Thursday, 17 April 1997
The President (The Hon. Max Frederick Willis) took the chair at 11.00 a.m.
The President offered the Prayers.
CONVEYANCING AMENDMENT BILL
Bill received and read a first time.
Suspension of standing orders agreed to.
Petition praying that within one year of the presentation of the petition there be a ban on animal exploitation such as battery cages for hens, single stalls and farrowing crates for sows, feedlots for cattle and intensive housing for broilers, wildlife and other animals, received from the Hon. R. S. L. Jones.
The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD (Leader of the Opposition) [11.05 a.m.]: I move:
That standing and sessional orders be suspended to allow the moving of a motion forthwith that general business notice of motion No. 3 relating to the Eastern Distributor be called on forthwith.
I have moved this motion because the issues surrounding the Eastern Distributor are important. The House should discuss this matter at the earliest possible opportunity.
Question - That standing and sessional orders be suspended - put.
The House divided.
Mr Bull Ms Kirkby
Mrs Chadwick Mr Lynn
Mr Cohen Mrs Nile
Mr Corbett Rev. Nile
Mrs Forsythe Dr Pezzutti
Miss Gardiner Mr Samios
Mr Gay Mrs Sham-Ho
Dr Goldsmith Mr Rowland Smith
Mr Hannaford Tellers,
Mr Jones Mr Jobling
Mr Kersten Mr Moppett
Mrs Arena Mr Shaw
Dr Burgmann Mr Staunton
Mr Egan Mrs Symonds
Mr Johnson Mr Tingle
Mr Kaldis Mr Vaughan
Mr Macdonald Tellers,
Mr Obeid Mrs Isaksen
Ms Saffin Mr Primrose
Mr Gallacher Mr Dyer
Mr Ryan Mr Manson
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion for the suspension of standing and sessional orders agreed to.
The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD (Leader of the Opposition) [11.14 a.m.]: I move:
1. That this House calls on the Auditor-General to immediately and urgently review the terms and conditions of any project deeds, contracts, agreements, preliminary agreements or variations reached, or proposed to be reached, between the New South Wales Government and the airport motorway consortium concerning the proposed Eastern Distributor.
2. That in conducting any review, the Auditor-General obtain independent engineering, environmental and all other necessary advice on all matters relating to the Government's proposal, including, but no restricted to, the following matters:
(a) whether the proposed toll and concession period represents the best deal for the New South Wales taxpayer;
(b) whether a fully tunnelled option, or an option that involves substantially more tunnelling than is currently proposed, is affordable given the currently proposed toll and concession period;
(c) whether the current proposal represents the best environmental outcome;
(d) the full cost of the government contribution to the project in terms of necessary associated roadworks and other expenses; and
(e) the arrangements made for Centennial Park and Moore Park Trust concerning compensation for the use/transfer of land to/for the RTA-airport motorway consortium.
3. That this House calls upon the Government to make all documents, including Cabinet and legal documents, available to the Auditor-General to ensure a full and in-depth inquiry under the terms of this resolution.
4. That this House calls on the Auditor-General to examine the contracts, project deed and/or agreements to determine whether compensation is payable to the consortium in the event that competing public transport routes are built.
5. That this House calls on the Government to allocate any additional funds to the Auditor-General that the Auditor-General considers necessary to properly complete the inquiry.
6. That this House calls on the Government to suspend further consideration of the proposed Eastern Distributor and use of certain parts of Moore Park for this project, until the Auditor-General has reported to Parliament.
7. That the Auditor-General report to Parliament as soon as practicable after the passing of this resolution.
The effect of the motion is to refer to the Auditor-General all papers held by the Government in relation to the Eastern Distributor with a view to obtaining a report from the Auditor-General on the Eastern Distributor. The action of asking the Auditor-General to undertake such an inquiry is not without precedent, and certainly is not without precedent in relation to proposed new motorways. The House will recall that in 1994 a similar approach was taken on 22 November in the Legislative Assembly asking the Auditor-General to undertake a performance audit report into the M2 motorway. At that time the Legislative Assembly agreed that the proposed contracts for that important motorway should be reviewed, and the Auditor-General undertook such a performance audit. It was, in fact, an initiative of the coalition Government that led to the powers of the Auditor-General being reviewed and broadened to enable the Auditor-General to undertake specific performance audit reports. I therefore urge the House to look seriously at the important proposal before it.
The need for an Eastern Distributor has been recognised since 1945 as an integral link in the emerging Sydney orbital road network. The orbital network will have significant environmental benefits for all residents of Sydney by reducing transit times and traffic jams and also allowing a diversion of heavy trucks and through traffic currently travelling on narrower suburban streets within the environs of the orbital road network. In 1985 the New South Wales Government prepared and approved a scheme for the Eastern Distributor. That proposal involved the construction of twin tunnels, in stages, from just north of William Street in the Woolloomooloo area through to South Dowling Street, Anzac Parade and Moore Park Road. Honourable members will be aware that only the first stage of that proposal, the underpass at William Street, has been constructed.
The previous coalition Government recognised that an innovative solution was needed to what is one of Sydney's worst traffic black spots, and sought expressions of interest from the private sector in September 1994. In the lead-up to the State election in March 1995 the Australian Labor Party gave a firm commitment that a Labor government would build a toll-free Eastern Distributor within six months of taking office. However, it was not until August 1996, some 15 months after the election of the Labor Government, that it announced it would not proceed with that precise project. Instead, it indicated that it would proceed with that project as a tollway. The toll-free promise was to be abandoned. The Government announced that use of the Eastern Distributor would be subject to a $2 toll.
An environmental impact statement was released by the Government in November 1996. It proposed an elevated six-lane roadway and toll plaza where Sir John Young Crescent now meets the Cahill Expressway at Woolloomooloo. It proposed also a six-lane tunnel under William Street, emerging at South Dowling Street and Anzac Parade. The project involved also the construction of a four-lane motorway, two lanes each way, with four lanes on the outside for local traffic along South Dowling Street. The overall cost of the project was estimated at $600 million and the Government said that it intended to have the tollway open in time for the Olympics in September 2000. Whilst the coalition has always been a strong supporter of the Eastern Distributor as a necessary part of the Sydney orbital road network, it has been vocal in opposing the negative impacts of the Government's proposal.
The coalition believes that the Government's initial proposal would be a source of enormous regret to current and future generations of residents and visitors to Sydney. The original proposal had the effect of isolating the village of Woolloomooloo and destroying the outlook from the Art Gallery of New South Wales. The residents of Surry Hills, East Redfern and Kensington were justifiably horrified at the plan to construct a road which at some points would have been up to 10 lanes wide and which would have required the resumption of valuable open space from Moore Park. The impact on the health of residents within the area has not been quantified even yet by the Government. Despite delaying the start of the project for almost two years, the Government has said that it will not consider significant changes to the present proposal
because the Eastern Distributor will need to be finished in time for the Olympic Games.
Last week the Government unveiled its revised scheme for the Eastern Distributor. It generally involves, first, a $41 million canopy over the Cahill Expressway in front of the Art Gallery of New South Wales. It proposes a relocation of the northern portal to allow access to Woolloomooloo via Cathedral Street. It will involve a lowering of the motorway along South Dowling Street by up to six metres, hence requiring even more of Moore Park. It will involve extensive landscaping of the South Dowling Street and Moore Park environs and extension of the Dacey Avenue underpass. It is important to put this proposal in the context of its impact on Moore Park. Nowhere in the environmental impact statement does it identify the dimension of the area of land to be taken from Moore Park.
The Hon. R. S. L. Jones: Two hectares.
The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD: That is my understanding. There are no accurate figures available. The existing width of South Dowling Street is 29 to 30 metres. Estimates are that the Government's new proposal, because it will require banking of the proposed open-cut chunnel, will require a strip of up to 25 metres of Moore Park. If that is correct, up to 3½ hectares of Moore Park will be taken away. Assuming a strip of only 20 metres of land will be taken, there would be almost a doubling of the width of South Dowling Street and 2.8 hectares of land would be taken from Moore Park. South Dowling Street would be almost double its existing width. There has been no real evaluation of the social impact of the proposal. There will be major disruption to the use of South Dowling Street during the construction period. There will be a significant impact on the residential environment of the area between Todman Avenue and Oxford Street because traffic will be diverted into surrounding streets during the construction period, which basically will be a three-year nightmare for residents.
The Government has said that we should not consider a more sophisticated proposal, basically for the reason of cost. As I indicated, the original proposal for a cantilevered road involved $600 million. The changes announced last week involved $132 million. The canopy over the Cahill Expressway - which is not even load bearing; it will be purely for landscaping purposes - will cost $41 million and the other changes will cost $91 million. So the total cost of the project will be around $732 million. The cost of the revisions is comparable to the $165 million estimated by the 1996 environmental impact statement to fully cover the road from Drivers Triangle, near the northern ends of South Dowling Street and Anzac Parade, to Southern Cross Drive. So for only $30 million more than the estimated cost of the changes announced last week that section could be fully covered.
The Hon. R. S. L. Jones: Without disruption.
The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD: Yes. Although the Government might try to argue that these costings are no longer valid, it should be remembered that the costings were provided by the Government less than 12 months ago. The cost might also be considered against the cost of tunnelling from the existing harbour tunnel discharge point near Macquarie Street right through. The EIS put the cost of that work at $264.8 million. That breaks down as follows: the Eastern Distributor connection from the tunnel at the Domain to Drivers Triangle, as estimated in the EIS at page 6.14, $100 million; from Drivers Triangle to Todman Avenue, at page 6.23 of the EIS, $93.7 million; and from Todman Avenue to Southern Cross Drive, at page 6.25 of the EIS, $71.1 million. So for an additional $264.8 million it would be possible to put a tunnel from the existing discharge point of the harbour tunnel at the Domain right through to Southern Cross Drive at the golf course.
By increasing the original cost of the proposal by a third it would have been possible to construct a tunnel all the way. However, the Government's costing of its current proposal is $732 million. So the additional cost would now be less than an extra one third; it would be an additional 20 per cent of what the Government was prepared to pay. That would extend the tunnel right through from the Domain to Southern Cross Drive. In order to fund the most recent proposal the Government has estimated that the toll will rise from $2 in today's prices to $3 in 1999 terms, and the concession period for the toll will be extended from 38 years to 48 years. The Auditor-General will be asked to assess whether this represents good value for the taxpayer, and whether handing a 48-year franchise to a private consortium is in the long-term interests of the State. Remember: this is only for the version of the project announced by the Government last week, not for the ultimate project.
The M2 inquiry undertaken by the Auditor-General at the request of the Parliament cost
approximately $200,000. This motion calls on the Government to allocate additional funds to allow the Auditor-General to fully investigate this matter of strategic importance to the State. The Auditor-General has indicated that the inquiry now being considered by this House will cost between $200,000 and $250,000. The resumption of dedicated parkland from Moore Park will require the approval of both Houses of Parliament. This motion also calls upon the Government to take no further action on the resumption of dedicated parkland until the Auditor-General's report has been received and both Houses of Parliament have had the opportunity to consider it.
When in opposition, the Australian Labor Party allowed the Auditor-General less than three weeks to consider the entire M2 project deed. The present Opposition has not attempted to limit the Auditor-General in his inquiry into this matter. However, we understand that the Auditor-General will require six weeks to complete the inquiry, allowing time for the Government's response. With his experience the Auditor-General considers that he could undertake the current inquiry within approximately two weeks, and legislation requires that any such report be made available to the Government for a period of four weeks for the purpose of reply. So it will be some six weeks before the House receives the final report. The period of six weeks assumes that the Government will extend total cooperation to the Auditor-General to undertake this inquiry. I emphasise that that assumption is made. The previous Government cooperated completely with the Auditor-General in the M2 and State Bank inquiries.
The Hon. R. S. L. Jones: I assume the Government will cooperate.
The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD: I believe the statement of the Hon. R. S. L. Jones was not made tongue-in-cheek. I hope his assumption is right because the Government did not cooperate with the Auditor-General on the last occasion when this House asked him to undertake the inquiry into the showground. The House might recall that with regard to that matter the Government did everything it could to withhold documents from the Auditor-General. The Government cannot blame this House for delaying the construction of the Eastern Distributor. The Auditor-General expects to be able to prepare his draft report within two weeks, if the Government cooperates. Honourable members might also recall that the previous Government tabled the Auditor-General's draft report on the State Bank inquiry promptly so that immediate debate could proceed. Similarly, the Government could cooperate by tabling the draft report promptly in this House, but we are in the hands of the Government. The proposed Eastern Distributor is suggested by some people to represent one of the most important developments in Sydney's urban environment in the past 20 years. I am prepared to go further and say that the size and nature of this project is as significant -
The Hon. R. S. L. Jones: As the Cahill Expressway.
The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD: I would put it as significant as the Harbour Bridge because the Eastern Distributor will be the major link between the city and Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport and will serve this city for the next half century or more. Given its importance it is the Opposition's view that the Government should get it right. A toll was imposed on the Sydney Harbour Bridge for more than 50 years. The people of this State are prepared to pay a toll in return for the best urban environmental benefits. The community was prepared to pay an $80 Sydney Water Board levy to have our waterways cleaned up. If the community has to pay a little more and the toll has to be imposed a little longer, then the Government should get this project right to ensure that the orbital network will be of optimum benefit to all the residents of Sydney and cause minimum disruption to the environment and those living in the eastern part of the city. For that reason the Opposition urges the House to support the motion, which calls on the Auditor-General to undertake this inquiry.
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY [11.35 a.m.]: On behalf of the Australian Democrats I support the motion. The Australian Democrats have compiled information on an integrated transport platform for the whole of the Sydney region, of which the Eastern Distributor is a very important part. The Eastern Distributor is designed to connect the south end of the Cahill Expressway, near the Art Gallery and the Domain car park at Woolloomooloo, with the north end of Southern Cross Drive, south of Dacey Avenue. The current proposal - although I say that with some trepidation because the proposal changes every week - is for an above-ground road through Woolloomooloo, although in the last 10 days we have been told that the road will be covered by an artificial tunnel near the Art Gallery.
The motorway will continue up Palmer Street, then tunnel under Taylor Square to just south of
Flinders Street, where it will run down South Dowling Street beneath the current road level with local access roads on either side. To do this the Government will need to resume a piece of Moore Park. It is a moot point whether legislation for that purpose will pass through this House. The Government has given the assurance that even though part of Moore Park will be resumed, the park will be upgraded to the standard of Centennial Park. That is an extremely interesting statement because, regrettably, whatever the original intention for Centennial Park, which is very widely used by residents of the Paddington area, it is hardly one of the most beautiful parks in Sydney.
The Hon. R. S. L. Jones: It could be.
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY: As the Hon. R. S. L. Jones says, it could be, but at the moment it is not. It is not a good example of how we wish our parks to be. Under the current proposal the motorway will run down South Dowling Street with local access roads on either side and continue to link up with the start of Southern Cross Drive, which is already a freeway. The reasons the Government has given for the road are: traffic congestion on local and residential streets, particularly in Bourke, Palmer, Cleveland, Oxford, Crown, South Dowling and Flinders streets; and to connect the airport to the northern suburbs by a motorway.
Reasons to oppose the current proposal include the objection that the current proposal contains an above-ground road at Woolloomooloo until Taylor Square. This proposal has caused considerable anger among the residents in this area, which is becoming more densely populated. The road will not just affect old Woolloomooloo or the older terraces originally situated on Bourke, Palmer and Cleveland streets. The area has now been gentrified and some very expensive new apartment blocks are being constructed. Those new apartment blocks will considerably increase the density of the population and the number of cars in the area. If the road is above ground at Woolloomooloo, the result no doubt will be noise, exhaust and visual pollution. It is possible that the Art Gallery will be slightly protected by the artificial tunnel, but there will still be a major concrete tunnel entrance and, presumably, a toll plaza behind it. I gather that will be where the Cahill Expressway curves around towards Palmer Street.
The current proposal also has the tollway emerging from the tunnel just south of Taylor Square. Although the tollway is to run below the level of South Dowling Street, the access roads on either side will mean that part of Moore Park will have to be resumed, leading to a loss of park and a loss of open space. Even though this loss may be small, in my opinion it is just another piece of urban vandalism. The above-ground sections of road would be just as annoying for residents as the traffic congestion is now. Visually, I think they would be even worse. No thought has been given to the impact of the proposed Eastern Distributor on the new southern railway currently under construction, which will connect Central station and Tempe to the airport. No thought has been given to the impact on public transport in the eastern suburbs, and I include in that Randwick, Coogee and Maroubra.
The Australian Democrats support car reduction strategies. We support public transport. An eastern distributor will only make sense as a through road for traffic to get from the north to the south of the city without clogging city streets. Any proposal to allow access to it from existing roads in the area would only lead to more cars entering residential streets. Coordinated development of a light rail line with the Eastern Distributor would be the only option that the Australian Democrats could support. We need much more integrated planning. At the moment we have a piecemeal approach. What is worse, the Government's approach is changing all the time. We do not know from one week to another what it intends to do because of its knee-jerk reaction to every public protest and every letter it receives.
Honourable members would be aware that there have already been two rallies outside Parliament House on this subject since Parliament resumed. There have also been large protest meetings of residents of the eastern suburbs complaining about what the Government intends to do. The needs of the whole area must be considered. Road construction by itself is not the answer. I am not suggesting for a moment that the Australian Democrats would never support an eastern distributor, but it would have to be a coordinated public transport development and it would have to be in a tunnel the whole way to avoid the pollution problems that I have just mentioned. I realise that private tollway development has economic problems of its own. Those economic arguments should be looked at by the Auditor-General; he is a competent person to do that.
It has been made clear to me by Senator Cheryl Kernot and my Federal colleagues in the Canberra party room that the Australian Democrats are convinced that from the outset they should oppose private ownership of tollway infrastructure. As I said earlier, the Australian Democrats in New South Wales are currently working on a transport platform for the whole Sydney region. I am paying
for that survey out of my own pocket. I have employed two researchers and they are working on the survey. Because we have advertised what we are doing they are collecting a great deal of material from community groups not only in the eastern suburbs but also on the north shore and in the Bondi area.
There are some detailed, scientific assessments - not just protest letters - which run to 80 pages or more. I would be happy to let Opposition members see them if they would like to do so. The Australian Democrats are doing this because they believe that more integrated transport planning is needed throughout Sydney. Referring this matter to the Auditor-General will be one small step along the way towards a detailed investigation of what the Government and the private developer are doing. I gather from a letter I received on Wednesday, 9 April, that this proposal is strongly supported by Nick Greiner, Chairman of Baulderstone Hornibrook, who has said:
I am delighted that the Government has resolved the future of the Eastern Distributor . . .
I consider the Government's proposals to be a reasonable compromise . . .
The Government believes that there is nothing for the Auditor-General to investigate, and the Chairman of Baulderstone Hornibrook supports the Government's proposals - an indication that he must know what they are. As chairman of one of the biggest construction companies in the world he must have a fair idea how negotiations have gone and how close contracts are to being signed. It is appropriate to support this motion, which I do with pleasure.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES [11.47 a.m.]: I agree with many of the comments of the Leader of the Opposition concerning this matter. If this development eventually goes ahead, it will be an extremely important one and we should get it right. The Government is going the wrong way, yet again, having decided to build yet another motorway. Obviously we must reduce traffic flow problems, and this same problem has been addressed differently in many other cities. Those that have decided to go with motorways have paid the price. When I was in England not so long ago I was caught in a 25-mile-long traffic jam on the M25 - an orbital road that was supposed to reduce traffic problems in London. The British Government is now thinking about building even more laneways on that road. However, even Conservative members of Parliament who have seats in the southern London area have decided to oppose such a move. They realise that the traffic will increase to fill any additional lanes. Patronage of public transport fell with the construction of the M4, which is well used. In Sydney there has been a shift in the method of travel, from rail to car, with the completion of the harbour tunnel. A letter from the Transport Action Group states:
. . . upon opening of the Harbour Tunnel approximately 15 000 additional vehicles per day appeared on the north-south harbour corridor within three months of opening. At the same time just over 17 000 rail commuters disappeared from the rail network.
I hope that the new southern railway, or airport rail link, will take a lot of traffic off the roads as people begin to travel by rail to the airport. Taxidrivers realise that this rail link will take away a lot of their business. In my view, the distributor should not be built at all; we should wait until the airport rail link is completed and then urge people to use that means of transport to get to the airport. It might prove to be well patronised and much more profitable than a tollway. Some time ago I asked a question in this House of the Premier, through the Treasurer, about restoring the gap between the Royal Botanic Gardens and the Domain which was created in 1959 as a result of the building of the Cahill Expressway. If one attempted to build such an expressway through the Botanic Gardens today, I am sure that there would be a public outcry - just as there has been an outcry about the erection of the appalling buildings at east Circular Quay, which are a blight on the landscape. I also asked the Premier, through the Treasurer, to consider allocating money in some future budget to repair that damage and to put underground the road that cuts right through the Botanic Gardens, which spoils one of the finest parks in the country. The Treasurer laughed when I made that request. The Hon. P. C. Scully's proposition suggests that the portion of the bridge from the Art Gallery to Woolloomooloo, about 0.8 of a hectare, will be covered.
The Hon. J. P. Hannaford: A most expensive 0.8 of a hectare.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: It is an expensive 0.8 of a hectare. It actually cost $40 million, with $20 million provided by the consortium and $20 million provided by the taxpayers. One might ask: who will pay for this? I intend to put a proposal to the Government, which I put to the Treasurer and one or two other Ministers, to set up a heritage fund upon privatisation of assets - for example, the Totalizator Agency Board, the privatisation of which will no doubt be announced shortly - as the Federal Government in its wisdom has done with the privatisation of Telstra. That is a very good idea. In that way money could be made available to perhaps
purchase sites such as east Circular Quay, which five years ago could have been bought for $180 million. At that time the Hon. J. R. Johnson approached his friend Paul Keating, the then Prime Minister - as I did - and asked him to acquire it. We got no response.
Five years ago the site at east Circular Quay could have been acquired for a much lesser cost. At that time people asked, "Where is the money coming from?" Perhaps the money could come from an exchange of assets. If the Government were to sell government-owned assets or publicly owned assets, it could convert a portion of those assets into other assets - for example, the restoration of the Botanic Gardens and the acquisition of east Circular Quay. At this stage it is probably too late and would be very expensive indeed to acquire the site at east Circular Quay. Other areas - for example, the defence land on the harbour - could also be sold off. If the Federal Government insists on selling that land, it could also be acquired by the heritage fund. The money could be made available through the privatisation of assets.
No doubt there will be considerable privatisation of assets over the next two or three years, both by this Government and the next government. If we think about that now, we could have funds transferred from the sale of some assets and other assets restored. It is not a matter of no money being available; the money could be made available. The proposal put forward during last night's meeting with the Hon. P. C. Scully and advisers of the Roads and Traffic Authority was certainly a considerable improvement on the previous disastrous proposal put forward by the RTA and its advisers. I wonder how on earth anybody in the RTA could imagine that its first proposal would have been acceptable to anyone. I wrote letters to the various Ministers, including one to the Hon. C. J. Knowles back in February in which I stated:
. . . Roads and Traffic Authority traffic engineers have exaggerated current estimates of tollable traffic by a factor of over 100% . . . the proposed Eastern Distributor would need a one-way traffic volume of over 125,000 toll paying vehicles each day in order to break even, yet a new study prepared by a coalition of transport and environment groups indicates that two-way traffic is unlikely to exceed 60,000 vehicles a day before 2011 and only 30,000-40,000 of them will be toll paying in the first few years.
. . . the project could . . . only expect an annual revenue of $30 million while the full annual cost of proposed roadway would be around $90 million . . .
Of course, that is based on the previously proposed toll, not the currently proposed toll of $3. The RTA estimated that the annual gap at that time would be around $60 million. We might well be looking at another M2 situation. The M2 will probably never actually pay for itself; it will be somewhat of a white elephant. Those who built it made their money, but the people who are now trying to operate it will probably not make money. A document issued by the Infrastructure Trust of Australia, written by Mr R. J. Tanner and dated 9 December 1996, sets out estimates of annual revenue. On the basis of the previous toll Mr Tanner's low estimate for annual revenue was $25.29 million a year. His high estimate was $43.69 million a year. His estimation of total expenses, including bank debt of $107.8 million at 10 per cent and CPI bonds of $400 million at 10 per cent, was $89.4 million. In his document Mr Tanner stated:
In the first year of operation, the Eastern Distributor will lose between $45.7 million and $64.1 million.
The Airport Motorway will be required to call upon Leighton Contractors to honour its Liquidation Damages obligations to the date of practical completion at a rate to service all long term debt. This is expected to be forty months from December 1996 to April 2000. Beyond this date it is obvious that the Eastern Distributor will require additional revenue and/or the conversion of bank debt to equity.
Honourable members would be aware of the debate in the media over the problems associated with health, for example. The Department of Health has expressed its concerns about air pollution problems. In its document entitled "Proposed Eastern Distributor - Environmental Impact Statement" the department stated:
. . . air pollution based on the assessments carried out over the last 3 years in the Metropolitan Air Quality Study . . . In parallel with MAQS the NSW Health Department conducted a range of health studies. The results of these studies are now available and confirm international research linking air pollution to a range of health effects including increased hospitalisation and mortality.
The department expressed concern about the health effects of air pollution and noise congestion in fragmented neighbourhoods, which the department said are not quantified. Apparently the document I have referred to has not yet been released; this is just a brief snippet from it. I also expressed to the Hon. P. C. Scully the concerns about the heritage of Woolloomooloo. Some of these issues may well have been addressed by the new proposals. The new proposals must be examined more carefully. I support the motion of the Leader of the Opposition. I hope that we will learn more about problems associated with the proposed motorway and that the Auditor-General will reveal them in his studies.
The Hon. I. COHEN [11.57 a.m.]: I support the motion. As a Green I am saddened by the Eastern Distributor proposal. Honourable members will well remember the devastation that was caused by the M2 motorway, including the dislocation of communities. I agree with the Hon. R. S. L. Jones that motorway developments spell disaster for the environment. That has been the experience internationally. The Hon. R. S. L. Jones referred to the situation of the motorways in Britain and the significant turnaround in attitude towards such developments in that country. Whichever way one looks at it, this proposal is a disaster.
Pursuant to sessional orders business interrupted.
QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
JUVENILE OFFENDER SENTENCING
The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD: My question without notice is directed to the Attorney General. Does the Attorney support the magistrate who yesterday sentenced a student to nine months in a juvenile detention centre for stabbing another student in a fight over drugs? Will the Attorney undertake that in future cases he will lodge an appeal against any penalty imposed on a juvenile for similar offences which is not consistent with this nine-month gaol term?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: The answer to the latter part of the question of the Leader of the Opposition is no. I believe that the honourable member knows how impracticable and inappropriate it is to adopt rigid rules about appeals in relation to sentences. In any event, the matter is one for the Director of Public Prosecutions. I have observed the case to which the honourable member refers as carefully as I have been able to.
The Government appointed Mr Stephen Scarlett as the Chief Children's Magistrate and I have the highest regard for his capacity as a juvenile officer. He is doing a fine job in the Children's Court. It is not for me to pass judgment about whether the sentence was appropriate or whether I support the magistrate. I support the judicial system generally. It is unseemly and inappropriate for the Attorney General to be supporting or opposing a particular judgment in a criminal court. The result of that type of behaviour would be chaotic and inappropriate. The judgment has been well reported in the media. I have no criticism of it and I will be happy to study the full report of the Chief Magistrate's reasons for decision when it is available.
MR COLIN FISK OVERSEAS TRAVEL
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE: I ask the Attorney General a question without notice. I refer to my earlier question concerning the departure from Australia to Thailand of self-confessed paedophile, Colin Fisk, his fare having been paid by the Royal Commission into the New South Wales Police Service. Is it a fact that Colin Fisk was seen yet again by at least one member of the Australian Federal Police departing from Tullamarine Airport in January of this year for Thailand? Was this fare also paid by the Royal Commission into the New South Wales Police Service?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: I do not know the answer to that, nor do I know whether the royal commission would give me information of that kind if I asked. However, in response to the honourable member's question, I will make an inquiry of the royal commission and pass on the honourable member's question.
The Hon. HELEN SHAM-HO: Is the Attorney General aware of allegations made by the honourable member for Cabramatta last week in the other place that because of court delays and procedure at Fairfield many hours of police time are being wasted in waiting in the courthouse instead of doing actual police work in the community, particularly when drug trafficking is such a big problem at Cabramatta? Will the Attorney General inform the House whether this is a fact and whether he is concerned about it? If so, what measures will the Attorney General take to address this specific problem so that police can perform their duties more productively?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: I am concerned about recent suggestions that police officers' time is wasted attending court hearings, particularly in the western and south-western regions of Sydney. Courts are obviously facing many challenges and pressures to use court, witness and police time in the most efficient way. The Government is committed to supporting the court's movement towards greater efficiency and accountability and has a number of initiatives that will assist the program. It has provided funding to allow a number of courthouses throughout the greater Sydney region to open during
evening hours. That move will provide court and registry services to clients who cannot get to a courthouse during the day. Assessors will be available one evening each week to determine small civil disputes at those locations.
In addition, a full range of Local Court registry services, including the chamber magistrate, will be available to the community during the extended hours. The establishment of the night court will effectively release more court time for the determination of criminal and other matters. In relation to courtroom accommodation, which is one finite resource that could lead to delays, the Government recognises the obvious growth in the western Sydney region and the increased demand as a result of that growth.
Following representations from the chief magistrate, the Attorney General's Department entered into negotiations with Penrith City Council to secure additional accommodation for the Local Court in close proximity to the current courthouse. In the longer term, the department has now completed its statewide court accommodation strategic plan, which documents projected court accommodation needs over the next five to 10 years. The need for a long-term solution in Sydney's west was confirmed during that process.
The majority of prosecutions in the Local Court are conducted by the New South Wales Police Service. This will necessarily involve police officers as witnesses in court cases. The Government is considering ways in which procedures in the Local Court could be streamlined and unnecessary appearances by parties and witnesses eliminated. The commencement of the Justices Amendment (Committals) Act 1996 on 21 February this year ensures that prosecution witnesses, many of whom are police officers, will not be required to give oral evidence in committal proceedings before the Local Court, except where special reasons exist.
The honourable member will remember that legislation because it was somewhat controversial in some circles. The Government will be reviewing the legislation and I will be appointing a distinguished person to chair a review committee, following an undertaking I made to various interest groups. That should have the effect of freeing up time and accommodation resources in the Local Court system. The Government is also developing a number of legislative reforms that will streamline Local Court procedures and reduce appearances before the court. The Government is actively examining registry practices with the aim of reducing paperwork and unnecessary administration.
The Local Court is also responding to community demands for speedier resolution of matters and reduction in time spent in court by parties, witnesses and police officers. In response to the need to reduce court delays, the chief magistrate has established a number of court regions designed to ensure that all magistrates within a given region are collectively responsible for all courts within that region. The regional model, such as that established in south-western Sydney, allows the workload of the region to be spread among all the courts. This has the positive effect of reducing the time taken to hear and determine a matter brought before the court, and of ensuring the most efficient use of available court time.
When the parties to an action agree, a hearing may be transferred from the court where the case commenced to another court within the same region. This allows the parties to take advantage of an early hearing date. I am informed that the chief magistrate is aware of the need to ensure that an efficient and effective service is delivered to the court's clients. Many courts now adopt listing practices which minimise the time people wait at court for cases to be heard. I understand that the Downing Centre has introduced staggered listing times for some courts.
One of the two courts in the Fairfield Local Court complex - the area referred to in the honourable member's question - in addition to its normal listing practices one day each week devotes its list entirely to determining matters emanating from the Cabramatta area. The Government and the chief magistrate are monitoring the workload of local courts, particularly those in the growth areas of western and south-western Sydney. We will continue to respond to the needs of those communities and all clients of the courts to improve the level of service provided by the judicial system.
DISTRICT COURT RURAL SITTINGS
The Hon. PATRICIA STAUNTON: My question without notice is directed to the Attorney General. Will he inform the House of the proposed allocation of sittings of the District Court in rural areas of the State for 1997?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: This information will be of particular interest to honourable members in country areas who are concerned about District Court sittings. I am pleased to advise the House that
Judge Blanch, Chief Judge of the District Court, has finalised the calendar of District Court sittings for 1997. When compared with the 1996 allocation of sittings in the published calendar, this indicates an overall increase of 20 per cent in District Court country sittings for 1997. I have been assured by the chief judge that the allocations have been made on the basis of existing workloads, balanced with the needs of all communities across the State and the overall view of improving the efficiency and service delivery of the District Court.
As all honourable members would be aware, the District Court provides an essential service to the parties that come before it. It is of great importance to ensure the rights of all citizens throughout the State to obtain equitable access to this service. Under the leadership of the chief judge, the court has rationalised its sittings to enhance the effectiveness, efficiency and fairness of its service delivery to rural communities. The chief judge's initiative to regionalise various District Court centres commenced with the court's 1996 sittings. The rationalisation was aimed at providing an efficient and effective manner of disposing of the bulk of the court's civil work and enhancing the level of service provided to rural communities.
The level of sittings allocated to particular rural centres has been linked to increases or reductions of court workloads in those centres. This is as it should be, as the court's resources should not provide for sittings at venues where the case load does not warrant them. The effective utilisation of the District Court's resources will result in reduced delays, greater flexibility in listing arrangements and the aggregation of sufficient work to justify circuit arbitrators. The use of arbitrators in this way will provide parties with an opportunity for quicker and cheaper resolution of disputes.
I am pleased to advise honourable members that in 1997 the sittings of the District Court will increase in country areas, excluding Gosford, Newcastle and Wollongong. Criminal sittings of the District Court will increase by 31 weeks, or 12 per cent; civil sittings of the District Court will increase by 35 weeks, or 42 per cent; and combined sittings of the District Court - that is, civil and criminal lists - will increase by three weeks, or 37 per cent. In the aggregate, there will be an overall increase of 20 per cent in 1997, which is a significant achievement for the District Court and the Government.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: Will it happen the following year as well?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: Each year is looked at individually; it will depend on the workload in each region as it is done on a rational basis. We cannot dogmatically predict what will happen in a succeeding year.
The PRESIDENT: Order! The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti will cease interjecting.
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: The Government and the court system have made a tangible commitment to rural New South Wales. It is appropriate for clients and practitioners to obtain greater and localised access to an important court - the court that hears the majority of criminal matters in New South Wales and also has a heavy civil case load.
LAKE COWAL GOLDMINING PROPOSAL
The Hon. R. T. M. BULL: 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. Is it a fact that a new application for the approval of the Lake Cowal mine has been lodged? What steps has the Minister taken to fully inform the applicant of the real reasons for the Government's refusal of the original proposal? What steps is he now taking to assist the company to gain approval for its new application? If successful, the company will bring hundreds of jobs and more than $1 billion to the economy of the State.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I do not know whether an application has been lodged. I will ascertain the position and advise the honourable member accordingly.
DIMINISHED RESPONSIBILITY DEFENCE
The Hon. ELAINE NILE: My question without notice is directed to the Attorney General. Is it a fact that there is widespread concern about abuse of the defence of diminished responsibility which has resulted in low sentences when a person has been murdered? In view of the Attorney General's stated concern in relation to the situation when does he propose to take action by way of legislation to abolish the abused defence of diminished responsibility?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: The Government is not committed to the abolition of the defence; that is only an option. The defence may need to be better refined and defined. The Hon. Elaine Nile will appreciate that the effect of the defence does not lead to an acquittal; it means that the charge of murder is not proceeded with, or that the person is found not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter. It should be borne in mind that the courts have available to them a wide range of sentences - up to 25 years imprisonment - in relation to manslaughter. The offence requires a wide
sentencing discretion because it can take many different forms and there can be different levels of seriousness.
There are problems with the current law of diminished responsibility in New South Wales. It was introduced in 1974 in a particular context. I agree that there is a case for the abolition of the law, but it is a complex matter. The Law Reform Commission was expected to report on the matter by the middle of this year. I have asked the commission to bring the report forward, and I would be surprised if we did not have a comprehensive recommendation from the commission in the next couple of weeks. I assure the Hon. Elaine Nile that I will analyse and consider the report with a view to legislative proposals being brought before the House as expeditiously as possible.
TOBACCO ADVERTISING BREACHES
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI: My question without notice is directed to the Treasurer, representing the Minister for Health. Is the Minister aware of the flagrant advertising of cigarettes in the Australian Hotelier? Is this advertising against the provisions of the Tobacco Advertising Prohibition Act? The magazine is for sale. What does the Government plan to do about this flagrant breach of the tobacco advertising law?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I hope that the Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti’s knowledge on other matters is better than his knowledge of the law. Tobacco advertising in the Australian Hotelier and in the Liquor Retailer Magazine has been brought to the attention of the Minister for Health. I understand that the Minister has referred the matter to his department for further investigation and appropriate action. The Tobacco Advertising Prohibition Act prohibits tobacco advertising in certain circumstances and restricts it in other circumstances. I am advised that section 52 of the Act prohibits the distribution of objects that contain a tobacco advertisement in or on them. The section exempts items supplied to manufacturers, distributors or retailers of tobacco products. Guess who was responsible for inserting that section in the Act? The previous Government did that - in particular, the Leader of the Opposition, Peter Collins.
TOBACCO ADVERTISING BREACHES
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI: I ask a supplementary question. I accept the Treasurer’s assurance that he will come back to the House with a further answer. However, I advise the Treasurer that the magazine is available generally, and not only for retailers and wholesalers. To that extent, I believe that it should be covered by the Act.
The PRESIDENT: Order! That was not a supplementary question but, rather, a statement. I leave it to the Minister to decide whether to respond.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: Mr President, I would like to add to my answer because I committed a grievous error. It was not the Leader of the Opposition in the other place, Peter Collins, who inserted that section in the Act - the culprit was the Leader of the Opposition in this place, the Hon. J. P. Hannaford. In this regard, I refer the Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti to page 5024 of the Hansard of the Legislative Council of 20 November 1991.
LAKE COWAL GOLDMINING PROPOSAL
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: My question without notice is directed to the Treasurer, representing the Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning, and Minister for Housing. Will the new application lodged by North Limited to mine Lake Cowal still destroy this world-class wetland and still entail the use of cyanide? Will the Minister assure the House that there will be no backflip on his decision to preserve Lake Cowal, no matter what amounts of money the mining industry offers the Australian Labor Party for its administration account or election funding?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I shall refer the question of the Hon. R. S. L. Jones to my colleague the Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning.
BOVINE JOHNE’S DISEASE
The Hon. B. H. VAUGHAN: I direct my question without notice to the Treasurer, representing the Minister for Agriculture. Did the shadow minister for agriculture compromise the reputation of the livestock industries of New South Wales in his reckless statement yesterday concerning New South Wales Agriculture's handling of bovine Johne’s disease?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: The Deputy Leader of the Opposition is usually more accurate than his colleague the Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti. It saddens me to have to report to the House that, in this instance, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is emulating his colleague the Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti. The irresponsible, inaccurate and poorly researched statements of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition - who purports to be the shadow minister
for agriculture - are compromising the reputation of our livestock industries and damaging rural New South Wales. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition does nothing for rural New South Wales or for our livestock industries. He is an absolute disgrace.
Last night the Deputy Leader of the Opposition claimed that in two instances New South Wales Agriculture's handling of bovine Johne's disease has been totally unacceptable. In both cases he has got his facts wrong. The alleged tail-tag swapping incident was fully investigated by New South Wales Agriculture. It is significant that the original transaction took place on 3 April 1995, the day before the present Government was sworn in. It was of course a final act of incompetence on behalf of the previous Government. There were no declarations in place. The coalition Government was just not interested in Johne's disease. The Carr Government has reached agreement on declarations that will identify infected stock before transactions take place. In the current case New South Wales Agriculture was notified of the presence of Johne's disease on 12 January 1996, 10 months after the original transaction, and a full and detailed investigation of the tail-tag swapping claim was undertaken. It is apparent that a number of breaches of New South Wales law may have occurred, but there is no firm evidence on which a prosecution could be based.
In relation to the accusation that the Orange laboratory displayed incompetence in testing for Johne's disease, once again the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has got it completely and utterly wrong. In the process, he has reflected on the competence of a highly professional laboratory staff. In this case, blood samples from the 45 cattle were submitted to the Orange laboratory on 17 December 1996, and the results were available three days later. The Orange laboratory staff were concerned with the marginal positive results of the first tests and they arranged for the samples to be retested at the Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute, Camden.
The staff should be congratulated on their caution, not condemned. As part of the open process adopted by New South Wales Agriculture, the laboratory informed the vendor's agent of its concern with the original results. Any action taken by the agent had no substantive effect on the outcome. Contrary to the claim made by the honourable member, the property in question was not told it would be quarantined by New South Wales Agriculture. Honourable members expect the Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti to come into this House and shoot his mouth off without knowing any of the facts, but the Deputy Leader of the Opposition comes from a background such that we would expect much better of him. He is, after all, the son of Senator Bull. Therefore, one would expect the honourable member to be concerned about the rural community of New South Wales and about this State's livestock industry, and to get his facts right instead of blurting out misinformation in this House to the great detriment of rural New South Wales and the livestock industry.
WESTLAKES POLYCLINIC NEEDLE
The Hon. PATRICIA FORSYTHE: I ask the Treasurer, representing the Minister for Health, whether it is a fact that one of the services to be provided at the proposed Westlakes Polyclinic at Toronto is a needle exchange program? Will the program be operated via a vending machine located on the outside wall of the building? Will this allow easy access to needles and potentially poor disposal methods? If so, what steps are being taken to ensure the safety of children who use the adjacent multipurpose centre for before and after school care, playgroups and vacation care? Was the community consulted about this role for the polyclinic? Will the Minister now abandon the use of vending machines in favour of a properly managed exchange program?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I would not take the word of the Hon. Patricia Forsythe for anything, so I will refer the question to my colleague the Minister for Health.
That is one of the most disgraceful and cynical things I have heard in this House!
The PRESIDENT: Order! If members continue to be disorderly, I will name them.
ELECTRICITY ACCOUNT LATE PAYMENT FEE
The Hon. J. H. JOBLING: I ask a question without notice of the Treasurer, Minister for Energy, and Minister for State and Regional Development. Will the Minister state whether changes to account terms reducing the time available to customers to pay their accounts, instigated recently by Energy Australia in the old Orion area, have been endorsed by the Government? Is the Minister aware that customers in the old Orion-Shortland area who may have failed to pay their bills due to cash flow problems associated with pension pay days have
been slugged a new fee of $5 per reminder letter? Have the Minister and the Government capitulated on their previous assurances over both community service obligations and revenue raising by stealth?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I am quite happy to take up this matter with Energy Australia. I would not want any of the State's energy distributors undertaking any new policies that would in any way disadvantage any section of our community.
ELECTRICITY ACCOUNT LATE PAYMENT FEE
The Hon. J. H. JOBLING: I ask the Treasurer, Minister for Energy, and Minister for State and Regional Development a supplementary question. Is the Minister also aware, in relation to those charges, that the St Vincent de Paul Society diocesan council of Maitland and Newcastle has concern also for 1,500 members in that Energy Australia now requires payment of accounts within 14 days instead of 21 days as occurred previously?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I would not have thought that was a supplementary question, but my answer to the honourable member's first question applies to his second question.
EWINGSDALE TO TYAGARAH MOTORWAY
The Hon. I. COHEN: I ask the Treasurer, representing the Minister for Roads, and Minister for Public Works and Services, a question without notice. Was an environmental impact statement prepared for the Ewingsdale to Tyagarah motorway, in northern New South Wales? If not, why not?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: The simple answer to the question is that I do not know, but I will find out.
NORTHPOWER EXECUTIVE BENEFITS
The Hon. D. J. GAY: My question is to the Treasurer, Minister for Energy, Minister for State and Regional Development, Minister Assisting the Premier, and Vice-President of the Executive Council. What was the necessity and cost of a Holden Special Vehicles make-over of a brand new $45,000 V8 Holden Statesman used by NorthPower's chairman of the board? Was this Brock-type make-over really necessary considering today's media reports that more than 200 jobs have been lost from Grafton, the home town of the honourable member for Clarence, Harry Woods, due to NorthPower downsizing? While on the topic of over-the-top high performance motor vehicles and petrol heads, can the Minister explain the cost and purpose of NorthPower having a corporate box at the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne in March this year? How does the Minister think the people of Grafton would feel about this? What representations has the local member, Harry Woods, made to the Minister on behalf of his constituents?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I do know that in the past 12 months NorthPower has been able to reduce power bills to its customers by some $9 million in just one year. I am not aware of the truth or otherwise of the other matters raised by the Hon. D. J. Gay. I will ascertain the facts.
ELECTRICITY SCHEME INTEREST PAYMENTS
The Hon. M. R. KERSTEN: I ask the Treasurer, Minister for Energy, Minister for State and Regional Development, Minister Assisting the Premier, and Vice-President of the Executive Council a question without notice. The Minister would be aware of the difficult circumstances that many rural families in western New South Wales are currently experiencing because of the long drought and falling commodity prices. In view of this fact, will the Minister reconsider previous requests to him to place a moratorium on interest payments for all participants in the far west electricity scheme?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: Following representations from the assiduous member for Broken Hill, Mr Bill Beckroge, I have already undertaken to consider providing concessions for those people who are in genuine difficulty in meeting their payments. We will assess applications on a case-by-case basis.
FLYING FOX CULLING
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: I ask the Attorney General, representing the Minister for the Environment: in light of the Minister's answer on 15 April to my question without notice on Tuesday, 8 April, concerning flying foxes, does the Minister intend allowing the shooting of flying foxes in the 1997-98 season on properties I named in Parliament where flying foxes were shot in numbers vastly in excess of licences? Have any investigations been made yet about the allegations I made about the properties? If not, why not? Also, will the Minister ensure that night-time checks will definitely be made in this next season if licences remain in place for the shooting of flying foxes? If not, why not?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: I assure the Hon. R. S. L. Jones that I will bring his question to the
attention of the Minister, the Hon. Pam Allan, and obtain a response for him.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: I ask the Attorney General, representing the Minister for the Environment, whether it is a fact that the National Parks and Wildlife Service issued unrestricted licences on demand to kill pink-eared ducks to prevent damage to rice fields in 1996? Why were these licences issued when pink-eared ducks are carnivorous and cause absolutely no damage to crops and in fact help farmers by eating insects and creatures such as snails which cause damage to crops? Will the National Parks and Wildlife Service stop this absurd practice of issuing licences to kill ducks, which are actually beneficial to crops?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: I assure the Hon. R. S. L. Jones that I will refer his question concerning pink-eared ducks to the Minister for the Environment and obtain a response for him.
EXPERIENCED TEACHER TRANSFER INCENTIVES
The Hon. VIRGINIA CHADWICK: I direct my question to the Attorney General, representing the Minister for Education and Training. In line with recommendation 13 of the fairer school funding review, what is being done to produce incentives for experienced teachers to move to schools with a high proportion of beginning teachers? Will such incentives form part of salary negotiations with government school teachers following the salaries agreement in the non-government sector?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: The honourable member has raised an important issue of educational administration, namely, encouragement of experienced teachers - I know that it is raised in a particular context - and I will be happy to take that matter up with the Minister for Education and Training and obtain a response for the honourable member.
GUNNEDAH SHIRE ABATTOIR
The Hon. JANELLE SAFFIN: My question is directed to the Treasurer, Minister for Energy and Minister for State and Regional Development. Last year the Minister announced that Gunnedah Council and the New South Wales Government had offered a rescue package to the Gunnedah Shire Abattoir. Will the Minister please update the House on recent developments concerning this significant regional employer?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: As honourable members will be aware, the Hon. Janelle Saffin has a genuine concern for rural and regional New South Wales, unlike the people who sit on the benches opposite. Over the last year I have spoken a number of times in this House about the difficulties faced by Gunnedah Shire Abattoir. Today I am pleased to report that there has been a happy ending to this sometimes troubled story. It was a little over a year ago that Gunnedah Mayor Noel O'Brien came knocking on my door with a big problem for the people of Gunnedah. The Gunnedah Shire Abattoir, one of the town's largest employers, was in real trouble and the livelihoods of more than 200 families were on the line. The council-owned abattoir had fallen on hard times, partly due to the effects of the extended drought in northern New South Wales but also because of the abattoir management's lack of meat industry experience.
Almost every day I get requests for financial assistance for businesses of one kind or another. Often they are requests to support an enterprise that will never be able to stand on its own two feet. But fortunately for those relying on the abattoir, Gunnedah Mayor Noel O'Brien, through perseverance and sound argument, was able to convince me that the situation in Gunnedah was different. It was his firm belief that, with a few short-term financial breaks and the introduction of an experienced management team, the abattoir and the town really did have a future. To Mayor O'Brien's credit, he was the first to admit that councillors simply did not have the experience to run an abattoir. So in response to the urgent request from the council I commissioned a financial and economic assessment of the abattoir by consultants Price Waterhouse.
They were asked to establish whether there was scope for the abattoir to return to viability and to advise on an appropriate government assistance program. The Price Waterhouse study found that the abattoir played a unique role in the local economy and in the New South Wales meat industry. The study also confirmed that the abattoir could make a sustainable profit provided a range of strict measures were implemented. Those conditions included: the abattoir must be corporatised and all assets transferred to a separate legal entity; an independent board with suitable meat industry experience must be appointed; the abattoir must be sold for any reasonable offer or closed if the business remains unviable and sale is unlikely within two years.
Subject to the implementation of these measures, Price Waterhouse also recommended a package of State and Federal government assistance
to give the abattoir a chance to get back on its feet. In recognition of the unique contribution the abattoir makes to the regional economy of northern New South Wales and in strict accordance with the Price Waterhouse report, I prepared a two-year $1 million support package which included stamp duty and payroll tax concessions. Following my announcement of the package Gunnedah Council immediately implemented a range of measures designed to improve the abattoir's operating position and sale potential, including the corporatisation of the abattoir and the appointment of a new board with meat industry experience.
But then came the hard part - trying to get some financial assistance from a Federal Government that was in the process of framing a budget that would slash $150 million from regional development funding. However, after a lot of toing-and-froing we eventually managed to get primary industries Minister John Anderson to come to the party with some concessions on Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service meat inspection fees. Finally, after a lot of hard work by the State Government and Gunnedah Mayor Noel O'Brien, and with the reluctant cooperation of the Federal Government, Gunnedah abattoir was purchased by Mr Grant Edmonds and officially reopened in February by my Parliamentary Secretary for State and Regional Development, Sandra Nori, the member for Port Jackson.
Throughout this process the one community figure missing in action was the member for Barwon, Ian Slack-Smith. But despite Mr Slack-Smith's passivity the job got done, to the undoubted relief of the people of Gunnedah and the 200 families whose livelihoods depend directly on the abattoir. And I am hopeful that more good news is just around the corner. I am advised that already the new abattoir, under Grant Edmonds, is achieving record kill levels almost 30 per cent above the level achieved under council management. There is hope that the new abattoir will expand into processing sheep and pigs with a view to new exports to Europe. That simply means more jobs and prosperity for the people of Gunnedah.
I also understand that the rescue of the abattoir has triggered additional investment in Gunnedah. The McDonald's food chain has shown its confidence in the local region by opening a restaurant in the town. Negotiations are well advanced with Turkish investors for the purchase and expansion of the local Gunnedah tannery. It is proposed that the tannery will purchase hides directly from the new abattoir. If the deal goes ahead, local Gunnedah firms will be involved in each step of the manufacture of leather goods - from the purchase of cows in the paddock right through to the sale of a finished product to retailers. That is great news for Gunnedah. I congratulate the people of Gunnedah and their local mayor, Noel O'Brien -
The Hon. R. T. M. Bull: The bad news is that they have a $10 million debt.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: You really have never been in favour of supporting Gunnedah. Why do you want to put the boot into Gunnedah at every opportunity? What is wrong with you? You parade around the State as a friend of rural communities, as a friend of agriculture. You are an absolute disgrace. You have sold out the bush. You have sold out regional New South Wales. And you will pay for it, brother, next time you go to the polls. I congratulate the people of Gunnedah and their local mayor, Noel O'Brien, whose leadership, patience and commonsense saved one of Gunnedah's largest employers. As can be gathered from the interjections in the House today, the Government’s efforts have not had the support of the Opposition.
The Hon. D. J. Gay: That is a mean-spirited statement.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I exclude the Hon. D. J. Gay from that statement because of all the National Party members in this House he has been the only one to support the Government's efforts to save the Gunnedah abattoir. Every other National Party member of this House has opposed our efforts. I will make sure that everyone in Gunnedah knows that and I will even make sure that they know of the one National Party exception, the Hon. D. J. Gay, who supported the Government's stance. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the shadow minister for agriculture, has opposed the rescue package throughout. It has taken a little over a year but the Government's rescue package has not only protected the jobs of 200 workers, it has also helped to kick-start the local economy, creating even more opportunity for increased investment and employment in Gunnedah.
HEALTH CARE SERVICE SIGNS
The Hon. J. M. SAMIOS: My question without notice is directed to the Treasurer, representing the Premier, and Minister for Ethnic Affairs and, today, the Minister for Health. Is it not a fact that the President of the Croatian Intercommittee Council for New South Wales, Mr Tom Beram, in a letter dated 14 February 1997 to the Premier, stated that advisers to the Minister for
Health had informed him that health care interpreter service signs with messages in the Croatian language bearing the heading "Yugoslav language" would be replaced with new ones showing the Croatian language listed in alphabetical order? Is it not also a fact that the old incorrect signs are still displayed at the Royal North Shore Hospital? What actions will the Premier take to ensure that the error is promptly rectified and that the correct signs are displayed? Was the promise made to Mr Beram by the advisers to the Minister for Health yet another example of the Carr Government's broken promises?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: It is an absolute disgrace that the Hon. J. M. Samios has taken so long to bring this matter to my attention. I will certainly raise it with the Premier at the earliest opportunity.
PORT KEMBLA COPPER SMELTER
The Hon. I. COHEN: I ask the Treasurer, today representing the Minister for Health, a question without notice. Will the Minister for Health provide evidence that the projected Port Kembla copper smelter will have adequate pollution controls? Is the Minister aware of medical hardship, including leukaemia clusters, suffered by surrounding residents? Is the reopening of this smelter in the interests of the public or just another abuse of a disempowered community?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I am sorry that the Hon. I. Cohen does not support the reopening of the copper smelter at Port Kembla.
The Hon. J. P. Hannaford: An important project.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: As the Leader of the Opposition says, it is an important project. I am pleased with the part that I have played in the proposal. I even went to Tokyo to talk to the firms involved to ensure that the Illawarra got that investment. I will prepare a detailed reply to the concerns raised by the Hon. I. Cohen. I assure the honourable member that the Government is intent not only on getting that investment and those jobs for the Illawarra, but also on making sure that the local environment and the health of the residents are protected. I believe that the information I will be able to provide to the Hon. I. Cohen in due course will establish that.
LOCAL GOVERNMENT PUBLIC LIABILITY
The Hon. D. J. GAY: My question without notice is to the Attorney General, and Minister for Industrial Relations. Has the Attorney General had discussions with the Minister for Local Government regarding public liabilities for councils? If so, at what stage are these discussions and will legislation be introduced to overcome this problem faced by councils?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: The answer to the question is yes. Dialogue has ensued between the Department of Local Government and the Attorney General's Department on the matter of public liabilities for councils. I add that I have had discussions with many councils on the topic, mainly rural councils which raised the matter with me when I visited various towns and cities.
The Hon. D. J. Gay: It is a real problem.
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: I appreciate the argument that it is a problem and has been pushing up costs of councils. The matter has been actively considered within the Attorney General's Department. I cannot say that legislation will necessarily be introduced but it is a matter of ongoing consideration and concern.
AIR SERVICE OPERATOR LICENSING
The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD: My question without notice is addressed to the Treasurer. Does the Government intend to accept the interim report of the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal into the review and licensing of air service operators in which the tribunal recommended the complete deregulation of intrastate air services?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal report is currently before the Government for consideration.
WATER CONSERVATION TASK FORCE
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: I ask the Attorney General, representing the Minister for Land and Water Conservation, a question without notice. What progress has been made in establishing a New South Wales water conservation task force? What are or will be the terms of reference for this task force?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: I will refer the honourable member's question to the Minister for Land and Water Conservation and obtain a response.
LOCAL GOVERNMENT RECYCLING
The Hon. J. F. RYAN: My question without notice is addressed to the Attorney General,
representing the Minister for the Environment. What action will the Government take to prevent local council recycling schemes from collapsing in light of information from the Local Government Recycling Co-operative that prices for PET have slumped and the recent comment by the cooperative's general manager that the plastics side of the scheme is starting to fall apart?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: I will refer the honourable member's question to the Minister for the Environment and obtain a response.
PAYMENT OF LEGAL COSTS BY EXECUTORS
The Hon. JENNIFER GARDINER: Is the Attorney General aware of any cases of executors of contested wills being made to pay their own legal costs despite not being beneficiaries of the will? Specifically, is the Attorney General aware that an elderly Port Macquarie resident, Mr Tom Gaul, has been hit with $10,000 in legal bills that he cannot afford, simply for defending a contested will in his capacity as executor? Is the Attorney General concerned that people in Mr Gaul’s position are faced with huge legal bills for faithfully carrying out their duties as executors? If so, will he undertake to consider limiting the discretion of the Supreme Court Masters who, in exercising their unlimited discretion to award costs, are imposing extreme financial hardship upon executors of wills?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: It is not a matter that has been clearly drawn to my attention, nor a matter that I have considered. On the face of it, the Hon. Jennifer Gardiner raises a good point that is worthy of consideration. The Supreme Court adopts the rule that costs follow the event. Normally, when parties defend matters unsuccessfully, costs will be awarded against them. But the court has a discretion; it is not an absolute rule. It would be expected that the Supreme Court judges and Masters would be able to say in a particular case that costs should not follow the event. Nevertheless, it would be useful if the honourable member gave me more particulars of the case and I will be happy to review the matter she has raised.
GOONENGERRY STATE FOREST KOALAS
The Hon. I. COHEN: I ask the Treasurer, representing the Premier, a question without notice. Did one of the Government's Ministers, prior to the 1995 election, promise the people of Byron Shire that a koala sanctuary would be set up in the Goonengerry State Forest? Can the Minister on behalf of the Premier explain why this promise has not been fulfilled?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: It will hardly come as a surprise to honourable members that I am not aware of the issue. I will ascertain the facts and bring them to the attention of the House.
DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING TENDERING POLICIES
The Hon. C. J. S. LYNN: My question without notice is directed to the Treasurer, representing the Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning, and Minister for Housing. Is it the policy within his department for regional offices to deal exclusively with one real estate agency in their respective areas? Is the Minister also aware that the south-western regional office of the New South Wales Land and Housing Corporation operates on an exclusive basis in the Picton area, even when other agencies have properties listed on an exclusive basis? Is there no open public tender for such arrangements? Will the Minister explain why no public tendering process has been adopted in this area?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I will refer the honourable member's question to my colleague.
GOVERNMENT STAFF SALARIES
The Hon. VIRGINIA CHADWICK: Will the Treasurer and Leader of the House confirm whether salaries for approved levels of staff in each government department and agency are, in Treasury terms, a protected item.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I am not sure of the purpose or point of the honourable member's question. I am not here to give the honourable member an education in these things. If she could tell me what she is on about, I might be able to assist her.
GOVERNMENT STAFF SALARIES
The Hon. VIRGINIA CHADWICK: Mr President, this is not a supplementary question; it is a reiteration of my question to the Treasurer. In Treasury terms, are approved levels of salary for each government department and agency regarded as a protected item?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: The Hon. Virginia Chadwick might think that she is a protected species. However, I refer her to my earlier answer.
NATIONAL WORKERS UNION LEGISLATION BREACHES
The Hon. M. J. GALLACHER: Is the Attorney General, and Minister for Industrial Relations planning to intervene in the prosecution of the National Union of Workers in respect of a breach of the 1991 Industrial Relations Act? If so, why is he interfering in the operation of the law?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: I have no plans to intervene in the proceedings to which the honourable member refers. However, if I intervened in that or in any other case I would be doing so pursuant to a statutory power to intervene, or a recognised right of the Crown or the Attorney General to intervene in curial proceedings, and I would be doing so perfectly properly.
EAGLE VALE POLICING
The Hon. C. J. S. LYNN: My question without notice is directed to the Attorney General, representing the Minister for Police. What decisions have been made in relation to the future operations of Eagle Vale police station? Will Eagle Vale police station be downgraded to a shopfront station, manned by a few staff or perhaps only one staff member? Will police from Eagle Vale police station operate from Macquarie Fields police station in the future and enter the Eagle Vale area only when called in patrol cars? When will any planned changes to the operation of Eagle Vale police station come into effect?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: I will be happy to refer the honourable member's detailed question about the Eagle Vale police station to the Minister for Police and obtain a response.
APPREHENDED VIOLENCE ORDERS
The Hon. J. F. RYAN: Is the Attorney General aware that virtually the entire staff of Bowral police station were called to court to answer a single applicant's apprehended violence order? Given the significant impact that this practice would have on police resources in that area and other areas if it were repeated, will the Attorney General investigate the use of AVOs, ensure that the police response was appropriate and determine whether AVOs are being abused?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: I have heard a report of that incident. Regrettably, it is true that a generally useful and appropriate system - the system of apprehended violence orders - is, from to time, the subject of misuse. That is regrettable.
The Hon. J. F. Ryan: Reba Meagher!
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: I do not intend to descend to discussing any particular case. All honourable members - I am sure that they do this - defend the system generally whilst seeking safeguards against abuse. It would be wrong, for example, for the media or anyone else to elevate this occasional aberrant abuse and to seek to say that it is representative of the system. The incident to which the honourable member refers seems, on the face of it, like a misuse of the AVO system. Cost sanctions are available to the court for frivolous or vexatious applications. That ought to be an effective sanction against that sort of misuse. I will look further into the incident to which the honourable member refers.
CURRAWANG POWER FAILURE
The Hon. D. J. GAY: 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 on Monday, 7 April, a power pole went out at 5.45 p.m. in the Great Southern Energy area of Currawang, south of Goulburn? Why did it take 17 hours to replace the pole, leaving people in the Currawang area suffering in a minus 3 degree temperature? When consumers rang Great Southern Energy at 7.00 p.m. on 7 April were they told that it would take only a few hours to repair? Why did the crew arrive at only 8.00 a.m. the next morning to replace the downed pole? Are consumers of Great Southern Energy not entitled to better service than that?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: This is the first occasion on which this incident has been brought to my attention. Of course, I will follow it up with Great Southern Energy.
SCHOOL FUNDING REVIEW
The Hon. VIRGINIA CHADWICK: My question without notice is directed to the Attorney General, representing the Minister for Education and Training, and Minister Assisting the Premier on Youth Affairs. In the lead-up to the 1995 election did the current Government pledge to introduce a new funding formula for use in schools so that
equality could be ensured? Has the fairer schools funding review found that the existing system is equitable and recommended that there is no need for major change? What status does this give the pre-election commitment? Will it be regarded as a promise fulfilled or simply as a high farce?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: I will refer the honourable member's question to the Minister for Education and Training and obtain a response.
FEMALE AGE OF CONSENT
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE: My question without notice is directed to the Attorney General, and Minister for Industrial Relations. Does the model criminal code, chapter 5, issued in November 1996 by the model criminal code officers committee of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General recommend that a 12-year-old boy should be able legally to have sexual intercourse with a consenting 10-year-old female? Does the Attorney General agree with this recommendation to lower the age of consent for females to 10? What is the status of the 1996 model criminal code, chapter 5, from this Government's point of view? Does the Attorney General accept it as a valuable source of law reform for New South Wales, or does he rightly reject these dangerous recommendations?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: The status of the committee or the report in question is that it is an officer level committee which draws up recommendations -
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: Sack them!
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: It is not a New South Wales committee; it is a Commonwealth committee with officers from each State and Territory and the Commonwealth. Clearly, any reports or recommendations of that committee have no status and do not indicate government approval. That report was issued by the Federal Attorney-General for discussion and community comment. The proposal to which the honourable member refers is not one that is supported by the New South Wales Government.
CROATIAN INDEPENDENCE DAY
The Hon. J. M. SAMIOS: My question without notice is directed to the Treasurer, representing the Premier. Is the Treasurer aware that last Sunday the Croatian Intercommittee Council celebrated Croatian Independence Day at King Tomislav Club at Edensor Park? Is the Treasurer also aware that although the Premier was invited to attend the function he did not attend, nor was he represented? Is the Treasurer aware that whilst the function was attended by three members of the Liberal Party no representative of the Labor Party was in attendance? Does this reflect the Carr Government's lack of support for the Croatian community and for multiculturalism?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: The Croatian community is a very important community in Australia and has the strong support of the Government. I am sure that support is bipartisan. The question of the Hon. J. M. Samios is unworthy of him.
In view of the time I suggest that if honourable members have further questions they place them on notice.
EASTER PUBLIC HOLIDAYS
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: On 15 April the Hon. Virginia Chadwick asked me a question without notice regarding Easter public holidays. I provide the following response:
. Whilst the Honourable Member correctly states that the 1997 NSW Government Calendar does not list Easter Saturday amongst the public holidays at the top of the calendar, that day (29 March) is clearly marked and referred to in the body of the calendar.
. Easter Saturday has been proclaimed a public holiday under the Banks and Bank Holidays Act 1912 since 1957. For this last Easter Saturday the proclamation of that holiday was published in the NSW Government Gazette on 31 January 1997.
. Public inquiries (Including numerous diary and calendar publishers) to NSW Department of Industrial Relations (not the Attorney General’s Department) have been supplied with the correct telephone or return facsimile information concerning a public holiday listing for Easter Saturday.
. In summary, it is typically the case that holiday clauses in industrial awards and instruments pick up most of the bank holidays listed in the 4th Schedule of the Banks and Bank Holidays Act 1912 - one such bank holiday in that Schedule which is not generally listed in the Holiday clauses of awards is "The day after Good Friday" ie., Easter Saturday which has been scheduled as a bank holiday under the Act and its predecessors since 1875. Workers have traditionally relied upon the separate proclamation of Easter Saturday for their award right to an additional paid public holiday through the Holiday clause of their award requiring a paid holiday in respect of "any other days which may be proclaimed as a public holiday for the State". As I have stated, this has been the practice since 1957.
Concerning the granting of penalty rates for public holiday workers this is a matter of award determination or - in the
absence of an award - in the private bargaining between industry or enterprise parties and the Government has no primary role in that situation.
Given that Easter Saturday has been continuously observed as a public holiday since 1957, it can hardly be a matter of surprise to employers or to the Honourable Member that employees are entitled to have Easter Saturday as a public holiday or to be paid their appropriate entitlement if they are required by their employer to work on that day.
HOMEBUSH BAY OLYMPIC SITE
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: On 16 April the Hon. I. Cohen asked me a question without notice regarding the Homebush Bay Olympic site. I provide the following response:
WorkCover inspectors visited the site this morning and have advised me that some workers in very limited areas are wearing such suits where appropriate. I understand that the EPA is heavily involved in this area of the Olympic development.
Although the employer is responsible for the health and safety of employees on the site and for ensuring that adequate hazard identification and control measures are in place, I requested WorkCover to carry out an immediate preliminary inspection of the work site. WorkCover has advised that its inspection this morning revealed that there are systems in place to manage potential hazards presented by the excavation of material from Haslams Creek.
They note that the contractor, Thiess Environment Services has contracted HLA Envirosciences Pty Ltd to monitor the site and this includes hourly monitoring of the work area.
The contractor has in place procedures for safe work practices to protect truck drivers and other workers on site. For example work areas are divided into zones and respective control measures appropriate to the hazards present in the zones are implemented. Where elements of the work practices require protective equipment, these are in use.
If unidentified debris such as 44 gallon drums are discovered there is a procedure in place to isolate and contain the drums until their potential risk is identified.
WorkCover is currently reviewing OHS systems on the site and if this review shows further action is necessary, you may be assured such action will be taken.
COUNCILLOR BARRY COTTER PECUNIARY INTEREST DECLARATION
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: On 16 April the Hon. D. J. Gay asked me a question without notice. The Minister for Local Government has provided the following response:
The General Manager of Marrickville Council, Mr Colin Mills, brought to the attention of the Department of Local Government a failure by the Mayor, Clr Barry Cotter, to disclose certain interests in his written pecuniary interest return under section 449 of the Local Government Act 1993 for the 1995-6 year. A am aware of the concern of ratepayers and that the matter has been the subject of considerable interest in the Press.
The Department has already obtained significant information in relation to the matter and has sought further information from the Council and Clr Cotter. The further information requested of Clr Cotter includes information on the directorships referred to in the Honourable Member's question.
Under the Local Government Act 1993 allegations concerning failures to comply with the pecuniary interest requirements must in the first place be assessed and, if necessary, investigated by the Director General of the Department of Local Government. Only after investigation can the matter be forwarded to the Pecuniary Interest Tribunal.
The Tribunal is an independent body. Matters are dealt with by a former Justice of the Supreme Court, who has wide powers. If the Tribunal finds a case proved it may deal with the Councillor in one of several says. It can counsel the Councillor, or it can reprimand him; it can also suspend him from civic office for a period not exceeding 2 months, or disqualify him from holding civic office for a period not exceeding 5 years.
The Minister for Local Government has no power under the Local Government Act to require a councillor to stand aside while allegations made against him are being assessed or investigated by the Department or considered by the Tribunal.
Questions without notice concluded.
Motion by the Hon. M. R. Egan agreed to:
That this House at its rising today do adjourn until Tuesday, 22 April 1997, at 2.30 p.m.
[The Deputy-President (The Hon. J. R. Johnson) left the Chair at 1.04 p.m. The House resumed at 2.30 p.m.]
Suspension of standing and sessional orders agreed to.
Debate resumed from an earlier hour.
The Hon. I. COHEN [2.31 p.m.]: As a Green, I take into account the justifiable concerns of the community and its argument that the Eastern Distributor is an irresponsible proposal that should not go ahead. It is claimed that the Eastern Distributor is a necessary part of Sydney's orbital road network to overcome bottlenecks. The building of freeways increases car use when car use should be actively discouraged for economic reasons. Australia's oil reserves are declining at 7 per cent a year and authoritative oil industry analysts conclude that global supplies will soon begin decreasing at an exponential rate. It is important that viable systems
of public transport be considered. In its first years of operation the Eastern Distributor will increase car use and car dependence, only to become a huge white elephant when the fuel drought sets in. The responsible course of action would be to build new public transport infrastructure. The Government has an eye to the next State election and, as previous governments were, is locked into motorway transport. The long-term viability of the project should be considered, and we should question the availability of fuel resources and consider public health issues.
Every time a traffic bottleneck is cleared or a road is widened, the automatic result is an increase in traffic. Technically this is called induced traffic. The Eastern Distributor proposal would boost traffic volumes by clearing the Taylor Square bottleneck and increasing road space along the existing route to the airport. The tollway will generate increased traffic in the vicinity of its feeder roads. As experience with the M4 and M5 shows, in the first two years of operation of the tollway, an increase of 30 per cent in traffic movement can be expected. The M4 was originally a freeway and in 1990 was handed over to the toll consortium, which completed the Mays Hill missing link, which was opened in mid-1991. Traffic on the M4 and the Great Western Highway running parallel to the M4 increased by 33 per cent in the following two years.
The Government now proposes to spend $90 million to widen South Dowling Street, encouraging an increase in traffic. This means good business for tollway consortiums but is detrimental to the rest of the community. The subject has been discussed, but often inaccurately. The Minister told me at a meeting held last night that the tollway will clean up the pollution problem because pollution is at its worst when cars are idling. That may be the case. However, motorways induce more traffic, significantly increase pollution and generate considerably more traffic on local streets because traffic has to access the motorway through the existing system.
Recently traffic on local streets increased considerably because of the opening of the Sydney Harbour Tunnel, which the Roads and Traffic Authority used to justify further massive expenditure on the Eastern Distributor proposal. This will further impact on the ever-increasing spiral of traffic growth and decline in quality of life. Where does one draw a line on the tarmac, so to speak? When do we start looking at alternatives? The argument is that because other motorways have been developed we must proceed with this one. The proposal to close Bourke Street and make Crown Street a two-way carriageway will have two major effects, one technical, the other political. The technical effect will be that the north-south traffic flow through Surry Hills will be effectively halved, forcing more traffic on to the South Dowling section of the tollway and Elizabeth Street. The desired political outcome is to split the Surry Hills community by creating a pro-motorway lobby composed of Bourke Street residents, who would be the only ones to gain from the new arrangements, at least in terms of traffic flow.
The M4 case provides a warning to Surry Hills residents. In the Parramatta local government area traffic increased in 130 local streets after the completion of the M4, and the increases were not small. In some cases traffic increased 60 per cent or 70 per cent. It is a pity that the Government is not brave enough to consider changes to the southern railway rather than setting up in competition with public transport. A new light rail transport system to the airport would be an excellent way of commuting to the airport. As a regular airport user I would happily use an efficient train transport service to travel to the airport rather than remain addicted to the use of a private vehicle or taxi. A light rail mode of transport would be an economical and environmentally responsible way to gain access to the airport. Providing extra road space to the airport will only encourage additional car traffic and rob the rail system of patronage. Setting up such competition is self-defeating and environmentally disastrous. The rail system to the airport will be stunted because of the Eastern Distributor.
We must establish the facts on air and noise pollution. Additional traffic created by the motorway will increase noise and air pollution along the route and in the feeder streets. Of particular concern is the deadly PM10 particle pollution. The huge tunnel air vent stacks in the vicinity of Taylor Square also have the potential to concentrate air pollution in particular areas under specific wind conditions. The design does not matter. Similar problems occur in the Wolli Creek area at the M5 east link-up. It does not matter whether air pollution is hidden underground and comes out through stacks or whether people are exposed to it by passing traffic on a regular basis: major pollution problems will result from this development.
It is nonsensical of the Minister to say that traffic will flow freely, because with a centralised system such as this, eventually the works will become jammed. Last night in communication with the Minister I learned that the Eastern Distributor will not have a breakdown lane. I was assured that there will be an efficient pick-up service with a tow
truck always standing by. How a tow truck service will get through traffic that is jammed in an underground tunnel to remove a vehicle that is in trouble, either as a result of an accident or a mechanical breakdown, is beyond me. Will the tow truck driver have to tiptoe over the bonnets of other cars to get to a car that is in trouble? It is a bandaid solution to a major problem.
A number of issues relating to the Eastern Distributor have been brought to our attention in isolation, such as the proposed $41 million canopy to be erected for cosmetic reasons outside the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Debate has also ensued in relation to South Dowling Street. The Minister and the Roads and Traffic Authority have bandaid solutions to problems, but they are not creating a more liveable city. What impact will the changes have on the Sydney Cricket Ground, the Sydney Football Stadium, the Fox Studio complex and the Kensington area? A motorway is proposed for the area, but it desperately needs a mass transport infrastructure - such as light rail - to resolve the problem. It is a shame that the Government is not taking note of the justifiable concerns and complaints of local residents, issues that will affect the whole of Sydney.
I have often said that the Eastern Distributor will result in the "Los Angelisation" of Sydney. It is a $651 million project. Two-way traffic at the northern end of the motorway is unlikely to exceed 60,000 vehicles a day before 2011, and only north-bound vehicles - approximately 30,000 to 40,000 a day - will pay the toll during the first few years of the motorway’s operation. The economics of the project are dubious, hence the importance of the matter being properly investigated. The motorway is more than just a private business deal between the Government and a major consortium; it is a matter that should be brought to the attention of the public.
If secrecy surrounds the motorway business deal, it will result in the same problems that occurred with the M2 some time ago. The construction of the M2 resulted in the destruction of remnant urban bushland at a huge social and environmental cost. It was a mistake, and we should not make the same mistake with the Eastern Distributor. The prospects of the Macquarie Bank Sponsored Infrastructure Trust of Australia must be questioned, along with the ability of the loan system to service the debt that will be brought on the people of New South Wales. We do not want to be left with a white elephant, as has occurred with the motorways that surround London and Los Angeles.
The Hon. J. M. Samios: A clover leaf.
The Hon. I. COHEN: Yes, it is a clover leaf. We must view this as an opportunity to create something that is an asset to Sydney, such as light rail, heavy rail or an efficient bus system. We do not want to be stuck with this type of infrastructure - we are just beginning to find out the implications of such projects. These sorts of projects do not solve problems; they create problems in other areas. Motorways encourage the use of cars, they eventually become overcrowded - as has occurred in London - and then there are calls for their expansion. Motorways are a total ecological disaster.
I call on honourable members to agree to look at this matter closely. Areas of public open space, such as Moore Park, should not be carved off. Moore Park is an important greenbelt area and it must be preserved for future generations. We must not accept the promise of the regeneration of other areas at Moore Park; it is a cheap trade-off. If we lose that asset, we lose it for all time. We should not carve off those areas; they should be constantly regenerated. Moore Park should be the gateway to the city, rather than the gateway to an homogenised, "Los Angelised" city of the western world. I seek leave to move a number of amendments in globo.
The PRESIDENT: The honourable member may move his amendments in globo. However, members may wish to have the questions put seriatim.
The Hon. I. COHEN: I move:
That the motion be amended by:
(1) omitting paragraph 2(b) and inserting instead:
(i) a full tunnel along South Dowling Street and Dowling Street; or
(ii) a full tunnel from Macquarie Street as originally planned; or
(iii) both (i) and (ii); or
(iv) an option that involves substantially more tunnelling than is currently proposed,
is affordable given the currently proposed toll and concession period;
(c) the cost of air, noise pollution and loss of open space, when the project is operating at full capacity;
(d) the adequacy of the strategic transport planning framework for the distributor at this time;
(e) the cost of light rail to the Showground, Sportsground and Fox Studio complex and to Kensington to cater for transport needs;
(2) in paragraph 3 after the words "legal documents" inserting "and submissions to the Environmental Impact Statement,".
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE [2.48 p.m.]: The Leader of the Opposition has raised a number of important matters. The motion covers a great deal of detail, which becomes apparent the more one studies it. When I was originally asked whether I would support a referral to the Auditor-General, it seemed to be a simple proposition. The matter could have been dealt with by the first paragraph of the motion, which states:
That this House calls on the Auditor-General to immediately and urgently review the terms and conditions of any project deeds, contracts, agreements, preliminary agreements or variations reached, or proposed to be reached, between the NSW Government and the Airport Motorway Consortium concerning the proposed Eastern Distributor.
Call to Australia is concerned that the motion specifies in some detail the matters to be reviewed by the Auditor-General. Some honourable members have made comments that left the general impression that local residents are responsible for the traffic jams. They are not. Through traffic from the southern suburbs, from Sutherland, Engadine and Heathcote, eventually caused the bottleneck that produced the need for the Eastern Distributor. Local traffic can be adequately catered for by the planned minor roads, as distinct from the main motorway. Something must be done urgently about this traffic bottleneck. For years I have been using the route through South Dowling Street to come to Parliament House mainly because the route south of South Dowling Street through Southern Cross Road and past the airport is so fast. That is the reason that so many motorists use that particular approach.
The urgency of the matter is demonstrated by serious traffic jams commencing a number of kilometres from the point where the roadway joins Anzac Parade. I am concerned that the motion may be a tactic to delay a project that I consider urgent. It could even be argued that the project is so urgent that the former coalition should have taken action when it was in government. I am concerned that the motion, intentionally or unintentionally, will block, scrap or delay the completion of the Eastern Distributor. Other factors are in issue. If the Eastern Distributor project is delayed, this major construction could be taking place in the Olympic period. Call to Australia wants the construction work completed and the Eastern Distributor in use well before the Olympic Games in 2000 AD.
Call to Australia on this issue, as with any other matters, always seeks to be constructive, not obstructive. We recognise that, having been elected, the Government has the responsibility to make tough decisions. This is one of those decisions. We would rather adopt the attitude of assisting the Government to govern rather than being obstructive. The crossbenchers could easily have adopted an obstructive approach, as could the Opposition, and caused the Government great inconvenience and embarrassment. It appears to me that the amendments moved by the Hon. I. Cohen and statements made by the Total Environment Centre indicate that they are absolutely opposed to the project, no matter whether a tunnel or any other construction is proposed. Many in that part of the environmental movement seem to be opposed to the use of cars, full stop. It seems that they would have the Government deny a freedom of choice and force people to travel by light rail or other public transport. I am not against alternative forms of transport, but there must be freedom of choice. One should not be dictatorial in adopting an approach to some of the serious problems that occur in modern civilisations. That is one of the prices of modern civilisation and development.
Call to Australia is also concerned that the motion calls upon the Auditor-General to obtain independent engineering, environmental and all other necessary advice on all matters relating to the Government's proposal, then set out in detail matters to be considered. I wondered at the cost of such a review. We in this place have heard many arguments about the cost of using consultants. The terms of the motion seem to require the engagement of consultants in a number of specialised areas because there would be few consultants able to undertake each and every one of the stipulated tasks. Has the Opposition costed its proposal? Would it be as costly as the planning of the project as it stands at present? Are the costs of the ancillary maps, diagrams, models and consultants already incurred to be duplicated by the engagement of experts from other fields? I feel that the wording of the motion supports that impression. It seems to require an extensive and intensive investigation before the project can be up and running.
I understand that some government departments will be involved in the assessment of some issues raised by the motion, for example the best environmental outcome can be covered by the Environment Protection Authority and the Department of Planning. The matters raised in paragraph 2(e) of the motion, regarding arrangements for compensation for the Centennial Park and Moore Park Trust, would seem to me to be matters for the trust. I understand from the briefing given to honourable members that there is a plan to reorganise space allocation so that the net space loss will be minimal; that even though some of the Moore Park area will be lost to the motorway, the compensation will not be in monetary form but in increased availability and use of other land.
Another concern of Call to Australia is that paragraph 5 of the motion seeks that the House call
on the Government to allocate any additional funds to the Auditor-General that the Auditor-General considers necessary to properly complete the inquiry. What are the additional funds envisaged? Will they be $1,000, $500,000 or $1 million? Is the Auditor-General to make some sort of calculation, with the House directing the Government to allocate those funds? Someone has raised with me the question of whether this comes into the same category as a money bill in that the House would be directing the Government to spend money when it does not know how much money is to be spent.
I raised earlier whether it was or was not the intention of the motion to stop the project. That seems to be clearly spelt out in paragraph 6 of the motion, which calls on the Government to suspend further consideration of the proposed Eastern Distributor until the Auditor-General has reported to Parliament. I am not a builder and I am unfamiliar with all the technical processes, but how could we suspend a major project such as the Eastern Distributor? Do those currently engaged on the project simply stop work? Is there to be a cessation of development of plans? The Auditor-General may take some time to undertake his review and report to Parliament. In fact, paragraph 7 of the motion does not impose a limit on the time for reporting.
I raised with the Government that I was thinking about amending paragraph 7 to insert a reporting date so that the Auditor-General would know he had to work within a particular time frame and would have a deadline put on his presenting of a report to Parliament, for example 1 June. I was advised that it is better to leave the motion as it stands. However, it is an open-ended provision, and if the project were suspended the Auditor-General could take months to review the proposal. That would undermine the certainty in the project and could in fact have the effect of torpedoing it. So, even though I have reservations about other parts of the motion, my concern regarding paragraphs 5 and 6 lead me to move:
That the motion be amended by omitting paragraphs 5 and 6.
The Hon. E. M. OBEID [2.58 p.m.]: I oppose the motion. It appears to be a stalling tactic, because essentially both the coalition and the present Labor Government have it in their policy to put the Eastern Distributor in place. The coalition failed in that it did not come to terms with the design, facilities and costs of the project. It was left to the Carr Labor Government to come to terms with the design and cost issues. The current design will cost this Government and the people of New South Wales only $20 million. There is only one deal on the table, and that is with the airport motorway consortium. That deal has to work for the consortium over a period so that it will provide a return on their money. That contract has not been signed yet. It has had a lot of variations because of the many lobby groups that have had an input. Finally we have come up with a design that is practically acceptable to most parties. It will not please everyone. I put on the record that, if I were not a party man and if we could afford it, I would be for having a tunnel right through. But in view of the circumstances and the people who have to pay for this, this private syndicate -
The Hon. J. P. Hannaford: It is the people of New South Wales.
The Hon. E. M. OBEID: The Opposition knows that the people of New South Wales will pay only $20 million.
The Hon. J. P. Hannaford: They will pay the tolls.
The Hon. E. M. OBEID: Obviously under the user-pays policy they will have to pay the toll. What the Leader of the Opposition is really saying is that he is not happy with the $3 toll; he wants the people to pay much more. The motion seeks to put the Auditor-General in a position of having to reopen the tender process so that he may assess which is the best offer and for what price the project can be completed. This is far beyond the role of the Auditor-General. As Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile has said, this motion appears to be simply a stalling tactic. The project is of major significance to the State and it must be completed before the Olympics in the year 2000.
The Hon. I. Cohen: Why does everything have to be completed by the time of the Olympics?
The Hon. M. R. Egan: Because if it is not it cannot start until after the Olympics.
The PRESIDENT: Order!
The Hon. E. M. OBEID: I understand the interjection of the Hon. I. Cohen. I know that he is concerned about certain areas of the environment, but I assure him that under this plan - contrary to what was done under the coalition Government, when the Roads and Traffic Authority was the judge, the prosecutor and the jury - the RTA simply has an involvement in the design and the urban planning department still has to look at it. It has not been approved and any objections from the environmentalists of our community may be lodged
with the environmental department. Paragraph 2(a) of the motion states:
whether the proposed toll and concession period represents the best deal for the NSW taxpayer;
How does the Opposition expect the Auditor-General to assess that if he has only one deal in front of him? How can he compare apples with apples? Will he have to reopen the tender process to get private enterprise syndicates to put in competing bids? The only contract that we have that is nearly ready to sign is from the airport motorway syndicate. The project will cost it $684 million and it will cost the New South Wales Government and the taxpayers $20 million. As Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile said, reopening of the tender process could take months or up to a year. In that time we would have missed the opportunity to finish this project of major significance to the State within the three-year period before the Olympics. As the Leader of the Government said, we will miss out and have to wait until after the Olympics. This must be given strong consideration. I turn to paragraph 2(b) of the motion, which states:
whether a fully tunnelled option, or an option that involves substantially more tunnelling than is currently proposed, is affordable given the currently proposed toll and concession period;
The Minister has made it clear: a full tunnel will cost an extra $300 million. The airport motorway syndicate cannot inject another $300 million. It has already asked for a 10-year extension of the lease period to recoup the $684 million being outlaid. The increased cost would mean that the lease period would have to be extended to 100 years. The toll would end up being $10. That is not equitable, no matter who uses the roadway. It is not fair and the public would not accept it. If Opposition members want the $300 million to come from the existing road budget they should say where it should come from. Should we reduce the funding in regional New South Wales or from some part of Sydney?
The Hon. M. R. Egan: They want to take it from country roads.
The Hon. E. M. OBEID: Exactly. They want an Eastern Distributor. After going through the normal process we have a contract ready to sign. It has not yet been approved under the planning and environmental processes. The Opposition now wants the Government to change tack. The coalition Government did not make the hard decisions. This Government has made the decisions and has done the best it can with the airport motorway syndicate. There will be no major investment by the State Government. Only $20 million will be required to achieve a result that is the best available at the moment. The motion is a blatant delaying tactic. If it succeeds it will lead only to further delay. It proposes to give the Auditor-General directions that he cannot follow. He cannot be the master of tendering, reopening the tendering process to compare apples with apples.
Only one deal is on the table. It has been financially structured to be acceptable to both the Government and the syndicate. Any change will mean that funds have to be taken from the road budget. So less money will have to be spent in a part of New South Wales which can least afford it. I sincerely ask that the crossbenchers consider what this really means. If Opposition members cannot see that a deal costing New South Wales taxpayers $20 million, with a toll of $3, is in the best interests of the people of New South Wales, they do not understand the situation. The project must be completed before the Olympics. Any delaying tactics the Opposition uses today will be on its head. People from the north shore are the constituents of coalition members and they will be major beneficiaries of the project. Putting in public funding of $300 million or raising the toll to $10 is not acceptable. The Government opposes the motion. What was said by Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile is legitimate: this motion is a delaying tactic which will be a costly exercise for the Government and the people of New South Wales if it is passed.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN (Treasurer, Minister for Energy, Minister for State and Regional Development, Minister Assisting the Premier, and Vice-President of the Executive Council) [3.09 p.m.]: The Government opposes the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition. It is simply an attempt to grandstand and to delay the construction of an important roadway project which will be of enormous benefit to the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of citizens of Sydney who will be the beneficiaries of the project. I understand the motives of the Hon. I. Cohen who, with his environmental hat on, is an opponent of any road.
The Hon. R. S. L. Jones: That is nonsense.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: Like the Hon. R. S. L. Jones, the Hon. I. Cohen is against motor vehicles and roads.
The Hon. R. S. L. Jones: I have two motor vehicles. How can I be against motor vehicles?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: That highlights the honourable member's hypocrisy, because he opposes
every road project. That is also a fair comment to make of the Hon. I. Cohen.
The Hon. I. Cohen: Because they are silly road projects.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: When it gets to the nitty-gritty, those honourable members regard every road project as silly. They are simply opposed to any road project. If this motion is agreed to, the project will be delayed until well after the commencement date for completion in time for the Sydney Olympics. It is not important that the project be completed for the Olympics. However, it is important that if the project cannot be completed by the Olympics, then it cannot start before the Olympics.
The Hon. R. S. L. Jones: It will be chaos anyway.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: Because it will be chaos, as the Hon. R. S. L. Jones says. We cannot afford to host the Olympics in September 2000 with major road construction occurring near Sydney Airport and on the link from Sydney Airport to the Sydney central business district. If the commencement of this project is delayed, it will be on the heads of the Opposition members and the crossbench members who supported this motion. The chaos that will ensue will be the fault of the Opposition and the crossbenchers who supported it. If the project does not commence in time to be completed by the Olympics, then it cannot commence at all. It is hypocrisy that the Opposition proposes such a motion.
The Hon. R. S. L. Jones: The Opposition is being responsible.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: It is being responsible? In September 1995, a few short months after I became Treasurer when this Government was elected to office, the Government released guidelines for private sector participation in the provision of public infrastructure. For the first time there was a requirement for contract summaries to be prepared, furnished to the Auditor-General and publicly released. Prior to these 1995 guidelines, there was no requirement for any such information to be made available to the Auditor-General, the Parliament or the public.
The Hon. R. S. L. Jones: That was wrong.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: Of course it was wrong. But the people who maintained that these contracts for private sector provision of public infrastructure should remain secret documents are now the people moving this motion. That is the absolute height of hypocrisy. As the Hon. E. M. Obeid stated, the Department of Urban Affairs and Planning is still assessing the project. In addition, the Roads and Traffic Authority is negotiating with the airport motorway consortium on the project deed and contract. However, a final deed and contract cannot be prepared or signed until the Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning makes his decision on the project. To suggest that the Auditor-General should intervene at this stage is obviously premature and would unduly delay the process.
The function of the Auditor-General also needs to be considered. As the name implies, the Auditor-General's function is to audit. In other words, he audits a done deal. He only audits expenditure when the expenditure has been incurred. He is not part of the Executive Government, nor is he part of this Parliament. He does not sit down with the 200,000 employees of the public sector in this State and step-by-step check every decision or every piece of work. The Opposition is seeking that the Auditor-General be involved in the processes of the ordinary work of the Executive Government. The Auditor-General's role is to review and audit what the Executive Government has done and make a report to Parliament. He does not get involved in the decision making nor in the day-to-day work of the Executive Government. So when the arrangements are put together and finally determined, it is then that the Auditor-General fulfils the function which the law in this State gives him, that is to audit what has happened.
The Hon. R. S. L. Jones: Too late.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: The logical conclusion of what the Hon. R. S. L. Jones is saying is that the Executive Government should not do anything without the Auditor-General or one of his officers sitting over every public servant to watch whether they add up the columns correctly and make the right decisions. That is an absurdity. The Auditor-General is not part of the Executive Government; his role is to audit. I will deal with some of the absurd propositions in this motion. The motion calls for the Auditor-General to obtain independent engineering, environmental and all other necessary advice on all matters relating to the Government's proposal. The Auditor-General has no expertise at all in engineering or environmental matters. It is an absurdity to think that the Auditor-General’s Office can undertake those functions. That is simply a nonsense.
The RTA already has independent engineering and environmental advice on this project. The Government will provide that advice to the Auditor-General once the process is complete. The Environmental Planning and Assessment Act charges
the Minister for Planning with the responsibility for assessing the environmental impact of infrastructure projects such as this. The RTA's five-volume representation report on the environmental impact of the Eastern Distributor is about to be submitted to the Minister for Planning. Any interference with the due processes as described will undermine the credibility of this Government, and any future Government, with the private sector which has invested a lot of time and money in making detailed proposals for projects of this nature. The final deal as negotiated with the airport motorway consortium will be assessed by independent financial and legal advisers to the RTA in consultation with officers of my own department of Treasury and New South Wales Treasury Corporation.
The costings for the full tunnel option highlights the hypocrisy of the Opposition. It wants a tunnel all the way from the Cahill Expressway to Link Road, which will involve an additional cost of $436 million. As the Hon. E. M. Obeid asked: where does that $436 million come from? An additional $436 million has to come from two alternatives. It can come from an increase in the proposed toll of $3 to a level which would force people not to use the motorway. The Eastern Distributor would become a white elephant. Everyone would avoid it and use the side streets or other road alternatives. The alternative is that the $436 million can be taken from the State budget. If the additional money came from the road budget to supplement the cost of the Eastern Distributor to build a tunnel all the way from the Cahill Expressway to Link Road, as the Opposition wants, it would come from rural road funding. I will make sure that every voter in regional and rural New South Wales knows that this mob opposite want to take $436 million from rural road funding.
The Hon. R. S. L. Jones: You would not take it from that road funding.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: If it does not come from the road program, where else does it come from? That amount of money can easily come from the road program but at the expense of country and regional New South Wales. I will make sure that every person who lives in country and regional New South Wales knows that the Liberal-National Opposition proposes to take $436 million from their road funding so that a tunnel from the Cahill Expressway to Link Road can be constructed. What an absurdity! Opposition members claim to have the interests of country people at heart. They are frauds!
This motion will ensure that, at the next election, the National Party will hold on to only half a dozen seats in country New South Wales. The amount of $436 million which would be needed to construct a tunnel is equivalent to more than $10 million of road funding for every country electorate. Not only country electorates will be lost by the Opposition parties as a result of this stupidity; they will lose every seat in the St George and Sutherland shire if this project is delayed. Over recent years people in that area have suffered from traffic congestion around General Holmes Drive, Southern Cross Drive, South Dowling Street and Taylor Square. Eastern suburbs residents have been inconvenienced by congestion all around Taylor Square.
As I said earlier, Opposition members will lose every seat in the St George and Sutherland shire; they will not have a hope of winning anything in the eastern suburbs; and they will probably also lose the seat of Vaucluse. Furthermore, if this project is not under way soon I predict that Clover Moore will not hold her seat of Bligh. I happen to be a resident of her electorate and I can tell honourable members that residents of the Bligh electorate want the Eastern Distributor. That is the only way to get traffic off local village roads throughout the eastern suburbs and the Bligh electorate. Without the Eastern Distributor streets like Albion Street, which is close to my home, will continue to be major traffic thoroughfares. They should be local, village roads and will return to being local, village roads when the Eastern Distributor project is finalised.
Until then all the residents of Bligh will suffer from the congestion, noise and pollution that the current traffic arrangements cause. Residents of the St George and Sutherland shire and the eastern suburbs who try to come into the city will continue to be inconvenienced by the congestion. The honourable member for Bligh, Clover Moore, is making a disastrous political mistake in thinking that by standing up for the selfish interests of a tiny group of people she does not have to worry about the interests of the overwhelming majority of voters in the Bligh electorate. She will suffer but, more importantly, Opposition members will suffer. If they take $436 million from country road funding they will not hold on to more than six country seats, they will not hold any seats in the St George and Sutherland shire, and this project will be postponed until after the Olympic Games.
Last time I had a wager with the Hon. J. H. Jobling it was about the outcome of the 1995 election and I still have not been paid. The honourable member still owes me $150 and I am sure that he will not pay up. The honourable member has only a few years left in this Chamber; he will not be re-elected to this place. Not many of his colleagues will be returned after the next
election. Opposition members will retain only six country seats because of the withdrawal of $436 million from country road funding. They will not win any seats in the eastern suburbs, in the St George and Sutherland shire or on the north shore if they postpone this project. They will be the laughing-stock of the business and financial community of New South Wales and of motorists and residents in Sydney.
The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD (Leader of the Opposition) [3.25 p.m.], in reply: Those honourable members who have been in this House for some time and have had the dubious pleasure of listening to the Leader of the Government know that the Government has its back against the wall when he launches into a debate with his personal vindictiveness, exaggeration, intimidation, abuse and a distortion of the facts. The motion before the House warrants support when one hears that sort of contribution from the Treasurer. Clearly, the Government has something to hide.
The most obvious of the exaggerations - which I think sums up the Government's attack - was the suggestion by the Leader of the Government that there will be an additional cost in excess of $400 million. If that is so it is up to the Government to explain why the environmental impact statement, which was commissioned by the Government and presented only a few months ago, contained identical proposals costed by the Government at only half the figure referred to earlier by the Treasurer. Does that mean the environmental impact statement which was presented by the Government only a few months ago was untrue? That argument in itself justifies this motion requesting the Auditor-General to review the terms and conditions of the Eastern Distributor project.
Part of the approach of the Leader of the Government - which highlights the extent to which he is prepared to distort the truth - was to suggest that that sort of cost would come out of the roads budget. The Treasurer sought to intimidate honourable members by suggesting that that money would come out of the country roads budget. I thought we were debating a project which was to be totally privately funded. I thought that the cost of this project was to be met by the payment of tolls. If that is so this project will not cost the State anything. The Government is prepared to exaggerate and distort the facts to distract from the public's quite justifiable concern in relation to this project.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile moved an amendment to the motion that would delete paragraphs 5 and 6. This House must call upon the Government to make available to the Auditor-General such funds as may be necessary to complete this report. That has been done on previous occasions. For example, members have asked the Government to provide funds for the establishment of select committees of this House. The Auditor-General indicated in his report on the M2 that the cost of that report was $200,000. I understand the Auditor-General has estimated that the cost of the report on this project could be between $200,000 and $250,000. If the Government wishes to make life as difficult as possible for the Auditor-General that cost might have to be varied.
The issues regarding the costs and the time within which this report is to be prepared are in the hands of the Government. This report is being undertaken for the benefit of the Parliament and the people of New South Wales. The Auditor-General should not be punished. I use those words advisedly because of some of the comments that have been made by Government members about the Auditor-General, which are still ringing in our ears. This Government could decide to punish the Auditor-General by not allocating funds, thus forcing him to abandon work that he has been commissioned to do.
By agreeing to this motion the House will let the Government know what it requires of the Auditor-General. Therefore I request that the amendments moved by Reverend the Hon F. J. Nile be put seriatim so that members can make a decision about paragraphs 5 and 6 individually. In regard to paragraph 6, my discussions with some members of the crossbench have led me to understand that they believe that the Government had certain contracts, or had planned to sign contracts, which warranted this matter being dealt with urgently and that might serve as some justification for not voting for the motion. It is interesting to hear from the Hon. E. M. Obeid that no contracts have been signed.
The Hon. E. M. Obeid: I said it is there, but it has not been signed yet.
The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD: That is exactly right. I just said that it has not been signed. No contracts have been signed, and in fact the Government has not given all the necessary approvals. That being so, under the terms of the motion the Auditor-General can continue to look at the draft document. It is interesting to recall some of the words of the Leader of the Government about documents not being signed. I have a distinct recollection that there was an Auditor-General's inquiry into the M2, documents not having been signed. I have a distinct recollection of an Auditor-General's inquiry into the sale of the State Bank, the documents not having been signed. I have a further distinct recollection of a Public Accounts Committee inquiry into Port Macquarie hospital, the documents not having been signed. Every one of those inquiries
was instigated by the Labor Party when it was in Opposition. At least the Hon. R. S. L. Jones and the Hon. I. Cohen have been consistent in the approach that they have taken.
The Hon. M. R. Egan: They are quite consistent; they just hate roads.
The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD: It is interesting that the Treasurer used the word that I was going to use - consistent. At least the Hon. R. S. L. Jones and the Hon. I. Cohen are consistent. There is no consistency in the Labor Party. I counsel members of the crossbenches to think about consistency when considering the principle involved in the use of the Auditor-General and the role that he should play. I note that some members of the crossbench are concerned about paragraph 6, which effectively calls on the Government not to sign the contracts. The wording of paragraph 6 is not new; it is the same as the wording used by the Labor Party, when it was in opposition, in the motions that it moved calling for Auditor-General's inquiries into other contracts. This is not something new. Today the Opposition is calling upon the Government to wear the same sackcloth and ashes that it expected previous governments to wear when it called for accountability. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. This Government is prepared to wave the flag of hypocrisy against individual members and individual party organisations in this House. But the greatest hypocrite on this issue is the Government.
Amendments by the Hon. I. Cohen agreed to.
The PRESIDENT: Order! Pursuant to Standing Order 106 I shall put seriatim the resolutions in the amendment of Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile.
Question - That paragraph 5 be omitted - put.
The House divided.
Mrs Arena Ms Saffin
Dr Burgmann Mr Shaw
Ms Burnswoods Ms Staunton
Mr Egan Mrs Symonds
Mr Johnson Mr Tingle
Mr Kaldis Mr Vaughan
Mrs Nile Tellers,
Rev. Nile Mrs Isaksen
Mr Obeid Mr Primrose
Mr Bull Ms Kirkby
Mrs Chadwick Mr Lynn
Mr Cohen Dr Pezzutti
Mr Corbett Mr Ryan
Mrs Forsythe Mr Samios
Mr Gallacher Mrs Sham-Ho
Miss Gardiner Mr Rowland Smith
Dr Goldsmith Tellers,
Mr Hannaford Mr Jobling
Mr Jones Mr Moppett
Mr Dyer Mr Gay
Question so resolved in the negative.
Omission of paragraph 5 negatived.
Question - That paragraph 6 be omitted - put.
The House divided.
Mrs Arena Mr Obeid
Dr Burgmann Ms Saffin
Ms Burnswoods Mr Shaw
Mr Corbett Ms Staunton
Mr Egan Mrs Symonds
Mr Johnson Mr Tingle
Mr Kaldis Mr Vaughan
Mr Macdonald Tellers,
Mrs Nile Mrs Isaksen
Rev. Nile Mr Primrose
Mr Bull Mr Lynn
Mrs Chadwick Dr Pezzutti
Mr Cohen Mr Ryan
Mrs Forsythe Mr Samios
Mr Gallacher Mrs Sham-Ho
Miss Gardiner Mr Rowland Smith
Mr Hannaford Tellers,
Mr Jones Mr Jobling
Ms Kirkby Mr Moppett
Mr Dyer Mr Gay
Mr Manson Mr Kersten
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Omission of paragraph 6 agreed to.
Question - That the motion as amended be agreed to - put.
The House divided.
Mr Bull Ms Kirkby
Mrs Chadwick Mr Lynn
Mr Cohen Dr Pezzutti
Mr Corbett Mr Ryan
Mrs Forsythe Mr Samios
Mr Gallacher Mrs Sham-Ho
Miss Gardiner Mr Rowland Smith
Dr Goldsmith Tellers,
Mr Hannaford Mr Jobling
Mr Jones Mr Moppett
Mrs Arena Ms Saffin
Dr Burgmann Mr Shaw
Ms Burnswoods Ms Staunton
Mr Egan Mrs Symonds
Mr Johnson Mr Tingle
Mr Kaldis Mr Vaughan
Mrs Nile Tellers,
Rev. Nile Mrs Isaksen
Mr Obeid Mr Primrose
Pairs Mr Gay Mr Dyer
Mr Kersten Mr Manson
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion as amended agreed to.
POKER MACHINE BET AND PRIZE LIMITS
The Hon. R. T. M. BULL (Deputy Leader of the Opposition) [3.50 p.m.]: I move:
That this House condemns the Government for not honouring its promise to increase bet and prize limits on poker machines in Registered Clubs, and calls on the Minister for Gaming and Racing to immediately introduce a regulation to increase bet and prize limits on poker machines in Registered Clubs to $20 and $20,000 respectively.
During the spring session of 1996, the Government promised to increase bet and prize limits on poker machines in registered clubs to $20 and $20,000 respectively. To date no regulations have been introduced in this regard. On 20 March the Registered Clubs Association received a letter from the Minister for Gaming and Racing informing it that bet and prize limits were $10 and $10,000 respectively. The Opposition, in the lead-up to the legislation that introduced poker machines in hotels, participated in discussions with the Australian Hotels Association, the Registered Clubs Association and many other organisations affected by the legislation. The Opposition sought from the Minister a consensus that if the package was going to work there should be a win-win situation.
On 12 November the Minister introduced into the Legislative Assembly legislation that would allow poker machines into hotels. The Opposition continued to have exhaustive consultation with industry groups, particularly the Registered Clubs Association. The association was unhappy because for the first time registered clubs would not enjoy exclusivity so far as poker machines were concerned. Honourable members would agree that this situation would be difficult for registered clubs - there is no doubt that they would disagree with the idea. I am sure that all honourable members are aware of the lobbying that took place during this process. The Opposition sought a win-win situation. It went out of its way to consult registered clubs to try to achieve a compromise. A number of registered clubs agreed that if the Opposition could achieve some of these compromises, they could bear the impact of poker machines in hotels a little easier than if they got nothing out of the package. Minister Face, in his second reading speech, made countless references to the status quo. In discussions since that time he has quoted his second reading speech, in which he stated:
This Government is of the view that if it is accepted that hotels in this State are to continue to be permitted to operate gaming machines it is not sensible to continue to confine them to solely conducting the video draw poker game, and of course all the other elements that go with interactive gaming. Accordingly, this bill will provide for hotels to be permitted to have access to the same games as those available to registered clubs with all games carrying the same attributes. In practical terms, this will provide that the maximum stake and prize limits on approved amusement devices will be increased to the same level as applies to poker machines in registered clubs and that poker machines with these attributes will be made available to hotels.
There is no denying that that was the Minister's intention at the time of his second reading speech. Unfortunately, in defence of his backdown, he has quoted his second reading speech as his intention all the way through the debate. However, honourable members would realise that the Opposition did not negotiate with the Minister until after the second reading speech was made, nor did the registered
clubs have any comment about a win-win situation until that time. On 4 November, when the announcement was made, as spokesman for the Opposition I said the following in a news release:
The Government missed an opportunity in their announcement to have presented a more balanced package between the Registered Clubs and Hotels.
The Registered Clubs Association and individual clubs proposed a number of changes to the government which would have assisted all clubs and would have overcome some of the advantages that they will lose by hotels gaining poker machines.
On 13 November, Minister Face referred to the offering of higher maximum bets and jackpot payouts for club pokies. He said:
These proposals do not relate to gaming machines offered by hotels.
During the Minister’s reply to the second reading debate, he said:
The increased bet and prize limits for clubs, as proposed by the Opposition, is a maximum bet of $20 for stand-alone gaming machines that are operated by the registered clubs, with a maximum prize limit of $20,000. In addition, the proposed amendments will increase the maximum prize of an in-house linked progressive jackpot system operated by registered clubs to $500,000. These proposals do not relate to gaming machines operated by hotels.
In other words, it was made very clear on 13 November that the proposals to increase bet limits and prize limits to $20 and $20,000 respectively did not relate to gaming machines operated by hotels. Between 12 and 19 November I put a proposal to the Minister encompassing the following amendments to the legislation: firstly, the elimination of the 1 per cent tax duty on clubs with an annual gaming machine profit of up to $100,000; secondly, the establishment of a commission of inquiry into the level of gaming in New South Wales; thirdly, the addition of $20 bets and $20,000 prizes on stand-alone machines in registered clubs; and, fourthly, the addition of $500,000 prize money on in-house links.
The proposals were presented to the Minister in his office and, following discussions, he raised doubts about whether he would accede to the addition of the $500,000 prize on in-house links. The Minister said that he would introduce an amendment to eliminate the 1 per cent tax duty on profits up to $100,000. He said that he did not have to put the $20 bet limit and the $20,000 prize limit in the legislation because he is able to do that by regulation and it was not necessary to raise the limits at that stage. He also gave me a letter that promised a commission of inquiry into the level of gaming in New South Wales. There is no doubt in my mind that the Minister agreed to the $20 bet limit and the $20,000 prize limit for stand-alone poker machines in registered clubs. In my response to the debate on 19 November, I outlined what the Minister had agreed to do. I said:
The Opposition, through me, consulted with the Minister, the Government and the registered clubs to try to have revisited the issues about which the registered clubs were concerned. Principally those issues were an increase from $10 to $20 on the bet limit on stand-alone machines; an increase from $10,000 to $20,000 in prize limits on stand-alone machines; additional prize limits on in-house links for poker machines; and no restriction on the access to and installation of multiterminal gaming machines - quite a big ask, I would have thought.
The Minister readily agreed to all of those issues, with the proviso that the additional in-house links prize would have to be negotiated. The original request of a $500,000 limit has not been accepted by the Minister. I understand that he will consult with the industry and work out an acceptable figure . . .
I said further:
The Opposition believes that through the consultation process with the Minister and the Government a win-win situation has been achieved: on any dispassionate viewpoint, the hotels and the clubs have had a victory from the legislation, though they may not consider that to be so.
On 20 November I issued a media release reaffirming my remarks made in the debate in this House. I quote just two paragraphs of that media release:
The Opposition has turned what was a one sided affair into a win-win situation for registered clubs and hotels . . . We have achieved tax relief for small clubs and an increase in bet and prize limits on machines.
The Opposition believes the Government's legislation will now be more balanced in supporting both the registered clubs and the hotels in New South Wales.
There was never any doubt from the Opposition's point of view that this was the agreement that had been negotiated with the Minister, and on no occasion did the Minister deny or challenge any of the comments I made in the House or in my press release after the legislation had gone through. He was entitled to do so if he thought I had misrepresented our agreement. I thought the issue had died and that at some stage prior to 1 April the Minister would grant the registered clubs $20 and $20,000 bet limits and prize limits respectively.
I am informed that in January the Minister made an offer to the hotels to increase their bet and prize limits to $20 and $20,000 respectively. This
caught the Australian Hotels Association completely by surprise. This certainly had not been requested by the AHA, which in fact had informed its members that they would be getting $10 and $10,000 bet and prize limits. At no stage had they been given any indication that they would be granted $20 and $20,000 limits; it was always that they would have $10 and $10,000 limits, and they were happy with that proposal. They had not asked for $20 and $20,000 limits, but for some reason the Minister all of a sudden decided to offer those increased limits to the hotels.
If the Minister had come to me, as spokesman for the Opposition in the Parliament, and said, "Look, I do not agree with this demarcation and I would rather have the same bet limits and prize limits across the board," and had gone through the reasons with me, I might have been more understanding. But the first that the Opposition and the industry heard about it was in the press. On 17 February the Registered Clubs Association put out a press release headed "Government reneges on poker machine promise" - and this was the first I had heard of it - which stated:
In a move which has angered clubs throughout New South Wales, the Government is planning to further increase bet (up to $20 from $10) and jackpot limits (up to $20,000 from $10,000) for hotel gaming machines . . .
At a meeting on 19 September 1996 the Gaming Minister, the Hon. Richard Face, MP, advised members of the RCA Executive that bet and jackpot limits for hotel poker machines would be increased from $2 and $5,000 to $10 and $10,000 respectively.
These were the conditions on which the gaming package was passed by Parliament in November 1996, and both the Department of Gaming and Racing and the Australian Hotels Association also confirmed these limits in their information bulletins distributed in December.
So earlier this year there was no misunderstanding on the part of the Registered Clubs Association or the Australian Hotels Association that they would have different bet limits and prize limits. Neither the AHA nor the RCA had any reason to doubt that the Minister was going to introduce the stated limits. For reasons that have not been made known to anyone to whom I have spoken, the Minister changed his mind and decided to have $20 and $20,000 limits across the board. I dealt with that a few moments ago. On 18 February this statement appeared on page 5 of the Daily Telegraph:
"I want to see the end of demarcation in New South Wales gaming," Mr Face said . . .
Opposition gaming spokesman Richard Bull, said Mr Face gave him a personal assurance hotel jackpots would remain at $10,000 when the issue was being debated in parliament last November.
There is no doubt about that from what I have quoted. The article continued:
"He gave a commitment to me personally that clubs would get an increase in jackpots to trade off introducing pokies into pubs." he said.
The reply from Minister Face, reported in the same article, was:
Mr Face did not deny making the commitment, but said he had never publicly promised limiting hotel jackpots or maximum bets.
The Minister was admitting that he did agree to the $20 and $20,000 limits for clubs but said he had never promised that the hotel limits would not be increased as well. Another interesting sideline in the whole issue was that the hotels were going to get an increase in their maximum, but never at any stage was there any doubt that the clubs would get $20 and $20,000 limits until, with the passage of time, we found that not to be the case. On 18 February, following the publication of the above article, the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Collins, issued a press release calling for the Minister to be sacked for misleading Parliament. I also issued a press release along the lines that the Minister had promised limits of $20 and $20,000 for clubs and had not delivered on that commitment. On the same day, in a letter critical of Mr Collins, Minister Face replied in these terms:
It is true that I did give a commitment to your colleague the Hon. Richard Bull, MLC, Shadow Minister for Gaming and Racing, that I would give favourable consideration to increasing the bet limit and jackpot limit for clubs to $20 and $20,000 respectively. I did not however infer, nor did I at any stage, that I would not give similar consideration to increasing these limits to the hotel industry, albeit that Mr Bull did not address that particular aspect of the issue.
I certainly did not address that particular aspect of the matter because I believed, for a starting point, that the $10 and $10,000 limits were quite adequate for the hotel industry given that the hotels had not had machines before and that at some future stage there may have been an opportunity to increase the limits - when the industry was ready for it and had actually asked for it. So there is no doubt that the Minister had given me a commitment that the bet limits and jackpot prize limits in clubs would be $20 and $20,000 respectively. That could not have been more amply demonstrated than it was in the
Minister's correspondence to the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Collins.
On 19 March the hotels advised that they had had a call from the Minister's office confirming that the bet and prize limits for hotels would be the same as those for registered clubs, in other words, $10 and $10,000 limits. On 20 March there was a letter from the Minister's office to the Registered Clubs Association about bet and prize limits of $10 and $10,000 respectively. So there was an acknowledgment to the registered clubs from the Minister that bet and prize limits would remain at $10 and $10,000 respectively, although it is interesting that the letter noted that the Minister was prepared to discuss this and other issues with the registered clubs at some future time. On 21 March I put out a media release on this issue in which I said:
Today the regulations say that both pubs and clubs will be on ten/ten. That is, a $10 bet limit and a $10,000 jackpot limit for poker machines and registered clubs . . .
The writing is on the wall: the Carr Labor Government are showing signs of desperation with their lack of integrity on this issue . . .
The Carr Labor Government should not have wasted everyone's time creating unnecessary angst by pretending they had any further decisions to make after the legislation was discussed in the Parliament. They have made a promise, they should not have reneged.
I have referred to all that information to demonstrate that there was no doubt that the original proposal put to the Minister by the Opposition included an increase in club bet and prize limits to $20 and $20,000 respectively. There is no doubt also that the Minister agreed to that proposal at the time. Acceptance of that proposal by the Minister facilitated passage of the legislation allowing installation of poker machines in hotels. The Attorney General and the Minister for Gaming and Racing accepted the win-win proposal of the Opposition allowing an increase in bet limits and prize limits for clubs to $20 and $20,000 respectively. The issue the House should focus on is not whether an increase in bet limits and prize limits in registered clubs is needed; it is the Government being forced to honour its commitment given to the Parliament. Passage of the hotel poker machine legislation was hinged on introduction of a win-win situation for registered clubs.
For some reason the Minister has welched on the agreement. I suspect that he was caught out trying to be a little too clever by giving hotels the same limits. He created a huge ruckus in the press and throughout the industry. The Registered Clubs Association was upset and gave a lot of publicity to the issue. The Minister decided to drop the whole issue because it was becoming too hot after the antipathy shown towards his decision. He was stupid to raise the stakes with increased bet limits and prize limits for hotels. He has been able to give no good reason for his action except that he does not like demarcation. The matter could have been raised in discussions last year if it was a problem but it was not. The Minister made the offer to the hotels in February. The whole thing has blown up in his face. The heat has become too much. He has now backed down in relation to hotels and registered clubs. Having considered these issues as part of the legislation package that went through, it is up to this Chamber -
Pursuant to sessional orders business interrupted. The House continued to sit.
CRIMES AMENDMENT (APPREHENDED VIOLENCE ORDERS) BILL
The Hon. A. G. CORBETT [4.15 p.m.]: I move the first amendment circulated in my name:
No. 1 Page 3, Schedule 1 (proposed section 562FA(1)). Insert after line 11:
As I explained in my speech on the second reading, this amendment will ensure that the court alerts the affected parties to their obligation to inform the court of any relevant family contact order.
The Hon. J. W. SHAW (Attorney General, and Minister for Industrial Relations) [4.15 p.m.]: The Government will not oppose the amendment moved by the Hon. A. G. Corbett.
The Hon. J. H. JOBLING [4.16 p.m.]: The Opposition likewise will not oppose the amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
The Hon. A. G. CORBETT [4.16 p.m.]: I move the second amendment circulated in my name:
The court is required to inform the applicant of the obligation of the applicant under this subsection.
No. 2 Page 3, Schedule 1 (proposed section 562FA(2)), lines 12 and 13. Omit all words on those lines. Insert instead:
(2) Without limiting sections 562B and 562F, the court must, in making or varying an apprehended violence order:
Again, as I mentioned during my speech on the second reading, this amendment will ensure that the relevant family contact orders are not solely sufficient to warrant the refusal of an AVO but will be taken into account when tailoring the conditions of the AVO.
The Hon. J. W. SHAW (Attorney General, and Minister for Industrial Relations) [4.17 p.m.]: The Government cannot accept this amendment, although I do not perceive there to be any grave or significant legal difference between what the honourable member proposes and what the bill provides. To be candid, the main consideration is that of uniformity. It is important in this area to have a uniform series of State and Federal laws. The bill is the result of a decision by the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General. It is the result of an agreement between the Commonwealth Attorney-General and the State Attorneys General to bring the State apprehended violence order regimes into conformity with provisions in the Commonwealth Family Law Reform Act 1995.
In proposed section 3 the bill reflects the Commonwealth provisions concerning potential inconsistencies between Family Court contact orders and apprehended violence orders. The effect of the proposed amendment would be to require that contact or a relevant contact order will be taken into account only after the court has made its decision to make an order. Presumably contact or a contact order merely becomes a matter to be taken into account in tailoring the conditions of the order. That is contrary to the agreement that the Commonwealth and the States have reached. The main purpose of the State agreement is to create conformity and we would resist anything that creates a differentiation in that regard.
Under the bill as proposed by the Government the court may, having taken into account the issue of access between disputing parents, decide not to make an AVO as that might deny access, but it might be entirely appropriate in the circumstances of a given case. In a different case the order might need to be varied to take account of the access order. Under the Family Law Reform Act a magistrate, during proceedings for the making or variation of an AVO, may now make, revive, vary, discharge or suspend a Family Court contact order. Therefore it should be understood that a contact order may be dealt with and then an AVO made if there is a risk of violence to one of the parties. In short, whilst entirely appreciating the intentions of the honourable member, the Government is unable to accede to his amendment.
The Hon. I. COHEN [4.19 p.m.]: I support the second amendment moved by the Hon. A. G. Corbett. Proposed section 562FA(2) requires the court, when making or varying an AVO, to consider family contact and to have regard to any relevant family contact orders of which it has been informed. The current wording suggests that family contact or family contact orders could be sufficient grounds to refuse the making of an order. In support of this amendment I will give an example. A female victim of domestic violence decides to take out an apprehended violence order against her ex-husband who has moved out. She has three children to her ex-husband. Her ex-husband already has a family contact order issued by the Family Court enabling him to have contact with his children. The magistrate decides that the victim satisfies the tests set out in section 562B and is entitled to an apprehended violence order. The magistrate then turns to consider section 562FA because children are involved.
Under the proposed section the magistrate must look at any relevant family contact or family contact order to decide whether to grant an apprehended violence order. The magistrate may decide not to grant an AVO because it would make it difficult for the family contact order to be honoured. Thus, even though victims might otherwise be entitled to AVOs under section 562B, they may be disentitled to an AVO under section 562FA. In this case the victim would be discriminated against because she has children. The amendment moved by the Hon. A. G. Corbett goes a significant way towards resolving this anomaly. Therefore, I support the amendment.
Question - That the amendment be agreed to - put.
The Committee divided.
Mrs Arena Rev. Nile
Mr Bull Mr Obeid
Dr Burgmann Dr Pezzutti
Ms Burnswoods Mr Primrose
Mrs Chadwick Mr Ryan
Mr Egan Ms Saffin
Mrs Forsythe Mr Samios
Mr Gallacher Mrs Sham-Ho
Miss Gardiner Mr Shaw
Dr Goldsmith Mr Rowland Smith
Mr Johnson Ms Staunton
Mr Kaldis Mrs Symonds
Mr Kersten Mr Tingle
Ms Kirkby Mr Vaughan
Mr Macdonald Tellers,
Mr Moppett Mrs Isaksen
Mrs Nile Mr Jobling
Question so resolved in the negative.
Schedule as amended agreed to.
Bill reported from Committee with an amendment and report adopted.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN (Treasurer, Minister for Energy, Minister for State and Regional Development, Minister Assisting the Premier, and Vice-President of the Executive Council) [4.30 p.m.]: I move:
That this House do now adjourn.
ORGANOPHOSPHATE PESTICIDE MEVINPHOS
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY [4.30 p.m.]: A dangerous chemical, an organophosphate, is easily available in New South Wales. About two weeks ago I received a letter from a veterinary surgeon who lives in Haberfield. The letter states:
I found out about this poison -
which is known as Mevinphos -
because, on 18 January this year, my whippet Twiggy ate a small number . . . of meat baits that had been left on our front lawn. My husband and I are both veterinarians but despite our best efforts she died unconscious and in convulsions within about half an hour. On the advice of police who attended our home the following morning, I had a post-mortem done and . . . The findings show that her death was caused by Mevinphos, an organophosphate pesticide made by Cyanamide Agriculture Pty Ltd and sold as Phosdrin . . .
I began to make inquiries about this compound and was astonished to find that although it is apparently listed under section 8 of the Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Act 1996 . . . as a schedule 7 poison - "substances of exceptional danger which require special precautions for manufacture or use" - it is in fact freely available. This is because the restrictions on sale of schedule 7 compounds that normally apply under the terms of Clause 20 of the Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Regulation 1994 . . . do not apply to the supply of pesticides . . .
It transpires that drug scheduling in NSW follows the recommendations of the National Drugs and Poisons Scheduling Committee . . . The Committee produces the Standard for Uniform Scheduling of Drugs and Poisons . . . NSW legislation picks up this standard by reference in the interests of uniform packaging and labelling of compounds across Australia . . . however, because the SUSDP does not address distribution, NSW is able to make its own regulations covering this. Thus, unlike in Victoria where the Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act at least requires licensing of sellers and records to be kept of retail purchasers of Mevinphos, no such conditions apply in NSW.
Mevinphos is an acutely toxic compound. You could . . . buy a 50 ml bottle of neat Mevinphos for around $65. There would be no record kept of the sale. We would walk out with a chemical so toxic that, as an EPA pesticides inspector told me, one fifteenth of a teaspoonful could kill an 80 kilogram human. A compound that is absorbed through the skin and the lungs, as well as orally, and which . . . is the colour of raspberry cordial. A compound that could very well be used in crimes such as the recent Arnott’s extortion attempt.
The continued availability of Mevinphos is quite anomalous . . . More importantly it has the potential to be used to accidentally or deliberately kill or injure humans. Children are especially at risk as the fatal dose is so tiny, it is odourless, and is an attractive colour. All this is aside from the occupational hazard Mevinphos poses to users and its environmental risk - I have been informed that it is regularly used by growers to kill birds feeding on their crops.
Because of the death of this dog and the possible deaths of human beings it is about time New South Wales changed the regulations so that distribution is covered in New South Wales in exactly the same way as it is covered in Victoria. Mevinphos is so dangerous that the United States Environmental Protection Agency has classified it class 1 - its highest toxicity category. In fact, in 1994 the manufacturer agreed to voluntarily withdraw its registration in the United States. After existing stocks have been sold Mevinphos will no longer be used in the United States. This action follows the withdrawal from sale in the United States in May 1992 of phosphamidon, a less toxic organophosphate than Mevinphos. It is about time that
organophosphates in New South Wales were banned. They are dangerous compounds that are found in nerve gases. I urge the Minister to look seriously at this matter. [Time expired.]
MEGALONG PUBLIC SCHOOL
The Hon. VIRGINIA CHADWICK [4.35]: Megalong public school is a delightful, historic, small school that has served its cohesive and supportive community well. Sadly, the school community's legitimate cry for assistance has been misunderstood and has gone unheeded. Megalong public school has a fairly constant enrolment of 19 students with a realistic expectation of that number rising to 22 next year. The school, charming as it is, comprises a building of 9.4 metres by 6 metres. In theory, the department and the Minister are correct in assessing that the space for 19 students is adequate if not luxurious. However, the department and the Minister have failed to take into account the reality.
Let me briefly explain the use of the space at this school. An area of 4.5 metres by 1.8 metres is a verandah. Two other areas, one of 4.9 metres by 1.8 metres and the other of 4.5 metres by 4.2 metres, have in them a sink, cupboards, a fridge, storage shelves, the principal's chair and desk, four chairs, three Macintosh computers, one printer, an Internet computer, one IBM computer, a kitchen table with chairs, a photocopier, a television and television storage, a bookstand, bookshelves and a filing cabinet. I read that list onto the record to make it clear that these small spaces, which are well utilised, comprise a kitchen, computer room, library, principal's office and staff room.
The area that remains is 4.9 metres by 4.2 metres in which, along with a blackboard, heater, bookshelf, storage cupboard and a teacher, we find Megalong school's 19 students. On 2 August 1996 a departmental genius visited the school unannounced. The school was absent as it was attending a sports carnival. No-one was at the school because it had not been advised of this departmental visit. The departmental genius measured the outside of the school and formed the view that the space was adequate. Despite efforts by the school community no action has been taken. I do not for a minute deny that Mr Debus, the local member, has contacted the Minister for Education and Training, Mr Aquilina. There has been correspondence but, sadly, no positive action has been taken.
The most recent correspondence indicates that the Minister is reviewing all the State's small schools. No doubt that is a sensible initiative, but it does not address the legitimate and well-based concerns of the Megalong school family. I ask the Minister to examine immediately two alternatives. First, if he provided a demountable it could be used as a staff room, computer room, principal's office and library, thus freeing up the school building for pupils. Second, a modest allocation from the Minister's discretionary fund could enable an extension of the existing building and achieve the same result. Neither alternative is expensive nor dramatic and neither would take a lot of time, effort and money. However, it would have a tremendous effect on the Megalong school family.
Megalong school, a well-supported school, needs and deserves immediate consideration. Despite the school's year-long efforts I know that it would welcome an opportunity to apprise the Minister of this difficult situation. I had the privilege of visiting Megalong school when I was Minister. Given that the Minister lives much closer to Megalong than I do, I urge him to do likewise. He would enjoy his visit and learn a lot about Megalong school. It would also be an indication of his support for the Megalong school family and the result would be beneficial for all concerned. Megalong school, one of this State's gems, is a small school. I hope the Minister will keep it that way.
LICENSED OLYMPIC SOUVENIR PRICES
The Hon. J. F. RYAN [4.40 p.m.]: I bring to the attention of the House a matter which, I accept, is not the most earth-shattering issue in the world but one that is, I believe, of general concern. I refer to the outrageous price of licensed Olympic souvenirs and clothing. I had reason to notice the prices of such items because I was interested in buying some of the material for myself. When I approached a rather dejected and almost unused display at a department store that I visited I could not help but notice that the reason it was dejected and unused was the outrageous prices of the items on display. For example, a simple lightweight, plain-dyed cotton T-shirt with an ordinary collar and an Olympic motif on it cost $35. When it is possible for mums and dads to go into stores and buy a decent popular brand of a printed polo shirt for about that price or less, why would anyone buy an Olympic T-shirt for that sort of price?
Additionally, Olympic lapel badges - which, I am sure all honourable members will remember, were extremely popular when Sydney was making its bid for the Olympics - used to cost in the order of $3 to $5. I am sure honourable members would be disturbed to discover that if they want to support the Olympics in that way it will cost them $8 to buy
a simple lapel badge. I am not surprised that I have not seen anyone wearing one. I believe Sydneysiders want to celebrate, support and get behind the Olympics in the year 2000. But with Olympic souvenirs at such high prices it is perfectly obvious that no-one will be interested in doing so.
I believe that one of the reasons that people would probably not find these items affordable is the licensing policy of the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games, or whichever government department it is that controls the awarding of licences. I understood that the committee made a decision that it would only allow such a licence to be used by reputable brands at the high end of the market in places such as department stores, where frequently these items are much more expensive to market. I would like the Minister for the Olympics to pay some attention to this paraphernalia, and to at least make sure that it is available to Sydneysiders at a reasonable price so that we can all support the Olympic Games. I am sure that many more of the items could be sold than appears to be the case currently. If other people's experiences are the same as mine, that could possibly explain why I have not seen an Olympic T-shirt or lapel badge worn at any of our sporting events, as we all did when we were going for the bid.
Motion agreed to.
House adjourned at 4.45 p.m., until Tuesday, 22 April 1997, at 2.30 p.m.