Wednesday, 18th March, 1992
The Chairman of Committees (The Hon. Duncan John Gay) took the chair as Acting-President at 2.30 p.m.
The Acting-President offered the Prayers.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Precedence of Business
Motion by the Hon. E. P. Pickering agreed to:
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would preclude Government business taking precedence of General Business at 4.15 p.m. on Thursday, 19 March, 1992.
Petition praying that the Forestry Commission of New South Wales be reformed in accordance with the recommendations of the Public Accounts Committee and that the House urge the Government to act immediately for the good of our environmental heritage and the health of the plantation timber industry, received from the Hon. R. S. L. Jones.
Public Health System
Petition praying that the House resist all moves to implement productivity savings in the public health system, to close hospitals and to downgrade services without consultation with both the community and interested bodies, received from the Hon. Ann Symonds.
Petition praying that because wildlife is threatened by predatory feral cats, and because unrestricted breeding of cats results in their destruction, starvation, injury and disease, there should be compulsory desexing of all domestic cats other than those with registered breeders, received from the Hon. R. S. L. Jones.
AGED PERSONS ABUSE
Matter of Public Interest
The Hon. BERYL EVANS [2.38]: I move:
That the following important matter of public interest should be discussed forthwith:
The increase in abuse of the elderly.
The Australian population has been growing progressively older over the past 100 years. In 1890 the median age of the population was 20 years and by 1990 the figure had risen to 31.9 years. This demographic shift has increased even more in the last 30 years. In 1961 30.2 per cent of the population was less than 14 years old and in 1990 the ratio had fallen to 22.1 per cent. The proportion of the population aged over 65 years has increased from 8.5 per cent to 11.2 per cent of the total population. Due largely to a rise in the life expectancy of the population and a decrease in the birth rate of the population this demographic trend is expected to continue. Current statistic projections predict the Australian population will reach 26 million by the year 2031. In New South Wales this figure has greater significance: its population over the age of 55 is expected to rise to more than 2.1 million people by the year 2016. This demographic progression has implications for all sectors of society, the most obvious being access to necessities such as adequate housing, financial security, health services, and so on. Recently there has been a targeting of the aged, particularly in terms of street violence. But there are other important issues which need to be researched and discussed in order to raise public consciousness. One most disturbing issue is the abuse of the elderly.
Older people have a right to live safely in their own homes free from violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation. Abuse of older people is a serious problem in New South Wales and its very nature means that it is largely hidden and rarely acknowledged. Abuse may take place in a number of forms: physical abuse - the infliction of pain or injury or physical coercion; psychological abuse - the infliction of mental anguish, such as humiliation and intimidation; economic-financial abuse - the illegal or improper abuse of an older person's property or finances, such as forcing persons to change their wills; neglect - the failure to provide adequate food, shelter or care; and, in some cases, even sexual abuse. It is important that we raise community awareness about issues surrounding the abuse of older people in our community. It is interesting that there has been very little research in New South Wales about the abuse of older people in the home although some studies have looked at abuse in institutions. Another problem is that some older people fail to provide adequately for their primary needs in life, such as food, clothing, accommodation, and management of their financial affairs. This may be through choosing not to make adequate provision or being unaware of their living conditions through illness or social isolation.
There are some similarities and overlaps between domestic violence, child abuse and abuse of older people. There are indications that all are pervasive, yet remain to a large extent hidden. A recent study in Victoria showed that men and women are equally likely to be found amongst the abusers. In New South Wales a study revealed that abusers were relatives in 13 out of 15 cases and carers in 10 out of 15 cases. The real problem is that such abuse is severely under-reported. This is due to fear of retaliation or recrimination, concern about institutionalisation and isolation, shame or simply a lack of knowledge about what to do - matters that will frequently stop someone reporting incidents of abuse. We may well ask: Why does abuse of older people happen? It is suggested that the vulnerabilities of the older people - particularly those with dementia - place them in a position of dependence and at risk of abuse. Often the abuser has psychiatric or alcohol-related problems or is dependent on the older person financially. Often the stress of caring for a difficult and dependent person or external stresses such as unemployment, marriage problems and ill health can lead to abuse. Older people are seen as a burden, difficult to live with and unreliable.
We must look carefully as to who can be involved in the detection and prevention of abuse. We certainly have in the community some obvious people trained and capable of filling this role - such as community care workers, geriatric and
rehabilitation services, community-based organisations, hospitals, police and medical practitioners - yet there is a need for further training of these people and for well-defined policies for them to follow. There are so many things that must be considered, but we must not lose sight of the fact that the immediate priority should be the interest and safety of the older person. We must also be aware that the number of older people in Australia has increased as a result of the rising numbers of births and immigrants earlier in the century as well as increased life expectancy. People aged 60 years and over are expected to increase from 16 per cent of the population in 1991 to 17 per cent in 2001 and 20 per cent in the year 2011. Mr Acting-President, to look more deeply into this very real problem, I seek the indulgence of the House to discuss further this very important public matter.
Motion agreed to.
The Hon. BERYL EVANS [2.41]: In Australia at large and particularly in New South Wales we are facing an increasingly ageing population. But the term itself is also becoming meaningless as it denies the complexity and continuity of life. We need to recognise that the aged within our communities are a great resource. Their skills and knowledge will become increasingly important and significant in the next few decades. Due to the demographic shift, there will be a need to reconstruct public expenditure and policy-making decisions. An ageing population holds implications for not only Federal resource allocation and public expenditure but requires that individual States also re-examine their resource allocations. It also calls for a re-examination of the definition of "the aged" and the stereotyped images we hold of them. Not all the aged experience a loss of health or life control. This is particularly true of women, who have a longer life expectancy than their male counterparts and are often left alone through loss of family and partners at a time when they are most vulnerable. In terms of resource allocation for example we should encourage the aged towards a more self-sufficient lifestyle, together with an increased choice of lifestyle.
Most older people in our society enjoy full and satisfying lives. Tragically, however, some in our community suffer some form of abuse in their own homes from the people who care for them - their family members and others. This abuse may be physical, psychological, financial or neglect. In the past, issues of domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse were recognised as important problems to be investigated and tackled by society. As a result, resources have been allocated to the research of these issues, and public awareness has been raised. Recently there as been public recognition of the need to put the issue of abuse of the elderly on the agenda. In reality, however, it is not a new social problem but only one which has had to wait until now to surface. Abuse of older people in institutions has already received much more attention than those in the domestic setting. As a result, governments have taken on the responsibilities of setting and monitoring standards of care and proclaiming legislation to protect the elderly in residential care facilities and hospitals. Furthermore, the residential care industry itself has explored trial programs for self-regulation, such as resident organisations and community visitor schemes designed to protect both residents and their administrators from potential accusations of institutional abuse.
The problem of older people being abused in domestic situation, however, is less recognised and has largely been overlooked in Australia. This is because the victims are often powerless to protect or to remove themselves from the abusive situations. By and large in Australia there is very little statistical information on the extent of the incidence of abuse in the home. However, it is emerging that abuse can occur at any income level and across all ethnic and racial groups. Recent studies in America estimated an incidence rate of between 2 per cent and 5 per cent. In New South Wales that would represent between 18,000 and 45,000 people over the age of 60. The profile of the victims that
emerges is they are mostly women 75 years of age and over, most suffer from physical or mental deterioration, and they live with their aggressor on whom they are physically, mentally and financially dependent. The major studies carried out to date tend to reinforce this profile which, not surprisingly, describes the more vulnerable, typical older person. Just to cite an example I relate the case of Mary S.
Mary S. was aged 83 when she was admitted to hospital with a fractured skull and nose and extensive bruising to both legs. She lived with her eldest daughter, who had had a stroke two years earlier and now walked with the aid of a cane. District nursing staff were aware of the hostility between the mother and daughter, having witnessed several aggressive outbursts by the daughter. The staff had suspected the daughter had attacked Mary with her cane during an outburst. Mary refused to advise medical staff of the cause of the injuries. What makes this case even more shocking is that the physical assault was possibly by a family member who was responsible for providing care. What are the characteristics of the abusers? The typical abuser is usually a close relative and a primary care giver for the abused elder. The abuser is likely to be under severe stress and may have suffered from alcoholism and or mental illness. Ageing not only has psychological and psychic implications, it can be accompanied by a loss of social esteem, lessening of self-confidence, diminished economic security and little emotional support. Older people thus become vulnerable.
For some relatives or care-givers, older people become ideal targets for their hostility, their frustrations and their contempt. Earlier studies had identified that abuse is committed primarily against elders by their children who are resentful about the "generational inversion". They now care for their parents. A recent study questioned the stereotype of child-parent abuse. Pillemer and Finkelhor concluded that abuse was committed primarily not by children but by spouses, 58 per cent by spouses and 24 per cent by children. What are the causes of elderly abuse? A major factor given as a cause of abuse is intolerable stress on the natural care-giver who is sometimes required to give 24-hour personal care service at home without any respite. Stress is often exacerbated by the fact that an estimated one-third of care-givers of the aged are elderly themselves. Crowded conditions generally, and particularly in housing, insufficient incomes, marital problems, alcohol abuse and numerous complications and tensions arising from the dependence of older members of the family on the youngest are also elements that can lead to abusive treatment. More specifically, the research shows consistently that abusive adults were themselves victims of maltreatment when they themselves were children.
Finally, why has this problem remained so well hidden for so long? The mistreatment of elderly persons is difficult to detect for a number of reasons. Medical persons find it difficult to determine from the injuries whether there was a legitimate accident or whether abuse occurred. In their presentation of incidents of abuse the version of the elderly persons is often perceived to have little credibility. Over-abuse of drugs often results in the elderly being unable to think clearly and to assert themselves. Far too many elderly people appear to be in a toxic state from over-medication. Fear of being institutionalised may also inhibit the elderly from expressing their needs. There may also be a fear of retaliation from the care-givers if complaints are voiced. In some instances the elderly person has such a low sense of self-worth that the abuse is accepted. The abuse usually occurs in situations where there are no witnesses. The first step down the path to reversing this disturbing trend is recognising that this problem exists in our society. There must be recognition that some older persons are vulnerable to abuse, neglect and exploitation in their own homes; recognition that a response to prevent older persons from abuse and neglect needs to be planned and developed; recognition by medical practitioners, social workers, nurses, police and other professionals that abuse
does exist and that they share some responsibility for protection of the victim; recognition that the rights of these victims have to be respected; and recognition that the victims' struggle is the struggle for everyone who wants to preserve life with dignity and respect.
I am extremely pleased that this Government has taken the initiative by setting up a task force on abuse of elderly people. I congratulate the Minister for Health and Community Services, the Hon. J. P. Hannaford, and the Minister for Police and Emergency Services, the Hon. E. P. Pickering, on launching the task force discussion paper during Senior Citizens Week. This paper aims to raise community awareness about the issues surrounding the abuse of older people in our community and to encourage service providers, agencies and professionals to develop the guidelines for responding to abuse. This discussion paper seeks comments from the community about the issues raised and recommendations made. One particular recommendation made by the task force, and I find it important, is the need to educate the community at large of some of the issues that need to be addressed. These include the promotion of the positive aspects of ageing and of older people, especially women, to reflect their contributions to society and to dispel age stereotypes; information on the ageing process, encompassing its physical, emotional and social aspects; information for older people regarding their rights to live free from abuse and how to minimise their chances of being abused; encouragement for older people to seek out formal and informal support and or services according to their needs and wishes; and, finally, information about the nature of abuse.
In addition to literature based campaigns, Neighbourhood Watch networks and other senior citizens organisations or aged consumer organisations provide ideal forums for this approach. I strongly endorse the recommendation of the task force for an increased range of safe, flexible, supported accommodation to be made available to older people. Fear of being institutionalised is cited as a major reason that abuse of the elderly is under-reported by victims. Most older people prefer to live in integrated settings in the community. Housing options such as the Abbeyfield House in Orange, opened recently by my colleague the Minister for Housing, the Hon. Joe Schipp, the Leigh Place project at Roselands, Dougherty Apartments at Chatswood and Hannon's Paddock at Peakhurst all represent excellent examples of community care in small homes. Though these projects are all different, each illustrates how a flexible combination of housing and care can make good economic and social sense for governments as well as for older people. Older people have an inalienable right to live safely in their own homes, free from violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation. I sincerely hope that this discussion paper will stimulate debate on the important issues which must be addressed and that comment from members of the public, agencies, professionals and others will contribute to the development of strategies to combat this very disturbing trend in our society.
The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD (Minister for Health and Community Services) [2.55]: I thank the Hon. Beryl Evans for raising in this House the issue of abuse of older people. I commend her for the work she is doing as the chair of my advisory committee on issues involving the elderly. I firmly believe this is a vital matter of public interest and one which deserves some considerable public debate and attention. Information available to me suggests that in New South Wales each year between 25,000 and 35,000 elderly people are subjected to abuse. Today's debate is extraordinarily timely. Just last week I launched a discussion paper entitled "Abuse of Older People in their Homes". The paper was the result of deliberations of a task force established to examine this issue and to advise me on the best way that the problem can be addressed.
The Hon. J. R. Johnson: Can we have a copy of it?
The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD: I will arrange for it to be distributed to all members. The paper was released by me and by my colleague the Minister for Police and Emergency Services, and the launch was attended by a large number of people from a number of different disciplines. Medical practitioners, other health professionals, social workers, police, community workers, academics and the media were all present and expressed a strong and positive response to the launch of the paper. The endorsement of the paper by people from so many different fields is, I believe, exceedingly important. It reflects the approach taken by the task force which prepared the report and by the joint launching of the paper by the Hon. E. P. Pickering and me. As the title of the discussion paper suggests, it examined the abuse of older people in their own homes. This is not to deny for one minute the dismay and horror with which the Government views the recent attacks on older people on the streets of Sydney. I understand that these attacks and the issues they raise are being dealt with by my colleague the Minister for Police and Emergency Services. However, the report concentrated on abuse of older people by their carers, family members and others. In such cases responses required are frequently different and procedures for dealing with them are unclear. Moreover, this is a hidden problem which older people are often reluctant to speak about.
As stated by the Hon. Beryl Evans, many older people enjoy full and satisfying lives. It is tragic that some in our community suffer abuse from the very people we believe they can trust. Unfortunately there has been little public recognition of the need to put this issue on the public agenda, though we need not doubt that it has probably existed in society for some time. As the honourable member stated, it is not a new social problem but one which has rarely surfaced before now. The very nature of the problem means that it is largely hidden. Although we are aware that it is likely to be a real and significant problem in the Australian community, it is likely to be severely under-reported. It is a familiar pattern and one which was manifest in dealing in the past with child abuse and domestic violence. In relation to abuse of older people, reasons for under-reporting are varied and include fear of retaliation or recrimination, concern about institutionalisation, shame, or simply a lack of knowledge about what can be done. It is reasons such as these that frequently stop a person reporting an incident of abuse. As was stated by the Hon. Beryl Evans, abuse may take many different forms. Perhaps the most shocking and dramatic are examples of physical abuse. Thankfully these are not the ones most frequently encountered. Naturally we must be very careful about any attempts to quantify the incidence of abuse.
Little research has been done in this country on this question. In some ways physical abuse is the easiest form of abuse to detect. However, service providers and the limited research which is available to us support the view that forms such as psychological abuse and financial exploitation occur far more frequently and form a far larger proportion of cases than physical abuse. Other forms of abuse are insidious and disturbing and we must find ways to address them. However, we should not let the debate become distorted by images that all abuse is of a physical kind. Of course, all forms of abuse are distressing. It is difficult to think of a single issue which potentially affects older people more than elder abuse. It is certainly one of the most serious issues to confront us as a society. It is disturbing that this phenomenon occurs. Where abuse touches on the more vulnerable groups in our society, it takes significant resolve to pursue the questions raised. As a society it is an issue which we sometimes find hard to address. Perhaps for these reasons there are some people who deny that the problem of abuse of older people actually exists. Some people who know that it exists ignore it in the hope that it will go away. However, more and more organisations and individuals are now taking an interest in the matter.
Although New South Wales is really leading the way on this topic, other studies, both interstate and overseas, are proposed and are taking place. In short, we can say that a considerable shakeup is under way. We may never convince everyone of the importance and urgency of this issue. However, I firmly believe that, in all good conscience, we cannot ignore it any longer. Those of us in society who make claim to any compassion cannot wait for someone else to solve this problem. In this sense the launch of the report also provides a ray of hope. I believe it represents a turning point in providing some remedies. An acknowledgment that a problem exists is the first step towards doing something about it.
The Hon. Franca Arena: Will you look at people from non-English speaking backgrounds?
The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD: That has been analysed in the report. In fact, it is one of the issues that I identified for cultural reasons - an issue that relates to shame. People from non-English speaking backgrounds are reluctant to come forward and have the problem addressed. Other family members are also reluctant to recognise and address the problem because of this issue of shame. As a mature society we must address the issues raised. I and my colleague the Minister for Police and Emergency Services are proud to be among the first Ministers in Australia to tackle this problem. The task force has addressed the key issues raised in this matter and has proposed a number of recommendations, which I hope will assist in tackling this problem. The recommendations deal essentially with five areas: organisational responsibilities; policy structures; education, training and research; services for older people; and mandatory reporting. The general approach of the task force has been to push other agencies to take responsibility in relation to the problem and to develop their own protocols and procedures for responding to cases of abuse. This is the essence of the first recommendations of the task force.
The task force identified that difficulties are encountered because policies and procedures for agencies potentially involved in cases of abuse are inadequate. It concluded that there is a need for organisational procedures and principles for intervention, for interagency protocols and for effective co-ordination. Even with such policies in place, I think, at least initially, there needs to be a formal structure to co-ordinate these developments and to co-ordinate policy and program development and implementation. One of the key recommendations of the task force is to this effect. I indicate to the House that I have accepted that there should be such co-ordination. I will request the Consultative Committee on Ageing to establish a subcommittee to achieve such co-ordination and a new direction. The next group of recommendations concerns the development of professional courses at tertiary and post-graduate level and staff development for existing service providers. The task force believed that there should be further education on the following issues: views within the community about older people and ageing; the ageing process and dementia-related disorders; risk factors associated with abuse; and the legal rights of older people. It is also recommended that a training package be developed for all organisations which have contact with older people. In addition, research should be conducted on a number of aspects of abuse of older people to fill the gaps where current knowledge is limited. Issues such as the incidence and prevalence of abuse, the causes of abuse, links with domestic violence and the evaluation of appropriate intervention strategies all deserve further consideration.
In the next group of recommendations the discussion paper supports the view that consideration be given to services available to older people. This covers: an increased range of safe, flexible, supported accommodation for older people; development of
community services; and respite care. The final recommendation is that mandatory reporting of instances of abuse of older people not be adopted in New South Wales at present. This is a difficult question, but the view of the task force was that the arguments against the introduction of mandatory reporting are currently stronger than those supporting it. However, I am neither optimistic nor naive enough to pretend that the launch of a discussion paper will eliminate all the problems referred to today. In one sense the paper is a turning point and a signal that the Government is committed to tackling a difficult and complex question. Last week's launch was the start of raising public awareness about the existence of the problem and encouraging public participation in developing ways to tackle the problem. It is planned that there will be a three-month response period in which the task force will receive written comments and hold a series of consultations in both metropolitan and country locations. Input from all these sources will be taken into account by the task force and will be considered before its final report is prepared.
Although the current recommendations embody the views of the task force, it is acknowledged that these recommendations may need to be fine tuned in the light of comments from the public and the community. It is certainly hoped that there will be considerable public response to the recommendations. At last week's launch I publicly indicated my commitment to the recommendations which will result from the final report of the task force. In addition, a number of other approaches are being taken which will address the fundamental issues underlying the abuse of older people. Unfortunately, such abuse is dramatic evidence of the way older people are undervalued by people in our society. Earlier this week I launched the "Age Adds Value" public awareness campaign aimed at showing the importance of the skills which older people possess and how their experiences should be valued, especially at work. The Government is responding in a proactive way to this issue. Nonetheless, as one of the speakers at the launch stated, it is a community problem and one which presents challenges to us all. It is an issue which needs to be addressed across the board - in government and in the community. In fact, I think it has been passed over by the community as a whole for too long. I am pleased to be able to confidently advise the House that this Government is doing all it can to address this important issue. I commend the Hon. Beryl Evans for placing this matter on the notice paper and for giving honourable members an opportunity to express their views on a major community issue .
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE [3.8]: On behalf of the Call to Australia group I am pleased to support the concerns expressed by the Hon. Beryl Evans in this matter of public interest, that is, the increase of abuse of the elderly. I am sure many honourable members were shocked when they saw on television last week news reports showing the abuse of senior citizens. Some citizens were badly bruised, others were bleeding and yet others were suffering a degree of shock. I imagine that some felt embarrassment at having had this happen to them. Some elderly citizens were even unwilling to report these incidents as they felt that in some way they were at fault. It is best for this matter to be brought into the open. It is not clear why the violence is occurring, whether the tempers of relations may be inflamed by alcohol or affected by drugs or whether in some cases the relations abuse an elderly person so they can rob him and take his pension money or whatever it may be. I am reminded of the immortal words in the Bible, where it speaks about our responsibility to the elderly, and particularly the words in the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:12:
Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.
In other words, God expects us to honour our mother and father. I take that to extend to senior citizens. By doing that, a person who has a positive, caring attitude receives a blessing. Our society needs to move beyond the nuclear family, which has become one of the main models, to promote what I call the three-generation family, or the extended family - the three generations comprising the grandparents, their children, and then their children, the grandchildren. That would create a happier atmosphere in which the aged would feel they had a real role to play. Their role is recognised in other societies, particularly by Chinese society and other nations. In Western society the temptation is to push the aged to one side. I have just learnt that granny dumping has become widespread in the United States of America. Honourable members would have read reports of a child or a baby being dumped outside a church or a convent. Apparently, granny dumping occurs when relations who are fed up with an aged relation drive up in a car and dump the relation on the footpath outside a hospital or institution, hoping that someone in that hospital or institution will take care of the aged person.
There could be nothing more demoralising and hurtful to a senior citizen to be dumped in that way by a person on whom he is dependent. Our schools may have to conduct programs to educate young people to have a caring attitude and a sense of responsibility for the aged - which is obvious to people in our generation. That attitude appears to be diminishing, and the elderly are the ones who suffer. It is healthy for society to have the benefit of the wisdom, patience and love expressed by grandparents to their grandchildren and it is important that children have the elderly around them to learn an attitude of respect and some of the wisdom that elderly people can share with them. The Federal and State Governments should do more to give financial incentives and tax concessions to couples to build granny flats to provide accommodation for their parents. The granny flat could be a separate building or attached to the house. In many cases senior citizens wish to maintain their privacy and self-esteem yet be part of the family circle. The elderly should not simply be pushed in to their own room; they should have their own bathroom and toilet facilities and amenities so that they can prepare their own food.
People in the upper salary brackets can provide that type of accommodation but the working-class cannot. That is why I emphasise the need for the Government to review its policies and provide tax incentives and financial assistance. Councils could review their rates and other charges for elderly citizens. In recent times abuse of the elderly has become public. It has been growing in a similar way to child abuse and domestic violence where abuse of a wife by a husband or a defacto husband was not fully realised. The revelation of the hidden problem of abuse of the elderly brings a great deal of sadness to those who read about it. Leela Smith, the spokeswoman for the task force set up to protect the elderly from criminals but also from their relatives, made a number of statements in the Daily Telegraph Mirror of 9th January. The report read:
"There is some indication that it is a phenomenon of the late 80s and 90s like child abuse was in the 1970s," taskforce spokeswoman Leela Smith said. "For too long it has been society's hidden crime."
Ms Smith said the taskforce - which also includes pensioner groups, medical, academic and social workers - would assess the extent of crime against the increasing aged population.
It would also look at ways of raising community awareness about the abuse of elderly people and present a plan to tackle the issue, she said.
Ms Smith referred to similar developments in the United States of America and other places. The report continued:
"We want to help older people live safely in their homes free of violence, neglect and exploitation, economic or financial abuse."
Ms Smith said abuse of the elderly by relatives was possibly a symptom of stress on the part of the carer who found it difficult to cope with looking after an elderly person.
"So we have got to look at ways of helping the carers," she said.
That is the emphasis I wish to place on my remarks today. There must be support for the elderly and we must examine ways and means of assisting the carers so that they care for and do not reject the elderly or consider horrible solutions such as euthanasia, which has been promoted in some places. The elderly must be allowed to live with dignity in an atmosphere of love and care where they can maintain their self-esteem.
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY [3.17]: On behalf of the Australian Democrats I support the motion moved by the Hon. Beryl Evans. The recent spate of violent attacks on elderly citizens has aroused widespread condemnation, and rightly so. It may appear that there has been a startling increase in abuse of the elderly. However, I feel that that abuse has probably not so much increased but has become more visible. People are becoming more aware of a problem that has probably existed for many years but has been unreported. Regrettably, it continues largely to go unreported. That must be remedied. It is only in the past 10 years or so that elder abuse has become an accepted topic of research. It appears that elder abuse occurs in situations of dependency. The forms of abuse are many. They include physical abuse, the inflicting of physical pain or injury or physical coercion, psychological abuse, inflicting mental anguish, actions causing fear of violence or deprivation and feelings of shame, indignity or powerlessness, economic and financial abuse, the illegal or improper use of the older person's property or finances, neglect, failure to provide adequate food, shelter, clothing, medical or dental care and, worst of all, sexual assault or abuse.
It is a myth that physical abuse is the most common form of abuse. New research by Pillemer, quoted in an article by Joseph P. Shapiro in a United States News and World Report of January revealed that in Canada financial abuse was the primary problem in 50 per cent of cases. The typical abuser in this case was a distant relative or acquaintance. Why does elder abuse occur? Three reasons have been advanced. The first is the psychopathological model which imputes some sickness to the abuser. For example, they may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol or have some mental illness. The second is the socio-environmental model, which directs us to social and material factors. In this theory it is held that abuse is linked to poverty and associated issues such as bad housing, homelessness, unemployment, racial discrimination and absence of relief for the carer. These matters were all mentioned by the Hon. Beryl Evans. Obviously all these matters lead to stress for the carers or the older person and a need to give vent to feelings of frustration. However, the most crucial model to our understanding the problem of elder abuse is the cultural model, that is, gender and power relationships within society.
Regrettably, in Western society we tend to devalue the elderly. This is even more apparent when our present popular culture glorifies youth. In order to reduce elder abuse and to help both the carers and the elderly dependent on them we should remember that the older person has the right to determine for himself or herself whether to accept intervention and help. Older people are not children and their decision-making capacity must be respected. Families must be kept together so far as possible. Evidence from the United States shows that many families have learnt to cope, in spite of what Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile said about granny dumping a few moments ago. They have learnt to deal
with stress-causing abuse because they are offered solutions to separation. However, the safety and health of the older person must be paramount. A move to another environment may be necessary if the family is indifferent or threatening. Emphasis should be placed on community-based services, rather than old people's homes or institutions because abuse can occur also in institutions. Cases of such abuse have been reported in Australia. Indeed, to be moved from the familiar home surroundings can be the cause of great distress in itself to many older people.
We must remember, too, that inappropriate intervention may be worse than none at all. Promises of unrealistic support can harm relationships and too much help can aggravate the situation. Professionals should avoid apportioning blame because the relationship between the caring abuser and the elderly victim is already extremely sensitive. The majority of older people are properly cared for by responsible family members or competent service providers. However, according to various studies in America, between 3 per cent and 5 per cent of people more than 65 years of age are victims. Initial studies in Australia indicate that results are similar here. Of course, further study needs to be done to gauge the extent of the problem, bearing in mind that it is likely to be underreported because of continuing dependence, a wish to keep family stress private or a fear of being put in an institution. Nevertheless, it is not believed that there should be any need for mandatory reporting because of the overriding need to respect the rights of the elderly, and these rights should be paramount.
Community care workers, geriatric and rehabilitation services, community-based organisations, hospitals, the police, medical practitioners, solicitors, chamber magistrates, the Guardianship Board, the Protective Commissioner and the Public Guardian all have a role to play in the detection, prevention and investigation of abuse. A set of well developed and consistent guidelines is needed to help support systems and carers to respond appropriately. At the moment little is in place and much depends on individual discretion. Inappropriate or no action may be taken; abuse may not be detected; laws may be underutilised and the views of older people may not be taken into account. I wholeheartedly support the call from the Task Force on Abuse of Older People for the need to train staff, the need for organisational procedures and principles for intervention in cases of abuse and the need for interagency protocols. Indeed, I support the task force recommendations in relation to the need for specialist government structures to examine the problem; education, training and research on elder abuse; community education; supported accommodation; increased funding for community services to older people and priority of access to respite care.
In conclusion I emphasise that three priorities exist. They are: the need for immediate access to respite care so that families can continue to be supportive without themselves suffering undue stress; the need for increased availability of community services such as Home and Community Care, home nursing, Meals on Wheels and other leisure group activities which can very well be carried out by unemployed volunteers. There is also a need for a wider range of supported accommodation, in particular, for those living on the pension, and suitable low cost housing is essential. We must stress that age adds value and use every means at our disposal to make all old people retain both their independence and feelings of self worth. That is something that those of us who are growing older begin to realise more and more every day.
The Hon. J. R. JOHNSON [3.26]: Our ageing population is indeed our national treasure. Those people pass on the heritage. They are the ones who pass on the craft skills and oral history of our suburbs, towns, cities and States. They are the sheer joy of life. That is because those people have lived life to the full. In its report of yesterday
the National Office on Statistics stated that as at the end of this year this State will have approximately six million people. Over the years men and women have made nations great. Many institutions have had good and noble men and women in charge. They were venerable in their age. During and after the horrendous devastation of the last war leaders came forward; men such as Adenaur of Germany, De Gasperi of Italy, Schuman, de Gaulle, Sparke, Manny Shinwell and Churchill, the majority of men who played great roles in the establishment of the European Coal and Steel Community which ultimately led to the establishment of the European Economic Community.
In the 1950s a man 78 years of age was elected to lead the oldest institution on earth. I speak of Pope John XXIII, who changed attitudes, and sowed seeds that still flower today. He saw a breaking down of prejudices. Our aged population needs many things. I, for one, am indebted to the Minister for Health and Community Services for the foresight of the proposals he said he intends to pursue. In our society one sees old people in homes where the lawns have not been mown for some time, the beautiful roses are no longer tended and the creepers have crept into everything Those aged people are no longer able to look after their own establishments. It should be possible to entice all of the churches, as one institution, to provide a group of men and women in their own parishes to adopt the buddy system so that those groups could call on the aged, those who are semi-housebound, those who cannot even go to the mailbox to collect their mail without great effort or cannot go to buy milk when milk is not delivered. More than physical abuse takes place with the aged. We should do everything we can to alleviate this problem. Consider the products that are on sale. Old people often say that one of their greatest difficulties is turning off taps. Taps with four prongs are easy for the aged to turn off. The attractive looking ones are smooth and glossy, and when one's hands are wet - and this is so even for a younger person - it is difficult to turn off those taps.
The Randwick Labour Club has a considerable number of elderly members. The water rates of the club kept increasing. In the toilets the taps over the wash basins were left running. When the taps were changed the water rates decreased; the elderly were able to turn off the new taps. No doubt the Hon. J. H. Jobling could tell us about other small things, such as the security caps on bottles of medicine and the immeasurable difficulty the aged have in taking them off. Even with the aid of a magnifying glass I cannot even see the small writing that some chemists put on small tubes or bottles. Those are some of the things that must be considered. The putting out of the garbage bin and recyclable materials presents terrible difficulties for some aged people. If a buddy system were adopted, somebody in the street would call in to the homes of the elderly or telephone them each day or second day. Sometimes elderly people cannot remember what they wanted to tell you. If every one of them had a small tape recorder that can be bought for about $25, that would be of great assistance. They could be helped to change light globes and visit relatives and friends. Some elderly persons become greatly distressed because they cannot bend down to pick up the morning paper. It would be of enormous help if someone were prepared to do those little tasks for them. Some of the elderly are too proud to ask for such assistance.
A real problem in our society relates to the elderly migrants who have been widowed or who, for other reasons, live on their own. Those who came here late in their lives and do not have good language skills have terrible difficulty filling in forms. The tensions are increased for those who still have private insurance and receive numerous doctors' bills or have been to hospital and the bills continue to arrive months later. They think the bills will never stop coming. They need assistance to complete those terrible forms that are required to be filled out. Assistance should be given also to those who decided to move from their local areas to the Gold Coast or the Sunshine
Coast and stayed for four or five years until one of the partners died. They sold their properties in the city or suburbs where they were known and had friends and relatives and familiar surroundings and cannot return because of the greater cost of housing. I regret I have no further time available to me to speak on this matter.
The Hon. D. F. MOPPETT [3.35]: I should indicate to the House that I have the confidence of my colleagues who will not speak in this debate in congratulating the Hon. Beryl Evans on bringing this important subject before the House today. The debate has taken an interesting course. Perhaps it is time to wind back to the central point. Abuse of the elderly can take many forms, as the Hon. Beryl Evans said. There is direct physical violence as well as psychological abuse which can take the form of threats or verbal intimidation. The subject of swearing as a summary offence will be brought before the House at a later stage and I shall speak on that matter. It has been made clear to me from my ordinary experience and from my participation in the work of the Standing Committee on Social Issues that many elderly people are extremely concerned about the abuse they receive from small minorities in the community who systematically terrorise them verbally using language described simply as swearing but which is associated with aggressive, terrorising activities. This argument can be extended further to what I might call the law of passive abuse, that is, the neglect of one's duty as a carer, which is possibly more widespread but again at a lower level; the indifference of the community to the needs of the elderly, which is a significant matter; and one other factor that I do not think was covered by the Hon. Beryl Evans, and of which honourable members should be reminded in a debate of this nature, the problems caused by segregating the elderly and being patronising towards them. That is another form of abuse.
When issues such as these hit the social agenda researchers strive for larger and larger figures - 25,000 to 30,000 possible elderly victims are mentioned today. One has to be very careful of net widening, of trying to incorporate so many categories of abuse that we fail to come to grips with the really important issues which are affecting elderly people acutely. Factors such as neglect, and some of the solutions proposed, particularly by the Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby, concentrated far too much on general issues of social welfare systems whose inadequacies could equally have been applied to many other segments of society and really did not relate to this very important issue of the elderly. We should concentrate on the issues that are before us. Another factor I wish to refer to in this debate is the country versus city aspect. A tendency exists to sensationalise the abuse of the elderly and highlight it with cases such as the granny killer, a pathological person who preys on the elderly, and the granny dumping about which we spoke; but these are the extremes and, fortunately, affect only a minor number of people. Pathological homicide can involve other sections of the community.
Many people will be surprised to learn that abuse of the elderly is not confined to the big cities; it is not some product of the melting pot of modern cities brought about by roving gangs terrorising elderly people. It is as much a problem in the country. As I mentioned earlier the evidence on juvenile justice taken in the country by the social issues committee was a shock to us all. We were told of organised robbery and of terrorisation of elderly people who lived in group housing and were unable, because of their diminished faculties or frailty, to contact the police immediately. They were subjected, in some cases to robbery, but worst of all was terrorisation. Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile will recall the people who believed they had no alternative but to sit in the dark all night, every night, to avoid bringing themselves to the attention of people who were roaming the streets and got some sort of kick from terrorising the elderly by knocking on their doors, rattling their windows, ringing them up indiscriminately on public phones and then entering their premises to terrorise them.
We have to come to grips with the problems which are emerging in our society involving physical assaults on the elderly, as a particular target group, in their homes, on the streets, and in public places. Psychologically and mentally abused elderly people are being almost forced to contract from interaction with society because in parks, in railways, in public transport, at dusk and in the night the elderly find themselves in a threatening environment in which they are not prepared to risk their safety and security. This is an alarming trend in criminal activity. I do not agree with the proposition that the increased statistic reflects the fact that we have suddenly become aware of the abuse of the elderly and are better measuring the amount of that abuse. I believe it is increasing and it is a matter about which we should be concerned. It is perhaps a product of factors in our society; the changing age profile has been mentioned. Growing materialism in our society is also a problem and, as the Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti has mentioned, the recession has placed such a strain on families struggling to keep together that they react irrationally, in a way they will later regret. That is something for which the Federal Government should be absolutely ashamed.
We need to be very careful about the way in which we talk about these programs. We are a strange society. We speak about child care as something which can be hived out to other people instead of being the principal responsibility of the parents. We also say that our elderly people should be passed to professional groups to be looked after, instead of being looked after by the children of these elderly. It may not relate to the actual delivery of the care, but to ensure that the elderly are in good care and that they are secure, psychologically, in the surroundings in which they find themselves. These important issues should be considered by this House. Some important initiatives have been taken. This should not be an idle debate. We should recognise what has been done and ensure that the measures taken are reinforced. Whatever initiatives may be imposed through the release of the discussion paper, on which I would like to support and for which I congratulate the Minister and all those involved, other things have happened.
In country areas alcohol free zones have gone a long way to restoring propriety in public places and confidence in the elderly and other vulnerable elements in society. They can move into public places and not feel harassed and intimidated by the milieu when alcohol is being consumed and offensive behaviour and swearing is allowed to take place. This confidence has increased following the amendments to the Summary Offences Act. Neighbourhood Watch has been a wonderful initiative that should be encouraged and extended. At Cobar, where recently I helped celebrate Senior Citizens Week, it was wonderful to see how the whole community got together. I was in the company of a young lady who had just left school, the shire president's daughter, Peggy Yench, and the way in which she moved amongst those senior citizens and other members of the community was an example to us all. It was an indication that society is not in some hopeless terminal state, it is simply a matter of encouraging those who want to do good works and are capable of doing that. In our broad education scheme we should ensure that that appreciation of the elderly is brought to the fore.
The Hon. BERYL EVANS [3.44], in reply: I wish to thank all honourable members who have taken part in this debate. It is an important matter and one which we need to be aware of. A number of relevant matters have been raised by the various speakers. Mention was made of the old people's homes. Nothing breaks my heart more than when I go to an old people's home and find them sitting with nothing to do and nobody interested in them, nobody caring about them. During Senior Citizens Week, I was doing the very opposite to what I have done today, that is, being positive about being old and saying: "We are not sick. We have a lot to offer. We are important people. We have to be able to do things". The interesting thing about Senior Citizens Week was
the variety of information available to people but the difficulty in communicating that to the elderly. I opened the Information Expo at Sydney Town Hall where information was available about contacting other people and community centres. Yesterday I visited the Combined Pensioners Association where the problems which the House has discussed today were also raised. We spoke about what the association is doing, and about how it is reaching people. Another interesting organisation which I visited a few weeks ago was the retired senior and volunteer program. Elderly retired people are found voluntary work to match their expertise. It was wonderful to see four or five elderly men who had been placed in the forestry department planting seedlings. They told me they had never had so much fun in their lives and felt they were really doing something worthwhile. These kinds of programs will stop abuse of the elderly because people with expertise are being given something to do.
I will never forget assisting with Meals On Wheels in the country on one occasion. In those houses were lonely people who were not interested in the meal; that was not the important thing. The important thing was that someone called that day; they had someone to talk to, even for a few minutes. It was sad to see how those elderly people grasped that time with the Meals On Wheels people and tried to make them stay a little longer. This lack of caring for the elderly is part of the abuse that I am talking about, not only physical abuse, it is abuse by neglect and by being uncaring for older people. It is important that we reach out to them. At the launching of the task force paper the other day where a very large number of people were all connected with this problem, the Minister said "It is not the answer but it is a start". We have to make a start so that somewhere along the line we can reach out to people, find out what is going on out there, and by doing this get to the problem and see how we can help. In this age in which we live there is no reason for anyone to be neglected in this world and there is no reason why people should be left on their own to look after themselves.
There is also a great need for the mixing of generations. One story I was told the other day, with which I was fascinated, concerned a primary school near a retirement village. The teacher decided it would be lovely for the children to visit the elderly in the retirement village. The children were told to choose any person they liked and talk to that person about what he or she had done and what his or her life had been. They then had to return to school and write an essay about it. When they had all done that they invited the older people to come to the primary school and hear their stories. It was so successful that it has now become almost a monthly event. The children visit the older people and have a talk about what they have done and then the older people come back and have afternoon tea with the children. I feel this is the answer, communication, reaching out between generations, making elderly people feel wanted and needed. As I said earlier, old people are important, they are not all sick, they have much to contribute and they are worth a great deal to this nation and to this country. Two of the Ministers in this House launched the task force. I hope it will bring to people an awareness of problems for the elderly, so that we are able to help. I am particularly interested in the idea of housing options under which compatible people can live in a home environment, not in an institution. Life in an institution is one of the most depressing things we can offer our old people even though they do not have the traumas young people might find in living together. Most older people agree among themselves. I repeat my belief that old people have an inalienable right to live safely in their own homes free from violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation.
Discussion of matter of public interest concluded.
GOVERNMENT LEGISLATIVE PROGRAM
Debate resumed from 17th March.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI [3.55]: As I was concluding yesterday I had reached the stage where I was discussing the legislative program of the Government and the proposed change to the Medical Practice Act which the Premier has promised to bring to Parliament for review.
The Hon. J. R. Johnson: Did you get it in writing?
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI: Absolutely. It is in the Hansard by the Premier in another place and by the Leader of the House that there is to be a review of the Medical Practice Act, something that has been called for for quite a long time by the profession itself and which will, in a major way, benefit the people of New South Wales in the provision of quality reliable services by health professionals, particularly doctors.
The Hon. J. R. Johnson: Reliable and legal.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI: All of the above. While I was speaking yesterday I mentioned some outrageous comments by Mr Bernie Fraser, the Chairman of the Reserve Bank. One thing I forgot to mention is that Mr Fraser was hoping for the end of the recession. Today the figures came in with a positive result of 0.3 of 1 per cent. Having plumbed the depths they are now again up to 3.1 per cent, but in the cruel light of day, on a corrected basis, minus 0.1 per cent. That is news for both our Prime Minister and Mr Fraser, that wonderful guru who is saying that the end of the recession is nigh and is all over. It is not over. The corrected figure is minus 0.1 per cent. We hate being gloomy about this but we have to be realistic. The important knowledge is that there will not be a change in that most desperate effect of the recession, unemployment, because for the last seven quarters there has been a continuing decrease in the actual level of investment as a percentage of GDP in this country. How can we get employment without investment? How can we expect to increase jobs for people if there is no investment? Mr Fraser swept that under the carpet: that was not in the wonderful "It's all over" speech, nor reflected in the wonderful speech on page 1 of the Daily Telegraph Mirror and not reflected in the report by the Sydney Morning Herald. I had cause to ring up the various journalists and editors responsible for the report and they were most apologetic about it. Mr Dawkins wrote it and they swallowed it hook, line and sinker. I suppose that is where Mr Fraser got most of his speech.
To get back to the issue that is truly at hand, the Government's legislative program, it is important to note that the Government is taking important steps to ensure the continuing development of high quality health care services in New South Wales. I look forward to a record responsible budget trying to catch up with the $2 billion deficit of neglect by 12 years of Labor. We need innovative programs now that we have a deep depression. Not very many people can afford to buy and sell homes, and stamp duty revenues have generally collapsed. More importantly we have faced the issue of how to build when there are no funds. I take my hat off to the innovation, creativeness and forward-looking steps taken by my colleague the Minister for Health and Community Services, the Hon. J. P. Hannaford, who looked at the issue and said, "How can I provide the people of Port Macquarie with a first-class health service and first-class hospital with first-class facilities, not just replace what is there and which has been run down and unfunded by Labor even though it was a top priority for 12 years? How can I increase the level of services, the number of beds and the number of services generally
to the people of Port Macquarie? "How can I do this?". He did something intelligent - he looked to see what other ways there were of running public hospitals other than by himself in the time-honoured way.
The Hon. J. R. Johnson: He usually does intelligent things.
The Hon. B. P. V. PEZZUTTI: Exactly. I thank the Hon. J. R. Johnson, a wise man in his own right. So we find the Minister for Health and Community Services looking to the private sector to actually build, design, construct and operate under licence and supervision by the Minister and the department, and under the close scrutiny of the people of Port Macquarie, in deep consultation with the people of Port Macquarie. This is a process designed to deliver high quality health care services for the people of Port Macquarie. What happens? All we get is Bob Carr and Andrew Refshauge fighting about it. The Leader of the Opposition has written a discussion paper on it. There is nothing wrong with privatisation except that, if this Government does it, the Opposition will criticise it.
The Hon. M. R. Egan: Absolute nonsense. The Government's advertisements tell us that privatisation will lead to improved health services - but instead it will privatise the health services.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI: No, we are talking about individual projects, not the whole policy of privatisation. That policy is totally supported.
The Hon. M. R. Egan: The Government is saying that privatisation is to assist the core services of government and then it flogs off the core services. The Government is privatising to pay for the waste and bungling, to pay for this year's Government deficit, full stop.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI: So, if I get it right from the honourable member, he does not approve in any way of selling off any of the assets of the State. Is that what he says?
The Hon. M. R. Egan: Never said that in my life.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI: Good. So it is a matter of degree?
The Hon. M. R. Egan: No, it is a matter of common sense and of applying the proper criteria and not simply the narrow bottom line.
The ACTING-PRESIDENT: Order! Pursuant to sessional orders, business is interrupted for the taking of questions.
QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
MEMBER FOR NORTH SHORE: GOVERNMENT CAR
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: My question without notice is addressed to the Minister for Police and Emergency Services and Vice-President of the Executive Council, as Leader of the Government, representing the Premier, Treasurer and Minister for Ethnic Affairs. Why does the honourable member for North Shore, Mr Phillip Smiles, continue to have the use of a government car, contrary to the statements made by the
Deputy Premier, Mr Murray, at the time that Mr Smiles stood down as assistant Treasurer? Is it a fact that Treasury has requested the return of the car and that Mr Smiles has declined to accede to that request? Has Mr Smiles warned the Government that, if he is deprived of a car and his assistant Minister's salary, he will cash in his parliamentary superannuation, resign from the Parliament, and cause a by-election in North Shore?
The Hon. E. P. PICKERING: I am surprised the Leader of the Opposition has asked this question of me when he knows full well that a question in identical terms was asked in another place only today. I will not become involved in the matter as I know the Premier answered it today and a similar question was answered yesterday. One wonders if honourable members opposite listen or take notice. Instead of a sober act in relation to any issue the Opposition might raise in this place, it goes for the bottom of the barrel. I am reminded of the way in which it acts as an employer. I remember night after night that poor Donna McKenna - the hauntingly beautiful Donna, I used to refer to her as - would sit here, slaving her backside off for this lot opposite. She gave them all the advice in the world, worked doubler after doubler without overtime, and yet I was the only one in this Chamber who took any notice of her or was at all appreciative of her presence. I thought her presence was a great adornment to the Chamber, and I said so. What did the Opposition do after this marvellous amount of work? It gave her the sack.
The Hon. Dr. B. P. W. Pezzutti: After she had a baby.
The Hon. E. P. PICKERING: In the middle of her maternity leave, the Opposition told her that she was finished. Had the coalition parties done that, there would have been hell to pay. Had any private sector employer sacked a woman in the middle of maternity leave -
The Hon. Ann Symonds: Did the Minister not notice that we made a fuss about it?
The Hon. E. P. PICKERING: As a matter of fact, I did not notice. No, I did not notice that you made a fuss, but I am delighted to hear that you did.
The Hon. Dr Meredith Burgmann: She was reinstated.
The Hon. E. P. PICKERING: Was she reinstated? Poor old Armon! He worked here and helped Opposition members no end, but they speared him as well. What happened to the hauntingly beautiful Donna? We appointed her as a commissioner in the Industrial Commission where she will be a great adornment.
The Hon. Dr Meredith Burgmann: Oh, stop talking sexist rubbish!
The Hon. E. P. PICKERING: It is not sexist in any shape or form. At least she has a job, which is more than she got from members opposite. These are issues of great moment. The way the Labor Government treated its employees raised important matters of industrial law. I should have thought the Leader of the Opposition would ask a sensible question instead of being involved in petty stupidity about the employment conditions of a member in the other place.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI: I address my question without notice to the Minister for Health and Community Services, representing the Minister for the Environment. Is the Minister aware that complaints have been made to the Environment
Protection Authority about the operation of Wilcocks Quarry at Ashby in Maclean shire? What is occurring with this matter?
The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD: I am advised by the Minister for the Environment that two complaints have been made to the Grafton office of the EPA about the operations of the quarry mentioned in the honourable member's question. The name of one of the complainants is not known but that person contacted the authority early this month. The second complainant, who made a complaint during late January or early February, was Councillor Witzig, a member of Maclean Shire Council. The EPA and Maclean Shire Council are dealing with matters arising out of the complaint. As issues arise which may include the legality of the operation, I am advised that the council is to consider legal advice on this matter in the near future. As these complaints appear to have been initiated primarily by Councillor Witzig, she will have every opportunity to continue her pursuit of these issues through the council. The EPA is dealing with its genuine legal responsibilities and will not be drawn into the municipal politics which may be involved.
NEWSAGENCY INDUSTRY DEREGULATION
The Hon. B. H. VAUGHAN: I direct my question without notice to the Minister for School Education and Youth Affairs, representing the Minister for State Development and Minister for Tourism. Is it a fact that the New South Wales Government proposes to deregulate the newsagency industry?
The Hon. VIRGINIA CHADWICK: I thank the Deputy Leader of the Opposition for his question, which I will refer to my colleague for a detailed reply.
GOLDSBROUGH MORT BUILDING LYRIC THEATRE PROPOSAL
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE: I wish to ask the Minister for Planning and Minister for Energy a question without notice. Is it a fact that the Titchfield Organisation has announced a $150 million plan to convert the Goldsbrough Mort building at Darling Harbour into a 12-storey, 2,000 seat lyric theatre, based on London's largest theatre, the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane, with restaurants and hotel accommodation? Will the Government give urgent approval and support for this important project to enable the staging of the international blockbuster "Miss Saigon" as well as the "Phantom of the Opera" without the need for a casino, according to Titchfield's personal guarantees to me?
The Hon. R. J. WEBSTER: Yes, it is true that such a proposal is now before the Darling Harbour Authority. This morning I was informed by the authority that the proposal will go before the Darling Harbour Board at its next meeting. On the surface it is a very impressive proposal and one which, as the honourable member rightly says, were it to come to fruition, would enable the very successful show "Miss Saigon" to come to Sydney, along with other potentially successful productions. Sydney needs a lyric theatre and this proposal would provide that solution without the need for a casino. The honourable member is correct in that assertion. I can assure the House that the proposal will be given very serious consideration by the Darling Harbour Board in the near future.
AIDS SUFFERER EVE VAN GRAFHORST COMPENSATION
The Hon. ELAINE NILE: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Health and Community Services. Is it a fact that nine-year-old Eve Van Grafhorst, who contracted HIV-AIDS from the New South Wales Red Cross blood transfusion
service when she lived near Gosford, is now in the last stages of the AIDS disease? She now resides in Hastings, New Zealand. Will the Government contact Eve's mother and make a generous, emergency, ex-gratia payment for little Eve and her parents so that she can have some peace and security in the last months of her life, if possible with her family and friends in New South Wales?
The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD: The Hon. Elaine Nile will recall that I made an announcement of the Government's position in relation to medically acquired AIDS. The honourable member will recall that, when I made that announcement, I said that people who acquired AIDS whilst living in New South Wales were entitled to apply for assistance. I recollect that Eve came into that category. In defining the eligibility categories I recognised that there were people who had left New South Wales - some to live in other countries or in other States - in order to obtain a better lifestyle or to be closer to medical assistance. Because of the expansion of that category, Eve and her family would be entitled to make an application for assistance. There should be no reason why she should not be contacted and notified of that. I will take that matter into consideration and draw it to the attention of my department.
TAFE SENIOR STUDENTS SUBJECT CHOICES
The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for School Education and Youth Affairs. With retention rates continuing to increase, what is being done, particularly in Sydney's west, to increase subject choices for senior students?
The Hon. VIRGINIA CHADWICK: I thank the Hon. Dr Marlene Goldsmith for her important question and I am pleased to say that she is correct: retention rates are increasing right across New South Wales. Latest figures available from the department, based on 1992 enrolment figures, show that 67 per cent of government school students are staying on to year 12. This is an all-time high. The present retention rate is 8 per cent higher than the 1991 retention rate. I would be the first to agree that the rates are not high enough, but this Government believes they are climbing dramatically every year and the Finn target of 95 per cent will be reached. Before honourable members opposite show any concern about what I believe is a pleasing increase in the retention rate, it is worth recalling that as recently as 1985 - when the Labor Government was in power in New South Wales - 38 per cent of government school students stayed on to complete their higher school certificate. The rate was 38 per cent in 1985 and it is 67 per cent at present - not a bad improvement in a relatively short period.
I agree with the Hon. Franca Arena. Thanks to the recession that her colleagues said we had to have, high youth unemployment has reduced work opportunities nationwide. So it is understandable that many students are staying on for the HSC. Many students returning to school today, given different circumstances, might not have stayed on previously. I, unlike Paul Keating, am not trying to take personal credit for the recession. Senior schools in Sydney's west have had high increases in the number of students returning this year. This is a positive step. Finishing secondary education certainly improves their life chances and their employment opportunities. Many of the initiatives have been undertaken to try to cater for the differing needs of this different group of young people returning to school. Increased funding by 15 per cent for joint secondary school TAFE courses this year represents a Government investment of a record $7.7 million. That will see about 11,400 students studying for approximately 740 joint school TAFE courses. Additionally, in Sydney's west the establishment of St Mary's
Senior High School - a matter that I know is dear to the hearts of the Hon. Dr Marlene Goldsmith and the Hon. J. F. Ryan - has provided a tremendous boost to that region, as has the introduction of selective high schools at Penrith and specialist senior high schools, such as the Plumpton school for performing arts, Doonside for technology and Westfield in Fairfield for sports. But the latest initiative is a sharing of resources at three high schools in Sydney's west, namely, Mount Druitt, Rooty Hill and Plumpton. This is a most exciting and grand initiative which will allow students to undertake subjects that might not have been otherwise available due to a lack of numbers at each of the schools.
Through this initiative the senior curriculum co-operative students can now travel between those three schools for different classes and thus expand and enhance their subject choice. In essence, students are amalgamated for classes in subjects at schools that did not have enough students to form a class. Schools have aligned their timetables so that two half-day blocks are available to facilitate this interchange and amalgamation of classes. It is a great proposal. Preparations are being made to enable students who wish to study subjects to have every opportunity to do so. Students could travel between schools in their own transport or a taxi could be arranged for groups of three or four. The principals of the three schools are trying to make better use of resources available through the cluster system. They are showing other schools how it can be done. I am pleased that in Sydney's west and southwest so many imaginative programs have been undertaken to enhance educational opportunities for children in those regions. Plans are under way to send physics students from Mount Druitt to Rooty Hill. The same schools are considering sharing music resources. The scheme has been trialed on an informal basis. Developments this year will enable organisational detail to be bedded down and the interchange of students between schools will become part of the normal school choices at those three schools and, I hope, elsewhere.
DEPARTMENT OF COMMUNITY SERVICES CLIENT INFORMATION DATABASE
The Hon. R. D. DYER: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Health and Community Services. Is the Department of Community Services to commence in the near future the operation of a client database containing sensitive personal information regarding clients dealing with the department? Will this proposed database be accessed by all departmental staff? Is it the Government's intention not to advise people that information concerning them is to be recorded in the database? What involvement, if any, has the Privacy Committee had in the development of this proposal? What controls or safeguards are being built into the proposed system?
The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD: I am pleased that the Hon. R. D. Dyer is taking time to find out what is occurring in the department. He is seeking to acquaint himself with developments in the department. He has referred to the database commencing in the near future. He would be aware that the client database has been in place for years. That database is one of the most sophisticated information tools available within government; in fact, it might even have been commenced during the period that Mr Walker was Minister. A computer information base represents clients files. A number of the department's clients tend to be itinerant. A client who comes to the department for assistance will be able to be given immediate assistance because departmental officers have access to this database. To gain access to a particular file one must overcome a significant layer of protective mechanisms. No one can gain access until authorisation is received from the originating area, and certain authorisations are needed to get into the file. The department is quite aware of the significance of being able to keep totally confidential, virtually on a need-to-know basis, the client's data within the file.
Departmental staff have access to the computer system. They do not have access to the client's information unless they are specifically authorised to get access to that information and again prior need to have access to the level of information, in order to provide either additional information or to carry out research. To the best of my knowledge, the clients are not notified, because the file is the paper file of a client. Instead of having paper files moving all over the place, we have the computerised file. The movement of information will be the same as the movement of a file on a database. I am not aware whether the Privacy Committee has been informed, but if the honourable member is still concerned about that, I shall be happy to obtain that information. If the honourable member wishes to gain further information on the operation of the system, I am more than happy for him to go to the department or to a district office and gain direct information, as I did, on the operation of the file system and how it is able to be utilised to provide information and assistance to clients.
The Hon. R. T. M. BULL: Will the Minister for Planning and Minister for Energy advise honourable members what measures he is proposing to take to ensure the continued operation of quarries in New South Wales following the recent Court of Appeal decision in Vaughan Taylor v. David Mitchell-Melcann Pty Limited?
The Hon. R. J. WEBSTER: The Hon. R. T. M. Bull has asked a question that is germane to the question asked earlier by the Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti about quarries. The recent decision in the Court of Appeal has raised the issue of the continued operation of quarries in New South Wales. Though many quarries began operation before planning controls were put in place, the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act provides for savings provisions for these developments. However, in 1986 the Parliament amended the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act to qualify the savings provisions, limiting their effect to development in actual use at the time a planning instrument requiring consent came into force. The effect of this amendment is that some existing quarries are operating illegally. That was highlighted in the recent Court of Appeal decision referred to by the honourable member. Though it is accepted that this type of development should be subject to contemporary environmental and planning requirements, clearly action needs to be taken to protect existing quarries.
Quarry operators affected by this provision will need time to prepare a development application and environmental impact statement, which are now necessary for their continued expansion. I have asked the Department of Planning to urgently prepare a mechanism to provide a period in which existing quarry operators can take the opportunity to meet the requirements of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act and any relevant planning instruments. In particular, I have asked the department to prepare a State environmental planning policy to legitimise those operations that currently may be in breach of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act. Additionally, the policy will provide for the continued operations for a specified time period without the need for planning consent. That will allow affected quarry operators time to satisfy the requirements of the Act without fear of legal action being taken against them. Though the Government wishes to avoid the situation in which quarry operators are perceived to be acting against the public interest by failing to comply with planning requirements, consideration has to be given to the time industry needs to adjust to the changed circumstances. Without the proposed protection, the viability of many of the State's sand and gravel quarries is threatened. That is totally unacceptable in the present economic climate and may lead to grave difficulties in the Government's road construction program and building programs.
LAND RATING ANOMALIES
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Planning and Minister for Energy, representing the Minister for Local Government and Minister for Cooperatives. In view of recent articles in the Sydney Morning Herald highlighting the anomalies resulting from the latest rounds of revaluations by the New South Wales Valuer-General, will the Minister confirm that in some areas of New South Wales council rates have risen by more than 50 per cent in 1992? Is it the intention of the Government to look for a more equitable system of rating than land values? Will the Government agree that basing rates on inflated land values taken at the height of the property boom bears no relation to the cost of services provided by local councils? Further, will the Government agree that the current system unjustly penalises some ratepayers at the expense of others, even though both may use and receive the same services, whatever the value of their land?
The ACTING-PRESIDENT: Order! Before the Minister answers, the Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby will remember that when she asked a question last week I commented about the length of that question. In future the Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby should make her questions more brief.
The Hon. R. J. WEBSTER: I listened with great interest to the honourable member's question. Though I shall seek from my colleague detailed answers to the questions she has asked, I must say that her speech sounded much like the submission made to the rating inquiry by the New South Wales Farmers Association. Such a speech by the honourable member is somewhat amazing. I am not sure what she favours. Is it a speech in favour of a poll tax or a community charge? Is it a speech against property-based rating? The honourable member may choose to answer those questions in the fullness of time. However, I shall seek from my colleague the Minister for Local Government and Minister for Cooperatives answers to the matters she has raised.
MINISTERIAL ADVERTISING GUIDELINES
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: I ask my question of the Minister for Police and Emergency Services and Vice-President of the Executive Council, representing the Premier, Treasurer and Minister for Ethnic Affairs. What guidelines exist governing the process by which a Minister or his staff place an advertisement in the press in the name of or authorised by the department? In particular, would it constitute a breach of proper procedure if the department authorised an advertisement prepared by the Minister or his staff without seeing its contents and did not see the text of the advertisement until it appeared in the press?
The Hon. E. P. PICKERING: I am unaware of the specifics alluded to by the honourable member. Without those specifics it would be difficult for me to comment. Obviously, I do not have all the guidelines available to me at the moment. I believe they are worthy of some consideration down the track.
PARLIAMENT HOUSE CHILD MINDING FACILITY
The Hon. BERYL EVANS: My question is directed to you, Mr Acting-President. Will you, the President and Mr Speaker consider the possibility of having in this Parliament a baby minding cum small child facility as not only do we have members now who are mothers in this place but we have a lot of staff also doing it?
The ACTING-PRESIDENT: Order! I am not sure what the honourable member means by "a lot of staff also doing it". I am certainly aware that there are mothers among members of staff, particularly on the Standing Committee on Social Issues, and among members of Parliament. The honourable member for Port Macquarie today became the proud mother of a 9 pound 13 ounce son. The matter has exercised the collective minds of the staff, the President and Mr Speaker and will be addressed in the future.
LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL MEMBERS' TERMS
The Hon. J. R. JOHNSON: Does the Minister for Police and Emergency Services and Vice-President of the Executive Council recall assuring this House on 24th March last year that members of the Legislative Council whose terms were shortened by Government legislation and who had not attained seven years' service would be deemed as having done so? As a mnemonic I refer the Minister to page 1376 of the Hansard of that day. Did the Minister say at that time, "That shows how benevolent we are"? Why has the Minister not honoured that undertaking to our former colleague, the Hon. Marie Bignold?
The Hon. E. P. PICKERING: The Hon. J. R. Johnson has to understand the context in which that comment was made. This is something with which honourable members on the crossbenches would be able to assist me. When that legislation was negotiated through the House I believe it was the Hon. Dr Marlene Goldsmith who first drew the matter to my attention and then the Hon. R. S. L. Jones pointed out that one of the consequences of the legislation was that members who were to come up for re-election in the next triennium could as a result of the legislation, complete their seven years' service and hence be short, by a very short while, for their superannuation benefits. Because that was of vital interest - I think in particular the Hon. R. S. L. Jones was affected by it -
The Hon. R. S. L. Jones: It will not affect me. It could have been the Hon. Elaine Nile.
The Hon. Elaine Nile: No.
The Hon. E. P. PICKERING: The Hon. R. S. L. Jones raised the matter. An undertaking was given in the House by me that those members in that triennium - and that was what the negotiation was all about - would not be disadvantaged by the legislation.
The Hon. J. R. Johnson: Would the Minister now answer the question?
The Hon. E. P. PICKERING: I have.
TWOFOLD BEACH CARAVAN PARK
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: I ask a question without notice of the Minister for Planning and Minister for Energy. Did the Director of the Department of Planning, Ms Gabrielle Kibble, inform Bega Valley Shire Council that the Department of Planning had a concurrence role in respect of the development at the Twofold Beach Caravan Park at Twofold Bay? Did the department give concurrence to this development? Is it not a fact that the proprietor, Mick Allen, breached the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act? What action is being taken against Mr Allen?
The Hon. R. J. WEBSTER: The answer to the first part of the question is yes. The answer to the second part of the question is no. The answer to the third part of the question is that if the honourable member does not already know the Minister for Local Government has asked his department to investigate the council. It is his statutory responsibility to do that, not mine. I have offered him the services of a planning officer from the Department of Planning, should he so require the services of that officer in the course of his investigation.
COMMUNITY WELFARE APPEALS TRIBUNAL
The Hon. PATRICIA FORSYTHE: I direct my question without notice to the Minister for Health and Community Services. How many appeals did the Community Welfare Appeals Tribunal hear during 1991 and what steps has the Government taken to improve its effectiveness?
The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD: This is an important question because many people in the community are not aware of the existence of the Community Welfare Appeals Tribunal, which can be accessed by the community. The Community Welfare Appeals Tribunal was constituted on 1st November, 1989. The tribunal is empowered to hear and determine appeals against certain decisions of the Minister, the Department of Community Services and the Director-General of the Department of Community Services. The appeals may relate to areas such as the licensing of children's' services; authorisation of fostering agencies; care, custody and guardianship of wards and protected persons; children's employment; and the release of adoption information. For the year ended 31st December, 1991, the appeals tribunal received only 10 appeals. Of the 10 appeals, three were dealt with through a preliminary conference, a further two were withdrawn, and the remainder went on to a hearing.
In the past the appeals tribunal has been underutilised. One of my first actions as Minister for Community Services was to ensure that all clients of the Department of Community Services were informed by letter of their appeal rights regarding decisions made by officers of the department. I asked that whenever advice was given, a notation should be made at the bottom of the letter that a right of appeal was available against the particular decision. The public, though generally not aware of those rights, was given that information. 1991 also saw a greater opportunity for publicity regarding the existence of the appeals tribunal. Pamphlets and appeal application forms have been distributed throughout Department of Community Services offices and the Legal Aid Commission. The result of this increased awareness of the tribunal has meant that for the first time the tribunal has heard appeals from outside the Sydney metropolitan area. In fact, four of the 10 appeals came from country New South Wales. 1991 also saw legal aid being made available to eligible people appealing to the tribunal. The provision of legal aid is not only a valuable assistance to appellants but also ensures that the tribunal is able to work efficiently and effectively.
The tribunal has brought to my attention one area of concern. This involves access arrangements to State wards, for example, a state ward who is returning into the care of his or her parents from the care of the foster parents. Immediate return to the ward's parents can cause concern and stress not only to the ward but to the parents and foster parents. I am having regulations drafted to enable the tribunal to grant access for a time prior to a restoration order coming into effect. For instance, an access order may be given for a period of six months, which enables more occasions of access by the parents to the ward. This will mean a gradual extension of the time the ward spends with his or her parents and a gradual reduction in the time spent with the foster parents in order to minimise stress to all three parties.
I take this opportunity to thank the tribunal for its work in 1991. I urge members of the public who are concerned at departmental decisions to appeal to the tribunal and use the opportunities this Government has put in place to have a review of their cases. That illustrates an absolute commitment by this Government to the operation of the Community Welfare Appeals Tribunal to ensure that there is access and knowledge of its operations. This compares significantly with the position of the Labor Party. This Government has made the appeals tribunal work. The former Labor Government refused to proclaim the section of the Act that enabled the tribunal to operate. The former Labor Government did not have a commitment to a review process of departmental or ministerial decisions or to open government in this regard. This Government has established the tribunal and I have ensured that the community has a greater knowledge of its existence and the public's rights in relation to decisions of government agencies that can directly affect them and where a right of appeal is available. I have sought to broaden the tribunal's powers so it can act more diligently in the interests of the people who appear before it.
COMMISSIONER OF POLICE SUBVERSION
The Hon. I. M. MACDONALD: I refer my question without notice to the Minister for Police and Emergency Services and Vice-President of the Executive Council. I refer the Minister to the interview with the Commissioner of Police on the "7.30 Report", about which he answered some questions yesterday. Did the Commissioner of Police state that he now had new information - and I stress new information - concerning attempts by criminal elements and a police officer to prevent him becoming commissioner? Does the Minister now agree that this serious new information should be the subject of a new inquiry? If so, what inquiry will be conducted into this grave matter and if not, why not?
The Hon. E. P. PICKERING: I can only reiterate what I said yesterday. I did not see the "7.30 Report" when it went to air.
The Hon. I. M. Macdonald: He said he had new information.
The Hon. E. P. PICKERING: I am dealing with your question. I was working down at Nowra on a public meeting in relation to a police boat. I read in the newspaper the following morning an assertion in effect that the Commissioner of Police did have new information which was of a threatening kind to him or his position. Obviously that was a matter of grave concern to me. It was not something with which he had burdened me. Therefore I took the opportunity to have him attend my office to ask him specifically whether there was indeed some new information of which he was aware which in some way formed a potential threat to his office and, if so, would he apprise me of the information. The Commissioner of Police indicated to me in precise terms that the information to which he had referred in the "7.30 Report" program was indeed the information that had been the subject of investigation prior to his being appointed Commissioner of Police, a matter with which I am conversant and is the subject of a public report, the Independent Commission Against Corruption Annual Report.
The Hon. I. M. Macdonald: He said he had new information.
The Hon. E. P. PICKERING: I am unaware of the commissioner's words. The honourable member asserts that he used the word "new". I took care yesterday, less than 24 hours ago, to check with him. He assured me that he was not aware of any new
information. Were he aware of such information, I would be insisting upon an appropriate inquiry. I have his assurance as of yesterday that he is unaware of any new information. I can only report to the House what the commissioner told me yesterday in the presence of staff.
The Hon. D. F. MOPPETT: My question without notice is to the Minister for School Education and Youth Affairs. With the change of season and the onset of winter I am concerned that some of the schools in colder climates may find their heating equipment defective or capable of only inefficient operation. I should be grateful if the Minister could inform the House of the steps the department is taking to replace and rehabilitate heating equipment in schools.
The Hon. VIRGINIA CHADWICK: This is an important question. One of the surprises for the Government after March 1988 in regard to school education was the decades of neglect, and downright irresponsible neglect, of school equipment, including school heaters which are so important in cold climates. It is a source of negative judgment on the part of the present Opposition that since 1989 this Government has had to spend of the order of $10 million to clean up the dangerous and unhealthy mess left by the former Labor Party Government. Since 1989 more than $10 million has had to be spent on the progressive replacement of unsatisfactory heaters, monitoring programs and research into more efficient ways of heating classrooms. So far 2200 heaters have been replaced in schools. That makes one wonder about the priority given to children's welfare, health and comfort by the former Government. It must have been very low.
I do not know whether it is possible to buy a gas heater using a credit card. I have allocated a further $2.4 million from this year's budget to keep up the program of progressive replacement of unflued gas heaters in schools. Why did this expensive and extensive program have to be undertaken? Because there had been long-standing concerns about some of the older unflued gas heaters and fears that they had been exceeding the nitrous dioxide - NO2 - limit. Since we assumed Government we have not only replaced thousands of heaters but have done our level best to give priority to schools in the most extreme of climatic zones and move closer to the coast. We believe the low NO2 gas heaters to be at the forefront of heating technology. We have worked closely with the Department of Health, the State Pollution Control Commission, and from within the Department of Health, the New South Wales Chief Health Officer. We will continue to monitor classroom heaters closely to ensure that we have done a good job, that we are not placing the health of teachers or children at risk and that the heaters are providing the most efficient and effective heating for our classrooms. As honourable members will realise from the figures I have outlined, we have made a substantial investment of $10 million in heating classrooms safely to ensure that students and teachers can work in schools knowing that they are working in comfort - in the sense of being warm in winter - and that their health is not endangered. I thank the Hon. D. F. Moppett for his question, for it has provided me with yet another opportunity to highlight the enormous differences between the investment that we have made and that made by the Labor Government in the health of students and teachers in our schools, an investment that may not have had to be so significant had it not been for the years of neglect we inherited.
STATE RAIL AUTHORITY PROMOTIONAL MATERIAL
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY: My question without notice is addressed to the Minister for Police and Emergency Services and Vice-President of the Executive Council, representing the Minister for Transport. Will the Minister ascertain from his Cabinet colleague the cost of producing this very glossy material by State Rail? How much is this costing the public of New South Wales? Could that money not be better used by being reinvested in the State Rail network?
The Hon. E. P. PICKERING: I am amazed at the Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby for asking that question. One of the functions of government is to properly educate and advise the community. If there is one thing that this Government has been good at, it is communicating in a warm and friendly way with the New South Wales community. The State Rail Authority is an organisation that has improved the quality of service it offers. I do not think one can go to any railway station that has not been completely renovated and made to be a warm and friendly place. The red rattlers have become part of history, transit police have been introduced and a better security system has been instituted. Recently I went to open bush fire brigade premises out in the middle of nowhere, and right beside where that fire station was opened was an incredible brand new facility: the local railway station. I do not think there is a railway station in New South Wales that the Hon. Bruce Baird has not done something about improving. One can understand that with a record like that the Government would want to advise the community about those extra facilities and services, the friendly staff and the greater security that is available.
The Hon. I. M. Macdonald: What about Trackfast?
The Hon. E. P. PICKERING: I would have thought it was money well spent.
GLADESVILLE HOSPITAL SITE DEVELOPMENT
The Hon. JAN BURNSWOODS: I ask the Minister for Health and Community Services whether he will give a guarantee that the Gladesville hospital site will not be redeveloped for medium-density housing following the closure or winding down of the mental health services on that site?
The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD: I am pleased that the honourable member is taking an interest in mental health. It was this Government which decided to grasp the nettle by addressing the needs of people who had been locked in mental health institutions. This Government has made the biggest commitment in the history of this country to the redevelopment of facilities for people with mental health problems and tried to get them out of institutions. No Government in the history of this country has done more to deinstitutionalise mental health facilities and I am pleased that it is being replicated in disability services. I recently told this House that the property opposite the Riverglades Centre will be closed by 30th June this year, subject to resistance from the unions - sorry, the unions have said that they totally support what the Government is doing, but they do not have any control over their members' efforts to undermine the placement of mentally ill people into community living. I understand that Hunters Hill council is examining proposals to redevelop the Riverglades site. It was one of the sites identified to Brian Howe as one which should be the subject of the urban renewal program, which is so much lauded by Brian Howe as part of his urban redevelopment program throughout the nation.
I do not know whether Brian Howe would want to be in the honourable member's faction, but I understand that the local area health service has circulated a discussion paper regarding the Gladesville hospital options to provide better facilities for people with mental illness. That discussion paper contains several options. The discussion paper was initiated by the area health service, not the Minister. No doubt the area health service will, in due course, put a submission to the Minister as to what option should be adopted for better coping with the services for the mentally ill. I can assure honourable members that whatever decision is made, it will be made on the basis of what is in the best interests of providing health care for those with mental illnesses.
ELECTRICAL SHOCK FATALITIES
The Hon. L. D. W. COLEMAN: My question is directed to the Minister for Planning and Minister for Energy. I received quite a shock when I noticed recent newspaper advertisements and articles which reported on the low number of deaths caused by electric shock in 1991. However, the articles express concern that already this year six deaths have occurred. What is the Government doing to help prevent a return to the high number of deaths in the previous years?
The Hon. R. J. WEBSTER: There were 10 fatal electrical accidents during 1991 and, whilst that is the lowest since records were kept in 1929, it is still unacceptably high. In 1990 there were 21 deaths and statistics show that the average in recent years is between 20 and 25 deaths. Obviously last year's record is significant at less than half the normal level, but it is also one that we should strive to better. It is therefore of great concern to me that this year already there have been six fatal accidents. Summer is recognised as the worst time of the year for this type of accident, probably due to an increase in outdoor and building maintenance activities during the holiday period. The incidence of wet weather also contributes to an increase in the number of serious electrical shocks. Two of the recent accidents involved home maintenance activities. In one incident a painter contacted a bare aerial service line where it was connected to a house. In another, a householder installing thermal insulation batts in the roof of his home contacted the live frame of an exhaust fan. The other accidents involved an experienced supply authority employee contacting live leads while testing some equipment and a young man who foolishly climbed on the top of a moving electric train. Two other men have died while working on industrial and commercial sites.
The Office of Energy co-ordinates a number of strategies ranging from legislation and its enforcement through to promotional activities intended to improve awareness. These activities cover the different safety concerns in the distribution, installation and consumer equipment areas. As an example of recent safety legislation honourable members should recall this Government's introduction of requirements for safety switches to be installed in homes constructed since July 1990. This was supported by a "Switch to Safety" advertising campaign promoting awareness of electrical safety around the home and the benefits of safety switches; no doubt something that members opposite would oppose, as they seem to oppose all Government advertising now that they are in Opposition. They did not oppose it when they were in government. The results, like the support received from the electrical contractors and manufacturers, have been exceptional. Safety switch sales in New South Wales alone continue to be in the order of 200,000 per year. Furthermore, we have set the example for other States and Territories which have now, some 18 months later, completed similar action. Once again this Government leads the way in Australia in innovative and progressive reform.
Though the significant fall in fatal accidents coincides with the safety switch response it would be premature to claim that this relationship was a certain one. While I remain confident that a safer future is probable with the increased use of these devices, they cannot prevent all accidents. Only two of the previously mentioned four accidents could have been prevented by a safety switch, but both of these were outside the area targeted by legislation promotion, that is, power points in domestic premises. Those types of accidents can be prevented by following simple, practical warnings rather than legislation. These warnings include: use care and common sense - use appliances and tools properly; do not overload, interfere with or mistreat live, electrical equipment. Water and electricity do not mix - take particular care using electricity near swimming pools, outdoor areas exposed to the water, in bathrooms or other indoor areas where water is present. The floods and storms which have been prevalent this summer make the message all the more important. Look up and live - overhead lines, whether in the street or attached to the home, must not be touched.
It is absolutely extraordinary that the rabble on the other side of the House find this amusing. I do not find the deaths of 10 of my fellow Australians amusing. I am not smiling. You are the one who is laughing. The Hon. P. F. O'Grady spends most of the day laughing. I find it very sad to think that he cannot take this seriously. As I said, fallen or low lines should be immediately notified to the local supplier. Do-it-yourself is dangerous - treat any tingle from electrical equipment seriously; get damaged or faulty equipment repaired by experts, such as electrical contractors. Use a safety switch - safety switches save lives both at work and at home. Fixed or portable units can protect against a wide range of problems. These warnings are being promoted by the Office of Energy and myself and by all of the electricity supply authorities in an effort to maintain community awareness of the need to be careful with electricity. That includes the Hon. I. M. Macdonald who should also know to be careful with electricity along with other things. The work that has been done in this respect by this Government since assuming office has been quite extraordinary. Though the Government cannot take all the credit, it is fair to say that the number of accidents has come down. I hope that the numbers will continue to stay down so that the people of New South Wales will be more aware of electrical safety than in the past.
LINDANE HEAD LICE TREATMENT
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Health and Community Services. Has the Minister had representations from the toxic chemicals committee of the Total Environment Centre on the question of banning the organochlorine lindane from use in head lice treatments? Is it not a fact that lindane can cause many serious health effects, including liver and kidney tumours and central nervous system disturbances? Is it not a fact that it has been banned in many countries? What action does the Minister intend to take to insure that the use of lindane in head lice treatment is banned in New South Wales?
The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD: The matter which the honourable member raises is one about which I do not have personal knowledge. However, I am aware that chemicals which are sold in this State across the counter are usually sold after a very detailed safety analysis is done. It would be a very rare occurrence to find these products being sold unless previously identified as safe. A member who in this House refers to a specific product must do so with confidence that his allegation is correct, and that the product is totally unsafe. To raise such an issue within the protection of Parliament can
cause the press to publish the identity of a particular product and thus give rise to grave concern about its safety. I will take the matter up and try to give an answer tomorrow. The reference is to a product used in the treatment for head lice which is constantly being used on children: itself a matter which could give rise to a grave concern. I hope that no public reference is made until I am able to have the matter properly clarified so that a precise answer can be given tomorrow.
The Hon. E. P. PICKERING: In view of the fact that honourable members have no further questions, other business might proceed.
GOVERNMENT LEGISLATIVE PROGRAM
Debate resumed from an earlier hour.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI [5.2]: Before question time I was addressing the issue of the Opposition's attitude to privatisation, in particular to the building of a private hospital facility offering services on behalf of the State Government to the people of Port Macquarie. I was in the process of addressing issues related to the Leader of the Opposition's approach to asset sales. It seems it is all right if the Labor Party makes asset sales, but not the Government. Sometimes it is all right for the Government but only if the Leader of the Opposition approves of it. The Leader of the Opposition was not present for question time today. By failing to expose the so-called sins of the Government he is not being a good Leader of the Opposition. I draw to the attention of the House, and Her Majesty, that the loyal Leader of the Opposition from the Labor Party in the New South Wales Legislative Council is not fulfilling his role as Her Majesty might request. In terms of the Port Macquarie private hospital proposal - an agreement between the Minister for Health and Community Services this Government - to provide high level services at an even higher level than that offered in the past, and in a very high quality facility, we wonder why the Labor Party does not want the people of Port Macquarie to have a high quality health service and modern up-to-date state-of-the-art services. Why do they not wish that to happen for the people of Port Macquarie? They ignored them successfully for more than 12 years and they want us to do the same.
The Hon. J. R. Johnson: You would have been able to build it if you had not squandered funds on Eastern Creek Raceway. Why not flog off Eastern Creek Raceway?
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI: Because it belongs to the people of western Sydney. That is why we cannot sell it. We are trying hard, with good State Government money set aside, to provide good high quality sporting facilities for the people of western Sydney, the people the Opposition say they represent. The Hon. J. F. Ryan and the Hon. Dr Marlene Goldsmith do more in a day to represent the people of western Sydney than do all members of the Opposition. It is interesting that not one member of the Opposition comes from the country. The Hon. I. M. Macdonald has qualified for category B, having moved to the Blue Mountains.
The Hon. J. R. Johnson: You had better not start that.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI: What, like Barrie Unsworth and the Hon. J. R. Hallam did?
The ACTING-PRESIDENT: Order!
The Hon. J. R. Johnson: We can all throw stones. Just be careful or somebody on that side of the House will be embarrassed.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI: Some people do not live in glass houses. Why does Mr Carr oppose the Port Macquarie hospital project, yet not generally oppose privatisation per se? We know he supports privatisation because he said so publicly on ABC radio with Mr Dempster. He opposes the project probably because it is a good idea. I quote from the Sydney Morning Herald editorial of 16th March.
The Hon. J. R. Johnson: Why not quote the Northern Star?
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI: I have not got the editorial from the Northern Star to quote but I will find it for you. The Sydney Morning Herald editorial states:
He claims to have no objection to the private sector involvement in health care but baulks at the prospect of having a public hospital run by the private sector. Unfortunately, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that Mr Carr opposes the Port Macquarie project because the unions oppose it. Undoubtedly the unions oppose it because the increased use of the private sector is against their interests. A privately owned hospital would be less inclined to accept the inefficient work practices tolerated by the public sector. And private sector workers will be less interested in belonging to unions. But, of course, for the taxpayers, that is a clear advantage.
What a wise editorial at a time when we generally see this particular newspaper taking an uncritical look at the news. It is a shame the people who write page six of the Sydney Morning Herald do not turn their attention to other pages with the same vigour. I must say I was equally concerned about the attitude taken by the Labor Party to the issue of contracting out generally. We have seen the big fight going on in the State Rail Authority with the contracting out of cleaning services. We have seen it in the public hospital system with the contracting out of goods and services. That contracting out has been done in a proper, open way, with the Government indicating how the process will operate. It is an open process, not like the old days of jobs for the mates, contracts for friends. I draw the attention of Opposition members to the interference taking place with the issuing of licences for radio stations in Lismore right now. I was loath to bring up this issue but the Hon. J. R. Johnson raised the issue of the Northern Star and, therefore, by an association of ideas made me think of Lismore radio. Honourable members might not know that there is a new Federal Minister for Communications. His name is Senator Richardson and he is a member of the Australian Senate - a member and leading light of the New South Wales right-wing of the Labor Party. Leading light might not be a good way to put it; it is more like leading dark. However, the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal is inquiring into an appeal concerning the issue of an FM radio licence in Lismore. Senator Richardson has asked that the inquiry be expanded to see whether an existing licensee - with the licence owned by gosh knows who - might get a double licence.
The Hon. Judith Walker: So what?
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI: Because it was not in the terms of reference of the initial hearing referred to the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal. It is just like Senator Richardson to move the goal-posts. To expand on that, so that the Hon. J. R. Johnson and the Hon. Judith Walker clearly understand what I am talking about, Northern Star Holdings owned the local radio station, the newspaper and the television. The Hon. J. R. Johnson might think that is a monopoly but in fact it was owned substantially by the people of the area and most of the people of the area happened to be
the directors as well. Here was a conglomerate, totally locally owned and operated, serving the North Coast of New South Wales in an advantageous way. It had the latest in technology, provided high quality journalism and a very good service to the community.
The Hon. Judith Walker: That is your view. I have read the Northern Star. Do not talk rubbish to me about high quality journalism.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI: The honourable member is quite right. I must admit that things have gone off a bit but, after all, it was the Federal Labor Government under Mr Hawke, and at the urging of Mr Richardson, that changed the ownership rules and operations for the media to give an advantage to its mates - Skase, Bond and others. At the time we heard high-flown statements about the diminution of monopolies and that sort of thing. We have been through all that and now we are back to where we were with Channel 9 - more of Bob's friends. It is important to note that none of the media outlets in Lismore is now owned locally. The Irishman, Mr O'Reilly, has moved in to own the newspapers.
The Hon. Judith Walker: I am surprised. I thought you were the champion of free enterprise.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI: No, Northern Star Holdings was forced by the legislation introduced by Senator Richardson and his mates to divest itself of its newspaper and radio interests because it owned the local television station. The Hon. J. R. Johnson understands this, even if the Hon. Judith Walker does not.
The Hon. Judith Walker: Northern Star Holdings had its fingers burnt, that is what happened.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI: No, it had to sell because of the media ownership laws introduced by the Federal Labor Party. I dare say that Mr O'Reilly is a very good proprietor. However, he is Irish and now owns the Northern Star. The television licence has been transferred, because Channel 10 has major input. It had to be sold off and was sold to a company based in Toowoomba. It is a good company owned by quite a few good farmers and still operates well. The Lismore television station is no longer locally based or owned in any way. Northern Star Holdings owned and operated a plethora of radio stations, but they were sold off to Hoyts. I have no idea who owns those radio stations now but none is owned locally.
The Hon. J. R. Johnson: They were not pinched; they were sold.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI: Sold forcibly. What happened to Northern Star Holdings? Instead of its shares being worth $4.70 each, as they were before the Labor Party interfered, they now bump along at one cent each. Those people on the North Coast who invested in local organisations have lost their heritage and have gone broke.
The Hon. Judith Walker: There were not too many mums and dads in that company. Do not pull the wool over my eyes.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI: There were lots of mums and dads who went broke in that venture.
The Hon. Judith Walker: That is not true.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI: It is absolutely true and the honourable member can check it, if she so wishes. The Australian Broadcasting Tribunal issued the FM radio licence to a Lismore organisation headed by a local businessman. The chairman of that organisation was Bruce Duncan, the well-respected former Independent from another place. He is a very fine, honourable man, a local person who has always been prominent in supporting the local community and who encouraged local people to invest locally. Of course, Beth Trevan is on the board. She is a tireless worker for the community, a successful promoter of children's services, anti-cancer care and the like. The board includes one or two local doctors, a local accountant, and a couple of local businessmen. They got together the huge amount of money required to go through the process of obtaining a licence under the conditions imposed by the Federal Government. Having had the licence granted to them, someone from Ballina appealed against the decision. What happened? It is not that appeal that is being heard. Senator Richardson moved the goal-posts. Previously, under the media concentration rules of the Labor Party, a local AM radio station could not have a monopoly by having the FM licence as well. Senator Richardson has now opened up the inquiry. Is that the machination of a person following the anti-monopoly principles of the Labor Party, giving jobs to its mates, to Skase and Bond?
The Hon. J. R. Johnson: Bond bought a television station. The Labor Government did not give it to him, he bought it from Packer.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI: The Hon. J. R. Johnson might not understand the rules of business and finance. They were in breach of the Act when they bought it, and the law was changed to allow them to keep it.
The Hon. Judith Walker: Who?
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI: Bond and Skase were in breach of the existing Act when they purchased the television stations. The Labor Party had to help its mates by changing the laws so that they could continue to own them. In doing so, the Government unwound years of investment, and years of development of the media on the North Coast. Do not talk to me about the Northern Star. The Labor Party has blood on its hands for destroying a marvellous local investment, a marvellous local newspaper, one of the finest radio stations in the country and a television station that was one of the finest as well. It is a business organisation that will never recover. Members opposite distract the debate by saying that the private sector is at fault, yet their Labor mates are involved in interfering in the private sector so much that it hurts. Is it any wonder there is no investment in this country? It is clear to me that investment in this country has declined in real terms and as a percentage of GDP every quarter for the last 11 quarters.
The Hon. Judith Walker: What is GDP?
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI: Gross domestic product. Unlike John Kerin, I understand these terms when I use them, and I am not even the Federal Treasurer. Where is investment taking place? No one wants to invest in this country because of the rules of the Labor mates and the way in which Senator Richardson keeps changing those rules. It is that type of interference and that level of darkness that we have descended to, into the pit of the depression. I reject that interference by the Federal Government in those operations.
The Hon. J. R. Johnson: When television licences were first granted, before the inquiry started, you knew who would get them - the Fairfaxes and the Packers. They are the people who finished up with them.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI: And Northern Star. The first country licence in Australia was issued in Lismore. Local people invested in new technology for the benefit of the community. Lismore had television before Newcastle. That shows the foresight of those men and women - men and women supporting their own community. That community is getting first-class service and will continue to do so in our changed environment. Another strike at the independence and profitability of the media is the advertising ban. I will not discuss that matter today, except to say that the Hon. J. R. Johnson supports that sort of muzzling of and interference with, the media, because he knows that his party at Sussex Street is broke. The Australian Labor Party is using the law to its advantage because it is broke. Senator Richardson strikes again. This is another of Senator Richardson's dark ideas which honourable members opposite will regret every day that they live. I put on the record that I support the Minister's proposal to privatise Port Macquarie hospital. Private investment should be involved in the delivery of public services. It is an efficient way to go about it and it shows foresight. In fact, it allows us to go forward and to develop this process. All documentation will be released at the finalisation of the contracts and will be available for scrutiny. The whole process will be reassessed. We have a performance contract to ensure that the people of Port Macquarie will get a higher level of service. So what is the objection? Bob Carr, who would have supported this proposal, has a problem with Andrew Refshauge.
The Hon. J. R. Johnson: Have you been to the Liberal Party branch meeting at Port Macquarie lately?
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI: Actually, I know all the people in the Liberal Party at Port Macquarie. Three or four days ago, I had a phone call from the leading light at that branch. He is in complete support of the Minister's proposal. This is the only way the people in Port Macquarie will get a hospital. This will increase the services in Port Macquarie to level four - high quality, high-tech services, which the former Labor Government denied the people of Port Macquarie. Honorable members opposite are still trying to deny them that service. I hope that Her Majesty continues to serve for a long time to come. I trust that she remains in good health and that she continues, as a positive figurehead, to be an inspiration to New South Wales and Australia. God save the Queen.
The Hon. JENNIFER GARDINER [5.23]: As a member of the National Party I felt privileged to be present in the mother of Australian parliaments when Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, opened the second session of the Fiftieth Parliament of New South Wales. The National Party is unabashedly and proudly supportive of our current system of government - the most ancient feature of which is the existence of the monarch. The Legislature, in section 3 of the Constitution Act - the Act under which we are all elected to this place - is defined as:
His Majesty the King, with the advice and consent of the Legislative Council and Legislative Assembly.
To have the Sovereign present for only the second time in the history of the Chamber was momentous indeed. It meant that each element in the trio that makes up the Legislature personally attended in the Chamber. The National Party believes that recent debate on
our system of government serves only to highlight something that appears in a book written by L. J. Rose, O.B.E., entitled The Framework of Government in New South Wales. He states:
The representative of the Sovereign and of course the Sovereign herself, takes no active part in politics and it is just this detachment which adds to the dignity and value of the office in our system of government.
There is a lot to be said for evolution over revolution. The British monarchy has evolved over 1,000 years and symbolises tradition as well as stability. Revolution comes about when there is an overthrow of the traditional Head of State. There are plenty of examples of republics that do not work. For example, getting rid of the czar in Russia did not do much for the Russians. Here in Australia the National Party has a straightforward response to the diversionary debate being put up by the Federal Labor Government on the matter of our Head of State. As Dr Hewson, Leader of the Federal Opposition, said the other day in the doomed Federal electorate of Wills:
Paul Keating promised us a banana republic. Well he has given us the banana; now he wants to give us the republic.
Our attitude in the National Party is, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it". That is particularly true when changing constitutions of sovereign States or of the Commonwealth. The Leader of the Government in the Legislative Council, in his address on 5th March 1992, following Her Majesty's Speech at the opening of the Parliament, in outlining the Government's legislative program for the second session of the Fiftieth Parliament, mentioned another constitutional debate currently going on in this Parliament - the question of a fixed four-year term. Individual members of the National Party have already expressed their reservations on this subject. There will be a lot more discussion and analysis of it before the concept is embraced wholeheartedly by me or by a number of my colleagues. It is an issue that our party membership will take on with particular interest at branch meetings and party conferences in the next few months. One of the parliamentary reforms already introduced and mentioned by the Minister in his speech was the introduction of the estimates committees. This initiative is applauded. News that the conduct of the committee meetings will be refined after what might be called a trial run is welcomed. I hope the improvements will include, as in the case of equivalent Senate estimates committees, Hansard reports of all committee proceedings as a matter of course. This will assist all honourable members in monitoring the success or otherwise of each and every government program.
Her Majesty in her Address to the Parliament on 20th February this year specifically mentioned the protracted anguish that has been the lot of so many farmers and those dependent on them. Excellent rains fell in many parts of New South Wales just before Her Majesty's visit, but people in parts of the State which received great relief from rainfalls then are anxious for more rain now. The Minister, in asking the House to take note of the Government's legislative program, mentioned that the Government has responded to these challenges, including natural disasters such as droughts and floods. He said that the Government would provide immediate assistance to ensure, so far as possible, the survival of this vital sector of our economy. Those most seriously affected by the long-running depression in prices for a raft of commodities are grateful that the New South Wales Government has provided record assistance to the Rural Assistance Authority. In the six months to December 1991, the Rural Assistance Authority had received 3,446 applications at a rate of approximately 570 per month. Of these applications, the greatest number - in fact, 81 per cent - were under the rural adjustment scheme.
Interest subsidies to primary producers in New South Wales under parts A and B of the rural adjustment scheme exceeded $11.6 million in the first half of 1991-92. This is by far the highest level of new interest subsidy assistance provided by the Rural Assistance Authority in any year. When added to ongoing interest subsidy assistance proved in earlier years, this government assistance to farmers now supports half a billion dollars of rural commercial debt in this State. These part A interest subsidies help farmers who have long-term viability but who are experiencing, or who are likely to experience, financial difficulties. They are also eligible for grants for training and advice to help them keep going. Interest subsidies provided under part B are provided on loans raised commercially for carry-on in cases of severe drought and in specific rural industries where there is a severe market downturn. The approval rate for new applications in this category is running at record levels. Two out of three applications are being met. Under part C of the rural adjustment scheme $4.4 million in the first half of 1991-92 has been provided to those farmers designated as non-viable. This money will help them to leave or to consider leaving the farming industry with some dignity. Whilst it is pleasing to note that government assistance to these unfortunate victims, usually due to circumstances beyond their control, is running at record levels, the figures indicate the extent of the tragedy in the bush. These loyal subjects of the Queen of Australia can take some comfort from the fact that Her Majesty mentioned them especially in her Speech to this Parliament.
In his remarks to the Parliament outlining the Government's legislative program, the Leader of the Government in this House mentioned the plans to privatise the GIO. He mentioned also the ALP's ongoing doubts about privatisation but said this did not arise from a "philosophical difficulty with privatisation. Their concern is merely to score a few political points along the way". It is pleasing to note that yesterday's Sydney Morning Herald reported that the Leader of the Opposition circulated a discussion paper to his colleagues confirming, it seems, that "privatisation should no longer be opposed for purely ideological reasons", a statement that seems to confirm the comment of the Leader of the Government. The Labor leader argues that there needs to be a more flexible approach to the involvement of private companies in major public projects. He apparently questions the notion that the Labor Party's goals of equity could only be achieved by using the public sector, describing this as a knee-jerk reaction.
The Labor Government, under a succession of Ministers for Health, systematically, consciously and conscientiously deprived large and fast-growing communities in parts of this State of any so-called equity when it came to access to decent hospitals, especially. As the Sydney Morning Herald eloquently put it yesterday in editorialising upon the privatisation of the new and much needed Port Macquarie hospital: private capital and private enterprise can solve some of the most crippling problems in the public health care system. "The public hospitals", the Sydney Morning Herald said, "like Qantas and most other public enterprises, suffer from a chronic shortage of funds for capital investment. However, the health care system will need large injections of investment funds over the next decade. That is partly because the population is shifting and new facilities are needed in the growing areas". Of course, Port Macquarie is a classic case of a community where there has been a large population growth. The editorial said:
It is also because of rapid technological change in medicine - and because investment in new facilities and new technology is an important source of the increased productivity. That productivity growth is needed to help meet the growing health care needs of the ageing population. The political reality is that the State Government is not going to be able to supply those investment funds. That will be true regardless of who is Premier.
The people of Port Macquarie will benefit from this exciting project, by being blessed with an expanded health service several years earlier than could otherwise be achieved with a state-of-the-art hospital being built. There will be a major expansion of the health budget which will enable services to be upgraded and extended and will significantly reduce waiting times. They will have an assured level of funding for the next 20 or more years, contracted to match local health needs. The funding formula will provide a safeguard against any unlikely future electoral fluctuations in the area - an important matter, given the treatment of the North Coast by the previous Labor Government - and so there will be a continuity of health services to Port Macquarie. And while mentioning the local parliamentary representation, I am sure all honourable members join with the people of Port Macquarie in congratulating their local member, Wendy Machin, on the birth of her son earlier today. As the Port Macquarie district grows, as it undoubtedly will, expanded access to quality health services will be possible without reliance on government capital. In addition, Port Macquarie will be getting state-of-the-art clinical and information technology which will improve both the quality and efficiency of local health services. The citizens of Port Macquarie do not want an ideological point-scoring debate. They want the hospital they never would have got had it not been for a change of government and a determination by this Government to change the health system around so that there is genuine equity, especially for those people denied it for political not equity reasons, in the past.
The Legislative Council, concurrent with this discussion on the Government's legislative program, has been deliberating upon the State's new firearms legislation. As one who served on the Joint Select Committee upon Gun Law Reform, may I commend the Government for its remarkably faithful translation of the array of committee recommendations into law. The legislation has thus far been remarkably well received around the traps. Although all members, particularly those of us in the National Party, will be keeping a close eye on the wording of the regulations that will follow, the reception the bill has so far received is testimony to the fact that the Government was earnest in its endeavour to come to grips with this most challenging issue. It can be well satisfied with its success to date. From the committee's fervent wish that the new laws will effectively tackle the dangers of firearms accessibility in heat-of-the-moment flare-ups, especially in domestic violence cases, right through to the justified protection of the rights to ownership and use of firearms, including those with heavy fire power, of legitimate users such as farmers, sporting shooters and legitimate hunters - all these features are contained in the new legislation. Perhaps never has there been a parliamentary committee of which so many expected so little, such was the pessimism about the capacity of the parliamentary process to come to grips with the issue. In fact, practically all of the objectives of the Government and those in other parties and those on the crossbenches to help reduce the overall incidence of violence in our society have, with these new laws, been achieved. This is probably destined to be one of the most remarkable events in the annals of the Fiftieth Parliament.
Other legislative changes mooted in the address by the Leader of the Government relate to the furthering of the objectives of the Independent Commission Against Corruption. He said that these objectives include legislation to protect public sector whistleblowers and to disentitle corrupt officials from government-funded superannuation benefits. These additives to the objectives of the Independent Commission Against Corruption are of course laudable, and will probably have the speedy passage through the Parliament that they deserve. The overall operations of the Independent Commission Against Corruption seem these days to be generating more healthy scrutiny and analysis by the sometimes intrepid media than in the institution's early days, days that might be called its guinea-pig phase. For example, in an edition of this week's Northern Daily Leader published in Tamworth, there is a feature article on Tamworth City Council, a council which has a fairly unsensational history. The story, titled "Guilty Until Proven
Innocent", is an analysis by Michael Carroll of that paper marking the third anniversary of the Independent Commission Against Corruption. The story goes:
Independent Commission Against Corruption and this whole corruption thing could almost be a flashback to the 1950s. Picture this; Hometown USA and Senator Joe McCarthy and his witch-hunt committee go after more of those so-called commies. It would be extreme to put ICAC's quest on the same level as Reds Under the Bed - but there's no denying it leaves a sour taste in the mouth of those connected to local government. If you ask Tamworth's mayor, Alderman David John, and others like him, it's got nothing to do with being guilty of anything underhanded.
The gist of the story is that men and women of good will, expertise and a desire to serve their communities, because of the more unfortunate aspects of the Independent Commission Against Corruption's operations over the past three years, now think more than twice about bothering to put their names before the people. The article points out that there was a case in Tamworth recently where the council could not debate the future of the city centre and a main street mall, a long-running issue in Tamworth, because seven of them owned a business and could be seen to benefit from any changes to the central business district. According to local town planners and others, this means that people in local government are now rethinking their involvement in their communities. It is pointed out that many people who work for councils are treasurers, presidents and committee members of charity and service groups because they have the expertise to help such bodies.
They ask, "But what happens, and, more importantly, what do people at ICAC think when these same staff oversee development proposed by those groups?" Tamworth's mayor warns that the whole issue could spell disaster for local government everywhere because professional people have a lot to offer local government and they could be turned away from civic service. He said, "We have got all this Big Brother stuff heaped on us . . . it's very demeaning". As the mayor correctly pointed out, bush constituents did not have much to fear about their local councils. He said: "I don't think there are any deliberate rorts in the bush. By and large you have got a good representation of people that are not the sorts of people that would take advantage of this situation". Recently a report on the investigation of roadworks in the shire of Kyogle was tabled in Parliament. It is worth asking whether such an inquiry would have been just as effective had it been carried out by local government inspectors. It would be interesting to compare the relative costs to the taxpayer of the investigations, one by the ICAC and one by inspectors under the old system. I shall be looking forward to reading the cost to the taxpayers of that inquiry. There is little doubt that ICAC has amended some of its procedures along the way, which is just as well.
The Hon. J. R. Johnson: People get a guernsey and are not even told about it.
The Hon. JENNIFER GARDINER: That is right. The Hon. J. R. Johnson has a classic example. In hearings of this Parliament's Committee on the Independent Commission Against Corruption, for example, the role of the commissioner and assistant commissioners came under some investigation. An assistant commissioner, Adrian Roden, Q.C., appeared before that committee and was asked by a member of this House who was a member of the Parliamentary committee:
In your proposal regarding reports - that is reports of the Commission to Parliament - you mentioned that you have prepared your own reports, with the consent of the commissioner. You said that, in doing so, you operated outside the Act. Where does that leave the reports that you have compiled in regard to their legitimacy and their legality as you acknowledged that you have operated outside the Act?
That was a pretty good question.
The Hon. J. R. Johnson: Send it to ICAC.
The Hon. JENNIFER GARDINER: Yes. Mr Roden, for many years no less than a judge on the Supreme Court bench, replied:
Perhaps I should not have acknowledged that I have operated outside the Act. I withdraw my plea of guilty.
What a luxury to be able to terrorise people on so-called corruption hunts but to be able to shrug one's shoulders when called to account for acting outside the Act oneself. I mentioned at the outset of my comments on ICAC that the media seems to be able to report upon ICAC investigations with a little less hysteria these days. Perhaps the novelty is wearing off. But there is a problem with that, too, because, as the aforementioned mayor of Tamworth correctly said, "There's the old adage: mud sticks, and that comes to play in anything ICAC gets involved in". So, we have the old dilemma at which many people in the media shrug their shoulders: the original negative headline written about someone involved with, or supposedly involved with, an ICAC investigation is never, ever matched by a favourable report about the same person further down the track. Honourable members remember that the chief executive of a development company, Ocean Blue Pty Limited, was supposed to have bribed both the Australian Labor Party and the National Party by way of his company making a couple of donations. The hearings that led to charges being laid against that person received endless media coverage in the metropolitan media and on the North Coast, as did the hearings relating to the people and the organisations he was supposed to have bribed.
The charges had to be tested in court, of course, and that is where the matter ended up a few weeks ago. The committal hearings rated minimal media coverage. Certainly, the metropolitan press was no longer interested. Last week the bribery charges against that man were dismissed in the Downing Centre Local Court. Again, the metropolitan press, the great "Four Corners" or Dempster's "7.30 Report" do not report these matters at all. On the other hand, before the court case I have just mentioned, ICAC commissioner Ian Temby told the parliamentary committee that one or two matters were being held up following the so-called North Coast inquiry conducted by the same Mr Roden because, "In one of those matters we cannot get witnesses to sign statements, including witnesses in high public positions". The Sunday press was most interested. Headlines ensued in the Sun-Herald of 10th October, 1991. "People in high places ‘holding up trials'", the Sun-Herald heralded. That day the same paper editorialised, "Temby's attack must be probed". The newspaper said:
In one of the most extraordinary allegations in recent political memory, the head of the ICAC, Mr Ian Temby, QC, has openly accused people in "high public positions" of frustrating the ICAC's attempts to launch prosecutions.
That is an incredibly serious accusation - one which the Greiner Government cannot ignore without rightly attracting cynicism from all independent observers of its stewardship.
The totally wrong insinuation, and hence the drama being made by the Sun-Herald, was to the effect that it was someone high in the Government - possibly a member of the New South Wales Parliament - who was supposedly obstructing matters going to court. It turned out that that was not the case. The Sun-Herald apologised to one of the chief targets of its article, the honourable member for Murwillumbah, but, of course, the apology was writ small and, though the original high profile story carried his photograph, the apology was just by the way. ICAC people get on to their high horses very quickly when subjected to the same scrutiny they impose on others, such as those in local
government. The Sun-Herald at least had the decency to publish an apology to Mr Beck. But Mr Temby, who would have known perfectly well what a journalist would do with his remarks, only mumbled an unacceptable explanation of his actions. People who have the power to throw stones that will wreck the lives of others should not live in double-glazed glasshouses in Redfern. They should always be extremely careful to exercise their immense power responsibly, thereby earning respect, not scorn and cynicism. This is in the interests of attracting all those good citizens who have a desire to serve their fellow men and women in public and quasi-public office in the future rather than having them say, "Why burden myself and my family with the mud and the stones?" Relevant to all of this is that other proposed law reform mentioned in the Government's outline of its legislative program for this session, namely, defamation law reform. Honourable members await that debate with a great amount of interest.
I turn to another sad matter that has recently affected the people of the city of Tamworth, namely, the loss of one of that city's favourite sons, the former long serving National Party member of this Legislative Council, Sir Adrian Solomons. As the Hon. R. D. Dyer pointed out yesterday, the forms of the House did not provide for a formal condolence motion in Sir Adrian's name, as he passed away after resigning from the Legislative Council. Like the Hon. R. D. Dyer, I take the opportunity to use this general discussion of the Government's legislative program to pay my own respects to Sir Adrian as well as the respects of others in the National Party and to express our condolences to Lady Solomons and to the Solomons family. Sir Adrian was State Chairman of the former Australian Country Party (New South Wales) from 1969 to 1974. It was at that period of his life in the world of Australian politics that I was first privileged to work with him in the then Country Party. He went on to become the Federal President of the National Country Party - a position he held from 1974 until 1979. In that position he oversaw the Federal organisation at a time of great turbulence in Australian politics, which included the era of the demise of the Whitlam Government.
Sir Adrian was elected to the Legislative Council in March of 1969 and served continuously in this place, including the time of its reform, until during the first session of this Fiftieth Parliament and before the House sat he had to resign due to ill health. Sir Adrian had an abiding love for his chosen party, joining it as a matter of course when he returned home to Tamworth to establish his law practice in 1949. He held virtually every office in the party organisation, including life member, and was, without doubt, one of its most erudite servants and masters. At a parochial level, Sir Adrian was involved in and was patron of an extraordinary array of worthy causes, giving freely of his time and his professional and personal advice. Just a few examples show the type of work he did for his community. He was honorary solicitor to the Tamworth Base Hospital - its development into one of the State's most renowned hospitals was a matter of great personal pride to him. He was honorary solicitor to the Tamworth Eisteddfod Society, the Royal Blind Society, the Arts Council, the Musical Education Society, the apiarists, the gliders, and he was foundation chairman of a number of organisations in Tamworth, including the North West Medical Foundation. Sir Adrian, of course, was Deputy-President and Chairman of Committees in this House in the last Parliament.
The Hon. J. R. Johnson: And elected with not a Liberal Party or National Party vote.
The Hon. JENNIFER GARDINER: He was elected by the Parliament to be the
Deputy-President and Chairman of Committees in this House in the last Parliament and served with great distinction in that capacity. Certainly the comment by the Hon. J. R. Johnson reflects the immense degree of non-partisan respect there was for Sir Adrian throughout his entire career. Sir Adrian's skill as a chairman of a meeting had to be seen to be believed. He had that rare attribute of being able to humorously and yet inoffensively quieten down the ever present garrulous people who attend political meetings - those who talk under cement - while at the same time drawing out the thoughts of the more shy and reticent attendees. He had a wonderful acumen in extracting the best out of everyone in a room while maintaining quiet order and a tight agenda. Of his personal interests, not long after his father's death one of his two sons, John, wrote to me and said:
His interests were enormously diverse, for instance, his marvellous musical abilities. I am sure he could easily have written hit musical comedies or been an opera singer. Not long before he died, he told me that when he was a student at UNE he wanted to be a geologist and that only his inability to draw made him forgo geology. He, however, retained a keen interest in geology for his whole life.
The Hon. R. D. Dyer mentioned Sir Adrian's many kindnesses to him over the years, as did Sir Adrian's son, John, at one of the two memorial services held for his father. He said: "My father was always helping people. In fact he couldn't help himself in that regard". I will always be indebted to Sir Adrian for the helping hand he extended to me. My remembrances of him will always be warm and affectionate. During the Christmas break I came across an immortal Shakespearian quote. I thought this was the way that I would remember Sir Adrian Solomons. Therefore, it was most appropriate that those same words were printed on the order of service for one of the memorial services for Sir Adrian, namely, the one held at St John's Church at Tamworth on 6th January. It states:
When he shall die,
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine,
That all the world will be in love with night,
And pay no worship to the garish sun.
The Hon. JUDITH WALKER [5.52]: I also was happy to be present in the Chamber on 20th February when Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II opened the second session of the Fiftieth Parliament. I am not a dyed in the wool royalist nor a dyed in the wool republican. I take the view that, having taken the oath to the Queen, her heirs and successors, I should continue to respect the very reasons that we are members of Parliament. If republicanism happens to come by way of evolution, it probably will not be in my lifetime - and I will not be unhappy about that. However, if it does, perhaps those who are friends of the republican movement should look carefully not so much at history but at the responsibilities for the future and what republicanism may achieve.
I am in total agreement with the remarks made by the Hon. Jennifer Gardiner in relation to the Independent Commission Against Corruption. At the time the legislation was before the House I was concerned not about the establishment of ICAC or the principles that led to its establishment but rather the nature and way matters have been investigated by ICAC. I was the first person called to appear before the North Coast land inquiry. Justice Adrian Roden saw fit to publish in his report that in his view the Hon. Judith Walker was nothing more than a letterbox. That comment did not exactly fill my heart with joy. I sent my transcript of the ICAC proceedings to my solicitors, who eventually informed me that in their view I did not have anything to worry about. I did not ever think I had anything to worry about. I feel sorry for any private citizens called to appear before ICAC to be grilled - and that is what it is - by experienced
Queen's Counsel under the baleful eye of Temby himself or Justice Roden. It is unusual how Justice Roden sees this Parliament and how I see his role as a former judge of the Supreme Court. Justice Roden could not change the Supreme Court from within so he resigned. He apparently had a similar problem many years ago as a member of the Legislative Council in an African country. He obviously resigned from there as well. His track record in sorting out his own problems does not appear to be a good one.
The Hon. J. R. Johnson: In the Legislative Council.
The Hon. JUDITH WALKER: In the Legislative Council. I am not sure whether it was in Tanzania or Zimbabwe, formerly Rhodesia. Justice Adrian Roden's role is difficult, but on my understanding it is not for him to criticise whether a member of Parliament signs a letter which seeks not to ask a favour of a Minister and or a Premier but seeks to bring notice of a particular matter to the attention of the Premier and or Minister. That the honourable member signed such a letter does not bear any weight. Should development arise from the proposals suggested, it will only eventuate after the Minister and or the Premier and Cabinet take note of several material facts, gain advice and so on. The fact that a member of the Legislative Council brings it to the attention of the Minister and or Premier lends no weight to the argument at all. It is nonsense to even suggest it could. Mr Temby has got it wrong in many cases. We, as a Parliament, should watch ICAC very carefully because the cost of running ICAC is enormous. Fifty-seven inquiries have been undertaken, 26 have been completed and to my knowledge only three or four people have been charged. Bear in mind the word charged. Apparently one case which the Hon. Jennifer Gardiner referred to has been concluded. That man has now been acquitted and is innocent. The whole problem with ICAC is that a person is deemed guilty and therefore must prove his innocence. That is contrary to the British common law onus, strived for under the Crown and Parliament, that one is innocent until proven guilty. If Australian society continues to move down the path made by ICAC, we will have a lot to answer for.
I wish to refer to a recent matter affecting a South Sydney council employee who was subsequently dismissed from the council. I refer to Mr Nick Horiatopoulos, who was a planner with the South Sydney council. In my view he was a fall guy for the council and its planning department. Eighteen months ago I took the mayor of South Sydney to task over problems caused by his planning department to people living in South Sydney. I have a large file which supports everything I said. Rather than becoming involved in a bun-fight between the left faction of the Labor Party on the matter of the mayor of South Sydney and South Sydney council's planning department, I withdrew gracefully from the floor of this House. Nevertheless, the end result is that Mr Nick Horiatopoulos was dismissed for reasons I consider absolutely disgraceful. He was set up by South Sydney council and its mayor, who obviously feel very pleased. They dismissed him before he was charged merely because he had appeared before ICAC. When I raised the matter at an Alexandria branch meeting I made it clear to branch members that it was a difficult situation. I said I did not have any confidence in South Sydney council and its aldermen because they sacked that man without knowing whether he was innocent or guilty, and obviously did not care.
I support the remarks of the Hon. Jennifer Gardiner and implore the Government to take notice of them. Members from different political parties have raised the misgivings they have about the operation of the Independent Commission Against Corruption and of Mr Temby. In regard to privatisation, irrespective of what the Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti might think of Labor Party views, certain things lend themselves to being operated by private companies, with some oversighting by the Government. The
Government should stay out of those enterprises. Other enterprises belong to the people and should be retained by the Government. Whether the selling of the GIO is a good idea or a bad one at this time is a commercial decision and not a political one. If it is to be sold, that should occur as a result of a commercial decision. It is another matter whether it is worth getting rid of a company that makes profits and pays those profits into the Government coffers to pay off its debts, or whether it should be sold as a one-off hit. By selling the GIO at a price lower than its worth, how much debt does one retire or how much liability remains for the people of New South Wales?
I suspect the Government has a problem in determining what is debt, what is a liability, what is a recurrent debt, what is debt financing, what are liabilities and what is owed in terms of unfunded superannuation. That would be a problem for any Government, whether Labor or Liberal. Similar comments apply to the capital requirements of the GIO. My understanding is that the Government never had to provide capital to the GIO. Whether it would have to supply capital eventually to the State Bank is another question. The Government would be wise to delay selling the State Bank. If the market price I have heard discussed is accurate, the people of New South Wales would not be getting value by selling the GIO for such a miserly sum. The international banks and some other banks would dearly love to have the regionalisation system of the State Bank. The merchant banks do not have regionalisation and that is why they are trying to get their hands on the State Bank.
The Hon. R. B. Rowland Smith: The honourable member does not know what the State Bank is worth.
The Hon. JUDITH WALKER: No, I do not, and I am sure that at this stage the Government does not know either.
The Hon. R. B. Rowland Smith: That is the whole point. You are selling something on a commercial basis.
The Hon. JUDITH WALKER: I said that the Government will have to be careful about selling the State Bank at present, because the talk around the traps about its value is a ridiculous figure of about $400 million. In my view it should not be sold for that amount, unless it is a real fire sale.
The Hon. R. T. M. Bull: It depends whether it is done by tender.
The Hon. JUDITH WALKER: In my opinion the State Bank should remain the property of the people of New South Wales. I should like to add to the remarks made by the Hon. Jennifer Gardiner and the Hon. R. D. Dyer about our departed colleague Sir Adrian Solomons. I always regarded him as being a joy of a man. Most of what I have learned in the time I have been a member of this House was learned from him. In his own quiet way he was able to instil confidence in people. He was always sure about what he was saying in his contributions to the debate. He was also a great lawyer. We have lost a wonderful friend and a great statesman. I will never forget that on the night I made a speech about adoption he waited for me at the back of the Chamber and spoke to me. I shall not relate what he said, but I will never forget it. He had tears in his eyes, and I had tears in mine. I had tears in my eyes again when the Hon. Jennifer Gardiner gave her eulogy at the end of her contribution. I say: Vale, Sir Adrian.
I invite the attention of honourable members to the continuing problems that are occurring with the Department of Housing. I do not refer to the waiting list or the number of houses that are available but rather to the maintenance problems being experienced by tenants of the department. They have to wait many months for minor repairs to be carried out. In some instances major repairs, such as fixing leaking roofs and faulty electrical work, and the replacement of necessary items are not being attended to. The Minister should take more care in supervising those in charge of the maintenance programs of the department. Many people throughout New South Wales are suffering great distress because of these difficulties. In some respects the Government is good and caring but in many others its activities leave a lot to be desired. The Government has its priorities wrong and should reassess them. I shall not debate the difficulties the Government is having in regard to numbers in the lower House, for that would not be prudent. People who live in glass houses should not throw stones, because they never know when the stones might rebound and smash their own windows.
The Government should be cognisant that it has major problems with promotion in the Police Service. Those problems have not diminished and will not go away. The Police Service has a preponderance of officers who are under 25 years of age. It is not possible to put old heads on young shoulders. Prospective police officers can be well trained in the academy, but when they are put on the streets they face enormous problems that should not confront people of that age. Unless young cadets obtain better support, perhaps by having a buddy system with older sergeants and constables, I fear for all those young men and women who come from the Goulburn academy each year. Again I ask the Government to upgrade the security and maintenance of public housing. In conclusion I should say that obviously I shall never be present when a Parliament is opened by the Queen again. Nevertheless, I was happy that I was present and saw her.
The Hon. P. F. O'GRADY [6.8]: Australia, being a new country, has always been in need of new infrastructure. It was government that built up Australia's road network, our rail lines and telephone system. Government has been largely responsible for our power stations and hospitals. Until recent years government provision of Australian infrastructure was not a political issue. The bipartisanship on the issue is best summed up by a paragraph in Malcolm Fraser's maiden speech to the Commonwealth Parliament, in which he said:
Public bodies have an important part to play in our national development because many things are too big in scope or too important for private people or even groups of people to undertake alone.
Over the past few years there has been a debate about privatisation in this country. The debate at both a State and national level has largely concerned government divesting itself of assets that are similar to or competing with those in the private sector. In that context, at a Federal level we have seen the partial privatisation of the Commonwealth Bank, the privatisation of Australian Airlines and the partial privatisation of Qantas. At a State level, the Government is going to privatise the GIO and the State Bank. Mr Greiner has signalled that his Government regards the privatisation of the GIO and the State Bank as only the first step. He intends to privatise the basic infrastructure of New South Wales. We now have a new form of privatisation of our basic infrastructure. This new vision for New South Wales was outlined in a recent quote from the Sydney Morning Herald:
There is not enough money to do it the traditional way, that applies to hospitals, it applies to roads, it applies to a whole range of things and the choice is simple: You either do not get the road, hospital or water project or you do it through the private sector.
What a contrast to the Liberal Party of a generation ago. The Federal Government sees that microeconomic reform in this country comes through investing money in our public infrastructure, be that in our rail network, on our roads, or in our container terminals. Once again it has been left to government to play its traditional role to provide infrastructure for the private sector in Australia. The Greiner Government must then explain from where the money to finance infrastructure projects will come. Will it be borrowed from overseas banks, thereby adding to our national debt? Is government debt any more a problem than private debt? After watching the Greiner Government's publicly funded advertisements promoting privatisation, one gets the impression that Australia ranks alongside the former communist States in having one of the most nationalised economies in the world. Nothing could be further from the truth. Of all the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries, Australia has the third lowest amount of Government spending as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product. Only Turkey and Japan are ranked lower. We are well behind Britain and just below the United States of America.
In New South Wales it seems we are going back not to John Hewson's so-called "golden age" of the 1950's but to the days of laissez-faire capitalism at the end of the last century; back to the days when governments were responsible for regulating weights and measures, law and order, but not much else. What this Government does not seem to realise is that modern economies have a large role for Government and it is a role that is continually expanding. It is interesting that Government spending in industrial countries actually rose over the 1980's from an OECD average of 37 per cent of GDP in 1979 to 40 per cent of GDP in 1989. The increase in the number of aged people in our community in the 1990's will require more resources to be spent on health and aged care. This leads into the most important area the Government has signalled it will privatise, the public hospital system in New South Wales. It appears that the Greiner Government wants to Americanise our health system at a time when one of the main issues in the United States of America Presidential elections is the lack of access to basic medical care for 30,000,000 Americans. It is interesting to note that the United States spends twice as much on health care as does Britain. In the United States health care is predominantly financed by the private sector whereas in Britain, the National Health System has a dominant role. Despite twice as much money being spent, citizens of the United States have a lower life expectancy and a higher infant mortality rate than those of Britain.
The dangers inherent in the privatisation of public health are clearly illustrated in the case of Port Macquarie hospital. Last month the Greiner Government agreed to the privatisation of the new 160 bed hospital to be built at Port Macquarie. Under the deal made with the private consortium, Fletcher-Jennings Hospital Care, the consortium will build the hospital at an estimated cost of $80,000,000 and in return the New South Wales Government will fund 70 per cent of the beds for use by public patients for the next 20 years. The remainder of the beds will be reserved for privately insured patients. The Minister for Health and Community Services, the Hon. J. P. Hannaford, claimed that the cost per bed day would be only $650 compared with $605 per bed day for other comparable hospitals on the North Coast. The agreement reached with the private consortium on the Government's payment of a facilities fee will amount to no more than a couple of million dollars a year. But other estimates put the cost per bed day at $890 and, despite Mr Hannaford's claims that the Government will have auditing powers, it is not clear how the Government could prevent the private hospital owners from reducing the standard of hospital care for public patients to make a profit. And the promise of subsidies for private beds could become an uncontrollable drain on Government funds, for the private owners of the hospital could blackmail the Government over funding of
unprofitable yet essential public services by threatening to discontinue the services if the Government subsidies did not meet with their approval. The New South Wales Labor Party, the New South Wales Council of Social Services and Port Macquarie Residents Action Groups also warn of the threat of second class health care for public patients in New South Wales if the privatisation of Port Macquarie hospital were adopted throughout the State.
Recent suggestions have been made that Government cost cutting on infrastructure has led to lower productivity growth. It is worthy to consider a few figures on that fact. Recently, an economist from the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, David Aschauer, produced evidence that a major cause of the slowdown in private sector productivity in 1970's in the United States was caused by a lack of public sector infrastructure investment in projects such as highways, streets, water systems and sewers. He supports this with figures which show that from 1950 to 1970 the growth rate in net capital stock of government was 4.1 per cent and annual private sector productivity was running at over 2 per cent. In the period 1971 to 1985 growth rate of capital declined to 1.6 per cent and private sector productivity to 0.8 per cent. His conclusion is that the fall off in productivity growth is matched or slightly preceded by a precipitous decline in additions to the net stock of public, non-military structures and equipment. The issue of privatisation and particularly privatisation of basic Government infrastructure is something which we will debate in this community during the coming months. It is an issue of vital importance because government and particularly the State Government should provide basic services, whether they be health, education or transport. The debate will continue. It will be an interesting and lively debate and certainly one worth having.
Debate adjourned on motion by the Hon. J. H. Jobling.
[The Acting-President left the chair at 6.16 p.m. The House resumed at 8.15 p.m. ]
FIREARMS LEGISLATION (AMENDMENT) BILL
Debate resumed from 17th March.
The Hon. E. P. PICKERING (Minister for Police and Emergency Services and Vice-President of the Executive Council) [8.15], in reply: Last night I had expressed my thanks to the Chamber as a whole for support of this legislation. In particular I wish to thank the Hon. R. D. Dyer who was kind enough to express the view on behalf of the official Opposition that no amendments to the bill would be entertained, except those proposed by the Government. The Government has a number of procedural amendments to put before the House at a later time. It now behoves me to address a series of questions placed before the House during the course of the second reading debate by a number of honourable members in relation to a number of matters. I propose to do that as expeditiously as possible. The Hon. R. D. Dyer and a number of other honourable members asked why the Government has not adopted or implemented any of the recommendations contained in the report of the select committee with regard to what might be broadly called the mental illness provisions. I believe honourable members would concede that these matters are complex. They are the subject of examination by an interdepartmental committee established by the Premier. It is the intention of the Government to proceed with these matters expeditiously and properly. I think everyone would agree that, given the importance of the matters, they should be proceeded with,
but with due consideration. I accept completely that in some areas we have legislated to great effect. I refer to the provisions that require professionals to report suspected child abuse, and that provision has proved to be enormously beneficial.
The Hon. R. D. Dyer: That is a mandatory provision.
The Hon. E. P. PICKERING: That is a mandatory provision. I would be quite relaxed about a similar mandatory provision with regard to professionals. Of course, in the case of juveniles the provision relates to teachers, doctors and so on and not to the general community. As I recall the recommendations of the select committee, they related to the general community.
The Hon. Ann Symonds: Any person.
The Hon. E. P. PICKERING: That is a much longer bow to draw than the carefully drawn provisions under the child abuse provisions.
The Hon. Ann Symonds: But are they comparable?
The Hon. E. P. PICKERING: They are comparable. The concepts are comparable and there is no doubt that it has worked well for children. It is a big step to involve the broader community, providing those in the community who become involved in the process with the necessary protections at law, without even considering the civil libertarian aspects associated with it.
The Hon. Ann Symonds: But an ordinary member of the community is more likely to be aware of gun ownership than is a professional.
The Hon. E. P. PICKERING: I accept that but it must be conceded that an ordinary member of the community is less likely to be able to make a professional assessment as to whether a person should or should not possess a firearm, as opposed to a psychiatrist or doctor.
The Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby: But in the case of the Surry Hills problem, the people involved lived within a public housing area where they had been threatened by a member of the same housing complex and were afraid for their personal safety. Would you not agree that if they went to the police, the police would have the right to be concerned about that individual?
The Hon. E. P. PICKERING: Of course. Where people feel threatened by the actions of a person carrying a firearm - which is an offence in itself - it ought properly be reported to the police. The police would always react to such a report. This situation is somewhat different from the one proposed by the committee where, in effect, a person has done nothing wrong. It might be suspected that a person is not of sound mind to have a weapon but he might not have done anything of an illegal nature with that weapon. That is a very different procedure. Though I can understand the willingness of the community to entertain those procedures, they need to be addressed properly. That will be done. The interdepartmental committee has been established and is well on track. The next point raised by the Hon. R. D. Dyer - it was raised also by other honourable members - was the mistaken view of a commissioner's permit applying to a genuine reason associated with animal welfare and control. That is a misreading of the bill or my speech. Genuine reasons were established by the parliamentary select committee. Cabinet made a couple of additions to those genuine reasons, one of which concerned
animal welfare and control. But the genuine reason adopted by the select committee and by Cabinet regarding heirlooms involves the concept of a commissioner's permit. In other words, a person who wishes to maintain possession of a firearm which he believes to be an heirloom may do so by way of a special commissioner's permit. In fact, the permit will normally specify that a person cannot buy ammunition using that shooter's permit. An heirloom is simply something that a person might wish to display as an ornament on a wall. Under those circumstances that person would not be legally entitled to purchase ammunition using a commissioner's permit issued for an heirloom.
The Hon. Ann Symonds: So the condition will be attached to the permit?
The Hon. E. P. PICKERING: The following words will be stamped on the shooter's licence: "Heirloom. You may not purchase ammunition using this shooter's licence". I turn now to the question of genuine reason, which was again raised by the Hon. R. D. Dyer and almost every other speaker. I think the Hon. R. D. Dyer was properly critical in that the genuine reason criteria established by the select committee and endorsed and added to by Cabinet at this stage are not contained in the bill. Of course, they are contained in my second reading speech and, under the Interpretations Act, they have that weight. However, we must, by way of regulation, go behind the genuine reason to establish the degree pertaining to category one and category two firearms and a commissioner's permit in the future. Because of the complexity of the matter and the possible need to change it in the fullness of time, that will be done by way of regulation. I understand it was Parliamentary Counsel's recommendation that we should not enshrine within the bill the genuine reason criteria established by the select committee; rather, we should do it by way of regulation. We have accepted the principle that a person who had a genuine reason - for example, a hunter - would have a lesser responsibility in proving or substantiating that genuine reason if he wanted a category one firearm than he would if he wanted a category two firearm. That principle is enshrined in the report of the select committee; it has been embraced by this Government; and it will be effected by way of detailed regulation.
I turn now to the contribution of the Hon. Ann Symonds. To begin with she was distressed - I thought unnecessarily - about what she described as a lifetime licence. There is no lifetime licence provision in the bill. There is an indefinite licence for category one firearms which is renewable. Every five years people have to renew that licence in order to obtain an updated photographic licence. This is very much in line with the concept of the modern day driver's licence. People will obtain a shooter's licence in the same way they obtain a driver's licence. In order to get a driver's licence people have to go through certain criteria. They have to pass an examination and a practical test and are given a licence. They are then required, in a pretty arbitrary way, to renew that licence every five years. People have to indicate whether they are wearing glasses or whether they suffer from epilepsy. A few questions must be asked in a fairly perfunctory manner. A similar situation will arise in regard to a class one licence. People will have an initial interface with police officers in order to get a licence. They will need to pass the tests applied by the police and the police need to establish whether or not they are criminals. They will need to undertake a safety awareness course and so on. Having got a licence they will have to renew that licence every five years. So that takes care of the concerns of the select committee about the corruption of the database. A shooter's licence will provide an updated photograph of a person and, at that time, that person will again have to establish, by way of application to the Roads and Traffic Authority, whether a good reason remains to hold a firearm. That concern was expressed last night.
The Hon. Ann Symonds: How will the good reason be verified?
The Hon. E. P. PICKERING: A person wanting a class one licence will simply indicate on the application form that the good reason indicated previously remains. That will have to be stated on an application form in the same way as people inform the Roads and Traffic Authority at the moment whether they need to wear glasses or whether they suffer from epilepsy. The Hon. Ann Symonds expressed concern and appeared somewhat disappointed that there was not a proclamation date in the legislation for the wholesale handing in of self-loading weapons. I think that is a fair summary of her views on the matter.
The Hon. Ann Symonds: Some progressive means of handling.
The Hon. E. P. PICKERING: The point is that the legislation will provide for the handing in of firearms from the date of its proclamation, progressively over a period of time and in a number of ways which I will detail succinctly as I go on. The honourable member was very critical about a decision that I have taken to eliminate personal pistol licences, 1A pistol licences, and claimed, to my amazement, that by doing so I would cause a proliferation of pistols in the community.
The Hon. Ann Symonds: No, that is misinterpretation. I applaud the removal of personal pistol licences. I am saying that insufficient means to remove pistols from the community would apply if the pistol clubs were not more adequately policed. Personal pistol applicants would actually just join pistol clubs.
The Hon. E. P. PICKERING: Not necessarily. They will have to be accredited pistol club members. It will not be good enough for them to join a pistol club and forget the club and run away with a pistol - it is not that simple. The person who has historically had a 1A pistol licence has done so essentially for personal protection. As an example, under the previous Labor Government a pistol was issued to the Minister for Corrective Services, Mr Rex Jackson, because he said to the Police Department, "I sometimes make controversial speeches in the Parliament and I feel a need for a pistol". They gave him one. It was taken back when he gained a criminal record. That sort of pistol licence is not going to be available. The sort of pistol one would carry for personal protection bears very little resemblance to the pistol used on a pistol range. They are different weapons. The two are not interchangeable.
The Hon. Ann Symonds: Are the types of pistols for pistol club members to be limited?
The Hon. E. P. PICKERING: Clearly, the sorts of pistols that will be issued to members of pistol clubs will be the types of pistols that people use in pistol clubs.
The Hon. Ann Symonds: That is a very good answer. It is just the sort of answer that those people like.
The Hon. E. P. PICKERING: The next matter that the Hon. Ann Symonds was concerned about was magazine capacity. The honourable member did not seem to be able to come to grips with the concept in the bill that deals with the situation of a magazine which at the moment is capable of holding more than five rounds. For that magazine to be legal after this Act comes into being, it will have to be either disposed of or modified so it can carry only five rounds. If it is not so modified it will be illegal and dealt with stringently under this regulation. The honourable member was most disparaging in her comments.
The Hon. Ann Symonds: I was drawing a distinction between what is legal and what would be the practice.
The Hon. E. P. PICKERING: The honourable member was most disparaging in her comments about the very healthy outdoor sport known as skirmish or paintball. It might pay the honourable member, one of these days, to have a look at this particular outdoor activity which is gaining enormous popularity around the world. In the United States of America and in England it has become a major activity and tourist attraction.
The Hon. Ann Symonds: Boys should do other things in the bush.
The Hon. E. P. PICKERING: I have absolutely no doubts it is a very healthy pastime, although not for men of my age. The honourable member then asked why primary producers would need to have SKSs. She rhetorically asked, why would a poultry farmer need one? I suspect a poultry farmer does not need an SKS to put down the poultry but primary producers in the western plains bedevilled by feral pigs and other feral animals would, no doubt, feel greatly serviced by those sorts of weapons. The honourable member became quite distressed about the concept of a minor's permit and asked the question rhetorically, "Why would minors need a permit?". The first thing I remind the honourable member is that it was her Labor Government which introduced the concept of a minor's permit. During the great fracas after the Strathfield shooting one would have thought I had introduced it. I certainly had some very terrible articles written about me because I was supposed to have been the Minister who introduced it. The truth is, the Labor Government introduced it, and the truth is that every other State in the Commonwealth has introduced such a concept. The concept is that of a permit to allow young people to be trained in the use of firearms. It does not allow a young person to own a firearm. It does not allow a young person to buy a firearm, or to buy ammunition. It simply allows that person, in the company of another licensed shooter, to be taught how to handle firearms safely. The Hon. L. D. W. Coleman quite properly indicated last night that many young people started to handle firearms at a very early age in order to be able to enter competitions.
The Hon. Ann Symonds: When he was six, he said.
The Hon. E. P. PICKERING: In order to be able to compete in the modern Olympic Games young people start training, as they do in all sports, at extraordinarily young ages. That is the competitive nature of the world of sport. I understand that the Hon. Ann Symonds would not like to see any of her children with a gun at that age. The honourable member has to understand that many, many young people are introduced to a very healthy outdoor sport associated with firearms, get a great deal of enjoyment out of it and can be taught at a relatively early age. Minors' permits do not, to the best of my knowledge, cover six-year-olds. The permit goes down to age 10.
The Hon. Ann Symonds: Ten it is.
The Hon. E. P. PICKERING: And that is the situation that exists right across the State. I was fascinated to hear the honourable member refer to the fact that her dear friend the Hon. Barrie Unsworth had got it right back there in 1988. That is a comment which no doubt will be regurgitated throughout New South Wales. Many people will read it with great interest. The honourable member's fascination with the concept of registration was also duly noted, and will continue to be noted right across the State of New South Wales by very many gun owners. The honourable member then went on to deplore the level of gun ownership in New South Wales. At a later time when another
report arrives on my desk, I will draw to the honourable member's attention the select committee report which identified that gun ownership in Sydney is the lowest of any capital city in this country, and the lowest for any State in the Commonwealth. The honourable member should recognise that. To some extent that would be due to the influence of the very tough laws that were introduced by this Government in 1988.
I next turn to the Hon. S. B. Mutch who made an excellent contribution to the debate. He hit upon a subject which has not been thoroughly understood by honourable members or by the community. It is a subject which, to my mind, after the provisions of the domestic violence bill is indeed the next most important thing. Firearms, under this legislation, will no longer be available to people for personal protection. It is not broadly understood that in the community we have something like 300,000-odd people who are registered shooters. It is estimated by those who know something about the industry that there are probably about 600,000 to a million others as well. In other words, it is estimated that in the community at the moment there are between 300,000 and 700,000 people who own and possess firearms without the benefit of a shooter's licence. I cannot verify those figures, but when one stirs up the shooting community in this country it is not difficult to feel that the figures are right after addressing the size of meetings they occasion all over the State. The primary reason for people having firearms without the benefit of a shooter's licence is that years ago a law of this land allowed a person to hold a firearm at home. Provided the firearm was not taken out of the home, it was held legally.
A culture in this country meant that, in effect, one could have a little .22 stuck in the bedroom cupboard for one reason only - that a burglar might come through the door one night and could be dealt with. That was a stupid view if ever I have heard one. Provided the firearm was not removed from the cupboard or taken out of the front door, it was legal. That practice has not been legal in this State for a long time, but I have met many people in the community who in the time I have been involved in this matter have admitted freely to me that they have guns at home. As an indication of the level of gun ownership in New South Wales, when this Government introduced the safety training course and told people who wanted to keep a firearm that they had to obtain a certificate of safety, which would cost $50 and, obviously, cause a certain amount of inconvenience, in the course of one month 25,000 people applied for a shooter's licence. Not all those people - I will not slander them all - but a significant proportion would have possessed firearms illegally. That is obviously a matter of great concern. When the law says to those people that they can no longer hold a firearm for personal protection I have no doubt that a significant number will get rid of their firearms because they are essentially law-abiding citizens who will not perjure themselves at a police station by ticking a question box and claiming another genuine reason above that of private protection. Only today I received a letter from a gentleman whom I shall not identify. I thought he summed up the whole business. He wrote:
I am writing to you seeking some information. I have been the holder of a shooter's licence since 1976 and last year I paid $50 for a supposed lifetime shooter's licence. Earlier this year I was informed by Mr Tony Lauer, the police commissioner, that he had refused my application because of proposed changes to the gun laws and that arrangements were being made to refund the licence fee. I have always been properly registered and over the years have not really had much use for the old .22 single shot rifle I own, and what little use it got was when we lived out past Moree near the Queensland border in 1976-77. I also have a Chinese built air rifle which was specifically purchased to frighten away hawks, etcetera, from my bird aviary. It has not been used more than half a dozen times, but I would like to be able to sell it to recoup some of my loss. I am also quite prepared to hand over the old .22 to the police, preferably with some compensation, otherwise I could destroy it. Basically, what I am saying is that I don't need these firearms and, therefore, wouldn't need a shooter's licence, but I would be grateful if you could let me know when I am likely to get my $50 back.
That gentleman legally held a shooter's licence which he is now reconsidering and saying, "I do not need it". That will happen with a lot of people who have licences for personal protection reasons and others who are unlicensed but have firearms for personal protection. The Hon. Ann Symonds, who very much wants a reduction of firearms in the suburbs, will find that the impact of the legislation will significantly reduce the number of firearms in the community. I have absolutely no doubt about that. Everyone supports that. The last thing wanted by those who wish to make proper use of a firearm for recreational purposes is to have some fool with a loaded .22 in the cupboard in the fond hope that a burglar might come through his door one night. A child might get hold of that rifle, which should not be there and should not be loaded, and the next thing be dead. The gun owning community does not want that. People who do not need a gun for a specified purpose should not have one, and this law will go a long way to achieving that result.
The Hon. S. B. Mutch said he hoped the other States would follow the gun law reform in New South Wales, which is now leading Australia. I hope that is so. I was distressed tonight to find that despite the fact that the Police Ministers Council has agreed to treat the SKS rifle as a prohibited weapon - it is prohibited by the Commonwealth and cannot enter the country, and all the police Ministers agree it should be a prohibited weapon - the Queensland Minister for Police has not yet been able to do anything about it. That is a matter for concern. I am worried that I shall be out in front and other police Ministers will let me down. If they do, I shall bring it to their attention in no uncertain terms. The Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby asked a series of questions with which I shall try to deal as quickly as possible. First, she asked reasonably why a national criminal names index has not been instituted. The Commissioner of Police quite properly identified that under the current law he was required to be absolutely certain that he did not issue a licence to a person with a criminal record. But the only practical thing he can do is check whether a person has a criminal record in New South Wales. There is no practical mechanism by which he can check with other States, and certainly nothing he can do to check with the rest of the world.
The police Ministers have agreed that through an organisation called NECE a computer system will be introduced throughout the country that will enable the States to interchange information. The system will require software, hardware, funds and the support of all the States. That has been agreed. Honourable members can imagine that Tasmania will not be thrilled, given its small size, to be asked 300,000 times a year by New South Wales whether some person has a criminal record. That will produce difficulties. For that reason, the bill will be amended to lower the requirement on the commissioner to a reasonably practicable approach given the physical circumstances, in the knowledge that it will be tightened progressively once the technology is in place.
The Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby: How long did it take to introduce the cross-referencing of people who had too many points on their driving licences?
The Hon. E. P. PICKERING: I cannot answer that, to be perfectly honest. I do not know. The honourable member asked next whether I could confirm the genuine reasons. I have confirmed them. They appear in my second reading speech, and they are quite clear. She talked of the lifetime licence, which I have explained already, and went on to plead that the Government accept the recommendations of Mr Tony Day from the Police Association, which were, in effect, that self-loading rifles should not be allowed in the suburban community. That proposition could not be implemented practicably. We would end up with a situation like the former procedure at tick gates: outside all suburban areas every car would have to be pulled up and inspected to see
whether guns were being brought into the city. It would be like the old wild west days - park your guns at the front gate. It would not work. Honourable members must understand that there are far more people living in the cities who enjoy the recreation of firearms sports than in the country - by a long shot, to use a phrase. Those people's lifestyles mean that they are stuck in city buildings or down coalmines, to quote two examples. They love to get out into the broad open fields where they can involve themselves in their sport, whether it is on a rifle range, or hunting, or whatever. The vast majority of those people live in city areas.
The Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby then asked why police have been given discretion not to seek an apprehended violence order. This is a discretion which is carefully prescribed. The legislation provides that if a police officer does not exercise the right to apply for an apprehended violence order on behalf of, presumably, the wife, the officer must make a notation as to why. The reason must be recorded. In police terms that is a fairly stringent prohibition. Police know that often they will have to justify it. This is a very dicey area. For example, if a man shoots his wife tomorrow night and the police officer does not have written in his book a very good reason for not applying for an apprehended violence order, that officer is very much exposed. One might ask what conceivable reason could occur. I shall outline one possible scenario. A wife who has not been subjected to previous domestic violence, through her own actions because she is unwell or distressed one evening performs in such a way towards her husband that he finally loses his temper and assaults her. The police are then called. If the wife is able to establish to the police that she has never been subjected to assaults from her husband previously - and police often have a pretty good idea of this - that she significantly contributed to what happened, and freely admits that it takes two to start a fight -
The Hon. Ann Symonds: The Minister is in trouble.
The Hon. E. P. PICKERING: No. If under those circumstances the police felt that it was highly unlikely this husband would offend again because he was chastened and distressed at his behaviour, that could be a circumstance in which a police officer -
The Hon. Ann Symonds: That is getting close to blaming the victim.
The Hon. E. P. PICKERING: I am not blaming the victim; do not get me wrong. I am not justifying domestic violence under any circumstance. However, I am saying that this is a circumstance where a police officer may not move to the very draconian step of an apprehended violence order. Honourable members should bear in mind that up until now the law did not provide him with any rights in this area. Therefore, we have come a long way from having virtually no rights to apply for an apprehended violence order to the police officer now being directed to apply, and if that officer does not apply, a very good reason must be given. That is a reasonable balance. The Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby then asked how long the licence is to be suspended when an interim apprehended violence order is taken out. The answer is 28 days. I understand that the interim apprehended violence order would have turned into an apprehended violence order by that stage or have been rescinded. However, within the period of 28 days it is within the discretion of the police to move from suspension of the licence to revocation of the licence. They can do that of their own volition, and normally would. The licence is then completely unavailable to the shooter and the weapons have been seized. Though the shooter has a right at law to contest that revocation of the licence, if that is tested at law and holds, then that is the end of the matter. The shooter has lost his licence. Of course, once the apprehended violence order is in place, a shooter cannot re-apply for a licence for another 10 years from the date of the application. That is very stringent and perfectly satisfactory.
A question arose from a recommendation of the committee that the commissioner require patrol commanders to report statistics. All those recommendations are capable of being dealt with by police instructions. They have been accepted and will be carried out. They are not matters for legislation but for police instruction. The Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby asked why anyone would want a prohibited weapon with a magazine capacity in excess of five rounds. Some professional shooters require a magazine with that capacity and under special circumstances it might be expected that the commissioner would grant that licence. For example, people working for the National Parks and Wildlife Service killing feral animals from a helicopter use large magazines because they fire many rounds in a hurry from that type of platform. It is an unnecessary burden for that professional shooter to be required to change magazines every five rounds. Provided the weapon is used strictly in accordance with the requirement, the commissioner could be expected to grant such a licence.
The Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby had something of a problem when she wanted to introduce the concept of random checks by police on firearms storage. I am not sure whether the Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby was present in the Chamber, but I well recall the agony this Chamber went through - and quite properly so - in deciding whether or not to give police the right to randomly check for drunk drivers who, at the time, were killing at least 500 people per year, not to mention the numbers being maimed. We agonised over the civil liberties aspect. Finally, with great difficulty, we came down in favour of random breath testing which has produced a spectacular result and saved hundreds and hundreds of lives. Considering that the number of people killed by firearms in our community is slight compared to the road toll, it is outrageous to suggest that hundreds of thousands, if not a million-odd, people in this State should face the prospect of police making random checks and being able to walk into a person's house like jackbooted brownshirts any time of the day or night. That is certainly not on under any circumstances.
The Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby: If the Minister looks at the recommendations it was suggested that they should be checked on the renewal of a licence application.
The Hon. E. P. PICKERING: No, there was a recommendation that there be random checking as well as the renewal licence. In fact, the figure nominated was that 10 per cent of shooters should be randomly checked each year. That was a recommendation of the committee and is rejected by the Government. We are introducing legislation to mandatorily withdraw all firearms from domestic violence situations as they occur. When one considers the incredible number of domestic violence incidents that occur in the State each year and that 15 per cent are expected to involve registered shooters, that is a form of sampling of the community which is most valuable when it comes to the question of enforcing storage laws. It is important to ensure that those people store firearms safely. The whole concept of safe storage is not only to protect children but also to protect people who simply fly off the handle and, on the spur of the moment, fire a weapon that is readily available, loaded and ready to go. Safe storage has a concept of making it difficult to obtain and put the firearm together. By the time that is done, hopefully the person will have cooled off.
The domestic violence situation will provide a random, comprehensive, and representative sample of shooters who will have their storage checked. If a firearm retrieved from a domestic violence situation is not stored correctly, a further offence, if proven, provides for the firearm to be destroyed. Honourable members with any knowledge of the firearms community realise that destroying firearms is the worst thing that could be done to firearms owners. That is why I have deliberately made provision
for that penalty. If a firearm is not stored properly and a domestic violence situation erupts, that person will be charged with an offence. This offence carries a heavy penalty of a number of years in gaol or a fine. Also, if the offence is proven, the gun is destroyed without question and that is it; finished. I am more than satisfied that the bill provides for a stringent check to be carried out on the safe storage of weapons.
The Hon. R. D. Dyer: The police could be attending a home for a purpose other than investigating firearms.
The Hon. E. P. PICKERING: There are many ways the police can carry out a check. They could be legitimately in a home for a variety of reasons. For example, they might have a search warrant to enter a residence to look for drugs. If during the course of that search they find firearms inappropriately stored, charges will be laid. It is as simple as that. The firearms safety course was raised. The honourable member asked why we did not introduce a practical test. The reason is that it is not necessary and is impractical. The teaching of firearms safety does not involve the teaching of skills but rather the teaching of knowledge. I shall explain what I mean by that. The safe use of firearms involves knowledge of a whole range of things that one does or does not do with a firearm. For example, people are taught how to carry a firearm across the country and get through a fence. How many people have been killed while getting through a fence inappropriately when carrying a firearm? It is not necessary to have a firearm or a fence in order to teach someone how to put a firearm safely through a fence. That can be done by means of videos, photographs, descriptions and so on.
It is not necessary to teach persons how to shoot straight in order to teach them what to do or not to do about firearms safety. The position is not analogous to the driving of a motor vehicle; not only does one have to know the rules of the road, but one must have some skill to be able to drive a car safely. That is not so with firearms. As a non-sporting person I might say that it is a little like someone being taught how to use a putter when playing golf and expecting that person to be able to use every iron and wood in the golf bag. It does not work that way. The firearms training course is undertaken before the person gets near the weapon. It is not necessary to have a weapon in order to train a person. Such a variety of weapons are available that there is no such thing as a generic weapon that one could give to a person and say that is the firearm the person will be exposed to when purchasing a firearm and obtaining a licence. The advice of the armourer from the Police Service has confirmed that our view on that matter is sensible. Undoubtedly the introduction of the firearms safety awareness course is a major step forward in firearms safety in the community.
The Hon. Ann Symonds: Will the firearms consultative committee be retained?
The Hon. E. P. PICKERING: Yes. I will be meeting with members of the committee this week.
The Hon. Ann Symonds: Does the committee have a nicely balanced membership?
The Hon. E. P. PICKERING: Yes, very balanced, from one end of the spectrum to the other.
The Hon. Ann Symonds: Does that mean the membership includes men and women?
The Hon. E. P. PICKERING: Yes, indeed; the committee includes some very nice ladies.
The Hon. Ann Symonds: Is that how the Minister defines balanced?
The Hon. E. P. PICKERING: The Hon. Ann Symonds defined it by asking whether men and women were on the committee. I confirmed that we have men and women on the committee.
The Hon. Ann Symonds: Are various interests represented?
The Hon. E. P. PICKERING: Of course. There are people from the Bank Employees Union and the Police Association who clearly have one view about guns, and others from the firearms community who have a different view about guns. There is a wide spectrum of people.
The Hon. Ann Symonds: Is the medical profession represented?
The Hon. E. P. PICKERING: I cannot give the honourable member precise details of the membership, but it includes a wide range of people. Another question asked was why under the provisions of the legislation primary producers will be able to retain their firearms. The reason is that firearms are helpful to the commercial interests of the farmers. That was a specific recommendation of the select committee, and it is tinged with all types of provisions: they can use the firearms only on their own properties and the magazines must be permanently modified to take five rounds of ammunition or less. A question was asked about whether shooters from other States would have to get a licence in New South Wales or whether their existing licences would be recognised. The answer is that there are reciprocal rights for longarms between all States except Tasmania and Queensland. Queensland recently amended legislation and police are assessing the retention of rights between Queensland and New South Wales shooters. Target pistol shooters have reciprocal rights as well. To the best of my knowledge my response has covered most, if not all, of the questions asked by honourable members.
The Hon. Ann Symonds: Will there be a review process, an evaluation of the operation of the legislation?
The Hon. E. P. PICKERING: Of course there will be. That is ongoing. What process does the honourable member think occurs in the Parliament? We review legislation continuously and introduce amendments and qualifications.
The Hon. Ann Symonds: But sometimes mechanisms are set in place for that purpose.
The Hon. E. P. PICKERING: One of the mechanisms we have in place is the New South Wales Police Service.
The Hon. Ann Symonds: Does the Minister mean that he has no review process in mind?
The Hon. E. P. PICKERING: Of course there is a review process. All new legislation introduced in this Parliament will be reviewed - through my office, the Police Department and other agencies. The problems that arise will be identified and dealt with.
The Hon. Ann Symonds: Will that be part of an annual report from the Police Department?
The Hon. E. P. PICKERING: No, I will not be calling for an annual report on individual pieces of legislation. That would be an unusual step.
The Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby: The Minister has not answered one question and that was why it will be possible to keep a prohibited weapon until 1997.
The Hon. E. P. PICKERING: The bill provides for those who currently own firearms that were legitimately and legally purchased under existing licences to retain their rights that were established at law at that time. In other words, I am reluctant to get involved in what one might call retrospective legislation with regard to people's rights. The vast majority of people will be affected by the legislation from the day it is proclaimed. Honourable members will know that in this State licences have been suspended for 12 months or more. That accumulation of people - about half the registered shooting fraternity - will be affected very quickly. But some people have licences that will not expire until 1994. At the date of expiry of those licences those people will have to face the new licensing system. The decision on whether they will be able to retain what will be a prohibited weapon under this legislation will be at the discretion of the regulations identified in the legislation and the Commissioner of Police. Many people will not want to keep those weapons or be able to keep them. At that time those weapons will be handed in and some persons will be compensated. Certainly those with prohibited weapons will be compensated. Much of that will happen quickly, because there is an accumulation of people waiting to be processed, as it were. The principle involved is not to have retrospective legislation. There is also a problem regarding the practicality of handling the matter. The Hon. Barrie Unsworth found out what happens when one tries to get all the weapons in on the one day. It is not a pretty sight and is not easy to achieve. If it is intended to encourage people to go about this in a sensible way, this legislation will achieve that. The procedure is directly in line with the committee's recommendation. I think the committee was spot-on. With those few concise words I commend the bill to the House.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a second time.
The Hon. E. P. PICKERING (Minister for Police and Emergency Services and Vice-President of the Executive Council) [9.10]: The Government has four amendments to move in regard to schedule one. They are minor in nature; essentially they tidy up matters which have been identified after the bill was first promulgated. I move:
Page 8 schedule 1(5) lines 25-28. From paragraph one of the matter relating to shooter licence - class 1, omit "or self-loading shotguns, fitted with an integral magazine, or with a detachable magazine, capable of holding more than 5 rounds". Insert instead "self-loading shotguns".
The purpose of this amendment is to make it absolutely clear that a shooter licence-class 1 does not apply to self-loading centre-fire rifles, self-loading shot guns or prohibited weapons. There is some argument about the existing wording. I do not want any confusion. Under no circumstance is there to be in class 1 firearms a self-loading centre-
fire rifle, self-loading shotgun or a prohibited weapon. That is a matter that the Committee can completely concur with. I commend the amendment.
The Hon. R. D. DYER [9.11]: As I indicated during the second reading stage of the bill, the Opposition will not resist and will indeed support any amendment of a technical or procedural nature proposed by the Government. The Minister has given a credible explanation as to why this amendment is necessary. Accordingly the Opposition supports this amendment. If the Minister, in respect of the next three amendments he proposes to place before the Committee, also gives a suitable explanation, the Opposition will support those amendments on the same basis.
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY [9.12]: I have a question to ask the Minister about this amendment. Am I right in assuming that after this amendment is passed, the clause will read, "Firearms to which the licence applies: Air rifles, rifles, shotguns and rifle/shotgun combinations (but not self-loading shot guns)"?
The Hon. E. P. Pickering: To my amazement, apparently there are two sets of different amendments, which I find a little difficult to comprehend. Fortunately I have the right one in my hand and the Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby and the Hon. R. D. Dyer have the wrong one. How that occurred is beyond my comprehension. I do apologise.
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY: It might be better to say from paragraph one: insert instead after the word "not" the words "self-loading shotguns". I am not a parliamentary draftsman, however I think that would make it clearer.
The Hon. E. P. PICKERING [9.13]: We are proceeding on the advice of the Parliamentary Counsel. What the Government and the Independents want to achieve is clear. On the advice of the Parliamentary Counsel, that is what is recommended. The intent of the amendment is clear.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE [9.14]: On behalf of the Call to Australia group I wish to put on the record our support for this amendment, which would omit all self-loading shotguns fitted with an integral magazine or detachable magazine capable of holding more than five rounds.
Amendment agreed to.
The Hon. E. P. PICKERING (Minister for Police and Emergency Services and Vice-President of the Executive Council) [9.16]: I have just been advised that the earlier distribution of amendments was incorrect but only with regard to the first amendment. The rest are common to both documents. I move:
Page 12. Schedule 1(8), line 4. Omit "from", insert instead "until".
This amendment to section 27(3) will enable the expiry date of the licence to be shown rather than the date of issue. It is proposed that the new photographic firearms licence be issued in conjunction with the Roads and Traffic Authority licence. The change accords with their existing system. The Roads and Traffic Authority's driver's licence shows the expiry date. To issue through the same system a shooter's licence which shows the date of issue involves significant software program changes. The RTA has asked that we issue a five-year licence with an expiry date rather than an issue date. The Government has no problem with that. It is a simple matter of amending the bill to accommodate it.
Amendment agreed to.
The Hon. E. P. PICKERING (Minister for Police and Emergency Services and Vice-President of the Executive Council) [9.16]: I move:
Page 16. Schedule 1(16)(e), line 27. After proposed clause 17(1)(b) insert:
(c) who is not excluded from the application of this clause by the regulations,
I am advised that the purpose of this amendment is to ensure that the regulations may exclude persons from the application of this clause.
Amendment agreed to.
The Hon. E. P. PICKERING (Minister for Police and Emergency Services and Vice-President of the Executive Council) [9.17]: I move:
Page 18. Schedule 1(16)(e). After line 35, insert:
Issue of certain interim licences and permits
22.(1) The Commissioner of Police may issue a shooter licence - class 1, a shooter licence - class 2 or a permit referred to in clause 7B of the Prohibited Weapons Regulation 1990 (as amended by the Firearms Legislation (Amendment) Act 1992) which does not contain a photograph of the person to whom it is issued.
(2) A licence or permit issued in accordance with this clause continues in force for such period not exceeding six months, as is specified in the licence or permit, unless the licence or permit is earlier surrendered or revoked or otherwise ceases to be in force.
(3) The authority to issue a licence or permit in accordance with this clause ceases on 31 December 1992 or such earlier date as may be notified to the Commissioner of Police by the Minister.
The purpose of this amendment is to provide transitional arrangements to enable the issue of an interim firearms licence without a photograph for a period of up to six months. This will ensure that interim licences will be issued, particularly to new shooters, until a photographic licence can be issued by the RTA. This amendment is necessary to enable the proper integration of the facilities of the RTA's photographic system into the new arrangement for photographic firearm licences. This transitional arrangement will only extend to 31st December, 1992, or such earlier time as may be notified to the Commissioner of Police. Put succinctly, it has been the intention of the Government to begin to reissue shooters' licences from 1st May this year, after a very long break in the issuing of licences. In the last few days we have found that the software development required to change the RTA computer system to interface with the police system cannot be achieved much before 1st July. Rather than further suspend and hold up the licences, this clause will enable an interim licence to be issued which will enable a person in a month or two to take the licence into the RTA and have the photographic licence issued. Because of the inconvenience which will be occasioned to the community, the interim licence will be issued for free and the payment of the proper licence fee will be made at the time the application is made to the RTA. I accept there is some inconvenience involved for shooters, but the interim licences will be provided free and that is seen as adequate compensation.
The Hon. ANN SYMONDS [9.19]: I have a question to ask the Minister about the commissioner's permits. I ask formally, and would like to know if it is possible for the Minister to tell me now, to what rank of officer in the Police Service the authority of the commissioner will be delegated in order to issue the permits and licences?
The Hon. E. P. PICKERING (Minister for Police and Emergency Services and Vice-President of the Executive Council) [9.20]: I am sure the permits to which the honourable member is referring are the commissioner's permits as set out in the bill, not the permit referred to by way of amendment. I just make that point. I gather the honourable member is referring to the class 3 licences?
The Hon. Ann Symonds: I am.
The Hon. E. P. PICKERING: Those permits allow the commissioner to issue permits for prohibited weapons, military-style weapons, and 25-pounders, if you like. Perhaps an RSL club will want to put a 25-pounder in its front yard and the commissioner will issue the permit, as I have as Minister on a number of occasions. That type of permit is now the responsibility of the commissioner. Under the Act it was the responsibility of the Minister. There is a delegation of authority for the commissioner. Though Ministers have signed these things in the past, I do not expect that commissioners will ever be silly enough to sign all of them. There is a provision for them to delegate and I imagine the delegation would go down to the senior officer in charge of the firearm registry.
Amendment agreed to.
Schedule as amended agreed to.
The Hon. R. D. DYER [9.21]: I should like to ask the Minister a question concerning schedule 2(5) at page 20 of the bill. The recommendation made by the Joint Select Committee upon Gun Law Reform was to the effect that where a person fails to inform the Commissioner of Police of a change of address, as required under a licence or permit, that person shall, on conviction, be disqualified from holding a licence or permit for a period of two years or be disqualified from holding a licence or permit for the balance of the term of the person's current licence or permit, whichever is the longer. In substance that provides for two years' disqualification or disqualification for whatever the residue of the current licence or permit might be, whichever happens to be the longer period of time. I draw the attention of the Committee to the fact that the provision contained in the bill is that where a holder is convicted of this offence of failing to notify a change in the holder's usual residential address and did not notify such change within 28 days of that change, that person may be disqualified from holding a licence or permit for five years from the date of conviction. That is a significantly more serious penalty.
The Opposition is not opposed to the provision. I indicated that the Opposition would not move any amendments to the bill. However, I seek some assurance or clarification from the Minister. Mr Robert Mitton, the legislation and policy officer of the Sporting Shooters Association of Australia, has been in contact with me today. He is concerned in particular about the quite serious penalty that would be visited on a person who offended in this respect. It leads one to ask what would be the position in the case, for example, of someone who went overseas temporarily and, through inadvertence, failed to notify the change of address. I realise that, if the matter comes before a magistrate, the magistrate has the usual discretion to grant a discharge under section 556A of the Crimes Act. Can the Minister make any comment as to what the position would be if there was not wilful failure to notify a change of address but a reasonable and appropriate explanation is given that a failure is due to inadvertence of some sort?
The Hon. E. P. PICKERING (Minister for Police and Emergency Services and Vice-President of the Executive Council) [9.25]: I thank the honourable member for raising this issue. It highlights the fact that the Government has taken a stronger stand on this matter than was recommended by the committee, and we have seen other examples of that. The Government thought this issue to be important. Many of the worthwhile provisions of this bill are directed towards domestic violence and hinge upon the ability of the police to identify whether a licensed shooter resides at an address where a domestic violence incident is reported. If the computer database of addresses is badly corrupted - and the failure of a person to advise a change of address can corrupt it - the effectiveness of an otherwise perfectly sensible provision is diluted. Substantial evidence was given to the committee, I think by the Police Service, about the corruption of the existing database for this reason. Therefore it was thought that a tough penalty should apply and I doubt that any honourable member would disagree with that.
However, it should be recognised that a person must be convicted of this offence. Courts exercise discretion and one could well imagine that a court would exercise discretion not to convict if a person could demonstrate that he or she had been overseas for a long period, or had been very ill for a long time. They would be logical explanations that I imagine the court would accept, using the discretion that the court has. I believe that those who are convicted of the offence of negligently failing to advise of a change of address should face a severe penalty if we are to ensure that the proper protections that we are inserting in the legislation in order to protect men, women and children from domestic violence are as strong as they can be.
The Hon. R. D. DYER [9.27]: I thank the Minister for that explanation. I want to raise one other matter, not in relation to that provision but in relation to schedule 2 as a whole. Schedule 1, to which the Committee has agreed, contains amendments to the Firearms Act 1989 and schedule 2 contains amendments to the Firearms Regulation 1990. I am not entirely clear how the amendments to the regulation, other than those contained in schedule 2 now before the Committee, are to be dealt with. For example, the Minister said when replying to the second reading debate that the good reason criteria are being consigned to the regulation on the basis that they are a matter of some detail and the good reason criteria will differ as between categories or classes of weapons. For instance, there are class 1 weapons and class 2 weapons and the good reason criteria will differ as between those, and those are matters that would be dealt with in the regulation. Having regard to the clear importance of the good reason criteria and their centrality to the firearms legislative package, can the Minister indicate how that will be developed? Will there be some form of consultative mechanism or body? For example, will interest groups within the shooting community and, for that matter, other interested groups, be consulted? I think the Minister knows what I am driving at. What methodology will the Minister use to develop further amendments to the Firearms Regulation 1990?
The Hon. E. P. PICKERING (Minister for Police and Emergency Services and Vice-President of the Executive Council) [9.31]: Based upon data contained in the original Cabinet minute, Parliamentary Counsel advised us to amend as much of the regulation as we could at this stage. That is why we have before us a significant amount of regulatory change. However, other matters still need to be finalised, primarily because there has to be a proper consultative process. The Hon. R. D. Dyer would know that, under the new arrangements with regard to the development of regulations, if we do not go about a proper regulatory and consultative process we would fall foul of the chairman of the Regulation Review Committee, who could present the Parliament with a very nasty report. A consultative process is to be put into place within a day or two. Proposed regulations, which will finalise this legislative package, are being put through
the consultative process. Those regulations deal with the fine details and cover about 10 different aspects of the firearms law. They are nitty-gritty things that require a lot of careful and detailed consultation with a range of community organisations - not just firearms organisations but also the New South Wales Police Service, legal people and so on. Once those regulations are framed they will be introduced in the same way as most regulations are introduced. The Parliament will allow the normal 15 days for the regulations to be enacted or for any of the regulations to be rescinded by this Chamber or by the other place.
Schedule agreed to.
Bill reported from Committee with amendments and report adopted.
GOVERNMENT LEGISLATIVE PROGRAM
Debate resumed from an earlier hour.
The Hon. J. F. RYAN [9.35]: As one of the newest members of this House I would like to start my contribution to this debate by saying how much I and my family enjoyed the visit of Her Majesty to this Parliament. The President should be congratulated on the manner in which he made arrangements for Her Majesty's visit and for the wonderful way those arrangements were effected on that day. Recently it has been fashionable to suggest that our system of constitutional monarchy should be abolished and replaced with a republic. It is natural, over time, for those intense feelings about Her Majesty to fade. One need only compare the crowds during the Queen's visit to our country in 1954 - literally one million people came into the city to see her arrive - with the smaller and more intimate crowds which lined our streets during her last visit. During Her Majesty's visit to our Parliament I had the chance to meet her for a brief moment. My children enjoyed the very real pleasure of presenting her with some floral bouquets. All honourable members had a chance to feel some of those emotions which I am sure were experienced 32 years ago. Just yesterday I had the chance to host a lunch at Parliament House for 12 members of the Holroyd branch of the Arthritis Foundation. Every one of those people recounted to me with a great deal of emotion - and it would not be unreasonable to call that emotion joy - their many reminiscences of seeing Her Majesty from some vantage point in the city, either during her most recent visit or on the occasion of a previous royal visit.
In a world which has become so complex and which is frequently disturbed by many dreadful events, an event like the visit of Her Majesty provides a rare chance for such universal pleasure. I believe - emotional though this is - this one fact alone provides reason enough to hold on to our current relationship with the Crown. I believe it will be a long time before the majority of people in Australia will feel anything like the level of excitement, which was generated by the Queen's visit, towards a Head of state appointed by a political process, no matter how non-partisan that appointment may be. It is with pleasure that I support the positive comments made by the Leader of the Government in outlining the Government's program. For a start, it should be noted that, despite tough economic times and despite the lack of an absolute majority by the Government in either House, the Government is continuing with its aim of changing New South Wales for the better. Governments in other States faced with similar scenarios have become paralysed to act - or are snap-frozen as I have once heard the Premier describe them. The program for this session of the Parliament continues to include landmark reforms - like reforms
to local government, reforms to firearms laws, further legislation relating to the establishment of the Government's Environment Protection Agency and amendments to the Anti-Discrimination Act to outlaw discrimination on the ground of age, to name just a few. This legislation and other government programs are designed to improve the quality of life of New South Wales residents. They have as their chief aim making our Government responsive to the needs of New South Wales residents.
Our paramount concern is to redress the suffering caused by the present recession. We seek to do this without adding to the weight of the massive burden of State debt to our community. I am sure that every honourable member in this Chamber would never want a repeat of the great damage caused by the huge interest rate spirals of recent years. Jobs, small businesses, farmers and home mortgagees have all suffered greatly under the pressure of high interest rates. I do not believe that the home interest rates of 17.5 per cent resulted in any social benefit to any person in need. We all know that these high rates and tight fiscal policy arose in the early 1980s from over-borrowing by both business and government. We have become junkies to credit. The former New South Wales government was no exception. Governments simply have to stop spending money they do not have. If they continue to do so, no matter how high their motivation in borrowing that money, some time down the track the result will be pain for people who can least afford to bear that pain. For that reason, I note with great concern the Federal Government's One Nation statement which has reverted to a high-spending strategy to address the recession. It is highly unlikely that the growth rates predicted in that statement will ever be achieved in sufficient time to pay for the $2 billion worth of projects announced by the Prime Minister.
Additionally I am concerned that the New South Wales Opposition is committed to the same kind of activity. The profligate spending programs of the Opposition have been hidden by what I might refer to as a good cop-bad cop routine operated by the Leader of the Labor Party, Mr Carr, and by the Leader of the Opposition in this House, the Hon. M. R. Egan. Mr Carr and a few of his other lower House colleagues have been making big spending promises while the Labor Leader of this House masquerades a sham concern for tight control of spending, reining in debt and controlling waste. The truth is these two politicians contradict each other. Let me illustrate that by referring to some of the promises that have been made by the Labor Leader, Mr Carr, with regard to roads, hospitals, and education. Labor claims it can maintain hospital services in the city and expand services in rural and metropolitan growth areas and that it can do this by spending only taxpayers' money. Labor also claims it can restore the 2,500 teaching positions, offer enhanced facilities in schools, increase promotion opportunities for teachers and yet not massively increase government debt. Mr Carr recently visited marginal electorates in this State. In the northwestern suburbs of Sydney he promised to scrap the toll on the F4 Freeway. In the electorate of Camden he promised to scrap the toll on the F5 Freeway and, during the by-election for the seat of The Entrance, he promised to spend $300 million to upgrade roads on the Central Coast. These promises represent $1 billion worth of spending.
The Hon. Patricia Forsythe: Where is the money coming from?
The Hon. J. F. RYAN: Indeed. The promises represent $400 million a year in excess of the current budget for roads. How will the Leader of the Opposition perform the miracle of funding these projects with nothing? Either he will borrow money and harm people down the track, as I mentioned earlier, or he will impose higher taxes. The
truth is that he cannot produce money from nowhere. The Government has a policy of attempting to rein in spending where possible and to reform government administration in order to produce growth. Unfortunately in the present recession we have been unable to demonstrate that growth in terms of a high rate of employment. The nation has been affected by the unfortunate blight of unemployment and the best New South Wales has been able to claim is that its rate of unemployment is at least better than that in other States. The unemployment rate in New South Wales is 10 per cent compared with a national average of 10.5 per cent. The highest rate of unemployment is being experienced in South Australia, with 11.5 per cent. The message is clear: unemployment continues to be a major problem Australia-wide but people in New South Wales have the best chance of getting jobs. I believe that they have that best chance because the Government has had the guts to streamline government administration, to promote private infrastructure, to ensure as far as possible that it has not added to the massive level of debt in this State.
The Hon. I. M. Macdonald: What about the $2.4 million spent on advertising the privatisation campaign?
The Hon. J. F. RYAN: The $2.4 million spent on advertising was debated in this Chamber earlier. Unfortunately the honourable member was not present during that debate. I spent 10 minutes explaining why I believe that the expenditure was justifiable. First, it will be paid for from the proceeds of the privatisation of the GIO. Second, the campaign is necessary to ensure that the float of the GIO is successful - so that not only the smarties will get hold of the shares. We are attempting to make sure that the GIO privatisation appeals to people who, until now, have not usually been buyers of shares and participators in the stockmarket. Either we leave the GIO as the people's float or we advertise in the normal, narrow manner and only grab those who normally read Rydges or the Business Review Weekly. It is our intention to give people who have small nest eggs an opportunity to acquire their share in a public asset. I understood in that regard we were doing nothing more than fulfilling a request to the Government, from the Labor Party, which was a request that as many people as possible in the community participate in that float. So the money spent in advertising is highly justifiable. Once that float is successful, it will contribute to the health of this State's economy.
Before the interjection I was referring to unemployment rates in New South Wales. Though unemployment rates provide no pleasure, the latest figures for New South Wales show that teenage unemployment has dropped by more than 2 percentage points to a still disgraceful level, from 34.9 per cent in January to 32.7 per cent in February. In Victoria the teenage jobless rate has jumped from 40 per cent to a disastrous 46 per cent in February. Nearly half the young people who are not in school in Victoria are still looking for a job and are not able to find one. In New South Wales the number of teenagers looking for a job fell last month by 6,500 during February. This is an astonishing result because traditionally school leavers entering the job market would have boosted the February teenage unemployment rate. But this year youth unemployment appears to have peaked in January. In New South Wales 14.5 per cent of teenagers are unemployed, the lowest level of teenage unemployment in the country compared with 14.7 per cent in Queensland, 16.8 per cent in Victoria and more than 17 per cent in other States. This Government has promised growth and is attempting in very hard circumstances to deliver it. Our real achievements in the field of reducing or minimising the blight of unemployment have been periodically attacked by members opposite, mainly by the Hon. M. R. Egan. In attacking the New South Wales record of unemployment the honourable member is for ever moving the goal-posts on this issue and selectively quoting job figures.
In his press release of 16th January he claimed that New South Wales accounted for almost all of the rise in unemployment, that almost 9,000 jobs out of the 9,600 that had been lost during the month were lost in New South Wales. That is true. There was a rise in unemployment in New South Wales of 9,100 jobs and that accounted for almost all the general fall experienced in unemployment throughout the nation. However, what the Leader of the Opposition failed to consider was that in the following month when unemployment fell by 16,200, 13,100 of those jobs were found in New South Wales. Though 9,000 jobs were lost in New South Wales during December, 13,000 extra jobs were created during January. It is not fair simply to grab a statistic for one month and to suggest that that somehow reflects on the total performance for unemployment in the State as a whole. Similarly, the Leader of the Opposition made the complaint in another press release issued on the same day that, despite the fact that 40,000 new jobs were created nationally in December, New South Wales lost 100 jobs during that month.
That statement was also true, but yet another selective quoting of the facts. In January New South Wales contributed 13,800 of the 28,000 jobs that had been created during that month. In December, New South Wales still had the lowest unemployment rate for the country. It is fair to say that the statistics have remained fairly consistent throughout the past 12 months; though unemployment generally has been rising and though participation rates and growth figures have been declining at different rates, New South Wales consistently has remained ahead of the other States. It is not a record of which any Australian would be proud when the unemployment rate is above 9 per cent, but New South Wales is doing its best to ensure that unemployment is minimised in this State. It is popular for members of the Opposition to criticise this Government as one that does not care about meeting the ordinary needs of the people; that the Government is somehow fascinated and bedevilled only by matters financial; that concentration has been solely on budget deficits, productivity savings and so forth. But this Government does have a great commitment to increasing the quality of life of people in New South Wales, and it is its concentration on some of those mechanics that enables it to provide benefits to the people of this State.
I shall demonstrate the Government's commitment by outlining the Government's programs for young people and the benefits that have been delivered in the hospital system, particularly in Sydney's west. Earlier this year I had the pleasure of attending an opening of a $12 million hospital facility at Liverpool. That facility will improve eye surgery procedures in Liverpool and will provide new physiotherapy premises and other accommodation in which academic medical practitioners will train doctors. It is the first stage in making Liverpool Hospital southwest Sydney's important teaching hospital. I was pleased to attend its opening. It gave me some pleasure to watch the honourable member for Liverpool roast with the embarrassment of having to be present at the opening of a hospital facility within his electorate only months after he had gone out the front of this Parliament and had participated in the protest carried out by certain members of the health workers unions criticising this Government's commitment to moving resources to Sydney's west, yet he had to preside at one of the important benefits that had been delivered as a result of moving those resources around.
I note with a great deal of pleasure the recent announcement by the Minister for Health and Community Services of a $2.9 million neonatal intensive care unit at the Nepean Hospital. Each year in that area 5,000 babies are born, giving it one of the highest birth rates in New South Wales. Yet that area, which has such a high birth rate, did not, until this Government provided it, have this sort of neonatal intensive care unit. Many honourable members in this Chamber and many previous administrations think that western Sydney finishes at Parramatta. Parramatta is quickly becoming the eastern
suburbs of western Sydney. There is a great area between Parramatta and Penrith. This Government recognises that thousands of people live beyond Parramatta and even further out. Therefore, it is providing hospital facilities for young babies at places like Nepean Hospital. The neonatal intensive care unit will include accommodation for the parents of critically ill babies, a mothers' room and also, because sadly it is needed, a private grieving room outside the nursery. The Greiner Government does care for the needs of people and demonstrates that in health service. It has been able to provide that care only because of proper fiscal management of its budget.
I should like to comment briefly on the Government's commitment to youth programs. It has been pointed out to me that the recent budget spending on young people's programs alone amounted to $2.1 billion. That represents almost 14 per cent of the State Budget, which is roughly the same proportion of this State's population that young people comprise. The Government is giving young people their fair share. I should like to comment on a couple of the programs the State Government is promoting. I am sure that honourable members will believe them worthy of comment and of applause. One is the helping early leavers program, or HELP, which this year will have a budget of $2.5 million. The helping early leavers' program funds community organisations that provide basic numeracy, literacy and self-esteem courses for young people who have left school early or who are at risk of doing so. HELP projects are located throughout New South Wales, and right now approximately 4500 young people participate in the program. A recent evaluation of the program showed that it is producing the results it is meant to achieve. It has targeted high unemployment groups of young people aged 15 to 24 years. Of the people participating in those projects, 47 per cent of boys and 56 per cent of girls have left school and have been unemployed for more than six months. Honourable members will be pleased to learn that 60 per cent of the participants in HELP are still at school continuing study. The program has been of significant help in increasing school participation and probably accounts, in part, for the recent announcements the Minister for School Education and Youth Affairs made about increasing retention rates at schools.
It is pleasing to me, as it is to the Government, that the program has been successful in targeting children most in need of help. A review of the program has shown that it is successfully targeting ethnic participants from non-English speaking backgrounds. Their participation rates in this program are extremely high. I could speak of many programs, but one that I think is worthy of comment because it involved a large number of children from Sydney's southwest was a project conducted by the Youth Advisory Council called the Youth Environment Conference. During 1991 members of the council conducted a number of liaisons with young people and identified - and I think most honourable members would agree identified correctly - that many young people are particularly concerned about the environment. The council met the Minister for the Environment to discuss this issue. From those consultations emerged a project called the Youth Environment Conference, which was held in early 1991 and conducted a number of projects throughout the State whereby young people did their bit to assist the environment. The response was overwhelming. Hundreds of projects around the State were suggested and the creators of the 20 best were invited to put on a presentation at the conference.
The projects for the conference were chosen according to how effectively the project had been carried out, protected the environment and benefited the community. Most importantly, projects were selected for their ability to involve the rest of the community. I want to congratulate particularly a group of young people from Greystanes High School who called themselves the Rainbow Warriors. They borrowed the name
from the Greenpeace flagship. The students from Greystanes High School, in Sydney's west, wanted to continue to uphold the ship's tradition of promoting peace between people and the environment but at the school level. These people identified a particular environmental project of improving the boundary between their school and the new F4 Freeway currently being constructed. Those people used their own time during the lunch hour and after school to undertake various studies that resulted in improvement of the environment in the barrier between the school and the highway.
Those young people compiled maps, took photographs drew up site plans and presented these to government departments and local government. They are involved in a project designed to purchase and plant 250 trees and shrubs from the Forestry Commission and to erect environmental barriers between the school to reduce noise from the expressway. The students won an accolade from 2MMM, the environmental citizens award, for the project those students conducted. The project is continuing and has been very successful. I should also like to congratulate some young people from the Fairfield area called the Fairfield Green Group. These were students from Canley Vale, Fairvale, Prairie Wood, Cabramatta, Bonnyrigg, Fairfield, Our Lady of the Rosary and St Johns Park high schools. Those schools sent delegates to an environmental group called the Environmental Green Group. They also designed a number of projects within their area. With assistance from the Fairfield City Council the group designed a program to plant 60,000 trees over the next 10 years. Obviously, subsequent students will continue that project, the object of which is to create a rainforest atmosphere in an area in Fairfield. They have also been adopting local creeks and parks and have conducted cleanups to regenerate the surrounds of creeks and parks and to rehabilitate the ecosystem in those areas.
To change tack I applaud the fact that on 31st March the Government's new Industrial Relations Act will come into force. I do not wish to go into any detail but I should like to relate one instance of a constituent with a non-English speaking background who asked me to clear up a problem he was having on his work site as a result of a visit from the Building Workers Industrial Union. His project had been going well. He received a delegation from the Building Workers Industrial Union which, in the course of one day, ordered four painters on his site to join the union even though they specifically did not want to. So much for the myth that this State does not have compulsory unionism. The delegation also told two plumbers to stop work and go home because they were not members of the appropriate union. The delegation told my constituent that he needed to employ a safety officer. A safety officer is a person who has done a two-day course with an organisation such as St John Ambulance Australia and is available to administer first-aid should it be required in the event of a minor accident at the work site.
As it happened my constituent did need a first-aid officer because he employed more than 10 people on his work site. There was no problem with that and he was only too happy to hire one. Unfortunately, the delegate from the Building Workers Industrial Union took advantage of the employer's lack of understanding of English and told him that he would find a person with the appropriate certificate and arrange for that person to be employed on the site. The employee duly appeared and demanded to be employed on a full-time salary for a minimum of four months to do only one and a half hour's work a day. He believed it was his job to sit next to the first-aid box, even though there might have only been 10 workers on the site conducting jobs. My constituent explained that this provision would cost him $15,000 over a four-month period in order to have his first-aid supervised by someone who was not prepared to work on the site, even though requested to do so. To solve his problem the employer arranged for his son to do the first-aid safety certificate so that he could be employed in attending to the safety concerns
of the workers. However, the Building Workers Industrial Union would not recognise this first-aid certificate because the employer's son was not prepared to join the appropriate union. Evidently, being a member of a union somehow enhances one's ability to perform first-aid.
The Hon. I. M. Macdonald: What about the Australian Medical Association and overseas qualified doctors?
The Hon. J. F. RYAN: I have never suggested that I would in any way support monopolisation of any industry, be it doctors, builders or anything. Honourable members opposite must understand that this type of nonsense costs jobs and it must stop. I am grateful that our laws, as they come into force at the end of March, will do something to prevent this continuing in State awards. I look forward to the future election of a Hewson government which will introduce similar legislation and cease this type of nonsense within our country altogether. I should like to comment briefly on the Government's reform for the Local Government Act. I acknowledge and agree entirely that this matter should receive bipartisan support. I welcome the remarks made last night by the Hon. J. W. Shaw who said that a review of the Act was long overdue. However, in his address the Hon. J. W. Shaw commented inaccurately that the new Act will somehow mandate councils to contract out projects. It will not require them to contract out projects but will simply make it mandatory for them to tender out their capital works projects.
This Government does not have a fixation about contracting out; nor does it have a fixation with private enterprise. However, it does have a fixation with competition. There will be absolutely no problem at all with councils, after tendering out a particular project, contracting their own staff to do the project. However, the Government feels a great deal is to be gained by making this allocation of work more competitive so that councils have the benefits of saving funds locally to provide extra resources for additional facilities for ratepayers. I wish to correct some misinformation. I have to take issue with the example used last night by the Hon. J. W. Shaw about Sutherland council. He referred quite rightly to Sutherland council having inadequately allocated its garbage contract to a contractor who was not necessarily providing the best service. The problem was not that the project was contracted out but that the tender had been inadequately specified. Sutherland council had drawn up a narrow specification that the contractor would have to use a peculiar type of dumper. The contract was so narrow that only one contractor responded. That is hardly a reasonable example of how contracting out works. I refer the council to the Evatt Foundation's book on the subject entitled Breach of Contract. This book refers to a survey done by the Australian Business Council and a New South Wales study which showed enormous advantages to be gained not only by contracting out but by tendering for projects. I applaud the Government's progressive and vigorous program of reform for the benefit of the people of this State.
Debate adjourned on motion by the Hon. I. M. Macdonald.
The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD (Minister for Health and Community Services) [10.8]: I move:
That this House do now adjourn.
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY [10.8]: On 9th December the Minister for Health and Community Services told the House that unions were at odds with their members on the issue of autopsies on HIV positive people but that measures had been put in place to resolve this issue. The Minister said:
In order to assist the "normalisation" of HIV positive autopsies, with safe working procedures, it is proposed that for a three-month period from 1st Jan 1992 the New South Wales Institute of Forensic Medicine will provide autopsies on AIDS patients as requested by the major Sydney metropolitan hospitals with AIDS units. Mortuary staff and pathologists will be invited to observe autopsies and consult with staff at the institute in order to gain familiarity with appropriate techniques and procedures. At the end of the three-month period, those hospitals which wish to continue to use the service at the institute will be charged on a fee-for-service basis.
However, a few days ago I received a letter from a constituent which indicated that the situation has not improved. My constituent wrote:
Are you aware that the situation at St Vincent's remains unchanged? Worse still, repeated attempts by me to obtain a satisfactory explanation for this hospital's stand have elicited totally unsatisfactory responses from its spokesperson. Further, St Vincent's has refused to participate in the excellent training program offered by Professor Hilton at City Morgue.
My constituent included a copy of a recent letter from Ms Denise Robinson, Director of Medical Services at St Vincent's Hospital, in reply to a letter he wrote to her. The letter from Ms Robinson says:
St Vincent's Hospital provides a post mortem biopsy facility for those instances where post mortem soft tissue is required for examination. Full post mortem facilities are available via the City Coroners Court at Glebe.
My constituent is at pains to point out that he had asked whether St Vincent's Hospital was participating in the training program offered by Professor Hilton at City Morgue, the training program that the Minister told the House was going to be used. To date he has not received an answer to his question. Once again I ask the Minister to investigate this matter and find out why St Vincent's Hospital is not participating in this excellent training program and not fulfilling the proposals laid down by the Minister in this regard.
GLADESVILLE HOSPITAL PATIENT SECURITY
The Hon. JAN BURNSWOODS [10.11]: I bring to the attention of the House a very serious matter raised by a parent of a 17-year-old patient at Gladesville Hospital. It relates to the terrible crime of rape but also raises questions about the Greiner Government's cost-cutting measures at Gladesville Hospital and the plans leaked this week for the closure or winding down of services at the hospital, or even the privatisation of them. I quote from the parent's letter:
I am writing to you about an incident which occurred Sunday, the 23rd of February. My daughter, a patient at Gladesville Hospital was enticed into a private car and raped on the hospital grounds by a person not known by the hospital staff.
Naturally I am extremely distressed that this has happened as my daughter is suffering from a psychiatric illness brought on possibly by a trauma. She is only seventeen, has led a very sheltered life and is extremely sensitive, and I am concerned that this incident may have a detrimental effect on her progress.
I pursued this issue by contacting the nursing staff of Gladesville Hospital who could give me no reasonable explanation as to how this could have occurred. I also contacted the Rape Crisis
Centre of Royal North Shore Hospital who examined her after the incident. They told me nothing, indicating it was classified information. I then rang my daughter's psychiatrist, who told me my daughter was a voluntary patient and therefore did not require the strict supervision of the nursing staff that would be required by an involuntary patient. He said that he felt the nursing staff was adequate in numbers and training to cope with her needs. Whereupon I raised the issue of the rape and said that I thought she had a right to psychiatric treatment without fear of molestation and did he think there could be anything lacking in the way the hospital was being run.
He indicated that the Greiner Government had removed the security gate at the entrance to the hospital and the security staff and the hospital had no way of monitoring people going into the hospital. He said they were unprepared for such a thing because it had never occurred at that hospital before. However there had been about half a dozen similar occurrences at other hospitals around the State.
Other than mentally retarded people and little children, psychiatric patients must be the most vulnerable members of our society. If Mr Greiner can waste millions of dollars on consultancy fees for railway advisers why does he cut back on staff in such a vital area? What kind of society neglects its responsibilities to its sick and weak? I was advised that my wife and I could not cope with the responsibility and difficulty of looking after a schizophrenic teenaged girl and it could be better managed by the staff of a psychiatric hospital. That seemed like a logical proposition at the time. I am not so sure now.
As I said, the letter is from the father of this 17-year-old girl who was raped in the grounds of Gladesville Hospital. It raises serious issues about the kind of care we provide for schizophrenic patients in particular and the kinds of programs that are being floated for the future care of patients with these particular needs. The suggestion that this incident would not have occurred if it had not been for cost-cutting measures reducing security raises real questions about the sorts of promises that are made to parents and other family members of patients of this type and the supervision provided when such patients are within the grounds of a hospital.
WORLD THEATRE '92
The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH [10.14]: I take this opportunity to bring to the attention of honourable members the Third International Theatre Training Festival. This festival will be held at the University of Western Sydney Nepean next month. It is a very interesting event. World Theatre '92, as it is called, will see some of the best actor training schools in the world coming together to perform, participate in workshops and attend masterclasses. As a member of the Board of Governors of the University of Western Sydney Nepean, I am delighted to bring to the attention of honourable members this interesting project. It first came to my attention a couple of years ago when Professor Ron Dunsire told me about the exciting initiative of taking a troupe from the University of Western Sydney Nepean to the United States for the first festival. Since then the troupe has been to Europe for the second festival and this will be the third. The annual festival is a product of the World Theatre Training Institute founded in 1989 to advance the state of theatre training worldwide. Founder, Malcolm Morrison of the University of Wisconsin, United States of America, set about rallying the support of the finest schools in the world and, in 1990, held the inaugural festival, as the university informs me.
A number of schools join together to provide a varied program of work and 1992 will see the biggest festival yet. The participants include our own Theatre Nepean Australia from the University of Western Sydney Nepean, the Academy of Dramatic Arts from Bratislava in Czechoslovakia, Ecole Florent from France, the Dokuz Eylül University of Turkey, the Ludwig-Solski State Theatre School of Poland, the University of Gothenburg in Sweden and the University of Wisconsin in the United States of America. It is all happening at Penrith next month from 6th to 26th April under the aegis
of the University of Western Sydney Nepean. All schools will present productions and school representatives will give public masterclasses on their chosen fields of expertise. Festival activities promise to not only display the unique talents of the visiting artists but also to give an insight into how theatre is changing all over the world. Converging on the university the World Theatre '92 is bringing some exciting theatre not just to western Sydney but to the whole of Sydney and New South Wales. It is a delight to see this happening. I commend Theatre Nepean and the University of Western Sydney Nepean for its tremendous initiative. I know that the University of Western Sydney Nepean can rightly be proud of its school of drama and of the tremendous work that it does, and I commend Professor Ron Dunsire and all of those involved for the marvellous opportunities they are presenting to our aspiring actors.
Motion agreed to.
House adjourned at 10.18 p.m.