Tuesday, 12 November 1996
The President (The Hon. Max Frederick Willis)
took the chair at 2.30 p.m.
offered the Prayers.
Order! I announce to the House the most distinguished presence in my gallery of His Excellency Sir Moses Puibangara Pitakaka, who is accompanied by Lady Lois Pitakaka. His Excellency is the Governor-General of the Solomon Islands.
Suspension of standing orders, by leave, agreed to.
Motion by the Hon. M. R. Egan agreed to:
That His Excellency Sir Moses Pitakaka the Governor General of the Solomon Islands, be invited to take a chair at the left of the President.
Sir Moses Pitakaka thereupon took a seat at the left of the President.
ASSENT TO BILLS
Royal assent to the following bills reported:
Innovation Council Bill
Home Detention Bill
Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill
Community Land Development Amendment Bill
Strata Titles Amendment Bill
Film Industry Amendment Bill
Oaths Amendment Bill
Liquor Amendment (Nightclub Licences and Trading Hours) Bill
New South Wales Lotteries Corporatisation Bill
Public Lotteries Bill
Real Property Amendment Bill
INDEPENDENT COMMISSION AGAINST CORRUPTION
, in accordance with section 78(1) of the Independent Commission Against Corruption Act 1988, tabled the report of the Independent Commission Against Corruption on the Public Employment Office evaluation of the position of Director-General, Department of Community Services, dated November 1996, received by him out of session.
, announced that pursuant to section 78(3) of the Act, he had authorised that the report be made public.
Alcoholic Beverages Advertising Prohibition Bill
Petition praying that, because the advertising of alcoholic beverages has an adverse effect upon youth, the House support the prompt passage of the Alcoholic Beverages Advertising Prohibition Bill, received from Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile
Governor of New South Wales
Petition praying that the office of Governor of New South Wales not be downgraded, and that the role, duties and future of the office be determined by a referendum, received from the Hon. J. M. Samios
Homosexual Vilification Legislation
Petition praying that the House amend the Anti-Discrimination (Homosexual Vilification) Amendment Bill to give greater scope for the public to criticise and make fair and reasoned comment on homosexuality, received from the Hon. Elaine Nile
Petition praying that any attempt to legalise euthanasia or assisted suicide be opposed and that the right to life be supported, received from Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile
Sir Moses Pitakaka then withdrew.
STOCK FOODS AMENDMENT BILL
Debate resumed from 30 October.
The Hon. R. T. M. BULL
(Deputy Leader of the Opposition) [2.41]: On the last occasion this bill was before the House I said that it was preferable for the debate to be adjourned for at least one week to allow consideration of proposed amendments by the Hon. R. S. L. Jones. I have been provided with a copy of the amendments and I and my staff have had discussions with the Hon. R. S. L. Jones and representatives of the Minister. Agreement has been reached on those amendments between the Minister and the honourable member. If the proposed amendments are substantiated in debate, the Opposition will support them.
The Hon. I. M. MACDONALD
[2.42]: This bill is one of a series of important bills that are endeavouring to, as it were, deregulate the agriculture industry. The bill deals with regulations applying to stock foods. During private conversations the Hon. R. S. L. Jones has expressed concern about the regulations, and those concerns can be adequately addressed. The coordinating body,
the Stock Feed Manufacturers Association of Australia, is the peak council of stockfeed manufacturers across the country. It was formed in 1961 with the aim of providing a central organisation, to enable the various State associations to be brought into closer relationship. Other aims were to receive from various State associations proposals for the general improvement of trade, to arrange conferences of representatives of the various State associations, and to make recommendations to various levels of government relating to stockfeeds.
The association has progressed rather dramatically in recent years with the growth in the use of stockfeeds and the resultant increased sophistication of the industry. The stockfeed industry consists of a number of different sectors. First, commercial stockfeed manufacturers, that is, companies whose primary business is the manufacture or mixing of stockfeed specifically for sale to end-users. Such companies produce a range of different products from simple loose mixes and mashes, through to pelleted complete rations. Second, the large vertically integrated operators, whose main business is the production of a livestock product and who manufacture stockfeed for use within their own animal production business. The Inghams and Steggles groups - the two main chicken meat producers in this country, which command about 80 per cent of the market - are examples of integrated operations. Some operators also produce stockfeed on a commercial basis for others; for instance, the Bunge organisation, which operates in the south of the State. Third, smaller home mixers, who essentially manufacture stockfeed for use on their own farms but some of whom manufacture feed for several other farmers in the same business. Most beef lotfeeders, as the Hon. D. J. Gay would know, mix feed for their operations on site.
Membership of the Stock Feed Manufacturers Association of Australia straddles all these sectors. Although the industry tends to be more concentrated in the first two categories - the large and medium-size corporations - some smaller home mixers are quite productive. The size of the industry has grown rather dramatically in recent years and hence its importance. In 1994 the pig industry used 1.877 kilotonnes of complete feed, the poultry meat industry used 1.684 kilotonnes, the egg industry used 611 kilotonnes and the dairy industry used 1.199 kilotonnes of feed grains, but not of complete feed. The beef feedlot industry used approximately 2,000 kilotonnes of complete feed. From its modest beginnings 10 years ago it has grown to become the leading consumer of stockfeed in this country. Sheep for live export utilised approximately 100 kilotonnes of complete feed. The horse industry, which is of interest to members opposite and one or two members on this side of the House, utilised approximately 550 kilotonnes of complete feed.
Other sectors of the industry, including pet food manufacturers, used approximately 200 kilotonnes. The stockfeed industry will be an important export industry in the future. The better and sooner we develop the industry the sooner we can move into Asian markets which are developing livestock industries. A large percentage of the industry is centred in the south of this State, believe it or not, around the outer regional area of metropolitan Sydney. The leading commercial operators include Ridley AgriProducts, Millmaster, Farmstock, Waterwheel, CC Stockfeeds, Milne Feeds, Lauke's, Cummins, Poultry Farms in Western Australia, Better Blend, Superior Stockfeeds and North Coast Stockfeeds in Queensland. The vertically integrated companies include Inghams, Bunge, Steggles, DA Hall, Barters - based in Wagga Wagga, Baiada and Darwalla.
The Hon. J. H. Jobling:
That is in Griffith.
The Hon. I. M. MACDONALD:
That is so, although they have an operation in Wagga Wagga, as the honourable member would be aware. The pig industry feed is virtually a complete, compounded ration, 60 per cent of which is produced by the home-mix sector, including large vertically integrated operators such as Bunge. Residual pig stockfeed is supplied by commercial feed manufacturers. The poultry meat industry uses complete, compounded rations, and approximately 70 per cent of the necessary feed is manufactured by end-user companies - that is, Steggles and Inghams in the main. The remainder is manufactured and supplied by commercial feed manufacturers. Sixty per cent of feed for the egg industry is supplied by commercial feed manufacturers, with the remainder being produced by various size home mixers, that is, the small poultry operator producing his own feed mix. The horse industry is supplied mainly by commercial feed manufacturers. Although the amount is largely unknown, a substantial proportion of that commercial feed would be in the nature of compounded ration. Other industries have a portion of complete ration - a matter dealt with by the bill.
I think it important to note a recent, major national report, which incorporates an examination of the stockfeed industry overall. The report, entitled the "Feed Grains Study", was commissioned by the Grains Research and Development Corporation, the Dairy Research and Development Corporation, the Pig Research and Development Corporation, the Chicken Meat Research and Development Council, and the Egg Industry Research and Development Council. It was produced by the Meyers Strategy Group in conjunction with the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and ACE Consulting. I find this report most interesting. In March this year, on behalf of the Minister, I opened the Roche facility in Wagga Wagga. The facility was opened to meet new and expanding demands for concentrated product and food additives for stockfeed. It became quite clear that that factory had
shown considerable foresight in respect of both its location and the development of the additive industry in that region.
If we are to take the stockfeed industry beyond the confines of the supply of local industry, which I believe we can with some effort and vision, then it is important that the industry be well placed to meet the needs of the Asian and New Zealand markets. The feed grain industry, as is mentioned in the study to which I have referred, has grown rapidly over the past five to 10 years. Domestic consumption of grain feed now represents about 30 per cent of total production. Thus the feed grains market in Australia has moved, significantly, from being a residual market to being a major purchaser of Australian grains. Domestic demand for these feed grains is increasing rather rapidly. The development of stockfeeds has been most pronounced in a number of key industries.
The poultry industry is probably the largest user of feed grains. In fact, it generates about 26 per cent of demand for feed grains produced in Australia. The next largest user of feed grain is the beef cattle industry, using 24 per cent of grain production, with the pig industry consuming 21 per cent of production, the dairy industry using 12 per cent, the sheep industry using 6 per cent, and the remaining industries combined using in the order of 11 per cent of feed grain production. Interestingly, beef industry development has been very recent indeed. It has increased in the past five or six years from a very low base to be now using 24 per cent of feed grain produced in Australia. A break-up of the supply source, according to the Meyers report, shows that commercial feedlots account for 19 per cent of the total feed grain used, with opportunity feedlots, which some small operators use occasionally, at around 4 per cent. I repeat, this has been a rapid and recent development in agriculture.
In other areas there has been specific growth in what could be called agricultural or livestock industries. Those industries include deer, ostriches, emus, aquaculture and grain used in pet foods. Those areas have developed rather rapidly. The major foodstuff used by some of the industries, particularly the pig and poultry industries, is wheat, which is also important in the beef feedlot sector, although some areas use other grains. For instance, barley is important in the dairy sector and the pig sector. Sorghum is most important in the beef feedlot sector but also is significant in pig and poultry sectors. Other coarse grains are used by most livestock industries. Those grains include maize, oats and of course triticale, of which I am growing a fine crop, probably the best in the district, to be harvested at the end of December. The Hon. D. J. Gay and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition are attempting to interject.
The Hon. R. T. M. Bull:
I was congratulating you.
The Hon. I. M. MACDONALD:
Mine is an excellent crop of triticale. I confidently predict to the Hon. R. S. L. Jones, who is also seeking to interject, that I will harvest in the area of 1.5 tonnes per acre, or probably more. So these particular grains are becoming important in the overall stockfeed manufacturing sector. As I say, the most rapid growth beyond the beef feedlot industry is the dairy industry, in which feed grain is becoming concentrated.
The Hon. D. F. Moppett:
What has this got to do with the price of fish?
The Hon. I. M. MACDONALD:
It has nothing to do with the price of fish. Honestly, the Hon. D. F. Moppett must have been asleep for the past half hour. As I have said, these grains are becoming very important in the stock food sector. I know that the Hon. D. F. Moppett has difficulty relating grain production, development of the use of this product in those sectors of the industry, and the regulatory regime proposed by the bill. It is a great epistemological leap for the honourable member. The link is that these grains comprise what the regulatory regime is all about in the first place. I thought this House might benefit from a short but erudite analysis of the role of specific grains in the development of the stockfeed and manufacturing industry in this country, which industry is subject to the regulatory regime and the changes proposed by the bill. Perhaps the Hon. D. F. Moppett could at some time read the speech of his leader on this matter which was delivered in this place some two weeks ago. We must view the development of this stock feed manufacturing sector not only in terms of the regulatory regime being developed by the bill but also in terms of the vision of the industry for the future of domestic demand as well as export markets. That is very important.
Ultimately we will need to expand usage of feed grains in the domestic market. We can do this through the education of end users, for instance, those who directly process feed grains. We must also improve varieties. I know it is difficult for the Hon. D. F. Moppett to cope with the issue of research and development and improvement in grains. He, being one of the more staid of the National Party members, probably has forgotten about the development of grain in this country and the improved varieties now being used. Those better varieties will give constantly higher yields over time. Importantly, improved linkages between livestock and grain industries must be recognised. In recent times those linkages were improved through more coordination achieved under the former Federal Labor Government. I hope that that Government's good work is not undone by the current coalition Government. However, I have grave concerns about some of the actions of the Federal Government. For instance, it is allowing the import into Australia of chicken meat that has been processed in Thailand and other countries that have difficulties with quality assurance, posing health and safety problems for Australians.
Feedlots are tending to be located in the south, using grain belts in the Riverina and other areas in the south of the State. This will lead to more development in the feed grain industry. It is vital that export opportunities be pursued. The regime proposed by the bill is headed in the direction of providing a better base for Australian industries to expand into the Asian region in particular. World manufactured feed production is approximately 600 million tonnes, and that production is increasing by 1 per cent to 2 per cent per annum. In 1993 the world's largest producers of manufactured feed were the United States with 125 million tonnes, China with 47.5 million tonnes, Russia with 45 million tonnes, and Japan, surprisingly given its size, in the order of 30 million tonnes. Whilst most production of feed takes place in industrialised countries, it is in the middle income developing countries in Asia, Latin America and the Middle East where the most rapid growth is taking place. I refer in particular to China, Korea and of course Brazil and Mexico.
In 1994 feed production in the Asia Pacific region was in the order of 123 million tonnes. These are very important developments, and New South Wales has a window of opportunity. I hope that good sense, research and development, and the important role of government will assist in facilitating our export opportunities in this region. National Party members opposite, however, sit comfortably with the knowledge that the number of Department of Trade officers selling Australian manufactured products overseas has been slashed. I hope that such a cut in staff does not, over time, have a negative impact on the growth of Australian feed grain export opportunities. The New South Wales feed grain sector must maintain appropriate research and development programs to improve stockfeed variety and yield. The Government continues to allocate money to the various research councils under the ambit of the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation - RIRDC - for research and development in this country, and with improved grain varieties New South Wales will be able to meet increasing world demand for stockfeed grains.
The Hon. D. F. Moppett:
Who is going to be the seller?
The Hon. I. M. MACDONALD:
I would rather get the fundamentals right first. I would like to see New South Wales producing the best feed grains in an environmentally sustainable way, accompanied by joint industry and government effort to sell that resource overseas.
The Hon. D. F. Moppett:
What about the Wheat Board?
The Hon. I. M. MACDONALD:
I am not fazed by that interjection. The Hon. D. F. Moppett would have to agree that all parties have to pull together on this issue. Government and industry have a role to play in ensuring that New South Wales maximises its export potential. At first blush I was rather concerned about the bill. It is no secret that I was deeply critical of the Department of Agriculture for failing to pick up the Helix problem more quickly, with its 3,000 staff -
The Hon. I. Cohen:
And research stations.
The Hon. I. M. MACDONALD:
And various research stations, some of which may or may not be there in the future. The department had ample opportunity to identify difficulties associated with the use of cotton trash and to ascertain quickly whether it should be sold to beef producers. At the time that problem arose I thought that the use of cotton trash and other byproducts in feedstock might create a problem, given that both the cotton and sugar industries consumed large amounts of chemicals. There was a drought at the time and farmers were desperate, but I should have thought that someone within the combined intellectual pool of the Department of Agriculture would have reacted quickly and determined whether the use of cotton trash in feedstock was fair and viable. Instead, the department waited until the problem became evident in cattle after slaughter. That discovery, which had a negative impact on our beef industry, was unfortunately compounded by a series of similar incidents worldwide.
The Hon. R. T. M. Bull:
The testing regimes have become more sophisticated; they would not have picked up the trace elements at that time.
The Hon. I. M. MACDONALD:
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition says the problem would not have been picked up because the testing regimes were not sophisticated enough, even though at that time the Land
reported that cotton trash was being used in feedstock.
The Hon. R. T. M. Bull:
Cotton trash had been used for years.
The Hon. I. M. MACDONALD:
Cotton trash was a non-preferred item for feed and was used lightly by feedlots. Because of the drought more cotton trash was included in feed, and there was a massive upsurge in its use particularly in the northwest of the State. As a consequence the Australian beef industry was hit with another residue problem. That dilemma must be avoided in the future. As the Minister said in his speech of 23 October, all necessary requirements for labelling of foreign ingredients will be included in the regulations, and the ability to control stock food supplements, such as vitamins and minerals, has been retained for use as required. When I first read that I was concerned about the deregulatory nature of the bill. Given the problems associated with residues, especially in beef, a stronger regime is required. However, I have come to the conclusion that this issue can be sorted out satisfactorily. I am strongly of the view that, although there are Meat Research Corporation - MRC - guidelines for these items, the most stringent requirements have to be
met. Following the knocks that our beef and other industries have taken worldwide in recent years, Australia cannot afford more food residue problems.
The Hon. R. S. L. Jones:
We do not want any more.
The Hon. I. M. MACDONALD:
That is true. Australia cannot tolerate such problems in its beef and livestock industries. I hope the proposed regime will meet these demands and necessities. I support the bill.
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY
[3.06]: On behalf of the Australian Democrats I speak on the Stock Foods Amendment Bill. When I first read the bill I was alarmed at the proposal to allow the Director-General of New South Wales Agriculture to permit contaminated grains or feed sources to be blended with clean grains or food sources so that, in the final diluted mix, the feed mixture would comply with residue limits. I found the proposal to permit this practice abhorrent. Together with some people from the chemical industries, I feared that permission to mix contaminated grains might become a substitute for bad chemical handling practice in the future. I could see there was every chance that some operators might become a little more careless in their handling of chemicals, with persistent residues, if this practice was to be legitimised by this Government in spite of the provisions of the Pesticides Act.
Of course, there was the other school of thought that people have been mixing contaminated grain in order to bring residues within acceptable limits anyway. I know that some proponents will argue that it is preferable to ensure that consent is given to mix contaminated feed sources and that certain requirements be imposed, together with adequate testing and ongoing monitoring, so that at least there is some sort of supervision. Perhaps that is an argument, but it does not make it right. It was suggested also that supervision might be possible if staffing levels within New South Wales Agriculture and other government agencies were not at risk of continual cutbacks. However, the Australian Democrats are not convinced that staff numbers are adequate to properly follow through with any consent given to test mixed contaminated stockfeeds and grains. Honourable members also have to consider that if stockfeeds are exported, overseas monitoring organisations will more than likely pick up residues that exceed acceptable limits. This would only have the result of allowing Australian produce to be subjected to much closer scrutiny by monitoring authorities.
An example is the data gathered by the Food and Drug Administration pesticide program in the United States. The data comes from about 80 countries that export food to the United States of America. The information gathered by the United States FDA allows it to more accurately target particular pesticide, commodity and country combinations for monitoring. The Minister can be assured that Australia is more than likely to be a country on the list for increased monitoring because of what has happened in the past. Unfortunately, we are in danger of losing our clean, green image as far as food is concerned. This could only mean that any slip-up on the part of our regulatory authorities is more than likely to be picked up after incidents such as the Helix affair and used as non-tariff barriers to trade against our exporters. The Minister would be wise to accept the amendments proposed in the Committee stages and to give careful consideration to any regulations he may decide to make after this bill has been passed.
The United States FDA has already been working with the Government in New Zealand to develop a New Zealand export certification program for selected commodities designed to ensure that only United States registered pesticides are used in their production. According to the FDA, this program reflects the FDA's recognition of the effectiveness of New Zealand's pesticide usage control procedures, which have resulted in excellent compliance with United States tolerances. This agreement may also prove to be a boon for American chemical producers who can lock a country such as New Zealand into favouring chemical products registered for use and produced by United States multinationals over those produced in other countries. My office is awaiting advice from AgResearch in New Zealand as to whether the mixing of contaminated grains and stockfeeds is permitted in that country. Unfortunately, at the time I came into the Chamber today to speak on this matter I had not received a reply from New Zealand authorities.
It depends exactly what type of residues and chemicals are present in stockfeeds, as animals, such as pigs, sheep and cattle, do not simply take up chemicals in stockfeeds, they also detoxify them, metabolise them, biodegrade them and excrete them. Animals do this far more effectively than do plants - a thought that vegetarians amongst us might like to reflect upon. According to a former United States surgeon general, the average American consumes 45 micrograms of potentially carcinogenic man-made pesticides every day in food. We have to encourage as much as possible production systems that reduce this load on the environment and in the food chain. It has always been the policy of the Australian Democrats to work towards that goal. I would remind the House that former senators, such as Colin Mason, were strident campaigners against the use of chemicals, such as Agent Orange and its derivatives. Former Senator John Coulter finally succeeded in having organochlorines banned from use after he conclusively proved that they had an extremely detrimental effect on human health. He blew the whistle, was sacked from his job as a research scientist and was targeted and pilloried by the industry for years before he was proven correct in his assertions. His views were then the accepted wisdom. Former Senator Robert Bell campaigned actively against the use of certain herbicides in Tasmanian forestry operations when it was
discovered that the herbicide atrazine was polluting the water used by the people living in the community of Lorinna.
It is not without a sound track record that we do not support the mixing of contaminated grains and other feed stocks. We have learnt by experience and by the examples that I have just quoted that ultimately something will go wrong and that that will jeopardise our export markets. It has been proved by Murphy's law that if a thing can go wrong it will go wrong, and it is not worth leaving it to chance. It should be remembered, however, that whilst these days we have testing equipment that is capable of detecting chemical residues and compounds in their parts per billion, rather than, as used to be the case, in parts per million, there are approximately 500 micrograms of naturally occurring carcinogens in a cup of coffee, 185 micrograms in a slice of bread and 2,000 carcinogens in a glass of cola. It is important to keep things in their proper perspective when examining the acceptable residue levels determined by regulatory authorities. I am reliably informed that the latest laboratory testing equipment is capable of detecting residues at one part per billion, or the equivalent of one inch in 16,000 miles or 2.54 centimetres in 25,750 kilometres. In Australian terms, it is 2.54 centimetres in the equivalent of the distance between Broome and Byron Bay eight times over. I think all honourable members should reflect on that.
The Australian Democrats also had concerns about the proposal to remove labelling of pet foods, although it was pointed out to us, and I fully understand, that consumers will be able to seek protection under the Far Trading Act 1987 with regard to the labelling and quality of manufactured stock foods. Many non-traditional foreign ingredients can be used in stockfeeds. If the market were left to operate as it liked, those ingredients might end up being added to stockfeed. Ingredients such as grease trap waste, restaurant grease or sludge, newsprint and filter cake could be used and may present problems in terms of the mycotoxins and other pathogenic micro-organisms or drug and chemical residues they may contain. In some countries even degreased, dehydrated garbage can be fed to animals. I am told that it is likely in the not too distant future that newsprint will become a non-traditional feed supplement or bulking agent for ruminants, as newspapers switch to vegetable-based inks and approved dyes and bleaching techniques remove dioxin residues, which can be truly dangerous in even minute quantities. It is imperative that consumers should be fully aware of the ingredients, particularly if the food that they are giving to their animals is 50 per cent treated, pelletised old newspaper.
My office raised these concerns with the Minister's advisers. I believe that the Minister would be wise to leave the matter of non-traditional ingredients for review and to be determined by the regulations early in the new year. I can assure the Minister that the Australian Democrats will be monitoring these developments very carefully. Given that non-traditional ingredients are increasingly likely to enter the stock and animal feed markets, it is vital that the industry be obliged to produce and market a safe and wholesome product. Whilst the Australian Democrats welcome the removal of unnecessary duplication of regulations, we are unable to support the amendments that permit the Director-General of the Department of Agriculture to allow the supply of stock foods that would ordinarily constitute a contravention of provisions for maximum foreign ingredient concentrations, medicated stock food controls or withdrawal from sale directions on philosophical grounds. If these have been used overseas and they are part of sale directions overseas, they should be part of sale directions here in Australia. I will close my remarks by urging the Government to ensure that careful consideration is given to all the matters I have raised in speaking to this bill, and assure the Minister that we will gain no satisfaction at all if all the fears that I have are subsequently proven to be valid. History has shown that previous Democrat parliamentarians have been correct when they have warned governments that they ignore concerns about chemical residues at their peril. I reiterate that the Minister is very wise to seek further consultation before allowing open slather in the mixing of both stock and pet feeds.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES
[3.20]: I am wholeheartedly in support of the Government's attempts, within this bill, to reduce unnecessary regulation of the stock food industry so as not to impose unreasonable costs on business. However, I am opposed to the introduction of a new permit system which would allow the director-general to provide permits for contaminated feed to be fed to stock, and to the repealing of provisions relating to pet food labelling. Such changes may be in line with those to be introduced by other States as part of an agreement to produce uniform controls over stock foods across Australia, but they do not ensure that essential protections remain in place for consumers of both stock food and pet food.
During his second reading speech even the Minister admitted that the new permit system would ensure that stock food is used even if it would for some reason be considered unsuitable. The modern synthetic insecticides or pesticides that are likely to be the source of any contamination in stock food are toxic and therefore pose real, dangerous and even lethal hazards to humans and animals. Chlorinated hydrocarbon chemicals, such as DDT, BHC, Lindane, Dieldrin, Aldrin, Endrin, Chlordane and Toxaphene, are predominantly central nervous system poisons. They may cause indigestion, gastric upsets and complete loss of appetite; they may affect the nervous system, causing poor sleep, nervous tension and irritability; or they may lead to violent mental disturbances, convulsions and epileptic seizures.
The risk and likelihood of being so adversely affected may seem unreal. However, as little as 70 milligrams of DDT can poison a 70 kilogram human, and one ounce can kill! Many cases of acute poisoning from Dieldrin and Endrin have been reported overseas, and in a number of them epileptic seizures came on without warning. In Australia there have been several cases in which crop-duster pilots have been affected by chlorinated hydrocarbon chemicals during flight. Organic phosphorous and carbamate chemicals - such as Parathion, Chlorothion, Malathion, Gusathion, TEPP, Systox, Dipterex and Phosdrin - are very toxic to humans. They may cause excessive salivation, colicky abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea; excessive nasal and bronchial secretion, wheezing, tightness in the chest, frothing of the mouth and blueness of lips, ears and nail beds; sweating, involuntary urination and irregular muscle twitching, giddiness, restlessness, anxiety, headache, mental confusion and unconsciousness; and finally death by asphyxia.
While humans and animals may be directly poisoned by agricultural chemicals during the manufacture of their active ingredients, formulation for field use and/or application, there is also a very real risk of indirect poisoning through the consumption of contaminated foodstuffs. In fact, it is scientifically well established that there is a relationship between concentrations of chemicals in animal tissue and their concentration in food consumed by animals. For example, levels of chlorinated hydrocarbon pesticides in feed have been found to correspond to residue concentrations in eggs and the abdominal and intramuscular fat of chickens. The contamination of dairy products and meat from cattle has also occurred in many areas and this is somewhat frightening when one considers that milk products are major sources of human exposure to persistent hydrophobic organic contaminants.
Not only are milk products estimated to contribute 28 per cent of the average person's uptake of polychlorinated biphenyls - PCBs - they are also estimated to contribute 32 per cent to 43 per cent of the average person's uptake of polychlorinated dibenzo-para-dioxins - PCDDs - and dibenzofurans - PCDFs. Even more frightening is the fact that a study of chlorinated organic compounds in cows has found that virtually all of the exposure comes from the food they eat. Pesticides in soil and pasture foliage are physically transferred to the animal during feeding and the pesticide residues are then primarily deposited in fat - a cow consists of 5 per cent to 25 per cent fat - and the rest is lost in milk metabolised and/or excreted by the animal. Such residues may, however, also bioaccumulate or biomagnify, that is, they may build up in the animal and/or transfer to and build up in humans when the animals and/or their byproducts are consumed.
The dramatic results of this were highlighted in Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring
and it was primarily for these reasons that DDT was banned. A 1994 scientific paper entitled "Pesticide Bioaccumulation in Cattle", published in the international journal Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety
, stated that concentrations of Dieldrin and Heptachlor found in cattle can be up to five times the level contained in the food they ate. Chemicals which are more easily metabolised by cows are, however, likely to have lower concentrations in their body fat and vice versa. I fail to see how we can even be considering allowing contaminated feed to be fed to stock, even if it is to be blended with clean grain and must comply with maximum residue limits such as those set for organophosphate pesticides. On 31 January 1989 the maximum food residue limits for a range of organophosphate pesticides under the Pure Food Act 1908 were set out in a chart. By leave, that chart will be incorporated in Hansard
Milligrams per Kilogram
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES:
Such actions not only have major ramifications for our own safety, they can also prove to be disastrous for our overseas trade. If the use of contaminated stock food should lead to chemical residues that exceed the legal limits being found in our export meat products, the whole Australian economy will be adversely affected and our products will be stigmatised. In October 1993 the Australian Minister for Primary Industries and Energy launched an export drive to persuade the Asia-Pacific region to buy pure Australian food. The $5 million marketing campaign aimed to cash in on Australia's high standards of food quality and origin from a clean environment.
National toxics network research has provided clear evidence of Australia's clean green export image facing significant future risk due to pesticide or insecticide residues in beef. For instance, while Australia's exports of beef to Japan were worth a record $160 million in March 1994 and our meat currently and consistently meets the precise specifications of the Japanese market, this export market could be severely damaged if contaminants were to emerge in the grain-based diet of such cattle. Australian beef has already been banned on several occasions due to pesticide contamination. The first beef export crisis occurred in 1979 and the latest incident, involving the feeding of Helix-contaminated cotton trash to cattle, led to an October 1994 ban of beef exports to the United States of America, Canada and Japan.
These incidents have not been minor. The New South Wales Department of Agriculture has estimated that more than one million cattle were affected by the Helix incident, and other reports found that 46,000 cattle had residue limits in excess of domestic standards. Since the 1979 beef export crisis, Australian exporters have lost millions of dollars. These incidents of beef contamination already occur when we have systems which supposedly prevent the use of contaminated feed. How can it be guaranteed that even more occurrences will not occur when contaminated feed is allowed to be used? In fact, cattle council research directors have themselves alluded to the fact that a lot of our emerging beef markets require consistency, which is hard to reach without the use of good grain.
Allowing farmers to use rather than destroy any contaminated feed sends a clear message to them that such actions are perfectly safe and
acceptable. They are not. Many of Australia's registered pesticides or insecticides escape detection in food-monitoring programs as they are not easily detected and residue testing methods for them do not exist. The maximum residue limits which will be used by the Director-General of the Department of Agriculture to determine what contaminated grain may be fed to stock do not take into account bioaccumulation or biomagnification factors. They also do not take into account the effects of chemical mixtures. Individual chemicals within a certain limit may not be harmful to humans or animals, but once they become mixed with others they may prove to be fatal.
Allowing farmers to use contaminated feed will also increase the chances of exceeding existing residue limits, as no doubt mistakes will be made in diluting contaminated feed, and will lead to the total loads of residues increasing. Each individual chemical may not exceed its maximum residue limit but average levels are sure to increase. While I am sure that there is a real need to ensure supplementary feed at horrendous times of drought and that stock foods are vital for cattle feedlots, one cannot overlook the simple truth. If it was not for special permission being given by the Government for the use of Helix on cotton, contaminated cotton trash would never have been fed to cattle during drought fodder shortages and the 1994-95 beef export crisis would never have occurred. Why make the same mistake again?
On another matter, I know that I am not the only member of Parliament who is concerned about pet food labelling. Though the Department of Agriculture may not have needed to enforce pet food quality and labelling regulations since 1989, that on its own does not provide adequate justification for deregulation of the industry. There is absolutely no proof that once provisions relating to pet food quality and labelling are removed the industry will continue to remain so well disciplined. In fact, it is more than likely that certain unscrupulous members of the industry will seize the opportunity to start supplementing their products with lower grade ingredients. For example, kangaroo and other wild native animals are likely to be culled illegally in order to supply the pet food industry with cheaper meat. Considering the level of cruelty already involved in providing kangaroo meat for human consumption, with some 5,000 joeys being bashed to death every night, this is not a humane or an equitable option.
A number of diseases are known to be transferred through such meat: toxoplasmosis, Q fever, orbivirus, salmonella and various species of E coli. Animals are always being treated as second-class species and it is time that people recognised that they are not. If the quality and labelling of our food and that of food-producing species, horses and other stock must be regulated in order to ensure their safety then so must that of pets. After all, if certain foodstuffs and ingredients are likely to be dangerous for us, food-producing species, horses and other stock to consume, they are also likely to be dangerous for pets to eat. It is my belief that other members of the crossbench share my views and in Committee I shall move some amendments to the bill. I am very grateful to the Minister and his advisers for their indication that my amendments will be accepted.
The Hon. I. COHEN
[3.32]: I support the bill and will strongly support the amendments to be moved by the Hon. R. S. L. Jones. The Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby and the Hon. R. S. L. Jones have said that the concept of the mix of contaminated grains is of great concern. As a Green member of Parliament, I share their concern. Whilst I am continually assured by officers of the Department of Agriculture that this is a reasonable practice, it is my belief that the concept is not worthy of support; it leads to chemical overuse and helps to support bad farming practices. The Hon. R. S. L. Jones has adequately covered the overall detriment to the food industry and the meat industry, in particular the export meat industry, of the mix of contaminated grains. I often wonder what is the long-term cost in lost markets of such bad farming practices. It is inappropriate that farmers use a little too much chemical to support a crop in the knowledge that there will be a market for the affected grain. Whilst such shandies have been mixed for a long time, that does not bode well for Australia's claim to clean, green agricultural production - production that has to be of significant worth in export earnings.
We live in a relatively isolated region and have been able to learn from the overseas experiences of agricultural disasters following tragedies such as that at Chernobyl. Australia is in a special position of being able to export to countries, particularly in eastern Europe, where domestic produce has been spoilt by pollution and chemical disasters. Particularly in eastern Europe and many areas of Asia pollution is so high that the quality of food production can never achieve the standards attained in Australia. With that in mind, it is my firm belief that chemical usage should be reduced. I acknowledge that some chemicals break down and are not transferred to animal products, as was pointed out by the Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby, yet to my mind we rely too much on the use of chemicals.
Chemical usage increased in the technological fix of the 1950s. Today we need to consider a return to yesterday's methods of organic production. My concern is not only about the chemical composition of foods; I am extremely concerned about a move away from quality organic production to the brave-new-world style of agricultural production in which newsprint and the offal of other animals is put into feedlots. It may be that some processes remove dioxin residues, but it is well known that dioxin is a high-level carcinogenic that bio-accumulates and magnifies in the system. The use of such products in foodstuffs is perhaps toying with fate, as has been clearly demonstrated in the ongoing mad cow disease scare in the United Kingdom. One could hardly estimate the cost of that scare to the European rural sector; yet we still continue with very dangerous experimental methods of foodstuffs production.
I refer to agricultural grains as a secondary protein, because while they are a primary protein for meat sources they are certainly a secondary protein in that so much of the produce is developed to feed the cattle which go to feed people, both domestically and internationally. That seems to me to be a very clumsy way to go about feeding the population. Until trends change and people perhaps wake up, such food production will certainly continue. Aside from moral problems about the way in which animals are kept and fed, there is the real problem of delivering clean food to the present population and for future generations. The Stock Foods Amendment Bill proposes the removal of registration processes for stock foods. That is based upon a decision of the former Government to administratively cease such registrations. The rationale for ceasing registration appears to be predicated on the fact that registration is unenforceable and does not ensure compliance of the product with its registration, because of seasonal variability of different ingredients such as grains. It is proposed also to amend the labelling provisions of sections 6 and 6A of the Act so as to conform with the requirements of the regulations. Pet food is excluded from those provisions. A written information statement will be required for the sale of bulk stock food.
Section 7 of the Act, which deals with levels of foreign ingredients, is amended to provide the Minister with power to further restrict foreign ingredients for up to 60 days. Sections 8 to 11 currently impose requirements to ensure that statements made on stock foods provide a warranty to the customer. Under schedule 1 those provisions will be replaced by a new section 8 to regulate the use of veterinary chemicals in stock foods and a new section 9 to permit the Director-General of Agriculture to issue permits when foreign ingredients or veterinary chemicals exceed appropriate levels. The major changes to be made provide that many matters currently dealt with under the Act will be subject to regulations. The most serious issue is that of contaminated stock food, the supply of which is permitted under the proposed section 9. Also, the fact that pet foods would not be subject to the provisions of the Stock Foods Act is a serious omission.
I support the amendments that will be moved by the Hon. R. S. L. Jones at the Committee stage. His amendments will seek to ensure that pet foods will be subject to the Act and that the proposed new section 9, which would allow the Director-General of Agriculture to permit the use of contaminated feed with uncontaminated feed, be omitted. I urge other honourable members to support his amendments. I hope that honourable members such as the Hon. I. M. Macdonald will set an example by not producing contaminated feed. The industry in future should be clean and green, and capable of supplying feed to cattle and other animals in times of drought. Contaminated cotton trash and sugarcane should not be used. The cotton and sugar industries should reassess future chemical use in view of possible food contamination and land degradation. We should look creatively at ways of producing adequate food from the land without at the same time poisoning it.
The Hon. R. D. DYER
(Minister for Community Services, Minister for Aged Services, and Minister for Disability Services) [3.41], in reply: I thank all members who spoke in the debate. I commend the bill to the House.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a second time.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES
[3.42]: I move the first amendment circulated in my name:
No. 1 Page 4, Schedule 1, lines 23 and 24. Omit all words on those lines. Insert instead:
(a) stock food for any stock (whether or not food-producing species or horses),
The amendment will ensure that food for pets is treated in the same way as that for food-producing species, horses and other stock. Persons will not be able to supply packaged stock foods for pets unless the package or label states particulars required by regulations under the Stock Foods Act 1940. Pets are not second-class species and they should not be treated as such.
The Hon. R. D. DYER
(Minister for Community Services, Minister for Aged Services, and Minister for Disability Services) [3.44]: The amendment deals with retaining controls over pet foods. While the Government considers at this time that controls over such foods are no longer necessary, retaining the ability to control such foods will permit a suitable response to any future need for controls. The Act allows for specific controls over any stock food to be included in regulations. Thus, any necessary controls over pet foods can be included when the new legislation is drafted. For the reasons I have briefly stated, the amendment is supported.
The Hon. I. COHEN
[3.44]: The Greens support the amendment. We would like to see greater controls over the labelling of pet foods across the industry. Adulteration of such foods is recognised as an ongoing problem and a danger. There should be responsible advertising of foods, particularly in regard to the adding of inappropriate materials. In this technological age accurate labelling is a basic and important responsibility of producers to consumers - or the owners of the consumers.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE:
[3.45]: The Call to Australia party supports the amendment.
The Hon. R. T. M. BULL
(Deputy Leader of the Opposition) [3.45]: The Opposition supports the amendment. As I mentioned before, it is a satisfactory compromise. I congratulate both the Government and the Hon. R. S. L. Jones on working through this issue and coming to a satisfactory result.
Amendment agreed to.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES
[3.46]: I move the second amendment circulated in my name:
No. 2 Page 7, Schedule 1, lines 14-33 and page 8, Schedule 1, lines 1-11. Omit all words on those lines.
This amendment will ensure that the director-general may not issue permits to allow persons to: supply stock food or stock food supplements which do not comply with section 6; supply stock food that contains a greater amount of foreign ingredient than the maximum allowed under section 7; supply medicated stock food that is in contravention of section 8; or supply stock food prohibited under section 11A orders. The feeding of contaminated feed to stock, even if it is blended with clean grain and complies with maximum residue limits, is totally unacceptable.
The Hon. R. D. DYER
(Minister for Community Services, Minister for Aged Services, and Minister for Disability Services) [3.47]: The amendment would remove the proposed power of the director-general to issue permits to allow use of stock food which has been found to be contaminated. This proposal was considered to be a useful tool to ensure access by farmers to stock food which may otherwise have not been available to them in times of feed shortages, such as during severe droughts. The Hon. R. S. L. Jones has suggested that such a provision is likely to be abused by producers, who would see it as allowing them carte blanche to produce contaminated stock food.
While the Government and I cannot agree that New South Wales producers would be so irresponsible, I have agreed to the honourable member's recommendation at this time because the whole issue of residue controls is to be addressed further with proposed new consolidated residue legislation being prepared as part of the regulatory review process. That legislation should allow any
ongoing concerns of the Hon. R. S. L. Jones to be addressed adequately in a situation in which all residue controls in New South Wales are to be consolidated. Since the present good season means that there is no immediate prospect of feed shortages, in the Government's view there is no urgency regarding the proposal. The amendment is therefore supported.
The Hon. R. T. M. BULL
(Deputy Leader of the Opposition) [3.48]: In my remarks during the second reading debate I stated that I had full confidence in the director-general acting responsibly in relation to this provision. I am surprised that the Government has gone as far as it has on this occasion, given that whatever grain would eventually be used would be below the maximum residue levels which are required by the Act. Anybody who thinks that there is any feed that does not have some residue in it is probably living in another world. The important indicators are the maximum residue levels for a particular grain or feed. During times of drought the mixing of stock food to bring the food below the MRL, after the director-general has given approval, could have been an option which would have been of no risk to anyone. However, the Government has decided to capitulate and to agree to the amendment. The Opposition supports that but it ought to be known that we are talking about levels of residue well below the limits that are set for grain and other feeds. The Opposition supports the amendment.
The Hon. I. COHEN
[3.49]: The Greens support the amendment. On issues such as this we must learn from past mistakes. In view of the significant blunders in the past it is reasonable that the Hon. R. S. L. Jones should propose the amendment to guard against a repetition of the problems with Helix and sugarcane residues. The vast majority of people in the industry may be acting responsibly but there have been cases of misuse in the past. It is appropriate to tighten conditions and to encourage producers to produce a clean product so that we are not blackmailed at times of drought into accepting a product that in the past has been proved to be dangerous.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE
[3.50]: Call to Australia supports the amendment. If there is any risk to the community, even a small one, everything possible should be done to remove that risk.
Amendment agreed to.
Schedule as amended agreed to.
Bill reported from Committee with amendments and passed through remaining stages.
ETHNIC AFFAIRS COMMISSION AMENDMENT BILL
Debate resumed from 30 October.
The Hon. J. M. SAMIOS
[3.52]: On the last occasion I spoke in this debate I mentioned the contribution by the Ethnic Communities Council of New South Wales to the dialogue between the Government and the Opposition that led to the amendments which were carried in the lower House in relation to the charter of principles. I commend the Ethnic Communities Council, in particular Angela Chan, for stressing to the Government the importance of enshrining in legislation the charter of principles for a culturally diverse society. The original bill provided for inclusion of the charter of principles, but did not enshrine them as State policy. Honourable members will recall that my original bill provided that the charter of principles was to be the policy of the State. That charter is important because it represents a further step in the development of ethnic affairs which commenced in approximately 1976. At that time the State Government recognised the varied needs of people of non-English speaking backgrounds and initiated a wide-ranging review into their needs. The review resulted in the "Participation report" of 1978, which stated:
. . . no individual or group in the community should be discriminated against or excluded from the fullest participation in the social, economic, and cultural life of the community or from the fullest share of all opportunities the community offers.
That was a very important report because it promulgated strategies for the State Government to pursue to enable members of ethnic communities to gain more equitable access to government services. On 1 December 1979 the Ethnic Affairs Commission of New South Wales was established as a permanent government agency: first to encourage participation of people from ethnic communities in the social, economic and cultural life of the community; second, to promote the unity of all ethnic groups in the community consistent with the recognition of their different cultural identities; and third, to promote liaison and cooperation between bodies concerned in ethnic affairs. The Ethnic Affairs Commission of New South Wales was the pathfinder in this area and its role has been copied by a number of other States, some using a similar methodology and others using a bureau format. I pay tribute to the good work of the incumbent Chairman of the Ethnic Affairs Commission, Mr Stepan Kerkyasharian, and his able team of commissioners, who have been dedicated to the important charter that was given them by legislation in 1979.
Today two important community structures operate: one a statutory structure, the Ethnic Affairs Commission, which plays an important role in implementing the Government's decision; and the other the Ethnic Communities Council of New South Wales, with 1,000 members, a peak organisation that promulgates the needs of and issues affecting the community to which the Government can relate. The next benchmark occurred in 1993 when the Fahey Government introduced the New South Wales charter of principles for a culturally diverse society, which required all government agencies to develop a statement of intent followed by implementation plans. It is interesting to note that we have now a statutory body, a skilled peak organisation here in
New South Wales, and a number of other statutory bodies that implement legislation relating to the needs of people of non-English speaking backgrounds, for example, the Anti-Discrimination Board, the Office of the Director of Equal Opportunity in Public Employment, and of course the Ethnic Affairs Commission. With regard to service provision, State governments have now initiated programs providing for access to essential government information and advice.
Pursuant to sessional orders business interrupted.
QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
WESTERN SYDNEY ROADWORKS FUNDING
The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD:
My question is to the Treasurer. Does he remember assuring Parliament that the additional $74 million grant announced this year for western Sydney roadworks was, in his words, guaranteed? How can the Treasurer reconcile that assurance with the revelation yesterday by his colleague the Minister for Transport that at least one-third of that $74 million will be stolen from that fund to construct the Eastern Distributor through the eastern suburbs? What assurances can the Treasurer give to the people of western Sydney that his promise concerning this $74 million will be adhered to?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN:
I will refer the question to my colleague the Minister for Transport, who I understand is not in Australia, so I am not sure how he could have made the statement that the Leader of the Opposition has attributed to him.
RURAL TRADE AND INVESTMENT POTENTIAL
The Hon. FRANCA ARENA:
My question without notice is addressed to the Treasurer, and Minister for State and Regional Development. What effort is the Government making to acquaint other countries with the trade and investment potential of country regions in New South Wales?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN:
I am pleased to advise that the Government has today embarked on a major investment push in regional New South Wales. As I speak the top trade representatives of some 14 foreign governments are visiting the Riverina on a tour organised by the State Government in partnership with regional leaders. It is the first of a series of regional investment tours that will take place during the Year of Regional Development. The two-day visit to the Riverina by consuls-general from Europe, the Americas, the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific will include visits to a range of companies and meetings with local leaders. This visit will strengthen trade and investment links between the Riverina and nations with mature as well as emerging economies.
The Government is taking top representatives of some of Australia's biggest trading partners to regional communities so that the representatives can see for themselves the tremendous opportunities that exist outside Sydney. The long-term benefits of the program could be immense as the consuls report what they have seen in country New South Wales to their governments and investment communities. The second tour in a series will visit the central western region, including the Cowra district, early in 1997. The party in the Riverina comprises consular representatives from Canada, France, Honduras, Israel, Japan, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Mexico, Papua New Guinea, Russia, Slovenia, Switzerland, Thailand and Uruguay.
The consuls will today visit Charles Sturt University, Murrumbidgee Dairy Products Pty Limited, Kapooka army base, Wagga Wagga City Council and the local Chamber of Commerce. Tomorrow they will travel through Collingullie and Narrandera to Cudgel, where they will inspect Rockdale Beef Pty Limited's cattle feedlot. From there, they will go on to Leeton to visit the ricegrowers cooperative and Sunburst Foods Limited, and will later visit McWilliam's Wines Pty Limited at Hanwood. The visit will conclude with discussions with Griffith City Council and an inspection of industry and new residential areas in Griffith. I would like to acknowledge the support of BMW Australia, Charles Sturt University, the Ricegrowers Cooperative Limited, and the winemakers of the Riverina promotion committee.
The Hon. R. T. M. Bull:
The Minister should take a trip there at some time.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN:
I would not mind doing a trip there. In fact, I would have been there today but for the fact that I am here answering questions. I would much prefer to be in the Riverina today than here.
LUPIN INDUSTRY ANTHRACNOSE FUNGUS DISEASE
The Hon. R. T. M. BULL:
I address my question without notice to the Minister for Community Services, representing the Minister for Agriculture. What is the Government doing to avert the serious threat to the lupin industry in New South Wales following the discovery of anthracnose fungus disease in the backyard of a Department of Agriculture officer in Wagga Wagga? Given that the lupin crop plays an important part in crop rotation systems and as a stockfeed, will the Government commit all the necessary resources to combat this serious threat to the lupin industry?
The Hon. R. D. DYER:
I shall be delighted to obtain as much information as is available to the Minister for Agriculture regarding the lupin industry.
STATE INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS POWERS
The Hon. J. R. JOHNSON:
I ask a question of the Attorney General, and Minister for Industrial Relations. Is the Minister aware of the Victorian Government's decision to give up all its powers over industrial relations to the Commonwealth? Does the Minister consider this would be an appropriate course of action for the Government of New South Wales?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW:
I am aware of the Kennett Government's view that it would give its powers on industrial relations to the Federal Government. I think it is fair to say that Mr Kennett had given some signals about that over the past 12 months or so. That is to be seen against the background that the Victorian industrial relations system is in a state of virtual collapse, with an exodus of more than 400,000 Victorian employees to Federal awards in the past two years. The quite extreme deregulatory policies of the Victorian Government obviously have prompted that exodus from the State system. Those included the scrapping of all State awards and the abolition of the Industrial Relations Commission as an arbitration authority.
So yesterday's agreement between the Victorian Government and the Commonwealth Government is little more than an admission of failure by Mr Kennett. He is basically handing Canberra a vacuum, not a viable industrial relations system. It is notable that Victorian employers will actually enjoy increased industrial relations protection under the Federal system, that is, under either existing legislation or under the proposals of the Howard Government. So, again, it is not surprising that a State that has gone to such extremes would, in a sense, abandon the field and decide not to maintain a State industrial relations system. There was very little of the Victorian system left, so that even the proposals of Mr Howard federally would be an improvement on that which had existed in Victoria in previous years.
New South Wales is in an altogether different situation. This Government has spent 18 months setting up a fair and decent industrial relations system which enjoys the confidence of the business community, employer groups and the trade union movement. They recognise that the New South Wales system is one that is based on equity whilst recognising the need for dynamic workplace change built on cooperation rather than conflict. To put that dynamic system to the sword would expose New South Wales employees to the ravages of deregulation without the protection of a genuine safety net. It would also deprive New South Wales employers of the benefit of experience of a skilled and professional Industrial Relations Commission, which is finely attuned to the demands of doing business in this State.
Companies doing business in New South Wales face particular demands and challenges, especially in the lead-up to the Sydney 2000 Olympics. The New South Wales industrial relations system has the capacity and the competence to grapple with those challenges. I would seriously question whether employees in New South Wales want their industrial relations matters taken out of the hands of the State system. I do not believe that they do. To the extent that the New South Wales Opposition is signalling its agreement with the Kennett Government, I do not believe the Opposition has consulted with New South Wales employers. I simply cannot accept that it has. If the New South Wales Opposition were out there talking to business, commerce and employers, it would be getting signals counter to those being published by the shadow minister, Mr Hartcher. I think Opposition members need to pause before they take the step, which in some ways would suit the Government politically, of abandoning the field of industrial relations in New South Wales. They certainly need to pause, but perhaps they will not. Perhaps they will just make the decision on some sort of knee-jerk reaction to their Victorian colleagues and follow the party line.
POLICE INVESTIGATION OF ROBERT DUNN
The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD:
My question without notice is directed to the Treasurer, representing the Premier. Is the Treasurer aware that today the media has reported that warrants have been issued for the arrest of paedophile witness Robert Dunn? Is the Treasurer also aware that police have announced that they have now commenced searching for Mr Dunn? Why are police only now beginning to search for him, and how can the Premier justify the apparent failure to keep this person under constant surveillance following his announcement of a blue notice for this person?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN:
I am not aware of the first two matters that the Leader of the Opposition raised in his question. I will refer them and the third matter to my colleague the Minister for Police.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE:
I ask the Attorney General, and Minister for Industrial Relations a question without notice. Is it a fact that workers compensation premiums are set to jump a further 11 per cent in the next six months? Is it a fact that a key factor putting pressure on workers compensation premiums is the increased number of smoking-related claims to WorkCover? Is it a fact that over 30 smoking-related claims are received each month by WorkCover from people in the workplace? How much do these claims contribute to the premium rise that has to be paid by all employers, which discourages employment growth in New South Wales?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW:
In relation to the first part of the honourable member's question, I do not believe it will be necessary to further increase
workers compensation premiums in New South Wales if the Parliament accepts a reform package that the Government will shortly put forward and that I believe will stabilise, and ultimately allow a reduction in, premiums. I accept the general premise of the honourable member's question that smoking in the workplace must add to the costs of the system. That is almost self-evident. The extent of that cost and the impact I imagine would be difficult to quantify, but I should be pleased to ask WorkCover and other expert advisers if they can provide further information to the honourable member to indicate the extent and the nature of the contribution of smoking to workplace injury or disease and its cost impact.
LEGAL AID COMMISSION FUNDING
The Hon. ANN SYMONDS:
My question without notice is to the Attorney General. Is the Attorney aware of the drastic measures announced by the Legal Aid Commission as a result of the Federal Government's savage cuts to its legal aid budget?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW:
In all candour, the issue that concerns me most at the moment in my portfolio is the crisis in legal aid, and I should hope that it would be a matter of concern to all honourable members of this House. Members on the Government side of the House certainly have indicated to me their deep concern about Federal budgetary cuts and their impact on legal aid. Both the Government and the Opposition in New South Wales need to confront the current legal aid funding crisis brought on by a savage and shortsighted shift in Federal Government policy. The Commonwealth Government plans to slash legal aid funding by an enormous $33 million a year Australia-wide. This means cuts of $10 million to $12 million for New South Wales.
As a result, the State's justice system will be in crisis. The effects of the horrific cuts forced on New South Wales by the Commonwealth Government will begin to be felt immediately. The difficulty for legal aid authorities in New South Wales and elsewhere is how to allocate funding now when there is no certainty about funding in the future, and they know that the Commonwealth intends to cut funding in the future. It is very much a dilemma for the Legal Aid Commission of New South Wales and for legal aid authorities in other States. The Ivan Milat case could not have been dealt with as a criminal trial had the Federal Government's draconian legal aid cuts been in force at the time. Mr Milat's defence was paid for by the New South Wales Legal Aid Commission. Its costs went way beyond the $80,000 limit, which has now been set by the commission as a direct result of the Commonwealth Government's cuts to legal aid. A realistic estimate of the cost would be at least five times that amount.
As the Director of Public Prosecutions, Mr Cowdery, warned yesterday, the cuts mean that people who have committed serious crimes, including murder and rape, can be released and innocent people can be gaoled for crimes they did not commit. He added that victims of crimes will live in fear. He condemned the consequences of the Federal Government's decision as a bonus to criminals. Mr Cowdery gave a litany of disaster: trials will be stayed and never get to juries, attempts to intimidate or bribe jurors in criminal trials will increase, trials will be spun out; very few pleas of guilty will be made as people accused of serious crimes will opt for a stay of proceedings and there will be pressure on prosecutors to accept an inappropriate plea of guilty.
The Federal Government's refusal to continue a 1987 agreement to assume almost equal responsibility with the States for the legal rights of all Australian citizens demonstrates an appalling disregard for both civil and criminal justice. I condemn the Federal Government's callous and disastrous decision to break its promise to, at the very least, maintain legal aid funding. No-one has been more eloquent in condemning the Howard Government's breach of election policy than the Liberal Attorneys General of the other States. They have articulated that condemnation in some ways more bluntly than I have. They have said to Mr Daryl Williams, who is a nice person, "You have broken your election promise about maintaining legal aid funding." They have put it right on the table. I have been content to join that consensual criticism of the Federal Government.
In June of this year Mr Williams gave notice that he was terminating the 1987 Commonwealth-State legal aid agreement. There was absolutely no consultation with the States. Mr Williams announced a unilateral withdrawal from the 1987 agreement without that having been preceded by any discussion, negotiation or consultation with the States. The Commonwealth Government argues that Commonwealth money should be spent only on Commonwealth matters. This appears to be the only excuse it can come up with for what is an unjustifiable funding cut. That excuse is nonsensical. The States do not have their own pool of income tax dollars. The Commonwealth decides how much the States will get. It is not as if the States can pull money out of a hat.
The Commonwealth says it wants more money spent on family law and other Commonwealth matters. It is hardly going to achieve that with a funding cut. If the Commonwealth carried to its logical conclusion its arguments that it should only fund matters arising under Commonwealth law, it would soon stop contributing funding to other essential services, like health and education, provided by the States. According to figures provided by the Victorian Attorney-General, Mrs Jan Wade, the Commonwealth Attorney-General's Department received about a $36 million increase in the latest Commonwealth budget. Mr Williams
denies this but was unable to explain his denial in detail at the last meeting of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General. Even if there has been no increase, why are all the cuts being made to the States and their services?
The consequences of these arguments are tragic. Already, in view of the impending cuts to legal aid funding, the Legal Aid Commission in New South Wales resolved to make a number of policy changes, which took effect from 1 November. These policy changes will have a significant impact on the justice system in New South Wales. The first change is that legal aid can no longer be granted in victims compensation matters. This decision will have an obvious impact on victims of crime. Secondly, a cap on expenditure has been placed on any one trial of $80,000, with an additional $40,000 for each co-accused. In practice this will mean that where an application for legal aid is calculated to exceed $80,000 the commission will ascertain whether the solicitor concerned is prepared to accept a grant of $80,000 only, the maximum amount available. If the solicitor does not accept the grant, the commission will attempt to find a solicitor who will take on the case for this amount. If no solicitor is available, the court will be advised that, given the length of the matter, no legal representation is available for the accused either within the Legal Aid Commission or externally.
The commission will, however, provide assistance in the making of any Dietrich-type application for a stay of proceedings. This will have an obvious impact on lengthy cases such as the recent Milat trial. Thirdly, legal aid will not be granted in committal proceedings involving murder and attempted murder, as well as those exceptional circumstances when legal aid is currently provided, such as when an accused is suffering from a psychiatric illness. Besides the obvious detriment to the accused in not being properly represented in such proceedings, it is expected that fewer pleas will be accepted by the Crown for lesser charges, and that will result in more matters going to trial and trials taking longer to determine.
Other policy changes forced upon the Legal Aid Commission include a decision to introduce a policy not to fund trials for a second time when a trial has resulted in a hung jury, to cease paying for transcripts during trials, and to place a cap on expenditure of $15,000 for each party in matters when the commission is funding both parties to a dispute. The commission will soon be forced to take further difficult, unpalatable measures, including the refusal to grant legal aid in tenancy matters, inquests, and discrimination and unfair dismissal cases. The commission is examining the possibility of ceasing to fund District Court appeals in criminal matters and appeals to the Court of Criminal Appeal and the High Court in criminal matters.
The Senior Public Defender, Mr Martin Sides, QC, warned yesterday of the disastrous consequences of such a measure. He said that about 60 per cent of appeals in the District Court succeeded and that many of those appeals were legally aided. A similar situation applied in the Court of Criminal Appeal, in which about 30 per cent of appeals were successful. Clearly this means that innocent people could be left languishing in gaol, waiting for legal assistance from somewhere - anywhere - that will prove them not guilty. Worse than the current $80,000 limit on criminal trials which could have seen convicted backpacker killer Ivan Milat eventually walk free, the Legal Aid Commission has warned that it may be forced to cut this limit to a mere $40,000. Another move is a further reduction in fees payable to the legal profession in legal aid cases.
Yesterday the President of the New South Wales Law Society, Mr Norman Lyall, warned that the profession was considering withdrawing its services from the Legal Aid Commission. This means that solicitors may ban legal aid matters because the fees are too low. This would spell complete disaster, as the commission is reliant on the goodwill of the legal profession, who currently act in many legal aid matters for reduced fees. The Commonwealth Government states that it is seeking to establish a clear link between its policy priorities and the expenditure of Commonwealth legal aid funds. The provision of legal aid is not about government policy; it is about need.
The New South Wales Government has never made legal aid policy. The commission is independent and makes its policy decisions based on need. The Opposition knows this only too well. When in government the coalition had its own legal aid crisis. This should not be a political issue; yet the Federal Government has made it one. State and Federal governments should share the responsibility for legal aid, as they have done for many years. The Commonwealth Government's new policy is about more control for less money. It has already thrown every State's Legal Aid Commission into massive confusion and uncertainty. How will the States know what matters to fund when Commonwealth funding will be based on ever-changing Commonwealth Government priorities? The Commonwealth Government is also prepared to completely ignore its obligations under the vital High Court decision in Regina v Dietrich
, which states that defendants in serious criminal trials are entitled to adequate legal representation.
The Commonwealth Government does not seem to care if the criminal justice system becomes a chaotic mess of stayed trials, hung juries without the possibility of retrials and strict financial limits on all cases, as the Legal Aid Commission has already warned. Yesterday an unprecedented gathering took place in a major escalation of the fight against the Commonwealth Government's regressive legal aid cuts. The Bar Association, the Law Society, the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Senior Public Defender, the Uniting Church's Reverend Harry Herbert, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Mick
Dodson, the Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association of New South Wales Incorporated, the Vietnam Veterans Association of Australia, community legal centres and the New South Wales Council of Social Service -
The Hon. D. J. Gay:
On a point of order. Surely the Attorney is not responding to a question without notice; he is making a ministerial statement on a matter which was given extensive press coverage yesterday -
Order! What is the honourable member's point of order?
The Hon. D. J. Gay:
The point of order is that the Attorney should more appropriately seek to make a ministerial statement on the matter rather than take up the time of question time.
Order! I regret to say that the precedent of this House is such that there is no point of order. Ministers may answer questions in whatever form they like. That tradition is supported by precedent in this place. However, I leave it to the Minister to treat the matter with due discretion.
The Hon. J. W. SHAW:
I spoke out in defence of legal aid. One of the difficulties about the Commonwealth Government's proposition is that the Commonwealth Government is not even prepared to guarantee to fund so-called Commonwealth matters. Whatever be the definition of "Commonwealth matters", the Commonwealth Government is not even committed to funding such matters. Of course, there are difficulties in ascertaining what is a Commonwealth matter and what is not. Criminal trials can involve charges based on Commonwealth law - for example, the importation of drugs. Criminal trials can also involve charges based on State law - for example, the possession of drugs. The difficulty of ascertaining whether a matter is a Commonwealth or State matter is quite serious. Family law matters can involve questions of domestic violence or apprehended violence orders. Are those State or Federal matters? The distinction is artificial, unsatisfactory and conducive to administrative difficulty.
One thing that disappoints me about this debate is the absolute disinclination of members of the New South Wales Opposition to join with their colleagues in other States and the Government in saying that what the Commonwealth Government is doing is wrong, firstly, because it constitutes a breach of an election commitment to legal funding and, secondly, because it is simply damaging to social justice. I am genuinely disappointed about the failure of the New South Wales Opposition to say anything. The Opposition's silence is eloquent. It has failed to join in the united front of opposition to the Federal Government. The Opposition has not uttered a word of condemnation. Indeed, in some of its fill-in-the-blanks press releases what the Opposition has said about the Federal Government's position about legal aid is that it is understandable. What a benign word for a slashing of the budget on social justice matters! I am seeking some support from the Opposition - an Opposition which predominantly regards itself as liberal. Why do not some of the small "l" Liberals in the Opposition ranks, who actually believe in legal aid and helping the poor and oppressed in the community, stand up and be counted on this important social justice issue, rather than continue in their eloquent silence?
The Hon. J. M. SAMIOS:
I ask the Treasurer, representing the Minister for Roads, a question without notice. Is the Treasurer aware of the call of the Lord Mayor of Sydney, Frank Sartor, for the Eastern Distributor carriageway to be buried where it passes the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the Domain? Does the Government agree that the proposal would be of immense civic and environmental value to the people of Sydney? If so, will the Treasurer commit the Government to positively consider the proposal?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN:
I thank the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party, the Hon. J. M. Samios, for his question. I note that he is now sitting in the place of his leader, the Hon. J. P. Hannaford. He is the acting leader - as he so often is, it seems to me. Occasionally at the beginning of question time the Leader of the Opposition comes into the Chamber to ask a question and then shoots through. He stays for about two minutes and then hands over to the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party - not the Deputy Leader of the Opposition - to act for him. The Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party fills in as the acting Leader of the Opposition.
I have to say that it is an improvement when the Hon. J. M. Samios asks a question because, unlike his leader, at least he gets his facts right. At the beginning of question time the Leader of the Opposition asked a question about the diversion of funding from western and south-western roads to the Eastern Distributor. He attributed a statement to the Minister for Roads which, he told us, was made yesterday. As I informed the House, the Minister for Roads is not in Australia at the moment. I think he is in Mexico and I very much doubt that he would be making a statement in Mexico about the diversion of road funding to the Eastern Distributor. In any event, I have been able to ascertain that, once again, the Leader of the Opposition did not have a clue what he was talking about, because all of the funds for the Eastern Distributor will come from private sources; no budget funds will be allocated to the Eastern Distributor.
The Leader of the Opposition, who asked a stupid question based completely on mythical facts, has shot through and left the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party - who, I understand, is making a challenge for the top job - in his place. I also understand that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the other place, the honourable - I am not sure whether he is honourable, but he is the member for Miranda - Ron Phillips is also under attack. What a
disastrous situation, a leadership challenge to the deputy leader, but it seems that that is what is happening down there. They want to get rid of Ron. I return to the specific question asked by the Hon. J. M. Samios. The Lord Mayor of Sydney is a very sensible man who often makes meritorious proposals.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti:
Would you call him "A friend of mine"?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN:
I would be happy to count him as a friend of mine, yes. We do not socialise but we have a lot to do with one another in our respective positions. I think he is a top-class lord mayor and I know that he thinks I am the best treasurer this State or any other State has ever had. We have a mutually high admiration for one another. As usual, the Lord Mayor of Sydney has raised an interesting issue. I believe it is worthy of consideration and, when my colleague the Minister for the Olympics, and Minister for Roads returns to New South Wales, I will make sure that I point it out to him.
NEWCASTLE AERONAUTICS INDUSTRY
The Hon. J. R. JOHNSON:
My question without notice is directed to the Treasurer, Minister for Energy, Minister for State and Regional Development. Will the Minister inform the House about the Government's success in establishing Newcastle as a player in Australia's high-tech aeronautics industry?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN:
The honourable member's question is pertinent and topical.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti:
Haven't they got anyone over there from the Hunter?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN:
The honourable member would not be aware but other honourable members would be aware that in January I approved and announced funding for a $1.5 million upgrade of Newcastle airport. It was that initiative which prompted the airport's owners - Port Stephens Council and Newcastle Council - to provide matching funding of another $1.5 million. The Government's action put the Hunter in the race to win the $1 billion leading fighter project to assemble and maintain 35 new jet fighter training aircraft for the Royal Australian Air Force. This is a very important project.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti:
Wasn't it a decision by the Federal Government?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN:
If the honourable member would just listen he would learn. He should not talk to his colleague: she has nothing to tell him.
Order! The Minister does not need any help from the Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN:
Australiawide it will create more than 350 jobs during construction, and about 260 jobs during the 25-year maintenance contract. Without the $3 million injection for a new hangar and a new taxiway - which I indicated the New South Wales Government and Port Stephens and Newcastle councils have made - obviously none of the three consortia bidding for the RAAF contract would have nominated Newcastle airport as their preferred base. I am absolutely delighted to be able to advise the House today that our investment has paid off, and paid off handsomely. The job seekers of the Hunter region will be pocketing the winnings for 25 years to come. Yesterday the Federal Government announced British Aerospace as the preferred supplier of the new Royal Australian Air Force training aircraft. The British Aerospace Hawk 1000 aircraft will be used to train pilots in fast jet operations and weapons systems management before they graduate to front-line fighter aircraft.
The aircraft is a special version of the British Aerospace Hawk, customised to meet Australia's requirements for a cockpit environment similar to that of the FA18. It will replace the RAAF's ageing fleet of Macchi 326 jets, some of which I am told were purchased as early as 1968. The new aircraft will be used for advanced flying training and weapons and tactical training support for the army and the navy. Production of the Hawk is expected to start in early 1997 with the first aircraft delivered to the RAAF by mid-1999. The first squadron of 12 jets will be ready for the trainee pilots by January 2000. While these will be built at British Aerospace's Lancashire assembly facility, staff of Hunter Aerospace and other Australian firms will be seconded to England to work on the aircraft. This announcement is great news for Newcastle and great news for New South Wales. It guarantees that a significant amount of the work associated with the acquisition and maintenance of up to 40 new RAAF leading fighters will flow to the Hunter.
The impact on the local economy is expected to be enormous. In April British Aerospace said that up to 28 leading Fighter Hawks will be assembled in Australia at Hunter Aerospace at Newcastle airport, adjacent to Williamtown RAAF base. It has already pledged to build support facilities at Williamtown for the maintenance of the aircraft and their components. Although the contract is still being finalised, British Aerospace has already confirmed that some component manufacture and the final assembly will definitely take place at Williamtown. This is a great result for the Hunter economy. It provides a chance for the Hunter to develop a brand new aeronautics industry based around the aerospace centre at Williamtown.
The Government is extremely proud of the role it has played in capturing this investment for regional New South Wales. There is no doubt that without our $1.5 million Newcastle would not have been in the running. In fact, the Government did such a good job that both short-listed contenders - British Aerospace and Aer Macchi - confirmed that
they would undertake final assembly testing and ongoing support of their aircraft at Newcastle airport aerospace centre at Williamtown. The Government made sure that, whatever the Commonwealth's decision, the people of Newcastle were always on a winner.
DEPARTMENT OF COMMUNITY SERVICES DIRECTOR-GENERAL REMOVAL
The Hon. PATRICIA FORSYTHE:
My question without notice is to the Minister for Community Services, Minister for Aged Services, and Minister for Disability Services. Why was he unaware at the time of regrading of the position of Director-General of the Department of Community Services in March that he had a right to be consulted, to be heard and to have a role in deciding whether or not there would be any regrading of the position?
The Hon. R. D. DYER:
Honourable members opposite have spent the past six months trying to implicate me in the removal last March of Mr Des Semple as Director-General of the Department of Community Services. The Independent Commission Against Corruption has confirmed that the Opposition has got it all wrong. There was no government conspiracy against Mr Semple; none whatever. I refer honourable members to the ICAC report which states at page 13:
Mr Dyer had no desire, plan or involvement in any strategy to remove Mr Semple.
The report states at page 61:
The evidence does not in any way suggest or establish any motive or reason for Minister Dyer to want the removal of Mr Semple . . . I find that there was no corrupt conduct engaged in by either the Premier or Minister Dyer.
Mr Hall stated at page 31 of his report:
I found that the Minister was frank and forthright in his evidence and found him an impressive witness.
The Independent Commission Against Corruption inquiry came to that finding.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti:
Who was Mr Hall talking about?
The Hon. R. D. DYER:
Me. Honourable members opposite also expended considerable effort trying to link the Public Employment Office regrading of Mr Semple's position to two other events in particular - union pressure over the management of the Department of Community Services and a plan to offer the director-general position to a Mr Kevin Rudd.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti:
He said you were ignorant.
The Hon. R. D. DYER:
You were making those comments; I have heard them on many occasions. Mr Hall at page 5 of his report stated:
Both of these allegations were investigated by the ICAC. Neither was substantiated.
That is the measure of the veracity of the Opposition: Opposition members are always wrong and they are always making unsubstantiated allegations. The ICAC has completed a thorough examination of the process leading to Mr Semple's removal as director-general last March. The finding made by Mr Hall is blindingly clear: I was not party to any corrupt process. In fact, given that I was off sick for the greater part of the matter, I was not party to any process other than those events that occurred prior to 6 March 1996. As the assistant ICAC commissioner stated at page 49 of his report:
When Minister Dyer left his office on 6 March to enter hospital, he had no idea that within two weeks the position of director general would be thrown open to merit selection and Mr Semple would be removed from that position.
The Des Semple matter is dead and over.
POLICE OFFICER WORKERS COMPENSATION
The Hon. C. J. S. LYNN:
My question is addressed to the Attorney General, and Minister for Industrial Relations, representing the Minister for Police, and relates to the workers compensation entitlements of police officers who are re-called to duty. Is it not a fact that an off-duty police officer can be charged with misconduct? In similar circumstances, should a police officer not be covered by workers compensation, especially if that police officer is re-called to duty?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW:
The logical corollary to the question asked by the honourable member would be that police officers would be entitled to workers compensation 24 hours a day, seven days a week. That is a novel proposition. Obviously, police officers are expected to be of good character, whether on duty or off duty and, obviously, disciplinary offences can flow from misconduct outside duty. But I do not think that it follows from that, as a matter of logic, that they ought to be entitled to workers compensation for every moment of the day every day of the week - I do not think governments of any political complexion have considered that to be so.
The Hon. J. F. Ryan:
What about when they act as constables?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW:
I shall refer the question to the Minister for Police and ask him to consider the matter. I acknowledge the interjection asking about when an officer who is off duty acts as an officer of the Police Service, which has some cogency. While I can see the force of that observation, the question tends to pose the rather extreme situation of total workers compensation coverage, which on the face of it I do not think is tenable.
SYDNEY FASHION RETAIL PROMOTION
The Hon. I. COHEN:
I ask whether the Treasurer, representing the Premier, is able to clarify the Premier's reports in the news media about his
approaches to nearly 130 fashion retailers from around the world about setting up shop in Sydney. With the central shopping area of Sydney already well supplied with overseas up-market designer stores, is this not a slap in the face for Australian designers and manufacturers trying to establish a place in the international market, a potential export winner? With so many people visiting Sydney as a tourist destination and with shopping being a favourite activity, would it not be more opportune to support the best of what Australia has to offer rather than encourage well-established overseas labels with significant financial backing? Has the Premier offered incentives to any of those overseas companies?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN:
The answer to the last part of the question is, I understand, no. I should like to disabuse the Hon. I. Cohen of some of his misconceptions. Shopping is one of the great attractions of any of the world's major cities. Perhaps that is not something that attracts the Hon. I. Cohen but it is a great attraction to most tourists. In recent years Sydney has become known as one of the great shopping capitals of the world, and that in itself is not only an attraction for many tourists to come to Sydney but also an opportunity for tourists in Sydney to spend more of their money while they are here. One of the Government's aims is to make sure that tourists want to come to Sydney for a host of reasons, including world-class shopping, and that while they are here enjoying themselves they leave behind as much of their money as possible.
The Government is endeavouring to attract more retailers to Sydney and wants Sydney to be one of the top half-dozen shopping destinations in the world - that means local retailers and big names from other countries such as Italy, England, Germany and the United States. That also has a great benefit for Australian manufacturers. When firms locate and establish in a particular area they are introduced to local manufacturers. When an international retailer establishes in Sydney it is soon found - within a year or two or three years - that the retailer purchases local manufactures, which are then exported around the world. The Government makes no apology for going out to attract all of the major international retailers to Sydney. If one goes for a walk around Sydney one will find that it is already a superb international shopping destination. The Government makes no apology for that and it is going to make sure that Sydney is second to none as an international shopping location.
NARDOOLA ABORIGINAL ACCOMMODATION PROJECT
The Hon. JANELLE SAFFIN:
Could the Minister for Community Services, Minister for Aged Services, and Minister for Disability Services inform the House of a new program in north-western New South Wales for young Aboriginal minor offenders?
The Hon. R. D. DYER:
On Wednesday of last week I had the pleasure of officially opening the Nardoola project near Moree. I note that two of my colleagues opposite, the Hon. Patricia Forsythe and the Hon. M. R. Kersten, were present at that significant event, as was my colleague the parliamentary secretary for Aboriginal affairs, Mr Col Markham, the honourable member for Keira. Nardoola, which is situated on land leased to the Government by the Aboriginal Lands Council, will provide safe and stable short- to medium-term accommodation for up to eight young minor Aboriginal offenders at any one time. Those young offenders are on remand and would otherwise have been refused bail because they are unable to live with their families or independently, are on community-based orders, or are nearing the completion of a custodial order and their chances of reintegration can be enhanced by a pre-discharge placement at Nardoola.
The name Nardoola means place of learning, and that most certainly is what this project is all about. Local organisations will provide programs for the young people at Nardoola. Those programs will include living skills, literacy and numeracy tuition, alcohol and drug education, general counselling and cultural awareness. The innovative Nardoola project came about following meetings of the community youth support task force, which examined economic and cultural problems in north-western New South Wales. One of the issues raised was a need for a residential facility so that young Aboriginal minor offenders could remain within their community and close to their families. It is traumatic for young offenders who are refused bail to be detained hundreds of kilometres away in Sydney, Wollongong or Newcastle, as has generally been the case until now.
Community consultation and cooperation have been vital to the success of the project. Many State, local and Federal government organisations have contributed to the establishment of Nardoola. I particularly mention the assistance of the Aboriginal community, which has been passionate in its support of all the juvenile justice projects aimed at young offenders. The Department of Juvenile Justice has contributed $368,000 to the establishment of Nardoola. It is not a detention centre and no young persons will be placed there if they are considered to be a threat to the community or themselves. Nardoola is, however, an important initiative in helping young offenders to break the crime cycle.
NEWCASTLE ECONOMIC INITIATIVES
The Hon. D. J. GAY:
My question is directed to the Treasurer, Minister for Energy, Minister for State and Regional Development, Minister Assisting the Premier, and Vice-President of the Executive Council. I listened with interest to his claims about the Hunter region in relation to initiatives taken by the Federal Government. Given the disgraceful situation that Parliament will not return until April next year, what strategy does he as Treasurer and Minister for State and Regional Development have in place in case of major changes to activities of
Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited in Newcastle following the company's final decisions which are due early in the new year? Is the Minister just sitting on his hands on this matter? Has he looked at the possibility of moving a government department to Newcastle? Would it not be sensible to move the headquarters of departments such as mines and fisheries to Newcastle?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN:
To my knowledge no department is looking at relocating from Sydney to Newcastle.
The Hon. R. T. M. Bull:
You agree with the concept?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN:
If a particular proposal is put to me, I will be happy to consider it.
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY:
My question is directed to the Treasurer, representing the Minister for Roads. Did the Carr Government whilst in Opposition promise a toll-free Eastern Distributor? How does the Government explain that whilst there is no public money for the Eastern Distributor it is able to come up with $564 million to build a toll-free 13.2 kilometre extension to the M5? Why was a toll not required for the Gore Hill Freeway extension? Why was a toll not required for the Glebe Island Bridge? Will a toll be payable on the M5 extension? Will the Eastern Distributor be a second-rate build-own-operate-transfer scheme which will be neither economically nor environmentally rational?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN:
I will refer that potpourri of questions to my colleague the Minister for Roads for a detailed response.
OFFICE OF THE DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC PROSECUTIONS FUNDING
The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD:
I ask the Attorney General, and Minister for Industrial Relations: what defence does the Attorney provide in response to the Director of Public Prosecution's criticism contained in the 1995-96 annual report that government interference is threatening the independence of the Director of Public Prosecutions? Can the Attorney assure the House, and indeed the Director of Public Prosecutions, that future budgetary allocations will be sufficient to enable the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions to operate as it should in the prosecution of criminal matters - I quote directly from the annual report - avoiding "the situation of having our decisions made for us, in effect, by those who control the purse strings"?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW:
Finite resources for a prosecution do not constitute government interference. Finite resources are simply an inevitable fact of life under any government. A certain quantum of resources is given to the prosecution. That does not constitute government interference. There is no evidence of any government interference with the Director of Public Prosecutions, his office or his functions.
PEAT ISLAND HOSPITAL MANAGEMENT PLAN
The Hon. M. J. GALLACHER:
My question is directed to the Minister for Community Services, Minister for Aged Services, and Minister for Disability Services. Did management at the Peat Island centre issue an updated management plan in June 1996? Does the plan contain in excess of 55 items for action as part of the internal audit implementation plan? Were all items to have commenced by September 1996? Are all now being implemented? If not, why not?
The Hon. R. D. DYER:
The question obviously involves matters of detail. I shall provide the honourable member with a detailed response.
The Hon. HELEN SHAM-HO:
My question is addressed to the Attorney General, and Minister for Industrial Relations, representing the Minister for Police. I refer the Minister to the answer by the Treasurer in relation to attracting tourists to Sydney. Is the Minister aware of the latest attack in which a 20-year-old student allegedly fired into a group of British, American and Canadian tourists in Pitt Street, Sydney, hitting one and narrowly missing the others? Is the Minister also aware that Australia's reputation as a safe travel haven for tourists has been severely damaged by the wave of attacks on tourists this year and that the chief of Tourism Council Australia, Mr Bruce Baird, has warned that our international tourism trade is in danger? What actions will the Minister take to make our streets safer, and what is the Government going to do to reassure tourists that it is safe to visit New South Wales?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW:
I am sure that all members of this House would be concerned about the safety of people in the streets, and the safety of tourists obviously falls within that broader concept. I am aware of press reports of the incident to which the honourable member referred. I am sure all people were saddened to hear of the incident. I do not think that I should offer any platitudes about how the police can make the streets safer. It is a problem which is easier to pose than to answer but I will refer the matter to the Minister for Police and seek a more detailed response for the honourable member as to what strategies the new police commissioner is adopting in that regard.
GRAVE ROBBER ICE-CREAM
The Hon. A. G. CORBETT:
I ask the Treasurer, Minister for Energy, Minister for State and Regional Development, Minister Assisting the
Premier, and Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government: does the Minister condone the decision by Streets Ice Cream to trivialise an abhorrent and illegal practice by marketing an ice-cream called Grave Robber? Will the Minister convey the Government's disgust to Streets about its promotion?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN:
I am not aware of the issue. It does not appear to me to be a particularly appropriate name for an ice-cream, but as I have not bought an ice-cream in a long time -
The Hon. R. T. M. Bull:
You are deprived.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN:
Some of us have to watch our weight.
The Hon. R. T. M. Bull:
The Hon. M. R. EGAN:
You and I both. I will have a look at the issue and perhaps give a considered response later.
PUBLIC HOUSING FIRE SAFETY
The Hon. J. F. RYAN:
Is the Attorney General aware that the Deputy State Coroner has recommended that the New South Wales Parliament should establish a parliamentary committee to investigate aspects of fire safety in public housing? In view of the fact that this recommendation was made orally in court last Wednesday, will the Attorney give a commitment to the House that he will instruct the Department of Courts Administration to provide a transcript of the recommendations to members of this House and to the Minister for Housing by the end of this week?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW:
I must confess that I am not aware of the recommendation of the Deputy State Coroner to which the honourable member referred. I will certainly make myself aware of it. I will ascertain whether a transcript can be provided. The Department of Courts Administration no longer exists but the honourable member obviously refers, in effect, to the Attorney General's Department. If a significant recommendation about fire safety has been made, as I assume is the case from the honourable member's question, I will take urgent steps to have a transcript of the recommendations made available to the appropriate authorities.
HOTEL POKER MACHINES
The Hon. ELAINE NILE:
I ask the Minister for Community Services, representing the Minister for Gaming and Racing, whether it is a fact that the Government plans to allow each hotel to install up to 15 poker machines? Will this policy have a damaging impact on society and the registered clubs of New South Wales and their one million members? In view of the massive $1 million protest by the registered clubs of New South Wales and churches, will the Government review and/or scrap this anti-social hotel poker machine policy?
The Hon. R. D. DYER:
The Government has approved a proposal along the general lines indicated in the question of the Hon. Elaine Nile. Legislation will shortly come forward and there will be an opportunity for both Houses of this Parliament to debate the merits of the matter.
The Hon. VIRGINIA CHADWICK:
I direct my question without notice to the Attorney General, representing the Minister for Education and Training. Is it a fact that in the 18 months to June 1996 there have been an average of about 1.3 assaults per day on students and teachers in public schools? In that period why have there been next to no expulsions of students from State schools?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW:
I shall be happy to refer the honourable member's question to the Minister for Education and Training and obtain a reply.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN:
In view of the time, if honourable members have further questions I suggest they put them on notice.
GRAVE ROBBER ICE-CREAM
The Hon. M. R. EGAN:
Earlier in question time the Hon. A. G. Corbett asked me a question about Grave Robber ice-cream. I am informed by the Minister for Fair Trading that while she shares the honourable member's distaste for this form of marketing, she has no power to ban an ice-cream product on the grounds of bad taste. The Minister's powers to make banning orders pertain strictly to cases of dangerous products which pose threats to the health and safety of New South Wales citizens. However, the Minister has expressed her willingness to add her support to the honourable member's calls for Streets to withdraw this product from sale. The Minister agrees that many people would find it tasteless and offensive. Anyway, Magnums are heaven on a stick.
Questions without notice concluded.
ETHNIC AFFAIRS COMMISSION AMENDMENT BILL
Debate resumed from an earlier hour.
The Hon. J. M. SAMIOS
[5.02]: I had pointed out the significant benchmarks in the development of legislation and in statutory authorities providing for cultural diversity. I drew the attention of honourable members to the commendable structures now in place to deal with these issues, including agencies such as the Anti-Discrimination Board, the Ethnic Affairs Commission, and the Equal Opportunity Tribunal. I referred to the charter introduced by the Fahey Government and the bipartisan approach that the Government is embarking on by enshrining the
principles of that charter in this legislation. Certain machinery provisions enable agreements to be made between the Ethnic Affairs Commission and various government agencies.
Those important amendments give the commission the power to initiate, negotiate and assist in implementing Ethnic Affairs Commission agreements with State government agencies. The legislation includes reporting provisions so that Parliament will be adequately informed on a regular basis as to these important initiatives. In closing, I commend the Government for acknowledging the importance of the bipartisan approach and of the charter of principles, introduced originally by the Fahey Government and later referred to in my bill. I stress the importance of maintaining this bipartisan link in the area of national multiculturalism. All the structures I have mentioned underpin the social cohesion of our multicultural society and provide the necessary harmony that will carry us into the next millennium with appropriate happiness and the democratic procedures for which this nation has been acknowledged. I commend the bill.
The Hon. FRANCA ARENA
[5.08]: I support the Ethnic Affairs Commission Amendment Bill. Recently the Prime Minister, the Hon. John Howard, said that Australia did not have a racist past. Unfortunately, I disagree with the Prime Minister; Australia has a very racist past. The white Australia policy required a dictation test until 1956. Although some changes were made in the 1960s under Harold Holt, a dramatic change of policy happened in 1972 with the introduction of a non-discriminatory policy based not on race or colour but on merit and the ability of people to settle in Australia. The year 1972 was important for non-discriminatory policy. In the 1970s the women's movements and the black - or Aboriginal - movement commenced, and the awakening of the ethnic movement occurred. After years of preparation, hard work and meetings, 1975 saw the establishment of the Ethnic Communities Council of New South Wales - a community-based organisation of which the Hon. J. M. Samios has been chairperson, and of which I have been a deputy chairperson, for many years.
In those years ethnic radio also commenced. In 1974, under a coalition government, Steve Mauger established a small unit in the Department of Youth and Community Services - as it was then known - under Nadia Lozzi-Cuthbertson, a very talented woman, who has become a Minister in Norfolk Island. Mr Mauger set up a consultative committee on ethnic affairs, chaired by Vlado Menart. That committee was set up under a Liberal government; I was the deputy chair of the committee and the Hon. J. M. Samios was a member. We always tried to work in a bipartisan fashion. All of these efforts, government and non-government, came to fruition with the setting up of the Ethnic Affairs Commission in 1979. This is one of the best reports ever written about ethnic communities. I had a copy of it, but someone borrowed it and, as often happens with borrowing, I never saw my copy again and had to borrow a copy from the Parliamentary Library.
This excellent report, written by many people from different areas, deals with questions relating to women, industrial relations, trade unionism and immigrant workers. Paolo Totaro came to Australia as a Fiat executive and had multicultural experience on the multicultural arts board of the Australia Council. He was the first chairperson of the Ethnic Affairs Commission and did an excellent job until he retired in 1989 - or maybe he was forced to retire; it is hard to tell. The Ethnic Affairs Commission Act has not been reviewed in all these years. Nor was the work of the commission reviewed. When in opposition I became parliamentary secretary to now Premier Bob Carr. The ethnic affairs task force had wide consultation with people and organisations all over the State. The 12 members of that task force included members of the lower House and members of the upper House. Some of them were meticulous in their attendance at meetings all over the State. Others came only to have their photograph taken with the Leader of the Opposition, and we never saw them again. I will not mention names.
The Hon. J. Kaldis, who is in the Chamber, was most diligent in attending meetings, coming from Newcastle and Wollongong to do so. I pay tribute to him for the excellent work he is doing as chairman of the ethnic affairs task force, whose members include people such as Doug Shedden of the lower House and others whose names do not come readily to mind. The ethnic affairs task force consulted ethnic communities and received many reports before preparing the ethnic affairs policy entitled "Taking up the Challenge 1995", which was the document used by the Labor Party for the 1995 elections. I always keep this important document with me because, apart from having written it, it is a good reminder of Labor's promise to the people in the 1995 election. If we remember the promises we make, we will keep our promises. The Ethnic Affairs Commission Amendment Bill is the fulfilment of one of the promises we made. I read from page 5 of the ethnic affairs policy statement document. It states:
The Ethnic Affairs Policy Statements, introduced in 1983, are the management strategies and policies which each New South Wales Government Department and Statutory Authority undertakes to ensure that all of its programs and services are appropriate and accessible to people of non-English speaking background.
The EAPS program has practically been abolished by the Liberal/National Government and at times it has been used to dismantle essential specialist services. A Labor Government will
•Give a legislative basis to EAPS and ensure that reports are presented to Parliament on an annual basis.
That was the promise Labor made before it came to government, and it is the promise it fulfils with the bill before the House. Proposed new section 17 provides:
The Commission is to prepare a report on the status of ethnic affairs in the State in respect of each calender year (commencing with 1997). The report may include recommendations of the Commission in relation to any relevant matters.
Why did we include that provision? The Hon. J. M. Samios, who himself has wide consultation with ethnic communities, knows that one of the biggest enemies of the full integration process is middle bureaucracy, which says yes, yes, yes to many initiatives but then finds it difficult to implement those initiatives. Even though there was goodwill on the part of the government of the day, Liberal or Labor, to implement new policy, the middle level of the bureaucracy had great difficulty implementing the new reforms. Therefore, Labor gave the Ethnic Affairs Commission the task of setting up these statements by which we could monitor what departments were doing for the citizens of the State who are of non-English speaking background, and whether the services of those departments were relevant, culturally appropriate, and so on. Unfortunately the Ethnic Affairs Commission, even though it enjoyed substantial kudos and had substantial intestinal fortitude, sometimes was not as powerful as it needed to be in dealing with other departments such as the Police Service and the Department of Community Services.
The Hon. J. M. Samios:
It was a junior department by comparison.
The Hon. FRANCA ARENA:
As the Hon. J. M. Samios says, it was a junior department by comparison. Therefore it was important to give legislative base to the ethnic affairs policy statements. That is the proposal before the House today. I am sure that this bill will result in significant change, though perhaps not immediately, because once departments are required to report to Parliament and those reports must be tabled in this House we will all be able to monitor what has been happening. That will make an enormous difference. I realise that quite a few honourable members want to speak on this important bill.
I have spoken at length on various occasions about issues related to ethnic affairs, so I will not delay the House much further. However, I wish to place on record my wholehearted support for this initiative of the Labor Government. I know it will be well received by all ethnic communities. In conclusion, I should like to say that I was pleased that the Ethnic Communities Council of New South Wales issued a press release on 23 October supporting this Government initiative. The heading of that press release, "New era for ethnic affairs", says it all.
The Hon. HELEN SHAM-HO
[5.17]: I also support this very important amendment, which I am delighted to say has bipartisan support. There has been some criticism that the Opposition and the Government have adopted a bipartisan approach. However, this matter will produce such positive and beneficial effects that it is important to have bipartisan agreement on it. I commend the Government for adopting an amendment that was moved in the other place. The Ethnic Affairs Commission Amendment Bill was amended in the lower House to reflect some of the concerns that have been expressed by the shadow minister for ethnic affairs, the Hon. J. M. Samios. I hope that the unanimous adoption of the measure by members of the other place will be repeated by honourable members of this House. I read carefully the second reading speech of the Treasurer, the Leader of the Government in this House. I have to say that his second reading speech spelt out much more fully and better the content and objectives of the bill than did the Premier in his second reading speech. I commend the Treasurer on his second reading speech. Every honourable member should read it because in it the Treasurer sets out clearly the objectives of the bill and other issues raised by it.
The Hon. Franca Arena spoke about the history of ethnic affairs in this State. I place on record my pride that it was a coalition government of this State that established the first ministry of ethnic affairs in Australia. It was the late Stephen Mauger of the Liberal Party who was given the ministry of ethnic affairs. I think honourable members know that the ministry was within the Premier's Department under the Wran Government. It was a stand-alone ministry under the Hon. Michael Photios when he was Minister for Multicultural and Ethnic Affairs. Without being too partisan about this matter - because this issue should not be about party politics - I think Premier Carr is too busy as Premier to look after the portfolio of ethnic affairs. As I have said in this Chamber before, past Ministers for Ethnic Affairs have been present at many ethnic functions, but I seldom see Premier Carr, who is also Minister for Ethnic Affairs, at ethnic functions. It is important that ethnic affairs not be neglected because of the busy schedule of the Premier.
As have the Hon. Franca Arena, the Hon. J. Kaldis and the Hon. J. M. Samios, I have been involved with ethnic affairs for many years. I am proud to say that I was appointed as a commissioner with the Ethnic Affairs Commission by the Wran Government. It was not a political appointment, but rather, I hope, I was appointed on ability. I certainly agree with the Hon. Franca Arena that the ethnic affairs policy statement at that time was not very successful because each public authority refused to make a policy statement. Every year it took considerable effort and time for staff to chase up departments for their reports and policy statements. I am pleased that the Government has seen fit to incorporate in the legislation the requirement of public authorities to prepare ethnic affairs reports.
The other main amendment to the bill relates to the ethnic affairs agreements between public authorities and the commission. Often the core activities of public authorities do not relate to ethnic affairs issues affecting ethnic communities. If the Ethnic Affairs Commission can negotiate with the public authorities, those ethnic affairs issues will be
dealt with. I think this is another wonderful initiative. I take this opportunity to mention again in this Chamber the racial debate that has been raging for the last two months in this country. I have said repeatedly, in this Chamber and outside, that racial tolerance should be accepted as our core value in this country. The contribution of migrants should be recognised in all quarters. The bipartisan resolution passed on 30 October by the Federal Parliament is to be commended. Like the Ethnic Affairs Commission Amendment Bill, it is a statement in the current climate that reaffirms our racial tolerance. I take this opportunity to put on record the joint resolution moved by the Prime Minister and supported by the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Beazley. By leave, that document will be incorporated in Hansard
Reaffirms its commitment to the right of all Australians to enjoy equal rights and be treated with equal respect regardless of race, colour, creed or origin;
Reaffirms its commitment to maintaining an immigration policy wholly non-discriminatory on grounds of race, colour, creed or origin;
Reaffirms its commitment to the process of reconciliation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, in the context of redressing their profound social and economic disadvantage;
Reaffirms its commitment to maintaining Australia as a culturally diverse, tolerant and open society, united by an over-riding commitment to our nation, and its democratic institutions and values; and
Denounces racial intolerance in any form as incompatible with the kind of society we are and want to be.
The Hon. HELEN SHAM-HO:
That is an important signal in this country and internationally that Australia, at least in the past 30 years, has been a culturally tolerant society, that the white Australia policy is long dead and gone, and that Australia's indigenous people have been accepted as the original settlers of the country. The migrants who have come to this country over the past three decades should be recognised as Australians. The people of this country should not be divided because some of us look different and have different cultural backgrounds or religions.
Since its inception the Ethnic Affairs Commission has done a marvellous job of integrating migrants into this country. I commend the first chairman of the Ethnic Affairs Commission, Dr Paolo Totaro, whom I admire very much, for his work in the investigation that led to the "Participation" report. That valuable document is a blueprint almost for Australia's future. Now, more than 15 years down the track, the recommendations of Dr Totaro have been adopted by this country. I am pleased to have been a colleague of Dr Totaro. I take this opportunity to put on the record that the current Chairman, Mr Stepan Kerkyasharian, has also done a very good job in pushing forward the work of the Ethnic Affairs Commission. I have no reservations whatsoever in recommending the commission's work to all honourable members and to the community.
In the debate on the Charter of Principles for a Culturally Diverse Society Bill, which was passed by this Chamber, I spoke about the importance of incorporating the charter as government policy, and I am pleased that the Government has seen fit to do that. Those principles are: to ensure that all individuals in New South Wales have the opportunity to contribute to and participate in all levels of public life; to ensure that all individuals in public institutions respect and accommodate the culture, language and religion of others within an Australian legal and institutional framework in which English is the primary language; to ensure that all activities are widely accessible and delivered with flexibility and accommodate the needs of a multicultural society; and to ensure that all New South Wales public institutions recognise the linguistic and cultural assets in the population as a valuable resource and utilise and promote this resource to maximise the development of the State.
The amending bill contains other initiatives, for instance, incorporating a deaf sign interpreting service as part of the activities of the commission. I should have preferred that the service be incorporated in the Ageing and Disability Department, but as it is a service to people whether of ethnic origin or not, it is a good idea. Though it is not appropriate, I accept that it is a provision in the bill.
Finally, the commission's charter - to promote the social, cultural and economic benefits of a culturally diverse society - is an honourable objective. The provisions of the bill will build on the existing strength of the commission. I am pleased that the Government has introduced this initiative. Migrants can be secure in the knowledge that the Government has not abandoned them; that they are important and will be treated equally. The commission should continue its valuable work. I support the bill.
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY
[5.31]: On behalf of the Australian Democrats I am pleased to support the Ethnic Affairs Commission Amendment Bill. In the last half-century more than five million people have migrated to Australia from more than 150 countries. According to the Atlas of Australian People
, which was released in May, Sydney is Australia's most cosmopolitan city with about 33 per cent of the population having been born overseas. Since 1947 some 48.5 per cent of New South Wales' population growth can be directly attributed to immigration. Today Sydney is the most multicultural city in Australia's most multicultural State. At the time of the 1991 census 22.8 per cent of the New South Wales population had been born overseas. Out of this group 65.4 per cent were born in a non-English speaking country.
The composition of the people settling in New South Wales is rapidly changing. Between 1985-86 and 1991-92 the proportion of settlers from the United Kingdom fell from 12.2 per cent to 8.9 per cent. In the same period the proportion of migrants from Asia increased from 35.4 per cent to 53.8 per cent. I vividly remember that when I first came to Australia in 1963, after living in South-east Asia for some 15 years, I felt extremely uneasy about being in a mainly Caucasian city because for a long time I had been used to living in a multicultural society. At the beginning I found it very difficult to settle down. One of the reasons for the relative success of this big intake has been the policy of multiculturalism. This has the underlying message, that we accept people as Australians regardless of their religion, culture or race. On 31 May, Irene Moss, the New South Wales Ombudsman, in an article published in the Sydney Morning Herald
. . . we have not always been this culturally diverse and we certainly have not always been this tolerant. As Australia has become increasingly multicultural, we have developed a multicultural policy which has fostered racial harmony and social cohesion.
What our cost effective multicultural policy has done is to create a welcoming atmosphere in Australia for many people arriving from overseas. It has encouraged young people to participate more fully in Australian life and allowed Australia's economic and cultural life to benefit from the rich human resources on offer.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s ethnic affairs had a strong equity and welfare focus. Whilst we must remain firmly committed to these principles, we also need to take positive steps to realise the value of cultural diversity as an economic and social resource. This shift in emphasis should go hand in hand with major changes to the public sector, giving it more autonomy, flexibility and, most importantly, increasing its public accountability. The Ethnic Affairs Commission Amendment Bill seeks to continue this process whilst strengthening the role of the commission and ethnic diversity in New South Wales. The Australian Democrats are pleased to support the major changes proposed by the bill, including the insertion of the proposed section 15(d) into the Act to expand the objects of the commission to promote the social, cultural and economic benefits of a culturally diverse society.
One of the key amendments, which the Australian Democrats are also pleased to support, is the inclusion for the first time in any Australian legislation of a comprehensive set of principles of cultural diversity. The principles demonstrate Parliament's support for our culturally diverse society and its recognition of the linguistic and cultural assets in the population as a valuable resource. The Australian Democrats are also supportive of the bill's requirement that all public authorities observe these principles in conducting their affairs. Another key amendment relates to ethnic affairs agreements between one or more public authorities and the Ethnic Affairs Commission. The purpose of the agreements is to address specific issues or problems that may affect members of ethnic communities that require joint activity and cooperation.
The bill also contains a number of amendments designed to enhance the role of the Ethnic Affairs Commission in monitoring ethnic affairs outcomes across the public sector. The commission's monitoring role will be achieved by requiring the commission to prepare at the end of each year a report on the status of ethnic affairs in New South Wales. These changes to the focus of the public sector are especially important when we consider the role that public sector agencies play in both service provision to ethnic communities and shaping public policy. This point was made by the Chairman of the Ethnic Affairs Commission, Mr Stepan Kerkyasharian, in a recent address to the Sydney institute. Mr Kerkyasharian said:
The Ethnic Affairs Commission as a government agency has always stressed the importance of transforming the public sector, because the way public services are delivered to the people - fairly or unfairly, sensitively or with a contempt for the needs of the weak or inarticulate - is a key marker of a fair society. And of course the extent to which an individual has access to public services can make the difference between successful and unsuccessful settlement in a country.
[But in this respect, it is also important to note, that] after more than a decade of multiculturalism and equal employment opportunity, the bastions of the establishment very much reflect the demography of the 1950's, dominated by white Anglo-Saxon and Celtic males. I refer here to the judiciary, the higher echelons of the police services around the country, of the medical profession and of the public service. Of the 93 Heads of Department, declared authorities and agencies within the NSW Public Service there were - as far as I can ascertain - only three women, one aboriginal who heads the Aboriginal Department, and one migrant of non Anglo-Saxon or Celtic background who heads the Ethnic Affairs Commission. A 1990 survey by the Office of the Director of Equal Opportunity in Public Employment indicated that 9.3% of NSW Police Officers were of non-English speaking background and 1% were Aboriginal. Latest figures show that only 2% of the Senior Executive Service are of Non-English speaking background.
It is in view of those figures, if for nothing else, that the Australian Democrats are pleased to support the bill. It is my belief that those who are hostile to multiculturalism are actually resisting a version of the policy which was never seriously proposed or even advocated in Australia - that is, the kind of total cultural relativism where English is just another community language and public ethics are defined by private cultural histories. I turn again to the words of Irene Moss:
Our multicultural policy explicitly demands an overriding commitment to Australia, including its laws, structures and institutions. It gives legitimacy, within limits, to cultural heritages and their expression. It promotes not just a fair go, but equitable treatment and equal opportunity - so all can share the good things this country has to offer. When you consider the right to cultural heritage together with the right to access and equity, you have a formula for what I would term a more permeable society.
Although I am delighted to support the legislation, I was interested to read - and would like to quote from - an article in yesterday's Sydney Morning Herald
, which was written by Dai Le, a Sydney television researcher, who came to Australia 17 years ago from Vietnam, through Hong Kong. Dai Le refers in the article to how well received she was 17 years ago; how easy her assimilation into our society was made for her. She made the following statement:
Migrant resource centres, language classes and other services to assist new migrants are necessary. But I sometimes wonder whether we've concentrated too much on migrants' differences with the provision of these services. Perhaps we should use them to integrate migrants into our society so that people won't feel so suspicious or feel that migrants are always being helped and fail to join the mainstream.
The people who helped us didn't resent us because they had nothing to fear. They were ordinary, working-class, dinky-di families. They took the extra step, they made the effort to understand what we'd been through. We were treated as people, not as ethnics. We could laugh with them, cry with them.
New migrants must not be seen as ethnics but as Australians. They see this country as a land of opportunity with the chance of being Australian. When people are not accepted for who they are, they are forced to seek solace in their own kind. That's when people form those ghettos that the media loves to report.
It is a very moving article and I recommend it to those honourable members who have not read it. I am delighted to support the legislation, particularly at this time when divisive debate on whether or not we should have more migrants or any migrants from certain countries is going a long way towards spoiling Australia's record as a successful multicultural society.
The Hon. P. T. PRIMROSE
[5.43]: I support the Ethnic Affairs Commission Amendment Bill. It is the result of a comprehensive review of the Ethnic Affairs Commission Act, which led to the recent white paper entitled "Building on our Cultural Diversity". More than 40 per cent of the population of New South Wales is either overseas born or has one or more parents born overseas. Our State's population is also linguistically diverse; the fastest-growing languages include Chinese, Arabic and Vietnamese. One of the key proposals in the bill that I want to focus on is the inclusion, for the first time in Australian legislation, of a comprehensive set of principles of cultural diversity. Proposed section 3(2) defines cultural diversity by referring to the whole population of New South Wales, which comprises people from a range of cultural, ethnic, linguistic and religious backgrounds. At their core, these principles propose that all members of our community receive a fair go. That is a concept that may seem hackneyed and overused, but I think most people in Australia still understand and aspire to what it means. No legal counsel could say it better; all our citizens deserve a fair go.
The concept formed the title and theme for the Government's recently released social justice directions statement: "Fair Go, Fair Share, Fair Say". That document incorporates the concept that our cultural diversity is part of our social capital, contributing to our economic development. Principle two talks about the need to respect and accommodate the culture, language and religion of others within an Australian legal and institutional framework where English is the primary language. Two key terms stand out: respect and accommodate. What do they mean in practice? I would like to give an example of what they might mean. A few years ago when I was an alderman on Campbelltown City Council, the council had to make a decision on a development application for an Islamic centre. The application was a boon for some of my more mercenary political opponents who proceeded to whip up racial hatred and anxiety, which subsequently led to the Ethnic Affairs Commission taking a direct interest in council's deliberations.
Prior to receiving the city planner's report on the application, I issued a media statement on behalf of the Labor team setting out our views. They were that our decision would be based on the planning laws and not the race or religion of the applicant. If the city planner recommended approval, we would vote for approval and bear the angst of a large section of the local community; if the recommendation was to reject, I would vote accordingly, and be accused of being a racist. The recommendation was for approval and the Labor team voted accordingly. We also paid the price. On the way out of the meeting I was kicked and punched, and my car had its side kicked in. Over the subsequent three weeks prior to a recision motion being debated, I continued to receive many threats. My wife and small son were pursued in a car and almost killed by my concerned constituents screaming abuse about my vote.
I raise this matter not as an example of racism in our community but because, during this whole period, it was clear that the representatives of the Ethnic Affairs Commission strongly believed that my decision on the Islamic centre was and should have been based on ethnic considerations. If I had decided to vote against it, the assumption would have been that I had done so on the grounds of race. In my view, the commission was as bad as the bigots. In reality, I could have voted either way, subject to the professional assessment of the city planner - and, of course, my judgment on his views. I did not seek, nor did I appreciate, the comments by commission staff that we stood up against racism. We sought to respect and accommodate the culture, religion and language of others within our legal and institutional framework. We stood up for the law and for a fair go, not for any one group on the basis of ethnicity. That is surely what the ultimate goal of the four principles in this legislation is all about. The principles also define our cultural diversity as a positive and valuable economic resource, which has already succeeded in attracting business to our State. The message is simple: multiculturalism offers economic advantages.
Our diverse linguistic skills and cultural diversity are positives, not negatives. This strength is specially defined in principle four: all public institutions of New South Wales should recognise the linguistic and cultural assets in the population of New South Wales as a valuable resource and promote this resource to maximise the development of the State. For too long we have only considered the costs of multiculturalism and the additional cost to provide culturally relevant services, but it is a measurable part of our social capital. How many of us have sought to learn a second or third language, or to study the culture and mores of other countries to improve our skills? What an incredible shift in perception for our community to recognise the pivotal point being made in principle four, that cultural diversity is a tangible net economic asset, not a liability.
The Premier has cited the decision by American Express to choose Sydney as the location for its regional headquarters on the basis of our language and cultural resources as a positive example of this asset at work. Our cultural diversity was also one of the strengths of Sydney's successful Olympic Games bid. I also wish to comment on the reporting provisions within the bill, which seek to enhance the commission's monitoring role across the public sector. In the past, government departments have had vague ethnic affairs policy statements which were often unread and certainly never policed. This bill provides for the commission to enter into agreements with one or more public authorities each year to address specific problems that require joint activity. The agreements will have fixed time frames, defined objectives and strategies and performance indicators.
The commission will also be required to have tabled in Parliament at the end of each year a report on the status of ethnic affairs in New South Wales. Those public agencies that have not cooperated or performed according to the agreements entered into by the commission and achieved meaningful outcomes will be subject to the full scrutiny of Parliament and the public generally. The amendment agreed to in the other place, in particular requiring the chief executive officer of each public authority to be responsible for implementing the principles of cultural diversity, is a positive and effective initiative towards ensuring that there will be measurable outcomes from this legislation. Peter Collins, MP, the Leader of the Opposition, in a speech to the Liberal Party's State convention on Sunday, 27 October 1996, stated:
Sydney is a confident, cosmopolitan city. It is a thriving business hub. It has a sound political climate.
I can but agree. Legislation such as this bill will further add to that economic success and, I hope for many years, the sound political climate that we have not only in Sydney but throughout New South Wales. That should be compared with the chaos that has been caused by the inaction of the Prime Minister in Canberra in the past few months. Following community outrage about racism Australia received not leadership but comments such as:
There has been a pall of censorship in our society. It's time to speak a little more openly about what we feel without living in fear of being branded a bigot or racist.
The same Prime Minister castigates schoolteachers for telling their students the real history of Australian settlement, giving as his excuse the hackneyed line that it all happened so long ago. I was under the impression that a lot of history happened in the past. World War II is in the past, but I do not hear the Prime Minister asking Australia's Jewish community to forget. Also, the Commonwealth Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, Senator Herron, has announced that Aboriginal children have actually benefited from being removed from their families. The bipartisan debate in Canberra recently on the issue of cultural diversity should have been an opportunity for the Prime Minister to again show leadership. But again in his address he equivocated. The words of the motion were fine, but the Prime Minister has indicated to the world that just maybe he does not really believe it all that much. As Geoff Kitney stated in the Sydney Morning Herald
on the day after the debate, the circumstances that led to it being required to take place at all "need not have arisen if the Prime Minister had more decisively used his authority to challenge, reject and correct" ill-informed and provocative racial views.
Instead of leadership from the Prime Minister we have had what I call moral correctness. This new moral correctness propounds that we selectively forgive and forget, but we do not learn from our mistakes or compensate the victims. That is the philosophy of the relaxed and comfortable society. It is the philosophy that denounces fairness in favour of sameness and the philosophy that perpetuates the myth that Australia is monocultural. Moral correctness propounds that one has the right to say what one wants; one can argue in the way one wants without ever having to provide the proof. That is the philosophy that lets politicians and bigots claim that our country is being overrun by Asian hordes spreading tuberculosis, without ever having to worry about letting the truth or reality get in the way. Moral correctness is neither moral nor correct; it is only convenient. Australia deserves better from its Prime Minister. I support the bill.
The Hon. J. KALDIS
[5.54]: I am delighted to speak in support of the Government's Ethnic Affairs Commission Amendment Bill, which could not have been introduced at a more appropriate time in New South Wales. It comes at a time when Australia is witnessing a period of debate and a degree of uncertainty about our values of fairness and equal rights and about where we are heading as a society. For many years, at both the State and Commonwealth level, both the Government and the Opposition have approached multiculturalism and ethnic affairs in a bipartisan manner. Leaders from across the political spectrum have stated their
support for our culturally diverse communities and for ensuring that we continue to have a healthy, nondiscriminatory and equitable immigration program.
As we read in the press on a daily basis, sadly some of this leadership and bipartisanship is being challenged. Tonight in the Legislative Council, however, could be a significant turning point for New South Wales in terms of this debate. It could also be an important turning point for Australia as the State of New South Wales again takes the lead in promoting cultural diversity and stands up and affirms the need for a tolerant and harmonious community. This evening, members of the Legislative Council, we can together start a process of bringing public debate back onto firm ground; back to a position that recognises the strengths of all people in this State. Today should be the day when the Parliament demonstrates its bipartisan support for reforms in ethnic affairs that will benefit the whole community.
I am pleased to note that this bill has already received bipartisan support in the Legislative Assembly. I also note that such support has led to three amendments to the bill being accepted by the Government. The amendments make the bill an even stronger legislative instrument in terms of ethnic affairs, and those on both sides involved in the bill's drafting and refinement should be commended for their work. As the Premier has noted, New South Wales has a proud history of giving all members of the community a fair go. I strongly believe that our tolerant and multicultural society will endure and may become even stronger against the current challenges and debate. However, I also believe that now is the right time for all politicians to give their personal and political support to the value of cultural diversity and to build a more responsive and responsible public sector.
Against the current debate, I again note how timely and appropriate it is that the New South Wales Parliament should be in a position to demonstrate its support through supporting the amendments to the Ethnic Affairs Commission Act. I call on all members of the House to demonstrate their support by voting yes to the bill. In so doing they will be voting yes to supporting the principles of cultural diversity; voting yes to supporting community harmony and tolerance between all members of the community; and, importantly, voting yes to expanding the objects and functions of the Ethnic Affairs Commission to allow it to play an enhanced role in fostering unity and in promoting the social, cultural and economic benefits of our culturally diverse community. Each of the important amendments should receive the unequivocal support of all members of the House. I support the bill.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE
[6.00]: The Call to Australia party supports the Ethnic Affairs Commission Amendment Bill 1996, which will amend the Ethnic Affairs Commission Act 1979 to endorse certain principles of cultural diversity, to enhance the objects and functions of the Ethnic Affairs Commission, to provide for ethnic affairs agreements between public authorities and the commission, and to require preparation by the commission of annual ethnic affairs reports. The bill is the result of a 12-month review process in fulfilment of a pre-election commitment of the Labor Government. The legislation also embodies the objectives of the Opposition and its original charter dealing with this issue.
After six months of consultation, in May 1996 a draft report was presented as a green paper. More than 90 written submissions were received on the document. Based on that feedback, a white paper was prepared, which formed the cornerstone of the bill. The legislation strongly supports the rights of all individuals, regardless of their cultural, linguistic or religious backgrounds, to be treated with respect. All members of this House would agree with that. Each person should be given the greatest opportunity to contribute to and participate in all aspects of public life. In other words, there should be no discrimination based on a person's origins or ethnic background, race or colour.
The bill recognises that everyone is entitled to a fair go. A fundamental characteristic of the Australian nation which has always been prominent in our history and traditions has been the idea of a fair go. Sydney was established as a convict settlement by the British Government and convicts deported to Australia were given a fair go in being allowed to gain their freedom quickly. Once free, they were allotted land and they progressed in the community. A fundamental belief coming from the Christian faith is the recognition of basic human decency. It is embodied particularly in the American Constitution and referred to by many of the American founders and Presidents - people such as George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. It is also part of Australia's culture. We recognise that each human being is made in the image of God, irrespective of colour of skin, language or origins. Each person has that basic human dignity.
We have been seeing on television the tragedy unfolding in African nations. Violent uprisings and armed attacks on refugee camps could result in a million people dying of starvation while the world watches. Such events happened in World War II with Hitler and in Cambodia. Apparently the world is now helpless - I think a self-made helplessness - watching a tragedy occur. All the people suffering in Zaire and other countries are made in the image of God and they should have a fair go as well. My father was born in Plymouth and my mother was born in Wellington, New Zealand from Scottish ancestors. I am pleased to be part of our Australian community, which gives every person a fair go and an opportunity to develop and to exercise skills without discrimination. Under this legislation people will be judged on their qualifications, their experience and their ability to do a job, not whether they have the right racial or ethnic background. If they can carry out a particular role they should be
given an opportunity equal to that afforded anyone else, whether they are from an Anglo-Saxon background or not.
I am pleased that the legislation is receiving bipartisan support. A few months ago the opposing sides in Parliament used the ethnic issue as a political football in attacking each other. I am pleased that this is no longer the case. The Aboriginal question also should not be a political football. There should be genuine bipartisan cooperation to solve the problems facing society. Whether the problems involve Aborigines or ethnic communities, they should be solved without the scoring of political points. I know that it is not easy with our political party system - the political parties are geared up to score points wherever possible - but on the very sensitive ethnic and Aboriginal matters that should not be the case. I was pleased that the motion calling for racial tolerance in the Federal Parliament was supported by all parties. It was strongly supported by Prime Minister Howard and the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Beazley, as it should have been. The ethnic or cultural change in Australia may not be as obvious to people in rural Australia or north Queensland.
A problem of Australia's immigration program is that people of ethnic background have concentrated in the Sydney area, particularly the western suburbs, but other parts of Australia have not been exposed as much to people of different races. Even in this Chamber members of Greek, Chinese and Italian origin have contributed to the debate. A map supplied as background information to the legislation shows the concentration of overseas-born people of non-English speaking background in 1991. The greater Sydney metropolitan area from Newcastle to Wollongong is shown as having a population with more than 20 per cent of such people. There are smaller groupings in the north and south but west of the Blue Mountains people are not exposed to the cultural diversity which people in the greater Sydney area experience. Perhaps this is a reason for some of the misunderstandings that are occurring in our nation at the moment.
Premier Carr stated in one of his speeches that action should be taken to encourage a greater spread of the ethnic community. Of course, this would apply to new immigrants; people already living in Australia could not be moved. Perhaps there could be incentives for people coming to Australia to go to different parts of the State rather than concentrating in Sydney or even certain suburbs. I was disappointed at the response of some members of the Opposition who suggested that the Premier was being racist. The Premier was stating a factual situation. To illustrate the issue I refer honourable members to a graph which shows a high concentration of ethnic communities in one part of this State. I am sure that level of concentration would be more apparent if compared with a similar graph for Australia.
Further discussions should be held and incentives should be developed. Little can be achieved by compulsion. Incentives such as job opportunities, cheap land or housing in country towns should be considered. Dying country towns could be revived by job opportunities being provided to attract people to them. People need jobs. Employment opportunity is one reason Sydney has such a large population. A dying country town cannot provide employment. Decentralisation and relocation of industry to country centres would provide a greater spread of employment throughout the State. No-one would set out to build an ethnic community, as happened in Cabramatta as historical fact. More effort is needed to diversify the relocation of people from overseas countries.
The document "Building on our Cultural Diversity" contains a graph provided by the Ethnic Affairs Commission. The graph shows the demographic trends affecting the population, which changed dramatically between the 1981 census and the 1991 census. For example, the 1991 census showed that 23 per cent of the population were born overseas; 8 per cent were born in Australia, with parents born overseas; 10 per cent were born in Australia, with one parent born overseas; and 59 per cent were born in Australia, with both parents born in Australia. The make-up of the Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu and Sikh communities as religious minorities has been changing. We should not be swayed by a claim that variety amounts to a majority. From memory, religious minority groups account for up to 1 per cent of the Australian population, yet 78 per cent of Australians claim a Christian adherence. The majority of Australians are Christians but this fact can cause tension, as has occurred in schools.
At one school a Muslim parent complained about children singing Christian Christmas carols. There has to be give and take on both sides; people from overseas should show respect for Australian traditions - there should be mutual respect for all cultures and traditions. Recently at the Como West Primary School there was a dispute about the prayer used during the school assembly. The prayer was attacked as being too religious. In fact the prayer had only two religious words, one where the children were encouraged to love "God" - that could be applied to children not only from a Christian background but also from a Jewish, Muslim or other background. The second religious utterance in the prayer is "Amen", a Jewish word adopted by Christianity. I am pleased that the Minister for Education and Training has clarified the situation. The Minister stated, as I did in my question two weeks ago, that the word "secular" used in the Education Act does not mean atheistic; rather, it means non-sectarian and non-denominational.
The Minister issued a directive that it is legitimate for State schools to express Christian-based prayers acknowledging God. Obviously, no child should be forced against his parent's wishes to take part in such activity if the parent is a convinced atheist. There must be provision for a child not to
attend an activity, if it offends his parent. We must emphasise the positive aspects of society. We must see ourselves as one Australian nation under God, and we must recognise the contributions made by ethnic communities. We have one basic Australian culture, but recognise the rights of minority ethnic and religious groups. Minority religious groups make up 1 per cent of the total Australian population. Australia has one flag; one basic language, English - although other languages are used in ethnic communities, mainly in the home; one Constitution; and one set of laws. If I were an immigrant in Egypt I would not launch a campaign to change the cultural beliefs of the Egyptian community or of the communities of Iran or Iraq, but would respect them.
Mutual respect is essential. We must respect ethnic minorities, and they in turn need to respect the Australian culture that has developed since the origin of this nation. We need to support the right of ethnic communities to be proud of their national culture and history, as the bill provides. I am of Scottish background and well remember my mother taking me to Scottish highland days, when one could experience a bit of Scotland in Sydney. Other ethnic groups would attend. Cultural days have been celebrated for many years by the Scottish and Irish, and now by the Vietnamese, Cambodians, Greek, Italian and other communities. Development of cultural dancing groups by ethnic communities prevents loss of their culture and traditions after arrival in Australia, and that is to be commended.
I have been pleased to attend various days organised by people from the Baltic nations, including the Estonians, Latvians, and Lithuanians. These people are proud of their culture and seek to maintain it whilst seeing themselves as part of the wider Australian community. The rights of religious minorities - Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim, and others - must be respected. Religious minorities should be able to practise their religion and forms of worship. Aboriginals should not be regarded as an ethnic category. The Aboriginal people were the original community, or nation, that occupied Australia before white settlement. Aboriginal communities must always be in a special place of honour and recognition. Their history and culture should be honoured notwithstanding that many ethnic cultural groups find their home in Australia. This nation should not lose sight of the importance of the Aboriginal people.
The United States of America applies an immigration policy with quotas based on the make-up of its population. Under that policy, the percentage of each racial group, once established, is used as a factor in determining how many people from a particular country can enter the United States of America in any one year. For example, if a quota of 5,000 is established for immigrants from one country or of a particular racial background to enter the United States in one year, it is clear to a person from that country or of that racial background that if 10,000 have applied for entry he will have to wait three years before being allowed to migrate to the United States. That removes much of the tension and strain that comes from immigration policies that are a bit hit and miss in their application. My recommendation would be that the Federal Government look at the immigration policies of the United States. Those policies do not seem to be controversial in America; they seem to be widely accepted and are working. That may be the way that Australia should go. Call to Australia is pleased to support the bill before the House.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI
[6.20]: From the very beginning I was highly supportive of the previous Government's move not just to establish in words but to implement by deeds the principles for a culturally diverse society. That Government's initiatives went much further than merely accepting the concept of multiculturalism, which of course is completely supported by the Liberal Party and National Party at a Federal and State level. I note with some concern a report this week about television station SBS. I think it would be easy, with ordinary journalism, to drum up a few people who would want to criticise SBS. I say on record that, without SBS and the ABC, television programs on other stations would be so much the same as to be representing a monoculture. I thank SBS for the show I watched last evening. It contained historical footage of what happened when East Java was invaded by western society.
I now turn to addressing the bill. I take the point made by my colleague Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile that about 59 per cent of the people in Australia at the moment are of Australian parents and were born in Australia. People like me who can trace pure Italian blood back to their great-great-grandfathers are interested that today a large number of ethnic communities who call themselves Australian owe much to their forebears and their cultures. I include English, Scottish and Welsh people as members of the culturally diverse societies within Australia, and no more than that. Apart from the Australian Aborigines, all within this country have ethnic cultures. The Irish are no more important to this country and its culture than are the Greeks and the Italians.
Hopefully, in the future, with the contribution being made by the newer arrivals, the Vietnamese and the Koreans, we will see further big changes to our community, because changes there have to be. My family well remembers the union movement trying to push the newly arrived Italians out of North Queensland. The way in which the English and Irish dominated unionists excluded Italians from jobs in Queensland was outrageous. The Italians have made, and continue to make, an enormous contribution to the development of Queensland with their hard work and family-related culture. Their contribution to this State has been no different from the contributions made by the Greeks and Italians to the communities in Melbourne.
I return to speaking directly to the bill. It is important to understand that this bill not just enshrines the principles introduced by my colleague the Hon. J. M. Samios regarding a culturally diverse society, but, with the amendments moved by the Opposition in the other place, goes a long way to dispensing with lip service to the principles of a culturally diverse society and puts pressure upon public sector administrators to ensure that all people of ethnic backgrounds are encouraged to take full advantage of the public sector of this State. I was astonished that my colleague in the other place, Mr Mills, read in detail the principles of a culturally diverse society as though they are as fresh and new now as they were when first put in place. He put them forward as shining examples of what could be done by a government that put its heart and mind behind such policies.
The coalition Government was not forcing those principles on the community; it was setting out guidelines for a culturally diverse society. However, the coalition Government did require that ethnic affairs policy statements be made by each chief executive. For the most part, those guidelines were not implemented as well as they might have been. So the move by my colleague and previous Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Mr Michael Photios, to amend the bill which comes before this House is important, because the bill now states that the principles of the culturally diverse society are to be the policy of this State. There will be no more walking away from the policy, and no more namby-pamby; it is now the policy of this State. Accordingly, each public authority must observe the principles of a culturally diverse society in conducting its affairs. That is no longer an optional policy; it is now to be the duty of the chief executive officer of each public authority to implement the provisions of the section within the area of his or her administration and to submit an annual report on the success of the public body on compliance.
This debate has taken sharper focus since my colleague the Hon. J. M. Samios started the ball rolling. We all waited for the Premier to bring this bill forward, but he was always off consulting, so my colleague brought the measure forward to enshrine these principles in legislation. The Labor Party in this House opposed that measure. The Leader of the Government in this Chamber, then acting Premier, said in his speech to the Parliament in this House on 30 October that he acknowledged the contribution of the Liberal-National Opposition and crossbenchers to the charter of principles of a culturally diverse society in New South Wales. He said that in 1993, when the then Government established those four important principles, they provided this State with an important framework for ethnic affairs. That is true. But what he did not say was that that was a simple evolution of the way in which the Greiner and Fahey governments went about the process of government in this State. This was a natural evolution, and therefore no-one was terribly surprised when he brought that measure forward.
However, the Leader of the Government went on to try to explain why Labor voted against the measures introduced by the Hon. J. M. Samios in this Chamber. I am not here to create division, but it is important to note that at the time the Hon. Franca Arena accused the Hon. J. M. Samios of grandstanding on this issue. Now the Leader of the Government in this Chamber says how wonderful those measures are. Mr Mills, in the other House, read out those principles in detail so that there would be no misunderstanding by honourable members of that Chamber that he supported each and every one of those principles. And well he might, because his constituency in the Hunter is highly dependent upon the skills of a multicultural and multiracial community to support its university and the coal industry.
I support this measure because it does not leave implementation of the principles as an option. This is an important provision if we are to be, as Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile said, one country, with one flag, with one aim. That aim is to be the best and most free society in the world. We have been somewhat successful in that respect so far, but the fabric of our multicultural society is thin. The debate has proved how fragile our multicultural society is. Leadership like that shown in the legislation introduced by the Hon. J. M. Samios outlining the principles of a culturally diverse society underpins and solidifies our society. Such measures will ensure that if cracks appear in our community they will not lead to a breakdown in our community.
I agree with my colleague Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile that we have to continue to work at this issue, that the show of christianity one to another is the glue that sticks it all together. Without the human charity shown one to another, none of this legislation will work. This sort of measure can provide leadership, but in the community it has to boil down to a whole lot more tolerance and understanding. This bill may need to be revisited and reworked as time goes by because as new groups coming into the community become more established, they are confronted with the same xenophobic attitude faced by the Italian migrants in the 1930s and the Italian and Greek migrants in the 1950s. I am absolutely astonished now to hear my Italian friends saying that there are too many Asians coming to this country. I appeal to honourable members to make this legislation live in all their speeches and in everything that they do. I have a great deal of pleasure in supporting the bill.
The Hon. J. W. SHAW
(Attorney General, and Minister for Industrial Relations) [6.30], in reply: I thank all honourable members for their thoughtful and eloquent contributions to the debate. I commend the bill to the House.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a second time and passed through remaining stages.
TRANS-TASMAN MUTUAL RECOGNITION (NEW SOUTH WALES) BILL
SUPERANNUATION LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL
TAXATION ADMINISTRATION BILL
TAXATION ADMINISTRATION (CONSEQUENTIAL AMENDMENTS) BILL
Bills received and, by leave, read a first time.
Suspension of standing orders agreed to.
The following bill was returned from the Legislative Assembly without amendment:
The Hon. J. W. SHAW
(Attorney General, and Minister for Industrial Relations) [6.31]: I move:
That this House do now adjourn.
The Hon. B. H. VAUGHAN
[6.31]: Following a debate on ethnic matters, I speak about two citizens of the United Kingdom who have been denied entry to Australia, one of them a well-known politician and the other a crazy historian, nevertheless each of them a citizen of the United Kingdom. Australia is in a new era. On 22 September 1996 at a meeting of the Queensland division of the Liberal Party's State council, the tyro Prime Minister had this to say, among other things:
One of the great changes that have come over Australia in the last six months is that people do feel able to speak a little more freely and a little more openly about what they feel. In a sense, the pall of censorship on certain issues has been lifted. I think we were facing the possibility of becoming a more narrow and restrictive society and that free speech could not be taken so easily for granted as we might in our calmer moments have assumed. I think there has been that change and I think that's a good thing. And I hope it continues but like everything a right such as free speech carries with it responsibilities and I welcome the fact that people can now talk about certain things without living in fear of being branded as a bigot or as a racist or any of the other (inaudible) expressions that have been too carelessly flung around in this country whenever somebody has disagreed with what somebody has said.
The United Kingdom Financial Times
wire of 9 November said this:
Australia's conservative federal government yesterday refused entry visas to Mr Gerry Adams, president of Sinn Fein, and Mr David Irving, the rightwing British historian. Sinn Fein is the political wing of the Irish Republican Army. Mr Philip Ruddock, federal immigration minister, said that both applications had been considered on their individual merits, and in the light of the standard requirement that applicants "be assessed for good character". The decision on Mr Adams, which was considered more surprising, was justified on the grounds that he is "associated with an organisation which has been or is involved in criminal conduct" - namely the IRA…Applicants with comparable criminal records are routinely refused by my department consistent with the law, said Mr Ruddock.
I ask the House - and some honourable member might check on it - what criminal record has Gerry Adams? Irving certainly does have a criminal record. Adams is welcome in the United States, indeed, in the White House, but not here and to me, an Irish Australian, this smacks of the imperial era when London decided almost every civic and societal thing or event that could occur in the Australian colonies. As a result of a great paradox, Jose Ramos Horte, a Nobel prize winner, represents Fretilin, which is in armed struggle with the invading Indonesians, and I believe he lives in Campbelltown. Am I to presume that if Gerry Adams were a Nobel laureate he would be welcome? I predict that one day Gerry Adams will win a Nobel peace prize for his work to bring peace to Ireland, north and south. The Sydney Morning Herald
, a paper most beloved of the conservative parties in this country, on 9 November said this:
Both these cases concern very controversial figures. Their presence in Australia would dismay and disgust many people. Dr Irving is a bad historian who has made a doubtful reputation peddling falsehoods about the Holocaust; Mr Adams has a murky association with a violent terrorist organisation. But that does not mean that they should have been excluded. Both these people are part of important debates on issues which are of great public interest in Australia. There are strong reasons why in the name of free speech, visas should have been issued to them both.
WOMEN IN POLITICS
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI
[6.36]: I bring to the attention of honourable members the work of Women Into Politics Inc., which comprises a coalition of women's organisations, including the Australian Federation of Business and Professional Women (NSW Division), the Australian Federation of University Women (NSW), the Australian Local Government Womens Association (NSW Branch), Constructive Women, EEO Practitioners Association, IEA Women Engineers, the National Foundation of Australian Women (NSW), NSW Women's Aboriginal Corporation, War Widows Guild of Australia (NSW), Women and Management, Women in Film and Television, Women in Science Enquiry Network, Women Lawyers Association (NSW), Women's Electoral Lobby Inc. (NSW) and Young Women's Christian Association. This organisation recently held a conference and I was pleased to be sent a copy of the papers from that conference. I was interested in what the newsletter, "WIP About" had to say. Basically the conference was all about equality - how and how soon for women in politics. In part, the newsletter reads:
The Liberal and National Parties had nominated 38 women across Australia for the House of Representatives, with 11 of them in what they estimated were winnable seats. Helped by the landslide, the women won 17 seats. With their women Senators, the single National Party woman MP in Queensland, and the 10 women already there, women make up about 25 per cent of Coalition
Parliamentarians. A number of these women are in marginal seats that they might expect to lose when the electoral tide turns.
Well, Jackie Kelly sorted that one out. The newsletter continues:
The Australian Labor Party had female retirements at the end of the previous parliament, and along with its female electoral losses, it had a considerable net loss of female ALP parliamentarians. The Coalition's female representation in Parliament is now about twice that of the Labor Party.
The Liberal Party's success in increasing its number of women rested on the work of feminists within the Liberal Party. Especially influential were Sydney-based Chris McDiven, President of the Liberal Women's Forum, Dame Margaret Guilfoyle in Melbourne and women MPs Trish Worth, Chris Gallus and Susan Jeanes in South Australia. They actively sought out prospective women candidates inside and outside the Party and ran familiarisation and training programs for them prior to the preselections. Many critics were sceptical in that women were being asked to train and make the changes while there was no training for preselectors. However, the work done appears to have been very practical and also appears to have broken the Liberal Party's traditional preference for "young family men".
The Liberal Party has many prominent people in Parliament, including a number of my colleagues and me, who are very supportive of this movement. The most notable of those are the Hon. Patricia Forsythe, Jillian Skinner and Kerry Chikarovski, who was Minister for Women's Affairs in the previous Parliament. The newsletter continues:
On the other hand, the ALP currently lacks credibility on women's equality issues. The Party which brought in so many reforms for women failed on the most basic reform - that of adequately fostering political equality for women in accordance with Australia's commitments under CEDAW Articles 7 & 8 to "take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in the political life and public life of the country . . ."
In 1994, with much publicity, the ALP announced its policy of putting 35% women in winnable seats by 2002, but it has failed to follow through with affirmative action, or even action to stop the men pushing aside women who put their hands up, much to the disappointment of women inside and outside the party. With one or two notable exceptions, when a vacancy occurred, and even when well qualified women were candidates, the ALP has failed to preselect women. They were often "leaned on" to withdraw and a back room deal between the factions ensured a favourite son or a "mate" got preselection.
I have heard the Hon. Franca Arena on this subject. I continue to quote from the newsletter:
The notable exceptions were usually women related to powerful men in the Party.
The Hon. Franca Arena has often said she needed a powerful mate. The newsletter continues:
Even sitting members were not immune: in Queensland a women Labor MHR . . . was shifted out of the seat that she had nurtured to make it a safe seat into a neighbouring marginal seat, to make way for a "mate".
Many Labor women must surely be saddened that after all their efforts, the Party machine failed to wholeheartedly embrace the issue of political equality for women within the Party.
I raise this matter because yesterday we had the launch of EMILY - Early Money Is Like Yeast - by that dynamic, dubious duo, former Premiers Joan Kirner and Carmen Lawrence. EMILY is the Labor Party's answer to producing the money to put the yeast in to make the dough rise. This is another failed venture - [Time expired
GRAVE ROBBER ICE-CREAM
The Hon. A. G. CORBETT
[6.41]: Last Monday, 4 November, I issued a media release objecting to the promotion of an ice-cream made by Streets called "Grave Robber". My complaint centred around the naming of this particular ice-cream after what is, after all, an objectionable and illegal practice, and the promotional displays for this ice-cream, which feature a gleeful skeleton staring into a dirt-coloured grave in which small bones or personal effects of the deceased are presumably uncovered as a child scoops out the ice-cream with a plastic shovel. I believe this promotion trivialises an illegal activity. Streets has shown a great deal of insensitivity to the friends, relatives and partners of deceased persons. I object to a child's natural curiosity about death - heightened, no doubt, by the awkwardness many feel about the subject - being exploited for the sake of Streets' profits.
On Tuesday the Daily Telegraph
published a small article on the matter, which created enough interest for me to be interviewed by Richard Glover on radio station 2BL and later by Derryn Hinch on radio station 2GB. It is significant that Richard Glover had invited a representative from Streets but was informed that no-one was available. Following these interviews my office was telephoned by a number of listeners, who expressed support for my stand. Since then I have received correspondence from a number of people who have let Streets know of their dismay at this product and its promotion campaign. I should like to read short excerpts from some of those letters. One letter reads in part:
As a regular consumer of your ice cream products, it is with regret that I write to you in reference to your new ice cream called "Grave Robbers".
Whatever possessed your company to give such a macabre and depressing name to something that is pleasant and enjoyable.
I cannot wish you success with your new product. I just hope that it will soon and silently fade away, but until that happens, I will change my brand of ice cream.
A further letter reads, in part:
I would like to express my extreme disgust and disappointment that a reputable company such as Street's Ice Cream would introduce a distasteful product concept like "Grave Robber" ice cream.
It is practices like these that numb our children to death and crime, because unlike some adults who see this as just a popular mock horror theme many children do not think as simply or casually as this.
After many years of buying Street's products, I will now be changing my brand until such time as Grave Robber is deleted.
On Thursday I faxed to Streets a letter outlining my objections and calling for the company to either withdraw or significantly alter the concept of the product. It is important to note that I am not alone on this issue. The Minister for Fair Trading, the Hon. Faye Lo Po', is on record as supporting its withdrawal. Furthermore, all the crossbench members have supported me in my call for Streets to at least reconsider its position. As I said, I sent a letter to the general manager of Streets calling for the withdrawal of the ice-cream or for Streets to significantly alter the concept of the product. However, in his reply the general manager stated that Streets refused my request, and added that "Grave Robber" was merely a tongue-in-cheek ice-cream that used a mock horror theme which is popular with children.
I have no doubt that, in general, mock horror paraphernalia is of curiosity to children. I would be very concerned if children felt attracted to such a promotional display, in which it would appear the child uses mock horror to safely vent feelings of real fear and confusion that exist within him. Where is Streets' sense of responsibility towards children and the wider community? Why has Streets joined the other manufacturers who concentrate on the negative, the tacky and the distasteful when advertising products to child consumers? It really annoys me that those who create and market a product for children show so little regard for them. Would Streets entertain the notion of an ice-cream called "Thief", "Rapist" or "Paedophile"? I think not. Yet, what is the difference? All are illegal and objectionable. Once again I call on Streets to show a sense of responsibility to the child consumer and to the feelings of all those in the community who are still grieving the loss of a partner, a relative or friends.
ROYAL COMMISSION INTO THE NEW SOUTH WALES POLICE SERVICE PAEDOPHILE INVESTIGATION
The Hon. ANN SYMONDS
[6.46]: Over the last few months I have become increasingly concerned about the debate surrounding that aspect of the Royal Commission into the New South Wales Police Service which deals with paedophilia. I believe that the current perception in some people's minds that paedophilia is linked to homosexuality is not only flawed but offensive and is detrimental to the investigative process of the royal commission. No-one can deny the importance of that part of the royal commission which is investigating allegations of paedophilia and of the need to expose and address police corruption in paedophilic activities. Any form of abuse and exploitation of children is abhorrent; so too is any activity that aims to protect perpetrators, for whatever reason. Sometimes that protection is systemic.
As honourable members may be aware, prior to and since entering the Legislative Council I have endeavoured to advocate for disadvantaged, abused and neglected children. I have served on many committees and task forces that have investigated issues affecting such children. The last of such committees on which I served before entering Parliament was the Alternative Care Committee, which was established in 1980. The objectives of that committee were to set standards of care for children and the selection and training of staff employed in substitute care services. I only wish those objectives had been fully pursued and given effect. I have also lobbied governments at both State and Federal levels, Labor and coalition, about the need to increase preventative services against the abuse and neglect of children and to enhance support services for those who have been abused or neglected.
My experience in this area has taught me many things. Whilst the abuse of children crosses gender, girls are at greater risk of abuse and are abused at a greater rate than boys. Moreover, the abuse is normally perpetrated by someone known to the child, and in 75 per cent to 80 per cent of cases occurs in the child's home. The 1985 Child Sexual Assault Task Force revealed the truth about levels of this kind of child abuse. These facts are in no way meant to diminish the gravity of the abuse of any child, be that child male or female, nor are they meant to lessen the criminality of child abuse in whatever circumstance. What these facts tell us is that we must be vigilant against drawing assumptions about abuses of children. The fact that girls are more commonly abused sexually than boys indicates that there is no link between homosexuality and paedophilia. Further, the sexual abuse of children is not commonly perpetrated by strangers.
I am very distressed that part of the debate surrounding the royal commission is being interpreted as a reaction against homosexuals. Homosexuality is not a crime; child sexual assault is. I am equally distressed that, in my support for the terms of reference of the royal commission dealing with police corruption and as an advocate for children, I may be perceived as being in some way associated with those who are essentially homophobic. I believe that distortion of the royal commission's agenda is serving to undermine its credibility.
I have long been a staunch and active supporter of gay rights, beginning in the early 1980s when I campaigned for homosexual law reform. I have launched books dealing with homosexual issues and have pledged my support for the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras; I have also attended church services at the Metropolitan Community Church. I will not tolerate the stereotyping, scapegoating or persecution of any group in our society, and I will not be silenced as an advocate for children by being accused of lending myself to a homophobic witch-hunt. Let people who would rather portray the royal commission as a witch-hunt on gay men, thus avoiding the seriousness of child sexual abuse, be very clear: children are being sexually abused; little girls and little boys are being sexually exploited.
Children who disclose sexual abuse must be believed and their assailants and those who protect them must be vigorously pursued.
The Royal Commission into the New South Wales Police Service must be able to work effectively within the terms of reference which guide it, that is, to investigate police corruption. If those investigations lead to the apprehension of offenders within the Police Service and action against real and not perceived paedophiles in the community at large, then the royal commission will be doing its job. If that also has the effect of helping to heal abused children, it will be a success. Let the commission get on with its job. We must ensure that flawed and damaging misconceptions, such as those relating to the homosexual community, cease and that we work to restore the credibility of and community faith in the royal commission. I hope that the royal commission will propose equity of age of consent for homosexual and heterosexual consensual sexual relationships, for I believe that will clear up the issue about who is perpetrating the abuse of children. We must not have this constant discussion about the age of the children, whether they were 16, 17 or 18; I am talking about children who are two, four, five and six years of age. I call on all people, homosexual, heterosexual or celibate, to support child protection.
MINCHINBURY STREET PROSTITUTION
The Hon. J. F. RYAN
[6.51]: I draw to the attention of the House, and also to the attention of the Attorney General - who is present in the Chamber representing the Minister for Police - five pieces of correspondence, copies of which have been sent to me by councillor Allan Green from Blacktown City Council. Councillor Green, a Liberal Party representative on that council, has brought to my attention the problem of street prostitution that a number of constituents in the Minchinbury area have raised. The letter that comes from the constituents largely speaks for itself. It states:
I'm writing to you in the hope that you will be able to assist in resolving an important issue which has again been discussed at the Minchinbury Residents Action Group Meetings.
Our group was formed as the residents of Minchinbury are appalled with our area being ignored in relation to the problem of prostitution and several other issues.
I'm sure you are already aware that this ongoing problem has been rapidly increasing in the Minchinbury area.
The difference being, Minchinbury now has residents that are no longer prepared to accept this problem being ignored by the appropriate authorities.
Residents have reported this problem to Members of Parliament, local newspapers and the Mount Druitt Police in the past and recently, on numerous occasions. This problem has become worse over the last 8 months and must be stopped.
We want the prostitutes removed from our area!
These prostitutes stand on the Great Western Highway, at the main entrance to the Minchinbury Estate and also outside the area at the entrance to Pinegrove Cemetery on a daily basis! They walk along this particular strip of the Great Western Highway. Our school children are exposed to this "sight" and some high school students have been harassed by these "women". It has now also reached the point where these "women" are soliciting inside the Minchinbury Estate at the local shopping centre!
Berreux Reserve has discarded condoms and syringes which are used by the local prostitutes in the reserve at night.
This situation is just not acceptable in our community, especially in a residential area near the primary school, pre-schools and our churches, not to mention near a cemetery where people are coming to mourn!
We do not want their presence and we also do not want our area to end up like Canterbury Road.
The honourable member for Lakemba made a speech in the lower House this afternoon in which he said that the Government was making some advances in respect of controlling the problem of prostitution on Canterbury Road. I hope that the Government will direct its attention to the Minchinbury area as well and make similar advances. Having said that, I place on the record my particular view about street prostitution, perhaps in view of comments I made when I supported the Government's attempts to regularise some prostitution by way of legislation to allow brothels to be legalised. Now that our community is beginning to accept the idea that prostitution is with us and perhaps needs to be legalised - at least to the extent of allowing the decriminalising of brothels - I believe it is time to work on street prostitution with a view to eliminating it.
Vendors are not permitted to sell flowers, cars or other objects on the side of the street, and people should not be allowed to sell their bodies, given the obvious health risks and the offence that that activity causes in the community. It is time to examine street prostitution, not only in respect of the rights of sex workers but also with a view to getting real about the issue and coming up with solutions which the community at large will accept. In any event, I ask the Government to look at the problem in Minchinbury. The problems which these constituents have raised are legitimate and deserve attention from the local Police Service. I ask the Attorney General to report back to this House at an appropriate time about the action that the local patrol commander might have taken in consultation with the Minister for Police.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES
[6.56]: I visited Bunge piggery yesterday, at about 2 a.m., together with 43 other members of the Animal Liberation movement. The visit was organised by Mark Pearson and was arranged meticulously, like a commando operation. We went to the piggery in response to information from a former employee, whom I shall not name, who told us about the horrendous things that were going on in that piggery. He told us how employees there were slamming the metal gates in the faces of the pigs, for enjoyment. Many animals were receiving severe
injuries as a result of that practice. We did not see any of that behaviour at two, three, four or five o'clock in the morning but we saw hundreds upon hundreds of sows in very tiny metal cages. They could not turn around, they could not move backwards and forwards, they could only lie down by manoeuvring with their snouts. The sows had to lie down in their own faeces, which were then pushed through the slats. The faeces were just below the surface of those slats and were coming out the back of the piggery. The smell was terrible. Pigs have a very acute sense of smell, that is why they are used for digging up truffles in France. The smell must have been offensive to them, because it was certainly offensive to us. There was no heating in this huge area and it was extremely cold at three o'clock in the morning. We were cold in our coats and I am sure the pigs must have been cold. We saw a number of piglets which were dying or had died. The vet who accompanied us actually determined which piglets were going to die and which were going to live.
The Hon. J. M. Samios:
What is the Rural Lands Protection Board doing about it?
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES:
Nothing very much at all. A visit by two or three veterinarians and Mark Pearson of Animal Liberation and a local sergeant, Lionel Smith was to take place today. Lionel Smith was marvellous and negotiated to visit the piggery today, but I am not sure what has been the result of that inspection. He would have seen the number of piglets that were dying. The vet took seven piglets out of the piggery; one of them had to be euthanased but the others are okay. Many others were going to die. Something like 15 per cent of all piglets die, and they do not need to die. We saw animals in obvious pain. One large boar next to me was moaning all night long. It was crippled and should have been euthanased. Others in obvious pain were due to be euthanased but had not been. One animal was the wrong way round in the cage and could not even feed. Others had severe lesions and swellings on them, which should not have been there.
There were animals in the growers shed which were lame and could not get up. The whole thing is unacceptable. The British people have made such a process unacceptable. The British House of Commons and House of Lords have passed a law banning stalls of such a size, and an open system has been introduced where the animals have freedom to move around and socialise with each other. These are highly intelligent, highly sensitive animals - not so far removed from humans. I actually got to know one pig during the night I was there and it was feeding out of my hand, whereas other pigs would not. They all have individual characteristics and they are individual animals but they are treated in the most appalling way. Anyone who eats pork, ham or bacon is essentially contributing to gross cruelty of these animals. I call upon the Minister for Agriculture to meet with other Ministers in Australia in an effort to reform intensive farming systems, particularly as regards piggeries, so that pigs can be housed in humane conditions and treated as sentient beings. The very least we should do is go along with and introduce the British system, so that the animals can have reasonable living conditions before being slaughtered.
The Hon. I. COHEN
[7.00]: This evening I wish to read on to the record a letter from representatives of the major New South Wales environmental groups to their members and to all members of Parliament. I have strongly criticised the Government's position on the forests issue, and I am not alone in doing so. Signatories to the letter are: Peter Prineas of the Nature Conservation Council, Jeff Angel of the Total Environment Centre, Peter Wright of the Australian Conservation Foundation, Keith Muir of the Colong Foundation for Wilderness, Anne Reeves of the National Parks Association of New South Wales, Felicity Wade of the Wilderness Society, Mark Bletcher of the South East Forests Conservation Council, Craig Darlington of the Conservation Council of the South East Region and Canberra, Michael Kennedy of the Humane Society International, Tom McLoughlin of the Friends of the Earth and Dailan Pugh of the North East Forest Alliance. The letter reads as follows:
In late September, the Carr Government made a momentous decision on the State's native forests. Although called an "interim" forest decision, the key elements of the decision will be of long-term significance:
•creation of 240,000 hectares of new wilderness and national parks - including 98% of candidate state forest wilderness, over 40,000 new hectares in the south east forests parks (with the promise of an additional 30,000 hectares to come), and new old growth and rainforest parks on the north coast (see attached for details);
•a logging ban (moratorium) over 670,000 ha of forests most likely to be needed as additional parks, while comprehensive regional assessments are carried out;
•10-year guarantees of wood supply to industry, at around 50% of 1995/6 quotas.
The first two parts of the decision are a great achievement. New parks will fully protect marvellous forests. The larger moratorium area covers less than 50% of State Forests, but at last protects the right areas - the forests most likely to be needed for a "comprehensive, adequate and representative" (CAR) forest reserve system.
However, the decision to hand out long-term timber contracts ("resource security") threatens the integrity of the overall policy. Because the forests have been so heavily overcut in the past, we believe the promised level of supply cannot be met outside moratoria areas, and will lead to pressure to log these important forests and weaken environment protection rules wherever logging occurs.
Resisting these pressures and ensuring the eventual creation of a genuine CAR reserve system will be the focus of the continuing campaign to protect NSW's native forests.
With your help, we convinced government to protect some of the State's best high conservation value forests. We hope you will continue to help us. The final result will truly be a gift to future generations.
That letter expresses the plea I have made to the Government for a long time in the lead-up to the forests countdown. I put on the record that the major players in the environmental movements realise and feel very strongly that the Carr Government has a long way to go before it can justly call itself a
conservation government and meet the election promises that it made so avidly before the State election.
Motion agreed to.
House adjourned at 7.03 p.m.