Thursday, 24 October 1996
The President (The Hon. Max Frederick Willis) took the chair at 11.00 a.m.
The President offered the Prayers.
HERITAGE AMENDMENT BILL
Bill received and read a first time.
Suspension of standing orders agreed to.
SMOKING REGULATION BILL
Suspension of standing orders agreed to.
Bill introduced and read a first time.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE [11.05]: I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
I thank honourable members for the opportunity to introduce this very important bill, which deals with a serious health matter. I know that the issue of smoking is of serious concern to the Government, the Minister for Health and the Opposition. The object of the Smoking Regulation Bill is to regulate smoking in public places including public places that are places of employment. The bill defines a public place. It prohibits smoking in enclosed public places, with certain exceptions, and makes it an offence to fail to obey the direction of an inspector or the occupier of premises to stop smoking in contravention of the proposed Act. The bill makes the occupier of an enclosed public place guilty of an offence if any person smokes in contravention of the proposed Act.
The bill requires the occupier of an enclosed public place to display certain signs. It requires the occupier of an enclosed public place to take reasonable steps to stop smoke entering the place from another part of the same premises where smoking is not prohibited. The bill also requires the occupier of a part of premises where smoking is not prohibited to take reasonable steps to prevent smoke from that part from spreading to an enclosed public place on the same premises. The bill provides for the appointment of inspectors and empowers inspectors to enter enclosed public places and to give certain directions in relation to offences. It prohibits obstruction and impersonation of an inspector. It provides that proceedings for offences under the proposed Act are to be taken before a Local Court. The bill neither creates nor preserves a right to smoke in an enclosed public place, and requires the Director-General of the Department of Health to publicise the proposed Act. The bill allows for the making of regulations. Matters often need to be considered in more detail and those matters will be dealt with by regulation. The bill calls for a review after the Act has been operating for three years so that it can be ascertained whether amendments are needed. Schedule 1 to the bill gives examples of enclosed public places where smoking will be prohibited and schedule 2 gives examples of places that are exempted from the smoking ban in certain circumstances.
Passive smoking is an important issue to Call to Australia and to my wife, the Hon. Elaine Nile, and me as members of this House. Our health has suffered extensively from the effects of passive smoking. We are not smokers but we have been affected by passive smoke and, as the President would know, we have had to raise the intrusion of passive smoke into my wife's parliamentary office as an occupational health issue in the Parliament. Though the Parliament is now a smoke-free environment other members of this House still have problems with passive smoke affecting their health. Last night my wife and I were having dinner in the members' dining room and another member was smoking at the table next to ours. As I pointed out to my wife, the dining room menu states that Parliament is a smoke-free environment, yet last night another member was smoking in the dining room while we were having dinner.
Leaving aside passive smoke being in the atmosphere while one is having a meal - that is a secondary matter - passive smoking has affected our breathing, our lungs and our health. There may be members who are not directly affected, so far as they know, by passive smoking, although I would argue that all of us are affected directly or indirectly. Healthy members may believe that being in a smoky environment does not affect them, but the evidence shows that being in such an environment has a serious effect on health. Passive smoking in this State is a major public health issue. The other place is also debating the matter. The New South Wales tobacco and health strategy sets out the Government's commitment to the prevention and reduction of tobacco-related harm in New South Wales. I have sought the support of the Minister for Health for this bill and I am sure I will receive it. I believe that in due course public support for the bill will increase. At this stage the legislation is a private member's bill, the same type of bill as the legislation prohibiting the advertising of tobacco products that was passed unanimously by both Houses of the Parliament. I was very pleased when that bill received overwhelming support, with no member in either House voting against it.
Passive smoking has been annoying nonsmokers for many centuries; it has not arisen only in recent times. In 1604 King James I issued his "Counterblast to Tobacco", which stated that
tobacco use was a "custom loathsome to the eye, hateful to the Nose, harmful to the brain, dangerous to the Lungs, and in the black, stinking fume there of, nearest resembling the horrible stigian smoke of the pit that is bottomless". Bearing in mind that statement of concern in 1604 by King James I about the effects of passive smoking, I am sure supporters of the monarchy will be enthusiastic in their support for this bill. The New South Wales Department of Health, a modern source of support, acknowledges that "smoking is the largest, single preventable cause of death in Australia". That statement is made in the department's tobacco and health strategy for 1995 to 1999. One cannot be more up to date than that. Two of the stated goals of the strategy are to reduce involuntary exposure to tobacco smoke and to increase awareness of the health risks of passive smoking.
Many public places already self-regulate or prohibit smoking because of corporate policy or for reasons of safety or hygiene. I commend the many modern restaurants, such as McDonald's, that provide smoke-free environments. They do not merely set aside certain areas; the entire restaurant is smoke free. I believe that has assisted the financial success of McDonald's restaurants, which have large numbers of customers, across the nation. The bill will formalise what already occurs in many workplaces and public places. Many shopping centres now display signs to inform the public that they are smoke-free environments. One of the reasons for such signs is the fear of claims that can now be made against shopping centre owners or operators who have allowed passive smoking. The health of customers has been affected. A degree of self-regulation has taken place, but I believe that needs to be more clearly formalised and that the regulation needs to be accompanied by legislation.
The legislation will remove the need for individual employers and business owners to make decisions about public health concerns. Obviously if hotel owners decide to make their hotels smoke-free environments they may encounter arguments and tension with customers who believe the owners have made personal decisions. The bill will move the decision from the personal level to the level of legislation. The Parliament will have enacted a law and owners of restaurants and hotels who agree with the new approach will be able to tell those who complain that under the law public places must be smoke-free environments. I know that the Government and Opposition are concerned about the huge amount of money that is used to fund health services. Those who are concerned about the monetary aspect of the problem should enthusiastically support this legislation. In 1989 there were 19,180 tobacco-related deaths, or 15 per cent of all deaths and 72 per cent of drug-related deaths. Approximately 1,650 people die each year from passive smoke. That figure is almost as high as the 1992 national road toll of 1,972. Public concern about the road toll is justified, but there should be a similar concern about the effect on health, an effect that is often fatal, of passive smoking, which is a public health risk equal to or greater than other risks to health that are already regulated or subject to government action.
The 1993 national household survey showed that approximately 29 per cent of Australian males and 21 per cent of females smoke regularly. There is no known safe level of tobacco smoke consumption. Evidence shows that regular smokers suffer lung damage and that 25 per cent to 40 per cent of smokers die prematurely because of smoking. Honourable members would recall the recent tragic case of the handsome, healthy man who was shown riding a horse in the Marlboro cigarette advertisements. He was the symbol for Marlboro cigarettes and he died an agonising death from lung cancer. I understand that his wife is now seeking compensation from the companies that used him as an attractive advertising symbol to encourage men, particularly young men, to take up smoking.
The economic cost of tobacco-related problems in Australia in 1988 was over $6.8 billion. The estimated cost to the State of New South Wales alone was $2.4 billion. Members who look only at economic issues - the user-pays syndrome - should see that the bill is justified even from an economic point of view, let alone in relation to its more important goal of promoting a healthy society. The goal of the New South Wales tobacco and health strategy for 1995 to 1999 is to improve the health of the people of New South Wales by eliminating or reducing their exposure to tobacco in all its forms, passive smoking being one of the key issues of concern. The strategy indicates that the Government approach to drug use and drug-related problems concentrates on harm minimisation: aiming to reduce the adverse health, social and economic consequences of drug use by minimising or limiting the harms and hazards of the drug use of both the community and the individual without necessarily eliminating use.
Clean indoor air laws are well established in the Australian Capital Territory and overseas in places such as California and New York in the United States of America, Canada, Europe and New Zealand. Laws which call for designated smoking and nonsmoking areas within the same premises were a useful starting point but they have proved to be ineffective in providing real protection from environmental tobacco smoke. Separate smoking and nonsmoking areas are often impractical as they can be difficult and costly to administer. My wife and I have experience of that. Before there was a total ban of smoking on aircraft there were smoking and nonsmoking areas but smoke would drift back into the nonsmoking area. People were even allowed to smoke cigars. The airconditioning system was claimed to be able to keep passive smoke away from the nonsmoking area in aircraft but my wife and I both suffered breathing difficulties on aircraft because of smoke. That experiment failed and smoking is now totally prohibited in aircraft. The
same principle applies in other areas: having separate areas is impractical and can be very difficult and costly to administer.
Overseas experience demonstrates that new smoking regulations can be successfully introduced when education and information form the basis for implementation. A phasing-in period of up to six months would be needed for the legislation. An education and information campaign would enable people to understand fully that the changes being introduced are in the best interests of their health. Passive smoking has been identified by the New South Wales drug strategy, 1993 to 1998, as one of the five priority areas for strategy development. There is 20 years of conclusive scientific evidence that passive smoking can harm the health of nonsmokers. Over 600 reports, both Australian and international, have confirmed that passive smoking in the workplace, enclosed public spaces and domestic environments contributes to lung cancer and other respiratory diseases.
The Australian National Health and Medical Research Council, the US Surgeon General, the World Health Organisation and other well recognised health bodies have indicated the dangers to health of passive smoking. The 1994 New South Wales health promotion survey found that 24 per cent of those surveyed experienced "bad effects" from exposure to passive smoking and 69 per cent perceived substantial health consequences of passive smoking. There was a high level of community support for restricting smoking in cafes, restaurants and public places. Support for environmental regulatory provisions in regard to passive smoking was high even among current smokers. The New South Wales health promotion survey demonstrated that a majority of persons, including both smokers and nonsmokers, believed that passive smoking is harmful to health. The survey found that 92 per cent of respondents supported smoking restrictions in public places and 66 per cent favoured a complete ban. The Government and the Opposition can support this legislation in the knowledge that they are not moving ahead of community opinion but reflecting the concerns of the majority of people in the State.
In 1986 the National Health and Medical Research Council, a peak Australian medical body, recommended that smoking be prohibited or restricted in public places and in the workplace. In 1986 the Attorney General stated that injury from passive smoking could lead to legal action for damages at common law. I stated previously that last night we had been troubled by a member smoking in the members' dining room. My wife or I could have made a claim against the Parliament for damages. That is the danger that institutions now face, whether the Parliament or a restaurant. Support of the bill will stop a lot of the litigation and heavy expenditure in relation to common law claims for damages, which in the long run benefit only the legal profession.
The tobacco industry claims that there is no correlation between passive smoking and problems of health. Of course, we entirely reject that. The tobacco industry has its back to the wall at the moment because it is under pressure all around the world, not from a lobby group but from the community. Yet findings of the Federal Court of Australia in the case brought by the Australian Federation of Consumer Organisations against the Tobacco Institute of Australia and findings of the New South Wales District Court established that there was scientific proof of a relationship between passive smoking and poor health, including respiratory problems and disease. I note that the Tobacco Institute, a front for the tobacco industry, not only states that there is no evidence but seems to be trying to stifle or conceal evidence, to prevent reports from the various health bodies being made public. That is currently a controversial issue.
Why should honourable members support smoking regulating legislation? In summary, the evidence is very strong that environmental tobacco smoke causes and worsens disease and ill health in nonsmokers. The risk is similar to other risks to health already regulated or subject to government control. The health risk is imposed on people without their consent. As opposed to other risks which people voluntarily undertake, exposure to passive smoke conveys no benefits. If the person being affected tells someone to stop smoking there is a danger of confrontation and violence. Legislation is needed so that those who are concerned about their health will not have to initiate action at a personal level. The risk is avoidable. Although the increase in smoke-free public places and workplaces has been a notable and positive development, attempts to achieve smoke-free air through non-legislative means such as self-regulation have been largely unsuccessful in achieving widespread and systematic protection for nonsmokers. Australian and overseas experience demonstrates that legislative approaches may be used successfully to establish nonsmoking as the normal and expected practice in enclosed public places.
I turn to the definition of passive smoke or environmental tobacco smoke. Mainstream smoke is smoke inhaled by the smoker. Exhaled mainstream smoke is smoke breathed out by the smoker. Sidestream smoke is smoke drifting from a burning cigarette. Passive smoke or environmental tobacco smoke is a combination of exhaled smoke and sidestream smoke. Sidestream smoke makes up 85 per cent of smoke in a room of smokers. Environmental tobacco smoke contains a number of toxic substances which are known to be cancer causing: ammonia, benzene, carbon monoxide, nicotine and carcinogens 2-napthylamine, 4-aminobiphenyl, N-nitrosamine, benzathracene and benzo-pyrene.
What are the health effects of ETS passive smoking? The first is lung problems: respiratory health of adults who do not smoke such as
coughing, chest discomfort and reduced lung function. The second is irritant effects: common complaints of ETS pollution concern the eyes, nose membrane, throat and lower respiratory tract. The Hon. Elaine Nile and I will both testify as witnesses in the case against tobacco smoke. The third effect is cancer: the 1992 report of the US Environmental Protection Agency, "Respiratory health effects of passive smoking: Lung cancer and other disorders", states that ETS causes cancer. The report reviewed 13 studies on passive smoking and lung cancer which showed that nonsmoking spouses exposed to their spouse's cigarette smoke at home have a 35 to 53 per cent higher risk of developing lung cancer than non-exposed nonsmokers.
An article in a 1986 British medical journal indicated that one-third of lung cancer in nonsmokers may be attributable to environmental tobacco smoke. A United States of America Environmental Protection Agency report classified tobacco smoke as a group A carcinogen, or one that causes lung cancer in humans. I remind honourable members of the tragic case of the Marlboro man. The report from the USA EPA indicated that environmental tobacco smoke is associated with the development of cardiovascular disease; ETS increases heart disease, causes short- and long-term harm to the heart similar to the harm done to smokers, and reduces the amount of oxygen carried in the blood stream, forcing the heart to work harder. Chemicals in ETS narrow and harden the arteries, which leads to heart disease. ETS caused 1,460 heart disease deaths in 1986.
Pregnant women who smoke expose their unborn child to chemicals from tobacco smoke. Smokers have a higher risk of miscarriage and pregnancy labour problems. Babies have a decreased birth weight and an increased risk of death at birth. Research shows a link between parents who smoke and childhood cancer. Scientific evidence shows a relationship between passive smoke and cancer of the cervix. Australia has the second-highest rate of death from asthma in the world. In 1992, 759 people died from asthma attacks. According to the Medical Journal of Australia in 1991, tobacco smoke is a major trigger of asthma attacks in children.
I suffer from bronchial asthma and I can testify to the effect that passive tobacco smoke has on my health. In certain cases passive smoke can lead to a fatal asthma attack, often in children. The solution is to eliminate smoke at its source by prohibiting smoking in public places. To separate smokers from nonsmokers is the way to go but not within the same airspace, as that does not work. Separate eating areas in restaurants has not reduced ETS. Even strong ventilation systems do not totally filter out smoke in the air. In Australia efforts have been made to reduce passive smoking. Domestic flights in Australia have been smoke free since 1987 and in 1990 smoking on international flights over Australian air space was banned. In 1992 smoking was banned in all Australian airports.
All suburban trains, buses and trams, and in most States taxis, are smoke free. All cinemas and theatres are smoke free under State and Territory legislation. This is not unique legislation, but is achieving an overall regulation of the effect of passive smoking in society. Many cinemas also prohibit smoking in their lobby. Some sports facilities are smoke free; even the Melbourne Cricket Ground provides smoke-free areas. Some fast food outlets now provide smoke-free areas. The proposed legislation will provide a smoke-free environment, and I believe that that is very important. The display of clear and sufficient signs has been shown to encourage compliance by smokers and minimise any confrontation or conflict that may otherwise occur. The proposed legislation includes a requirement for the clear, sufficient and conspicuous display of a sign. As a minimum, a no-smoking sign or an appropriate size international no-smoking symbol would be required. I anticipate that the display of signs would be required at all entrances to premises and on each floor of multistorey buildings. Failure to display signs would incur a fine of five penalty units for individuals or 25 penalty units for a body corporate.
The signs would give smokers sufficient warning so that they would not be trapped unexpectedly in a smoke-free environment. The Department of Health has an impressive education and information program to which this legislation can be added. An education program should target proprietors of public places and the general public - smokers and nonsmokers. Information strategies would emphasise that smoke, not the smoker, is the subject of the legislation. The bill does not attack an individual but its purpose is to stop the individual smoking in these environments. Such a program could commence three months prior to the effective date of the commencement of the Act. The Department of Health could provide a special hotline telephone number for easy public access to information and resources. The department could distribute information resources on a continuing basis through peak organisations, government agencies and its own offices. The bill provides for the appointment of inspectors who will be authorised to enforce the legislation. I have received correspondence from many authoritative bodies in this State urging me to move this legislation for the benefit of the people. Letters have been received from Action on Smoking and Health, Australia - ASH - dated 24 October 1996. Part of that letter stated:
ASH Australia is very supportive of legislation that will prohibit or restrict smoking in all enclosed public places, including workplaces. Although many workplaces in NSW have smokefree policies in place, health groups are concerned that the majority of workers and patrons of the hospitality industry continue to be exposed to levels of environmental tobacco smoke that are harmful and unacceptable in other industries.
It is well established in medical and scientific fields that passive smoking can cause heart disease, lung cancer, respiratory illness and asthma attacks.
ASH has confirmed its support for the bill. Its letter, signed by Anne Jones, the executive-director, stated:
I believe your bill is consistent with both national and State health goals and the New South Wales tobacco and health strategy for 1995-99 which requires that all stakeholders in public health give priority to reducing involuntary exposure to passive smoking.
The letter is supported by other scientific evidence. The Asthma Foundation of New South Wales wrote to me on 29 May 1996 as follows:
This will indeed be welcome news for the thousands of people in New South Wales who suffer from asthma and whose symptoms are precipitated by inhaling environmental tobacco smoke.
I wish you every success.
R. B. Brittain
The Heart Foundation wrote on 3 June 1996:
Chief Executive Officer
Meanwhile, thank you again for the active support you have given to a smoke-free goal.
On 26 June 1996 the New South Wales Cancer Council wrote:
The NSW Cancer Council welcomes this bill and we applaud your efforts in the area of tobacco control.
The council indicates its concern and support for the legislation. It is not in favour of having some parts of buildings set aside for smokers and other parts for nonsmokers. My bill is drafted firmly along those lines, as distinct from the Australian Capital Territory legislation which allows restaurants to have smoking and nonsmoking areas. I support a total smoke-free environment. I have had correspondence with the Minister for Health, Dr Refshauge, and I have worked closely with him on this matter, and he has similar concerns. He has advised me that his department is making progress with this matter. By introducing this private member's bill I hope to assist the Government to move more quickly in this regard.
In a sympathetic letter to me of 14 October 1996 Dr Refshauge said he was conducting further investigations. My wife and I are not on a crusade against smokers, but we have both suffered personally from the effects of passive smoking, and I have spoken with other honourable members who have similar concerns. This is not a hypothetical matter; it concerns the health of members of Parliament and their ability to continue to carry out their duties in this House. But of course the legislation deals with the community; we want the maximum number of people to enjoy good health. Arguments have been put about the effects of industrial smoke and pollution in society - we have too much of that. Action has been taken to reduce the effects of inhaled smoke.
Members have a simple decision to make: with one clear-cut decision, by supporting this bill to become law, we will take a dramatic step forward to supporting a healthy society in New South Wales. This legislation will set the lead for other States. The bill that I introduced to prohibit advertising of tobacco products was eventually taken up by the other States and the Federal Government. With the support of honourable members, this bill will become model legislation to be adopted by other States. I suggest that it will even be adopted by other nations. New South Wales could then take pride in having taken this strong lead on a substantial issue of health. It is with great pleasure that I commend the bill, and I look forward to the unanimous support of all honourable members of this House.
Debate adjourned on motion by the Hon. Dorothy Isaksen.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Order of Business
General business order of the day No. 1 postponed on motion by the Hon. D. J. Gay.
FAMILY IMPACT COMMISSION BILL
Debate resumed from 26 September.
The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH [11.41]: When this debate was adjourned on 26 September I was speaking of my support in principle for the Family Impact Commission Bill and its importance to our State. The bill provides for the establishment of the Family Impact Commission to study and report on the impact on New South Wales families and government expenditure of existing laws and proposed laws. I spoke briefly on some of my experiences over some years as a member of the Standing Committee on Social Issues. The importance of the family repeatedly emerged in that committee's inquiries into various forms of social dysfunction. There is overwhelming evidence of a link between the failure of the family and social dysfunction of young people. Of course, we have to be careful not to stereotype families in which dysfunction occurs; when we talk of statistics, we are not talking of individual cases.
It is important that the Parliament keep in mind the importance of the family in issues such as law and order, youth and drugs, juvenile justice, youth violence, sexual violence, and a range of other issues that the Standing Committee on Social Issues has studied. I spoke also of the negative consequences of legislation for families because there is no instrument such as a family impact commission. I spoke of the fundamental systems maxim that you can never do just one thing, which is true of most if not all of our legislation. A bill may be intended to achieve one thing but, like so many medicines, may have side effects that may be not only unintended but completely unforeseen. Indeed, in some instances legislation can be quite counterproductive and may even achieve results
opposite to those intended. There have been examples of that in this State. Where legislation impacts on families it is important that we have in place mechanisms to prevent the occurrence of adverse impacts.
I would now like to talk about some of the research that has been done on the importance of the family unit. When I speak of the family unit I speak of the social unit that is responsible for the raising of children. There are many different definitions of "family", but the one that needs the protection of the State is the unit engaged in the most important, expensive and challenging task in our society - the raising of the next generation of young people. My remarks are geared entirely to that function of the family. I am indebted to the Centre for Independent Studies, which has been responsible for promoting much research into family studies in Australia and for bringing into this country important overseas researchers involved in this area. Some time ago I had the opportunity to lunch with Professor Berger of the United States, who has done substantial work on research into the family. Honourable members might be interested in her work entitled "The Social Roots of Prosperity", which has been brought into Australia by the Centre for Independent Studies.
Professor Berger, in giving an overview of research into families, made a comment that I found profoundly shocking. She said that for children, having two parents is a much better indicator of success and a stable family life than not having two parents; but then went further and said that almost any kind of two-parent family is better than not having a two-parent family. Having served on the Standing Committee on Social Issues for some years, I know the poisonous effects of dysfunctional families on children; I know how destructive they can be. Such families subject their children to gross forms of physical, sexual and emotional abuse, or even murder them. Society needs to be concerned about those sorts of things. So, to have an eminent researcher state that almost any kind of two-parent family is better than not having a two-parent family was profoundly shocking to me.
I would not go as far as Professor Berger did because we must be aware of the destructive effects on children of seriously dysfunctional families. This is an issue that needs to be addressed. Bearing in mind the overview of research in this area, one has to acknowledge the importance of the two-parent family and the role of government in not making life more difficult for those families, and indeed encouraging them to fulfil their role of nurturing children and helping them to grow. Another interesting paper brought out to Australia by the Centre for Independent Studies is "The Roots of Declining Social Virtue - Family, Community and the Need for a Natural Communities Policy", prepared by David Popenoe. It cites very interesting research that I also commend to honourable members.
The social science research of recent decades has pointed up three key dimensions of the parental socialisation processes having particular importance for the development of socially responsible children: emotional attachment, prosocial behaviour, and conformity to rules with respect for authority. I shall speak first of just one of those aspects. There is growing evidence that early attachment experiences shape not only child development but attitudes and behaviour throughout one's life. People growing up without satisfactory attachment experiences, without bonding with their parents, are at higher risk of becoming anxious, insecure or avoidant in social relationships both as children and later as adults. In other words, to be raised as successful, happy, optimally functioning human beings, children need to be in a nurturing and encouraging family situation. For example, a longitudinal study that followed people over a 36-year period found that the dimension of childhood correlating most closely with being socially accomplished as an adult, that is, having a long and happy marriage, children and relationships with close friends at midlife, was having had a warm and affectionate father or mother. This factor was even more important than having grown up in a family with parental harmony or with a childhood that was not difficult. So early experiences of attachment to families are important.
Popenoe states that his reading of the research is that the relevant success of the two-parent family can be considered a confirmed empirical generalisation - indeed, he says, it is about as confirmed a generalisation as one can draw from the social sciences. A review of research on the relationship between family structure and school achievement, for example, concluded that living in a two-parent household is of benefit to achievement. A study conducted by Milne showed that while not all differences reach significance, virtually none are found in the opposite direction. A research review conducted by Demo and Acock concluded that research on antisocial behaviour consistently illustrates that adolescents in mother-only households are more prone to commit delinquent acts. A number of other research studies point in the same direction.
We have to be careful here, because it is too easy in extrapolating from statistical generalities to stereotype all single-parent families. Does this mean that all children who are brought up by single mothers will be delinquents? No, of course it does not. We need to consider the many experiences of children of single mothers. Have they had to live in a violent home where there were two partners? Have they had to go through the trauma of divorce? Many factors impact on the children of single parents that are not related to the quality of parenting, and I think we have to be careful about drawing general conclusions about that. Nevertheless, the research points overwhelmingly to the importance of two parents in maximising the social and emotional development of children and young people right into adult life.
The Hon. R. S. L. Jones: There is no question that that is true.
The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH: I note that the Hon. R. S. L. Jones agrees that there is no question that that is true, which is of course what this bill is about. It is about providing government acknowledgment of the importance of the two-parent family and a check and balance on Government in any actions that it might take that might damage the two-parent family. If Government has any responsibility at all, it is to the encouragement and nurturing of the two-parent family, given what we know about not just the importance of parenting generally but some of the statistical information about the value of two-parent families as against one-parent families. The recent history of the family has been one of a steady draining away of family resources and decision-making power into other hands. As Government has become concerned about issues such as child abuse, and rightly so, we have had more and more government interference. Am I saying that there should not be government intervention to prevent child abuse? Not at all.
Society has a difficult balance to achieve. The more you have interventionist rules the more you destroy the autonomy of the family. In trying to assist poorly-functioning and dysfunctional families the Government must be conscious that legislation that leaches away family authority may be counterproductive to many well-functioning families. The concern is that a bureaucracy is created whose rationale for existence and earning its way is intervention in the lives of families. There are real problems there. I have had personal experiences with people who are wonderful parents but who, because they happen to fit some sort of stereotype of what might be a family "at risk", according to the bureaucrats, have ended up in departmental files for no reason whatsoever. If a child of a single mother comes to school with a bruise on his forehead - and again this is what I referred to earlier about stereotyping - the teacher is much more likely to leap to the conclusion that he has been physically abused rather than that he simply fell over and hurt himself. So we have real problems here with the system.
I thoroughly applaud the intent of the Family Impact Commission Bill and the notion of a family impact commission to examine complex issues arising from problems with families and the impact of legislation, bureaucracy and government intervention generally on families. In 1994 the British researcher Wavell found that nearly 40 per cent of fathers lose contact with their children after divorce. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics figures for 1994, 433,700 dependent children are living with only one parent - the overwhelming majority with their mothers. I cannot imagine that the figures would have changed much since then. So, if we follow the British experience, a very large number of children in Australia will, because of divorce, lose contact with their fathers. This is of great concern. Just this morning, for example, Mr Rod West, the recently retired principal of Trinity Grammar School -
The Hon. J. M. Samios: A distinguished headmaster.
The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH: A very distinguished and highly regarded headmaster, indeed. Mr Rod West was interviewed on the Today program about the regrettable violence that occurred yesterday when a pupil stabbed a school teacher. He was asked by the interviewer what in his experience was the most important thing to ensure that children succeed at school and fit in well with the system and succeed in life. "Having two parents," he said. He especially emphasised the importance of having a father, and that certainly cannot be underestimated. Sadly, we have legal and institutional structures that seem not only to have diminished the importance of fathers in family life but to have sometimes perhaps even made it far too easy for families to fracture and for children to lose contact with their father.
A major survey by the United States Department of Health in 1988 studied 60,000 children living in households throughout that country to identify problems of health, school work and personal conduct. It tabulated the results according to age, sex and ethnicity of the child, and the income and marital status of the parents. As Wilson, in writing up the research results in 1993, said, the results were striking. At every income level save the very highest, which was more than $50,000 per year, for both sexes, and for whites, blacks and Hispanics alike, children living with a never-married or divorced mother were substantially worse off than those living in two-parent families. Compared to children living with both biological parents, children in single-parent families were twice as likely to be expelled or suspended from school, to display emotional or behavioural problems and to have problems with their peers. Further, they were much more likely to engage in antisocial behaviour. Turning to the British experience, in Families without Fatherhood Norman Dennis and George Erdos analysed the connections in Britain between the well-being and behaviour of children and the absence of a committed father in the home. They concluded:
But it is pure obscurantism to deny that the statistical chances of children being physically smaller, stammering, being poor scorers in intelligence tests, or having a criminal record, depended greatly on their home background; and the quality of their home background, at the time of the Newcastle 1,000 studies, depended greatly on the father.
In other words, the ideal family is the two-parent family; the family that still has a father. We cannot always reach the ideal and I am not making judgments about families in which that has not been possible. However, if government has any role in this society, it is to encourage that ideal and not to discourage it, as has been the case with so much legislation during the last generation - legislation that has had a very damaging impact on many
families. I now wish to talk about one incidence of the importance of government providing support to parents and parenting in this State - a matter about which the Greiner and Fahey governments have great reason to be proud - that is, the Parents as Teachers program, which I hope the current Government is as committed to maintaining as the Greiner and Fahey governments were committed to establishing and developing.
Pursuant to sessional orders business interrupted.
QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
The Hon. R. T. M. BULL: I address my question to the Treasurer, Minister for Energy, Minister for State and Regional Development, Minister Assisting the Premier, and Vice-President of the Executive Council. Given the comments in today's newspapers calling for wage restraint in light of the latest inflation rates and unemployment figures, together with the public sector calling for wage rises of up to 20 per cent, what is the Treasurer doing to ensure there is a wage restraint objective for New South Wales which will result in a cut in interest rates?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: The honourable member's question about interest rates is pertinent because all available indicators suggest that now is the time for an interest rate cut. For the past three weeks I have been calling for a cut of at least one half of a percentage point, which I believe is absolutely necessary to give the economy the stimulus that it needs. There is the danger that unemployment, instead of staying at 8.3 per cent - which was the projection in the Commonwealth budget at the end of the financial year - will rise nationally to about 9 per cent. The economy, as I have said previously, is as flat as a pancake and an injection of stimulus is needed. I believe that can be safely done in view of the very low inflation rate Australia is now experiencing. The inflation rate has been coming down steadily for some years and I think it is fair to say that Australia has now locked in a low inflation rate. It is true that the only real danger to that would be a blow-out in wages. However, the indicators are that wage growth is moderating, and the figures I gave to the House a fortnight ago also indicate that in the past 12 months the rate of wage growth has moderated by approximately a full percentage point. Of course, one has to bear in mind that even the wage increases that have been obtained in the past 12 months -
The Hon. R. T. M. Bull: The Health and Research Employees Association!
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I will talk about the HREA if the honourable member wishes, but the wage increases that have been obtained throughout the economy have a very large element of productivity offsets contained within them. From the public sector point of view, honourable members will be aware that the Government's budget projections, not only for this year but for the two out years of the forward estimates, provide for an increase in public sector wages of 3 per cent per annum, funded by the budget. The message that the Government has given to all sectors of the public sector work force is that if, over time, they want wage increases in excess of 3 per cent per annum, they will have to be funded by productivity offsets. The Government has adhered to that principle in its negotiations with both the New South Wales Teachers Federation and the HREA. The wage outcome in respect of those two organisations, while much larger than 3 per cent per annum over the duration of the agreements, is larger only because of the inclusion of significant productivity offsets.
The 3 per cent per annum is factored into the budget and that is in accord with policies to achieve low inflation and a significant reduction in interest rates. I understand that this morning the average weekly ordinary time earnings figure has been released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. That occurred about half an hour ago and I am not in a position to advise the House what that figure is, but I would expect that it would also show a moderating trend in respect of wages. As I said at the outset of my answer, I think that all the conditions are now in place for a significant cut in official interest rates. That will have a number of beneficial effects. It will help to moderate wage claims, it will stimulate private capital investment and I believe it will also have some effect on the exchange rate. In my view that is at a relatively high level because of the very high interest rates which prevail in Australia at the moment. In real terms, those interest rates are quite crippling.
The Hon. R. T. M. Bull: There is a cash exodus.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: No, the cash is coming in and that is propping up the exchange rate at a level which is perhaps too high for many of our exporters. I believe now is the time for a significant cut in real interest rates.
DISABILITY SUPPORT SERVICES
The Hon. J. KALDIS: My question is directed to the Minister for Community Services, Minister for Aged Services, and Minister for Disability Services. Will the Minister inform the House what the Government is doing to increase the opportunities for people with disabilities to live in the community as equal participant citizens?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: I readily acknowledge the direct interest that the honourable member takes in services provided for people with disabilities. I can inform the House that my colleague the Hon. Dr Andrew Refshauge, the Minister for Health, and I have initiated the
development of a joint whole-of-government disability policy. The move to develop a disability policy reflects the Government's recognition that people with disabilities are a significant proportion of the population of New South Wales and that in the past they have suffered from discrimination and inequality. A survey of people with disabilities, conducted on 15 September 1995, identified that 46.1 per cent of consumers utilised accommodation services, 27.8 per cent accessed community support services, 21.1 per cent accessed community access services, 4.5 per cent accessed respite care, and 0.4 per cent accessed other services.
The policy will provide a basis for the changes that need to be made to ensure that services provided by government agencies to the community are made more accessible to people with disabilities, that there is improved coordination between these services and specialist disability services, and that all service providers comply with relevant State and Commonwealth legislation. The policy is being developed in consultation with government agencies. The focus is on the changes that will be possible over time to make the services provided more accessible to people with disabilities. The policy framework will be produced as a green paper which will be released for community comment.
The Hon. D. J. GAY: Is the Attorney General, representing the Minister for Local Government, aware that a mayor of a major rural city in southern New South Wales conducted a citizenship ceremony for three people while he was dressed in a baggy old orange track suit? Is he further aware that the mayor said to the three people, "I feel crook, so I'll do youse all at once"? Does the Minister consider that to be acceptable behaviour? Are there guidelines and a code of conduct for citizenship ceremonies? If not, will the Minister for Local Government remedy this as soon as possible to avoid such a disgraceful situation happening again?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: I would have thought that the matters raised by the honourable member were largely matters for the Commonwealth authorities. I have never objected to the use of the word "youse"; I think the plural of the pronoun "you" might have some utility. Nor do I object to the good old Australian word "crook". That aside, to the extent that this question is relevant to the local government portfolio I shall refer it to the Minister, but I reiterate that I think it is largely a matter of Commonwealth interest.
WAGGA WAGGA WOMEN'S REFUGE CLOSURE
The Hon. FRANCA ARENA: I address my question to the Minister for Community Services, Minister for Aged Services, and Minister for Disability Services. Further to a matter raised yesterday in the adjournment debate by the Hon. Patricia Forsythe, is the Minister able to provide any further information about the provision of a women's refuge in Wagga Wagga?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: It is well known that the Hon. Patricia Forsythe raised this matter during the adjournment debate last evening. It is true that the Wagga Wagga women's refuge has been closed. This, however, was the result of a decision taken by the management committee and was not related to current funding levels. The Wagga Wagga women's refuge receives funding from the supported accommodation assistance program, commonly known as SAAP. The funding is for the provision of emergency and crisis accommodation for women and children escaping domestic violence. I am advised that the management committee of the Wagga Wagga women's refuge took the decision to close the service because it felt that it did not meet proposed SAAP standards. The decision was taken solely by the management committee.
The Department of Community Services was informed of the decision of the management committee last week. The department negotiated an interim arrangement so that services could be maintained for existing residents and potential clients. The department advises me that it will this afternoon try to finalise an interim auspice for the Wagga Wagga women's refuge in order to maintain this important service. Once interim arrangements have been put in place, the department will form a steering committee to develop a longer-term strategy for women and children in the Wagga Wagga area. There is SAAP funding available for a women's refuge in Wagga Wagga and the Department of Community Services is keen to work with key stakeholders in the community to try to establish another permanent service.
The Hon. J. M. SAMIOS: I ask a question of the Attorney General, and Minister for Industrial Relations. Given the time delay in securing apprehended violence orders and in light of the recent Marrickville incident and other incidents in New South Wales schools this year involving threats of violence affecting the safety and lives of teachers, what measures is the Government taking to ensure that New South Wales teachers can get immediate assistance from police if they feel that their lives are being threatened by a student or a parent?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: The honourable member is correct in saying that in circumstances of immediate danger or threat the apprehended violence order process often will not be a practicable measure. I must say, though, that the apprehended violence order system is one that ought to be defended, and I would hope that it enjoys bipartisan support, subject to finetuning and reforms from time to time. Apprehended violence orders have been a valuable innovation. The system does need to be updated and I have indicated plans for revising the AVO process. I am sure that all honourable
members would view with grave concern not only the threats but the actuality of violence against teachers, whether in public schools or private schools. Teachers are doing a difficult job. They are coping with all kinds of disciplinary problems. The last thing we want in our schools is an atmosphere of fear and apprehension.
I am sure that the honourable member would acknowledge that there is no easy answer to this question. It is a matter of superintendence of possession of weapons by students, a matter of police availability and the like. I do not think that anyone would pretend that there is a magic answer to the undoubtedly difficult problem of violence in schools. I assure the House that it is obvious from statements made by the Minister for Education and Training, Mr Aquilina, that he is acutely aware of these problems and the need to minimise them and do everything the authorities can to protect our schoolteachers. I am sure that the Minister for Police also has taken due note of the circumstances and will make any adjustments in the resources of the Police Service necessary to deal with those problems.
The Hon. J. M. SAMIOS: I ask the Attorney General a supplementary question. The Attorney General mentioned the availability of police. What arrangements have been made to put the police on alert involving our school system here in the Sydney basin and throughout the State?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: I shall obtain any available information that can be communicated with propriety from the Minister for Police.
ROYAL COMMISSION INTO THE NEW SOUTH WALES POLICE SERVICE PAEDOPHILE INVESTIGATION
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE: I ask the Attorney General whether it is a fact that judges and lawyers as well as police officers are a vital part of our law enforcement system. Is it a fact that the royal commissioner, Justice Wood, said he was, "not concerned about the mere presence of people at Costello's", a boy brothel - people such as judges and lawyers? Does the Attorney General agree that the alleged involvement of judges and lawyers in paedophilia in such a boy brothel could or would affect their role in decisions and actions in our legal system, especially in the area of law enforcement, and so should be investigated by the Wood royal commission?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: The answer to the first question is, obviously, yes: judges and lawyers as well as police officers play an important role in the administration of justice. As to the second question, I believe that the honourable member has accurately quoted the royal commissioner. The quotation he made certainly strikes a chord in my memory, although I do not recall at this stage the precise context in which the remark was made. As to the final part of the question asked by Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile, I do not think it appropriate for me to comment upon what the royal commissioner should or should not investigate or what particular answers the royal commissioner should require from witnesses.
I consider that it is not part of my role as Attorney General to provide a running commentary on procedural rulings that may be made by the royal commissioner. The royal commissioner has an enormously difficult job. He has to exercise very wide powers with proper discretion, tact and a sense of fairness. My overall perception is that he has done so. It is very much a matter for His Honour to interpret the terms of reference and to determine whether answers ought to be required in particular matters from time to time.
PRIVACY AND DATA PROTECTION LEGISLATION
The Hon. A. B. MANSON: I ask the Attorney General, and Minister for Industrial Relations what is the status of the Government's implementation of its commitment to introduce comprehensive privacy and data protection legislation for New South Wales.
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: As honourable members would be aware, it was a pre-election commitment of the Carr Government to introduce comprehensive privacy and data protection legislation. Honourable members may also be aware that today in the Legislative Assembly the Government voted against the proposed privacy and data protection legislation of the honourable member for Eastwood. The honourable member for Eastwood is pursuing a bill on this topic when he is aware that the Government has its own proposals. When his bill was brought on in the other place last session the Government advised that it could not support his proposals on the basis that it was working on its own, more comprehensive privacy proposals. The bill of the honourable member for Eastwood is fundamentally flawed. The New South Wales Privacy Committee is of the view that Mr Tink's bill "qualifies as probably the weakest attempt at data protection legislation worldwide".
Some of the serious flaws identified in Mr Tink's bill by the Privacy Committee are as follows. First, the data protection principles set out in the bill are unenforceable, and if accepted public authorities would ultimately be free to decide the extent to which they would comply with the principles. Secondly, the bill permits virtually unrestricted data matching between public authorities. Thirdly, it contains no remedies for people who are adversely affected by serious breaches of the data protection principles. Fourthly, the proposed privacy commissioner is given no power to act on complaints other than to write reports. Finally, the bill has very weak application to the private sector.
In view of the serious deficiencies in the bill of the honourable member for Eastwood, it would have been an abrogation of the Government's responsibilities in this important area to vote in favour of such an ineffectual model. I am pleased to advise that the Government is currently finalising its own legislation. The Government's measure will deal with the deficiencies inherent in the Opposition's bill. The Government's proposals are being developed in the context of extensive consultation with relevant agencies. At present the Government is undertaking consultation on the bill with the police royal commissioner, Justice James Wood, and various agencies. Once these important consultations have been completed, the Government will proceed with its own legislation.
STATE WARD ALLEGATION INVESTIGATION
The Hon. PATRICIA FORSYTHE: My question without notice is to the Minister for Community Services, Minister for Aged Services, and Minister for Disability Services. I refer to the answer the Minister gave yesterday to a question asked by the Hon. M. J. Gallacher in relation to the abuse of former State wards when he said that the circumstances of children formerly in care are being reviewed by the Community Services Commission. Is the Minister aware of correspondence dated 3 July from Roger West, Community Services Commissioner, stating "This commission does not currently have the resources to carry out such an inquiry and, in any event, there is some doubt about its jurisdiction to inquire into events prior to 1993 when the Community Services (Complaints Appeals and Monitoring) Act was passed"? Where does this leave former State wards?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: The previous Government did absolutely nothing for State wards, and the honourable member has a disgraceful record, as does her party, regarding issues of this sort. It is well known that the Opposition has an inhumane attitude to State wards. Mr West has some concerns about the resources of the Community Services Commission, and the Government is seeking to address those matters. Mr West has said that he would like more staffing resources, although I point out that the resources of the commission are at least at the same level as established by the previous Government. That being the case, I instituted an inquiry by the service performance and operations division - SPOD - of the Premier's Department into the resources of the commission. Certain recommendations were made in a report which was then communicated to Mr West for comment. Those comments have been made and the matter is now awaiting resolution.
STATE WARD ALLEGATION INVESTIGATION
The Hon. PATRICIA FORSYTHE: I ask the Minister a supplementary question. In view of his answer, is he prepared to provide additional resources to the Community Services Commission for this particular inquiry to occur?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: I have answered the matter raised by the honourable member. The plain fact is that the commission needs resources for its general operations and that is the matter that is being addressed in the manner I have indicated.
POWER STATION PRIVATISATION
The Hon. J. H. JOBLING: I ask the Treasurer, Minister for Energy, Minister for State and Regional Development, Minister Assisting the Premier, and Vice-President of the Executive Council is it a fact that contrary to Labor Party policy he proposes to sell off Eraring Power Station in a privatisation deal after the leveraged lease agreement expires in 1997? Has his department conducted studies or commissioned research into the viability of selling off Wallerawang, Vales Point, Munmorah and Liddell power stations? Are these power stations earmarked for fast-track sell-offs during this parliamentary term? Is it further a fact that as a result of the closure of power stations 2,500 jobs will be lost in addition to the 2,500 to 3,000 jobs that have already vanished due to downsizing in the restructuring of the electricity industry?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: The answer to that weird assortment of questions is no.
PROBATION AND PAROLE SERVICE STAFFING
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY: My question without notice is to the Treasurer, representing the Minister for Corrective Services, and Minister for Emergency Services. Is the Probation and Parole Service underresourced by as many as 42 staff? Is there a significant discrepancy between the actual work being done by Probation and Parole Service staff and the allocation of resources? Is the Probation and Parole Service likely to be able to manage adequately an additional workload brought about by the implementation of options to imprisonment, such as home detention?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I will happily refer that question to my colleague the Minister for Corrective Services and when I obtain a response I will convey it to the House.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: Earlier in question time I was asked a question by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. Subsequent to answering that question I received this morning's wage information released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. I advise the House that the increase in average weekly earnings for the last quarter and, indeed, for the preceding 12 months is much lower than anticipated. The expectation was that today's figures would see a quarterly increase of around 1 per cent. In fact the actual outcome was much less than that, at 0.7 per cent, which means an increase in average weekly earnings over the 12-month period of some 3.5 per cent.
It is worth pointing out that in its last quarterly report released last week the Reserve Bank said that an annual average weekly earnings rise of under 4 per cent would be consistent with its 2 per cent to 3 per cent inflation rate target. So the actual wages outcome is well below that figure and indeed, as I said, well below market expectations. That confirms the point I was making earlier in question time, that Australia is now locked into low inflation. Wage demands and wage outcomes have significantly moderated, so not only do we have low inflation locked in with wage outcomes moderating substantially but, unfortunately, we also have very low employment growth. In view of all of these circumstances there is absolutely no justification for any delay in a significant cut to interest rates. Any undue delay will not only see the economy locked into low gear; I fear it will be locked into neutral. Now is the time for a significant cut in interest rates to get the economy moving and create jobs.
GUNDAGAI SHIRE COUNCIL LEGAL PROCEEDINGS
The Hon. D. J. GAY: My question is to the Treasurer, Minister for Energy, Minister for State and Regional Development, Minister Assisting the Premier, and Vice-President of the Executive Council. Is it a fact that the Tumut Rivers County Council building was sold to Gundagai Shire Council? Is it further a fact that the Minister has given instructions for legal proceedings to be commenced against Gundagai Shire Council regarding this transfer? Why is the Treasurer involved in a shoddy land grab against local government and local ratepayers?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: So that I can be absolutely certain about the details of my answer I will take the question on notice.
AREA HEALTH SERVICE BUDGETS
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI: My question is to the Treasurer. Is the Treasurer aware of any current discussions between Treasury and the Department of Health regarding further supplementation for the Department of Health this financial year? Will those discussions be completed soon, and will the Minister for Health then be in a position to release budgets for area health services that he promised to release in June?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: The budget will be brought down in May next year.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: No, I am talking about this year.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: This year's health budget has been supplemented by some $134 million, and if it had been supplemented by any more than that or any less than that I would have announced the fact.
CENTRAL BUSINESS DISTRICT LIGHT RAIL PROPOSAL
The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH: My question is addressed to the Treasurer, and Vice-President of the Executive Council, representing the Minister for Transport. Is the Minister aware of the level of concern about the Sydney Light Rail Company's proposal to build a light rail system in Pitt and Castlereagh streets? Is the Minister further aware that the results of feasibility studies conducted on this issue have not been available to the public or to those who will be directly affected if the proposal goes ahead? Will the Minister assure the House that light rail in Sydney's central business district will not proceed until feasibility studies have shown this to be the best answer to transport problems in the inner city, and will the Minister ensure that the results of those feasibility studies are made available to the public?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I have to admit to the House that I am not aware of any concern, but if the honourable member assures me that some concern has been expressed I take her word for that. Certainly, I will refer her question to the Minister for Transport. I do not normally venture outside my portfolio area but I have to say that I am a supporter of light rail, as I know many members of the House are. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition is nodding in agreement. Yesterday the Hon. D. J. Gay handed me a brochure on proposals for the extension of light rail. He certainly was enthusiastic. I gather from the reactions in this House that most members are. Once again, the Hon. Dr Marlene Goldsmith is out on her own.
The Hon. M. J. GALLACHER: My question is addressed to the Treasurer. Is it true that the State Government is planning to introduce death duties? If not, why is the New South Wales branch of the Labor Party commencing legal action to recover money from the estate of the late member for Peats, Tony Doyle? Is this a death duty by stealth or simply a trial run for the introduction of death duties?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: That is a particularly silly question from a relatively new member. He will learn as time goes on. Let me assure everyone in New South Wales that not only does this Government have no intention of reintroducing death duties; there will be no introduction of death duties as long as this Government holds the Treasury benches. It was the Wran Labor Government that abolished death duties. I was a member of the Government when it did so.
The Hon. J. F. Ryan: Land tax.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: We abolished death duties. I know that that overturned the longstanding policy of Liberal-Country Party and Liberal-National Party governments in New South Wales. I issue a warning to the people of New South Wales that if
they want to ensure that death duties are never reintroduced in New South Wales they should make sure that there is never a Liberal-National Party government.
POKER MACHINES IN HOTELS
The Hon. ELAINE NILE: I direct my question to the Minister for Community Services, representing the Minister for Gaming and Racing. Is it a fact that there is fierce opposition to the New South Wales Government's proposed new gambling laws which would allow 15 poker machines in addition to the 15 gambling card machines in each of over 2,000 New South Wales hotels? Is it a fact that similar moves in other States have been disastrous, with every hotel becoming a mini-casino, causing massive damage to family life? Will the Government refer this dangerous proposal to the social issues committee for an urgent examination of the social impact of such a dramatic expansion of poker machines in New South Wales?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: I have read recent press reports concerning the possibility of some changes being made regarding licensed premises. There is no Cabinet decision on this matter at this point.
WESTMEAD MEDICAL RESPONSE TEAM
The Hon. J. F. RYAN: My question is directed to the Minister for Community Services, Minister for Aged Services, and Minister for Disability Services, representing the Minister for Health. Is it a fact that the Department of Health is proposing to disband the existing NRMA medical response team at Westmead and replace it with doctors from St George Hospital? What impact will this have on western Sydney health services when such valuable medical expertise is removed, and how does this conform with the Government's alleged commitment of moving resources to Sydney's western suburbs?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: I shall refer the question to my colleague the Minister for Health to obtain a full response.
The Hon. M. R. KERSTEN: I address my question to the Treasurer, representing the Minister for Transport. Recently Trackfast produced a new consignment note. Given the recent decision to close Trackfast, why was the new consignment note produced? How much was the cost of production, and how does the Government explain this gross waste of taxpayers' money? Is it a fact that New South Wales Rail Access Corporation charges are four times higher than equivalent charges in any other State in Australia?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I will refer the honourable member's question to my colleague the Minister for Transport.
BIODEGRADABLE BAIT BAGS
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: I ask the Attorney General, and Minister for Industrial Relations, representing the Minister for Land and Water Conservation, whether the Minister is aware that Lance Ferris, the famous pelican saver of the north coast, has been attempting to negotiate with the fishing bait industry for the use of biodegradable bait bags because of the devastating impact on marine life of the current plastic bait bags? What support has he been given by the Minister's department and the department of the Minister for Fisheries to introduce the biodegradable bags, and when will they be introduced?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: I understand that the topic may involve the Minister for Fisheries as well as the Minister for Land and Water Conservation. I will make inquiries of both Ministers and obtain a proper answer for the honourable member.
AGRICULTURAL HIGH SCHOOL BURSARIES
The Hon. D. F. MOPPETT: My question is addressed to the Attorney General, and Minister for Industrial Relations, representing the Minister for Education and Training. Is the Minister aware of the bursaries to agricultural high schools that were established in 1994? Can he give an assurance that the bursaries will continue next year and into the future for as long as they are needed?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: I will be happy to refer that question to the Minister for Education and Training and obtain a reply.
WAGGA WAGGA WOMEN'S REFUGE CLOSURE
The Hon. PATRICIA FORSYTHE: My question is addressed to the Minister for Community Services, Minister for Aged Services, and Minister for Disability Services. In view of his earlier answer to the Hon. Franca Arena about the closure of Wagga Wagga Women's Refuge and the statement that the department was informed last week that the executive committee had recommended closure of the refuge, why were staff and residents - the seven mothers and 15 children - given only 10 hours notice on Tuesday? Is this inconsistent with the Premier's recent decree that his Government will be more open and consultative than in the past and will in fact prepare impact statements prior to making decisions that impact socially and economically on country communities? What is the likely effect of the closure decision on the future of the Peter Street property, which has been occupied by the Wagga Wagga Women's Refuge for most of the past 21 years?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: The Hon. Patricia Forsythe overlooked the central component of the answer I gave earlier in question time, namely, that the closure was precipitated as a result of a decision
made by the management committee of the refuge in question and not by the Department of Community Services. I made it clear when I gave my earlier response that supported accommodation assistance program funds remain available for the provision of a women's refuge at Wagga Wagga to serve the women and families of that locality.
WAGGA WAGGA WOMEN'S REFUGE CLOSURE
The Hon. PATRICIA FORSYTHE: I ask a supplementary question. If the Minister's department was made aware last week that this refuge was to close, why did it not take steps last week to relocate these women rather than take action this afternoon, as the Minister suggested?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: In the light of events that occurred, I made it clear that arrangements are being made to create an interim auspice to look after the women and children in question. No-one has been turned out onto the streets and no such event will happen. Funds are available in Wagga Wagga to provide for a women's refuge and steps will be taken to ensure that that occurs.
BLACKTOWN HOSPITAL SERVICES
The Hon. J. F. RYAN: My question is directed to the Minister for Community Services, representing the Minister for Health. Is it a fact that 27 beds closed temporarily at Blacktown District Hospital last November, when the hospital was being refurbished, will not be reopened? Is it a fact that the surgical ward at Blacktown District Hospital will close for nine weeks of the year and half close for a further fortnight? Is it a fact that the medical ward will close 18 beds for 22 weeks and that eight beds in the children's ward will close for a further two weeks this year? Is it a fact that those closures will cost a total of 41 staff positions, including the loss of 37 nursing positions? Is it a fact that the local member for Blacktown, the Hon. Pam Allan, was attacked at a recent local meeting for falsely claiming that there was no problem at that hospital? What action will the Government take in response to protests from local doctors and the New South Wales Nurses Association for increased resources at Blacktown District Hospital rather than the cuts that have been delivered by the Carr Government?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: The Government has commenced a $90 million redevelopment at Blacktown and Mount Druitt hospitals that will provide local residents with state-of-the-art facilities. Blacktown District Hospital was left by the coalition Government with some of the longest waiting times in New South Wales and in desperate need of redevelopment. Blacktown hospital, like most hospitals in Sydney's greater west, was barely functioning. When this Government came to office Blacktown District Hospital had 310 beds; this number has been increased by the Government to about 340. A brand new 370-bed hospital will be constructed in Blacktown and will provide a comprehensive range of services such as renal dialysis, elective surgery and acute medical care. The Government has increased the budget of Blacktown District Hospital by $3.5 million, from about $42 million to $45 million.
I am advised that Blacktown District Hospital has a busy emergency department that provides emergency services to more than 25,000 patients each year. The emergency department is currently being renovated and the new modern facility will open next year. Waiting times for elective surgery are at record lows. When the Carr Government came to office, people were forced to wait on average 38 days for elective surgery. Now the waiting time is less than 27 days. Currently only four patients have waited more than 12 months for surgery, compared with nearly 30 patients under the coalition Government. I am advised that the biggest reduction in waiting times is for orthopaedic surgery and that the average waiting time has been reduced by about one month. I am advised that the Western Sydney Area Health Service is seeking to optimise services at Blacktown District Hospital in consultation with the relevant union.
AREA HEALTH SERVICE BUDGETS
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI: My question is directed to the Treasurer. Further to my previous question regarding hospital budgets, when will the discussions with the Department of Health regarding supplementation for this year's budgets be completed? When will the Minister for Health release budgets to area health services so that they can manage the money that they are meant to be getting this year?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I will refer the second part of the question to my colleague the Minister for Health. In relation to the first part of the question, I refer the member to my earlier answer.
GROUND WATER ACCESS CHARGES
The Hon. I. COHEN: I ask the Attorney General, and Minister for Industrial Relations, representing the Minister for Land and Water Conservation, what charges, if any, are currently made for access to ground water by the Department of Land and Water Conservation? Can the Minister advise how much ground water is currently being used per year? Could the Minister make available details about the ground water licences granted for Cronulla and Sutherland shires?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: I will refer that detailed question to the Minister for Land and Water Conservation for reply.
STANDING COMMITTEE ON PARLIAMENTARY PRIVILEGE AND ETHICS
The Hon. C. J. S. LYNN: My question without notice is directed to the Hon. Dr Meredith Burgmann, as chair of the Standing Committee on Parliamentary Privilege and Ethics. On Tuesday in
this House she claimed that my attendance at meetings of the committee has "not been terribly good". Is it a fact that the three members of this committee with the worst attendance record are members of her own party? Is it a fact that one of those members has missed almost 50 per cent of the meetings held in the last 11 months? Is it a fact that apart from the Hon. Dr Meredith Burgmann in her capacity as chair of the committee, in fact I have the best attendance record? Will she now withdraw the remarks she made on Tuesday and apologise for them?
The Hon. Dr MEREDITH BURGMANN: I am sorry, I did not hear the last part of the question. Could the Hon. C. J. S. Lynn repeat that?
The Hon. C. J. S. LYNN: I said, "Will she now withdraw the remarks she made on Tuesday and apologise for them?"
The Hon. Dr MEREDITH BURGMANN: I will not go into the meaning of the word "precious", but the honourable member has pointed out a serious problem with committees.
The Hon. J. P. Hannaford: You are the chairman.
The Hon. Dr MEREDITH BURGMANN: I hope the Leader of the Opposition is not serious when he calls me the chairman. He should have a much less sexist attitude. Committees have a lot of problems in getting members to attend. The Hon. C. J. S. Lynn was away on his commercial activities in New Guinea at the time and perhaps his contribution to the committee has not been significant and, therefore, I did not realise that he was actually there at the time.
The Hon. C. J. S. Lynn: On a point of order. I find that remark quite offensive. It is not for the Hon. Dr Meredith Burgmann to judge my contribution to the committee. I am asking the Hon. Dr Meredith Burgmann a question of fact relating to attendance. I have obtained from the Clerk's office a record of attendance indicating that I have the best attendance record. I request that the remark she has just made be withdrawn and that she apologise for that as well.
The Hon. Dr MEREDITH BURGMANN: I assure the honourable member that if he had in fact made significant contributions I would have remembered them and I might have remembered that he was at the meetings.
The PRESIDENT: Order! The Hon. C. J. S. Lynn has taken offence at a comment made by the Hon. Dr Meredith Burgmann. It would be appropriate, since the comment did cast aspersions on him, if she withdrew the comment.
The Hon. Dr MEREDITH BURGMANN: Once again, with the proviso about the meaning of the word "precious" - I do find it extremely precious - I will withdraw my statement that the attendance record of the Hon. C. J. S. Lynn was the worst. I recognise that one member in particular has a very bad attendance record, but be assured that I have spoken severely to that member.
The PRESIDENT: Order! I understand that the Hon. C. J. S. Lynn took exception to a comment by the Hon. Dr Meredith Burgmann that his contribution to the committee was so insignificant that she did not notice he was there. I ask the honourable member to withdraw that comment.
The Hon. Dr MEREDITH BURGMANN: I withdraw the comment that I did not notice he was there, and I will notice him in the future.
BIOLOGICAL AND CHEMICAL RESEARCH INSTITUTE STAFF TRANSFERS
The Hon. R. T. M. BULL: I address my question to the Minister for Community Services, Minister for Aged Services, and Minister for Disability Services, representing the Minister for Agriculture. How many officers - not positions - of the Department of Agriculture currently located at the Biological and Chemical Research Institute at Rydalmere have given an indication that they will transfer to the 14 regional locations?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: I shall be delighted to obtain a response from my colleague the Minister for Agriculture.
The Hon. A. G. CORBETT: I ask the Treasurer, representing the Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning, and Minister for Housing what measures he is undertaking to promote the use of composting toilets within new urban areas? Given the current state of technology, and acceptance of composting toilets, will the Government amend the current regulation which requires the owner of a house within the Sydney Water operational areas and within 80 metres of a sewerage main to connect to that main or be penalised? If not, why not? If so, when?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I will refer the honourable member's question to my colleague the Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning and obtain a reply for the honourable member.
DEATHS IN CARE
The Hon. J. F. RYAN: My question is addressed to the Minister for Community Services, Minister for Aged Services, and Minister for Disability Services. When a death in care occurs, what investigative and monitoring procedures does the department follow? Is a register of such deaths kept by the department? Does the department's protocol require that the Community Services Commission be notified?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: I thank the Hon. J. F. Ryan for what undoubtedly is an important question. The answer, in my view, is that there are two responses to the death of a child in care. For one thing, I would imagine there would ordinarily be a coronial inquiry. That is dependent upon the circumstances, but one would think that in nearly all cases there ought to be a coronial inquiry. The other response that I can indicate should occur is examination of the death by the child death review team.
The Hon. Patricia Forsythe: Not necessarily children.
The Hon. R. D. DYER: The death of a child in care which involves any suspicious circumstances or any violence or matter of that sort could well attract the attention of the child death review team.
The Hon. Patricia Forsythe: But not if it is not a child. The question did not contain the word "child".
The Hon. R. D. DYER: I apologise. I thought the reference in the question was to a child in care. But whether it is the death of a child or an adult, there ought to be a coronial inquiry. Since I became Minister there have been instances of coronial inquiries when a person has died in care. I well recall that on occasions the coroner has written to me, following the holding of a coronial inquiry, making recommendations as to what steps might be taken in the particular circumstance to improve systems so that such a death might be avoided in future. I recall one occasion on which a coroner wrote to me regarding the form of records kept regarding the dispensing of drugs. From memory, that matter related to a person with disabilities. That is one example of an instance in which a coroner might write to me raising his or her concerns as to the circumstances leading to a particular death.
It is true that, regarding children, the child death review team is additionally available. That legislation, I am happy to say, was supported by all shades of political opinion in this House. That was a first in Australia. I am proud of the fact that this Government enacted that legislation. It will not only throw light on the circumstances of the deaths of particular children, but one would hope that over time it will point out systemic lessons that can be learned as a result of such unfortunate deaths as might occur.
STAYING ON SCHOOL STUDENT PROGRAM
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY: My question without notice is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Training. Will the Government confirm that Staying On, a program devised to assist students who are at risk of dropping out of school, will not suffer the same fate as the Students at Risk program, which will cease at the end of this year? Will the Minister assure concerned parents that Staying On will continue to be funded? If not, why not?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: I will be happy to refer that question to the Minister for Education and Training and obtain a reply.
COOINDA RESPITE CARE CENTRE
The Hon. JENNIFER GARDINER: My question is directed to the Minister for Community Services, Minister for Aged Services, and Minister for Disability Services and relates to the Cooinda respite care centre at Armidale, which has as its catchment area not only the northern tablelands but also the mid-north coast. Is the Minister aware that there is community concern about ongoing funding for the centre? Will the Minister agree to examine this matter to ease current anxieties of families relying on the centre for its valuable services?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: It is true that a number of services providing support and assistance to people with disabilities are going through a transition process. In early April this year I adopted in excess of 800 transition plans relating to various disability services. Also, I refused to adopt a few which did not comply with relevant conditions of the legislation. However, in some cases where transition plans are adopted, it is necessary to go through a process which, over time, will result in services being brought up to standard, and some moneys are available to assist in that regard. It is difficult, in responding to a question without notice, to be sure of the precise circumstances of the facility at Armidale to which the honourable member refers. However, I shall have the honourable member's question examined to see what the current position is. If there is further information that I can give her, I certainly shall do so.
BREWARRINA CENTRAL SCHOOL RELIEF TEACHER DAYS
The Hon. D. F. MOPPETT: My question without notice is directed to the Attorney General, and Minister for Industrial Relations, representing the Minister for Education and Training. Is the Minister aware that Brewarrina Central School, because of relief teachers not being available, had 165 relief teacher days last year and that only 65 of these were filled? Does the Minister concede that this is reflective of a general lack of casual teachers throughout New South Wales? What steps does the Minister propose to take to alleviate that shortage of casual teachers?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: The honourable member raises a point of substance. I will be more than happy to refer the question to the Minister for Education and Training and obtain a response for the honourable member.
AERIAL DINGO BAITING
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: I ask the Minister for Community Services, Minister for Aged Services, and Minister for Disability Services,
representing the Minister for Agriculture, a question without notice. Why is the Minister issuing licences for aerial dispersion of 1080 poison for the purpose of baiting dingos in Tabulam, in northern New South Wales, an area which has ample road access and where there is no dingo population? Is the Minister aware of opposition by local people to this aerial baiting and of its impact on non-target native species?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: I shall obtain a response from my colleague the Minister for Agriculture.
RURAL AREA HEALTH SERVICES
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI: My question is directed to the Leader of the Government. When will the Government bring forward legislation to legitimise the establishment of eight country area health services?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: Frankly, the matter referred to by the Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti is not one with which I am familiar. If he assures me that -
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: There is legislation coming. When is it coming?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I do not know. The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti will have to wait.
OFFICE OF NATURAL RESOURCES POLICY
The Hon. I. COHEN: I address my question to the Treasurer, representing the Premier. Can the Minister indicate the current and future role and functions of the Office of Natural Resources Policy within the Premier's Department? Is the function related solely to policy development, drafting legislation or administration of particular legislation? Is the office examining issues related to the marine and coastal resources of the State? If so, what are its terms of reference for marine and coastal matters? If not, are the marine and coastal resources of the State within its charter?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I will refer that question to the Premier.
In view of the time, if honourable members have further questions, I suggest they place them on notice.
RURAL ENERGY CHARGES
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: On 22 October the Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby asked me whether I was aware that Great Southern Energy had stated that in future, rural producers will be separately metered for their residence, shearing shed and farm workshops; whether I was aware that Great Southern Energy intends to introduce a service charge of $300 per annum for each meter, thus effectively raising the cost of power to each property; and, what action would I take on this matter. I have ascertained that there is a certain amount of misinformation in circulation that is causing concern to some of Great Southern Energy's customers. The basic answer to the honourable member's question is that Great Southern Energy has no intention of introducing such a $300 fee to all of its customers.
The former Tumut River County Council, one of eight former county councils which make up the amalgamated Great Southern Energy, did have a policy of charging $300 to meter new non-residential installations such as woolsheds on farm properties. I am advised that this $300 charging practice has continued only for the relevant customers within the old Tumut boundaries, but there is certainly no plan to charge a $300 new installation metering charge generally across Great Southern Energy's area. As I suggested at the time of the honourable member's question, this would be an issue for the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal. In fact, IPART's March 1996 electricity pricing determination would specifically prohibit the introduction of a new $300 charge as feared by the Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby.
Separate metering for domestic and commercial power usage on farm properties was progressively introduced by some of the former county councils, including Tumut River County Council, following the Butters tariff inquiry in the early 1990s. But, again, Great Southern Energy has not stated an intention to introduce this separate metering across the corporation generally, as suggested by the honourable member. Over the coming months and years the board of Great Southern Energy will determine a standardised approach to metering and associated costs across the amalgamated organisation's customer base. Later, outside the Chamber, the Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby raised with me suggestions that Great Southern Energy proposed to introduce a $3 service charge per power point for its customers. I have ascertained from Great Southern Energy that there is no such proposal and that no consideration has been given to such a proposal.
INQUIRY INTO THE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
The Hon. R. D. DYER: On 25 September the Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby asked me a question concerning New South Wales Agriculture's operations review. The following information has been provided:
The Government has no policy to deliberately shed staff from the Department of Agriculture. To the contrary, in keeping with the Government's new development plans for the Department, New South Wales Agriculture is in the process of recruiting up to 250 new scientists, agricultural extension officers and support staff.
These new staff will ensure the Department is in a position to implement the wide range of initiatives already announced by the Premier in the publication "Government & Agriculture - A partnership for the future".
Also in keeping with the Government's previous announcements, decentralisation of the Biological and Chemical Research Institute from Rydalmere to country New South Wales, relocation of the Animal Nutrition Unit from Camden to Armidale and rationalisation of the Department's five Regional Veterinary Laboratories to three larger, more specialised laboratories, is continuing.
NEWCASTLE WOOL SALES
The Hon. R. D. DYER: On 16 October the Hon. D. J. Gay asked me a question concerning Newcastle wool sales. I provide the following answer:
This question on the future of wool sales in Newcastle following the decision announced by the Australia Wool Exchange to centralise NSW wool sales to their wool centre at Yennora, displays a degree of ignorance by the Honourable Member. Ignorance about the history of wood sales and current commercial practice in regard to the sale and trade of Australia wool.
The questioner states wool exports have only flowed through Newcastle for the last six decades where in fact the export of wool from and through the Hunter and Newcastle has been occurring for more than 150 years. Wool grown in the Hunter and in other regions of NSW will continue to be stored and traded through the Port of Newcastle as the Port has natural advantages for bulky produce best carried by sea transport.
The issue of wool sales is different however from the issue of wool storage for export and where that wool is exported from.
As the Honourable Member knows, for some years the Australian Wool Exchange (AWE), a private company created following the deregulation of the wool industry, has been working to centralise their selling operations so that they could realise operational savings and as being an arrangement more conducive for their customers. This has been a commercial decision that no government has influenced nor been able to influence, even though arguments have been put to the Exchange to say, centralise operations in Newcastle or Goulburn, as this would mean far larger operational overhead savings and pose no technological difficulty. The AWE say this move would disadvantage their customers.
AWE membership is made up of all major private sector players in the growing, selling and processing of wool in Australia. Prior to deregulation in the wool industry a major study, funded by the then Australian Wool Corporation, recommended centralising selling centres in Australia. This report was prepared following wide consultation with industry and in essence recommended three centres for the sale of Australian wool - Yennora, Melbourne and Fremantle. The AWE is now implementing the recommendations of this report which it says will bring cost savings to growers and brokers and mean the AWE will be able to keep its charges for selling wool to a minimum.
The Minister for Agriculture advises me that since deregulation of the wool industry, government has no power to direct the industry with respect to the rationalisation of selling centres for wool. Consultation with the Board of the Australian Wool Exchange and the major wool brokers is the only avenue available to reverse the decision.
Although centralising sales in Sydney has been AWE policy for some time, this does not mean centralising wool stock piles, and the Honourable Member will be aware that places such as Newcastle and Goulburn will continue to be significant places for wool storage and as mentioned, the Port of Newcastle will still be an entrepot for wool.
It is a great pity that regional centres such as Newcastle and Goulburn will miss out on sales of goods and services for wool sales taking place in those centres. Sales of vehicles and farm machinery and equipment is a major boost to a regional economy. It is also a great pity that growers, who find places such as Newcastle and Goulburn far more accessible to get to and that have all the services and goods the capital city can offer without the aggro of city traffic, will be disadvantaged. This is a reality of commercial decisions.
It is unfortunate that the Opposition keeps raising this issue as they know better than most why these new arrangements are being implemented. The National Party cannot do anything constructive about this matter until they rediscover the reasons why the Country Party was originally formed. I think it is even more unfortunate and a sad reflection of the ignorance displayed by those commenting on this matter of wool sales, that the persons involved still do not understand that this decision to centralise wool sales is industry driven and that government has not played any part in it nor will interfere in it except to put the Government's point of view.
Finally, I should add that as the AWE has recently announced the sale of its Yennora complex, and that therefore there is still hope that the AWE will realise the cost benefits of locating their NSW and Queensland sales operations in a regional centre, close to Sydney, such as Newcastle.
Questions without notice concluded.
[The President left the chair at 1.04 p.m. The House resumed at 2.30 p.m.]
FAMILY IMPACT COMMISSION BILL
Debate resumed from an earlier hour.
The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH [2.30]: Earlier I indicated that I wanted to talk about the Parents as Teachers program. Imagine an innovation that could slash the crime rate, eliminate illiteracy for all except the disabled, make school a positive experience for all children, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds, substantially cut child abuse and cut mental illness. That invention is the Parents as Teachers program, the result of more than 20 years of research by Dr Burton White of Harvard University and the Centre for Parent Education in Massachusetts, in the United States of America. The program has been implemented statewide in Missouri and is increasingly being taken up by educational authorities across the United States and around the world. Australia has been part of that process. New South Wales has taken up the Parents as Teachers program. Experts in New Zealand have followed our lead. Indeed, Shane Stone, now Chief Minister of the Northern Territory, when he was the Territory's education Minister, came across the New South Wales program and has implemented it in the Northern Territory with great success.
Educational research has been demonstrating the importance of early childhood for the capacity of children to learn and succeed in school and in later life. The important thing is to make sure that parents have the information, skills and support they need to be their children's first and best teachers. That is
what the Parents as Teachers program does. That is what the Greiner and Fahey governments did for some of the children in this State by introducing parents as teachers first as a pilot program in three schools and later in 10 schools across the State. It is my hope that the current Government will continue that expansion and make the Parents as Teachers program available to every new parent in New South Wales. Parents as teachers is an example of the good work that government can do to support families. It is important that governments support families and parenting and encourage the positive nurturing and raising of our children, and not create additional burdens and difficulties for families in that process. That is why the initiative of the Family Impact Commission Bill is so important.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES [2.34]: I am sympathetic to this bill, which has been introduced by Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile and the Hon. Elaine Nile. I was one of the fortunate ones, and I realise just how fortunate I was, to come from a united family. My parents had only two squabbles in the 23 years I lived at home, so I really was most fortunate. In those days divorce was rarely heard of. In our family we had only one divorce - one of my uncles was divorced. That was an extraordinary event. I did not know of any other break-up in our family or of any family in our street. It just did not seem to happen in those days. I am disappointed about how easy it is nowadays to get married, have children and then divorce.
I have seen the impact that a family break-up has had on my own son. I have been divorced twice, but still divorce is a rare event in our family. Ironically, I came from a very united and loving family but have been involved in two break-ups, which I am not at all happy about. My intention was to get married, stay married, have children and live that way for the rest of my life. I am sure my family break-up had an adverse impact on my son. He would have been much better off had he been part of a united family, with a loving mother and father staying together for the entire time he was at home. I accept many of the comments of the Hon. Dr Marlene Goldsmith about the effects of family break-up on children. I have seen some of those for myself. The children of friends of mine have been affected by a family break-up.
A better name for this bill would perhaps be the Children Impact Commission Bill, because it relates not so much to parents but to children. The problem I have with the legislation is that "family" is defined narrowly as a family consisting of individuals related by blood, adoption or marriage. Essentially, under this bill a family is defined as two people who are married with one, two or three children. That has been and probably will always remain the essential unit of society. For some reason, as society has experienced a great many traumas over the past 60 or 70 years, families are breaking up - and I really do not understand why it has happened to so many friends of mine; almost everybody I know has been involved in at least one major break-up of a relationship or marriage. I cannot put my finger on why this is happening now and did not happen 60, 70, 80 and 100 years ago.
It may be that the role of women has changed; that previously women simply were not free to do as they liked and never thought about leaving their partner; that women were subject to their husbands, who ruled their families with a rod of iron. Maybe that is the reason women never thought about leaving their husbands. Even women who were living in the most miserable circumstances did not leave home; they had nowhere else to go. In the past women had no income and were forced to stay within the family. Nevertheless, I believe that the children of some of those families were better off, even though their mothers may have been miserable, than they would have been had their parents broken up. It has been said that in the United Kingdom some 40 per cent of fathers lose contact with their children after divorce. That is absolutely shocking. That is a most appalling state of affairs. There is no question that children need their father as an influence on them.
Society is changing. I hope that society will reject the notion that it should be easy to get married, have children and then divorce. There will shortly be some change and we will go back to the old values that support the concept of the traditional family. We all know in our hearts that it is best for children to have their parents together and it is best for the children to be part of a loving family. It is possible that one of the reasons for family break-up is the materialism that is so prevalent now but which was not prevalent 60 or 70 years ago. Back then so many material objects simply were not available. These days we have videos, mobile phones, fax machines, television sets - all sorts of instruments that were not available 60 or 70 years ago, when there was much less demand on the breadwinner, male or female, to bring in large amounts of money because there was no need to buy such gadgets.
The family of my partner, Cathy Blasonato, comes from Calabria. The members of the family had no running water, no electricity and no telephone - none of the modern conveniences. For washing up they had to use the local stream. They had nothing that we accept as being part of normal existence. They did not even have money. But somehow, by some means, that family brought up six children into their twenties in what we would regard as abject poverty. Today the children of that family have their own families. They all have their own houses in Australia. They are all together and belong to a very loving family.
The Hon. M. R. Egan: Are they all living in Australia?
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: The whole family came to Australia; seven children and the parents. The father came out first and he spent seven years virtually living on nothing, he scrimped and saved, to buy a house, and then he brought the family here. The mother breastfed each of the children for four
years; a total of 24 years breastfeeding! She said, "They are loyal to me, they respect me," and they do. The family stayed together until the father died. Theirs is an amazing story. A couple raised their children in abject poverty yet with dignity and respect, without the material possessions that we all regard as normal in our existence. At some point there has to be a move away from materialism back to the fundamentals of society - appreciation of the family rather than of material objects. It will not be easy because every day people are bombarded by thousands of advertisements urging them to buy new products. The extreme has been reached in Japan. The Japanese buy new cars virtually every year. Computers only a few months old are put out on the pavement and they buy new ones
The Japanese have been sucked into a vortex of materialism that will do considerable damage to their formerly closed and ordered society. They are already suffering from materialism rage. Their traditional Buddhism ideals, which places emphasis on values other than materialism, have been lost. They will have to turn away from that. It is an indictment of society that both parents have to work to provide for the material possessions that they think are necessary - a new car every three or four years, new clothes, a new suit every year. People are on a material treadmill; they feel they have to buy new things, unnecessarily packaged goods -
The Hon. D. F. Moppett: With the exception of the suits, I would totally agree with you.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: I buy my suits from the St Vincent de Paul Society. The $1,000 suit that I am wearing today, which is made from Australian wool, cost me $10. It is a perfectly good suit. I have only bought three suits in the last four years.
The Hon. M. R. Egan: How much were the others?
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: One was $10, but my hemp suit, which was made in Australia, cost me $250. No one could accuse me of being vain.
The Hon. D. F. Moppett: You are a picture of sartorial elegance.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: Sartorial inelegance I am afraid to say. My partner and I try to live by those old means. We do not spend much on food and material possessions. It is amazing how far we can make the money go. We could probably live on $300 a week all up, with only one of us working. I say we could, but as members know we invest our surplus funds and give some away. Society has become trapped into materialism and our children are suffering because both parents have to work. That is fundamentally wrong. I am not making a judgment that the mother should stay at home and breastfeed her children for four years necessarily - although I believe children benefit enormously from being breastfed for such a period - or that the mother should become a parliamentarian and breastfeed her child in Parliament. I am not suggesting that the mother or the father should have to go to work or stay at home.
When my friends and I were young, one parent - in our cases it was our mothers - was always at home. We always returned to a safe home; someone was always there. Everything was comfortable. I was a member of the lucky generation, when families could get by with one parent working because there simply were not the material things to buy that gobble up money that are with us today. That may be too simplistic for some people. Some believe that they have to have two cars, a video, two television sets, new clothes and packaged foods. I believe they do not need those things. The problem with the legislation is that its definition of "family" is too exclusive. I know of two mothers living together in a lesbian relationship. One has had children and both had a relationship with their husbands. Such people would not be regarded as a family under the provisions of this bill. However, the fact is it is a loving family with extraordinarily well-balanced children. The definition of "family" should not relate solely to people who are married or who are of opposite sexes. We should look not at what the relationship is between the parents; we should concentrate on the impact on children. That is far more important.
Of concern also is the restrictiveness of the membership of the proposed advisory committee. The bill proposes that nine of the 12 representatives will be from Christian groups. I have nothing against Christian groups, having been brought up a Christian. The bill refers to the Salvation Army, the Anglican Church, the Catholic Church, the United Church, the Greek Orthodox Church, the Presbyterian Church, the Assembly of God, the Festival of Light and the Jewish faith as having representation on the committee. Society has many other religions apart from Christianity and Judaism. A number of Buddhist, Hindu and Islamic communities live in Australia, with Scientologists, Seventh-Day Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses and members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Those groups as well as people who are not religious should have some representation on the committee. The views of the committee should reflect those of the entire society, male, female, young, old and people of different ethnic origins. The provision is far too narrow.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile should make allowances for the fact that we are now a mixed society. Many of the 884,000 people of Asian origins who are living in Australia are not Christians - although many are. Other religions and the non-religious should be represented on the advisory committee. If this bill is passed, I will consult with Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile in an effort to expand the criteria for membership of the advisory committee. The definition of "family" is far too narrow because it does not include children of other types of families. It matters little what
relationships parents are living in; what is important is the impact on children. It is the children who count. They are the most important people in society. They are the ones who will be affected in the future by the decisions that are made today. They need our protection. I commend Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile and the Hon. Elaine Nile for introducing this important bill. It is time we paid far more attention to children and families in our society. There will be a sea change: we will place less emphasis on economic impact and more emphasis on the impact on children and families. This is an interesting bill which is worthy of support. I believe it should be amended to expand the definition of "family" and to expand the representation of the advisory committee.
The Hon. A. G. CORBETT [2.50]: The Family Impact Commission Bill calls for the establishment of a commission to study and report on the moral, social and economic impact of both existing and proposed legislation on families in New South Wales. Although I believe in the basic principle that greater scrutiny should be given to the impact of legislation in areas other than those intended, I have three major concerns about the bill which may or may not be remedied during consideration of the bill in Committee. I am concerned that the bill's approach to the definition of the family would exclude and deprive from consideration a great number of children and those who care for them. As defined in the bill, a family would mean a man and woman related by marriage, their children and possibly their wider relations. Such a definition excludes many of the diverse families and relationships within our community which are no less valuable to our society and no less entitled to social and legislative consideration than the families defined by the bill.
There is a real risk that those children and those families in the greatest need of protection and assistance would escape the attention and scrutiny of the Family Impact Commission. This is a risk which simply must be avoided or prevented. I am concerned about the requirement that each and every piece of legislation be subject to a family impact study. The requirement that the Civil Aviation (Carriers' Liability) Amendment Bill and the Noxious Weeds Bill, among the legislation we have considered or will consider this year, be accompanied by a family impact statement seems cumbersome and unnecessary. It should be possible to nominate certain legislation, or types of legislation, as requiring a family impact assessment rather than require every piece of legislation or every item of government expenditure to have such an assessment.
Furthermore, it would seem that the bill would require those making an application for a family impact study or assessment to carry out the bulk of the investigation for the assessment themselves. The application described in schedule 1 might be better the basis of questions we ask ourselves as members when considering relevant legislation rather than requiring an external agency to subject every government and parliamentary action to the scrutiny of a family impact assessment. My third concern relates to the advisory committee proposed in part 8 of the bill, and more particularly to the specified positions or qualifications referred to in that part. I do not believe that the advisory committee would accurately reflect the diversity of our community and our society. Our consideration of the family and the consequences of our actions on families should not be confined by the faiths we profess but rather by the values we share.
I am not convinced that the membership of the advisory committee is broad or varied enough to honestly and accurately reflect the many and varying circumstances and pressures experienced by families. I believe that Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile and the House should have the opportunity to consider amendments proposed during the Committee stage. Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile, to his credit, has made it clear that he is open to suggestions and advice from the House on possible changes and improvements to the bill. I believe that the Committee stage is the best possible avenue for such discussion. Should it come to a division on the matter, I shall vote in favour of the bill's progress to the Committee stage.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE [3.54], in reply: I thank all members who have spoken in the debate, especially those who have supported the bill. I accept that reservations about the bill are sincerely held. As I have indicated, and as other members have acknowledged, they will be sincerely considered as well and not simply opposed by me as a knee-jerk reaction. Some members have indicated their concern to protect children. Of course, that is the underlying purpose of the bill - to protect children by having stable families in the interests of the children.
In the case of a prickly pear bill or other bills which do not appear to have an impact on the family the commission would have machinery simply to issue a notice that such bills have no impact on the family and do not need detailed investigation. Most members who approached me today indicated that they would like to have a vote on the bill, believing we have considered the bill long enough. The proposal has been before the House for some years. I gave notice of it again in May 1995 and introduced the bill in October 1995. I had not intended to put the bill to a vote but, as the originator of the bill, I am happy to accede to the wishes of the majority of members who have approached me.
I advise the House, as I have advised members who have spoken to me on their reservations about some aspects of the bill, that should the bill be read a second time I will move that consideration of the bill in the Committee of the Whole stand an order of the day for Thursday, 21 November 1996. That will allow time for both the coalition and the
Government to look further at the bill and prepare amendments. I am prepared to consider any submissions and amendments in relation to the membership of the advisory committee. Obviously the committee must have some unity; otherwise, there will be no agreement. The definition of "family" is difficult. An underlying object of the bill is to have a focus on the traditional Aussie family. If the definition were so vague as to cover everything, there would be no point to the bill: it would be meaningless. There are many wise members of the House and as this is historic and unique legislation I am open to consideration of amendments from all members.
Question - That this bill be now read a second time - put.
The House divided.
Mr Bull Mrs Nile
Mr Corbett Rev. Nile
Mrs Forsythe Dr Pezzutti
Mr Gallacher Mr Ryan
Miss Gardiner Mr Samios
Mr Gay Mrs Sham-Ho
Dr Goldsmith Mr Rowland Smith
Mr Hannaford Mr Tingle
Mr Kersten Tellers,
Miss Kirkby Mr Jobling
Mr Lynn Mr Moppett
Mrs Arena Mr Primrose
Dr Burgmann Ms Saffin
Ms Burnswoods Mr Shaw
Mr Cohen Ms Staunton
Mr Egan Mrs Symonds
Mr Johnson Mr Vaughan
Mr Kaldis Tellers,
Mr Macdonald Mrs Isaksen
Mr Obeid Mr Manson
Mrs Chadwick Mr Dyer
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a second time.
The Hon. J. M. SAMIOS [3.05]: I move:
That standing and sessional orders be suspended to allow the moving of a motion forthwith that general business order of the day No. 5, relating to crown symbols, be called on forthwith.
The House divided.
Mr Bull Rev. Nile
Mr Corbett Dr Pezzutti
Mrs Forsythe Mr Ryan
Mr Gallacher Mr Samios
Miss Gardiner Mrs Sham-Ho
Mr Gay Mr Rowland Smith
Dr Goldsmith Mr Tingle
Mr Kersten Tellers,
Mr Lynn Mr Jobling
Mrs Nile Mr Moppett
Mrs Arena Mr Obeid
Dr Burgmann Mr Primrose
Ms Burnswoods Ms Saffin
Mr Cohen Mr Shaw
Mr Egan Ms Staunton
Mr Johnson Mrs Symonds
Mr Jones Mr Vaughan
Mr Kaldis Tellers,
Miss Kirkby Mrs Isaksen
Mr Macdonald Mr Manson
Mrs Chadwick Mr Dyer
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion for suspension of standing and sessional orders agreed to.
Motion by the Hon. J. M. Samios agreed to:
That general business order of the day No. 5, relating to crown symbols, be called on forthwith.
Debate resumed from 17 October.
The Hon. Dr MEREDITH BURGMANN [3.12]: I continue my remarks about the monarchy and the royal family. The motion refers to removal of the crown from the crest. I will talk later about whether that undermines the Constitution, but it would be a strange constitution indeed if it could be undermined by the updating of our crest. I return to the royal family, that most famous dysfunctional family, beloved of the -
The Hon. R. S. L. Jones: Do not insult Her Majesty.
The Hon. Dr MEREDITH BURGMANN: I am not insulting Her Majesty but the rest of the royal family, which I understand the standing orders permit. It is in fact an extremely dysfunctional family. The mass media magazines are very -
The Hon. J. M. Samios: On a point of order. The motion is that this House condemns the Carr Government for attempting to undermine the constitutional monarchical process by removing the symbols and traditions linked to the Crown without reference to the people. This is not a debate on the
standing of the royal family, and I would ask that the honourable member be called to order on the basis of relevance.
The Hon. Dr MEREDITH BURGMANN: On the point of order. It is impossible to talk about the symbolism of removing the crown from the crest unless one speaks about the debate going on in our society at the moment about the need for an English Head of State in Australia in 1996. I submit it is perfectly relevant to talk about the disrepute into which the younger generation of royals has brought the Crown. I think it not only relevant but important to discuss that issue.
The Hon. R. S. L. Jones: On the point of order.
The PRESIDENT: Order! I do not need to hear more on the point of order. I will not rule against the Hon. Dr Meredith Burgmann, but it would behove her to relate any remarks that she makes which are not directly in the motion to the substance of the motion. If she does not, her remarks may become irrelevant.
The Hon. Dr MEREDITH BURGMANN: I reiterate my view that to discuss the removal of a symbolic piece of heraldic furniture is joined to the issue of whether the British crown is relevant to Australian society today. Obviously, one way in which the British royal family is relevant to Australian society today is that it makes our women's magazines much more palatable, readable and exciting.
The Hon. R. S. L. Jones: And they sell.
The Hon. Dr MEREDITH BURGMANN: And they sell. That a picture of Princess Diana on the front page of the Australian Women's Weekly can double its circulation is very interesting. The interest of Australian society in Princess Diana - or, more correctly, Diana, Princess of Wales, because she never has been Princess Diana; she was Lady Diana, although she was popularly known as Princess Diana - relates to the fact that the women and I suppose men in our society, because it is well known that men read these women's magazines, are fascinated by the antics and wrongdoings of the younger royals. What I put forward is that their antics and wrongdoings constitute good reason for not having the crown on our emblem. When the Queen dies - and it is terrible to talk about such a thing, but eventually she will die - we are looking at the crown going to -
The Hon. R. S. L. Jones: Charles III.
The Hon. Dr MEREDITH BURGMANN: It may well not go to Charles
The Hon. R. S. L. Jones: Why?
The Hon. Dr MEREDITH BURGMANN: Because another former heir apparent, Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David, the Duke of Windsor, had a real problem in that not only was he -
The Hon. J. H. Jobling: Talk about signing your name in full!
The Hon. Dr MEREDITH BURGMANN: I know more about the royal family than the Hon. J. H. Jobling ever will.
The Hon. D. F. Moppett: A secret admirer?
The Hon. Dr MEREDITH BURGMANN: No. I was brought up by a monarchist mother. I know all the names of the royal family by heart, in fact better than Princess Di because when responding during her marriage to Prince Charles she got it wrong. The Duke of Windsor, as we know, ran off with Mrs Simpson. That caused a real constitutional crisis for the British Government. I came across the name Mrs Simpson when as a young child I was travelling in Arab countries where the people sang, whenever they saw someone they presumed to be British, "Hark, the herald angels sing, Mrs Simpson pinched our King." It strikes me as interesting that even in the late 1950s countries other than Anglophile countries were still connecting Britain with an event that occurred two decades earlier, when the man who had acceded to the throne ran off with an American divorcee and therefore in those days was not considered eligible to assume the throne.
My view about Prince Edward, or David as he was known to his family, is that the real problem was not that he ran off with an American divorcee. That was very interesting and probably meant that the women's magazines at the time had a field day, except for the fact that most of that was kept secret because in those days one could not talk about the royal family. But the more important point to make about this heir to the British throne is that not only was he pro-German, he was pro-nazi. That is now becoming more and more evident from the historical facts that are coming forward. We in Australia would have been faced with the horrible dilemma that our head of State was not only an Englishman but a pro-nazi, pro-German Englishman. I believe that would have been an absolutely unbearable situation for a young democracy like Australia to have found itself in. The Queen, who, as latest revelations reveal, seems to be a bit of an old bolshie -
The PRESIDENT: Order! I draw the attention of the Hon. Dr Meredith Burgmann to Standing Order 79, which reads:
No Member shall use Her Majesty's or the Governor's name irreverently in debate . . .
The Hon. Dr MEREDITH BURGMANN: On the point of order. I must say that I always use the expression "bolshie" in a very fond way. In the past I have made speeches about the importance of the Communist Party of Australia to our country and to the history of this country and the way in which -
The Hon. D. F. Moppett: You've got to be joking.
The Hon. Dr MEREDITH BURGMANN: I will go into a bit of history if the Hon. D. F. Moppett wants to know. The only party in the whole of Australia that opposed -
The PRESIDENT: Order! There is no point of order before the Chair. I merely drew the honourable member's attention to Standing Order 79 and requested that she not transgress it.
The Hon. Dr MEREDITH BURGMANN: I repeat that in my view to call someone an old bolshie -
The Hon. Ann Symonds: Who are you calling an old bolshie?
The Hon. Dr MEREDITH BURGMANN: The Queen.
The Hon. J. M. Samios: On a point of order. Clearly, the honourable member is defying Standing Order 79, which reads:
No Member shall use Her Majesty's or the Governor's name irreverently in debate, nor for the purpose of influencing the House in its deliberations.
You have clearly drawn the standing order to the honourable member's attention, and the member is obviously determined to pursue this course of action.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile: On the point of order. Standing Order 79 makes it clear that no member shall use Her Majesty's or the Governor's name irreverently in debate, nor for the purpose of influencing the House in its deliberations. The honourable member's understanding of the meaning of the word "bolshie", or any word like that, is not relevant. It is a matter for the House to determine the appropriateness of the use of a term which is insulting to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. This debate is not about the royal family. It is about the removal of the crown, which is a legal question. It involves a question of the sequence of events. The crown cannot be legally removed before a referendum that deletes the Crown from the Constitution. The steps are: a referendum, an amendment of the Constitution and removal of the crown. We are debating the issue of the removal of the crown before the people have spoken in a democracy. Matters that deal with the royal family and their behaviour have nothing whatsoever to do with this debate. If the Hon. Dr Meredith Burgmann persists in her deliberate insults directed towards Her Majesty the Queen, who is still the Queen of Australia, she should be asked to cease speaking in the House.
The Hon. Dr MEREDITH BURGMANN: On the point of order. I reiterate that in my view the term "old bolshie" is a term of endearment. But I will replace the expression with the words " an old leftie". I will now explain what has been a recent revelation about the Queen's -
The PRESIDENT: Order! Is the honourable member speaking to the point of order?
The Hon. Dr MEREDITH BURGMANN: Yes. I am explaining -
The PRESIDENT: Order! A point of order has been taken that the honourable member is transgressing Standing Order 79.
The Hon. Dr MEREDITH BURGMANN: I am explaining why the description "old leftie" is a very good description of the Queen's position and her -
The PRESIDENT: Order! On the contrary. The honourable member must address the Chair on the issue as to why that expression is not a transgression of Standing Order 79.
The Hon. Dr MEREDITH BURGMANN: It is not a transgression of Standing Order 79 because I am not reflecting on the Queen in any way except in a favourable manner. In fact, I approve of her political position, which I am just about to elaborate upon.
The PRESIDENT: Order! I take the view that to refer to Her Majesty in those terms is in fact a transgression of Standing Order 79. I ask the honourable member not to transgress this standing order again.
The Hon. Dr MEREDITH BURGMANN: As has been recently revealed, the Queen is something of a socialist. It has recently come to light - and this has been aired in those wonderful journals I have been frequently referring to, that is, the women's magazines - that the Queen was extremely concerned by Margaret Thatcher's economic rationalism and her abrogation of the old one nation Tory way in which people such as Edward Heath and Harold Macmillan sought to run the Tory party. The Queen evidently expressed her view on -
The Hon. Ann Symonds: Proper conservatives.
The Hon. Dr MEREDITH BURGMANN: That is right, proper conservatives, one nation Tories. Evidently the Queen made it clear that she could not stand Margaret Thatcher and believed that her economic rationalist and competition policies and her lack of concern for the people who were impoverished by her policies were bringing Britain undone. It is because of those views that I affectionately refer to the Queen as a bit of an old leftie -
Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile: Shame on the member for again insulting the House. She used the term again.
The Hon. Dr MEREDITH BURGMANN: Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile did not mind when I called the Duke of Windsor a nazi, because in fact he was. He can hardly object when I call the Queen a bit of an old leftie, because in fact she was. It is true that the Queen's heir, Prince Charles, can also be described as a bit of an old leftie. It is understood that when Prince Charles was at
Cambridge, and he is one of the few members of the royal family who actually got to a university, he asked whether he could join the socialist club.
The Hon. R. S. L. Jones: Are you serious?
The Hon. Dr MEREDITH BURGMANN: Yes, he asked whether he could join the socialist club. He was told, "No, Your Royal Highness. It would be considered totally inappropriate for you to join the socialist club." However, he has from time to time expressed views that make it clear that he was in fact a Labor supporter and did not support the vicious economic rationalist views of Margaret Thatcher. I would like to flag a number of other issues that I could talk about if this debate were to proceed, but I understand it might be a good idea if I finish fairly soon, and I do have to attend an important committee meeting. When this issue is canvassed again I will talk about Princess Margaret and Peter Townsend, Antony Armstrong-Jones, Prince Andrew, Fergie and Budgie the helicopter, the Queen, and the Queen Mother. I will also talk about my Noel Coward joke, which was one of the best jokes I have ever heard the Queen Mother tell.
The Hon. R. S. L. Jones: Tell us the joke.
The Hon. Dr MEREDITH BURGMANN: All right, I will tell you the joke. When the Queen Mother visited the theatre to see a Noel Coward play, Noel Coward was around the back talking to the actors. The usher said to the Queen Mother, "Would you like to go around the back to see the actors, too?" The Queen Mother replied, "No, there is only room around the back for one old queen." I could talk at much greater length about Wallis Simpson. I could have talked forever if I had known Robert Webster was in the gallery. I could talk about Prince Edward and Sophie Rhys-Jones. I could talk about Bambi Tuckwell - the Australian violinist who married Gerald Lascelles, as he was at the time, the Queen's cousin. I could talk about Princess Michael of Kent who became a Catholic, as the Hon. J. R. Johnson said. I could talk about Edward VII and his double standards - the fact that he had many mistresses and still advocated family values. However, I will not talk about them. All I ask is: how can one possibly undermine a constitution by the removal of one emblem?
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES [3.30]: I think the Hon. Dr Meredith Burgmann gave good reasons for retaining the monarchy. Life would be so boring without the royal family. I am looking forward to the day when Prince Charles becomes King Charles III of England, and possibly of Australia. I believe he will make a very good king. He will be very left wing, of course, and he is also an environmentalist. He took the so-called British architects to task over the disgrace that is now called London. Hitler having damaged London, there was an opportunity to rebuild, as Wren did, and have something worthwhile to replace the old buildings that were knocked down during World War II. London is now a total mess. Prince Charles finally took the architects to task and let them know exactly what he thought of the mess they made of London. What we need now is another invasion, another bombing, so that those buildings can be replaced. It is my understanding that the removal of the emblem from the uniforms of the Legislative Assembly Attendants was the correct move, in as much as Her Majesty had never actually approved of her emblem being used in the first place. I do not believe Her Majesty was ever consulted about the use of the emblem. Honourable members may find that the emblem on those uniforms was being used illegitimately and the fact that it was removed is neither here nor there.
I believe, as many others in the community believe, that if we are to become a republic - as we inevitably will, at some point - it should be done by consulting the people; not by stealth, not by making little cuts here and there. I do not think anyone approves of that procedure. A referendum should be held and the people should be allowed to choose their Head of State, whether it be the Queen or an Australian elected by them or appointed by the Parliament. The Premier should come clean and seek a referendum on the issue. What will happen next is that the coat of arms will probably be removed from this Chamber - although only over the President's dead body, I suspect. It is not appropriate to remove the emblem from here and there. The Australian Labor Party wants to destroy the Legislative Council, and one of the reasons it wants to do that is because it regards this Chamber as a House of privilege, as a miniature House of Lords, as Her Majesty's Chamber. It believes this Chamber to be archaic, representing privilege and the landed gentry, but it does not; it is no longer that Chamber.
This is the most democratic House. I would abolish the lower House, the Legislative Assembly, and have a single Chamber consisting of this upper House. This House constitutes a more democratic representation of the people of New South Wales. It would make a lot more sense to have just an upper House, because the lower House is invariably a rubber stamp. It is a useless House - except when the Independents control it and it then becomes more interesting. This House has a broad representation of the people of New South Wales: vegetarians, fundamental Christians, people from many different ethnic backgrounds and shooters. The lower House would never achieve such a broad representation. There is little chance that a representative of the Shooters Party would be elected to the lower House. In the upper House we have a Hong Kong-born member, but there is not one in the lower House. A number of members of the Legislative Council were born in other countries.
It is much more difficult to get that representation in the lower House. Because members there represent one constituency they are usually middle-aged, middle-class, and white Anglo-Saxon. This Chamber should be preserved at all costs. I think the Premier has been rather sneaky in the way he has gone about this. If the Premier wants to get rid of the monarchy, he should be up-front about it; he should have a referendum and do it properly. He
should let the people decide, and then do what they say. Otherwise, we should stick with what we have, which appears to be working pretty well. There have been no revolutions in New South Wales. Why get rid of something that is working well, unless the people want it. And if the people want it, fine, do it - but not by stealth.
The Hon. B. H. VAUGHAN [3.35]: I remind honourable members that the motion states:
That this House condemns the Carr Government for attempting to undermine the constitutional monarchical process by removing the symbols and traditions linked to the Crown without reference to the people.
I had a choice this afternoon between attending a meeting of the Standing Committee on Parliamentary Privilege and Ethics and saying a few words in this House. I decided to say a few words in this House. I believe in many, many things but there is one singular thing that I do not believe in, and that is a code of ethics for members of Parliament. As the Hon. Jennifer Gardiner will testify, I have been telling that committee, of which I am a member, that I am there under protest at all times. If members of Parliament do not know how to behave themselves, they ought not be here; it is as simple as that. I want to place on record that I have the utmost respect and fondness for the Hon. J. M. Samios. He is a thoroughly decent Australian man and a good parliamentarian, but - when one makes a speech there are always "buts"; and I say this with the utmost charity, something to which I am not much given - I believe the motion is a little trite.
As a consequence, it seems to me that the debate that has ensued has been somewhat scornful and that from an outsider's point of view - although, I am pleased to say, no outsider is in the public gallery at the moment - some of the conduct in this Chamber in the past half-hour to three-quarters of an hour might have been an argument, an ignoble argument, for, and I hesitate to say this, the abolition of this Chamber. I guarantee that this Legislative Council, this State Senate, will not be abolished until all State parliaments - the unicameral Parliament in Queensland and all the rest of them - are abolished. One of my hobbyhorses is the abolition of State parliaments. In the days when it took weeks on a ship to get to Perth there was every possible reason for a federation. As honourable members know, we have a federation loosely modelled on that of America, where, might I say, 49 of the 50 States have a Senate.
The only State in the United States of America without a State Senate is Nebraska, whose parliament is unicameral. Nebraska, one might say, is the Queensland of the United States of America. However either State accepts that proposition is up to each State. The Hon. J. M. Samios will not mind if I recount to the House that I asked him which symbols and traditions linked to the Crown this motion was concerned with. The honourable member quickly and succinctly gave me some exact examples. One was the removal of the crowns from the sleeves and lapels of the attendants of the other place. I must confess that until he told me about that I did not know it had happened. Now I note that they certainly have not been removed from the uniforms of the attendants of this place.
There is nothing wrong with the New South Wales coat of arms that features above the President's chair, and as far as I am concerned that coat of arms could stay there whether this is a Senate in the Federation or a Senate in a republic of Australia. Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile and I were recently in Melbourne and discussed this matter. Although I have never been an alderman, I understand that aldermen have to pronounce any vested interest in a debate, and I should pronounce that I am a member of the Australian Republican Movement. Last Friday night I attended that dinner, the sixth dinner, at which the Hon. Peter Collins received a louder acclaim than did either Wran or Greiner. I was quite surprised about that.
The Hon. R. D. Dyer: Why was that?
The Hon. B. H. VAUGHAN: Because there are many closet republicans in the coalition. But the Hon. Peter Collins has declared his colours; he has nailed them to the mast and given notice that he is a republican. The other night he spoke very well and received a great ovation. I congratulate him on that, as I did on the night. I have been distracted - I did not go on to explain the discussion I had with Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile. When the Free State of Ireland became a republic in 1921-22 people did not go around knocking down statues, taking crowns off symbols or burning them, or absolutely discrediting any semblance of the British monarchy. The school of medicine at St Stephens Green is still called the Royal College of Surgeons. The most elegant and the most successful yacht club in Dun Laoghaire, Dublin - I know this even though I am not a yachtie - is still known as a royal yacht club. Why would you run around knocking off such references?
We have a history of tradition behind us, and you cannot destroy tradition overnight. If you do so, you do not know where you come from. We will have a republic, and I would like a republic urgently. At the same time, I pledge that the symbol above the President's chair will stay there if I have anything to do with it. Why would one bother about changing it? I know the Carr Government, I have been involved in it for nearly two years, but I know of no decision being taken to attempt to undermine the constitutional and monarchical process in this State by removing symbols. I confide in the House that I do not know a single member of the New South Wales Cabinet who is a member of the Australian Republican Movement. And if that is the way Ministers feel, why would they not be members of the Australian Republican Movement? What about being a "$2,000 for 2000" member, as I am?
Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile: They are upholding their place; they are Ministers of the Crown.
The Hon. B. H. VAUGHAN: I do not know whether they took that into consideration. I think a person could belong to the Salvation Army or the Australian Republican Movement and still be a Minister of the Crown. I have been asked to read to the House a statement entitled "Crest on Uniforms". It reads as follows:
The issue which sparked this motion followed a report in the Telegraph Mirror a couple of weeks ago.
I record yet again that I have not read the Daily Telegraph since the split in 1955. The statement continues:
The newspaper reported that the Government had "deleted the royal symbol" from uniforms of staff employed at Parliament House.
At this stage I must pause to ask whether the absence of the crown on the uniform does something to the efficiency of the attendants; I do not know. I wonder whether the presence of the crown on the uniform makes much of a difference. I go back to the statement:
The whole issue has been blown out of all proportion.
I must say to the Hon. J. M. Samios that the fault is his. He did this. I tell him another thing: his wife will be a republican before he is. What I am terrified about is that the United Kingdom will become a republic before Australia does, and then the Head of State will be President Tony Blair. Under our present constitutional arrangements the President of the United Kingdom would be the President of Australia. And who would be the Governor General then, one might ask? Would it be Clare Short for Governor-General?
The Hon. Ann Symonds: I would vote for her.
The Hon. B. H. VAUGHAN: The statement continues:
The decision regarding attendants' uniforms has absolutely nothing to do with the Carr Government.
The secret is out - I think the Speaker removed the royal emblem. The statement continues further:
Decisions about Legislative Assembly attendants' apparel are entirely the province of the Presiding Officer from the other place.
I am advised that Legislative Assembly attendants themselves recently designed new uniforms for wear outside the Chamber only.
I'm also advised that attendants' coats with the crown on the crest are still required to be worn in the Legislative Assembly chamber.
Is that right? Well, if that is right, what is this motion all about? I say to the Hon. J. M. Samios that he has no idea how much he has disappointed me today by trying to condemn the Government for the removal of a crown. Nobody has touched the escutcheon above the President's chair; nobody has touched the escutcheon in the lower House. I assure honourable members that I have seen very little antimonarchical behaviour by this Government.
The Hon. D. J. Gay: Come on! You must have been away on holidays for the past two years.
The Hon. B. H. VAUGHAN: Mr President, I am presently being interjected on, which is not the sort of thing that ought to happen during a debate of such consequence as this.
The PRESIDENT: Order! I will remind the honourable member of that on another occasion.
The Hon. B. H. VAUGHAN: I very much deprecate this debate continuing this afternoon. I have given certain assurances to the Hon. J. M. Samios. I admonish him for introducing this motion, and I urge him to consider his wife's oft-repeated - I am sure - advice to join the Australian Republican Movement. I have the greatest empathy with any Scot, and, as all honourable members know, the Hon. J. M. Samios is a gentleman of Greek descent who crossed the Rubicon, a fundamental Rubicon, and married a Celt - and an important Celt, too. The Hon. J. M. Samios is now only half a Celt, I suppose, but we Celts have to stick together. I think I am being immediately followed by another great Celt, a Burley from County Clare who also crossed the Rubicon.
The Hon. ANN SYMONDS [3.50]: I had been eagerly looking forward to continuing my contribution to a substantial debate on Aboriginal reconciliation, but I have been provoked into joining in this debate. I had not intended to participate, and I resent that such a trivial matter should be brought on as a matter of urgency in this House. But I am forced to make a few points. I had thought that the motion of the Hon. J. M. Samios would have launched a substantial debate in which I would have been pleased to engage at a later date, but on perusing the business paper I found that the motion simply condemns the Carr Government for attempting, without reference to the people, to undermine the constitutional monarchical process by removing the symbols and traditions linked to the Crown. I turned immediately to the dictionary to peruse the definition of "symbol", which is described as a thing regarded by general consent as naturally typifying or representing or recalling something.
I will not go into the further examples of the use of the word "symbol", but if honourable members are talking about something typifying or being recognised as part of Australia, surely they do not regard the symbols of the English monarchy as typifying Australia. They could not possibly say, "I am an Australian. I want Australian symbols. I want to pursue the development of an Australian republic." I have no wish to offend those in this House who are in a senior age bracket and are of another age in their consciousness because of their devotion to the monarchy, because I know that they hold those beliefs fervently and dearly. I suppose in one sense it would be like being intolerant of a religious conviction. But so far as I am concerned, the views of those people must be challenged when debating the governance of our country. As I said, I do not wish to offend people but we should be having a substantial debate, rather than trivialising the removal of the English crown from the uniforms of the parliamentary attendants.
The Queen of Australia is 12,000 miles away and has a German heritage, which I will refer to later. I know that honourable members do not want this debate to persist because they are eager to put their personal views on the record by way of a vote on the motion, but I recall that in 1992 when Her Majesty the Queen of England was in this Chamber the Hon. Dr Meredith Burgmann and I were the two dissenters who refrained from attending the Chamber, not because of our discourtesy towards Her Majesty but because of our firm belief that it was time to indicate to Australia that the debate on the need for a republic should begin in earnest. At that time Andrew Fraser, MP, accused us of treason in a public place. If I had prepared for this debate I would have read into Hansard the section of the Act that refers to the manner in which one can be punished for reflecting upon the Queen.
At the time somebody remarked that he would like to have seen us both confined to the tower. The Hon. Dr Meredith Burgmann was somewhat confused and thought that perhaps he meant Centrepoint Tower, which would have meant that she would have had quite a good time. It would not have been a punishment for her, because she is the archetypal and superior shopper in this Chamber. I wish to place on record that I am offended that anyone would think that I would join in the condemnation of the Premier of this State and his Government. The Premier could not possibly offend me by his actions and by the democratic way in which he conducts himself, his business and the decision making of the Government.
I wholeheartedly support the elimination of the English symbols, the lion and the unicorn as, indeed, I support wholeheartedly my Premier. The fact that we should adopt our own symbols was the point at which I began my contribution to this debate and I am tempted to pursue the substantial matters in this debate because I do understand their significance, but having referred to the German family heritage of the Queen of England I do think that honourable members should cease mythologising about her relevance to this place. We need not have our own revolution in this country, but we do have to remove ourselves from the association with our colonial past. It is not a representative link; it is no longer representative. I have a high regard for Prince Charles and his environmental and social values. Perhaps I do not endorse some of his activities but he has had some novel perspectives about the organisation of the State.
To reflect upon the Guelphs, it really offends me that we should be defending the line from which George III in 1776 lost the American colonies, and which engendered the establishment of Australia, and the absurdity of George IV, who would not allow his own Queen into Westminster Abbey to participate in his coronation - or to be crowned herself. These are the things we ought to remember. Of all four royal sons that were produced by George III they begat only one legitimate heir - there was a lot of begatting but only one legitimate heir - and that was Queen Victoria, from whom we now trace our present connection to the Queen of England, Elizabeth II. I also place on record that I am of an age that I grew up admiring the royal family during the war years for the role its members played in the fight against fascism. I particularly admire the way in which the young Princess Elizabeth and her sister Margaret Rose -
The Hon. M. R. Kersten: You could not be that old. I do not believe that. I refuse to accept it.
The Hon. ANN SYMONDS: I have a very good memory. I was only two at the time and I do remember it. The way in which they signalled to the rest of the world the kind of courage that was required under the threats that the Second World War produced was significant in maintaining high morale within the British population and allied populations, including Australia's. I have no wish to detract from any of that, I simply want us to have our own revolution. The ideals of the French Revolution were sullied by violence and never realised. One of the greatest pieces of rewriting in history was done by Jefferson when he changed the aspirations for the new nation in America from the words of John Locke "the pursuit of life, liberty and property" to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness". That was one of the most significant editorial events of our time. The Founding Fathers of the United States also would not have intended that the current materialism and individualism would characterise American society. I want us to have our revolution based on logic and an affirmation of the ideals under which we believe our nation of Australia - reconciling with its original owners and tolerating and welcoming new races which have come to this land - can embark upon a model of democracy and republican freedom for the rest of the world. That is what I want, and I do not care what the attendants wear on their sleeves.
The Hon. J. M. SAMIOS [4.04], in reply: I thank all speakers who have contributed to this debate. They have spoken with sincerity. Whilst I may not agree with all the viewpoints expressed, they reflect the democratic process of this House. I commend the motion to honourable members.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put.
The House divided.
Mr Bull Rev. Nile
Mrs Forsythe Dr Pezzutti
Mr Gallacher Mr Ryan
Miss Gardiner Mr Samios
Mr Gay Mrs Sham-Ho
Dr Goldsmith Mr Rowland Smith
Mr Hannaford Mr Tingle
Mr Kersten Tellers,
Mr Lynn Mr Jobling
Mrs Nile Mr Moppett
Mrs Arena Mr Primrose
Dr Burgmann Ms Saffin
Ms Burnswoods Mr Shaw
Mr Cohen Ms Staunton
Mr Corbett Mrs Symonds
Mr Dyer Mr Vaughan
Mr Kaldis Tellers,
Mr Macdonald Mrs Isaksen
Mr Obeid Mr Manson
Mrs Chadwick Mr Egan
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
Pursuant to sessional orders business interrupted.
Motion by the Hon. M. R. Egan agreed to:
That this House at its rising today do adjourn until Tuesday, 29 October 1996, at 2.30 p.m.
BANK MERGERS BILL
Bill introduced and read a first time.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN (Treasurer, Minister for Energy, Minister for State and Regional Development, Minister Assisting the Premier, and Vice-President of the Executive Council) [4.15]: I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to enable New South Wales to facilitate merger of banks in New South Wales where the merger originates in New South Wales. The bill complements the Bank Mergers (Application of Laws) Act which enables New South Wales to facilitate mergers in New South Wales between banks where legislation effecting the merger has already been passed in another State. Generally, this will be the State where the majority of the acquired bank's depositors or other assets are located. As with the Bank Mergers (Application of Laws) Act this bill will enable bank mergers to be facilitated in New South Wales without the need for separate legislation in each case. As I indicated to the House when I introduced the Bank Mergers (Application of Laws) Act, the process of bank mergers is cumbersome. Inevitably, legislation has been used by State parliaments, including the New South Wales Parliament, to overcome the difficulties associated with such mergers.
Traditionally, each merger was facilitated on a case-by-case approach with specific legislation being enacted. This approach was feasible when the New South Wales Parliament dealt, on average, with only one bank merger every three years, as has been the case for the past 15 years. However, since January of this year New South Wales had been approached for assistance by or on behalf of five banks regarding proposed mergers. The number of mergers seeking assistance from the New South Wales Government in 1996 has now increased to six. Clearly, with this rate of bank mergers New South Wales needs a more efficient way of facilitating these mergers. The Bank Mergers Bill and the Bank Mergers (Application of Laws) Act provide that more efficient mechanism.
In three mergers that have sought assistance in New South Wales, namely the Advance Bank and Bank of South Australia merger; the Westpac and Challenge Bank merger; and the Suncorp, Queensland Industry Development Corporation and Metway Bank merger, the majority of the assets to be transferred to the acquiring bank are located outside New South Wales and the legislation establishing the key date for the merger has been passed in another State. Those mergers will be facilitated by the Bank Mergers (Application of Laws) Act. The Bank Mergers Bill is designed to facilitate a merger when New South Wales is the first State to be approached to facilitate the merger. Generally, New South Wales will be approached first if the majority of assets to be transferred are located in New South Wales.
Three of the current round of mergers are in this category, namely, the merger of St George Bank and Partnership Banking, formerly the commercial banking and finance division of Barclays Bank Australia Limited; the merger of National Australia Bank and the Australian operations of the Bank of New Zealand; and the merger of St George Bank and Advance Bank. The Bank Mergers Bill will empower the New South Wales Governor to issue a regulation which sets out the terms and conditions on which two banks may be merged in New South Wales. The bill identifies the issues that may be dealt with by such a regulation. The House should note that, as was the case with the Bank Mergers (Application of Laws) Act, the Bank Mergers Bill provides that a regulation to facilitate the merger of banks in New South Wales will not be made unless the appropriate amount of tax associated with the merger has been paid, or an undertaking to pay has been finalised.
Past bank mergers facilitated in New South Wales have been liable for State taxes and charges. The current crop of mergers and future bank mergers will not be treated any differently. This bill is consistent with the Government's objectives of encouraging and assisting business activities in New South Wales and removing bureaucratic obstacles wherever possible. It is an innovative approach to facilitating bank mergers which should make the process for the current mergers and for those in the future easier for both the banks and the New South Wales Parliament. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate adjourned on motion by the Hon. J. M. Samios.
LEGAL PROFESSION AMENDMENT BILL (No. 2)
Bill introduced and read a first time.
The Hon. J. W. SHAW (Attorney General, and Minister for Industrial Relations) [4.21]: I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
The Legal Profession Amendment Bill 1996 (No. 2) makes a range of amendments to the Legal Profession Act 1987 aimed at clarifying, refining and improving the system of regulation of the legal profession. The bill replaces the Legal Profession Bill 1996 (No. 1), which was introduced in the Legislative Council during the budget session. Minor amendments have been included in the new bill which I explain now. It is nearly two years since the Legal Profession Reform Act reforms came into operation. Those reforms introduced a new Legal Services Commissioner to oversee the handling of complaints against lawyers, a new system of cost assessment to replace taxation of costs, and reviewed the structure and regulation of the profession. While on the whole the reforms seem to have worked well, practical experience of the administration of the new legislative provisions has thrown up some areas in which further refinement or clarification is required. The Legal Services Commissioner, the Cost Assessors Rules Committee, the Legal Practitioners Admission Board, the Legal Services Tribunal, the Bar Association and the Law Society have all contributed to the amendments included in this bill.
The bill contains a large number of amendments to the Legal Profession Act 1987, many of a technical nature. I will now briefly refer to some of the more substantive amendments included in the bill. I invite honourable members to have regard to the explanatory note accompanying the bill which deals with all proposed amendments. Schedule 1 to the bill deals with amendments related to the complaints and discipline provisions of the Legal Profession Act 1987. Item  of schedule 1 clarifies the power of the commissioner or the Law Society or Bar Council to particularise the allegations being relied upon when referring a complaint to the Legal Services Tribunal. The need for this amendment was suggested by a decision of the former Legal Profession Disciplinary Tribunal.
The difficulty identified by the tribunal was that the Act would currently appear to constrain a professional council or the commissioner to refer the actual complaint made in its original form. In particular, section 167(2) of the Act currently provides that the tribunal is to conduct a hearing into the "complaint". The problem with this is that the original complaint, which will normally take the form of the initial letter from the complainant, may raise a large number of issues, only some of which justify referral to the tribunal, or may omit other issues arising from the same transaction that should be brought to attention. As the council concerned, or the commissioner, has the responsibility to present and argue the complaint before the tribunal, it is considered that those bodies should have the flexibility to particularise the allegations of professional misconduct or unsatisfactory professional conduct being relied on.
Amendments to section 160 of the Act will ensure that a complainant has a right of review against a decision by a council to omit part of a complaint when bringing it before the tribunal. It was also suggested by the tribunal that the Act be amended to allow the Legal Services Tribunal to amend a complaint so as to enable the formal complaint to be varied or a fresh matter to be added having regard to developments in the course of a hearing. An example where such a power would be desirable would be in cases in which evidence before the tribunal raises the suggestion that the respondent practitioner may have misled the investigating council, the commissioner, or the tribunal itself. Proposed new section 167A deals with this issue. The power to vary the complaint will be at the application of the commissioner or relevant council, and proposed new section 167A(2) will require the tribunal to have regard to issues of fairness when determining whether to allow the variation.
The tribunal has wide powers to control its own proceedings, and this should enable it to ensure that the addition of further matters does not result in procedural unfairness, for example by allowing, if necessary, for adjournments or the re-examination of witnesses, or for the leading of additional evidence by the respondent. Amendments to part 10 division 4 of the principal Act relate to the sort of complaints that may be referred to mediation. The Act currently only allows for referral to mediation of a consumer dispute, which is defined as a dispute between a client and a legal practitioner in which the client seeks redress or a remedy. It has become apparent that the definition may be too limiting in that it would seem to require a solicitor-client relationship.
The Act as a whole allows any person to make a complaint about the conduct of a legal practitioner, and in some cases complaints by non-clients will involve a claim for compensation that might be suitable for mediation. Accordingly the principal Act will be amended to allow any complaint in which a complainant seeks redress to be referred for mediation. The Act currently allows for the summary dismissal by the commissioner of frivolous or vexatious complaints. The Legal Services Commissioner has submitted that these categories are very narrow and, as a result, he may be constrained to refer matters to a council for investigation when this is not really justified by the nature of the complaint. This unnecessarily clogs up the system and can have the effect of unrealistically raising the expectations of complainants. Item  of schedule 1 will add to the grounds for dismissal by the commissioner that a complaint is misconceived or is lacking in substance.
Schedule 1 includes various amendments aimed at dealing more efficiently with cases in which the same set of facts give rise to a complaint against both a solicitor and barrister. Currently such complaints are investigated quite separately by the Law Society Council and Bar Council, and must be heard separately by the Legal Services Tribunal, with a differently constituted membership. Proposed new subsection 148(2A) will make it clear that the councils have power to cooperate and consult in relation to such complaints. Proposed new subsection 167(5) will provide a discretion for the tribunal to order a joint hearing where informations against both a solicitor and a barrister are founded on the same, or closely related, acts or omissions.
In the case of such a joint hearing, the tribunal will be constituted by one barrister, one solicitor and one lay member, with the presiding officer being one of the lawyers as appointed by the president of the tribunal. The Legal Services Commissioner, and the Law Society and Bar Association, have proposed amendments to section 152 of the Act to clarify the obligation of practitioners to provide assistance to and cooperate with the commissioner and the councils in the investigation of complaints. Currently the section only refers to producing documents or providing information. It is also proposed that the requirement to assist in investigations should extend to all legal practitioners, not just to the practitioner the subject of the complaint. These amendments are dealt with by items  and  of schedule 1.
The following minor amendments in relation to complaints and discipline are also included in the bill. Section 128 of the principal Act is amended to make clear that the complaints provisions of the Act do not apply to complaints made in relation to the conduct of Federal judicial officers. Complaints in relation to State judicial officers are already expressly excluded. Section 171Q of the Act, dealing with protection from liability for things done for the purposes of the administration of the part, is amended to make clear that the protection extends to consultants appointed by the commissioner pursuant to section 132(4), and to the Bar Association and the Law Society and any member of the staff of the Bar Association or the Law Society.
A related amendment is made to the Defamation Act 1974 by schedule 6.1 to the bill. Section 17J of the Defamation Act provides for a defence of absolute privilege in respect of the publication to or by the professional councils in relation to the making, investigation or referral of a complaint under part 10. As in practice complaints are made to and handled by staff of the Bar Association and Law Society and also considered by committees or subcommittees of the councils, it is necessary to ensure the protection offered by the section also extends to such disclosures.
I will now turn to the amendments to the cost assessment provisions of the Act contained in schedule 2 to the bill. Division 2 of part 11 of the Act requires a legal practitioner to disclose to clients the basis of the costs to be charged and an estimate of the total cost of a matter. Pursuant to section 180 of the Act, a disclosure need not be made under the division if, in the circumstances, it is not reasonably practicable to do so. Regulations and rules may be made setting out when it is not reasonably practicable to disclose. The Law Society has a rule which provides that it is not reasonably practicable to disclose in circumstances where the matter requires immediate attention or can be completed within a short time frame.
I draw honourable members' attention to the fact that an amendment to section 180 included in the earlier bill has been removed. The amendment provided that disclosure was not necessary where the amount of costs was, or was likely to be, less than $500. This provision has been deleted pending a further examination of the section. Officers of the Attorney General's Department are conducting discussions with the Law Society, the Bar Association and the Legal Services Commission to explore means of clarifying the obligations of solicitors to disclose costs where the amount is likely to be small.
At the time the disclosure provisions were introduced it was envisaged that circumstances where disclosure is not required would include where the matter was urgent and where the matter involved a small fee and the work is to be done immediately, such as drafting a standard will. However, the provision has been interpreted to apply only to circumstances in which it may be difficult to disclose, such as when there are time constraints. It has been suggested that the provision as currently worded cannot support a rule that no written disclosure needs to be given for matters involving a low fee. I can therefore foreshadow that I will be bringing forward further amendments to the Act, either later in this session or in the first session next year, to provide that written disclosure need not be given in circumstances where it is not reasonable to do so.
Proposed new section 174A relates to the application of the cost assessment provisions to cross-vested matters. When cases which are initiated in another State are transferred to the Supreme Court of New South Wales, under the cross-vesting legislation the law of New South Wales applies. It follows that once a matter is cross-vested the costs assessment provisions of the Act will apply. This may place obligations upon the legal practitioner which were not present when the retainer was established. It is therefore proposed to permit a regulation to be made to modify the application of the costs regime to cross-vested matters. Section 196 provides for regulated fees in certain circumstances. Section 196(1)(b) fixes the costs payable in obtaining or enforcing a default judgment. It has been suggested that this provision is drawn too narrowly and does not allow for fixed costs in relation to examination summonses, writs of execution and the like. Amendments to section 196 of the principal Act will clarify that such enforcement costs are included.
When the new costs regime was introduced it was decided to maintain scale costs in a number of areas, including probate. However, some doubt has arisen about whether section 197 of the Act can support regulated probate fees. It is preferable to put this matter beyond doubt and, accordingly, section 196 is also amended to refer to costs payable for legal services provided in the administration of estates. Section 205 of the principal Act imposes a duty on the proper officer of the Supreme Court when receiving an application for fee assessment to have regard to whether the parties have attempted mediation. This requirement has proved impractical in application, and it is normally the case that by the time assessment is sought any realistic options for settlement have been explored by the parties. The bill repeals section 205, but inserts instead a requirement for an applicant for assessment to state in his or her application that there is no reasonable prospect of settling the matter by mediation.
Section 206 of the principal Act provides that the proper officer of the Supreme Court is to refer an application for assessment to an assessor. While the section also requires an assessor to return an application where there may be a conflict of interest, it is thought appropriate to also provide that the proper officer be permitted to recall a file when satisfied that it is appropriate to do so. This may arise, for example, when a party has valid reasons for objecting to a particular assessor. Amendments contained in item  of schedule 2 give effect to this proposal. Amendments to section 207 of the principal Act will expand the power of a cost assessor to seek documents, so as to include seeking documents from persons other than just the applicant and legal practitioners involved. In some cases, persons other than just the parties may have documents relevant to the assessment. It is also proposed to provide that an assessor may make material so obtained available to the parties to the assessment so as to ensure the opportunity to provide comments or objections on the material provided. New section 207(5) will provide that the failure to comply with a notice from a cost assessor to produce documents may constitute unsatisfactory professional conduct or professional misconduct. This is consistent with the approach taken in relation to failure to disclose.
Proposed new subsection 208Q(2A) will also permit a cost assessor to refer to the commissioner any failure by a legal practitioner to comply with the provisions of part 11. Section 208F(5) of the principal Act permits an assessor to include in a determination provision for the recovery of the costs of assessment. This has been interpreted to relate only to the costs of the application for assessment and the costs of the assessor's time. The section is amended to clarify that it will permit an assessor in party-party assessments to include in the determination the costs incurred by a party to the assessment. Section 208L of the principal Act provides for appeals from assessors by right on a point of law to the Supreme Court. Section 208M provides appeals on merit by leave of the court. When dealing with an appeal on a point of law the court may make a number of decisions, including to remit the matter to a cost assessor to have the application redetermined. No such options are available on an appeal on merit which must be by way of a new hearing. The bill will amend section 208M to provide the court with the same options as are available under section 208L.
Finally, proposed new section 208SA will provide cost assessors with protection from liability for acts done in good faith for the purposes of carrying out duties under the Legal Profession Act. This is a standard provision and accords with the treatment of other persons or bodies exercising functions under the Act. Schedule 3 to the bill makes amendments relating to the Solicitors Fidelity Fund. The Solicitors Fidelity Fund is constituted under part 7 of the Legal Profession Act 1987. It is made up of contributions and levies from practising solicitors, and also receives funding from interest received on solicitors' trust account moneys. The fund is administered by the Council of the New South Wales Law Society, and its purpose is to provide compensation for persons who suffer a pecuniary loss as a result of the dishonest conduct of a solicitor, such as, for example, misappropriation of funds or fraudulent use of title documents.
The fund has been operating satisfactorily in New South Wales, and prudent contribution and investment policies have ensured that a reasonable level of reserves has been maintained. However, the Council of the Law Society has drawn attention to the desirability of certain amendments to part 7 of the Act in order to promote the efficient and equitable operation of the fund, and to better ensure that the fund's limited resources are available for the full protection of deserving claimants. In particular, the Law Society has questioned the feasibility and appropriateness of allowing claims to be made against the fund in situations where the claimant might properly be regarded as sharing some responsibility for the circumstances giving rise to the loss, or where moneys have been entrusted with a solicitor overseas.
The society has cited the example of where a client might conspire with a solicitor in an illegal transaction and/or conduct intended to defraud the revenue authorities. Regularly these claims are accompanied by lack of normal records and documents and are facilitated by cash payments. To safeguard against abuse of the fund, the bill provides for the Law Society council to have a discretion to wholly or partly disallow a claim in the circumstances set out in new subsection 80(4). These circumstances include cases where the claim does not have sufficient connection with practice as a New South Wales solicitor in Australia and cases where the claimant has negligently or intentionally contributed to his own loss. New section 80A allows the Law Society council to reduce the amount of a claim where the claimant has failed to take reasonable steps to recover the loss from other sources.
The former legislation, the Legal Practitioners Act 1898, included a similar provision. The Law Society advises that this power was not often used, but on occasion proved very useful. For example, some claimants are involved in close dealings with the solicitor and other parties and may be in a better position to take direct action than the fidelity fund would be by way of subrogation. There will be a right of appeal to the Supreme Court in respect of a decision by the Law Society council to disallow or reduce a claim pursuant to the new powers I have outlined. Schedule 4 to the bill deals with amendments relating to legal practice. These include amendments to allow for professional indemnity insurance contributions to be paid on an instalment rather than annual basis.
The amendments also allow for the contributions to be collected directly by LawCover. The opportunity has also been taken in the bill to clarify the operation of section 61 of the Legal Profession Act, which deals with the obligations of solicitors in relation to money received on behalf of another person. The revised section 61 imports from the legal profession regulation a provision about the handling of money in transit. This relates to money that a solicitor receives from a client but passes on to a third party without retaining any control over that money or its disposition. The operation of section 61 in cases in which a solicitor holds funds subject to an irrevocable authority has also been clarified.
Schedule 5 makes a range of further miscellaneous amendments to the Legal Profession Act 1987. These include amendments related to admission procedures and the deposit of trust moneys. Division 3 of part 2 of the principal Act allows the Legal Practitioners Admission Board to hold inquiries in relation to individual applications for admission as a legal practitioner. The Law Society council and the Bar Council have the right to be represented before such an inquiry. It has become apparent that there are very real practical difficulties involved in the admission board hearing such contested applications. Accordingly, the bill provides a power for the admission board to refer disputed or doubtful applications for admission or readmission for determination by a single judge of the Supreme Court.
Division 3 of part 2 of the principal Act currently only expressly refers to the requirement that a person seeking admission be of good fame and character. It might be argued, therefore, that the powers of inquiry and appeal provided in that division only extend to decisions of the admission board in relation to the issue of good fame and character. However, section 4(2) of the Act also requires the board to approve an applicant as a suitable candidate for admission prior to formal admission by the Supreme Court. There is considerable authority to the effect that the requirement of suitability is a distinct requirement to that of good fame and character. Accordingly, the bill will ensure that requirement of suitability for admission is also reflected in the provisions of division 3 of part 2 of the Act. This will ensure, for example, that a right of appeal does lie against a decision that a person is not a suitable candidate for admission on grounds other than good fame and character.
The bill will also address an inconsistency of treatment as between banks and other financial institutions. At present the Act requires trust funds to be deposited to the credit of a general trust account at a bank. Consistent with the Government's policy in this area, it is appropriate to also allow building societies and credit unions to accept solicitors' trust account funds. Similar amendments are also made to related provisions of the Act. Schedule 6 makes amendments to other Acts. I have already mentioned the amendments to the Defamation Act. The schedule will also amend the Maintenance and Champerty Abolition Act 1993 in order to abolish the common law crime of barratry. The offence of barratry involves habitually moving, exciting or maintaining suits or quarrels, whether at law or not. It is closely related to the former offences of maintenance and champerty, which were abolished in 1993. The Legal Profession Amendment Bill No. 2 makes a large range of useful and necessary amendments to the Legal Profession Act 1987. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate adjourned on motion by the Hon J. M. Samios.
INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS AMENDMENT BILL
Bill introduced and read a first time.
The Hon. J. W. SHAW (Attorney General, and Minister for Industrial Relations) [4.43]: I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
The Industrial Relations Amendment Bill deals with two matters. The first matter involves amending the provisions in chapter 6 of the Industrial Relations Act 1996 which enable a group of carriers to make contract agreements so as to add similar protections to those which apply under that Act to enterprise agreements made directly with employees. The second matter is to validate all union amalgamations carried out under the former Industrial Relations Act 1991, and to validate all future amalgamations carried out under the Industrial Relations Act 1996 except where proceedings challenging the amalgamation have been brought within six months of the amalgamation occurring. The chapter 6 provisions of the Industrial Relations Act 1996 provide, inter alia, for the regulation of contracts of carriage for the transportation of goods by motor vehicle or bicycle. In effect, this scheme of regulation applies to the courier industry. The primary means by which such regulation is effected is through contract determinations made by the Industrial Relations Commission.
These contract determinations are roughly equivalent to awards. In addition, provision is made for contract agreements, which are analogous to enterprise agreements. When the Industrial Relations Bill went through the Legislative Council, an Opposition amendment was added to that clause of the bill which dealt with contract agreements. This amendment, which is now section 322(3) of the Act, enables a group of carriers to enter into a non-union contract agreement with a principal contractor or association of contractors, just as it is also possible to make a non-union enterprise agreement. However, there were no further amendments made to the legislation to include as well the various protections that exist in respect of non-union enterprise agreements. The Government is concerned that without these safeguards there is scope for those affected to be exploited. The Parliament clearly agreed that additional protections were necessary for non-union enterprise agreements. It follows that the same protections should be available for non-union contract agreements.
Accordingly, the bill will introduce safeguards for the approval of contract agreements made without union involvement. Just as is the case with non-union enterprise agreements, there will be a requirement that the Industrial Registrar be notified when formal negotiations to make a contract agreement with a group of carriers commence. The proposed contract agreement will need to be approved at a secret ballot by not less than 65 per cent of the carriers who will be covered by it. There will be a requirement for the Industrial Registrar to prepare a report for the Industrial Relations Commission comparing the conditions of engagement that would apply under the proposed agreement with those that would otherwise apply. In addition, the commission will not be able to approve a proposed contract agreement that unfairly fails to cover some carriers who would reasonably expect to be covered. As well, the Industrial Relations Commission will be required in approving contract agreements to follow, with any necessary modifications, the principles it has set for the approval of enterprise agreements. These provisions of the bill will harmonise the procedures for making and approving non-union contract agreements with those that apply for non-union enterprise agreements.
May I now turn to the question of amalgamation of industrial organisations. The Industrial Relations Act 1991, the antecedent to the 1996 Act, contained quite complex provisions governing the amalgamation of unions. At the conclusion of the process the Industrial Registrar fixed an amalgamation day when an amalgamation would take effect. On that day the union or unions which were deregistering organisations were deregistered by the Industrial Registrar and their assets and liabilities became the assets and liabilities of the amalgamated body. Various appeal provisions applied to stages in the amalgamation process and there were validation provisions designed to overcome any deficiencies in acts done for the purposes of an amalgamation.
Despite the existence of these validation provisions, various amalgamation processes have been the subject of legal challenges. These challenges seem largely to arise from internal union rivalries, but they can lead to protracted litigation. It is undesirable that union resources be expended in litigation of this nature, which creates uncertainty and confusion about the status of amalgamated organisations. To overcome the problem it is desirable to take action which will place beyond doubt the validity of all union amalgamations which took place under the Industrial Relations Act 1991. It is also desirable to ensure that future union amalgamations which take place under the new Act are also protected from legal challenge. Accordingly, it is proposed to have a six-month period in which appeals may be lodged with the commission against a decision to register a combined organisation. However, after that period no further legal challenges to the amalgamation will be able to be made. The bill will make some desirable changes to the new Industrial Relations Act 1996, and further contribute to making that legislation the conspicuous success that it is already proving to be. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate adjourned on motion by the Hon. J. M. Samios.
The Hon. J. W. SHAW (Attorney General, and Minister for Industrial Relations) [4.49]: I move:
That this House do now adjourn.
DEATH OF DETECTIVE CONSTABLE PETER McGRATH
The Hon. M. J. GALLACHER [4.49]: I bring to the attention of all honourable members yet another example of bureaucracy gone wrong. On 17 August 1992 Detective Constable Peter McGrath attended the scene of an armed robbery in progress at the Associazione Polysportiva Italo-Australiana club, the APIA club. Offenders were present and were armed. They had taken eight hostages and were in the process of collecting $60,000 from the armed robbery when the police arrived. It was a classic stand-off situation, with the offenders and police pointing loaded firearms at each other. The cool head of this officer and his partner resulted in both offenders eventually giving up. On 26 November 1992 Detective McGrath together with another officer whilst off duty were viciously attacked by approximately 12 males, resulting in serious injury to Detective McGrath's companion and grave psychological illness to himself.
During the course of Detective McGrath's duty he attended a domestic situation in which a mother and her de facto partner had placed a baby into a bath of boiling water before picking the skin off the baby and putting it to bed. The baby died a few months afterwards. Detective McGrath had to attend the post mortem. At the time of the trial of the
offenders the detective's wife had given birth to a son. In May 1993, as a result of the assault in November 1992, Detective McGrath began to show signs of depression, which were accepted by the Police Service as illness related to the course of his duty. His doctor supplied information to the Police Service regarding his illness and it was accepted that he had been hurt on duty.
By June 1995 Detective McGrath's psychological condition had deteriorated. He believed that he was being followed by personnel from the Royal Commission into the New South Wales Police Service. He believed that he was going to be set up by police in relation to a crime. On 15 June 1995 he went to work at Annandale with the purpose of resigning. Detective McGrath's supervisor realised that he was suffering from depression, talked him out of handing in his resignation and sent him home on annual leave. Later that afternoon Detective McGrath told his wife that he was going to resign. He left his home but instead of attending the police station he went to a high-rise block of flats in Camperdown and jumped to his death.
Contrary to rumours, Detective McGrath was not the subject of any royal commission inquiry, and I am in possession of correspondence to that effect from Mr Michael Finnane, QC, who represents the Police Service at the royal commission. Detective McGrath's integrity is not in question. The Police Service and the people of New South Wales can ill afford to lose police of the calibre of Detective McGrath. I resigned from the Police Service and within three weeks received my superannuation payment. Detective McGrath died on 15 June 1995 but his wife did not receive his superannuation payment until August 1996 - 14 months after his
death. On 26 June 1996 she received a letter from the Police Service telling her that his death was not as a result of his police work.
Detective McGrath has left a wife and two children, Kata aged four and David who is now two. His wife must go it alone without any support from the Police Service. I have written to the Commissioner of Police in regard to the appalling treatment that this woman has received and I look forward to hearing from him that the decision made earlier this year will be reversed. On 19 September 1996 Mrs McGrath personally filed an application for determination with the Compensation Court of New South Wales to challenge the decision of the Police Service so that she might be entitled to a pension. She has to pay for those proceedings herself. The money that Mrs McGrath is using is money from the family, money that would be better used for the children.
I do not believe that this case has been accorded the credit to which it is certainly entitled. The Commissioner of Police must immediately reinvestigate this matter to ensure that Mrs McGrath is treated justly. It is important that all wives and husbands and all children whose fathers and mothers work for the Police Service know that if they are unfortunate enough to lose their loved ones they will be protected. Psychological illness does not disbar an officer from consideration for compensation from the Police Service. I firmly believe that this matter is one that deserves just consideration and I hope that the Commissioner of Police accords it such consideration expeditiously.
Motion agreed to.
House adjourned at 4.53 p.m. until Tuesday, 29 October 1996, at 2.30 p.m.