Friday 7 June 2002
Mr Speaker (The Hon. John Henry Murray)
took the chair at 10.00 a.m.
offered the Prayer.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Bill: Suspension of Standing and Sessional Orders
Motion by Mr Face agreed to:
That standing and sessional orders be suspended to provide for the introduction and passage through all stages at this sitting of the Liquor Amendment (Special Events Hotel Trading) Bill.
LIQUOR AMENDMENT (SPECIAL EVENTS HOTEL TRADING) BILL
Bill introduced and read a first time.
(Charlestown—Minister for Gaming and Racing, and Minister Assisting the Premier on Hunter Development) [10.02 a.m.]: I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
Last year the Government amended the liquor laws so that rugby league fans throughout New South Wales could watch the telecast of the Grand Final match on Sunday evening in their local hotels. That amendment was made, with the assistance of the Opposition, because the Government recognises that hotels are popular venues for viewing telecasts of sport and other significant events. The Government also recognises that hotels are a traditional Australian social environment for sporting fans. The amendment was necessary because standard hotel trading hours under the Liquor Act cause problems for many hotels wishing to televise significant events on a Sunday evening. Standard trading for most hotels finishes at 10.00 p.m. on a Sunday—sometimes forcing patrons to vacate the premises during, or immediately after, the event.
It can be difficult for hotel licensees and police to enforce such a closing time, and the forced exit of thousands of hotel patrons who have been watching an event onto the street at 10.00 p.m. can place a significant strain on local transport and security. This is made worse where patrons are disgruntled at having to leave hotel premises at an hour they consider to be unreasonable. The Government believes it is reasonable that patrons viewing a significant State, national or international event at their local hotel on a Sunday evening should be able to watch the entire event, and spend some time there. It also assists local authorities and transport operators if patrons are able to leave hotels at staggered times, rather than all at once. It is also reasonable that hotels should be able to offer services for patrons to watch the telecast of significant events. Hotels should be able to take advantage of the increased market associated with an event of State, national or international significance.
That is why the Government amended the liquor laws for the 2001 National Rugby League [NRL] Grand Final match on Sunday 30 September 2001. The hotel industry has now approached the Government to do the same during the World Cup. Given last year's NRL Grand Final amendments and the latest request, the Government believes the provision needs to be put in place permanently. Therefore, this bill amends the Liquor Act to allow hotels to trade until midnight on Sundays during significant events. The dates for these events will be prescribed by the liquor regulations when an event is considered by the responsible Minister to be one of State, national or international significance.
Obviously only a handful of events will fall into this category. Allowing events to be prescribed, rather than amending the liquor laws—as was done last year for the NRL Grand Final—will allow extended Sunday trading to be provided to hotels for future events without the need to again amend the Liquor Act. The extension in this bill will now allow hotels to sell liquor for an additional two hours—for consumption on the licensed premises only. There will be no takeaway sales, and it will not overrule any previously imposed trading restrictions that apply to an individual hotel licence, or, for that matter, a club, such as restrictions resulting from a complaint about disturbance to the neighbourhood.
Around 25 per cent of hotels have approved extended hours until midnight anyway. The amendments will not affect the trading rights of those hotels. The amendments apply to hotels only. Registered clubs, which are also popular venues to view sporting telecasts, have no restrictions on their trading hours. Therefore they will be able to trade, although some may have an endorsement on their licences because of past errant practices The Government does not consider it necessary or desirable for licensed restaurants, because they would automatically be extended if they had that sort of licence. They are not the sorts of places that people would normally congregate to watch such events. I also point out that special provisions are not required for events that are held Monday to Saturday, as most hotels are already able to trade until midnight under the existing laws.
To ensure that special arrangements are in place for the World Cup Final match, the bill contains separate amendments to the Liquor Act to specifically allow hotels to trade until midnight on this occasion. This separate amendment is included in the bill because of the short amount of time in which the World Cup final is held. Rather than having that event prescribed—something that time may prohibit—these amendments will ensure that hotel trading is extended for that 2002 World Cup match. Finally, although this bill relates to the trading hours applying to the sale of liquor by hotels, I take this opportunity to place on record the Government's commitment to amend the gaming machine laws at a future time to facilitate early morning trading by clubs and hotels on Anzac Day. This amendment has resulted from approaches from a number of my parliamentary colleagues, including the honourable member for Upper Hunter and Leader of the National Party, as well as many industry representatives.
As honourable members will be aware, the new Gaming Machines Act includes a requirement for all clubs to close down their gaming machine operations for a three-hour period, which is generally between 6.00 a.m. and 9.00 a.m., each day. From 1 May 2003 this shutdown period is due to be extended to six hours—from 4.00 a.m. to 10.00 a.m. The new shutdown arrangements created some inconvenience on the morning of this year's Anzac Day, for returned services clubs in particular. An argument has been made that these clubs should not be forced to close down their gaming machines on the morning of Anzac Day, when people who have been participating in dawn services may wish to return to their clubs and access their full facilities. In some communities that do not have an RSL club, another club or hotel may become the main meeting point and that is why I have not restricted it to RSL clubs only. I am pleased to advise the House that I will be bringing forward legislation in the next session of Parliament to amend the Gaming Machines Act to allow gaming machine venues to continue to operate their gaming machines on the morning of Anzac Day in future. In the meantime, I commend this bill dealing with hotel trading during significant events on Sunday evenings to the House.
(Upper Hunter—Leader of the National Party) [10.07 a.m.]: I lead for the Opposition on the Liquor Amendment (Special Events Hotel Trading) Bill. The Opposition does not oppose the bill. As the Minister said in his second reading speech, the Opposition assisted the Government to amend the Liquor Act to allow extended Sunday trading for hotels on the night of the 2001 National Rugby League Grand Final. This bill seeks to extend this principle to specifically allow hotels to trade until midnight on the Sunday night of the World Cup Final, 30 June 2002, and to further amend the Liquor Act to allow hotels to trade until midnight on Sundays during events of State, national or international significance. The Coalition acknowledges that hotels are very popular venues for people to watch major events, particularly sporting events. The popularity of hotels as venues for viewing major sporting events is further enhanced by the fact that many events are only broadcast on pay television. Most hotels are hooked up to pay television and, as such, they provide a viewing venue for people who do not have personal access to pay television.
In recent times we have seen significant events, such as the National Rugby League Grand Final, held on a Sunday night. Such changes in scheduling, together with improved television coverage of international events, including the World Cup, have created the need for this bill. Members of the community should have the opportunity to watch events such as the World Cup Final at their local hotels through to their completion. I do not believe it would be appropriate to ask these people to leave the hotels at 10.00 p.m., as the Liquor Act currently requires. The World Cup final kicks off at approximately 9.00 p.m. and will therefore conclude at approximately 11.00 p.m. The match will be only half finished at 10.00 p.m. and a mass exodus of people from hotels at this time would no doubt create stress for local transport and security arrangements, not to mention the disappointment it would cause patrons who are forced to cease watching the game before it is finished.
It is sensible to amend the Liquor Act to allow Sunday trading for hotels until midnight during events of State, national or international significance so that a legislative change is not required each time a significant event is held on a Sunday night. I understand that the dates of these events will be prescribed in the Liquor Regulation if events are considered by the Minister responsible to be of significance. The Coalition will monitor the dates chosen by the Minister to ensure they are appropriate. The bill will only enable hotels to trade until midnight, and no extra takeaway sales will be allowed.
I thank the Minister for his undertaking to bring legislation before the House in the next session to amend the Gaming Machines Act to allow early morning trading by clubs and hotels on Anzac Day. I thought it a little strange on the morning of Anzac Day this year that those who attended the dawn service and repaired to a hotel or club, usually for breakfast and a drink, were unable to play a poker machine if they so chose. It is anomalous that we were quite happy to send people overseas to engage in war, be shot at and so on, but we were worried about their playing a poker machine at 5.30 on Anzac morning. I thank the Minister for undertaking to address that anomaly. Clubs, hotels and members of the community have contacted me expressing concern about this issue, and I am very pleased that the Minister has responded to representations and undertaken to amend the Gaming Machines Act to make an exception for this very special day on Australia's calendar. As I have said, the Opposition does not oppose the Liquor Amendment (Special Events Hotel Trading) Bill.
(Charlestown—Minister for Gaming and Racing, and Minister Assisting the Premier on Hunter Development) [10.12 a.m.], in reply: I thank the Leader of the National Party for his very informed contribution.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a second time and passed through remaining stages.
APPROPRIATION (PARLIAMENT) BILL
APPROPRIATION (SPECIAL OFFICES) BILL
GENERAL GOVERNMENT LIABILITY MANAGEMENT FUND BILL
PROTECTION OF THE ENVIRONMENT OPERATIONS AMENDMENT (TRADEABLE EMISSION SCHEMES FUND) BILL
PUBLIC FINANCE AND AUDIT AMENDMENT (BUDGETING AND FINANCIAL REPORTING) BILL
STATE REVENUE LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (BUDGET) BILL
Debate resumed from 6 June.
(Blacktown) [10.13 a.m.]: It gives me great pleasure to be the first cab off the rank today for the Government to speak on the appropriation bills. The State budget was brought down in this House by State Treasurer Michael Egan last Tuesday. I believe it is a budget that suits the present day. It will build New South Wales into an even greater State than it now is. As I have said in many other budget debates in this Chamber, the budget is in the spirit of the McKell Government and most other Labor governments, because it is a very fiscally responsible document. The reason we have a triple-A credit rating can be attributed to the performance of this Government. It has been stated many times that when the Coalition was in government for seven years it failed to produce one budget in surplus. This is the eighth budget of this Labor Government, and it is the seventh one in surplus—a record unequalled to my knowledge in politics not only in this State but throughout the nation.
The estimated budget surplus for 2002-03 is a modest but healthy $168 million. When we took office in 1995 general government debt stood at $12 billion, or 7.3 per cent of Gross State product [GSP]. It has now been reduced by $7 billion, to 2 per cent of GSP. During the same period our total net financial liabilities in the general government sector have fallen from 19.8 per cent of GSP to 8.8 per cent, and for the total State sector from 26.6 per cent to 15.1 per cent. Five years ago $14 in every $100 was required to service our debt liabilities. Now less than $9 in every $100 is required for this purpose, which means that we have an extra $1.6 billion each year to spend on better services and to lower taxes even further. This budget is the biggest ever investment by any State government in new schools, new hospitals, new roads, public transport and other public works and investments. It is a budget from a government that is experienced, optimistic and steady, and one that looks to the future—something that does not happen too much in politics today.
This budget contains a record $6.4 billion for capital works. It is a budget that builds for the future. Of the $6.4 billion, $3 billion will be for new schools, hospital upgrades and country road works. Health spending has been increased by a massive $554 million, bringing total Health spending to almost $8.9 billion. The Police portfolio will receive an extra $153 million in 2002-03, bringing its allocation to $1.8 billion. This year's allocation for the Education portfolio will be $8.1 billion, an increase of $494 million over last year's budget, and an increase of more than $2.4 billion since Labor came to office.
In 2002-03 the total allocation for the Transport and Roads portfolios will approach $5.2 billion, a massive increase of nearly 50 per cent since we came to government. It is very pleasing also to see that older folk have been looked after in this budget. Health care has increased by $5 million—the equivalent of at least 4,000 sets of dentures at newly improved regional dental centres—and there has been an increase of $2 million extra for podiatry. By comparison, the Federal budget brought down only a few weeks ago hit the disadvantaged but this Labor budget looks after the people who need looking after. Spending in these areas has been badly needed and it is good to see a Labor Government spending big money in these areas.
The Treasurer said that capital works spending worth more than $26 billion over the next four years would eclipse the capital works outlay of the past four years of $20.8 million. Bear in mind that that period included the Olympics. I might add that the Olympics were built and run and that all Olympic debts have been paid and no debt legacy has been left for the people of New South Wales to pay off for years to come. All the large projects and massive investment of great benefit to the people—the Snowy Mountains scheme, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Opera House, Darling Harbour and the Olympic Games—were given to the people of New South Wales by Labor governments. And this Labor Government is tracking along the same line. It is a magnificent effort. At the same time that we paid for the Olympic Games we managed to attack and reduce overall State debt. The world has acclaimed the Sydney Olympics as the best ever. Of course, credit must go to the Government that ran those games and to the people of New South Wales.
Total revenues are expected to rise by 4.4 per cent, mainly due to the strength of the housing market. But Treasury officials have warned that revenue growth will slow in 2002-03. They estimate that stamp duty revenue will decline by $330 million next year as the housing market slows. The Government also will have to allow for the abolition of bank account debit duty and tax cuts. This $32 billion budget is the fifth State budget in a row to cut taxes. The new tax cuts are worth $182 million in 2002-03—$215 million in a full year and $914 million over four years. Stamp duty on general insurance will be halved, at a full-year cost to the budget of $180 million. New South Wales will have the lowest insurance stamp duty rate in Australia. The payroll tax rate will be cut from 6.2 per cent to 6 per cent from 1 July 2002, and the tax base will be broadened, at a full-year cost of $25 million. Payroll tax on apprentices will be abolished from 1 July 2002, a full-year cost of $10 million.
Great news for young blokes.
That is great news for young people in Western Sydney and, indeed, across New South Wales, as the Minister says. I turn now to the big items in the budget for the Blacktown electorate. The Attorney General announced a $13 million package to build new courts in the Blacktown region. We will be delivering faster access to justice and meeting the increased demands of the growth areas in Western Sydney. The Government has allocated $9.3 million for a new court complex at Mount Druitt and a further $4 million for another court in Blacktown. Currently, the Government is negotiating with Blacktown council for a site near the railway station.
About $750,000 has been earmarked for a development site to be purchased in 2002-03. The court complex will be completed in 2005. The Blacktown two-court complex will be increased to three, with increased facilities such as interview rooms and waiting rooms. The $4 million project will involve building a new courthouse in the existing court yard at Kildare Road, with $400,000 earmarked for 2002-03 for the design. We have long been advocating for a new courthouse in Blacktown, and I am pleased that the Government has acknowledged the representations of constituents and the local council.
And the local member.
And the local member, of course. We are delivering on that, which is great news. I turn now to transport in the Blacktown electorate. Rail maintenance work to enhance safety and reliability, station platform improvements, and a train stabling yard extension are among the transport highlights for the Blacktown electorate. The 2002-03 budget allocates $16.7 million in Transport expenditure over the next financial year. The Government is spending $4.3 million on track reconstruction, re-railing, underbridge renewal, signal and electrical renewal, and other maintenance work, which will benefit all rail travellers in the Blacktown area.
Another $180,000 will be spent on reducing the platform gap at Blacktown station, which will improve safety for passengers, and $12 million will go towards the provision of train stabling and servicing facilities at Blacktown. Commuters will also benefit from the rollout of the new Millennium trains, along with further funding to construct more Millennium train carriages. The Transport budget highlights for Blacktown electorate include $255,000 for community transport services and $10,000 for the maintenance of station and passenger facilities at Blacktown. Blacktown will also share in the benefits of the $145 million, or 6.7 per cent, increase in the transport budget, to $2.286 billion. That is good news for all.
The budget provides for $1.1 million to go towards the construction of a new cycleway between Blacktown and Prospect. That allocation is among key initiatives in the budget for Western Sydney. A total of $3.6 million has been allocated to the local area in 2002-03 to upgrade roads, improve safety and enhance travel conditions. The total project cost of the cycleway will be $6 million, with completion in early 2003. The Blacktown to Prospect cycleway forms part of Western Sydney's growing cycleway network. It will connect with other cycle routes in Bankstown, Parramatta, Fairfield and Auburn, and will be a major attraction for cyclists. That will be much appreciated by the cyclists of Western Sydney because it will allow them to participate safely in their sport, whether it is for fitness or training purposes.
You'll be able to ride into Parliament.
I am thinking about that. Other major initiatives in the budget include $473,000 for development work on the north-west T-way link, $180,000 for development of the Blacktown to Wetherill Park T-way, and $150,000 for further improvements to Sunnyholt Road at Main Street in Blacktown. The budget also includes $1 million for important work to improve and maintain the road network. In addition, Blacktown City Council, which is a great council that works hard for the people of Blacktown and the Blacktown municipality, will receive a total of $1.7 million for maintenance of roads in the area. That is much appreciated by Blacktown City Council.
The budget provides an allocation of $13.4 million for the north-west transitway projects from Parramatta to Rouse Hill and Blacktown to Castle Hill. The budget also provides $61.5 million towards the $1.25 billion federally and proposed private sector funded Western Sydney Orbital motorway. The people in Western Sydney have expressed concern about the tollway on the Western Sydney Orbital, and the Government will address that problem when it arises. Also, there is some conjecture about the transitway being built down the eastern side of Sunnyholt Road. I maintain, as do many experts in the field, that the transitway should be built on the western side of Sunnyholt Road, which is a very busy road, rather than cross Sunnyholt Road at Devitt Street. That matter is up for debate. Hopefully, by September this year we will know whether the transitway will be built on the eastern side or the western side of Sunnyholt Road.
In addition, Blacktown City Council will receive funding of $67.533 million from the total Roads budget program. The council was advised of that soon after the budget was released in the House. That news is also welcomed. It is an increase from $55 million odd last year. Blacktown wins a healthy share of the record $6.350 million being spent on new upgrades of schools, hospitals, roads and other public facilities across the State. This budget will help Blacktown to get ahead, with increased investments to improve our community services and tax cuts to help families and small business. The abolition of payroll tax for employers of apprentices will assist young people.
As I said, this will help some 31,000 people across the State. Local residents and businesses will also benefit with insurance tax cuts reducing household insurance bills by an average of $40 each year, and small business insurance costs to be cut by an average of $150 a year. New South Wales now has the lowest tax rates in Australia on general insurance policies. The Government will halve stamp duty on 33 types of insurance, including home and contents, travel, public liability, strata, boat, business interruption, burglary, bad debtors, stock damage and property damage. The tax cuts will take effect from 1 August 2002. As I said, the key areas of local expenditure are $22.7 million on transport, $4.24 million on roads and $3.9 million on housing.
Other areas have done fairly well in the budget. The Department of Housing has been allocated some $3.733 million for works in progress in Blacktown. Some $3.945 million has been allocated for Aboriginal housing design and construction, and two units of accommodation have been added to the stock at Blacktown, at a cost of $174,000. The Legal Aid Commission has been allocated some $42,000 for major works relating to computers and communication systems, and $47,000 for miscellaneous works. State Emergency Services will receive $5,000 for necessary computer components.
As I said, this budget has been well received by the people of New South Wales. One important area is Education. It is great to see that some $259.3 million has been allocated as grants to schools under global funding. That will give schools the opportunity, through a Government initiative, to have a say in what they do and how they spend their money. Also, $515.1 million has been allocated for special education in government schools. It is pleasing to see an increase to $37.9 for Aboriginal education and a mammoth $85.6 million for students from non-English speaking backgrounds.
The $56 million for the back-to-school allowance is a great asset for the families in Western Sydney, particularly in Blacktown. The Government has built special high schools and other facilities. For a long time I have maintained that the problem in education does not start in high school, particularly in Western Sydney, but stems from when children attend kindergarten for the first time. In Western Sydney two out of seven kids go to preschool before they go to kindergarten. When compared to the seven out of 10 kids across the State who go to preschools we have fallen somewhat behind.
I am pleased that the budget allocated $5 million over two years to introduce a pilot of reduced class sizes in designated schools, from kindergarten to year 3, to be independently monitored and evaluated. Hopefully out of that evaluation we will see the great need to reconsider the class sizes from kindergarten to year three and to reassess the preschool availability for kids from disadvantaged families across Western Sydney. The budget allocated $1,292.2 million in recurrent expenditure for TAFE and $72 million for TAFE capital works. The TAFE colleges are an important part of education in Australia today. A large number of people in Western Sydney, particularly in Blacktown, attend TAFE and I am pleased that the Government has lifted the amount of money spent in that area.
No budget will ever satisfy everyone in a community, but this budget puts the money where it should be spent. It would have been very easy for the Government to do a bit of pork-barrelling with an election only a few months away, but we have not done that; we have put out a business budget to help not only the Government but people in many facets of life. The Government has allocated a large amount of money to rebuild the Royal North Shore Hospital, which is in a very safe Liberal part of the State. That demonstrates that the Government is looking after not only its own interests but after the people of New South Wales. The investment into National and Coalition party seats bears that out. I support the bill and am very proud to do so.
(Southern Highlands) [10.33 a.m.]: The eighth Labor budget is a lazy budget. Yesterday the Leader of the Opposition said that this budget is from a Government whose best days are well and truly behind it. This budget is built on massive revenues, on the back of the outstanding economic management of the Liberal-National Government in Canberra. The Labor Party has had its hands well and truly in the pockets of families in New South Wales. Most members on this side of the House were outraged to hear the Treasurer crowing that out of the $30 billion budget he was giving back $52 million to New South Wales families and feeling pretty proud of that.
That is not good enough, and it will not make a difference to families who know that they are living in the highest taxed State in the whole of Australia. Worse, a month or so ago the Treasurer claimed that he had to delay the budget and that New South Wales had been short-changed by the Commonwealth in recent negotiations. That is absolutely wrong, and that lie was revealed in the details of the budget papers which showed that this year New South Wales received $14.8 billion from the Commonwealth. That is $200 million above the estimate in last year's New South Wales budget and the same as the estimate in the December 2001 half-yearly budget review. It was all lies when Michael Egan said it the first time, and it was all lies when he said it again in his speech on Tuesday. There is no funding shortfall from the Commonwealth, and he should own up to the fact that he was trying to mislead every member in this House and every person in New South Wales.
This Labor budget has not bothered to come to grips with the significant problems and challenges that are developing in the Hume corridor between south-western Sydney and the southern tablelands. My electorate of Southern Highlands is very much impacted by the rate of growth as many people move into the Southern Highlands. That is not surprising, because it is a magnificent place in which to live and offers wonderful lifestyle opportunities, wonderful environmental characteristics, and is simply a great place to be. However, the Carr Government has not recognised that people are choosing to move into the Hume corridor, and has not provided sufficient infrastructure upgrade or increases in services and resources to meet their needs.
There has been no recognition of the pressures that Wollondilly and Wingecarribee local government areas are trying to come to grips with as they struggle to accommodate growing demands as best they can. For example, we need a total upgrade of the southern railway line. Anyone who has travelled on the southern line in the past couple of years knows that the train service is unreliable and that the small amounts of track work being done virtually bring the whole line to a standstill. Replacement bus services are unreliable and inconsistent. Rather than using those unreliable train services many people choose to keep a second car or are forced to purchase a second car and drive along the M5 to Sydney. As a result, the peak hour traffic on the M5 anywhere near Campbelltown is basically a parking lot. That is simply unacceptable. The Minister for Transport has made no effort to develop a vision for a long-term infrastructure development and upgrade plan to make rail transport through the Hume corridor a reliable and attractive alternative for people travelling to Sydney for work, to see medical specialists, or for other reasons.
I would like to see a plan for the electrification of the line at least to Tahmoor, but preferably to Moss Vale. I am sure that the honourable member for Burrinjuck would want electrification and upgrade of the line well into her electorate as well. We need a redesign of the 14 kilometres of curves that were built into the line 100 years ago when that was the engineering standard of railway technology. The curves are no longer necessary but they are still there and they add time and vulnerability to the journey. The Government should have the guts to say that it is prepared to invest the money in infrastructure, and should release a feasibility study into costs and options.
There is no feasibility study on the State Government's agenda. I have asked the Minister for Transport again and again for a study but the answer he gave was no. However, there is a feasibility study on the Coalition's agenda. We are already committed to a feasibility study on the upgrade of the line and we are exploring the possibility of other ways to achieve that as soon as possible. Many people who come to the area want to choose public education in the first instance, but they view those schools with some concern. They want to know that they can go to a local public school that is well-equipped, has decent buildings, and provides a safe and positive environment for their children.
For some time we have been lobbying for an additional high school between Picton and Bowral. Picton and Bowral high schools were designed with a much smaller school population in mind. Picton High School has approximately 1,400 students and Bowral High School has between 1,100 and 1,200 students, and that is too many students for the land area occupied by the schools. A lot of interest has been shown in my area in creating a junior, middle or senior high school at the Renwick site at Mittagong or perhaps at a new site at Bargo. This Government is completely blind to the developing need for an additional high school in our area and simply will not commit even to the idea of proceeding with an additional high school.
We are having the same problem with a second primary school facility in Bowral which was at the conceptual design stage in 1995; that is, it was nearly ready to go. There was a change of Government and that project went right to the bottom of the list and we have not seen or heard of it since. Land is available at the Retford site and people are keen to see that project get under way. Even a lot of independent and Catholic systemic schools in our area are having trouble coping with the influx of students into their sector. The school systems cannot cope with the growth in student population.
I want the public education system to be an attractive choice for people and their first port of call, and I want them to know that it is meeting their needs in our area. At the moment many parents are concerned that our public schools are overcrowded. They are keen to see their children attend a local public school. They are concerned about lack of long-term planning. I am pleased that at last Colo Vale and Hill Top schools have in black and white the final allocation for the completion of stage two upgrades, which should never have been split between stage one and stage two, of those schools. We had to lobby hard for two years to get stage two back on the agenda while students had to put up with freezing, flooding and frying in demountables.
I have received the capital program report for the Southern Highlands electorate and I note that the much-needed maintenance program in our courts will continue. There were security problems at Bowral Court House in relation to prisoners and the more convenient transfer of prisoners from the court house to the Moss Vale police station. I also note that there will be eight Department of Housing units built at Picton and Bowral. I note the replacement of fire pump appliances at Picton. I also note the allocation of Sydney Water Corporation to the Oaks and Oakdale sewerage scheme. That is an interesting line item that honourable members might look at and simply pass over. That project is another example of the lazy management approach to the provision of infrastructure by the Carr Government.
This scheme should have been well on its way to completion next year, but it seems to have become a bit of a handy cash cow when the Government is short of money. In the budget papers last year, a completion date of 2003 was set for the project. The budget papers this year show that the completion date has been delayed for another year. The people of the Oaks and Oakdale deserve a lot better. In delaying the completion for another year the Government has saved itself $7 million. Where has that money been sent? It is easy to be cynical about this sort of thing in an election year, but that $7 million ought to go towards improving the environment and amenity of the Oaks and the Oakdale area. I wonder whether that $7 million has been sent somewhere else that is more of an electoral priority for the Carr Government.
Our area has many outstanding needs particularly in schools, which I had hoped would be addressed in this budget. I spoke last week in this place about the master plan being developed by the council of Mittagong Public School that has considerable needs with respect to new classrooms. For three years both Bargo and Appin public schools have been working hard to develop master plans for their ongoing needs. In the past two years, with Federal Government funding, Appin and Bargo schools received new school rooms. Bargo Public School needs a permanent library and redevelopment of its public spaces. It is good news that Appin Public School will get a new permanent library but it also needs a hall and reconfiguring of some of its space and its carpark. Last week I spoke about problems at Bowral High School which needs a new canteen and additional toilet facilities for which no allocation has been made in this budget.
Moss Vale High School is in desperate need of new art buildings. Art classes are being conducted in completely inadequate demountable buildings that have questionable occupational health and safety compliance. Moss Vale Public School is an excellent school to which many local families are keen to send their children. It has a number of demountable buildings which parents want replaced with permanent buildings. Previously I have referred to Picton Public School in this House, which has outgrown its old hall and old permanent buildings that need redevelopment. The school is keen to do a new master plan and reconfigure the school in association with the new hall project to make sure that it meets the needs of future growth in the area. I acknowledge that the Department of Education and Training responded to our representations last year and purchased the neighbouring house when it became available with the idea that its land would be added to the footprint of the school and redevelopment would occur across the site.
Heritage concerns were raised by members of the Picton community which made it difficult for council to proceed with a development application to redevelop that area. I am seeking a briefing from the Minister and the council on that issue. It is important to plan for an expansion and redevelopment of Picton Public School. No real recognition has been paid in this budget to the pressures that large class sizes place not only on teaching staff but on kindergarten and years 1 and 2. Large class sizes make it difficult for children who need extra attention in class to get that attention which has led, over many years, to the need for additional Reading Recovery and support teacher learning difficulty resources in schools. I visit schools where teachers are struggling to get that level of support for children that they know need that extra time, one on one, and I do not see any solutions in this budget for those problems. [Extension of time agreed to.
In relation to health services in the Southern Highlands and Wollondilly areas, I will look for our fair share of service delivery in the budget for this year. We need the establishment of a renal satellite facility at Bowral hospital and I am working very hard with the local community fundraising committee on that. I have spoken in this place about the helipad project, about which I am having ongoing discussions. A lot of people in our community are keen to have the helipad in Loseby Park, across the road from the hospital, transferred to the campus of the hospital so that a patient could be transferred simply by trolley from the helicopter into the accident and emergency area.
The Kangaroo Valley community is very keen to build a permanent ambulance station. Recently we were very successful in making a case to retain our ambulance officer. The facility is in an old demountable building that just about needs to be condemned. The community has raised a lot of money towards the building of a new ambulance station with an attached consulting room for use by visiting medical specialists or general practitioners. I have asked the Parliamentary Secretary Assisting the Minister for Health to make an appointment for me and community members to look at the old demountable building because when he sees it I am sure he will be convinced that we need to do something different. I will seek some financial commitment from the Minister for Health to partner the community to provide sufficient funds to make that project a reality.
Every time anyone in our community identifies the need for additional services or facilities, it seems to me that the answer from the Government is that we must fundraise for ourselves. We are now fundraising for the renal satellite facility and the ambulance station at Kangaroo Valley. We have been told that the only way to bring the helipad idea to fruition, even if it meets environmental and other indicators, is to raise funds locally for that as well. Although the Government is raking in record revenues—it is absolutely awash with cash—it is still putting its hand into the pockets of people in the Southern Highlands to provide the most basic services. Something is very wrong. The roads budget provided very little comfort to people who want a number of major projects fixed.
I acknowledge that the major road expenditure in my area is Federal funding to fix bridge subsidence on the Mittagong bypass. I have put questions on notice as to why there was subsidence in the first place and why the original engineering solution was insufficient to the task. It is a massive waste of money to have to undertake that work again, but I am grateful that the Federal Government has provided the necessary funding. The budget for roads is disappointing in a number of key areas. I note in the budget papers that the Carr Labor Government has blown out the estimated completion date of Main Road 92 from 2006 to something called NA, which I presume means not applicable. The Carr Labor Government has put Main Road 92 on the never-never. Clearly, it is not a priority and that is bad news for people on the South Coast and in Kangaroo Valley who were relying on Main Road 92 to take the through truck traffic out of the valley. Through truck traffic is creating unnecessary truck movements on what are small country roads, and adding to road safety dangers.
Other projects that are unlikely to get additional funds from the budget are Wombeyan Caves Road, which I have spoken about many times in this House, and the Menangle and Appin roads in the Wollondilly shire. Some much-needed progress has been made on Appin Road, which I acknowledge. Menangle Road, which has had fatalities, needs a lot of attention. It is becoming a bit of a black spot. I note that upgrades to Wingello, Mittagong and Bargo railway stations are not mentioned in the capital program report for the Southern Highlands electorate, even though they are mentioned in the regional budget paper. I would like either the Treasurer or the Minister for Transport to respond to that anomaly. I would have expected those items to be in this document. Sewerage is very important in our area. Again I note that no plan is scheduled for storage treatment plants for Appin, Bargo or Wilton and there is no prospect of the unsewered villages being added to the program this year.
I also note a very disturbing development that impacts particularly on people in the Wollondilly shire. Large-scale residential developments are promoted to communities adjacent to unsewered villages on the basis that by developing new residential areas, existing villages will benefit from sewage treatment facilities attached to them. I am very concerned about this, as are members of the Wollondilly shire community who want any residential development and expansion treated on its merits and discussed fully with the community. I commend Corinne Frangmeir and some of her colleagues for raising these issues. I sought a meeting with the Minister for Planning on behalf of this group, who wants to discuss with him a better, more consultative process by which planning decisions for increasing development in the Wollondilly shire are properly discussed with and fully understood by the community.
Businesses in my area were looking for much more from this budget. Australian Business Limited and the New South Wales Chamber of Commerce, representing many chambers around the State, have argued for years that it is time to review State taxation. Not surprisingly, the Labor Government has resisted when one considers how much revenue it reaps from State taxes as a result of the property boom, stamp duty on insurance premiums and more tax imposts every year. The announcement by the Leader of the Opposition yesterday that the Opposition, if elected to government next year, will undertake a review of State taxation has been warmly welcomed by the business community because they understand that they are financing Bob Carr's collection promises, waste and mismanagement. They want a close examination of the whole range of State taxes and charges, and they want input into that process. They want to make recommendations about where the most advantageous tax reform could occur.
I want a reduction in the tax burden on families and businesses in this State. The Coalition's review of State taxation will be a significant step towards that. I was really pleased to see the terms of reference outlined yesterday by the Leader of the Opposition, which will take us a step closer to that occurring. This is a lazy budget. It is a budget that indicates that the Government is bored and coasting. It is a Government that has never had to try hard because it has always had a good economic environment in which to operate. It has had the benefit of the Liberal-National Government in Canberra, which is an excellent economic manager. The Government has been asleep at the wheel. It has not considered the things that matter to New South Wales families.
The Government has not considered the things that matter in my community, which are day-to-day things like health services, health facilities and schools. Parents want their children to be safe at school. They want to know that when their kids go to school they will go to a classroom that does not leak. They want to know that teachers are not stressed. They want to know that when students need a little bit of extra help they will get it. The budget does nothing to deal with any of those matters. I was amazed to hear the Treasurer and the Premier say that this budget is the result of a lot of hard work. The budget is built on record State revenues and the assumption that whatever is spent will be taken back from New South Wales families and businesses. It has to stop.
Pursuant to resolution business interrupted.
ADDRESS BY HIS EXCELLENCY CONSTANTINOS STEPHANOPOULOS, PRESIDENT OF THE HELLENIC REPUBLIC
His Excellency was conducted onto the floor of the Chamber.
Members, it is my pleasure to introduce the President of the Hellenic Republic, His Excellency Kostis Stephanopoulos, and to welcome His Excellency and his distinguished delegation to the New South Wales Parliament. His Excellency joins a select and unique group of dignitaries who have been afforded the privilege of addressing the New South Wales Legislature in recent times. Those dignitaries include the President of Ireland, the Governor of Tokyo, the Speaker of the British Parliament and the Governor of Seoul.
Mr President, as a former senior member of Parliament and distinguished Minister yourself, I know you are used to the cut and thrust of politics. This Chamber has a long tradition of robust debate. However, I can assure you that all members will be on their best behaviour this morning and that there will be no calls to order.
I now call on the Deputy Premier, the Hon. Dr Andrew Refshauge, to formally welcome our distinguished guest on behalf of the people of New South Wales.
(Marrickville—Deputy Premier, Minister for Planning, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, and Minister for Housing): First, I acknowledge that we stand on the traditional Aboriginal land of the Gadigal clan of the Eora people. Your Excellency the President of the Hellenic Republic, on behalf of this audience, and of the people of New South Wales, I welcome you. I thank you for taking the long journey to see Australia and Australians and to meet with us today. You join a long list of your countrymen who have ventured to these distant shores. Since taking up your post as President in March 1995—an auspicious date for us here—your interest in Greeks abroad has been well known.
Greeks have had a strong presence in Australia since they began migrating here in 1827. My own electorate of Marrickville boasts a proud and robust Greek Australian population, as well as being the headquarters of the Panhellenic Socialist Movement, PASOK. With immigrants from almost every country around the world, your people have made an immeasurable contribution to the contemporary character of this country—through the professions, through business, through both the academic and social spheres—but particularly to the multicultural character that gives Australia one of the world's most envied lifestyles and allows us to claim the mantle of one of the world's healthiest, genuine democracies. For that, we are indebted to you.
It was, of course, the Greek philosophers who defined the character of a democracy and its inherent commitment to liberty and equality and its commitment to diversity. Plato's work particularly resonated with the notion that a democracy gains much of its strength from its variety and disorder. As he said:
This, then, seems likely to be the fairest of States, being like an embroidered robe which is spangled with every sort of flower.
And, just as … children think a variety of colours to be of all things most charming, so there are many men to whom this State which is spangled with the manners and characters of mankind will appear to be the fairest of States.
The rich characters of Greek Australians spangle our State, playing an invaluable role in our contemporary lifestyle and social psyche. We would like to think that we could return some of that contribution to your homeland to support Greeks in Greece as we do those in Australia.
The Premier of New South Wales has spoken many times of his commitment to returning the Parthenon Marbles to Greece. Indeed, he is an honorary member of the Australians for the Return of the Parthenon Marbles Association. Today, here on the floor of this Parliament and as citizen of a country home to one of the world's largest communities of Greek background, I would like to reiterate that commitment. Again I assure you of this Government's support in returning these masterpieces to their rightful, spiritual home—to putting them back within the context that returns the sense of place and identity appropriate to some of the most culturally significant artefacts of Western civilisation. Your Excellency, we congratulate you on the return of the Olympic Games to their birthplace for the year 2004. Our experience in the year 2000 enhanced Australia with the Olympic ideals. We hope that Athens in 2004 will help restore around the world those ideals of excellence, honour and harmony.
In 1999 an exhibition at our State Library, next door, celebrated the venerable spirit of Greek Australians with a range of photographic works. That exhibition included a photograph of Peter Capsanis, aged 84, taken at an old people's home in Kythera. Born in 1906, Peter had left Kythera for Australia at age 15. After working in cafes in the western New South Wales towns of Uralla and Woodstock, he turned his hand to fruit picking before establishing a cafe at Oberon, near Bathurst. He returned to Greece late in life, after the death of his Greek-born wife, to live at his home in Kythera surrounded by memorabilia of his life here in Australia. One of his most prized possessions was a fragile press clipping from Bathurst's 1947 Western Times
newspaper. It detailed his feelings about his two countries. He said:
Our countries have always been allies, and have fought together in the struggle for the existence of peace-loving nations.
The bond of friendship has been strengthened through the undaunted spirit of the Australians in Greece.
Greece will never forget the Australians, who from 10,000 miles away came to her assistance in the dark hours when she was being run over by the enemy.
That action will be honoured by Greeks for generations to come.
Your Excellency, the Australians who were in Greece and Crete recognise and thank the Greeks for the support they had in that most difficult time for your country and the world. My father was there. He is still alive, and sends his congratulations and thanks to your countrymen. We honour you today and we thank you for your work in further cementing the bond of friendship between our two great nations.
(Pittwater—Leader of the Opposition): Mr President, personally and on behalf of the members of the Liberal Party and the Opposition, the next government of New South Wales, I have pleasure in welcoming you here this morning. I extend the welcome to Australia, the State of New South Wales, Sydney and this historic parliamentary Chamber. As an Australian I acknowledge in your presence the exceptional contribution to our new nation by the people from your older nation who have chosen to make this place their home. I acknowledge that you represent the founders of the great democratic spirit that links Greece to every free nation in the world.
As a New South Welshman and a Sydneysider I acknowledge the very particular ties that exist between our two nations, most recently in the handing over from us to you of the Olympic flag, which flew so proudly in our city two years ago and will fly two years hence in Athens. At the Sydney Olympics your nation won four gold medals, six silver and three bronze. I hope that you will see an enhancement of that number in Athens—although, of course, not at the expense of Australia! As a member of Parliament I welcome you also to this very Chamber. This is a unique building. I am sure that you would appreciate there are many ways in which funds are raised to build parliamentary buildings, usually by taxing the very people who are supposed to benefit from having the Parliament in the first place.
In Sydney we had a unique method of funding this, Australia's first parliamentary building. Instead of paying the builders, we allowed them a monopoly on the import and sale of rum. We have never lost this knack for innovative ways of paying for public buildings. Indeed, our most famous public building, the Opera House, was financed from lotteries. Democracy, of course, is one of the common threads we share with you and your fellow countrymen and women. Democracy is the legacy of my people from yours. Democracy is our debt to you. Democracy is the rule of the people whose principles we have inherited from you and whose very ethos arises from your soils, which is something for which this nation and its people have been prepared to struggle, fight, defend and, if necessary, die.
The democracy practised in Pericles' Athens both teaches and warns. The right of all free males to participate in the deliberations of the ecclesia, to be elected to high office, to serve on the juries and which required elected officials to be held publicly accountable for their stewardship in office are all fundamental to the way in which our democracy has developed. However, Pericles' democracy was based upon the exclusion of most of the population—the women and the slaves. It could be tragically intolerant also, as it showed in the condemnation of Socrates for doing no more than insisting that "the unexamined life was not worth living" and for allegedly corrupting the youth by encouraging them to question and think for themselves.
It is our determination to make Australian democracy fully inclusive so that no-one is left out and no-one is left behind. In Australia we, along with our cousins in New Zealand, led the way in enfranchising women. It is worth recording today that this is the great anniversary in that process of expanding democracy from the domain of the privileged few to the truly represented masses of the people. It was on 7 June 1832 that the Great Reform Act was passed by the British Parliament. By that Act all antiquated forms of the franchise were eliminated and replaced with a single requirement, which, although still based on some economic criteria, nevertheless extended the franchise further in one sweep than had ever been previously recorded.
Today is also the anniversary of the first direct elections for the European Parliament in 1979. I know that your country, Mr President, is now playing a leading role in the affairs of Europe. We all watch with great interest what will develop for the future of a more integrated Europe. Your own country struggled long and hard to bring unity where disunity prevailed, to overcome historic ethnic linguistic and geographic divisions, and I am sure in this regard that you and your country have much to teach Europe. Australian democracy has some unique features, one of which is compulsory voting, and I am most proud of that. To some it seems strange that we should compel our people to vote in a democracy. However, the concept may be found in the very words of Pericles. Of course, as you would know, there is a great paean to democracy recorded in Thucydides' version of Pericles' funeral speech given in reverence over the bodies of the fallen at the end of the first year of the great Pelopennesian War. Your distinguished predecessor said:
We do not say that a man who takes no part in civic affairs is minding his own business, we say he has no business here at all.
Democracy requires all of us to be active in its works and operations, to take responsibility for selecting our leaders and for making our voices heard in the deliberations and decisions of public policy. In addition, of course, compulsory voting does what participation in the ecclesia did: it eliminates the disproportionate influence of either the fanatic or the fantastically wealthy. Democracy requires great tolerance also. It is our job as parliamentarians in Australia and Greece to stand firm against intolerance.
Your Excellency, I said that people from Greece have made a notable contribution to our nation, and that is indeed the case, although Greek migration to Australia commenced relatively late compared with many other settler communities. It was not until after your nation had achieved independence in 1830 that much was reported in your country about ours. Indeed, in 1832 a Greek geography book stated in relation to Australia:
Very little is known about the country, and scarcely anything is worth mentioning.
Your presence here today proves how that has changed. The first Greek settlers shared a particular bond with the first European settlers of Sydney—they were convicts. On 27 August 1829 seven young sailors from Hydra convicted of robbery by a British naval count in Malta arrived here on the convict ship Norfolk
. They were assigned to work—two of them for Macarthur's vineyards. After eight years the new Government of recently independent Greece asked for them to be pardoned and offered repatriation. The pardons were granted, but two of the convicts decided to remain in this new nation. Adonis Manolis became a gardener in Picton and Ghikas Boulgaris became a grazier, married an Irish colleen and died in 1874 leaving nine children and 50 grandchildren.
Our first Greek woman immigrant has one of the most fascinating stories of all. Her name was Aikaterini Plessas. We do not know exactly where in north-west Greece she was born, but at age 12 she was betrothed to the physician Ioannis Koletis, who later became Prime Minister of Greece. Obviously he was one of those very rare breed of politicians—he did not keep his word! Aikaterini Plessas returned home where she met Lord Byron several times, escaped a Turkish blockade and married a local British commandant, also an Irishman, who was a veteran of the Battle of Waterloo and eventually became a police magistrate at Newcastle. She lived to the ripe old age of 97. Mr President, I do not know what the particular attraction between the Greeks and the Irish might be—perhaps it is something to do with the red hair—because our first free Greek male settler, known as John Peters, also married an Irish woman.
This Parliament is the home of many proud Greek sons: George Souris, James Samios, Michael Costa, Milton Orkopoulos and John Hatzistergos. Might I say on behalf of the Liberal Party that we are very proud that the Leader of our Coalition partner, the National Party, is himself the son of successful hard-working Greek immigrants. From a tiny trickle of early settlers a veritable flood tide of your countrymen and women have chosen Australia as their permanent home. In our 1901 census data we recorded only 1,000 people listing Greece as their place of birth. By 1971 it was 160,000 and in 1999 it was 140,000. The 1996 census in New South Wales lists just over 41,000 people giving Greece as their birthplace.
Although statistically this does not represent a great proportion of our State population, nevertheless the impact of the Greek community on our lives and on multiculturalism in New South Wales goes way beyond those simple figures. I invite you, Mr President, in your brief trip, to travel to our suburbs to see the extent and success of the Greek culture and community. The Greek community has contributed much also to the spiritual lives of this State with the foundation in 1898 of the first Orthodox Church, Holy Trinity, not far from here in Bourke Street. Today under the leadership of Archbishop Stylanios, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church of Australia, the church has grown to over 120 parishes, a theological college, welfare centres, high schools and nursing homes.
The community has contributed to our sporting life, especially through the world game of soccer. It has contributed to the development of our media with newspapers and community broadcasts on radio and television. Modern Greek is taught in a number of high schools and ancient Greek is maintained in some. Our cultural life is enriched by Greek Australians at all levels, especially by a new emerging group of playwrights, film-makers, television personalities and actors.
Mr President, we are proud in New South Wales that many of our academic institutions have made the study of Greek archaeology and the classics an important part of our intellectual tradition. Research trips to your part of the world are very common and many Greek Australians are members of historical and archaeological associations that support this research. However, just as many indigenous Australians have sought to commence negotiations with institutions in other countries which, for historical reasons, have become the repository of important and sacred indigenous material, we understand why the Greek people feel an incompleteness, knowing that the Parthenon Marbles—arguably one of the most important artefacts from the classical Greek culture—are on foreign soil.
Just as we understand the need for many Aboriginal people to seek the repatriation of those important pieces of their culture and heritage, so we support you in your wish to see a resolution in the matter of the Parthenon Marbles. In conclusion, may I again draw inspiration from the words of that famous funeral speech and say I hope that your abiding memories of our people and our nation, and the manifestation of the deep and abiding ties between our peoples, may, like the memory of those fallen heroes, be graven not so much on stone as in the hearts of men.
(Upper Hunter—Leader of the National Party): Axiotime, kiri Prothere, tis Ellathos. Mr Speaker, Madam President in the Speaker's Gallery, Deputy Premier, Leader of the Opposition, His Excellency the Ambassador for Greece, the Consul General of Greece, members of Parliament. I will use English because I know that very few of us in this Chamber have bilingual proficiency in Greek and English. Mr President, welcome to the New South Wales Parliament. This is the first House of parliamentary democracy in Australia. The Parliament of New South Wales dates from the Legislative Council's origins in 1824 to the establishment of representative-elected democracy in this Chamber in 1856. Mr President, apart from the Monarch, who has opened Parliament, you are only the third Head of State to address the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales.
I acknowledge, as the Deputy Premier and the Leader of the Opposition did also, the presence of Greeks among the early migrants of Australia—in fact in the Second Fleet. I was delighted to hear the Deputy Premier make reference to Mr Capsanis, who is a distant relative of mine. The great migration from pre-war and post-war Europe has created a diaspora around the world almost equivalent in number to the Hellenic population itself. I commend the Government of Greece and the people of Greece for recognising the importance of this phenomenon, and indeed the Council of Greeks Abroad and the work that it is doing. I acknowledge also the presence of the director-general, Dimitri Dollis, who is a former member of the Victorian Parliament and who is present as part of your delegation today.
The struggle for those early migrants was a simple one: to find a new life, to educate the children, to make a contribution to society, and to eventually return to Greece. All succeeded in various ways in the first three objectives. Very few, however, pursued the last option. Mr President, I ask you to imagine the sight and scene of two little boys arriving at Woolloomooloo, which is just near this Parliament, on a ship sailing under the Greek flag, with a piece of paper on which was written the name "Quirindi"—the name of a town quite a few kilometres away in the countryside to the north-west of Sydney. Those two kids somehow made their way from Woolloomooloo wharf to Central railway station in Sydney.
I cannot imagine how they made the journey from Greece to Australia, but I often contemplate how these two little boys—incapable of speaking English—even knew where Central railway station could possibly be located or that the North-west Mail was the train to catch, let alone that they had to get off at a town called Quirindi, where there were people who would take them in and give them a job in one of the cafes. Of course, cafes are a feature of the landscape of country New South Wales. Well, they did it: they got off the train at Quirindi. They were put into the kitchen—that was the best place to put newly arrived kids because it would slow down their ability to learn English, buy another cafe, and start making their own money! Those two kids are my two uncles and, of course, I am very proud of them.
Mr President, Greek migrants found their new life here—many of them in the country, as I have just described—and there is a strong and continuing bond, not only with the metropolitan area of Sydney but with the vast hinterland of Sydney and the country areas of New South Wales. The Greek Orthodox Church and archdiocese is one of the most significant in Australia today, and Greeks in Australia have made a contribution to industry, to commerce, to the professions, in academia, and, of course, to parliamentary democracy. Yannis Hatzistergos is from Kos, Mitiathis Orkopoulos is from Katerini, Dimitris Samios is from Kythera—and I am also from Kythera in heritage and origins—and Mixalis Costa is from Cyprus. Throughout Australia there are 20 members of Parliament presently serving in State parliaments or Federal Parliament who are of Greek heritage or Greek origins. Many more have served in State or Federal parliaments over the years, and others have become or are mayors or councillors within the structure of local government in this country.
We wish Greece well for the 2004 Olympic Games. We in Australia are very pleased that the Games of Sydney are to be followed by the Games of Athens. It would have given us even more pleasure had the Sydney 2000 Olympics been preceded by an Athens Centenary Games. Mr President, I hope you are able to report the good standing of the Greek community in Australia and the integrity with which the Greek culture and heritage is represented, and carry the best wishes of all Australians for the prosperity and success of the Hellenic Republic. Zito I Hellas. Kei Australia. Efxaristo.
It is my pleasure to invite His Excellency to address the Chamber.
HIS EXCELLENCY CONSTANTINOS STEPHANOPOULOS
(President of the Hellenic Republic):
Honourable President of the Council, honourable Speaker of the Assembly, honourable Premier, honourable Deputy Premier, honourable Leader of the Opposition, honourable Leader of the National Party, honourable members of the Legislative Assembly, I ask permission to speak in Greek because maybe I understand English but I am not able to speak it well. I will ask my interpreter to help me.
I should like to thank all of you for your warm welcome, as well as the references you have made to ancient Greek democracy and for the stories that you have related to us about the first Greek settlers in New South Wales, as well as for your kind words about my country. I have many things for which to thank you but allow me to mention only some of them.
First and foremost, I should like to thank you because in Australia and in your State you have a functioning democracy that makes you proud and makes us proud as well. Ladies and gentlemen, we have to understand that democracy is not global yet, though it is considered to be. It truly is the best possible political system. Geographically, we can say it is rather limited. Even where democracy is the political system, even then we must think of ways in which to further perfect it to make it more complete because democracy is an ideal for which we have to continuously strive. Allow me say a few things about the functioning of democracy in my country. After the fall of the dictatorship in 1974, already in 1975 our country adopted one of the most modern and most democratic constitutions in the world, and we are proud of that. In 1986 there was a first reform of this Constitution and last year, in 2001, there was a second one, and, therefore, we still boast that we have a very modern Constitution.
The main focus of the 1986 reform was to strengthen the authority of the Prime Minister, who is the most important person in our system, and at the same time remove some of the authority of the President of the Republic, who did not need it at the time. The second reform, that of 2001, was extensively debated, both among the specialists on constitution but also by the media. It mainly focused on the strengthening of the articles on human rights protection, strengthening local government and strengthening the democratic system. At the same time, for the first time, it recognised the independence of certain very important institutions for the functioning of democracy, such as the Ombudsman and the authority for the protection of personal data.
But, ladies and gentlemen, what is very important now is the phenomenon and disappointment in Greece, in Europe, among the people who are the sovereigns in every country and in every democracy, in relation to political life. People are not very interested in politics and politicians, and this is of great concern to us. This could be due to the fact that major ideologies are retreating. There are great similarities among political parties in the same way that globalisation is proceeding around the world. Moreover, there have been other phenomena, cases of extreme right parties—and, of course, I have nothing against any ideology—and extreme cases where people are very concerned or become concerned by looking at the increasing number of newcomers in their countries who threaten them. There have been such examples in many European countries, such as in France, The Netherlands and Denmark, and there is a general movement for things that are not fully compatible with the democratic rule, but I am sure that the antibodies of democracy will manage to deal with these problems.
I should also like to thank you for making reference to a common fight in the battlefield. I am aware of the fact that one of the most important battles for Australia is that of Gallipoli. Please let me refer to that briefly, although Greece did not actually take part in this battle. It was in 1915 when there was major disagreement in Greece between the then King and the then Prime Minister about whether Greece should go into World War I on the side of the Allies, which was the entente at the time. At the time, Greece was called on to take part in the expedition to Gallipoli. The matter was heavily debated at the time. One subsequent dictator, who was a very able officer in the armed forces, said that Greece should not take part in this expedition which was bound to fail because it lacked the element of surprise. He said, "We have been discussing it for too long and the other side, the Turks, will be prepared. Therefore, we cannot bear the cost of taking part in an expedition that is bound to fail."
But that, of course, does not diminish the bravery of the Allied forces and the Australian forces who were fighting alongside them. Those forces fought for a long time. They suffered a lot and they suffered many victims. This is a great glory for them. Greece and Australia fought side by side inside territorial Greece, in Crete. That battle was also lost but it is still a great glory, just like Gallipoli. Yesterday in Canberra I was very moved when I was able to lay a wreath, first of all, at the Australian war monument which, as you all know, bears the names of all those who were lost in battle, and then at the nearby Greek-Australian monument where we paid our respects to the common struggles of Greeks and Australians. I have laid many wreaths during my visits to many countries. The programs always provide for the laying of a wreath. I always feel very moved after looking at the glory of those countries. But those feelings are no match for what I felt yesterday when I laid the wreath at this monument. I should like to thank you very much for this feeling that is part of my trip to your country.
I should also like to say a few things about the pride that we feel for Australian citizens of Greek origin who now have Australia as their main homeland and who serve Australia with commitment. But I know that they do not forget their country of origin, just like the Hon. George Souris—who really moved us with the story of his two uncles—about which I should like to say a few things. Our country, Greece, has gone through many periods of great difficulty. There was a time when this country was so poor that the people could not prosper; therefore, it was with great sadness that we lost many young people to many foreign lands—the United States of America, Canada, Australia and, more recently, just before our recent economic recovery, Germany.
It is possible that figures about Greek immigration are exaggerated but we think that, around the world, those people of Greek origin—either from both parents or one parent—must total around seven million. In our country, we have 10 million to 11 million people. We are proud of Greeks who have migrated all over the world, but we are especially proud of those who have come to Australia because of the welcome they have received here, because they were immediately recognised in their own right, and because they were given equal opportunities for education, prosperity and a better life. That is why we are very proud of our Greek-Australians. I should like to thank you very much for receiving them in your country, and I thank them very much.
Australia is a unique example of a nation in modern times. It is made up of different nationalities. You have managed to create a multicultural society much sooner than the United States of America. In this country, Irish people, Italians and Greeks live alongside one another, prosper and are able to enjoy everything. I would like to thank the Australian people and the institutions of this country, including your Parliament, the Parliament of Victoria and the Federal Parliament. I am very grateful for the way in which you have received our citizens. I am sorry that I am not able to meet all of them, and I ask the Hon. George Souris to convey my best wishes to those who live in Sydney and all over Australia.
I thank you for referring to the Olympic Games spirit and for the manner in which you organised the Olympic Games in Sydney. I also thank you for your assistance in our efforts to repatriate the Parthenon Marbles. We are not asking for the repatriation of all antiquities from all museums around the world, but we believe these Marbles are part of an existing monument from which they were violently removed, and we ask that they be returned to the Parthenon. Mr Speaker, I am fully conscious of the honour that you have given me in allowing me to address those members of Parliament who are in the Chamber. I feel deep gratitude and I can only thank you all and wish you all the best personally. To your country, Australia, I wish further prosperity, a constant improvement of democracy and your continuing contribution to the fields of culture, science and the arts. We are most grateful to you, and we cannot but thank you once more.
I will accompany His Excellency to the Speaker's Square. I know that some honourable members would like a pictorial record of his visit to Parliament, and they are most welcome to join us.
His Excellency left the Chamber.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Budget Debate and Address-in-Reply: Suspension of Standing and Sessional Orders
Motion by Mr Whelan agreed to:
That standing and sessional orders be suspended to permit:
(1) concurrent debate on the second reading of the Appropriation Bill, and cognate bills, and the motion to take note of the Address-in-Reply; and
(2) these matters to remain separate orders of the day, but for the purposes of debate but be called on, adjourned and set down for resumption together.
APPROPRIATION (PARLIAMENT) BILL
APPROPRIATION (SPECIAL OFFICES) BILL
GENERAL GOVERNMENT LIABILITY MANAGEMENT FUND BILL
PROTECTION OF THE ENVIRONMENT OPERATIONS AMENDMENT (TRADEABLE EMISSION SCHEMES FUND) BILL
PUBLIC FINANCE AND AUDIT AMENDMENT (BUDGETING AND FINANCIAL REPORTING) BILL
STATE REVENUE LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (BUDGET) BILL
GOVERNOR'S SPEECH: ADDRESS-IN-REPLY
(Georges River) [11.55 a.m.]: I move:
That the House take note of the Address-in-Reply.
I am pleased to have this opportunity to participate in the Address-in-Reply debate in response to the Governor's Speech earlier this year. The Governor referred in her Speech to the good management of New South Wales under the Carr Labor Government, and I certainly endorse those sentiments. I take this opportunity to confirm the support of the people of Georges River for the program outlined clearly in the Governor's Speech in another place in February this year. There is no doubt that New South Wales is in a strong financial position as a result of policies and programs instigated and implemented by the Carr Labor Government. I note particularly the efforts of the Premier and the Treasurer to ensure the sound fiscal management of this State. With that in mind, I think it is appropriate to detail some of the programs outlined by the Governor in her Speech while referring to the benefits that they have brought to my electorate.
I note particularly the improvements in road transport provided by the opening of the M5 East extension, which has much improved the infrastructure of south-west Sydney. The M5 East not only provides a magnificent road link for the people of south-west Sydney but, equally important to the people of Georges River, has diverted the traffic that the previous Fahey Government dumped on the suburbs of Beverly Hills, Kingsgrove and Bexley. We not only have better access to the central business district, Sydney airport and areas in the east but are able to use local main roads because that traffic has been removed. A number of people highlighted that fact to me when I was doorknocking in the Beverly Hills-Hurstville area on Monday. Most importantly, that road is toll free.
The opening of the East Hills line duplication, which now extends as far as Kingsgrove, has brought improvements for rail commuters throughout the area, particularly in my electorate. I note also that rail infrastructure work is soon to be completed at Beverly Hills and Riverwood stations through the Easy Access Program. This work has been well received, and I congratulate State Rail on making those improvements. Last March members of the Oatley community were pleased to celebrate the seventy-fifth anniversary of the electrification of the Illawarra line. It was a significant occasion, and the celebration was attended by the Governor. I take this opportunity to reflect on improvements carried out at Penshurst and Mortdale railway stations. I congratulate the Minister on heeding my advice to improve facilities at those railway stations for the benefit of local residents.
However, I implore the Minister, as I have done in correspondence on various occasions, to give serious consideration to providing lift facilities at Mortdale railway station. Mortdale railway station could be regarded as a transport hub. It has a bus interchange and services not only to Mortdale but also to Oatley, Lugarno and Peakhurst. I also implore the Minister to give serious consideration to the need for improvements to Hurstville railway station, particularly in the Supacentre area. I am aware that there have been ongoing negotiations in that regard, but the matter needs to be addressed urgently.
The Minister has stated that he wants improvements to Hurstville railway station carried out expeditiously, for the benefit of both shopkeepers and commuters who use the station to access the rail network, and also to improve the aesthetics of the area. Arguments about improvements to the station have delayed the provision of lift access from Forest Road. Escalators have been provided, but lift access is required. While numerous court cases have found that the current leaseholder should provide lift access, there is ongoing argument about who is responsible for the improvements. I hope that argument will be sorted out sooner rather than later, for the benefit of the people of my electorate. I also congratulate the Minister on the provision of the new millennium carriages for the rail network.
I now turn to education. I congratulate the Government on the funding it has provided for ongoing improvements to literacy and numeracy programs, particularly for primary classes. As a former schoolteacher I know that money spent in the early years of a child's education is money extremely well spent. I congratulate all teachers on the integration of literacy programs across all curriculum areas. The funding the Government continues to provide for those programs is extremely important.
Teachers do an enormous job in our community. The Parliamentary Secretary, the honourable member for Newcastle, who is at the table nods in agreement. We should support teachers by introducing programs to assist in the education of students. Of course, education is not just for the young; it is an ongoing process. I am particularly pleased about the Government's ongoing support for teachers as they take on professional development. Over many years teachers have shown that they are enthusiastic about updating their own knowledge so that they may become better practitioners in the classroom. I also note the Government's continued funding for computer technology in schools. Computers are not the be-all and end-all, but they certainly are an important part of the education process. I congratulate the Government and the Minister on providing ongoing funding for additional computers in schools.
The Government has provided just under $2 million to update computer facilities at Penshurst primary school. I know that the principal, Ann Nolan, is very pleased about the improvements that have taken place. A couple of weeks ago I visited the school to inspect the improvements and saw a magnificent mural in the playground which I was told was undertaken by the students. The mural significantly enhances the playground setting and complements the Government's investment in improvements to the school's facilities. More than $3 million has been spent on improving facilities at Beverly Hills primary school. The principal, Debbie Sutton, is very pleased with the improvements, which I am sure will enhance the learning environment of the school. A few weeks ago I visited Peakhurst West school to inspect the school's new covered outdoor learning area. The principal, Sue Gorman, asked the former principal, Alan Day, to open the new facility. Alan served as principal for 14 years and did an outstanding job. The facility will be of enormous benefit for the school as it will be used for assemblies, as a covered play area in wet weather and a variety of other purposes.
Minister Watkins recently visited the Oatley and Peakhurst campuses of the Georges River College. I am sure he will have the opportunity to visit the Penshurst and Hurstville campuses of the college in the near future. The State Government has provided close to $20 million in funding for improvements to Georges River College, which has a middle school at Peakhurst, Penshurst and Hurstville and a senior campus at Oatley. Alan Jones has spoken on radio about his visits to the college. The Premier, the Minister and Alan Jones have all commented on the college's outstanding facilities and the educational opportunities it provides for senior students, particularly at the Oatley campus, with its broad and varied curriculum. Just two weeks ago I attended the college to congratulate and present awards to students in recognition of their achievements in photographic studies. It reflects extremely well on public education within the Georges River district.
Minister Watkins also visited Beverly Hills High School. The Minister took the opportunity to speak with the teachers, as he does when he visits all schools, and also to look at the broad curriculums offered at the school, its use of technology across all curriculums, and the great work students are doing in hospitality studies. Beverly Hills High School, under the leadership of Barbara Bober, is really taking education forward in the East Hills area. Minister Watkins also visited Oakley Public School. I am hopeful he will act on my request for further improvements at the school, including the provision of a new administration and library block.
Improvements are presently being carried out at the school under the leadership of Robin Caffrey. The school community experiences problems because it is located on two sites that are divided by a road. Craig West, one of the parents, is presently leading a committee that is trying to find solutions to the problem. Currently there are ongoing negotiations with Kogarah Municipal Council. I encourage Craig and his committee to continue their hard work, so that a satisfactory solution can be found for the benefit of both the school community and the broader community and, most importantly, to ensure the safety of students.
This year the Government allocated funding of $70 million for school improvements. Approximately $1 million of that funding was allocated for improvements to schools in the Georges River electorate. The Principal of Lugarno Public School, Mrs Jann Walker, is very pleased about the improvements being carried out at that school, as are the principals of all the schools I have referred to. I thank the Government for that investment in school infrastructure. Last month I visited Hurstville South school to launch the school's new Walking to School Program. I congratulate the principal, Phyllis Fredricks, on the way students have participated in the program. The members of the student council who attended the function were outstanding representatives of the school.
Policing is very much at the forefront of public discussion, and I congratulate the Government on changes to the bail laws, as I did when I spoke in the debate. It is an extremely important legislative change. I spoke strongly in favour of it and I believe that the removal of the presumption of bail for repeat offenders is an extremely important initiative. The Governor's Address stated that additional gaol facilities are being provided. I commend the Government for introducing the bail initiative and for backing up that initiative with additional funding. I congratulate Superintendent Paul Lowe and the officers of the Hurstville Local Area Command on the fantastic job they are doing within our local community. Only this week people who have been trying to create havoc in our community were arrested. The police do a magnificent job. I look forward to the increasing visibility of police throughout our community. If the Government can reduce police paperwork and behind-the-desk work to give police an opportunity to get out and be part of our community, that will be an enormous benefit to New South Wales as a whole and to the people in the Georges River electorate particularly.
The foreshore improvements program is a $6 million program under the auspices of the Minister for Planning. That program and the stormwater trust grants have been extremely well received in our community and will be of enormous benefit to the electorate. The Lime Kiln Bay wetlands and boardwalk project, which is jointly funded by the Government and Hurstville City Council, has already yielded enormous improvements and the people of the Georges River electorate, particularly in the Peakhurst, Mortdale and Oatley areas, are impressed with the work that has taken place. I note the funding from that program for the Moore Reserve Wetlands Program. People have already indicated to me they have noticed the improvement in water quality that has resulted from that program. The Government is about to commence investment in the program to improve the Edith Bay boardwalk and wetlands project. Two weeks ago I had the pleasure of handing over a cheque for more than $200,000 to Hurstville City Council for the program, which was initiated by the Lugarno Progress Association. [Extension of time agreed to.
An enormous amount of work has been done. When talking about community groups and their contribution to the environment, I should mention the work of the Oatley Flora and Fauna Society. There is constant interaction within the group and it does magnificent work in providing community members with access to information and helping them to get out and about. The group also provides positive involvement in improving the local environment. As is mentioned in the Governor's Speech, there are enormous environmental issues facing New South Wales. The Minister is addressing many of those issues as Sydney spreads further to the west, north and south. It is important that we do not allow Sydney to spread too far. One way of reducing that spread is to provide job opportunities in the country. In the Governor's Address she referred to the programs that the Government has instituted to provide work for people in country areas. That is extremely important, not only because of the jobs that are provided directly by the Government but because of the multiplier effect.
One of the major problems facing Sydney is overdevelopment. That has had grave effects in the Georges River electorate. I congratulate Hurstville and Kogarah councils on the programs they are currently bringing forward to reduce the problem of overdevelopment in our area. I am happy to support any attempts to reduce overdevelopment in my electorate. Kogarah City Council has been given an exemption in regard to State Environmental Planning Policy No. 5. The Minister for Planning has moved to stop the overdevelopment of the Oatley squash courts site. That development would have been horrific for the people of our community. Trevor Camage has fought stoically to stop the overdevelopment of the squash courts site. He brought the matter to my attention again on Christmas Eve last and that led to the work that was done to stop the overdevelopment of the site. I commend Ted Cooper, Brian Egan and Brian McCarthy for supporting a program that was introduced to stop the overdevelopment of the small shopping centres.
Another extremely important area is community services. The Governor referred to the Families First Program, which relied significantly on financial input and the input of volunteers. I commend the work of the St George Family Network, the Hope for the Children Foundation, particularly the efforts of the Chairman, Mr Barry Dunn, and his team. I also commend Bev Dehn, Jan Goodfellow, Lorraine Watson and Margaret Glanville. They are doing great work as volunteers and encouraging volunteers to work with local families. I also commend the Georges River Community Services Organisation, under the leadership of Susan Smith, and Julie Dale, and, at a volunteer level, the president, Marion Smith; the secretary, Joan Vaughan; and committee members John and Lois Loughnan. They are some of the names that come to mind when I reflect on the efforts of the Georges River Community Services Organisation, which provides adult education courses, literacy programs and child care. The organisation also works with the aged.
I should also mention the Penshurst Pole Depot under the leadership of Kim Buhagiar. Kim and her team provide craft courses, children's services, aged care and carers' courses. They do an enormous amount of work in providing activities to the community. Last year I was pleased to initiate the Georges River Community Services Awards. That initiative was supported not only by the groups I have mentioned but also by the local Lions Clubs—Lugarno Lions, Oatley Lions and St George Lions—St George Central Rotary, Hurstville Rotary and Georges River-Riverwood Rotary. Those clubs do an enormous amount of voluntary work to support the community. It was great that we were able to get that function going, and I am sure that it will happen again this year.
The Government will invest more than $8 billion into health. There have been enormous improvements in the facilities at St George hospital and I commend the staff of the hospital for their efforts. I refer also to the investment in Calvary Hospital and highlight the work of the former member for Kogarah, Mr Brian Langton. I particularly want to comment on mental health funding. On 12 February this year I attended a memorial service for Murray Knight, a man who died in London. Unfortunately, he was only in his mid-twenties. Sadly, Murray suffered badly from depression. On that very day the Government announced, through the Minister for Health, additional funding for research into depression. That is extremely important, and I know the Knight family particularly are pleased about that funding. Depression is a terrible thing that impacts on too many people and families in our society.
Finally, I thank the Minister for Sport and Recreation for the support he has given to our community by the provision of additional facilities through capital funding grants. Mortdale Bowling Club, Beverly Hills Bowling Club, Peakhurst Bowling Club and Oatley Bowling Club have all benefited from his support. Penshurst Junior Australian Rules and St George Australian Rules have benefited from funding. The Oatley Rugby Club has received funding improvements to Evatt Park, a beautiful local area. The Kingsgrove Colts have received funding for improvements to Beverly Hills Park. The Georges River electorate is particularly pleased with the strong leadership provided by the Carr Labor Government. I thank the Government, and I also thank the Governor for outlining the program.
Debate adjourned on motion by Ms Hodgkinson.
LOCAL GOVERNMENT AMENDMENT (ENFORCEMENT OF PARKING AND RELATED OFFENCES) BILL
Motion by Mr Whelan, on behalf of Mr Woods, agreed to:
That the Local Government Amendment (Enforcement of Parking and Related Offences) Bill, which was introduced in the Legislative Assembly during the previous session of the present Parliament but was interrupted before its completion by the close of the session, be now reintroduced at the stage that it had reached at the time of such interruption.
Consideration of the Legislative Council's amendments.
Schedule of amendments referred to in message of 2 July 2001.
No. 1 Page 3, Schedule 1, line 8. Omit "a council". Insert instead "the council of Sydney, North Sydney or South Sydney".
No. 2 Page 3, Schedule 1. Insert after line 11:
(4) An arrangement with the council of North Sydney or South Sydney:
(a) may not be entered into after the end of the period beginning on the date of assent to the Local Government Amendment (Enforcement of Parking and Related Offences) Act 2001 and ending on the fifth anniversary of that date, and
(b) if entered into during that period, ceases to have effect at the end of that period, and
(c) must provide for the money to which it applies to be allocated in equal portions between the council and the State after expenses have been deducted.
(Strathfield—Parliamentary Secretary) [12.22 p.m.]: I move:
That Legislative Council's amendment No. 1 be agreed to.
The Legislative Council has proposed amendments to the Local Government Amendment (Enforcement of Parking and Related Offences) Bill 2001. The purpose of the bill is to facilitate the Government's decision to transfer responsibility for enforcement of on-street parking regulations from the NSW Police to local councils. The Legislative Council amendments relate to arrangements to share revenue between councils and the State. One of the amendments seeks to specify that the Treasurer may make an arrangement to share revenue only with the Council of the City of Sydney, North Sydney Council or South Sydney City Council. The Government accepts that amendment.
The first part of the second amendment seeks to limit the duration of revenue sharing with North Sydney Council and South Sydney City Council to a maximum of five years. Following discussions with the Government, North Sydney Council, South Sydney City Council and the Local Government and Shires Associations have indicated that they support ongoing revenue sharing arrangements. Hence, the Government rejects this part of the second amendment. The second part of the second amendment, which I will deal with now, specifies that infringement revenue be allocated in equal portions between the council and the State after expenses have been deducted.
Originally, the Opposition proposed an amendment that specified that infringement revenue be allocated in equal portions between the council and the State. That amendment would have disadvantaged councils compared with the arrangements that have already been agreed between the Government and the Local Government and Shires Associations. We have agreed that councils will take their costs out of the gross revenue and then share what is left with the State. The Opposition's original proposal would result in gross revenue being shared between the State and the council and the council would then have to pay its costs out of its share. Clearly, that is not the best outcome for councils. While the Government agrees in principle with the proposal for net revenue sharing, it will not support the second amendment as it stands, because to do so would disadvantage councils given the agreements already in place.
When councils already have agreements with the Commissioner of Police to undertake parking enforcement in specific areas, they retain 100 per cent of the infringement revenue. The intention is that the 100 per cent revenue retention by councils for those areas continues. Revenue sharing would apply only to net revenue from areas not already subject to agreement with the commissioner. North Sydney Council, for example, already has in place an agreement that results in the council retaining 100 per cent of parking infringement revenue collected in the area east of the Warringah Freeway. If this amendment were to pass, the council would then be limited to receiving only 50 per cent of that revenue. The Government is committed to ensuring fair and equitable sharing of parking infringement revenue. For the reasons outlined above, the most flexible and appropriate way to ensure this is through agreement with the individual council, rather than by amending this bill. I recommend that the amendment specifying the three councils with which the revenue may be shared be accepted and the other amendment be rejected.
(Epping) [12.25 p.m.]: The Opposition has no problems with the course of action proposed by the Leader of the House. The Government's acceptance of the first amendment is clearly acceptance of and justification for the course of conduct taken by the Opposition having this bill looked at much more closely than it was originally looked at by the Government. The first amendment, which the Government has now accepted, is an acceptance of the fact that we were making a point that needed to be taken up and accepted. I am pleased about that. It appears that there have been discussions between the Government, the Local Government and Shires Associations, North Sydney Council and South Sydney City Council in particular and the Sydney City Council to a lesser extent. As a result of those discussions there has been some modification to the original proposal, which, nevertheless, does what those councils now comfortably accept. The shadow Minister for Local Government, the Hon. Duncan Gay, has had specific advice from both North Sydney Council and South Sydney City Council to that effect. On that basis particularly the Opposition does not intend to oppose the Government's proposal.
Motion agreed to.
Legislative Council's amendment No. 1 agreed to.
(Strathfield) [12.26 p.m.]: I move:
That Legislative Council's amendment No. 2 be disagreed to.
I have moved that Legislative Council's amendment No. 2 be disagreed to for the reasons I have previously advanced.
(Epping) [12.27 p.m.]: I have nothing to add to what I said before. We accept the Government's proposal on the basis that the first amendment encapsulates the position, and they are the instructions we have received from the relevant councils.
Motion agreed to.
Legislative Council's amendment No. 2 disagreed to.
Resolutions reported from Committee and report adopted.
Message sent to the Legislative Council advising it of the resolutions.
APPROPRIATION (PARLIAMENT) BILL
APPROPRIATION (SPECIAL OFFICES) BILL
GENERAL GOVERNMENT LIABILITY MANAGEMENT FUND BILL
PROTECTION OF THE ENVIRONMENT OPERATIONS AMENDMENT (TRADEABLE EMISSION SCHEMES FUND) BILL
PUBLIC FINANCE AND AUDIT AMENDMENT (BUDGETING AND FINANCIAL REPORTING) BILL
STATE REVENUE LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (BUDGET) BILL
GOVERNOR'S SPEECH: ADDRESS-IN-REPLY
Debate resumed from an earlier hour.
(Burrinjuck) [12.30 p.m.]: At the outset of my speech on the Appropriation Bills I say that the Treasurer has delivered the eighth and last budget of this Labor Government. Others have mentioned that it is also a lazy budget. This Government represents poor value for money. We hear again and again that it is the highest-taxing State government in Australia. It is concerned only about more taxes, less investment and lower outcomes. As the Leader of the National Party and shadow Treasurer, George Souris, said yesterday, the State Government has simply been riding the property boom. This Labor Government has collected $12.2 billion in additional revenue over and above what it had estimated in its budgets between 1995-96 and 2001-02. But actual revenue has exceeded estimates by around 6.5 per cent every year. The budget figures show that in 2001-02 this Labor Government will collect a total revenue of $33.5 billion. That is $1.3 billion more than it thought it would get.
State taxes will be $13.358 billion, $1.27 billion higher than estimated. Between 1995-96 and 2001-02 the Government has increased its revenue by 54.6 per cent. Over that period the increase due to inflation was only 20 per cent. So there has been a real revenue increase of 34.6 per cent. In 2001-02 the Government collected $4.344 billion from property taxes. In the last seven years, from 1995-96 to 2001-02, revenue collected from stamp duty on contracts and conveyances increased 250 per cent to $2.72 billion a year. Land tax is up 180 per cent to $1.047 billion a year. Behind all these statistics, hardworking families are trying desperately to get ahead. But how can they when State taxes keep increasing? Stamp duty on new houses keeps going up. An average family will be paying $9,000 or $10,000 just in stamp duty for the house they need to have.
Who knows how expensive land will be when the students in the gallery this afternoon get around to buying their first home? And, if a Labor Government continues to be in power, who knows what the stamp duty amount will equate to? It is already out of control. This Government has increased State taxes to a level where the average family is finding it harder and harder to afford an average family home. Hospital, school, road and rail infrastructure throughout New South Wales has also fallen into a dangerous state of disrepair. The Coalition sees it as very important to invest an appropriate amount of money in infrastructure for rural areas. An infrastructure audit to determine priorities for investment is sorely needed in rural New South Wales, and the Coalition has committed itself to carry out such an audit when it is in government.
Treasurer Egan has referred to the so-called funding shortfall from the Commonwealth Government. It is so wrong for the Treasurer to say that, because there has been no shortfall in Commonwealth funding. He has been misleading the people of New South Wales, through the media, and he has been misleading the Parliament. It is time that he stopped. He has to start speaking the truth. He cannot go on misleading the people of New South Wales in this way. He is the Treasurer and he should state the facts accurately. As members of this House are aware, my electorate of Burrinjuck is a rural electorate. For the benefit of the students in the gallery, I should explain that it runs fairly well down the Hume Highway. It starts around Marulan and Goulburn and includes Crookwell, Booroowa, Yass, Murrumbateman, Tumut, Adelong and Talbingo. So it is a fair size. People in the electorate are feeling more and more like the poor cousins of the people in Sydney. We need much more infrastructure and funding for our country areas. Crookwell is a very important and significant part of my electorate. I note that the parents of the Clerk-Assistant, who is at the table now, come from Crookwell. She is a great example of the calibre of people that come from Crookwell.
This is a very city-centric government. Yesterday I was delighted at the announcement by the Leader of the Opposition about the sorely needed reform of the tax system under a Coalition government. On 5 June I received a letter from the Treasurer outlining capital spending in the electorate of Burrinjuck. New major works will include the spot purchase in Tumut of two units of accommodation by the Aboriginal Housing Office. It is great that work is in progress on the correctional facility at Goulburn. I have visited the gaol and inspected the plans for the new facility. Minister Richard Amery visited Goulburn in about March and said that the election promise about the full department of corrective services transfer to Goulburn would not be honoured. We are very disappointed with that backward step by the Minister.
I am delighted about the $243,000 funding for Goulburn TAFE, which is listed in the budget papers under the heading "Goulburn business services—information technology, health and recreation". There is also funding for asset management works for the Department of Housing. Further funding is provided for work in progress on Blowering Dam structural integrity near Tumut and the upgrading of Wyangala Dam. Funding has also been provided for unspecified minor miscellaneous works by the Department of Public Works and Services. I warmly welcome funding for major works by State Forests of New South Wales, which include construction of Billo Road, competition control, planting second rotation, pruning, site preparation second rotation and Wondalga Road reconstruction.
However, there is so much more that needs to be done. I am very sorry that the Government has not used the prime opportunity in releasing its budget to try to capture country votes. The Government must think that it will not get any country votes anyway and therefore it does not need to give anything to country areas. The State Government is supposed to represent the entire State; not just a tiny portion of the State. People in country areas have every right to receive a fair go, equal treatment. That is not to take anything away from people in metropolitan areas. I am sure that many people who live in the Sydney Basin, Newcastle and Wollongong would also agree that country people deserve a fair go when it comes to education, health facilities and policing—all the major State Government portfolio areas. Surely country people are as important as other people in New South Wales. But according to this Government we are not, because we just do not receive funding equivalent to that received by people in city areas.
We are very tired of this treatment. Every year members from country areas point out how badly people are treated under Labor budgets and every year we are treated with contempt. The budget did not go close to addressing key community concerns. I have written extensively to Labor Ministers about these issues, as well as raising many of them in Parliament by way of questions on notice, private member's statements, speeches on bills and notices of motions. Policing and community safety are key issues of concern in rural areas. It is disappointing that the budget has not provided for an increase of policing in towns and villages. I cannot see where this is coming from.
People in towns and villages want access to police. They want a policeman in every town and village, someone they can go to, instead of having to travel 40, 50 or 60 miles down the road to speak to someone directly about an issue. They want someone close by. The days of having a police officer in every country town have not quite gone; some towns still have a police presence, but about 80 police stations in the State have been closed in the past five or six years. It is sad that people in country areas are unable to report crimes properly or to report items they might have found. A person might find a wallet and want to take it to the police station but cannot do so because the local police station has been closed. One officer must travel many miles to get to different crime scenes.
Recently I heard about a woman in a locality just outside Goulburn. While sitting on a hill, she watched a car drive up and down driveways, obviously checking to see whether people were at home. The woman rang the police and said, "Can you come and have a look? Just pull this guy over and see exactly what he is doing. I think he's casing country properties." The police in Goulburn were not allowed to do overtime; they had to call the police in Tuena. It took them 1½ hours to get from Tuena to the scene of the crime, and by that time the car had disappeared and it was all over. That is only a small example of what is happening every day in country areas, where distances are immense. Having a smaller population does not mean that we need fewer police. Indeed, the police presence should be increased because police have longer distances to travel. They must spend more time on the road getting from point A to point B; therefore we need more of them.
Overall capital expenditure on major police works will total $68.9 million this year. Only $14.5 million, or 22 per cent, is earmarked for country New South Wales, although we have one-third of the New South Wales population. I have outlined some of the reasons we need more police. Country capital works for the police force amount to only $2.25 million, or 10 per cent, of $22.5 million. As for Education, capital expenditure and new capital works total $68 million, of which $18.6 million has been allocated to rural and regional New South Wales. That is a paltry 27 per cent, which is still short for the one-third population base. In the same breath, the Government has continued its attack on the New South Wales Department of Agriculture. We have seen the important Department of Agriculture budget cut time and time again. Once again, the department's budget has been cut in real terms, compared with actual expenditure last year.
I turn to Education. I have made many representations in this place and through formal letters to Ministers about education issues and the importance of education across New South Wales. I have raised the important need for a band practice room at Yass High School. The students in the gallery will be interested to hear that Yass High School has one of the best school bands that people could listen to; it is terrific. The band released a CD to raise funds for a new band practice room, because it had been cramped into a tiny room. I have not noticed in the budget any funding for the band practice room. Yass Public School needs an assembly hall and new classrooms to replace the old temporary classrooms. Some of the classrooms have been used as temporary classrooms for 50 years or more. My father attended school in some of these temporary classrooms, as did I. They have been there literally for generations.
They're heritage classrooms.
As the Parliamentary Secretary says, they are heritage classrooms. However, they are still temporary and need to be replaced. New libraries are needed at Franklin Public School in Tumut and Wollondilly Public School in Goulburn. Mulwaree High School needs a proper storage facility for World War II memorabilia. I have written to the Minister about that. That collection of memorabilia is second only to that at the Australian War Memorial. Mulwaree High School has the most amazing collection of World War I and World War II memorabilia, and we need to ensure that it is housed in a safe location. The Government must reimburse Yass Shire Council for the $18,000 spent on the Yass Public School car park. It promised to reimburse the council but it has reneged on its promise. [Extension of time agreed to.
All the educational facilities in my electorate have great principals and teachers, but our schools need funding for major improvements. Until those improvements are made, our teachers and principals will struggle with the resources and standard of classrooms they currently face. We have had the most dreadful time trying to obtain funding for roads from the State Government. Honourable members must remember that country roads are the lifeblood of country areas. We do not have the same level of public transport as urban and metropolitan areas; we rely on cars to get from point A to point B. If people in country areas cannot travel on the roads, they cannot get to their destinations.
The rail link between Sydney and Melbourne, the great southern line, has limited stops and a limited timetable frequency. I call on the Government to increase those services because we need trains leaving at sensible times and stopping in country villages so that people can jump on at a country town or village and travel to their destination by some form of public transport. That rail link is one of the few forms of public transport in my electorate. Although country areas have private bus companies, roads are their lifeblood. Grabine Road is the only unsealed road in New South Wales that leads to a State park. That dangerous gravel road of some 22 kilometres needs to be sealed. The local council has implored the State Government to do something about that, and it has been working with me on the issue. Even the Treasurer has visited Grabine Road, yet once again no funding has been allocated in this year's budget for that.
Currently, Burley Griffin Way—the Bowning bypass—is being inundated with B-double semitrailers, and we need a bypass there. The Rye Park to Gunning Road is in a very poor state of repair. I have lodged many petitions relating to that road. The Reids Flat to Bigga Road needs to be improved. I have made many speeches in Parliament about Gocup Road, yet it is extraordinary that once again it has been ignored in the budget. A couple of days ago I attended a meeting of representatives of Tumut Shire Council with the Parliamentary Secretary for Transport. I thank the Parliamentary Secretary for the good hearing he gave us. Tumut Shire Council has extended to the Parliamentary Secretary an invitation to visit the area, and I hope that he takes up that invitation. The number of B-doubles in the Tumut area has increased as a result of the new Visy pulp and processing plant. Although it is terrific that the Visy plant and other manufacturers and industries in the Tumut district are doing well, the number of trucks on the roads will treble in the next five years.
We must ensure that we have infrastructure in place to deal with a trebling in B-double transport. We do not begrudge the trucks for being there; if they are working, it means that industry is doing well. However, we must ensure that we have the appropriate infrastructure to deal with that very real increase, which is indicated in figures supplied by the Roads and Traffic Authority. Something must be done about Gocup Road. All haulage roads throughout the State need drastic improvement. Local councils in the area have been promoting a road of national importance to go from Jingellic to Gundagai, which is basically from the Victorian border up to the Hume Highway, going through Tumbaramba, Batlow, Tumut and along Gocup Road to Gundagai. The Minister for Transport should take the lead on this matter. He should put his best foot forward and say, "Okay, we will ensure that this is a road of national importance" or, "We will significantly upgrade these roads so that the trucks and commuter transport travelling on these roads can do so safely."
The Oallen Ford Road south of Goulburn is another road that desperately needs additional funding. I have lodged many petitions about that road in this place. The Yass River Road desperately needs sealing. Yass Shire Council has said that it will cost many millions of dollars to seal the road, and it has called on the State Government for assistance. We need more funds, not less, for local government when it comes to road improvements across the State. In 1994, before Labor was elected to office, it promised to upgrade the Goulburn to Oberon road. Local people are incensed that seven years later the Carr Labor Government has given no commitment to upgrading this important transport link road. Why did it promise to do so and now decide not to fulfil its promise? I have already raised this concern in a major speech so I will not speak openly about it now. Suffice it to say that the road desperately needs fixing.
The honourable member for Southern Highlands spoke about the electrification of the city to Goulburn link. I also believe that electrification should go ahead; it is sorely needed. Travellers are forced to endure late trains, shoddy tracks, constant track closures for maintenance and unreliable replacement buses. The tracks should be replaced so that the line is not so frequently closed for maintenance. The train timetable needs to be reviewed, because we need additional day services to Goulburn. Every weekday morning there is a five or six hour period during which there is no train service from Goulburn to Sydney.
I refer now to land and water conservation. The Tumut River is constantly eroding its banks. I have had a great deal of correspondence with the former Minister for Land and Water Conservation about this matter. I am sure that the new Minister will look into this problem. For years there have been studies into this river; the Tumut River has literally been studied to death. We need to make sure that it is properly maintained so that serious erosion ceases. We must investigate diverting flows to increase environmental flows upstream into the Murrumbidgee River and increase water levels into Burrinjuck Dam. An upgrade of the Brungle water supply is needed. I was disappointed to learn that the allocations for town water and sewerage plants have decreased in this year's budget. Local councils will not be impressed with that news.
Most members will recall that Kenmore, a psychiatric hospital in Goulburn, was devolved several years ago. However, many former patients still live in Goulburn and they need proper assistance. The Goulburn mental health team is not resourced sufficiently to enable it to deal with the numbers of health patients. The Government should ensure that mental health patients have appropriate access to transport and recreational facilities. Currently they rely on community groups for such things. When the institution was operating, there were ways and means of organising community transport and making sure that people with mental health problems could access recreational facilities. That serious problem must be remedied immediately.
Hospital waiting lists for elective surgery have greatly increased across the board in country areas. We need to ensure that there is security for all health providers and greater security for the Goulburn Base Hospital. In the past few years health providers in Goulburn have reported more than 500 cases of assault, and even fatalities. Country hospitals and country health providers face serious security risks. The Tumut hospital must be upgraded. I did not see anywhere in the budget papers funding for the Batlow multipurpose centre. I have been told by the Greater Murray Area Health Service that funding for that centre would be provided this year. I ask the Minister to clarify when that funding will commence.
The Woodlawn mineworkers are still waiting for their proper entitlements. The Woodlawn mine closed about four or five years ago and at that time the mineworkers were promised that their entitlements would be paid. That has not happened; they have received only about 25 per cent of their entitlements. Collex is to start a waste facility in the area, but Minister Refshauge has been very slow to give approval for the transfer station at Auburn. Collex have waited for four years for that approval, and until approval is given the former employees at the Tarago mines will not receive their entitlements. I call on the Minister, again, to approve that transfer station.
At the Adelong Falls site is a goldmining area known as Reefer Battery. The Department of Land and Water Conversation offered qualified support for the refurbishment of that project, which will be a major tourist attraction with economic benefits to the Tumut district. Currently that historic site is crumbling and requires urgent work to save it for future generations. The Heritage Office recommended to the Minister for Planning nine months ago that a grant of $30,000 be made in preparation for a conservation management plan. The council is frustrated, we are all frustrated, because the planning has been under way for four years. Where is the funding? I am disappointed that it is not in the budget, especially after the promises we have been given.
To summarise, there is little joy for country people in the eighth budget of the Carr Labor Government. As I mentioned, health is one of many areas of concern that requires additional funding. I am disappointed about the lack of funding for the Batlow multipurpose service, Adelong Falls and entitlements for Woodlawn mineworkers. I am concerned about the elective surgery waiting list at Goulburn Base Hospital and the inadequate number of mental health beds in the Southern Area Health Service. There is no direct allocation for improved educational facilities in local schools. Despite the fanfare from the Minister for Education and Training last February that 21 new preschools costing $10 million will be built over the next three years, there is no such funding for that purpose in the budget.
In many country electorates, including mine, not one rural road has received major funding in the State acquisition program. Labor has failed to make good its broken promise to seal the Oberon to Goulburn road and it will have to face the electorate with a significant millstone around its neck. I am sure that the honourable member for Bathurst is also very disappointed, because Oberon is in his electorate. That would have been a prime link between his electorate and my electorate. No direct funding has been allocated for roads on the south-west slopes despite all my speeches in this place and all the petitions that I have lodged. The Government is not accepting its responsibility for the Grabine access road near Crookwell.
Once again, I welcome the limited funding for local works, including the Goulburn Correctional Centre and the Rail Infrastructure Corporation. For years I have been calling on the Government to provide money for railway jobs in Goulburn, but all that has happened is a reduction in a number of employees. I am delighted that money is to be spent on the construction of ballast wagons at the Goulburn railway workshops. I am delighted also that Goulburn TAFE is to receive $243,000 to upgrade business services, information technology and health and recreation areas. I am delighted that work on Blowering Dam and Wyangala Dam will continue. My reflection on the budget is that it appears to be targeted to shoring up the Labor Government's traditional city support base at the expense of rural New South Wales. It is disappointing that less money is to be spent on child abuse reports than had been recommended. In 1995-96, $2,056 was spent on each child protection report notification; this year the amount per report will be $8,047. All in all, the budget is disappointing for those of us in country areas.
[Madam Acting-Speaker (Ms Beamer) left the chair at 1.00 p.m. The House resumed at 2.15 p.m.
(Lake Macquarie) [2.15 p.m.]: It gives me great pleasure to speak in support of the Carr Government's eighth budget, which has given a boost to many projects in the Lake Macquarie electorate. It is this Government's seventh surplus budget, and Lake Macquarie is sharing in the record $6,350 million being spent on new and upgraded schools, hospitals, roads and other public facilities across the State. This budget will help Lake Macquarie get ahead with increased investment to improve community services and tax cuts to help families and small businesses.
Of course, young people will get ahead in this budget with payroll tax being abolished for employers of apprentices. This will help 31,000 young people around the State. Local residents and businesses will also benefit from insurance tax cuts, reducing household insurance bills by an average of $40 each year, and small business insurance costs being cut by an average of $150 per year. Being the chairman of the Government's Small Business and Tourism Committee I certainly know how much that will mean to small businesses right throughout the State. I am sure the Lake Macquarie electorate will be pleased with this Government initiative.
New South Wales now has the lowest tax rates in Australia on general insurance policies. The Government will halve stamp duty on 33 types of insurance, including home and contents, travel, public liability, strata unit, boat, business interruption, burglary, bad debtors, stock damage and property damage. The tax cut will take effect from 1 August, and that will be welcomed. Key areas of local expenditure this year are $600,000 for a new library at Biddabah Public School and approximately $7 million on local roads. There are quite a number of other areas in the electorate of Lake Macquarie that will benefit from the budget which I will detail shortly.
As well as repeatedly reducing State taxes, the Carr Government has approved the largest capital works program ever undertaken by a State Government. This year an extra $800 million will be spent, 8.5 per cent more than the $5,556 million in last year's budget. Since 1995 the Carr Government has cut the State's net debt and liabilities by $10.8 billion. This means savings of approximately $900 million in interest payments compared with the 1995 figure. They are vital funds that can now be spent on local hospitals, schools and police, and a lot of the funds will come to the Lake Macquarie electorate. The Government's sound financial management meant that the Treasurer could repeatedly cut tax, increase spending on vital services for our community, and still deliver budget surpluses year after year. Certainly this is an outstanding record that points to continued investment in our community for the prosperity and security of local families.
As I said, the budget has given a boost to many local projects in the Lake Macquarie electorate. Some of the features of the budget are the allocation of $1.3 million to continue the lake clean-up program, and $923,000 in new annual funding to help control the noxious weed caulerpa taxifolia that is infesting our coastal waterways, including Lake Macquarie. Recently I told the House about the Premier's visit to Lake Macquarie on 10 May, when he announced that the Government would commit another $3.9 million over three years as part of a plan to improve the health of Lake Macquarie.
In this year's budget, $1.3 million of that $3.9 million has been allocated to the Lake Macquarie Clean-up Program. Over the past three years the State Government has allocated something like $5.9 million to improve the health of Lake Macquarie. I welcome the $1.3 million that has come in this year's budget pursuant to the Premier's announcement and commitment to continue with another three years of clean-up funding for Lake Macquarie. Lake Macquarie is the biggest coastal saltwater lake in New South Wales. It is an environmental asset for this country. We certainly need to improve its health. The work, so far, on improving the health of the lake has been a real community effort. It has been a partnership between the State, local councils, industry and the community. The result is that more than $12 million has been allocated to environmental improvements in the area over the past three years.
The new funding announced on 10 May in Lake Macquarie by the Premier and partly funded by this year's $1.3 million allocation will be spent on catchment works, on erosion control in the Swansea channel, channel navigation, lake remediation, continuing scientific monitoring, continued education, and community reporting. On the day the Premier visited Lake Macquarie he congratulated Lake Macquarie City Council on its responsible approach to this important project. He said it was expected that the council would match the Government's commitment of a further $3.9 million. Lake Macquarie City Council has included that figure in its budget, which has come by way of a ratepayer levy, over the next three years. As I have said in the House, as a ratepayer in Lake Macquarie I am also contributing towards the Lake Macquarie City Council funding for the clean-up of Lake Macquarie.
Over the past three years about $3.9 million has come from Lake Macquarie ratepayers, a bit over $300,000 from ratepayers in the Wyong shire, approximately $1.7 million from other State Government programs, organisations such as Eraring Energy, Hunter Water Corporation and the Department of Land and Water Conservation stormwater pollution grants, plus contributions from local industry, such as Pasminco. All up, more than $12 million has been allocated to tackle the problems facing Lake Macquarie. In this year's State budget a further $1.3 million has been allocated to continue that good work over the next 12 months. The budget contains an allocation of $923,000 in new annual funding that will roll on year after year to help control the noxious weed caulerpa taxifolia, which is infesting Lake Macquarie and other coastal waterways.
The funding will help us to not only control the weed but to employ four specialist staff to work with the local community. This is great news for the Lake Macquarie community. Caulerpa is a noxious weed that has been found in seven waterways in New South Wales, including Lake Macquarie. If it is left untreated it could adversely impact on habitats for juvenile fish. The funding is not only good news for the community, it is good news for the aquatic environment, fishers, divers and everyone concerned about this invasive pest. The new four-member expert task force will work closely with local communities to build knowledge on ways of controlling the weed. NSW Fisheries has conducted a number of trials to find the best way to control the weed, using methods such as handpicking, dredging and smothering with a variety of materials.
At this stage the most promising results have come from applying household swimming pool salt to weed beds, and successful trials have been conducted in Lake Macquarie. The extra funding will mean further salt trials, and control measures will be carried out in Lake Macquarie. A joint study between NSW Fisheries and the University of Wollongong will continue to monitor and map the weed, and investigate its impact on seagrass and other organisms. Since the weed was identified in coastal waterways, an extensive New South Wales Government community education campaign has been undertaken. Bans on commercial netting and recreational prawn hauling are in place near infestations of the weed. In Lake Macquarie, as it is known, commercial fishing was banned on 1 May this year.
In addition, warning signs and marker buoys highlight areas where the caulerpa grows. I thank the Minister for Fisheries, the Hon. Eddie Obeid, for the allocation of this annual funding to continue to tackle this problem, which affects Lake Macquarie and many other waterways of this State. Also earmarked to help improve the health of Lake Macquarie is $100,000 from the Waterways Authority for the stage two installation on five marine waste reception facilities around the lake. These are pump-out facilities for vessels and what are called slop-hopper units. These are being installed gradually around the lake so that vessels have a facility into which to discharge effluent.
Another major budget highlight was the allocation of $181 million to continue building the Millennium trains at the Cardiff railway workshops in the north of the Lake Macquarie electorate. The funds include $131 million for the continuation of stage one—the construction of the first 80 carriages—and a further $50 million to commence stage two, which is the construction of an additional 60 carriages. That project is welcomed in the local electorate and it is creating local jobs in Lake Macquarie and Newcastle, and indeed in the whole of the Hunter region. I congratulate the Government and the Minister for Transport, the Hon. Carl Scully, on this initiative that will benefit the Lake Macquarie electorate.
Funds were also allocated to complete stage one—the detailed design work—of a new railway station and transport interchange at Glendale. When completed, the station will service north Lake Macquarie residential areas as well as the Glendale shopping centre, the Regional Sports Centre, Cardiff industrial estate and the Cardiff railway workshops. Allocated this year is the sum of $350,000, bringing to $621,000 the amount allocated for this stage one planning and design work. I look forward to construction starting on that new station early next year. All up, I believe the station itself will cost about $10 million, and another $10 million for the bus interchange.
Lake Macquarie City Council has been strongly lobbying me and other members of Parliament and the Government for a further $20 million to be spent to link the Cardiff industrial estate, by a bridge over the railway line, to the Glendale area. That bridge and connecting roadway are the responsibility of local government. I have encouraged the mayor of Lake Macquarie City Council to approach the Federal Government. Both the State Government and the Federal Government should work together with the State Government contributing considerable funds to build the station and the bus interchange, and with council making a contribution, the should Federal Government come to the party to help improve that regional transport facility, therefore helping to increase the number of jobs by providing access to and from the industrial estate. In this way I think the entire project can be achieved. But that will need commitments from local government and the Federal Government to match the massive commitment coming from the State Government to build the station and the bus interchange.
The budget also allocated $2 million to finalise planning and commence site preparation works for the $25 million duplication of Five Islands Road, which is classified as Main Road 217, between the Booragul and Speers Point roundabouts. Some 28,000 to 30,000 vehicles travel along that single-lane road in the morning and afternoon peak periods. Any accident there causes major disruption to traffic flow, causing major headaches for those who commute between Lake Macquarie and Newcastle. This allocation of $2 million is in addition to $1.6 million already allocated to planning for the project. I believe the environmental impact statement is almost complete and that we will be moving to site preparation works towards the end of this year or early next year.
A lot of site preparation has to be done as this is wetland area. An extensive environmental impact statement was undertaken, with considerable community consultation. The people of Lake Macquarie will be very appreciative when that work gets under way. The Five Islands Road upgrade includes widening of the road on either side of the existing route to allow the construction of two additional lanes, two new bridges over Cockle Creek, a right-turn bay into Anzac Parade at Teralba, a pedestrian-cyclist underpass at Tulkaba Park and connections to local cycleways. This major project, run over a number of years, is estimated to cost $25 million. This project will be warmly welcomed by the community of Lake Macquarie.
Also contained in the budget this year is an allocation of $1.3 million for a new fire station at West Wallsend. West Wallsend is only a small community in the north-west corner of the Lake Macquarie electorate, but it is a very deserving community. For many years this community has supported their local firefighters, who currently work from a dilapidated facility. The Minister for Emergency Services, the Hon. Bob Debus, has visited the station and met local firefighters. He gave a commitment prior to the last election that he would take on board their concerns, and subsequently agreed to fund the building of this $1.3 million fire station. The funding in this year's budget will go towards completion of the planning, which has already commenced, acquisition of the site and construction of the station. The new fire station is scheduled to be completed in 2003. I look forward to construction work starting on that project before the end of this year.
Also included in the budget, as part of the funding for the Department of Education and Training, is $600,000 for the construction of a new library at Biddabah Public School. This is stage one of a major upgrade of the facilities at that school. The upgrade will occur in stages over a four-year period. I was pleased that in October last year the former Minister for Education and Training, the Hon. John Aquilina, announced that planning would start on this project. He allocated some $20,000 to undertake planning. Now funding is coming through for the actual construction of the new library.
Biddabah Public School is a good school. It has excellent teaching staff and auxiliary staff, and a fine bunch of young students. I have visited the school on many occasions. Graham Mason is the very dedicated principal. The school community is very pleased to hear that this funding is coming through. They look forward to not only a new library—which, I know, has been a matter of some concern for the local school community for a number of years—but other facilities flowing through. This upgrade will see construction over that four-year period of new permanent classrooms, a permanent hall, a canteen, a covered outdoor learning area and covered walkways. The plans for those works will be further developed in consultation with the local school community. These much-needed new facilities will make the school a very modern school accommodating the latest technology and equipment. I thank the new Minister for Education and Training, the Hon. John Watkins, for the allocation of these funds. [Extension of time agreed to.
Also included in the budget this year is an allocation of some $200,000 to continue the planned traffic and pedestrian safety improvements to Morisset's main street. A similar sum of money was allocated last year for those works. Not all of that funding was expended. A number of improvements were undertaken in the main street, such as pedestrian refuges. I have been working with the Roads and Traffic Authority [RTA], the Morisset Chamber of Commerce, the South Lake Community Alliance and community representatives to look at proposals, originally for roundabouts at two intersections. The proposal has now changed, and the second proposal that went out for community comment earlier this year is for the installation of traffic signals. After community the proposal has been revised by the RTA and very soon a third revised plan will be issued on where those traffic signals should be located and how the street improvements should be undertaken.
This week the Minister for Transport advised me that after representations from myself and the local branch of the Australian Labor Party he has agreed to instruct the Department of Transport to convene meetings with myself, the RTA, CityRail, State Rail, the Rail Infrastructure Corporation and Lake Macquarie City Council to combine the planning for the main street upgrade, encompassing safety improvements, with safety improvements at Morisset railway station. Morisset station is located adjacent to the main street and there is heavy traffic congestion of a morning and afternoon, particularly with buses entering and leaving the station. Certainly additional planning and future funding allocations must go towards improving safety around the Morisset railway station. Of course, I commend the Minister for that quite sensible approach. Planning for that project should be undertaken in conjunction with the road safety improvements that the RTA plans for the main street.
Other budget highlights within Lake Macquarie, certainly under Minister Scully's portfolio, involve $220,000 for West Lake Macquarie Community Transport and Teralba railway station, which will have maintenance carried out worth $80,000. The users of Lake Macquarie will appreciate very much the replacement of navigation aids at Swansea Channel and Wangi Point worth $18,000, a small sum but a very important project. The Myuna Bay Sport and Recreation Centre has been allocated $1 million for the construction of new lodge accommodation and $400,000 to upgrade the dining hall and kitchen facilities. That will significantly boost the capacity of this popular holiday camp located on the foreshores of Lake Macquarie. This will be the fifth new lodge at the centre and will complete the current accommodation requirements. The newest lodge will sleep at least 60 people and is designed to cater for children attending school outdoor education camps and family vacations.
All new accommodation has been specially designed to ensure disability access. The improvements will enable the Myuna Bay Centre to cater for large groups of people, from schoolchildren to corporate or sporting groups and senior citizens groups who visit regularly. When the works are completed around $3 million will have been spent on upgrading the facilities over a four-year period. The Myuna Bay Centre will then be able to cater for 240 people, which is an increase from its current capacity of 180. Already the numbers of visitors have increased, and they are taking advantage of the upgraded facilities already in place. The $1.4 million of work allocated in this year's budget for the centre is expected to begin later this year and should be completed within 12 months. I thank the Minister for Sport and Recreation for that worthy contribution to the local Lake Macquarie community.
When I look through the budget allocations to the Hunter region it is pleasing for me and my Hunter Labor colleagues to see that the many representations to and lobbying of government that we have undertaken mean that the Hunter has won its fair share of this State's record capital works budget of some $6.35 billion. Our campaign has paid off with continuing emphasis on capital improvements. I have mentioned already some of the education budget highlights, but other highlights in the region include $700,000 towards stage one of the Hunter School of Performing Arts project, and Glendale TAFE to the north of my electorate has been allocated about $1 million for a major upgrade.
Under the Health portfolio, $638,000 will go towards the project for the Child and Adolescent Unit of the John Hunter Hospital, $8 million to the Newcastle strategy and $3.285 million to the Hunter strategy stage one. Those strategies will involve major improvements to public health facilities in the region. Belmont District Hospital will be upgraded and the strategy involves an upgrade for John Hunter Hospital involves a new polyclinic in Newcastle. Certainly the polyclinic that was constructed at Toronto by this Government at a cost of $5 million, which was opened a few years ago, has been warmly welcomed by the local western Lake Macquarie community. I am sure the people of Newcastle will welcome their new polyclinic, which is to be built from budget funding over the next few years.
Some $20.2 million has been allocated to complete the west Charlestown bypass and I have already mentioned the $2 million for the planning of Main Road 217. The upgrading of Vincent Street, Cessnock, has been allocated approximately $3 million, which will be welcomed by the Cessnock community. The Roads and Traffic Authority has allocated $5 million of Federal funding for the planning of the F3 national highway extension. That project affects the north-western area of my electorate around the village of Seahampton. Funding of $200,000 has been allocated for easy access at Maitland railway station and I have mentioned previously the funding allocation for the new millennium rail carriages. The Newcastle bus fleet has been allocated $9.642 million for the purchase of 30 new buses, of which a number will service the northern end of the Lake Macquarie electorate and will be welcomed by commuters in the Hunter region. Planning funding of $2 million has been allocated to upgrade the Sydney to Newcastle rail line. The local community again will welcome that.
The lower Hunter strategic program of the New South Wales Fire Brigade has been allocated $5.88 million. I mentioned already the West Wallsend fire station, but construction is about to commence on a fire station in my electorate at Wangi Wangi with about $1.2 million being provided for that project. Not long after the tragic events in New York on September 11 last year we had the official opening of a $1.26 million fire station at Toronto followed about two months later by the allocation of four permanent firefighters to that station, the first time for the western side of Lake Macquarie. Over $1 million is being spent also on a new fire station at Tingara Heights in the area adjoining the electorates of Charlestown and Swansea.
Certainly the city of Lake Macquarie has benefited over the past few years and will continue to benefit over the next 12 months from this large allocation for the lower Hunter strategic program. The Waterways Authority falls under the transport Minister's portfolio and it is good to see that the Newcastle to Stockton ferry wharf will be upgraded to provide disabled access, with $350,000 being allocated for that project. I have gone through quite extensively how the budget will help the Lake Macquarie electorate. As I said earlier, it certainly will give a boost to many projects that I have been working on with representatives from the local community. Of particular note is the $1.3 million allocation for the continuation of the clean-up of Lake Macquarie and the $923,000 allocated to tackle the infestation of the caulerpa taxifolia weed in the southern reaches of Lake Macquarie.
As I said, the people of the Hunter will welcome the record capital works allocation for our area, but in particular the people of Lake Macquarie I am sure will appreciate the efforts of the Treasurer to ensure that State Government facilities in our city are upgraded and that the local education system is looked after. I thank the Treasurer for the allocation of these funds to the Lake Macquarie electorate. I commend the budget to the House.
(Monaro) [2.45 p.m.]: The 2002 budget evokes a bitter-sweet reaction from the Monaro electorate. Despite a massive windfall in stamp duty derived from a property boom and a buoyant national economy, New South Wales is still the highest taxed State in this country. Despite statements made by the Treasurer during his Budget Speech and announcements made by the Premier and others in this House, and despite the windfall in stamp duty and a consistently high payroll tax take, the people of New South Wales continue to be taxed at a higher rate than people who live elsewhere in the Commonwealth.
People who live in the Monaro electorate pay record high taxes, but basic services are constantly in need of funding infusions. Hospital waiting lists—which are longer than ever, despite the promises made in 1995 by the Premier and the Deputy Premier that waiting lists would be halved within a year—reflect a blow-out in demand for services. Crime rates are also spiralling out of control and many schools and hospitals in the Monaro electorate are in a very poor state. I will elaborate on those matters directly. This year's budget reveals that, once again, the Carr Government has spent up big on Sydney whereas the Monaro electorate has largely missed out on the spending spree.
The State Government's attitude toward taxation revenue and expenditure was exemplified in the Budget Speech by the Treasurer's rather bitter comment that, despite New South Wales having 34 per cent of the nation's population and contributing 36 per cent of the Commonwealth Government's taxation revenue, this State received only 32 per cent of all Commonwealth grants to the States. The Treasurer stated that, on a comparative basis, New South Wales taxpayers subsidise other States by $2.3 billion—an amount sufficient to enable stamp duty to be slashed by half. To my mind, that statement demonstrates that in budgetary allocations the treatment by the New South Wales Government of country electorates compared to highly populated city areas creates a striking pattern of similarity to the financial disadvantage that the Treasurer complained of.
Regional and rural areas of New South Wales contribute financially to this State in similar proportions to the contribution of New South Wales to the national economy. Country areas have 36 per cent of the population of this State yet receive only 21 per cent of health capital works expenditure on infrastructure and 27 per cent of education capital expenditure on infrastructure. On the one hand, the Treasurer claims that the privileged and advantageous position of New South Wales in the Commonwealth, based on its having the largest population and the most dynamic State economy, entitles it to take away Commonwealth funding—money that New South Wales taxpayers can afford—from the poorer States of Tasmania and South Australia in particular.
On the other hand, the New South Wales Government has failed to acknowledge the systematic disadvantage meted out to rural and regional areas by its own funding policies for the provision of road transport infrastructure, and health and education resources. I urge this Government to examine concepts for population decentralisation so that weighting in the funding formulas for metropolitan areas of Sydney and coastal towns may be altered with a view to assisting the development of regional resources and economies over the next few years. One way to do that is to sensibly place infrastructure where natural resources are located instead of arbitrarily allocating infrastructure to highly populated areas.
Infrastructure should be clustered around natural resources to capitalise on the export potential of the fishing, forestry, wine, agriculture and tourism industries of this State. The consequential development will assist small businesses, decentralisation and local government. Regional areas which are able to demonstrate increases in populations as a result of that development should in turn be provided with health, education and law and order infrastructure, as well as a commitment to ongoing financial support. Having said that, it is with pleasure that I now detail for the House some of the most welcome wins of the Monaro electorate from the recent State budget. In many cases the allocations have been made not before time.
A commitment of $678,000 has been made to complete the Queanbeyan ambulance station to replace the temporary station that has serviced the electorate for more than 20 years. At last the Monaro electorate will have a state-of-the-art ambulance station in Queanbeyan by February 2003. I welcome also the Government's commitment to completion of a project that has been in the planning stage for 10 years—stage one of the Jerrabomberra Public School—at a cost of $200,000. An allocation of $2.35 million has been made toward the total cost of $3.3 million to also immediately proceed into stage two of the school. I congratulate the school community, particularly Ann Bells and members of her hardworking committee, and the new principal, Chris Hunter, on the work they have done.
I know that they are very pleased by the announcement of plans for stage two and the earlier completion of stage one, whose classrooms are due to be officially opened in the near future. Eventually it is expected that the school will require 21 classrooms, and I request that a commitment be made by the Government to the provision of those facilities in the longer term. Another allocation that is welcome after many years of lobbying by the school community at Cooma North school is the provision of $100,000 for the new school hall, canteen facilities and shelter. I congratulate Gary Atkinson and the school council on their efforts and recall with admiration the work done in the past by Winston Philips.
The total cost of the project is $1.6 million and, taking into account the coldness of the winter months in Cooma and the condition of existing buildings, this allocation also is not before time. I thank the Government for this allocation of funds and congratulate the school community on its tenacity in lobbying for the provision of these vital facilities. I am pleased to note the Government's allocation of $3 million toward a total commitment of $5 million for the Eden Port Naval Wharf infrastructure. The funds will be used to complete the naval wharf for the naval re-munitioning wharf that is presently under construction in Eden. The project is generating an economic boost for the whole State. The total cost of the project has been calculated at approximately $45 million.
Associated projects are being carried out at Wollongong, through the steelworks and in places along the Princes Highway. This will be an important part of defence infrastructure in south-east Australia and will benefit the whole of the nation. An interesting situation has arisen in a nearby area. The sum of $1.8 million has been committed in this year's budget for the Pambula bridge and its roadway approaches. This stretch of roadway provides a very important link along the Princes Highway. The existing Pambula bridge was constructed of timber but has been damaged significantly during floods in what is a flood-prone area. For some time, the community has been demanding that the bridge be replaced.
The Roads and Traffic Authority [RTA] and the roads department were committed to rebuilding the bridge in a location which is adjacent to the site of the existing bridge. However, because the area is flood prone, and because the bridge is an important link for educational, health, tourism and small business purposes, the State Government is seriously considering the proposal presented by the Bega Valley Shire Council as an RTA major works option. The proposal has been reclassified as a $10 million project but only $1.8 million has been allocated in this year's budget, with the qualification that the project is subject to Federal funding.
That is a matter of concern. I urge the State Government to commit funds to total completion of a project that is of vital regional and cross-border importance. As the Princes Highway is a State designated road, it is this Government's responsibility to ensure that the project is completed. I welcome the $200,000 infusion of funds into the Bega District Hospital to provide for electricity and hydraulic upgrade works. Although this is an important financial allocation, this year's allocation is simply insufficient to meet all the needs of that important hospital in the far south coast area of this State, which provides health services to people of the Monaro electorate.
Funding has been continued in this year's budget for the Nowra end of Main Road 92 in the sum of $2.55 million. I would like to see the project fast-tracked and an allocation made to the Tallaganda Council to continue road improvements on the important link between Braidwood and Nowra. The National Parks and Wildlife Service has been allocated $639,000 for the Eden forest decision and $1.8 million to continue the upgrade of roads and bridges in Kosciusko National Park. This is to be undertaken before responsibility for them is handed over to officers of the Roads and Traffic Authority [RTA] as a result of the Walker inquiry and changes are made to the management of Kosciusko National Park. The Perisher Resort has received $8.3 million for resort infrastructure and ongoing development to promote tourism for both winter and summer.
I was a little alarmed that last year the New South Wales Government allocated only $6.7 million towards the eradication of weeds throughout New South Wales. It is incredible that the Government is prepared to allocate $8.3 million to Perisher Resort, yet fails to acknowledge the threat weeds pose to private land-holders, government authorities and local councils. Quite frankly, the budget for weed eradication should be at least $20 million or $30 million annually throughout New South Wales, yet the State Government has failed to do so. The budget includes an allocation of $1.2 million for the Snowy corporatisation remediation works, which is part of the ongoing commitment to remediation for the Snowy Hydroelectricity Authority prior to corporatisation.
The Treasurer referred to a figure of $15 million to save the Snowy River from terminal degradation. The Dalgety community is anxiously awaiting the return of water into the Snowy River. Indeed, in the last few days corporatisation agreements will be signed off between the New South Wales, Victorian and Commonwealth governments, which will result in Snowy Hydro Ltd embarking on this project, enabling 38 gigalitres of water to go down the river this spring with the decommissioning of the Moonbah aqueduct.
I refer now to the budget for the Department of Housing. Funding has been provided to the tune of $275,000 for Aboriginal housing in Eden, a further $703,000 to purchase three units for Aboriginal housing in Queanbeyan, and $101,000 for the spot purchase of six units in Queanbeyan. In the area of health, the budget has allocated $142,000 for rural accommodation and $1.198 million for ongoing asset management and maintenance work on Department of Housing property in Queanbeyan. It is the bane of many people that public housing is not properly maintained. A unit has also been purchased in Queanbeyan for public housing.
This year's budget has made a number of allocations for State Forests, including the Milla Road program, which has received an allocation of $400,000, another $346,000 for the first rotation of site preparation, $631,000 for the second rotation of site preparation and almost $400,000 for T1 logging roads. I am yet to see the projected expenditure of the RTA in the Monaro electorate but I imagine there would be a commitment for ongoing maintenance and minor work within the $125 million minor works vote in the budget and also within the $650 million road network infrastructure vote contained in the budget.
Ongoing work on Brown Mountain is very important, along with the B-double parking bays on the top and bottom of Brown Mountain. My constituents are concerned that the budget does not contain confirmation that the New South Wales Government will fund the Queanbeyan heavy vehicle bypass. The Government has again reneged on the promise it made in 1995 to fund that project to the tune of some $33 million. Upon election to government in 1995 Labor immediately reneged on that promise and let down the Queanbeyan community. The strategy, studies and cost benefit analysis have been completed by the RTA, which has chosen as stage one the option of the northern heavy vehicle bypass to divert traffic away from Monaro Street, the main street in Queanbeyan. This diversion will mean that small businesses and the local community will no longer have to tolerate the noise of heavy traffic and the danger that entails.
I have written to the Minister and I recently asked him questions in the House about the bypass. He gave a rather tongue-in-cheek response, without specifically answering my question, that the Queanbeyan bypass is an important project currently under consideration. I want the considerations to end and funding to be taken into consideration. I want the New South Wales Government to match the Federal Government's $2 million commitment to the project. I want it to work with the Australian Capital Territory Government to help it co-operatively build the section in its area and to support Queanbeyan City Council and the Queanbeyan community in their commitment to build the heavy vehicle bypass. I again call on the Minister for Roads to make public the announcement that it will provide funding throughout the next 12 months to build the Queanbeyan heavy vehicle bypass. [Extension of time agreed to
I would like to return now to the Government's commitment to spend money on health infrastructure. Although we have an unconfirmed acknowledgment that it will spend $10.5 million on providing mental health services, community health services, drug and alcohol services, and occupational and physiotherapy services in a new facility at Queanbeyan Hospital, my community, which comprises 40,000 residents, is disappointed that the Government has not announced the upgrade of medical and clinical services at that hospital. Some 12,000 people from the Southern Area Health Service presently access services within the Australian Capital Territory annually. How can the Government justify its taxpayers continuing to pay premiums on health services that they access in the Australian Capital Territory? How can the Government justify its taxpayers continuing to contribute to the capital infrastructure within the Australian Capital Territory health system?
Queanbeyan District Hospital is in a deplorable state. The local health council has asked the Minister to urgently provide funding to upgrade clinical services and augment a number of medium-risk procedures such as urology, ophthalmology and other services. Maternity and emergency services at Queanbeyan District Hospital must be urgently upgraded. For too long the New South Wales Government has expected the Australian Capital Territory Government to take responsibility for the provision of those services. Another area in the budget that has not received the attention that it should have received is funding to local government to provide necessary road infrastructure.
The Federal Government, under its Roads to Recovery Program, has allocated funding over a four-year period to enable councils to undertake major road works and to improve the road network. However, road works in this State are the responsibility of the State Government. Many roads in my electorate—for example, the Bombala to Delegate road—require upgrading. Main Road 394 runs from Ando to Dalgety. The Bombala section of Main Road 394—some 26 kilometres—must be sealed. It provides a vital alternative link from the far South Coast and far east of Victoria to the Snowy Mountains and to the Far West of New South Wales. Funding is required also for Main Road 92.
Old Cooma Road in Yarrowlumla shire must be redesignated as a regional road. Bobeyan Road, a major tourist route which commences in the Australian Capital Territory and runs through Adaminaby and through the Cooma, Monaro and Snowy River shires needs urgent funding for upgrading. The New Buildings Road in the Bega Valley shire which has degraded over recent years certainly needs upgrading. The Carr Labor Government is committed in this budget to continuing its high-taxing, overregulatory approach to the governance of New South Wales. It has not provided vital funding in this budget for the agricultural industry.
The Government does not seem to understand the multiplier effect. In order to achieve maximum agricultural production, a good road network and regional development are required. Notwithstanding the recent work that has been done in Kosciuszko National Park with dingo aerial baiting trials—or, more aptly, tiger quoll aerial baiting trials—much more money is needed in New South Wales to control wild dogs and other feral animals. Feral pigs could spread foot and mouth disease, thus decimating agricultural production in Australia. This Government must commit more funds to the control of feral animals. I referred earlier in my speech to the need for regional development in New South Wales. This Government must provide the infrastructure that is required to continue the operation of Bombala mill.
I hope that the Government supports those who are considering purchasing the existing mill and taking over contracts to utilise State forest softwood plantations in Bombala. The Government must have a commitment to and fully support the construction of a new mill over the next few months—vital infrastructure that is required in the Bombala area. This budget is obviously a pre-election budget—a major spending budget—which will see $300 billion worth of expenditure across New South Wales. However, there is a continuing imbalance in the allocation of funding between the city and the country. The Government must not forget rural and regional New South Wales. The Treasurer is crying poor about the Federal Government's funding arrangements for New South Wales when it is the most advantaged State in Australia.
New South Wales residents are not really disadvantaged by having to support their poorer cousins in other States. However, the Treasurer, the Premier, various government departments and Ministers are maintaining their mean approach to the expenditure of vital funds in health, education, policing, regional development and people issues. The imbalance continues across rural and regional New South Wales. That important issue must be addressed and it must change. I think it will change next March when this Government is turfed out of office and a conservative National-Liberal government takes over the funding of this State and allocates funding where it is most needed—to regional and rural New South Wales.
Debate adjourned on motion by Mr Lynch.
The following bill was returned from the Legislative Council without amendment:
Drug Summit Legislative Response Amendment (Trial Period Extension) Bill
CIVIL LIABILITY BILL
Bill returned from the Legislative Council with an amendment.
Consideration of the Legislative Council's amendment.
Schedule of amendment referred to in message of 6 June
Page 17, Schedule 2.2, proposed section 198C. Insert after line 15:
Legislative Council's amendment agreed to on motion by Mr McManus
Resolution reported from Committee and report adopted.
Message sent to the Legislative Council advising it of the resolution.
(d) costs for legal services provided in respect of a claim for damages in proceedings of the kind referred to in section 11 (Claims for damages for dust diseases etc to be brought under this Act) of the Dust Diseases Tribunal Act 1989.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Private Members' Statements: Suspension of Standing and Sessional Orders
Motion by Mr McManus agreed to:
That standing and sessional orders be suspended to permit the taking of private members' statements forthwith.
PRIVATE MEMBERS' STATEMENTS
MARSDEN ROAD PUBLIC SCHOOL
(Liverpool) [3.19 p.m.]: I draw the attention of the Minister for Education and Training to the request by the Marsden Road Public School community for the installation of a security fence along the school's frontage on Marsden Road. Issues at Marsden Road Public School have generated a not inconsiderable amount of correspondence between me and successive education Ministers. To be fair, significant works on the site have been approved or completed over the past few years. However, one issue that remains outstanding is the installation of a security fence. The fence is required only along the Marsden Road frontage of the school. Most of the rest of the perimeter of the school consists of back fences of houses, flats and a nursing home, although a back gate that allows access to the school from Elizabeth Drive also causes problems. These surrounding structures mean that a security fence is necessary only at the front of the school. The other distinguishing characteristic of the school grounds is that they cover a fairly large area but are effectively divided in half, with the two different parts joined by open space. The separation of the two parts of the school adds to security concerns, as does the fact that there are two separate entrances to those parts from Marsden Road.
I made written representations to Minister Aquilina about this issue in July last year. I then inspected the school, met Karen Wilson, president of the parents and citizens association, in April this year and made further representations to the current Minister for Education and Training. The Department of Education and Training has contacted the school several times. Representatives of the department's school security unit met recently with the principal and deputy principal of the school. The end result of these activities and these processes is that the department has decided that a security fence will not be installed. The department's consistent position is that funding for fences is supplied on a needs basis, with available funds allocated to those schools at most risk. As a statement of principle, that is thoroughly unobjectionable. The problem lies in how that principle is applied to the reality of Marsden Road Public School. Parents whose children attend the school have difficulty seeing how the principle can be used against Marsden Road.
The department has recently funded the installation of security fences at a number of other schools in my area. This is relevant in two ways. First, parents say, not unreasonably, that the situation at other schools is not substantially different from that at Marsden Road—and they are right—so why should the other schools have fences but not Marsden Road? Second, the installation of security fences at other schools makes Marsden Road a more likely target. As it is harder to steal and remove goods from other schools, Marsden Road is a more tempting target. In that sense it has become a victim of the fact that fences have been installed at other schools.
In the past several years there has been a significant number of incidents involving damage to, and theft from, the Marsden Road Public School. While these incidents subsided for a time, there was a spate of incidents at Easter this year. During one holiday break people actually took up residence in the school grounds. The likelihood of such incidents would be greatly reduced by the installation of a security fence. The problem is not just theft. Some members of the general public travel from Marsden Road to Elizabeth Drive via the school grounds, which involves large numbers of people transgressing upon school property. Many parents are concerned about this. The problem is exacerbated by the increasing number of students at the school. In 1991 the school had 12 classes, which had increased to 18 by 2001. The argument was well put by Karen Wilson, president of the parents and citizens association, in a letter to me earlier this year. She stated:
I am writing to you as a concerned parent and as the P&C President representing other concerned parents. Anyone would say that their children's safety is one of the most important priorities as a parent. This includes their safety at school.
The issue that has been raised is the lack of adequate fencing across the front of the school both at the primary and infants ends of the school. Our concerns are that on many occasions people have been observed using the school as a short cut from Marsden Road to Elizabeth Drive and vice versa. The issue of stranger danger is difficult for some children to understand especially infants who are new to school life. Strangers should not be able to just freely walk into the school grounds.
On occasions children do wander into areas that could compromise their safety. This includes leaving the school grounds quickly and undetected by staff. Teachers cannot be everywhere especially in such a large and open school so it is quite easy for the children to leave the grounds unnoticed.
Our proposal would be to have the adequate fencing put up along the front of the school.
I have also received a letter from Patricia Hamilton, the grandmother of one of the students at the school, who wrote:
Safety of our children is of great importance. Without adequate fencing the importance becomes concern. The fencing would not only present a safer environment at school for the students also it would be a deterrent towards break ins and vandalism.
At Marsden Road Public there has been a number of break ins and important equipment for the education for our children has been stolen.
I have also seen a letter from Michelle Stanford, a parent of children at the school, who wrote:
As a concerned parent of a kindergarten student at Marsden Road Public School, I am writing this letter in relation to the installation of a front fence at Marsden Road School. In the last 12 months I have noticed new fences being erected around public schools in the local area. At a recent P&C meeting, I raised the issue of when our school may be having a new fence installed, only to be told that this school will not be able to have a fence installed, as we are not in a high-risk area. I feel that the safety of our children is of the greatest importance and a fence would be an added safety feature.
I ask the Minister for Education and Training to look favourably upon the school's request.
SNOWY HYDRO SOUTHCARE HELICOPTER
(Monaro) [3.24 p.m.]: Last Saturday night I attended a fundraising dinner in Canberra in aid of the Snowy Hydro SouthCare helicopter rescue service, which shortly before had completed 1,000 missions. I was also present at the opening of the service's new permanent base in Hume when the helicopter returned from its 500th mission. The service provides, with the support of local people, aeromedical and rescue services in the Australian Capital Territory and south-eastern New South Wales. The Snowy Hydro SouthCare helicopter rescue service operates 24 hours a day, every day of the year. It provides assistance at accident scenes, performs hazardous search-and-rescue missions—which began during the infamous 1998 Sydney to Hobart yacht race when nine sailors were rescued from stricken yachts—and transports from local hospitals or the field severely ill or injured patients who require the more specialised services provided by major hospitals in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory. The service is also vital to the bushfire service, and played an important role during the 2001-02 fire season when it performed more than 100 water-bombing passes.
The New South Wales 2002 ski season opens this weekend, and I highlight the fact that 46 per cent of Snowy Hydro SouthCare helicopter missions are snow related. It plays a vital role assisting international tourists and people of this State and elsewhere in the country who visit the New South Wales ski fields. They feel secure in the knowledge that the Snowy Hydro SouthCare helicopter is there for them. The service patrols an area from the Victorian border, east to the coast and north almost to Sydney. It also acts as a back-up service for other emergency and rescue helicopters in New South Wales and Victoria. It receives tremendous support from its sponsors and the entire local community. The Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority is the major sponsor of the service, to which it commits more than $1 million.
Stuart Diver, the patron of the service, spoke very movingly about focusing on the positives rather than the negatives and devastation when faced with loss. I am sure that most of us are aware of his tragic experience. The Chairman of Snowy Hydro SouthCare helicopter service is Len Goodman, its directors are John Braddon, Mike Castle, Gay Epstein from Cooma, Jeremy Lasek, Michael Rosser and Judy Vardon from the South Coast, and its chief executive officer is Wayne Evans. I congratulate them and all the other people—including the volunteers—who support the valuable work of the service. It must be promoted in the region, which comprises some 750,000 people from the Australian Capital Territory and southern New South Wales. All these people are grateful to the dedicated angels in the highly professional team—crew, paramedics, doctors, engineers and back-up co-ordinators—staff and volunteers, and support their valuable work. David Marshall, the chairman of the gala dinner fundraising committee, delivered the following message:
The sounds of the helicopter as it hovers above a scene filled with distress and anxiety, is one that will never leave many of those who have prayed for its arrival. That sound represents hope and relief, help and safety, attention and care.
The men and women who crew the helicopter are extraordinary people of great courage and commitment. We have often seen their heroic efforts visually portrayed on television.
The Commissioner of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority and soon-to-be Chief Executive Officer of Snowy Hydro Ltd commented that 1 per cent of all of the authority's contracts go to the Snowy Hydro SouthCare Helicopter Service. [Time expired.
(Heathcote—Parliamentary Secretary) [3.29 p.m.]: As the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health I am responsible to the Minister for aeromedical services. I fully understand the matters raised by the honourable member for Monaro. The Snowy Hydro SouthCare Helicopter Service is but one part of what I consider to be one of the world's best aeromedical retrieval and rescue services. On many occasions I have spoken about the operations of the SouthCare Helicopter Service, and I acknowledge the celebration of its one thousandth mission. The SouthCare Helicopter Service, the Westpac Lifesaver Helicopter Service, which operates in areas extending from Lismore to Wollongong, and the NRMA CareFlight service make up a trio of important aeromedical services—ambulances in the air, as I call them—that regularly protect the people of New South Wales and travellers to New South Wales who may be unfortunate enough to need their assistance. Those services complement one of the most important aeromedical services in the world, the Royal Flying Doctor Service, which operates in remote regional areas. They are a great band of people who each rescue people daily. They are an invaluable asset for New South Wales.
TRIBUTE TO GODFREY EUGENE "RUSTY" PRIEST, AM
(Auburn) [3.31 p.m.]: Last night I had the privilege of representing the Premier at a function held at Turkish House in Auburn and hosted by the Consul-General of Turkey, the Hon. Niyazi Aydali, the President of the Council of Turkish Associations of New South Wales, Mr Dursan Candemi, and the President of the Turkish Welfare Association, Mr Besir Karasu, to honour Rusty Priest, retiring President of the New South Wales RSL. I take this opportunity to acknowledge the close ties between the RSL and the Turkish community, and the role that Rusty Priest has played in forging these invaluable links. In doing so I also pay tribute to Rusty Priest for his many years of devotion and service to our wider community.
Rusty Priest, member of the Order of Australia, retired warrant officer class one, former army pilot and highly decorated soldier and private citizen, is known more formally as Mr Godfrey Eugene Priest—a fact which I dare say few could claim to be in possession of. Perhaps this seemingly trivial observation is indicative of more than we may ever know. A man of the people, yet a leader, a former soldier yet a peacemaker, and an Australian who embodies what it means to be an Australian, to be in proud ownership of a heritage, a legacy, a history, yet part of a wider, diverse community of different peoples all committed to respect, tolerance, the healing of past wounds and the building of intimacy, understanding and mutual enrichment.
I thank Rusty for all his efforts and sensitivity, most recently displayed by the return by the RSL of the remains of a Turkish Gallipoli soldier to the Turkish community in Melbourne. I also wish to pay tribute to the truly remarkable gestures and initiatives taken by the Turkish community towards the establishment of good relations with the RSL. The Turkish Youth Association founded the Anzac Memorial Plaque Program, which is aimed at placing plaques throughout the RSL clubs in Sydney and dedicated to commemorating the soldiers, both Australian and Turkish, who lost their lives at Gallipoli. Furthermore, the Turkish community in Sydney is committed to forging links between young people of Turkish background and members of the RSL, a move most commendable for its wisdom in building bridges aimed at spanning both cultural and age divides.
I would like to pay special regard to the Turkish Welfare Association and the Council of Turkish Associations, for not only are they amongst the oldest of the Turkish community organisations in New South Wales but, more importantly, they are amongst the most active. As an Auburn councillor and now a member of Parliament, I am uniquely placed to observe that these organisations are truly wonderful models of a people who in equal measures affirm their ethnic and Australian identity, who care for their own but also for others, and who are spearheading the creation of a stable, progressive and harmonious multicultural society. I thank them for their example.
We are often reminded of the fact that Australia, particularly New South Wales, is home to one of the most diverse societies found anywhere on Earth. As people from unique and different backgrounds we are encouraged by our families and communities to cherish and sustain the life and traditions of our respective cultures. We honour the lives and efforts of those who form the basis and inspiration of both our shared and unique histories. This is indeed a truly valuable and important pursuit, but how often are we reminded that we have a shared future to anticipate and it is imperative that we strive in the face of an ever-changing, turbulent world to build an environment of true harmony, peace and prosperity which we, as Australians, can all proudly call home. In conclusion, I offer my heartfelt thanks to the members of the Turkish Welfare Association, the Council of Turkish Associations and Rusty Priest for working so tirelessly to see this vision of the future realised.
(Heathcote—Parliamentary Secretary) [3.36 p.m.]: As a Vietnam veteran I moved an urgent motion relating to the matters raised by the honourable member for Auburn. I thank the honourable member for the sentiments she expressed on behalf of the Turkish community in relation to Rusty Priest, who is not only the former New South Wales RSL President but also a particularly good friend of mine. We are all saddened by Rusty Priest's retirement, and I am pleased that the Turkish community has joined with the rest of the New South Wales community in wishing him well. It must be said that the relationship between those communities has developed so well that the Turkish community gave the name Anzac Cove to the body of water where many Anzacs died. That action has been instrumental in binding friendships between the Turkish community and the Australian community. I thank the honourable member for Auburn for her contribution.
AREA HEALTH SERVICE SALARY PACKAGING SCHEME
(Ku-ring-gai) [3.37 p.m.]: On the day on which the Treasurer brought down the eighth Carr Government budget I was contacted by a constituent concerning a matter relating to the employment of nurses by area health services. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health will remain in the Chamber and respond to my contribution. In delivering his eighth budget the Treasurer said:
Ours is a Labor Government with a century-old ethos of fairness permeating every bone in our bodies.
The situation I am about to unveil to the House will demonstrate just how impervious a bonehead the Treasurer is. Area health services are now offering their employees salary packaging schemes. Because the area health services are classified as public benevolent institutions they are able to offer to their employees the benefits of tax-exempt, approved fringe benefits up to a value of $17,000 per annum. NSW Health is promoting the scheme to employees of area health services in a brochure which states:
By packaging approved benefits, you can reduce your taxable income and therefore pay less tax. Formerly, you would have to pay for these benefits from your after-tax income, but by including them in a salary package the benefits are effectively obtained from tax-free income.
In promoting the scheme the department highlights the situation of an employee who earns $40,000 a year and decides to allocate $8,755 a year for mortgage repayments. Under the salary-packaging arrangements, that person's tax liability is reduced by $3,137. But under the scheme as offered by area health services—endorsed by NSW Health and, remarkably, by the union that covers these employees, the Health and Research Employees Association—half of that tax benefit is to be retained by the area health services. In other words, area health services are using Commonwealth-funded taxpayer subsidies to provide a benefit to their employees of up to $3,000 on the example provided, but they are not prepared to refund the full amount of that tax deduction to the employee; they want to keep half.
That is in addition to the administration fee the employees will have to pay to the service to join the scheme. In other words, an employee's disposable income increases by only $1,592. What should be a $60 a week benefit to a nurse drops to just $30 because the Government insists that half the benefit be shared with the area health service. Tax specialists advise me that this type of arrangement is unheard of and the normal practice in the private sector is for the full benefit to flow on to the employee. I am appalled that NSW Health condones ripping off nurses and other staff in this way. Salary packaging is rare outside the senior executives services of the New South Wales public sector and you can bet your house on the fact that the heads of either the Premier's Department or NSW Health do not forgo half their tax savings which are derived through salary packaging. Yet when packaging is to be extended to other categories of eligible employees, it comes with the catch that half the benefit is to be withheld.
Despite Labor's claims about record funding for the State's health system, this is a Scrooge act designed to claw a few dollars back from those who provide front-line health services. Public sector nurses are already underpaid. Salary packaging offers a way to help boost their disposable income and assist in overcoming morale problems. I am also concerned that NSW Health may appear to be misusing a Commonwealth taxpayer funded scheme. Federal fringe benefit tax [FBT] arrangements are meant to benefit individuals. The way NSW Health is applying these arrangements, half of the Commonwealth taxpayer-funded benefit is diverted into area health services. I have written to the Federal Treasurer asking him to investigate this matter. I do not call on the Carr Government and the health Minister to scrap this scheme. This is a good scheme to benefit nurses by boosting their incomes through the use of federally acceptable and federally funded FBT packaging arrangements. The Treasurer, the health Minister and others ought to put a stop to the unacceptable, Scrooge-like act that results in only half the benefit is getting through. In the time remaining to me I will relay what my constituent said:
It is not as if nurses are paid very well in the first place, so a gesture that helps with the tax bill is good. However, it seems utterly dishonest for them to pocket half the benefit. Many other companies offer salary packaging of some sort. None that I know would get away with keeping half for themselves.
BLUE HAVEN LAND DEVELOPMENT
(Wyong—Parliamentary Secretary) [3.42 p.m.]: I believe in participatory democracy. That is why on 14 May this year I sent out 1,775 letters relating to a matter affecting 2,438 of my constituents who live in the Blue Haven area of the Wyong electorate and, coincidentally, the Federal electorate of Dobell. I sent out those letters because I was seeking the views of my constituents about the future use of land next to Blue Haven Primary School. That land is currently reserved in Wyong Council's development control plan No. 54 for a local shopping centre. I well remember when Long Homes came to Blue Haven and were developing land there. At the initial turning of the sod Long Homes promised a shopping centre at this location. Unfortunately, now Wyong Council want the Department of Education to acquire this land to expand the school. Wyong Council also wants to develop a community centre and sports field adjacent to where the new school buildings will be.
Wyong Council has indicated to the Department of Education that it believes Blue Haven could not sustain a local shopping centre. Many Blue Haven residents have told me that in fact a shopping centre is needed where they live and I believe that no-one knows those people's needs better than they do. I sent out the letter with a questionnaire: "Please tick one box only". There were three choices: one, that people supported the land as originally zoned for a shopping centre; two, that people supported the Department of Education acquiring land and using it exclusively for school buildings together with a proposed for sporting facility and community centre; and three, a combination of both. There was a phenomenal response to the questionnaire. On the latest count 964 people had responded out of a constituent population of 2400. Basically, 290 people or 30 per cent want only shops, 382 people or 39 per cent want the school expansion with the sports fields, and 292 people want a school expansion with shopping facilities, the compromise option.
When those figures are distilled they show that 60 per cent want shops and 69 per cent want a school expansion. Clearly, what is needed is both a shopping centre, as was originally promised to the people of Blue Haven by Long Homes, and the school expansion. I am pleased to have taken precautionary measures and in the recent budget delivered on 4 June the Treasurer announced an allocation of $4 million for the upgrade of Blue Haven school. We now need to work with the council to ensure that the people get what they want: a school upgrade and expansion and a shopping centre. I wrote to the mayor of Wyong shire to that effect on 23 May. The response to the questionnaire was overwhelming. I gave the mayor those figures as at that date, when there had been some 709 responses. The percentages have not changed a great deal. It is clear that we need to adopt the compromise option of both the shops and the school.
There is also a more general principle that affects the Central Coast and, indeed, all of New South Wales when companies want to develop land. They make all sorts of claims to try to sell land, but they must deliver on those claims. The process must be transparent. There must be clear lines of accountability. Companies, governments and councils must deliver on their promises. If they do not, everyone involved in the development is a loser, as is every member of this House who represents the electorates. Development is certainly an emerging issue on the Central Coast, and we need to ensure that people are given a fair go. Recently I spoke to a lady who has bought a block of land near where she thought the shops would be, expressly for that reason. She does not drive a car; she was elderly. She had moved from Sydney and wanted to be near the shops. The next part of the process is working out what shops people want in their local shopping centre. I certainly hope that councils will take action in that regard.
Mr AND Mrs BACHMANN AND TRANSGRID POWERLINE DISPUTE
(Coffs Harbour) [3.47 p.m.]: I bring to the attention of the House and the Minister for Energy a problem being experienced by Mr Peter Bachmann and Mrs Christine Bachmann from Middle Boambee Road. Mr and Mrs Bachmann purchased a property in Boambee some 22 months ago. Prior to their purchase of the property there had been much angst and much discussion in the community about a new 133kB line from Grafton through to Kempsey. The route had been explored and identified and whilst people were not happy—TransGrid had purchased some properties and easements, et cetera—they knew what was going on. I now read a fax received from Mrs Bachmann this week:
As a great matter of 'urgency' I am asking for your immediate assistance and guidance.
Peter and I purchased our property 22 months ago from a Mr Schaeffer of Coffs Harbour, whom used to be the Building Inspector for Coffs Council.
He had moved away from Coffs at the time we purchased the property.
Peter and I were led to believe that the power line [Transgrid] were going into the adjoining property from our boundary est 5metres and it is to my understanding from my conversation with Mr Schaeffer of yesterday, 4th June, 2002, was that he will also was of the same understanding.
The power poles have been put into the adjoining property 1 metre from the boundary fence line. However, from the 'now' power line the arms and lines from the pole now come well over into my property, not only that the lines go across my only way in and exit out of my actual house.
My driveway can take equivalent of 3 cars, the line come across the driveway 1/2way, so that means that the distance from the lines from my front door is the equivalent of 1 and 1/2 cars.
The Transgrid man that come Friday last week admitted that the poles was way too short and in the wrong location. I stated that my children play on the car port area, this is their home, this is their back yard. My four-year-old child (I have three children) has his sandpit that he uses everyday and now that is under the power lines which have been put in too low. Where does he play now?
I said but "I have had cancer, the only way in and out of this house is under those low high voltage lines. Peter and I would NEVER EVER have purchased this house knowing that Transgrid could do this, it is so wrong. I was so upset that I took my children Jessica (12 years), Lisa (10 years) and Mitchell (4 years) to Brooms Head Caravan Park—to get away from it all.
On Monday, [the TransGrid employee] came over and said he would get the two bosses from TransGrid to our house Wednesday, 5th June 2002 to have a look at it.
I have since spoken to a number of people asking for help.
I had a call from [the TransGrid employee] this morning, around 11am to say "I believe you have been speaking to a number of people about your property—DON'T. I'm bringing one of the Head guys over to your house sometime, today, but I don't know when".
I said, "What do you mean I can't talk to people"
Andrew at this stage … I was very emotional and I think I said they were a pack of BASTARDS.
Sorry about that, but I was just upset.
Peter and I have a business here in Coffs Harbour. We have been here 23 months. Peter is on the Board of Tourism, elected by the other tour operators because of his honesty, commitment to other businesses in Coffs Harbour. We have helped so many other businesses to keep them in business. Peter and I have worked very hard for [our] and for our children and future.
Andrew, Please help us. My husband Peter, a very decent, good honest family man is in Cairns (for 4 months) working hard to support his family and doesn't even know that as of today or tomorrow when the power goes on that the children and I have to leave the house, because the only way in and out of our house is under the power line …
This is a disgrace. These people bought their home thinking that the high voltage powerlines were going to be on the adjoining property. There is a history of such powerlines possibly causing cancer, and this woman has had cancer. The powerlines pass over the only area on the property where the children can play. I ask the Minister to ask TransGrid to explain what has happened and, if necessary, shift the line back to where it was. TransGrid has already admitted that the line is far too close to the home. It is the Government's responsibility and TransGrid's responsibility to shift it back over the easement, which it legally should be, and not over this property.
CANTERBURY ELECTORATE PROPERTY DISPUTE
(Canterbury—Parliamentary Secretary) [3.52 p.m.]: I want to outline the plight of one my constituents, a part pensioner, who has had to borrow money for legal costs to cover her defence in a recent court case. The case revolved around a property, solely owned by my constituent, which was occupied by her son and daughter-in-law and their family for approximately 11 years. My constituent purchased the home towards the end of 1990 to help her son and his family, as they were experiencing financial difficulties at the time. Although some rent was paid and receipts issued, by 1993 my constituent let the rent lapse because of further financial difficulties experienced by her son. My constituent's son and daughter-in-law divorced in 1999, and in 2000 my constituent had papers served on her in connection with her son's former wife claiming that the property belonged to her son and that she was entitled to half the value.
The suggestion was so preposterous that one solicitor described the claim as "just a very silly matter"; another solicitor said that the case was "a nonsense". My constituent was able to produce the deeds for the house and receipts for land rates, water rates, insurance bills and general repairs to the property. She was also able to show where the house had been declared as an asset in her pension application. Marsdens, the claimant's solicitors, were informed about the ownership of the property, and were supplied with documentation confirming the ownership. In spite of this, Marsdens persisted with the action and, according to my constituent, would have known that her former daughter-in-law did not have funds to pay my constituent's costs. The case proceeded and was adjourned. By that time my constituent was up for $14,741 in solicitors' and barristers' costs. Understandably, my constituent considers Marsdens acted unethically in pursuing a case against her which had no chance of success. In a letter to me my constituent said:
I am hoping you can advise me how without further legal expense which I cannot afford I can obtain all or a large portion of my costs back from Marsdens.
I am no lawyer, but it would appear that costs were not awarded in this instance in favour of any party, because the matter was adjourned. My constituent finds herself in a catch-22 situation. For so long as the matter is adjourned my constituent would appear to be up for costs. But, if the case were to continue in the future, my constituent would be up for more legal costs. One should bear in mind that she is a pensioner and cannot afford further costs.
If the case proceeds in the future and comes to a conclusion—and there is every reason to suggest that she would win the case—she points out that her former daughter-in-law does not have any finances. I believe my constituent should remind her legal representatives that, if a solicitor brings on a claim that has absolutely no chance of success, the court could be asked to award costs against the solicitor. That is what I will be advising my constituent to do. Also, I intend to refer my constituent's complaint against Marsdens to the Legal Services Commissioner so he can seriously consider whether Marsdens have acted ethically. Based on my constituent's complaint, it would certainly seem that they have not.
NORTH-WEST RAIL LINK PUBLIC CONSULTATION
(Epping) [3.57 p.m.]: I raise an issue relating to public consultation in connection with the north-west rail link. On 10 April I raised concerns about this type of consultation, inasmuch as the proposed north-west rail link will affect the Castle Hill area and join with the northern line just south of Beecroft station. The public consultation company at the time, Quay Connection, saw fit to have a consultative meeting at the Asquith Leagues Club, which is many kilometres from the affected area. My concern about the consultation was exacerbated by the events of this week. Two further meetings have been held, one at Cherrybrook Community Centre and another at the Pennant Hills Golf Club, on 4 and 5 June respectively. The problem is that notices of the meetings were not received by community members until the day of the second meeting. I can state this with some authority, because I received one of these notices in my letterbox on the day of the second meeting and, like many people, I did not read it until very late on that day. It was totally useless. I have since been contacted by the Beecroft Cheltenham Civic Trust. In a letter dated 7 June, the secretary of that trust, Mark Lyons, wrote:
The Beecroft Cheltenham Civic Trust is concerned about the short notice given to the residence of Beecroft and Cheltenham by the State Rail Authority and Quay Connections, of the recent public meetings at Cherrybrook Community centre … regarding the North West Rail Link.
Some residence didn't get the flier till the 14th, others the 15th and many did not receive it at all.
There is considerable support in our area for the concept of the rail link, but such poor communications are undermining the goodwill that the government has on this issue. We believe this would be a tragedy, for better public transport is precisely what is needed in this area.
I agree 100 per cent with the sentiments of the civic trust, because there is public support for the rail link and there is great concern about the way in which the public consultation process has proceeded. The first meeting was mucked up—it was held at Asquith, which is nowhere near the project. I have never been notified of either meeting as local member. It seems to me the reason for this is either complete incompetence or deception, or a combination of both. I do not use those words lightly, but I am angry about this. I have raised the matter in the House and I have written to the Minister about it. I am not saying it is his fault, particularly, but it is ridiculous that notices of public meetings are delivered on the same day as the meetings are held. It makes people furious who otherwise may have been well disposed towards the project and simply seeking information and reassurance.
Frankly, if Quay Connections is behind this second fiasco, it ought to be sacked. Its contract ought to be terminated. It is demonstrating complete incompetence in the running of these meetings and consulting the community. It is a contradiction in terms to have an outfit running consultation meetings where the net effect is to infuriate the community. We all know there are tough public infrastructure projects. Angry meetings are part and parcel of public debate and public life. We accept those for what they are: a harder part of our job. We all have them from time to time. They are things we have to live with and work through. What really gets me going is when there is not necessarily an antagonistic attitude about in the community but, because of incompetence, deceit or whatever, people who ought to know better—and I suspect may know better—set about running meetings which have the effect of infuriating the community when the fury was not there before.
There are some tough issues to go through here. People are coming to a realisation that railway tunnels will go under their property when no prior arrangement was made for that to happen. Understandably, people are uptight about these things. But when they then find out after the event that a meeting has taken place down the road in respect of which they were supposed to have notice so they could go along and have a say, concern turns to fury, fury turns to cynicism, and cynicism turns to outright opposition to the project. If this is the net result of the actions of Quay Connections, or whoever is responsible for this, that organisation ought to be taken off the job and the job should be given to somebody else to get the project on track.
(Bankstown—Parliamentary Secretary) [4.02 p.m.]: I note the concerns raised by the honourable member and will certainly pass them on as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister. The State Rail Authority has an excellent reputation in general for consultation with the community and it is a shame that communication may have lapsed on this occasion. The situation needs to be rectified. I will ensure that the Minister is made aware of the situation. As the honourable member said, this matter has been raised through correspondence with the Minister. I am confident that there will be a positive outcome.
Private members' statements noted.
The House adjourned at 4.02 p.m. until Tuesday 18 June 2002 at 2.15 p.m.