing Future: Small Business Manufacturing to 2015 and Beyond". The report was commissioned by the Small Business Development Corporation, which reports to me, and it provides an excellent overview of the small business manufacturing environment in the twenty-first century and what small firms need to do to embrace the new opportunities ahead. At the end of the month a final salute to small business was made at the Homebush SuperDome when approximately 1,500 people attended the Champion of Champions Small Business Awards ceremony. The feedback from small business participants in Small Business Month was enthusiastic.
Order! The Leader of the Opposition will cease interjecting.
That enthusiasm was summed up by one small business owner who described the month as "a great opportunity to find out about programs of assistance that can help my small business grow and expand".
Order! The Leader of the Opposition will cease interjecting.
The third major aim of Small Business Month was to advise small firms about the vast array of government and private sector assistance and services available to them. Throughout the month 35,000 calendars listing the events and all the participating organisations were distributed. Each event provided hosting agencies and organisations with an opportunity to talk with people involved in small business about the services they offer the sector. During Small Business Month this awareness-raising exercise gave partners the opportunity to attract new clients and to gain feedback on their programs and services. Small Business Month was an unparalleled success, and I thank and congratulate everyone involved, especially the Department of State and Regional Development, the Small Business Division, and its head, Janine Ricketts.
MINISTER FOR URBAN AFFAIRS AND PLANNING FORMER STAFF
My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning. Before his decision to call in the redevelopment proposal for Kurnell, were the Minister, his staff or his department lobbied by his former chief of staff, Trish Oakley, and his former press secretary, Julian Brophy, who now run their own lobbying firm, which represents Australand?
No doubt the proposal for this residential development in Sutherland is an important issue, and yes, I have had a large number of conversations with a large number of people about it, including the mayor of Sutherland Shire Council. The proponents, Australand, have engaged my former staff and there have been discussions with them about the development. I point out that they were not involved in this matter during their time working with me. They made it a principle that they do not take on issues that they were involved with at the time they were working for me, and that is a good principle. Recently the suggestion was made that the planning studies acquired by the Government should be paid for by the developer.
And the mayor said so.
The mayor said so, and it is quite interesting that she said that only yesterday, because she was informed about this some months ago. It has been the standard practice of Liberal and Labor governments for the past 15 years, and for Sutherland council, to have developers pay for the required studies. The Sutherland Shire Council has zoned this area for redevelopment as an industrial estate. I was concerned that that was probably not the best use for the area and certainly the studies will ensure the best environmental outcomes with any potential residential development. When the studies are received by the department they will be analysed and then a report will be forwarded to me.
I ask a supplementary question. The Minister indicated that his former staff did not deal with this matter while employed by him, but did they contact him prior to his decision to call in the development?
I have spoken with my former staff on a number of occasions, including before I decided to call in that development.
LIQUOR AND GAMING HARM MINIMISATION INITIATIVES
My question without notice is to the Minister for Gaming and Racing. What has been the response to the Government's harm minimisation initiatives for liquor and gaming?
I thank the honourable member for that question because it gives me the opportunity to outline some of the Carr Government's achievements in alcohol and gambling harm minimisation. When we came to government just over six years ago, nobody had heard of harm minimisation, let alone attempted to introduce it. Six years ago celebrations in this city were marred by drunken behaviour. Six years ago decent people avoided the central business district during celebrations such as New Year's Eve. Six years ago families would never have ventured into the city for events such as the Millennium celebrations. Six years ago hundreds of ugly, drunken revellers were arrested by harassed police, unlike the 11 arrests at the 2000 celebrations, when more than a million people packed the city.
When the Government introduced its responsible service of alcohol policy, there were howls of protests from a lot of people, but today not one critic can be found. Harm minimisation has been hailed by the liquor industry, police and the community. The responsible service of alcohol has changed the face of social life in New South Wales. It is now possible for families to enjoy a night out at their local hotel or club without fear of being accosted by abusive drunks. Who would have thought six years ago that hoteliers, club managers, other license holders, police, the local council and community groups would get together and agree on trading conditions to improve the amenity of their respective area, but, as a result of liquor accords, it has happened in more than 40 cities and towns throughout the State.
They have established liquor consultative committees in many cases where accords do not exist. Liquor accords were introduced and promoted by the Government in response to local concerns about late night alcohol-related antisocial behaviour and they have had some outstanding successes. In almost every area arrests have fallen and complaints of antisocial behaviour have been eliminated. It has been most successful in Dubbo, Armidale, the Hastings area, Newcastle and Cessnock. Another area in which we as a Government have made great progress is under-age drinking. We have strengthened under-age drinking laws to such a degree that the supply of liquor to a minor can now result in a 12 months gaol term in serious cases. But perhaps most importantly we have provided opportunities for hotels, clubs and nightclubs to stage alcohol-free entertainment where young people can socialise with their peers.
So far I have concentrated on the successes. But there have also been some problems. While the Government acknowledges the support of the vast majority of the liquor industry in the promotion of harm minimisation, and the responsible service of alcohol, there have been some disturbing trends lately. To give honourable members some examples, they include club managers and directors ordering staff to serve drinks, hoteliers being drunk while working and serving drunks, and, one of the worst offences, to my mind, the sale of alcohol to minors.
Having said that, it must be realised that we do not live in a perfect world. A minority of people do not play by the rules but that is still unacceptable. They must be dealt with and they will be under this administration. It was the actions of these irresponsible hoteliers and club managers that caused me to address an open letter to all licence holders in the last Liquor and Gaming News.
In that newsletter I outlined a new approach in the fight against irresponsible elements. The director of liquor and gaming is introducing a hot spots program under which selected areas of the State will be the subject of a blitz by licensing inspectors and police. This will be possible because of a total revamp of the compliance division of my department.
I will take a few minutes to outline the changes, because there has been some uninformed comment about the budget allocation for the Department of Gaming and Racing for 2001-02. I stress that it is totally incorrect that the Department of Gaming and Racing is being crippled in its ability to police the State's liquor and gaming laws. On the contrary, the department is confident that it will be able to regulate the liquor and gaming industries in an effective and professional manner. In the first six months it is evident that the restructured compliance division is performing beyond expectations. hat view is supported by a constant stream of favourable feedback to my office from the club, liquor and gaming industries. Notwithstanding that the restructure was achieved by a downsizing program, the compliance division's enforcement branch has increased work volume in a number of key areas of the compliance program in the past 12 months. The primary objective of the compliance division is to enforce liquor and gaming legislation and harm minimisation programs through a professional, efficient and effective compliance program.
In 2001-02 it is anticipated that compliance officers will institute 30 disciplinary and prosecution proceedings before the Licensing Court, resolve 1,140 complaints concerning the conduct of licensed and club premises, conduct 1,900 inspections, examinations and audits, issue 1,600 compliance and penalty notices, and work with the Police Service and the industry's peak bodies on about 30 special projects. To clarify the budget estimates figures that have been quoted, it is significant that the reported 580 complaints in 2000 did not include a number of internally generated special projects. They subsequently accounted for more than 300 matters that were referred to as case management files and have previously gone unreported.
In reference to the reported function licences review dropping from 1,400 in 1999-2000 to 100 in 2000-01, it should be noted that the previous level of probity investigation was not warranted and that the department's valuable resources are better deployed elsewhere. Probity is resource intense and there is little merit in investigating the background of many applicants, including those from church, charity and non-profit community and sporting organisations. Quite frankly, it is a waste of time and resources. It would also be remiss of me not to point out that the reduction in compliance notices issued is a favourable outcome. Clearly, the objective of any compliance program is a higher level of compliance and, logically, a fall in the number of breaches identified. The figure reported is a favourable forecast of an increased level of compliance. The bottom line is that the compliance division is doing more for less and is creating public value. There is no doubt that the compliance division can regulate the industry in an effective and professional manner as demanded by the Government.
BOMBALA SEWAGE TREATMENT WORKS
Earlier today the Leader of the National Party asked me a question about the Bombala sewerage treatment works. I am advised by the Department of Education and Training that the issues related to the town sewerage service, not sewage at the school. A site inspection has been organised involving the department's service officer, the maintenance contractor and the Department of Public Works and Services. The department will do whatever is within its power to ameliorate the impact on the student population. We will also have urgent discussions with the local authorities responsible for the sewerage system.
Questions without notice concluded.
, by leave: I wish to make a personal explanation about extremists groups. The Minister Assisting the Premier on Citizenship incorrectly stated that the Citizens Electoral Council [CEC] had contacted me. After being interviewed on the ABC I contacted the CEC by telephone and facsimile requesting that my name be removed from the petition. I have also subsequently written to Mr Benzion Apple, Director, Public Affairs, B'nai B'rith, the Anti-Defamation Organisation Unit in Melbourne, to explain that I was duped by the CEC in this instance. I am interested in economic reform, as the Minister Assisting the Premier on Citizenship said, and I felt that the CEC was addressing some of the inadequacies and inequalities encountered today. That was why I supported the move at that moment. As I said previously, I have contacted the organisation and requested that my name be removed. I have no knowledge of the policies or affiliations of the CEC, and certainly not of its connections with Lyndon LaRouche, the Ku Klux Klan or others.
CONSIDERATION OF URGENT MOTIONS
(Bathurst) [3.17 p.m.]: Earlier today I gave notice that I would ask the House to consider my motion about one of the real economic drivers in regional New South Wales, that is, our tertiary and university organisations. The motion is urgent because higher education in regional New South Wales is under threat by the Howard Government and as each day goes past the threat grows. We should consider this matter today because the education of thousands of our young people is at stake. We should urgently debate this matter for the sake of the 28,300 people who are employed directly or indirectly in universities in regional areas. This matter is of immense importance to the people of my electorate of Bathurst and to other people who rely heavily on higher education institutions in their area. I commend its urgency to the House.
(Southern Highlands) [3.19 p.m.]: The Government has admitted that the last five years of its waste management strategy has been a costly $87 million joke at the expense of taxpayers. This motion for urgent consideration should be debated today because last week the Minister for the Environment refused to hold an estimates committee as planned. He refused to discuss these issues and refused to make himself available to discuss why $87 million of taxpayers' money has been wasted by waste boards over the past five years. We have still not seen the Minister brought to account for the waste of $87 million—$17 million per year for five years—by waste boards with absolutely nothing to show for it.
The House must urgently discuss why the Minister and the Carr Government allowed waste boards to continue for so long if the Minister was aware of the problems. If he was not aware of the problems, he should explain why not. It is important that we discuss why there was no plan by the Minister for the Environment to adopt any of the strategic planning work done by waste boards in the proposals he outlined last week. Waste boards have spent $87 million preparing strategic plans, yet there is no plan by this Government on how that work will be applied in the future to waste management in the State.
It is important for the Minister to explain what he has done with these reports and what he intends to do with them in the future. It is urgent for the Minister to explain exactly what value for money the taxpayers of New South Wales have received for that $87 million. That money could buy nine new high schools; it could produce very innovative outcomes for waste management in this State, rather than just being thrown away and the matter being put on the shelf or in a filing cabinet. There are nine waste boards reports, which I do not think will see the light of day again because the Minister does not have a plan. He spent $87 million but has no plan to use that information.
This motion is urgent because we must look at the failures of the Waste Service of New South Wales, which is an integral part of the whole network of waste and mismanagement. The mission statement of the Waste Service includes statements about innovation, high standards and leadership in the field of waste management. I defy any member of this House to give a good example of leadership shown by the Waste Service. The House must consider the failure of the Government to achieve a 60 per cent reduction of waste to landfill. Every single waste board annual report includes the statement that they have been incapable of achieving that reduction. That was a fundamental policy platform of the Labor Party at the last election; it promised to reduce waste to landfill by 60 per cent.
It is important that the House debate this matter today so that we can get to the bottom of why this Government has failed to achieve that fundamental promise. It is important that we understand the role of the Waste Service and the fundamental failure of the Government to achieve that core policy promise—a promise on which this Government went to the Independents, community groups, lobby groups and people who were capable of influencing the flow of preferences at the last election. The Labor Party made its case based on that promise and as soon as it won government it ignored it. We need to debate today why the Waste Service has failed to be innovative and, more important, to lead on this issue. The Waste Service has fundamentally failed in its own mission statement.
For example, it is important that we look at the extension of the Eastern Creek landfill, which was approved by this Government in record time—something like six months—in circumstances that surprised many people. It is urgent that we debate this because a number of private sector applications in the waste management arena have been put through two commissions of inquiry. Also, many obstacles have been put in the way of the approval of those applications. Why is it that the Waste Service can have an application approved within six months whereas anyone else in this State has to undertake a process that takes up to two years? We must look at why the Waste Service has failed to offer any innovative technology. Why is the Waste Service the dinosaur of waste management in this State? The Minister should fully account— [Time expired.
Question—That the motion for urgent consideration of the honourable member for Bathurst be proceeded with—put.
Division called for. Standing Order 191 applied.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
(Bathurst) [3.30 p.m.]: I move:
(1) notes the importance of New South Wales regional universities to local economies—contributing at least $1.1 billion a year;
(2) recognises that regional universities sustain 30,000 direct and indirect jobs in regional New South Wales; and
(3) calls on the Federal Government to immediately restore the $100 million it has cut from New South Wales regional universities.
I must note the extraordinary circumstance that National Party members, under some sort of pressure, withdrew from the House. They were not prepared to vote on the urgency of my motion, which highlights the importance of universities to regional New South Wales. Charles Sturt was one of this country's most celebrated explorers. During the nineteenth century he made a number of expeditions. His first, in 1828, took him through the Macquarie Marshes to the Darling River. He certainly made his mark on the central western region of New South Wales, and his enterprising and adventurous spirit is embodied by the university that has been named after him. In fact, Charles Sturt University [CSU] has become one of the most recognised higher education institutions in Australia, and indeed the world. I have the honour of serving on its governing council.
Twelve years ago the university was created following the amalgamation of the Mitchell College of Advanced Education at Bathurst and the Riverina-Murray Institute of Higher Education, and it now has campuses at Albury, Dubbo and Wagga Wagga. In just 12 years the university has grown in leaps and bounds. At this juncture I pay tribute to Cliff Blake, who retires this week as the founding vice-chancellor. The university now delivers more than 300 courses to about 30,000 students on campus and in distance education in Australia and overseas. CSU also has a contract to provide recruit education for the New South Wales Police Service, at its School of Policing in Goulburn.
The Charles Sturt University is acknowledged for producing graduates with qualifications that are attractive to employers. The communications course supplies many members of the press gallery for this Parliament and many other Parliaments in Australia. It also has a fine reputation in scientific research, for which it has achieved national and international recognition. But the university, like many regional universities in New South Wales, and Australia for that matter, is facing a threat to its fine record. The threat is not coming from competing higher education institutions in New Zealand or Asia; it is coming from the Howard Government. The Howard Government continues to show its contempt for the education of our young people and adult learners wanting further chances at higher education. We have seen that contempt through the Federal Government's unfair and biased funding formula for public schools, and we see it here again. But I will come to that later.
I will talk first about why regional universities are important not only to the teachers and students who make them their home but to the local economies that they support. The Charles Sturt University campus at Bathurst lies at the foot of Mt Panorama. I cannot imagine Bathurst without Charles Sturt University, and I cannot imagine Charles Sturt University without Bathurst. A study by the Department of State and Regional Development, unveiled for the first time today, shows how important Charles Sturt University and other regional universities are to local economies. The study analysed the economic impact of the five regional universities in New South Wales: Charles Sturt University, at Dubbo, Bathurst, Wagga Wagga and Albury; Southern Cross University, at Lismore, Coffs Harbour and Tweed; the University of New England, at Armidale and Coffs Harbour; the University of Newcastle, at Newcastle and on the Central Coast; and, of course, the University of Wollongong, now at Wollongong but with plans to expand to Batemans Bay.
The study shows that as at March 1999 those universities had 79,000 students enrolled and that they directly employed some 7,600 staff. The economic impacts of regional universities are quantified, based on the expenditure of the universities themselves, and the expenditure generated by the students that they attract. The study estimates that regional universities in New South Wales inject just under $600 million of direct expenditure into regional economies each year. This estimate allows for the fact that some university operating expenditure flows to Sydney, to other regions, interstate and offshore. This generates approximately $820 million in direct and flow-on value adding per annum in regional New South Wales and sustains 20,550 direct and indirect full-time equivalent jobs in regional New South Wales. It is worth noting that full-time equivalent converts all full-time, part-time and casual jobs into full-time equivalents. The actual number of jobs, and the people employed, would be higher.
Put into perspective, the value adding generated by the expenditure of the five universities accounts for just over a quarter of the contribution by the entire education sector to regional New South Wales economies, and 1.6 per cent of New South Wales gross regional product per year. On the student front, the 79,000 students enrolled in regional universities in 1999 accounted for 36 per cent of all New South Wales university enrolments. Of those students, about 7,500 were from overseas. The impact of those enrolment patterns include: retaining a youthful population in New South Wales regions, bringing not only social dividends for local communities, but also the benefits of retaining expenditure in regional economies; and attracting students from outside the region, resulting in increased demand for accommodation, products and services.
The study estimates that university students spend some $230 million in New South Wales regional economies each year through their daily living expenditure. That means money spent on accommodation, food, stationery, entertainment, medical services and the like. This means more jobs for the local community. The direct expenditure of students generates some $250 million in direct and flow-on value adding in regional New South Wales annually, and sustains approximately 7,800 direct and indirect jobs. So, taken together, regional universities and their students inject $830 million direct expenditure into New South Wales regional economies each year. This expenditure generates direct and flow-on value-adding of some $1.1 billion a year. As can be seen from those figures, the importance of universities to the communities in which they reside cannot be understated.
Regional universities also bring a number of other benefits to regional New South Wales. Apart from educating thousands upon thousands of students, they also provide the expertise, knowledge and infrastructure to stimulate local industry and the new business ventures that can create jobs. One example is the National Wine and Grape Industry Centre at Wagga Wagga. Set up in 1997 by Charles Sturt University with New South Wales Agriculture and the New South Wales Wine Industry Association, the centre is the focus for new research and development for this important industry. Through the Charles Sturt University, the centre also runs education programs that attract some 800 students, making it a major provider of graduates for the wine and food industries across Australia. Operations at the centre itself are supported by income from an on-site commercial winery and vineyard, a commercial cheese factory and a pilot food plant. This was the cheese factory that had to be closed down because Prince Philip entered the factory without proper footwear.
The success of regional universities has been achieved despite the onslaught of the Federal Government. In that Government's first budget, in 1996, it axed some $219 million in operating grants for regional universities across Australia. In New South Wales the figure was $95 million. This included $21 million which was taken from the budget of the Charles Sturt University. Some 11 per cent of the university's research training places were lost as a result. As the Opposition education spokesperson said of the most recent budget, the Howard Government has no education vision. The 2001 Howard-Costello budget re-announces the Innovation Statement. This put back only $3 billion of the $5 billion the Howard Government has cut from universities and research and development. Even then, that $3 billion will be spent in four or five years time.
The Howard Government announced 670 extra university places a year—in the same year that the number of university enrolments in Australia fell by more than 3,000. On the other hand, Federal Labor has committed a Beazley government to creating a pool of 400 new fully funded higher education contribution scheme [HECS] exempt research training places especially for regional universities. This is in response to the Howard Government's abolition of one in every five research training places at regional universities. That is shameful. A Beazley government will also provide an additional $10 million to regional universities and regional campuses to pay for improved access to high bandwidth telecommunication links. That is very important.
Access to these links for Internet, email and e-library services and online tutorials is essential for any modern university. Universities in regional Australia pay two to three times as much for these broadband services as their counterparts in metropolitan areas. This plan is also essential to Labor's University of Australia Online, which will create 100,000 online undergraduate places by 2010. It will help thousands of students who cannot afford to give up three years of paid work or to travel to the university. It will also provide lower HECS fees to existing students who do all or part of their degrees online. Universities clearly play a vital role in the economic, social and cultural development of regional communities. They not only build the knowledge and skills base of these communities but bring significant economic dividends to them. It is time that the Howard Government recognised this fact and restored funding to pre-1996 levels. Regional universities deserve no less.
(Coffs Harbour) [3.40 p.m.]: I move:
That the motion be amended by leaving out paragraph (3), with a view to replacing it with:
3. Calls on the New South Wales Government to increase funding for regional education .
It is hypocritical for the honourable member for Bathurst to wax lyrical about the great education system at Charles Sturt University, which was set up under a Coalition State Government and a Federal Labor Government. He referred also to the Southern Cross University, which has a campus in the Coffs Harbour electorate. It was established by John Fahey and Virginia Chadwick, who had ministerial responsibility at the time, and it is running extremely well. The honourable member for Bathurst is trying to play politics with education in the bush. He would do much better to get off his backside and ask the Minister for more funding for TAFE in New South Wales.
The Coffs Harbour campus currently has 900 university enrolments and 2,273 TAFE enrolments—which are expected to increase to 3,500 by the end of the year—and 450 students attend the senior college. There are 60 staff at the Southern Cross University, not including part-time staff; 71 full-time and 132 part-time staff at the TAFE college; and 45 staff at the senior college. Another 11 staff are employed at the educational learning centre. A technology park will be constructed on the site where residential accommodation is also located. This is the first combined campus in Australia, and it is the way ahead for education. I suggest that the honourable member for Bathurst calls on his Minister to provide more of these facilities in regional New South Wales. Our children should not have to travel to Newcastle, Sydney or Brisbane to receive an education.
Charles Sturt University and the Southern Cross University are fine examples of what can and will be achieved in education in regional New South Wales in the future. However, although I support the first two parts of his motion, I draw the attention of the honourable member for Bathurst to the importance of TAFE education. This Government has endorsed the policy of awarding cross-accreditation between senior colleges, TAFE colleges and universities. This means that students studying at a senior college or a TAFE college can earn credits that count when studying for university courses. However, we must remember that TAFE colleges offer a broad range of courses and provide the tradesmen upon which the smooth running of our communities depends. Without builders, electricians, plumbers and bricklayers, we would have major problems.
The Southern Cross University at Coffs Harbour used to offer pre-apprenticeship training courses, which involved students building houses or units for the Department of Housing, for example. That program has been halted under this Government and this Minister for Education and Training. Learning opportunities have disappeared because this Government has removed the couple of hundred thousand dollars of yearly funding that allowed those pre-apprenticeship courses to continue. Some 70 per cent of students who attended those courses went on to complete their apprenticeships and many of them undertook further study at university in fields such as engineering. It is hypocritical for the honourable member for Bathurst to call on the Federal Government to provide extra funding. It is high time that he, as a member of Parliament representing regional New South Wales, demanded of the Minister why he has halted courses such as the pre-apprenticeship courses in Coffs Harbour and Taree.
The Southern Cross University presently has three campuses situated in Lismore, the Tweed and in Coffs Harbour. Port Macquarie is also seeking the establishment of a campus in that area. Local communities can derive much income from university campuses and many benefits from the opportunities they provide in allowing the children of regional New South Wales to be educated on their doorstep. Many children from regional and rural New South Wales do not have that opportunity because mum and dad cannot afford to send them to the big city and pay for both their education and their accommodation. We must look at the positives. Rather than calling on the Federal Government to restore immediately $100 million in education funding in an attempt to gain a little political mileage, we should work jointly with the Federal Government in this area. It is nonsense. The honourable member for Bathurst provided no evidence of a $100 million education funding shortfall; it is all smoke and mirrors. The fact is that this State Government has withdrawn $200,000 in funding for a pre-apprenticeship course. That is an absolute disgrace: the Government has taken opportunities and jobs away from country kids.
The combined campus at Coffs Harbour, which incorporates the university, the TAFE college and the senior college, injects about $50 million or more into the local economy. If we use the honourable member's figures and multiply that figure by four, we can see that that campus generates more than $200 million for the local community. In addition, the residential campus attracts overseas students to the area. I am not sure exactly how many overseas students—many of whom come from Asia—are presently studying at the university, but they certainly spend money in the local area. Their mums and dads are paying for them to receive their education in Coffs Harbour and elsewhere on the North Coast. If TAFE funding were increased instead of contracted—the Minister has withdrawn funding in this area—other children could have the opportunity to share the unique education facilities on the North Coast. As I have said, there is cross-accreditation between the TAFE college, the university and the senior high school.
We know; we have all been there to look at it. We need more Federal funding.
If the honourable member for Bathurst used his ears and his mouth in the way that God intended, he might learn something. He runs on at the mouth about Federal funding issues. He should tell his constituents what he did about regaining the aluminium smelter, which the Premier let slip. If the honourable member showed half as much concern for jobs in his electorate as he demonstrates in belting up the Federal Government about non-issues, he might be a worthwhile local member. The honourable member for Bathurst is in strife in his electorate. Not only did he keep his mouth closed about losing the aluminium smelter but he crossed the picket line at Parliament last week. I bet the student's union at the university was not too pleased about the honourable member's actions. As a member of Parliament who represents regional New South Wales, I challenge the honourable member for Bathurst to support my amendment. I want to see him vote down an amendment that calls on the State Labor Government to increase education funding. The honourable member claims that he wants to act on education but he refuses to support an amendment that calls on the State Government to increase education funding in regional and rural New South Wales. We will see how he votes.
I challenge the honourable member to accept my amendment to the motion, which would result in an increase in educational facilities for his constituents. Earlier he thought it funny that there was a vote against this Government providing additional funding for educational facilities in rural and regional New South Wales. I want to see how the honourable member, a member of Country Labor, votes in relation to my amendment.
I will be supporting the motion.
I support the motion moved by the honourable member for Bathurst, which actually contains a reference to university education in regional and rural New South Wales. I challenge the honourable member to go to his Minister and ask for an increase in funding for TAFE and other educational facilities in regional and rural New South Wales. The honourable member knows as well as I do that TAFE colleges provide more jobs in the community. However, I do not decry anything done by the university. On the figures that are available to me, there are 64 staff and 900 students at the university, and 17 full-time staff and 3,500 students at TAFE colleges. I challenge the honourable member to support my amendment. [Time expired
(Wollongong—Parliamentary Secretary) [3.50 p.m.]: I support the motion moved by the honourable member for Bathurst. On Wednesday last week I spoke in this House in response to a private member's statement by the honourable member for Port Macquarie. The honourable member referred to the establishment of a university in his electorate—an issue which I fully support. I said to the honourable member that the Government would support any such proposal, but that he should talk to his Federal member to try to get some money from the Federal Government.
Education is an important issue in regional New South Wales. Regional universities are often the lifeblood of many communities in New South Wales. They provide infrastructure and a skills base that benefit not only the thousands of students who attend a university but also the local communities. They also provide a link with local industry which, in turn, leads to economic development opportunities in a region. This is surely the case in relation to the University of Wollongong. I have been a member of the university council for the past six years. I assure all honourable members that the University of Wollongong is going from strength to strength.
The university started its life in 1951. Today, 50 years later, more than 14,000 students are enrolled at the university, including 3,526 international students. The University of Wollongong, which has campuses at Wollongong, Shoalhaven and Bega, has plans to locate a campus at Batemans Bay. It also has a campus in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, one of the few universities to have an off-shore campus. The University of Wollongong is recognised far and wide. In fact, for two years running the University of Wollongong has been named Australian University of the Year—something about which everyone in Wollongong is proud.
Recently the Standing Committee on State Development carried out a study on universities. That committee found that the number of jobs that had been generated by the University of Wollongong was of the order of 6,300. Other honourable members have alluded to the fact that the university plays an important role in the economic development of the Illawarra region. One example of such economic development is the company Nortel Networks Australia. Nortel, recognising the university's strengths in wireless and communications technology research, established the only research and development facility at that campus. The facility currently employs 250 people, many of whom are highly skilled wireless technicians and information and technology communications workers.
In addition to job creation, the partnership between the university and Nortel has also brought new skills in information technology to a region traditionally dominated by traditional industries, such as coal and steel. The arrival of a world leader in wireless research development and the ongoing success of the facility have demonstrated to the broader investment community the Illawarra's capacity to accommodate high-tech knowledge-based industries. That is just one example of the crucial partnership developed by the university and local and international industries. The university has achieved all this despite cuts to its operating grants of some $18 million and the loss of six research training places under the Howard Government. Howard and his education Minister have shown utter contempt for higher education. In fact, the Howard Government cut $1 billion from university funding in Australia. We have seen the results, with lowering student places.
In contrast, Federal Labor has a vision to create a dynamic and modern higher education industry. That includes the innovative Australia Online project, which will offer a free on-line university preparation or pathways program to all Australians who have ever wondered whether they have what it takes to succeed at university. Australia has always been a leader in distance education—something in which the University of Wollongong has excelled. We can use these advantages to lead the world in on-line education. Take into consideration the economic value to the region of students at the University of Wollongong. The 14,503 on-shore and off-shore students contribute $490,730,604 to the value of that region. The University of Wollongong has a permanent staff of 1,402 people, and salary costs each year represent $101,343,363. That represents an injection each week of more than $2 million into the New South Wales economy. Regional universities are the lifeblood of communities. [Time expired
(Wagga Wagga) [3.55 p.m.]: I do not doubt the importance of universities in regional New South Wales. Honourable members would be aware of the history of Charles Sturt University [CSU], which is located in Wagga Wagga. A former member of this House, the Hon. Joe Schipp, was instrumental in the establishment of that university. He was ably assisted by Professor Chris Blake, who will retire this week. Professor Blake has been awarded the honour of being Freeman of the City of Wagga Wagga—a fitting acknowledgment of his enormous contribution to our city. The university's mission is to "produce graduates with a professional edge who are competitive in meeting the present and changing needs of society, commerce and industry". The university seeks to achieve that mission in the following ways:
• balancing professional and vocational course needs with the development of skills for and positive attitudes towards life-long learning;
• attracting students nationally and internationally because of the excellence of its courses, teaching, scholarship and support to students;
The university has excelled in its course. It has set a standard for courses and it continues to do so. The university also seeks to achieve its mission by:
• being committed to open learning through access, articulation and student support programs;
• providing a variety of learning environments to meet the different needs of students drawn from diverse educational, social, ethnic and economic backgrounds;
• conducting high quality research of regional significance and international distinction;
• combining a dynamic regional commitment with a growing international reputation; and
• providing a flexible, innovative and challenging environment in which to teach, learn, research and work.
There is no doubt that the university is doing all those things, and much more. Other honourable members referred briefly in debate to different industries in which the university is involved, apart from its everyday contribution to our community and to the Wagga Wagga region. I know that the university has affiliates in other towns and centres throughout New South Wales. The honourable member for Murrumbidgee referred in this House to the establishment of a branch of the CSU in Griffith. When we refer in this House to funding, honourable members tend to concentrate on Federal issues. When the Government gets into a tight spot it trots out a Federal issue. I wish to trot out an issue about which honourable members should be concerned—an issue conveyed to me by Charles Sturt University. I received a letter from Charles Sturt University which states:
I thought you might be interested in the attached article which clearly outlines what investment the Victorian Government is making to science and technology.
Honourable members who contributed to debate on this motion this afternoon referred to the new technology of information, science and communication as being paramount to the policies of the Labor Government. I refer to an article which was sent to me, which was written by Gustav Nossal, which states:
The heavy emphasis given to science, technology and innovation in Victorian Treasurer John Brumby's first budget prompts some reflections on where this country is heading at the dawn of the knowledge century.
The article then refers to synchrotrons and it states:
By accelerating electrons to nearly the speed of light and forcing them into a circular storage ring, beams of unbelievably bright light are created, billions of times more powerful than hospital X-rays. With the use of a synchrotron, individual protein molecules can be analysed in 3D, facilitating the design of prescription medicines tailor-made in a rational manner. Nobel laureate Peter Doherty has predicted that 80 per cent of drug discovery will depend on this technology.
Synchrotrons are also used in materials science, mineral flotation technology, micro-manufacturing and in many areas of fundamental science.
The interesting issue is the synchrotron—a massive investment which, if located in rural Australia, would transform a region. The major users of a synchrotron are based in Sydney and Melbourne. Where better to locate it than ... at a place with good transport access and preferably a University presence.
He is talking about urging the New South Wales Government to put forward funding to attract a synchrotron to one of the Charles Sturt University campuses. He said:
Once established, it would generate much interest from companies wishing to collocate.
If the State Government is serious about investment in universities and about encouraging technology, the university will be sadly disappointed because this week I read that Victoria has established a synchrotron in regional Victoria. He said also in that letter that New South Wales appears to be doing nothing.
(Wallsend) [4.00 p.m.]: It is a pleasure sometimes to have the opportunity to reply immediately to the comments of another honourable member. I am afraid the honourable member for Wagga Wagga, despite his good intentions, is ill informed about the financial contribution the New South Wales Government makes to some regional universities. I have knowledge of contributions to two regional universities with which I am associated. The Department of Land and Water Conservation and the Department of Agriculture contribute to research programs that involve both university academics and local business at the University of New England. I will talk about those programs shortly. We also contribute funds to the University of Newcastle and other New South Wales universities for medical research. I can certainly verify contributions by the State Government.
This debate is crucial because it recognises the importance of regional universities, not just to the thousands of enrolled students but also to the role universities play in the communities in which those students reside. As the honourable member for Bathurst said, regional universities are under enormous pressure from the Federal Government. It is a tragedy that we have a Federal Government hell-bent on destroying the foundation of our society—that is, the education of our young people. I serve on the Council of the University of New England [UNE]. That university generates 6,900 direct and flow-on jobs. The value adding generated by the university is in the order of $277 million. A good case study of co-operation with the university and industry is the Animal Genetics and Breeding Unit, which was set up in conjunction with New South Wales Agriculture to carry out applied research into animal genetics.
The intellectual property developed in beef cattle genetics by the unit has been commercialised under the BREEDPLAN trademark by the Agricultural Business Research Institute [ABRI], which is a self-financing consultancy also established within the university. BREEDPLAN is now a major beef cattle genetic evaluation system estimated to have contributed $500 million in industry efficiency gains across Australia. I acknowledge the presence in the Chamber of the honourable member for Northern Tablelands, who also serves on the Council of the University of New England. BREEDPLAN is just one initiative of many in which UNE has been a driving force in building on existing strengths, making Armidale a widely acknowledged centre of excellence in agricultural science and related commercial activities. As a consequence, the town has attracted the relocation of 20 cattle breeding societies, bringing about 120 jobs. The various research facilities now located in and around UNE are also leading the region's use of information and communications technology. In April in this House I said:
The UNE council strongly recommends … that a third Government funding line be established in addition to teaching and research training for servicing regional development needs.
The University of Newcastle was established in 1965. It has just over 18,000 students, who can choose from 150 undergraduate and postgraduate courses. The university has two main campuses, the largest of which is at Callaghan, with approximately 16,000 enrolled students. The Central Coast campus, located at Ourimbah, has approximately 1,600 students. That campus is earmarked for growth and student numbers are expected to increase considerably over the next five years. Three important areas of the university are located in the city close to their client base: the Faculty of Music and Conservatorium, the University of Newcastle Legal Centre and the Graduate School of Business.
The University of Newcastle generates some 6,200 direct and indirect jobs to the region. It is as important to Newcastle as the traditional industries of metals, mining and manufacturing, on which the city has been built. It generates more than $200 million into the economy each year, yet in 1996 the university had $27 million cut from its operating grants and 50, or 8 per cent, research training places were lost. This dealt a heavy blow and any further reductions in university funding will see a decrease in the direct and flow-on impacts as well as the long-term capacity to act as a catalyst for economic development. Further north is the Southern Cross University, which has campuses at Lismore, Tweed and Coffs Harbour. The honourable member for Bathurst spoke about the National Wine and Grape Industry Centre. The North Coast has the Cellulose Valley Technology Park concept. The park has been established as a centre of excellence for research, particularly for the commercialisation of plant-related research and products.
Research at the university has shown that the north-east of the State has many advantages, including a subtropical ecosystem, local Aboriginal knowledge of plant life and the region's past experience in horticulture. The park aims to attract companies by offering incubation services to start a business and access to the university's research skills. Since 1998 the park has generated up to 70 research jobs and by 2004 it is expected that nearly 600 people will be directly employed there. I call on the Howard Government to restore university funding and recognise the role of quality higher education for Australia's future.
(Bathurst) [4.05 p.m.], in reply: I thank the honourable members who contributed to the debate. The honourable member for Coffs Harbour wanted to know where my figure of $150 million in Federal Government cuts came from. It came from the Department of Education and Youth Affairs, which—as most honourable members would know—is a Federal Government department. If the honourable member for Coffs Harbour wants to know whether the figures are legitimate he should ask the Federal department. To try to divert the argument, the honourable member for Coffs Harbour started attacking TAFE New South Wales. This year's budget allocates in excess of $1.5 million for TAFE and some wonderful capital projects are under way. Indeed, in my electorate of Bathurst $16.5 million is being spent on the final stage of the upgraded TAFE campus. The problem we have with further expansion of TAFE in New South Wales is the relationship of the funding formula between Federal and State governments. It states:
The capacity of TAFE New South Wales to expand continues to be severely limited by the Commonwealth Government's stance on the provision of growth funds.
Each Federal budget helps that to become clear. The same thing has happened to universities. The Bathurst university has had to consider other ways to make up the shortfall of Federal funding cuts. Many universities have been forced to become quasi companies, private enterprise organisations running around chasing overseas funds. The Vice-Chancellors Association of Australia is at one by imploring the Federal Government to restore funding to the 1996 levels. Whatever the honourable member for Coffs Harbour might like to say, whatever red herrings he might like to throw into his argument, the facts are indisputable. The motion should not be disputed. We certainly do not accept the amendment moved by the Opposition. We have witnessed the farce of the Liberal Party tail and the National Party head. The only thing that did not happen today is that the honourable member for Monaro did not get chopped in half trying to get out the door before he had to vote—that has happened once before.
This motion should have the unanimous support of this House because it goes directly to the heart of the important economic drive of regional and rural universities in New South Wales. I shall not bore the House by repeating the figures, but I merely repeat that we are talking about $800 million in direct expenditure. If that is extrapolated, it is over $1 billion a year and 30,000 jobs—these are big figures. If the Federal Government continues its emasculation of funds for universities, those universities that have put in the hard yards will face a battle.
The hard work that has been done by internationally recognised universities such as Charles Sturt University and the University of Wollongong is being eroded by the miserly attitude of the Federal Government. Whether it is public education in our schools or university education, the Federal Government is looking for some backdoor method to force these people into privatisation. There is nothing wrong with universities having links with private organisations—it happens all the time. The honourable member for Wagga Wagga made some comment about the lack of technology investment and research by this Government. At the Land Information Centre at Bathurst a supercomputer has been set up and it is linked to Charles Sturt University.
There is already a relationship between those two bodies aimed at creating traineeships and taking on new staff. The supercomputer at Bathurst, working with the information technology group of Charles Sturt University, will reap tremendous advances in research and development. The honourable member for Wagga Wagga might be impressed with the letter signed by the eminent Sir Gustav Nossal, but that is another red herring because time and again in New South Wales the Government is doing that when it can. The week after next, right on the doorstep of Charles Sturt University, the Minister for Agriculture will be opening the new Organic Farming Research Institute. It also has links to Charles Sturt University. I commend the motion to the House.
Question—That the words stand—put.
The House divided.
Mrs Lo Po'
Mr E. T. Page
Mr W. D. Smith
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
Mr D. L. Page
Mr J. H. Turner
Mr R. W. Turner
Mr R. H. L. Smith
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Bills: Suspension of Standing and Sessional Orders
(Strathfield—Minister for Police) [4.19 p.m.]: I move:
That standing and sessional orders be suspended to permit:
(1) the resumption of the debate on the Child Protection (Offenders Registration) Amendment Bill and the Corporations (Ancillary Provisions) Bill, and cognate bills forthwith; and
(2) the postponement of the matter taking the place of the matter of public importance at this sitting.
(Gosford) [4.19 p.m.]: It is important that these bills be dealt with, but it is also important that the motion of the honourable member for Hawkesbury—which deals with the Hawkesbury-Nepean Catchment Management Trust and which has been on the business paper for some three months—be dealt with. Other Coalition members wish to speak to that motion. It is an important motion of no confidence in the Minister for Land and Water Conservation. It should not be allowed to continually drift along undebated. The Minister for Police insisted that a motion of no confidence in the Speaker be called on straightaway on the basis that such a motion should not stay on the business paper. Similarly, a motion of no confidence in a Minister should not be trivialised and regarded as something that is purely incidental. Once debate has commenced on the motion it should be dealt with expeditiously.
The Government, in its own subtle—or, rather, unsubtle—way is simply trying to trivialise an important motion moved by the honourable member for Hawkesbury on behalf of the Coalition. The honourable member for Hawkesbury has the united support of the Coalition, and I presume he has the support of the crossbench. Eliminating the authority to advise on the major catchment area for metropolitan Sydney, and probably the most important single river system for New South Wales, so far as the environment is concerned—the Hawkesbury-Nepean—without any prior consultation and without any sound reasoning is an important matter that should be debated urgently.
The House should debate it and it should be prepared to do that now. This motion and the Government's preparedness to allow the motion of the honourable member for Hawkesbury to stand on the business paper are indicative of its ongoing arrogance. The motion has been on the business paper for some three months. The Government refuses to allow it to be called on for debate and determination by the House. Accordingly, although the Coalition has no objection to important bills such as the corporations bill or the children's protection bill being debated, they should take their place in the order of business. The routine of business as laid down in the standing orders of the House should be respected and observed.
Question—That the motion be agreed to—put.
The House divided.
Mrs Lo Po'
Mr E. T. Page
Mr W. D. Smith
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
Mr D. L. Page
Mr J. H. Turner
Mr R. W. Turner
Mr R. H. L. Smith
CHILD PROTECTION (OFFENDERS REGISTRATION) AMENDMENT BILL
Debate resumed from 20 June.
(Wakehurst) [4.30 p.m.]: This bill was introduced last week by the Minister for Police. Once again, the Opposition has had little opportunity to go through the detail of it. In fact, after I indicated concern about some aspects, the Minister kindly offered me a briefing, which has just taken place. Because of the urgency of matters coming before the House, the Opposition will not oppose the bill, which contains apparently necessary amendments to the Child Protection (Offenders Registration) Act, which was enacted after passing through this House in June last year with bipartisan support. There was a high level of concern in the community that all possible steps should be taken to ensure that those who commit offences against children—whether those offences involve assault, sexual abuse, kidnapping or, indeed, murder—do not reoffend. For that reason the Opposition supported the passage of the Child Protection (Offenders Registration) Bill in both the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council. Those members of the Opposition who spoke in the debate on the bill indicated their support for the general thrust of that legislation. In this Chamber, the shadow Minister for Police, the honourable member for Epping, noted:
The Opposition supports the Child Protection (Offenders Registration) Bill, the objects of which are to require persons who have been found guilty of certain offences against children to keep the Commissioner of Police informed as to where they live and work and what motor vehicles they drive, and to make consequent amendments to give effect to the bill.
In the Legislative Council, the Leader of the Opposition made similar comments and emphasised the Opposition's support for the bill. It was noted by both speakers that the legislation followed recommendation 111 of the Wood royal commission. A number of the recommendations of the Wood royal commission were directed at trying to ensure that records were kept of those who offend against children. The commission recommended that the Government should perhaps look at the United Kingdom model. I understand from the succinct briefing I received only a few moments ago that the provisions of the bill result from the deliberations of an interagency group that has been meeting to examine the implementation of the Act.
The interagency group is chaired by the Minister for Police and includes members of the Police Service, the Attorney General's Department, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Judicial Commission, the Law Society of New South Wales, Corrective Services, the Department of Juvenile Justice, New South Wales Health, the pre-trial diversion of offenders program, the Ombudsman's Office and the Commission for Children and Young People and Privacy New South Wales. I have been told that the interagency group, in the course of working through implementation issues, found a number of loopholes and shortcomings that needed to be addressed. The bill seeks to prevent offenders who commit offences on separate days or against separate victims from mounting the legal argument that those offences comprise a single incident. It is my understanding that the Government believes that by closing that loophole it will ensure that such offenders are subject to the stricter registration period imposed on repeat offenders.
The bill also seeks to ensure that those who are sentenced for the offence of persistent sexual abuse of a child, which is a single offence comprising multiple incidents of child sexual assault or indecent assault, are subject to the tougher registration period imposed on recidivist offenders guilty of the most serious offences against children. Class 1 offences normally attract a sentence of 15 years incarceration and, in certain instances, may even involve life imprisonment. Certainly it is a tough outcome for those who offend. This legislation also requires the Department of Corrective Services, the Department of Juvenile Justice or New South Wales Health to advise police whenever a relevant offender completes a period of supervised parole or licence, community service, periodic detention, home detention, supervised good behaviour or participates in a pre-trial diversion of offenders program.
Apparently the Act does not address the sorts of orders that have become more prevalent under this Government—that is, community service orders, period detention orders and home detention orders—which some may well consider to be inappropriate for those sorts of offences. However, from time to time the courts consider that such orders are appropriate for certain offenders. It is equally appropriate that such offenders also should have to be registered with the Police Service when they fulfil the provisions of the order. The bill also provides that the Department of Corrective Services, the Department of Juvenile Justice and New South Wales Health must advise police whenever a relevant offender is allowed to leave his or her place of custody on unsupervised leave. The bill also makes a number of other necessary amendments.
The bill seeks to amend one of three Acts passed by Parliament in the past few years directed at making the community a little safer for children. One of those Acts was the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998. I note that although it has taken a year to move to the point where implementation of that Act is apparently imminent, the Government is doing a lot better in respect of the implementation of the Child Protection (Offenders Registration) Act. It has taken two years for the Government to take any action in relation to the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act, and then it implemented only the provisions of the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Miscellaneous Amendments Bill on 18 December last year.
I understand that the second phase of implementation of that very important legislation, which also had bipartisan support and was due to commence on 1 July 2001, is now likely to be delayed. Thus far we have not heard from the Minister for Community Services or her department that the target implementation date of 1 July is unlikely to be met, but all my advice indicates that that is precisely what will happen. Although the intent of the legislation is admirable and deserving of support from both sides of the Parliament, the Coalition parties are disappointed that yet again mismanagement, particularly by the Department of Community Services, under the direction of the Minister, has meant that the issue has yet again fallen into the black hole of inactivity and there will be more delays in implementing the legislation.
I put on the record the Opposition's concerns that if we are to be asked for bipartisan support for this type of legislation we should be able to rely on the Government's undertakings when it tells us that legislation will be implemented on particular dates. If it is not going to be implemented on those States then, in the spirit of bipartisanship that the Government has asked for, the Government should approach the Opposition, particularly the shadow Minister responsible—whether in this area or some other area—and tell us that it will not happen for a particular reason. If it is a justifiable reason the Opposition will not raise unnecessary concerns but if it is simply because of the incompetence of the Government we have an obligation to raise the issue. There is a fair assumption that when the Government talks to us about these issues we will see that the delay involves yet again the arrogance and incompetence of the Carr Government.
Today I received a briefing note from a group that has concerns about the bill. The Intellectual Disability Rights Service Inc. has prepared a written submission. The concerns were raised with the Opposition only today. In fact, I was handed a copy just minutes before the bill came on for debate in the House. Therefore I have not been able to go through the concerns in detail. However, some issues in the briefing paper appear to warrant further investigation. I put it to the Minister for Community Services, who is at the table at the moment, that she should take an interest in the submission because it specifically addresses the concerns of people with intellectual disability and other limitations including age, mental illness, brain injury, deafness and so on.
To that extent I would ask the Minister, who is now leaving the Chamber, to look at it at some point and perhaps discuss it with the Minister for Police, who is now at the table, to determine whether further amending legislation is necessary. I am disappointed that I received the briefing only today, yet I understand that discussions of the issues may have been going on with the Government possibly for some months. I indicate to other advocacy groups, particularly in the areas of disabilities and other matters covered by the disability services portfolio and the community services portfolio, that it is often beneficial to talk to the Opposition at the same time as they are talking to the Government. Sadly, on many occasions the Government ignores their requests. The Opposition can influence the outcome of legislation.
When sensible and reasonable legislation is before the Parliament we are generally able to rely on some crossbench or Independent members of the Legislative Council to accept effective amendments. If these groups cannot get any sense out of the Carr Government, which is becoming increasingly more arrogant and out of touch, they should contact us at the same time as they are talking with the Government so that amendments can be formulated to deal with concerns in the community. It would appear that the Government has lost touch. The New South Wales Opposition is there to ensure that their views are heard. The Coalition supports the legislation.
(Strathfield—Minister for Police) [4.46 p.m.], in reply: I thank the honourable member for Wakehurst for his contribution. The bill responds to the recommendations of the committee responsible for implementing the Child Protection (Offenders Registration) Act 2000, on which 14 agencies are represented. The bill ensures that persons found guilty of the offence of persistent sexual abuse of a child are dealt with as the most serious class of repeat offenders for the purposes of the Act. It also prevents offenders who commit offences on separate days or against separate victims from claiming their offences arise from the same incident, ensuring they are dealt with as repeat offenders. The bill also requires correctional and health agencies to inform police when an offender is on temporary release in the community without supervision or completes a supervised sentence in the community, a period of supervised parole or licence, or participation in the pre-trial diversion of offenders program.
The bill reflects the range of custodial orders that may be made in respect of offenders with mental health issues, recognises the appeal decisions of courts of other jurisdictions, and provides for the improved administration of the system for notifying offenders of their obligations under the Act. The amendments are necessary for the prompt commencement of the Child Protection (Offenders Registration) Act. I commend the built to the House. I again thank the honourable member for Wakehurst for his contribution. I also thank Elise Gale for the time she has dedicated to advising the Opposition, particularly the honourable member for Wakehurst, on the bill.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a second time and passed through remaining stages.
CORPORATIONS (ANCILLARY PROVISIONS) BILL
CORPORATIONS (CONSEQUENTIAL AMENDMENTS) BILL
CORPORATIONS (ADMINISTRATIVE ACTIONS) BILL
Debate resumed from 20 June.
(Gosford) [4.48 p.m.]: The Coalition does not oppose the passage of the Corporations (Consequential Amendments) Bill, the Corporations (Ancillary Provisions) Bill and the Corporations (Administrative Actions) Bill. The bills are extensive. One has 265 pages, and the ancillary provisions bill has 36 pages. As is the wont of this Government, the bills have been rushed through the Parliament in the usual way without proper opportunity for the Coalition to give them detailed consideration. As I have stated on many previous occasions, the Coalition reserves the right in the Legislative Council to vary its position, or move or accept amendments. The bills are enormously complicated and the amendments are extensive. Presumably, other States have passed complementary legislation following the High Court decision. In my opinion the bills are totally unnecessary. All that was necessary was for the States to refer their power over corporations to the Commonwealth. It is well accepted by Australian business and all sections of the community that it is appropriate for the Commonwealth to have jurisdiction over corporations. The majority of people would assume that the Commonwealth has power over these matters.
The Constitution grants the Commonwealth power over corporations formed within the limits of the Commonwealth, or financial or trading corporations carrying on business within the Commonwealth. I am sure that the High Court decision was a surprise to many people and I can recall discussing it with the former Attorney General, the Hon. Jeff Shaw. I am not verballing him, but at the time he was as surprised by the High Court decision as I was. I would have hoped that all the States, especially New South Wales, would have referred all their powers over corporations to the Commonwealth rather than go through what seems to be a constant process of passing legislation such as these massive bills.
After all, the New South Wales Government has long been committed to corporations being the responsibility of the Federal Government. That is consistent with the philosophical position of the Labor Party. Over the years the Liberal Party and the National Party have varied their positions. At one time we believed that the responsibility for corporations should be a matter of States' rights, but we accept that the national economy is important and needs to be organised on a national basis. We accept that corporations are integral and intrinsic to the national economy and that their needs to be one, single, national Corporations Law. That is, of course, why we supported uniform companies legislation in the 1960s, a creation of the Menzies Government, and why we have supported the referral of corporations powers ever since.
I was aware that there was some concern among Labor States that a general referral of the corporations power would lead to the Commonwealth Government having power over industrial relations. I am not sure how that debate ended. There seems to have been so much effort, but with what result? What is the purpose of this Parliament passing such massive legislation—and it is not for the first time—when at the end of the day all it will do is pass complementary legislation in the same way as the other States. New South Wales is not going out on its own; it will fall into line, as will the other States, with the wishes of the Commonwealth. It seems to me that we are adopting a fairly burdensome and unhelpful procedure.
(Blue Mountains—Attorney General, Minister for the Environment, Minister for Emergency Services, and Minister Assisting the Premier on the Arts) [4.52 p.m.], in reply: Honourable members will recall that earlier this year the New South Wales Parliament became the first to enact the Corporations (Commonwealth Powers) Bill. That bill allowed the proposed Commonwealth Corporations Act and Australian Securities and Investments Commission Act to be introduced into the Commonwealth Parliament. The other States and Territories have now enacted referral bills. The bills we are debating are the last stage of that process and their passage will allow the new scheme for corporate regulation to commence on 1 July.
I observe that the Corporations Law has already been referred to the Commonwealth and these bills are essential to maintain the status quo. The Corporations Law is a State law, and many State laws are inconsistent with it. When the Corporations Law becomes a Federal law, State laws will need to be amended to preserve their operation. Without ancillary and consequential amendments a considerable amount of State legislation will have no effect and will make no sense at all. The referral of the Corporations Law and related legislation to the Commonwealth is an historic milestone. It is the most significant referral of powers ever made by a State Parliament.
The referral will restore a solid foundation to corporate regulation in Australia and bring to an end the arid challenges to the powers of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission that have followed certain decisions of the High Court. I agree with the shadow Minister, the honourable member for Gosford, that the High Court decisions that have led to this plethora of legislation were a little surprising to many people in the administration of government, but they occurred. We are simply restoring a status quo that involves a sharing of responsibility for corporations between the Commonwealth and the States. The referral of powers restores jurisdiction to the Federal Court of Australia to deal with matters arising under the Corporations Law, giving litigants a choice of forum and enabling them to have all of their disputes resolved in a single court. However, I take this opportunity to remind honourable members of the important safeguards that have been put in place in both the Corporations (Commonwealth Powers) Bill and the Corporations Agreement to ensure that the rights of the States are not trampled upon by the Commonwealth.
First, the referral will remain on foot for only five years, unless it is extended by proclamation. In that time the States expect the Commonwealth to hold a referendum to ask the Australian people to amend the Commonwealth Constitution so as to underpin co-operative schemes. Such a constitutional amendment would avoid the need for future referrals, because it would enable the States and the Commonwealth to again move together to enact seamless, uniform schemes across Australia. That is a goal that I have observed to be shared by all State governments regardless of their political colour. Notwithstanding the remarks of the honourable member for Gosford, all State governments support the proposition that we should work towards an amendment to the Constitution which would enable the State and the Commonwealth to work together to enact seamless, uniform schemes that do not involve arid High Court challenges and the consequent need for further referrals or changes to the affected legislation.
Second, the referral can be terminated by giving six months notice. The Corporations Agreement will regulate the manner in which this power is used, to ensure that the power is not exercised by a single jurisdiction for some improper purpose. Third, the Corporations Agreement will provide that the Commonwealth can make certain amendments to the referred laws only after it has undertaken a vote of the States in accordance with the Corporations Agreement. Fourth, the Corporations Agreement will expressly provide that the referral is not to be used for the purposes of industrial relations or the regulation of the environment, areas which I am sure honourable members will appreciate have traditionally been matters for the States. The bills provide important support for the referral legislation by making ancillary and consequential amendments, and by validating certain activities of Commonwealth authorities. I urge honourable members to support the bills.
Motion agreed to.
Bills read a second time and passed through remaining stages.
APPROPRIATION (PARLIAMENT) BILL
APPROPRIATION (SPECIAL OFFICES) BILL
INSURANCE PROTECTION TAX BILL
STATE REVENUE LEGISLATION FURTHER AMENDMENT BILL
Debate resumed from an earlier hour.
(Fairfield) [4.59 p.m.]: Along with other Government members I express my support for the Appropriation (Parliament) Bill, and cognate bills. I will address some benefits contained in the budget for the Fairfield constituency and will report progress in relation to those allocations. First, I would like to refer to the upgrade of the corner of The Horsley Drive and Polding Street in Fairfield, for which $900,000 has been allocated. This allocation appeared in the previous budget papers, but the improvement in the road configuration was delayed because it involved the acquisition of the front of some properties on the Horsley Drive. I am assured by the Minister that the work will be finally completed this financial year. This upgrade will substantially improve the traffic flow at that intersection, a major intersection in the Fairfield local government area.
The budget also contains an allocation of $2.1 million for the easy access upgrade of Fairfield railway station. The upgrade will include two lifts, a new footbridge and canopies, which will improve access for people who have mobility problems and for people with prams. Once again, that allocation appeared in last year's budget papers but in this case the work has been held up because of heritage considerations. With the exception of the city-based stations, Fairfield railway station is the oldest station in New South Wales and the upgrade must take into account heritage concerns. Consultation is taking place between Fairfield City Council and the relevant State agencies. It is hoped that agreement will be quickly reached so that the upgrade can commence. Fairfield railway station will then have similar facilities to other stations in the Sydney metropolitan area and will have enhanced access for those who find it difficult to negotiate the stairs.
A sum of $60,000 has been allocated for improvements to the intersection of Knight Street and Quest Avenue Carramar. Residential developments have been taking place in this area and the allocation will improve access for new residents. Also, $250,000 has been allocated for road pavement works on the Hume Highway and $50,000 has been allocated to plan the widening of the Horsley Drive at Fairfield between Mitchell Street and Fairfield Street. As the local member I have lobbied for this and I hope that the allocation will bring the planning process to the point where the project can proceed. Horsley Drive has four lanes except from the bridge over the creek near Patrician Brothers College to the bridge over the railway line at Fairfield station, where there are only two lanes. That is dangerous because traffic has to merge from four lanes into two to traverse the bridge over the creek, which, as I said, is in close proximity to a school.
An allocation of $38.6 million has been provided for the south-west region to improve public housing and renew communities. My electorate has received considerable attention from the former Minister for Housing, Craig Knowles, and the present Minister, Andrew Refshauge, with the redevelopment of East Fairfield. Previously, there was a housing estate known locally as the Bronx. That is being demolished and a new development has been constructed, resulting in an improved neighbourhood. This has meant that many of the previous crime problems and undesirable behaviour associated with the housing estate have been alleviated.
Considerable funds have been spent on the redevelopment of Villawood Shopping Centre. Aldi has opened up its store and that has been well received by the residents. It is hoped that the upgrade of the shopping centre will be completed by the new private sector owner by the end of the year. This will improve the quality of life for the residents of Villawood, many of whom are elderly and immobile. It will bring services closer to their homes and achieve the social objective of meeting their needs. It is pleasing to see that this is finally coming to fruition after considerable lobbying by Fairfield City Council, the Department of Housing and me. Also, 90 new homes will be built in Fairfield, Bass Hill, Canley Heights and Chester Hill. Although there are a number of Department of Housing homes in the Fairfield local government area, there are a huge number of people on the waiting list. Fairfield is the first port of call for many migrants to Australia and many need housing assistance. That is the reason for the high demand in my electorate.
Many migrants find it difficult to move to other suburbs because they fear they will not have access to a doctor who speaks their language, to a church in which they wish to worship, or to the other amenities that migrants regard as important. They are reluctant to be housed in other parts of Sydney or outside Sydney. They prefer to wait and that is why the waiting time for public housing in my local government area is around 11 years. The State Government is aware of the problem but has had to cope with the fact that the Commonwealth pulled out of the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement. I understand it is coming to the party now in some form, but in the meantime the State Government has had to go it alone, the result being the substantial blow-out in the waiting list. Even though it is a priority of this Government to provide as much public housing as possible, it has been difficult over the past five years because of lack of co-operation from the Commonwealth.
The South Western Sydney Area Health Service receives the biggest percentage increase in the health budget in New South Wales, and deservedly so. We have the greatest need and I understand that the per capita funding for south-west Sydney has been the lowest in the State and deserves considerable attention. I am pleased that there will be a return to the voucher system for dental care. When the former Federal Labor Government ran the dental service it was partly operated through a voucher system by which people in need could pick up vouchers and go to the dentist of their choice. Upon taking office the Howard Government scrapped that program, and the waiting list for dental services likewise blew out. To this day the burden has fallen on the State Government.
The Minister for Health has announced the establishment of a voucher system to be funded by the State Government. Obviously, it will not be of the same proportions as the one funded by the Commonwealth, but it will reintroduce flexibility and allow those in dire need to have their needs addressed in a more flexible and prompt way. It is important to note that the dental service program budget allocation will be based on a resource distribution formula that introduces greater fairness into the system. When the system is introduced it will ensure that the residents of Fairfield receive a bigger piece of the cake because they are amongst the most needy in the State of New South Wales.
By 2002-03 the south-west Sydney budget allocation for dental services will increase by $3.5 million over two years, or 75 per cent on last year's allocation. That is an indication of the significant need for dental services in the Fairfield local government area and a measure of the Government's commitment to the needs of local residents. The Government is putting its money where its mouth is and I thank the Minister for caring and listening to those who, through my office, have been crying out for improved dental services.
The health budget also provides funding for the construction of the Carramar Mental Health Service, which will be located at the Carramar Community Health Centre. Capital expenditure of $1.2 million will be allocated to that project. There has been extensive consultation about the location of this service. The Minister for Health visited my electorate earlier in the year to discuss the matter and I convinced him that the mental health service should be located at the Carramar community health centre. I understand that building plans have been submitted to the council and we are almost at the point when construction can begin. That is very good news because, after the drug problem, mental health is the second most significant problem in the Fairfield local government area.
Mental health problems are connected to drugs but also to the trauma experienced by many migrants before they came to Australia. Many of my constituents suffer mental health problems as a result of the trauma of war and all kinds of other dramatic experiences. The area health service's mental health strategy involves developing a 50-bed inpatient service to be located at Liverpool Hospital. This is an indication of the Government's concern for mental health; indeed, the Minister has repeated his commitment to mental health many times. I am sure that people in the Fairfield local government area appreciate enormously this Government's commitment to mental health, as it is a major problem dogging our community.
Juvenile Justice community services situated at Blacktown, Campbelltown and Fairfield will continue to provide the courts with sentencing alternatives to custody. This program has proved very successful to date. Most honourable members would agree that gaoling young offenders is not always the best solution, as correctional facilities can become schools for young criminals. The system should offer other sentencing opportunities, and Community Services is doing that by providing alternatives to custody.
Westfields Sports High School has received $3.5 million for its staged upgrade, which will cost $4.8 million. I will be watching that upgrade with enormous interest, as I am quite concerned that the first stage took much longer than originally planned and budgeted. I have initiated contact in order to ensure that this upgrade occurs quite quickly and that Westfields Sports High School—a flagship school in Australia, let alone in the local community—benefits from the allocated funding. The Minister for Education and Training opened the performing arts building at the high school earlier this year, so resources are clearly flowing to it. It is good to see that that trend will continue.
Debate adjourned on motion by Mr R. H. L. Smith.
Pursuant to sessional orders business interrupted.
PRIVATE MEMBERS' STATEMENTS
TUMBARUMBA LOCAL DEVELOPMENT
(Wagga Wagga) [5.15 p.m.]: I must tell the House of some good news in my electorate, specifically in the town of Tumbarumba, which has recorded the record price of $120,000 for a bale of superfine wool. The wool was grown in the Mannus Valley on Kay and Gary Wilson's property using innovative methods. The Wilsons, together with Tony and Pam Walker of Fairbank Yass, and Barry and Gavin Walker of Ledgerton, own the sheep and the Australian Wool Network. Managing Director, John Colley, negotiated the sale. That is just one piece of good news in a community that is working together and seeking innovations and new ideas to create jobs and sustainable industry.
Many things are happening in Tumbarumba and I pay credit to those who live in that town and to the council, which is showing great leadership in respect of the many and varied projects on which the community is embarking. Foundations have been poured for the Tumbarumba long day care centre and preschool, and building is at a reasonable stage. That is good news for Tumbarumba. A new skate park is also under construction. The inmates of the Mannus Correctional Centre and local community service groups have raised about $30,000 to build this skate park, working with the youth of Tumbarumba. It is just one of many skate parks being built around my electorate but I point to this project because small communities are often forgotten. Some of the project's funding came from regional capital works grants.
On Saturday night I was pleased to attend a Rotary changeover in Tumbarumba. The most important thing about this changeover is the formation of a Rotaract club in the town—it is not often that young people in a small rural community step forward to form an organisation such as that. It was a great night and I wish the 15 new members of the Tumbarumba Rotaract Club the very best. I challenge other towns in my electorate and in the State as a whole to encourage young people—as Tumbarumba has—to form new volunteer organisations to help their local communities. Tumbarumba Shire Council and its local member of Parliament are working hard to establish natural gas provision in the town. I thank the Minister and his staff for their assistance so far in this endeavour. A feasibility study has been completed and I expect Tumbarumba to be linked to natural gas fairly soon. Hopefully, the project will create more jobs and investment for Tumbarumba and assist the sawmills at Laurel Hill and Boral, which will be encouraged to link to cheaper natural gas.
Tumbarumba has an extremely low unemployment rate—an enormous source of pride to the community—which I believe will drop even lower as a consequence of proactive community initiatives. Some $100,000 worth of library extensions are also under way in Tumbarumba—I guess one could say that there is a mini building boom in the town. This year Tumbarumba began grape crushing in the local plant, which is also good news, and I hope that the next step will be the establishment of a winery in the town. The community is also considering creating a rural transaction centre, which will provide services that are lacking at present. I congratulate the community of Tumbarumba on taking up the challenge, facing its difficulties bravely and, more importantly, on working together to solve the many problems that rural communities across New South Wales experience every day.
MORISSET HOSPITAL CAFE
(Lake Macquarie) [5.19 p.m.]: On Wednesday 13 June I was pleased to officially open a new cafe in the grounds of Morisset Hospital. Known as The Pavilion, the cafe has a dual purpose. It will provide a much-needed food service to clients, residents and staff on the Morisset Hospital site as well as to the wider community. It will also serve as a valuable vocational training facility for people who have experienced mental illness. The café, a Hunter Joblink project, was funded under the Hunter Mental Health's Non-Government Organisation grants program. Hunter Joblink provides paid employment and vocational training for people with psychiatric disability in the Hunter region. Hunter Joblink employs trainees and apprentices at award rates in hospitality, horticulture and administration. It is perhaps best known for its successful restaurant-cafe venture in the grounds of James Fletcher Hospital in Newcastle. Once known as Monets, it is now known as the Commandant's Cottage, reflecting the heritage of the building.
Hunter Joblink currently employs 40 trainees and three apprentices. The Pavilion in the grounds of Morisset Hospital is Hunter Joblink's newest venture. Hunter Health helps Hunter Joblink by providing a range of support, including rent-free premises and clinical support through its supported recovery services in Newcastle and Lake Macquarie. The Pavilion follows on the strength of Hunter Joblink's Commandant's Cottage restaurant. The Pavilion, like the Commandant's Cottage, will also serve as an accredited vocational training site for hospitality trainees and apprentices, and will be overseen by a qualified chef. The cafe will provide morning and afternoon tea and cafe-style lunches from Monday to Friday, as well as contract catering services on site for staff.
On the opening day Amber Whittaker, the Manager of Hunter Joblink, gave a brief overview of Hunter Joblink services. Judy Kennedy, Deputy Director of mental health for the Hunter region, spoke on the importance of rehabilitation programs for people with psychiatric disabilities. I was then asked to speak and officially open the cafe. I extended a warm welcome to everyone; I especially welcomed to Morisset the staff of Hunter Joblink and The Pavilion. It was certainly great to see a high-quality cafe on site at Morisset for clients, staff and the wider community. After sampling the fare from the restaurant, I can highly recommend it to all.
Facilities like The Pavilion help to demystify mental illness, both by inviting the general public onto sites like James Fletcher and Morisset and by demonstrating that people who have experienced a period of mental illness can and do get on with their lives. On opening day I encouraged people to attend The Pavilion; certainly there has been much publicity about the cafe in the local media. I hope people will go and enjoy this facility. Everyone who attended would vouch that it is a wonderful experience. The cafe is situated in a beautiful location next to the chapel, the food is good, and the staff are eager to please. I congratulate Hunter Joblink and Hunter Mental Health on recognising this important need for people recovering from mental illness.
Amber Whittaker pointed out that stress is a major factor in triggering mental illness. Hunter Mental Health, through its supported recovery program, teaches staff how to manage stress, recognise early warning signs and maintain employment. About one in five people will experience mental illness in their lifetime. The most common mental illness is depression, which is recognised as one of the most significant illnesses throughout the world. While some people who experience mental illness may require hospital treatment, most continue to live and work in the community, seeking treatment through general practitioners and community health services. Once again I congratulate Hunter Joblink and Hunter Mental Health and all those associated with the establishment of The Pavilion cafe at Morisset Hospital.
MID NORTH COAST AREA HEALTH SERVICE
(Coffs Harbour) [5.23 p.m.]: I am extremely concerned about the state of the Mid North Coast Area Health Service. I have raised this issue on several occasions in this House and today listed it as a matter of public importance, but the Government did not deem it appropriate to debate it. In a letter dated 18 June Dr William Ross said:
I write to inform you of my concerns regarding the deteriorating ability of the Mid North Coast Area Health Service and the New South Wales Health Department to deliver fair and timely access to basic health care to residents of the Coffs Harbour region and surrounding areas.
I shall paraphrase the contents of the letter because it is quite lengthy and would take more time to read than is available to me at this time. He said:
1. Clinical Priorities
Diagnostic colonoscopies (for patients who have symptoms suggestive of bowel cancer) have been reduced from nine to only four cases per week. The reason for this is to allocate this operating time to patients with cancer which has already been diagnosed eg breast cancer … The medico-legal risk of delayed diagnosis of cancer in Coffs Harbour was raised in Parliament earlier this year.
2. Waiting Lists
... Of approximately 1200 patients on the General Surgery waiting list 10% have sought treatment in Grafton.
He said that patients can be referred to Grafton, where the operation is generally done within four weeks. The letter continued:
11% of 502 patients have come off the Orthopaedic waiting list to have there surgery at PPA/Rachel Foster. Again, a wait of years is traded in for a wait of 2-3 months. 23% of patients waiting for cataract surgery either pay privately or go to Armidale.
3. Outflow of patients to other centres.
The MNCAHS website states that by 2006 the net cost of outflows will be a staggering $44.8 million.
I am trying to demonstrate that literally thousands of people in Coffs Harbour cannot get basic diagnostic services at the hospital. It is an absolute disgrace that a Minister and a Government that tell us we have an extra $46 million are overseeing a health service that cannot keep up with the present waiting list. Funding for Coffs Harbour has been set at 1998-99 levels. We are operating on last year's figures; we are not operating to the present needs of the community. Coffs Harbour is the largest provincial city in New South Wales. We are told that the new hospital will solve all when it is opened in 12 months. On that issue Dr Ross said:
The new Base Hospital will open on time. In November 1999 the Minister for Health stated that the new hospital would not be opened without adequate funding. When the hospital opens two of the four theatres will remain closed—there will be no increase in theatre staff. Surgical beds will remain closed. Staffing in radiology will not be increased, so the possibility of offering an adequate service looks remote—sick patients may still have to travel across town to the private practice for special procedures.
Out of his own pocket, Dr Ross has employed a nurse to care for breast cancer patients who have undergone mastectomies and surgery. The Mid North Coast Area Health Service forwarded to him a letter dated 12 April thanking him for what he has been doing and stating:
The position of Breast Care Nurse will be funded from 1 July 2001.
That is in a week's time, yet the position has not been advertised. Why? Because the health service does not have the funds to pay for the position. It is all window-dressing. The chief executive officer [CEO] of the Mid North Coast Area Health Service was in my office last week and I suggested to him that operating theatres were closed. He said that was not true. I do not like semantics and I do not like being lied to by a CEO. In the end he said, "They are not closed. They are just not operating at peak capacity." The week before seven theatre patient lists were cancelled. That demonstrates that the hospital is operating at half capacity. It is an absolute disgrace. An injection of funds was needed yesterday. I have raised this matter on numerous occasions in this House. The people of Coffs Harbour are being poorly served not only by lack of funding but by the maladministration of health services. Money is going out of town and the hospital's CEO is misleading the public, staff, doctors and everyone involved. [Time expired
(Charlestown—Minister for Gaming and Racing, and Minister Assisting the Premier on Hunter Development) [5.28 p.m.]: Recently I responded to a question on notice about action being taken by the Government to address the problem of under-age drinking in the community. It is not the first time I have drawn the attention of the House to the considerable concern about under-age drinking and the laws that provide an important framework that underpins most strategies that seek to prevent and reduce under-age drinking. My portfolio administers that legislation. An under-age drinking prevention program conducted by the Department of Gaming and Racing guides the implementation of strategies that complement the liquor laws. In addition to regular review of the under-age drinking laws, the program includes various non-legislative components. I shall draw the attention of the House to recent program initiatives. Honourable members would be aware that under-age drinking laws have been strengthened by the introduction of new offences and increases in monetary fines for licensees, other adults and minors who disregard the law. Under-age drinking laws have also been responsive to changes in community attitudes and expectations.
Point of order: The purpose of private members' statements is for members to raise issues that pertain to their electorates. It is clear, from what the Minister has said to this point, that he does not intend to do that. If he wishes to make his speech relevant to his electorate, that is fine. However, if he does not do that, if he does not intend to do that, or if he is unable to do that he should sit down and allow private members to pursue their issues.
To the point of order: That standing order was changed some time ago. The Opposition spokesman on gaming and racing is forever in here besmirching people and going on about things that have absolutely nothing to do with his electorate. Under-age drinking pertains to my electorate, which only illustrates what a knucklehead the honourable member is.
Mr ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Mills):
Order! I will allow the Minister to proceed. However, I will seek advice from the Clerk.
Under-age drinking laws are relevant to everyone's electorate, including mine. They reflect changes in community expectations and attitudes. For example, last year the Government amended the liquor legislation to prohibit the sale of alcoholic iceblocks, something which has affected my electorate of Charlestown and many other electorates. Last week I introduced the latest amendment to the under-age drinking laws: new measures to prevent minors from gaining access to liquor via Internet sales. The proposed amendments are supported by the liquor industry. They serve to draw attention again to the consequences for everyone, adult and minors, who disregard under-age drinking laws. The New South Wales proof of age card, a scheme that has impacted on the Hunter region that I represent, is a program that has been found to be flawed. It was a tremendous initiative in helping licensees and their staff to identify under-age drinkers, but like everything else people have started to rort the system.
The success of the proof of age card can be measured by the ongoing demand for the card, as well as its extension as proof of age for the purchase of tobacco products. Each month around 2,500 cards are issued to young people in the 18 to 25 year age group. My department has worked with the Roads and Traffic Authority and the Police Service to enhance the security of the proof of age card scheme. Liquor industry associations have shown leadership through their strong support for the proof of age card scheme and its "no proof, no purchase" message. Another important component of the Department of Gaming and Racing under-age drinking prevention program is its ongoing education of the liquor industry and, more recently, the broader community. My department issues regular liquor and gaming bulletins that draw attention to the laws and responsible serving initiatives. There is no excuse for licensees, clubs and staff in licensed venues to say that they did not know about under-age drinking laws.
Under-age drinking is of concern to all local members. The Department of Gaming and Racing also has a range of supporting resources—signs, promotional clothing and other items—to reinforce the "no proof, no purchase" message. Demand for these resources is high, and new items are introduced from time to time to build awareness. Getting these messages to the liquor industry is relatively straightforward. People must be licensed to sell liquor. My department has a list of licensees and registered clubs who do not do the right thing, and they are dealt with accordingly. Signs in licensed venues alert patrons to the under-age drinking laws, particularly the offence of selling or supplying liquor to a minor. Promoting awareness about under-age drinking laws within the broader community is another feature of the program run by this Government. The Department of Gaming and Racing sends information to young people, parents and the broader community in a number of ways.
Order! I draw the attention of the Minister to the following ruling by Speaker Rozzoli in 1990:
The type of matter raised in a member's capacity as a shadow minister would generally be outside the spirit of a private member's statement.
In parallel with that I rule, in response to the point of order taken earlier by the honourable member for Davidson, that the matter is generally within the portfolio responsibilities of the Minister. Therefore, it is generally outside the spirit of a private member's statement.
RESIDENTIAL TENANCIES TRIBUNAL
(Davidson) [5.33 p.m.]: I draw the attention of the House to a matter that relates directly to a constituent in my electorate. An elderly, self-funded retiree has an investment property on which she relies for her income. She has had a very unfortunate experience in dealing with a tenant and, consequently, the Residential Tenancies Tribunal, which warrants the attention of this House. I would like the Government to review the role of the tribunal and the processes it has to follow. My constituent had a tenant by the name of James Samson in her property at North Narrabeen whom, it must be said from what various people who know him have said, is of questionable character. He was a tenant in my constituent's property from September 1999 and sometime late last year he stopped paying his rent. It would appear that from time to time he has been in receipt of Centrelink payments, as well as working as a brickie's labourer. It also transpires that references he initially provided may have been bogus.
My elderly retired constituent, who relies on her rental property for income, has been very traumatised by her experiences with this tenant and the Residential Tenancies Tribunal. Unfortunately, her story is typical of many, particularly those who offer residential properties for rent throughout Sydney. It would be of concern also to small investors. My constituent is facing her seventh hearing before the tribunal, which has placed a significant strain on her health and her income. In January and February this year she had the first of two hearings at the tribunal. The upshot of the second hearing was that the tenant, Mr Samson, was told to vacate the premises and make good the payments on which he had defaulted. A third hearing followed in which the tenant took the landlord to the tribunal, made allegations about engineering deficiencies in the house and claimed compensation.
The tenant pontificated for 2½ years, at which point the hearing was adjourned to a fourth hearing date. At that time the assessor, unfortunately, was ill and the hearing was unable to progress. At the fifth hearing the tenant claimed that he forgot the day. Fortunately, the assessor, in view of the facts and in the absence of the tenant, made a judgment against him. The assessor gave the tenant one week's notice to vacate the premises and ordered him to pay any outstanding money. The tenant appealed that decision and was awarded a sixth hearing, which he again forgot. Judgment was again awarded against the tenant, who was ordered to vacate the next day and make payment of the rental arrears. The tenant vacated the premises the next day, but at today's date my constituent is yet to receive $1 in payment. Not only is she out of pocket by $5,000 in forgone rent; she is unable to find another tenant to move into the premises. My constituent has lost $1,050, or thereabouts, in payments to the agent and by having to appear at the tribunal. She has also had to finance an engineering report for the bogus claim of engineering deficiencies.
My constituent has now received a notice from the tribunal of a seventh hearing. The tenant appealed on health grounds and the tribunal saw fit to grant him leave for a seventh hearing. Not only is the tenant refusing to make payment; he is also dragging my elderly tenant through a very difficult and unnecessary process. The Residential Tenancies Tribunal must be much firmer with tenants of this nature. There is no doubt that such a tenant should be blacklisted and not given the opportunity to rent a property anywhere. The tribunal should never have granted a seventh hearing and, arguably, not even a fifth and sixth hearing. The tribunal should have thrown this matter out before it went to a hearing. There seems to be a significant shift of attitude by the tribunal towards people who provide rental properties to those in the private rental market, which is critical to our housing market. It should disallow tenants, such as Mr Samson, flexibility and latitude of this nature that they do not deserve.
NRMA CHAIRMAN Mr NICHOLAS WHITLAM
Mr E. T. PAGE
(Coogee) [5.38 p.m.]: Constituents of mine who are longstanding members of the NRMA are concerned about the amount of money the organisation is spending on legal fees without board approval. The NRMA has stepped up its consumption of legal services with the launch of a spate of actions that, while delivering big bags of money to lawyers' bank accounts, are of questionable value to the ordinary NRMA member who is facing a 10 per cent hike in membership renewal this year, branch closures and the payment for services—such as accommodation guides— which used to be free. NRMA Chairman Nick Whitlam has two separate actions against former adviser Robert Dempsey: one for alleged breach of confidentiality over the leaking of some of Nick Whitlam's personal faxes and one for alleged defamation when, having been accused of leaking those same documents, Dempsey denied the accusation and defended himself in the media.
The NRMA is suing Channel 9 over a recent program exposing a number of questionable transactions and a 1998 annual general meeting voting irregularity which would have given every director a $10,000 pay rise and trebled that rise for the chairman, Nick Whitlam, who was in charge of the proxy votes. The subject of the program was Nick Whitlam, not the NRMA, and the legal action is being taken by Whitlam without NRMA board approval. The transactions and the voting irregularity are currently the subject of a major investigation by the corporate regulator, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission [ASIC], and I await its report and action. More recently the NRMA has taken its sister company, NRMA Insurance, to court over what it claims is a breached agreement over the proposed closure of 21 branches.
This matter should never have gone to court and should have been settled by negotiation. During the case the legal representative of the insurance company pointed out to the judge that the legal action taken by the motoring arm was undertaken without board approval. My questions are: Why are there so many separate court actions, which are only to silence critics of the NRMA and of Chairman Nick Whitlam? Who is paying for these actions? The first two actions emerge from the breakdown in the business relationship between Nick Whitlam and his former strategic adviser, Dempsey. The documents sought relate to personal faxes sent by Whitlam to others, including Dempsey, while Whitlam was overseas and relate to Whitlam's ambition to be given the $1 million-plus job of acting chief executive officer three years ago.
Acting for Whitlam in these two actions are the NRMA's lawyers, Corrs Chambers Westgarth. A number of questions have been asked by members of the board as to who is paying for these actions, but the NRMA has been silent on that question. Can I have the NRMA's assurance that Whitlam, and not the NRMA, is picking up the tab for this private spat between him and his former adviser? The action against Channel 9 was launched by the NRMA in recent weeks and I seek the NRMA's assurances that this potentially very expensive action is being taken in the best interests of the NRMA and not because Nick Whitlam was embarrassed by the program or because it exposed the sources of funding for his and his factions 1995 board election campaign. None of these actions was put to the board for approval before the commencement of legal action.
None of the board members involved in this matter ever disclosed any interest in it. Half of the NRMA board is now heading for another election. A longstanding member of the NRMA, Bill Snodgrass, has been trying without success to discover who funded the 1999 election campaign when the NRMA's advertising agency Saatchi and Saatchi provided heavy advertising exposure to the Whitlam-led Members First team. There were other suppliers of services, including printers and distributors, who provided free or discounted services to the Whitlam team during the 1995, 1997 and 1999 election campaigns. The 1999 election was a noticeably big spending campaign by Members First and featured billboard, radio and print advertisements that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The Members First faction has never explained where those funds came from, and Snodgrass's attempts to obtain that information for members by calling a special general meeting—now seven months ago—has been thwarted by the NRMA's legal stonewalling. The matter will go to the Court of Appeal for hearing in September, but by then the current election campaign will be almost over, again without any disclosure as to where candidates obtained their funding and services to run the campaign; how much was obtained; and whether any of the donors are also suppliers of services to the NRMA. This action has been taken by the Whitlam-controlled NRMA board without ever having received board approval.
It now appears that the resolution requiring directors to expose their election funding will not be able to be put to a meeting of NRMA members before November, by which time the current half board election campaign will be over. It will be too late to get that information. I am concerned, as my constituents are, about the legal action that has been taken by the NRMA without board approval. I now call on ASIC to investigate the bringing of these legal actions without board approval and the use of NRMA members funds for personal vendettas.
FREIGHT RAIL CORPORATION SALE
(Lachlan) [5.43 p.m.]: Earlier today the Freight Rail Corporation (Sale) Bill was put through this Chamber. It was not listed on the day's proceedings and, indeed, I understand that when it came into the Chamber copies of the bill were not available. That has denied an opportunity for some members, who may have a vested interest so far as their electorates are concerned, to have input into the legislation. In Junee in the electorate of Lachlan a company called Austrac, which is a privately owned rail operation, has been trying to compete against FreightCorp for some years to win contracts for the cartage of grain in particular. It, along with other privately owned freight operators in rural New South Wales, has been 100 per cent unsuccessful. One of the problems has been that the community service obligation [CSO] funding that has been available in the past has always gone 100 per cent to FreightCorp.
The passage of this bill through the House today has denied my constituent, Austrac, the opportunity to have input into the debate through me, the local member. I shall refer to a number of extracts contained in a submission from Austrac. Austrac stated that the second reading speech is substantially based on the Rural and Regional Impact Statement (RRIS), and that that appears to have been prepared without either any material degree of independence of the authors or rigorous econometric analysis. It appears that only the views of a select group have been taken into account in the framing of the RRIS. The RRIS was prepared without any consultation at all with the independent rail operators in New South Wales. The needs of private operators and other intermediaries addressing the regional markets have not been addressed.
Austrac referred to a number of recommendations of the upper House inquiry, in particular recommendation 7, that the Department of Transport provide a discussion paper on CSO policy and its implications. It is of concern that important policy decisions have been made without consultation with some participants in the New South Wales rail industry. It is of equal concern that important details of apparently decided policy remain undisclosed. There is also a vast gap between the proposals of the Government and reasonable public disclosure in relation to the sale process itself. It would be expected that confidentiality concerns of purchasers will prevent disclosure in the final outcome. In respect of recommendation 9, contestability of CSO payments, Austrac stated that the Government proposes to make contestable less than $2 million of a current subsidy of $72 million.
It appears, but is not explicitly set out in information released by the Government, that the purchaser of the Freight Rail Corporation will obtain the continuing benefit of an exclusive subsidy with a present value of about $200 million over the next six years. The RRIS report makes the assertion that, "It is likely that within the next five to 10 years the rail freight sector will have matured to the point that it is feasible to introduce contestability for CSO funding for product haulage." The upper House committee heard credible evidence that subsidies would be completely unnecessary within a few years if the track standard and condition were brought up to modern levels. The submission from Austrac stated that the Government is also contradicting itself by saying that the fuel subsidy will be contestable but the industry is otherwise sufficiently mature. Austrac suggested, to the extent that the industry has not evolved, that it is largely as a result of poor policy and in particular the existing policy and structure of exclusive CSO payments to one operator on an undisclosed basis.
Austrac asserted that this statement does not refer to any subsidy to FreightCorp or its successors and that the Government appears to have contradicted itself or misled Parliament in respect of the budget papers. In respect of recommendation 12, consideration for public externalities in investment decisions, Austrac stated that there is plenty of evidence in various papers to show that the Government has not in the past, or now, adequately considered the externalities associated with transport sector infrastructure. For example, how has this Government allowed the condition of the rail network to reach the point at which its dynamic efficiency is less than one half that of road? Rail is half as efficient as road! Clearly the system has been allowed to run down.
In respect of recommendation 15, competitive neutrality in rail access and involvement of the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal, Austrac stated that the Government is aware that at least one private sector operator has sought an investigation by IPART, and made such a request to the Premier in 1999. The existence of an independent process is of no use if, as in the above case of genuine concern endorsed by both the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and the National Competition Commission, the Premier will not provide a referral to IPART. Denying the operators an opportunity, through their elected member of Parliament—in this case me—to participate in the debate today was a denial of justice. [Time expired.
Mr ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Lynch):
Order! The honourable member's time for speaking has expired. I also warn him that he was perilously close to breaching standing orders by using the time allocated to private members' statements to contribute to an earlier debate.
CARDIFF RAILWAY STATION DISABLED ACCESS
(Wallsend) [5.48 p.m.]: My constituents and many others in the Hunter have ongoing concerns about the lack of access for disabled people and the frail and heavily encumbered to the platform at Cardiff railway station. In April of last year a petition with over 10,000 signatures was presented to Parliament by me and supported by the honourable member for Lake Macquarie. I acknowledge again the contribution of Brian Young of Cardiff, a wonderfully genuine man who continued to work despite recent ill health to mobilise local opinion and to organise that petition. The petition requested that Cardiff railway station be included on the State Rail Authority's Easy Access Program. It turns out that that is a fairly expensive ask because Cardiff railway station is built on the side of the hill, about halfway up, and in the middle of a tight S-bend of the railway line. There are four levels: a car park entered from Mary Street; up the steps to a gravel road to the staff car park; across the car park and up steps to the pedestrian overbridge at the level of Main Road and the bus stops; and down steps to the island platform—a total of 81 steps.
The application of the complete easy access treatment would be a most complex process and therefore expensive. Last year the Parliamentary Secretary for Transport—I thank the honourable member for Canterbury for being in the Chamber to respond to this speech this evening—correctly responded that the Government was doing a lot already. About 40 stations had received the easy access treatment. More are having work done on them at the moment, including Wollongong. The Government will continue to spend money to provide equal opportunity of access for disabled people. But my community is not prepared to wait silently for many years for our turn to arrive, eventually.
I have a proposal that could provide relief in the near future for disabled people accessing Cardiff railway station. It is an idea for the interim that has come out of local discussion. It has been suggested that a single lift could be installed between the Cardiff island platform and the overhead walkway at the western end of the platform providing access to Main Road. Such a lift could be incorporated into subsequent more extensive easy access treatment of Cardiff station. It has been reported to me that a single lift could be installed for less than $250,000. In this case a significant benefit would accrue to people with a disability and the frail aged regularly using Cardiff station without their having to wait for our turn to come up for the full easy access treatment. I have received many letters of representation from organisations and individuals in the community on the issue. Reid and Reid Solicitors of Cardiff stated:
... many elderly and people with luggage have great difficulty because of the steep stairs.
Wai Yoong Chin, an optometrist, has written:
Cardiff train station has continued to witness increased patronage since 1999, according to the Newcastle Herald. The 1999/2000 statistics provided by CityRail indicate that the number of tickets sold at Cardiff Station has increased by 7.49%, with its gross revenue increasing by 23.17%.
Lindbeck Partners Business Solutions stated:
The installation of lifts at various other stations have shown improvement, and we believe that Cardiff would be no exception.
Dr Janice Ray, Dr Kamal, Dr Kirkpatrick and Dr Gibbs have written to me. Cardiff Combined Pensioners and Senior Citizens Association Incorporated made the point:
As the State Government is always asking people to utilise public transport a lift at CARDIFF would help to achieve this.
Referring to Mr Brian Young, the Secretary of Cardiff Bowling Club, Jack McKim, wrote:
We are hopeful that his further appeal to the Government will ultimately be successful and in particular to the senior citizens of this area.
Anderson's Chemist at Cardiff wrote:
Many other stations with much lesser service now have lifts so we implore you to fight for the Cardiff people and also those that visit this busy area.
The Mayor of Lake Macquarie, Councillor Kilpatrick, wrote, inter alia:
There does appear to be an anomaly with the lack of disabled access for Cardiff Station.
Yvonne Reid of Cardiff Jewellers wrote:
I use this station regularly, and have noted the large volume of people using the same, and I feel we desperately need this lift, for the station is certainly the life blood of this suburb.
V. J. Harrison, builders, wrote:
... the erection of a lift at the station would be worthwhile to both our customers and the residents of Cardiff ...
The proprietor of Triton Copy Centre, who is the Assistant Secretary of Cardiff Chamber of Commerce and Industry, wrote to me about the lift. The chamber also supports the installation of a lift at Cardiff station and had a special meeting about it. Cardiff station is the fastest growing station in the Hunter, with 235,000 paying passengers per year. I have even heard from a Kurri Kurri woman who drives to Cardiff rather than to the much closer Maitland station to catch Sydney trains because of the faster journey. It is time that our Government installed a lift for disabled access to the Cardiff railway station platform. [Time expired
(Canterbury—Parliamentary Secretary) [5.53 p.m.]: As the honourable member for Wallsend pointed out, I was in the Chamber and responded to his comments on disability access at Cardiff in April last year, and I am pleased to have the opportunity to respond again. The request of the honourable member for Wallsend is a reasonable ask, as he said himself. When he spoke on the matter over 12 months ago the proposal involved putting lifts in down as far as the car park. However, that would be a very expensive ask. This time he is asking for a lift just as far as the station level from Main Road. There is an advantage with Cardiff station in that it has an island platform so it would require only one lift. However, I have to say, as I mentioned last time I spoke on the matter, that there are in excess of 300 stations in the metropolitan network and only 40 or 50 stations have been provided with disability access at this stage. It is very expensive.
For instance, Wollongong is currently undergoing disability access renovations to the tune of $6 million—for just one station. That is the problem that we have. I visited Cardiff recently. I was not there looking at disability access; I was there for a meeting of the Hunter Valley Noise Amelioration Task Force. Whenever I represent the Minister for Transport I endeavour to arrive by train and leave by train, which I did. I saw at first hand the problems that are experienced at Cardiff. It is in a very steep, hilly area, and is very difficult for the disabled to access. So I appreciate the honourable member's comments. I congratulate him on supporting his constituents. I will certainly raise the matter again with the Minister in the hope that he will give the matter every consideration.
EPPING TRAFFIC CONTROL
(Epping) [5.55 p.m.]: I raise a matter on behalf of Epping Civic Trust relating to traffic lights at Langston Place Epping. The trust carried out a detailed study of the intersection with traffic counts on four days this year—11 and 12 April and 1 and 4 May—covering 27 cycles at random times. A total of 381 vehicles accessed this intersection via Langston Place during the study, with 58, or 15 per cent, using the kerbside lane and 323, or 85 per cent, using the right-hand turn lane. The congestion and queueing is caused by an inadequate number of vehicles being able to turn right with only one turn lane available. This is evident for most of the day and leads to drivers becoming impatient and taking risks by running the red light. The queue is frequently stationary across the Langston Place pedestrian crossing, resulting in westbound pedestrians taking risks by crossing while unable to see northbound vehicles. Drivers wishing to turn in and out of Pembroke Street are also affected by the queue, which often extends along Oxford Street.
Most of the vehicles queued south of the pedestrian crossing can turn during a cycle. This suggests that if the left lane could also be used for right turning vehicles the number exiting at each cycle could almost double. However, the vehicles heading south into Blaxland Road may be delayed by a right-turning vehicle during the first part of their green cycle but could proceed during the second part. The delay would be less than for a vehicle waiting in the queue and being unable to access the left lane. Utilising the left lane fully requires the elimination of three parking spaces immediately south of the pedestrian crossing which are currently unavailable before 10.00 a.m. In the morning peak period when many pedestrians use the Epping Road crossing vehicles are unable to turn left, causing delays to vehicles turning south.
Observation of these left-turning vehicles shows that most of them set down rail passengers. These vehicles could exit the area via Pembroke Street and gain access to Epping Road via several streets. Rail commuters would need to walk only a few metres—not a great imposition to relieve congestion in Langston Place. This would allow for the elimination of left turns from Langston Place into Epping Road and facilitate the operation of another right turn lane. As a result of those sentiments being widely circulated to the local community there was a public meeting on 19 June at the Church of Christ hall in Bridge Street Epping.
The meeting was well attended, and I am grateful to Mr Ian Lovelock, the relevant network manager from the Roads and Traffic Authority, for his useful contribution. Other constructive contributions were made at the meeting. Two motions were passed unanimously. They were, first, that two right-hand turn lanes from Langston Place into Epping Road be provided, and, second, that parking on the eastern side of Langston Place, south of the pedestrian crossing, be eliminated. However, a motion to ban left-hand turns from Langston Place into Epping Road was not passed. The general view of the meeting was that those changes should be staged and that pedestrians be allowed to cross Epping Road during the green arrow phase when vehicles turn left into Beecroft Road and right into Blaxland Road. The problem with left-hand turns can be revisited if necessary.
I ask the Minister for Roads to acknowledge those resolutions and to act upon them. The resolutions are sensible and provide a reasonable balance between local traffic trying to access the immediate area and the needs of through traffic on major secondary roads. The problems in Langston Place are not only local; it is the location for the beginning of the Epping to Chatswood rail link. Each morning that I travel from my electorate office to the post office I cross the Epping railway bridge. I am amazed at the congestion, particularly by large State Transit buses that tend to clog up the area. It is important, of course, that buses run on time and are able to gain easy access across Langston Place to the Epping interchange and then back towards the city. Obviously, those matters are of immense importance not only to the people of Epping but also to the wider commuting public. Traffic must be cleared from Langston Place because of its impact on commuters. For those reasons, the resolutions are worth a try and I commend them to the Minister.
(Wollongong—Parliamentary Secretary) [6.00 p.m.]: I have listened to the honourable member for Epping outline the problems in this congested area. It seems to me that the public meeting was held in the spirit of resolving those problems and not to bag the Government. If the honourable member for Epping has not drawn the resolutions to the attention of the Minister, I suggest he do so in writing. I undertake to draw tomorrow's Hansard
to the attention of the Minister.
RENITE FURNITURE PTY LTD WORKERS ENTITLEMENTS
(Liverpool) [6.01 p.m.]: The people who run Renite Furniture Pty Ltd have followed a long and dishonourable tradition of company owners who have displayed utter contempt for their employees and, indeed, the community. Renite Furniture Pty Ltd shut its doors on 4 June, leaving its employees without their entitlements, including holiday pay, long service leave and superannuation contributions. In addition, the workers were not paid their full wages for the last week they worked there. I have had the opportunity of discussing events at Renite with a number of employees, including Stephen Zorbas, Peter Dicks and Dennis Murphy, and with Brad Parker, State Secretary, and Eddie Harris, President, of the Furnishing Trades Division of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union. The person who ran the company and who workers believe owned it was Mr Greg Benson. His behaviour, it seems to me, has been particularly odious and reprehensible. Money for workers entitlements does not belong to Mr Benson; it belongs to the workers. If an employer uses that money, it is theft.
For a long period of time Mr Benson has failed to make superannuation payments. His employees told me that during that time he has indulged in expensive overseas trips. Although he cannot pay the legal entitlements of his workers he is able to splurge on globetrotting. I would have thought that the money he spent on these trips would have been far better spent on paying the legal entitlements of his workers. Mr Benson's excesses do not end there. I am advised that he currently owns a five-acre property at Cranebrook. On that property I am told that he is currently in the process of erecting a two-storey house of about 120 square metres. Compared to the houses of many workers, that will be a mansion. It is appalling and abhorrent that company owners who cannot pay the legal entitlements of their employees can go tripping around the world and build mansions.
The position in relation to superannuation payments is even worse. On pay slips that were regularly given to employees there appeared the letters "SGC" together with a figure of money. When starting there, one employee asked Mr Benson what the letters meant and was told "That's your tax". The employee said that that did not seem right. Mr Benson then corrected himself and said it was superannuation contributions for the worker. However, no superannuation payments were made for that worker by that company. Another worker who spoke to me told a similar story. He noticed "SGC" on his pay slip, with an amount of money noted next to it. He queried Greg Benson about it. Benson said "SGC" stood for "superannuation guarantee contribution". When no payments turned up in this worker's superannuation fund Benson told him not to worry because it was actually a notation that it was to be paid by Renite to the taxation office for payment onto the appropriate fund. No such payments were ever made.
One other creditor is Zurich Insurance for unpaid workers' compensation premiums. The workers believe that there was thus no valid workers compensation coverage for workers who might be injured while working. One employee to whom I spoke told me of an instance when he sustained an injury during the course of his employment that required him to have a day off. Greg Benson said he would simply pay for the day off and not claim anything from the workers compensation fund. That would avoid the necessity of lodging claim forms and creating a record of injuries. It would presumably have financial advantages for the employer in relation to premiums. Of course, it could also have potentially catastrophic legal consequences for the worker. That is a grim enough scenario, but the likelihood of workers recovering any money at this stage has also been made grimmer by other events.
In particular, a week or so before the factory closed its doors it was noticed that a considerable amount of furniture was stockpiled. Overnight the furniture disappeared. The union and employees believe that the furniture was removed to a secret location so that its value could be recouped by company management and not be available to creditors. A number of employees sought assistance from the union for their superannuation. The response of the company was intimidation and bullying. After filling in the appropriate industrial paperwork to file a superannuation claim, one worker wrote to me stating "unfortunate threatening behaviour" was directed towards him and other union members. The intimidation and threatening behaviour led one worker to seek medical assistance. A number of workers had been concerned about their superannuation for some time. Apart from involving the union they had complained to the Australian Taxation Office [ATO]. One employee wrote several times to the ATO, most recently on 10 May. Part of the letter stated:
The company's books were never prepared by an accountant, but by a friend who works in the tax office at Penrith branch, in a reasonably senior position. I believe that Mr Benson has been in collusion with a reasonably senior tax official, both knowing the consequences of their action, for some years, and that tax official has been doing the books of the company, and with expertise, has facilitated the articulation required to circumvent the statutory obligations of his friend's company as regarding superannuation.
Steve Zorbas has summed up Mr Benson. He said, "This individual, unfortunately, has lived off the blood of his employees." A number of serious issues arise from this. The Australian Taxation Office should respond to the complaints that have been made and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission should investigate the behaviour of Mr Benson. The employees of Renite have not been paid their entitlements. When Renite closed its doors, the workers were left out in the cold with accrued entitlements of $200,000. That sort of outrage is far too common. While the company was not paying superannuation, the boss was able to fund expensive overseas trips and had started to build a mansion. What appears to be his fraudulent behaviour has aggravated the situation. [Time expired
(Wollongong—Parliamentary Secretary) [6.06 p.m.]: The honourable member for Liverpool has outlined a horror story of employees being dudded by their employer, Mr Benson. That individual had made no provision for his workers but has travelled all over the world and is in the process of building a mansion. His assets should be confiscated to make sure that the workers he has dudded get at least part of what they deserve. All too often we hear of employers not meeting workers compensation and superannuation commitments. Those provisions should be reviewed at the State and Federal level. I am appalled by what the honourable member for Liverpool told the House. I suggest he pass on the intention of this Parliament to at least bring this joker to book.
NATIONAL EQUINE AND LIVESTOCK CENTRE
(Tamworth) [6.07 p.m.]: I bring to the attention of the House the proposal of the Tamworth and north-western New England communities for a national equine and livestock centre. Recently I was pleased to hear the Minister for State and Regional Development and others speak in a debate in this House about the importance of the equine industry to regional Australia. I intended to make a contribution to that debate but I was called out of the Chamber. Therefore, I should like to make a contribution today. Tamworth is well known for a number of things, one being the Country Music Festival.
Country and western.
It is the Country Music Festival, and the honourable member for Lismore should know better because he has attended the festival and enjoyed it. Tamworth is also well known for the equine activities that are currently conducted at the showground. Some years ago the Don Willis Indoor Arena was constructed and each year numerous events are held in that arena, attracting many thousands of people to Tamworth. The arena is also used during the Country Music Festival for rodeos and a number of other events. The Pastoral and Agricultural Society deserves congratulations on the work it has put in over many years. As the equine industry has matured and more people and more money have become involved in it, the demand for improved facilities has increased.
Tamworth has put forward a proposal for an equine and livestock centre of national significance. At present Australia does not have a centre that has the necessary seating facilities to cater for the national and international events that should be held in this country. I brought the user groups together for their first meeting in October. A committee was formed, which is to be chaired by Peter Botfield. Consultants were engaged at a cost of approximately $40,000 to prepare a report to examine the way in which the centre could be constructed, and the economics of the construction and its impact on tourism. Recently, the Minister for Tourism attended the existing indoor arena and made encouraging remarks about assistance she may be able to provide because of the increased tourism that would result from such a facility.
The proposal is for a building of international standing, and stage one is expected to cost in the vicinity of $13.5 million. It will be possible to hold all conceivable events there, and they will involve many associations and people from varied horse and livestock-related events. The consultants are to consider how such a structure could be funded. Normally, these matters are referred straight to government. We do not intend to do that. We have asked all relevant user groups to respond and the current strategy is that between 30 per cent and 40 per cent of the money will be raised through private enterprise and by the local community. The incremental rate of return will allow for funding by way of loans. However, it may be that in the future we will approach the State and Federal governments for capital to finish the project. That may be unusual, but we are going in to bat first to see what funds can be raised by the local community and private enterprise. I remind the House that we may need some assistance further down the track from the State and Federal governments to complete the project.
(Wollongong—Parliamentary Secretary) [6.12 p.m.]: It is refreshing to hear from the honourable member for Tamworth that this incredible proposal for an equine centre will be given the kick-start by private enterprise funding. Stage one will cost $13.5 million, which is a considerable sum. I do not know how many other stages there are.
There will be two other stages and I understand the community has already banded together to start raising the necessary capital. That will encourage both the State Government and the Federal Government to look favourably at what can be done in the future.
Private members' statements noted.
[Mr Acting-Speaker (Mr Mills) left the chair at 6.15 p.m. The House resumed at 7.30 p.m.
Debate resumed from 20 June.
(North Shore) [7.30 p.m.]: Like other legislation governing the registration of various groups of health professionals, the Physiotherapists Bill has been reviewed largely to consider the public benefit issues required by the competition principles agreement. The objective of the Physiotherapists Bill is to protect the health and safety of the public by providing mechanisms to ensure that physiotherapists are fit to practice. In part 3, which relates to the practice of physiotherapy, the bill provides, among other things, extra mechanisms for accreditation and recognition of qualifications. It defines competence, requires physiotherapists to submit annual returns, establishes continuing competence and gives the Physiotherapists Registration Board the right to inquire into a person's competence and to refuse to register a person whom it thinks is unfit. It also provides that there should be notification of convictions in relation to sexual or violent offences.
Part 4 of the bill relates to complaints and disciplinary procedures. It includes definitions of professional misconduct and unsatisfactory professional conduct, and provides that complaints can be dealt with even if a physiotherapist has ceased to be registered. It states that complaints should be made to the board, which is to notify the Health Care Complaints Commission. It establishes the Physiotherapists Tribunal to inquire into serious complaints that may lead to suspension or cancellation of registration. It establishes the Physiotherapy Standards Advisory Committee to inquire into less serious complaints, to make recommendations to the board and to conduct skills testing of a physiotherapist when a complaint is made. Mechanisms for the board to monitor and manage impaired physiotherapists are covered in this part of the bill, which also gives the board authorisation to make orders with respect to fees when determining a complaint.
Part 5 of the bill deals with impairment and is based on provisions in the Medical Practice Act 1992, which provide for various levels of intervention to deal with different types of impairment, including the management of problems that can be overcome and conditions of registration. Part 6 provides for appeal and review mechanisms. Parts 7, 8, 9 and 10 define the functions, membership and operations of the various bodies, including a Physiotherapists Registration Board, the Physiotherapy Standards Advisory Committee, an Impaired Registrants Panel and the Physiotherapists Tribunal.
The Coalition supports the objective of this legislation, which is the protection of public health and safety by providing mechanisms to ensure that physiotherapists are fit to practice. The bill closely follows the template used in earlier bills affecting psychologists, chiropractors and osteopaths, with a couple of noticeable changes. These provisions were of particular concern to allied health professionals and arose in the first of the bills to be introduced, the legislation affecting psychologists. They concerned the capacity in the original draft of the bill to determine a service of value, to order the refund or withholding of fees and the provision to allow an inspector to enter and inspect premises, seize records, question people and take videos, photographs and so on without a warrant.
When the psychologists legislation came before Parliament, the Coalition alerted the Australian Psychological Society about our concerns and, when we discovered it shared them, assisted its representatives to set up a meeting with staff from the Minister's office and officers of the Department of Health to address those concerns. I have stayed in regular contact with those representatives and am pleased to advise the House that the Government has decided not to proceed with those provisions and intends to withdraw them, or at least modify them substantially. That demonstrates the value of co-operation. I could have allowed the original legislation to proceed and been very negative about the lack of consultation, despite the fact that Parliament had been told that all parties had been consulted and were happy with the bill.
Instead I believed it was in the interests of patients and of the health professionals involved to negotiate to try to resolve those differences. I am happy to say it appears that that has occurred. The Government's intention to use the original psychologists Act as a template seems also to have changed as those provisions are certainly not covered in this bill. I congratulate the Government on taking on board the concerns raised by the Coalition and one of the professional groups involved. As a consequence, we are in a much better position all round. The Coalition supports the bill.
(Heathcote—Parliamentary Secretary), on behalf of Mr Knowles [7.35 p.m.], in reply: I thank the honourable member for North Shore for her contribution to this debate. The Physiotherapists Bill will protect the health and safety of the people of New South Wales through a combination of new initiatives and updating the procedures for ensuring that physiotherapists are fit to practice. The bill includes a modern complaints and disciplinary system that will operate in the interests of both practitioners and their patients, and, importantly, provides for a greater degree of consistency with the provisions of the Health Care Complaints Act.
The bill also introduces a version of the successful impaired practitioners system that has been utilised by both the Medical Board and the Nurses Board in recent years. I again place on record the Government's sincere thanks to those members of the physiotherapy profession—notably Dr Elizabeth Ellis, President of the Physiotherapists Registration Board, and Mr Mark Brown, Executive Director of the Australian Physiotherapy Association—for the assistance that they have provided to officers of the Department of Health during the process of developing the bill and bringing it before Parliament. I commend the bill to the House.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a second time and passed through remaining stages.
PRIVATE MEMBERS' STATEMENTS
I ask that leave be given for the House to note 24 private members' statements.
(Murrumbidgee) [7.37 p.m.]: The fate of Deniliquin Hospital is an important issue in my electorate. Deniliquin is situated in the south-west corner of my electorate some 700 kilometres from Sydney, close to the Victorian border. It is almost the last outpost in southern New South Wales and, as the largest town in the area, plays an important role. Many people living west of Deniliquin visit the town to utilise its health, police and education services. As honourable members will no doubt be aware, health is the most important issue for people in every electorate in Australia—and Deniliquin is certainly no exception. The local hospital has been in a state of disarray over the past several years. It has seen a reduction in service provision and it has been difficult to attract doctors and nursing staff and other allied health professionals to the area.
However, perhaps the biggest problem facing Deniliquin Hospital is the state of the building. Deniliquin is a very old town—in fact, it was one of the first settled in south-west New South Wales—and has a terrific history, particularly with respect to the wool industry. Deniliquin Hospital was constructed many years ago and we are now left with its legacy, as we have been with many hospitals that were built decades ago. Over the years Deniliquin Hospital has had a number of disorganised additions and now in 2001 it is impractical.
About four or five years ago the Greater Murray Area Health Service conducted a study on the possible reconstruction of Deniliquin Hospital. The study recommended either redevelopment on the current site or the construction of a new hospital, but for some reason the plans were shelved. Deniliquin Council, people interested in the future of the hospital and town, and I as the local State member of Parliament have got together to try to push the redevelopment of the hospital. I have been on guided tours of the hospital and I acknowledge that it is a large hospital whose construction is very disjointed. The poor design of the extensions over the years has created a lot of unnecessary space that now presents huge staff problems as the hospital requires more staff than it should.
The hospital layout presents problems for staff safety, particularly with nurses working late, and causes difficulty with heating and other energy uses but, most importantly, hinders the provision of appropriate service to the town of Deniliquin. The people of Deniliquin and other western New South Wales towns deserve to have first-class facilities like other people in New South Wales have come to expect. The council, the people interested in the future of the hospital and I will be working hard to make sure there is a proper redevelopment of the hospital. I hope the Greater Murray Area Health Service and the Department of Health will come on board with plans to better serve the people of Deniliquin and south-western New South Wales.
(Heathcote—Parliamentary Secretary) [7.42 p.m.]: As the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health I appreciate the concerns the honourable member for Murrumbidgee has raised. I regularly travel to rural New South Wales—on one of my trips I visited Coleambally, which is in his electorate, to examine concerns there. If the honourable member writes to the Minister and me about his community's concerns, I will certainly take the opportunity when I next pass through Deniliquin to see whether some assistance can be provided.
SUTHERLAND SHIRE AGED CARE SERVICES
(Heathcote—Parliamentary Secretary) [7.43 p.m.]: As some honourable members may know, there has been grave concern in the past about the lack of Federal Government funding to ensure proper and adequate resources for aged care in the Sutherland shire and the northern Illawarra region. Federal Government funds and support are needed to ensure that aged constituents in all electorates in the Sutherland shire receive the adequate protection they deserve in their later years. In recent times the Holy Cross Catholic parish of Helensburgh has proposed to construct a much-needed aged care and retirement complex in the area. The parish seeks approval from the Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care for 100 low-care beds.
The parish has indicated also that it would be prepared to contribute to the project the land it owns to the value of some $2 million. Holy Cross parish also seeks a commitment from the New South Wales Government to contribute to the project by making available vacant land the Government has in McMillan and Robertson streets, Helensburgh. The parish understands also that the commitment from all parties would be conditional on Holy Cross parish being successful in its application for approved status from the Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care.
I understand that approaches have been made to the Minister for Land and Water Conservation in anticipation of assistance from the State Government to procure some of the land to make sure that the shortage of beds is not extended by the State Government. If the State Government could ensure that that land is made available either by purchase or lease—that would be a decision for the relevant Minister and department—for this specific purpose, it would be playing its part in protecting the aged people of the Sutherland shire and the Illawarra. I am proud to say that in the past two years the Minister for Health has allocated approximately $12 million for 120 beds specifically for dementia patients at the Garrawarra Aged Care Centre. We should give every assistance possible to ensure that nursing home accommodation is linked with the dementia unit at the Garrawarra Aged Care Centre.
I have no compunction in saying—indeed, I am pleased to say—that this Government has bitten the bullet by providing assistance for aged care, particularly for patients suffering dementia. But we must do more. If the Federal Government is prepared to grant a licence for these 100 beds, the pressure will then be on the State Government to do something about providing available land. Land in the Sutherland shire is particularly expensive and difficult to procure, and land in the northern suburbs of Wollongong is quickly becoming reserved only for the affluent. I do not want to miss this opportunity that is proposed by Holy Cross parish, and I hope the Minister will be able to give some advice on the next step to take to ensure the protection of aged people in my community.
(Mount Druitt—Minister for Agriculture, and Minister for Land and Water Conservation) [7.47 p.m.]: I thank the honourable member for Heathcote for his continued representations on this matter, and not just to the House tonight. He has been a strong proponent of this project and he has been talking to my office about it for quite some time. I advise the House that the Government and I recognise the need for further aged care facilities in the Sutherland shire and the northern Illawarra region. I confirm also that the Holy Cross Catholic parish in Helensburgh plans to construct an aged care retirement complex. The parish has approached the Department of Land and Water Conservation about obtaining vacant Crown land on which to build the complex.
The honourable member for Heathcote would appreciate that a land assessment, which is required under the Crown Lands Act, was made in March as a result of his representations earlier this year. Submissions from a number of sources have yet to be received before the assessment can be completed. I understand that a number of administrative agencies and public authorities have yet to provide input to the draft land assessment. A departmental review of those submissions must then be put on public display to allow wider community comment. It is expected that the review will be placed on display in six to eight weeks time.
The review of the submissions must then be exhibited for a further 28 days. The department will then be in a position to advise on the outcome of the application from the Holy Cross parish. I know that there are legislative processes to go through but, in fairness to the honourable member for Heathcote, it would be difficult to think of a more admirable project for Crown land than providing much-needed aged care for that part of Sydney, for which the local member has been fighting so hard. His strong support for the project will be taken into consideration when the results of the land assessment are available, but I hope he can appreciate the legislative requirements that we have to go through.
HORNSBY ELECTORATE TRAFFIC CONTROL
(Hornsby) [7.49 p.m.]: I wish to raise again with the Government the condition of the Pacific Highway, particularly as it passes through the suburbs of Mount Colah and Asquith. In May 1997 I held a site meeting with the Roads and Traffic Authority and residents to talk about the condition of the intersection of Excelsior Road and the Pacific Highway at Mount Colah. The large number of traffic accidents and near misses at the intersection are indicative of the need for traffic lights. My attention has been drawn to a recent accident that occurred in wet weather. My constituent was turning right out of Excelsior Road onto the highway and, perhaps partly due to the wet conditions, was hit by a car travelling north on the Pacific Highway as my constituent attempted to turn into the waiting lane—the turning bay for traffic that turns right from Excelsior Road—and then wait for a break in traffic to travel south down the Pacific Highway.
That is the kind of traffic manoeuvre that my constituents make in their hundreds every day, but it is becoming increasingly dangerous. Many times during the week heavy traffic makes it almost impossible for residents to turn out of Mount Colah and south onto the Pacific Highway. I urge the Minister for Transport to seriously consider the needs of that intersection. I contend and my constituents contend that the intersection is well overdue for a set of traffic lights. That intersection services a vast area of Mount Colah. If traffic lights were installed at this intersection it would be a safe, and therefore the preferred, exit onto the highway for traffic that currently uses Excelsior Road and other roads in Mount Colah.
The placement of the bus stop for students travelling south to the many public schools, including Asquith boys and girls high schools, Asquith Public School and St Patrick's, is very dangerous, and traffic lights would make it safe for the very large number of students from Mount Colah who, every morning, have to cross the very busy Pacific Highway to access the bus stop on the other side. So, traffic and pedestrian safety would be vastly improved if traffic lights were installed at that intersection.
I also raise with the Minister the general condition of the Pacific Highway in this vicinity. Many honourable members who travel north on Fridays would know how busy the freeway has become. It is now a regular occurrence on a Friday evening for the Pacific Highway to be just as congested as it was before the freeway was constructed, which was quite some time ago. Traffic coming off the freeway via Ku-ring-gai Chase Road and turning right onto the Pacific Highway to travel north is banked up and at a standstill right down Ku-ring-gai Chase Road onto the freeway exit. That traffic problem adds to the complexities of the Excelsior Road intersection and raises a question about that section of the Pacific Highway in general, which can come to a standstill on the very large number of occasions when traffic leaves the freeway when the freeway is at a standstill. I therefore urge the Government to make a proper study of traffic conditions on the highway in this area.
I urge the Government to design some solutions, perhaps by changing the phasing of traffic lights at Asquith and Mount Colah, or installing a roundabout at the corner of Ku-ring-gai Chase Road and Belmont Parade. A number of things may need to be done, but the Government needs to make a serious study of the problem. Another constituent has raised with me the dangerous situation that prevails with traffic using the overpass at Asquith Railway Station to enter the Pacific Highway. Pedestrian traffic lights at this spot are offset from the point where the overpass meets the highway. Many traffic accidents occur at the intersection, and my constituent proposes moving the traffic lights to the point at which the overpass meets the highway, thus enabling them to be used for both traffic and pedestrians. I urge the Government to take that suggestion into account in considering improving the highway through Asquith and Mount Colah.
PORT STEPHENS WHALE WATCHING
(Port Stephens) [7.54 p.m.]: It is a whale of a time to visit Port Stephens, both offshore and onshore. The months of June and July are a great time: the whales are moving north off the coast, and whale watching is in full swing. This industry did not exist 10 years ago but something like 200,000 people a year now go out in boats off Port Stephens to look at the dolphins and the whales. For some people in the tourist industry, whale watching is bigger now than dolphin watching. During June and July the currents moving north are close to the shore. It is possible to walk along Stockton Beach and One Mile Beach and see the whales passing 50 or 100 meters off the shore. In November, when they come south, they are 10 to 15 kilometres offshore going with the flow of the southern current.
Last year in late June Migaloo passed Port Stephens and was sighted by whale watchers. "Migaloo" is Koori for "white fella", and we think it is the only white whale in the world. It is an adult humpback, and it is certainly the only white humpback whale in the world. That is what is happening offshore. Onshore this June 12 members of the Nelson Bay Chamber of Commerce decided to give the whales a run for their money as the major tourist attraction and published what has become known as the notorious chamber of commerce nude male calendar. The big boys are now truly on the tourist scene, because 600 calendars sold in four weeks. The whales are well and truly under threat as the premier tourist attraction in Port Stephens.
I would like to acknowledge those involved with the calendar, and their captions. Mr July is Patrick Harris, from the Farmers Market Fruit Shop. His caption was "If you think size counts you should see our quality." The caption of Mr September, Jeff White from Christmas Bush Nursery, was "From little things, big things grow." The caption of Mr December, Peter Sheriff from Depz Restaurant, was "The restaurant with the best tender loins." Messrs January, a team of surveyors consisting of Daryl Duggan, Paul Mather and Peter Fagan, showed their equipment under the slogan "When every inch counts." Mr March, well known and named Willy Fredes from Bakehouse El Viejo, had, "Best buns in the Bay." Mr May was Jack Hicky from Caltex Nelson Bay, who had the caption "Does your mechanic have the right tool?"
So, the big boys in the bay are really getting some publicity. The calendar was photographed by Mr Ray Alley, who donated his time. Some 1,000 copies were printed and they sold at $10 each. The money raised is going to the Cancer Foundation as well as to a young man who was badly injured in an accident and is now a quadriplegic. The funds raised will help him to install a ramp to allow him to access his house. Not only have the boys become a tourist attraction in their own right, they are doing a wonderful job publicising the town. They received enormous publicity all over the State when they first showed their "wares". With the whales offshore and the big boys onshore, the tourism industry in Port Stephens on the Tomaree Peninsula is really going ahead in leaps and bounds. I congratulate everyone involved in that fundraiser. They are doing a great job.
(Vaucluse) [7.59 p.m.]: Tonight I want to talk about the great parking meter scandal in Bondi and across New South Wales. It has come to my attention via a constituent who came across this problem that New South Wales motorists are being hit with what is effectively a hidden tax when they use unexpired parking meters. I am sure that most people in New South Wales have no idea what this particular issue is all about. Quite often when motorists approach a parking meter and see that there is unexpired time on the meter they say to themselves, "Great," and instead of putting a coin in the meter they park their vehicle, go about their business and return before the meter has expired.
What they do not know is that by not putting a coin into the meter they are breaking the law by breaching a motor traffic regulation and could be fined $60. It is one of the great injustices in New South Wales; it literally is penny-pinching and needs to be corrected. It is clear that the regulation has been on the books for many years, but what disturbs me is that, first, motorists do not know about it and, second, the Carr Government and local councils do know about it. Many parking inspectors have obviously been aware of the regulation and have been issuing fines. As I have said, the fine is for $60.
It is extraordinary that motorists are simply unaware of this regulation; it is another example of bureaucratic incompetence. The regulation is clearly ridiculous and defies commonsense. It is a little like playing Russian roulette, wondering who is going to be affected by this regulation. In order for a motorist to be fined for this offence, a parking inspector has to see the motorist park a car at a parking meter, see that there is time on the meter, and walk away without inserting a coin in it. The regulation is stupid, it is greedy, it is unenforceable and, I suggest, unAustralian. Because it is a regulation the Minister can change it overnight with the stroke of a pen, and I suggest the Minister should seriously think about doing so immediately. The relevant regulation is regulation 91H (2) under the Motor Traffic Regulations, which provides:
A person must not park a motor vehicle or trailer in a metered space without paying the relevant fee for the space for at least the minimum period of time for which parking in the space must be paid for.
That is nonsense. Unsuspecting motorists may be hit with a $60 fine that is really unjust. I believe the Government ought to change that regulation this week. It could be gazetted in next Friday's Government Gazette
and removed from the books. I would like to know what has been happening in recent years with this regulation. First, I ask the Minister to inform the House how many infringement notices have been issued and how much revenue has been obtained by fining motorists for this offence in each of the last three calendar years. Second, in each of the last three calendar years how many representations or complaints have been received regarding this offence? When and from what suburbs have they come?
Third, is it a fact that forcing drivers to put money into unexpired parking meters is designed to generate additional revenue from fines? Fourth, will the Minister amend the traffic regulations so that drivers may park in spaces that have unexpired meters without being fined? If so, when will he do that? I stress again that this is an issue the Minister should address this week. With one stroke of the pen he could remove the regulation and free from a $60 fine motorists who are currently driving up to unexpired meters and using them without inserting a coin.
As I said, it is ridiculous and defies commonsense. I would suggest it is the sort of bureaucratic nonsense we might expect from the Carr Government, but I suspect it has been on the books for some time. The Government now has an opportunity to clear it up because there is no doubt that across New South Wales most people have no idea that this regulation is in place. For the sake of not inserting a 20 cent coin, motorists may end up with a $60 fine. I suggest it is daylight robbery and that the Carr Government should correct it this week.
BERRY CENTENARY OF FEDERATION CELEBRATIONS
(Kiama) [8.04 p.m.]: Today I wish to inform the House about the amazing effort of the Berry and District Historical Society and the entire Berry community in celebrating the Centenary of Federation by holding a municipal picnic on 12 May, a sunny Saturday. Berry is one of the most beautiful little towns in this State, and I am privileged to represent it and its people. The sense of community is felt every time I visit Berry. This feeling of community was experienced not only by me but by the many visitors that attended the Berry municipal picnic to celebrate with the townspeople. Why did the people of Berry organise this picnic? In 1901, as part of the official New South Wales celebrations for the Inauguration of the Commonwealth of Australia, 1,200 official guests came to Berry by train for a picnic at the Berry Showground.
As with the picnic I attended, the entire community was involved and the picnic was a very important part of the celebrations. The purpose of the picnic was to showcase the area and its produce. The program events on Saturday 12 May included an historic train ride from Sydney to Berry. I joined the train with the Minister for Agriculture, the Hon. Richard Amery, at my home town of Kiama. Interestingly, our predecessors 100 years ago—the member for Kiama and the Minister for Agriculture—also attended the picnic by train.
When we arrived in Berry we were welcomed by the local town crier, Richard Guthrie, and were seated in a horse-drawn carriage along with the mayor of Shoalhaven and the local Federal member. The carriage then led a parade through the beautiful streets of Berry. Other participants in the parade included local Aboriginal families; Lodge Broughton, the Country Women's Association (Berry Branch); Berry Public School; Berry Spinners and Weavers; David Berry Hospital auxiliary and staff; Meals on Wheels; Berry Netball Club; the Rural Fire Brigades from Broughton Vale, Berry, Shoalhaven Heads and Cambewarra; Berry Retirement Village; Berry Shoalhaven Heads Rugby League Football Club (RLFC); Berry Sports and Social Club; Berry Pony Club; Berry Red Cross; and Hotel Berry—to name just a few. I congratulate everyone involved in the parade.
Having talked to many in the town, it is apparent to me that the parade was indeed the highlight of the celebrations. The participation of all community groups was amazing and very heartening to see. Credit should go to the scripters of the parade: Anne Brien, Vanessa Cassar and Leonie Winlaw. As well as the parade, many activities were enjoyed by all. These included wood chopping and dairy demonstrations. There were also a number of stalls and demonstrations, one of them being the maypole display performed by the students of Berry Public School. Some of the stalls were staffed by members of Apex, Christian Churches of Berry, Rotary, the Country Women's Association, Berry Cricket Club, the Berry Shoalhaven Heads RLFC, Landcare Berry and the Aboriginal Reconciliation Group.
The day was also supported by the Berry Chamber of Commerce, the Berry and District Garden Club, the Berry Alliance, the Berry Silver Band, Berry Netball Club, the Berry Out of School Hours (BOOSH) Kids Club and the Berry Show Society. As I said earlier, the whole town became involved in the day. However, it would not have been possible if it were not for the inspiration and determination of Jennifer Clapham and her team on the organising committee. That committee consisted of Warwick Leal, June Robson, Mary Lidbetter, Peter Adriaansz, John Ings, Mary Seelis and Rick Gainford. They did wonders in organising sponsorship and all the community groups. Jennifer often telephoned me and Liz MacNamara of Minister Scully's office to ensure that the 3801 train could run on the day. This was a particular issue since the track was being prepared for electrification on that day.
Thanks should be extended to State Rail for organising the track to be used on that day and for allowing the historic 3801 engine to travel from Sydney down to Berry. Some other sponsors of the day were Berry Printers, Shoalhaven City Council and Sue McGrath of South Coast Accommodation Services. The Minister for Agriculture was so impressed with the day and with the ceremonial tree planting at the showground that he has organised for a cheque to be sent to the Berry Garden Club to help with expenses. I also had a thoroughly enjoyable day. Congratulations Berry. Your picnic to celebrate the Centenary of our nation's Federation was the best!
(Heathcote—Parliamentary Secretary) [8.09 p.m.]: I reply not only as Parliamentary Secretary but also as a regional member of Parliament. I acknowledge the honourable member's pride in his township of Berry. As a member of Parliament for the region I know only too well, as other members of this House may not know, the great community spirit that the town of Berry has. What the honourable member has related tonight is simply one indication of the power of the community and the joy with which people work together to organise successful days on behalf of the community. I congratulate the local member and the community of Berry.
WORKERS COMPENSATION LEGISLATION
(Lismore) [8.10 p.m.]: Tonight I speak on the reforms needed to workers compensation and the way it affects the Northern Co-operative Meat Company and Norco, which are very big employers in my electorate. As the Minister for Agriculture, and Minister for Land and Water Conservation said recently, I have been an advocate of workers compensation reform. He has asked for my thoughts on the issue and I have no qualms about placing them on record. But, like everyone else, I have great difficulty in understanding what benefits would be provided by the bill that has just passed through this House.
I was asked to make decisions that affected workers and employers alike at the Northern Co-operative Meat Company without knowing the full impact. I was also disappointed with the events of last Tuesday. I remind honourable members that they cannot vote or properly represent their constituents while they are outside this House or the Parliament, and I only hope that if in the future a member is held up by a blockade or picket or transport problems, the Speaker will adjourn the House until the ringing of a long bell until all members are present.
The workers compensation premiums for the Northern Co-operative Meat Company in Casino are $2.4 million, compared with $1.46 million per cent in Queensland and Victoria. Casino is only two hours away from the closest Queensland meatworks and we have to compete with them. Payroll tax is also a very big problem because we are so close to the border; and that applies to enterprises close to the Victorian border as well. I now call on the Carr Government to provide me with a guarantee that the percentage rate for the Northern Co-operative Meat Company, the meat industry, in Norco or businesses such as Summerland and Keen sports stores at Lismore will be reduced, and by how much, and that workers claiming compensation will not be worse off. I received a letter from Summerland Sports store back in 1999, which reads:
The tariff rate for Retail Shops was 1.4% in the 1994/1995 period and is now 3.18% for 1999/2000. Such increases, because they are calculated against Gross Wages/Salaries, in monetary terms mean large hikes in premiums annually.
Since buying this Business 12 years ago we can confidently say that we have never registered a claim and do not anticipate any problems in the future because we provide a safe working environment for our staff ... As a business owner confronted with compulsory staff superannuation, unfair dismissal regulations ... Our business could employ two extra staff if circumstances allowed, but instead we are forced to work longer hours ourselves to compensate.
These are only some of the businesses that have been hurt by these charges in New South Wales. Recently the Premier wanted to make fun of losses incurred by the Coalition when it was in government. Let me remind the Carr Government that WorkCover was in credit to the tune of nearly $1 billion and now, by the Government's own figures, it is in debt $2.1 billion—losing $1 million a day. Everyone has been telling the Carr Government about the problems for at least three years. I told the Minister for Agriculture this three years ago when he came to the board of the Northern Co-operative Meat Company. It is time the Government accepted full responsibility for the loss. It certainly reflects the Government's management of WorkCover, which is an absolute disgrace. I was disgusted at being forced into a decision on legislation being bulldozed through the Parliament by an arrogant and careless Government.
Mr ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Lynch):
Order! The honourable member for Lismore is entitled to talk about the workers compensation premiums of a company in his electorate. However, he is clearly transgressing a number of rulings by trying to contribute to debate on a bill that has now been passed by this House. I could read those rulings to the honourable member at length. However, I will not do so because it would take up more of his speaking time. I ask him to confine his remarks to the essence of a private member's statement.
We as the representatives of this State have to get it right so that we can compete with other States. Workers who claim compensation are no worse off than workers in other States, and the annual premiums of companies are reduced so that New South Wales can compete against other States such as Queensland and Victoria. We have to be competitive in workers compensation and payroll tax.
ALLANDALE AGED CARE FACILITY
(Cessnock) [8.15 p.m.]: Today I provide the members of this House with the facts and implicating conditions surrounding the future of the Allandale Aged Care Facility in Cessnock. While I do this, honourable members will see how the Labor State Government supports its local community while the Federal Coalition Government pulls the rug from under aged care services across the State. This statement provides an insight to the divisions that separate Labor and conservative ideologies that impact on public policy. For those in the House who do not know, the Allandale aged care facility is one of three aged care facilities currently owned and operated by the Hunter Area Health Service. Allandale is home to 336 residents, and a new purpose-built, high-care unit, built at a cost of $20 million, will be able to house 216 residents with high living needs. The new complex also includes 96 beds for residents with dementia.
During November last year the Hunter Area Health Service called for expressions of interest from not-for-profit organisations wishing to purchase the entire facility. At this stage no tender has met the stringent guidelines set by New South Wales Health. It is important to note that the tendering process is currently being reviewed and a workable outcome will be released in the near future. The issues surrounding why the Minister has been forced into the tendering of the facility to the non-government sector are complex and are a product of the reduced fees paid by the Howard Government to aged care facilities that are owned and operated by the Howard Government.
As would be expected, the Cessnock community has strong views about the future of the facility and the adjoining land. The community expects that the facility should retain 336 beds. This desire is primarily driven by the need to retain employment opportunities in the Cessnock area. The families of the Cessnock electorate also want assurances that a first-class facility is available to aged
persons in the region who require its services. The Commonwealth subsidy does not cover the State award provisions, therefore staff costs are higher in nursing homes run by our Government. To this date the Federal Government has shown no commitment to support State-operated aged care facilities in any way.
As a result of ongoing budget shortfalls, the Hunter Area Health Service [HAHS] has been forced into a position of calling for proposals for the sale of the Allandale facilities because, as a State Government organisation, it cannot, and will not, be eligible to attract the appropriate levels of Commonwealth funding. Under the Commonwealth Government guidelines State-run residential care units can accept only a narrow range of residents. If the facility were owned by a not-for-profit aged care provider, more residents would be able to gain access to the Allandale facilities. As the current Commonwealth Government has maintained its strict regime of alienating State-owned services by dogmatic funding guidelines, Allandale would be in a position to attract substantially more funding from the Commonwealth if it was owned and operated by a non-government organisation.
This is the situation that drives aged care and human services into the non-government sector. I believe it is part of John Howard's broader agenda to introduce free-market concepts and practices into health and human services. The decision to sell Allandale was made in consultation with the Allandale future directions committee, which is made up of community, staff and area health representatives. It was considered by this committee that because of the constrictive Commonwealth funding arrangements its only option to ensure a strong and sustainable future for Allandale was to concede and develop plans for the sale to the only honourable option that was available—the not-for-profit non-government sector. The challenge is this: As a result of the Commonwealth's lack of support for State-run aged care facilities HAHS currently subsidises Allandale to the tune of $3 million per year—money that would otherwise be spent on hospital and community health services in the Hunter.
Hunter Health can no longer continue to subsidise Allandale, at the expense of other health services that also have expanding needs. The only option apart from selling off the service was to close beds and lose jobs to the area. The option as presented will save beds and retain jobs; it also provides the option for growth within the facility. Under the proposed scenario, staff employed in permanent positions at Allandale will keep their jobs and be re-employed by a new owner. Staff who do not wish to transfer to the non-government sector would be re-employed in the Hunter Area Health Service. It should be noted that current employment conditions will be maintained for existing permanent staff. With transfer to the non-government sector the conditions for residents will not change; existing residents will not be required to pay bonds or transfers, and there will be no increase in cost care.
Under the new arrangements, residents will not incur additional expenses. The decision to sell Allandale as a not-for-profit organisation has not been taken lightly. The decision has been made in consultation with relevant stakeholders and with the community's best interests at heart. I would like the House to note that the earlier plan to restructure the Allandale facility and associated site was to sell off land owned by the Hunter Area Health Service that buffered the facility from nearby residents. The Minister, in his gracious way, put that land back into community use and allowed a green strip to be allocated for community needs. It is a very sad day when the Howard Government has allowed such a sad thing to happen to an aged care facility. [Time expired.
CRONULLA ELECTORATE TRAFFIC CONGESTION
(Cronulla) [8.20 p.m.]: A matter of concern to my electorate is the traffic congestion in Cronulla. It has been more than 12 months since the commander of the Cronulla fire station was quoted on the front page of the St George and Sutherland Shire Leader
as saying how dangerous it was that traffic was building up because that could make it difficult to get to a fire or emergency in south Cronulla. All residents and visitors to Cronulla would know about the congestion that occurs during summer and the difficulty in parking there in summer and winter. On 21 December last year an article appeared in the St George and Sutherland Shire Leader
in which the mayor and Councillor Spencer were photographed and quoted as saying that they had managed to discover $700,000 of section 94 contributions instead of $186,000 as previously believed. That is an interesting remark by the financial stewardship at a time when the mayor was thinking about running a community bank.
It would be a surprise if one deposited $700,000 and was given an account for $186,000. Nevertheless, the council managed to find that $700,000 and planned to erect an overhead bridge between Rydges Hotel and Cote d'Azur. Recently Denis Solari, a former solicitor for Sutherland Shire Council, wrote to the St George and Sutherland Shire Leader
. His letter stated:
Are we to have another summer of traffic congestion at this corner and the approach roads, as well as the expense of council traffic controllers?
His letter elicited a response from the mayor, who said that that corner would be provided with traffic lights but there was no mention of the overhead bridge. Also, there was no mention of the $700,000.
I have been reliably informed that a traffic report, about which I have previously spoken in this House, has now been completed. The report was supposed to be completed at the end of February. I ask: When did the report become available to the council? When is the report to be made available? What are the consultation provisions to be implemented by the council in relation to that? Finally, what is the council going to do to ensure that no disaster occurs in accessing south Cronulla? More than $600,000 of ratepayers' money is to be spent by the mayor, the Stephanie Spielberg of the Sutherland shire, on closed-circuit television. She may be able to use the cameras to make her own movie, which I suggest may be called Traffic
. It is time that the council started providing some of the basics that are required by the ratepayers, including parking and alleviating traffic congestion.
KANWAL PUBLIC SCHOOL
(Wyong—Parliamentary Secretary) [8.25 p.m.]: Honourable members would recall that on 5 June this year I raised the matter of the inappropriate boundaries that were drawn for the new Wadalba High School at its inception in 2000, and the deleterious effect of those boundaries on the Wyong High School. At that time I pointed out that its first year 9 students would be affected by the reduced student numbers at Wyong High School and consequently their choices for electives in year 9 were halved. I am pleased to report that the Minister responded positively to my suggestion. Year 9 in 2002 at Wyong High School will have the same choices of electives as did the year 9 students for 2001—that is certainly good news. Tonight I move on to the next phase of this important issue of school boundaries. At the start of 2002 the Wadalba primary school will open. It is important that the mistakes that were made with the drawing of boundaries for the new Wadalba High School are not replicated with the establishment of the new primary school.
Some of my colleagues are concerned about big high schools and structures and so forth. I am more concerned about the quality of education that is provided in the classroom. I am more concerned that students learn, that they are happy, that their parents are assured that they are sending their child to a safe and caring environment, and that the needs of students are met. In saying that, I draw attention to a letter I have received from the Chairperson of the Kanwal Public School, School Council, Mr Shaun Edwards, regarding the possible deleterious effects of the drawing of boundaries on Kanwal Public School. In his letter dated 21 June, Mr Edwards stated:
The chief concern felt by the Council was the uncertainty about what will happen to the student numbers as a result of redrawing the schools boundaries.
The school wants to retain its P1 status. The letter continued:
The Council took the view that Kanwal School has grown to be a highly valued part of the local community not only through the excellent teaching and learning activities it provides but also through its contribution to the community in various ways such as the extra curricular courses offered for gifted and talented students—
I point out that students from other schools attend the gifted and talented sessions and sporting and cultural activities, such as the band that plays on local public occasions. Honourable members may recall that last November I mentioned the excellent school band concert that was held at Kanwal Public School. Mr Edwards' letter continued:
Moreover, over recent years, there has been constant representations from families living outside Kanwal School's zone to have their children enrolled at the school.
I can attest to that; in November and December I received many representations from people. Unfortunately, because of the large number of students who attend the school, the principal has to apply a strict criteria on the boundaries. With the opening of the Wadalba primary school we are hoping that people may be able to apply to Kanwal school for admission for their children, whereas previously they were not able to do that. With 959 students perhaps Kanwal is too big and should be reduced. We need to make sure that the core elements of what comprises a great public school are maintained at Kanwal.
We need to ensure that we do not lose those key facets—the tone of the school, the teachers, the community spirit, the fact that the kids want to go to school and be involved in a whole range of activities, not to mention the gifted and talented aspect. In many ways the future of this country is bound up in ensuring that the students who excel in their studies, music or sport dare to stick their heads above the crowd because that is what will generate the material wealth and the spiritual wellbeing of this country. This will ensure that the country progresses. It is essential that the school at Kanwal continues to provide the quality public education that it has provided for many years. I believe that the Kanwal Public School is a wonderful example of the benefits of public education and to what we should all aspire in promoting public education.
CAMDEN ELECTORATE TRAFFIC CONTROL
(Camden) [8.30 p.m.]: I speak on behalf of all motorists who use Narellan Road, in particular, those who travel in the peak hour between 8.00 a.m. and 9.00 a.m. towards Campbelltown and who live in Currans Hill, Mount Annan or Narellan Vale. This road has two major roundabouts, which were designed more than 10 years ago by experts from the Roads and Traffic Authority [RTA]. However, I question the extent of their expertise because they should have realised that the roundabout would not function when the road is at its capacity. Narellan Road is currently at its capacity during peak hour.
Camden Council wrote to the RTA asking for traffic lights to be erected at one of the roundabouts—that is, the roundabout that has Narellan Vale and Mount Annan on one side and Smeaton Grange Industrial Estate on the other. As this involved a development application for the industrial area, council received a terse letter from the RTA, which said that as Smeaton Grange Industrial Estate is only 20 per cent developed, council could ask for section 94 contributions. When I was a member of council that was not allowed. The RTA stated that it would not be able to undertake the upgrade of this intersection in the near future. The paragraph I particularly liked was:
Preliminary estimates to upgrade this intersection from a roundabout to Traffic Signals would be in the range of $3 - $5 Million.
Perhaps the lenses in these traffic lights will be made out of rubies, topazes and emeralds, because I do not know of any set of traffic lights that would cost between $3 million and $5 million. Little would be gained by ripping out the middle of the roundabout because the road has only two lanes on either side so it should remain, with the addition of the traffic lights. To add insult to injury the RTA said:
As you are aware the RTA is currently working with Council to try to develop a practical program to upgrade Camden Valley Way. At this stage that road is likely to have the highest priority for any available RTA funds in the Camden Area.
Of course, nothing has been done on Camden Valley Way and that is just rubbing it in. What is even more important is the necessity for the construction of another road from Camden to Campbelltown, the regional centre with the only train station and also another access to the freeway. Narellan Road, the only road to get from Camden and growth areas through to Campbelltown and the freeway, cannot cope with the load. Also, two new land releases are planned, one at Elderslie and the other at Spring Farm. This project cannot go ahead without a link road and certainly not with Narellan Road as the only access road to Campbelltown. The link road needs to have two lanes each way, one for breakdowns. This will also provide another opportunity for people to access rail transport to get to Sydney. Council can probably organise a road within the new areas, but there is a problem from Glenlee washery to the freeway and from the freeway to Menangle Road. Finding solutions to the problem has been delayed because various government departments are not talking to one another. A whole-of-government approach is needed to examine this problem and to fix it.
The problem with the non-functioning roundabouts is further compounded by the fact that under the new road rules motorists are required to use their right-hand blinkers, but motorists are afraid to enter the roundabouts when they see vehicles with their right-hand blinkers activated. Perhaps signs could be erected as an interim measure requesting that motorists not use their right-hand blinkers if they are travelling straight through the roundabout. This might enable the traffic to flow more smoothly and reduce the massive hold-ups. Only then will people be able to leave their homes, get onto Narellan Road and perhaps get to work on time. [Time expired
LIFE EDUCATION NEW SOUTH WALES
(Tweed) [8.35 p.m.]: I bring to the attention of the House the function of Life Education New South Wales. Many members will be aware of the way Life Education operates in their electorates, particularly in public schools. It provides wonderful education to assist students and young people to make choices throughout their lives and equips students to handle some of the difficult situations many will inevitably face in their very early years. We have to equip children to deal with unpleasant situations and Life Education does a great job. Recently the New South Wales Department of Health confirmed financial support for the next three years for Life Education New South Wales. This will enable Life Education to continue to deliver drug education programs within schools and to broaden the range of services available to communities in New South Wales.
The aims of Life Education are to make children aware of their own uniqueness and how the human body works; educate children on the effects of drugs, alcohol and other substances; and equip children with the necessary skills to say no to drugs. On average, Life Education delivers programs to more than 470,000 children per year. Research indicates that drug education is four times more cost effective than drug treatment. Life Education is a unique but necessary group that goes into our public schools and teaches students the necessary skills to enable them to make the right choice when they are confronted with some of the more unpleasant situations that many children will inevitably face. Recently it was brought to my attention that changes have been made within Life Education. Apart from providing service through licensed local groups, the contracts under which these groups operate do not contain a clause under which the State body could actually reclaim a service.
The contracts require the State body to provide assistance to local service providers but does not require them to act upon such advice. Recently Life Education New South Wales offered to take those local groups back under its umbrella. More than 80 per cent have agreed in order to gain cost advantages of economies of scale, et cetera, and thus keep down the cost to parents. For some reason unknown to me the Far North Coast Life Education Committee has decided to remain autonomous, despite meetings with the State body in which the financial benefits were put to it. The Far North Coast Life Education Committee has put up the cost to parents rather than seek other fundraising options. This means that students in my electorate will have to pay $6 per head to have access to Life Education, and that is regrettable because other groups under the umbrella of Life Education New South Wales are paying a maximum of $4.50.
Six dollars is an exorbitant amount, especially since the family or group ticket has been abolished, and a family comprising three or four children will be up for a lot of money. Several schools have contacted me to say that they will not be able to afford to have the Life Education van visit and educate students about these matters. I am concerned that the Far North Coast Life Education Committee has made this decision to increase fees for services. That is regrettable. As I said last week, the New South Wales Department of Health has confirmed its financial support for Life Education over the next three years, which is good news. However, I am concerned to hear from parents in my electorate that they will pay more per child for this valuable service than other parents in the State. I urge the president, Mr John Crother, to take on board our concerns and attempt to address them.
ORANGE ELECTORATE POLICING
Mr R. W. TURNER
(Orange) [8.40 p.m.]: It disturbs me to have to speak about a subject that is raised far too often in this place: the lack of police presence not only in Sydney but in all country towns. Tonight I will speak specifically about Orange, Cowra and some small towns in my electorate. There is much talk about authorised force strengths. In Orange, for instance, we are told that the authorised force strength is 87 police. However, the real problem is how many of those officers are available for duty at any one time. Unfortunately, the press is using words such as "epidemic" to describe the number of break-ins and robberies and the incidence of petty theft and general lawlessness in Orange and Cowra where groups of youngsters are harassing townspeople.
We have all heard that elderly people can no longer live the way they used to. Their houses are broken into while they are tending to their vegetable gardens or hanging out their clothes. However, to say that times have changed and that they must accept the current situation is to let down the people of this State. People now have more rights, but that includes the right to live in their homes free from the worry of being robbed. We have all heard stories about elderly people who are too scared to leave their homes and of how one partner will do the shopping while the other remains at home because they fear a break-in. Perhaps they have been robbed before or their neighbour or someone they know has suffered more than one break-in. Groups of lawless young people intimidate neighbours to the point where some are no longer willing to speak to the police about crimes. Although they may report incidents to the police, they are not prepared to be named, used as witnesses or to make a statement. That ties the hands of the police, who are unable to take the matter further and perhaps press charges.
Another issue is the ever-present problem of excessive drinking on Friday and Saturday evenings. That problem is not confined to Orange, Cowra or the other small towns in my electorate; it affects communities throughout the State. Although we are trying to provide venues for young people in Orange, such as nightclubs for late-night drinking, a minority always takes it too far, continue drinking after they have left the hotel and break a shop window, bend a letterbox and generally behave like louts and vandals, giving a bad name to the vast majority of young people who stay out late on Friday and Saturday nights, have a good time and return home without causing any problems. A small minority cause problems and create most work for the police. Members of Parliament are always hearing the accusation that there are not enough police and that they never arrive at the crime scene on time. However, we are all aware that the police are doing as good a job as they can in the circumstances.
On a bright, sunny weekday a small business owner in my constituency witnessed three people breaking into his car while it was parked outside his business in a main street of Orange. A middle-aged person broke into the car and allowed a young person aged about 10 years to go through its contents while a young fellow aged about 15 sat on his bike acting as a cockatoo. He was challenged by the vehicle's owner and fled. He eluded the police on that occasion but was arrested the following day. Unfortunately, the constable who arrived on the scene suggested that my constituent should have been more careful about where he parked his vehicle. That is not very good public relations for the police. While we understand that they are doing as good job as possible, their public relations effort leaves a lot to be desired. Some officers are perhaps giving a bad name to the service that is not deserved in these tough times of dwindling police numbers.
PARLIAMENTARY STAFF AND AUBURN COUNCIL TRIBUTE
(Auburn) [8.45 p.m.]: The Daily Telegraph
of Wednesday 21 June 2000 carried the editorial entitled "Our politicians are human too", which read:
There were tears in Federal Parliament when it was revealed to MPs that one of their number was with them no longer.
The editorial referred to Mr Greg Wilton, who tragically took his own life. It continued:
They are not superhuman, not immune to the natural shocks to which all flesh is heir.
Thus, if we demand miracles from our MPs we will be disappointed.
More importantly, we may also bring pressure to bear on them which is unendurable.
Those remarks apply equally to every member of Parliament, including every member in this place. In the time remaining to me, I would like to thank a few officers of this Parliament for the great things that they have done during my years as a member. I thank those officers of the Regulation Review Committee—its director, Jim Jefferis, Don Beattie and Greg Hogg and the other staff such as David Blunt, who assisted me on the Committee on the Independent Commission Against Corruption [ICAC] and who did a great job. I thank also Susannah Dale, who worked on the Regulation and Review Committee. She has now left that position but she was a strong supporter of the committee and of me.
I thank Parliamentary Library staff, including Mark D'Arney, and typists, such as Barbara Dixon, Helen Bennett and Di Storr. I thank David Draper, who runs the catering department, and Mark Faulkner from Hansard and all the Hansard people. I also thank Ian Faulks from the Staysafe committee. I thank my staff, Linda Foley and Nola Samcou, who have endured an enormous amount over the past three years in the electorate of Auburn not because of the member of Parliament but because of events that have overtaken us. During my 13 years as a member of Parliament I have had only two electorate secretaries.
Are you retiring, Peter?
No, I am just saying nice things to people. I thank Lucy Gonano, who looks after our mobile telephones; Fiona Gow in Information Technology Services; and John Gunn, with whom I have had a good working relationship. I thank also the members of my committee: the Hon. Don Harwin, the honourable member for Camden, the honourable member for Orange—who is in the Chamber—the Hon. Malcolm Jones, the honourable member for Illawarra and, last but not least, the honourable member for Bathurst. I thank those members for their great work on that committee. We are about to deliver two more reports to Parliament.
Poor Greg McGill from the accounts section should be awarded the Victoria Cross. Ronda Miller is sitting at the clerk's table. We spent an enjoyable time on the ICAC together with Helen Minnican and many others. I thank Kerrie O'Brien from ITS, Ian Pringle and all the attendants and security people, Merv Sheather and the Hon. Janelle Saffin, whom I almost forgot, who have done a great job. I should certainly not forget to mention the Government Whip, the honourable member for Rockdale, because Whips are very important. I thank all those people and others whom I do not have time to mention.
I thank also the president of my State electoral council, Chris Cassidy; the Mayor of Auburn, and his wife Jeanette; Councillor Bob Murray and his wife, Jude; Barbara Perry and her husband, Michael; Grant Lee; Pat Gavin; John Donellan; Charlie Kensey; Max Barton; Bob Chapman; John Day; Bill and Billie Gennings; John Shanley; George Campbell; Allan Rawlinson; Glen Martin; Frank McGlynn; Tom and Dot Boldiston; Joan Hourigan; Frank Alberga; Van Cremner; Peter Kennedy; Don Dartnell; Len Darnley; and John and Helen Le Mottee. They are great people. There are many more I could thank.
Unfortunately, I do not mention some people from the Auburn electorate. A great deal of branch stacking has occurred in the Auburn electorate during the past 18 months. That has resulted in hundreds of people with Lebanese names and names from other ethnic groups being promised the world—housing, immigration and all sorts of things—if they join the Labor Party. Promises have been made by various people who want to use those new members. I say to the new members of the Labor Party, "Don't be fooled by people who come to you with promises that you will get everything you want," including positions on Auburn council. I know that one person has promised 12 people positions on the council at the next election. In the entire history of the council the ALP has only held four council positions at each election. Much of that sort of escapade comes from Laurie Ferguson's office and I am absolutely appalled that promises have been made to people that will never be delivered. To those who have joined the party in the last 18 months I say, "You will never get a thing out of people who promise you the world, because they will give you nothing."
NORTH SHORE ELECTORATE BUDGET ALLOCATION
(North Shore) [8.50 p.m.]: The Carr Government's budget brought down on 29 May provides almost no new funding for upgrades to services for the North Shore electorate in the forthcoming year. Within hours of the budget being brought down Government members were provided with detailed briefing sheets on funding allocated to their electorates. That was not the case for my electorate, or indeed for any other Coalition electorate. Of course, if the briefing for the electorate of North Shore had been provided it would have been flimsy because few specific projects will be funded during the forthcoming year. Apparently, $975,000 will be spent on upgrading Neutral Bay wharf. However, the Government supposedly allocated $1.25 million to do that last year. The only work done on the wharf, which for years has been earmarked for replacement, was the construction of a new ramp—and that was hardly worth $1.25 million. Furthermore, that work was completed over the two days just before the budget was brought down.
I particularly want to talk about Royal North Shore Hospital. Although it is not located within my electorate, it is the public hospital upon which my community relies. Last year $16.6 million was allocated for the much-needed redevelopment of the hospital's facilities, but only $6 million was spent. Of the $2 million allocated to upgrade the hospital lifts, only $50,000 was spent. I highlight this particular allocation because I have spoken to many people and received numerous letters of complaint about the condition of Royal North Shore Hospital, particularly the maternity ward. I should like to refer to a letter I received recently from Mr Hawse of Katoomba, who wrote a heartbreaking letter about the appalling conditions his daughter had to endure in the Royal Shore Hospital labour ward. The letter is dated 7 May and states in part:
On arrival at the maternity wing at around 9.00 am we were advised—
"we" being Mr Hawse and his wife —
by staff to take the stairs to the 2nd floor as the lift had "broken down". On reaching [his daughter and son-in-law] we were advised that they also were confronted with this situation and had to take the stairs. Staggering, considering her condition and stage of pregnancy.
Mr Hawse's daughter's baby died at 39 weeks gestation, yet this woman had been told she had to walk up two flights of stairs because the lift was broken. The letter continued:
Shortly thereafter, [her] grandparents, both of whom have a disability and one who requires the assistance of a pacemaker arrived, again via the stairs. Later that afternoon we heard that a lady in labour had been sent home in the morning and advised to come back later, only to return with the lift out of order once again.
At around 8.00 pm, a lift mechanic … arrived and commenced work. At this time, a lady in an advanced stage of pregnancy arrived on the 2nd floor again via the stairs with her husband carrying the bags.
Mr Hawse also stated in the letter:
I could not get out of my mind the scenario of an expectant mother falling down or having some form of accident on the stairs.
I share the concerns of Mr Hawse and others about the deplorable conditions in that hospital, particularly in the maternity department. I find it extraordinary that the Government has not addressed the problem of the broken down lift. No funding has been allocated for improvements to schools in my electorate when work needs to be done on nearly all of them, including replacement and repair of demountable buildings at Beauty Point, refurbishments at Middle Harbour and an upgrade to the school hall at North Sydney Boys High School. Of course, no money has been allocated to address the serious traffic problems caused by the gridlock on Military Road and Spit Road. Many times I have raised these issues in the House and reminded the Government of its promise in 1995 that the problem would be solved within 12 months. We are still waiting. In 1995-96 Labor collected $21.365 million in revenue. In the next financial year Labor expects to collect $28.487 million in revenue. Since 1995 revenue from poker machines in clubs and hotels has increased by 67 per cent from $448 million to $748 million.
Mr ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Mills):
Order! I interrupt the honourable member for North Shore to remind her that there have been numerous rulings by Speaker Rozzoli that private members' statements must refer to one subject. I have now counted about seven. That includes one subject in relation to which, if I had been a little more alert, I would have interrupted the member earlier because, as a shadow Minister, she raised an issue that was outside the spirit of a private member's statement. Unless the honourable member deals with matters that pertain to her electorate, I will ask her to resume her seat.
The title of my speech is "Lack of Funding for Services in North Shore". The Royal North Shore Hospital services my community: it is the closest public hospital for my constituents. I am happy to have that reported in Hansard
Mr ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Mills):
Order! I suggest the honourable member not canvass my ruling. She may refer to a matter outside her electorate only if the matter was raised by one of her constituents. In relation to that matter she read a letter from a person from the Blue Mountains.
(Canterbury—Parliamentary Secretary) [8.55 p.m.]: It appears that we have heard a mini budget speech from the honourable member for North Shore. When she talked about local services and highlighted matters affecting the hospital at the end of her speech, one would have thought that was all she had to say. However, she touched on transport, schools, hospitals and wharves. I am pleased that she mentioned that her electorate was receiving $975,000 for the Neutral Bay wharf, but I do not accept her statement that her electorate has received nothing else. There is something in the budget for every electorate. The honourable member for North Shore complains that schools in her electorate have received nothing. This year there was nothing for schools in my electorate, but I accept that our schools are on a cyclical maintenance program. No priority is given to Labor electorates. Each year the schools with the greatest need for funding receive it in the budget allocation. Perhaps next year there will be a motser for schools in the North Shore electorate.
I will not accept that the honourable member for North Shore has not received some form of funding for traffic management in her electorate. I bet she has received funding from the Department of Housing—if not for additional housing, then certainly for maintenance. I bet that money has also been put aside for water and drainage. The North Shore electorate would have received the same amount of funding as any other electorate in the State. I wish Opposition members would not make bland statements about receiving nothing in the budget for their electorates because it is not true. The items I refer to are specific items earmarked for specific electorates. I am not talking about general funding.
LAKE HAVEN RENAL DIALYSIS CENTRE
(The Entrance) [8.57 p.m.]: Last Saturday 23 June the Lions Club of The Entrance held a grand ball at Mingarra Recreation Club to raise funds for the new Lake Haven Renal Dialysis Centre. The ball was part of the Central Coast kidney life support appeal to enhance kidney treatment services on the Central Coast. The head of the appeal is a local identity and Toukley solicitor, Fred Dawson, who previously headed the Central Coast cancer ward hospital appeal, raising a record amount of over $1 million in 1999. That was the first major hospital appeal held on the Central Coast and it was an outstanding success. Following that success it was decided that the Central Coast was a region that would actively support its own hospital infrastructure, and the kidney life support appeal was launched earlier this year. The Central Coast Lions Club was the largest organisation that contributed to the appeal.
The new Lake Haven Renal Dialysis Centre has taken delivery of eight dialysis machines, which came from Gosford Hospital and will remain at the centre until the arrival of new machines. Several large-scale functions have been organised to raise the $350,000 that has been targeted to equip the new centre. There was already a centre in Gosford, and the new centre will be part of the expansion of the hospital services to the whole of the Central Coast. Services were available in the southern area; there will now be a renal dialysis service at the northern end of the Central Coast. This event and others are being organised by Lions and Lioness clubs of the Wyong shire. A new kidney dialysis machine costs in the order of $28,000 to $30,000. The goal is to obtain sufficient funding to finance eight new machines for the centre. The Saturday night event was organised under the auspices of The Entrance Lions Club.
I make special mention of the efforts of the Lions Club President, Don Grace, who, unfortunately, due to ill health, could not attend the function on Saturday night; the club secretary, Ken Bulkeley, whose grandson Scott Mellish provided music and song during the break; and the committee chairman, Harry Skourtzos, and his wife, Tula. Harry acted as master of ceremonies and auctioneer for the ball. As I said earlier, the target of the appeal is to raise $350,000 to provide eight haemodialysis machines to be installed in the new Lake Haven Renal Dialysis Centre, which has been provided in conjunction with the new community centre at Lake Haven as part of the spreading around of the services throughout the whole of the Central Coast.
The clubs have conducted many fundraising activities in the past six months, including a car raffle, sausage sizzles, gift wrapping, and bus trips. The drawing of the raffle for the car took place at the ball on Saturday night. The winner was Yvonne Breadner, whose husband as it turns out is a director of The Entrance Bowling Club. Last week at The Entrance he bought the ticket from the President of the Lions Club, Don Grace. Don is also a director of The Entrance Bowling Club. More than 16,000 $2 ticket were sold, which raised something like $31,018. I have been advised that, after deducting the cost of the car and associated costs, such as insurance et cetera, $60,000 was raised from the raffle of the car. The combined Lions agreed to raise $175,000. That is half the $350,000 required to finance the service. So far they have raised $125,000, and they expect to reach their target by the end of July.
It is also worth noting that the existing renal unit at Gosford, which was established in approximately 1984, was established with a $100,000 fundraising donation by the Lions of the Central Coast, which has provided ongoing support for the service for the past 18 years. I am also advised that all ongoing costs associated with the facilities at Lake Haven will be met by the Lions Clubs of the Central Coast. I congratulate everyone associated with the Lions Clubs of the Central Coast on providing the initial service in 1984, on making such a tremendous commitment to the new service at Lake Haven that will come online soon, and on the commitment to the ongoing maintenance and upkeep costs associated with the facilities.
MPA CONSTRUCTIONS PTY LTD AND HIH INSURANCE
(Willoughby) [9.02 p.m.]: I raise a matter that involves the collapse of HIH insurance and the consequential effect of that collapse on people in the building industry in New South Wales. I know that this matter has already resulted in statements from members from both sides of the House. This is another story that merely emphasises the need for the Government to understand the full flow-on effect of HIH on good, honest builders such as Mr Malcolm Allen, a constituent of mine, whose company MPA Constructions Pty Ltd operates from Naremburn. Mr Allen has written to me in these terms:
We would like to know what action has been taken by you on behalf of thousands of builders like ourselves who have been unable to work since the demise of HIH because we have not be able to secure the necessary Home Warranty Insurance required by the current Home Building Act and legislation effective 1 May 1997, which unless proof of current Home Warranty Insurance is supplied, prevents release from council of approved contract documents and prevents commencement of any work in excess of $5,000.
On 20 March 2001 we received contract approval from our client to commence work on a new job and applied for insurance the same day. More than 12 weeks later we have been unable to commence work because we have not yet been able to obtain the necessary insurance.
He has provided information that I have passed on to the relevant Minister about his attempt to obtain insurance through Dexta Corporation Ltd. Mr Allen concludes:
The Department of Fair Trading surely investigates a builder's professional competency before awarding a builder's licence so the licence alone should be proof of professional standards. I have been in the building industry for my entire working life spanning almost fifty years and take pride in performing to a professional standard of excellence. I have never had any claim against me for any faulty workmanship or other failure on any project or for any company that I have been associated with. What is so difficult about insuring someone like me (or my company) with such a long and faultless professional record!
That question is being asked by countless builders in this State who are unable to commence work. Mr Allen says:
A possible remedy may be to enact special legislation wherein building work may proceed for licensed builders, subject to payment by the builder to say the Department of Fair Trading of a premium on a sliding scale proportional to the cover sought, which premium could be refunded when home warranty insurance is finally obtained. If insurance is unable to be obtained because of a bad history of workmanship, the payment would be forfeited and the builder's licence permitting him to build residential premises would be annulled.
I note that the Deputy Premier is in the Chamber. I am sure that he, like other members of this House, would want to find ways to help builders like Mr Allen get back into business. We cannot afford to have the Malcolm Allens of New South Wales sidelined. We cannot afford to have their clients sitting, waiting for construction of their houses to commence. It is incumbent on the Government, both at a State and at a national level, to work out a solution to get the builders of New South Wales back to work. This is a man with a fine record. He has never had a serious claim brought against him. This is not a man with a record for faulty workmanship as long as your arm.
On the contrary, this is a man with 50 years experience and an impeccable record. But because he cannot get insurance he and the subcontractors who work for him are sidelined. They are sitting out there: they are non-participating members of our economy. Our State cannot afford that. It is against the Government's interests as much as it is against Mr Allen's interests for him to be so sidelined. I am pleased that the Deputy Premier is in the House to hear about the plight of Mr Allen. I hope that he will pursue this matter with the Premier and the Minister for Fair Trading so that we can find a solution for Malcolm Allen and other builders like him.
MENAI LANDCOM DEVELOPMENT
(Menai) [9.07 p.m.]: I raise an issue of great importance to the constituents in the Sutherland part of my electorate, particularly those living in Barden Ridge and Menai. In March this year Sutherland Shire Council organised an information session so that the local community could hear a presentation by the owners of land situated to the west of Old Illawarra Road at Menai regarding its future use. According to the invitation I received the purpose of the session was to provide an overview of the assessment and decision-making process, advise members of the community as to how and when they could participate in the planning process, and open channels of communication. With the value of hindsight I might suggest it certainly succeeded in the latter aim.
I attended the information session on 20 March, where presentations were made by the Gandangarra Local Aboriginal Land Council and Landcom. As honourable members would be aware, Landcom is a State Government agency responsible for the development of residential and commercial industrial land. In this specific instance Landcom is undertaking the development of two parcels of land on behalf of the Department of Urban Affairs and Planning. In light of the State Government's ownership of two of the three affected sites, I wish to confine my remarks to the proposed Landcom development. I advised the Minister of my intention to raise this matter in the House, and I appreciate his attendance to listen to the concerns of my constituents. To put it in a nutshell, it is my view and that of many concerned residents that the existing infrastructure cannot support the proposed development at this time. Last year Sutherland Shire Council commissioned John T. Woodward to produce a report of a public inquiry. This document, which was released in the same month as the information session, marked the first stage of the preparation of the new Sutherland shire local environmental plan. In section 10.1.1 Mr Woodward deals with what he refers to as "hot spots" and states:
The road system in the west of the Shire cannot cope with the traffic generated from the housing development that has occurred. A lid needs to be kept on further residential redevelopment and residential rezoning until the road system is substantially upgraded.
Later he comments:
Apart from roads, protection of ridges and escarpments, protection of remnant bushland, improved community facilities, particularly youth facilities, completion of the sporting complex on the old tip site are matters that the western areas of the Shire needs.
I admit that Mr Woodward specifically refers to further residential redevelopment and residential rezoning, and I acknowledge that the land owned by the Department of Urban Affairs and Planning is zoned residential. I also acknowledge that there is a cost in failing to realise government assets, and that there is a potential impact on the Sydney land market. However, the existing infrastructure and environmental concerns raised throughout Mr Woodward's report are widely shared by my constituents.
On the positive side it should be acknowledged that in the past few years the Carr Labor Government has made substantial progress in addressing the infrastructure backlog caused by the rapid pace of local development promoted by previous councils in the past few decades. For instance, honourable members will recall the opening, in February this year, of the $47 million Woronora Bridge. The environmental impact statement for the $50 million Bangor bypass will be on public display in a few months. But it is an unfortunate fact of life that projects of this magnitude cannot be built overnight.
Mr Woodward's report also referred to the development of a sporting complex on the tip site. The rehabilitated land is progressively being handed over for desperately needed sporting facilities. The netball area will be available by the end of the year. The latest advice from Waste Service is that the entire project will be completed ahead of schedule, but there is still a lot of work to be done. The question about the Landcom proposal is, essentially: What is the appropriate time to ask the community to consider this development? As I have told the Minister on several occasions in the past couple of months, the current timing is inappropriate and is unacceptable to my community. However, they do acknowledge that progress is being made to address the infrastructure backlog.
As a show of good faith representatives of the Menai and Menai West precinct committees will continue to participate in the consultation process. However, they are insistent that such participation should not be considered to be an implicit tick of approval or tacit compliance. They expect, correctly, that a future development application for the site will be considered on its merits when it is lodged. In particular, they expect that issues such as the adequacy of the infrastructure and environmental protection will be addressed in advance of any development application.
(Marrickville—Deputy Premier, Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, and Minister for Housing) [9.12 p.m.]: I am aware of the issue raised by the honourable member and I acknowledge her tireless efforts in representing the Menai community. Landcom has been working with the Menai community on how best to develop two blocks of land on Old Illawarra Road at Menai. This consultation has involved several community meetings and workshops. The consultation has highlighted a number of issues of concern to the local community, especially in relation to transport and traffic. The honourable member for Menai has brought these to my attention. A particular problem is the rapid pace of urban development over the past two years. I am happy to inform the House that, following the strong representations of the honourable member for Menai, Landcom has agreed to hold off seeking development of the sites until the necessary infrastructure needed to support such development is in place.
DEATH OF Mrs JOAN FLINT, OAM
(Dubbo) [9.13 p.m.]: A very well-known lady in Dubbo, Mrs Joan Flint, OAM, recently died. Joan Flint was the principal force in education in Dubbo. She lived a life full of vigour, and her vision and determination have ensured that generations of Dubbo students have benefited and will benefit in the future from improved education facilities. Such was the vision of Joan Flint that in 1975 she made a submission to the Department of Education for the establishment of a senior college in Dubbo—and, of course, that senior college is now a reality. This meant the bringing together of students in years 10, 11 and 12 from the three public schools in Dubbo.
I first met Joan Flint when I was a young farmer in Gilgandra and she asked me to join the board of the Orana Community College as the farmers' representative. It was in that forum that I witnessed Joan's vision, dedication and determination when seeking reform or better outcomes for our community in western New South Wales. Joan was the leading light in the establishment of the Orana Community College, which became the TAFE college, which in turn led to the establishment of a campus of Charles Sturt University in Dubbo.
Joan Flint was born in Dubbo in 1918, the daughter of a well-known stock and station agent, Wilfred Christie. She was educated at Dubbo Public School and Dubbo High School. She was the Captain of Dubbo High School in 1935 and represented the school and the region in many sporting activities. Joan won acceptance to university to study law, but her father did not support that career and sent her to finishing school. Joan lasted only three months at finishing school before returning home and telling her father that it was a waste of money.
On her return to Dubbo Joan worked for her father. With war brewing, Joan helped to form the local Voluntary Aid Detachment, of which she later became the local commander. In 1941 she accepted full-time service in the Voluntary Aid Detachment in the Australian Imperial Force [AIF]. Joan gave two years of faithful service in Australia, which included time as lady-in-waiting to the wife of Australia's Governor-General, Lord Gowrie. Joan was then posted to New Guinea, and at the age of 24 was promoted to the rank of major, the youngest person to achieve that rank in the AIF. Joan served for two years in New Guinea. After she returned to Australia she served at Concord Repatriation Hospital in Sydney. She met her husband, Bob, there and Bob and Joan lived a great life until her recent death. Bob and Joan had four children—Ken, David, Wilfred and Gordon. They had some sadness in their lives with the death of Ken at the age of three and David at 23, but through Joan's strength and tenacity those losses were endured.
Joan then forged ahead with her dream of better educational facilities for the region. She was involved with the Dubbo public and high school canteens, and their parents and citizens committees. She was a foundation member of the Mitchell College Planning Committee, Vice-Chairman of the inaugural Orana College Council, a member of the Macquarie Library Committee, a member of the Dubbo committee of the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme, a member of the Mitchell College Council, which subsequently became the Charles Sturt University Council, a member of the New South Wales Board of Adult Education and of the New South Wales TAFE Council, and was a Dubbo City Council alderman from 1971 to 1976. Joan did not seek recognition for herself, but she nonetheless accumulated a number of awards for her community work, including the Order of Australia. She was also awarded the inaugural TAFE Gold Medal for her work in technical and further education at local, State and national levels. This was a great achievement for a great lady. Long will she be missed in the city of Dubbo.
Mr DAVID PALMER BRITISH OPEN SQUASH TITLE
(Bathurst) [9.18 p.m.]: I wish to place on record the outstanding achievements of Lithgow's David Palmer in world professional squash. Two weeks ago David won the British Open squash title, the Wimbledon of squash, when he defeated Chris Walker in a five-set final. It shows something of David's character, sporting ability and fitness that he came from two sets down in the final to win three sets to two. The first two sets took more than an hour, but David raced through the final three sets in 25 minutes for an emphatic win. David is currently ranked number one in Australia and number three in the world. His ambition to be world number one is within reach, as he recently defeated the world's number one player, Jonathon Power.
David has had an impressive career in squash, and at 23 years of age his best is yet to come. David is no overnight success: since he first picked up a squash racket at the age of three he has worked long and hard to reach his current status. His parents, John and Sylvia, were both top squash players, winning the Lithgow singles titles on many occasions. Sylvia represented Australia in the under-23 team. Apart from his parents' influence and encouragement, David's coach of many years, Peter Chard from Bathurst, can claim credit for helping David achieve his current success. David won a combined high schools [CHS] Blue for squash, and in 1993 won the President's Award for being the most outstanding schoolboy sportsman in New South Wales.
Since leaving to play in Brazil as a 17-year-old David has plied his trade all over the world, including being one of the international invitees that each country is allowed in the European competition. David has played for Belgium, Holland, France, Austria, Switzerland and England as a professional in this major competition. David Palmer's effort in winning the recent British Open is even more meritorious when one considers that only one other Australian, the great Geoff Hunt, has won the title in the professional era. Incidentally, another Lithgow product, the late Kevin Shawcross, won the British Open as an amateur in the late 1970s. A disappointing aspect of David Palmer's win was the manner in which the mainstream media in Australia ignored his achievement.
Squash is a truly international, highly competitive sport in which Australia has been a leading force in both the men's and women's divisions for many decades. The lack of recognition by the media in no way diminishes the magnitude of David Palmer's performance. He deserves the warmest congratulations and he will be accorded a civic reception by the Mayor of Lithgow, Councillor Neville Castle, when he returns from his current overseas campaign on 5 July. David Palmer has added to the illustrious sporting record of the city of Lithgow. He joins champions such as Marjorie Jackson, Spike Cheney, Barry Rushworth and the many Olympians that have represented Lithgow over many years. These sporting achievements come from Lithgow's background as a working-class city in which the enjoyment of sport to keep fit and socialise became part of the ethos of the city. David is just one of the many Lithgow people who have shown that, given the right opportunities and the right coaching, they can could reach the pinnacle of their sport. I welcome this opportunity to congratulate David Palmer on his outstanding success.
CARLINGFORD WEST PUBLIC SCHOOL SECURITY
(Baulkham Hills) [9.22 p.m.]: I bring to the notice of the House my concerns about the security of our public schools, particularly Carlingford West Public School, which is located within my electorate of Baulkham Hills. I have received many letters, emails and faxes from parents of students who attend the school. They have confirmed that Carlingford West Public School has been the target of numerous acts of arson and vandalism over the past year. They include the torching of a classroom and two other rooms utilised by the after school care centre. There have been many acts of graffiti—some involving extremely personal comments about teachers at the school. Windows have been smashed, with the result that teachers and students have been forced to remain outside until the broken glass is cleaned up. Because of such acts of vandalism, students from Carlingford West Public School have had their studies disrupted and their work destroyed.
The parents and citizens association has now been forced to make a commitment to assist financially with school security. Funds that were originally earmarked for school resources have had to be siphoned off to meet the need for extra school security. So, once again the students miss out. Earlier this month in the Epping electorate, which adjoins mine, Pennant Hills High School was devastated by a major fire that destroyed approximately one-third of the school and caused millions of dollars worth of damage. Shortly before that, fire destroyed part of Roselea Public School, which is located nearby. School security deserves urgent attention. I do not believe that parents should have to fork out their hard-earned money on school security. All public schools should have the necessary security provided and paid for by the State Government. When the need for better security for Carlingford West Public School was brought to my attention I was astonished to discover that since 1997 school security contracts have been weakened.
On average, response times to schools is between 15 and 25 minutes. Last year the Government lost more than $20 million because of fire or vandalism to schools. Surely it is false economy not to spend the necessary funds to protect our schools when such a huge amount is lost due to the lack of security. Not only monetary loss is involved, there is the huge disruption to the children's education—even to the extent of students having to be relocated to other schools, as occurred with students from Pennant Hills High School. I might add that it was pleasing to me as the local member to have a school within my electorate, namely Muirfield high, offer to assist in this regard. I thank everyone at Muirfield high.
I ask the Minister for Education and Training to provide the necessary funds to ensure better security for Carlingford West Public School. This serious matter deserves immediate attention from the Minister. It is difficult for schools to raise money. Parents work very hard and parents and citizens association members go the extra mile to get a few extras for their children. They are proud of their school and they want to do the best by their children. It is unfair that the funds they raise have to be diverted to repairing damage caused by malicious acts of vandalism. Parents devote precious hours in which they could do other things, only to find that their efforts go not to improving the school but to restoring its status quo. I cannot understand how this "caring Carr Government", as it is described—
Yes. I cannot understand how this self-described caring Government can allow this situation to arise. School security should be paramount to ensure that students and teachers, who work in difficult situations, retain the best possible resources. Again I ask the Minister to consider security at Carlingford West Public School and other schools in my electorate. Schools are a vital resource in the electorate of Baulkham Hills, as they are throughout New South Wales. [Time expired
NORTH WYONG SCHOOLS VEHICLE AND PEDESTRIAN ACCESS
(Swansea) [9.27 p.m.]: I raise a matter of great concern to the school communities in the North Wyong shire part of the Swansea electorate whose children attend Lake Munmorah Public School, Lake Munmorah High School and St Brendan's Catholic School. The only vehicular access to the three schools is via a common road, Carters Road Lake Munmorah. Pedestrian access to the schools is via an overhead bridge that spans the four lanes of the Pacific Highway. Carters Road is narrow and is sealed only along the school properties. The population of the three schools will be close to 2,000 students when years 9, 10, 11 and 12 come on stream at the newly constructed Lake Munmorah High School, which has been built at a cost of $19 million. Last week I received a letter from the principal of Lake Munmorah High School on behalf of a joint schools road risk committee for the three schools. The committee is made up of the principals and parent representatives of St Brendan's Catholic School, Lake Munmorah Public School and Lake Munmorah High School. The letter states in part:
Concern amongst parents, staff and community members is extremely high as we witness daily, the many dangers to our young children.
The risks to our children can be significantly reduced by action in the following areas:-
1. Children Walking To and From School
Road widening and curb guttering on both sides of Carters road from Pacific Highway to the end of Carters Road and curb and guttering on both sides of Elizabeth Bay Drive from Pacific Highway to Greenacre Avenue. To support this we request that Wyong Council approach the Electricity Commission to provide curb and guttering in front of their land.
Footpaths on both sides of Carters Road from the Pacific Highway to the end of Carters Road and on both sides of Elizabeth Bay Drive from the Pacific Highway to Greenacre Avenue.
Students in these areas do not qualify for subsidised bus travel and for secondary students there is no bus service provided anyway. These students have no alternative but to walk (or cycle) to school. The current conditions in Elizabeth Bay Drive necessitate that they walk on the side of the roadway, particularly in wet weather. The provision of footpaths is crucial to their safe passage along Elizabeth Bay Drive.
The reduction of the speed limit in Elizabeth Bay Drive to 50 km/hr.
The development of wombat crossings across Carters Road ...
Construction of a fence along the median strip of the Pacific Highway to prevent children crossing the highway other than by the overhead bridge.
The other recommendations relate to children cycling to and from school and children being driven to and from school. Clearly, the safety of children cycling to and from school would be greatly improved if council were to mark the bicycle lanes on Carters Road from the Pacific Highway to the end of Carters Road, and on Elizabeth Bay Drive from the Pacific Highway to Greenacre Avenue, add a cycleway from the end of Carters Road to North Chain Valley Bay, and reduce the speed limit along the road. The recommendations have been passed on to the Minister for Roads, who has given an undertaking to refer the matter to the Roads and Traffic Authority. I have written also to Wyong Shire Council requesting that it investigate the allocation of resources for its areas of responsibility in order that the 2,000 children who travel that route have a safe passage to and from school.
WORKERS COMPENSATION LEGISLATION
(Burrinjuck) [9.31 p.m.]: I refer to the effects of the workers compensation legislation on my electorate of Burrinjuck. In July 2000 I wrote to many businesses in my electorate asking what changes owners and managers felt needed to be made to the workers compensation legislation and its associated regulations. I was inundated with correspondence and was surprised at how strongly managers in my electorate felt about the scheme. After wages, workers compensation premiums are the biggest employment cost. In the past six years or so, escalating workers compensation premiums have cost many jobs and economic growth in the Burrinjuck electorate. Employers feel that they have suffered as a result of the current scheme. Allison McGuire of McGuire Earthmoving Tumut Partnership, known as McGuire Logging, wrote to me in part:
Our company has had ongoing problems with Workers Compensation, especially with the premium increases.
We are the major hardwood contractor with a good history of work safety however this cost is becoming too expensive, and to now find out that it will increase by 50% to 100%, is incomprehensible.
Peter Bindon from Australian Ethnography Institute Pty Ltd stated in part:
While it may be useful to establish an organisation to monitor premiums, the escalating costs cannot be reduced until limitations on payouts are established. In our increasingly litigious society, such payments must be removed from the jurisdiction of courts and should be regulated by legislation.
If WorkCover's debt is a staggering $2 billion, it seems unlikely that any other insurers would be keen to enter the market until there was some hope of economic viability.
Dr Hannah Middleton from the Australian Plaintiff Lawyers Association said the association wished to secure a scheme that is cost effective and protects the rights and benefits of injured workers and the interests of other stakeholders. David Hazel of Kia-Ora, Bookham, wrote on behalf of the Bookham Agricultural Bureau as follows:
On behalf of the Bookham Agricultural Bureau representing woolgrowers in the area, I am writing to express our concern over Workers Compensation laws in relation to "blanket" claims made by some shearers.
Some of these claims are made against up to 10 employers for alleged injuries, in some instances dating back 12 years and more.
Surely any claims should be dealt with at the last place of employment and at the time of injury.
Many employees don't keep records past the mandatory seven years and management changes make it next to impossible to defend such claims.
We also object strongly to the way in which many legal firms advertise and encourage clients to make such claims to create a case in what we believe is a no lose situation for legal firms themselves.
Laws must be changed before this "can of worms" is opened even further and every employer has to pay even higher premiums for Workers Compensation cover.
The plantation forestry sector wrote to me as follows:
For many years, workers' compensation premiums for the "forestry sector" have been amongst the highest of any industry sector. This situation has arisen because of the traditionally hazardous nature of mostly manual sawmilling and timber-handling operations, and high accident rates amongst manual timber fellers working in native forests and in rural farm applications.
In the several decades since the "sawmilling" classification was introduced, there have been dramatic changes to the forestry industry. While part of the industry still operates by means of motor manual log felling, extraction and processing methods, an increasingly large proportion of the industry is using sophisticated mechanised timber harvesting methods.
Most milling operations in the plantation sector are highly mechanised, with workers operating in air-conditioned booths, and computer-controlled consoles.
Logging companies and the timber industry provide about 42 per cent of all employment from Gundagai to Albury east of the Hume Highway. They pay 17.26 per cent of their wages bill on workers compensation premiums, yet claims are less than 1 per cent. [Time expired.
WOLLONGONG WOLVES SOCCER TEAM
(Keira) [9.36 p.m.]: On 3 June the Wollongong Wolves defeated South Melbourne by two goals to one to win the true football code competition, the National Soccer League, for the second year in a row. This year the squad comprised Mathew Horsley as captain, Daniel Beltrame, George Souris, Alvin Ceccoli, Robert Stanton, David Cervinski, Paul Reid, Max Nicholson, Saso Petrovski, Stuart Young, Scott Chipperfield, Paul Harries, George Nohra, Jay Lucas, David Huxley, Beren Sullivan, Ben Blake, Paul O'Grady, Steven Dimitrievski, Grant Barlow, Steve Angelov, Dino Mennillo, Dean Anastadiadis and Robert Middelby.
The team was coached by Ron Corry and the assistant coach was Stuart Beedie. One can imagine my community's delight in winning twin grand finals—the Wollongong Hawks won the National Basketball Competition earlier this year. Soccer is the true football code and the Wollongong community is extremely excited about this second win, so much so that it extended a civic reception and street ticker-tape parade to honour the team. Given the result of having two national champions of three national sporting codes in one year, the city council has renamed part of the city as Champions Plaza.
On 8 June the Wolves held a presentation evening, just less than a week after the twin wins. People gathered to celebrate the achievement of the players during the win. In the youth league the top goal scorer was Liam Austin, who scored 17 goals this year—not a bad effort! The Youth Player of the Year was Harvey Rodriguez. These two young players will regenerate the Wollongong Wolves top grade in future years. The senior club Rookie of the Year is Jay Lucas, who, although he just turned 16, played in the National Soccer League. We have lost him to a club in Britain, where he will serve an apprenticeship in the British premier league. As he is an Illawarra junior I wish him well.
The BHP Player of the Year in the senior grade was Paul Reid, who is well deserving of that award as he played in every game and with a great deal of consistency. The top goal scorer in the senior league was Sasho Petrovski, with 21 goals—a club record. Sasho has set a club record two years in a row and has said publicly that he wants to break that record again next year. The players' player was David Huxley, a welcome announcement as he is a consistent player, and is as strong off the field as he is on the field. The team needs to be regenerated as we support them in their quest for a third championship next year. Players such as the captain, Matt Horsley, and Scott Chipperfield are local junior players—Matt is from Balgownie and Scott is from Bellambi in the Keira electorate. They are both going off to play in Perth next year, so we need to regenerate the squad and support them at WIN Stadium. It is great to see that Zeljko Babic, a former Socceroo who played for Marconi for four years, has signed with the Wolves. The local community were excited about the fact that someone of his calibre is to fill the void left by local players, who succeeded and put our city on the map—both in a sporting sense and as gentlemen.
ALBURY ELECTORATE AMMUNITION FACTORY
(Albury) [9.41 p.m.]: Tonight I wish to make honourable members aware of an important event that began in my electorate just after four o'clock last Friday afternoon, when a crowd of between 6,000 and 7,000 people marched from Mulwala in my electorate over the bridge across Lake Mulwala to Yarrawonga on the Victorian side of the border. It was remarkable because the population of Mulwala is approximately 1,500 and the population of Yarrawonga is approximately 5,000. The crowd was made up of ordinary men, women, children and young people who marched in support of the extension, rebuilding and retention of the ammunitions factory in Mulwala. If one were to ask the residents of any electorate in Australia today whether they would like an ammunitions factory in their area, very few would say yes.
However, Mulwala residents are anxious to retain the ammunitions factory that was built in 1940s, because of its contribution to the economy of the local area. Many families in Mulwala and Yarrawonga depend on this ammunitions factory for their livelihood. At present, the Commonwealth Government is considering whether or not the factory should be modernised and kept open. It provides the propellant for bullets used by the Australian services in some missiles, and propellants for shotguns. A great deal is exported to the United States of America and is of very high quality. Unfortunately, many of the factory buildings are old and have come to the end of their useful life, and some of the equipment is quite archaic and needs to be upgraded. A great deal of cost will be involved and the Commonwealth Government will soon have to decide whether to upgrade the factory, which is leased to Australian Defence Industries.
I hope it decides in favour of the factory because I would be disappointed if the Australian armed services had to purchase ammunition from overseas countries, such as India. We should remember that friends today could well be enemies tomorrow. I would hate to see Australia in a position in which supplies for essential equipment to our armed services were cut off. Recently I inspected the factory and was astounded at some of the conditions under which the people were working. The buildings are spread over many hundreds of hectares and are separated from one another in order to prevent a domino effect throughout the works in the event of explosion or accident. Some of the buildings have been upgraded and are in first-class condition. For example, the TNT manufacturing plant is one of the most modern in the world and is very efficient. However, other buildings are quite archaic. In one building a particular sort of paper is torn up and used as cellulite for propellant. This is taken in large bins to another building, where it is then transferred from those bins into hydraulic presses, dampened and made into what they call cakes, to be taken to another part of the factory. When I visited the factory I saw a woman using a shovel and wheelbarrow to move the material to be used in the propellants for ammunition from the bins to the presses. That is disgraceful in the year 2001!
A plume of liquid has leached out of the factory and is heading towards the Murray River. It is beneath a number of dwellings and people whose houses are affected are concerned that the value of their properties may decrease. The Commonwealth Government has already committed between $50 million and $60 million to ameliorate the problem and deal with the plume—and I am pleased about that. However, jobs are now at stake and I hope that the Commonwealth will agree to upgrade the factory to provide certainty for the people who need those jobs and certainty for the supply of ammunition to our armed services. I know this will cost a lot of money but this is a vital industry for Australia and our defence. I hope that the Commonwealth Government will listen to the voices of these ordinary Australian men, women and children, who marched in support of their communities and the jobs generated by this factory.
Private members' statements noted.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Bills: Suspension of Standing and Sessional Orders
Motion by Mr Face agreed to:
That standing and sessional orders be suspended to allow the introduction and passage up to and including the Minister's second reading speech of the following bills, notice of which was given this day for tomorrow, at this sitting:
Liquor Amendment (Gaming Machine Restrictions) Bill
Legal Profession Amendment (Professional Indemnity Insurance) Bill
Evidence (Audio and Audio Visual Links) Amendment Bill
New South Wales—Queensland Border Rivers Amendment Bill
LIQUOR AMENDMENT (GAMING MACHINE RESTRICTIONS) BILL
Bill introduced and read a first time.
(Charlestown—Minister for Gaming and Racing, and Minister Assisting the Premier on Hunter Development) [9.48 p.m.]: I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
On 19 April 2001 the Governor made a regulation under the Liquor Act. This regulation froze the gaming machine numbers in New South Wales hotels for a period of three months. The Government imposed the three-month freeze on hoteliers following media speculation about the Government's gaming reform package. The freeze is designed to stop hoteliers from speculating on the future directions of the Government's policy in this area. The Government shares the community's concerns about the growing number of machines in hotels. The Government is finalising a reform package to respond to these concerns. An announcement about the details of these reforms will be made in the near future. Until the package is considered by the Parliament it is important that the freeze continue. The freeze was originally imposed by regulation due to the urgent need to prevent speculation about the Government's gaming reform package. The Government now proposes to continue the freeze by legislation.
The bill amends the Liquor Act and introduces the same freeze as was applied by regulation. The bill is to take effect from 19 April 2001, which was the date when the freeze was first imposed by regulation. The bill also contains amendments to ensure that compensation is not payable by the State to any hotelier as a result of the freeze. This is consistent with the freeze already imposed on registered clubs. The Government recognises that the hotel industry has concerns about the impact of the freeze on hoteliers. However, it must be remembered that this freeze is a necessary interim measure until broader gaming machine reforms are introduced. The bill will ensure that the status quo continues until the Government's reform package is considered and debated publicly. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate adjourned on motion by Mr R. H. L. Smith.
LEGAL PROFESSION AMENDMENT (PROFESSIONAL INDEMNITY INSURANCE) BILL
Bill introduced and read a first time.
(Wyong—Parliamentary Secretary), on behalf of Mr Debus [9.50 p.m.]: I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
The Legal Profession Amendment (Professional Indemnity Insurance) Bill has three broad purposes. The first is to ensure that people who have claims against solicitors which are affected by the collapse of HIH insurance receive payment for their claims. The second is to enhance scrutiny of the state, and sufficiency and management of, the Solicitors’ Mutual Indemnity Fund, established under the Act. The third is to make interim arrangements for the temporary extension of the practising certificates of solicitors for the financial year 2001-02. New South Wales solicitors were insured by HIH under an arrangement made by the Law Society in 1998. However, unlike other occupational groups, New South Wales solicitors contributed to a fund established under the Act known as the Solicitors’ Mutual Indemnity Fund.
The fund comprises contributions made by solicitors and was originally constituted for a number of purposes, including the payment of premiums for solicitors’ professional indemnity insurance and making payments towards the difference between the liability of a solicitor for a claim and the amount payable under a policy. I understand that the net surplus of the fund now stands at around $82 million. LawCover, which is the company that manages the fund, has now resolved to apply the fund to make payments to claimants whose claims would have been paid by HIH. The bill removes any doubt that the fund can be used for this purpose.
The bill provides, first, that payments are to be made from the fund for the purpose of satisfying the obligations of a member of the HIH group under, or in connection with, an approved insurance policy. This provision places a clear onus on LawCover to make the payments to claimants. I understand that LawCover proposes to enter into an agreement with the provisional liquidator of HIH for the purpose of applying the fund to meet claims. The bill contemplates such an agreement. The bill also contains a special, complementary power for LawCover to require any solicitor or former solicitor who was insured under an approved policy issued by HIH to pay a special contribution or levy to the fund. This will ensure that both current and former solicitors can be required to make additional contributions to the fund in the future to cover HIH claims. The bill provides, secondly, that payments can be made from the fund to meet the obligations of a defaulting insurer. This is a broad provision designed to allow payments to be made in circumstances when an insurer is unable or unwilling to meet any claims or other liabilities under a policy, when a liquidator or provisional liquidator has been appointed or when an insurer has been dissolved.
I now turn to other provisions of the bill that deal with the Solicitors’ Mutual Indemnity Fund. The fund is managed by LawCover, and there is no reason to suggest that LawCover’s management has been anything other than competent in the past. However, the new uses for the fund that are contemplated by the bill necessitate greater scrutiny of the sufficiency of the fund and its management. The bill provides for the Attorney General to appoint an appropriately qualified person to conduct an investigation in relation to the fund, including matters such as the adequacy of levies or contributions made by solicitors to the fund, the management and investment of the fund by LawCover and other matters determined by the Attorney General.
Honourable members will appreciate that solicitors’ practising certificates expire on 30 June and that new practising certificates cannot be issued to insurable solicitors until indemnity arrangements are in place. The bill makes interim arrangements for the extension of practising certificates in the financial year 2001-02. Honourable members may be aware that the collapse of HIH has caused difficulties in arranging professional indemnity insurance for solicitors in 2001-02 as contemplated by the Act. The Law Society has discussed those difficulties with the Attorney General on a number of occasions. In order to allow sufficient time for arrangements to be made, the Attorney General proposes to extend the period of current practising certificates by two months. This extension will be made by regulation.
The bill makes amendments to the Act to support the extension of certificates. These amendments provide for the Law Society and LawCover to enter into an agreement with the Attorney General relating to the use of the fund for the purpose of indemnifying solicitors during the extension period. The provisions in the bill will make sure that, in the event that it becomes necessary to use the fund, LawCover will be required to ensure that all the costs of claims and expenses made and incurred during the extension period are met by contributions or levies made by insurable solicitors. In this way the scheme will ensure that the resources of the fund, which will be needed for HIH claims, are not expended for meeting claims made during the extension period. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate adjourned on motion by Ms Hodgkinson.
EVIDENCE (AUDIO AND AUDIO VISUAL LINKS) AMENDMENT BILL
Bill introduced and read a first time.
(Wyong—Parliamentary Secretary), on behalf of Mr Debus [9.58 p.m.]: I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
The Evidence (Audio and Audio Visual Links) Act 1998 facilitates the appropriate use of audio and audiovisual technology in the administration of justice and allows New South Wales to participate in a substantially uniform interstate scheme for the taking or receiving of evidence and the making or receiving of submissions from or in other participating States. The use of such technology can help reduce costs of travel and use of court time for those engaged in litigation in this country. In particular, it can significantly reduce the risks and costs associated with escorting, transporting and holding people who are in custody. It will also allow witnesses, particularly expert witnesses, to give evidence from any suitable location around the world.
In June 2000 the Government committed $4 million to extend the use of video conferencing as a major initiative across justice agencies. Under this project, video conferencing equipment will be installed at 15 courts in metropolitan and regional areas; adult correctional facilities at Silverwater, Grafton, Cessnock, Parklea, Long Bay and Bathurst—a total of 13 facilities; seven juvenile justice facilities across the State; and four Police Service locations. Facilities will also be installed at two locations of the Legal Aid Commission; two locations of the Director of Public Prosecutions; two locations of the Ethnic Affairs Commission; and the Public Defenders Office, one facility in Chambers. It is anticipated that the use of video conferencing for preliminary criminal proceedings alone will deliver savings in inmate transportation of more than $1.5 million per year.
The bill will amend the Evidence (Audio and Audio Visual Links) Act 1998 to ensure that the benefits of this technology are realised, particularly in criminal proceedings. To apply only in circumstances where these facilities are available, this bill establishes a presumption in favour of using audiovisual links to facilitate the use of video conferencing in appropriate circumstances by justice agencies. This presumption applies to preliminary criminal proceedings, which generally deal with procedural matters only, such as proceedings relating to bail; any arraignment on a day other than the day appointed for the trial of an accused person; and any interlocutory proceedings held in connection with any criminal proceeding, such as an application for an adjournment.
Where a person has previously been remanded in custody, the presumption will also apply to any subsequent proceeding relating to the remand of the accused person in custody for the same offence. The presumption, however, will not override the court's inherent jurisdiction to generally control proceedings and protect the right of the accused or defendant to a fair trial. The presumption can be rebutted if the court is satisfied that it is in the interests of justice to do so. In order to protect the rights of an accused or defendant in criminal proceedings who may be in danger of losing his or her liberty, the proposed amendments will also establish a presumption in favour of physical attendance for certain criminal proceedings. These include:
(a) committal proceedings;
(b) any inquiry into a person's fitness to be tried for an offence;
(c) any trial or hearing of charges;
(d) any sentencing hearing;
(e) any hearing of an appeal arising out of a trial or hearing;
(f) any proceeding relating to bail where it is the accused's or defendant's first appearance before a justice; and
(g) any proceeding relating to bail which is the accused's or defendant's first appearance before a magistrate.
A presumption in favour of the physical attendance of the accused can be displaced only with the consent of the parties, or if the court is satisfied that it is in the interests of justice. A presumption in favour of using video link facilities for proceedings before the Supreme Court concerning bail already exists under part 7A of the Supreme Court Act 1970. As the provisions of the bill are broader than part 7A, this part will be repealed. Where there is a presumption in favour of using a audiovisual link, a party opposing the appearance of the accused or the giving of evidence or making of a submission by audiovisual link must satisfy the court that the use of the audiovisual link is not in the interests of justice.
In recognition of the special nature of proceedings before the Children's Court, the presumptions established by the bill will not apply where the accused or the defendant is a child. It is important to note that the bill ensures that accused persons appearing before a court via an audiovisual link are able to communicate with their legal representative privately via telephone link if their representative is where the court is sitting. At present the Act restricts the court to making such an order where either party makes an application. This bill takes this a step further to also permit a court to make an order for the giving of evidence by audio or audiovisual link of its own motion. This will be most useful in civil matters, where the aforementioned presumptions do not operate. Before an order is made the existing tests set out in the Act will need to be satisfied. These include ensuring that the facilities are available, that it is not unfair to a party and that it is in the interests of the administration of justice.
A number of people and organisations have been consulted about the changes proposed by the bill. These include the Chief Justice, the Chief Judge, the Chief Magistrate, the Bar Association, the Law Society, the Legal Aid Commission and the Aboriginal Legal Services. Where appropriate, their comments have been taken into account. The bill acknowledges current thinking amongst the judiciary, the profession and court administrators that there is a legitimate role for technology in the justice system. It seeks to encourage the expanded use of technology in the courtroom but not at the expense of the interests of justice. Accordingly, this bill clarifies what types of evidence or submissions should be given and what types of matters should be dealt with by audiovisual link. By the provisions in this bill, the court will be required to balance questions of cost, convenience and expedition with the proper dispensation of justice. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate adjourned on motion by Mr R. H. L. Smith.
NEW SOUTH WALES—QUEENSLAND BORDER RIVERS AMENDMENT BILL
Bill introduced and read a first time.
(Mount Druitt—Minister for Agriculture, and Minister for Land and Water Conservation) [10.07 p.m.]: I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of the New South Wales—Queensland Border Rivers Amendment Bill is to ratify amendments to a 1946 interstate agreement. It will modify the water-sharing arrangements between the States to allow each State more control and independence over management of its share of the resources of the border rivers. The New South Wales—Queensland Border Rivers Act 1947 and parallel Queensland legislation ratified an agreement entered into between the States relating to the construction of dams and weirs on parts of the rivers, known as the border rivers, forming part of the boundary between the States, and the sharing of water in those works and rivers between the States. The agreement includes a provision for the sharing of water between the States based on the equal sharing of water in Glenlyon Dam, in Queensland and the upper reaches of the border rivers, and sharing of naturally occurring downstream inflows based on their State of origin.
Under this provision New South Wales is entitled to use 57 per cent of the available regulated resource. Currently clause 37(2) of the agreement provides for annual accounting between the States. This means that the unused portions of each State's annual allocation at the end of the accounting period is pooled and shared amongst both States. The State with the larger volume of unused allocation effectively forfeits a proportion of its allocation to the other State. The State with the least use or more efficient use is penalised. Annual accounting encourages use it or lose it practices, resulting in suboptimal economic results. An alternative arrangement is to allow carryover accounting, where unused allocation in one year is carried over within each State's account to be used in the following year or years. Thus a State's account can only be reduced by the actual use of water.
Water that is not used is then available in subsequent seasons that may be drier and when water has a higher economic value. This differs for the individual user who must use any carryover water in the following season. Any unused carryover water is forfeited and shared with other users. On a number of occasions in the past New South Wales and Queensland's utilisation of their annual entitlements have varied such that there was considerable discrepancy between the unused volumes at the end of the accounting year. The ability to carry over unused entitlement will enable each State to better manage its resources in line with its allocation policies for individual river pumpers. It will also facilitate each State in introducing an individual user accounting system in line with State policies.
The main disadvantage of annual accounting for individuals is that it encourages potentially wasteful practices, as it is in the individual's short-term interest to fully use all the available water. Under annual accounting, a portion of the unused share is forfeited to other users. This may lead to inefficiencies such as the irrigation of low value crops or the filling of farm storages that experience higher evaporation than the major headwater storages. It may also limit the amount of off-allocation flow that can be extracted. New South Wales has already implemented carryover accounting for its users in the border rivers by utilising Pindari Dam reserves to allow users to carryover individual accounts. This amendment will make all New South Wales accounting compatible and allow Queensland to implement the scheme for its users.
The next stage in the evolution of allocation management is the introduction of continuous accounting, where there is no annual reconciliation of accounts. They are then managed on a continuous basis. In continuous accounting, there are no time limits on the use of water within a user's account and it provides further protection of users rights from the activities of other users. In the scheme to be introduced, each irrigator is allowed to have a maximum of 100 per cent in his account at any time and up to 100 per cent in any year. For example, if, at the start of a season, the account is full at 100 megalitres and during the season the user uses 60 megalitres for that year, 40 megalitres are available. If there have been inflows and storages are full there are now 100 megalitres in the account. This will ensure that the user can use another 40 megalitres this season, and have at least 60 megalitres for use next season. Or, if the user uses nothing else this season, 100 megalitres are available for use in future seasons.
Continuous accounting reduces this third party impact even further. Continuous accounting supports the property rights concept by minimising the effect on an individual's allocation availability by the water use activities of other water users. This protection is not afforded by annual accounting. It is proposed to introduce continuous accounting in the border rivers before October this year. This initiative will provide consistency between the States and individuals sharing schemes. The development of continuous accounting is indicative of the resource management improvements being made in the border rivers valley. Environmental flow rules are being developed that will preserve the water-related ecological values of the valley. These rules will be developed in consultation with Queensland while preserving each State's right to determine natural resource management policy within its own territory.
It also demonstrates the commitment of this Government to the community-consultation process, as the water user community has been vigorously supporting the introduction of continuous accounting. In addition to the accounting issues, both State Governments are working towards the development of a single commercial water business to service both States' customers and to facilitate water trading across the border. In summary, this amendment will provide sharing consistency with the sharing methodologies of the Murray-Darling Basin Commission and with the schemes being implemented throughout New South Wales for individual users. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate adjourned on motion by Mr Hartcher.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Bill: Suspension of Standing and Sessional Orders
Motion by Mr Yeadon agreed to:
That standing and sessional orders be suspended to permit the resumption of the debate on the Industrial Relations Amendment (Casual Employees Parental Leave) Bill forthwith.
INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS AMENDMENT (CASUAL EMPLOYEES PARENTAL LEAVE) BILL
Debate resumed from 20 June.
(Gosford) [10.16 p.m.]: The Coalition does not oppose the bill. The Coalition accepts that in our modern society there has been a considerable shift in the nature of the work force. Far more people now work on a casual basis than was has ever been the case. Many people work in permanent casual or permanent part-time employment. It is appropriate, therefore, that the legislative regime executed in New South Wales over many years to protect the conditions of permanent employees be extended, where appropriate, to casual or permanent part-time employees. The Coalition has long supported the flexibility of the working arrangements that is necessary for the evolving New South Wales economy, especially as the Australian economy continues its role as part of the world global economy. Accordingly, the Coalition accepts that there will be necessary legislative change.
However, it is a poor reflection on a Government that constantly harps about the way the trade union movement protects workers and exalts trade unions in our society that, once again, legislation is needed to underpin workers entitlements and rights. Where is the trade union movement? What has it done about parental leave for casual employees? The trade union movement seeks awards and provides out, so it says, services on behalf of its members. Presumably, tens of thousands of people would be eligible for trade union membership, many of whom are casual employees.
If the trade union movement is so effective in protecting the interests of workers, why is it not using the award system, which is now so heavily weighted in its favour under the Industrial Relations Act 1996? The real reason for that is because the trade union movement in this State is ineffective. It does not deliver a good deal for workers. In fact, it does not give workers in this State value for money. That is what it boils down to. Again and again legislation is introduced into this House to cover holidays, casual leave and long service leave because of the failure of the trade union system to use the award system in New South Wales for the benefit of the workers of New South Wales.
It is no wonder that trade union membership is declining. What is the value of being a member of a trade union? Fewer than 20 per cent of the private sector work force in this State are members of trade unions. The figure is slightly higher, around about 25 per cent, in the public sector. There is a greater onus and greater peer pressure in the public sector to be a member of the union. Deductions are made automatically from salaries in the public sector, and that generates a sense of pressure. Once people are in a union they stay in the union, even if the reasons for which they joined the union have long since passed.
The trade union movement continues to fail the workers of this State. In recent times the only activity we have seen by trade union members was the disgraceful picket line to which this Parliament was subjected by sections of the trade union movement only last Tuesday. One has to ask the question: Why is this the only effective action that the trade union movement believes it can take— given the fact that it claims to have a close relationship with the Government and given the massive amount of legislation pushed through this Parliament. Since 1995 Parliament has legislated for the benefit of the trade union movement on demand.
There has been the Boxing Day holiday Act, the annual leave Act, all sorts of conditions that the trade union movement has been unable to obtain for its members through the industrial relations system. It is a mark of the failure of trade unions in this State that the only course of action available to it was the disgraceful picket line that we witnessed last Tuesday. We all know who crossed the picket line and who did not. We know the whole sad story of the ideological knee-jerk reaction of certain members of the Labor Party left, who included the Minister at the table, the Minister for Information Technology.
Were you a friend of the workers on Tuesday?
The honourable member for Swansea interjected, much to the annoyance of the Minister of Police and Leader of the House, to ask whether I was a friend of the workers. I was invited to address the workers and I addressed them at 10 minutes past six on the morning of that day, which was more than the member for Swansea was invited to do. The only time I saw the Minister for Police on that day was when he was protected by 100 of his own employees, members of the New South Wales Police Service, trying to force his way into Parliament. He was not like me, standing up with the megaphone, addressing the workers who were engaging in unauthorised, illegal and disgraceful picketing or blockading activity outside Parliament.
I was discriminated against.
The Minister says he was discriminated against. It is interesting to note that members of the Coalition were not discriminated against.
Mr ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Mills):
Order! The House will come to order. The member for Gosford will return to the leave of the bill and ignore interjections from Government members.
I will not be distracted. I repeat that the Coalition parties do not oppose the legislation. The Coalition parties accept the fact that it has come about, but regret the fact that the industrial relations system in this State seems to be so deficient that there has to be a continuing flow of legislation to remedy the defects of the Labor movement in New South Wales.
(Granville—Minister for Information Technology, Minister for Energy, Minister for Forestry, and Minister for Western Sydney) [10.22 p.m.], in reply: I thank the honourable member for Gosford for his contribution—at least for his opening remarks, which were to the effect that the Opposition would not oppose the bill. From there on his contribution was basically a diatribe. It is amazing to see someone purport to be a friend of the union one week and the following week put on the performance that we have just seen. It was not only scurrilous, it was also inaccurate. On 31 May the Industrial Relations Commission handed down a decision in favour of the ACTU's application to provide parental leave to casuals who have worked on a regular and systematic basis for 12 months or more. This legislation reflects the new workplace standard that has been won by the ACTU.
The honourable member for Gosford asked where the trade union movement is. That is exactly where it is: it is still winning benefits for its constituent unions and their members. The bill represents a real enhancement of parental leave provisions for employees in New South Wales. It ensures consistency and a qualifying period needed by both permanent and regular casual employees for access for up to 52 weeks unpaid parental leave and the right to return to their former positions. I commend the bill to the House.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a second time and passed through remaining stages.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Bills: Suspension of Standing and Sessional Orders
Motion by Mr Whelan agreed to:
That standing and sessional orders be suspended to permit the resumption of the debate on the Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals (New South Wales) Amendment Bill, and cognate bill forthwith.
AGRICULTURAL AND VETERINARY CHEMICALS (NEW SOUTH WALES) AMENDMENT BILL
CO-OPERATIVE SCHEMES (ADMINISTRATIVE ACTIONS) BILL
Debate resumed from 20 June.
(Barwon) [10.25 p.m.]: The Opposition supports the bills and congratulates the Federal Minister for Health, Dr Wooldridge, on doing a fantastic job in the Federal Parliament.
(Mount Druitt—Minister for Agriculture, and Minister for Land and Water Conservation) [10.26 p.m.], in reply: I thank the Opposition for its support for the bills and, in doing so, facilitating their passage. Similar legislation has already been passed in other States to clear up a problem relating to the referral of powers to the Commonwealth arising from a decision in a Western Australian court case, The Queen v Hughes
. The bills will clarify problems arising out of that court decision.
Motion agreed to.
Bills read a second time and passed through remaining stages.
Motion by Mr Whelan agreed to:
That this House at its rising this day do adjourn until Tuesday 26 June 2001 at 10.00 a.m.
House adjourned at 10.27 p.m.