Tuesday, 15 April 1997
The President (The Hon. Max Frederick Willis) took the chair at 2.30 p.m.
The President offered the Prayers.
OFFICE OF THE OMBUDSMAN
The President tabled, pursuant to section 31AA(1) of the Ombudsman Act 1974, the special report of the Ombudsman entitled "Mulawa Report", dated April 1997, received out of session.
The President announced that pursuant to section 31AA(2) of the Act he had authorised that the report be made public.
SENTENCING LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL
The Hon. J. W. SHAW (Attorney General, and Minister for Industrial Relations) [2.36 p.m.]: I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
It is now an accepted principle of criminal justice that full-time imprisonment should be used as the penalty of last resort. Guided by this principle the New South Wales Parliament has from time to time enacted legislation to establish alternatives to imprisonment. In 1970 the then Liberal-Country Party Government of New South Wales introduced legislation to establish the periodic detention of prisoners scheme. Under this scheme offenders whose crimes fall into the lower range of seriousness serve their sentences by attending a periodic detention centre two days per week. On the other five days of the week they are free to go to work and live normal lives in the community. In 1979 the then Labor Government of New South Wales introduced legislation to establish the community service orders scheme. Under this scheme, minor offenders perform community work in lieu of imprisonment. In 1996 the current Government introduced legislation to establish a home detention scheme, modelled on the intensive community supervision scheme introduced by the former Government. Under the home detention scheme offenders whose crimes fall within certain specified categories and whose domestic circumstances are suitable will stay at home or participate in monitored activities rather than go to prison.
These three schemes - periodic detention, community service and home detention - all contain an element of community service. In the case of the community service order scheme, community service is the whole rationale of the scheme. In the case of the periodic detention scheme, a periodic detainee may be required to perform community work rather than simply spend time at a periodic detention centre. Likewise, in the case of the home detention scheme, a home detainee may be required to perform community service rather than simply stay at home. In order to provide opportunities for offenders to perform community service work, the Department of Corrective Services relies heavily on assistance from community organisations such as the St Vincent de Paul Society and the Salvation Army. There are, however, many hundreds of community organisations which provide community service opportunities for offenders.
To give an idea of the size of the community service orders scheme, as at 10 November 1996 there were 7,928 persons subject to community service orders. In addition, as at 10 November 1996, there were 1,545 persons with warrants to serve a sentence of periodic detention, many of whom will perform community service work before completing their sentences of periodic detention. To cope with this number of offenders, as at 10 November 1996 there were over 1,500 work sites for persons subject to community service orders and some 740 work sites for periodic detainees. The Department of Corrective Services has estimated that last year periodic detainees performed work in the community to the value of $2.5 million. The Department does not have a figure for the value of work performed by persons subject to community service orders, but there are more offenders subject to community service orders than are subject to periodic detention orders. It can be confidently stated, therefore, that work performed by offenders represents a real contribution to the community.
In recent years, community organisations have become concerned that they are over-exposed to negligence actions by offenders who may be injured while performing community service work under their supervision. These organisations have also become concerned that they are over-exposed to negligence actions by members of the public who may be injured, or have their property damaged, by offenders performing community service work under their supervision. In December 1995 the Government advised participating community organisations that the State would indemnify them against liability arising from common law claims by offenders and third parties made in respect of incidents occurring on or after 1 January 1996. The Sentencing Legislation Amendment Bill is designed to give legislative backing to this undertaking and to make related amendments to existing legislation. The Bill also makes a number of other miscellaneous changes. I shall now outline all of the major amendments contained in the Bill.
Schedule 3 of the Bill inserts section 26M into the Community Service Orders Act. This section provides that no act or omission of an offender which occurs in the course of the offender’s performance of work under a community service order gives rise to any civil liability on the part of the person for whom the work is performed. Section 26M goes on to provide that any such action instead lies against the Crown. Schedule 3 of the Bill also inserts section 26N into the Community Service Orders Act. This section provides that no act or omission of a person for whom work is performed under a community service order gives rise to any civil liability on the part of the person for whom the work is performed. Proposed section 26N goes on to provide that any
such action instead lies against the Crown. The Bill inserts parallel sections into the Children (Community Service Orders) Act 1987, the Periodic Detention of Prisoners Act 1981 and the Home Detention Act 1996.
These sections are the heart of the Bill for they give to community organisations the immunity from civil liability which they seek. When these sections become law, a community organisation will be fully protected against civil actions such as: an action by a local Council against a community organisation because an offender who should have been clearing foreshore land wilfully damaged a Council building; an action by a local Council against a community organisation because an offender who should have been clearing foreshore land accidentally damaged a Council building; an action by a passer-by injured by a stone flicked by a mower being used by an offender; and an action by an offender who was injured while loading old clothing into a truck.
These sections do not give an absolute blanket immunity to community organisations. Sections 26M and 26N provide that the immunity from civil liability which these sections give does not operate if the work which the community organisation directs the offender to perform was not work which the Department of Corrective Services approved for the offender to perform. For example, if the Department approved that a particular offender should be given gardening duties, such as mowing lawns, but the community organisation directed the offender to climb up a ladder and paint the walls of a house, the organisation would not have given the offender work approved by the Department. If the offender fell off the ladder and injured himself, the Department could reasonably say that the organisation is not protected from civil action taken by the offender against the organisation. Similarly, these sections do not give immunity from civil liability if a direction given by an organisation to an offender or some other action by the organisation was clearly outside what the Department had specified. For example, if the Department approved that a particular offender should be given the task of using a ladder to paint the walls of a house and an agent of the community organisation arranging the work maliciously pushed the offender off the ladder, the Department could reasonably say that the organisation is not protected from civil action taken by the offender against the organisation.
These examples simply indicate that the immunity granted to community organisations is all but absolute. The Department is developing straightforward procedures which will ensure that community organisations have nothing to worry about. Let me briefly explain these procedures: Departmental officers will visit a prospective work site; Departmental officers will check the conditions at that site and the type of work proposed, note any special equipment needs (for example, the need for offenders to wear safety boots when working), and the organisation’s authority to undertake work at that site (for example, the permission of the owner); the Department will then approve the site, subject to the community organisation making any changes required by the Department; if special equipment is required but the community organisation is unable to supply it, the Department may agree to supply it; and, the Department will then arrange for offenders to report to the site.
Before leaving the issue of the breadth of the immunity from civil liability which the Bill gives to community organisations, I should mention that the Bill does not give immunity to a community organisation in respect of a breach of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 1983. The Occupational Health and Safety Act places various obligations on employers to ensure the health, safety and welfare of employees and visitors to their places of work. It is reasonable that community organisations continue to be required to meet such obligations.
Schedule 3 of the Bill also inserts section 26O into the Community Service Orders Act. This section limits the amount of damages which an offender may recover from the Crown to the level of damages recoverable by a worker who sues their employer in respect of a work injury. The Government is strongly of the view that an injured offender should not be in a more advantageous position than an injured worker. The Bill inserts parallel sections into the Children (Community Service Orders) Act, the Periodic Detention of Prisoners Act and the Home Detention Act. Schedule 3 of the Bill also inserts section 26P into the Community Service Orders Act. This section requires an offender to disclose to the Department of Corrective Services any medical, physical or mental condition of which the offender is aware which substantially increases the risk of injury to the offender. This section is designed to avoid, for example, the Department allocating to an offender who has a weak back the task of digging a garden.
If an offender fails to disclose to the Department any material facts about his or her health, and the offender subsequently suffers an injury which could have been avoided if such disclosure had been made, the offender’s failure to disclose will be taken into account by the Department and, in accordance with section 26O, by the court if the offender sues the Crown. The Bill inserts parallel sections into the Children (Community Service Orders) Act, the Periodic Detention of Prisoners Act and the Home Detention Act. Finally, Schedule 3 inserts section 26Q into the Community Service Orders Act. This section provides that the Department of Corrective Services may settle any action which lies against the Crown as a result of an offender taking action under the sections which I have just outlined. In effect, section 26Q puts the Department in a position to come to a fair arrangement with an offender who has been injured while performing community service work. If the offender is not satisfied with the Department’s proposed arrangements the offender can sue the Crown, subject to the limitations imposed by the Bill. The Bill inserts parallel sections into the Children (Community Service Orders) Act, the Periodic Detention of Prisoners Act and the Home Detention Act.
To make the effect of these sections clearer, I shall outline the procedures which the Department of Corrective Services will follow when an offender is injured while performing community service work. Indeed, I should mention that these very procedures are already currently followed by the Department. The procedures are: the offender will complete a claim form setting out details of the injury; the offender’s supervisor (who may be an employee of the Department or an employee or agent of a community organisation) will complete a report on the incident which resulted in the injury; a Departmental officer will inspect the site where the incident occurred and make a further report; and the Department will assess the claim and, if it accepts the claim, offer to pay for lost wages, to pay medical expenses, to provide medical treatment and to arrange rehabilitation (the Department’s offer will be in line with what an employer would provide to an injured worker); and if the offender is not satisfied with the Department’s offer, the offender can sue the Crown.
I now wish to turn to those amendments contained in the Bill which relate to matters other than the issue of civil liability at community service work sites. Schedule 1 of the Bill makes 15 separate amendments to the Community Service Orders Act but these amendments cover only five basic changes to the administration of the community service order
scheme. First, the Bill amends section 7 of the Community Service Orders Act to provide that, where courts have imposed several community services orders on the same offender, and the courts have not specified that the orders are to be served consecutively, the orders are to be served concurrently. This amendment confirms what has been the practice of the Department for many years. Secondly, the Bill deletes from the Community Service Orders Act references to what is known as the "supervising court". A "supervising court" is the court nearest the offender’s address, as named in the community service order, and deals with any breaches of the order. The naming of supervising courts has, however, proved inconvenient for both the Department and offenders. Amendments contained in the Bill will enable the sentencing court or an equivalent or superior court to hear proceedings relating to breaches of community service orders and applications to revoke those orders.
The third change to the administration of the community service orders scheme is an amendment to section 15 of the Community Service Orders Act. At present, section 15 states that the Department of Corrective Services may allocate any kind of work to an offender serving a community service order provided that the work is not "of a kind usually performed for fee or reward on a regular basis". The amendment, however, enables the Department of Corrective Services to allocate any kind of work to an offender serving a community service order provided that the work allocated is not such that the offender would "take the place of any other person who would otherwise be employed in that work as a regular employee". Whereas section 15 currently looks to whether the work allocated has the potential to take work away from some other person the amendment looks to whether the work allocated would, in actual fact, take work away from some other person. The amendment will bring section 15 of the Community Service Orders Act into line with section 10 of the Periodic Detention of Prisoners Act so far as the wording of this requirement is concerned.
The Bill also, however, amends section 10 of the Periodic Detention of Prisoners Act to remove obsolete references to specific institutions such as hospitals and educational establishments. The fourth change is an amendment to section 17 of the Community Service Orders Act to enable a court to extend the duration of a community service order, even if the order has expired, provided that the Department of Corrective Services has applied for the extension before the expiry of the order. At present, a court may only extend an order if, at the time of the hearing, the order has not yet expired. The fifth change is an amendment to section 23 of the Community Service Orders Act to provide that a breach by an offender of one community service order is to be taken as a breach of all community service orders imposed upon that offender. This amendment will overcome the need for the Department to initiate separate court proceedings in respect of the other orders. Schedule 2 of the Bill makes a number of similar changes in the Children (Community Service Orders) Act, where necessary.
Before I conclude I wish to re-iterate that the heart of this Bill is the new sections which will give to community organisations the protection from civil liability which they seek. Community organisations will only need to follow the straightforward, common-sense work site procedures of the Department of Corrective Services to have full protection from such liability. I commend the Bill to the House.
The Hon. C. J. S. LYNN [2.37 p.m.]: I lead for the coalition on the Sentencing Legislation Amendment Bill. The Minister in the other place advised in his second reading speech that it is now an acceptable principle of criminal justice that full-time imprisonment be used as the penalty of last resort. The Opposition supports that principle. The Minister referred to the introduction of the periodic detention of prisoners scheme by the Liberal Party-Country Party Government of New South Wales in 1970. The scheme allowed offenders convicted of non-serious crimes to serve their sentences by attending a periodic detention centre two days a week; on the other five days of the week they were allowed to go to work and to live normal lives in the community. In 1979 the then Labor Government of New South Wales introduced legislation to establish the community service orders scheme. Under this scheme, minor offenders performed community work in lieu of imprisonment. Last year the Labor Government introduced legislation to establish a home detention scheme, modelled on the intensive community supervision scheme introduced by the former coalition Government.
Under this scheme, offenders whose crimes fall in certain specified categories and whose domestic circumstances are suitable will stay at home or participate in monitored activities rather than go to prison. These three schemes - periodic detention, community service and home detention - contain an element of community service. Community service is the whole rationale of the community service order scheme. In the case of the periodic detention scheme, a periodic detainee may be required to perform community work rather than simply spend time at a periodic detention centre. In the case of the home detention scheme, a home detainee may be required to perform community service rather than simply stay at home. The Opposition supports the principle that full-time imprisonment should be a sentencing option of last resort. However, it is aware of a feeling in the community that this principle has been extended too far and that in certain instances people are receiving alternatives to imprisonment that they should not get and that some people are allowed on these schemes who should not be.
The Minister advised that as of 10 November 1996 there were 7,928 persons subject to community service orders and 1,545 persons with warrants to serve a sentence of periodic detention. There are more than 1,500 work sites for people subject to community service orders and some 740 work sites for periodic detainees. These figures are quite significant and beg the question of the effectiveness of the scheme. With this number of people available for community work, we should be able to look after disadvantaged people and give the State a good clean-up in time for the Olympics. It is well worth looking at this with a view to ensuring that society gets the most value from the scheme. I would hate
to think it is viewed as a recreational activity by those placed on the scheme.
Towards the end of 1995, the honourable member for Wakehurst, in his capacity as shadow minister for corrective services, had discussions with a large number of charitable organisations that were about to withdraw from any involvement with corrective services as they were concerned about their liability in actions brought by prisoners arising from their community service work. For example, the St Vincent de Paul Society had been served with two claims involving a total of $500,000 and the Salvation Army was subject to a claim of $250,000. As a result of the claims, a decision had been made by the Association of Major Charitable Organizations to withdraw from the community service orders scheme because the organisations believed that they could not afford to be sued. Not only large charities withdrew; some 200 agricultural shows around the State were advised by their peak organisation not to be involved in the scheme, as were a number of other smaller community organisations that had a longstanding commitment to the scheme.
At the time the then shadow minister for corrective services pointed out that for these smaller organisations there was an even greater risk in remaining with the scheme as their insurance possibly would not have covered any substantial claim. On 6 December 1995 he called on the Government to resolve the problem. The Minister is to be congratulated on taking the advice of the shadow minister and introducing the bill. It will resolve the difficulties faced by charitable organisations as it indemnifies them against civil actions resulting from the action of offenders under their supervision. The bill covers liability arising out of a negligence action brought by a member of the public who may be injured or have his property damaged by an offender. It will also cover liability in relation to common law actions for work-related injuries that may be brought by an offender against the community service organisation. The bill transfers the liability under such actions to the Crown and indemnifies the community organisations against such actions.
The bill limits the amount of common law damages for a work injury - and I quote the Minister's second reading speech - "to the level of damages recoverable by a worker who sues his employer". The Opposition agrees with the Minister that an injured offender should not be in a more advantageous position than an injured worker. It believes the community at large also would strongly support that statement. The bill places certain conditions on the immunity provisions, such as requiring that the work has to be approved by the Department of Corrective Services. It maintains the community organisations' requirement to comply with the Occupational Health and Safety Act. It also places an obligation on offenders to disclose to the department any pre-existing conditions which may limit the type of work an offender may undertake, or preclude certain work. This is a sensible disclosure requirement as it will, it is hoped, limit the opportunity for suspect claims.
The bill makes several other amendments, as outlined in the Minister's second reading speech, to which the Opposition has no strong objection, although it is concerned about the practice that will now be enshrined in legislation of allowing a number of community service orders to be served concurrently rather than consecutively. This is not the time or place for debate on this issue. However, it is fair to say that there is a growing concern in the community about the inability of the Government to deliver on the strong law and order policy that was promised at the last State election. The rhetoric was strong but the delivery and reality are somewhat different. The community is concerned - with very good reason - that the Government is soft on crime. The bill will resolve a number of issues of prime concern to community organisations. It will allow them to continue in the scheme in the confidence that they will not be sued. For that reason the Opposition supports the bill.
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY [2.44 p.m.]: The Australian Democrats are pleased to support the Sentencing Legislation Amendment Bill, the object of which is to amend the Community Service Orders Act 1979, the Children (Community Service Orders) Act 1987, the Periodic Detention of Prisoners Act 1981 and the Home Detention Act 1996 - legislation under which offenders may be required to perform various forms of community service work. The amendments refer, in particular, to the civil liability of organisations for which the work is performed, the responsibilities of offenders and the damages they may recover. I am a believer in the value of community service work. It offers benefits to offenders in the form of work experience, job skills and personal achievement, all of which go a long way towards promoting rehabilitation and preventing recidivism. But the work performed by offenders also provides a considerable benefit to the community.
I have been informed that organisations such as the St Vincent de Paul Society and the Salvation Army, along with hundreds of other organisations, provide opportunities for offenders to make a positive contribution to society. However, some of these organisations have expressed concern about the
possibility of their heavy exposure to negligence actions arising from incidents that may occur when an offender is working with them. Such actions may arise if an offender is injured whilst performing work or if a member of the public is injured, or property is damaged by the offender during that time. The changes contained in the bill will effectively ensure that the State will indemnify such organisations against liability arising from common law claims by offenders and third parties made in respect of such incidents occurring.
I ask the Minister in reply to clarify another matter that I perceive to be a problem. In southern New South Wales SkillShare organisations are using on their programs young people who may be serving a community service order. SkillShare is a Federal program covered under Federal legislation. It is a valuable program that gives young people the opportunity to learn a skill under the supervision of an experienced person while, at the same time, provides a service to the community. What will be the impact of this bill on a young person undergoing a community service order when that person is under the aegis of SkillShare, a Federal Government organisation? It is possible that offenders on the SkillShare program are already covered by the Federal legislation and that it is not necessary for them to come under the scope of this bill. However, it is important that this matter is cleared up by the Minister in reply. I fully support the legislation. I am certainly of the opinion that any assistance possible should be given to all organisations that participate in the community service scheme.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE [2.48 p.m.]: Call to Australia supports the Sentencing Legislation Amendment Bill, the object of which is to amend four Acts under which offenders may be required to perform various forms of community service work with respect to the civil liability of organisations for which the work is performed, the responsibilities of offenders, the damages they may recover, the type of work they may perform and various other matters. Over the years there has been the gradual development of alternatives to imprisonment for minor offences, and minor offenders have had the opportunity to perform community work in lieu of imprisonment. That system appears to be working, although I urge the Government to ensure that community work is strictly enforced. There have been reports of those given community service orders treating the work in an offhanded manner and sometimes not performing the community service at all. Although procedures are in place to monitor such matters, the community should be made aware that community service is not a watered down form of punishment, but punishment that is viewed seriously. Any minor offenders given community service orders should treat the requirement seriously.
I put on record my support of and praise for the organisations taking part in the provision of community service, which would not work without the assistance of many community organisations such as the St Vincent de Paul Society, the Salvation Army and the Sydney City Mission, which do a very good job in our society. Such organisations provide the opportunity for offenders to perform community work and to be rehabilitated and not become repeat offenders. The community service order scheme is an extremely active one. At 10 November 1996, 7,928 persons were subject to community service orders and 1,545 persons had warrants to serve a sentence of periodic detention. Many of those 1,545 will perform community service work before completing their sentences of periodic detention.
At the same date there were 1,500 work sites for persons subject to community service orders and 740 work sites for periodic detainees. The Department of Corrective Services has estimated that last year periodic detainees performed work in the community to the value of $2.5 million. The department does not have a figure for the value of work performed by persons subject to community service orders but there are more offenders subject to community service orders than there are subject to periodic detention orders. However, the work performed by the offenders provides a real contribution to the community. Proposed new section 15 deals with directions. It tightens up, if you like, the type of work that can be performed. It provides:
The assigned officer must not, under section 14, direct a person in respect of whom a community service order is in force to perform work if, in performing the work, the person would take the place of any other person who would otherwise be employed in that work as a regular employee.
That raises in my mind what type of work is left. I would be interested to hear from the Minister whether that provision will restrict community organisations in assigning minor offenders to community service projects. It seems that in most cases such work could be performed by another person who would be otherwise employed in that work as a regular employee. Of course, we do not want to reduce the opportunities for jobs in the present situation of high unemployment: minor offenders performing community work should not be taking the jobs of people who need employment. I would like the Minister to outline the types of work that will be still available. The most important aspect of the bill is that it will ensure the continued
cooperation of community organisations participating in the scheme by protecting them from actions for damages.
The legislation will fully protect community organisations from civil actions such as: an action by a local council against a community organisation because an offender who should have been clearing foreshore land wilfully damaged a council building; an action by a local council against a community organisation because an offender who should have been clearing foreshore land accidentally damaged a council building; an action by a passer-by injured by a stone flicked up by a mower being used by an offender; or an action by an offender injured while loading old clothing into a truck. There is a real possibility of people being injured by stones thrown out from motor mowers cutting high grass beside roadways. My vehicle was hit by a stone in such a situation. Any stone travelling with enough force to crack a car windscreen could cause injury to a person. We support continuation of programs which provide a chance for minor offenders to consider their ways and be rehabilitated so that they do not offend in future.
The Hon. J. W. SHAW (Attorney General, and Minister for Industrial Relations) [2.55 p.m.], in reply: I thank honourable members for their support for the bill and for their thoughtful contributions to the debate. The Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby raised a question about the application of provisions which limit liability in respect of work incidents to those people who might be performing community service work but might be doing so under the aegis of the Commonwealth SkillShare program. I must say that I am not as fully advised about this as I perhaps ought to be. I do not say this critically, but we have not been given much notice of this point which might raise constitutional considerations. However, the preliminary advice that I have is that the generality of the language in the bill would be sufficient to cover and limit the liability of any person for whom work is performed.
In proposed section 26A the definition of work performed under a community service order and the reference to a person for whom work is performed the language is perfectly general in that it includes any person, including a corporation, for whose benefit the work is performed, or who directs or supervises the work, or who owns or occupies the premises or land on which the work is performed. So prima facie it would cover the Commonwealth or any Commonwealth instrumentality, provided this Parliament has the constitutional power to achieve that effect. That is a preliminary view I would proffer to the Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby. I offer access to the officers of the Department of Corrective Services if she would like to discuss that aspect of the bill further.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile asked what type of work persons might undertake for community organisations under the umbrella of this legislation. Harking back to the second reading speech, I point out that the amendment enables the Department of Corrective Services to allocate any kind of work to an offender serving a community service order provided that the work allocated is not such that the offender would "take the place of any other person who would otherwise be employed in that work as a regular employee". The work that persons undertake for community organisations generally falls into three categories: charity work, land care or environmental work, and maintenance. Examples of the work in these categories are: in relation to charity work, sorting clothing, food preparation and delivery - that is, Meals on Wheels; in relation to land care or environmental work, clearing noxious weeds, rubbish removal, assisting in Clean up Australia, and regenerating native flora; and in relation to maintenance, cleaning walls, painting, mowing lawns and edge trimming, and pathway construction. I hope to have answered the questions asked by honourable members. I commend the bill to the House.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a second time and passed through remaining stages.
JURY AMENDMENT BILL
Debate resumed from 9 April.
The Hon. HELEN SHAM-HO [3.00 p.m.]: The coalition does not oppose this bill, which amends the Jury Act 1977 to provide for the anonymity of jurors and amends the Criminal Procedure Act 1986 to introduce tougher penalties for offences relating to the obtaining of information about jury deliberations. The Opposition considers that these are sensible amendments which address the loopholes in the current system. The objects of this bill are as follows:
(a) to provide that jurors or prospective jurors:
•are to be addressed during proceedings by the identification number allocated to them so that their anonymity is maintained, and
•are not required during those proceedings to give their names or any other details that may identify them (unless the person requesting the information is the sheriff),
(b) to enable prospective jurors to be informed of the nature of the proceedings and of the identities of persons
involved in the proceedings . . . so that those jurors who feel that they are unable to give an impartial judgment in the proceedings can seek to be excused,
(c) to repeal the provision that allows for the inspection of jury panels containing the names of prospective jurors in civil trials,
(d) in relation to the offence of soliciting information from or harassing a juror or former juror:
• to omit the limitation that the information must be solicited for the purposes of publication or broadcasting, and
• to increase the maximum penalty for the offence to 7 years imprisonment (currently the maximum penalty for the offence is $5000 in the case of a corporation and $2000 in any other case),
(e) to make minor consequential amendments.
The proposed changes are in response to complaints raised by jurors who are concerned that the disclosure of their names during the empanelment process places their personal safety at risk. Chief Justice Gleeson raised similar concerns about interference with juries arising from approaches and threats to jurors which were reported upon during the Milat prosecution. I refer to an article entitled "The Secrecy of Jury Deliberation" in the 1996 Newcastle Law Review, Volume 1, No. 2. Honourable members should read this detailed and explicit summation of the Chief Justice's objections to jurors’ names being announced in open court.
Although the Jury Act 1977 recognised the importance of maintaining jurors’ anonymity, in practice there is a loophole in the administration of court procedures whereby jurors’ identities are disclosed during the empanelment process when their names are read out in open court in front of the litigants, which in criminal trials includes the accused. This breach of anonymity undermines jurors’ personal protection and has the potential to adversely affect both the deliberation process and the jury's final decision. That is a matter of serious concern for jurors and the public interest. Many jurors are already reluctant and apprehensive to perform this fundamental obligation of citizenship. This added concern reduces jurors’ willingness to participate in the justice system.
In principle, trial by jury and the participation of ordinary citizens are central to the administration of criminal and civil justice in New South Wales. Ideally juries should be impartial and representative of the ordinary citizen. However, if for some reason jurors feel threatened that their decisions will be used against them, those decisions may no longer be impartial. As the Attorney General, and Minister for Industrial Relations pointed out in his second reading speech, there have been many instances in which jurors have been approached and hassled for information regarding their decisions. The high incidence of those occurrences is partly a result of the easily accessible and available information about jurors’ personal details.
Section 68 of the current Jury Act makes it an offence to solicit information from or harass a former juror to obtain information on the deliberations of a jury for inclusion in any material to be published or any matter to be broadcast. Schedule 1 and  of the amending bill will omit the limitation that information must be solicited for the purpose of including it in material to be published or broadcast, making it illegal to harass a juror simply to obtain information about deliberations, and will increase the penalty for such an offence. Jurors must be able to perform their functions with the knowledge that their anonymity will be maintained and respected so that they are not threatened or intimidated by the prospect of subsequent harassment or retribution.
The proposed changes to the Jury Act would prevent this by ensuring and securing the anonymity of jurors through the use of identification numbers, rather than names, during the empanelment process, making it considerably more difficult to identify and contact jurors. Schedule 1 of the bill will insert proposed section 29 into the Act, providing for the allocation of identification numbers for prospective jurors summoned to serve on a jury. As outlined in schedule 1 and , which amend sections 48 and 49 of the Act, identification numbers instead of jurors’ names will be used in the selection of juries in both civil and criminal trials. Jurors will have to be addressed by their identification number during the entire course of the proceedings.
One of the only benefits of identification of jurors by name is that in some instances a relationship may be indicated between a juror and the accused or a witness in a case. In order to avoid a situation of a juror discovering a possible relationship to the accused or a witness in the case, schedule 1 and  amend section 38(7) to require that prospective jurors be informed of the details of the proceedings, including the names of the prosecution witnesses, so that they can asked to be excused if they feel that they are unable to make an impartial judgment in the proceedings. At present the section gives the trial judge the discretion to provide that information to jurors. The amendment will make it compulsory for judges to provide this information.
Anonymity protects the finality and inscrutability of jury verdicts and a desire to maintain the integrity of verdicts by protecting jurors from unwelcome, inappropriate or intimidatory external pressures. This amendment will lead to increased confidentiality in jury proceedings and
reduce threats and intimidations of juries by protecting their anonymity. Before I conclude, I raise the concerns and objections of the Bar Association and the Law Society of New South Wales. I do not know whether the Attorney General has received a copy of the Bar Association's submission on this bill. The submission, a copy of which I received a few hours ago, states:
It is a fundamental principle of our system of justice that unless there is good reason trials are to be in public. A necessary corollary to that is that an accused is entitled to at least know the identity of the person trying him or her.
A jury of course is collectively a judge. A jury is the sole trier of facts in a criminal case. An accused person is tried by a jury of his peers, not an aggregation of numbers.
Secondly, the system proposed in the amending legislation has inherent in it a further and perhaps more insidious aspect, namely, that it adds to the aura of suspicion and danger that is already inherent in the criminal justice process.
In Sydney at the Downing Centre there is now an overt security system in place which has as one of its by-products the creation of a general impression that you are now entering a place where dangerous people are.
To produce anonymity for jurors clearly adds to the apprehension.
In fact the policy behind the legislation is expressly suggested to be a concern that jurors may be intimidated or their lives threatened if their names are disclosed in court. It is hardly inherent in this proposition that the threat is likely to come from the Crown's side of the prosecution. No doubt it is suggested that the jury will be told the reason for their having numbers not names. No matter what the charge, it must suggest to any juror, either consciously or subconsciously, that they are about to deal with somebody who constitutes a prospective danger to them.
To produce this change in the law two examples are given. One was during the Milat trial and the other was a sexual assault case.
It seems odd that centuries of trial by jury in the various forms of trial by jury should be so drastically changed because of two complaints.
There is a third and perhaps less important factor which was vaguely alluded to in the Minister's second reading speech and that is that jury challenges when made can be made for the most curious and arcane of reasons. It is possible to imagine that a person's name might give some clue to a person's preselections. Mindful, of course, the juror takes an oath or makes an affirmation to try an accused person according to law, one can imagine for instance certain people being subconsciously or consciously affected because of the nationality of an accused person. There are enough internecine conflicts around the world motivated by race and/or religion to see how this dilemma could arise. Without a person's name it may be impossible to tell whether such a problem could exist.
It is hardly adequate to change a fundamental aspect that a person is entitled to know who his triers are to simply change it on a few examples of possible intimidation. Changes in the law should be effected for substantive motives rather than reasons of perception.
The concerns expressed by the Bar Association in its submission warrant attention, and I would like the Attorney General to address them in his response. The President of the Law Society of New South Wales, Patrick Fair, also expressed concerns about the legislation in a letter he wrote to the shadow Attorney General, the Hon. John Hannaford. I do not know whether the Attorney General received a similar letter. The letter, a copy of which was given to me by the Leader of the Opposition, is a short one and I would like the Attorney General to address the concerns raised therein also. The letter states:
The view was strongly expressed that lists of the numbers and corresponding names of the jury panel should be provided to counsel and the accused during empanelling with an undertaking that the lists be returned, and no notes kept, once the empanelment process is completed.
I do not know whether there is merit in giving the names of jurors to counsel. My view is that such action would defeat the purpose, because the defendant would find out the name of the juror. Nonetheless, the Opposition will not oppose or make any amendments to the Jury Amendment Bill. However, I would like the Attorney General to address the concerns raised by the Bar Association and the Law Society of New South Wales.
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY [3.15 p.m.]: The Australian Democrats support the Jury Amendment Bill. The aim of the bill is to amend the Jury Act 1977 to prevent jurors' names from being called out in court at the time of being empanelled. It also seeks to modify the offence of harassing a juror or former juror for the purpose of obtaining information on the deliberations of a jury. The bill seeks to provide anonymity for jurors or prospective jurors by providing that during proceedings they are addressed by an identification number allocated to them and by not obliging them to give their names or any other details that may identify them, unless the person requesting such information is the Sheriff. The bill will ensure non-identification of jurors by repealing the provision that allows for the inspection of jury panels containing the names of prospective jurors in civil trials.
Further protection will be afforded to jurors in that the bill amends the offence of soliciting information from or harassing a juror or former juror to omit the limitation that information must be solicited for the purposes of publication or broadcasting, and increases the maximum penalty for the offence from $5,000 in the case of a corporation and $2,000 in any other case to seven years imprisonment. I am informed that the number of complaints made to the Attorney General by jurors who have been the victims of harassment or unsolicited questioning demonstrates the need for such legislation. The information given to me by the
Attorney General's office notes that one former juror complained about her name being called out in open court prior to the commencement of a serious criminal trial.
Another former juror complained of receiving unsolicited mail relating to the case on which he had previously served as a juror. Yet another former juror expressed concern that his name, address and other details had been disclosed to those present in the courtroom when he unsuccessfully attempted to be excused from a jury prior to the commencement of a trial. The most recent incident of a juror being approached in a criminal trial occurred in the Milat trial: one juror was discharged in the last weeks of the trial following a telephoned threat. It is believed that the most likely way in which the name of the Milat juror was discovered was when the name, an unusual one, was read out during the jury selection process. As the Hon. Helen Sham-Ho has already stated, correspondence, a copy of which I received at the end of last week, was sent to members of Parliament by the Law Society of New South Wales. The letter highlights a number of practical difficulties with the changes as envisaged. Although I do not agree with what the Law Society says, I made a commitment that I would put its views on the public record, which is what I will do. The letter states:
When this proposal was first canvassed by the Attorney with the Society last year, a number of practical difficulties were raised by the Criminal Law Committee.
It is often the connection of a name with a person that will prompt recognition, where the physical presence of a person has not. In addition, the connection of a name with a person can enable some impression of a person to be gleaned. The Committee is also concerned that the proposal may severely limit the right to challenge for cause. These concerns are as much applicable to civil juries as they are to juries in criminal trials.
The letter continues:
You may be aware of the Criminal Justice Workshop held in March 1997, which was convened by the Director of Public Prosecutions and attended by representatives of the agencies involved in the criminal justice system. When the anonymity of jurors proposal was discussed at the Workshop, concerns similar to those raised by the Criminal Law Committee were aired. The view was strongly expressed that lists of the numbers and corresponding names of the jury panel should be provided to counsel and the accused during empanelling with an undertaking that the lists be returned, and no notes kept, once the empanelment process is completed. Jurors would only be addressed by number. The Director has advised the Society that this was a popular proposal.
The letter goes on to state:
It would be appreciated if you would consider this proposal with a view to moving appropriate amendments to the Jury Amendment Bill 1977.
I am not in a position to move such amendments as the correspondence I received from the Law Society arrived much too late. It was not possible to prepare amendments in time for today's debate. I understand the concerns of the Law Society about the operation of the changes encompassed in the bill. Its suggestion that the names and numbers should be provided to counsel and to the accused is not something that the Attorney General saw fit to incorporate in this legislation. When the Attorney General replies to debate on this matter he might explain to us why he made that decision.
I still believe that the changes relate to serious issues of social justice and to the operation of criminal trials in the justice system as a whole. When I was first briefed about this legislation I said that if criminal elements were involved and were present in court during a trial it would not be beyond their wit or ability to discover the names of jurors, even if they had not been formally read out in court. I have no means of knowing whether this legislation will serve to prevent jurors or former jurors from being harassed. Only time will tell. Quite frankly, I do not believe it will make very much difference. Anyone who is part of a criminal element, fighting for the freedom of an accused criminal, might well adopt measures which other people would never think of adopting. Time will prove the success or otherwise of this legislation. I conclude by supporting the bill.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE [3.23 p.m.]: Call to Australia supports the Jury Amendment Bill, the objects of which are:
(a) To provide that jurors or prospective jurors:
•are to be addressed during proceedings by the identification number allocated to them so that their anonymity is maintained, and
•are not required during those proceedings to give their names or any other details that may identify them . . .
(b) to enable prospective jurors to be informed of the nature of the proceedings and of the identities of persons involved in the proceedings . . . so that those jurors who feel that they are unable to give an impartial judgment in the proceedings can seek to be excused,
(c) to repeal the provision that allows for the inspection of jury panels containing the names of prospective jurors in civil trials,
(d) in relation to the offence of soliciting information from or harassing a juror or former juror . . .
Because of the more aggressive nature of the television media and their preparedness to invade the privacy of people, jurors need the protection that this legislation will provide. Some jurors have been
harassed when they have been allowed to leave the courtroom and others have been harassed by the media after they have come to a decision. They have been asked why they have voted in a certain way, what they thought about an accused and what they thought about other jurors. That has caused great concern in the community.
This harassment of jurors also raises a question about the final verdict and whether or not it was unanimous. This legislation simply reinforces our view that there should be no televising and/or photographs taken of court proceedings. The televising of proceedings enables others to identify jurors, even if their names are protected under the provisions of this bill. If the faces of jurors are televised their friends, neighbours or persons in the media are easily able to identify them. I urge the Government to maintain its current policy of not allowing television cameras into courtrooms.
The Hon. I. COHEN [3.26 p.m.]: I support the Jury Amendment Bill, a timely piece of legislation when one takes into account issues such as the Milat trial and the intimidation of a particular juror. This bill will target major crimes and crimes involving violence. Those who are called upon to perform jury duty must have afforded to them the maximum protection that the law can offer. This legislation is a significant step towards protecting jurors. As the Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby said, the bill might not guarantee the protection of jurors, but it is certainly a step in the right direction. I have been called upon to perform jury duty in Lismore court. People in the legal profession, the prosecution and the defence, do not have to give reasons for not allowing the appointment of a juror.
There has been criticism about the requirement by some in the legal profession that the names of jurors be known for the purposes of identification. I believe that the present power of the prosecution, the defence and others in the legal profession is sufficient, particularly in minor drug cases. I am concerned about potential bias and I believe that there should be a degree of anonymity. In the past the names of jurors have been disclosed to the court in front of the family of an accused. All honourable members would have heard media references to telephone threats of violence towards jurors. Those are sound reasons for amending legislation to further protect the anonymity of jurors. There is provision in this legislation to increase the maximum penalty for an offence if a juror has been harassed. Times have changed. The rights of people who are called upon to perform jury duty should be protected.
The Hon. J. W. SHAW (Attorney General, and Minister for Industrial Relations) [3.30 p.m.], in reply: I thank those honourable members who have spoken in the debate for their support for the bill. The thoughtful contributions from the Hon. Helen Sham-Ho for the Opposition, from the Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby, Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile and the Hon. I. Cohen all affirmed the basic principles behind the bill, namely: firstly, that a juror performs an important civic duty; secondly, that a juror is entitled to anonymity; and, thirdly, that a juror is entitled to adequate protection from harassment or interference. It is good to see a consensus in favour of those propositions. A number of honourable members referred to the submissions of the Bar Association expressing misgivings about the proposal. I think one can distil two points from the Bar Association's submission. Firstly, the bar has rightly affirmed the general principle that trials should be in open court unless there is some good reason to the contrary.
The Government would argue that the bill is consistent with the idea of trials in open court. It would say that there are good policy reasons for not announcing the names of jurors, and those policy reasons are the ones that I explained in the second reading speech. Secondly, it was said that there might be some degree of suspicion or concern by members of the public observing such a trial if the names were not read out. The Government takes the view that this new system will simply become part of the routine process, that there will be nothing of concern, and that there will be nothing which would give rise to reasonably based suspicion simply because the trial judge or a court official does not read out the names of jurors. In other words, the new system will become the norm and there will not be any rational basis for community concern about it.
Reference was also made to the Law Society's proposal, which was essentially to provide counsel for the defence with a list of jurors' names. The Government takes the view that such a proposal to provide counsel for the defence with a list of jurors' names would not be of any real value, for this reason: for such a practice to be of value it would be expected that the defence counsel would need to seek instructions from the accused person, that is, the defendant, to ascertain whether the accused person knows one of the prospective jurors or whether the accused person has any other basis for objection to the inclusion of one of those persons on the jury. If that were done it would undermine the purpose behind the amending legislation of protecting the anonymity of the jurors.
If it were not done, it is difficult to see how counsel could properly use that information. In other words, in the absence of instructions from the client, it is difficult to see that the mere provision to
counsel of the names of jurors would have any practical utility. The possibility of one of the jurors knowing the accused person will be addressed by the warning the crown prosecutor will be required to give the prospective jurors at the direction of the trial judge. This warning will address the nature of the case and the identities of the accused, as well as the names of the witnesses, and will state that those persons who feel that they are unable to give an impartial judgment in the case should seek to be excused. It should be noted that the court officials, including the trial judge, will have access to the list of jurors' names. I commend the bill to the House.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a second time and passed through remaining stages.
•to increase the maximum penalty for the offence to 7 years imprisonment . . .
CRIMES AMENDMENT (APPREHENDED VIOLENCE ORDERS) BILL
Debate resumed from 9 April.
The Hon. M. J. GALLACHER [3.34 p.m.]: The Crimes Amendment (Apprehended Violence Orders) Bill addresses a number of the quite serious shortcomings that currently exist in respect of this legislation. The main thrust of the bill is to rectify a number of discrepancies that exist between this State's legislation and Federal legislation - more precisely, the Crimes Act 1900 and the Family Law Act 1975. The object of the bill is to put in place a legal responsibility on parties participating in an apprehended violence order application or variation before a court to inform the court of any relevant family contact order that is in existence or is being sought. The bill will also require a court, upon hearing such evidence, to make a determination in respect of the apprehended violence order application or variation in light of the family contact order's existence.
The bill rectifies the discrepancy that currently exists and is part of a package of model Commonwealth-State provisions agreed to by the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General to resolve possible conflicts between family contact orders and apprehended violence orders. As I said at the commencement of my speech, the bill will endeavour to rectify a problem that has been identified in the system and will achieve greater consistency between Federal and State laws when consideration is being given to an application for an apprehended violence order. For this reason the Opposition is pleased to support the bill, which, as one coalition member pointed out to me this morning, is long overdue.
The general question of the ability of the apprehended violence order legislation to operate both effectively and fairly is one worth considering within the context of today's debate. The Government was no doubt well-meaning when it introduced a number of quite significant changes to this legislation last year, but the presence and significance of anecdotal evidence that the integrity of the process has been manipulated and undermined by unscrupulous individuals for their own advantage is something that cannot be denied. I believe that all honourable members would have received a fax this morning from the New South Wales Bar Association calling for the entire apprehended violence order section to be - and I quote the Bar Association - "scrapped entirely and redrafted from scratch". Honourable members would agree that those are fairly strong words from the Bar Association.
To assist all honourable members I will draw their attention to some of the more glaring difficulties that I have observed with this legislation. Without doubt the removal of the discretion for a justice to issue an apprehended violence order pursuant to section 572K(1A) of the legislation was a huge mistake. Prescribed justices no longer have discretionary power when determining an application. The Government's decision to remove this power was made following a number of incidents where justices had failed to issue domestic violence orders for some women who were the victims of violence. I believe the decision to remove the discretionary power in respect of domestic violence was quite valid because it allowed for some protection from a perpetrator pending a hearing. However, removing the discretionary power in respect of all applications has created a nightmare for the Government. But, more importantly, it has led to this legislation becoming the subject of severe ridicule in the wider community - the work of those who are hell-bent on destroying the potential benefits of this legislation.
Unfortunately, the consequences of some of these discrepancies are not new to the Attorney General. In fact, he was aware of some of these shortcomings prior to the legislation coming into force - or, should I say, his department was informed; whether the Attorney General was personally informed by his senior bureaucrats is another thing. Currently in New South Wales any person can walk into a courthouse and have an apprehended violence order taken out against any other person in this State. The justice does not have the power to refuse the application. I could take out an apprehended violence order against the Attorney General this afternoon if I felt so inclined and so threatened -
The Hon. J. H. Jobling: How about the Treasurer?
The Hon. M. J. GALLACHER: I could most certainly take one out against the Treasurer. The end result would be that the Attorney General and his legal representative would later have to appear before the court hearing the matter to have it finalised. A rather ugly incident occurred in the building earlier this afternoon. A number of people witnessed a heated - should I say a "Franca" - exchange between two Government members. Under this legislation, the recipient of such abuse would be well within his or her rights to apply for an apprehended violence order against the other person and an order could be issued.
I draw the attention of honourable members to a matter that was before Bowral Local Court last week. A man took out 18 apprehended violence orders against 18 police officers, some stationed in the Bowral and Moss Vale areas and others stationed hundreds of kilometres away. The Chamber Magistrate was compelled to issue the 18 apprehended violence orders, which are now listed for hearing before Bowral Local Court in June. Can honourable members imagine the hours that have gone into preparing and serving the summonses, in addition to the hours that the 18 police officers will lose at work between now and June? This situation illustrates the utter stupidity of the no discretion provision in the legislation.
The situation gets worse. Where an order is made pending a hearing against a police officer - I again refer to the situation involving the 18 police officers at Bowral - police practice and procedure require the officer to surrender his firearm and to be restricted to station duties pending the outcome of the hearing. Therefore, any New South Wales police officer who is investigating a serious crime or a criminal could face a situation where the criminal goes to court, takes out an apprehended violence order and keeps the police officer - potentially, an entire police station - off his back until the matter is determined in court. I cannot believe that the Government has seriously considered the implications of what it did last year when it allowed this situation to develop. I realise that the surrender of a firearm was possible under previous legislation, but the Government must look at the ramifications - it has opened up a Pandora's box of complaint potential.
Another problem arises from the no discretion provision, that is, the perpetrators of domestic violence use the provision to issue cross-actions against victims as a form of threat or blackmail. Words such as "If you withdraw yours, I'll withdraw mine" would not be uncommon in a situation like this. Perpetrators already have a substantial psychological hold over their victims, and the legislation in its current form reinforces that hold. When the cross-action is eventually dismissed by a court, an aggressive perpetrator can appeal to the District Court by simply filing a fresh complaint in identical terms to the initial complaint. I ask the Attorney General: how fair is this on victims? Can honourable members imagine the trauma victims would face in having to go through it all again, this time before a judge? The legislation applies equally to domestic violence and to apprehended violence.
The unfortunate result of what I have detailed today has led to domestic violence offences being lost in a sea of personal violence orders, which can be, and have been, as trivial as a cat entering a neighbour's yard. I call on the Government to urgently address some of the issues that I have raised today. There needs to be a clear separation between domestic and personal violence matters. I suggest to the Attorney General that the provision of an administrative fee in personal violence matters may be a step in the right direction to reduce the number of ambit applications by individuals and to further reduce the potential for manipulation overall. I emphasise that such a fee will not have an effect on domestic violence applications. I am calling for a fee to be introduced only on personal violence applications.
The legislation contains the statutory requirement that mediation, held in conjunction with community justice centres, must be attempted before an AVO is issued in personal violence matters. This will stop the immediate issuing of an AVO without the potential for the matter being resolved and explored. Another area of concern regarding this legislation relates to telephone interim orders, as per sections 562H(9) and 562H(10). As all honourable members would recognise, the use of telephone interim orders occurs primarily during the night and quite often involves offenders affected by alcohol, drugs, or both. Interim orders, when issued by a justice, automatically expire at the next court date at which the offender must appear or within 14 clear days, whichever comes first. There is no provision for a 24-hour order, a 48-hour or even a seven-day order, during which time the offender must remain away from the home.
Such a situation is fine in metropolitan areas because the courts meet every day, but what about country areas of New South Wales where many courts meet only once a fortnight? The potential is such that an offender - this applies as much to females as it does to males - may have to live on the streets for up to 13 days while awaiting the outcome of a court hearing. Some might say that the
interim order should be issued to a nearby town if its court sits earlier than the offender’s local court. However, how is the perpetrator or the victim to travel to the hearing if the other party subject to the order has possession of the only means of transport? For example, I refer to the case where there is an interim order to appear at Mudgee court in 14 days. The nearest available court that sits earlier is Bathurst. How will the parties get there? They cannot walk. A simple solution would be to give justices a discretionary power - that word again - to determine for what period the perpetrator is evicted from the home.
My final observation that I wish to bring to the attention of honourable members, particularly the Attorney General, relates to section 562C(2A). A young person who is the victim of apprehended violence - for example, a person under the age of 16 - is ineligible to take out an apprehended violence order on his own; it can only be taken out by a police officer. However, the perpetrator - who, for the purpose of my speech, is an adult - can take out an apprehended violence order against the young person. In this example, the police are the only ones who have a discretionary power and if they choose not to take an order out on behalf of a young person, for any reason, the legislation is seen to discriminate in relation to age. The legislation has most certainly failed the most vulnerable and readily manipulated people in the State, and the Parliament is charged to protect them. The Opposition supports the bill.
The Hon. A. G. CORBETT [3.49 p.m.]: I support the Crimes Amendment (Apprehended Violence Orders) Bill, with two qualifications, which I intend to address by way of amendment during the Committee stage. The bill arises from concerns about unforeseen and unintended inconsistencies between family contact arrangements and apprehended violence orders, and follows recent parallel reforms to the Commonwealth Family Law Act. The bill is intended to resolve these inconsistencies and to minimise confusion in the separate determination and effect of family contact orders and AVOs. Issues associated with family breakdown and apprehension of violence are far too serious for there to be any doubt, any room for confusion, any scope for inconsistency. This bill is welcome to the extent that it ensures certainty and consistency in dealing with both family contact orders and apprehended violence orders.
I turn now to the concerns I have regarding the bill. Proposed new section 562FA(1) requires applicants for AVOs to inform the court of any relevant family contact orders made under the Family Law Act, or any applications which might be pending. I am concerned that there may be any number of reasons why an applicant may forget or neglect to inform the court of any existing family contact arrangements. If the purpose of the bill is to ensure that the court is aware of the full picture of family violence, it is essential that it have access to details of any relevant family contact orders. Access to this information should not be denied through oversight or neglect on the part of either the court or the affected parties.
Proposed new section 562FA(3) even presupposes the possibility of this information, for whatever reason, not being known to the court. However, every effort should be made by both the court and the parties to ensure that all relevant information is made known to the court. If the court does not have an obligation to inquire about existing family contact arrangements when inconsistent orders are made, it is too easy to just blame the affected parties for not making these arrangements known to the court. In addition to the obligation placed on the parties appearing, the court should first inform the parties that the issue of relevant family contact orders must be raised during the hearing of an application for the making or varying of an AVO.
In Committee, I shall propose an amendment to articulate and formalise the requirement that the court inform the parties of their obligations under the legislation. The bill proposes that the onus be on the person applying for an AVO to inform the court of any relevant family contact orders. The amendment will ensure that there is an equal obligation on the court and on the parties to have all the relevant information presented and considered. In those cases where parties appear without representation or have a poor grasp of either English or legal procedures, it is intended that the court will take the initiative of inquiring about family contact orders and explain to the parties what is being sought, as well as the reasons for requiring that information. I am aware that many magistrates will make this inquiry in any case, but this amendment will ensure that all magistrates ask the parties about relevant contact orders.
If the purpose of the bill is to ensure consistency between contact orders and AVOs, every effort should be made to ensure that the court is in possession of all information necessary to guarantee that consistency. The proposed amendment will provide that assurance. I turn now to proposed new section 562FA(2), which requires the court, when making or varying an AVO, to consider family contact and have regard to any relevant family contact orders of which it has been informed. The current wording suggests that existing family contact
arrangements or orders could be sufficient grounds to refuse the making of an AVO. To remedy this, I shall move an amendment to ensure that the existence of a family contact order is not sufficient grounds to refuse to make an apprehended violence order if the court is satisfied that there are sufficient grounds under section 562B to make such an order.
This will enable any informal contact arrangements or formal contact orders to be taken into account when making or varying the conditions of an apprehended violence order, which is the overall purpose of the bill, but it will not permit a court to refuse to make or vary an AVO solely on the grounds that existing family contact arrangements are in place. These proposed amendments are necessary to ensure that people are provided with the appropriate protection when the circumstances warrant. I hope they will secure the support of this House. With these qualifications, I support the bill.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE [3.53 p.m.]: The Call to Australia party supports the Crimes Amendment (Apprehended Violence Orders) Bill. The objects of the bill are to amend the Crimes Act 1900 to require a person who applies for, or for a variation of, an apprehended violence order - an AVO - to inform the court of any relevant family contact order that has been made or is being sought, that is, of any order relating to contact with children of the parties made pursuant to the Family Law Act 1975 of the Commonwealth; and to require a court, in deciding whether or not to make or vary an AVO, to consider whether contact with any children of the parties is relevant to the making or variation of the AVO and to have regard to any relevant family contact order of which it has been informed.
The bill is a positive move forward. There are many problems with the present system of AVOs. In some cases AVOs are being used where there is a dispute relating to separation and/or divorce that affects children. There is some merit in the amendments foreshadowed by the Hon. A. G. Corbett. People may not reveal to the court information that is even required by this bill, either deliberately or by neglect. The court should have the onus of making more vigorous efforts to spell this out in court or taking other steps to ascertain the existence of other orders. This could mean deferring a hearing until a report has been received from the Family Law Court.
I support the views expressed by the Hon. M. J. Gallacher, relating to matters about which we share grave concerns. AVOs are being used in a way never intended by government, be it a Labor or coalition government. AVO procedures were brought into law with good intentions, but they are now being abused. The Government should seriously consider amending the legislation to restore the right of a judge to have discretion to inquire about whether an AVO should be issued and to make further inquiries about whether the application is based on malicious, vexatious or frivolous reasons and therefore should not proceed.
I have heard of one dispute between a male and female where the female felt threatened and went to the police. However, after hearing all the details, the police suggested the matter was not serious enough and no action was taken. The male, on the other hand, went straight to the court and took out an apprehended violence order against the female, thereby giving the impression that she was the one who had threatened the male and was therefore in the wrong. That is confirmation of some AVOs being abused and taken out for improper motives. Call to Australia supports the bill but urges the Attorney General to conduct an urgent review of those aspects of the AVO. If abuse of the AVO continues, the procedure will be brought into disrepute. Already, the New South Wales Bar Association is calling for the scrapping of the legislation, so it would be preferable for the Government to initiate an urgent review.
The Hon. I. COHEN [3.58 p.m.]: I support the Crimes Amendment (Apprehended Violence Orders) Bill. Some inconsistencies exist with apprehended violence orders and this bill seeks to deal with those. Domestic violence exacts enormous physical, psychological and economic toll on families and the community. Certainly in this day and age it is a serious social problem. The Greens have a number of concerns about the bill. Part 15A of the Crimes Act sets out provisions for individuals to obtain apprehended violence orders. Part 15A can be used by individuals who fear they will be subject to domestic violence, or following incidents of domestic violence. According to the domestic violence court assistance kit produced by the Redfern Legal Centre and published in 1996, 95 per cent of all domestic violence is committed by men, and their female partners are the main victims. However, it must be recognised that recently this is not just a heterosexual issue and non-heterosexual individuals can be at risk from their partners.
It is recognised that, fundamentally, domestic violence is the manifestation of power and control, usually directed by a man to his female partner and sometimes to his children or to a male partner. Apprehended violence orders are particularly important to protect women from domestic violence. According to the domestic violence court assistance kit, domestic violence is the most common form of assault in Australia. Acts of domestic violence occur
at a rate of between one in three and one in 10 families. About 30 per cent of police work is concerned with domestic violence issues. The most common group of victims is those who have dependent children and who have no independent financial status. Forty-four per cent of women murdered are killed by a spouse or a person having a sexual relationship with the victim.
Pursuant to sessional orders business interrupted.
QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
SENTENCE OF TROY TAPFIELD
The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD: My question is directed to the Attorney General. Last Friday in Newcastle District Court was Troy Tapfield given a 12-month sentence for killing a cyclist in a hit-and-run accident while he was unlicensed, driving an unregistered car, and under the influence of morphine? Since this Parliament increased the maximum penalty for such an offence from five years to 10 years in 1994, will the Attorney General appeal against this sentence? Will he ensure that an immediate decision is made on this matter to allay the shattered feelings of the victim's family?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: I am aware of the case to which the Leader of the Opposition referred. I believe his summary of the decision of the District Court is essentially accurate, although to truly appreciate the accuracy or appropriateness of a sentence one needs to take into account all the facts and circumstances, not just a small number of them. I am sure the Leader of the Opposition appreciates this. Nonetheless, the sentence, on its face, gives rise to concern. The Director of Public Prosecutions has already been asked to consider whether an appeal might be appropriate in this case, having regard to the factor to which the Leader of the Opposition referred, namely, the significant increase in penalty for this crime which the Parliament determined in relatively recent times. I do not yet have a response from the DPP, but I hope to receive his response expeditiously. When I obtain it I will obviously make it known to the House.
ABUSE OF THE ELDERLY
The Hon P. T. PRIMROSE: Will the Minister for Community Services, Minister for Aged Services, and Minister for Disability Services inform the House of the progress in the Government's attempts to deal with the difficult problem of elder abuse?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: As the House is aware, abuse of older people is an issue about which this Government has a proven record and a strong ongoing commitment. As part of the joint aged care policy that the Government announced last year, it committed funds of $100,000 a year over the next three years to help deal with this difficult problem. The funds will allow the interagency protocol and other measures to be evaluated; they will be used to foster further research into effective service responses to situations of abuse and will allow for the implementation of training for professionals and community education about abuse.
Abuse of older people is an emerging human rights issue. Currently it is estimated that each year between 10,000 and 25,000 older people in New South Wales are victims of abuse. Abuse of older people is any pattern of behaviour that causes physical, psychological or financial harm. This abuse is often caused by a person with whom the older person has a relationship implying trust. No one reason explains the complex issue of abuse of older people. The Government has already released a number of major resources addressing the issue of abuse, including the interagency protocol, the legal issues manual, the video kit entitled "Behind Closed Doors" and "Dealing With Abuse of Clients and Their Carers: A Training Kit", which was funded by the home and community care program.
Training of workers is an essential component of any strategy to deal with this human rights issue. To ensure consistent quality of training the Government is conducting training across New South Wales. It is expected to commence in mid-1997 and will take approximately 18 months. A series of discussion papers on issues of abuse are currently being prepared. Two discussion papers that have been completed as part of the series are "Elder Abuse and Dementia" and "Financial Exploitation of Older People in Their Homes". Also, research into abuse involving people of non-English speaking backgrounds is under way. The Government is committed to ensuring that the advances made in the area of abuse of older people are further developed to assist also people with disabilities. The Ageing and Disability Department has begun essential work in this area.
PRISONER INTERPRETER SERVICES
The Hon. J. M. SAMIOS: Is the Attorney General, representing the Minister for Corrective Services, aware that the "Mulawa Report" of the New South Wales Ombudsman states that a custodial officer -
The Hon. I. M. Macdonald: First-class acting.
The Hon. J. M. SAMIOS: Just listen to this. The custodial officer had told visitors to the segregation unit at Mulawa that "when we need to read the Riot Act to NESB (non-English speaking background) inmates, we do not use interpreters, we read it to them twice slowly". What action does the Government propose to take to ensure that NESB inmates are given proper access to interpreters and translators? Does this poor practice represent a further example of the Carr Government's tokenism to multiculturalism?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: Despite the overacting by the honourable member I will take the question seriously and refer it to the Hon. R. J. Debus for a reply.
SNOWY MOUNTAINS WORKPLACE SAFETY
The Hon. I. M. MACDONALD: My question is directed to the Attorney General, and Minister for Industrial Relations. What measures have WorkCover inspectors taken to ensure that employees in the Snowy Mountains region have a safe place of work? Is the Minister aware of the outrageous criticisms of the inspectors in a press release issued by the member for Monaro? What is the Minister's response to those outrageous and damnable criticisms?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: I am aware that oppositions tend to be inspired towards hyperbole, that they feel the need to put out lurid press releases, but this is one of the worst examples of disinformation from the Opposition, by the honourable member for Monaro. He accused the WorkCover inspectors of gestapo tactics threatening company jobs. If one can penetrate that rather alarmist rhetoric, it appears that the member for Monaro is attacking WorkCover for enforcing occupational health and safety laws. The press release accuses the inspectors of aggressive tactics and claims that some unnamed companies have been forced to close.
The honourable member's attitude is surprising, especially given that a large number of his constituents are engaged in activities that have a poor safety record. The construction industry has a history of significant injury and deaths. Dangers in the Snowy Mountains area are exacerbated for a number of reasons: the seasonal nature of the work, which often means that work has to be completed within a tight deadline; the remoteness of the sites; and the technical difficulties associated with the terrain. I am advised that the WorkCover inspectors who carried out the inspections in the Snowy Mountains did so in a sensitive and sensible manner. The visits were intended to be advisory and evaluation inspections to determine the level of compliance with occupational health and safety and workers compensation legislation.
WorkCover inspectors commenced their inspections on 17 February 1997. I am advised that during the initial visits it was found that the level of compliance was so poor that the potential for a very serious accident causing serious injury or death was extremely high. In the first week 22 sites were visited. The inspectors issued 41 improvement and 32 prohibition notices and only seven on-the-spot fines. On-the-spot fines carry a $500 penalty for employers and a $50 penalty for employees.
By way of background, improvement notices are issued giving the employer a specified time to correct occupational health and safety breaches. Prohibition notices are issued typically when life and limb are at risk and the activity must cease immediately. The fact that in the first week only seven of the 80 breaches were on-the-spot fines demonstrates that the WorkCover inspectors were carrying out an essentially advisory role. A follow-up visit was carried out on 18 March, when the inspectors found many of the problems had not been rectified. Following the inspection of 34 sites, 14 on-the-spot fines - double the amount on the previous visit - were issued, as well as 15 improvement notices and 26 prohibition notices.
The increase in fines is primarily attributed to employers ignoring the advice the first time. A third visit was carried out almost three weeks later, at which time there was a marked improvement in safety, to the credit of the employers concerned. Just six on-the-spot fines, only five prohibition notices and no improvement notices were issued. In short, the construction industry in the Snowy Mountains was cleaned up over the two-month period. The sequence of inspections highlights the value of educating employers in the first instance and then following up the education with enforcement when necessary. The member for Monaro complained about the size of the fines. In total, 27 on-the-spot fines amounting to $12,500 were issued. Of those 27 fines, 24 were issued to employers and three to employees. Also, 23 of the fines related to the risk of potentially fatal falls from heights.
Far from the WorkCover inspectorate being vulnerable to criticism for its successful series of investigations, it should be congratulated on a successful operation in the Snowy Mountains. Of course, some employers will take exception to being visited and inspected. It would be absurd to imagine safety inspectors being welcomed with open arms by all employers. However, we should not attack the inspectors for doing their job, that is making workplaces in the State safer places. It is hoped that the intervention of the safety inspectors in this
region will result in a change in the culture so that unsafe work practises are seen as unacceptable.
SILVERWATER GAOL CONTAMINATED MATERIAL DISPOSAL
The Hon. I. COHEN: My question without notice is directed to the Treasurer, representing the Minister for the Olympics. As I speak, the Olympic Co-ordination Authority is disposing of approximately 750,000 cubic metres of contaminated soil and refuse at Silverwater Prison, Jamieson Road, adjacent to the Parramatta River, as an interim measure while the nature of contaminants is being determined. Will the Minister assure the inmates and operators at Silverwater Prison that they are not at any risk from exposure to this material, considering that no-one knows what it contains? Will the Minister assure residents of the surrounding area that they are not at risk from dust coming from this site? Will the Minister detail the safeguards in place to control any escape of this material into the general environment, particularly through pathways into water and the air? Will the Minister give a date when this contaminated material will be properly treated and disposed of rather than being ferried from site to site and swept under the green Olympic carpet?
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: What a very good question. He does not know the answer to that and he does not even care.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I do not know the answer, but I will endeavour to obtain an early response to the question for the Hon. I. Cohen.
COMMONWEALTH-STATE DISABILITY AGREEMENT
The Hon. PATRICIA FORSYTHE: My question without notice is addressed to the Minister for Community Services, Minister for Aged Services, and Minister for Disability Services. Is it a fact that New South Wales has not fulfilled its obligations under part VI of the Commonwealth-State Disability Agreement in relation to planning provisions? Why has New South Wales not provided its three-year forward plan to the Commonwealth for services under the agreement? Has the Government's failure to submit a plan jeopardised the State’s position in relation to the Commonwealth-State Disability Agreement funding?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: The Hon. Patricia Forsythe would perform a great service to the State if she would support the efforts of the Government to obtain a better funding deal from the Howard Government under the Commonwealth-State Disability Agreement. I am prepared to say that when the Hawke Government was in office the States and Territories received less than an ideal arrangement as a result of the Commonwealth-State Disability Agreement that was then entered into. I intend to go to Melbourne this coming Thursday to represent New South Wales at a meeting of disability Ministers, where the States and Territories will fight a proposal of the Howard Government to cut disability funding by 6 per cent over the next four years.
The intention is that the Howard Government will cut funding to the States and Territories by 3 per cent next financial year and by 1 per cent in each of the succeeding three financial years. I cannot allow that to happen because disability services in New South Wales, and for that matter in other States and Territories, are underfunded now without being cut to any greater extent. Given that the States and Territories have responsibility for supported accommodation and respite care in particular - expensive aspects of disability - it concerns me greatly that the Howard Government contemplates cutting funding in this area. I understand that New South Wales would have complied with its obligations under the agreement. I shall make further inquiries in that regard.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: You never know a thing, do you? You have no idea.
The Hon. R. D. DYER: I do know that the Howard Government is trying to rip off funding from this State in disability, health, education and other areas. If the Hon. Patricia Forsythe wants to help, she ought to prevail on her Federal colleague the Hon. Judith Moylan, who failed to attend an aged care meeting recently.
The Hon. M. R. Egan: You mean that she did not even go?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: She did not even go to the aged care meeting in Sydney to defend her own proposal.
The Hon. R. T. M. Bull: She might have been at another meeting.
The Hon. R. D. DYER: The meeting to which I am referring was a significant meeting. The Hon. Judith Moylan ought to have attended the meeting to defend the Federal Government's proposal to impose a levy of $26,000 on persons wishing to obtain a place in a nursing home.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: What does this have to do with disability services?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: It is all part of the one problem. The Howard Government is trying to cut funding and in some cases has already cut
funding to aged care, disability services and health care.
The Hon. Patricia Forsythe: How does the Federal Government know our priorities if you did not tell them?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: I can tell the Hon. Patricia Forsythe what my priority is. My priority is to maintain and improve the provision of disability services in this State. That certainly applies to supported accommodation and respite care. The Government has put a lot of money and resources into disability services in the two years it has been in office. I need only mention the 400-plus places by way of supported accommodation that the Government has created. It cannot be said that it has not put a lot of effort into improving disability services. However, the Commonwealth-State Disability Agreement is all about transferred services - services hitherto run by the Commonwealth that have now been transferred to New South Wales on an underfunded basis.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: This came as a result of the Grimes report. That was about 10 years ago. The Government should have some idea what it wants to do now.
The Hon. R. D. DYER: As usual, the Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti does not have the faintest idea what he is talking about. The agreement was entered into five years ago, not 10 years ago. I have said that the States and Territories have the expensive end of the deal: supported accommodation and respite care. The Commonwealth retained responsibility for employment services relating to disability and also advocacy services, which are far less expensive than supported accommodation. I am absolutely certain that the Commonwealth knows the needs of New South Wales. As recently as this afternoon I spoke with my counterpart in the Victorian Government, who feels as strongly about this matter as I do. Honourable members can be assured that New South Wales and Victoria have a major interest in a good outcome from Thursday's meeting. I have not noticed in recent months that the Opposition has tried to help; it has been silent regarding funding for disability services. It ought not to be silent. This State and the consumers of disability services need a good deal. New South Wales has a large system, and anything that can reasonably be done to obtain a good deal from the Commonwealth will certainly be done by this Government. However, one would assume it will do so without the assistance of the Opposition.
REGISTRY OF BIRTHS, DEATHS AND MARRIAGES SECURITY PROCEDURES
The Hon. Dr MEREDITH BURGMANN: My question without notice is directed to the Attorney General, and Minister for Industrial Relations. What measures are in place to ensure the security of certificates and the procedures surrounding the issue of certificates by the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: I am sure that honourable members of the Opposition will be interested in such a constructive question. In 1993 two significant incidents occurred involving counterfeit birth certificates. The first case involved detection by the Australian Federal Police of a counterfeiting racket in which forged New South Wales birth certificates were used by illegal immigrants to obtain Australian passports. The second case involved the conviction of persons involved in the theft of blank certificates from the Bowral courthouse. The stolen certificates were used for bank and insurance fraud totalling at least $2.3 million. Following a review of the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages security by independent consultants, the registry introduced new procedures to strengthen security surrounding application processes, production methods and country services.
These new procedures have been implemented since July 1995. All personal applicants for restricted New South Wales certificates must now produce identification in support of their application. Applications for certificates from rural areas are faxed to the registry's head office in Sydney to ensure centralised, secure production on high-security paper. Such procedures are essential to ensure a high level of security for applications for certificates. The Government has taken steps to ensure that the centralised certificate production process does not unduly disadvantage rural citizens of New South Wales. At the time these changes were introduced, the registry consulted country members of Parliament and court staff to facilitate the new procedures.
The registry allocated $300,000 for the purchase of new fax machines in courthouses and the training of staff. The registry is concerned to ensure that all of its clients throughout New South Wales receive efficient and prompt service. The new security procedures have been accompanied by changes to the practice of courts and the registry, such as the interfax certificate application service, which has proved not only very efficient but also popular with the registry's clients in New South Wales and other States. Reports indicate that the new procedures have been a success, ensuring greater security in the application and production
process without detracting from the registry service delivery guarantees.
JUVENILE OFFENDER MENTOR SCHEME
The Hon. ANN SYMONDS: Will the Minister for Community Services, Minister for Aged Services, and Minister for Disability Services inform the House what measures the Government has put in place to divert young offenders from a lifetime of crime?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: The honourable member has asked a constructive question. Honourable members may already be aware of a program I introduced last year to divert young Aboriginal offenders from a life of crime. The Aboriginal mentor scheme now has more than 150 mentors helping juvenile offenders with their rehabilitation in a culturally sensitive way. I am pleased to advise the House that a general mentor scheme is now being introduced in the greater Sydney area for young offenders from other cultural backgrounds. While young Aboriginal people are the most overrepresented group in juvenile detention, other non Anglo-Australian cultural groups make up a significant 26 per cent of the juvenile detention centre population, though representing only a small proportion of the general youth population.
In 1995-96 of all juveniles in custody 3.5 per cent were Arabic speaking, 4.7 per cent were New Zealanders-Maoris, 4.7 per cent were Pacific Islanders and 3.9 per cent were of Indo-Chinese background. The Department of Juvenile Justice is recruiting as mentors people who can assist young offenders to reintegrate into their own communities, in effect, to break the crime cycle. A mentor should be able to help a young person take advantage of educational or vocational opportunities as well as promote positive leisure activities. The work of a mentor is to complement, not duplicate, the role of juvenile justice officers. I can inform the House that the response to the program has been extremely positive, with more than 200 applications received from prospective mentors across Sydney.
Training is either already under way or will begin early next month for new mentors. Once the mentors have been trained, they will be employed on a fee-for-service basis as they are required. The mentor program aims to divert young people from a life of crime while, at the same time, allowing them to remain in their own communities with the support of a mentor. Figures indicate that 70 per cent of first-time young offenders never reappear in court, and programs such as the mentor scheme are an important part of the Government's commitment to help young people break the crime cycle.
MALE AGE OF CONSENT
The Hon. ELAINE NILE: I direct my question without notice to the Attorney General, and Minister for Industrial Relations. Is it a fact that the homosexual community is lobbying to have the age of consent for males lowered from 18 years to 16 years? Is it a fact that yesterday, at the University of Sydney paedophilia conference, the President of the Anti-Discrimination Board said that the age of consent should be lowered to 16 years? Will the Government protect the boys of our State by maintaining the present male age of consent? What are the Government's thoughts on the subject?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: The answer to the first question is, I believe so. The answer to the second question is that I am unaware of the comments apparently made by Mr Puplick yesterday to which the honourable member referred. As to general policy considerations about the age of consent, I can assure the honourable member that the Government is not currently considering any proposal to alter the status quo.
MAJORITY JURY VERDICTS
The Hon. FRANCA ARENA: Does the Attorney General, and Minister for Industrial Relations recall questions during the last session of Parliament on whether he was considering a majority jury verdict for criminal cases? Was he awaiting advice from his department? Has he received such advice? What can he report to the House?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: I have previously given information to the House about the process the Government has put in place to consider majority verdicts. This issue has been around from time immemorial, so no legitimate criticism can be made of the Government for not rushing into some reform by way of a knee-jerk reaction to a particular trial. That type of decision-making process is usually quite unsatisfactory in the criminal justice area. However, what I have said before and I reiterate is that the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research is undertaking research into majority verdicts in criminal trials. It is specifically endeavouring to establish not only the frequency of hung juries but also, and more relevantly, the frequency with which jury votes are hung either 11:1 or 10:2 in favour of conviction.
I do not think any honourable member would seriously put forward the proposition that we ought to have narrow majorities on juries deciding guilt or innocence in serious criminal trials. So one has to try to differentiate the statistics. One has to try to work out how many trials are not determined by
reaching a non-conclusion by, for example, an 11:1 vote. That is the sort of material one needs to make a sensible policy decision in this regard. Dr Weatherburn is conducting this research in cooperation with the judges. It has been said that a jury is as inscrutable as the Sphinx; one simply does not know what goes on in the jury room, and that is rightly so. However, with the cooperation of judges we will obtain empirical material that will illuminate policy making in this area and will enable all honourable members to consider their positions on an important point of principle.
It is my view that only once the information is at hand can an informed decision be made about the introduction of majority verdicts. Following a pilot study which was conducted prior to the commencement of the project, the bureau began collecting data on 21 October. In order to ensure that the results of the study are conclusive, it is intended that it should continue for up to 12 months, if necessary. Such determination will be made by the director of the bureau, Dr Don Weatherburn. It cannot be overstated that it would be irresponsible to hastily amend the law on so fundamental a point as this without the relevant material.
The requirement for unanimous verdicts in criminal matters has been a feature of the New South Wales jurisdictional system for many years. Trial by jury was considered of such importance by those who established our nation that it was entrenched in the Commonwealth Constitution. As honourable members will know, the High Court has held that with regard to Commonwealth offences the Commonwealth Constitution requires - as the High Court has informed us - unanimity on the jury. The Government has no predetermined view in relation to this issue. If it is demonstrated that a significant benefit would flow from allowing majority verdicts, obviously that is something that would be positively considered by the Government.
BLUE MOUNTAINS DISABILITY SUPPORT WORKER
The Hon. J. F. RYAN: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Community Services, Minister for Aged Services, and Minister for Disability Services. Is it a fact that there is no disability support worker in the Blue Mountains? Has the Minister received numerous complaints about the lack of support services in that area? Why was the Minister not prepared to front a public meeting at Blackheath specifically organised to hear from him about this issue last Saturday?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: This Government has an excellent record in the provision of disability services; I make no apology in that regard. When we compare the record of this Government with the record of the previous Government there is much of which Labor can be proud. At no stage did I agree to attend the meeting referred to by the Hon. J. F. Ryan in his question. However, I arranged for the Director-General of the Ageing and Disability Department, Ms Jane Woodruff, an expert in disability issues, to attend. I am advised that she was more than capable of dealing with all the issues that arose at the meeting referred to by the honourable member. I have made it quite plain that I did not agree to go to that meeting.
The Hon. Judy Moylan was putting forward a proposal, by way of legislation, to transfer activities and responsibilities to the States, that required some defence. If I had to attend every disability meeting that was held throughout this State, I would be doing nothing else; I would be neglecting other areas of my responsibility. One thing that cannot be said about me is that I do not care about disability services. In the last two years, thanks to the funding provided by my colleague the Treasurer, I have created over 450 new supported accommodation places. By way of contrast, between 1990 and 1994 - a five-year period - the coalition created 102 new supported accommodation places. This Government has done over four times more in a two-year period than the previous Government did over five years.
In addition, I have closed the Watagan Centre, which was an absolute disgrace. When I was in opposition I took the trouble to visit that centre. Those people have been successfully relocated in the community. I have improved accommodation at the Lachlan Centre and I recently announced the closure of the Hall for Children in the Blue Mountains. The previous Government did not get around to any of these things. I have increased funding by $5.5 million for children's disability services - an initiative announced in last year's budget. That children's disability package has improved services for 2,867 children and their families. Recently, I opened the first centre for developmental disability studies, including the first chair of developmental disability studies at the University of Sydney.
I have piloted new services for young children with disabilities in child-care services. This Government has remarkably and radically increased funding for the post-school options program to help school leavers with disabilities. I have increased monitoring for private licensed boarding houses to improve conditions for residents in those boarding houses. This Government has increased the number of community visitors sevenfold - from five to 35 - from the position that obtained under the previous
Government to improve the monitoring of services catering for people with disabilities.
The Government is putting its money where its mouth is; it is investing funds to improve disability services. The Howard Government wants to take away 6 per cent of our funding. That is just not good enough. One can always point to some location in this State where something might be improved. However, much has been done by this Government and much more will be done. The previous Government chose to neglect this area. The Federal Government is choosing to wind down disability services. That is not good enough. I will take on notice any request for an enhancement to disability funding.
In the pre-budget process the Treasurer knows that I always have a list of priorities. Disability funding is always near the top of that list. In this Government's previous two budgets there have been substantial enhancements to disability funding. This Government has an excellent record in disability services. Opposition members should hang their heads in shame because they neglected this area. They did not bother about funding the services this Government is funding. I have given Opposition members my list of priorities. They know that they neglected this area and they ought to be ashamed. They have no shame, but they really should have.
The Hon. J. S. TINGLE: Is the Minister for Community Services, representing the Minister for Agriculture, aware that Federal meat inspectors who currently check New South Wales abattoirs providing meat for domestic consumption are to be removed and replaced by internal company inspectors from 1 July 1997? Is the Minister aware that government meat inspections will still occur in New South Wales abattoirs providing meat for export consumption because of the stringent health checks demanded by overseas countries importing Australian meat? Due to recent outbreaks in Victoria and South Australia of food poisoning associated with meat products, can the Minister assure the House that he will take steps to ensure continued government-operated meat inspections in New South Wales abattoirs? Will the Minister take steps to ensure that the health of New South Wales consumers will not be jeopardised while consumers in overseas markets continue to be protected?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: I shall refer the matters referred to in the question of the Hon. J. S. Tingle to the Minister for Agriculture. At this stage, however, I am able to inform honourable members that the Australian Quarantine Inspection Service has reviewed its involvement in the meat industry and has come to the conclusion that it should withdraw poultry abattoirs from the list of premises it visits when inspecting domestic red meat. The reasons for this decision are as follows. The AQIS sees its role as the export food hygiene authority and cannot continue to bear the financial loss on New South Wales domestic operations. The AQIS and the New South Wales Meat Industry Authority are working to develop the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point - otherwise known as HACCP - programs, which were mandatory in abattoirs in Australia as at 1 January 1997 under the Agricultural Resource Management Council of Australia and New Zealand - ARMCANZ. Operators who can demonstrate to the satisfaction of the AQIS and the MIA that their HACCP program is effective and that they are able to meet the requirements of the program may enter into an arrangement whereby inspection staff are employed by the operator, and regular monthly compliance audits are conducted by MIA staff.
The progression from HACCP programs to Meat Safety Quality Assurance - MSQA - programs is actively encouraged by both the AQIS and the MIA. Currently five of the 32 domestic abattoirs have reached MSQA status, which is an ISO9001-based quality assurance program. Compliance audits are conducted by MIA staff on an auditing regime which sees successful abattoirs receiving two audits per year after a 36-month probation period. The MIA maintains a register of qualified meat inspection personnel who are approved to operate under both HACCP and MSQA programs. Satisfactory performance under operating conditions is a requirement for inclusion on this register. I suggest that if honourable members wish to seek further information on this matter, they request it from my colleague the Minister for Agriculture.
STANDING COMMITTEE REPORTS
The Hon. JENNIFER GARDINER: I ask the Minister for Community Services, representing the Minister for Agriculture, a question without notice. Is the Minister aware of the resolutions of this House relating to the operations of its standing committees, particularly the resolution and practice that the Government of the day, through the relevant Minister, will respond to a standing committee report within six months of its tabling? Why has the Government failed to meet the six-month reporting deadline in the case of the damning report of the Standing Committee on State Development on the Government's lack of rationale for the closure of Wagga Wagga and Armidale regional veterinary laboratories and the Biological and Chemical Research Institute? Why is the Minister treating this House with contempt?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: I am sure that the Minister for Agriculture is aware of the obligations referred to in the question of the Hon. Jennifer Gardiner. I shall refer the question to him for a suitable response to be provided to the honourable member.
ELECTRICITY AND GAS SECTOR REDUNDANCIES
The Hon. J. H. JOBLING: I ask the Treasurer, Minister for Energy, and Minister for State and Regional Development a question without notice. Is the Carr Government still committed to blanket opposition to compulsory redundancies in the corporatised electricity and gas sectors in New South Wales? Is the Minister aware that the total net loss of employment encountered in those sectors from May 1996 to November 1996 exceeds 5,800 jobs? Will the Minister instigate an independent-of-government review of downsizing practices in the electricity and gas sectors in New South Wales to establish whether the Government's promise against compulsory redundancies has been met?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I find it appalling that the Opposition should be trying to press the Government to impose a policy of compulsory - in other words, forced - redundancies. That is absolutely disgraceful. The Government's commitment to the people of New South Wales, and to the employees of all electricity utilities, is that as efficiencies are introduced and fewer people are required to perform the tasks at hand, the situation will be met by natural attrition and voluntary redundancies alone. And the Government will keep to that commitment.
The Hon. B. H. VAUGHAN: I direct my question without notice to the Attorney General. Is the Attorney General aware of the reckless claims made by the shadow attorney general about court closures at Parramatta?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: Last week the Leader of the Opposition raised with me in the House the question about court sittings at Parramatta. I told him, in effect, that there was no matter before the Government in that respect but that no doubt the Chief Judge of the District Court was dealing with the matter. But rather than seeking further and better particulars, like a good solicitor, what the Leader of the Opposition did was to put out a media release that, frankly, is wrong in every respect; it has no semblance of truth in it. In human terms, I understand the difficulties of an Opposition. It tries to raise alarm in the land about any issue, trying to stir up concern. The Leader of the Opposition was a Minister who went into opposition, and I can understand that he is anxious to get a few paragraphs here and there in the media. In his press release he said that he has learned that the Carr Government is considering a proposal to discontinue the use of court No. 4 at Parramatta District Court for civil cases and for all courts at Parramatta to be used for criminal hearings. He said that Parramatta will not have a civil court or judge.
The honourable member said it makes a mockery of the Government's claim of providing equity to the people of western Sydney, that people are being treated as second-class citizens, and that the people of western Sydney will now have to face the added expense and inconvenience of travelling to Sydney to have their cases heard. In other words, the honourable member has caused alarm and concern among practitioners and the people of western Sydney. I assure honourable members that, despite the media release of the Leader of the Opposition, there are no plans to cease or to reduce the civil sittings of the Parramatta District Court. On the contrary, from 1 July the chief judge will increase the sittings of the court. From that date an additional criminal District Court will be located at Parramatta, which will sit in the courtroom currently occupied by the civil sittings of the court.
The number of courts currently sitting in the criminal jurisdiction of Parramatta will increase from three to four. The existing civil court work at Parramatta will continue in additional courtroom accommodation secured in the Family Court of Australia premises located adjacent to the Parramatta courthouse. The chief judge is also boosting the available sittings for Parramatta cases by allocating additional sittings in Sydney. The Sydney sittings will be used in addition to the current Parramatta sittings to increase the capacity of the District Court to determine Parramatta's civil cases. This will provide the Parramatta community with greater access to the courts and a speedier resolution of their civil cases.
COMMUNITY BENEFIT FUND INTEREST
The Hon. R. T. M. BULL: Is the Treasurer, Minister for Energy, Minister for State and Regional Development, Minister Assisting the Premier, and Vice-President of the Executive Council aware that the Sydney Harbour Casino pays into the Community Benefit Fund on a weekly basis? What happens to the interest accumulated from the Community Benefit Fund?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I do not know what happens to the interest earned on the Community Benefit Fund. I will find out and let the honourable member know.
RABBIT FARMING FORUM
The Hon. PATRICIA STAUNTON: My question without notice 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. What was the response to the initiative of the Department of State and Regional Development to host a forum on rabbit farming in Kempsey yesterday?
The Hon. R. T. M. Bull: Rabbit is good for Akubras.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: Yes, it is. The forum was chaired by my colleague the Parliamentary Secretary for State and Regional Development, Sandra Nori. I am informed that more than 160 people attended the forum. As we saw yesterday there is a ground swell of interest in rabbit farming on the north coast, and the Government is encouraged by that. The Government is about working together with regions and their local communities to get development and jobs and to help farmers to diversify. Speakers at the forum outlined methods of rabbit farming, New South Wales Agriculture’s codes of production and grower licensing requirements, industry standards for slaughtering and marketing, and the current market demand.
As honourable members may know, following the release of the calicivirus in New South Wales the supply of wild rabbit skins to the Akubra Hat Manufacturers at Kempsey collapsed and the company began to import a significant quantity of skins from Europe. The forum grew out of a visit that Sandra Nori made to the region late last year after representations from the Mayor of Kempsey, John Bowell. On that visit, Sandra Nori visited the Akubra factory. The secretary of Akubra, Terry Hunt, made it clear that his company would provide an important outlet for some rabbit product. I am informed that it takes approximately 14 rabbit skins to make a hat.
The Hon. D. J. Gay: It would take 16 Labor caucus members to make an Akubra hat.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I was just thinking to myself that the skin of the Hon. J. H. Jobling would probably make 14 hats.
The Hon. M. J. Gallacher: Only the fur gets used.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: His thinking is pretty furry. However, Mr Hunt made it clear that the production demands of Akubra would not sustain an industry. Graham Fullerton, the President of the Commercial Rabbit Breeders Association, was and remains a powerhouse of enthusiasm for the possibility of establishing a more broadly based, sustainable industry that also concentrates on the meat market. At yesterday's forum he suggested that there may already be a market for as many as 20,000 rabbits a week, which would support some 200 small-scale farms.
Mr Hunt spoke at the forum yesterday and praised the Government for organising it. He said that he would be happy to buy 5,000 skins of white-furred rabbits every week from local suppliers and that he could buy a further 55,000 skins of grey-furred rabbits if they were available. Traditionally, only white-furred rabbits have been grown for meat. A number of people at the forum suggested that there may be breeds of grey-furred rabbits that could be used for meat and skins for Akubra. I understand that Akubra will explore that matter further. The forum also heard from wholesalers and marketers who spoke of the potential market for a meat that is tender and that tastes not unlike veal. This answer has obviously been prepared by a person on my staff who does not realise that people of my generation and older do not need to be reminded what rabbit tastes like.
The Hon. D. J. Gay: It is awful.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: It is good meat actually. The Hon. D. J. Gay obviously has not been to any of the top-quality Sydney restaurants lately, where rabbit is on the menu and is very popular. He might be trying to destroy an emerging bush industry, but I assure him that there is a fabulous market for rabbit meat and fur.
The Hon. D. J. Gay: We had to kill rabbits.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I have done a bit of rabbiting in my time too, but I do not rabbit on as members opposite are prone to do.
The Hon. J. P. Hannaford: Did you ever have to catch rabbits on the way to school? I had to catch rabbits on the way to school and then take them home.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: No, I did not catch rabbits on the way to school. However, I did pick blackberries on the way to school, which meant that I came home with a messy school uniform. I used to catch rabbits in the Burragorang Valley, which is now flooded by the Warragamba Dam. It was a great place to catch rabbits.
The Hon. J. P. Hannaford: I used to set traps on the way to school and on the way back from school.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: Where did you live?
The Hon. J. P. Hannaford: On the other side of Goulburn.
The PRESIDENT: Order! The Minister should return to his answer.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: The people at the forum also sounded a note of caution, telling would-be farmers not to overcapitalise, to start off small, to grow slowly and to be careful. The message was reinforced by Sandra Nori, who emphasised that interested farmers must ensure that they are realistic about the opportunities and the costs. To help them do that, she announced that the Government will make up to $20,000 available to fund a study on the viability of expanding the rabbit farming industry. The study will provide information on rabbit meat and skins, and on the economics of a viable industry. The results of the study will be made available to farmers across New South Wales. The interest in rabbit farming extends to the New England and Orana regions and, no doubt, beyond.
Yesterday's forum once again demonstrates that the New South Wales Government is continuing to provide funding to assist regional development at a time when the Federal Government is axing the $150 million regional development budget. The Government is impressed with the way in which the people of the north coast are thinking about new opportunities and new industries for the future. I am told that the forum was a complete success. The whole day went down very well, as I am informed did the 40 locally bred rabbits which were served for lunch.
EASTER PUBLIC HOLIDAYS
The Hon. VIRGINIA CHADWICK: I direct my question without notice to the Attorney General, and Minister for Industrial Relations. Is it a fact that the official New South Wales Government calendar for 1997 listed public holidays for Easter as Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday? Is it also a fact that the Government then proclaimed Easter Saturday as a public holiday? Did the advice of the Attorney General's Department to callers fail to advise that Saturday was a public holiday? Has the Attorney received an estimate of the cost of additional penalty rates to business and to government departments, such as the Department of Public Works and Services, that flow on as a result of this error?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: I do not accept the description of error, but I shall look into the matter and provide an answer.
PAEDOPHILIA NETWORK ROYAL COMMISSION
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 yesterday at the Australian Institute of Criminology conference on paedophilia at the University of Sydney a number of alarming statements were made which revealed that 232 paedophiles had each committed offences against an average of 76 children before being caught? Is it a fact that Dr William Glaser, a Melbourne forensic psychiatrist, stated that most paedophiles are long-term offenders who have multiple victims and keep on offending even into middle age and older? Is it a fact that a Queensland paedophile had kept records of 2,500 boys he had abused and not one victim had complained? In view of these new alarming facts, will the Government review its opposition to the extension of the terms of reference of the Royal Commission into the New South Wales Police Service and paedophilia and/or support the formation of a new joint Federal-State royal commission into paedophile networks in Australia?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: I agree with the honourable member that if those statistics are accurate, they do paint an alarming picture; that word is apposite. In relation to the latter part of the honourable member's question, there is a real question of principle as to whether a royal commission is properly used as a general criminal investigatory body. The royal commissioners, the judges, generally take the view that it is not their role; that it is incompatible with the judicial role. That is the reason for the Government's position to date. I accept the essence of the honourable member's question. Obviously if those statistics are valid, governments must adopt positive measures and take active steps to prevent the abuse of children.
The Hon. PATRICIA STAUNTON: My question without notice is addressed to the Attorney General. Does he have any comments on the issue of acting judges and judicial independence, as was raised in the "Declaration of Principles of Judicial Independence", which was published yesterday?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: The Hon. Patricia Staunton raises a question of significant principle about judicial independence. On 14 April the chief judges of all the States and Territories published the "Declaration of Principles of Judicial Independence". The Government unequivocally supports the independence of the judiciary as an integral part of our democratic system of government. In the joint statement the judges stated that all judges should be appointed on a permanent basis until they reach retiring age and that an acting judge should be appointed only in special circumstances which render it necessary. In other words, judges have not
expressed in point of principle an objection to persons being appointed as acting judges. Indeed, their statement is predicated upon the proposition that in certain circumstances such an appointment will be appropriate.
The Government has never appointed an acting judge in lieu of a permanent appointment. The appointments of acting judges made by the Government have been consistent with the principles contained in the declaration, namely, that their appointments have occurred in special circumstances. The acting judges appointed by the Government have been used as part of a broader government strategy to respond to the immediate and pressing problems in the court system caused by court delays. Indeed, they have constituted an effective technique in cutting court delays.
I was surprised to hear Opposition spokespersons criticising the Government's use of acting judges. The Leader of the Opposition argued that more permanent judges were needed because of the backlog of cases. As I have explained, the Government and the courts have adopted a strategy for quarantining and managing the backlog, as well as developing a system of case management so that courts can manage their ongoing workload with their current number of judges. Any program to appoint acting judges that I have engaged upon has been done in close consultation with, and with the concurrence of, the head of the relevant jurisdiction.
I was surprised to hear the Opposition criticism because the record of the former Liberal Party-National Party Government of appointing acting judges was significant. The current Government has appointed 14 acting judges to the Supreme Court, whereas the former Government made 50 acting judicial appointments to the Supreme Court. Similarly, the current Government has made acting appointments to the District Court, but the former Government made 59 acting appointments to the District Court. I suppose there is an element of hypocrisy which is endemic to politics, but the Opposition cannot with any consistency or rationality criticise the Government on the basis of some principle for appointing acting judges.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: If members have further questions, I suggest they place them on notice.
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: On 9 April the Hon. I. Cohen asked me a question concerning Wallis Lake. The Minister for the Environment has provided the following answer:
I am pleased to inform the Honourable Member that the Carr Government is putting in place a comprehensive package of water reforms to clarify roles and responsibilities in this important area of environmental management. These reforms encompass rural water pricing, institutional arrangements for managing water, and setting water quality and river flow objectives for all intrastate NSW rivers.
The setting of environmental objectives is a massive effort and is being undertaken in two concurrent stages.
Stage One is to set interim environmental objectives for waterways across the State. This is being coordinated through an interdepartmental process led by the Environment Protection Authority. The Government intends to release a public discussion paper on proposed interim objectives for a period of six months to find out the community's views on the proposals.
Stage Two is the public inquiry being undertaken by the Healthy Rivers Commission on a catchment-by-catchment basis. The Commissioner, Peter Crawford, recently finalised the first inquiry into the Williams River and has started on the Hawkesbury-Nepean River.
This approach is critical so we can tackle the "death by a thousand cuts" rivers have suffered from two centuries of abuse. We need to prevent further degradation and leave water catchments in a better state for future generations.
Efforts in this area will also be assisted with passage of the Protection of the Environment Operations Bill and Integrated Approvals legislation currently released for public consultation as exposure drafts. These legislative initiatives include measures to streamline agency input to the development approval process to ensure that councils and other consent authorities incorporate environment protection requirements advised by the Environment Protection Authority early in the planning process and that the roles and responsibilities of the different agencies are clearly defined.
The Wallis Lake and Estuarine Foreshores Interdepartmental Advisory Committee referred to by the Honourable Member, was established in 1982. Its task was to gather the existing body of knowledge concerning the lake and produce an outline plan to guide and assist decision-making over the next ten years. The Committee comprised the Crown Lands Office, Great Lakes Shire Council, Department of Environment and Planning, Division of Fisheries, Maritime Services Board, National Parks and Wildlife Service, Public Works Department, State Pollution Control Commission and Forestry Commission.
I am advised that in 1985 the Committee finalised the Wallis Lake and Estuarine Foreshores Study and Outline Plan.
There has been progress on some of the key issues raised in 1985 through the work of catchment management committees, improved guidance to local government from the EPA and efforts to ensure EPA input on environment protection requirements early in the planning and development approval process.
In recent times we have been concentrating on the very real need to resolve the current problems facing this estuary. State agencies and the Great Lakes Shire Council continue to work cooperatively to ensure that an incident like the one that occurred at Wallis Lake does not happen again.
In her speech on Tuesday 8 April in the Legislative Assembly, the Minister for the Environment outlined the Government's strategy for Wallis Lake. This strategy was also announced by the Premier and the Minister on 20 March and includes a package of specific measures to address the Hepatitis A outbreak and its impact on the industry and the regional economy.
The 10 point response includes an oyster quality assurance program; a financial assistance package to allow further investigation; a sewerage system upgrade; sediment and virology testing; and a recovery strategy. Other elements are a sanitary survey of Wallis Lake; a sampling program; criteria for the recommencement of oyster harvesting; and the extension of the oyster quality assurance program throughout the State.
The Interagency Taskforce, established by the Government and the Great Lakes Shire Council, has worked hard in undertaking the intensive sanitary survey and is developing a strategic action plan. In her speech, the Minister indicated the emphasis on ensuring that the roles and responsibilities of key players are clearly defined.
The Government is also implementing a range of initiatives to prevent stormwater and sewage pollution.
The Government recognises that it is important to involve the local community on these types of issues.
The Government is honouring already its strong pre-election commitment to provide the community with greater access to information. It is vital that industry and government decision-making are transparent, to provide local communities with relevant environmental information.
The nationally coordinated community-right-to-know provisions will come through the National Pollutant Inventory. The NSW Government is providing strong support to the National Pollutant Inventory which is aimed at providing the community with easy access to information on priority pollutants. The National Pollutant Inventory is being developed as a National Environment Protection Measure using the National Environment Protection Council (NEPC) framework. The NSW Minister for the Environment is a member of the National Environment Protection Council. A draft National Environment Protection Measure is expected to be provided to NEPC for consideration at its June meeting and then will be subject of a period of public consultation before the final measure is made.
The NSW Government is also pursuing other means to provide the community with information on the cumulative effects of pollution. As well as a range of monitoring and environmental reporting activities, the Government will release shortly a draft regulation to implement load-based licensing, which will put on the public record the annual emissions of more than 20 pollutants from the largest regulated sources of pollution in NSW. Through the Government's community right to know initiative, progressively better information will become available.
Overall, I am pleased to report that the Carr Government has set in place environmental goals, strategies and the regulatory machinery to improve water quality and inform the community about the health of the State's waterways.
FLYING FOX CULLING
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: On Tuesday, 8 April, the Hon. R. S. L. Jones asked me a question about flying fox culling. The Minister for the Environment has provided the following answer:
(1) The Service is implementing tighter procedures for the issuing of licences and encouraging farmers to net their crops.
(2) There have been no identifiable reports made to the National Parks and Wildlife Service regarding breaches of the Section 121 licences which could be investigated.
(4) No night time checks occurred.
(5) In November 1996, I approved interim arrangements that provide for the issue of Section 121 licences for the culling of Grey Headed Flying Foxes for the 1996/97 and 1997/98 fruit growing seasons. During this time alternative measures, such as netting of fruit crops by farmers, will be encouraged.
BROKEN HILL LOCAL ENVIRONMENTAL PLAN
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: On Wednesday, 9 April, the Hon. M. R. Kersten asked me a question regarding the Broken Hill local environmental plan. The Minister for Local Government has informed me that the matters referred to in the question do not fall within his responsibility, but within the responsibility of our colleague the Minister for Urban Affairs and Minister for Planning. I have referred the question to his office for a response.
Questions without notice concluded.
COMMITTEE ON THE HEALTH CARE COMPLAINTS COMMISSION
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti, on behalf of the Chairman, tabled the report of the committee on study tours to Great Britain, Sweden and the United States of America in February-March 1996 and to New Zealand in August 1996.
Ordered to be printed.
CRIMES AMENDMENT (APPREHENDED VIOLENCE ORDERS) BILL
Debate resumed from an earlier hour.
The Hon. I. COHEN [5.07 p.m.]: Apprehended violence orders are particularly important to protect women from domestic violence. According to the domestic violence court assistance kit, domestic violence is the most common form of assault in Australia; acts of domestic violence occur at a rate of between one-in-three and one-in-ten families; about 30 per cent of police work is concerned with domestic violence; the most common group of victims are those who have dependent children and who have no independent financial status; and 44 per cent of women murdered are killed by a spouse or a person they are having a sexual relationship with.
Over the last decade there has been much international concern about domestic violence. This
has led to an international movement to eliminate violence against women. In 1991 the United Nations adopted the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Relevant provisions include article 4(d), which says that States must develop penal, civil, labour and administrative sanctions in domestic legislation to punish and redress the wrongs caused to women who are subjected to violence. Women who are subjected to violence should be provided with access to the mechanisms of justice and, as provided for by national legislation, to just and effective remedies for the harm that they have suffered. States should also inform women of their rights in seeking redress through such mechanisms.
Article 4(l) provides that States must adopt measures directed to the elimination of violence against women who are especially vulnerable to violence. In implementing laws which affect the issue of violence against women the New South Wales Government should be guided by the declaration. On 26 April 1997 there will be a Stop Domestic Violence Day rally, which is a New South Wales initiative to promote National Stop Domestic Violence Against Women. It will be held at First Fleet Park, Circular Quay. The rally has been organised by a number of agencies, including the Domestic Violence Advocacy Service, the Immigrant Women's Speakout and the New South Wales Women's Refuge, Referral and Resource Centre. The Greens urge the Government to increase funding to such organisations so that they can help prevent domestic violence more effectively.
The aim of the Crimes Amendment (Apprehended Violence Orders) Bill is to resolve possible conflicts between family contact orders imposed under the Family Law Act and apprehended violence orders imposed under the Crimes Act. The family law order prevails and the apprehended violence order is invalid to the extent of the inconsistency. However, the bill in its current form may discriminate against victims who have children who have or are about to have family contact or family contact orders with a perpetrator of domestic violence. This is because section 562FA, entitled "Consideration of contact with children", will be an additional hurdle for women with children to overcome before they can obtain an apprehended violence order. Women without children have only to satisfy one of the tests set out in section 562B.
Women with children have the additional burden of informing the court of any relevant family contact or family contact order or any pending application for a family contact order, and then the judicial officer has to consider whether contact between the protected person, the defendant and any child of these persons is relevant to the making or variation of the order as well as any family contact order itself. The judicial officer then has to decide "whether or not to make or vary any apprehended violence order". In the extreme, the judicial officer may decide not to grant or vary the apprehended violence order, even though the tests in section 562B may be satisfied, simply because he or she may be concerned that the making or varying of the order will impact negatively upon the family contact or the family contact order. The purpose of an apprehended violence order is to protect someone from violence. The Greens believe that if a person satisfies the tests set out in section 562B that person should be entitled to an apprehended violence order.
Section 562FA should not hinder a woman or victim obtaining an apprehended violence order because the making of the order may impact negatively upon family contact or a family contact order. My concern is that section 562FA may reduce the protection afforded to women or victims under section 562B. Rather, section 562FA should impose certain conditions only to enable the family contact or family contact order to be honoured. While men have a right to see their children if it is appropriate, they should not be able to do so at the expense of women's safety. The section could be amended so that section 562B is not limited by section 562FA for women with children who have contact with the perpetrator and so that women with children are not discriminated against. It could be amended so that judicial officers do not have the discretion to refuse to make an apprehended violence order simply because it will affect family contact or a family contact order. For these reasons I support the amendments foreshadowed by the Hon. A. G. Corbett.
Given the terrible upsurge of domestic violence in the community and the problems that the bill attempts to address, I place on the record that the Greens is the only political party in this House to have a men's policy that attempts to go some part of the way to addressing the institutionalised violence and problems associated with men, their role and also their responsibility in dealing with the issues of domestic violence. Our approach should be to educate and to move away from the status quo of acceptance of this type of violence perpetrated particularly against women. Other parties should note the attempts the Greens have been making as a political party to rethink the role of men in
society - in that I take responsibility for myself as well - so that we can take a small but significant step forward. All members of the community, particularly men, should create a society that is safer for all people who are vulnerable, particularly women, so that violence orders become less of a necessity. Through education and a new set of values in the community it should be part of our culture to give those who are vulnerable the right to a safe existence.
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY [5.14 p.m.]: The Australian Democrats support the Crimes Amendment (Apprehended Violence Orders) Bill 1997. We are informed that the changes have come about as a result of a recent decision by the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General, which agreed that changes should be made to the legislation of each of the States to bring it into line with the Commonwealth's Family Law Reform Act 1995. The primary concern of the standing committee involved apparent inconsistencies between family contact orders made by the Family Court, or other courts exercising family law jurisdiction, and apprehended violence orders made under the New South Wales Crimes Act 1900. This conflict has manifested itself in situations in which a parent who has access to a child under a Family Court order is forbidden by an apprehended violence order to contact the child. This has often led to the parties to the orders being confused and has given police difficulty in determining which of the two orders is to be given priority.
The bill seeks to resolve this confusion by amending part 15A of the Crimes Act 1900 to insert a provision requiring applicants for a domestic violence order to inform the court of any relevant access order under the Family Law Act and to insert a second provision to require the court, when making or varying a domestic violence order, to consider access and to have regard to any such relevant access order. I am informed that concerns have been raised about the fact that the onus to inform the court remains with the person applying for the apprehended violence order and this may not in fact occur if a person appearing before the court is unrepresented or does not, for any reason, fully understand his or her obligations. I believe that these concerns have been addressed by the Hon. A. G. Corbett. I have not yet seen his foreshadowed amendments but when I do I will consider them. With that proviso, I support the bill.
The Hon. J. W. SHAW (Attorney General, and Minister for Industrial Relations) [5.17 p.m.], in reply: I thank honourable members for their general support for the bill, which will effect useful changes to the system of apprehended violence orders. In particular, it dovetails State laws concerning apprehended violence orders with Family Law Act provisions touching on the same subject matter. It is important that in an area where family law, at a Federal level, will override State laws the two sets of laws are in congruence and that we do not have arguments about inconsistency and issues arising in relation to section 109 of the Constitution.
I advise the House, largely in response to discussions with the Hon. A. G. Corbett, that the Government will closely monitor the effect and practical operation of the amendments. The Government has agreed in the course of its participation in the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General that the operation of this legislation and that of the comparable provisions of the Family Law Reform Act 1995 will be reviewed after two years by an external review committee. The Hon. A. G. Corbett has raised with me his concerns in relation to the operation in practice of proposed new section 562FA. My department will closely monitor the application of this provision by the courts of New South Wales. In response to the comments of the Hon. M. J. Gallacher I note that the Opposition supported the Government's Crimes Amendment (Apprehended Violence Orders) Act 1996 and that many of the matters mentioned by the Hon. M. J. Gallacher were covered in that legislation. I commend the bill to the House.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a second time.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Postponement of Business
Government business notices of motions Nos 4 to 6 postponed on motion by the Hon. J. W. Shaw.
The Hon. D. J. GAY [5.20 p.m.], by leave: I move the following motion, as amended:
That in view of public concern both in Australia and overseas, this House requests the New South Wales and Federal health ministers to investigate and report on:
1. The evidence available regarding the drug Prozac to ascertain whether a more detailed inquiry is required.
2. Whether this drug should be further restricted.
3. Possible inappropriate prescribing of this drug.
4. Mechanisms for monitoring the use of this drug and its effects and side-effects on individual patients.
It is now two years since I first raised in this House my concerns on this problem. Prozac was introduced to the United States in 1987 by Dista Products, a division of Eli Lilly and Company, which also manufactures Prozac in Australia. As a State member of Parliament I am very much aware that the registration of new pharmaceuticals is a Commonwealth responsibility exercised by the Therapeutic Goods Administration. Registration is based on assessment of quality, safety and efficacy and also involves the Australian Drug Evaluation Committee. However, that does not mean that honourable members should wash their hands of any perceived problems in New South Wales.
Prozac is currently available in New South Wales on prescription only. Prozac was approved for use in the treatment of major depressive disorders in Australia in 1990 and to date has not been approved in Australia for any other disorders. However, Prozac is now widely prescribed in Australia for both mild and clinical depression. It has also been prescribed for eating, panic and social disorders and other phobias, despite the fact - which I emphasise - that it has never been approved for use in these areas. Currently the community has concerns that Prozac increases suicidal and violent behaviour. I am alarmed at how widely Prozac is prescribed by general practitioners and health workers for any degree of depression, no matter how slight, and regardless of any prior mental evaluation by a psychiatric specialist. General practitioners justify their excessive prescription of Prozac on the basis that if a patient cannot overdose on the drug, then there is no danger in its widespread use. But that is not a good premise on which to act.
Despite the claims made by pharmaceutical companies and the medical society that Prozac is safe - that is, that one cannot overdose on it - more objective studies as well as many concerned past Prozac users have found numerous mild and severe negative side effects associated with the drug. The mild side effects include an activation or an energising feeling similar to that found with stimulants such as amphetamines and cocaine. These symptoms are nervousness, anxiety, agitation, nightmares, sweating, tremors, drowsiness, a dry mouth, diarrhoea, anorexia, weight loss, and the most widely claimed symptom, insomnia. As insomnia is almost always a symptom associated with Prozac use, doctors must prescribe Valium to allow the patient to sleep. As a result of the highly addictive character of Valium, the mixture of both drugs can lead to overdose and even death. The withdrawal symptoms experienced from discontinuing the use of Valium are considered worse than those associated with withdrawal from the use of heroin.
Death can result from withdrawal from heroin and the same can happen with Valium. Yet Valium is prescribed as a downer associated with Prozac, and that is the cause of real concern. The danger is not with Prozac itself but with the added prescription of Valium, which is creating a very risky situation. The extreme negative side effects of this mix include: hyponatremia, which is a depletion of sodium in the blood; mania, which is a mental derangement marked by great excitement and frequently followed by violence, craze and/or passion; paranoia; violence; depression; and akathisia, which affects motor skills and causes the knees to move around constantly or a sense of restlessness. Other extreme negative side effects include the development of intense suicidal preoccupation, loss of sex drive and fatal drug overdose when taken with other drugs. The case studies conducted on Prozac that have been used to approve its use by regulatory institutions indicate that it is important to keep in mind that specific groups are usually excluded based on certain conditions.
The exclusions from the case studies used to license Prozac include patients with hypersensitivity to antidepressants and the likelihood of a poor compliance or the risk of suicide. The reality is that the people who were excluded from the groups used to license Prozac are the people who are now being prescribed it by general practitioners, but should not be. All the patients used in the studies were heavily monitored by professionals in the fields of psychiatry and depression who were better able to assess progress and any evidence of adverse effects that may occur. Generally, because general practitioners are able to prescribe Prozac without submitting their patients to mental examination, the masses of people who are prescribed Prozac are not screened for hypersensitivity to antidepressants, let alone one as controversial as Prozac; nor are they monitored by the general practitioners who are allowed to prescribe Prozac. Patients who could be hypersensitive to antidepressants such as Prozac could be at great risk by using Prozac which could prove, and has proved, to be fatal.
Various case studies have been conducted. I will refer to one which makes a comparison between Prozac and its cousin, an alternative antidepressant, Zoloft which has similar side effects. However, the side effects of Prozac are much more severe. The first published comparative study between the efficacy and safety of Prozac in major depression and its cousin Zoloft found that, first, accompanying medication had to be used in 60 per cent of Prozac patients compared with only 40 per cent of Zoloft patients. Second, in the Zoloft group adverse events were mostly described by the patients as mild, but in
the Prozac group the severity was described mainly as moderately severe. Third, agitation, anxiety and insomnia were more frequent in the Prozac group than in the Zoloft group. Fourth, adverse events led to the discontinued use in 15 per cent of the Prozac patients compared to under half - that is 7 per cent - in the Zoloft group. In the Zoloft group 13.5 per cent discontinued prematurely because of clinical improvement, yet only 9.6 per cent discontinued because of therapy failure. In the Prozac-treated group 10.5 per cent discontinued because of clinical improvement and 19.6 per cent discontinued because of therapy failure.
The study found that adverse events such as agitation, anxiety and insomnia were much higher in patients using Prozac. Accompanying drug treatment was initiated during this study on 30 per cent of the Prozac patients compared to 12.5 per cent of Zoloft patients, which reflects the increased agitation, anxiety and insomnia reported by patients. The conclusion of this first published study was that further investigation was warranted because of the demonstrated poorer toleration for Prozac. The major point is that at least one antidepressant is available which has almost 50 per cent fewer adverse effects than Prozac and it has not been implicated in any suicidal tendencies or deaths. The important point is that at least one anti-depressant is clearly better than the one that is illegally in widespread use within our community. My concern, as well as the concern of others, is that Prozac has become overwhelmingly popular because of its cocaine and/or amphetamine-like lift, and not because people are solving their problems or because they are feeling better about life while using it. It is illogical to endorse a drug such as Prozac that has serious adverse side effects and serious controversial tendencies when a drug such as Zoloft has been proved to be much safer to use.
I recently interviewed a very experienced and well qualified mental health worker in charge of a crisis centre in Sydney. She is familiar with Prozac and deals daily with patients who take it. She is quite concerned about the way in which Prozac is prescribed and used. First and foremost she felt that people with a wide variety of mental illnesses ranging from trauma to mild or major depression were prescribed Prozac by their general practitioners when they had made absolutely no mental evaluation of the patient and had no knowledge of the problem or its manifestation. Instead of referring patients to a mental health specialist for diagnosis of the problem and more appropriate types of treatment such as counselling and/or therapy, general practitioners would prescribe Prozac as a cheap, easy alternative. No evaluation was done to determine whether a patient may suffer any adverse side effects from Prozac, based on mental history and current mental condition. Little, if any, monitoring of patients was conducted by practitioners.
Honourable members should note that as a rule general practitioners are neither qualified nor skilled in the field of mental illness to make any type of conclusion or detect any type of adverse side effect, even if they took the time to monitor their patient's success. A large number of the patients on Prozac were also prescribed Valium to counter the side effect of insomnia commonly experienced by Prozac users. Because these patients were so heavily drugged by Valium, mental health workers could not properly assess their problems. Valium is an addictive drug, and its mixture with Prozac heightens the possibility of drug overdose. The greatest problem associated with prescribing Prozac with Valium is that death can occur to a patient who chooses to come off Valium. Patients on Prozac were found to act irrationally, and to be incoherent, hyperactive, angry, anxious, agitated and frightened. They seemed to feel good for the first few hours after taking Prozac and then to feel badly after the initial effect began to wear off. This is typical of any type of amphetamine, such as speed or cocaine.
Studies done by the regulatory institutions responsible for the approval of drugs, such as the Food and Drug Administration in America and the Therapeutic Goods Administration in Australia, found the following results in regard to the approval of Prozac. Studies used for drug approval were financed, constructed and supervised by drug companies using doctors they had hired. Controlled studies by the drug companies last for only four to six weeks. Prozac patients were monitored for only two years prior to the drug being approved for the open market. Seriously suicidal patients and hospitalised patients were excluded from these studies, yet general practitioners without any experience are now prescribing these drugs for the very group of people excluded from the studies used to approve the drug, and that is the telling point. I hope the Government will not tell me today, as it did previously, that this is a Federal problem and that I should not worry about it. I sincerely hope that the Government will not give me those platitudes again. The Minister present in the House at the time made promises to consult with me, yet to this date I have had absolutely zero consultation.
Many patients involved in the studies were allowed to take sedatives and minor tranquillisers to overcome Prozac stimulant-like side effects, vastly compromising data interpretation. Researchers weeded out case studies that showed negative results, and used only a few that provided positive feedback to effect approval. The drop-out rate in
most studies was very high, and the actual number finishing the trials used for approval was very small. Many statistical manoeuvres were required to make the studies look positive. Analysis by America's FDA, omitted from its published conclusions, originally determined that Prozac is a stimulant like a drug. Prozac's effects are the same as, and indistinguishable from, stimulants such as amphetamines and cocaine. Prozac causes activation or energising, nervousness, anxiety, insomnia, nightmares, sweating, anorexia, weight loss and, in extreme case, hypomania and mania. There was also evidence that Prozac could produce behavioural abnormalities consistent with stimulants including paranoia, violence, depression and suicide.
Patients on Prozac lost touch with themselves and others and perceived this as relief from depression. It disconnected the patient from the rest of the world and from his or her real life issues. A report on the television program Four Corners some time last year found that Prozac is being used in the United States not only for depression but also for obesity, eating disorders, panic disorders, social disorders and many more. I suspect the same thing is happening in Australia. Prozac is being prescribed for a range of conditions, despite the fact that it can only be obtained on prescription and has only ever been approved in Australia for the treatment of major depressive disorders. It has not been approved for anything else, yet it seems that it is being handed out like lollies. The Four Corners program that dealt with the American findings stated:
In an interview with a male user of Prozac who was very overweight and had begun taking Prozac (6) years ago to lose weight it was found that he was still at the same weight and was still using Prozac, but was not sure why. In addition, doctors now had his wife and his 14 year old daughter on Prozac but were not sure why.
The Hon. Ann Symonds: Was that in Australia?
The Hon. D. J. GAY: That was in America. Thousands of people were being prescribed Prozac by general practitioners under the false pretence that it was risk-free. I referred earlier to the risks. Prozac will not kill people as will a dose of cyanide; in other words, a patient cannot overdose on Prozac. The risks are related to the side effects from stopping Valium treatment, and to suicide. My concern is related to the overprescribing of Prozac. I do not want the drug banned. I said earlier that I want it re-evaluated because I believe that it has a use, within restricted areas. What concerns me is its current widespread use which has never been approved. The use of Prozac has grown like Topsy, and that is quite alarming. The Four Corners program to which I referred earlier also stated:
The Surgeon General in America has been called upon by the public to further investigate the effects of Prozac, but big business was using its power to prevent further investigation.
Prozac is considered a mind drug, capable of changing your personality, but it is not possible to determine whether that would be good or bad.
Pharmaceutical companies are using the public as an Experiment.
Warning bells are going off, as they did with silicone implants, Dalkon Shields, and Copper Seven. Prozac is another tragedy being allowed to happen because of lack of regulation by federal institutions.
Despite the many potential dangers, private drug companies have been allowed to dictate to our regulatory institutions what drugs can and will be approved for the public. It seems that drug approvals are not necessarily based on safety, effectiveness or long-term accurate studies of effects, but are adversely swayed by the profitability of big business and its ability to influence. General practitioners are using the drug Prozac as an instrument to ensure their economic stability and a quick turnover of patients. Prozac is no different from illegal drugs such as amphetamines or cocaine because it is now being used by the general public as a form of speed. Prozac is not always effective in solving the problems of depression; it is used to mask the problem temporarily.
Prozac can cause violence and promote the act of suicide. Sadly, Prozac has become a cheap alternative to solving the problem of mental illness. Prozac may be effective for those few mental illnesses that are caused by chemical imbalance. Evidence that has been given to me indicates that there is a proper role for the drug in the treatment of mental illnesses caused by a chemical imbalance. However, many who suffer depression and mental illness caused by personal trauma and stress-related problems cannot be cured by drugs. The prescribing of drugs is the wrong treatment for those conditions. Only counselling and personal development will help sufferers to overcome their problems. It is this group of people that are being wrongly prescribed Prozac.
The group that is suffering most includes people who have been sexually abused as children. Members of the public are now at great risk. Their health has become secondary because the therapeutic goods administration and the pharmaceutical services branch of the Department of Health, together with the Commonwealth, have allowed the laziness of doctors to go unchecked and unregulated. We have failed to provide the citizens of New South Wales with protection. We are condoning the use of drugs as an alternative to dealing with life's problems. We are sending a message to our young people that popping a pill will solve their problems. That is my reason for moving this motion. I am not asking for
the drug to be banned as it has its place. I just want State and Federal health Ministers to look at the possible inappropriate prescribing of the drug that I have detailed to the House today.
The Hon. J. S. TINGLE [5.45 p.m.]: I wholeheartedly support the motion moved by the Hon. D. J. Gay for an investigation by State and Federal health Ministers into the ramifications of Prozac. Prozac is one of a family of relatively new selective serotonin uptake inhibitors. In plain language, it is part of a new generation of antidepressant drugs which stimulate the increased release of a substance called serotonin in the brain. It is believed that a deficiency of serotonin, which is the mood-maintaining neurotransmitter in the brain, is an important cause of depression in some people. Prozac is still new. As I understand it, it was derestricted last year. It is being cautiously hailed as a major breakthrough in antidepressant treatment.
The family of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs - selective serotonin uptake inhibitors are a member of that family - is seen to be a major improvement on the older type of antidepressant, the tricyclics, or TCAs, and the monoamine oxidase inhibitors, or MAOIs. The reason for that is that the older antidepressants, while effective on depression, also had undesirable side effects, including reactions with food and with other drugs. With every new development in medicine there may be side effects, not only the direct clinical side effects of introducing a new drug, regime or therapy, but also the side effects of concern, uncertainty and confusion about the merits of the new item.
Since thalidomide we have become aware that it takes time to discover that something that seemed only beneficial may have unexpected consequences in a direction quite different from that of the intended treatment. That is why we have drug evaluation and why so often something proclaimed as a miracle cure in other countries may take an agonisingly long time to be approved for general use in Australia. What the Hon. D. J. Gay is suggesting is an important recognition of the fact that Prozac has become a sort of buzz drug. There have been stories about all sorts of prominent people taking it. In particular, people in show business, whose high public profiles often encourage others to emulate them, have been described as having been treated with Prozac, reportedly to their great benefit.
As the Hon. D. J. Gay said, there is a genuine concern that Prozac is being overprescribed, or prescribed inappropriately, simply because it is seen as some kind of wonder drug and it may be resorted to on reputation rather than on objective criteria. The Hon. D. J. Gay referred to the fact that there is concern that general practitioners are prescribing Prozac rather than it being limited to prescription by health professionals in the psychiatric and psychological fields. They tell me that they believe it is being prescribed too widely, too loosely, too readily and without sufficient thought. There are quite a few questions about Prozac which merit an investigation of it. Let us look at just some. In advisory material supplied to pharmacists there is the frank admission that much is still to be learned about SSRIs in general. The advisory material states:
The SSRIs appear to be effective for long-term treatment of depression, although only a few long-term studies have been conducted.
As these agents have been introduced into the market recently, further research and wider clinical usage is required, to confirm their place in anti-depressant therapy.
This same medical information for pharmacists points out that SSRIs are taken in one dose a day. That is a big improvement on the older antidepressants where a patient sometimes had to take seven tablets a day. Doctors accept that the more complicated the regime the more likely it is that the patient will get it wrong, either through confusion or because the very condition for which the drug is treating him may make him more likely to miss a dose, or overdose. So one dose a day is undoubtedly better because it is simpler. The Hon. D. J. Gay pointed out that doctors and pharmaceutical companies say that people cannot overdose on Prozac. However, psychologists ask, "What is the size of the dose? What is an overdose?" It is reported that up to 80 milligrams a day was being prescribed when Prozac was first introduced. It has now been found that as little as 20 milligrams a day is adequate in most cases and that in some patients, particularly the elderly, even less may be advisable.
What are the effects of that dose? There are still many questions about reactions to the SSRIs, and particularly to Prozac, the best known and most popular of them. Material from the United States lists an impressive range of adverse reactions to Prozac - even more reactions than those referred to by the Hon. D. J. Gay - which include: nervous system complaints such as anxiety, nervousness and insomnia; drowsiness, fatigue or asthenia; and tremors, sweating and gastrointestinal complaints, including anorexia, nausea and diarrhoea. Effects on the nervous system were reported to include abnormal dreams, agitation, abnormal gait, acute brain syndrome, ataxia, convulsions, delusions, depersonalisation, euphoria, hallucinations, hostility, hyperkinesia, increased libido, manic reactions, paranoid reactions and psychosis. In premarketing clinical trials in the United States 15 per cent of patients had to discontinue the drug because of
"adverse events". Doctors tell me that there is anecdotal evidence of violence while under the influence of this drug; that in bipolar affective disorder, formerly described as manic depressive psychosis, the drug may produce mania, which, in combination with paranoia, could lead to violence. Reports published from research at Harvard, Yale, Columbia and New York State universities have produced evidence that Prozac can cause intense, violent, suicidal preoccupation. Sweden and Norway have refused to allow Prozac to be marketed.
There are several notorious cases in the United States, including that of the mass murderer Joseph Wesbecker, who lost his job in a printing company in 1989 and later went berserk and killed eight people and wounded 12. He then killed himself. There was the case of Edward Leary, who firebombed a New York subway and inflicted horrific injuries on 50 people. There are several other documented cases of sudden outbreaks of violence which resulted in death or injury. In the cases of Wesbecker, Leary, and several others which went to court, defence lawyers claimed that their clients had been on Prozac, and had been transformed from ordinary, peaceful people into violent maniacs. In none of the cases was that defence accepted, so the question about whether Prozac did actually affect the behaviour of those people remains unanswered.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: But even if the judge had found a cause-and-effect relationship -
The Hon. J. S. TINGLE: Despite what the Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti thinks, I consider it significant that the defence lawyers saw fit to raise the use of Prozac as a possible defence of their clients. There is another, more insidious problem, now recognised by the medical world, and that is that the half-lives of these new drugs are so great that their effect continues in the body for weeks after treatment has been discontinued. But it is also now known that patients who have received Prozac in combination with one of the older, MAOI antidepressants have had serious and sometimes fatal reactions, including hyperthermia and mental state changes leading to delirium, coma and occasionally death. All this may sound as though Prozac is an invention of the devil. I do not believe it is, even though some people have called for it to be totally banned, as LSD was banned in psychiatry. I am in no position to judge how appropriate that might be. I am not qualified to do that. I am merely stressing the unresolved concerns that still exist about Prozac.
There is no denying that for many sufferers of chemically-caused depression - the unexplained, unexplainable depression that seems to have no external causes - Prozac is the only hope. There is no gainsaying that it does have valuable and indeed irreplaceable benefits for some people. But what I have read and heard of this drug is what has prompted me to support, totally and fervently, the motion of the Hon. D. J. Gay. We may have here the answer to one of the most baffling and difficult of conditions, which is, unhappily, widespread in our community - and that is depression. On the other hand, we may have a Jekyll and Hyde substance which could do as much harm as good. At this time there are so many questions still hanging like a dark cloud over Prozac that I believe we have a duty to examine the drug, to find out whether its benefits outweigh its possible disadvantages, and whether new precautions and new restrictions ought to be applied to it, or whether it ought to be made even more freely available.
Like the Hon. D. J. Gay, I am not suggesting that Prozac be banned; I am simply suggesting that we need to know more about it. It has now been derestricted, and a significant number of doctors, I am told, believe that that derestriction was premature, to say the least. We seem to be learning about Prozac as we go along. It is disturbing to contemplate that that learning process may involve tampering with people's lives and health along the way. The fact is that there are still many things we do not know about Prozac. I support the reference to the relevant State and Federal Ministers. I support the call to examine all the evidence to see whether a more detailed inquiry is required, to see whether the drug should be restricted again, and to look into possible overprescribing and monitoring the use, effects and side effects of this drug. Let us not risk another thalidomide. Let us find out. Let us be sure. I support the motion.
The Hon. ANN SYMONDS [5.54 p.m.]: I do not wish to detain the House or to prevent the contribution of the good doctor opposite, who seems keen to contribute to the debate and who, I am sure, has something worthwhile to add to our knowledge on this issue. But I do wish to support the motion of the Hon. D. J. Gay because, clearly, Prozac, being an antidepressant drug approved in 1990 for the treatment of major depressive disorders in Australia, has given rise to a lot of community concern. I discount the sensationalist accusations, which have been unsubstantiated, regarding the reference to usage in the United States. I do not think that concerns us here, and I do not think it ought to be placed on the record as influencing the way in which we go about deciding on licensing people and approving the distribution of drugs. In fact, I think that in Australia we are usually more subject to criticism because of the caution that we apply in assessing whether drugs should be made available
for distribution. As the Hon. D. J. Gay knows, the Therapeutic Goods Administration Act does cover the Australian situation, and it is that body that, in 1990, actually approved for distribution the prescription of this drug for major depressive disorders.
I share the concern of the Hon. D. J. Gay. I would have felt more comfortable with psychiatrists only prescribing these drugs as they would be better able to monitor the drugs effectively and have regard to the complexities of people's mental disorders. I do have some concerns about the fact that, as the Hon. D. J. Gay asserts, general practitioners may be distributing this drug unwisely and inappropriately. When this matter was raised earlier by the Hon. D. J. Gay - and I congratulate him on persisting with it as it is a community concern - I said that I was happy for the Standing Committee on Social Issues to do a literature search and to provide some outlines for further inquiries that could proceed without being involved in a major inquiry. However, that time has passed, and I support the Hon. D. J. Gay in his proposal that the matter now be taken up by the health Ministers, both State and Federal.
I am sure that the Hon. D. J. Gay also knows that a major inquiry has already been conducted by the Commonwealth Senate Standing Committee on Family and Community Affairs, that is, the "Psychotherapeutic Medication in Australia" report. That inquiry was commissioned in 1992, and the terms of reference required it to review the use of psychotherapeutic medication in Australia. The inquiry was required to pay particular attention to: prescribing patterns of general practitioners, psychiatric specialists and non-psychiatric specialists; the effects of mixtures of medications and other substances; the evaluation and monitoring of the use of psychotherapeutic drugs; existing guidelines on the use of psychotherapeutic medication and available alternatives of treatment with psychiatric conditions; and levels of community support for people on psychotherapeutic medication.
The committee's conclusions included recommendations that the Australian statistics on medicine, published by the Commonwealth, include information in its annual report on: measures to ensure that prescribed drugs are the most appropriate; details for procedures for monitoring patients on long-term medication; surveys on prescribers and consumers to establish their awareness of the range and effects of the prescribed drugs; research undertaken to minimise adverse effects of medication; surveys conducted to establish whether consumers and practitioners are aware of the range of drugs available for some illnesses; and monitoring of the quantity of drugs prescribed by individual prescribers.
I hope that the result of the motion that is supported by this House will mean that there is scrutiny of whether those measures were put into place as a result of that inquiry, because that is fundamental to the resolution of the issue and deals with the concerns raised by the Hon. D. J. Gay. I understand that there is an ongoing debate about the efficacy of psychiatry and the differences between analysts - à la Freud, Jung or Adler; people seem to have forgotten about Adler - and behaviourists. There is a place for the chemical treatment of some disorders. While some conditions cannot be cured by drugs, the suffering of some people may be alleviated by drugs. Prozac has been beneficial to the people who have been prescribed it. I support the Hon. D. J. Gay, who believes that this issue must be further investigated.
Debate adjourned on motion by the Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti.
Motion by the Hon. R. D. Dyer agreed to:
That this House at its rising today do adjourn until Wednesday, 16 April 1997, at 2.30 p.m.
The Hon. R. D. DYER (Minister for Community Services, Minister for Aged Services, and Minister for Disability Services) [6.00 p.m.]: I move:
That this House do now adjourn.
The Hon. JANELLE SAFFIN [6.00 p.m.]: I support the principle and the practice of judicial independence. Yesterday the chief justices of the States and Territories issued a declaration of principles on judicial independence. The declaration will be instructive. In fact, it should be mandatory reading for all members of Parliament, including all premiers - particularly Mr Borbidge, the Premier of Queensland, who appears to have attended the same political induction course as Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen, the former Premier of Queensland. Mr Borbidge appears to eschew not only the practice but also the principle of judicial independence. Many people profess the principle, but fall down on the practice. It is important to embrace both. Judicial independence is entrenched in the New South Wales Constitution. The principle is fundamental to our system of government - that is, the separation of powers doctrine - and we should rally to protect it. It is in our interests to foster and to defend the
separation of powers doctrine, which includes the independence of the judiciary. The Executive and the Legislature should not undertake any action - by legislation, policy or spurious comment - that causes public damage to the judiciary, thus eroding its independence.
The Hon. D. F. Moppett: There is nothing wrong with robust criticism of its decisions.
The Hon. JANELLE SAFFIN: I am not talking about the decisions of the judiciary; I am talking about the principle and the practice of its independence. Parliamentarians often perceive judicial review of government action as criticism or an encroachment into their sphere of power and influence, but it is not always that. This view or reaction, quite often hysterical, demonstrates how fickle some people can be when faced with daily pressures and the ebbs and flows of political life. The practice of condemning the judiciary is not new to Australia, nor to other jurisdictions that have enshrined the separation of powers doctrine. I recently read a document about a country in the Asia-Pacific region which does not pretend to have a separation of powers doctrine or an independent judiciary. It is compelling reading about a summary trial of 22 political prisoners.
In Australia the current criticisms or attacks on judicial independence have reached their zenith - the Wik decision seemed to unleash the vitriol and the venom. The judiciary frequently makes decisions that many of us, particularly parliamentarians, do not like. We feel frustrated by the decisions of the judiciary, but thank God we cannot control the judiciary - and nor should we. Chief justices should not have to defend their role in the current outbreak of judiciary bashing; they should have a defender. Today the Attorney General defended the independence of the judiciary, which is the traditional role of Attorneys General and one founded in sound reasoning. It is sad that the Federal Attorney-General appears to have chosen to abandon that tradition and will no longer defend the independence of the judiciary. If he will not do so, it is up to each and every one of us to do so.
HUNTER REGION EARLY INTERVENTION FUNDING
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY [6.05 p.m.]: I draw to the attention of honourable members the concerns of the Hunter early intervention providers that have been brought to my attention. They wrote me a letter on the letterhead of the University of Newcastle, which reads as follows:
As a group of service providers in the field of Early Intervention in the Hunter we wish to express our concern about current funding levels to Non-Government Early Intervention Services. This has been prompted by what we are all experiencing as a growing discrepancy between the needs of consumers and our ability to provide appropriate levels of relevant services. This discrepancy arises from inadequate funding which has failed to keep abreast of CPI growth and increasing demand.
It also leads to situations where, for example, services who might in the past have been able to supplement funding from the Department of Community Services (DOCS) with Commonwealth Young Children with Disabilities (YCWD) funding are now very dependant upon the latter to provide a basic service. This means that contrary to the guidelines from the Commonwealth stating that their funding must only be supplementary, many programs now receive the majority of their funding for particular projects from this source.
In 1997, expected Commonwealth funding has been significantly delayed in addition to insufficient funding from DOCS and Ageing and Disability (ADD). The result of this has been that some programs have been forced to delay indefinitely the provision of some services e.g. Special Education Centre Home Based Outreach Program, Early Education Outreach Program and Outreach Support Program, Lower Hunter Early Childhood Support Program, and to curtail others e.g. Special Education Centre Early Education Baby Program, Early Education Preschool Program, Hunter Prelude Early Intervention Program.
This leads to increased stress on the families, carers and teachers of the children involved in these programs due to the extended periods without or with limited access to the services they need and the valuable support they gain from them.
Early Intervention Services who are experiencing these funding difficulties additionally find it difficult to maintain consistency of skilled and experienced staff from one year to the next as continuity of employment can never be assured.
These concerns have ramifications for DOCS, ADD and Commonwealth YCWD funding.
Your consideration and attention to our concerns is appreciated.
I believe that this is a relevant matter. I am glad that the Minister for Community Services, Minister for Aged Services, and Minister for Disability Services is in the House and has been made aware of these problems. I know that the Minister faces problems as a result of the Federal Government’s funding cutbacks. It is often, and easily, said that when governments want to cut funding, community services and early intervention are the soft options. Treasury officials do not understand how much these programs are needed, nor do they understand the anguish and suffering felt by parents and carers. A number of children with disabilities can be helped as a result of early intervention. In fact, some people say that if a child has not had assistance by the time it is two years old, later assistance will be of little value. I place this letter before all honourable members and I hope that the needs of these service providers will be met in the next budget. I hope that Opposition members will put pressure on their Federal colleagues to ensure that there are no further cutbacks to the State of New South Wales or to any other State.
WORLD SCHOOLS DEBATING CHAMPIONSHIP
The Hon. HELEN SHAM-HO [6.09 p.m.]: Last Friday, 11 April, I attended an interesting and significant function at the New Marigold Chinese Restaurant organised by the Sydney Chinatown Chamber of Commerce. It was held not only to celebrate the chamber's tenth anniversary; it was held also in honour of the achievements of Australia's world schools debating team. We should be very proud of this team of four, as it is the first Australian team ever to win the world schools debating championship during the 10-year history of the competition. The debate took place in Bermuda, in front of seven international judges and a packed audience of 800. The judges decided six to one that the Australian team deserved to be the world champions. It was fantastic news for Australia.
The four students won the competition over teams of students from 17 other countries, including the United States, Singapore and Argentina. The champion team last year came from England. Surprisingly, the Sydney Chinatown Chamber of Commerce has been the only organisation to recognise the achievements of these four talented young persons. The guests of honour at the dinner were the Governor-General, His Excellency Sir William Deane, and Lady Deane. During the dinner function a social debate was held with the Australian schools debating team and two celebrities, the Hon. Graham Richardson, and the host of radio 2UE’s drive-time program, John Stanley. The debate was entertaining. Some of the speakers would put honourable members of this House to shame. The result of the social debate was a draw. I was one of the adjudicators of the debate.
Most noteworthy about the Australian schools debating team is the backgrounds of each of the members. The captain, Roger Wong, is of Chinese background but was born in Australia. He is bilingual. Pip Webb's parents are from New Zealand and the Philippines, but she also was born here. Mark Thompson was born in Scotland and emigrated to Australia at the age of seven. Rosalind Dixon was born in South Africa and also emigrated here. It is interesting that the two members of migrant appearance were born in Australia and the members of Anglo-celtic appearance were born overseas. Nevertheless, all four team members are migrants or children of migrants. Their achievement is a perfect example of the contribution that immigrants have made to our country.
With two-thirds of Australians being born overseas, or having parents or grandparents who were born overseas, it should be accepted that migrants are not the minority group. We are the mainstream. It is ludicrous that some would want to abolish multiculturalism when cultural diversity is a reality in Australia today. The new political party that wants to destroy multiculturalism ignores the simple fact that cultural diversity exists in Australia. Cultural diversity is a strong force and it will not go away. We cannot turn back the clock. In conclusion, I take this opportunity to congratulate those four very talented Australians, who already at their young age have made such an important contribution to this country. I wish them every success in the future. I emphasise that this is an example of the contribution migrants make and have made to Australia.
TAHMOOR COMMONWEALTH BANK BRANCH CLOSURE
The Hon. P. T. PRIMROSE [6.14 p.m.]: I bring to the attention of the House an issue involving a bank closure affecting the people of Tahmoor, a growing township near Picton. However, it could equally be about one of dozens of towns throughout New South Wales and, indeed, Australia. Tahmoor has a rapidly growing population. Recently the Minister for Local Government officiated at the opening of the new community centre in the town, the Government has announced the construction of a new health centre and the sewerage scheme for the area has been confirmed. But in the midst of all this growth and development the Commonwealth Bank has closed its Tahmoor branch. Local residents, in particular those receiving pensions and benefits, now face major problems.
The attitude of the Commonwealth Bank reminds me of the joke about how many banks does it take to change a light bulb? The answer is only one - the bank just holds the light bulb and the rest of the world revolves around it. The residents of Tahmoor approached their Federal local member, the Hon. John Fahey, for help but, of course, he did nothing. The people of Tahmoor have access to some Commonwealth banking services through their local Australia Post agency. Indeed, only yesterday the Federal Treasurer, Mr Costello, suggested that Australia Post officers become more involved in offering financial services, given the likely further decline of bank branch services with the implementation of the Wallis report. But Tahmoor residents, such as Mr McIlveen, have raised serious concerns about the security of post offices to bear this new role.
If residents are now obliged to use the post office as their bank, where are the security services for the post office staff and their customers that we take for granted in banks? Already Australia Post agencies are being seen as soft targets by criminals interested in gaining easy money from unprotected
premises and, often, aged customers. This can only get worse as more branch services close. I have asked the Minister for Police to look into this matter carefully in light of the Federal Government's push to facilitate the closure of even more branch services through the implementation of the Wallis report.
PAEDOPHILE NETWORK ROYAL
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE [6.16 p.m.]: I make a strong plea for a joint Federal-State royal commission into the paedophilia network in Australia because I believe, contrary to what the Attorney General said during question time, it will never be identified through normal criminal investigation channels. That was the whole point to my question. Because of the type of activity engaged in by paedophiles and their victims, it is very difficult to get victims to give evidence in normal criminal-type investigations. A royal commission has special powers of investigation, and it may offer protection for witnesses and require questions to be answered - something that the normal police investigation is not able to do.
If any honourable member is in doubt about the need for a joint Federal-State royal commission into the paedophile network in Australia, they need only read the evidence that was presented by speakers at the Australian Institute of Criminology conference at the University of Sydney over the past day or so, where a number of prominent and qualified experts on this issue gave alarming information. One of the studies presented covered 232 paedophiles who revealed that they had committed offences against, on an average, 76 children before they were caught. Paedophiles are serial offenders who are said to be "good with kids, cleverly and patiently stalking their young victims." Dr Dianna Kenny, associate professor in psychology, said that in extreme cases the number of children offended against by a single paedophile can run into the thousands.
Ms Kylie Miller, a psychologist with the strategic intelligence unit of the National Crime Authority, told of a Queensland paedophile who had kept records on 2,500 boys he had abused over a period of 20 years. None of the victims had complained. That is why I suggest an investigatory body such as a royal commission is needed. Dr William Glaser, a leading forensic psychiatrist, said that most offenders were long-term offenders who have multiple victims. Sex offenders are the oldest group in prisons. He said that they are cunning and devious, which is precisely what makes them so dangerous. They are "good with children" and spend a long time grooming their victim, building a complex relationship. In other evidence presented at the conference Ms Kenny indicated that whilst most victims of sexual abuse were young girls, new evidence was emerging that most of the victims of paedophiles are boys. Her comments surprised me because the word "paedophile" means "boy lover". Paedophiles have always focused on males, in particular small boys.
We know that there is sexual abuse of young girls. I do not believe that the definition "an abuser of young girls" can be given to the term "paedophile"; that is not consistent with the way in which the word "paedophile" has been used historically. I was surprised that during the conference it was stated that the National Crime Authority definition of "paedophiles" was "those who had sex exclusively with children and not also with adults". That definition is faulty: it has no basis in fact. I have evidence in writing of paedophiles boasting that they had befriended a mother with children, pretended to be her lover, and had sex with her with the sole objective of winning her confidence so that she would allow the paedophile to take her son to the zoo or to the beach. She absolutely trusted the male believing that his affections were directed toward her and not her son.
I have heard two paedophiles on the radio boasting of successfully using this tactic. Restricting the definition to "men who have sex with children" cuts out of the paedophile category men who are quite willing to have sex with females, and do, as part of their overall ambition. Call to Australia is very disappointed in Mr Puplick, President of the Anti-Discrimination Board, who is actively campaigning to lower the age of consent for male-to-male sex acts such as buggery or sodomy. This is the very area of concern involving paedophilia. Such a change would be going in absolutely the wrong direction. I am pleased that today the Government indicated that it is not at this stage considering making such a change. [Time expired.]
PORT KEMBLA COPPER SMELTER
The Hon. I. COHEN [6.21 p.m.]: I have a letter from a group of people who live at Port Kembla who are very much affected by the local smelter, re-opening of which was recently announced. The letter states:
The Illawarra is a most naturally beautiful part of . . . Australia. Contained though, in its very heart, is a major industrial area which for most of this century has grown hand in hand with the surrounding suburbs. These heavy industries have provided much employment for the community but they have however also provided much pollution. One of the worst of these offending polluters is a copper smelter at Port Kembla which began with bought land from the school in 1908 and grew from there. Pollution was rife and in the early 1960's an Act was passed in Parliament . . . The Clean Air Act. Several upgrades of this smelter have occurred, the most recent of
these (in the late 1980's) being the grand failure of them all. We are now being told that we must endure yet again another upgrade.
Those of us who live in close proximity to this smelter have a wide range of concerns far beyond Lead and [sulphur dioxide] emissions. They form just a small part of the "toxic, cancer-causing cocktail" that we are surrounded by. For some of us we have "drunk" of this "cocktail" for many years now and are feeling rather intoxicated, therefore upon learning in April of 1996 that our major supplier of this "cocktail" is planning to sell and to re-open, strong objections began to emerge with a plea for our sanity and our lives.
You see, over two (2) years of closure of this smelter gave us a sample of normal breathing and real living for the first time in decades or lifetimes . . . We can now open our windows during the hot summer months. We can spend hours in the open air in our gardens and even invite guests over for BBQs. Most of all though we have noticed an improvement in our health beyond belief. No more night trips to the hospital with kids who can't breath and our packets of Kleenex tissues now last for weeks instead of days.
For many years now our Public Health Unit has compiled fancy reports but we don't need these to know beyond a doubt the difference this smelter makes to our health in Port Kembla. However, we still do have to live amid this Lead, Cadmium, Arsenic, Nickel, Chromium, Cobalt, Copper, Iron, Mercury and Zinc, of which many are known to be toxic and/or cancer-causing. They still remain embedded in our surroundings, homes and surely in our physical bodies. Many of us suffer health problems more in common with our neighbours than with other family members and then again many more of us have friends, family and neighbours who no longer suffer, or even breathe for that matter.
You would not be aware either that in 1994 when a Commission of Inquiry apparently was being held that of 50 mailed notifications re. this matter only about 12 of these went to actual residents. Many of these 12 were of a non-English speaking background and others were, like most people, ignorant to what a [Commission of Inquiry] was let alone know how to respond. Another two residents were given only a few hours notice which came from the Environment Protection Authority. They attended only to find out that submissions [had] to be in writing and that the date for this had passed.
Our next break came, or so we thought, when the Variations to Consent were announced and the majority of the community was letter-box-dropped with a "flier" announcing an opportunity to lodge our objections in the form of submissions. RATS went scurrying everywhere gathering information they could to at last lodge objections to the injustices that had been served upon the community at large. Several hundred submissions were lodged including strong submissions from Healthy Cities Illawarra and the Public Health Unit only to once again be ignored in the face of the Mighty $.
Yes, we the residents of Port Kembla have had much first hand experience in being asked to trust authorities such as governments, health organisations, council, and the EPA but the confidence, respect and trust we once had has sadly been eroded and no longer exists. We feel we have been let down. Yes, in boxes six foot under, but don't shovel the dirt in the hole yet. We have found a new lease on life. It has come in the form of a granny and her faith in the justice system. We are going to follow this "David and Goliath" case as it progresses in the Land & Environment Court starting on 29 May 1997. Yes, we are proud of this granny and this saint she has found at Legal Aid and their brilliant barrister and they deserve all the moral support that this Illawarra community can give.
RATS have now become IRATE (Illawarra Residents Against Toxic Environments) and can help you to assist in this mission as well as embark on broader missions to clean up our homes, our city and eventually our planet.
The people of Port Kembla have been ignored for a long time. Many of them are from ethnic background. Australians have a right to clean living conditions but the situation of people at Port Kembla is disgusting. The cancer rates are astronomical. People are dying. Asthma rates are sky-high. This is a classic case of Labor deserting its heartland. These people deserve far better treatment than they are presently receiving from the Government.
Motion agreed to.
House adjourned at 6.26 p.m. until Wednesday, 16 April 1997, at 2.30 p.m.