Tuesday, 6 May 1997
The President (The Hon. Max Frederick Willis) took the chair at 2.30 p.m.
The President offered the Prayers.
ASSENT TO BILLS
Royal assent to the following bills reported:
National Parks and Wildlife Amendment (Abercrombie,Jenolan and Wombeyan Karst Conservation Reserves) Bill
Workers Compensation Amendment Bill
Sentencing Legislation Amendment Bill
Motor Accidents Amendment Bill
INDEPENDENT COMMISSION AGAINST CORRUPTION
The President tabled, in accordance with section 78(1) of the Independent Commission Against Corruption Act 1988, the report of the commission entitled "Investigation Concerning the 1993 Byron Residential Development Strategy and Associated Matters", dated April 1997, received out of session.
The President announced that pursuant to section 78(3) of the Act he had authorised that the report be made public.
STANDING COMMITTEE ON STATE DEVELOPMENT
The Clerk announced, pursuant to resolution of the House, receipt of the report of the committee entitled "Waste Minimisation and Management", dated April 1997.
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.
STANDING COMMITTEE ON STATE DEVELOPMENT
Report: Waste Minimisation and Management
The Hon. PATRICIA STAUNTON [2.36 p.m.]: I move:
That the House take note of the report of the Standing Committee on State Development entitled "Report on Waste Minimisation and Management", dated April 1997.
Debate adjourned on motion by the Hon. Patricia Staunton.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Order of Business
Suspension of standing and sessional orders, by leave, agreed to.
Motion by the Hon. R. D. Dyer agreed to:
That the sessional order relating to questions be varied for today's sitting to allow questions to commence at 5.30 p.m. or later as indicated by the Leader of the Government.
JOINT ESTIMATES COMMITTEES
Suspension of standing and sessional orders agreed to.
The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD (Leader of the Opposition) [2.40 p.m.]: I move:
1 That, notwithstanding anything to the contrary in the standing orders, during the present session and unless otherwise ordered, five joint estimates committees reflecting Government Ministers’ portfolio responsibilities, be appointed as follows:
(a) Estimates Committee No. 1
Premiers, Arts and Ethnic Affairs
Education and Training
Treasury, Energy, State and Regional Development
(b) Estimates Committee No. 2
Health, Aboriginal Affairs
Community Services, Aged Services, Disability Services
Mineral Resources, Fisheries
(c) Estimates Committee No. 3
Corrective Services, Emergency Services
Attorney General, Industrial Relations
Fair Trading, Women
(d) Estimates Committee No. 4
Transport and Tourism
Public Works and Services, Roads, Ports
Gaming and Racing, Hunter Development
Sport and Recreation
(e) Estimates Committee No. 5
Urban Affairs and Planning, Housing
Land and Water Conservation
2. The Budget Estimates and related documents presenting the amounts to be appropriated from the Consolidated Fund be referred to the committees for inquiry and report.
3. (1) Each committee is to consist of nine members, comprising:
(a) two Government members of the Legislative Council nominated by the Leader of the Government;
(b) two Government members of the Legislative Assembly nominated by the Leader of the House;
(c) two Opposition members of the Legislative Council nominated by the Leader of the Opposition;
(d) two Opposition members of the Legislative Assembly nominated by the Leader of the Opposition; and
(e) one crossbench or Independent member from either the Legislative Council or the Legislative Assembly nominated by the crossbench and Independent members in both Houses.
(2) Nominations for membership of the committee must be made in writing to the Clerk of the respective House within seven days of the passing of this resolution.
(3) Estimates committees Nos 1 to 3 are to be chaired by a member of the Legislative Assembly and Nos 4 and 5 by a member of the Legislative Council.
4. (1) Before proceeding to any business at its first meeting each committee must elect a Chair and a Deputy Chair.
(2) If the Chair and Deputy Chair are absent from a meeting of a committee, the members present are to elect a Chair for that meeting.
(3) The Chair of a committee has a deliberative vote and in the event of an equality of votes a casting vote.
5. (1) Government or Opposition members of the relevant House may be appointed to the committees as substitutes for a member of the committees for any matter before the committees, by notice in writing to the Chair of a committee.
(2) Crossbench or Independent members of the either House may be appointed to the committees as substitutes for another crossbench or Independent member of the committees for any matter before the committees, by notice in writing to the Chair of a committee.
(3) Nominations for substitute Government or Opposition members may be made by the relevant Leader of the Government, Leader of the House, Leader of the Opposition, Government or Opposition Whips or Deputy Whips.
(4) Nominations for substitute crossbench or Independent members may be made by another crossbench or Independent member from either House.
6. The committees have power to send for and examine persons, papers, records and things.
7. A quorum of the committees is three members, provided that a member from each House is present at all times.
8. The proceedings of the committees be open to the public unless ordered by a committee.
9. (1) The dates, times and places for meetings of each committee be set out in a schedule published by the Clerks of both Houses to each member of a committee, within seven days of the passing of this Resolution.
(2) A committee may hold meetings supplementary to those set out in the schedule.
10. (1) A committee may examine:
(a) each program area in the Budget Estimates and related documents by portfolio; and
(b) by portfolio, expenditure or income of any statutory body or corporation appointed, constituted or regulated under an Act of Parliament:
(i) which the Minister for the time being administers, and under which the statutory body or corporation is appointed, constituted or regulated; or
(ii) which is required to submit an annual report to the Parliament, either under the Act appointing, constituting or regulating the statutory body or corporation or under
the Annual Reports (Statutory Bodies) Act 1984.
(a) the Chair is to call over each program area and declare the proposed expenditure open for examination;
(b) members may question Ministers, or officers of any department of Government, statutory body or corporation, relating to each program area, or where possible, proposed income or expenditure or other relevant matter in each program area; and
(c) a question is to be proposed for each program area "That the amount be recommended".
12. (1) The time allocations for questions in each committee be three hours for each portfolio area with total times for questions allocated in the following order:
30 minutes Opposition
30 minutes Government
15 minutes crossbench and Independent
30 minutes Opposition
30 minutes Government
15 minutes crossbench and Independent
30 minutes Opposition.
(2) Each question be limited to one minute and the reply to four minutes.
(3) For each 30 minute period, a minimum of six questions must be asked and answered and for each 15-minute period a minimum of three questions must be asked and answered. If not the time period is to be extended.
(4) Time taken for discussion of a dissent from a ruling of the Chair is not to be counted for the purpose of allocated question time.
(5) The debate on a motion of dissent from a decision of a Chair is to be limited to 10 minutes after which the Chair must put the question.
13. A member of a committee or substitute member of a committee, and any Minister present to answer questions, may have staff present to assist them during the hearing of evidence and may refer to those staff at any time.
14. A daily record of the proceedings of a committee is to be published by Hansard.
15. (1) Before an estimates committee hearing, members or substitute members may provide written questions to the clerk of the committee who is to distribute them to the relevant department, statutory body or corporation, and to members of the committee. Answers to these questions may be supplied in writing to the clerk of the committee prior to the hearing or tabled at a hearing.
(2) Notwithstanding paragraph (1), a member may ask any questions at a hearing.
(3) Where no written questions are directed to a statutory body or corporation, or no member of a committee has indicated to the clerk of a committee, at least 24 hours prior to the hearing, that questions will be asked in relation to a particular statutory body or corporation, a representative from that statutory body or corporation is not required to be present at an estimates committee hearing. Where a representative of a statutory body or corporation is not present at a hearing, questions to those statutory bodies or corporations will be taken on notice and a reply lodged with the clerk of the committee.
16. A member who attended at a hearing of an estimates committee may lodge with the Clerk, within 24 hours of a hearing, written questions on notice relating to any matters unanswered or any other additional information required relating to matters referred to a committee. The Clerk is to publish the question and the reply in an estimates committee questions and answers paper. A reply must be lodged with the Clerk within seven days.
17. Where a Minister, departmental officer or officer of a statutory body or corporation indicates that a reply or supplementary information will be given in response to a question asked, a written answer must be lodged with the clerk of the committee within seven days. The clerk of the committee is to publish in an estimates committee questions and answers paper the information requested and the reply.
18. The committees have leave to sit during the sittings or any adjournment of the House.
19. (1) The report of each committee is to state whether the amounts of each program area in the budget estimates are recommended.
(2) A member of a committee may append to a report of the committee made to the House a statement of dissent in relation to any part of the report.
20. (1) The committees are to report to the House prior to the consideration by the Committee of the Whole House of the relevant bills, after which the committees will expire.
(2) Where a committee fails to report in the time required under subparagraph (1), the amount for each program area is deemed to be recommended by the committee.
21. The reports from the committees will be received by the House without debate and their consideration referred to the Committee of the Whole House on the Appropriation Bill and cognate bills and Appropriation (Parliament) Bill.
22. In Committee of the Whole House when considering the amounts for each program area in the estimates and the corresponding clauses and schedules in the Appropriation Bill and cognate bills and Appropriation (Parliament) Bill:
(a) the Chair is to put the question in respect of each corresponding committee report, "That the report of the (name of the committee) be adopted"; and
(b) any remaining clauses and schedules of the Appropriation Bill and cognate bills and Appropriation (Parliament) Bill are to be considered as one question, "That the remaining clauses and schedules of the bills be agreed to".
23. At the conclusion of proceedings in Committee of the Whole, the Chair is to report to the House that the Committee has or has not adopted the reports from the estimates committees.
24. (1) If the House is not sitting when a committee wishes to report to the House, the committee is to present its
report to the Clerk of the House.
(2) A report presented to the Clerk is:
(a) on presentation, and for all purposes, deemed to have been laid before the House;
(b) to be printed by authority of the Clerk;
(c) for all purposes, deemed to be a document published by order or under the authority of the House; and
This motion seeks the establishment of joint estimates committees to allow honourable members to deal with the soon-to-be-presented budget. In the other place the Government has given notice of a motion, which has not yet been dealt with, that requests this House to agree to a return to the concept of joint estimates committees. If the Government pursues that notice of motion, the Opposition will support it.
The coalition when in government agreed to the establishment of joint estimates committees. However, last year joint estimates committees were abandoned and independent estimates committees of this House were set up. Whilst that was an innovative approach, the effect of those estimates committees was limited. Their role was different from that of the appropriations committees of the Senate. The Opposition seeks a return to the concept of joint estimates committees. However, the Legislative Council should also have appropriations committees modelled on the appropriation committees of the Senate. A separate motion will be moved in that regard at a later time.
Members on the crossbench have drawn to my attention two matters of concern with my motion. To address those concerns they intend to move amendments. They will seek to amend paragraph 3(1)(e) because they believe that as there are seven Independents in this Chamber and three in the other place each estimates committee should have an independent member from each Chamber. At this stage the Opposition will not oppose that amendment.
The Opposition understands that the crossbenchers are concerned also about the time limits proposed in paragraph 12(1), which seeks to allow them 15 minutes for questions whereas Government and Opposition members will each have 30 minutes. Similarly, crossbenchers and Independents are allowed a further 15 minutes whereas the Opposition and the Government have a further 30 minutes. It has been suggested that the Independent members of the committees should have 30 minutes and that the Opposition's time for re-examination should be reduced from 30 minutes to 15 minutes. As this is a trial period the Opposition will not oppose that amendment either.
The amendments will allow crossbenchers and Independents as much time in estimates committees to examine Ministers as will be allowed members of the Opposition. I do not concede that crossbenchers should have the use of that time to the detriment of analysis by the Opposition. However, the Opposition is prepared to see how the matter proceeds. The time limits may be varied, if necessary, subsequently. If the crossbenchers and members on the Government side of the House are prepared to support the Opposition on this motion, the operations of the Legislative Council in its deliberations on the budget will be enhanced.
The Hon. J. W. SHAW (Attorney General, and Minister for Industrial Relations) [2.47 p.m.]: I move:
(d) to be recorded in the minutes of the proceedings of the House.
That this debate be now adjourned.
The House divided.
Mrs Arena Rev. Nile
Dr Burgmann Mr Obeid
Ms Burnswoods Ms Saffin
Mr Cohen Mr Shaw
Mr Corbett Ms Staunton
Mr Dyer Mrs Symonds
Mr Johnson Mr Tingle
Mr Jones Mr Vaughan
Ms Kirkby Tellers,
Mr Macdonald Mrs Isaksen
Mrs Nile Mr Primrose
Mr Bull Mr Lynn
Mrs Chadwick Mr Ryan
Mrs Forsythe Mr Samios
Mr Gallacher Mrs Sham-Ho
Miss Gardiner Mr Rowland Smith
Mr Gay Tellers,
Mr Hannaford Mr Jobling
Mr Kersten Mr Moppett
Mr Egan Dr Goldsmith
Mr Manson Dr Pezzutti
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion for adjournment agreed to.
SELECT COMMITTEE ON HOSPITAL WAITING LISTS
Suspension of standing and sessional orders agreed to.
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY [2.56 p.m.]: I move:
That the House take note of the final report of the Select Committee on Hospital Waiting Lists, volumes 1 and 2, dated December 1996.
I have moved this motion by way of contingent notice because I believe it is proper that both volumes of the final report of the Select Committee on Hospital Waiting Lists be open for debate in this Chamber. The report was published in December 1996 when the House was not in session: it was therefore tabled out of session. The report in itself is contentious. Honourable members will be aware that a member of the Opposition who was a member of the committee attempted at the beginning of this autumn session of Parliament to move that the report be tabled and therefore open for debate. That was opposed by the House, and rightly so. As chair of the committee I believe it is both my right and my duty to introduce both volumes of the report and to lay them open for debate. I have used a contingent notice of motion for this purpose because I do not wish the Opposition to believe that because of the problems with the report I am attempting to have the volumes buried or to deny to members of the Opposition the opportunity to debate them in full - in other words that I am trying to bury them. That is certainly not the case.
In the lead-up to the 1995 State election the then Leader of the Opposition, the Hon. Bob Carr, made a promise that should never have been made: to cut hospital waiting lists by 50 per cent within the first year of office of a Labor Party government. The promise was backed by a commitment that the Minister for Health would resign if the goal was not achieved. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the then Leader of the Opposition, who is now the Premier, made that promise without the knowledge of the shadow minister for health, who was taken completely by surprise when he learnt about it on the evening television news. That may or may not be the case but once that promise was made, it was on the record. When the Labor Party was returned to power, the promise having been made, the coalition Opposition embarked upon a crusade that should never have been undertaken. The object of that crusade was to prove, by whatever means possible, that the Government had broken an election promise, a promise that could never be fulfilled.
One of the most damning recommendations of the report is that the politicisation of waiting lists should be discontinued. Waiting lists should be regarded as a management tool rather than as a means to adjudge the success or failure of the public hospital system. The politicisation of issues such as hospital waiting lists is a dangerous and foolish practice that can lead to misinformation and misjudgment. It is easy to turn an issue as serious as hospital waiting times into a political football - and I use the politically correct phrase "waiting times", not "waiting lists" - but it is forgotten that real lives, real people and real suffering are involved. While the report notes a significant increase in activity and a substantial reduction in numbers during the operation of the waiting list reduction program, I regret to say that that was not a social achievement. It was a political achievement accomplished by a short-term injection of funds into the health system for a partisan objective.
As honourable members are aware, by resolution of this House the Select Committee on Hospital Waiting Lists was appointed in December 1995 to investigate and report on the Government's success in cutting hospital waiting lists for elective procedures during its first year in office. Although the resolution had the support of the majority of members of this Chamber, unfortunately the committee was politicised from the start. I was selected as chair of the committee - not because of any real desire by the committee to have a crossbench member, an Australian Democrat, as an impartial adjudicator but because the Opposition members of the committee would not accept a Government member as chair and the Government members would not accept an Opposition member as chair. So I was placed in a position of peril from the start. I would go so far as to say that my position as chair was untenable from the beginning.
The committee advertised fully on two occasions, as all committees must do. The response to those advertisements was remarkable in that although the committee received submissions from the biggest trade union in Australia, the Australian Medical Association, from individual surgeons, from area health service chief executive officers and from departmental bureaucrats, not one single submission was received from a member of the public. So the evidence presented to the committee was either from departmental sources on the one hand or sources in opposition to the Premier’s promise on the other. In a previous debate, the Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti, a committee member who is not present today, referred to the way the recommendations were finally voted. He said, quite rightly, that on the majority of occasions on which there was an equality of votes the chair cast her vote with the noes. I do not resile from that. It was essential; I had no alternative. I did not like using a casting vote on so many occasions. However, during the time the report was being written, which was long after the evidence had been heard, Opposition members of the committee, particularly the Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti, were determined to rewrite what had been previously agreed should be contained in the report.
I had the assistance of the clerk of the committee, who showed the most admirable patience, reserve and calm during all this time. The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti was able to consult at length with the departmental adviser who had been nominated by the Minister for Health to assist the committee. The adviser spent many hours going through documentation, particularly tables of statistics, with the Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti. Statistics prepared by one set of actuaries on behalf of the department were contested by another set of actuaries who had been employed by the Australian Medical Association. The committee was faced with two sets of statistics, and I defy any member of the committee not versed in statistical analysis - and the committee did not have a statistician available to assist it - to detect the flaws in either set.
If this inquiry had been referred to the Auditor-General, as now happens with many references, his office would have had the expertise to analyse properly and professionally these sets of statistics, but it was certainly beyond the ability of this grossly politicised committee to do so. The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti was given every opportunity to put forward his points of view to the committee and, in fact, after the conclusion of the hearings to put further material to the committee until shortly before Christmas. As honourable members are aware, in November and December I was immobilised in a wheelchair because of a knee injury. It was the Opposition’s view that the hearings of the committee should be extended into 1997 to allow further argument on those statistics and to allow material presented by an Opposition member, which was not tabled in response to the committee’s advertisements or requests for information, to become part of the committee’s findings and report.
At that stage I began to realise that there was no alternative except to table the recommendations, which had been discussed at length with Opposition members of the committee, at a formal hearing of the committee and to have each recommendation put to a formal vote. I am still convinced that if I had not adopted the procedure of using my casting vote, which I did after a great deal of soul searching and after lengthy discussions with the clerk of the committee, Mr Warren Cahill, and with the Clerk of the Parliaments, the report would not have been finalised. At that time I made it very clear to the Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti that when the report was tabled in the Parliament and was open to parliamentary debate, as a member of the committee he would be able to make any statements he wanted, and put forward all of his objections about material that he believed should have been included but was not. I made it clear also that he would be able to put forward all of his objections to the way in which I, as chair, had handled the way the committee was run, and he would be able to make any statement to the media that he wanted to make.
That is, of course, exactly what happened. The report must have been tabled on the Friday, and the Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti had obviously alerted the shadow minister for health to that fact. On the Sunday night the ABC evening news ran a two-minute interview with the shadow minister for health. So the media certainly did not believe the recommendations in the report were of earth-shattering importance because on a Sunday night, Sunday being a very slow news day, a big song and dance was not made about them. To the best of my knowledge, that is the only publicity the report has received to this time. During the week after the report was tabled I was rung up by the members of the media. I made brief comments, nothing of any real note, and the media did not pursue the matter. I wrote an article for "Health News" after the report had been handed to the Clerk of the Parliaments. The article was reprinted in full in the journal and is available as a public document for any member to read. I made it very clear in that article that my view was that reducing waiting lists or waiting times alone would not solve the problems of the hospitals or the problems relating to the delivery of health care in this State; many other matters had to be tackled.
I made it clear that although I did not believe the promise made by the Premier was a sensible one, I certainly did not accept the view that had
been expressed by some people that the whole exercise had been a total waste of money, was responsible for the blow-out in the budget of the Department of Health and, in fact, was responsible for everything that had gone wrong in the department since the Labor Party took office. I cannot accept that. I did not accept it then and I do not accept it now. In March 1996 the job of the Minister for Health in this State was made more difficult than it had ever been by the change in the Federal Government. The new coalition, economic rationalist government decided to cut funding to the States. It did so very savagely, thus making it almost impossible for the Labor Government in New South Wales to deliver both health and community service needs. Rather than attempting to politicise hospital waiting lists it would be far better if the Opposition, whose Federal colleagues are now of their own parties, lobbied the Federal Treasurer, the Federal Minister for Health and Family Services and the Prime Minister for greater funding for the States for both health and community services. I now turn to the findings of the report, and I begin by referring to finding No. 3 of the report, which notes in part:
. . . It is also the view of the Committee that the Government did halve the hospital waiting lists as at 31 December 1995 . . .
Finding No. 23 of the report notes:
. . . there is little evidence to suggest that patient care was adversely affected by the Waiting List Reduction Program. Urgent and high priority patients continued to receive priority.
That is a positive result for the waiting list reduction program, but the recommendation does not indicate the overly political way in which the result was achieved. The reduction in waiting lists was achieved through a combination of a short-term injection of funds into the hospital system and an increase in pressure on hospitals to adopt whatever means were necessary to reduce waiting list times. Initially the New South Wales Government allocated new funds of $64 million, and the department contributed an additional $11 million. Area and district health services were to spend 75 per cent of those funds on reducing their lists in the period from May to December. The remaining 25 per cent of the funds was to be allocated in the period from January to June 1996 for the area and district health services to maintain the lists at a reduced level. An extra $6.5 million was subsequently added to the funding of the program to bring the total funding to approximately $81 million.
This injection of funds undoubtedly resulted in a significant reduction in hospital waiting times. Those patients who benefited from that were grateful for it; they did not object at all. I know what it is like to have a knee that will not work properly and to have to move around in a wheelchair, so I can understand very well how many older people in the community who were waiting for either hip or knee operations would feel after they had the operations. Many of them might still be waiting if it had not been for the waiting list reduction program. So the injection of funds did result in a significant reduction in waiting times. However, the figures that came to the attention of the committee after December 1995 are damning. The committee found that by 31 March 1996 elective surgery waiting lists had climbed to two-thirds of the March 1995 figure. The promise that has been broken is that ongoing funding would be available to reduce waiting times. That is a tragedy, but I do not know how, with reduced funding from Canberra, it would have been possible for the State Government to have continued with funding for an extension of the waiting list program.
It seems that the people of New South Wales have simply been forgotten by the Federal Minister for Health and Family Services since the passing of the political deadline. I regret to say that I believe the State Minister for Health consults with nobody. Certain actions of the Minister have been overridden by the Premier, and I refer particularly to the attempt by the Minister to transfer beds away from the eastern suburbs to where he believed they would be more valuable. The backlash of his attempt resulted in intervention by the Premier and the decision to transfer beds was reversed. However, that is not the only evidence of the blatant politicisation of such an important issue. Chapter 6 of the report notes that the reduction in waiting times came about because of an increase of 26,000 in the number of procedures performed during the period from April to December 1995. The report states:
This reduction, however, was not achieved solely by undertaking additional procedures.
Chapter 6.1.2 states:
The Program itself stimulated extra demand of 7000 to 8000, increasing the elective surgery lists by this amount. At the same time, there was more stringent use, by some Areas and Districts, of the Department of Health operational policy, especially with respect to reclassification of patients to not-ready-for-care status.
The not-ready-for-care status relates to those who may need operations which are not urgent and who may have decided, in consultation with their doctors, to have them at a certain time: perhaps during their annual holidays or during school holidays when it is possible to make other arrangements for their children.
The Hon. J. F. Ryan: Or they move.
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY: The Hon. J. F. Ryan has said by way of interjection that they might move and they might need to put their domestic affairs in order before they care for their health needs. The term "not ready for care" does not suggest that somebody with a serious and urgent condition can be moved by a bureaucrat from a priority list onto a not-ready-for-care list. Finding No. 14 in the report states in part:
. . . in a number of Area and District Health Services patients who were offered faster treatment by another Medical Practitioner but who were declined the offer were reclassified urgency 4, resulting in the removal from the Ready For Care list . . .
That was a decision made by those patients. They were told that they might like to have their operations early; the doctor of their choice was not able to operate for three months but another equally highly qualified doctor was able to operate in six weeks. The committee discovered that many people accepted that option but, equally, many did not. That was not achieved by bureaucratic action alone; it was done in consultation with the patients. Chapter 6.1.2 then notes:
Even though the policy, in place since 1994, remained unchanged, an increase in levels of compliance led to the number of not-ready-for-care patients on elective surgical waiting lists increasing by 7,600 between March and December 1995 and the number on the (ready-for-care) list declining by the same amount.
Examples of that are given in the report. I refer honourable members particularly to pages 34 and 35 of the report. Chapter 4.2, which is entitled "Were Patients Reclassified to Urgency 4 After Refusing an Offer of Faster Treatment?", states:
Dr Denis King gave evidence that doctors in the South Eastern Sydney Area Health Service were instructed to reclassify patients who required a procedure that could be performed in a procedure room rather than an operating theatre to urgency 4, even though St George Hospital where Dr King practised did not have a procedure room.
Chapter 4.2.3 states:
A letter to the AMA tabled by Dr Eagleton stated that patients on the waiting list in hospital were offered the choice of being transferred to the list of one surgeon to the list of another surgeon whose waiting list was shorter. The letter contended that if patients refused the offer, although their names remained on the waiting list, "they were counted in a separate category."
Chapter 4.2.4 states:
In evidence to the Committee, Dr Ashwell, Lismore, stated that a number of his patients were classified urgency 4 because they had declined an offer of the procedure being performed by another surgeon.
Chapter 4.2.6 of the report states:
In evidence to the Committee, Dr Denis King, St George hospital, reported that doctors at the hospital were advised to offer a surgical date to patients on the list, and if that date was refused the patients were to be reclassified to urgency 4, and were not to be put back on to the list until after the end of the program.
Chapter 4.2.7 notes:
In evidence to the Committee Dr Eagleton, representing the AMA, advised that patients were removed from waiting lists if they were unable to present for surgery, often with minimal notice, possibly a matter of hours.
Despite what I regard as the cynical laughter of the Hon. J. F. Ryan, that could hardly be said to be the fault of the waiting list reduction program because patients were offered an opportunity to have earlier operations. If they chose not to have those operations at an earlier date because they wanted to wait for the doctors of their choice, that was their decision; it was not a decision made by the bureaucrats. The blatantly political influences again became apparent in the calculation and recording of the number of patients on waiting lists in New South Wales. At chapter 3.3.1 the report notes:
Conflicting evidence was heard before the Committee, including conflicting evidence from two auditors, regarding whether the 50% reduction in elective surgery waiting lists had been achieved.
Evidence from auditors Coopers and Lybrand, who are also actuaries for the New South Wales Department of Health, showed that the reduction in the number of people waiting for treatment was 56 per cent, or 25,000. Chapter 3.3.2 of the report notes the following contrary view:
Brent Walker, consulting actuary commissioned by the Australian Medical Association to audit the waiting list reductions, argued that, although the reduction was substantial . . . between March 31 and December 31, 1995 the real reduction in the numbers waiting for elective treatment appears to be somewhat less than 50%.
Actual figures are not given; the words "somewhat less than 50%" are used. Frankly, I find that expression rather strange, coming as it does from a firm of actuaries. Statistics to support that view were provided by Dr Denis King from St George Hospital, Dr Michael Eagleton representing the Australian Medical Association, and others. I
suggest that honourable members read the statements to that effect at pages 17 and 18 of the report, as I do not intend to read them onto the record. I should like to put on the record that at St Vincent’s Hospital fewer operations were carried out during the year, yet that hospital was able to reduce the number of elective surgery waiting list patients. Chapter 3.3.6 of the report states:
Dr Ronald Spencer, the Chief Executive Officer St Vincents hospital, stated that, of the 600 reduction in the hospital's elective surgery waiting list . . . 300 had surgery. Dr Anthony Sherbon, Medical Services Manager, explained that some of the remaining 300 were removed from the list as no longer requiring surgery and some were reclassified to not-ready-for-care status because the hospital's auditing system markedly improved in the early months of the Program.
Dr Tim Smyth, Chief Executive Officer, Hunter Area Health Service, advised that the area did not achieve the 50% target set. He stated that significant clerical audit of the Area's waiting lists had occurred in the time leading up to the Waiting List Reduction Program, so that the Area did not benefit to the same extent as some others from the use of clerical audit to reduce waiting lists.
The committee discovered - as was well known to executive officers and medical service managers - that in many cases it is impossible for a hospital to know how many patients are on its waiting list, because it does not have a complete waiting list. Individual surgeons keep their own waiting lists and as patients come up in the surgeon's order of priority the surgeon submits to the hospital management a list of the people he intends to operate on during the next week or the next fortnight. One of the advantages of the hospital waiting list program was that waiting list coordinators of the Department of Health were able to persuade surgeons to submit their total lists so that the area manager would have some idea of the pressure to be placed on his hospital. The concept of the waiting list coordinator appeared to some members of the committee to have worked extremely well.
Only last week I discovered to my regret that certainly in the Greater Murray region, where I live, we appear to have gone back to the old system. When being interviewed on radio last week, the area manager said that he did not know how many people at Albury and Wagga Wagga were waiting for surgery because the hospital did not have the list. This indicates that one element of this program that was of value and should have been retained has now gone again, and I do not know why. It is ridiculous to introduce a scheme, to put money into it, to introduce coordinator positions, but then abolish them. Certainly the coordinators who gave evidence before the committee were doing an excellent job; but with the end of the scheme the position has slid back to where it was before.
The Hon. D. F. Moppett: That is the worst part of the whole thing.
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY: As the Hon. D. F. Moppett said, that was the worst part. The coordinators could have continued to work. Perhaps the Government did not have the money to continue funding the program, but if the coordinators could have continued, the area managers would have known what the needs in their areas were. This then would have provided ammunition for them to send to the bureaucrats in Sydney and for the senior bureaucrats in the department to bring to the attention of the Minister. To me that is one of the most stupid things that has happened. Even if these people are still waiting because the pressures on the health budget is such that money cannot be found to allow them to have their operations, at least the Government should get the figures so that it knows the magnitude of the problem it is faced with.
I was interested to note that when Mr Michael Moody was interviewed on Riverina radio he did not use the politically correct term "waiting times", which in evidence before the committee senior bureaucrats insisted was the way in which the matter should be discussed - not the number of people on a list but how long people have to wait. In his answer to every question, Michael Moody referred to "waiting lists". That is the way some area managers are approaching the task now. It is common knowledge that since the end of this program - and indeed since the recommendations of the committee's report - the waiting time and the number of people who are waiting many, many months for operations have ballooned. The situation is far worse than it was at the end of last year, and I believe it is getting worse with every month that passes by. In order to reduce that list, and to reduce the pain and suffering of people who need operations but cannot get them because their operations are not urgent and are therefore not a high priority, the Department of Health budget needs a further injection of funds. Perhaps at five o'clock this afternoon I and other honourable members will know how much money the Government has been able to inject into health. I have a nasty feeling in the pit of my stomach that it will not be enough to meet the need.
I repeat: I do not believe that the Federal Government will be of the slightest assistance to the State Government in this matter, because all the public statements being made by the Federal Minister for Health show a total lack of understanding of what is really needed to assist people who need operations. To suggest that topping up private health insurance will solve the problem is just ridiculous. I believe that the money that the Federal Government intends to inject into topping up private health insurance should go into the hospital system; it should not be used in an attempt to
persuade people to take out private health insurance. The majority of people who wait for a very long time for their operations will never be able to afford private health insurance. This is particularly the case with knee or hip replacements, which are generally performed on older people. The majority of these people would be pensioners, and they certainly would not be able to afford the very high cost of private health insurance.
As the committee did its work it became obvious that political forces came into play and distorted the issue and detracted from the matter at hand. Those political influences became evident not only from the fact that there was a conflict of information available to the committee but in the bitterness of the debate that followed. I regret to say - and as chair I was unable to prevent it - that there was bitter debate within this committee. Such bitterness is something quite new to me. I have served on many committees for many years now, and I have never been in such a sad and uncomfortable position. Chapter 6 of the report deals with recommendations and conclusions.
To put everything into perspective, the report notes that the committee is of the view that the length of a waiting list is like the length of a piece of string: meaningless unless related to a sensible criterion. The waiting time is important to patients and doctors. It cannot be denied that a reduction in the level of hospital waiting lists for that short period of time was a good result for the people of New South Wales. Chapter 6.1.5 notes:
The Program resulted in better management of elective surgery patients, better networking and improvements such as increases in peri-operative and early discharge programs. The Program did not appear to have an adverse effect on the quality of care in New South Wales hospitals.
However, it is tragic that this good result was generated only because of a political stunt, and that it remained only as long as the funding was made available. It is tragic that beds are being closed in some of the major country hospitals - particularly in the greater Murray area, in which I now live - so that money can be made available elsewhere. For example, beds are being closed at the Temora and District Hospital - the town in which I now live - and staff have been made redundant or asked to transfer to Wagga Wagga, which is more than an hour away by road. People who do shift work and have a family and children to look after may not want to work in Wagga Wagga; they might not be able to face the hour and a quarter's drive to and from work. Even though some people may not wish to be made redundant, they may be forced to take a redundancy package - and, of course, the redundancies will cost the Government.
From many points of view, the so-called rationalisation of the hospital system and the degree to which the Government wants to centralise everything will have a sad effect on the delivery of health care in rural New South Wales. Of course, that was beyond the ambit of the committee. I will wait with interest to hear what other committee members say about the work of the committee. I thank all members of the committee - even those who made life difficult. I thank Mr Warren Cahill, the clerk to the committee. I also thank Dr Nick Shiraev, the research officer, for his unfailing courtesy and patience under difficult circumstances.
Debate adjourned on motion by the Hon. Dorothy Isaksen.
STANDING COMMITTEE ON STATE DEVELOPMENT
The Clerk announced, pursuant to resolution of the House, the receipt of the Government's response to the report of the committee entitled "Rationales for Closing the Veterinary Laboratories at Armidale and Wagga Wagga and the Rydalmere Biological and Chemical Research Institute", dated August 1996.
Ordered to be printed.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Suspension of Standing and Sessional Orders
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES [3.45 p.m.]: I move:
That standing and sessional orders be suspended to allow the moving of a motion forthwith relating to the conduct of the business of the House.
The Hon. D. F. MOPPETT [3.45 p.m.]: I oppose the motion. I may not have the awesome stature or the stentorian voice of the character who played Big Daddy in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, but I can paraphrase what he said: I smell the reek of mendacity and chicanery and duplicity. This motion is not about facilitating the business of the House, nor introducing a new set of standing orders to assist the House to get on with its business; it is a way of deflecting the consideration of a motion that is set down as the business of the House. I am deeply concerned that in the procedures that may follow, the expectations and rightful aspirations of the fishermen of New South Wales may be frustrated and ignored by the House. The fishermen have the right to expect a resolution of the motion of disallowance that is set down for business this afternoon. If this motion by the Hon. R. S. L. succeeds, I will oppose the motion that he has
The Hon. J. H. JOBLING [3.47 p.m.]: I support the Hon. D. F. Moppett in opposing the motion moved by the Hon. R. S. L. Jones. The requirements for disallowance of a regulation are specific: the intention is that there be a motion, a debate, and a vote within a prescribed period of time so that government business is not delayed. The moving of a contingent motion to suspend standing orders will delay other matters before the House. Perhaps we will soon be acquainted with the reasons for the motion, but it seems to me that the intent of the motion is to frustrate and reject the members of the fishing industry. The motion is unconscionable, and I ask the House to reject it.
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY [3.48 p.m.]: I oppose the motion and support what has been said by the Hon. D. F. Moppett and the Hon. J. H. Jobling. Since debate on the disallowance of the fisheries regulation was adjourned I have received a great deal of information. This further delaying tactic is totally and absolutely unconscionable. In effect it applies a gag, which is something we never do in this Chamber. The Hon. D. F. Moppett has the right to speak in reply to the disallowance motion and I do not know why it is sought to deny him that right. It is proper that the House vote on the disallowance motion, which is what I was led to believe would happen today. I have many ideas as to why this has been done, how it has been done, and who has manipulated certain crossbenchers to do it. It is absolutely and totally wrong.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE [3.50 p.m.]: Call to Australia supports the motion. When carried it will allow honourable members to speak, so it cannot be a gag on the Hon. D. F. Moppett.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES [3.50 p.m.], in reply: I wish to say how insulted I am that the Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby thinks I could be manipulated. The motion is my idea; I moved it of my own initiative.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put.
The House divided.
Mrs Arena Rev. Nile
Dr Burgmann Mr Obeid
Ms Burnswoods Ms Saffin
Mr Corbett Mr Shaw
Mr Dyer Ms Staunton
Mr Johnson Mrs Symonds
Mr Jones Mr Vaughan
Mr Kaldis Tellers,
Mr Macdonald Mrs Isaksen
Mrs Nile Mr Primrose
Mr Bull Mr Lynn
Mrs Chadwick Mr Ryan
Mr Cohen Mr Samios
Mrs Forsythe Mrs Sham-Ho
Mr Gallacher Mr Rowland Smith
Miss Gardiner Mr Tingle
Dr Goldsmith Tellers,
Mr Kersten Mr Jobling
Ms Kirkby Mr Moppett
Mr Egan Mr Hannaford
Mr Manson Dr Pezzutti
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES [3.57 p.m.]: I move:
That, in relation to business of the House order of the day No. 1 concerning the disallowance of the Fisheries Management (General) Amendment (Restricted Fisheries) Regulation 1997, standing and sessional orders be suspended to allow:
(a) the time for debate to be extended from 1½ hours to 2½ hours; and
(b) any member who has already spoken, to speak again to the motion.
I was not put up to this at all. Opposition members may not believe me but it happens to be the truth. I spoke to the Clerk this morning to find out how it could be done and this is the result. I subsequently received the support of the Government. I have moved this motion for a very good reason. It would have been easy today to vote for the disallowance motion and that would have been the end of that particular regulation. However, it would not have been the end of problems for the commercial and recreational fishing industry or for the Minister and the Government. Rather, it would have been the beginning of another major problem. Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile, the Hon. Elaine Nile, the Hon. A. G. Corbett and I have been looking into this disallowance carefully and have not made a knee-jerk decision to vote for or against it. We have been assessing all the information and talking to the Minister, the Premier's Department, the fishers on both sides - commercial and otherwise - those who support the regulation and those who do not support the regulation.
It is quite clear that there is considerable disquiet within the commercial and recreational
fishing community about whether there should be restricted fisheries or share-managed fisheries. The conservation movement and I are sure that by now we should have moved into share-managed fisheries, and that has not happened until this point. Last Friday a regulation had been gazetted with a view, somewhat belatedly, to moving into share-managed fisheries. I have spoken to the Premier's Department and the Minister about problems with funding the management advisory committees.
The PRESIDENT: Order! I entreat the honourable member to direct his remarks to the motion, which is that standing and sessional orders be suspended to allow certain procedures.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: Mr President, what I was trying to explain at some length - obviously at a length too great for your patience - was the reason we in fact had to -
The Hon. D. J. Gay: Are you canvassing the ruling?
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: Absolutely not. I totally agree with the President's ruling. I was explaining why we must extend the debate, and that is to delay determination of the motion of disallowance for a further few months until the Standing Committee on State Development brings down its report on fishing management. It would be inappropriate to kill the regulation stone dead at this point before we have received the report and recommendations of the committee. One of the recommendations that should be in the report -
The Hon. J. H. Jobling: On a point of order. Mr President, you ruled that the speaker should restrict himself to the time for debate being extended from one and a half hours to two and a half hours and a member who has already spoken being allowed to speak again. There is no reference to "standing committee" or the other matters to which the honourable member is referring. Therefore, I ask that you direct him to return to the matter before the House.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: On the point of order. The reason I moved the motion is to allow debate to continue in September, when the committee report will be presented. We should wait for the committee's report. That is precisely the reason I moved the motion in the first place.
The PRESIDENT: Order! The honourable member may continue, but I direct him to confine his remarks specifically to the terms of his motion.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: The question I want discussed - and this is also the reason I moved the motion - is compensation for the commercial fishing people who have been pushed out of the industry. That is the number one item on my agenda.
The PRESIDENT: Order! The honourable member is canvassing my ruling. He should confine his remarks to the terms of the motion and not refer to matters relative to the fishing industry.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: I have probably said enough at this point. However, it is clear that members have much more to say on this issue. Whilst I have not been able to say it at this point, and I may not be speaking if the motion is successful, it is important that more time is allowed to permit the Premier, the commercial fishing industry and the Minister to get together to sort out something which is better than we already have.
The Hon. D. F. MOPPETT [4.03 p.m.]: I oppose the motion because, even though it was not obvious in the wording of the motion, the honourable member has indicated his real purpose in moving the motion: to extend the time of debate, not so that more information can be passed to those in the Chamber who are here to listen and who would like to hear more about the matter. That is not the purpose; it is to allow members who have already spoken in the debate to speak again. Why would they want to do that? I doubt that they have received new inspiration in the past week. Where is the golden thread? Here it is: the motion would enable members who have spoken before on the matter to move a further adjournment of the debate. The stage had been reached in this debate where the clock had wound on; there had been lengthy debate about the disallowance motion. All that was left was for the mover of the motion to speak in reply. The effect of the motion moved by the Hon. R. S. L. Jones will be to allow speakers to start again and to move for the adjournment of the debate for a considerable period, as foreshadowed by the Hon. R. S. L. Jones.
If it is decided that we should debate the matter further, I would like to debate the wide range of issues that the Hon. R. S. L. Jones referred to. However, Mr President, conscious of your ruling, I shall remain within the confines of the present debate. The Opposition opposed the adjournment of the debate previously; we caused the House to divide on the matter and our votes were recorded against deferment of the matter until today. But it is an ill wind that blows no-one any good, and we accept that perhaps in the intervening period of one week members could have availed themselves of the representations of interested parties. They might even have made themselves aware that there was a substantial meeting of fishermen on the weekend.
It was not addressed by the Opposition; it was addressed by the Minister and representatives of his
department. They did their level best to persuade the industry in the intervening period that they were right - to no avail. I shall expand on that later. At this stage I say to those who are listening intently and who are most likely to be persuaded by what I say that acceptance of this motion will not allow the dissemination of more information or allow for a more informed debate; it will simply allow the Minister's will to prevail and to frustrate the purpose of the disallowance motion. How often do we hear members of the public say that there is too much government by regulation? The purpose of the bill was to go to share-managed fisheries. What are we doing instead? We are pursuing an alternative policy by regulation.
The PRESIDENT: Order! I direct the honourable member in manner similar to that which I directed the Hon. R. S. L. Jones.
The Hon. D. F. MOPPETT: I certainly intend my remarks to be brief. Honourable members, a vote for this motion - which effectively will allow speakers to speak again - is a vote for the deferment of debate until September, for some months to come. In the generic sense, I believe that is contrary to the best interests of this House, without entering into the particularities of the fishing industry, on which I certainly will speak at length. I urge members of the House to vote against the motion for the suspension of standing and sessional orders and to retain the right to resolve this matter today so that the force of the regulation, which is operating today, is either sanctioned or withdrawn.
The Hon. J. H. JOBLING [4.07 p.m.]: The motion before us moved by the Hon. R. S. L. Jones is in two parts. It seeks to suspend a sessional order - to extend the time from one and a half hours to two and a half hours - and to suspend a standing order to allow a member to speak more than once to a motion. A number of things were foremost in the minds of Government members in accepting the sessional order and in the minds of Opposition members in introducing the sessional order. The concept was that urgent matters should be able to be brought forward and discussed within a specific time frame. In that time frame the mover of the motion was permitted 15 minutes, six other members were permitted 10 minutes each, and after the expiration of the time of the mover in reply the House was to resolve the issue.
In this case the time allocated had been used. We had agreed that that time was an acceptable time to discuss the matter. Now the Hon. R. S. L. Jones has attempted to increase the time of the debate by another hour. Why does he want to increase the time of the debate further? What is it that he wants to say to this House or what is it that he wants to introduce to the House on this debate that has not already been said or introduced?
The Hon. D. J. Gay: He does not want to say anything.
The Hon. J. H. JOBLING: Absolutely right. With an extension of the debate he would not get an hour, he would get only a further 10 minutes. I will be most interested to learn of anything new in the debate. The extra hour will not assist people in the fishing industry. It will do nothing but delay matters, and perhaps do the Minister's will, in relation to the fishing industry. The Minister seems to be out of control. Why should people need to speak again? Surely they have put their argument. Does the Hon. J. R. Johnson claim to have more to say? I suspect not. He will do what his caucus has already resolved. He does not need 10 minutes to tell me that. I know that. Why do honourable members need to speak again? The truth is that they do not; consequently, there is no need to suspend sessional and standing orders. I suggest that it is simply a tactic to delay and frustrate the passage of this disallowance motion. If this motion for suspension of standing and sessional orders is passed, I predict that the Hon. R. S. L. Jones, with sheer and blinding hypocrisy, will move to have this debate adjourned to about 24 September. If not the Hon. R. S. L. Jones, I would have a side wager on it being Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile.
The Hon. D. J. Gay: I would make a bet with Fred except he does not bet.
The Hon. J. H. JOBLING: I recall an occasion when we almost got him to place a bet at a casino, or perhaps that was his wife. The suspension of sessional and standing orders is not a good move. I envisage future motions seeking to extend debate by a further 12 or 24 hours. Such a procedure will frustrate the House in its endeavours to reach decisions on matters before it. This is nothing more than a delaying tactic which will achieve absolutely nothing for the industry.
The Hon. R. D. DYER (Minister for Community Services, Minister for Aged Services, and Minister for Disability Services) [4.10 p.m.]: I feel compelled to jump to the defence of the Hon. R. S. L. Jones. A short time ago the honourable member was accused by the Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby of wanting to gag debate. Further, the Hon. D. F. Moppett complained about his wanting to facilitate debate and enabling members to speak a second time. The Opposition should wake up and decide what it wants. It is entirely within the competence of the House to decide this matter. This House should never lean against debate occurring; the democratic principle is to allow debate to occur, even if that involves members speaking a second time. The Government has not initiated the motion of the Hon. R. S. L. Jones, but it supports it.
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY [4.12 p.m.]: It should be made clear what is happening here. The Government does not wish regulations brought down by the Minister to be disallowed. As honourable members know, last week the Government prepared other regulations in case this disallowance motion was successful. I recall when, under the previous administration, a disallowance of regulations introduced by the then Minister for Corrective Services was rejected by this House: 24 hours later the regulation was reintroduced and had to be rejected a second time. The Hon. J. H. Jobling has referred to that matter already. If this motion succeeds, the Hon. R. S. L. Jones will speak for 10 minutes about the material that has been presented to him over the last week. Some Government members will then speak, for 10 minutes also, and refer to similar matters. Then Opposition members will advance points of view on the vast amount of information that has been made available to all members. But it still may not be possible to vote on this today.
The proper thing to do would be to allow the Hon. D. F. Moppett to speak in reply and then have members vote on the matter. It would be extremely naive of anyone to suggest that there will not be chaos in the fishing industry if the motion of the Hon. R. S. L. Jones is not agreed to. The proposed delay will allow the Government to introduce a new set of regulations which will be even worse than the regulations already gazetted, and the House will have to move against those regulations in the interests of the industry - which is the most important consideration. The Minister is on the record as stating his opposition to share fishing; that is why he wants restricted fishing.
The PRESIDENT: Order! I enjoin the Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby in similar terms to those I used when I enjoined other speakers. The honourable member should confine her remarks to the procedural matters of the motion, not the substance of the issue.
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY: As the Hon. D. F. Moppett stated, everything that can be said has been said on this matter. The honourable member should now be allowed to exercise his right of reply. The matter can then be put to a vote. That is the most logical, sensible and feasible way to deal with this problem.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES [4.15 p.m.], in reply: It is incorrect for the Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby to say that more regulations have been prepared. The Minister's advisers have advised me that there are no further regulations; there is no need for them. I do not know from where the honourable member got the idea. The Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby expressed concern, as did other honourable members, about regulations gazetted last Friday which will lead to share-managed fishing. The honourable member need not be concerned about those regulations. I have been through them in detail with fisher people and those who have replied to their concerns. I have few concerns about those regulations. The Hon. D. F. Moppett was correct when he said that one of the main reasons for moving this motion is to enable the debate to be adjourned until September, at which time the tabling of the report of the Standing Committee on State Development will dovetail with debate on this matter in this House. One of the recommendations of that extremely important report should relate to a compensation package for fisher people.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put.
The House divided.
Mrs Arena Rev. Nile
Dr Burgmann Mr Obeid
Ms Burnswoods Ms Saffin
Mr Corbett Mr Shaw
Mr Dyer Ms Staunton
Mr Johnson Mrs Symonds
Mr Jones Mr Vaughan
Mr Kaldis Tellers,
Mr Macdonald Mrs Isaksen
Mrs Nile Mr Primrose
Mr Bull Mr Lynn
Mrs Chadwick Mr Ryan
Mr Cohen Mr Samios
Mrs Forsythe Mrs Sham-Ho
Mr Gallacher Mr Rowland Smith
Miss Gardiner Mr Tingle
Dr Goldsmith Tellers,
Mr Kersten Mr Jobling
Ms Kirkby Mr Moppett
Mr Egan Mr Hannaford
Mr Manson Dr Pezzutti
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
FISHERIES MANAGEMENT ACT: DISALLOWANCE OF REGULATION
Debate resumed from 22 April.
Mr PRESIDENT: Before giving the call to the Hon. D. F. Moppett I advise members that although the suspension of standing orders has permitted the unusual situation of allowing members to speak a second time to the same motion, provisions relating to tedious repetition still apply. In interpreting the standing orders as they relate to tedious repetition I shall regard the second contributions of members as continuations of their first speeches.
The Hon. D. F. MOPPETT [4.24 p.m.]: I wanted to take this opportunity to make a further contribution to the debate because indications are that one of the crossbench members will move to adjourn the debate. Recent experience suggests that a vote would then be taken, after which it would be unlikely that I would be able to make some of the comments that, at your instruction, Mr President, I refrained from making during my earlier contribution to the procedural motion. I hope members will listen with interest to what I have to say. I believe that not many of my colleagues intend to say anything more in this debate. Perhaps, like members opposite, we too are anxious to have this matter resolved. It is important to address rigorously the reason given by the Hon. R. S. L. Jones for this whole exercise. He suggested to us, the outside world and the fishing industry that he sought this extension of time to enable negotiations for compensation for fishermen who are disadvantaged by the current regulations to take place. By agreeing to adjourn this debate this afternoon we will shield those regulations and leave them in operation for three months.
The Hon. R. S. L. Jones and his mates, like good boy scouts, will try to talk with the Premier - not the Minister - to seek some form of compensation. What guarantees do we have of that as we relinquish whatever control we had of the future of fishermen in New South Wales? The Minister for Community Services could have given us that assurance when he made his vapid contribution to the debate. He could have said, "Calm, everybody. We have been talking to the Hon. R. S. L. Jones, who has put to us a reasonable case for compensation. We are interested in it." But he said no such thing. I suppose I should speak in reply, but what is there to reply to but the speech of the Minister? We must forgive him; he was obviously reading from a prepared speech. It would not be outrageous to say that his contribution was about as interesting to members of this House as reading a label on a can of sheep dip.
We listened with about as much interest as one could muster reading a wet newspaper floating by on the tide. The Minister's contribution had nothing to do with the real issues. It ignored entirely the fact that the industry is united in an unprecedented way in its calling for the disallowance of this regulation. I say to members opposite, and I am pleased they are opposite me, particularly those who are responsible for this decision: you bear a very heavy burden of responsibility. I do not shrink from saying that. Not even 1 per cent of commercial fishermen in New South Wales would support the Minister, despite his urgings to fishermen and members of this House to do the right thing. Those urgings were not directed at me particularly, nor were they for the benefit of all members of the House. His turgid communications were directed to members on the crossbenches urging them not to join with the Opposition to abandon this regulation.
Restricted fisheries are a nonsense! The purpose of the Fisheries Management Act, which is the law of the land, is to go to share-managed fisheries. The Minister says that we are proceeding with too much haste and that we must go through this intermediate stage. I have said, and I will it say again, that notice was given to set the process of share-managed fisheries in action as long ago as March 1995 - two years ago! How much more time does the department need? Can we take at face value the Minister's assurances that all the department wants is more time? What has been the
value of assurances about management advisory committees, a matter to which I have already referred in this debate? Honourable members were asked to give the amending bill their approbation because it would get rid of the Commercial Fishing Advisory Council and the Recreational Fishing Advisory Council, and establish these wonderful MACs that were needed urgently. The regulations, which had to be in place before Christmas, are still not in place.
The approbation given by honourable members was conditional upon an assurance from the Minister that those regulations would be reviewed by the Standing Committee on State Development, which is chaired by the Hon. Patricia Staunton, an impartial and scrupulous chairman. What has happened to that process? The committee has been let down. The assurance that was given to crossbench members - unfortunately it was not given in the House - was rendered nugatory by the imperious and obstinate attitude of the Minister. As the accusation has been made, I assure members on the crossbenches that the Opposition is not scalp hunting. That is not the purpose of the exercise. I believe the Hon. Patricia Staunton is shielding the Minister from the rightful judgment of the industry, but she cannot protect him from the wrath of the industry that will be visited on him as a result of this decision.
Honourable members have been shabbily treated by the Minister for Fisheries in a series of incidents. The Opposition is not setting out to displace him; it is not scalp hunting. However, the Minister will not be missed if he decides to go or if someone gives him a push. I am reminded of that great American wit Dorothy Parker, who, when told of the sudden death of President Coolidge, said, "How did they tell?" I believe that applies to the Minister for Fisheries. His response to the fishing industry has been totally inert; he has been like a dead mullet. The fishing industry has completely lost confidence in this Government and in the Minister. Any motion to adjourn this debate should be scorned and defeated.
Honourable members should vote on this motion for disallowance and give the fishermen what they want. They want a regulated industry that will provide sustainability. Conservation groups who want this regulation disallowed should not be ignored; the Opposition wants sustainable fish stocks and long-term security for industry. The compensation package to which the Hon. R. S. L. Jones referred earlier should come from self-regulation and restructuring of the industry. Honourable members have seen previous examples of that, and they can be confident of it. They do not want vague assurances that have been described as totally irrelevant. [Time expired.]
The Hon. I. M. MACDONALD [4.34 p.m.]: I speak in this debate as a member of the Standing Committee on State Development, which, late last year, was tasked by this Chamber with the responsibility of investigating the New South Wales fishing industry. After concluding a report on another matter the committee proceeded to engage in a wide-ranging inquiry into the concept of share-managed fisheries in New South Wales and various matters relating to the Fisheries Management Act. I say at the outset without fear or favour that from the evidence I have heard from at least 50 or 60 witnesses the New South Wales fishing industry is in a mess. It is in a mess because of a number of high-handed decisions that have been taken in relation to this issue, particularly by some people within the department, without full and proper consultation with the relevant players in the industry.
I believe in the work that has been done by the Maritime Union of Australia and the Australian Workers Union in supporting a proper consultation process in the New South Wales fishing industry. I said earlier that the committee commenced its inquiry late last year. The committee had conducted part of the inquiry and had heard evidence from a number of witnesses when out of the blue came the 28 February bolt: the move to restricted fisheries. There was no consultation with committee members. That move created an enormous explosion in an industry which is subject to a degree of individual behaviour and a number of research and monitoring difficulties. I do not believe that those difficulties can be solved by sudden decisions being made on high relating to the management of the industry and the regulations governing it.
Virtually all the members in this Chamber to whom I have spoken are concerned, for one reason or another, about what is going on in this industry and about the way in which it is being treated. As many as 400 fishers received notices on the same day stating that their livelihood was gone. That is totally unacceptable and intolerable. The committee heard evidence from Steve Harrison, the current national secretary of the Australian Workers Union-Federation of Industrial, Manufacturing and Engineering Employees, who said yesterday that that was a totally unacceptable way of dealing with the industry and the people within it. No wonder this industry is in turmoil! The committee's deliberations have been completely ignored by the department. Of the 40 to 50 witnesses who have so far appeared before the committee only one or two have supported the department's approach to this issue.
The Australian Fishing Tackle Association clearly has a commercial interest in this matter as it spends many millions of dollars each year promoting recreational fishing in New South Wales and supplying the 2.1 million unmonitored, unresearched,
recreational fishers pulling fish out of the sea on the New South Wales coast. It has a clear interest in supporting any position that pulls back the commercial side of the industry. The president of the Wooli Cooperative gave evidence largely in support of the Minister's position. At least he admitted that while he was getting his 250 kilograms a day from the run of spanish mackerel off the north coast of New South Wales at least half a dozen sham amateurs were taking out roughly an equivalent amount and that that unmonitored, unrecorded and unresearched catch was somehow disappearing into the New South Wales system.
The second inquiry the committee was requested by this House to conduct was an investigation into the advisory bodies that were to be established under the Act. At the time the committee set about its investigation the regulations setting up the management advisory committees were not in place. That inquiry awaits the further moves of the department in its blatant attempts to undermine the tenet of share-managed fisheries. The events of the past few months have totally ignored the work of the committee. Members of this Chamber, including the Hon. A. G. Corbett and the Hon. R. S. L. Jones, would be appalled if they were conducting an inquiry following a resolution of this House and a series of major decisions was taken about the subject matter of the inquiry without consultation with those conducting it. I know the Hon. I. Cohen takes the view, given the problems and the controversy in the industry, that it would have been preferable for the Government to wait until the committee reported in September before implementing various measures to get the industry moving on one particular direction.
Having seen the way the department is jumping up and down like a cat on a hot tin roof about this issue, I wonder what its strategy is. Only a few months ago my understanding from various departmental officers was that they would never move to share-managed fisheries, and that that concept was dead. However, the regulations that the Hon. R. S. L. Jones is now considering were introduced in the past few weeks in response to the disallowance motion of which notice had been given. I am not sure that the department has any concept of where it really wants to go in relation to the New South Wales fishing industry. Last week committee members were fortunate to visit other States which have clear consultative mechanisms in place to ensure, firstly, a sustainable catch and, secondly, that no-one's livelihood is jeopardised by high-handed dictatorial bureaucratic action. For example, South Australia has a two-for-one scheme which is reducing the number of licensed fishers and limiting the total catch.
The Government should be looking for innovative ways of developing consultation. It should be trying to bring a bit of sense into the industry, and it should be setting a timetable to put in place the various concepts in the 1994 Act. It is true that an attempt was made at the last moment with some of the regulations, but no consultation is taking place about where to go from here. For example, the Nature Conservation Council of New South Wales, an organisation that I am sure the Hon. R. S. L. Jones and the Hon. A. G. Corbett listen to on occasions, has been very clear in its support for share-managed fisheries and in its opposition to the regulation. In a letter to the Hon. Bob Martin, Minister for Fisheries, John Connor, Executive Office of the council, stated:
What is proposed under the two regulations is unsatisfactory because:
•it effectively defers the decision about the management regime to be adopted until after the next election in 1999 (MAC reports are not due until September 1988 - it is less likely that long term interests will prevail months before an election);
•the process is heavily politicised with the Director of Fisheries chairing MACs -
all honourable members have some idea about what the Director of Fisheries has been up to in recent times -
and also determining the nature of the report from the MAC to Minister;
•neither the Act, nor the regulations, set out the framework for ecological sustainable management of restricted fisheries - there is no requirement for management plans, performance indicators or public involvement. [Time expired.]
The Hon. I. COHEN [4.44 p.m.]: As a Green I am concerned about the conservation issues involved in this important matter. As a member of the Standing Committee on State Development I have been struggling with the issues involved in what is perhaps the most in-depth investigation of the fishing industry by this Parliament in many years. I am unaware of any other inquiry that has gone into such great detail, made such a sincere attempt to analyse and assess both the social justice and conservation issues of this perplexing and intricate industry, and attempted to make some reasonable recommendations about the issue at hand. During that process I have been moved at times by the tenacity and sincerity of the chair of this committee and of all its members, who have attempted to weave their way through what often seem to be the tall stories presented by those in the fishing industry.
The recommendations of the committee should
have priority over the decisions of the Director of Fisheries and the Minister, who seem to be hell-bent on an executive-style government that has lost touch with what the industry and the conservation movement are saying. They seem to be hell-bent on pursuing a particular line which in the long term could have a catastrophic effect on the value of the industry. It is extremely distressing to learn that action is being taken in relation to such a complex matter before the report of the committee is handed down in September. For political ends the Minister is chipping away at the integrity of the committee and putting the industry in great turmoil. I will not pretend to be able to predict what the pronouncements of the Minister will be just before the next election, but he will certainly have an eye on that election and on the massive fishing vote. To ignore the recommendations of a committee comprising Government, Opposition and crossbench members is a perversion of the intention of this Chamber and overrules the justifiable aims of this Parliament. I should like to quote from a letter from Gary Sturgess, who said:
Based on my observations of the industry over the past three years, it is my clear impression that (contrary to claims by the Minister) an overwhelming majority of commercial fishers support disallowance of the regulations and are firmly opposed to the Minister's reliance on restricted fisheries as his principal tool of management.
It could not be clearer from the loud and consistent information that the committee is receiving from those in the fishing industry that restricted fisheries are the wrong way to go. It is clear that there has been overwhelming opposition to the Minister on this matter. It is rubbish to claim that the opposition comes only from people here and there who represent only one tiny part of the industry. In his letter Gary Sturgess further said:
1.1 Restricted fisheries are a minor provision in the Fisheries Management Act 1994. They were included in the 1994 legislation as a tool for managing exploratory or development fisheries . . .
The Minister is now trying to use the restricted fishery as his principal tool of management, and is seeking to use regulations and the promise of later legislative amendments to achieve this purpose.
The Minister and his director-general have a poor relationship with huge sections of the industry and there appears to be an ongoing culture of threats of restriction and of a wholesale loss of livelihood. I am extremely concerned not only about the industrial issue, but also about the long-term devastating impact on the ecological balance of our fragile ocean areas. The committee has heard time and again that in world terms the fishery off the New South Wales coast is not highly productive. It is a sensitive fishery, it is prone to abuse and it needs proper guidance if any move towards sustainable fishing practices is to achieve success.
It is essential that the Standing Committee on State Development be given the opportunity to fully investigate the issue. The Minister has clearly said that he will ignore the findings of the committee and that he is not interested in compensating the industry. There has now been a little bit of a fiddle in the parliamentary process that seems to be some sort of manipulation to gain this magical compensation. This type of debate has taken place in the past. For example, in the forestry debate I screamed and yelled in many forums, including this House, against the 5 x 5 agreement. However, at the same time I acknowledged the importance of security in the industry. I acknowledged also that some $120 million was taken from environmental trust funds to help people readjust and to put the industry on a sustainable footing. The same applies to the fishing industry. A letter written by John Connor of the Nature Conservation Council of New South Wales read in part:
The conservation movement supported the share management approach to fisheries management contained in the 1994 Act because it was accompanied by:
•clear requirements to develop ecologically sustainable performance criteria and processes for review of performance;
•a list of matters to be addressed in management plans;
•provisions for public involvement in the preparation of management plans and the setting of Total Allowable Catches, and
•incentives to fishers to act to sustain the resource.
The Act was drafted in a surprising spirit of cooperation between conservationists, the professional industry and the government of the day. The Act took a significant step towards share-managed fisheries. Those groups will be able to invest in the resource. They will be guardians of it and have as their primary objective the maintenance of the resource so that it will be available in perpetuity. At the same time the ecological and aesthetic qualities of the resource will be maintained. That is extremely important. John Connor, the Executive Office of the Nature Conservation Council of New South Wales, clearly supports calls for the disallowance of the regulation. That could not be clearer; it is in black and white: a peak conservation organisation supports the Opposition’s call for disallowance of the regulation. I do not have political alliances or allegiances. I have a certain view and I believe the conservation movement has the same view. I hope that the House realises the urgent need to shift fisheries management to an ecosystem framework. In his letter John Connor
The proposed arrangements leave the future management framework under serious doubt til near the close of the century. The delay is unacceptable and the government must adopt a more urgent timetable, depoliticise the process and adopt clear ESD guidelines.
The NCC urges the Government to defer the introduction of these regulations and take decisive action following the report of the Standing Committee into State Development into Fisheries Management in September of this year. If the Government genuinely believes restricted fisheries are the better management tool then amending legislation will be necessary to clarify management planning and public involvement processes.
There must be a clear recognition of the need for risk-averse decisions, public input and influence at the draft stage, ongoing and substantial review of the plan and comprehensive environmental assessment of the likely impact of proposed new or expanded fisheries. In relation to public input and influence at the draft stage, I do not believe the Minister and his director-general have - [Time expired.]
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES [4.54 p.m.]: The Hon. D. F. Moppett claimed that the Opposition is not trying to get a scalp. However, the shadow minister for fisheries, John Turner, circulated a press release yesterday saying that the Premier must sack the Minister.
The Hon. D. F. Moppett: And so he should.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: Maybe, but that is part of the Opposition’s agenda. It is not true to say that the Hon. D. F. Moppett has moved this motion purely out of the goodness of his heart; it is part of the Opposition's agenda.
The Hon. D. F. Moppett: I reject that.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: Of course the honourable member would reject it, but he is not doing the commercial fishers any good. The problem is that the Minister cannot be made to do anything; he is in charge of fisheries and does exactly what he chooses to do. All honourable members, including the Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby and the Hon. I. Cohen, would have preferred the Minister to stick to the 1994 Act and introduce share-managed fisheries. That was the aim of that Act, and it was very good legislation. Some of the provisions were drafted by John Connor. The Hon. I. Cohen and the Hon. I. M. Macdonald have already referred to a letter written by John Connor, Executive Officer of the Nature Conservation Council of New South Wales, to the Minister. I will not read the letter again but an important paragraph of it reads as follows:
The NCC calls upon all Australian fisheries management to take as the primary management objective the health of the marine ecological communities. Harvesting and associated activities should be conducted in accordance with four principles of conservation:
a) maintenance of ecological relationships;
b) maintenance of populations at levels close to those which ensure the greatest net annual increment;
c) restoration of depleted populations; and
d) minimisation of the risk of irreversible change in the marine ecological communities.
Honourable members on all sides of the House are trying to achieve those objectives. I am sure that the Hon. D. F. Moppett believes in that. However, we cannot agree on the means of achieving it. I wish we could wave a magic wand and get the Minister to turn the clock back two years and move into share-managed fisheries as provided for under the old legislation with proper management plans, total allowable catches and secure fisheries for those in the industry. They could then trade their rights between them. But we cannot make the Minister do that. He is belatedly moving into share management with the regulation that was gazetted last Friday. There is a timetable in the regulation. I inform the commercial fishers who are present in the gallery that if the regulation is disallowed there is no possibility of moving into share-managed fisheries any faster than is provided for under the regulation, which is L-A-W, law.
The Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby: What if it is disallowed?
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: If the regulation is disallowed, it will not be law, and that will not improve matters. In fact, it will take longer than before because we will have to go back to the drawing board and start all over again. Many members on both sides of the House want to ensure that if fishers are put out of business they are compensated in the same way as those in the timber industry were compensated when they were forced out as a result of conservation demands. The maintenance of fish stocks has a conservation imperative. Unfortunately, some fishers will not be in business in two or three years time. We must ensure that those who are forced out or who pull out voluntarily receive proper and adequate compensation.
How will that compensation be paid? How will the management advisory committees be funded? They must be funded to enable them to advise the Minister. There are several ways of doing that. The Minister and his advisers have said that commercial fishers can be levied. In addition, recreational fishers could be levied; they also have a vested interest in maintaining their resource. I have suggested a levy of $10 a year, and a certificate could be made
available through bait or tackle shops. Of that $10, $1 could go to the bait or tackle shop and the other $9 could be put towards maintaining recreational fishing, maintaining the habitat and buying out those in the commercial industry who are no longer viable. Stocks would then be retained for everyone.
That is one way of doing it. It is extremely important to adequately levy not just commercial fishermen, who pay anyway, but recreational fishermen as well. The Act allows for easier progress from restricted fisheries to share management so long as the entitlements and catch history have been determined. This is exactly the process that has been carried out over the past 18 months. The Act requires the next key steps of consultation with the relevant industry bodies, the restricted fishery management advisory councils - MACs. There is no option on that. The department has cooperated in every way with the Standing Committee on State Development and provided every possible assistance. Every document, including confidential draft regulations, has been provided on request.
Notes on restricted fisheries that I received on request from ministerial advisers reveal that not only developmental fisheries but restricted fisheries and current share-managed fisheries were fully developed, as is the ocean haul restricted fishery. All tools available in share-managed fisheries for stock sustainability are available in restricted fisheries and have been used, such as quotas, allowable catches, input controls, light gear and time and area closures. The way forward is prescribed in the regulations. If the Parliament disallows this regulation the industry will be worse off. The Minister would be in a black hole. New South Wales Fisheries would also be in a black hole and would be furious. Also, if disallowance went ahead today, the fish themselves would be worse off. We would not advance commercial fishers one iota because share fisheries cannot progress any faster than planned under the current timetable. I move:
That this debate be now adjourned until Wednesday, 24 September 1997.
The House divided.
Mrs Arena Rev. Nile
Dr Burgmann Mr Obeid
Ms Burnswoods Ms Saffin
Mr Corbett Mr Shaw
Mr Dyer Ms Staunton
Mr Johnson Mrs Symonds
Mr Jones Mr Vaughan
Mr Kaldis Tellers,
Mr Macdonald Mrs Isaksen
Mrs Nile Mr Primrose
Mr Bull Mr Lynn
Mrs Chadwick Mr Ryan
Mr Cohen Mr Samios
Mrs Forsythe Mrs Sham-Ho
Mr Gallacher Mr Rowland Smith
Miss Gardiner Mr Tingle
Dr Goldsmith Tellers,
Mr Kersten Mr Jobling
Ms Kirkby Mr Moppett
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion for adjournment agreed to.
Mr Egan Mr Hannaford
Mr Manson Dr Pezzutti
TRUSTEE COMPANIES AMENDMENT BILL
Second ReadingPage 8009
Debate resumed from 24 April.
The Hon. J. M. SAMIOS [5.07 p.m.]: The Opposition supports this interesting legislation.
The Hon. J. R. Johnson: And rightly so.
The Hon. J. M. SAMIOS: I am glad that the Hon. J. R. Johnson made that comment because this legislation took seed in the mind of the former Attorney General, the Hon. J. P. Hannaford. The proposals in the legislation mirror the proposals that were thought necessary in general terms when he was the Attorney. The Opposition has received correspondence from the Trustee Corporations Association of Australia, which confirms its support. Don Blyth, National Director of the Trustee Corporations Association of Australia, wrote to the shadow attorney general, the Hon. J. P. Hannaford, on 2 May. The letter stated:
The Association is supportive of the Bill in its current form.
We view the proposal as a step in the direction of deregulation of the trustee industry, a process which received its impetus while you were in government. Deregulation is the preferred position of our members and we shall continue to support that principle through the uniform trustee company legislation process.
The association went on to say:
A viable trustee company industry is essential in this area of fiduciary responsibility.
The association said further:
The problem for beneficiaries was referred to in the Attorney General's second reading speech. The current arrangements are inequitable for income beneficiaries. The proposal, however, strikes a balance between income and capital beneficiaries as they will share the costs.
The legislation basically brings equity to the administration of trustee companies. Essentially, the amendments fall into two categories. One brings equity to the fee structure, which applies to long-term trusts. Members are aware that long-term trusts are committed to the management of trustee companies for more than two years such as, say, charitable foundations and estates in which a life tenant such as a widow is allowed to live in a family home, with a gift over to a beneficiary such as a child. That is the traditional type of trust to which I am referring. In such cases the fee structure has been inequitable because it has required that the life tenant pay most of the fees and the remainderman who receives the assets after the death of the life tenant does not. The bill will amend the relevant provisions of the Act to abolish the income commission and the annual fee that applies to such estates. The Attorney has referred to the scale of charges that will now operate. There will be a single, staggered corpus fee of up to 0.5 per cent for the first $250,000. It will rise to 0.75 per cent for the next $250,000 and up to 1 per cent on portions over $500,000. The legislation also received support from Permanent Trustee Company Limited. In a letter dated 1 May addressed to Ms Lee Findlay in the office of the Leader of the Opposition, the company stated, inter alia:
Permanent Trustee Company Limited and the Trustee Corporations Association . . . are supportive of the Bill which substantially reflects the trustee companies' concerns dealt with in the TCA submission to the Director General of the Attorney General's Department in September 1995.
We believe the prompt passage of the Bill will enable trustee companies to continue to meet their obligations to administer long term estates without incurring considerable losses, as has been the case in the past. We appreciate that it was during Mr Hannaford's term of office as Attorney General that trustee companies were encouraged to put a submission to the Government to deal with the fee anomalies which had arisen over time in long term estates.
We should be grateful for Mr Hannaford's support in the passage of the Bill.
A further interesting comment was:
As a matter of interest The Wallis Inquiry recommended that the regulation of trustee companies should be modernised and applied on a uniform national basis. While the present amendments are welcome, a thorough overhaul of the legislation is overdue.
Although the legislation does not overhaul the entire Act it goes a significant distance in bringing about changes which are overdue and which should be supported. The Opposition agrees with the Government in relation to the amendments to the fee structure, which is covered in the first part of the legislation, and also in relation to the second part, which is the amendment that clarifies the power of the Attorney General to recover from trustee companies the cost of analysis of financial statements. Section 29D of the Act will require companies to provide financial statements to the Attorney General's Department every six months so that the department can analyse the stability and financial health of the industry. This is constructive legislation, and the Opposition is pleased to support it.
The Hon. J. W. SHAW (Attorney General, and Minister for Industrial Relations) [5.17 p.m.], in reply: I thank the Opposition for its generous and informed support for the bill. I note for the record that uniform trustee company legislation has been approved in principle by the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General and is being drafted. I commend the bill to the House.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a second time and passed through remaining stages.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Postponement of Business
Government business order of the day No. 2 postponed on motion by the Hon. J. W. Shaw.
CONVEYANCING AMENDMENT BILL
The Hon. J. W. SHAW (Attorney General, and Minister for Industrial Relations) [5.19 p.m.]: I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
I seek the leave of the House to have my second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
The aim of this Bill is to effect three separate reforms of conveyancing law. The first aim is to implement a recommendation of the New South Wales Law Reform Commission to abolish a rule of the common law known as the rule in Bain v Fothergill. The second aim is to rationalise the procedure for entering into options for the purchase of residential property. Thirdly, the Bill will allow the creation of certain easements without a dominant tenement. These reforms are minor but nevertheless significant reforms of the law.
The Bill provides for the abolition of a rule, known as the rule in Bain v Fothergill, which has been the delight of countless students and formed the basis of innumerable examination questions. In so doing the Bill is implementing the recommendation of the New South Wales Law Reform Commission in its report entitled Damages for Vendor's Inability to Convey Good Title: The Rule in Bain v Fothergill (LRC 64, 1990).
Named after the case which authoritatively restated it in the nineteenth century, the rule in Bain v Fothergill is a unique and anomalous exception to the general law governing the assessment of damages for breach of contract.
The case means that a purchaser's right to damages for breach of a contract for the sale of land is governed by the special rule that, where through no fault of his or her own, the vendor is in breach of the contract only because he or she cannot show good title, the purchaser can only recover his or her deposit and expenses of investigating title but not ordinary contractual damages for loss of bargain.
By contrast, the general rule relating to the award of damages in cases of breach of contract is: where a person sustains a loss by reason of a breach of contract, he or she is, so far as a monetary award of damages can do it, to be placed in the same situation as if the contract had been performed. Therefore, under the general rule it is possible to claim damages for loss of bargain.
Several justifications have been put forward for the rule including the fact that it was used to discourage the purchase of interests in land without full investigations into the title. Secondly, it was a means of limiting a purchaser's recovery to damage that was attributable to the fault of the vendor. The rule therefore acted as a test of remoteness of damage. Thirdly and finally the rule may have protected vendors from the complexity of English land law.
Since under modern conveyancing practices a defect in title which a vendor cannot cure usually exists due to the fault of the vendor, there are very few cases in which the rule may apply. This is particularly so if the land is under the modern system of Torrens title. The Torrens system has greatly diminished the instances in which a vendor is likely to be uncertain about the state of his or her title, and has therefore reduced the scope for application of the rule in Bain v Fothergill.
The rule has been examined by several law reform agencies in recent times and all but one have recommended the total abolition of the rule. Following a recommendation by the Law Reform Commission of British Columbia, the rule was abolished there in 1978. The Law Reform Commission of England and Wales recommended the rule be abolished in 1986 and this was implemented in 1989. The Law Reform Commission of Victoria also recommended the rule's abolition in 1989. The only exception was the Queensland Law Reform Commission which in 1973 recommended abolition only in relation to registered land.
The New South Wales Law Reform Commission has concluded that there are no theoretical or practical reasons for the rule's continuance and recommends abolition. Any justifications for the rule which might previously have existed have, in the Commission's view, been negated by the Torrens title system and modern conveyancing practices which have provided purchasers with greater protection through, for example, vendor disclosure and warranty laws, and have decreased the complexity of conveyancing and of proving title to land. In addition, the Commission sees no reason why contracts for the disposition of interests in land should not be treated like all other contracts as far as the assessment of damages is concerned.
The second purpose of this Bill is to rationalise the procedure for entering into options to purchase residential property. The aim is to abolish requirements for both parties to sign each copy of a relevant option. The proposed amendments will replace this mode of execution with a new requirement for such option contracts to be made by way of exchange, in the same manner as the exchange of contracts for the sale of land is traditionally accomplished.
Section 66ZG(1)(a) of the Conveyancing Act 1919 states that an option for the purchase of residential property is void if it is not signed in duplicate by both parties. Amending legislation introduced this requirement in 1990 to overcome the problem of purchasers becoming bound by options without being required to sign anything or, if they did sign a document, without understanding what they were signing. Previously, an option could become binding on both a vendor and purchaser once the vendor signed the document granting the option. This system often disadvantaged purchasers who could not understand how they could become bound, and lose the option fee if they did not proceed, when they had not signed anything.
The procedure for entering into options as set out in section 66ZG(1)(a) is not operating satisfactorily because it causes unnecessary inconvenience to the parties and uncertainty in determining when a contract comes into existence. A requirement for exchange of counterparts will eliminate the need for both parties to sign both duplicates of the option contract and will allow the parties to be certain of the time of
contracting, which will be the moment of exchange. The exchange of option contracts will also ensure that purchasers cannot become bound without signing a copy of the relevant option contract and having the opportunity to read its terms.
The exchange of contracts, as recognised by the common law and conveyancing practice, is a flexible method of contract creation which may be carried out either in person, through the post, through the facilities of the document exchange or by telephone.
The third purpose of this Bill is to allow a prescribed corporation to accept an easement for the provision of certain services to the public in the absence of what is known as a dominant tenement.
In order to understand this proposal Honourable Members should be acquainted with the legal definition of an easement. An easement at common law is a right, annexed to land, to utilise other land of different ownership in a particular manner. One essential characteristic of an easement is that for the easement to be binding on subsequent owners of the relevant burdened land there must be a dominant and servient tenement. The dominant tenement is the land accommodated and benefited by the easement (usually neighbouring land) and the servient tenement is the land burdened by the easement.
This measure represents an extension of the present statutory exception to this common law rule that an easement must have a dominant tenement.
The statutory exception to the common law rule against an easement without a dominant tenement is found in section 88A(1)(a) of the Conveyancing Act 1919. It allows an easement without a dominant tenement to be created in favour of "the Crown or any public or local authority constituted by Act of Parliament". This exception enables service providers to accept an easement which allows public access to the service (for example, an easement for a water main) where the service provider owns no neighbouring land benefited by the easement (i.e. there is no dominant tenement).
The class of authorities which may take advantage of section 88A has been extended by various legislative amendments to include the Hunter Water Corporation Limited, irrigation corporations, the Sydney Water Corporation Limited, energy services corporations and the Rail Access Corporation, which are all State Owned Corporations under the State Owned Corporations Act 1989.
The proposal to allow a corporation which is prescribed by Regulation for the purposes of section 88A to accept an easement without a dominant tenement will allow the class of authorities which may take advantage of the section to be more easily adjusted so that at any given time it may encompass all appropriate authorities.
The Land Titles Office is in the process of consulting with the Department of Energy and the Department of Local Government in order to develop administrative guidelines for determining which authorities or corporations are to be prescribed under section 88A. These guidelines will ensure that the right to accept an easement without a dominant tenement will only be granted to corporations or authorities which have a genuine need for such easements to aid them in the delivery of a service to the public.
Following enactment of this measure it is proposed, for example, to prescribe AGL Gas Networks Limited as an authority with the power to accept an easement without a dominant tenement.
All measures in this Bill address either areas of inequity or matters in need of clarification and are examples of the Government's policy of simplifying the law and removing anomalies wherever possible.
I commend the Bill to the House.
The Hon. D. F. MOPPETT [5.19 p.m.]: I have the task of leading for the Opposition in the consideration of this bill. In general, the Opposition offers its support for the passage of the bill because a number of the measures are non-controversial and unexceptionable and will assist the conveyancing industry, that is practitioners and vendors and purchasers. I will address in greater detail later the anxiety of the Opposition on the matter of easements, which causes some concern in the community. The Opposition will look favourably at some amendments, with which I hope the Minister is familiar, to be moved by the Greens representative, the Hon. I. Cohen. Firstly, the bill addresses the Bain v Fothergill rule, which limits the amount of damages that might be awarded to a purchaser of land for breach of contract resulting from a defect in the title of the vendor.
This matter has long historical antecedents that have been largely, if not completely, overtaken. It will bring purchasers into line with others who suffer from breach of contract. It may be of interest to honourable members to reflect on the recently resolved situation in the Crescent Head area, wherein land granted to the Dunghutti people by way of an Aboriginal native title grant was immediately handed back to the Crown on payment of compensation. This was an example of compensation being unavailable to purchasers who had bought land that, in effect, did not fulfil the terms of the contract. The purchasers had no access to compensation because the fault in the contract was not known at the time to the vendor. It is an interesting example to consider as honourable members debate the passage of the bill this evening.
I do not want to extend debate because consultation with the Law Reform Commission and others interested in this area of legal practice have assured the Opposition that the abolition of the Bain v Fothergill rule is welcomed by all sections of the community. Therefore, the Opposition wholeheartedly supports it. Another provision of the bill will abolish the requirement of both parties to sign each copy of an option for the purchase of a residential property. This will bring options to the same level as contracts entered into by vendors and purchasers when generally the two parties do not meet and complete the purchase by signing separate copies of the contract. I am puzzled as to the historical reason that options have been dealt with differently. I salute the recognition that it is an anomaly in the business world today that options do not have the same standing as contracts. This provision, which will facilitate the execution of options by parties at a distance, is to be welcomed
The provision of some anxiety to the Opposition is that which allows for easements in gross to be created in favour of certain prescribed corporations. I understand that it is intended to apply only to those corporations that carry on the business of supplying public utilities. In forming my opinion as to how the Opposition should address this issue, I recalled my experience in local government as a councillor on the Coonamble Shire Council. The rural electricity network throughout country New South Wales was still in the developmental phase. A great deal of work was proceeding with the erection of poles, stringing of lines, installations in homes and all the other infrastructure that is required for electrification and connection to the New South Wales grid. It became obvious that local government authorities did not want to resume all the land over which their lines travelled. They relied on easements to allow them to perform the vital work of maintaining the lines on a routine basis and in those situations that occur all too frequently in the country when lightning interrupts power and they need to gain access to the lines by the most direct route.
I recall a fiery debate when one of the councillors who had exercised his right to grow a wheat crop around the poles and under the powerlines was greatly perturbed by the access assumed and used by the county council to maintain its lines just before the harvest. All the councillors had sympathy for him because, as he described it, it was a routine matter and the county council employees had driven trucks straight across, backwards and forwards, up and down the line, and virtually flattened a small but nevertheless valuable part of a very good crop. He thought that the authority could have at least consulted him and arranged its work so that it did not interfere with his crop.
The council did not pursue the matter because it was realised that if he was to be spared the inconvenience and financial loss someone else might have been affected and all the work on the powerlines could not be held up just because it was harvest time. The work had to be programmed throughout the year and emergency services had to be supplied. So it was quite proper for these easements to allow untrammelled access to organisations such as electricity authorities. I am sure this situation applies throughout New South Wales for work on water and gas pipelines and so on. Since then, many public utilities are no longer a government or semi-government body covered by an Act of Parliament. Many have gone through the process of corporatisation and privatisation.
The Hon. Franca Arena: It is a pity, though, isn't it?
The Hon. D. F. MOPPETT: There are some regrets. I spoke a moment ago about the electricity distribution industry. Rationalisation in that industry has brought about great suffering in many communities where employment has been greatly reduced. The Opposition is very concerned about that, but it recognises that public authorities, even if privatised, still require the facility that is contained in the concept of an easement in gross. In other words, it is presumed to be there and it is not necessary to go through all the difficulties of notating it on title and so forth. The Opposition generally supports the bill, but there is widespread concern that it may be used in a covert way by authorities constructing the Eastern Distributor to gain access to Moore Park. The Opposition will seek an assurance from the Minister that the intention of the bill is as I have broadly described it, rather than the sinister motive that has been attributed to it.
Pursuant to resolution business interrupted.
QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
The Hon. R. D. DYER: For reasons that will be somewhat apparent, the Leader of the Government is not able to attend question time today. I am willing to take any questions that might otherwise have been directed to him.
OUTSTANDING FINE COLLECTION
The Hon. R. T. M. BULL: According to a recent article in the Daily Telegraph of 2 April the New South Wales Government is owed about $2 billion in fines, levies and assessments imposed on citizens and companies. What action has the Attorney General taken to rectify this situation? Does he agree with comments made by the director-general of his department that private agencies should be hired and paid a 10 per cent commission to collect the money? Does the Minister have confidence in the ability of the Sheriff's Office to discharge this duty?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: Legislation passed by this House established a government debt collection agency. The Government has sought to change the emphasis from the traditional method of people going to prison for non-payment of fines to the efficient collection of debts or fines. On 14 November 1996 Parliament introduced the Fines Bill. It was assented to on 26 November 1996. In September of that year an implementation manager was appointed to chair the interagency employment working party that was charged with oversighting the implementation of the new system. The Government sought, and achieved, a much better method of enforcement of fines than historically has been the case in New South Wales. Once a final
draft of the legislation was available the implementation working party first needed to determine the business process to enable involved agencies to identify technology and human resource requirements for the new system and to decide upon a viable commencement date.
A draft business process was produced in late December 1996, and the implementation working party determined a commencement date of 1 January 1998, preceded by the three-month amnesty from 1 October 1997. In determining the commencement date, the implementation working party had to take into account the most significant task in preparing for the new system: the development of a computer system for the State Debt Recovery Office to manage the new system and interact with various agencies concerned. An implementation planning study for the new computer system is about to commence, and will scope the development stages of the computer system. It should be developed in time to enable interagency testing during the three-month amnesty period. After producing the draft business process in December 1996 the implementation working party was able to commence formulating a funding submission for the Cabinet standing committee on the budget, which should be presented shortly.
Ongoing interagency discussions are being held to develop various protocols required by the new system, and investigations are being made into a variety of payment options to facilitate payment of fines by defaulters. It is estimated that a revenue lift of $20.9 million - $11.8 million in additional fines recovered plus $9.1 million in recovery fees - can be achieved during the first six months following the commencement of the new system, a period from 1 January to 30 June 1998, with an estimated annual increase of $41.8 million for the next and following four financial years. It should be stressed, however, that these estimates are based on available information about the existing system of fine enforcement and assumptions about increasing levels of compliance with the provisions of the new legislation. In short, after many years of fines not being effectively enforced in New South Wales and fine defaulters going to gaol the Government - supported by the Parliament and legislation - believes it has redressed these problems and that the processes I have described should lead to a much more effective, and indeed equitable, system of enforcing fines in this State.
ROYAL COMMISSION INTO THE NEW SOUTH WALES POLICE SERVICE SEARCH WARRANTS
The Hon. FRANCA ARENA: Is the Attorney General aware whether the royal commission lodged an appeal against the decision of Acting Justice Temby regarding the illegality of search warrants issued by the royal commission? When will the appeal be heard? If the appeal fails, has the Government prepared appropriate legislation, and when will it be introduced?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: Obviously some community concern arose from the judgment of Acting Justice Temby in the Supreme Court about some of the search warrants issued by the police royal commission and the fact that his honour declared the warrants before him to be invalid. Public discussion included an alarmist element and some of the discussion was misconceived. When one looks at the facts the difficulties created are not nearly as widespread or profound as some commentators apprehended. My understanding is that officers of the royal commission have not yet lodged an appeal to the Court of Appeal, but they intend to do so. I am informed that a draft notice of appeal has been prepared and will be lodged this week. I am also informed that an application to the Court of Appeal for expedition of the appeal will be lodged. The complicated judgment has inherent legal and practical implications.
First, in any criminal trial in which the prosecution seeks to tender evidence that has been illegally or improperly obtained, the trial judge may exercise discretion to include the evidence, as stated in the High Court decision in Bunning v Cross. New South Wales has no automatic rule of exclusion about evidence illegally obtained by search warrant. Therefore, even if the evidence obtained were crucial to a prosecution, a ruling that it had been illegally obtained is certainly not fatal to the prosecution. Second, I am informed by Crown law officers that the problem identified by Acting Justice Temby is, in reality, limited as a practical matter. I am informed that the problem may directly affect only two prosecutions, and one of them only marginally. Neither of the two prosecutions relate to sexual offences committed against children. I hope that the information I have provided to the honourable member will give her some comfort. As I have said, my information is that the police royal commission has indicated its intention to appeal, and that the appeal will be lodged shortly.
No doubt the appeal will take its proper place in the list of matters to be heard by the Court of Appeal, but I have been informed by Crown law officers that the police royal commission will seek expedition of the matter. I am sure that all members will appreciate that the Government is closely monitoring the matter, both in relation to the appeal and other appropriate remedial steps that may be taken. A knee-jerk reaction is not called for. I have had a conference with senior counsel assisting the police royal commission, the Acting Solicitor General and other law officers. The matter is being closely monitored. None of what I have said should indicate complacency: I am not complacent, I am
concerned about the matter, but it needs to be put in perspective. A competent and appropriate legal solution needs to be worked out, rather than some Pavlovian response that might be inadequate to deal with the problem. I undertake to keep both the House and the honourable member informed of progress in this matter.
PRISONER KEVIN GARRY CRUMP SENTENCE DETERMINATION
The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD: My question without notice is directed to the Attorney General. Under the Criminal Appeal Act the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Attorney General are given express authority to appeal against any sentence. In light of the Attorney's explicit powers, why will he not appeal the sentence determination of Kevin Garry Crump?
The Hon. D. J. Gay: That is a good question.
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: Supporters on the Opposition benches mutter that this is a good question. I will undertake to extract various statements made by the Leader of the Opposition when he was Attorney General indicating that he would not appeal in defiance of the view of the Director of Public Prosecutions and that he would not intervene politically in the criminal justice system. We have to bear in mind the stance the Leader of the Opposition quite properly took as Attorney General. Honourable members opposite should not fall into the trap of opportunism and hypocrisy when they are in opposition. Putting aside those sorts of considerations, obviously the tragic and serious case involving Mr Crump and his victims is a matter of concern to the Government. Today I spoke with the Director of Public Prosecutions about it. I have spent considerable time and effort looking at Justice McInerney’s judgment on his redetermination of Mr Crump’s sentence. Obviously, that is a matter of ongoing consideration.
The Government does not have the power to direct the Director of Public Prosecutions in relation to appeal, and obviously the Government defers to his view on an appeal. He has expressed one view, but I discussed the matter again with him today. A final point that should be made is that when we refer to the redetermination process under section 13A of the Sentencing Act, we are talking about legislation enacted by the former Liberal Government as part and parcel of its truth in sentencing legislation, which members would recall Mr Yabsley pursued. An obvious concomitant of that principle is that those who have been sentenced to a life sentence ought not to be retrospectively punished or retrospectively sentenced under that legislation. In 1989 - and again revisited in 1993 - the coalition Government forged section 13A of the Sentencing Act; so it is the former Government's legislative provision that the Supreme Court is applying to the Crump case and other cases. It is the height of opportunism for Opposition members to make some sort of sensationalist or populist point about this. The matter is being carefully and properly considered by the Government, and that will be an ongoing process.
PRISONER KEVIN GARRY CRUMP SENTENCE DETERMINATION
The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD: I ask a supplementary question. Is the Attorney General aware that Justice McInerney expressly adverted in his judgment to the possibility that his interpretation of the law may be wrong? Is the Attorney General aware that the judge said, "If I am wrong about this" - which is the key issue - "I can be corrected."? In view of Justice McInerney's concern about his decision, will the Attorney General advise the House as soon as possible about a review of the Attorney’s decision and of the decision of the Director of Public Prosecutions not to appeal?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: In a human system of law any judge can be wrong. So for a judge to state that he or she might be wrong is merely a statement of the obvious; it is an axiom. In relation to the latter part of the question, I will keep the House informed of any developments or any changed circumstances in this case.
ABORIGINAL WOMEN'S LEGAL RESOURCE CENTRE
The Hon. ANN SYMONDS: My question without notice is directed to the Attorney General. What is the Government doing specifically to provide Aboriginal women in this State with appropriate legal advice and assistance?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: The honourable member's question highlights what I think has been a gap in the legal system and a gap in the appropriate representation of a section of the community. Yesterday I was pleased to officially open the New South Wales Aboriginal Women's Legal Resource Centre - Australia's first legal centre aimed specifically at addressing the legal needs of Aboriginal women. Honourable members may be aware that the Government has set aside $200,000 for both 1996-97 and 1997-98 for the operation of the Aboriginal Women's Legal Resource Centre. In February 1997 premises for the centre were leased at 2 Holt Street, Stanmore, which has become the centre's inner-city base. The new centre is funded by the New South Wales Attorney General's Department, with the funding being managed by the New South Wales Legal Aid Commission.
The centre has been established to fill an ongoing and serious gap in the provision of legal
services to Aboriginal women. It is clear that Aboriginal women have traditionally experienced discrimination and difficulties in accessing legal assistance that is culturally sensitive and gender specific. In making the decision to fund the centre, the Government was motivated by two major considerations: the high and unacceptable level of violence experienced by Aboriginal women and children, and the need to improve the protection that indigenous women and children receive from the criminal justice system. The Government is of the view that leadership for the solution to these problems is to be found with indigenous women themselves and that such solutions, in order to be effective and culturally appropriate, should be devised, managed and implemented by them.
The New South Wales Aboriginal Women’s Legal Resource Centre has been established by Aboriginal women for Aboriginal women to play a pivotal role in changing the existing situation to ensure that Aboriginal and Islander women have access to justice. The centre will provide legal advice, information and representation. A free-call number has been established in order to ensure that Aboriginal women throughout the State have access to the centre. The centre has one solicitor on its staff, and administrative and other staff will provide community education, training and resources and conduct policy and research work. The centre's primary focus is to assist women and children who are, or have been, victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Services will primarily be provided through telephone advice and referral and will include free legal advice on Wednesdays, general information on Mondays to Fridays, community legal education activities, access to culturally appropriate resources and information and referral to appropriate legal representation.
The centre intends to expand its services to include professional training to people in contact with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, workshops and personal sessions in rural and remote areas of New South Wales, and media contact to facilitate accurate reporting of Aboriginal women's legal issues. The centre is a crucial step towards recognising that indigenous women and children have particular needs and concerns which have not been addressed by existing legal policies and services. It is also an important step in recognising that women and children in rural areas need specific assistance. It was gratifying to see so many people at Stanmore yesterday - Aboriginal women and other supporters, some long-term legal practitioners who for many years have been supportive of Aboriginal legal services, Mr Eddie Neumann, who is a solicitor in a prominent Sydney firm, and Mr Lloyd McDermott from the New South Wales bar, who has a real interest in this area.
I hope that this centre will be able to access some of the major Sydney law firms, which I anticipate will offer pro bono services to this important cause. I am sure there will be goodwill in the legal profession and that the centre will be able to find solicitors and barristers who will give of their services freely to Aboriginal women who desperately need this sort of representation in the courts. I say candidly that for all the good work various Aboriginal legal services have done over the years, they have not provided sufficient services to Aboriginal women. It must be said in all fairness to them that sometimes that is because they have a conflict of interest. If they are acting for a husband or a male partner, understandably they cannot act for the woman. So there is this gap that the Government is endeavouring to fill in a preliminary way. I hope that this House will monitor the development of this centre. I hope we have general and bipartisan support for further resources in future years to assist Aboriginal women in the legal system.
BEGA CHEESE PLANT
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Community Services, representing the Treasurer. Has the Australian Capital Territory Government made moves to entice a valuable cheese-cutting and packaging plant out of New South Wales, from Bega to the Australian Capital Territory? Does the Australian Capital Territory Government's offer, which is valued at between $5 million and $6 million, include a land grant and a cash component of $2 million? Will the Government take urgent action to ensure that the Bega Co-operative Society's cheese-cutting and packaging plant stays in Bega, New South Wales, thus greatly assisting the local economy by maintaining up to 150 jobs? Will the Government provide similar generous financial and practical assistance to the Bega Co-operative Society for the benefit of New South Wales?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: I am not personally familiar with the circumstances of the case to which Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile refers. However, I am sure that my colleague the Treasurer wants to retain every facility, business, manufacturing industry and so on, in New South Wales, rather than see any go interstate, or in this case to the Australian Capital Territory. I shall be pleased to refer the question to my colleague the Treasurer for a suitable and prompt response.
FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE GRANTS
The Hon. D. J. GAY: My question without notice is addressed to the Attorney General, representing the Minister for Local Government. If the Federal Government transfers the administration of financial assistance grants - FAGs - to the States, will the Attorney guarantee that all funds allocated for FAGs will go untouched to local government and not into consolidated revenue? Has the Minister for Local Government written to members of the Legislative Assembly about this matter because he does not trust his own Treasurer, Michael Egan, to keep his grubby hands off these grants? Will the Minister guarantee that every dollar that goes into Treasury will go out to local government? Will the Attorney get me an answer on this important matter as quickly as the answer that was supplied in defence of Barry Cotter?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: I am sure that the Hon. Ernie Page has profound and unequivocal trust in the Treasurer. In all good conscience I cannot always guarantee a 24-hour turnaround in response to answers, but I will refer the question to the Minister for Local Government and obtain a reply as soon as is practicable.
MEALS ON WHEELS FORTIETH ANNIVERSARY
The Hon P. T. PRIMROSE: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Community Services, Minister for Aged Services, and Minister for Disability Services. Can the Minister inform the House about the recent important anniversary celebrated by Meals on Wheels?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: I regret that due to other pressing concerns I have been unable to inform the House that Meals on Wheels celebrated its fortieth anniversary in March of this year. Meals on Wheels is one of the most important, dynamic and responsive services dealing with older people and people with disabilities in the community. Meals on Wheels substantially improves the quality of life for many thousands of people across the State. Not to be underestimated is the value of the service provided by volunteers who participate in this much-needed community service and are the backbone of the service. This is one of the great cooperative community ventures.
More than 27,000 consumers receive meals services of some kind. The service receives approximately $10 million per annum in government funding, and it has in excess of 37,000 paid staff and volunteers. The New South Wales Meals on Wheels Association has led the country in the provision of culturally appropriate meals and the provision of alternative meal services, such as shopping services, frozen meals, nutrition advice and cooking education. On the occasion of its anniversary, the Meals on Wheels Association launched the Volunteer Generation Kit, which was funded by the State Government to assist services with the major task of keeping and maintaining volunteers.
TAXI INDUSTRY CONTRACT
The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH: I ask the Attorney General, and Minister for Industrial Relations a question without notice. Did the Attorney agree to meet with members of the Taxi Industry Services Association on 20 January last? Did his staff wait until 1½ working days before the proposed meeting to inform the association that only one director was permitted to attend, and that it would have to share the half-hour meeting with people who were not from the association, so that the association saw no option but to decline what it saw as only an exercise in futile tokenism? Is the Attorney further aware that the reason the 25,000 non-owner taxidrivers of New South Wales are concerned is that the Industrial Commission excluded 24,987 of them from being a party to their award? What justice is there for workers in this State when they are disenfranchised from such important proceedings?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: I would not characterise any conferences that my staff conduct with interest groups as futile tokenism. I am sure the honourable member would appreciate that Ministers cannot meet every interest group that seeks a meeting, but my staff have productive and positive meetings with a very wide variety of interest groups indeed. Obviously there is a selection process to decide which groups can be seen, for how long, and the like. Currently an application by the taxi industry is before the Industrial Relations Commission. I am aware that a few days ago Mr Commissioner Connor made a detailed statement proposing a settlement between the various industry groups as to the form that that contract determination ought to take. Mr Commissioner Connor is very experienced in industrial relations and I am confident that the suggestions he made are both practical and positive.
I hope they will lead to some resolution of the position in the taxi industry.
I think the honourable member might appreciate as well that whilst the matter is pending before the Industrial Relations Commission and is subject to the processes of conciliation and/or arbitration, there is only a very limited role that I as Minister or my staff can play. Nevertheless, we are happy to hear from interest groups from time to time, and to the extent that we can assist them to resolve their problems we will. I have confidence in the processes provided by the Industrial Relations Act 1996, and I sincerely hope that those matters can be resolved by consent or at least reduced in number so that an efficient and appropriate arbitration process can occur.
FOSTER CARE ASSOCIATION STATE CONFERENCE
The Hon. ANN SYMONDS: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Community Services, Minister for Aged Services, and Minister for Disability Services. Can the Minister inform the House how this Government supported the inaugural State conference of the Foster Care Association of New South Wales?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: I thank the Hon. Ann Symonds for her continuing interest in issues relating to the foster care of children and to children generally. Recently I had the pleasure of officially opening the first State conference of the Foster Care Association of New South Wales. This is a true grassroots organisation, founded on the time and efforts of people committed to caring for vulnerable children and supporting each other to do the job well. This Government has been a strong supporter of the association. Foster care associations have operated in the Illawarra and the Hunter regions for a number of years, but the Foster Care Association of New South Wales, as a statewide body, was formed only five years ago by a few determined carers who saw the need for a broader representative body in this State. Since then the association has achieved some notable milestones. It now has in excess of 250 carers, and its network of area representatives continues to ensure that services are provided at the local level - thus retaining grassroots contact.
Foster care is an essential service. The provision of foster care can make a significant difference in the life chances and personal relationships of children well into their adulthood. The funding of peer support and information services for foster carers is an important part of building a high-quality substitute care system. To assist the Foster Care Association to meet the challenges of caring for children, the Government provides $300,000 in annual funding for foster carer information services and peer support. I am committed to working in partnership with the Foster Care Association to ensure that carers have a voice in the structure of the service that they provide. The Government is establishing a reference group comprising representatives of the Foster Care Association, Aboriginal carers and the Department of Community Services to plan the management structures necessary for an industry organisation. The establishment of the reference group is a good example of the type of working partnership that I consider to be essential for the development of services based on the principles of access, relevance and participation.
I am pleased to say that the approach of the New South Wales Government has been applauded by the South Australian foster care group known as SAFCARE. Recently SAFCARE wrote to the South Australian Department of Community Services stating that "New South Wales is always mindful of partnership and participation" when looking at setting standards for substitute care. SAFCARE laments that the South Australian Government did not collaborate with the sector in developing its care and practice standards, as was the case in New South Wales. I would be pleased to offer advice to the South Australian Government on how to develop an effective partnership with its foster carers. It is a relationship that gives New South Wales a basis for an even more effective substitute care system.
DEPARTMENT OF COMMUNITY SERVICES DIRECTOR-GENERAL BROKEN HILL VISIT
The Hon. M. R. KERSTEN: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Community Services, Minister for Aged Services, and Minister for Disability Services. Is the Minister aware of the profound disappointment that the Mayor of Broken Hill, Peter Black, expressed following Helen Bauer's recent visit to Broken Hill, during which she failed to meet with members of the city council? Does the Minister regard this as satisfactory community consultation? Will he direct Ms Bauer to make another visit to Broken Hill? If not, why not?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: Correspondence has been issued to the Mayor of Broken Hill, Councillor Black, explaining the circumstances of the visit to Broken Hill, and to other parts of the State, by the newly appointed Director-General of the Department of Community Services, Ms Helen Bauer. The honourable member believes that Ms Bauer's visits to various parts of the State, including Broken Hill, were a community consultation. The honourable member's view as to the purpose of the visits made by Ms Bauer is misconceived. Ms Bauer visited Broken Hill and many other parts of the State - in
fact, she may still have to visit some areas - for the primary purpose of speaking to the staff in her department. No discourtesy was intended to local government or to any other group. For example, Ms Bauer was not making the visits for the purpose of consulting interest groups that have daily or regular contact with her department; the purpose of her visits is almost exclusively to show the flag to the staff in her department in far-flung areas of the State. If Councillor Black is disappointed, I regret that. However, I have endeavoured to explain to him that the purpose of the visit was other than what he supposed it to have been.
LOWER NORTH COAST HEALTH SERVICE
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Community Services, representing the Minister for Health. Does the Lower North Coast Health Service employ an infectious disease coordinator? If not, why not? If not, for how long has this position been vacant? Are separate funds allocated for such a role? If the position has remained vacant, to what source have the funds gone?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: The Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby has asked a detailed question, which I will refer to my colleague the Minister for Health for a suitable response.
MID COAST MEAT COMPANY ENTERPRISE AGREEMENT
The Hon. B. H. VAUGHAN: Is the Attorney General, and Minister for Industrial Relations aware of an enterprise award covering the Mid Coast Meat Company that was ratified recently in the New South Wales Industrial Relations Commission? What does the agreement indicate about the effectiveness of the New South Wales industrial relations system?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: I am aware that an award covering the Mid Coast Meat Company was ratified on 23 April by Vice President Cahill of the New South Wales Industrial Relations Commission. The award is significant both for the company involved and for the New South Wales model of industrial relations. It is a fine example of how collective bargaining and the award system, in particular, can deliver the type of workplace flexibility that the Commonwealth Government can only contemplate. The award was negotiated by the employer and the Australian Meat Industry Employees Union against a backdrop of significant financial pressure on the business. Over a two-year period, the employer, the trade union and the employees showed considerable imagination and trust to come up with a new set of work practices that has secured the future of the company and the jobs of the workers.
The state-of-the-art agreement has several ground-breaking elements for the meat industry, including the removal of the tally system to calculate bonus payments to teams of slaughtermen. The other significant initiative is the establishment of a new skills-based structure which will lead to better-defined career paths for employees. This should lead to greater job satisfaction for employees and lower levels of staff turnover. The award also represents a significant cultural shift in the organisation, embodied in improved consultation mechanisms.
During the course of the award negotiations, all of the company's 300 employees were given training in enterprise-based bargaining and were walked through the award clause by clause, and the union conducted regular meetings. Now that the award is in place, there is a continued commitment to consultation, particularly where a matter relating to processing is raised. This is a quality agreement judged by any test. I note the remarks of Vice President Cahill, who described the submissions of the parties supporting the ratification of the agreement as enthralling. He described the award as "a watershed in industrial relations between employers and employees in the meat industry in New South Wales." Vice President Cahill also praised the parties for their vision, talent and hard work over the past two years in negotiating the agreement. No industrial judge is more experienced in the meat processing industry than Vice President Cahill, who has dealt with the intricacies of industrial relations in the industry for many decades. I endorse Vice President Cahill's remarks in relation to that award.
The Mid Coast Meat Company enterprise award shows that the New South Wales industrial relations system can deliver innovative workplace arrangements through collective bargaining. It exposes claims by opponents of the arbitration system that deregulation is the only way as the ideological claptrap that it is. I am confident that over the coming months we will witness many other high-quality awards and agreements in the New South Wales jurisdiction. It is these agreements that will prove the success of the Labor model of modern industrial relations. The Government has radically slashed the time for the processing of enterprise agreements. For example, it took an average of 81 days under the 1991 legislation and it now takes an average of 27 days. I expect that time to be reduced even further as parties become more accustomed to the new system and to the principles governing enterprise agreements, which we achieved by agreement between the major employer bodies and the trade union movement.
It is that kind of consensus that is unknown in every other jurisdiction in this country and was
certainly unprecedented and unknown under the former coalition Government's Industrial Relations Act 1991. The Government has drastically cut the processing time; it has streamlined the process and made it more efficient and effective for parties to establish enterprise agreements. The Government has improved qualitatively the content of those agreements. It is not only the number of enterprise agreements or enterprise awards that is important; it is the content. Do the awards or agreements actually address efficiency and productivity considerations at the workplace, do they replicate the old award provisions or are they just standard form agreements? I have given the House an example of an innovative agreement reached with cooperation between an employer and the relevant union, and referred to the praise of the judge dealing with the matter. That is evidence of the Government's industrial relations system working in a consensual way.
BOURKE LAW AND ORDER
The Hon. M. R. KERSTEN: I ask the Minister for Community Services a question without notice. Recent crime statistics have identified that Bourke tops the crime rate in relation to such offences as assault, sexual assault and breaking and entering. On 18 September 1996 the Minister told this House "that the juvenile justice statistics for Bourke were remarkably stable and, in fact, had declined since 1993." Was the Minister given incorrect information on that occasion or did he mislead this House?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: I well recall giving the answer to which the Hon. M. R. Kersten refers and I also well recall that on that occasion I had access to the actual official statistics relating to juvenile crime in Bourke as distinct from crime generally. I would be the last person to suggest that there is not a law and order problem in Bourke and, for that matter, in certain other parts of the State. However, the juvenile crime statistics given to the House by me were based on official information to which I had access. It is very wide of the mark for the honourable member to suggest that I in some way misled the House.
The Hon. M. R. Kersten: I did not suggest that. I asked did you mislead the House?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: The honourable member suggested that either I misled the House or I was wrong.
The Hon. M. R. Kersten: I asked were you given incorrect information.
The Hon. R. D. DYER: No, I was not given incorrect information. I gave the information that was available to the Government derived from official statistics.
The Hon. M. R. Kersten: Was it correct or incorrect?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: The position still is that there is little evidence of any substantial increase in juvenile crime in New South Wales. The year from July 1995 to June 1996 saw only a 3 per cent increase in the number of Children's Court appearances in New South Wales. The level of juvenile crime recorded over the last three years is still far less than the number of juvenile crime appearances noted in the early 1990s. I wonder what party was in government then. Significantly, in recent years there has been no increase in the number of homicides or sexual offences committed by juveniles. However, there has been an increase in the number of assaults committed by juveniles. It is never safe to talk about crime statistics without identifying the categories.
Despite an increase in the number of assaults committed by juveniles, I indicate that the number of homicides or sexual offences committed by juveniles in recent years has been quite stable. A recent report from the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research covering the period from April 1994 to December 1995 indicates an increase in the number of offences recorded by police; however, it is unclear from the bureau's report the extent to which juveniles have been responsible for that increase.
I shall continue to closely examine all available statistics to determine whether the strategies that the Government has in place to prevent and reduce juvenile crime can be improved. This is a difficult problem. There can be social causes for crime - not that that is pleaded by me by way of excuse. The department in Bourke is taking various initiatives, such as the street worker project funded jointly with the respected community organisation, Burnside, with a view to helping return kids who are on the street to places of safety. Recently during a Cabinet visit to Tamworth the Government made an announcement regarding parental responsibility legislation, which is of particular relevance to country and regional areas of the State.
When I have visited far-flung areas of the State such as Bourke and Moree, to take two examples only, I have always been lobbied by local government representatives to continue the parental responsibility legislation in country New South Wales. The Government has decided to do that, and a distinction must be drawn between the relevance and applicability of parental responsibility legislation in metropolitan and urban areas of the State as opposed to rural and provincial areas. For example,
one of the main attributes of the legislation is that if a young person is found late at night in a position that would suggest he or she might get into some trouble, that young person can be escorted home by a police officer. That is more easily done in a country town than in metropolitan Sydney.
To give an example, if a young person is found on the streets late at night at Kings Cross, it is more difficult for police to transport that young person home to Penrith, Cabramatta, Liverpool, Hornsby or some other remote part of metropolitan Sydney than it is to take a young person home or to a place of safety in a country town such as Orange. One of the difficulties the department had with this legislation was its responsibility to fund the prescribed place. In regard to Orange and Gosford, where trials were conducted, very few young people over the period of the trial were placed in safety or in a prescribed place. The Government intends to work out schemes with local government that will be appropriate to, and work for people in, those local communities.
The Hon. M. R. Kersten: You ought to spend a few nights out there and see how the victims get on.
The Hon. R. D. DYER: I am giving a totally responsible and sympathetic response to the question asked by the Hon. M. R. Kersten.
The Hon. M. R. Kersten: Why isn't it working?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: The Hon. M. R. Kersten should know from what I have just said, even if he did not know before - though he should have - that the parental responsibility legislation was trialed in the two locations to which I referred earlier, namely, Gosford and Orange. They were pilot schemes, and the Government, as I have said, has made a recent announcement of intent to spread the scheme more widely throughout rural and provincial New South Wales. The Government has announced it and it will happen. The legislation is not within my administration; it is within the administration of my colleague the Attorney General, and I am totally secure in the belief that the Attorney General will discharge his duties as efficiently and properly as he always does.
The Hon. M. R. Kersten: He has been there.
The Hon. R. D. DYER: I have also been there. I have seen for myself the conditions in Bourke. No-one could accuse me of not being approachable. Nor could the Attorney General be accused of not being approachable. I listened to all points of view in Bourke, as I am sure the Attorney General did. Other Ministers have also listened. We are aware of local conditions in places such as Bourke. That is one reason we have decided to extend the parental responsibility legislation.
HUNTER VALLEY COAL DISPUTE
The Hon. J. H. JOBLING: Is the Attorney General, and Minister for Industrial Relations aware that RTZ-CRA subsidiary Coal and Allied Industries Ltd has been granted an interim ban by the Federal system, the Australian Industrial Relations Commission, on strikes at its Hunter Valley No. 1 mine? What permanent protection from wildcat stoppages at key export industry sites such as coalmines and ports is available under the State industrial relations system? Does the State industrial relations system offer employers the ability to be granted a moratorium on strike activity whilst parties are in formal bargaining mode? Does the Minister support the reported comments of the general manager of the mine, who said, "The commission has recognised that the union [the CFMEU] has got to play by the rules . . . maybe now we can get back and start mining a bit of coal," as a responsible employer approach?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: Coalmining and ports are within the Federal jurisdiction. If honourable members cast their minds back to the passage of the Industrial Relations Act 1996, they might recall that there are effective provisions for dispute orders and there are sanctions for the breach of those dispute orders available to the Industrial Relations Commission which can bind both employers and trade unions to particular courses of conduct. There are protections in relation to bargaining periods or there are restrictions for the making of those orders in relation to bargaining periods. In particular, parties seeking orders of that kind in a bargaining period have to show that a conciliation process has occurred and they have to get a certificate of attempted conciliation. There are broadly comparable provisions in the Federal legislation to that effect. There is no vast difference between the Federal and the State legislative schemes in the sense that both provide for orders to be made by the industrial tribunal requiring ordinary work to be performed, and both systems provide sanctions for breach of orders of that kind.
TWEED CATCHMENT TOXIC SPILL
The Hon. I. COHEN: I ask the Attorney General, representing the Minister for the Environment, what guidelines have or what technical assistance is being made available to Tweed Shire Council to help it impose accurate and far-reaching conditions on the clean-up order it will be serving on Shell Australia in the wake of the toxic spill in the Tweed catchment, to assess and evaluate the extent of the environmental damage which has occurred and to
evaluate the effectiveness of Shell's environmental plans formulated to rectify the problem?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: I shall be happy to refer the question to the Minister for the Environment to obtain a reply.
PUBLIC TRUSTEE CORPORATISATION
The Hon. J. F. RYAN: I direct my question to the Attorney General, and Minister for Industrial Relations. Is it a fact that in a letter to the General Secretary of the Public Service Association he advised that the Coopers and Lybrand report into the corporatisation of the Public Trustee would not be released until the proposals for the corporatisation have been settled by Cabinet? Is it a fact that the proposals have been settled by Cabinet? Therefore, why has the Minister not made available to the PSA the Coopers and Lybrand report on the corporatisation?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: I do not accept the premise of the question. When the final arrangements for corporatisation have been determined by the Government - I am not going to go into the Cabinet process - I will adhere to the terms of the letter that I wrote to the PSA.
MARDI GRASS FESTIVAL
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: Is the Attorney General aware that at the Nimbin Mardi Grass over the weekend there were some 9,000 people, including several thousand from Victoria and Queensland, and that the event is now becoming almost as big as the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras in its cultural and economic importance to the north coast? Is the Minister also aware that there were probably several thousand people who either ingested or smoked cannabis during the weekend without any police action being taken against them? The police were directing traffic but took no action against the marijuana users. When will the Minister look at revising our outdated marijuana laws, seeing that so many people now use marijuana regularly as their drug of choice?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: I greatly regret that I am unaware of the events at Nimbin over the weekend but I am interested in the honourable member's account of those events. Obviously the manner in which police officers enforce the law at such events is a matter for their discretion. There can be practical difficulties in the enforcement of the law. However, I have to tell the honourable member that the Government has no immediate plans to legalise or decriminalise the use of any prohibited drug.
DISTRICT COURT JURISDICTION
The Hon. JENNIFER GARDINER: Is the Attorney General aware that there is a problem in the District Court, particularly in the motor accidents lists of insurers? In particular there is one motor accident insurer who regularly does not consent to unlimited jurisdiction in the District Court. What steps is the Minister taking to ensure that insurers consent to unlimited jurisdiction in the District Court? Will he amend the District Court legislation to ensure that the court has the power to extend its own limits on its jurisdiction to avoid unnecessary legal costs?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: The honourable member has pinpointed a legitimate problem in the District Court, although as she identified only one insurer or perhaps a small number of insurers are involved. This problem has been brought to my attention. I am happy to give positive consideration to what ought to be done in relation to the problem. The broader position in the District Court is very positive. I am not critical of an honourable member raising a limited problem but, broadly speaking, the achievements of the District Court in its civil lists, including the motor accidents lists, have been spectacular in the last two years. The District Court has set time standards for the disposition of cases and it has speeded up the civil process generally in a way which has meant that litigants can get their actions on in the District Court quite expeditiously. Resources have also been freed up to do the criminal lists of the District Court. Having said that, I will take on board the particular point made by the Hon. Jennifer Gardiner and give it consideration.
LAKE COWAL TOURISM
The Hon. I. COHEN: I direct my question to the Treasurer, representing the Premier. In the Sydney Morning Herald of 15 April 1996 the Premier stated that the Government would encourage the establishment of a tourism industry based at West Wyalong to promote the beauty of Lake Cowal. The basis of this was that a tourism industry "means more secure jobs than you would get with a burst of mining activity that's going to wreck the environment". What steps has the Government taken to assist in establishing a tourism industry at West Wyalong to help promote the beauty of Lake Cowal? Does the Government agree that the long-term employment prospects of the town are better served by the tourism industry rather than the mining industry? Is the Government still opposed to a goldmine on the shores of Lake Cowal?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I thank the Hon. I.
Cohen for his question, which I shall refer to the Premier for a detailed reply.
If honourable members have further questions, I suggest they place them on notice.
Questions without notice concluded.
BUDGET ESTIMATES AND RELATED PAPERS
Financial Year 1997-98
Copies of the Budget Speech, Budget Information, Budget Estimates Volumes 1 and 2, State Capital Program, Government Finance Statistics and Loan Council Reporting, Budget Summary and Social Justice Budget Statement tabled.
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) [6.30 p.m.]: I move:
That the House take note of the Budget Estimates and related papers for the financial year 1997-98.
I seek leave to incorporate my speech in Hansard.
New South Wales has set itself a great goal and a formidable task - to host, in September 2000, the best Olympics the world has ever seen.
But there is a much more important goal that we should, as a State and as a community, set for ourselves.
And that is to offer to all our citizens a safe, fair, prosperous, and civilised community. And that means a secure community.
We really do live in the best State in the best country in the world.
Just consider for a moment our extraordinary environment: our remarkable coastline from Eden to Tweed Heads, the sheer variety of our agriculture, our mineral wealth, the sophistication of Sydney, and the beauty of its harbour.
In New South Wales we also have an exceptional environment for business. That’s why almost 200 international companies have recently based their Asia Pacific regional headquarters here.
It’s also why New South Wales has so many companies which specialise in the rapidly growing information technology, telecommunications and financial services sectors - businesses poised to deliver more and more well paid jobs.
But we must acknowledge that for many people life is tough and uncertain - for some, even desperate. We’re facing savage Federal Government cuts like we have never seen before, and this causes anxiety about the future.
It’s time to secure what we’ve got.
And that is the goal of this budget.
With this budget we will guarantee that the people of New South Wales continue to have:
•good hospitals, so no one needs to be afraid of getting sick;
•good schools, so parents know their children are getting the best education;
•more police on the streets, so our homes and suburbs are safe;
•good public transport and roads, and good parks and open space, to maintain the quality of our lifestyle.
In New South Wales, we have a robust, competitive economy. Our businesses are encouraged to compete, and are demonstrating they can do so successfully in an open, increasingly competitive global economy.
This Budget will ensure we have a sound and strengthening financial position.
Our aim is to be free of unnecessary public debt and massive accumulated unfunded financial liabilities. This will secure our children’s future.
This is the base that will enable us to continue to provide first-class public facilities and services that people need and have come to expect.
But this year the people of New South Wales face the loss of $450 million of Federal funding for essential services: money for hospitals, for old people, for the disabled, for families, for roads and public transport, and services for people living in our regions.
However, this Government will not shirk its responsibility.
This Budget is squarely aimed at guaranteeing what New South Wales people consider their right: a secure community in which we share fairly both our burdens and our prosperity.
Like the first two budgets of the Carr Government, this is every inch a Labor Budget.
That’s why, despite the extra financial difficulties that confront this Budget, we will deliver major improvements in health and hospital services, family and community services and schools, create safer communities, provide better transport and roads, and further protect the environment in which we live.
The 1997 Budget anticipates 3.5 per cent real growth in the State’s output in 1997/98.
Over the last two years, New South Wales has led the nation’s job growth with an extra 103,000 jobs, an increase of 3.8 per cent.
As predicted this time last year, job growth in 1996/97, both nationally and in New South Wales, was considerably more subdued than in 1995/96.
However, our unemployment rate, at 7.9 per cent, is considerably lower than the national average and 1.3 per cent below Victoria’s.
During the coming year, we expect job growth to accelerate to two per cent. This will mean a net addition of 55,000 new jobs.
The latest building activity figures are also good news and indicate a strongly growing State economy in 1997/98 and beyond.
During the last quarter, 43 per cent of all building construction in Australia occurred in New South Wales - a huge $8.6 billion out of a national total of $19.7 billion.
This was more than double the value of construction in either Victoria or Queensland.
Our lead was strong in all sectors - almost half of all residential construction and 41 per cent of non-residential construction took place here.
We also accounted for 36 per cent of hotel construction, 38 per cent of shops, 40 per cent of factories, 36 per cent of offices, 33 per cent of educational buildings, 66 per cent of religious buildings, 38 per cent of health buildings, 52 per cent of entertainment and recreational buildings, and 52 per cent of other business premises.
New South Wales also fared well in the amount of engineering construction during the last twelve months, with work worth $5.2 billion undertaken, more than one third of the national total, and more than twice that of Victoria.
Other good news during the year included a 13.2 per cent increase in New South Wales merchandise exports - a considerably stronger performance than the national average.
The State’s strong export performance, together with better terms of trade, increased Gross State Income by five per cent in real terms, considerably higher than the growth in Gross State Product of three per cent.
New South Wales agriculture also recovered strongly in 1996. Farmers recorded record yields underpinning a 52 per cent increase in winter crop production in 1996/97 - the strongest growth of any State.
This followed more than a two-fold increase in New South Wales crop production in 1995/96.
In 1996, New South Wales returned firmly to the ranks of the low inflation States.
Growth in the State Consumer Price Index slowed from an average five per cent in 1995/96 to an expected 1.5 per cent in 1996/97, and was rising at only 0.2 per cent per quarter (equal to less than one per cent per annum) in the three months to December.
In 1997/98, inflation is expected to rise fractionally to two per cent, increasing slightly further to 2.5 per cent in 1998/99.
Wage growth in 1997/98 is expected to slow in nominal terms to 3.7 per cent, but will increase in real terms by almost two per cent.
A very welcome feature of the national economy over the last twelve months has been the significant decline in interest rates, creating a good base for rising consumer and business confidence.
While most of the interest rate relief has followed official rate cuts, another significant factor was the abolition in last year’s New South Wales Budget of the tax on refinancing of loans.
As predicted, and acknowledged by banks and by the Commonwealth Government at last year’s Premiers’ Conference, businesses and home buyers were the big winners as the banks and other lending institutions were forced to sharpen their pencils in a much more competitive finance sector.
I was delighted to see Victoria follow our lead when it abolished tax on home loan refinancing last week.
While the capacity of individual states to influence macro-economic outcomes should not be over-estimated, the combined impact of the fiscal and structural reforms undertaken by the States should be acknowledged.
Australia now enjoys low inflation, lower interest rates and prospects for sustainable GDP and job growth. That would simply not have been possible without the States forcing their own businesses to compete, reforming their economies, and responsibly managing their budgets.
This has meant States are contributing to national savings rather than adding to national debt.
ECONOMIC AND STRUCTURAL REFORM
The New South Wales Government will remain at the forefront of economic and structural reform.
As I said in my first two Budgets:
"These reforms are not driven by academic fascination with abstract theories. They are driven by a common-sense
determination to win the investment, the business and the jobs we need".
Put simply, our goal, our obsession, is jobs, jobs, and more jobs.
And that means driving down costs and removing unnecessary obstacles to investment and business.
It means forging a competitive edge so that New South Wales firms can win orders and New South Wales can continue to win the investment and the business we need to provide satisfying and rewarding jobs for all those who seek them.
The benefits of reform are now being seen clearly in the electricity industry. Our target of a 20 per cent real average reduction in electricity prices over the five years to 2000 is well on track.
Since 1 October 1996, large users of electricity have been able to choose their supplier for the first time. Both these customers and a further group that entered the retail market in April 1997 have enjoyed significant reductions in their electricity bills as a result of vigorous competition among the 19 licensed retail suppliers now operating in New South Wales.
We will extend competition to a further 3,500 customers from July 1997. The final stage will see all of the State’s 2.5 million businesses and households able to shop around for power.
New South Wales households and businesses have the cheapest power in Australia.
An average household pays $165 a year less for power than a similar household in Victoria. And a local small business pays an average $3,700 less each year than its Victorian competitors.
I am pleased to report that the prospects of electricity interconnections between New South Wales and South Australia, and New South Wales and Queensland, are looking good.
Both these links, and trade across the existing interconnections with Victoria, open up new markets for New South Wales generators.
The Snowy Mountains Hydro Electric Authority is also to be corporatised, becoming an independent player in the national electricity market, with New South Wales being the major 58 per cent shareholder.
The Government is also ensuring that its two major metropolitan water utilities, Sydney Water and Hunter Water, comply with competition principles and continue to provide quality services to their customers.
Over the last three years, average water bills for Sydney Water’s business customers have fallen 45 per cent in real terms.
Over the next four years, businesses will benefit by $80 million as the property value component of their bills is reduced.
Sydney Water’s household customers will also see real reductions in their bills over the next four years.
The remaining government-owned irrigation schemes in the Murrumbidgee and Coleambally regions are to be corporatised from 1 July 1997.
In the past year, the Government has also put in place a vigorous reform agenda for the privately owned and operated gas industry in New South Wales in order to achieve a competitive gas market by the end of the decade.
Last year’s Gas Supply Act will allow businesses to use pipeline services on reasonable terms and conditions.
The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) is currently reviewing the terms and conditions of AGL’s offer of access to its monopoly distribution network.
IPART will determine new access tariffs that balance the interests of customers, potential gas suppliers and the network operator (AGL). The review process will progressively remove over-recovery of charges from industry.
I have recently approved permits for two major new connections between New South Wales and Victoria. This will put gas suppliers in South Australia and Victoria in competition to supply the New South Wales market.
A 250-kilometre pipeline is also planned to supply gas to Dubbo and other towns in the central west.
There is some speculation that the New South Wales market may be linked to supplies from Papua New Guinea through natural gas pipelines between the Papua New Guinea Highlands and Gladstone, Queensland, and from there to New South Wales.
This would lead to a truly national gas grid and vigorous competition among a number of suppliers, distributors and retailers.
We would enthusiastically encourage such a landmark development, a development that could not even be considered without the reforms which New South Wales recently put in place.
New South Wales is also progressively removing the restrictions which impede competitive neutrality between the gas and electricity sectors as part of a strategy to stimulate the development of an overall energy market.
Last year this Government became the first in Australia to introduce an open access regime for rail.
As part of the rail reform we are phasing out the monopoly rent on coal freight in the Hunter Valley.
Annual reductions of 25 per cent will begin in 1997/98.
The fiscal context in which this Budget has been framed was especially challenging.
Our task of paying all of the bills for the coming year, and the following two years of the forward estimates, has been made all the more difficult by a number of major factors, including:
•the savage cutbacks in Commonwealth tax reimbursements
to the states will cost the New South Wales Budget more than $450 million each year, in real terms;
•the Commonwealth’s inexplicable decision to deny the benefits of cross-border leasing transactions to the States - although they will continue to be available to the private sector - will cost the New South Wales Budget $100 million in 1997/98;
•the Commonwealth Government’s failure to honour the Medicare agreement - which provides extra funding each time private health fund membership falls by two per cent - has cost the New South Wales hospital system $250 million in the three years to June 1996;
•the $200 million additional cost to the Budget to fund previously hidden costs in the rail system;
•a huge rise in the estimated post-sale costs of the State Bank, from close to nothing at the time of the sale to well in excess of $200 million;
•the blowout in the cost of the current Victims’ Compensation Scheme to $95 million per annum, a cost which under current legislation is largely claim-driven and uncontrollable;
•the increase of $94 million in superannuation outlays following the Government Actuary’s latest advice;
•the peaking of Homebush Bay/Olympic construction costs, involving outlays of $628 million in 1997/98 and $438 million in 1998/99; and finally,
•the Government’s determination to deliver major improvements to a range of services in this year’s Budget.
All of these additional or abnormal costs will be covered by:
•the savings and revenue initiatives that I will outline shortly;
•the strong underlying revenue growth of the last 12 months; and
•significantly lower interest costs over the last two years as a result of both lower interest rates and the $1,138 million reduction in budget sector debt. The average savings from lower debt for the two-year period already amounts to $141 million each year.
In a very tangible way this Budget, and the services it is able to fund, is already benefitting from debt reduction.
The Leader of the Opposition recently proposed deficit funding of this Budget. That is an irresponsible option.
Borrowing money now means bigger bills in the future. It means fewer dollars each and every year to spend on hospitals, on schools, on roads, on law and order.
Lumbering our kids with the debts of this generation means they will face an anxious and uncertain future.
For the second successive year, and for probably only the third time in the 209-year history of New South Wales, this Budget pays all the bills. This Budget guarantees security for our community now, and security for the future.
This Budget contains a number of new spending initiatives.
Total recurrent payments on hospitals and health care will be a record $5,591 million.
This is a massive increase of $452 million on last year’s allocation. It is an increase of $972 million in budget support since the previous Government’s last Budget, in 1994/95.
This year’s health allocation includes additional annual recurrent funding of $370 million to achieve a fairer share of health services in under-resourced areas.
With Medicare under attack, we are determined that ordinary families in regional New South Wales and in the fast growing outer urban areas will have access to first-class health services equal to those enjoyed by people in Sydney’s eastern suburbs and on the North Shore.
In the coming year, capital expenditure to rebuild the public health system will total $471 million, including money to begin $258 million of major new hospital projects.
These new projects include:
•a women and children’s health building and other facilities at Nepean Hospital, at an estimated total cost of $58.8 million;
•a substantial upgrading of Campbelltown Hospital, the redevelopment of Camden Hospital, new community health centres at Tahmoor and Rosemeadow, the refurbishment of the Campbelltown Community Health Centre and other works in the Macarthur area, at an estimated total cost of $79 million;
•the upgrading of State Government nursing homes around New South Wales to provide better care for the aged at an estimated total cost of $75 million;
•a $5.25 million building to house Westmead Hospital’s Virology Research Group, Westmead Institute for Cancer Research, Storr Liver Unit and Institute for Immunology and Allergy Research;
•$11.7 million for children’s health and welfare by establishing a paediatric emergency service at the Royal North Shore Hospital, upgrading paediatric accommodation, boosting child and family health care, and enhancing child protection services.
We are continuing the construction of new health and hospital facilities in rural and regional areas, including:
•the Tweed Heads Stage 3 Development to improve the hospital and provide new therapy and community health services, estimated cost $25 million;
•the construction of a new community health centre at Long Jetty on the Central Coast, estimated cost $3 million;
•the redevelopment of Manning Base Hospital, estimated cost $26.3 million;
•a new clinical services building at Illawarra Regional Hospital, estimated cost $49.8 million;
•a new hospital at Lithgow, estimated cost $23.6 million;
•redevelopment of Dubbo Hospital, estimated cost $18.1 million;
•a new hospital at Coffs Harbour, estimated cost $53.6 million;
•a new hospital for Broken Hill, estimated cost $27.5 million;
•redevelopment of the West Wyalong Hospital, estimated cost $6.4 million;
•completion of the redevelopment of Shoalhaven Hospital, estimated cost $8.5 million;
•completion of the redevelopment of Maitland Hospital, estimated cost $28 million;
•completion of the upgrade of Mudgee District Hospital, estimated cost $2.1 million;
•upgrade of Kiama Hospital, estimated cost $1.4 million.
Last year President Bill Clinton boasted that by the year 2000 every school in the United States would be connected to the Internet.
New South Wales is years ahead.
As we promised, every government school in New South Wales is now connected to the Internet.
We want our kids to leave school set for life as the best skilled in the world.
We are allocating $5,435 million to education and training in the coming year.
We are focused on getting the foundation right by improving the literacy and numeracy skills of primary and secondary students, and by promoting excellence in teaching and learning.
By the end of the financial year we will have provided an extra 776 teaching positions since taking office.
And we will spend $65 million through the School Technology program to ensure New South Wales classrooms continue to be equipped with the most up-to-date technology.
We are also building new facilities. The education and training capital program provides for 15 major new school projects.
We’re funding seven new major TAFE projects at Hornsby, Griffith, Wetherill Park, Lithgow, Bathurst, Liverpool and Blacktown. We’re also connecting all TAFE colleges to the Internet.
This year the Government will increase spending on community, aged and disability services by $63.2 million, or 5.2 per cent over last year’s allocation.
This builds on our record. Since coming to office we have increased spending in these areas by $362.8 million, or 36.6 per cent.
This year we will spend $65 million to protect children from abuse and neglect.
We will provide $6.4 million to undertake joint investigation work between the Department of Community Services, the Police Service and the Department of Health where serious child abuse has occurred, or is at risk of occurring.
There will be an extra $4 million in 1997/98 and another $8 million to follow to develop foster care and residential services, and improve existing services.
The Home and Community Care Program will receive a $12.3 million boost in 1997/98 to help the frail aged, and people with disabilities to continue to live independently.
As I said at the outset of my speech, people across Australia are experiencing great uncertainty because of Federal Government cuts.
In these circumstances, the New South Wales Government has decided to help mothers and their children in a direct and practical way.
We will provide an annual $50 back-to-school allowance to be paid to the mothers, or in special circumstances the fathers or guardians, of the 1.1 million children in Government and non-Government schools.
Its purpose is to help defray the heavy costs, particularly for families with a number of school-age children, of equipping and outfitting them at the beginning of each year.
The total costs of equipping a child for school is, of course, very much more than $50 per year. That’s simply all the more reason for the introduction of this new allowance.
This allowance will help ordinary New South Wales families who have borne the brunt of the wage restraint and economic restructuring.
The Government considered excluding very wealthy families, but the administrative effort and cost would have exceeded the small savings from any reasonable means or asset test.
From January next year, every child from kindergarten to Year 12 is eligible for the allowance which will be paid soon after school resumes each year.
In July we will open the new 900-bed Metropolitan Remand and Reception Centre at Silverwater - the largest correctional facility in Australia.
In the coming year, a start will also be made on redevelopment of Long Bay Gaol and the construction of a 300-bed minimum security extension of the John Moroney facility at Windsor.
These new facilities will better complement specialised rehabilitative programs.
The Home Detention Program has also begun and will be progressively implemented over the next two years.
We will continue to increase our spending on police, to make our streets safer.
We will hire 100 extra police, and return hundreds more to frontline duties to fight crime through the continued restructuring of the service.
In addition, the Government will spend $4.5 million on modern, self-loading weapons to replace older service revolvers.
We will also spend $3.8 million to upgrade random breath testing and speed detection equipment as part of an $8.8 million program over three years.
This year we will continue to deliver better roads and better public transport.
The Budget includes a record $2.19 billion roads program, including:
•$145 million for roads in the west and south west of Sydney;
•$1.24 billion on roadworks in country and regional New South Wales including $100 million for State Pacific Highway projects, plus another $120 million funded dollar for dollar by the State and Commonwealth Governments; $15 million for construction of the West Charlestown bypass; $13 million for widening the F6; $4.5 million to upgrade The Entrance Road, Tuggerah; $5.7 million for road and bridge works at Wagga; $11.4 million to maintain Summerland Way between Grafton and Queensland; and $2.9 million to reconstruct and seal the Monaro Highway at Bombala.
Work on the M5 east extension will commence this year along with stage three of the City West Link Road.
Public transport funding this year will exceed $1.8 billion, an increase of $335 million on last year’s allocation.
Rail operations will receive $1.27 billion. This includes $348 million for rail infrastructure.
This year we will spend $12 million as part of a program to acquire new suburban rail cars.
Also, $8 million will be spent to complete the Flemington junction for the Olympic and Showground site in 1997/98.
We will increase the capacity of the Richmond rail line at a cost of $12.9 million this year.
Approximately $18 million will be spent to provide easy access, better security and upgrades at rail stations.
The Public Transport Infrastructure Improvement Program encourages greater use of public transport by improving facilities. The program will receive $61 million this year.
Projects include the Manly bus/ferry interchange and Liverpool rail station interchange.
Yet again, this year’s Budget reinforces the Carr Government’s commitment to the environment.
The Government is continuing with its commitment to reduce waste going to landfill by 60 per cent by the year 2000.
Approximately $18 million has been provided in 1997/98 as part of a total of $35.8 million over the three years to 1997/98.
During the next two years, the Government will provide $17 million to the Heritage Fund to preserve significant heritage items - a total of $30 million over 1996/97 to 1997/98.
Over the next two years, the Government will spend more than $36 million to meet the costs of new National Parks and Wilderness Areas.
During 1997/98 the Sustainable Energy Development Authority’s funding of $11.8 million will be directed to improved energy efficiency, co-generation and fuel substitution, and expanding the market for renewable energy technologies.
Almost $31 million will be provided for backlog sewerage projects in metropolitan fringe areas, and $6 million for upgrading of the Perisher Waste Treatment Plant.
More than $17 million will be spent to arrest environmental degradation in irrigation areas.
Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources
The Agriculture portfolio will receive a recurrent allocation of $221.8 million in 1997/98, an increase of 6.9 per cent, after the cost of drought measures is excluded.
Over the next three years, $7 million will be allocated to the Acid Soil Action Program to help tackle one of the greatest environmental hazards to rural New South Wales.
Grants to local councils to minimise noxious weed problems will be increased to $6 million.
Another $32 million will be spent this year on the five year Forestry Industry Adjustment Package. In the first three years, more than 70 businesses will be assisted to invest in value adding and employment creating opportunities.
The eucalypt plantation program which we commenced in 1995/96 will receive $21.4 million this year, as part of a $47 million package.
The Budget will provide an additional $5 million, as part of a three-year, $15 million package for the establishment of the Native Vegetation Management Fund. In total, $49.2 million will be spent over the next three years on native vegetation.
To further assist farmers, we will expand the exemption on stamp duty for inter-generational transfers of land to include transfers and lease arrangements between siblings.
This will help secure farming families on the land.
Construction and preparation for the Olympics are proceeding at full pace, creating thousands of jobs.
As I said at the opening of this speech, we’re determined to provide the best Olympics the world has ever seen.
During 1996/97 close to $2 billion of work was commenced or contracts placed for major projects at Homebush Bay.
This is the budget that will break the back of Olympic construction expenditure.
Work is underway on the largest-ever Olympic Stadium, the preferred proponent has been chosen for the Athletes’ Village and sites have been announced for the velodrome, shooting and softball events.
We have also narrowed the field to two proponents for the Multi-use Arena which will seat 20,000 after the Olympics.
This time next year the people of New South Wales will be able to see the Olympic site taking shape as they travel to the Royal Easter Show by rail, along the new Homebush Bay rail loop.
In total, the cost of constructing the Homebush Bay/Olympic facilities is approximately $3.2 billion in 1997 dollars.
Approximately $1.1 billion will be funded by private sector investment. Of the remainder, $513 million will be financed by SOCOG, the Commonwealth Government and other sources, leaving around $1.6 billion net to be financed by the New South Wales Government.
This year’s capital expenditure is $628 million.
All of the Olympic construction costs are being paid for now, upfront. Not a single cent will be left owing by September 2000.
By the end of June 1998, two thirds of the total construction budget will have been spent.
The international focus on Sydney, New South Wales and Australia in the lead-up to the 2000 Olympics will provide us with a golden opportunity, perhaps never-to-be repeated, to sell our wares to the world.
It’s an opportunity we won’t miss.
The Olympic Business Round Table has already formulated the strategies for show casing our products and technologies to the world and promoting Sydney, New South Wales and Australia as a first class location for business and investment.
Investment 2000, an investment promotions campaign jointly sponsored and funded by the New South Wales Government, Telstra and the Westpac Bank, is already underway.
New South Wales will also be stepping up its campaign to attract Asia/Pacific regional headquarters.
We have set 2005 as the target date for overtaking Singapore as a preferred Asia/Pacific headquarters location.
CAPITAL PROGRAM AND EMPLOYMENT
In 1997/98, the total State public works program will amount to $5.6 billion, with a record $3.9 billion spent by the Budget Sector.
Key features of the capital program include:
•$1,109 million for road construction;
•$348 million for rail projects;
•$471 million for construction of hospitals and other health facilities;
•$236 million for schools, TAFE colleges and other education projects;
•$628 million for Homebush Bay/Olympic construction projects.
The public works and capital program will generate both directly and indirectly, the equivalent of nearly 110,000 full-time jobs.
Of the total program, more than $2 billion relates to projects outside the Sydney metropolitan area. This will generate the equivalent of more than 56,000 direct and indirect jobs.
The Government will continue to drive efficiency improvements in the public sector to provide additional funding for high priority services.
In this Budget, savings measures are being introduced that will yield $146 million on a full year basis. Of this, $27 million will come from further savings in corporate support and $32 million from driving savings in Budget Sector agencies through service competition.
In addition, agencies will be required to deliver a further $87 million, either from efficiency gains or by allocating funds away from low priority programs.
During the coming year, the Government will commence a four year program to review all of the Government’s service delivery programs.
Each program will be reviewed by a small project team of three or four members, drawn from senior officers from other departments and at least one person from outside the public sector, reporting to the Council on the Cost of Government.
The purpose of each review is to assess whether programs have clear, worthwhile objectives that meet community needs and aspirations, and whether those objectives are being met in the most economical, efficient and effective way.
The new revenue measures, raising almost $400 million in the coming year, are designed as far as possible to protect the less well off, at the same time broadening the State’s tax base in order to provide better services to the community.
The targeted package of measures is as follows:
* Land tax will be extended to residential properties with a land value of $1 million or more, commencing from the 1998 land tax year. The million dollar land threshold, which will be indexed annually, compares with the Victorian threshold on owner-occupied properties of $200,000. Only 4,000 residential properties will be affected. The value of these almost exclusively Sydney properties very much depends on the huge amount of taxpayers’ money that goes into making Sydney the world’s finest city. This measure will raise $50 million in a full year.
* The general rate of land tax will be increased from 1.65 per cent to 1.85 per cent, compared to a top rate of five per cent in Victoria. The rate will be reduced to 1.7 per cent in 1999 when the Commonwealth Government’s Howard/Costello levy on the States expires. This measure will raise $80 million in a full year. Total land tax revenue in 1997/98, of $786 million will still be considerably below the peak level of $826 million in 1991/92.
* The concessional rate of duty on general insurance premiums will be increased from 2.5 per cent to 5 per cent to bring it more into line with rates levied in other States. This measure will raise an additional $56 million in a full year. Crop and livestock insurance will be exempted.
* The tax rate on poker machine profits of more than $1 million per year will be increased to 30 per cent, from the current rate of 22.5 per cent on profits between $1 million
and $2.5 million, and 24.75 per cent of profits in excess of $2.5 million. More than 1,000, or 70 per cent, of licensed clubs with annual poker machine profits of less than $1 million will not be affected. Nor will it affect hotels which already pay a 40 per cent tax rate. This measure will raise $74 million per year. Even after these measures, the after-tax poker machine profits made by licensed clubs in 1997/98 are expected to reach $1,750 million compared with a similar amount this year.
* A 10 per cent accommodation tax will be imposed in the Sydney CBD and equivalent areas, so that interstate and international visitors start contributing to the huge expense of maintaining and improving what the Conde Nast Travel magazine has rated as "the world’s most attractive city". Sydney has been almost the only great city of the world without such a tax. This measure will raise $64 million in a full year.
* Stamp duty on the value of luxury motor vehicles above a $45,000 threshold will be increased from three to five per cent, effective from 1 July. This will raise $11 million in a full year.
* An electricity distributor levy raising approximately $100 million per year will also be imposed. Distributors will be able to recoup this levy from contestable customers only. It will mean an average increase of five per cent of the previously regulated tariff for those large electricity users who in recent months, with the introduction of the competitive market, have benefited from electricity cost savings of between 20 and 40 per cent.
* To help discourage excessive use of private motor vehicles resulting in road congestion and pollution in central Sydney, the CBD parking space levy will be increased from $200 to $400 per annum from 1 July 1997. This will raise an extra $8 million per year which will be applied to public transport improvements.
COMMONWEALTH FINANCIAL GRANTS
If New South Wales received its fair share of Commonwealth financial grants to the states, none of these revenue measures would be necessary.
These grants were originally intended to compensate the states for the income taxing powers they ceded to the Commonwealth during the Second World War.
The unequal and unfair distribution of these grants means that on a per capita basis, New South Wales is subsidising the other states to the extent of $866 million a year.
However, on the basis of the amount New South Wales taxpayers actually pay the Commonwealth in income tax each year, the New South Wales subsidy to the other states is $1,292 million a year.
In other words, every person - every man, woman and child - in New South Wales is subsidising the other states to the extent of $205 a year.
It is one thing for New South Wales to have to pay all of its own bills. It is entirely unacceptable and entirely unfair for New South Wales to be forced to pay the bills of the other states as well.
The Budget result for 1997/98 is an underlying surplus of $27 million.
It should be remembered that this surplus covers all of our annual recurrent expenditure and all of our capital investment.
On the recurrent budget, we have a huge surplus of $2,247 million. This surplus, together will capital revenues, completely funds our long-term investment on new capital works.
It also funds our superannuation outlays of $1.45 billion, which are some $400 million in excess of annual emerging benefit payments.
This policy of funding accruing superannuation liabilities, means that New South Wales is a significant contributor to national savings, with an expected $880 million negative Loan Council Allocation in 1997/98.
It also means that New South Wales will avoid the unfunded superannuation catastrophe that will confront the Commonwealth and all other States, except Queensland, a little way down the track.
This Budget consolidates the hard work and the progress of our first two years in office.
It’s a Budget that is squarely aimed at achieving a strong, robust economy, a sound and improving financial position, excellent public services, a fair sharing of the costs, and a fair sharing of the benefits.
More than any other Budget before it, this Budget is about fair sharing and security for all our citizens.
As I said at the outset, it is every inch a Labor Budget.
There is an addendum to this Budget.
As members will be aware, this Budget was finalised and sent to the printer some time ago, well before BHP’s announcement on the future of steel making in Newcastle.
BHP’s announcement is a significant setback to the Hunter’s growth and to its confidence. We have to make sure that it is only a temporary setback.
In recent years the Hunter economy has grown and diversified enormously.
In just over three years, jobs in the Hunter have grown by 20,000 in industries as diverse as education, aerospace, defence, tourism, coal, aluminium, agriculture, business services, ports and transport and high-tech manufacturing.
To maintain the impetus and to help overcome the recent setback, the New South Wales Government proposes the establishment of a $25 million Hunter Advantage Fund to promote Hunter exports, new business investment, expansion of existing businesses and, most importantly, more jobs for the Hunter.
The New South Wales Government will allocate $10 million from our 1996/97 surplus and will also request the Federal Government to contribute $10 million and BHP to contribute $5 million.
The New South Wales Government will not let down the Hunter.
We will help secure its future as a truly regional, modern, economic powerhouse.
Debate adjourned on motion by the Hon. J. H. Jobling.
[The President left the chair at 6.31 p.m. The House resumed at 8.30 p.m.]
SMOKING REGULATION BILL
Suspension of standing and sessional orders agreed to.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE [8.32 p.m.]: I move Call to Australia amendment No. 1:
Page 2, clause 2, lines 4-7. Omit all words on those lines. Insert instead:
This Act commences on 1 January 1998.
This amendment is part of a package of foreshadowed amendments. Discussion has taken place as to when the proposed Act should be implemented. It has been suggested that it should be implemented in the year 2000 or, as foreshadowed by the Opposition, in five years time. I would prefer to have the Act commence on 1 January 1998 with the inclusion of my foreshadowed amendment No. 2, which provides for the Minister to have the power to grant exemptions to any enclosed public place that cannot meet the deadline. In relation to the introduction of the smoking ban on aircraft an announcement was made and the ban then came into effect. So far as I can tell, there have been no real problems and the ban did not take five years to implement. The bill should be introduced in principle on 1 January 1998 and individual applications can be made for exemption.
The Minister can then consider whether those applications are justified. Call to Australia amendment No. 3 foreshadows the establishment of a smoking regulation advisory committee that would consist of the members of the task force on passive smoking, which was set up by the Minister. I assume that the amendment has the Minister’s full support because he established the task force in the first place. That amendment would revive the task force to have a continuing role in advising the Minister. If an application is made for an exemption on the basis that a particular establishment cannot comply with the ban, a case can be put to the Minister who would receive advice from the committee. The committee may advise that the application is not serious and that the applicant is simply trying to delay implementation of the ban, and the exemption would not be granted. There may be genuine cases in which exemption would be granted.
The implementation of the ban from 1 January 1998 would not be a problem for thousands of restaurant and cafe proprietors. However, there would be a problem if patrons thought the owners were introducing the smoking ban. The owners could indicate that they are abiding by a new law, and a sign to that effect could be displayed in their premises. Perhaps the Department of Health could provide those signs, as it does with signs on tobacco products. The sign could state that the restaurant is a non-smoking restaurant by order of the Government, or by order of the Smoking Regulation Act 1996. There would then be no pressure placed on restaurant or cafe owners by patrons claiming that the owners had jumped the gun and were being difficult.
The owners or proprietors will be able to reply that they are simply fulfilling the law which states that a smoking ban must be introduced in their premises from 1 January 1998 and they cannot justify applying for an exemption. Those owners would then be supported by the law. As honourable members know, many shopping centres, such as Westfield, display signs indicating they are smoke-free shopping centres. So smoking is actually being banned now. The Opposition's claim that the ban should not be introduced for five years is flying in the face of public opinion and the opinion of health authorities, and may expose the Government and/or business owners to legal action. In a recent case a lady has sought leave to sue two of her former employers. She had worked in a hotel bar and had never smoked, but she now has throat cancer.
It has been shown that the cancer was caused by the effect of cigarette smoke. It occurred to me that she could also sue the Government for damaging her health because the Government has not acted to protect her. Perhaps she could also sue the Opposition, the Liberal Party or the Labor Party. I am not suggesting that she do so, but this is a serious health matter and people feel obliged to sue somebody when they discover that they suffer from the harmful effects of passive smoking. It is in the best interests of the public and this House that the Act commence on 1 January 1998, with the other foreshadowed amendments giving the Minister the ability to grant exemptions.
The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD (Leader of the Opposition) [8.38 p.m.]: The Opposition does not support the Call to Australia amendments. Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile's amendment would restrict the direction of the legislation. The effect of the amendment would be that from 1 January 1998 smoking in all public places would be absolutely
prohibited. He has foreshadowed subsequent amendments, the aim of which is to give power to the Minister to provide exemptions for particular premises. To some extent it might be said he is seeking to model part of the legislation on aspects of legislation in the Australian Capital Territory, which had a three-year implementation program that will expire this year. However, the Australian Capital Territory Government has foreshadowed an additional two-year implementation period because the three-year period proved to be unworkable. The foreshadowed amendments are restrictive. They prescribe absolute performance, which flies in the face of amendments I have foreshadowed that will allow an incremental implementation and the targeting of occupational health and safety standards. The Opposition believes the incremental approach is the more appropriate because it is more realistic. Therefore the Opposition will not support the first Call to Australia amendment, nor will it support the two consequential amendments.
The Hon. R. D. DYER (Minister for Community Services, Minister for Aged Services, and Minister for Disability Services) [8.40 p.m.]: The Government has had an opportunity to consider amendments circulated on behalf of the Opposition. It has had a less extensive opportunity to study the amendments circulated by Call to Australia. The Government is willing to support the amendments circulated by the Opposition. However, the Government agrees that the amendments circulated by Call to Australia are too prescriptive and, therefore, is unwilling to support them. Although the Committee is now considering only the first amendment circulated by Call to Australia, I agree with what I understood the Leader of the Opposition to say in regard to another foreshadowed Call to Australia amendment: it is relatively impractical to deal with individual exemptions. In a government sense, that is extraordinarily difficult. The Minister for Health does not wish me to support that amendment, nor the other amendments circulated by Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile. However, the Government is willing to support the Opposition amendments. If they are moved in globo, that would certainly be convenient to the Government.
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY [8.42 p.m.]: The amendment seeks that the proposed Act commence on 1 January 1998. Originally it was prescribed that the legislation would commence either six months following assent or on a date appointed by proclamation. The Australian Democrats have no objection to Call to Australia amendment No. 1.
Question - That the amendment be agreed to - put.
The Committee divided.
Mr Cohen Mr Tingle
Mr Corbett Tellers,
Mr Jones Ms Kirkby
Mrs Nile Rev. Nile
Mrs Arena Mr Moppett
Dr Burgmann Mr Obeid
Ms Burnswoods Dr Pezzutti
Mrs Chadwick Mr Primrose
Mr Dyer Mr Ryan
Mrs Forsythe Ms Saffin
Mr Gallacher Mr Samios
Miss Gardiner Mr Rowland Smith
Dr Goldsmith Ms Staunton
Mr Hannaford Mrs Symonds
Mr Kaldis Mr Vaughan
Mr Kersten Tellers,
Mr Lynn Mrs Isaksen
Mr Macdonald Mr Jobling
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 6 and 16
The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD (Leader of the Opposition) [8.53 p.m.], by leave: I move Opposition amendments Nos 1 and 2 in globo:
No. 1 Page 3, clause 6, lines 8-20. Omit all words on those lines. Insert instead:
(1) Smoking is prohibited in an enclosed public place on and from the day that is 5 years after the commencement of a regulation that prescribes an air quality standard for the purposes of this section.
(2) Without limiting subsection (1), smoking is prohibited on and from that day in any place of a kind described in Schedule 1 that is an enclosed public place (irrespective of the name by which the particular place is known).
(a) an enclosed public place that is so constructed or equipped as to ensure that the air within the place complies with the air quality standards prescribed by the regulations, or
(b) an enclosed public place of a kind specified in Schedule 2 at the times or in the circumstances so specified in relation to that place, or
(c) a particular enclosed public place (or an enclosed public place of a kind) prescribed by the regulations, or
(d) a particular enclosed public place (or an enclosed public place of a kind) prescribed by the regulations, at the times or in the circumstances so prescribed.
(3) This section does not prohibit smoking in:
No. 2 Page 6, clause 16, lines 24-28. Omit all words on those lines. Insert instead:
(1) The Director-General of the Department of Health is to conduct an information and education campaign about the provisions of this Act. The Director-General is to do so out of money otherwise lawfully available for the purpose.
(2) The Minister administering Division 2 of Part 3 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 must do everything within his or her power under that Division to ensure that, within 6 months after the commencement of this Act, a State environmental planning policy is made for the promotion of the provision of outdoor areas or facilities by restaurants, cafes, bars, cafeterias and other eating places.
The New South Wales coalition has brokered a deal with the hospitality industry and health groups that will ban smoking in all enclosed public places where food and beverages are served. While the coalition embarked on extensive consultation and negotiation to come up with a workable solution to the passive smoking issue, the Carr Government has sat on its hands. However, I am pleased that the Minister for Community Services has indicated that the Government is now prepared to accept these amendments. The Minister for Health, the Hon. Dr Andrew Refshauge, convened a passive smoking task force for 12 months and then completely ignored its recommendations. The Opposition's sensible solution accommodates smokers, addresses increasing health concerns about passive smoking, and recognises that industry needs time to adjust to the proposed changes.
The Opposition supports a ban on smoking in indoor areas where food and beverages are consumed, and proposes the following amendments to Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile's Smoking Regulation Bill. Exemptions will be granted to venues with equipment which complies with clean air standards. These will take into account acceptable air quality standards. In other words, the health factor will determine the success or otherwise of the application for exemption, not the comfort factor. Outdoor dining is to be encouraged by the development of an outdoor dining State environmental planning policy. The Minister for the Environment must ensure that within six months of the commencement of this Act a State environmental planning policy is introduced for the promotion and provision of outdoor dining areas. Venues will have five years in which to install the standard air cleaning equipment in order to be exempt, and extremely large public community places will be exempt.
The need to address the issue of passive smoking in the hospitality industry is great and public demand is high. The passive smoking task force set up by the Hon. Dr Refshauge found that bar workers faced a passive smoking risk 4.4 times higher than someone living with a smoker. A Newspoll survey conducted last month found that 94 per cent of New South Wales adults wanted restrictions on smoking in restaurants; 74 per cent were in favour of restrictions in licensed clubs; and 65 per cent wanted restrictions on smoking in pubs. According to information released by the National Heart Foundation in New South Wales, each year 2,400 people die from heart and other blood vessel diseases because they smoked cigarettes. There are extensive supporters of the Opposition's proposal. Action on Smoking and Health, the Restaurant and Catering Association, the Hotel Motel and Accommodation Association and the Australian Hotels Association have publicly endorsed the move by the State Opposition to find a sensible solution to the problem of passive smoking. The chief executive of the Hotel Motel and Accommodation Association, John McKernan, described the Opposition's position as both sensible and workable. In a media release dated 23 April 1997 Mr McKernan said:
16 Promotion of objects of Act
This issue is of vital importance to both the public and the staff of restaurants, clubs and hotels because they would be the ones who suffered if these sensible proposals are not adopted. It is important that the Government react promptly to these proposals.
The Executive Director of Action on Smoking and Health, Anne Jones, congratulated the Opposition on its hard work consulting interest groups to come up with a solution. The chief executive of the Restaurant and Catering Industry Association of New South Wales, Jenny Lambert, described the Opposition's proposals as a great basis for the finalisation of workable legislation. In a press release dated 23 April Ms Lambert said:
With a difficult issue such as this it is important that genuine, public health concerns are balanced by a commonsense approach to implementation in line with community expectations. We believe that the Opposition's proposals achieve that.
The Australian Hotels Association Chief Executive, David Charles, supported the principle, calling it "realistic compromise". By comparison, the inaction of the Minister for Health, Dr Andrew Refshauge, on the passive smoking issue earned him wide condemnation from varied circles. Twelve months ago he set up a passive smoking task force, which last month recommended a blanket ban on smoking in pubs, clubs and restaurants. All community, interest and health groups, except one, endorsed that recommendation. The recalcitrant group was the Australian Hotels Association, but the AHA voted in favour of the present Opposition proposals. The inaction of the Carr Government has earned criticism from Professor Simon Chapman, the task force member and Associate Professor of Public Health at the University of Sydney; Dr Konrad Jamrozik, Associate Professor of Public Health at the University of Western Australia, who branded the Carr Government's inaction as gutlessness; various health groups, including Action on Smoking and Health - ASH; the Non-Smokers' Movement of Australia Inc.; the Restaurant and Catering Association; the Australian Medical Association President, Keith Woolard; and the major medical colleges.
This is an issue that will gain increasing momentum over the years, but it is not one that will be settled by an overnight ban. Much of the impetus for change is coming from the public. The employees in the hospitality industry are among the strongest advocates for change and the ones to benefit most from a ban on smoking in indoor public areas. Employee exposure to environmental tobacco smoke is a significant occupational health and safety issue. The centre for health economics research and evaluation at the University of Sydney estimates that future costs of litigation could range from $4 million to $80 million. I therefore have much pleasure in commending the amendments. When I was Minister for Health I recall the difficulties I encountered in formulating an appropriate and workable answer to this problem. I strongly commend the shadow health minister, Jillian Skinner, for her efforts in bringing together a diverse group which has been known for some time to be, in some areas, quite an antagonistic group in trying to deal with this issue. Jillian Skinner was able to bring them together and get them to unanimously agree on an approach that will address occupational health and safety needs in this State and mark New South Wales as the leading State in this important area of community health. I commend the amendments to the House.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE [9.03 p.m.]: I strongly oppose the amendments, which I gather are supported by the Government. I note that the task force on which all these groups are represented recommended that the provisions in this bill should take effect from 1 March 1999. The Opposition's amendment would extend the implementation of this provision to at least 2002. But a careful reading of the Opposition's amendment reveals that it is not limited simply to a five-year period. The Opposition has cleverly included some conditions. Subclause (1) of Opposition amendment No. 1 provides:
Smoking is prohibited in an enclosed public place on and from the day that is 5 years after the commencement of a regulation that prescribes an air quality standard for the purposes of this section.
In other words, at some future date a regulation will be passed prescribing an air quality standard for the purposes of the section. Perhaps there will be some technical problems, or perhaps it may take some time for that standard to be agreed upon. If the standard is not agreed upon for another two years, the five years will not start until then, and that would extend the implementation of the provision to 2004. Surely no member of this House suggests that in 1997 we will somehow control the future, which would cover two elections, and try to bind possibly different governments to the year 2004. Today I received correspondence from the New South Wales Cancer Council - a body whose opinion I am sure the Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti would be pleased to support; he speaks very warmly of the Cancer Council. The relevant portion of the Cancer Council's letter states:
We understand that in order to ensure all sectors of the hospitality industry have adequate time to prepare and that no sector is advantaged or disadvantaged by going smoke-free ahead of another sector, that key industry groups are opting for a longer adjustment period before the legislation is introduced. The Cancer Council supports the Passive Smoking Task Force recommendation to introduce legislation by 1st March 1999.
In a letter dated 5 May the Acting Executive Director of the Heart Foundation wrote to me as follows:
We are dismayed to find that 5 years has been nominated for an adjustment period before introduction of the legislation. This appears to be an inordinate length of time, both for the general public who support this move (Newspoll Survey, NHF, April 1997) and in public health terms. Furthermore, the adjustment period should not be tied to five years after the development of agreed national ventilation standards, for reasons stated in point 1.
At point one the Heart Foundation stated:
We have major concerns about the reliance on the development of agreed national health standards for ventilation and clean indoor air. Our advice is that this is extremely unlikely to occur because there is no known "safe threshold" for environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) exposure and therefore subsequent acceptably safe ventilation design.
I gather that the Opposition is claiming that its amendments have the support of all these groups. I assume that those groups have only just become aware of the amendments proposed by the Opposition. If more time were available, we may have even more objections from others involved in the task force group. A letter was also received from Action on Smoking and Health - ASH - an organisation which was founded by the New South Wales Cancer Council and the National Heart Foundation. A copy of the organisation's letter was sent to Jillian Skinner, the shadow health minister. ASH also expressed its concern about the national health standard, which is the very vague wording in the Opposition's motion. ASH stated:
1. A national health standard could be postponed indefinitely due to the limitations of ventilation technology and a demonstrated lack of agreement by states over an acceptable health standard. Secondly, the review process of air quality standards is under the control of air conditioning engineers convened by Australian Standards, and their committee has both a vested interest in engineering solutions and the power to postpone any agreement.
2. Exemptions should be consistent with the recommendations of the Broadbent and Wesley Report, commissioned by the Passive Smoking Taskforce. That is, where exemptions are judged necessary, these should be on the basis of complete physical separation of smokers and non-smokers on different ventilation systems.
The punch line about the Opposition's five-year period is:
3. The five year adjustment period, which health groups have already claimed is too long, should not be tied to five years from the attainment of a national standard which, according to Stan Wesley (State Projects) is "unlikely to ever eventuate". We support the recommendations of the Taskforce, which would introduce the bans before the year 2000.
The organisation has other criticisms of some of the Opposition's amendments, but they are the key arguments that have been put to us. The Non-Smokers' Movement of Australia Inc. has been very critical of the Opposition's amendments. That organisation's third point is in exactly the same terms as ASH's third point, which I just read.
It is possible that a confidence trick is being played on this House. People are under the impression that there is some kind of agreement on the bill, but it is worse than a clayton's bill because it may never be implemented in this State. It is in never-never time. That is serious. The bill is virtually tampering with people’s health. People know the bill is proceeding through the House and has been read a second time, and they are now expecting action. Perhaps tomorrow the media will say, "The bill was finally passed with a few amendments." but those few amendments may neutralise its positive effects. Call to Australia strongly opposes the amendments. The five-year period is bad enough, but it is a minimum - it could be an indefinite period. It may be never-never time. Call to Australia opposes the amendments.
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY [9.11 p.m.]: The first amendment places a different emphasis on the application of the legislation to public places. It seeks to introduce a five-year lead-in time for the commencement of the bill - that is, the prescribed prohibition on smoking in enclosed public places will not come into effect until five years after the commencement of a regulation that prescribes an air quality standard that is to be maintained in public places in New South Wales. The prohibition will then be applied to any enclosed public space, irrespective of the name by which it is known. However, the amendment will not prohibit smoking in an enclosed space if the air within that space complies with the air quality standards that have been set - in a theatre or performance space if the smoking is done by a performer; or in a common area of a hotel, motel or club that offers accommodation; or a hostel, nursing home, boarding house or other multiple-unit residential premises that have a similar area of a comparable standard where smoking is not permitted. This is a ridiculous amendment.
I can understand why it might be necessary for a performer to smoke in a public space in the context of a performance - for example, in a cabaret act - and I can understand that hotels and motels can have nonsmoking and smoking accommodation. However, it makes a nonsense of the amendment to suggest that in a nursing home, boarding house or multiple-unit residential premises smoking is permitted if within the complex there is an area of comparable standard where smoking is not permitted. It will be impossible to implement. As Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile said, the amendment has been opposed very strongly, particularly by the Non-Smokers' Movement of Australia Inc., which made the following comments:
A number of government experts (e.g. from State Projects, WorkCover and ACT Health) agree with me that the commencement date could be postponed indefinitely, if it is dependent upon a national health standard.
In referring to a national health standard the movement said:
1. A national health standard can be postponed indefinitely due to the limitations of ventilation technology and a demonstrated lack of agreement by states over an acceptable health standard. Secondly, the review process of air quality standards is under the control of air conditioning engineers convened by Australian Standards, and their committee has both a vested interest in engineering solutions and the power to postpone any agreement.
2. Exemptions should be consistent with the recommendations of the Broadbent and Wesley Report, commissioned by the Passive Smoking Taskforce. That is, where exemptions are judged necessary, these should be on the basis of complete physical separation of smokers and non-smokers on different ventilation systems.
It will not be possible to have a complete physical separation of smokers and nonsmokers in hotels or motels on different ventilation systems. In relation to the five-year adjustment period that has been mooted by the Leader of the Opposition, the movement stated:
The five year adjustment period, which health groups have always claimed is too long, should not be tied to five years from the attainment of a national standard which, according to . . . (State Projects) is "unlikely to ever eventuate".
The Non-Smokers' Movement was critical of the legislation that passed through the South Australian Parliament. Yet the amendments that were finally accepted - they were accepted by members of the Australian Democrats - were for only a two-year adjustment period. In South Australia, where the Non-Smoker's Movement believes that the Opposition went to water, no-one suggested that there should be a five-year adjustment period. Indeed, the movement has been critical of the two-year adjustment period. The Australian Democrats support the recommendation of the task force to introduce bans before 2000.
Finally, amending the term "enclosed places" to exclude extremely large community spaces would undermine the Occupational Health and Safety Act. As I said earlier, why do we need a lead-in period at all, and in particular why do we need a lead-in period of two years? When nonsmoking was introduced in cinemas, it was implemented without a lead-in period. When nonsmoking was introduced on aircraft, it was implemented without a lead-in period. When nonsmoking was introduced on public transport - trains, buses - it was implemented without a lead-in period.
Why do we need a lead-in period to introduce nonsmoking in other public places? People have not stopped going to cinemas because they cannot smoke there, so why should we believe that people will stop going to bars, clubs and restaurants if they cannot smoke there? I do not believe they will. In fact, American surveys and research prove that there is increased patronage of places that ban smoking. Why are we pretending that it is necessary to have a five-year lead-in period or a two-year lead-in period? If this ban on smoking were introduced immediately - as Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile wants - it would be accepted by the community, just as it has already been accepted in so many other venues.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES [9.18 p.m.]: I support the comments of Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile and the Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby. It appears that we have had the wool pulled over our eyes, to put it mildly. It may well be a confidence trick and the regulation will not be in place for the next three, four or five years. But the Opposition, especially the noisy smokers on the Opposition benches, does not care about that. It may well be that by this confidence trick the Opposition is attempting to destroy the legislation. It is shameful that the Opposition has taken this approach. I am not surprised that the Government is supporting the amendment, because it also does not want this legislation.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI [9.19 p.m.]: I was delighted that Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile quoted the letter from the New South Wales Cancer Council. I am pleased that at last Elaine Henry, the Executive Director of the Cancer Council, has become actively involved in this issue. Given her track record on cigarette smoking, I am astonished that she was not leading the charge and writing to us every day. I am pleased that she has made a contribution, even at this late stage. However, it is unrealistic to expect a shorter lead-in than five years.
It was convenient that the task force recommended to the Minister that legislation be introduced by 1 March 1999 because that is the timing of the next election. At least now the suggestion is that legislation will not be introduced in 1999 but that it be on the table now, in 1997, guaranteeing that in five years time everything that is sought will be achieved. It is possible to develop a national ventilation and clean air standard in the same way that it is possible to achieve that standard for operating theatres, for mines and a number of other areas. I am sure that a national standard will be in place by that time and that the five-year time limit is realistic.
I well remember being in this Chamber when the first limitation was put in place and it was suggested that was a long time. That supposedly long time has now passed and it is now almost impossible to smoke in an enclosed space in New South Wales. This last bastion will be overcome in a short period of time and the Hon. R. S. L. Jones and the Hon. Elaine Nile will live to see it. I am pleased that the Cancer Council is now not constrained and is getting into the debate, as it should have done in
the beginning, instead of putting out its earlier wishy-washy press release.
The Hon. J. S. TINGLE [9.22 p.m.]: This is astonishing stuff. I do not understand why the Opposition feels it necessary to place any time delay on the intent of this bill. The bill seeks to control passive smoking and to stop nonsmokers from being exposed to the health hazard of cigarette smoke drifting in the air - those millions of little pieces of ash and all the other chemicals that go with them. If smoking is to be prohibited in enclosed public spaces, there can be no justification for giving people time to introduce machinery and ventilation over a period of five years to allow smoking to continue. The Opposition's amendment presupposes that there will still be smoking, with associated passive smoking risks, in enclosed public spaces after the five years is up. This is an attempt to water down the bill so that it no longer has its intended effect, which is to regulate smoking in enclosed public spaces so that passive smoking will no longer continue to be a health hazard for nonsmokers.
As the Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby said, smoking has been prohibited on aeroplanes and public transport and in cinemas, hospitals and other places without the need for a lead-in period. How many more people will be afflicted by the health hazards of passive smoking during that waiting period, which, as Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile said, could be very much more than five years? Without wishing to make a bad pun, this is a poor smokescreen. It is very much like that iniquitous device on cigarettes called a filter tip. It pretends to keep out the tars and nicotine while letting through the smoke - and the smoke is what we are talking about. With this amendment the Opposition, like St Augustine, is saying, "Lord make me chaste, but not yet." This is damnable.
The Hon. A. G. CORBETT [9.24 p.m.]: Many thousands of unborn children will suffer as a result of this amendment, so the Committee should support Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile. It is a matter of great interest and relevance to the children of our nation.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE [9.25 p.m.]: I have spoken to Opposition amendment No. 1. As the Committee well knows, the Opposition has moved two amendments in globo, but the second amendment is not as controversial as the first. For the benefit of honourable members, the Opposition has moved an amendment seeking to delete clause 16 and insert instead a new clause 16, "Promotion of objects of Act". At present clause 16 of the bill states:
The Director-General of the Department of Health is to conduct an information and education campaign about the provisions of this Act. The Director-General is to do so out of money otherwise lawfully available for the purpose.
The Opposition seeks to delete that clause and replace it with two subclauses. The Minister for Health said that he was not happy with the bill because it made no provision for education. That is already in the bill, though the Minister may not have seen it. Obviously all the details of the campaign have not been given; the Government will work them out. Opposition amendment No. 2 provides that "within 6 months after the commencement of this Act, a State environmental planning policy is made for the promotion of the provision of outdoor areas or facilities by restaurants, cafes, bars, cafeterias and other eating places". It does not say "for the purposes of smoking". However, why is that there if it does not have that meaning? Though not stated, it obviously relates to smoking.
My wife and I spoke at a no brothel protest rally in Manly and visited a lovely cafe near The Corso. Because people were smoking inside the cafe, we moved across the other side of it to get away from the smoke. Those people then left. Another group sat on the footpath at the entrance to the cafe and they all lit up a cigarette. It appears that the draught caused their smoke to come into the restaurant from the street, and there was more smoke in the restaurant coming from outside than from the people smoking in the restaurant. Therefore, we were still distressed.
I warn the Opposition that if it proposes to accelerate smoking virtually on the doorstep of a restaurant, particularly an open-air restaurant without front glass windows, of which Manly has many, the smoke will be sucked in by natural ventilation. I do not want to oppose Opposition amendment No. 2 because it includes my education program. However, I pose that warning to the Opposition because smoke from outside can still affect patrons inside. As the amendments have been moved in globo, Call to Australia must oppose both amendments, however, its main opposition is to amendment No. 1.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (The Hon. Helen Sham-Ho): Does the honourable member wish to have the amendments put seriatim?
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE [9.28 p.m.]: No, because if amendment No. 2 is defeated, my health program will still be in the bill.
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY [9.28 p.m.]: Clause 16 states that the Director-General of the Department of Health is to conduct an information and education campaign about the provisions of the Act. The amendment also requires that the Minister in charge of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act do everything within his or her power to ensure that within six months of the commencement of this Act a State environmental planning policy is introduced to promote the provision of outdoor areas by restaurants, cafes, bars and other eating places. I fully support Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile. We already have restaurants, cafes, bars and other eating places with outdoor areas. An information or education campaign would not be of any assistance to those who do not wish to be affected by passive smoking or who do not wish to smoke when they are having their meals. They wish not to be forced to have their drinks, coffee or meals in areas in which there are people who are smoking. They wish to be able to have their meals in a smoke-free zone, and this should be respected.
Nothing in the proposal put forward by Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile will prevent people smoking in private. It will still be possible for people to smoke within the confines of their own homes. It will still be possible for them to smoke within their own motor vehicles. All we are suggesting is that they should not be able to smoke in public places where the passive smoke resulting will affect other members of the public who do not wish to smoke and where meals taken by other members of the public are destroyed because they are in a smoking atmosphere. As I said previously in relation to the first amendment moved by the Opposition, there was no need for debate before smoking was banned in cinemas. Smoking was banned in cinemas and that was the end of it. Similarly, I do not see why smoking bans should not apply to other public places. It seems ridiculous that we are wasting the time of this Chamber having a lengthy debate about how many years we should wait before smoking is banned in certain public places when it has already been banned in other public places. That is why I oppose the Opposition's amendments.
Question - That the amendments be agreed to - put.
The Committee divided.
Mrs Arena Mr Macdonald
Dr Burgmann Mr Moppett
Ms Burnswoods Mr Obeid
Mrs Chadwick Dr Pezzutti
Mr Dyer Mr Primrose
Mrs Forsythe Ms Saffin
Mr Gallacher Mr Shaw
Dr Goldsmith Ms Staunton
Mr Hannaford Mrs Symonds
Mr Johnson Mr Vaughan
Mr Kaldis Tellers,
Mr Kersten Mrs Isaksen
Mr Lynn Mr Jobling
Mr Cohen Mr Tingle
Ms Kirkby Tellers,
Mrs Nile Mr Corbett
Rev. Nile Mr Jones
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendments agreed to.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE [9.43 p.m.]: I move Call to Australia amendment No. 3:
Page 6. Insert after line 28:
16 Smoking Regulation Advisory Committee
(1) A Smoking Regulation Advisory Committee is established.
(2) The Committee is to consist of 9 persons appointed by the Minister, of whom:
(a) one is to be appointed on the nomination of the Director-General of the Department of Health, and
(b) one is to be appointed on the nomination of the WorkCover Authority of New South Wales, and
(c) one is to be appointed on the nomination of the Australian Medical Association (New South Wales Branch), and
(d) one is to be appointed on the nomination of the New South Wales Cancer Council, and
(e) one is to be appointed on the nomination of Action on Smoking and Health Australia, and
(f) one is to be appointed on the nomination of the New South Wales Division of the National Heart Foundation, and
(g) one is to be appointed on the nomination of the Australian Hotels Association, and
(h) one is to be appointed on the nomination of the Registered Clubs Association of New South Wales, and
(i) one is to be appointed on the nomination of the Restaurant and Catering Association of New South Wales.
(3) The person referred to in subsection (2)(a) is to be the Chairperson of the Committee.
(4) A member has such term of office, not exceeding 4 years, as may be specified by the Minister in the instrument appointing the member.
(5) The Minister is to call the first meeting of the Committee in such manner as the Minister thinks fit.
(6) The Committee is to decide its own procedure for the conduct of its meetings.
(7) The Committee has the function of advising the Minister on the granting of exemptions under section 6 and such other functions as may be prescribed by the regulations.
This amendment seeks to establish a smoking regulation advisory committee. I am keen that the task force that was set up by the Minister should have an ongoing role and not fade out of the picture. The proposed smoking regulation advisory committee should consist of nine persons appointed by the Minister. The persons will be representatives of different organisations. I understand that at this point the task force has presented its report and has been disbanded; it no longer exists. I can see great value for the Minister as well as for the people of this State in having a committee functioning and advising the Minister on matters referred to it by him.
The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD (Leader of the Opposition) [9.44 p.m.]: The Opposition does not support this amendment. It does not consider in the context of this bill that at this stage such a committee would serve any additional worthwhile purpose. The Minister can establish a task force at any time to obtain advice, as he has done on previous occasions.
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY [9.45 p.m.]: The Australian Democrats oppose this amendment. In the present climate I do not conceive the possibility of a smoking regulation advisory committee consisting of nine persons appointed by the Minister having any great value. The Minister is not in favour of regulating smoking in public places. Of the nine members of the committee one is to be appointed by the Director-General of the Department of Health. That person will also chair the committee and will obviously be the Minister's nominee. Another member will be appointed by the WorkCover Authority, who may be less biased than the department's nominee. The Australian Medical Association will appoint a person who is opposed to smoking. The New South Wales Cancer Council, as demonstrated by the Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti, was somewhat ambivalent about the issue. The council never came out strongly on the matter; when it did it was only in lukewarm terms.
Action on Smoking and Health Australia is probably not the strongest supporter of antismoking in public places. It too will have an appointee. The Australian Hotels Association, the Registered Clubs Association of New South Wales and the Restaurant and Catering Association of New South Wales - all of which will have nominees - will obviously be opposed to any legislation seeking to prevent smoking in public places. This committee will not be of any value. It will be weighted against organisations such as the Australian Medical Association, Australian Democrats, and Non-Smokers’ Movement of Australia Inc., which firmly and strongly believe that smoking should be prohibited in public places, including clubs, pubs and restaurants. If this committee is set up, its only purpose will be to advise the Minister on the granting of exemptions to the Act. The Minister does not have to take any notice of that advisory function.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: He took no notice of his task force. Why would he take notice of this committee?
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY: The Minister did not take any notice of a task force that he appointed. Why would he take any notice of a committee set up by this Chamber? He will simply ignore it. It will not serve any purpose. It will be an absolute waste of time and probably also of taxpayers' money. As much as I would like Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile's legislation to pass through this Chamber, it is obvious that it will not; it has no chance because the Government and the Opposition are united against it. Therefore, to move this amendment will serve no useful practical purpose. Equally, I oppose it in principle. I do not consider there is any point in debating the matter further.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES [9.49 p.m.]: I support the amendment of Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile and note the comments of the Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby about the nominations of the Australian Medical Association and the New South Wales Cancer Council. I support the Cancer Council. I do not believe that it is at all ambivalent about smoking and health; in fact its views on smoking and health are very strong. Although the Cancer Council was slow in getting material to members initially, it performed strongly at the end. Other appointments will be made on the nomination of Action on Smoking and Health Australia, which is very strong on the issue, and the New South Wales division of the National Heart Foundation. In actual fact, appointees will be nominated by those who are concerned about the effects of passive smoking and smoking itself. It would be remiss of the Minister not to take advice from a body such as the smoking regulation advisory committee.
The proposed functions of the committee are not broad, therefore it will not meet too often. Presumably the nominees will continue to work for the organisations that nominate them, so the committee would not be an expensive proposition. Such a body should be established; it just might put pressure on the Minister to do the right thing. Honourable members must remember that Dr Refshauge will not always be the Minister for Health. He is not very healthy; he is looking pretty sick from his smoking habit. It may well be that he will have to retire because of his health and that someone with a much stronger view about passive smoking will be appointed.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE [9.51 p.m.]: If I were setting up a committee, it may have a membership different from that proposed by the amendment. However, as I said earlier, I have selected those very same members that were nominated by the Minister for his task force, and therefore his task force will have an ongoing role. If there is to be debate about the introduction of some of these regulations, it will be more beneficial to have an advisory committee comprising people with opposing points of view, rather than simply having all members from the non-smokers' movement. The proposed smoking regulation advisory committee will consist of representatives from the Australian Hotels Association and the Restaurant and Catering Association, as well as from health bodies, thus ensuring that the committee will resolve a number of issues. Members of the committee would be stakeholders and would therefore play a positive role in assisting the legislation to work. In due course the Government may, in regulations to the bill, set up such a committee. Although I have moved the amendment, I will not cause the Committee to divide on it.
Clauses as amended agreed to.
Bill reported from Committee with amendments and report adopted.
WOMEN'S COLLEGE AMENDMENT BILL
Bill received and read a first time.
Suspension of standing orders agreed to.
The Hon. R. D. DYER (Minister for Community Services, Minister for Aged Services, and Minister for Disability Services) [9.57 p.m.]: I move:
That this House do now adjourn.
The Hon. FRANCA ARENA [9.57 p.m.]: When I last spoke on the adjournment I referred to cults. I continue with that topic. On that occasion I spoke about a Mr Miles. I wanted to state on the record that we can at least be thankful that Mr Miles is not the education Minister. The examples I gave illustrated the devious way that cult groups target and deceive gullible, prominent people. With that in mind I pose the question: what is to be done? How can freedom of association be balanced with a degree of accountability? I have four suggestions. The first suggestion is that organisations that attempt to recruit new members in public places should be obliged to wear clear and accurate identification. Amendments to the Door-to-Door Sales Act and Fair Trading Act could create an obligation for organisations to always wear identification. Members of the Church of Scientology walk up and down a major Sydney street asking passers-by if they want to undergo an IQ test or a personality test. It is wrong and deceitful of them never to identify themselves as members of the Church of Scientology. They actually persuade people to go to their centre under false pretences. Such action should be an offence.
The second suggestion is that a section of the Department of Community Services should be established, with sufficient funding, dedicated to setting up a halfway house to provide specialised counselling for victims of cults. The dedicated section would also act as a go-between for members of religious cult organisations and their families. Its brief would not be to be judgmental about such organisations. Its role would be to conciliate and help in whatever way possible to reconcile differences and establish contact in an atmosphere of trust on both sides. Such a resource is badly needed. With respect to both of these suggestions, I understand that on one hand CultAware has been negotiating with the Church of Scientology to adopt the practice of wearing identification, and on the other hand it has been functioning as an organisation to which people can turn for assistance when their loved ones become involved in religious cults.
It should not be the responsibility of private citizens to do this. Members of Parliament are elected to govern and should be aware of the social issues of our time and the policies that are needed to deal with the problems that arise. It does not reflect well on honourable members that these issues have become significant problems and we have not responded. I note in passing that on 10 January last year the French Minister for Youth and Sports announced that a resource person would be
appointed in various regions of France to inform young people about cults. Written material and a video were to be produced and distributed throughout the country. If the fiasco concerning the Children of God or The Family, as they now call themselves, was not enough to tell us that practical policies concerning the effects of the conduct of these organisations have to be put in place in Australia, what is? The results of official lethargy, indifference and corruption have been obvious before the Wood royal commission with respect to the police, the legal system and the education system. Must we wait for another cult crisis before we act? Must we wear the expense of some future royal commission when a fraction of the funds applied now would help to avoid such a crisis?
My third suggestion is that there should be legislation requiring personal development organisations to state on their letterheads and at their premises whether they are accredited. I raised the matter of government bureaucrats attending transcendental meditation courses on 6 June 1995. The Treasurer, the Hon. M. R. Egan, responded to my query by stating that there was a clear distinction between genuine professional development organisations and what might be termed personal development. I agree. I believe that the public has a right to know which is which. My fourth suggestion is that an inquiry into those sections of the tax Act be undertaken to find a way to exclude organisations from tax benefits when their principal activity as a religion is making money. Commentators as different as Paddy McGuinness and Phillip Adams have raised this issue. On 11 March 1995 Paddy McGuinness wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald:
The whole problem of the tax treatment of religion may have to be reopened and this can only be hastened by the enthusiasm by which some of the get-rich-quick imports from California, such as Scientology, exploit the exemptions available.
Phillip Adams agrees. In the Australian on 1 March 1997 he said:
Scientology's problem - with, among others, the French and German governments - lies in the fact that while it claims -
The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH [10.02 p.m.]: Honourable members may recall that on 8 April I brought to the attention of the House my concern that I had been unable to persuade the Sydney Morning Herald to publish a short letter from me to put my side of the story after I had been attacked by two separate Herald columnists. The issue was the use of a 13-year-old child in Dolly magazine. My concern was not, as the Herald alleged, that I objected to a 13-year-old modelling a cardigan, but to her being posed in a number of sexually provocative ways. Such blatant sexualisation of a child makes a mockery of the law on paedophilia. I have discovered that I am not the only victim of the Herald. A serious case of an individual being maligned, in this case in her professional capacity, and then being denied the opportunity to set the record straight has recently come to my attention. The eminent academic and Chancellor of the University of Sydney, Emeritus Professor Dame Leonie Kramer, has been the subject of widespread vilification in the media because of allegations that she had approved the higher school certificate texts Top Girls and Fineflour without having read them. In particular, on 14 October Herald columnist Jim McClelland attacked Dame Leonie by referring to her as:
. . . the éminence grise of Australian literary authorities . . . who, on her own admission, as a member of the New South Wales Board of Studies in 1991, approved the two texts for students without reading them and now wants them removed from school study; surely she has disqualified herself from passing judgment on the worth of any literary products?
Dame Leonie informs me that the facts of the matter are quite the reverse of the allegations made by Jim McClelland. Fact one: Dame Leonie had read the material in question. Fact two: she neither approved nor disapproved the inclusion of the texts in any school syllabus. The committee on which Dame Leonie served did not examine such a matter. Naturally, the chancellor was rightly concerned about this unwarranted and inaccurate attack on her reputation and sought to have the matter corrected by the Herald. I was appalled to learn that she had been unsuccessful in this endeavour and that the Herald refused to publish a letter from her. So in the interests of justice and true freedom of speech, as opposed to the tyranny of the media, I will now put Dame Leonie's letter to the editor of the Sydney Morning Herald on the public record. It states:
During the recent controversy about HSC texts it was alleged that, as a member of the Board of Studies in 1991 I had approved two of the texts now recommended for replacement. Since I had no recollection of reading the two in question at that time, I asked the President of the Board of Studies to search the Board's records to determine whether or not they were referred to the Board. Mr Weller's investigation showed that no books were referred to the Board for its advice. If the Syllabus Committee was in doubt about a particular text, it referred it to the Curriculum Committee (of which I was not a member), not to the Board.
The media are very quick to defend their right to publish whatever they wish in the name of freedom
of speech. Yet what freedom of speech is there in Australia when the only people who have access to the media platform are the small journalistic elite who work in the media, when that elite is allowed to attack the professional competence of a senior academic and when that academic is not allowed the opportunity to defend her reputation and clear her name? Australians who are concerned about media ownership should redefine this term. The people who own our media are those who own the column space and the editorial gatekeepers who decide which issues to run and which to censor. That is censorship of the worst kind.
GOVERNMENT SERVICES PRIVATISATION
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY [10.06 p.m.]: Earlier this year a matter was brought to my attention that I should like to share with the House concerning the real human costs of privatisation and the contracting out of government services. In February this year the migrant employment task force released the results of a report entitled "Impact of Contracting Out on Female NESB Workers: Case Study of the NSW Government Cleaning Service". The study, which was commissioned by the former Bureau of Immigration, Multicultural and Population Research, was the first study to track the conditions of workers after contracting out had taken place. The study found that after cleaning services in New South Wales were contracted out in 1994 workers experienced substantial job losses, more injuries, and greater levels of harassment, verbal abuse and race-based discrimination. The author of the report, Ms Lyn Fraser, conducted lengthy face-to-face interviews with 45 cleaners who identified that women, immigrants and older workers had suffered most since the privatisation of the Government Cleaning Service.
Many women indicated that they were working extra unpaid hours because of an untenable increase in work volume. Migrant women cleaners in particular also reported an increase in abuse, humiliation and harassment. However, the cleaners were much less likely to complain about the unpaid work or the harassment because they were terrified of losing their jobs. Contracting out is often regarded as an effective way for governments to cut costs. But as this report shows, there are human costs too, and those human costs must be considered when services are privatised. The migrant employment task force has noted that the New South Wales Government has a responsibility to ensure that workplaces are free from discrimination, harassment and exploitation. The Government should prove that it will not avoid that responsibility through contracting out. I call on the Government to monitor the consequences of the contracting out of government services and to ensure that it does not forget the real human cost involved when that occurs.
DISABILITY SUPPORT SERVICES
The Hon. J. F. RYAN [10.09 p.m.]: I bring to the attention of the House, and particularly to the attention of the Minister for Community Services, the plight of a Penrith family that is currently being forced to give up two children into foster care because resources cannot be found in the community to help the family care properly for its two boys, aged five and six years, who suffer from autism. For the last five years Mr and Mrs Linthorn have struggled, with minimal support, to care for the two boys in their family home at Penrith. They have finally come to their wits' end. The difficulties this family has faced over the past five years are difficult to comprehend for anyone who has not met a child who suffers from autism. A couple of years ago, a family brought its eight-year-old autistic son to visit me in my office. This delightful but active child required three adults to keep him from getting into everything in my office, displacing stationery, upsetting books, drawers, my computer, furniture, and nearly throwing himself over the balcony. He was in my office for only half an hour, but it was a very exhausting experience.
In those circumstances it is possible to make light of the clever way in which those parents sought to make a telling point to me about the difficulty of caring for such a child. But the problem is very serious when one considers what it would be like to care for one child like this, let alone two, when the child has to be constantly supervised to ensure that the child does not wander off from home, sustain an injury, get into cupboards, upset liquids, break household items, or irritate other siblings. A family with an autistic child gets no rest from the time the child wakes until the time the child goes to bed. Virtually every cupboard in the house has to be padlocked. There is no opportunity to display ornaments; every piece of furniture is chosen for its durability, not for its comfort or good looks. Each day is a journey into becoming more frazzled and stressed. That is what it is like for Mr and Mrs Linthorn. They, like every parent, love their children and would not want to lose them or give them up. But they also have another daughter, an eight-year-old, whose needs are virtually ignored because of the extreme demands placed on this family by the two younger boys.
The Linthorn family does get some support. The boys go to the Kurrambee Special School at Werrington every school day. The family is assisted for one hour to help feed and bath the boys, but the task takes a lot longer. For some part of Saturday, the boys are cared for. Once every three months the boys are taken into a respite care home for three days. This family has to cope with an endless procession of strangers passing through the house; help is certainly provided but there is intrusion into
every aspect of family life. The family home is like a gaol. There is no escape or privacy. Recently the family was given a much-needed week-long holiday. To illustrate Mrs Linthorn's level of desperation, she told me that she spent at least half of that time cowering in a room weeping. The situation is so bad that recently neighbours have written to their local Federal member of Parliament desperately seeking help for the family. One such letter reads:
. . . it strains the mental state of each member of the family unit and a person can only handle so much. From what I know and can see, I hear two young boys screaming all the time to try and communicate as this is the only way they can, I see Sara [who is the daughter], who misses out on a lot because of the social restrictions put on the family. Lynda [that is Mrs Linthorn] cannot have a social life at all, they can't go out as a family let alone for a night as husband and wife. This must be terribly devastating to be so restricted to the walls and doors of your own home . . .
I have a lengthy letter from another neighbour in a similar vein. Staff from the local office of the Department of Community Services told me that what this family needs is to have the boys placed in a nearby group home with specialist support staff. But no such service exists. They told me also that 24 other families in the Nepean area are living in a similar state of crisis as they care for family members at home with disabilities. The only assistance the Department of Community Services has been able to offer this family is to put the boys on a waiting list for foster care. It is highly unlikely that any family will care for these children singularly, let alone together, for any length of time. That means that if the department is successful in placing the boys - and that is by no means certain - they will be separated from each other and their family for the rest of their childhood, and will live in an endless number of houses with an endless number of different carers. I am not seeking to make a political point in this adjournment speech. I am not blaming the Government or the Department of Community Services. The point I am trying to make is that we as a community have to make available the necessary resources to ensure that families like the Linthorns have proper assistance and that they do not have to make terrible choices such as fostering out their children. In my view we have to do this sooner rather than later.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF CYCLING
The Hon. I. COHEN [10.14 p.m.]: Today, being the third day of Heart Week, I took part in a Critical Mass action on pushbikes in which cyclists wearing suits rode from the Spit Bridge to the Sydney central business district during the morning peak hour. The cyclists demonstrated that travel times for bicycles are comparable to travel times of cars and buses. They also highlighted the health benefits of cycling. The cyclists, and I was among them, commenced their journey at the corner of Sydney Road and Manly Road and had quite a climb on the city side of the Spit Bridge. Nevertheless, we were able to cycle from that point to the centre of the city in 35 minutes. The NRMA multimode survey showed that buses, bicycles and cars took between 28 and 35 minutes to travel this route, with bicycles generally being faster than cars. As we rode along, it was certainly interesting to see that we were overtaking many cars banked up in the peak hour traffic. Dr David Rees, a cardiologist researching heart disease, and a cyclist, stated:
If exercise could be packed into a pill, it would be the single most widely prescribed and beneficial medicine available.
Research has shown that regular cycling reduces blood pressure as much as medicine. Exercising a total of 30 minutes every day, will more than halve your risk of heart disease.
People who exercise regularly tend to:
•Feel more confident, happy and relaxed
My riding in the event clearly prepared me for my day in this House. In a moment I will come to the Labor Government’s promises about bicycleways. When the Carr Government was elected it promised to have a substantial part of a bicycle network in place for the Olympics in 2000. Currently the Roads and Traffic Authority spends only 0.4 per cent of its budget on a bicycle network. It has completed very little; only 15 per cent of the network will be in place by 2000, and the full bicycle network may be finished by 2020. I wonder what the Government is doing about this. Cameron Shorter, an organiser of the event and a Critical Mass rider, said:
In Sydney's peak hour, cycling is usually the fastest form of transport, especially if you include parking time and waiting for a bus or train. Cyclists also save time by getting their daily exercise in transit . . .
There is a latent demand for safe, useable bicycle paths. NRMA's 1996 Monitor of Public Attitudes found 56% of people would reduce their car use if cycling and walking facilities were improved. 16% of people who currently drive to the University of NSW would cycle if safe cycle paths were provided.
One of the major problems on the ride this morning was the absence of cycle paths and signposting as to the best route for bicycles off main roads. In many instances with the peak hour traffic it was a rather dangerous activity, which could be improved if the Government abided by its policy of March 1995 and brought to fruition the aims it espoused then. The construction cost of 500 metres of motorway would resolve bicycle problems in New South Wales. In 1995 the ALP recognised the benefits of cycling and
said that it would seek to achieve the following goals:
•reduce bicycle commuting times between and to major urban centres;
•increase public transport usage by improving the link between the bicycle and public transport.
Yet we still have the problem of bikes being refused carriage on a train if there is already one bike on that train. That is most unfair to people wishing to travel to places like the Blue Mountains. The ALP policy also contained the following goal:
•reduce the number of cycling fatalities and injuries in traffic.
I suggest after today's ride that they have a long way to go. To achieve these goals the Carr Labor Government said that it would:
•commence the planning and construction of metropolitan and urban bicycle networks, which will enable bicycle transportation to realise its maximum potential.
Certainly this has not been apparent thus far. Today was an eventful day, and there is no doubt that bicycling is not a safe activity on most New South Wales roads. Many motorists are hostile to cyclists, roads are too narrow, and secure bicycle storage is in short supply. When the Minister for Transport, Brian Langton, was the shadow transport minister he said:
By developing a bicycle network - a combination of quieter roads, dedicated bike lanes, widened kerbside lanes and sealed shoulders - cyclists will be able to travel with greater ease and safety.
Bicycle travel on the network would be promoted by signposting and maps.
New South Wales has a fleet of around two million pushbikes, but they are under-used due to a lack of basic cycling infrastructure.
It is well recognised that the Minister should keep to his pre-election promises and establish adequate, effective transit systems for bikes in New South Wales.
WOMEN IN POLITICS
The Hon. PATRICIA FORSYTHE [10.19 p.m.]: Last week I was pleased to host a lecture on behalf of the Women into Politics organisation in the Parliamentary Theatrette. However, I was disappointed when criticism was made of the Howard Government’s commitment to women and women's representation at the proposed constitutional convention. Today I received a letter from my Federal colleague the Minister for Social Security and the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women, Senator the Hon. Jocelyn Newman. I shall place the letter on the record because it gives the lie to any suggestion that the Howard Government is not committed to women's representation at the convention. The letter states:
A Letter to Australian Women's Organisations regarding
arrangements for the Constitutional Convention.
As you would be aware, 152 delegates will attend the Australian Constitutional Convention, to be held in December 1997. Half the delegates will be appointed, and half will be elected.
A total of 76 delegates will be appointed by the Commonwealth Parliament and the States, and the Prime Minister has committed the Government to ensuring its appointments will reflect a proper balance between men and women.
The election of the other 76 delegates to the Convention will be conducted through a non-compulsory secret postal ballot. As Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women, I am determined to see women are given every opportunity to take part in the election. Groups such as yours can therefore play an integral part in determining the number of women who will participate in this process.
Given the indicative Australian Electoral Commission timetable for the election of delegates to the convention, it is important to make women aware of this process as soon as possible, and I encourage your organisation to be involved in this endeavour . . .
The Constitutional Convention was an election commitment, and the Government is ensuring the people of Australia have a say in the future of our country. It is incumbent on organisations representing women to ensure their constituents are appropriately informed, and encouraged to take part in this important process.
I am sure you would agree with me that there should be a significant representation of women of merit at the Convention.
The Minister has enclosed a timetable with the letter. Subject to the legislation being passed in the Senate and royal assent being granted no later than 19 June, the critical dates are the end of June and the first week of July. Notice of the election will be given on Monday, 23 June; the rolls will close on Monday, 30 June; the nominations will close on Wednesday, 2 July; the declaration of nominations will take place on Thursday, 3 July; and the submission of candidate statements will take place on Thursday, 3 July. The proposed constitutional convention will be held in December. I place the letter on the record because I believe that the Howard Government is committed to seeing women appropriately represented at the constitutional convention. I will give every support to my Federal colleague to ensure that women are well represented at the convention.
DISABILITY SUPPORT SERVICES
The Hon. R. D. DYER (Minister for Community Services, Minister for Aged Services, and Minister for Disability Services) [10.23 p.m.]: I wish to respond to the concerns raised by the Hon. J. F. Ryan on behalf of the Linthorne family, which has an autistic child.
The Hon. J. F. Ryan: It has two autistic children.
The Hon. R. D. DYER: I can appreciate that one autistic child would exert major strains on a family, and that would be doubly the case if there were two autistic children in a family. The Hon. J. F. Ryan referred to the desirability of placing the children in a group home. He will appreciate that such placements are not easy to obtain, given the demand on the available resources. He expressed concern about the children’s prospects if they were to be placed in foster care and successive placement breakdowns were to occur. I can appreciate that that might occur if the behaviour of the children is difficult, as I imagine it is.
I wonder whether the Hon. J. F. Ryan would be prepared to make a personal representation to me in the form of a letter detailing the history of the family and its attempts to gain assistance. I will do what I can to clear the way for assistance to be given, although I am not in a position to give a definite indication in that regard at present. I appreciate the sincerity with which the honourable member raised the matter. It speaks well of his efforts to assist the family. The Director-General of the Ageing and Disability Department, Ms Jane Woodruff, is a former executive director of the Autistic Association of New South Wales. If she were approached on the telephone by the honourable member she might be in a position to make some suggestions about how the family should seek assistance.
Motion agreed to.
House adjourned at 10.25 p.m.