Wednesday, 28 May 1997
The President (The Hon. Max Frederick Willis) took the chair at 11.00 a.m.
The President offered the Prayers.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Postponement of Business
Government business notice of motion No. 2 postponed on motion by the Hon. J. W. Shaw.
EVIDENCE AMENDMENT (CONFIDENTIAL COMMUNICATIONS) BILL
Bill introduced and read a first time.
The Hon. J. W. SHAW (Attorney General, and Minister for Industrial Relations) [11.02 a.m.]: I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
It goes without saying that a person who has suffered the grave trauma of sexual assault will often be assisted in recovery by seeking counselling. The counselling relationship, built on confidentiality, privacy and trust, enables a victim to explore major issues concerning her sense of safety, privacy and self-esteem. The knowledge that details of a victim’s conversations with her therapist may be used against her in subsequent criminal proceedings can inhibit the counselling process and undermine its efficacy. As one counsellor said, "When I have told clients that the counselling notes of our session may be subpoenaed I have had experience of clients leaving counselling and in another case a client deliberately censors herself in discussing issues in counselling." Knowing that a perpetrator has had access to counselling files can further traumatise victims and increase their sense of powerlessness. One victim said:
My files were subpoenaed. It wasn’t the court seeing them, the judge and the lawyers, that worried me so much because I knew that they could only support my case if I was given a chance to speak about them. What made me feel really upset was that my stepfather (who had raped me) would see them. He was lying about not having done it and I could just imagine him going through my personal records. It was like having him invade my life again.
The bill was motivated by the Government’s concern to provide protection for confidential communications such as these, and in doing so to emphasise the public interest in ensuring the confidentiality of such relationships. The Evidence Amendment (Confidential Communications) Bill will amend part 3.10 of the Evidence Act 1995, which deals with privileges. Firstly, it will introduce protections for confidential communications in two ways. Secondly, it will provide a judicial discretion allowing the courts to exclude evidence of a confidential communication. The exercise of that discretion will be guided by factors set out in the legislation. It will provide a rebuttable presumption that evidence of a confidential communication made to a counsellor by a victim of sexual assault should not be admitted in evidence.
Such material will be admissible only when the court is satisfied that the probative value of the material is so high as to substantially outweigh the public interest in protecting the confidentiality of sexual assault victims in counselling relationships. I will outline the operation of each of these protections separately. The first protection vests a discretion in the court to exclude evidence of a confidential communication. The evidence must be excluded if there is a likelihood that harm would or might be caused, whether directly or indirectly, to the person who imparted the confidence, and the nature and extent of that harm outweighs the desirability of having the evidence given or the documents produced.
In determining whether to exclude evidence of a confidential communication the court will be required to give consideration to specific matters. Setting out the factors which should influence the court in exercising its discretion will better enable the parties to judge in advance the prospects of their claim for privilege. Guidance in this form promotes consistency in decision making. I will briefly outline the relevant factors. The first factor is the importance of the evidence. To determine the balance of interests in the case, it is essential for the court to determine how important the evidence in question is to the proceeding. The information may be only marginally relevant or it may be conclusive
of an issue in dispute. The more significant the evidence, the less likely it will be that the discretion would be exercised in favour of excluding the evidence.
The second factor is the nature of the proceeding. The public interest in having all relevant evidence available to the court will weigh more heavily in a murder trial than in a minor debt recovery proceeding. The third factor is the availability of other evidence. The court should consider whether any other evidence concerning the matters in question is available from another source. The fourth factor is the likely effect of adducing the evidence. Requiring the evidence to be given may harm the person who made the confidential communication. The harm may include physical danger, financial ruin, damaged reputation, psychological damage or damage to a person’s ability to earn a living.
The fifth factor is limiting adverse consequences. The court should be required to consider the means available to it to limit the adverse consequences of a forced breach of confidence. These may include limiting publication of the evidence, ordering non-publication of part only of the evidence, suppressing the publication of names and conducting hearings in closed court. The sixth factor is whether the evidence is adduced by the defence or the prosecution. In line with policy evident in the Evidence Act 1995, there are very few circumstances in which evidence which may be adduced for the benefit of a defendant in a criminal proceeding should be granted privilege. Finally, the court should have regard to whether there has been previous disclosure. As the continuing confidentiality of the information is the basis for the grant of the privilege, it will be relevant whether, and to what extent, the contents of the communication have been disclosed.
Disclosure creates an exception to client legal privilege, under section 122 of the Evidence Act 1995, and to the exclusion of evidence of settlement negotiations, under section 131. This protection will extend to a wide range of confidential communications and may include confidences imparted to doctors and other health professionals, journalists, social workers and in other relationships in which confidentiality is an integral element. This first part of the bill was the subject of a discussion paper entitled "Protecting Confidential Communications from Disclosure in Court", which was released in June 1996. I received more than 80 submissions in relation to that discussion paper, and considerable support was received for the proposal outlined. However, a majority of the submissions argued in favour of an additional specialised privilege for sexual assault counselling communications.
The second part of this bill relates specifically to confidential communications made by a victim of sexual assault to a counsellor. The arguments in favour of a specialised privilege which I found particularly persuasive included the following. Firstly, it was argued that the proposed general privilege would fail to provide sufficient protection to such communications. The general privilege includes as a factor in favour of disclosure the question of whether the evidence is sought to be adduced by the defence in a criminal trial. While this is a highly important consideration for the reasons I have given, such a factor would make it extremely difficult for sexual assault complainants to successfully claim the privilege.
Secondly, the primary purpose of counselling is not investigative; it is therapeutic. The Government recognises the importance of counselling for a victim of sexual assault, and complainants are referred to a sexual assault counsellor when they complain to the police. As part of the counselling process the complainant is encouraged to release emotions and talk unhindered, yet the complainant has no legal right to review the notes to see whether they are an accurate reflection of his or her version of the events. Nevertheless, these notes can be used to claim that the complainant has made prior inconsistent statements and has feelings of shame and guilt which are consistent with a motive to lie.
Thirdly, it was argued that the failure to accord counselling records a privilege has had the following consequences: some victims choose not to obtain counselling; some obtain counselling but are guarded about what they reveal; some victims refuse to report the crime or be a witness for the prosecution; some counsellors do not take notes; some counsellors take notes which are cryptic and cannot be understood by others; and some counsellors refuse to hand over the notes and are charged with contempt. These are undesirable outcomes. When a victim refuses to initiate court proceedings or undergo counselling, or to the extent to which the openness of the counselling relationship is constrained, both the interests of the victim and the interests of the community in general are harmed.
Fourthly, many of the submissions suggested that defence counsel are increasingly using subpoenas for the production of counselling records as a weapon to intimidate the complainant. This is
not a justifiable use of the laws of evidence. Finally, a common concern expressed in the submissions related to the fact that being a victim of sexual assault can be a humiliating and/or terrifying experience. It was argued that allowing the accused and the defence counsel to have access to all the victim’s thoughts, feelings, insecurities and the recounting of painful past experiences as revealed in counselling sessions may exacerbate this trauma.
In the light of these arguments, I propose in this legislation to supplement the general provision with a more specific privilege. It will presume that things said in confidence by a victim of sexual assault to her counsellor, and notes of such communications, are inadmissible as evidence. The onus will be placed on the defence to argue that any such material will substantially assist in the defence of an accused and that such evidence cannot be obtained from alternative sources. The value of the information to the defence will have to substantially outweigh both the public interest in protecting the confidentiality of sexual assault counselling relationships and the risk of harm to the complainant that may be caused by disclosure. Only those parts which meet the test will be disclosed to the defence and the judge will be able to prevent the disclosure to the accused of details which might identify the complainant’s whereabouts. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate adjourned on motion by the Hon. J. P. Hannaford.
BUDGET ESTIMATES AND RELATED PAPERS
Financial Year 1997-98
Debate resumed from 20 May.
The Hon. ELAINE NILE [11.17 a.m.]: I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak in this 1997 budget debate and to focus on three areas of concern: first, community services and child protection; second, police and the problems of illegal drugs; and, third, education, the quality of it, and what is being taught in our school classrooms. In the Bible in Matthew 18:6 the Lord Jesus Christ said:
But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea, rather than come into the hands of the living God.
Education is a serious issue. I note that total budget expenditure in 1997-98 will be more than $20,515 million; receipts will total more than $22 billion with a surplus of $2,247 million. However, capital expenditure will total $3,301 million with receipts of only $1,081 million, which means a deficit of more than $2 billion. Obviously, the Government must raise extra income, but it has broken its promise of no new taxes. The Carr-Egan Labor Government has boasted, "It is every inch a Labor budget." The Treasurer repeated that twice in his Budget Speech. It is truly a Labor budget because it introduces new and increased taxation. There are the bed tax, the land tax, the increase in general insurance premiums and the increased tax on poker machines. The bed tax is the cause of a great deal of heartache in the Sydney area.
The Hon. D. F. Moppett: And a lot of sleepless nights.
The Hon. ELAINE NILE: Yes. The sum of $64 million will be raised through a new 10 per cent tax on hotel and motel accommodation in the Sydney central business district and equivalent areas. This new tax will seriously harm our tourist trade and hotel development. Sydney has always been known as the jewel in the crown and has everything that Melbourne and South Australia do not have. The harbour and the Opera House are magnificent features of this city, and there are many more. The bed tax, which has angered the hotel industry, will apply also to cruise ships docking at Sydney Harbour and to locals who live in serviced apartments. The cruise ship industry has warned that its ships will bypass Sydney after 1 September, which will not be terribly helpful for the tourism industry.
The manager of the Sovereign Motor Inns at Crows Nest, Mr Hancock, has complained that his establishment will have to charge guests an extra $13.50 a night for no reason other than being located on the wrong side of nearby Falcon Street. The site of the four-star establishment on the Pacific Highway is just inside the boundary of the area in which all hotels will be hit with a 10 per cent State accommodation tax. The manager of the Sovereign Motor Inns argues that his establishment is nowhere near the central business district and does not attract the same guests as those attracted to five-star accommodation in the city. He explains that a competing hotel, the Mercure Hotel and Conference Centre, offers similar four-star accommodation and caters for the same class of business travellers working north of the harbour but, even though it is located very close to the Sovereign Motor Inns, is not caught within the tax boundary. The Sovereign Motor Inns charges $135 a night in a market Mr Hancock describes as being price sensitive.
The Sovereign Motor Inns provides accommodation for the families of people undergoing surgery at the nearby Mater
Misericordiae Hospital. The establishment plays a vital role in serving relatives, from both the country and the city, who need to be near someone undergoing treatment at the hospital. The tax represents a hurtful cut to a hotel that provides reduced rates. Call to Australia recently received a phone call from Mr Julian Ledger of the Youth Hostels Association of Australia. The association, which has a New South Wales membership of 56,000, does not operate for profit. It provides accommodation for country high school students visiting Sydney, families of those undergoing medical treatment in the city, and young people from overseas and interstate.
Recently the association has renovated a 500-bed building near Central station, and is concerned that it will face great problems because of the bed tax. As Mr Ledger pointed out, the Youth Hostels Association could not be called a high-flier, but it will be hurt. It is quite obvious that the bed tax will affect tourism in New South Wales. Mr Ledger of the Youth Hostels Association has pointed out that youth hostels are specifically named in the budget. The association has spoken to the Treasurer, who said that the Government may make an exemption for the association, but if that exemption is not given and the association does not increase its fees it will face a $10,000 fine.
The association is, of course, very concerned. It would appear that the Treasurer is killing the goose that lays the golden egg, Sydney; he is killing off tourism in this State. The Minister for the Olympics, Michael Knight, said that he is upset by the levy. Concern about the tax has also been expressed by the International Olympic Committee. The Treasurer has gone a little too far with the bed tax, especially at this time. It would not do any good for the Government to decide that the tax will apply only for the time of the Olympic Games, because other organisations still have to survive after the Games. Call to Australia received a letter from the Chairman of the Coffs Harbour Future Development Corporation, Mr John Watson, which states:
As a major regional destination, Coffs Harbour will suffer directly and indirectly. Sydney is Coffs Harbour’s gateway and thus of major significance to our business and tourism industries including, for example, our thriving backpacker segment. The backpacker market is extremely price sensitive and gratuitous increases in the cost of accommodation will have an immediate and appreciable negative impact.
The damage will have disastrous repercussion in terms of employment, investment, profitability and therefore total economic well-being in any regional community that has a significant tourism industry.
The tax will have an adverse effect on business people, for example from Coffs Harbour, who have to travel to Sydney in the course of their business. We ourselves have put a considerable amount of time and effort into setting up an office in Sydney. This office was to open on 1 July 1997 to represent Coffs Harbour Tourism conventions and business development. As we operate within tight budget constraints the viability of our Sydney operations is now in jeopardy.
I am sure that the Treasurer recognises there may be problems in the House in relation to the bed tax. Secondly, land tax will be expanded and increased. Thirdly, the general insurance premiums rate of duty will also be increased. Fourthly, the tax rate on poker machine profits will be increased by 30 per cent, which will have a major impact on registered clubs. Fifthly, the parking space levy in the central business district will be increased from $200 to $400. I shall speak now about the issue of child protection. The Treasurer in his Budget Speech stated, "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." He went on to say, "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 all our citizens a safe, fair, prosperous, and civilised community. And that means a secure community."
The Premier, in his budget statement of 6 May 1997, said, "Security for and protection of children is a special priority for the Carr Government in the 1997-98 budget." I fully support the aim to have the most successful Olympic Games ever in Sydney in the year 2000, but I wish the same enthusiasm that has been directed towards the Olympic Games had been directed towards the protection of children from the powerful, secretive paedophile networks which Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile, my leader, exposed in the House year after year from 1983, only to be met with ridicule and derision. In 1987 when we demanded urgent action to close down a so-called children’s liberation house in Glebe that was being run by self-professed paedophile Emu Nugent the Government of the day said it could not close down the facility until it had evidence that children had been sexually abused. Yet that man had been charged in 1983 as the leader of the Australian Paedophile Support Group.
The royal commission into paedophile activity relating to the Police Service, local government and government departments such as the Department of School Education and the Department of Community Services revealed alarming evidence of an extensive paedophile network in New South Wales involving judges such as the late Justice Yeldham; more than 400 State, private and Catholic school principals and teachers; an officer in the office of the Minister for Community Services responsible for answering questions raised in Parliament; and at least two lord
mayors of Wollongong. There are rumours of involvement by even more judges and by members of Parliament. It is of great interest to read through answers given to questions asked in this Chamber in the past. I regret to say that the replies given to questions asked in the House when the present Attorney General was a member of this place, although they were not provided by him, are incredible. I highlight particularly comments made by the Hon. Paul Landa. Arrests had been made in Sydney of men who were abusing children. At the time Paul Landa said:
I have no doubt that arrests are made in Sydney -
Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile stated that the arrests had been made on the previous Saturday. The Hon. Paul Landa replied:
I can assure the honourable member that thousands of arrests are made in this city. Unlike Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile, I do not take a morbid interest in dissecting those arrests that relate to sexual offences and those that do not.
I find that abhorrent. Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile said, "They relate to children." Absolutely nothing happened. Reference is made to another example, among many examples, in 1984 concerning Emu Nugent. I will not accept that such abhorrent behaviour has not been going on. Nor will I accept that governments have been concerned, because for quite a long while governments have turned a blind eye to such matters. Call to Australia looks forward to the royal commission’s report on paedophilia, which is to be handed down in June.
The Hon. Franca Arena: It will now be August.
The Hon. ELAINE NILE: In August. I trust - as I am sure do other members such as the Hon. Franca Arena and the Hon. Deirdre Grusovin, the member for Heffron in the other place - that report will be frank, honest and not a whitewash. An article published in the Daily Telegraph of 25 May stated, under the headline "Report a blind eye-opener":
Commissioner James Wood is expected to bring down his report on paedophilia on -
now August -
This should deal with Justice Wood’s unfortunate brother judge David Yeldham.
It is clear to the most disinterested observers that the most senior figures in the NSW judicial system were aware of Yeldham’s very public illegal sexual behaviour, though they did nothing.
At various times, his sexual activities were brought to the attention of Chief Justice Murray Gleeson, former chief justice Sir Laurence Street, ICAC Commissioner Barry O’Keefe, former ICAC commissioner Ian Temby, and former NSW attorneys-general Frank Walker and Terry Sheahan.
Despite such high-powered protectors of the law being aware of the stories circulating about Yeldham, no action was taken.
If Commissioner Wood can manage to orchestrate a public relations storm over low-level police officers running protection rackets and standing over harlots and drug pushers, how will he deal with some of the more senior individuals in the community who - on the face of it - would appear to have turned a blind eye to the activities of a member of their own illustrious circle?
We have five weeks of suspense before us. Let’s hope Commissioner Wood’s second royal commission report isn’t as disappointing as his first.
That article hits the nail on the head. The vocal homosexual lobby, which was present during the commission hearings must not be allowed to gag the royal commission. There is conclusive evidence that a percentage of homosexual men, although they engage in sexual acts with other adult males, prefer to have sex with small boys, in much the same way that some older heterosexual men - perverts - prefer to have sex with small girls, as occurs regularly in Thailand. A man who often frequents brothels has told us that he was disgusted and horrified when he was asked on one such visit to a brothel whether he would like a small girl.
Labor and coalition governments did not need a royal commission to expose paedophilia or sexual abuse of children; they needed only determination and courage. The prevention of sexual abuse of children is the reason to oppose strongly the current campaign by the homosexual lobby groups to lower the age of consent, which would put even more children at risk. How far should the age of consent be lowered? Representatives of the powerful paedophile unit in the United States of America, the North American Man Boy Association, which has strong links with the Australian paedophile network, came to Brisbane many years ago. That association’s motto is "Sex before eight otherwise too late".
Obviously such groups will not be satisfied until the age of consent is completely abolished. They will then be free to prey on children without fear of criminal repercussions because they will persuade and seduce innocent children in need of caring love to participate in their perverseness. As I have said before in this Chamber, I recorded a conversation that took place on the ABC television program Lateline between two men, whose voices were known to police. The men, who were in the television studio, related how they seduced boys in
school playgrounds. They told how they seduced the mothers and the children, and then described what further happened. After the program went to air charges were laid against a number of particular church leaders and members.
I took my tape recording to the police, but the next morning the ABC claimed that the tape could not be found. That incident happened 15 years ago. The police said, "We know the voices, but we cannot do anything." Homosexuals claim they have no interest in children, yet the international lesbian and gay association has spearheaded a worldwide campaign to lower the age of consent through its 320 member organisations in more than 80 countries and 600 additional associations in 85 centres. The Festival of Light publishes the Light magazine and I should like to quote an article from that publication. The article, which refers to a Dr Glaser, who recently took part in meetings held in Sydney, stated:
It is noteworthy that the gender ratio of abuse victims cited by Dr Glaser is 2:1 girls to boys. That is, homosexual or bisexual men, who make up less than two percent of the population, are responsible for over thirty percent of paedophilia cases. This huge relative risk of paedophilia by the homosexual community is borne out by other studies. In 1970 the Kinsey Institute interviewed 565 homosexuals in San Francisco: 25 percent admitted to having had sex with boys 16 or under while they themselves were at least 21.
Dr Glaser and others, including NSW MPs Fred and Elaine Nile of Call to Australia, as well as Mrs Deirdre Grusovin and Mrs Franca Arena, of the NSW ALP, are calling for an overhaul of judicial and education systems to root out paedophilia and prevent the cover-ups that have occurred in the past.
For that reason, four months ago Call to Australia launched its white ribbon campaign: the colour white stands for the purity and protection of children. Call to Australia believes that children should be able to live their lives free from the rubbish that is presently available in schools and on television, and without fear of paedophilia, sexual abuse by a family member - or indeed anyone - and emotional abuse. Strangely, for the last 20 years society has never had to focus on this issue. Society trusted people, but that trust no longer exists. If I were the mother of small children in this day and age, I realise that I could not keep them locked up but I would be very wary of those with whom they come into contact, especially any adults.
The 1995 report on child abuse and neglect reveals alarming child abuse figures from State and Territory welfare departments in the period 1 July 1994 to 30 June 1995. They are the latest available official figures from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare in Canberra. The report, which was prepared by Angus and Hall on child welfare and is numbered 12 in a series, states that there were 30,615 substantiated cases of child abuse and neglect in 1994-95. A further 2,796 cases were not substantiated, because of the difficulty getting evidence, but the children involved were assessed as being at risk. The figures represented a 7 per cent increase over those of 1993-94. However, it must be remembered that the testimony of a child is often rejected by police, welfare officers and the court.
In this Chamber on earlier occasions I have raised the details of a particular case in a country town, and I thank the Hon. R. D. Dyer for once again addressing the matter. The case relates to complaints made to me by a grandmother that her three-year-old granddaughter was being abused by her mother’s de facto husband. I shall not use the obscene words that were expressed to me, and I cannot understand how this young child would know of such words given that she does not even attend kindergarten or go to places where such language is used or such practices are talked about. The grandmother had written down the conversation she had with her granddaughter. It was a shock to the grandmother; they are a Christian family. The child said:
My daddy do’s f . . .g. I tell him it’s naughty and he still do’s . . . to me. And when I wee my pants and he do’s . . . to me. I tell him "if you do I’ll smack your bum and he still do’s it Nan. He’s naughty Nan."
I then asked [the child’s name] "Who does daddy do this . . . to?" and [the child] replied: "Me."
The de facto husband has custody of the child on the weekends. The grandmother’s statement concluded:
I asked her how daddy did this? . . . no answer.
I then asked her if he hurt her. She replied "No."
I asked her where she slept at daddy’s house. She replied - "In daddy’s bed - in daddy’s dark bed".
This is the end of the diary entry. I felt it was unwise to prolong this conversation.
The grandmother went to the police, who advised her to go to the Department of Community Services - which she did. A representative of the Department of Community Services said that the department could not accept the evidence of the small child. The de facto husband still has the custody of the child on weekends and the grandmother is quite distraught. The grandmother claims that the behaviour is continuing and she does not know what to do. What does the mother do? There has been a long history of abuse of this child. I am pleased that the Minister is looking into this case again. But how many such children pass
through the net without anything being done for them? Figures reveal that a further 31,364 cases of alleged child abuse cannot be substantiated under the current rules of evidence.
Of the 30,615 substantiated cases of child abuse, 29 per cent involve physical abuse, 28 per cent involve emotional abuse, 16 per cent involve sexual abuse and 26 per cent involve neglect. Girls are the victims in 70 per cent of all sexual abuse cases. Police received the highest rate of substantiated cases at 61 per cent; social workers received only 55 per cent. Child abuse cases involving female single parent families total 39 per cent of all incidents of child abuse. In New South Wales the primary actual physical abuse in 22 per cent of cases related to bruising of the child. Drug and/or alcohol abuse by parents caused emotional harm to children in 22 per cent of all emotional abuse cases.
Sexual fondling occurred in 42 per cent of sexual abuse cases. However, sexual fondling complaints are accepted to protect children from having to relive in the courts more serious forms of abuse. In 1994-95 New South Wales recorded the highest proportion of substantiated child abuse cases, with 14,164 cases out of 30,615 - almost 50 per cent - including almost 3,000 sexually abused children. The total number of child abuse cases in Australia in 1994-95 was 67,918, of which 26,960 were in New South Wales, including 8,874 children aged under four years; 7,962 children aged five to nine years; 7,701 children aged 10 to 14 years; 1,433 children aged 15 to 16 years; and 86 cases involved young people aged 17 years and over.
Given the number of children abused in the five to nine years and 10 to 14 years categories, it is obvious why paedophiles want the age of consent to be lowered to about 10 years of age, as was recently recommended in certain cases by the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General. More Aboriginal children were involved in neglect cases than were non-Aboriginal children. Unfortunately, more than 50 per cent of child abuse reports are unsubstantiated. In 1994-95 a total of 76,954 reported cases of child abuse were unsubstantiated, of which only 67,918 were finalised. Only 30,615 were substantiated.
Obviously there is a serious problem getting sufficient evidence to substantiate child abuse cases, with the result that guilty persons go free and abuse continues. Children are terrified by threats and are not willing to report cases of abuse. With regard to former Justice Yeldham, at least one report was received by the mother of a 10-year-old boy. There is a cover-up by the old boy’s network. Some people have even suggested that judges and lawyers engaged in paedophilia activities and who attended prominent boys high schools, such as Knox, protect each other. I hope that this is not true. There is also evidence that lawyers with a vested interest have tried to frustrate the charging of paedophiles in New South Wales.
Recently John Marsden, who was named in Parliament by the Hon. Deirdre Grusovin and was investigated by the royal commission, succeeded in having declared invalid by Justice Temby a number of royal commission search warrants. Why did Justice Temby, when he was the head of the ICAC, not expose paedophilia activities in the Department of School Education? Call to Australia is concerned about suggestions of conflict of interest. I urge the Government to require persons such as judges, lawyers, police officers and members of the Anti-Discrimination Board to declare, if any exists, a conflict interest in sensitive cases in which they are involved.
For example, a homosexual judge hearing a case involving a homosexual defendant should stand aside. Similarly, a homosexual member of the Anti-Discrimination Board - as happened in John Marsden’s case - should not be allowed to rule on cases involving a homosexual or make recommendations concerning homosexual reform, the age of consent, same sex marriages, et cetera. I am pleased that provision has been made in the 1997-98 budget for the allocation of $497.144 million to the Department of Community Services in addition to funding for capital works. In view of the high incidence of serious physical and sexual abuse of children I am pleased also that the Government has made the protection of children a priority.
I commend the Government for allocating a total of $6.4 million to the Department of Community Services and the New South Wales Police Service to establish and run eight joint teams to investigate notifications of criminal child abuse. The Treasurer, in his budget speech, referred to areas "where serious child abuse has occurred or is at risk of occurring". Call to Australia is concerned about the words "is at risk of occurring". Until the investigation is complete the definition of "criminal child abuse" may not be clear. The investigation teams must be given stronger powers, like those of a royal commission and the ICAC, to require witnesses to answer questions and to undertake phone tapping and video surveillance.
A joint Federal-State royal commission should be set up to inquire into paedophile networks, which
operate nationally and internationally. Justice Wood’s inquiries have only scratched the surface, as most honourable members in this Chamber would acknowledge. Children should be protected also from all forms of drugs, legal and illegal. I am opposed to the recommendation in Justice Wood’s report for so-called legal heroin shooting galleries and to trials such as the free heroin distribution trial in the Australian Capital Territory. I recall seeing a television news clip recently that depicted a so-called shooting gallery in Kings Cross with blood-splattered walls and teenagers laying about unconscious on the floor. A more recent television program depicted shooting galleries in clean, almost hospital like, rooms.
Call to Australia is concerned also about the street kids. These children, most of whom use drugs, need compulsory rehabilitation. We do not want young people who are not involved with drugs to be encouraged to go into shooting galleries. The recommendations of Justice Wood could lead to this activity in legal drug shooting galleries. Justice Wood, politicians such as the Hon. Ann Symonds and a large number of social workers, have forgotten why we have such strong laws against drugs. They have forgotten why it is that marijuana, heroin, cocaine, et cetera, have been declared illegal. They were made illegal not to punish the drug addict, but to protect our youth and our children. The law is there to protect them.
Those who want soft laws, or even no laws, relating to hard drugs are focusing merely on the drug addict. They have forgotten about protection for children, our Australian youth. They have forgotten about the necessity to prevent and discourage children from becoming illegal drug users, drug abusers, drug addicts and finally drug overdosers. The foolish, but well meaning, drug reformers - such as the Australian Drug Foundation and Parliamentarians for Drug Reform - focus only on the drug addict. How can we help these sorry cases? The answer that has been suggested is the provision of free heroin needles. In 1996-97 more than 5.5 million needles were given out with the approval of Dr Refshauge, the Minister for Health. Another suggestion is to provide heroin shooting galleries and free heroin. If that is done, the taxpayers of Australia will be the greatest pushers of drugs anywhere in the world.
The HIV-AIDS epidemic is often used as an excuse. People are pushing children into a world in which they will eventually die. They are not interested in saving the kids. Over the years I have undertaken a great deal of mission work, and I know that the more the addicts get, the more they want and they will do anything to get what they want. When this dangerous, risky experiment fails, as it did in Sweden, it will be impossible to put the drug genie back in the bottle. As in the case of cigarettes, once a drug is made legal it is almost impossible to ban it.
Singapore has beaten the drug epidemic with firm, strong and consistent action, by the implementation of education and rehabilitation programs. In Singapore if a person tests positive for heroin, he or she is required to submit to 12 months residency in a compulsory drug rehabilitation centre. If caught a second time, the person is put in the drug rehabilitation centre for five years. In Singapore police have powers to conduct random heroin testing of suspects, similar to our random alcohol breath test. The approach taken by the Singapore Government has destroyed the demand for drugs. It has the effect of killing the drug-pushing trade instead of killing our kids and young adults.
The Hon. J. M. Samios: Japan has a similar approach.
The Hon. ELAINE NILE: Yes, Japan does not play around. I recall being in China some time ago when I interviewed a former Chinese health minister. He said in that interview, "The western world has a problem. You are soft, you are very soft. You are soft on everything: soft on prostitution, soft on drugs." He said further, "If we find people continually pushing drugs, we shoot them". Call to Australia also wishes to prevent the emotional and mental abuse of children in the classroom. Our youth should be protected from the media, the television, videos and the Internet. Recently, travelling to Orange very early one morning, Paddy Bergin, the counsel who assisted the royal commissioner, said on radio that she was disgusted when she learnt what material could be obtained from the Internet. She sent out a press release stating that she had seen material on the Internet aimed at seducing young boys into the world of paedophilia. I was able to access that same material on the computer in my parliamentary office in this very building.
Mental abuse can be caused by exposure to school literature such as Top Girls, homophobic courses, kits for primary schools such as "Friends for Life" and lessons in witchcraft and curses that are available in our State primary schools. I congratulate the Minister for Education and Training, the Hon. J. J. Aquilina, for standing up to the Teachers Federation, the parents and citizens association, the Independent Education Union, the Secondary Principals Council and the English
Teachers Association and withdrawing Top Girls, the controversial play, from higher school certificate study. I commend Dame Leonie Kramer for chairing the review panel that recommended its withdrawal.
The publication Top Girls contains the "f" and "c" four-letter words; its grammar is atrocious; the language is absolutely filthy; and the activity described is obscene. Despite all this, the Teachers Federation wants the play retained and the bureaucracy of the parents and citizens association supports it. During our recent visits to 40 country towns I handed out excerpts of this publication to parents. They were shocked. Why do academics suggest that our children should be reading such literature? If children want to read the book Top Girls, they can buy it; they should not be able to read it at school. I realise that a previous education Minister introduced the curriculum, but it is sad that the present Minister does not know what is in the school curriculum.
The Hon. Virginia Chadwick: The Board of Studies said the play will be kept until 1999.
The Hon. ELAINE NILE: That is so. It will be thrown out in 1999.
The Hon. Virginia Chadwick: I thought the Minister said he was going to do something about that.
The Hon. ELAINE NILE: Yes, but he has said the play will remain in the syllabus for that time.
The Hon. Virginia Chadwick: He did not tell John Laws or Alan Jones that, did he?
The Hon. ELAINE NILE: John Laws gave us a roasting, as if Call to Australia approved of the book. I rang him and advised that we exposed the book. I faxed to him the material and the letters of complaint written by parents and the responses from the Board of Studies, which claimed that the publication had the approval of the community.
The Hon. Virginia Chadwick: The Board of Studies has told the Minister to get lost.
The Hon. ELAINE NILE: The Board of Studies should get lost as well. His name does not come to mind, but a professor of English has said that the cotton wool must be taken away from our students. Who gave that person the right to take away the cotton wool from our students? The kit "Violence Against Homosexual Men and Women" is still used in the classroom. If such kits are to be used in our classrooms, they should be related to violence against all members of the community, including old-age pensioners and handicapped people, not just homosexuals. This kit does not help young people, it promotes the homosexual lifestyle. The overhead module states:
Homosexuality is natural.
As far as we know homosexuality has been practised in all societies and at all times in history.
In any given population, about 10% of people will be homosexual . . .
Alfred Kinsey put together that material after visiting a number of prisons throughout the United States of America. Australian psychologists, Dr Judith Reisman, Edward Eichel and Dr John Court, analysed Mr Kinsey’s material and found it was not factual. The figure is really less than 2 per cent of the population, so why are our children being told in the classroom that 10 per cent of the population is homosexual? I object also to the fact that the module advises children to seek help from the Gay and Lesbian Counselling Service, the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, the Police Gay and Lesbian Client Group Consultant, the Aids Council of New South Wales and the Family Planning Association of New South Wales.
The kit does not advise young people to talk to their parents or to go to the doctor; it throws them into the arms of the homosexual movement. Last week a number of Muslim parents were upset because their daughters were taken away by teachers from Bankstown high school on a so-called health weekend. The students came back most distraught because they had been taught about anal sex, oral sex and vaginal sex. Muslim families do not want their children exposed to such material.
At Bankstown high school a notice was put on a notice board depicting two young men kissing. The notice stated "When you say yes . . . say yes to safe sex". The caption is absolutely filthy. A Christian teacher who took down that document from the notice board was reprimanded by the principal for having done so. What gives the Board of Studies or the Minister for Education and Training the right to teach Muslim and Christian children things that the parents of those children do not want their children to know? When the Hon. Virginia Chadwick was the Minister, the Council of Churches took a kit introduced by her and said:
This Council does not question the need for education to deal with such attitudes [that is the attitudes of abuse and so on, whatever that area be]. We do however seriously question whether a kit such as this is the way to do it. We believe that
it merely replaces one set of lies, half-truths and socially damaging beliefs - the "poofter bashing" mentality - with another, supplied by the gay lobby. Instead, we suggest a general anti-violence module would be far more appropriate, to counteract violence and cruelty and cruelty against any group perceived to be different, or to live by values seen to be unacceptable.
That was the view of the Council of Churches but it was completely put aside. Another kit was distributed by the Government’s Federal Australian Labor Party colleagues. It was issued by the Hon. Graham Richardson when he was Federal Minister for health. It is used in relation to health, not in relation to sex education.
The Hon. Jan Burnswoods: That was a fair while ago.
The Hon. ELAINE NILE: Yes, but it is still being used. It is planting evil seeds in the good, fertile minds of primary school children. It is teaching primary school children that anal and oral sex is safe so long as they use a condom. What damage is it doing to the minds of children? But we are told they need to know. I have been through this document before and it makes me ill. Overhead transparencies are shown depicting a male and a female. They refer to the need for safe sex, how AIDS can be contracted through a splash in the eye because the HIV virus is absorbed through the mucous membrane. The arrows then come down to the mouth. That is a reference to oral sex. What in God’s name are the politicians in Canberra doing, and I include the crowd that is there now? This must be withdrawn. I have sent a copy of the material to John Howard, because it must be withdrawn from schools. The material, which is designed for primary school children, refers to a hypodermic syringe and then to the anal passage, to sodomy and buggery, which God condemns.
The Hon. J. M. Samios: Primary school children?
The Hon. ELAINE NILE: Primary school children. The honourable member should get an education. I would like him to have a look at the material.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile: "Friends for Life."
The Hon. ELAINE NILE: It is entitled "Friends For Life" and it has been beautifully produced to attract children. In London a nine-year-old girl was allegedly raped by five boys aged nine and 10 years at a primary school. I wouldn’t wonder! If they have the same material over there on how to carry out such an act as we have here, those sorts of things will happen. That material is designed to teach children about safe sex. Two years ago I referred in this Chamber to primary school children contracting AIDS through sexual activity, and I will do so again because I have the latest figures.
The Hon. J. R. Johnson: In New South Wales?
The Hon. ELAINE NILE: Yes. There are none. I have the figures.
The Hon. J. R. Johnson: Figures from where?
The Hon. ELAINE NILE: These are Australian figures. Of the total number of AIDS cases, none refer to children in the primary school age group having contracted AIDS from sexual activity. The document refers to children under 13 years of age who have been diagnosed with AIDS, and to children under 13 years of age who have died as a result of AIDS. Some of those children contracted the disease from their mothers, who were at risk from HIV infection. Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile and I worked with young mothers who received blood transfusions and the virus was passed on to their babies. Honourable members will recall Danna-Lee Johnson, who died and also lost her daughter.
The total for males with a mother at risk is seven. The number of females is also seven. Five young haemophiliacs died and 14 died after the receipt of blood components or tissue. So not one of those 33 children has died as a result of being sexually active, yet that material is being pushed at primary school children in the classroom. The children are being pushed into a pattern of promiscuity, and that material is a kit on promiscuity. I have previously referred in this Chamber to a document relating to witchcraft and spells being distributed in schools. I wrote to the Minister for Education and Training on 21 April about it but I have not yet received a reply.
I am a Christian and many Christian parents have been upset by the document to which I am referring. The boy whose parents brought the matter to our attention was nine years of age and in fourth class at school. He was asked to put a spell on a member of his family. He put the spell on his baby brother to make him forget how to walk. The ingredients were two pieces of dog poo, 10 toes, five ears, two legs, Ben’s head, one bucket of toilet water, 10 toenails, eight pig stomachs and five cow brains. This Christian family involved were unaware
of the spell until the end of last year when the nine-year-old boy took his work kit home. The family worked out the sequence by working backwards. Eight weeks after the spell was put on the three-year old child, he was diagnosed as suffering from autism; he had several problems that required surgery. The parents still did not know about the material involving the spell. Prayers were said for the three-year old child who now, fortunately, does not require surgery. However, to this day the boy is having problems walking.
Honourable members may not believe in the devil, but Christians do. This material was anathema to the parents when they found it in the child’s work kit. I wrote to the Minister for Education and Training to ask what he thought the psychological effect would have been on the nine-year-old child who put a spell on his three-year-old brother. Did the nine-year-old boy tell his brother what he had done? The family is going through hell, to put it mildly. The father is in the Police Service. He is suffering trauma as a result of having been involved in the investigation of two horrific murders, and this matter has placed added pressure on him. I emphasise that I have not yet received a reply to my letter to the Minister.
I congratulate Dr Refshauge on his recent announcement of the allocation of $200,000 to the Homicide Victims Support Group. That is most important to Call to Australia because we work with that group. I remember Christine Simpson saying to me that the group was counselling a man whose wife had been murdered more than 20 years ago and who had never given way or got it out of his system. I wonder now whether she was referring to Brian Morse. I had intended to speak about how pleased I am that the Police Service has been issued with new Glock pistols. Police officers have been given a 1 per cent pay increase. I do not believe that is sufficient to compensate police officers for the work they do and the risks they take. The Police Service is still understaffed. A total of 40 officers are stationed at Nowra Police Station, which is responsible for the area in which we now live, but at times only one officer may be on the counter at night. That officer has to handle all incoming phone calls and deal with numerous problems.
If the Government expects to attract university graduates to the Police Service it will need to provide them with more money than they presently receive. There is a great deal of unhappy news in education, but we pray that the Minister for Education and Training will take stock and find out what material is being circulated in his department. I want to ask him what he proposes to do about the group that organised this new material that is to be distributed to so many schools, material he knew nothing about. I believe the Minister should take action against the two particular persons involved. The Government needs to pull up its socks, and perhaps change the sheets so far as the proposed bed tax is concerned. It should think about what it is doing to New South Wales, particularly to the tourism industry.
The Hon. JAN BURNSWOODS [12.07 p.m.]: I am delighted to speak in support of the 1997-98 budget because, as the Treasurer has told us and as so many people have agreed, it is a real Labor budget. I am proud of it and I am not surprised that the Treasurer is also proud of it. It is a budget that has delivered for the people of New South Wales who need the support of the Government. I may violently disagree with the Treasurer about some specific matters, but there is no doubt that he should be congratulated on the budget. I do not propose to speak at great length about the general budget; I want to speak about some specific issues. The revenue raising initiatives are important as they attempt to redistribute wealth from the less needy to the more needy.
The increase and extension of land tax, the central business district bed tax, the increase in stamp duty on luxury cars and the increase in the central business district parking levy are all steps in the right direction. I refer particularly to the central business district parking levy because I believe the Government, although it is making progress, still has a great deal of ground to make up in its support of public transport. Less emphasis should be placed on roads, tollways and massive amounts of parking in the central business district, and more emphasis on public transport. The budget contains pointers in that direction.
The budget has been widely welcomed, despite the lamentations of the Opposition. Looking through some of the regional newspapers I was delighted to see that the Northern Daily Leader of 6 May carried the headline, "Bush-protected rural-friendly budget"; the Daily Examiner led with "Budget for the bush"; the Illawarra Mercury spoke for Wollongong with its headline, "Budget should please most voters"; and the headline in the Newcastle Herald - which was perhaps my favourite - read, "Treasurer teases wealthy in $400 million tax target". I could quote many more, but those examples from the country, Newcastle and Wollongong give some idea of the way in which the budget has been regarded as delivering for those who most need help from the Government and those who live in the electorates that have supported the Government.
This year I want to focus on education, as I have done in some of my previous contributions to the budget debate. Although I did not do so last year, I referred in 1995 to some of the issues I will raise today, although in perhaps in a slightly different way. In broad terms, the budget is good for education, and I shall refer to one or two specific matters. I am pleased that the Teachers Federation has welcomed what the Government had been able to achieve for education in what honourable members must remember has been a difficult climate. In noting some of the aspects of education which have received increased funding, I remind the House that what the Federal Government has done to education has resulted in an unmitigated disaster. Federal cuts in funding have made it difficult for the Treasurer to deliver for New South Wales.
Massive amounts of Federal money are being diverted from government schools to private schools. Funding to TAFE and to universities has been savagely cut. University students have been hit, with devastating effects on enrolments, particularly at newer and regional universities. Aboriginal students have been hit because of cuts in Abstudy. Compared with the terrible things the Federal Government is doing to public education - from child care through primary and secondary education to TAFE and universities - what the Government has been able to achieve is most impressive. Education and training has received an overall increase in funding of 3.6 per cent, which represents an increase of $228 million or 5.8 per cent for the Department of School Education.
Among the particular items I am pleased to note that 250 extra teachers will be employed in a range of areas. Part of the budget increase reflects the continued commitment to increasing teachers’ salaries, which it is agreed is important to ensure justice to teachers and to ensure that the teaching profession continues to attract bright and dedicated people. A sum of $500 million has been set aside for equity programs which target particular areas of need, including special education, rural education, disadvantaged students, Aboriginal students and students from non-English speaking backgrounds. I welcome the increase in the allocation to equity programs of $20 million or more than 4 per cent.
I also particularly want to mention the increase of $20 million for targeted student welfare and anti-violence programs, which include child protection, home-school liaison, peer mediation and new special schools designed to cope with students who are having problems. Overall, the education sector of the budget fits in well with a successful budget all round. It also fits in with some of the good work of the Government in education. I refer particularly to the commissioning of the McGaw report on the higher school certificate and the tertiary education rank, and the work that is currently being done in preparation for the implementation of the report.
It is in that context that I want to mention one or two more specific matters relating to education. The McGaw report made many welcome and long overdue comments about the distortions that the HSC and the TER have produced and the bad practices that have developed since the implementation of the Wyndham scheme 35 years ago. As well as aptly identifying aspects of education that need reform by the Government, particularly at senior school level, the report drew attention to a number of worrying distortions which have emerged in the provision of secondary education.
I want to focus particularly on the distribution of high schools - I am talking mainly about government schools - and to the way in which the growth in selective and specialist high schools has damaged and distorted the provision made for the overwhelming majority of school students. I am referring not only to the growth of those various sorts of specialist schools and to the distortions they have given rise to but also to the recent trend of so-called choice that has led to distorted patterns of enrolment and performance of comprehensive schools. Selective or specialist schools may often have bad and sometimes tragic results on neighbouring comprehensive schools.
I do not want to name specific schools because part of the problem about the whole debate is that when one names schools the bad effects I am identifying are often increased. However, because it has had so much publicity, I refer to Mount Druitt High School. That school had a good reputation and had worked hard, sometimes without support from the department. Over the last few years it had become the victim of the establishment of a senior high school that drew most of its successful students from years 11 and 12. Together with a pattern of parental and other preference for other comprehensive schools in the district, that has had the unfortunate effect of leaving one school at the bottom of the heap. I am certainly not implying that Mount Druitt is at the bottom of the heap, but by being presented in that way it has lost more students and the morale of teachers, parents and students has been badly affected.
That is the sort of thing I want to focus on. I am not talking so much about the ideological or intellectual arguments for comprehensive local high
schools, although those arguments are compelling, as the unintended consequences of a pattern of high school choice that has emerged particularly over the past decade and which I believe has had a bad effect not only on the education community but on the general community in New South Wales. It is easy to point to the bad effect on the morale of teachers and students, long-term effects on HSC results, the ambitions and the interest of students in attending university, and their self-esteem.
The distortion in the pattern of high schools has resulted in some high schools having enrolments of 1,500 and others having enrolments of less than 300. That has created difficulties for principals and teachers in trying to form classes, particularly in advanced subjects in small high schools, and in coping with inflated enrolments in big schools. That in turn has a massive effect on the capital works program, and I hope the Treasurer will be particularly interested in that. High schools that were built for 1,000 students now have scores of empty classrooms because their enrolment numbers have fallen, to below 300 in some cases. However, other high schools with massive enrolments are equipped with numerous demountables, which do not come cheaply, and may be literally one kilometre from a school that is mostly empty. Those schools continue to press for expensive permanent buildings, which puts pressure on the capital works budget.
The major distortion is that the quality of education is much lower than necessary because of the way in which the pattern of schools, including the size of enrolments and differential esteem of schools, has developed. I want to give a few examples of what I am talking about, although they may not be the most important part of it. There is a great deal of mythology about the success of selective and specialist high schools which, as McGaw pointed out, comes essentially from focusing on the wrong end. A study of higher school certificate results and tertiary entrance ranks may show that X school is doing a good job because all its students got results in the top 5,000 and most received a TER of 90, 95 or 97 plus. However, one needs to look at the other end of the process.
At present selective schools in New South Wales have an application rate of more than 6:1 for year 7. If the selective high school test is accurate - I admit that it is a questionable assumption that the test is accurate, but let us assume for a moment that it is accurate - selective high schools are turning away more than six out of every seven children who apply to them. To look at the year 12 results of a group which has already been heavily selected is misleading in the extreme. The students currently being admitted to selective high schools - again, I am assuming that the entrance test is accurate - are so overwhelmingly the brightest of their generation that if they are not achieving phenomenal HSC results in year 12, there is something radically wrong with those schools. Of course, in terms of value adding, I would argue that those schools often add very little indeed.
The students of selective schools are so selected, their parents are so motivated and the financial support provided by parents and citizens associations, the school councils and so on is so strong and so different from that of many comprehensive schools that these schools have a hugely distorted pupil intake. Community and parental support is so strong that often the results of students at the end of the process is in fact quite poor. It takes someone with more imagination and social concern than people such as Mark Scott of the Sydney Morning Herald to look at intakes and the performance of schools over the six years, rather than being mesmerised by HSC and TER results. McGaw did not make that mistake, although he did not refer to it at length in his report.
Although I am focusing on government schools, the distortions I am referring to are more overwhelming for private schools that recruit in an academically selective way, as almost all of them do although they may not admit it. For example, if Sydney Grammar did not achieve the results it achieved, that would prove that it was a very poor school. Indeed, in many ways one could argue that Sydney Grammar is a very poor school because the results of its students who are specially selected are not terribly impressive. Barry McGaw noted in his report:
Some principals do concede that some schools shed poor performers in favour of recruiting brighter students to maximise their average TER scores.
A number of schools in New South Wales are, in an under-the-counter way, expelling or pressuring students in year 9, year 10 or even year 11 to leave.
The Hon. J. F. Ryan: There is no doubt about that.
The Hon. JAN BURNSWOODS: The honourable member says that there is no doubt about that. Whilst most people do not talk about this, the practice is occurring in public and private schools, and it is time that some of us started to address it. Some schools - which I will not name - are, by fair means or foul, shedding poor students, as Barry McGaw pointed out, to ensure that their HSC and average TER results are maintained at a certain
level. Also, government and private selective schools are offering slightly hole-in-the-corner scholarships to attract bright year 10 and year 11 students from comprehensive schools. In some cases these scholarships are disguised. One scholarship I am aware of relates to rowing. However, I believe the school offering the scholarship is interested in student attributes other than rowing.
The Hon. J. F. Ryan: What’s wrong with that?
The Hon. JAN BURNSWOODS: Members opposite are screaming about this. I have said that I will not specifically address the ideological arguments. One may have a different view about supporting elite schools as distinct from comprehensive schools. The point I am trying to get across is that it is time to be more honest about the pattern of distortion that is developing. I believe that that pattern is having a bad effect on students in schools which are the victim of falling enrolments for a variety of reasons. When one looks at the high selective intake rate of different schools the apparently good HSC and TER results are not good at all.
I will not concentrate on this matter today, but it is a well-known fact that socioeconomic background and demographics clearly have a greater impact on the academic attainments of students than the schools they attend. I will not talk at length about academic research on this matter, but a considerable amount of that research focuses on the link between school attainment and other aspects of a child’s background and his or her success at university. That needs to be noted in this debate because I am critical of the selective and specialist schools fetish. In terms of university entrance and performance as a rule of thumb test, all the research done in New South Wales, in Australia and overseas shows that social background, demographic characteristics and the original ability of a student has much more to do with a student’s attainments than the nature of the school that he or she attends.
Another important aspect of this discussion - and again it is not an aspect that I shall talk about at length - is an unhealthy intense competitiveness between students and the extent to which parents pressure students to achieve, whether to obtain entry to a private school, to do well in the selective schools tests or to achieve further on in the years between years 7 and 12. Particularly in Sydney there is more and more evidence of parents spending a great deal of money on coaching and of almost old-fashioned nineteenth century cramming schools springing up, in many cases fraudulently claiming that they can influence results. I am sure that the Hon. Ann Symonds could speak about the relevance of that to the pattern of youth suicide, because there is a great deal of evidence that the increasing pressure and the increasing competitiveness that afflict adolescents at secondary school and university are of relevance to the increase in suicide. Opposition members who appear to find my speech funny could not possibly find youth suicide funny.
I have already spoken about unintended consequences and the increasing variation in the size of high schools in New South Wales. The Wyndham scheme was carefully planned on the basis of a high school of a certain size providing staffing of a certain size and range and having enough students per class to provide different levels of teaching. The original concept of the scheme changed as retention rates changed but, roughly speaking, the Wyndham scheme was based on a high school of 1,000 or 1,100 students. As I have already said, there are now a lot of very small high schools - and in this regard I refer to Sydney; clearly there will be small high schools in the bush because there are not enough students for bigger high schools - and sometimes there will be a high school of 300 students right next door to a high school of 1,300 or 1,500 students.
Honourable members may be surprised to learn that there is considerable evidence to show that big high schools achieve better tertiary entrance ranking marks than smaller schools. It has been calculated that for every increase of 100 students a school can expect an average increase of three in its tertiary entrance ranking score, which is indeed a big difference. Some reasons for the difference have to do with the concentration of students. A class of 24 bright and interested students that has a teacher helping it along will always, other things being equal, be a more stimulating environment than a class of four or five students that may have to share a teacher with other classes.
Although there are many and varied reasons for the difference, I reiterate that evidence shows that big schools, simply because of their size, can expect better tertiary entrance ranking results. It has been shown by a number of research studies that the effects of different factors, other than school attended, mean that bigger schools have advantages in relation to both tertiary entrance ranking and university achievement. I shall not detail the research that has been undertaken, but I ask honourable members to consider the evidence. I have interesting articles that I have collected on this subject. I quote a summary of the findings of a range of research literature:
Tertiary Entrance Ranking has been found to mask a student’s proficiencies for particular courses of study, resulting in misplacement and subsequent attrition.
Most of us would be able to think of students studying medicine, for instance, who everyone would agree should not be studying medicine because very little about them reveals an aptitude for that subject; but they are studying medicine essentially because that has high status and will produce a high income. A similar judgment could be made about a range of choices students make about the faculty they will attend and the course of university study they will follow. There is evidence also on drop-out rates at university. It has been shown over a long period that the drop-out rate in second and later years at university amongst the group of students achieving university entrance through good higher school certificate and tertiary entrance ranking results is considerably higher than the drop-out rate amongst students with lower tertiary entrance ranking results. There is also evidence of a late flowering of students from the comprehensive high schools and often from the country high schools, who perhaps have not had such a forced blooming in high school but who certainly come good at university.
The comments I have made on this subject are certainly not exhaustive and, as I said at the beginning of my contribution, I have not particularly addressed the ideological arguments. I should like to have as part of the debate on the implementation of the McGaw report a much deeper analysis of the pattern of high schools that has developed, not only in relation to the provision of specific specialist schools such as sports high schools, agricultural high schools, selective high schools and schools of the performing arts but also in relation to the way in which the mythology of choice has often meant that one comprehensive high school is very large, very successful and surprisingly well off while neighbouring comprehensive high schools may be effectively too small to produce a really good education for the students, regardless of how hard the teachers may work. Certainly nothing I have said should suggest that the teachers in those schools which are having a harder time or the students or parents associated with those schools are in any way to blame for the pattern I have described. It is time for us to consider in detail the pattern of secondary education that has developed. The McGaw report provides an opportunity to review some of those issues as well as issues more specifically focused on the higher school certificate.
The Hon. VIRGINIA CHADWICK [12.38 p.m.]: I am pleased that the Treasurer is at the table at present. Today I should like to comment on the bed tax. On budget day the people of New South Wales witnessed what in my view was one of the great acts of betrayal of this Labor Government against the tourist industry of our State. In recent years there has been a better recognition by all New South Wales governments, both coalition and Labor, of the economic benefits of tourism. From this has flowed a greater sense of partnership and shared goals between government and industry. Together government and industry developed new promotional programs such as the Seven Wonders of New South Wales campaign, restructured regional tourism with very positive results, developed a State master plan and worked nationally and internationally through Partnership Australia.
Through partnership tourism has grown in Sydney and regional New South Wales and jobs have been created for thousands of young people. Perhaps the finest example of partnership and shared goals was the massive contribution, both in cash and in kind, that the industry made to the Sydney Olympic bid. That sense of trust, partnership and shared goals was destroyed by the budget announcement of a 10 per cent bed tax. Where was the consultation? Clearly, there was none. The Minister and the Premier made many statements that Labor would not impose a bed tax. Clearly those statements were lies. How much trust can be put in the assurances that the charge applies to the Sydney central business district alone or that it will remain at 10 per cent? Given the Government’s track record, any assurance now is not worth a pinch of salt.
This new tax is an example of political treachery that will cause enormous damage to one of the State’s fastest growing industries, an industry that, by and large, is environmentally friendly and is labour intensive by definition. This tax is economic folly because tourism already pays its way. Tourism accounts for 10.1 per cent of all taxes paid in Australia. This represents $14.75 billion for the Australian economy. In addition, tourism accounts for one in nine jobs in Australia, its export earnings are $14 billion a year and it is responsible for 14.7 per cent, or $16 billion worth, of capital investment every year.
To suggest that a special tax is needed to ensure that New South Wales benefits from tourism betrays a total lack of understanding of tourism and its current contribution to the economy and employment. The only explanation, if there is one, is that somehow Sydney hotels have to help pay for Sydney’s attractions and infrastructure or that they should contribute towards the staging of the Olympics. This is a fatuous and ignorant argument, and is an especially gratuitous insult if one takes the
trouble to read Budget Paper No. 3, volume 2, at page 641. In the Treasurer’s documents, program 67.1.2 under the heading "Outcomes" it is clearly stated, "Marketing funds contributed by the tourist industry".
Currently in-kind funds contributed by the tourism industry are $5 million, though things were better when the coalition was in government, because in 1994-95 and 1995-96 the industry contributed $8.7 million. Cash from the industry to New South Wales Tourism amounted to $4.5 million and projected wholesale product sales for this year were $5.5 million. It is wrong to say that the bed tax has been introduced so that the tourism industry will make a contribution, because it has already made a contribution to the Olympics and would continue to do so. The budget papers reveal significant cash and in-kind contributions every year from the industry. That argument is fatuous.
I suspect the Government did not take time to analyse the entire effect of the budget on the industry. While attention quite clearly and properly has focused on the bed tax, it has been diverted from increased electricity charges, increased parking space levies and land tax? These will be a contributing factor on the pressure being placed on the hospitality industries. Structures around bed tax were not taken into account. While the Treasurer may be correct in asserting that many countries have a bed tax, he failed to add that most of those countries also have value added tax. In most cities business travellers are able to claim in their income tax returns a rebate for hotel taxes. That relief is not available in New South Wales.
When talking about a bed tax in other countries the Treasurer also failed to tell us that most European countries with a VAT impose a lower tax on their hotels than the standard VAT rate. The reasoning, unlike that of our Treasurer, is that it encourages tourism. In France the standard VAT is 20.6 per cent, VAT on hotel accommodation is 5.5 per cent; in Greece the standard VAT is 18 per cent, and on hotel accommodation VAT is 8 per cent; in Spain standard VAT is 16 per cent, and on hotel accommodation the VAT is 7 per cent. The Treasurer is only telling a small bit of the truth when he says other countries have a form of bed tax. New South Wales has no income tax relief and does not have VAT. I quote from the Australian Financial Review of 15 May:
The senior manager of taxation services for Deloittes, Mr Doug Tredinnick, said that as far as he was aware, the only city that levied a bed tax on its business travellers was New York - where there were significant consequence. Following the introduction of the tax, convention and conference organisers boycotted the city and scheduled their events elsewhere.
Mr Tredinnick said Mr Nick Hill from Deloittes had also questioned whether people who had offered their homes to accommodate visitors for the Sydney Olympics under the home stay and home host programs would be subject to the 10 per cent bed tax. I certainly would like an answer to that question. Mr Hill also wanted to know whether the 10 per cent bed tax applied to package deals that might offer free or heavily discounted accommodation to frequent guests, in loyalty programs. The Treasurer has answered none of those questions. I strongly suggest that the Premier and Treasurer study the New York example which has produced a virtual boycott on conferences and conventions.
How do the economic giants who fashioned this big bold Labor budget expect our hotels to respond? Is it anticipated that the 10 per cent should be absorbed by the hotel or should there be a 10 per cent increase in prices? I suspect the response will be mixed. I shall briefly examine both scenarios. Suppose a hotel absorbs the 10 per cent bed tax. No doubt it could be argued that the hotel just has a 10 per cent smaller profit and the hotel guest is presumably happy because he or she does not bear the increase in cost. However, for many hotels in our city this new tax does not represent a 10 per cent cut in profit because they would be lucky if 10 per cent was the current profit margin. Indeed, I suspect many Sydney hotels do not currently have a 10 per cent profit level. In that case, cost cutting would be implemented and maintenance and upgrades would be shelved, hence the quality of service and Sydney’s attractiveness would decrease.
Everyone knows that the largest recurrent budget item for a hotel is its staff bill. One does not have to be a genius to realise that staff cuts and lost opportunities for young people will result from the imposition of this bed tax. Reports have been received already about shelved plans for new developments, and shares in hotel businesses listed on the stock market have taken a massive dive. I draw the attention of honourable members to the summary of trading on the Sydney Stock Exchange on 7 May, the day the budget was handed down. Whether comparing graphs and charts or other reports, it is clear that after the bed tax was announced there was an $80 million drop in share prices for major hotel companies with large interests in Sydney.
It seems extraordinary that to raise $64 million from a bed tax, Sydney has already lost $80 million
on the Stock Exchange and more than 1,000 people will lose their jobs. Premier Carr said the reaction to the bed tax was a week-long distraction. He is wrong. His attitude shows a lack of understanding of the industry and of the impact this tax will have on the future health of the industry. Bob Carr and this Labor Government will collect this tax at the cost of stunting Sydney’s tourism growth. As my colleague the Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti often says, the Premier does not understand the industry and he does not care either.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: He does not know and he does not care.
The Hon. VIRGINIA CHADWICK: He does not care either. The Premier’s comments last week about a friend and colleague of mine, Tony South, were the most gratuitous insult to someone who has done so much for the conference and convention industry in this State. He has served on the board of New South Wales Tourism for a long time. It is demonstrably untrue to suggest that Mr Raymond Capdevila of ACCOR is Mr Tony South’s boss. They are colleagues and associates. To quote Mr Raymond Capdevila as if he did not care about the impost of the bed tax is to deal loosely with the truth. ACCOR and Mr Capdevila have responsibility for over 120 hotels throughout Australia, New Zealand and South-east Asia.
How could the three major properties of ACCOR that are centred in the Sydney central business district have a detrimental and major effect upon an organisation with 120 hotels throughout South-east Asia? Saying that this put Mr Capdevila and Mr Tony South at odds, and that Mr Capdevila did not care about the bed tax is dealing very loosely with the truth. Anyone who believes that this disaster is heaped on Sydney alone should look at travel patterns. Sydney is Australia’s gateway; many people use that gateway to travel throughout New South Wales and across Australia. If Sydney is made unattractive through cost, lack of value for money, or lack of service, we will all suffer. But, what would be the likely consequences if hotels were to pass on part or all of the bed tax to guests?
If members of the Government had looked at the study carried out by the Commonwealth Government’s Tourism Forecasting Council, the Tourism Council Australia study undertaken by Access Economics, and the American Express Tourism Leading Indicators of 1994 and 1995, or had bothered to ask industry, they would have known that accommodation demand is price sensitive. Indeed, the American Express Tourism Leading Indicators of 1995 and 1996, which are readily available to the Government, stated that in 1995, when there was talk of a national - not geographically specific - bed tax they would have read the following comment:
The Prime Minister has now effectively ruled out a "bed tax" in the May Budget. This will be welcomed . . . Two American Express surveys reveal most local consumers would change holiday plans to avoid or minimise liability to pay such a tax . . .
A new Access Economics study reveals short-term employment losses up to 47,000 for the tourism industry and 70,000 for the economy as a whole if a new "bed tax" is introduced.
That was the national prediction in 1995. The publication by the same organisation for 1996 states:
Renewed calls for a new bed tax in Australia also threaten tourism demand. Research for the Tourism Forecasting Council and Tourism Council Australia by Access Economics shows room demand is price sensitive, with any tax-related price increase particularly affecting middle and budget level demand. It also shows that a new 10% bed tax would cut accommodation employment by 4-5% within three years.
I am grateful to my colleague the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, who has handed me the most recent American Express Tourism Leading Indicators document, which further confirms the Opposition’s concerns that jobs are at risk. It also reconfirms that accommodation in the hospitality industry is indeed price sensitive. As a Novocastrian, I was gratified by the universal concern across Australia and elsewhere and the outrage at BHP’s decision to close its steel-making section at Newcastle. I find it contradictory that honourable members can be so concerned about the loss of 2,000 jobs from BHP in 1999, and apparently unconcerned -
I heard the Hon. Ann Symonds sigh. Apparently she is unconcerned that the 1,000 young people will lose their jobs in Sydney CBD hotels. I regard this as an act of absolute hypocrisy. What of the city’s other businesses? What of the shops, restaurants, theatres and so on? Fewer visitors staying for shorter periods does not sound like good news. Clearly the 1,000 young people who will lose their jobs in the tourism industry will be joined by the people who will not get jobs in shops, restaurants and so on. As my colleague the Hon. Elaine Nile mentioned in her contribution, there is grave fear that cruise ships will not visit Sydney in the future. They will not come for the Olympics either, because the Treasurer does not know, does not care, and most certainly will not confirm, whether they are affected. The Treasurer has not told the Youth Hostels Association whether it will
be affected. We do not know whether the Olympics home stay and bed and breakfast programs are likely to be affected. We must assume that they will be affected, given the Treasurer’s reluctance to comment.
The lack of consultation means that the Government has not realised that quotations for conventions, conferences and special events are often given and locked in years in advance. How are businesses expected to cope with this new tax? Some honourable members may think that this is of minor or trivial interest only. However, Budget Paper No. 3, Volume 2, contains a list of conference bids won for Sydney in 1997-98 which includes 35 conferences, 40,000 delegates, 180,000 delegate days, with a total estimated value to the economy of $165 million. Given that the conferences were all prequoted, prebooked and locked in, what effect will a 10 per cent impost on accommodation costs have? Some members sitting opposite may not care about conferences, conventions and tourism but I remind them that hotel guests in Sydney go on day trips to the Blue Mountains, and visit nature reserves near Penrith and Australia’s Wonderland in western Sydney.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: What about Mr Carr’s Opera House?
The Hon. VIRGINIA CHADWICK: They might even visit Mr Carr’s Opera House. The consequences of a downturn in visits are not confined to the CBD. Lack of thought and understanding means that the Government is not hitting only corporate giants. Of Australian holiday-makers 34 per cent stay in hotels, 23 per cent are international visitors, and 40 per cent are Australian business people. So what will holiday-makers and international visitors do? They comprise 57 per cent of Sydney hotel guests. Will they stay in Sydney or go to Cairns, Fiji or Honolulu? Sadly I think, we all know the answer, unless the Government revisits this decision. The tax is discriminatory and inequitable.
How can the Government justify such an impost on a specific sector of the economy, a specific segment within that sector and a specific geographic location? Add to this the absolute breach of faith with the industry and it is small wonder that agreements with the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games are at risk. The International Olympic Committee is concerned. It is small wonder that the industry is enraged. I do not blame any of them and strongly support their efforts and the efforts of Tourism Council Australia and my friend and colleague Bruce Baird.
I strongly support others in the industry, including Chris and John Brown, who are working extremely hard to have the Treasurer see reason and change his mind. If their efforts are not successful in having this decision overturned then the Government will have missed out and betrayed the industry. There will be a significant downturn in youth employment in the hospitality industry. I worked hard when I was Minister with portfolio responsibility for TAFE and schools, and I am well aware of the thousands of young people who are attending hospitality courses at TAFE or joint school-TAFE courses in schools or private colleges - all of whom will have their opportunity for employment damaged. When I listed the people who have worked hard to have this impost overturned I left out Minister Langton. Clearly, these days, he is so marginalised -
The Hon. D. F. Moppett: Languid Langton.
The Hon. VIRGINIA CHADWICK: He is a Minister without portfolio. Clearly I do not include him in the list of people who are trying to overturn this impost, because I doubt he took an interest even in its introduction. If we fail to have this decision overturned the entire State loses. Already $80 million has been wiped off the hotel and motel values on the stock exchange. It seems strange that the Government has introduced a bed tax to raise $64 million that has already cost $80 million. I urge the Premier and the Treasurer to recognise their error, otherwise this tax impost will place one of our fastest growing industries at risk and threaten the jobs of thousands of young Australians.
[The President left the chair at 1.01 p.m. The House resumed at 2.30 p.m.]
The Hon. J. F. RYAN [2.30 p.m.]: I am pleased to have an opportunity to participate in debate on the budget for this year. I particularly welcome the opportunity to detail some of the shortcomings of the budget, which have been the result of the efforts of the Treasurer. This Government has done what very few governments have done; it has completely obliterated and repudiated every economic promise made by it prior to coming to office. In preparation for this speech I read an address delivered on 21 June 1994 by Bob Carr to the Committee for Economic Development of Australia. Supposedly he was then speaking heart to heart with members of the business community, encouraging them and explaining Labor’s blueprint for the economic management of New South Wales.
It is most disturbing that the Government has barely lived up to any commitment made in that 10-
page address. It included claims that were made countless times by the Treasurer when he was Labor’s spokesman for financial matters when in opposition. The address contained a number of references to the competitive advantage of New South Wales being eroded by increasing taxes as former governments struggled to deal with Paul Keating’s recession. It also included embarrassing promises in the current context of this budget. In the address Bob Carr said:
. . . Labor will always ensure its new spending programs are targeted at its key priorities: health, education, transport and community services.
But then he said:
. . . our proposals will be fully funded.
That meets our test not to increase the Budget deficit . . .
This meets another goal - not to increase the tax burden on the people and businesses of this State.
I have no doubt that the Treasurer assisted the Premier to write the next couple of sentences, which I read:
Other than continue to maintain the indexed petrol levy and weight tax for road funding, Labor will not increase taxes or introduce new taxes.
That was a commitment made by Bob Carr to the people of New South Wales and restated again and again by his shadow spokesman on finance. In the last budget that promise was torn up; in this budget it was torn into minute shreds.
The Hon. E. Obeid: That was before John Howard.
The Hon. J. F. RYAN: The New South Wales Government, like every other government in the country, has benefited enormously from Prime Minister Howard’s economic management. The nation’s economic growth is giving this Government, as it is giving other governments, an absolute windfall of tax dollars. It may silence the Hon. E. M. Obeid when I tell him that in 1995 the Government raised $1,105 million in stamp duty. Last year the Government budgeted for an increase to $1,230 million but it actually received $1,450 million in tax - that is, $220 million more than the Treasurer expected. The increase in stamp duty was caused by increased economic activity brought about by our nation beginning to recover from the recession that Paul Keating said we had to have. From just one tax the Government received a gift, a rainfall of money, of $220 million. But there is more!
The Treasurer budgeted for $576 million in land tax but received $625 million, an extra $49 million. The budget allowed for $3,016 million from payroll tax; it received $3,146 million, an extra $130 million. Stamp duties on motor vehicles were expected to realise $319 million but the Government received $375 million, an extra $56 million. The windfall from those five taxes, over and above the revenue the Treasurer expected to raise last year, was $521 million. There was no policy change to bring about those extra dollars; it happened as a result of economic growth. The Treasurer fails to mention that he and his Government are the chief beneficiaries of a bounce back in the economy introduced by a change of government in Canberra and brought about by falling interest rates.
This year he will save $150 million in interest rates. Despite the fact that the Treasurer has had a rainfall of money, he says, "The Commonwealth has cut funding to New South Wales by $200 million." The Treasurer has not told us that in reality he is $300 million in front. The Treasurer had no reason to raise taxes, much less to impose taxes which will ultimately be borne by the heartland that members opposite claim to represent. I suspect that the Revesby workers club is so annoyed about the new poker machine tax that it is itching to run a Liberal candidate in the electorate of East Hills at the next State election. I can hardly wait until the Treasurer arrives at the Penrith Panthers club in a week or so to front a fund-raiser for his beleaguered colleague the honourable member for Penrith. I am sure that Penrith Panthers club will organise a warm welcome for him.
The Hon. M. R. Egan: I met them today.
The Hon. J. F. RYAN: I am sure that they gave the Treasurer a warm welcome, and I am sure that they asked for a reduction in the poker machine tax. I know that the Treasurer is not popular with that club. I do not doubt that they treated him with respect, but I am sure they are very annoyed about what has been done to the club’s financial plans for the future. Honourable members opposite and those behind me should take into consideration what the budget means. The budget is not only what the Government allocates for each of the portfolios, it also foreshadows the state of the New South Wales economy for the forthcoming year. The Treasurer increased the tax take in New South Wales, completely repudiating the promise he made in 1994, a promise he wrote and put into the mouth of Bob Carr, his leader. The Government has needlessly increased taxes in New South Wales and it is highly likely that it will also receive an increased benefit from taxes during the next 12 months.
The budget has been cast in a fairly conservative manner. The budget papers indicate that the Government expects a 3 per cent growth in State product. However, there is good reason to believe commentators such as the Colonial State Bank that say that the growth rate in New South Wales is probably about 3.5 per cent now and likely to increase as a result of the completely unexpected drop in interest rates of half a percentage point. The bank predicts an underlying cost-of-living index of 1.5 per cent. That, too, is fairly low. It may even be conservative because one of the factors involved in the underlying cost of living is household mortgage rates, which, as I said, have unexpectedly fallen. The anticipated wage growth is 3.75 per cent but wage growth may well exceed that figure. True, on the one hand it means that the State Government’s budget for wages will come under some strain but, at the same time, it means an extra gain in payroll tax as the overall value of payrolls paid by businesses in the State increases.
The budget assumes an interest rate of 6.5 per cent on 90-day bank bills. The response to my inquiry on the Internet about what the Colonial State Bank is expecting in regard to 90-day bank bills indicated that it is of the order of 6 per cent to 6.2 per cent. Already the Treasurer has overestimated what the interest rate will be. I entirely support the concept of casting a budget in conservative terms but it should reflect what the Government is absolutely sure will happen. As this year progresses, not only will the Government receive a benefit from the taxes it has already increased, it will also obtain benefit from increased growth and increased taxes. It was not necessary for new taxes to be introduced; the Government could well have received the same amount of money from the benefits of economic growth.
I travel around the State to address community service groups that are seeking extra funding, and I assure the Minister for Community Services that if the Government could manage its budget properly it would have enough money available to meet its needs. Honourable members should cast their minds back to the adjournment debate last evening when I raised the very distressing issue of a ventilator-dependent quadriplegic who has been a patient at Royal North Shore Hospital for more than 2½ years and who was proposing to discharge himself from that hospital. The Minister told the House last night how difficult it was to meet the needs of the person to whom I referred, but there is nothing like pressure. It is my understanding that, after two weeks of pressure in Parliament, the Premier has suddenly issued an order that the two quadriplegic patients are to receive a funding package. The backsides of the bureaucracy in the Royal North Shore Hospital and in the departments of health and community services are being kicked right this very minute and an announcement is expected in the very near future.
I am pleased that that has happened, but I am certainly not going to carp and carry on in a political manner about it. If one or two speeches about this matter, in the upper House of all places, can achieve action, one can only wonder why pressure was not brought to bear a little earlier. As I said, I welcome the good news, The information I have received is that it is highly likely that the Government will shortly make an announcement favourable to those patients. The only other point I would make is that it will be necessary to set up an arrangement so that we do not have to fight this battle patient by patient after they have spent 2½ years in hospital, before achieving a result. It is the Opposition’s intention, during the course of debate and by voting accordingly, to oppose tooth and nail a number of the new taxes, but in particular a tax that will have a phenomenal impact on the parts of Sydney that I seek to represent in this Chamber.
I refer to the poker machine taxes and their impact on areas of western Sydney. The first thing I need to point out is that the Treasurer, in his address in the other place, which was tabled in this House, and in his press releases has continued to refer to a poker machine tax on profits. What he has failed to communicate is that we are not talking about a tax on money that the registered clubs have to spare, we are talking about a tax on their gross revenue. The amount on which the tax is levied is also the amount of money from which clubs have to deduct the cost of wages for the staff who supervise the security, safety and operation of the poker machines; the capital cost of the building in which they are housed; the cleaning, supply, depreciation and replacement of the poker machines; the promotion of gaming within the club; and the interest on the loans which have been raised to purchase all those facilities. Under no circumstances would that be described by any business person as profit. Those expenses are part of the ordinary operating costs that clubs have to meet. The Government proposes to tax the clubs on that money, and the only justification the Treasurer has for the introduction of the new tax is that it applies in other States and it is a tax on the profits of what I suppose he alleges are the larger clubs.
The Hon. Franca Arena: Millions of dollars are spent on poker machines.
The Hon. J. F. RYAN: I am pleased that the honourable member has interjected about the millions of dollars spent on poker machines and gambling. Of course it is money spent on gambling, but the presumption in this State is that gambling is a tolerated evil on the basis that it returns benefits to the community. As I will try to explain in my contribution, most of the registered clubs I know, from Penrith Panthers all the way down the line, are returning benefits to the community, benefits that no government provides. I ask honourable members opposite: where are Australian Labor Party meetings usually held? I will wager that - as in the case of meetings of the Liberal Party - it is highly likely that many such meetings are conducted in facilities provided by registered clubs at a peppercorn cost. Where would we go otherwise? We would be stuck in someone’s lounge room. Not only political parties use the facilities of registered clubs. Many other community groups also use facilities provided by registered clubs - facilities that would not be provided by any government.
The Hon. Franca Arena: I agree that clubs play a useful role.
The Hon. J. F. RYAN: Yes, and that useful role is being undermined as a result of this totally unexpected and unbelievably high tax hike which has been placed on clubs by the Government.
The Hon. R. S. L. Jones: All new taxes are unexpected.
The Hon. J. F. RYAN: No tax was expected in this State, because the Premier said there would be no tax increases. The honourable member should not talk nonsense about all taxes being unexpected. The people of New South Wales had every reason to expect that there would be no new taxes and no tax increases. The Treasurer has announced a brand new tax on registered clubs, a tax that they did not expect. This tax was sprung on the registered clubs after they had made significant financial arrangements. The tax was imposed on clubs without any warning. Many clubs had already gone into debt for major upgrades, and their business plans, repayment schedules and arrangements with financial institutions were based on cash flow before the new tax was imposed. As a result, many projects are being put at risk, and some clubs are at risk because they made arrangements that they believed they could make, and they entered into those arrangements in good faith on the understanding that the Government would deliver on its promise - a political promise which was germane to its being elected in the first place.
Honourable members should appreciate the impact and size of this unexpected tax. Last year the Penrith Panthers club made a profit of about $4.5 million, which amounted to about 6 per cent of total sales. If that club had been paying the new tax, its profit would have been about $1.3 million. How can a business deal with a sudden and unexpected impost from a government that had promised that there would be no new taxes and no tax increases? Before the tax the margin of profit or loss for that club was $4.5 million; after the tax it is $1.3 million, or less than 2 per cent of its sales. There is very little room in that equation for the normal highs and lows of economic upturns and downturns. If for some reason an icon of Penrith goes under because of some unforeseen economic situation, the people of Penrith will repay the Government by electing somebody else as the member for Penrith at the next election. There is a great deal of enthusiasm for a new member in that area.
The Hon. R. S. L. Jones: And you?
The Hon. J. F. RYAN: It will not be me. The Government has sold this budget to the people as a budget that robs the rich to pay the poor. This tax will cost many ordinary, decent men and women jobs or job opportunities. At Penrith Panthers the new tax has already resulted in the cancellation of an upgrade program worth $8 million, which will cost jobs in the construction industry and potential indirect jobs. It will also cost jobs for those whom the club may have employed following the upgrade. The upgrade would give a much-needed economic boost to an area the unemployment rate of which is much higher than that of other areas throughout the State.
The Hon. E. M. Obeid: You are not saying that with much conviction, are you?
The Hon. J. F. RYAN: I am saying it with all the conviction I can muster. The Hon. E. M. Obeid, who is comfortably sitting on the red leather benches of this Chamber, clearly needs to acquaint himself with what the ordinary working men and women of Penrith are saying.
The Hon. E. M. Obeid: That is where I come from.
The Hon. J. F. RYAN: It is high time the honourable member went back there and listened to people in the area. Since the State budget was handed down the club industry has been trying to convince the Government that it is a silent partner in the success of the club industry. In fact, the Government is a bigger beneficiary of clubs than the
clubs are. Last year the Government took $11 million out of Panthers and left the club with $4.3 million to use for its own purposes. The club did all the work and took all the risks, yet the Government received more than twice as much in tax as the club will keep in profit. Following the introduction of this new tax the Government will take $14 million from Panthers and the club will get $1.4 million in return. After all the work and effort, it will receive less than 10 per cent of the available profits, which have been generated by the business.
The Government is not targeting wealthy people; it is taking money from its heartland. It is cutting into the recreational opportunities and facilities of communities that are not wealthy and that have been traditional supporters - although I suspect not for much longer - of the Australian Labor Party. I shall refer now to funding that the club has provided to the community. Panthers provided money to the Bilpin bush fire brigade, a demonstration of its commitment to bush fire services. I need not tell this House how important bush fire services are. The club also gave money to the Museum of Fire, Nepean Choral Society, Nepean rescue squad, Penrith District AH and I Society, Q Theatre, Ripples - an organisation which provides a facility for disabled children to have hydrotherapy - Wesley Financial Counselling Services and the Penrith Senior Citizens Centre. It can hardly be said that those bodies belong to the chandelier set of the community.
The Hon. Franca Arena: Clubs certainly do an excellent job.
The Hon. J. F. RYAN: Not only that. The Treasurer dismissed the important role that clubs play in providing sporting facilities. Penrith Panthers supports many sporting organisations, not only the Penrith Panthers rugby league club. They include the Australian Sports Foundation, Katoomba Touch Football Association, Nepean amateur athletics, Nepean Blind Sports Club Inc., Nepean Soccer Association, Nepean swimming club, Panthers golf club, Panthers junior triathlon, Panthers winter duathlon series, Penrith Panthers soccer club, Penrith baseball juniors, Penrith baseball seniors, Penrith basketball, Penrith BMX club, Penrith city Chiefs - a gridiron club - Penrith cricket club, Penrith cycling club, Penrith district hockey association, Penrith district netball club, Penrith golf club, Penrith junior cricket, Penrith rugby club, Penrith city softball association, Penrith softball State league, Penrith swimming club, Penrith touch association, Rams Australian Football League club, St Marys metro cup and the ten pin bowling east coast challenge.
Members opposite would be aware that in Sydney’s western suburbs almost every family is involved in some form of junior sporting activity on weekends. Those families do not have enormous amounts of money, nor do they have a great deal of time. They depend largely on the support of generous donations from clubs and businesses to provide soccer balls and uniforms for children, and to upgrade and maintain sporting fields. If parents had to contribute, they could not afford the level of service that is provided to them. Generous donors like Penrith Panthers are able to provide the facilities to the children at a modest cost.
As the proud manager of the Camden Tigers under nine, division five, soccer team, I appreciate the sponsorship provided by Camden Valley Meats, which has provided the children with shirts and other articles. We welcome that contribution, and many other parents in western Sydney welcome similar contributions made by clubs like Penrith Panthers. This is Labor Party heartland. These people are losing because the Government seems to have an unbelievable appetite for tax dollars.
The Hon. R. S. L. Jones: Those very same people are losing millions of dollars on the pokies.
The Hon. J. F. RYAN: They are not losing any less. The only difference is that the Treasurer is spending it, not the community groups. Some of the charities which are supported by Penrith Panthers include the Australian Kidney Foundation; the Australian Quadriplegic Association; Australian Red Cross; Barnardos Australia, which deals with some of the most disadvantaged young people in our State; the Cancer Council; the Foundation for the Disabled, Cherrywood Village, an organisation in Penrith which provides accommodation for disabled people; the New Children’s Hospital at Westmead; Dalmar Foster Care -
The Hon. R. S. L. Jones: How much does it give to these organisations?
The Hon. J. F. RYAN: I do not know how much for each individual group, but last year Penrith Panthers gave $800,000 to groups within the Penrith area and generally. It had targeted this year to spend $1 million on those organisations -
The Hon. E. M. Obeid: It gets a rebate on them.
The Hon. J. F. RYAN: It does not get a rebate. Many of the donations the club makes do not qualify for the rebate. It might interest the honourable member that the Registered Clubs
Association has informed all members about those donations that do not qualify for a rebate. They include a donation of $1.4 million from South Sydney Juniors to maintain 15 sporting fields and to provide uniforms and insurance for 3,500 children in junior sporting teams from South Sydney Juniors, and a donation of $100,000 from Penrith Panthers Rugby League Club - this one annoys me no end - for antenatal baby equipment at Nepean Hospital. The amount of $100,000 is a large donation from such an organisation. Penrith Panthers Rugby League Club had signed up to give an equivalent donation to Nepean Hospital for the next five years. Honourable members will understand that that donation may be at risk because Penrith Panthers must pay an additional $3 million in tax.
Newcastle Workers Club gave $1,000 to the Newcastle Knights, Ashfield Catholic club donated $61,000 for a courtesy bus for aged members and Guildford Leagues Club donated $30,000 for a Christmas party for disadvantaged children. Those organisations hardly represent the rich and wealthy in our community. The Treasurer is robbing the poor to pay the Government. The Penrith Panthers club is but one example in the mountains area generally. Glenbrook Bowling and Recreation Club Ltd provides about $1 million a year for sporting facilities. By and large, those who play bowls are senior citizens. No honourable member in this House would deny that activities for the elderly are necessary, especially those that involve them being outdoors and getting good exercise. There can be no doubt about the contribution made to the lower mountains community by the Glenbrook Bowling and Recreation Club.
In addition to providing about $100,000 a year to maintain the bowling greens, Glenbrook Bowling and Recreation Club also donated money to Glenbrook amateur athletics, Blaxland High School, Riding for the Disabled, the Mountain youth netball club, Camp Quality, Glenbrook junior cricket club, Glenbrook swimming club, Blue Mountains Soccer Club Ltd and Lower Mountains Legacy, an organisation which hardly represents the rich and wealthy in our community. The club also gave $1,860 to Glenbrook volunteer bush fire brigade last year. I reiterate my point about the importance of bush fire services in the lower mountains area.
I refer also to Western Suburbs Leagues Club (Campbelltown) Ltd, which illustrates my point about providing much-needed facilities in the community. The current chairman of the Western Suburbs Leagues Club, Mr Jim Marsden, has commented that shotgun weddings are not possible in Campbelltown at present because there is an 18-month wait for facilities in which to hold a reception. Few facilities are available in Campbelltown in which large dinners can be held. For example, friends of mine own Eschol Park House, which has been specially designed for weddings. They say that their facility is booked well into the next two years. More facilities where people can gather together in large numbers and dine are needed.
Western Suburbs Leagues Club was aiming to provide such facilities. However, having just spent about $5 million on extending the club - it was planning to do more - it will not be able to provide such facilities as the greedy hand of the Treasurer has come down on it. The club provides facilities for Wests Softball Club, Wests Cricket Club, Wests Hockey Club, Wests Dart Club, a pigeon club, a golf club and a netball club. Those who use these facilities by and large vote for members opposite, who are robbing their own constituency. If members opposite are not making vigorous representations to the Treasurer to remove or at least cut this tax, there is something wrong with the way they service their constituency.
I turn now to the impact of this budget on Penrith, to which I have been paying some attention. Having examined the capital works projects for the next 12 months, I have discovered that just about every project under way in Penrith has been delayed for two years, probably to make way for the Olympics. I shall illustrate that in a number of ways. The Government has trumpeted this budget as being an opportunity somehow to provide extra hospital facilities in Sydney’s west. It announced that it would develop new radiotherapy services, a new maternity ward, nuclear medicine and academic facilities, and additional beds at Nepean Hospital for additional growth. That is exactly the same as the project announced by Ron Phillips in 1995; undoubtedly, construction would be under way now had the coalition Government been returned to office. It was this Government that scrapped that project.
Belatedly, the Government has reinstated that project, but it will not be finished until the year 2002. To illustrate the Government’s ability to spend money on services, last year the Government underspent by $4 million what it had intended to spend on completing the teaching hospital project at Nepean Hospital. The coalition Government had announced, started and nearly completed that project. If I remember correctly, the hospital blueprint of the Minister of Health in the former Labor Government, the Hon. Peter Anderson, who is a former member for Penrith, included an upgrade
of Nepean Hospital kitchen. The coalition Government commenced the upgrading of facilities at Nepean Hospital to bring them up to teaching hospital standard. In 1995 it announced a $70 million project, which has started belatedly under this Government.
Judging by the Government’s record of underspending on capital projects that it announced but did not deliver, I would not be surprised if the Nepean Hospital project has not advanced any further by the time Labor leaves office in two years time or less. Exactly the same thing happened to the Campbelltown Hospital and Camden District Hospital projects. I am sure the Hon. P. T. Primrose will remember the press conference held in Campbelltown at which the then Premier and Ron Phillips announced the upgrading of Campbelltown and Camden hospitals.
The Hon P. T. Primrose: That’s after they shut it.
The Hon. J. F. RYAN: I am pleased that the honourable member has mentioned that. He knows as well as I do that the paediatricians who operate in Campbelltown and Camden recommended to the former Labor Government that the children’s ward at Camden hospital be closed to enable services to be aggregated and additional nursing services to be brought on stream. Closing the children’s ward was a means of improving services. If this Government, after consulting stakeholders in the area, takes similar action which may involve some political mileage for the Opposition, I only hope that we will at least have the maturity to realise that closure of the children’s ward at Camden hospital resulted in the provision of better services overall. People in the area are certainly receiving better service.
My family had the misfortune of having to use the services at Campbelltown Hospital, and the service provided by doctors, including Dr Friedlander, and the nursing staff was excellent. Instead of having small children’s wards in Camden and Campbelltown, neither of which was staffed full time with appropriate paediatrician and nursing staff, the coalition Government produced something better by aggregating the facilities. I regret that the Hon. P. T. Primrose has sought to make political capital from action taken by the previous Government to improve services, not reduce them. This year the Government has announced that the project at Campbelltown Hospital, which was in fact also announced by the coalition Government, will get under way. However, of the $70 million that has been announced for the Campbelltown and Camden project, only $1 million will be spent this year, and the project will not be finished until well after the Olympics.
Last year the Government announced the allocation of $4 million for a new high school at Glenmore Park in Penrith, which was due to be opened by next year. I have visited and toured around Glenmore Park. The new houses and roads make the area look nice, but it has little in the way of social infrastructure, such as community and sporting facilities, and schools. Those facilities are yet to be supplied - a comment regularly made in the Penrith area about Glenmore Park. The Government announced that it would build a school there and open it next year. However, it did not spend any of the $4 million it announced last year. Barely another dollar has been spent on that project, and the completion date has been extended. Instead of the school opening next year it is now due to open in the year 2000. There is no doubt about what we are waiting on.
Completion of the Claremont Meadows primary school has also been delayed by a year. That school was due to be finished next year, but the finishing date has been extended to the year 2000. I am sure that the residents of Mount Pleasant and Cambridge Park will be disappointed to find that $4 million has been cut from the project to widen the Northern Road between Coreen Avenue and Andrews Road, and the project that was due to finish this year will be delayed until the year 2000. That is a pretty ordinary performance from the Government that has benefited so richly from an enormous increase in taxes, through growth and also through actual increase from the addition of new taxes - a complete repudiation of the Labor Party election promises. That is all the Government has been able to provide for Penrith.
The services that the people of Penrith have been looking for have been slowed down, staggered, and delayed to make way probably for the Olympics. The Government is also to take $3 million away from the Penrith Panthers club and the St Marys Band Club in order to fund its own mismanagement. Opposition members have reservations about the budget for many reasons. I have explained some of those reasons as they relate to the people of western Sydney. The coalition looks forward to the opportunity of winning the confidence of the people of New South Wales at the next election and again taking office to resume the programs it commenced and to introduce some truth into electioneering.
The coalition is about making promises that it intends and continues to keep. If one wanted an
illustration of that approach, one need look only to our current Prime Minister and the pressure he has been under to ditch some of his election promises. Again and again the Prime Minister has said that there will be no goods and services tax in his Government’s first term, even though three-quarters of the community would apparently now support that. The Prime Minister has said that he will continue to maintain Medicare, and he has.
The Hon. R. S. L. Jones: And make no real apology to the Aboriginal people. Shame!
The Hon. J. F. RYAN: I do not believe apologies to the Aboriginal people were part of the Liberal Party manifesto, as useful as they may have been. The community is looking for politicians who will do what they say, who will be modest in the promises they make and who will then carry out those promises. Certainly politicians who announce that the tolls will be removed from the tollways but then do not adhere to that promise, who say that they will not increase taxes and charges but then do so - not once but 11 times over - and who say that there will be no increase to the tax take and make much of their ability to practise financial rectitude but do not carry that out, will be held to account at the next election. The biggest problem Labor Party members will have at the next election is that every time Bob Carr says he is not going to do something when there is some suggestion in the community that he will, no-one will believe a word he says, and why should they?
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES [3.15 p.m]: I had hoped to deliver my contribution to the budget debate yesterday, which was the thirtieth anniversary of the referendum that finally acknowledged that Aboriginal people are even in this country. There is no question that the Aboriginal people have suffered appallingly, mainly at the hands of white people, in the past 209 years. Regrettably, things have not got much better in the past 30 years. On 6 July there will be the National Aboriginal Day of Commemoration. We should use that occasion to remember the facts on Aboriginal land rights. I have been appalled by the self-serving and unscrupulous propaganda generated by rural and mining interests and their politicians on this issue. I intend to reclaim the truth and place it in an historical and international context.
The question of whether native title applied to pastoral leases was tested by the Wik people. As we all know, the High Court found that the pastoral leases did not necessarily extinguish native title. That was not the first time that Aboriginal land rights on pastoral leases had been recognised. The first British settlers never intended to exclude Aborigines from property rights, and reacted strongly to leaseholders and magistrates who acted as if Aborigines held no legal interest in property held under lease and treated Aborigines as trespassers on their own land. Associate Professor Henry Reynolds states that British officials sought to preserve the existing native title and recognise an Aboriginal legal right to remain on their land and take their living from it. The term "right" occurs again and again in private memos and public documents. Associate Professor Henry Reynolds points out that it was as much a legal right as a squatter’s right to pasture his or her sheep and cattle. Aborigines and leaseholders had mutual rights: one was as good as the other.
The status of pastoral leases was further clarified in 1848. In the statement used in the Wik case, British Secretary of State, Earl Grey, wrote that he considered it essential to be understood that pastoral leases were not intended to deprive the natives of their former right to hunt over these districts or to wander over them in search of subsistence in the manner to which they had been heretofore accustomed. By the second half of the nineteenth century Aboriginal rights on pastoral leases were enshrined in property law. At that time pastoral leases came under the Imperial Land Act 1846, which contained clauses allowing Aborigines rights to use and occupy the land. Queensland, South Australia, and Northern Territory leases all explicitly allowed Aborigines full access to pastoral leases, the right to hunt and fish and the right to build shelters. What happened to those rights? As the land under pastoral lease expanded and the land rights assumed by pastoralists also expanded the rights of Aboriginal people were universally ignored and eventually forgotten - forgotten, that is, until the Wik case.
I should like to place the Wik decision in an international context. Sadly, the Wik judgment is not an international breakthrough for indigenous people. New Zealand and Canadian law has already recognised the coexistence of native and pastoral rights. In fact, other settled societies such as the United States of America, Canada and New Zealand have all done far more than Australia to address the issue of property rights for indigenous people, to correct injustices done in the past. Each of those countries has set up tribunals to redress past wrongs - the United States in the 1940s, Canada in the 1970s and New Zealand in the 1980s. All of the tribunals have reopened cases to examine treaties and consider compensation. American courts have examined the earliest days of that republic to gauge the fairness of its treaties.
When understood in a proper historic international context, the Wik decision is mild; it does not grant new rights, it only reinstates rights that have been forgotten and ignored by Australians but enshrined into law by other comparable countries. I cannot understand why there has been such hysterical reaction to that decision. The Borbidge Government has acted shamefully in demanding that native title on pastoral leases be extinguished. The Howard Government’s 10-point plan, which does everything it can to extinguish native title on pastoral leases without explicitly saying so, is equally shameful. The energy our political leaders have wasted worrying about the implications of the Wik decision would have been better spent elsewhere; Aboriginal health would be a good start.
Aborigines die 15 to 20 years earlier than other Australians, a life expectancy comparable only to that in India and central African nations. Aboriginal death rates are six times higher than those of other Australians. Only 40 per cent of Aboriginal homes have sufficient income to provide the basic human needs. Aborigines die from infectious diseases at a rate 15 to 18 times higher than that of other Australians. Those figures are an insult to us all. A few days ago the Sydney Morning Herald carried an article that detailed health comparisons between Aboriginal people and other Australians. It pointed out that death rates are as much as six times higher for Aborigines than for other Australians. Aboriginal babies are twice as likely to die at birth. The death rate from infectious diseases is up to 18 times higher for Aborigines. Aboriginal people have a three times higher rate of respiratory disease and are three times more likely to be in need of hospital treatment.
Aboriginal people are 17 times more likely to suffer violence needing hospital treatment. Their level of smoking is twice as high as that of other Australians. The level of child neglect is six times higher in the Aboriginal community and poverty is 40 times greater than in the community as a whole. When a State budget is being discussed consideration must be given to those citizens in our State who are the most disadvantaged of all and have been for more than 200 years. The thirtieth anniversary of the referendum to which I have referred coincides with the release of the report on the stolen children. According to a poll taken by A.G.B. McNair on 23 to 25 May, 65 per cent of Australians believe that an apology should be made. I was a little upset about John Howard’s speech to the Australian reconciliation conference in which he spoke about why reconciliation will not and cannot work. The Prime Minister in many of his sentences talked about reconciliation not working. He also spoke about native title, and upset many Aboriginal people by doing so.
The Prime Minister must be more compassionate to Aboriginal Australians. He must understand where they are coming from and not maintain his ways from many years ago. An article in the Sydney Morning Herald a few days ago claimed that Australia’s international reputation had come under attack in the world’s leading human rights forum in Geneva from eight major Aboriginal organisations which described the past practice of removing indigenous children as genocide. There seems to be little understanding amongst some conservative politicians that removing the children was attempted genocide. It was designed to allow the Aboriginal race to die out in the 1930s and 1940s. It almost succeeded. Thank heavens it did not. Turning to a different matter, today I spoke at a rally outside Parliament House about the east Circular Quay development. The rally was organised by Neville Gruzman.
The Hon. Franca Arena: The development is a tragedy for Sydney.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: It is, indeed, a tragedy for Sydney. The Hon. J. R. Johnson and I had approached the former Prime Minister to acquire this land when it could have been bought for $180 million. At that time it was only a hole in the ground.
The Hon. D. F. Moppett: Woolloomooloo Bay is another tragedy.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: Perhaps so. When talking about Aborigines living in poverty $180 million sounds an awful lot of money, but this State has a fairly large budget of about $22 billion. I am sure that a fair bit of that money is not spent in the best way possible. Neville Gruzman and others have come up with a plan to knock down the ghastly eyesore that is under construction at east Circular Quay and prevent other buildings from being constructed without costing taxpayers anything. I would rather not spend $180 million or $700 million of taxpayers’ money when others suffer because of a lack of basic facilities. As I mentioned in the House yesterday, that can be achieved by adopting the tower option. Even more imaginative options may be considered. I am sure the Treasurer will get his own way about the privatisation of electricity in this State. If he does not do it, the next mob will, so he should get in and make the best of it while he can.
If that privatisation goes through, this State will receive $25 billion, which will more than pay off the State debt.
The Hon. M. R. Egan: I am saying $22 billion.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: The Treasurer says $22 billion, but if he does not sell it so cheaply, he can probably get $25 billion, depending on the price earnings ratio.
The Hon. M. R. Egan: I will take the best price I can get.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: If New South Wales is to off-load assets on to the private sector, it must get the best possible price and deal. There may well be $3 billion to $5 billion in excess of the State’s immediate needs which could be used for other infrastructure projects. If one capital asset were sold, it would be appropriate, apart from paying off debt, to acquire other capital assets. East Circular Quay would be a wonderful asset for the State to acquire using some of the proceeds from the sale of the electricity industry. I urge the Treasurer and Premier, when setting up the infrastructure trust or fund that will be established at the time of privatisation, to consider further work on the Royal Botanic Gardens after the dreadful mistake by the Labor Government in 1959 of cutting a gigantic hole through the gardens for the construction of the Cahill Expressway.
It is about time that mistake was rectified. The Auditor-General has estimated that the completion of that work will cost $48 million. It is a lot of money, but one capital asset will be swapped for another, and it will be used by all the people of New South Wales. If that work is carried out in the city of Sydney, work should also be carried out in regional and rural areas. If the Government were to spend large amounts of money, I urge the Treasurer and Premier to consider spending at least half of it in country areas. I imagine the Hon. D. F. Moppett would agree with that. Some country roads are in an appalling mess and need urgent attention. Many other capital works are needed in country areas to provide better infrastructure. I urge the Treasurer to consider those capital works to maintain the viability of some country areas.
The Hon. D. F. Moppett: The Government has been siphoning off money from the 3 x 3 country program.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: I believe the 3 x 3 program should be a 5 x 5 program. Perhaps next year the Treasurer will consider that. At this stage the Treasurer looks non-committal. I am sure he would agree that everyone should pay their way in society and look after those unable to pay their way. Motorists can afford a 5 x 5 levy, which might pay for decent public transport infrastructure in Sydney and some decent roads in the country where public transport is not so useable. I hope the many hundreds of people who attended the rally today to once again protest against the eyesore being built at east Circular Quay will get some satisfaction.
The State needs real vision. The former Premier, John Fahey, said, "Vision is b . . . t." I hope the proceeds from the privatisation of the electricity industry will pay for some of that vision. For decades the planning of Sydney has been chaotic. As I told the crowd this morning, looking along Macquarie Street one can see the results of many decades of extraordinarily bad planning. In the last 30 years about half the city has been knocked down and rebuilt. The same has happened in places like London. It has not happened in Paris, which has beautiful buildings, because it is not allowed. Paris was a planned city from the time it was knocked down and rebuilt.
I urge the Government to have a vision for the city of Sydney in particular and, indeed, the whole of the State that includes proper public transport planning with controls over the types of buildings that can be constructed so that they fit in with the general appearance of the city. A vision such as that will mean that Sydney will never have another Cahill Expressway through the Royal Botanic Gardens, another east Circular Quay disaster, another Eastern Distributor disaster or another M2 disaster. Sydney needs a tough overall planning policy, but to have that policy the State needs a Premier who is tough and has the vision to implement the policy. The Premier will shortly have the dollars to do that.
Earlier I spoke about Aboriginal reconciliation and I should like to talk for a few moments about what is called the Hanson phenomenon. In the referendum 30 years ago about Aboriginal reconciliation 91.1 per cent of Australians voted to recognise Aboriginal people and approximately 9 per cent voted against the proposition. Pauline Hanson has the support of roughly the same number of people who voted against the referendum question. I do not believe a significant proportion of Australia’s population is racist. Australia will always have a minority of racists. We must have tolerance for all people, all races and all religions.
The Hon. D. F. Moppett: That’s why we are so kind to you.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: That is why we are so kind to the Hon. D. F. Moppett. Everyone must be aware that some of us follow some strange religions. For example, some people are Catholics, some are Scientologists. I have several friends who are Scientologists.
The Hon. Franca Arena: Don’t tell us about them.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: They have been writing to me lately - the Hon. Franca Arena would know all about this - and saying they are angry at what the Hon. Franca Arena has been saying about Scientologists. They have said they do not have a school and they are not brainwashing people.
The Hon. Franca Arena: It is not a church. Where is their church?
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: It has been adjudged to be a church.
The Hon. Franca Arena: It is not a religion. It is an evil organisation.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: I do not think it is any more evil than the Catholic Church or any cult.
The Hon. M. R. Egan: I may be biased, but I find that very offensive.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: Of course the Treasurer finds it offensive. Scientologists would find it offensive as well. A Hindu, a Buddhist or a Jew would find it offensive if they were challenged in the same way as Scientologists have been challenged. That if why I say we need tolerance towards everyone. We need tolerance towards Aboriginal people and even towards Pauline Hanson.
The Hon. Franca Arena: I am told that I might do something I will regret. I tell them now that they will regret it if they attack me.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: I am sure they will. The paedophiles very much regret that too.
The Hon. D. F. Moppett: Would you like to enunciate your program of tolerance for Pauline Hanson in more detail?
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: Indeed, I would like to do that. The media has built up Pauline Hanson out of all proportion to a level she would not have reached otherwise. She would be just another Independent member of Parliament, and would not be polling 9 per cent had she not been made a national hero by the media. Her views form the views of a minority of racists. Le Pen recently polled 15 per cent in France; 15 per cent of French support the National Front, effectively the Nazis.
The more publicity racists are given the more powerful they become. People should ignore them; they are a noisy minority. They will only ever be a minority, but if the media keep on giving them a beat-up they will become a large enough minority to hold the balance of power in the Senate. I do not approve of the views of Pauline Hanson. What Pauline Hanson says is very wrong, in my view. In her view what she says is very right. How on earth can we be tolerant of someone whose beliefs are so different from those of the majority?
The Hon. Franca Arena: She incites hatred, that is what is wrong about her. She incites hatred for Aborigines and for immigrants.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: A lot of people do that privately. The 9 per cent of people who support her, hundreds of thousands of Australians, are really racists. One would not want some of them as neighbours, or even to live in the same town. But they are there. If those people are given publicity, a platform to stand on, their views will permeate through society and cause division and riots, and lead to attacks on ethnic people. What our society needs most is tolerance.
The Hon. Franca Arena: Silence could be misinterpreted as acquiescence.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: We should not acquiesce in racism or sexism or put down any minority or majority group. We do not want to give Pauline Hanson’s views the platform that they have been given by the media. The media must take some responsibility for attacks on Chinese people, for example, which have increased by 100 per cent since Pauline Hanson received this publicity. She would not have been given that publicity without the help of the media. Without that publicity she would be just another person, just another racist. We cannot gaol her for her views, and we would not want to do that. We would not want to harm her, but we will take her on in the political arena. Hopefully the Liberal and Labor parties will swap preferences in the Federal seat of Oxley and remove her from politics. It is up to the people of her electorate not to vote for her.
Australia is a diverse community with people from all races, all religions, all ethnic groups, from virtually every country on earth. We have to be tolerant of each other - and there is absolutely no question about that. We have to be tolerant of the most diverse views. I upset the Treasurer with my comment about the Catholic Church; and he was quite rightly upset when I said that it was no more outrageous than other cults.
The Hon. Jan Burnswoods: You don’t believe in upsetting people
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: No, he has an important job to do.
The Hon. M. R. Egan: You said it in a more pejorative way than that.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: Perhaps I did. The Treasurer reacted very strongly, as he should. He was quite right to be upset.
The Hon. M. R. Egan: It is okay, I accept your apology.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: Do you?
The Hon. M. R. Egan: Yes. Sometimes you say things you should not say.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: I say things to make a point and to stir people’s passions. Today, to stir up more passions, Operation Noah commenced. At 8.30 a.m. the dob in a dope dealer or dob in a druggy programs started. That is another area where we need compassion and tolerance. We will have to accept the need for safe injecting rooms, not because we believe that people should use heroin, but because we accept that people use heroin, regardless of whether we approve of its use or not. If we are to get needles out of playgrounds and gardens, and off the streets, and have them recycled or melted down, there must be safe injecting rooms. People will use heroin regardless of what the Hon. D. F. Moppett or any right-wing people feel about it.
Yesterday I talked to a young athlete who was at the smoke-in at the University of Sydney in February. He literally picked up a small bag of marijuana from the ground. He does not even use the stuff; he has never used it. He thought, "Beauty, I’ve found some marijuana." Hundreds of people were smoking marijuana at the university, passing around joints and giving it away free. I do not know why, but this young athlete picked up some. His bag was searched some weeks later and the marijuana was still there and was found by the police. He was charged and fined. He now has a criminal record; one moment of folly could ruin his career.
He now has to appeal the fine and try to get off with a caution. As I said, he is not a marijuana user, but hundreds of people at the university could have been legitimately charged, under the current law, as they were all marijuana users but should not have been. People must have compassion and tolerance for those who have a different lifestyle. Approximately 70 per cent of students experiment with marijuana; most do not continue using. When they reach middle age they may use alcohol, or even smoke cigarettes. They tend to move from one drug to another. Sometimes they start with ecstasy. Ecstasy is a nice drug, which I tried many years ago.
One cannot become addicted to ecstasy because one can use it only once a month to get a decent effect from it. People move from ecstasy, sometimes to marijuana or amphetamines. Then they go on to alcohol or maybe something else. We must have compassion and tolerance for drug users as well, particularly heroin users. Many heroin addicts are hard cases. People have phoned me and asked me to legalise heroin. A woman who had two children was about to lose her home on the northern beaches because of her addiction. She pleaded with me to legalise heroin. I said that I could not because some extremely conservative members of Parliament have no compassion or tolerance for people like her, because she uses a different drug.
The Hon. M. R. Egan: That is not true.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: Is it not true?
The Hon. M. R. Egan: It is untrue.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: Do you have compassion and tolerance for people who use heroin?
The Hon. M. R. Egan: Yes, I do, but that does not mean that I support its legalisation.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: What are you going to do about it? How are you going to help people cope with their addictions and not lose their homes and their children; or die from an overdose or a hot shot, as happened to someone not too far away from us?
The Hon. M. R. Egan: Not by legalising it.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: Well how can it be done? How is it possible to cope with their needs? By treating it as a medical problem? That is the question! At the moment the crime rate is
spiralling out of control. Most people have had their homes burgled, some more than once. The last time my home was burgled it was done by heroin addicts. What will the Government do about that? If the problem is not addressed in a positive way, for instance by supporting the heroin trial in the Australian Capital Territory, this State will end up with an even higher crime rate and a lot of unhappy people, and there will be a lot of unnecessary deaths among young people.
Many people who die from heroin are not addicts, but rather young people experimenting with a drug. They take an overdose because they do not know what they are taking. I am talking about young people in the 18 years to 25 years age group. Many of them are not regular users but recreational users. We have to have compassion and tolerance for them and understand how to address the problem in a real way. This is quite a smart budget, inasmuch as it hits the rich. A few people have been upset about that and have written to me about it to tell me how they have been affected by it.
The Hon. M. R. Egan: Not as many as have written to me.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: I can believe that. Bruce Baird and the hotel groups have approached me about the effect the bed tax will have on their profits. I note that only about one-third of the hotels in the groups are Australian owned - not that I am xenophobic. They say that the budget will wipe out some profits for at least one year, maybe two or three years. That is why one hotel has offered to give its entire profits to the Government; probably the profits will be less than the bed tax. When a government suddenly introduces a new tax its impact should be studied. I met with Treasury officers and discussed the impact of that tax on the tourist business. The Treasury officials are quite contemptuous of the hotel industry. They said that the industry representatives were good lobbyists, but I did not consider that the officials from Treasury treated them with the respect they deserved.
The impact of the poker machine tax should have been considered more carefully before its introduction. Clubs and hotels would accept the tax if they had been given more lead time, something like twelve months, before the tax was introduced. Those organisations often have contracts in place for new buildings, some have construction programs under way and they may have loans from the bank. They need time to adjust. My recommendation is that when introducing a new tax at least a year should be allowed for organisations to adjust their books and accounts. Introducing a new tax within three or four months can be absolutely horrendous for an organisation, whether it be a hotel in Sydney or a club in western Sydney.
In 1971 I managed a company and suddenly there was a wage increase; I thought the company would go broke as the increase wiped out the entire year’s profits in one go. The company retrenched 35 staff in order to stay viable - not a pleasant prospect for anybody. Sudden increase in taxes will cost jobs and will also cost votes. If I were Government members I would meet with the clubs and advise them that a new tax would be brought in but its implementation be delayed for perhaps nine or twelve months. The Hon. E. M. Obeid knows what it is like in business when there is a sudden impost. It is very hard to factor it into the accounts for the year.
I urge the Treasurer and the Premier to meet with the clubs and hotels again - I am sure they have met already - to see whether the manner of introducing the taxes can be adjusted. The taxes are acceptable so long as those affected by them are given sufficient time to adjust contracts. The hotel industry has informed me that people coming from overseas prepay for their holidays. Those prepaid holidays will be in existence until April 1998. The industry cannot increase its costs until then so it will have to wear a loss for something like eight months. That is fairly hard on an industry that has been doing it tough anyway. The industry has shareholders’ funds to look after and unquestionably jobs will be lost as a result of this tax.
All in all the budget is quite skilful and not harmful but from an accounting point of view I question the merit of the election trick of giving everybody $50. Many people receiving that money will not need it and others will desperately need it. People in western Sydney getting $50 will be very grateful indeed but others on the north shore will get $50 and put it in the poker machines or buy another bottle of champagne. That benefit could have been better targeted by use of a means test; probably one-third of it will be wasted. Now that the Pauline Hanson phenomenon is with us it is essential to develop a greater sense of compassion and tolerance for all people in our society no matter who they are, or where they come from, or whether their habits are different from ours. We must ensure that the Pauline Hanson phenomenon does not grow any more than it already has.
The Hon. I. COHEN [3.43 p.m]: I speak in debate on this budget having looked at it in a
balanced way. As a Green I was interested to read the New South Wales Government social justice direction statement of October 1996 which stated:
The fundamental test for the government at the end of its first term remains whether NSW has become a fairer community.
Certainly that is the Greens’ prime consideration in respect of this budget. It is important that the social sector is appropriately served by this budget. I note also the headline assessment of the budget in the Education magazine, a journal of the New South Wales Teachers Federation: "Glimmer of Labor tradition in the State Budget". It is only a glimmer but nevertheless at the mid term of the Government’s period in office there is a slight move away from the economic rationalist approach and towards considering the community. An article by Patricia Simpson in that magazine stated in part:
Treasurer Egan’s economic rationalism seems to have been tempered by many reminders from the electorate and interest groups that State Budgets are about people. The Budget introduced a scheme of revenue raising of $400 million. Largely aimed at those more able to afford large homes, luxury cars and hotel beds in the central business district, it redistributed this income to health, education and police services under the slogan of being "supportive and protective" of "our people" . . .
However, what does remain is a glimmer of Labor philosophy at the state level being translated into real terms.
I agree with that perception of the budget. At this juncture I limit my congratulations to the Government for its move in the right direction with its social priorities. On 9 September 1996 I hosted a media conference with the Council of Social Service of New South Wales to launch its pre-budget submission to the Government. The document prepared by NCOSS was very professional and highlighted the issues of importance to many in society, predominantly those less fortunate than ourselves. The NCOSS social and economic priority statement was entitled "A fairer community is worth paying for". The Greens support this statement and congratulate NCOSS on the enormous energy put into the production of a submission to assist government with an awareness of community needs. It appears that the Government has taken note of some of the positions put forward. This year’s social justice budget statement includes funding for programs that the Greens welcome and support.
I congratulate the Government on allocating a total of $7.022 million in 1997-98 to fund a range of special programs which assist disadvantaged young people by improving their literacy, numeracy and self-esteem. The programs include helping early leavers, circuit breaker, time out and Koori youth programs - welcome initiatives. The establishment of an office of children and young people within the Cabinet office is also an appropriate initiative. With the $1.156 million safer communities development program the Government and local governments will cooperate in developing local crime prevention strategies. This is open to interpretation but it is an initiative in the right direction.
The provision of $6.6 million over three years, from 1997 to 2000, to fund innovative youth justice conferencing schemes is to be applauded. This scheme will look at non-serious juvenile offenders to bring them face to face with victims. An amount of $5.912 million will be provided for reforms to juvenile justice community-based support schemes. That also is a worthy allocation of funds. In 1997-98 an additional $1 million will be made available to be spent by the Department of Corrective Services on programs for indigenous inmates. That funding is very timely and appropriate particularly having in mind the debate that is raging at present about the treatment of indigenous Australians.
The regional coordination program encourages better use of Government services by reducing overlap and duplication and thereby enhancing outcomes for people in rural and regional areas. The program now covers all of New South Wales apart from most of the Sydney metropolitan area. The annual funding of $1.65 million has been allocated to the program for 1997-98 and that initiative is supported. The Government is proud of its commitment to resolve the forest issue, and so are the Greens. It was because of the support of the conservation movement that it was possible for the Government to tackle this long unresolved issue on an environmental and social level.
The environmental trust funds that were released to enable this process to be realised have meant that it is possible that this State will have a world-class forest reserve system. At this point in the process the Greens have a concern that appropriate funds must be made available for the proper scientific assessments that are required to ensure that the forest restructuring process is a success. It must achieve the goals of conservation and compensation. Through the Resource and Conservation Assessment Council process the Government has set out a detailed plan to balance conservation and industry needs under the structural adjustment package.
An estimated $32 million will be provided in 1997-98 to retrain and relocate affected timber
workers and to restructure the industry. A sum of $21.4 million will also be provided in 1997-98 to increase the rate of expansion of native timber hardwood plantations. I believe that is an essential component of any restructuring of the timber industry. Although we have a long way to go in that regard, it is certainly a step in the right direction. The Government will publish by August a statement on the overall approach that will be taken to meet its responsibilities and duties to Aboriginal people.
That statement also will take the Government in the right direction but it needs to be backed up by action. Significant moves need to be made in respect of this issue, which has been lacking funding for far too long. The Aboriginal Women’s Legal Resource Centre, established to represent women who are victims of violence and sexual assault, has attracted funding of approximately $200,000. That is a positive step but a very small amount of money considering the overall allocation of budget funds. With regard to the social services sector of the budget, in its pre-budget submission to the Government the National Council of Social Service stated:
1997 commences a United Nations decade focusing international attention on reducing poverty.
In Australia, clearer evidence emerges each year of the depth of social and economic disadvantage experienced by well over 2 million people.
This struggle for an adequate standard of living is concentrated in several population groups such as the unemployed, sole parent families, Aborigines and people from non English speaking backgrounds.
Increasingly, it is also concentrated in specific urban neighbourhoods (in capital and regional cities), small towns and remote communities. And, more than ever before, this neglect of human resources and social capital is recognised as inefficient and of concern to the broader community.
I believe it is that long-term efficiency that needs to be considered. It is all well and good to talk about dollars and cents but the commodity or the community resource that exists in those people has to be taken into account. The submission continued:
This picture of inequality is as prevalent in New South Wales as elsewhere.
At the same time, there is another critical struggle taking place. It is about the purpose and role of government itself. It is about how much of society’s functions should be given over to the market. It is about the coalescence and contradictions in current economic and social policies.
The New South Wales Government is to be applauded for its initiatives in regard to eduction and the availability of comprehensive Internet facilities. The fact that the Government has allocated $2.19 billion to roads but only $1.8 billion to public transport is an indictment of the Government, particularly in light of the recent debate about the M2 and the Eastern Distributor. It is of concern that the Government is not allocating more substantial funds towards an integrated transport package and is instead maintaining the addiction to the continuing development of roads - which is inappropriate from the Greens’ perspective.
The Greens strongly support the land tax on properties worth more than $1 million. We also support the bed tax in the central business district, at the same time recognising that there should perhaps be more debate about whether the bed tax should apply statewide or in tourist areas that stand to benefit from the influx of visitors to New South Wales for the Olympic Games. The tourist industry, and the tourist hotel industry in particular, should pay its way. The taxpayer is subsidising those industries by way of the incredible amount of finance expended by the Government on advertising. This State really needs appropriate tax initiatives. I take the point made by previous speakers in the debate about the desirability of a phase-in period. There may well be an argument in regard to equity and the maintenance of jobs to allow such a phase-in period.
The Greens also support a general increase in land tax and consider that poker machine taxes are a priority. We support the Government’s initiative in that regard. The central business district parking levy increase is another potential way of dealing with the ever-burgeoning problems of traffic in the CBD. The Greens support the parking levy increase and any type of disincentive that will dissuade people from the use of private transport and encourage the use of public transport, particularly in the centre of the city. The Greens have major concerns about the electricity grid and about the 58 per cent shareholding that New South Wales has in the Snowy Mountains scheme. We believe that the Treasurer should assess the environmental flows of the Snowy River before considering corporatisation of that entity. I am not convinced that the Treasurer will pay heed to that suggestion. I note that he is not listening at the moment, but that seems to be part and parcel of the ongoing game in this House. Members can talk about specific issues but they do not warrant a look-in.
The Hon. M. R. Egan: What is that?
The Hon. I. COHEN: It is all right. You were having a conversation, and I acknowledge that. I was talking about the Snowy River flows and
referring to a plea by many in the community that the Government should consider environmental flow assessment before considering corporatisation. There will certainly be a significant backlash from the community if that plea is ignored - as it appears the Treasurer has ignored my comments so far. I hope we achieve a position that will be environmentally appropriate before corporatisation of those systems. I regard that as essential. Similarly, the Government must understand that certain sections of the community, particularly the Greens movement, become concerned when they hear the Treasurer applauding the piping of gas supplies from Papua New Guinea to New South Wales. That is a move away from what should be a more advanced concept of examining decentralised systems and supplying our own energy needs.
The Hon. M. R. Egan: We do not have gas supplies in this State.
The Hon. I. COHEN: Gas is being imported from the south.
The Hon. M. R. Egan: New South Wales does not have its own gas supplies. It will all be imported.
The Hon. I. COHEN: It is one thing to import gas from the southern States and another to undertake a project to import gas from Papua New Guinea. The resulting environmental problems of such a project would stagger the imagination.
The Hon. M. R. Egan: If we are to import gas from Queensland, why should it not be imported from Papua New Guinea?
The Hon. I. COHEN: I think the Greens would say that it should not be imported; that we should be examining our own resources to deal with that situation. As a member of the Greens movement I am very concerned about the proposal to privatise the electricity industry. This State needs a guarantee of the continued push towards stand-alone, alternative and ecologically efficient energy systems, rather than a big-hit solution which will be disastrous in the long term. The Hon. R. S. L. Jones spoke of being at the east Circular Quay rally today. I also spoke to that gathering outside Parliament House. I think it is extremely important that we acknowledge the concerns of the community. There is definitely a ground swell of opinion that believes the building should be converted to something far more agreeable; that we must maintain the aspect of our harbour foreshore, which is of world renown. If we have a $22 billion State budget, surely we can afford to stop what is a multinational development on that site and return the site to the people of New South Wales.
Today marks the launch of Operation Noah. The type of drug law enforcement that has taken place in New South Wales for many years is a waste of taxpayers’ money and something that should be reconsidered. Our policing operations are extremely expensive and wasteful. We should look beyond the likes of Operation Noah and consider decriminalisation of these drugs, and consider the introduction of systems that will turn what is at present a criminal problem into a medical problem, in order to bring some rationality into the debate on how to deal with drugs. I am concerned that the budget has not provided any extra money for services to homeless people - some of the most disadvantaged and vulnerable in our community. The Government has done nothing to alleviate the critical housing problem in the lead-up to the Olympics. In a media release from the Council of Social Service of New South Wales dated 21 May 1996, Harry Herbert, the President of NCOSS, stated:
Last Friday, a miserable wet day, serves as an example of how bad things have become if you are homeless in Sydney:
There were no crisis beds available for
Whilst the Government is headed in the right direction and it is acknowledged that certain things are being done, we have a lot further to go to deal with what should be a fair and equitable Labor budget. In his book entitled The Green Buddha, Christopher Titmuss writes an open letter to the world’s political leaders. The letter begins "Dear President or Prime Minister". All political systems are relevant in considering this issue, but we should philosophically consider what drives us.
Pursuant to sessional orders business interrupted.
mothers with children who are victims of domestic violence
single women who are victims of domestic violence
homeless women and children
homeless single women
homeless two parent families with children
homeless fathers with children
homeless males 18-25
QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
Mrs KIRSTEN PIAT COMPENSATION CLAIM
The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD: Is the Attorney General aware that in January 1994 police
officers mistakenly raided the home of Kirsten Piat at Lilyfield, disturbed her four children aged under 12 years, and pointed a gun at her husband’s head? Is he aware that finally, in July 1996, the Ombudsman recommended that compensation be paid to the Piat family but that no compensation has yet been paid? Will he take steps to ensure that Mrs Piat is given legal assistance in accordance with the scale-of-fee arrangement established by the Crown Solicitor to resolve the issue of compensation payable by the Government? Will he take steps to secure an early mediation of the quantum of the compensation which the Ombudsman has directed should be paid for this wrongful attack by police on Mrs Piat and her family?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: I must confess I am not familiar with the detail of the incident, which apparently occurred in January 1994, although it does strike a chord in my memory. I would be happy to urgently consider the case to determine whether some legal assistance is appropriate. Assuming some assistance is appropriate, I am attracted by the idea of mediation in such cases, as was positively and constructively suggested in the question. I undertake to call for the file and review the case along the lines suggested in the question.
CHILDREN AND THE LEGAL SYSTEM
The Hon. FRANCA ARENA: I ask the Attorney General, representing the Minister for Education and Training, a question without notice. Have the Australian Law Reform Commission and the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission issued a report entitled "A matter of Priority - Children and the Legal System", which recommends that the 30,000 students suspended from schools in this State each year should have the right to an advocate? Has the report also advocated uniform national legislation banning corporal punishment in all schools and denying funding to schools that still use the strap? Does the Government still fund such private schools? What is the response of the Government to the abovementioned report?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: I am sure the Hon. Franca Arena would be aware that this Parliament has taken steps in regard to corporal punishment in schools, both government and private, and that legislation is in force. I would have thought the question relating to national uniform legislation in that respect was probably academic, because New South Wales has its own laws. I am generally aware of the report concerning the rights of children. However, in regard to the specific question about the rights of children suspended from schools, it would be prudent for me to refer the matter to the Minister for Education and Training and ask him to provide the honourable member with a detailed response.
VICTORIAN CONTRACT AWARD
The Hon. R. T. M. BULL: I address my question without notice to the Treasurer, Minister for Energy, Minister for State and Regional Development, Minister Assisting the Premier, and Vice-President of the Executive Council. Is the Treasurer aware that his colleague in another place the Minister for Gaming and Racing, Mr Face, yesterday awarded a contract valued at over $1 million to a Victorian company, Addiction Research Institute of Victoria? Given the Treasurer’s animated answer to a question asked by the Hon. D. J. Gay yesterday, and his seemingly genuine concern about business opportunities leaving New South Wales, can he tell me why a Labor Minister, Richard Face, has granted a contract to a Victorian company? Is it because the gaming Minister is concerned that New South Wales is now the highest taxed State in the nation and he wanted to ensure that members of the public received value for money? Why do people with a gambling problem who live in New South Wales have to ring Melbourne for help? Will the Minister immediately direct the Minister for Gaming and Racing to award the contract to a New South Wales company?
The Hon. Patricia Forsythe: What a good question!
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I am surprised that the Hon. Patricia Forsythe should say it is a good question. I was thinking that it was one of the silliest questions I have heard from the Opposition. Surely we have not reached the stage in this country of governments prohibiting companies or individuals from outside their State borders from tendering for Government work. That would be absolutely absurd. First and foremost we are Australians, and when the Government puts out a tender for work, it will entertain bids by individuals and firms outside New South Wales. The proposition is really silly, and I suspect the honourable member and the Hon. Patricia Forsythe know it is a silly proposition.
The Hon. ANN SYMONDS: I ask the Minister for Community Services whether he will provide the House with details of his package of new child-care places in New South Wales.
The Hon. R. D. DYER: I am happy to respond to the important question asked by the Hon.
Ann Symonds, whose interest in the provision of children’s services goes back many years. I have previously described her as a pioneer in the provision of children’s services in this State. I am pleased to advise the House that New South Wales is spending $8.5 million to create an additional 1,682 child-care places. These new places are in vacation care, preschools, occasional care and baby care. At a time when the Howard Government is making savage cuts to the child-care budget, almost $400 million in the most recent budget, this Government is creating more child-care places. The Government recognises that children and their families should have proper access to high-quality child care.
Since April 1995 this Government has created an additional 4,787 child-care places. In its latest package it is creating 706 places for babies, that is children under three years, at a cost of $5.5 million. There is a high demand for baby care and it is a more expensive service to provide. For that reason I have redirected funds that would have been committed to the expanded national child-care strategy to create 706 new baby-care places. The expanded national child-care strategy was fatally fractured by the Howard Government last year when it cut $250 million from the child-care budget, including the removal of operational subsidies for long day care community-based centres. Despite the Commonwealth’s callous approach to child care, New South Wales is forging ahead with its commitment to provide safe, secure and affordable child care for New South Wales children and their families.
This new $8.5 million package will see the creation of 542 new preschool and occasional-care places at a total cost of $2.9 million. These places have been allocated on a needs basis, with three-quarters of the places going to those areas with the highest need: western and south-western Sydney, the Hunter and the Illawarra. For example, in the Cumberland-Prospect area in western Sydney, this Government is funding an additional 190 preschool and occasional-care places, 90 new vacation-care places and 79 additional baby places at a total cost of just over $2 million. In the Illawarra $912,000 will be spent to create 55 new preschool and occasional-care places, 52 new vacation-care places and 52 new baby-care places. In the Hunter the Government will create 62 new baby places with funding of $530,000. Both existing and new services are being advised this week of the funding allocations, and some of the new places should begin to appear within weeks. The Carr Labor Government has made a significant commitment to child care, and with almost 5,000 new places created since April 1995 it is putting its promises into action.
ENERGY INDUSTRY PRIVATISATION
The Hon. JENNIFER GARDINER: My question is addressed to the Minister for Energy, and Minister for State and Regional Development. Will the Minister give an ironclad guarantee that if the privatisation of New South Wales electricity assets goes ahead all the electricity headquarters, including regional headquarters, will remain in New South Wales?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: Certainly, the New South Wales operations would remain in New South Wales. In Victoria some of the utilities have been purchased by overseas companies. If the same thing happened in New South Wales I would not expect the head office of an overseas company to locate in New South Wales, although the Government would be anxious to encourage it to do so.
ENERGY INDUSTRY PRIVATISATION
The Hon. JENNIFER GARDINER: I ask a supplementary question. Does the Minister have any suggestions as to how the purchasers of electricity assets may be encouraged to stay in New South Wales if the assets are sold overseas?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: The fact that they operate in New South Wales means that they will be rooted here.
ROSS RIVER FEVER
The Hon. ELAINE NILE: I direct my question without notice to the Minister for Community Services, representing the Minister for Health. Is it a fact that the New South Wales Department of Health released figures yesterday that show that 1,018 cases of Ross River fever have been reported so far this year across New South Wales, which is an increase on last year’s figures? Is it a fact that many cases have been confirmed by general practitioners in Sydney suburbs, including inner-city Balmain, Wahroonga, Pymble, Sutherland, Artarmon, Penrith and Lilli Pilli? Is the Minister aware that the Department of Health is reluctant to admit that victims contracted the virus locally in Sydney? Is the Minister aware that Professor Richard Russell, medical entomology director at Westmead Hospital, said that he was aware of possible local infections in the metropolitan area after having been warned of the disease's potential to spread through the city? Is the Department of Health treating this issue seriously, or, as Professor
Russell said, is the department "just crossing its fingers because it is the end of the mosquito season"? What is the health Minister doing now in regard to cases in the Sydney area?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: I have read recent press reports regarding Ross River fever and mosquito infestations in some parts of Sydney that apparently can transmit this disease. I am alarmed to hear the Hon. Elaine Nile refer to Wahroonga. I shall follow up her question with alacrity and obtain a suitable response from my colleague the Minister for Health.
COMMUNITY VISITORS SCHEME
The Hon. J. KALDIS: My question is directed to the Minister for Community Services, Minister for Aged Services, and Minister for Disability Services. Can the Minister inform the House of the details of the community visitors program for group homes in New South Wales?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: I am pleased to advise the House, as I have done previously, that I expanded the community visitors program sevenfold shortly after I came to office - that is, I increased the number of community visitors in New South Wales from five under the previous Government to the 35 that now exist. There are approximately 877 visitable services in New South Wales, including services for people with disabilities, and children and young people in care. Approximately 66 per cent of these services are for people with disabilities and include group homes, hostels and residential units in institutions. The frequency of community visitor contact with residents is determined by the Community Services Commission. Priority is given to people who are least likely or able to complain or to protect their own interests.
The usual minimal community visitor contact for residents of visitable services is once every six months, with increasing frequency for services with higher risk factors. Unscheduled visits are available for community visitors to follow up on resident concerns and to respond to requests from residents for community visitor support. The management review of the Community Services Commission by the Premier’s Department recommended budget enhancements to increase the number of visiting days. As honourable members would be aware, the budget for the Community Services Commission was increased this year, partly to allow specifically for an increase in the number of visits to services. This Government is committed to a comprehensive community-visit program. It is specifically this program that alerted me to the significant concerns identified at the Hall for Children. It is a successful program which the Government has considerably enhanced.
ENERGY INDUSTRY PRIVATISATION
The Hon. D. J. GAY: My question is addressed to the Treasurer, Minister for Energy, Minister for State and Regional Development, Minister Assisting the Premier, and Vice-President of the Executive Council. Is it a fact that the Treasurer promised the people of Newcastle in August 1995 that as a result of combining Orion Energy and Sydney Energy, Newcastle would benefit by having one of two new Energy Australia head offices located in that city? Why has the Minister broken his promise to the people of Newcastle?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: The simple fact is that I have not.
The Hon. D. J. Gay: You have. A depot is not a head office.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I have not broken my promise. At the time the proposal was that each distributor would essentially consist of two subsidiary companies: one to look after network operations and one to look after retail operations. As honourable members will be aware, that was not the final form of the legislation passed by the House. Nevertheless, I am pleased to advise the House that a significant number of Energy Australia business units are located in Newcastle in the Hunter.
ENERGY INDUSTRY PRIVATISATION
The Hon. D. J. GAY: I ask a supplementary question. Given that the Minister, by his own admission, cannot even deliver on a simple promise relating to the entities owned by the New South Wales Government, what action will he take to guarantee that this scenario is not repeated throughout New South Wales when the power entities are privatised? In light of his answer to my colleague the Hon. Jennifer Gardiner, how can the Minister give regional New South Wales an ironclad guarantee that power company headquarters will not be located in Sydney, in Melbourne, in other States or even overseas?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: Given my previous answers, this question is really a non sequitur.
SUPPORTED ACCOMMODATION ASSISTANCE PROGRAM
The Hon P. T. PRIMROSE: Is the Minister for Community Services, Minister for Aged Services, and Minister for Disability Services aware of an article in today’s Sydney Morning Herald that relates to underspending in supported accommodation services? Could the Minister provide the House with any further information in regard to this important issue?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: I did see the article in today’s newspaper to which the honourable member refers. While my respect for NCOSS, the New South Wales Council of Social Service, has always been high, it would be fair to say that this issue is somewhat misunderstood. The supported accommodation assistance program, commonly known as SAAP, provides funds for services to people who are homeless and in crisis to assist their transition to independent living. The 1996-97 budget for SAAP was $77.03 million. The facts of the matter as they pertain to underspending are these. Because the previous Government inadequately provided for the increase in the social and community services State award in 1991, supported accommodation services have been trying to catch up ever since. Since this Government came to office in 1995 I have taken a range of measures to consolidate existing services funded under the SAAP program to address the long-term shortfalls experienced by SAAP services.
From recent negotiations with the Commonwealth, it appears that the additional funds will be cost shared under the supported accommodation assistance program. When the Commonwealth contribution is recouped the State Government will have additional funds to enhance services for homeless people as from 1997-98. In addition, the Government has negotiated an agreement with the Commonwealth to cost share an additional contribution to supported accommodation assistance program services across the State to meet superannuation costs. This Government has funded additional award costs for services totalling $1.813 million recurrent. The Government proceeded with this strategy in view of the difficulties created for services by the award funding shortfalls under the previous Government.
The underexpenditure in supported accommodation services in 1996-97 will be rolled over for expenditure in 1997-98. Some of the funds are earmarked for the State’s contribution to the superannuation increase planned for services. Expenditure has been held pending receipt of Commonwealth matching funds. Payment will be made early in the new financial year. The remaining funds are committed to expenditure on computerisation of services, monitoring of standards of best practice and development of a range of supported housing services in conjunction with the Department of Housing. Given the need for supported accommodation services in this State, I am concerned at any level of underspending. However, in this particular case long-term problems not addressed by the previous Government are at the centre of the difficulties to which I have referred.
The Hon. M. J. GALLACHER: I ask the Treasurer, representing the Premier, whether he condones behaviour of the Chairman of the Standing Ethics Committee and the Committee on the Independent Commission Against Corruption as appropriate when he made a threatening phone message left on an answering machine stating that he had received information from the Ombudsman’s Office that that person was a complainant, and in a letter to that same person threatened that if a petition were filed in Parliament he would speak against it and have his speech distributed to every household in the area. Are these the actions of a member charged with delivering ethics for the Government? Is it true that the Ombudsman’s Office will be speaking to the member regarding his use of confidential information and the way in which he obtained the material?
The PRESIDENT: Order! It is a longstanding rule of the Parliament that allegations which reflect adversely on a member of either House of Parliament can be brought before the House only by way of substantive motion. In this case the member has clearly identified, although not by name, the member involved, who is of another place. I therefore rule the question out of order.
LISTENING DEVICES LEGISLATION REVIEW
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE: I ask the Attorney General, and Minister for Industrial Relations whether it is a fact that the New South Wales Law Reform Commission has reported that the 13-year-old New South Wales Listening Devices Act is out of date? Is it a fact that the commission has recommended for New South Wales law enforcement agencies an extension of surveillance
powers, such as the use of tiny transmitters in computers to detect white collar crime, drug trafficking, et cetera? What plans does the Minister have for updating the New South Wales Listening Devices Act to assist the New South Wales Police Service and other New South Wales law enforcement agencies?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: This question essentially encapsulates a discussion paper issued by the New South Wales Law Reform Commission. About a year ago I asked the Law Reform Commission to review the Listening Devices Act and to consider whether that Act was up to date and suitable for the 1990s. The discussion paper is the result of that reference. As I have said, Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile has summarised at least one aspect of that discussion paper. Obviously, the discussion paper, like any recommendation coming from the Law Reform Commission, warrants careful and constructive consideration by the Government, which is what I propose. I propose to invite input on the paper from all honourable members and from other interested groups and individuals. The Government will consider legislative revision, refinement or amendment of the Listening Devices Act in the light of the discussion paper and in the light of the public debate I hope will ensue.
FORMER GOVERNOR-GENERAL BILL HAYDEN
The Hon. FRANCA ARENA: Has the Attorney General read today’s letter to the editor in the Australian newspaper written by Bill Hayden, a former leader of the Labor Party? Does the Attorney agree with me that Mr Hayden was always a strong republican? Has the Attorney seen that Mr Hayden wrote in his letter, "I will be out on the hustings energetically opposing their [the Australian Republican Movement] case"? Does the Minister think that Mr Hayden, a former republican and now a staunch monarchist, should be awarded the medal for the biggest turncoat of the century?
The Hon. Virginia Chadwick: On a point of order. I raise this point of order on two grounds. First, the Attorney General is being asked for an opinion, which is out of order in terms of questions without notice. Second, in terms of your ruling on the question asked by the Hon. M. J. Gallacher, I would have thought that a gratuitous insult to a former Governor-General of this nation to which he cannot reply is also out of order.
The PRESIDENT: Order! Former Governors-General of Australia do not attract the protection referred to in my previous ruling. The question is about the public affairs of New South Wales and, therefore, the Attorney General is entitled to express an opinion.
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: I regret that after that exchange my answer may be something of an anticlimax. In answer to the first question, yes, as is my custom, I have read the letters column of today’s Australian newspaper, including the letter written by the Hon. W. G. Hayden, responding as it does to an earlier opinion piece in the Australian written by Mr Adrian McGregor. Mr Hayden’s letter, which is somewhat polemic in style, deals point by point with the article by Mr McGregor. Amongst other things, it asserts that Mr Hayden is not a republican and, as I understood the letter, never has been. I am not in a position to debate that matter. There is a controversy about Mr Hayden’s views over time about that particular issue and I would defer to the Hon. Franca Arena, who would certainly have more knowledge than I on the topic.
The Hon. R. T. M. Bull: She asked you a question, but she knows more about it than you. Is that what you are saying?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: I am not embarrassed by the fact that on some issues those asking questions in this House might have more knowledge on a topic than I do. I do not claim to have an encyclopaedic knowledge every relevant topic about which questions could be asked in this House. I believe I need to let members draw their own conclusions about that letter. Despite your statesmanlike ruling, Mr President, I would not proffer any particular opinion on the topic.
ENERGY INDUSTRY PRIVATISATION
The Hon. J. M. SAMIOS: I direct my question without notice to the Attorney General, and Minister for Industrial Relations. What is his response to the claim by the Chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, Professor Fels, that provisions of the Trade Practices Act dealing with household goods having to be of merchantable quality clearly apply to electricity? What is the Minister doing to ensure that when the New South Wales power industry is privatised consumers who experience power surges or brownouts that cause personal injury or property damage will have a cheap and accessible avenue for their complaints to be heard and mediated so that individuals or companies do not end up in court incurring expensive litigation?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: The first part of the honourable member’s question seems to ask for an opinion on somewhat esoteric aspects of trade practices law. At some future time, for an appropriate fee, I might provide that opinion, but I do not feel inclined to do so at the moment. The second aspect of the question seems to be predicated upon the accomplished fact of the privatisation of the New South Wales power industry. As I
understand it, a debate is presently taking place about that. It is not a fait accompli and, therefore, I regard the question as hypothetical. In relation to the third aspect of the question concerning brownouts, I must confess my ignorance.
CLOTHING INDUSTRY OUTWORKER EXPLOITATION
The Hon. Dr MEREDITH BURGMANN: Is the Attorney General, and Minister for Industrial Relations aware of the Fair Wear committee’s campaign for fair wages and safe conditions for home workers in the textile, clothing and footwear industry? Is the Minister aware of the demonstration organised by the Fair Wear campaign next Friday between 12 noon and 2 p.m. outside Sportsgirl in the Pitt Street mall?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: The exploitation of outworkers, particularly in the clothing and textile industry -
The Hon. J. H. Jobling: On a point of order. It is my understanding that a motion dealing with the subject matter of the question was placed on the notice paper of this House today and, therefore, the question anticipates debate.
The PRESIDENT: Order! I uphold the point of order. There is a notice of motion to that effect. The question is out of order.
SUBSTITUTE CARE PLACEMENT FUNDING
The Hon. PATRICIA FORSYTHE: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Community Services. Is it a fact that on Tuesday, 20 May, the Minister, in answer to a question about two girls found living in a humpy in bush at Shalvey, advised that one girl was currently living in a youth refuge in western Sydney? When young people needing substitute care are placed in a youth refuge, how is their placement funded? Is it funded from the Minister’s substitute care budget or is the placement funded by supported accommodation assistance program money?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: Members opposite have an obsession with this particular matter. I am able to advise the House that the Department of Community Services is maintaining its active involvement with the two young girls referred to. I am advised that both girls remain in care arranged by the department. One girl is in foster care; her sister is in the Ormond residential facility. I do not believe it is in the best interests of the girls to have a running commentary conducted on their progress. However, I am prepared to confirm that individual service plans are being funded for both girls. That will enable the special needs of the girls to be addressed in the care arrangements. Individual service plans are an important element in caring for difficult children and young people. Obviously these girls fall into that category. My impression is that the stay of the older of the two girls in question at the youth refuge referred to was remarkably brief.
SUBSTITUTE CARE PLACEMENT FUNDING
The Hon. PATRICIA FORSYTHE: I ask a supplementary question. On the general issue of the placement of young people in care, when a young person needing substitute care is placed in a youth refuge, is the placement funded through the substitute care budget or through supported accommodation assistance program funding?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: In general terms I regard it as unsatisfactory that a young person needing care should be placed in a youth refuge except in emergency circumstances. That happened under the previous Government and it has happened occasionally under this Government. I shall make absolutely sure, but on a preliminary basis my view would be that funding would be available under the SAAP agreement because the children are staying at a facility covered by the agreement, albeit in this case for a brief period of time. If I am right about that, that would have been the case under the previous Government and it would continue to be the case. However, I realise the unsatisfactory nature of such a placement. Therefore, the older sister referred to in the question is now in Ormond. Her accommodation would be paid for using substitute care funds.
OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY LEGISLATION BREACHES
The Hon. JAN BURNSWOODS: My question without notice is directed to the Attorney General, and Minister for Industrial Relations. The Carr Government was elected with a mandate to effectively prosecute for breaches of the occupational health and safety legislation. Will the Minister tell the House how the Government is fulfilling that mandate?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: The Hon. Jan Burnswoods is an active member of the Standing Committee on Law and Justice, which is constructively pursuing a better and more positive strategy for occupational health and safety. I pay tribute also to the chairman of that committee, the Hon. B. H. Vaughan, and to the committee’s other
members. It would be inappropriate to name them all, but they are helping to forge a policy that I am sure will be of assistance to the Government in this rather neglected field. The public is not as aware of the need for workplace safety as it ought to be.
Legislators have not given sufficient attention to something that goes to the core of a decent society, that is, that workers ought to be able to go to work in confidence that their safety will be looked after so far as is practicable. As a result of some steps taken by the Government, I am sure that honourable members of this House are aware of some of the dreadful injuries and deaths suffered by people in the New South Wales work force and that the Government has stepped up the prosecution process, and doubled the maximum fines applicable to both employers and employees who breach the Occupational Health and Safety Act. In other words the Government has made occupational health and safety a real priority.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: The Premier said this three days ago.
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: Far be it from me to second-guess the Premier. It may be that I can add something - who knows? The largest safety fine in Australia, $480,000, was imposed after a successful prosecution by WorkCover. The Government would like to pursue in the community the message that unsafe work practices are simply not on. The idea of a strict approach to safety laws is, as I understand it, shared by the President of the Industrial Relations Commission, Justice Fisher, who said last month that the duty to ensure the health, safety and welfare of employees is an absolute duty. I emphasise that: it is an absolute duty under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
I have made the point, in answer to this question and on other occasions in this House, that the Government has doubled the maximum penalties for offenders under occupational health and safety laws. The point I particularly want to make in response to the honourable member’s question is that WorkCover has significantly stepped up its prosecution activities. Figures to date show that 367 prosecutions have been completed this financial year. At the current rate an increase of 45 per cent is expected over the previous year. In other words, the number of prosecutions has increased substantially over and above those of previous years.
Not only has there been a marked increase in the number of prosecutions, there has also been a doubling of the size of average penalties imposed by the courts. The average penalty in the last half of 1996 was $5,285 compared to $2,388 for the same period in 1995. So there is a conjunction of almost double the number of prosecutions and almost double the quantum of penalty imposed for breaches of occupational health and safety laws. Those penalties were essentially imposed under the old law, that is, prior to the maximum penalty having been doubled. An education campaign is needed, and I hope that the upper House committee considering this matter will give the Government some directions and advice about a publicity campaign to highlight these issues in the community.
I conclude by noting that in a judgment handed down today Justice Hungerford highlighted the need for a more scrupulous approach to workplace safety. A serious injury was suffered by a bobcat operator who, in attempting to move a crane, lost control and the crane fell 24 metres. The injured employee was not licensed to drive the crane, which was temporarily unoccupied with the keys in the ignition. The accident occurred at the World Square site in George Street in the central business district. A penalty was imposed, but it is worth noting what the judge said about this sort of conduct. He stated:
The detriment to safety committed by the defendant was its failure to prevent the unauthorised operation of the crane during a period when the regular operator was absent. It could have done so by ensuring a procedure whereby the key was removed from the crane when it was left unattended.
That might seem to be a small matter but it is the sort of attention to detail that management and employees need to bear in mind if serious accidents at work are to be avoided.
DISPLACED EMPLOYEE MANAGEMENT
The Hon. VIRGINIA CHADWICK: I direct my question without notice to the Attorney General, and Minister for Industrial Relations. Does the Crown Solicitor’s advice suggest that the Premier’s memorandum 90/5 "Managing Displaced Employees" is not legally enforceable?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: If there is such advice I have not seen it. As is the practice of Attorneys General I do not ordinarily see Crown Solicitor’s advice commissioned by individual clients or Ministers. I see all advice provided by the Solicitor General. I do not believe I would have difficulty obtaining access to the advice and I would be happy to look at it and consider it.
DISPLACED EMPLOYEE MANAGEMENT
The Hon. VIRGINIA CHADWICK: I ask a supplementary question. Given that that advice is
available to all members in the current Auditor-General’s report, will the Attorney now read that advice and take action?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: I am not sure whether it is within my prerogative or portfolio to take action, but I shall read it.
MAROUBRA BAY REDEVELOPMENT
The Hon. I. COHEN: I ask the Treasurer, representing the Premier, a question without notice. Has the Government funded Randwick City Council on a dollar-for-dollar basis to expedite the Maroubra Bay redevelopment proposal? Is the Premier aware that Coopers and Lybrand has advised Randwick City Council that it has an unplanned-for financial liability of $8 million? Can the Premier assure the ratepayers of Randwick that this project will not detrimentally impact on the ability of Randwick City Council to provide all community services, as is required under the Local Government Act 1993?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I will refer the honourable member’s question to my colleague, the Premier.
THIRD WORLD WORK PRACTICES
The Hon. Dr MEREDITH BURGMANN: My question is addressed to the Attorney General, and Minister for Industrial Relations. Does the Attorney admire the leadership shown by Bill Clinton in his campaign to eliminate unsavoury work practices in Third World countries?
The Hon. J. P. Hannaford: On a point of order. The member is asking for a comment on a matter which does not affect the administration of the Minister’s portfolio or the State Government and is therefore out of order.
The PRESIDENT: Order! The question does not affect the public affairs of New South Wales. I rule it out of order.
The Hon. Dr MEREDITH BURGMANN: Mr President -
The PRESIDENT: Order! I have ruled on the point of order. The honourable member may move dissent if she wishes.
ESSENTIAL SERVICES LEGISLATION
The Hon. C. J. S. LYNN: I ask the Treasurer whether it is a fact that powers are available to him under the Essential Services Act 1988 which may be invoked if there is a threat to essential services? Is it not a fact that the supply of electricity to New South Wales is an essential service as defined under part 4 subsection (1)(a) of the Essential Services Act 1988? Is the Minister prepared to invoke the provisions of that Act if there is a threat to the supply of electricity in New South Wales?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: At any time in whatever circumstances I would avail myself of the appropriate powers that I have that are in keeping with those circumstances.
CLOTHING INDUSTRY OUTWORKER EXPLOITATION
The Hon. Dr MEREDITH BURGMANN: My question is directed to the Attorney General, and Minister for Industrial Relations. Is the Government likely to adopt a strategy similar to that of President Clinton in a campaign to stamp out unsavoury work practices in New South Wales?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: There are many salutary lessons that we can learn from the United States of America in relation to an international phenomenon, namely the exploitation of workers in the clothing and textile industry in sweatshops. We have something to learn from President Clinton’s strategies. Indeed, the New South Wales Government is moving to take steps to deal with what is a difficult problem. I do not want to take a partisan point in relation to this issue, but it is a matter of record that the previous Government made a couple of attempts through the Department of Industrial Relations to raid sweatshops using departmental inspectors.
Frankly, all of the reports I have on those attempts indicate that they were ineffectual. In a sense I do not say that critically of Mrs Chikarovski because at least she made the attempts. With the benefit of hindsight a cost-benefit analysis shows that they were not very successful. In August 1996 in the United States President Clinton and his then secretary of labour, Mr Robert Reich, assembled representatives of the apparel and footwear industries, relevant labour unions, a consumer federation, and religious and human rights organisations and asked them to try to come up with a plan to promote humane working conditions both in the United States of America and overseas.
Using what might be described as American rhetoric, Mr Clinton advocated that there ought to be a kinder, gentler workplace at least as a first step, and the idea was to create a voluntary institutional framework to try to encourage people making
clothing and other garments to adopt reasonable labour standards. In a broadly analogous way that is the sort of thing that the Government is attempting to do in New South Wales. Honourable members should be constructively interested in the steps that the Government is taking to protect outworkers in the clothing industry.
The Government has adopted a code of practice that will come into force in the next few weeks. The code will ask those who want to do business with Government agencies to comply with the relevant award standards of wages and conditions. The New South Wales Government policy will be to buy only goods produced by non-exploited labour. There will be cooperatives in the clothing industry allowing outworkers to work collectively. There will be payroll tax relief to assist those newly formed cooperatives and the textile, clothing and footwear unions code of conduct will be officially endorsed.
This is an industry solution to exploitation. Retailers signing up undertake not to sell products made by exploited labour. I congratulate the retailers, including some large and important retailers, in this industry on signing the code, thus indicating that they want to help the Government to attack this gross exploitation of migrant women and others who are in a vulnerable bargaining position in the labour market. Those retailers include Country Road, Target, Ken Done, Sport Fashions, Witchery, Just Jeans and Jacqueline Eve Fashions.
Those retailers will get a "free of exploited labour" logo allowing customers to know they are buying clothing made by non-exploited workers. I do not rule out further raids by Department of Industrial Relations inspectors. I do not regard that as a strategy that should be precluded or abandoned altogether, but the strategies I have referred to are more creative and are more likely to have a positive and tangible impact on exploitation in this industry. I understand that a protest is be held by the Fair Wear campaign between 12 noon and 2 p.m. on Friday outside Sportsgirl in the Pitt Street Mall.
The Hon. HELEN SHAM-HO: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Community Services, representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Is the Minister aware that a tremendously successful Aboriginal reconciliation convention has been held in Melbourne over the past three days? The convention was organised by the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation, attracted more than 1,800 people from all over the country and the world, and was held to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of the 1967 referendum granting citizenship to indigenous people and to promote the reconciliation process. In view of the significance of that anniversary and the important work that the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation is doing, will the Minister inform the House what the Government has done or will do to progress the reconciliation process in this State?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: I am certainly aware that the reconciliation conference to which the Hon. Helen Sham-Ho refers has taken place in Melbourne during this week. I will refer the substance of the question regarding activities and initiatives in New South Wales to my colleague the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. So far as my department’s past involvement with the Aboriginal community is concerned, last year the Premier made a public apology to the Aboriginal people for the removal policies followed in previous decades.
ST GEORGE HOSPITAL MEDICAL RETRIEVAL UNIT
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Community Services, representing the Minister for Health. Given that the new medical retrieval unit to be established at the St George Hospital will be the linchpin in the coordination of the expert teams who transport critically ill patients, and given that every year there are more than 3,000 medical retrievals using road ambulances, helicopters and fixed wing aircraft, where does the CareFlight service fit in with this new scheme? Will there be any lessening in the services provided by CareFlight as a result of the Minister’s decision?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: I shall be delighted to obtain a response to that question from my colleague the Minister for Health.
ACCOMMODATION FOR VENTILATOR- DEPENDENT QUADRIPLEGICS
The Hon. B. H. VAUGHAN: I direct my question without notice to the Minister for Community Services, and I remind him of the speech of the Hon. J. F. Ryan yesterday on the adjournment. Is the Minister able to provide the House with any additional information relating to ventilator-dependent quadriplegics?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: The Carr Government is the first in New South Wales to address the long-term care and support of ventilator-dependent quadriplegics in the community. The issue
was all but ignored by the previous Government, despite advances in medical technology and clinical practice which made it possible for some patients to return to the community. The Carr Government has been addressing the issue at a senior level with an interdepartmental committee made up of representatives from New South Wales Health, the Ageing and Disability Department and the Department of Housing. Today the Government has reached agreement on the return to the community of two ventilator-dependent quadriplegics currently in Royal North Shore Hospital. That has been the direct result of the work of the interagency committee and the partnership of New South Wales Health, the Ageing and Disability Department and the Department of Housing. These two patients will receive comprehensive clinical support and attendant care on return to their homes. Training for their families to help care for these patients will also take place.
The PRESIDENT: Order! The level of background noise in the House and in my gallery is much too high.
The Hon. R. D. DYER: Modification of their homes where necessary will also be undertaken. The interagency committee is still finalising the best practice guidelines for the return of ventilator-dependent quadriplegics to the community. However, due to the circumstances of these two patients it was important that their needs were addressed as a priority. The Carr Government will continue to deliver on its commitment to ventilator-dependent quadriplegics to improve quality of life and reunite patients with their families.
ENERGY INDUSTRY PRIVATISATION
The Hon. J. H. JOBLING: My question without notice is directed to the Treasurer. Was a five-member committee approved yesterday by the Australian Labor Party caucus to inquire into the $22 billion sell-off of the New South Wales electricity industry? Is this committee required to report to caucus within a three-month deadline? When will the final decision be made by the Government about whether the New South Wales power industry will remain in public hands or will be privatised? Will the final decision be made at the October annual Labor conference or by the New South Wales Labor Cabinet?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: The committee announced by the Premier yesterday will report to the Government and it will, of course, be a matter for the Government as to when and what decision is made.
WOLLEMI PINE HABITAT
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: I ask the Attorney General, representing the Minister for the Environment, a question without notice. Will the Minister ensure that the Wollemi wilderness will include all important wilderness areas including the habitat of the Wollemi pine?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: I shall refer that question to the Minister for the Environment and obtain a reply.
EDUCATION OF CHILDREN WITH DISABILITIES
The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH: My question without notice is addressed to the Attorney General, representing the Minister for Education and Training, and Minister Assisting the Premier on Youth Affairs. This Government is prepared to adopt a recommendation of the McRae Report to mainstream children with disabilities in regular schools. The Minister would be aware that in overseas countries this practice has been used as a means to skimp on public spending by dumping children with disabilities in mainstream schools, with little support. Why is the Minister ignoring this evidence? Is it because he needs to make amends for the Government’s fiscal incompetence? Will children with disabilities in New South Wales be the losers under this policy?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: The honourable member has raised a sensitive and difficult issue and I do not think it is helpful, if I may say so with respect, to attribute motives to policy makers in this field. I would have thought there would be a degree of goodwill in trying to reach the right answer in the difficult circumstances of the placement of disabled children in the school system. Nevertheless, I will refer the honourable member’s question to the Minister for Education and Training and obtain a response.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I suggest if honourable members have further questions they might like to put them on notice.
SUBSTITUTE CARE PLACEMENT FUNDING
The Hon. R. D. DYER: Earlier in question time the Hon. Patricia Forsythe asked a question concerning the form of funding used to maintain and care for a particular child while she was present at a youth refuge. Inquiries have been made regarding that matter and I am advised that the Department of Community Services did provide substitute care
funding for a one-on-one worker for the duration of a placement at the youth refuge.
AGE OF RESTRICTED CONSENT
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: I would seek to add something to what I said in answer to a question asked by the Hon. Dr Marlene Goldsmith on 27 May about the age of consent. The honourable member asked whether I would consider amending the Crimes Act to raise the age of restricted consent in this State. That question was predicated on the belief that, pursuant to section 66A of the Crimes Act, the age below which a child cannot consent to sexual intercourse is 10 years. The question was further predicated on the belief that a child between the ages of 10 years and 16 years may be considered under law to have given restricted consent to sexual intercourse.
In my answer I said that it should be borne steadily in mind that ordinarily the age of consent in regard to heterosexual activity is 16 years. I wish to add a little more to that answer. Although many other States and Territories in this country do have an age of restricted consent that is lower than the age of consent in those States and Territories, we have not followed that approach in New South Wales. The age of consent for heterosexual and lesbian contact is 16 years; for male homosexual contact it is 18 years. There are certain exceptional classes of cases, such as carnal knowledge between a male schoolteacher and his female pupil, the schoolteacher being regarded as in loco parentis, where the age of consent is 17 years.
Section 66A of the Crimes Act does not set an age of restricted consent of 10 years. On the contrary, it creates a maximum penalty of penal servitude for 20 years for any person who has sexual intercourse with another person who is under the age of 10 years. There are other penalties, heavy but not as severe, for persons who have sexual intercourse with another person between the ages of 10 and 16 years. However, I propose to reassure honourable members that there is no age of restricted consent in New South Wales. Furthermore, there is no way that any person can lawfully have sexual intercourse with a child of 10 years.
CHINATOWN PETTY CRIME
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: On 23 April the Hon. Helen Sham-Ho asked me a question without notice regarding petty crime in Chinatown. The Minister for Police has provided the following response:
The Police Service is committed to the protection of the Chinatown business district.
The Commander, South Region has advised me that the City of Sydney Patrol has introduced special measures to ensure community safety and security in the area.
Some actions taken in the area include:
* • the extension of the George Street "safety zone" to include Chinatown, resulting in two officers patrolling on foot, 24 hours per day;
•the formation of the "Sydney Business Watch", whereby business leaders and police meet regularly to discuss crime prevention initiatives and policing strategies in the area;
•examination of environmental safety issues in consultation with local businesses during the recent Police/Council safety audit;
•employment of a Chinese liaison officer at the City of Sydney Patrol;
•overt and covert police operations are conducted in the area two to three times per week, supported by frequent mounted police patrols.
As a result of these measures, numerous persons have been charged with a variety of offences, including attempt murder, armed robbery, kidnapping, demand money with menaces and assault.
SLOW DRIVING INFRINGEMENT NOTICES
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: On 23 April the Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby asked me a question without notice regarding slow driving infringement notices. The Minister for Police has provided the following response:
The Commander, Traffic Services has advised me:
1) Speed limits specify the maximum speed for safe driving conditions, and prudent drivers drive at a speed appropriate to the prevailing conditions.
2) Clause 65 of the Traffic Regulations specifies three offences of not keeping to the left, which have resulted in the issue of the following numbers of infringement notices:
1996 to 31 March 1997 852
FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE GRANTS
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: On 6 May the Hon. D. J. Gay asked me a question without notice regarding financial assistance grants. The Minister for Local Government has provided the following response:
The Commonwealth has now handed down its budget. As I indicated in the Legislative Assembly on 20 May, the
announcement of financial assistance grants contained yet another broken promise by the Howard Government. The Coalition Government went into the last election with a commitment to maintain real-terms increases in grant funding to local government. Clearly this has not been honoured.
Councils have been hit with a double whammy that will reduce their grant assistance, not only in the coming year but in all future years. First, the Commonwealth has slashed $8 million from this year’s grants because of a lower-than-expected consumer price index result. Second, it has not taken into account population growth and has not passed on a real-terms increase in this year’s grants. As a result, local government across Australia loses $14.7 million. The net result of those measures is that local government is left with a miserly increase of $1.3 million out of a total grant pool of more than $1.2 billion - a significant cut in real terms.
But the bad news for local councils does not end there. In future years any increases in grant funding will be calculated on the lower base that has been created by these cuts. Local councils and the communities they serve will feel the pain of these cuts for all time to come.
I am pleased to note that following intensive lobbying by the Local Government and Shires Associations and objections raised by me and the State Government, the Commonwealth did not proceed with the proposals of the National Commission of Audit to incorporate the grants into revised State payments - such action would have thrown into question the interstate relativities and the local roads funding levels. It must be noted that the proposals still have not been ruled out completely.
Questions without notice concluded.
TOTALIZATOR AGENCY BOARD PRIVATISATION BILL
LIQUOR AND REGISTERED CLUBS LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (MONITORING AND LINKS) BILL
Bills received and read a first time.
Suspension of standing orders agreed to.
STANDING COMMITTEE ON LAW AND JUSTICE
Interim Report: Motor Accidents Scheme (Compulsory Third Party Insurance)
Debate resumed from 21 May.
The Hon. J. F. RYAN [5.05 p.m.]: I would like to conclude my contribution to the take-note debate on the motor accidents inquiry with a comment about how one of the recommendations made in the committee’s interim report has been handled. The recommendation I wish to comment on is an emerging proposal for long-term care of the catastrophically injured. In essence, the report indicated that the committee was examining an emerging proposal for dealing with the needs of the catastrophically injured. By "catastrophically injured" the committee meant people who were injured to the point where they would need a fairly high level of care for the rest of their lives. The emerging proposal was basically that the committee believed that between 250 and 300 people fitted into that category, and that it would be best to meet their needs by the provision of a sum of money of the order of $100 million to meet those needs.
That would obviate the titanic struggle that usually occurs in the legal system in assessing liability, determining the level of liability and reaching agreement on monetary compensation for injury. The committee agreed the better course would be to make available a sum of money to meet those needs as they arose, possibly on a no-fault basis. It is true that some of those calculations were rough and ready and, quite wisely, the Motor Accidents Authority and the Ageing and Disability Department are currently collaborating to carry out a more detailed study as to the number of people who would fall into that category and how much it would cost to meet their needs. That, of course, was a wise thing to do. However, at the roundtable discussion that took place on 1 April I gained the impression from some of the remarks made by the participants that there was going to be a level of reassessment of the needs of such people and of how many people would be involved, and that that revision would involve increased costs and increased numbers.
My concern at that point was that if the study merely sought to up the ante on the proposal and ultimately cost it at a figure several times the State debt, or something of that nature, everyone would run away from a proposal which would be regarded as a humane and reasonable way to treat this category of citizen within our community. I express that as a reservation. We need to accurately know how much the proposal will cost and we need to be realistic about how we might fund it. The difficult decision will relate to the cut-off point for those classified catastrophically injured. That will determine how an accident victim is assessed and whether his or her needs will be catered for under what the committee hoped would be a generous scheme. The alternative is that such persons will have their needs catered for under a scheme that might be regarded as less than adequate for persons who have been severely injured.
The study will try to work out the cut-off point and the cost of the scheme. I sincerely hope agencies such as the Ageing and Disability
Department do not blame motor accidents and the motor accidents insurance scheme for the fact that it must meet the needs of people to whom they currently provide a service, and find a way to cost shift their budgets so that the scheme becomes unfundable and unrealistic. As a member of the committee I look forward to continuing inquiries and progress in meeting the needs of those who are injured in motor vehicle accidents, and in getting a better deal for motorists who pay for green slips.
The Hon. B. H. VAUGHAN [5.10 p.m.], in reply: To wind up the take-note debate on the motor accidents scheme, I thank the deputy chairman, the Hon. Helen Sham-Ho and members of the committee, the Hon. Jan Burnswoods, Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile, the Hon. P. T. Primrose, the Hon. J. F. Ryan, and the Hon. Janelle Saffin for their invaluable contributions to our work so far. If I can be excused for being old-fashioned, those whom I have mentioned are also very good company. I thank the Attorney General for his constant support, and last but not least I record my profound regard for the director of the committee, David Blunt; the project officer, Vicki Mullen; and secretaries, Heather Crichton and Phillipa Gately. I sincerely hope that the many interested groups who will be affected will enjoy the results of the committee’s deliberations, and that those who are waiting impatiently for the final report will not be disappointed.
Motion agreed to.
STANDING COMMITTEE ON STATE DEVELOPMENT
Report: Waste Minimisation and Management
Debate resumed from 6 May.
The Hon. PATRICIA STAUNTON [5.12 p.m.]: I am happy to speak briefly to the report on waste minimisation and management. I acknowledge those who made a positive and constructive contribution to the report and in that regard I place on the record the committee’s thanks and my personal thanks to the director of the committee, Stewart Webster; the senior project officer for the report, Richard Bonner; and as always the committee’s secretarial support officer, Annie Marshall. The terms of reference of this inquiry were precise and were confined to the elements arising out of the debate which took place in this House towards the latter part of last year on the Waste Minimisation and Management Regulation 1996.
The timetable given to the committee to deal with this matter was relatively brief, and reflected the narrow and precise nature of the inquiry. The taking of evidence and finalisation of the report was undertaken by a subcommittee of the Standing Committee on State Development. I acknowledge the cooperation I received from my colleagues on that subcommittee, the Hon. Jennifer Gardiner and the Hon. I. Cohen. It was necessary to deal with this matter by way of subcommittee because of the considerable workload of the Standing Committee on State Development.
The committee was dealing with three inquiries at once, with definitive timetables, and the cooperation of the subcommittee ensured that this inquiry met its reporting date. I thank those two members of the committee for generously giving their time in order to meet the deadline. The best way to further the undoubtedly constructive debate that will take place on this report will be to allow the report to speak for itself. It will be necessary for me to respond in due course, because although the majority recommendations appear at the beginning of the report, as is the normal procedure, a minority comment will undoubtedly be spoken to by the Hon. Jennifer Gardiner and the Hon. I. Cohen. I can best serve the useful discussion of this matter by leaving whatever comments I have, beyond these opening remarks, to my contribution in reply.
The Hon. JENNIFER GARDINER [5.16 p.m.]: I appreciate this opportunity to speak to the take-note debate on the report of the Standing Committee on State Development on waste minimisation and management. The chairman of the committee said the report is best left to speak for itself. There was considerable controversy about the writing of the final report. As the chairman indicated, the three members of the subcommittee that was established to consider this reference were working on two other inquiries simultaneously, so although the terms of reference were narrow, the workload was considerable. The secretariat of the committee always deserves our thanks, but on this occasion it deserves even more thanks because of the workload involved.
I thank Stewart Webster, director of the committee; Annie Marshall, committee officer; and Richard Bonner, who was assigned to assist with this inquiry. I also thank the other members of the committee, in particular the Hon. I. Cohen who worked with me on the production of the minority report. I thank the Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti, the other member of the full standing committee, who joined the Hon. I. Cohen and me in most of the minority recommendations. The Hon. J. F. Ryan
served on the Joint Select Committee upon Waste Management about a year ago, and he was sufficiently interested in the terms of reference to attend the two days of public hearings.
The inquiry was triggered by two developments. Firstly, alarm was expressed by local government, industry, the environment movement, and a subcommittee of the State Waste Advisory Council about the Carr Government’s Waste Minimisation and Management Regulation which was gazetted on 1 November last year. That regulation would have increased, from 1 July 1997, levies on occupiers of controlled waste facilities from $10 a tonne to $15 a tonne in the Sydney region, and it would have imposed for the first time a levy of $4 a tonne on local government areas in the Hunter and Illawarra regions. As the Carr Government had already increased the levy from $7.20 a tonne to $10 a tonne, the regulation providing for this further impost was debated in the Legislative Council. Indeed, it was knocked out when the Liberal and National parties in this House combined with the Hon. R. S. L. Jones to support the disallowance motion moved by the Hon. I. Cohen. As a result of that debate the Legislative Council referred terms of reference relating to the regulation to the Standing Committee on State Development.
The community was outraged about the intended increase in levies because it was seen as the breaking of yet another Labor Party pre-election promise, namely, to hypothecate or quarantine waste levies. There was a subsequent breach of Labor Party policy when the Government decided to have the Auditor-General supervise the hypothecation of those funds. The standing committee received a lot of evidence about the definition of hypothecation. Certainly, the Labor chairman of the committee had to grapple with the difficulty of the Labor Party having clearly breached its promise. The committee spent a lot of time examining the definition of hypothecation. In particular it noted the context in which the word was used in the Labor Party’s waste minimisation and recycling policy issued before the 1995 election. Honourable members can understand that it was a highly political inquiry from the outset. The Labor Party’s policy document stated:
Labor believes there should be a direct link between the Section 29 waste management levy, the EPA and expenditures by the EPA on waste minimisation initiatives such as the Council Recycling Rebate Scheme (CRR).
Labor will ensure that Section 29 funds are hypothecated to the EPA subject to supervision by the Auditor-General.
The Labor Party’s policy is stated in fairly clear language. The word "hypothecation" is commonly used in government and economic circles. Indeed, the Labor Party spelt that out by underlining its commitment to ensure that there would be a direct link between section 29 waste levies and expenditures by the Environment Protection Authority on waste minimisation initiatives. When I say that the Labor Party underlined its commitment, it literally underlined the text in the ALP pre-election policy document. In an attempt to give further credence to the genuineness of the promise of a direct link, the ALP added its commitment to have the flow of revenue "subject to supervision by the Auditor-General".
The obvious implication of those words is that the Auditor-General was to ensure that revenue from the levy was not siphoned off to consolidated revenue. Obviously the standing committee had to find that there was no evidence that the Government had in fact asked the Auditor-General to supervise the hypothecation of the levy through to the EPA, because the Government broke the first of its promises in that regard; therefore, the Auditor-General had nothing to audit. In evidence to the standing committee New South Wales Treasury said:
Hypothecation involves the creation of a nexus between a particular source of tax revenue and a particular expenditure program. Strict hypothecation involves the quarantining of revenues raised . . .
So hypothecation is the quarantining of revenue raised. The standing committee found that the hypothecation of waste levies generally meant that any money raised by Government through such levies or taxes must be directed to waste minimisation and management activities only. The Environment Protection Authority agreed with that definition. The Local Government Association of New South Wales wrote to the Treasurer on 12 December 1996 seeking the hypothecation of waste levies for waste minimisation and management initiatives. In a letter dated 14 January this year, and tabled in the standing committee, the Treasurer responded as follows:
I am unable to grant your request and advise that waste levies will continue to be paid into general revenue to allow the Government to meet its overall priorities.
The minority statement by members of the committee further found that the Minister for the Environment, the Hon. Pam Allan, agreed that there would be no formal hypothecation of the moneys raised by the levy; indeed, she advised Estimates Committee No. 2 of that fact on 1 November 1995, in the first year of the Labor Government. The
standing committee further found that, whilst she was a member of the Joint Select Committee upon Waste Management, the Hon. Pam Allan supported the "total allocation of moneys raised through waste levies to waste minimisation initiatives." The Hon. Pam Allan used those words when she signed off on a Labor minority report of that joint select committee. Given that she was one of the members who first made the promise when in opposition, it is interesting that she has overseen the breaking of that promise.
The standing committee found that the Treasurer, the Minister for the Environment and the Government, despite its pre-election policy, have failed to implement the policy to hypothecate, that is, to directly link revenue from waste levies flowing to the EPA and expenditures by the EPA on waste management initiatives. In examining the relationship between the collection of levies for waste disposal and the non-hypothecation of funds to waste minimisation and waste reduction strategies, the standing committee made a number of additional findings based on advice provided by New South Wales Treasury, namely, the increased waste levy, which was disallowed by the Legislative Council in December of last year, was not linked to increased waste services; it was a tax imposed to boost the Government’s general revenue, like the bed tax and the payroll tax increase. This was another tax increase by the Carr Labor Government. That was made clear to the standing committee. When Treasury asked whether any EPA programs would be cut as a result of the Legislative Council’s disallowance of the increase in the waste levy, the EPA replied:
The Environment Protection Authority (EPAs) annual expenditure on waste management initiatives is not related to the amount of revenue raised by the waste levy or any revenue paid to the Consolidated Fund. All of the expenditure was planned before the increases in the waste levy were proposed, and none of the expenditure will be affected by the increases being disallowed by the Legislative Council.
The standing committee ascertained that capital costs for waste management are funded entirely from commercially based cost-recovery operations conducted by the Waste Service. No amount of wriggling or looking in dictionaries could help the hapless chairman of the committee to find a way around any conclusion other than that the Legislative Council was right in the first place and that the Government had breached its promise. Obviously, it was important that the committee members check that on behalf of all their colleagues in this place.
The Hon. I. M. Macdonald: There’s nothing wrong with broken promises.
The Hon. JENNIFER GARDINER: The Hon. I. M. Macdonald says that there is nothing wrong with broken promises. I suppose that Labor members would have to say that after the debate last night on the biggest broken promise of all - privatisation of the electricity industry.
The Hon. D. J. Gay: That was $50 million worth.
The Hon. JENNIFER GARDINER: Yes, it was a big deal, especially for local government, which is not properly resourced. The Hon. I. Cohen and I made a number of recommendations that Government members could not see their way clear to endorse. I refer honourable members to those recommendations. The whole debate in the community and in local government in particular has still not settled down. With regard to the resourcing of local government, the Local Government Association in the person of Councillor Peter Woods made a regular appearance before the Standing Committee on State Development. Councillor Woods threatened that there would be the biggest donnybrook ever if the Government did not properly resource local government so that it could carry out its devolved functions with respect to waste minimisation and achieve the Government’s overall target to reduce waste to landfills to 60 per cent by the year 2000.
I received from the Tallaganda Shire Council a letter dated March 1997 expressing the concerns raised by Councillor Woods. Tallaganda is in the south-east of the State, near Braidwood. The Tallaganda Shire Council pointed out that it has four rural landfill sites and is concerned about both costs and the implications of licensing under the Waste Minimisation and Management Act and its regulations. The council was concerned about the cost of licensing. I am sure that is a story that will be heard in other parts of rural New South Wales also. The matter of local government not being expected to be the enforcer in this regard is therefore very important.
Local government should be able to play a constructive role in achieving the overall Government objective of reducing waste by the year 2000, a provision enshrined in the Waste Minimisation and Management Act. I draw the attention of honourable members to the views expressed by the Australian Chamber of Manufactures. The fears of the chamber have been confirmed by the Standing Committee on State Development. Mr Andrew Doig, representing the Australian Chamber of Manufactures, who summed up the fears of the chamber in the following way:
. . . the New South Wales people have been sold this levy on the basis that it will be used to improve the environment by minimising waste. However, we find that about two-thirds of the levy will not go to improving the environment but will go instead to consolidated revenue.
The statement by Mr Doig goes to the core of this debate. Mr Denlay of the Waste Crisis Network told the committee that if the capital works of the Waste Service were taken into account:
One could be forgiven for thinking that that somehow implied that the Government has met its hypothecation commitments, but . . .
The Hon. J. F. Ryan: They are self-funded operations.
The Hon. JENNIFER GARDINER: Yes, as the Hon. J. F. Ryan has said, that is a completely self-funding operation.
The Hon. D. J. Gay: The majority of the committee went against that.
The Hon. JENNIFER GARDINER: Yes, all the good guys. The bad guys did not recognise that the general thrust of the committee’s findings should be endorsed.
The Hon. D. J. Gay: What were the numbers on the subcommittee?
The Hon. JENNIFER GARDINER: One National Party member, one Labor Party member and one Greens member.
The Hon. D. J. Gay: So one person wrote the majority report?
The Hon. JENNIFER GARDINER: One very stressed person, who had an extremely difficult job defending the Government -
The Hon. D. J. Gay: Who was that?
The Hon. JENNIFER GARDINER: It was the Hon. Patricia Staunton, which was in the unfortunate position of facing many unfavourable problems which the Labor Government directed to the Standing Committee on State Development, which she chairs in this very difficult time in Labor Party history. Mr Denlay from the Waste Crisis Network said that if the capital works of the Waste Service were considered:
One could be forgiven for thinking that that somehow implied that the Government has met its hypothecation commitments, but . . .
They should be seen as completely separate from the waste levy area because those capital works are funded in a way that a dividend is provided back to the Government, so it is a commercial interest more than ploughing back of levies.
. . . I think there was a clouding of debate to try to bring that money into this debate over the waste levies and hypothecation. I think we should be clear about that money raised through this waste levy. It should be returned, and it is not being returned; it is being channelled off into consolidated revenue and the amount of money allocated to the Government’s waste reforms is much less than that amount.
The Standing Committee on State Development will closely examine not only the current State budget but also the rest of the budgets in the final year or so of this Government’s life to make sure that the resourcing of local government is adhered to so that it can best do its bit in relation to waste minimisation. Councillor Peter Woods of the Local Government Association said that if there were an attempt to extract resources from citizens under the guise of waste management and not to devolve those resources for this job, there would be the greatest donnybrook ever between State and local governments. We look forward to Councillor Peter Woods keeping his promise in that regard as we approach the 1999 elections.
This breach of promise by the Australian Labor Party is very important in its own right but it is also important in that it stacks up with many other breaches of promises made to the environmental movement in the lead-up to the 1995 State election. This is yet another example of massive untruths told in the lead-up to the most recent State election. It is also a demonstration of inconsistent policy making by this Government. According to the Treasurer, we cannot hypothecate when it comes to waste levies.
The Hon. D. J. Gay: The Government’s schizophrenic.
The Hon. JENNIFER GARDINER: Schizophrenic is right. I am sure that the Hon. I. Cohen would have noted that only on Monday of this week in evidence given before the committee’s inquiry into the fishing industry committee members learnt that Treasury is happy to place revenue received from inland fishing licences into a trust fund to be used on projects undertaken by New South Wales Fisheries on the inland fishery. Apparently it is okay for the Government to have inconsistent policies but in relation to waste minimisation the environmental movement, local government, the waste industry and many others in the community have been sold a pup; they have been lied to and led up a creek.
The Hon. I. COHEN [5.38 p.m.]: It has certainly been an interesting experience participating in the investigations of the Standing Committee on State Development into various significant proposals. I thank the Hon. Patricia Staunton and the Hon. Jennifer Gardiner for their participation in the committee deliberations. The subcommittee faced a task that was not easy and in a short time it received an avalanche of material. Given that the subcommittee ran parallel with the Standing Committee on State Development, it was not easy to come to grips with the task. I also express my appreciation to Stewart Webster, Annie Marshall and Richard Bonner, whose assistance to the committee was instrumental in allowing it to produce a comprehensive report.
Interestingly, local government, industry and the environment movement expressed uniform concerns on this issue. I hope it is an indication of good things to come, of an alliance of sorts on such a vital environmental issue as waste management of significant sectors of the community. Faced with this overwhelming uniformity of interest, incredibly the majority report attempted to maintain the integrity of members of the Australian Labor Party. The ALP has let down the people of New South Wales on waste management; it has continued to paint a positive picture in this regard. The minority report reflects the evidence heard by the committee. I have a degree of sympathy for the Hon. Patricia Staunton, who was placed in the invidious position of having to deal with a series of broken promises by the Labor Government.
Whilst one can discuss forever and a day the finer points of hypothecation, as the Hon. Jennifer Gardiner said, clearly the intention of the Labor Opposition at the time of the last State election has been somewhat watered down by Treasury with an economic bent to scrounge as much errant income as possible. It is important to be clear about flows of income and expenditure regarding waste. The levy provides one source of income and the waste service gate charge provides another. Waste service expenditure raised through the gate charge cannot be included in the hypothecation debate. Table 3.6 of the main report is misleading in this regard. Neither can expenditure by the Environment Protection Authority on what is essentially its core business be factored into the hypothecation debate.
The income derived from the waste levy amounts to about $30 million a year; the allocation of the Waste Planning and Management Fund is $13 million a year. Those sums indicate that hypothecation of the levy is not occurring. The first recommendation of the report is interesting: it recommends that a ministerially appointed chair of the State Waste Advisory Council - SWAC - would constitute a clear conflict of interest. SWAC was set up to advise the Minister on waste. Its broad representation was supposed to enable it to advise the Minister on behalf of all stakeholders in waste management.
While ever the Environment Protection Authority policy director sits as the chair of SWAC, SWAC will never achieve what it was designed to achieve. It was edifying for me as a new Green member of the Legislative Council to learn about such matters. It is not correct to say that the majority comment was the comment of the Labor Party. Members of the committee made every attempt to reach agreement on all issues. However, the substantial minority report, to which the Hon. Jennifer Gardiner alluded, shows quite clearly a degree of dissatisfaction with the Government on a number of matters.
I hope the minority report will be acknowledged in the future and in the run-up to the next election as indicative of the position of industry, local government and the environment movement. I trust the Government will take note of this report when deciding upon its future direction on matters industrial, social and environmental. The waste issue will not become any less important; it will grow as the turn of the century approaches and as considerations reach crisis point. The evidence of a number of people, including John Denlay, referred to some interesting directions that can be taken to deal creatively with waste management.
I hope also that my comments about zero licensing thresholds for waste disposal facilities and the transportation of hazardous waste, which were advocated by representatives of industry, local government and the environment movement, receive more support from the general community and this Government and future governments. The Government is not taking the lead on this matter; rather it is being pushed by astute and keen interest groups to achieve a far better waste management plan in the not too distant future. It is important to maintain a hard line on waste minimisation and management.
A hard line should be maintained to enforce effectively the generic provisions, particularly those relating to non-licensed waste transporters. Officers of the Police Service and the Roads and Traffic Authority should be authorised to issue infringement
notices for breaches of section 17 of the waste minimisation and management regulations, which is applicable to non-licensed waste transporters. It is extremely important that as well as encouragement being given to the industry, strong punitive measures should be used to control the industry, especially having regard to the many references to the transportation of hazardous waste and toxic materials from the Olympic site and the Government’s attempts to deal with such materials. It is extremely important that they are dealt with in an appropriate and ecologically sustainable manner. Money raised from funds and licences should go directly towards helping deal with the problem.
The Hon. J. F. RYAN [5.48 p.m.]: My contribution to this take-note debate will be brief. I thank the members of the Standing Committee on State Development for allowing me to sit in during the public hearings. The standing orders of this House allow members with an interest in a particular hearing to hear evidence taken before a committee of this House. It is fair to say, however, that I was able to do so not necessarily with the consent of the chair of the subcommittee.
The Hon. D. J. Gay: Did she try to have you excluded?
The Hon. J. F. RYAN: She certainly used all her best efforts to have me excluded.
The Hon. Patricia Staunton: I succeeded in stopping him asking questions.
The Hon. J. F. RYAN: I am not sure that that happened either.
The Hon. Dr Meredith Burgmann: If you wanted to be on the committee, you should take your complaints to the Liberals who didn’t put you on.
The Hon. J. F. RYAN: The Liberals intended to nominate me as a member, to answer the honourable member’s interjection, but the Government indicated that the House would be prorogued. Therefore, the subcommittee could not be set up in the form of the original committee. It had to be established as a subcommittee of the Standing Committee on State Development. I requested the opportunity to sit in with the committee. After a couple of fairly heated telephone calls I was eventually given that opportunity. And I am very grateful.
The Hon. Patricia Staunton: After you backed off.
The Hon. J. F. RYAN: I did not back off at all.
The Hon. Patricia Staunton: You certainly did.
The Hon. J. F. RYAN: If the honourable member wants to be particular, I gave an assurance at the beginning of my request that I would not ask questions.
The Hon. Patricia Staunton: You did not.
The Hon. J. F. RYAN: I certainly did. If the honourable member checks her correspondence, she will find that I did.
The Hon. Patricia Staunton: I will be very happy to comment on that in my reply.
The Hon. J. F. RYAN: On another occasion I will table the correspondence that I sent.
The Hon. Patricia Staunton: I don’t want a blow by blow description of your activities.
The Hon. J. F. RYAN: I do not know that I had any other activities. But if the member wants to get all stressed about it -
The Hon. Patricia Staunton: No, just tell the truth.
The DEPUTY-PRESIDENT (The Hon. Dr Marlene Goldsmith): Order! The Hon. Patricia Staunton will have an opportunity to contribute further in this debate.
The Hon. J. F. RYAN: I wanted to thank the committee -
The Hon. Patricia Staunton is getting a little more touchy than she needs to.
The DEPUTY-PRESIDENT: Order! I call the Hon. Patricia Staunton to order.
The Hon. Patricia Staunton: Tell him to stop telling untruths.
The DEPUTY-PRESIDENT: Order! Is the honourable member canvassing the ruling of the Chair?
The Hon. Patricia Staunton: No, I am just asking you to give him an instruction.
The DEPUTY-PRESIDENT: Order! I call the Hon. Patricia Staunton to order for the second time.
The Hon. J. F. RYAN: I was in the process of thanking the committee for giving me an opportunity to sit in on the proceedings. I was accurately reflecting that it was not the view of the chair that I should have that opportunity. I gave certain undertakings, which I was perfectly happy to give at the outset. It seemed that the chair did not agree with those undertakings. That is tragic, because I believe that I made a reasonable contribution to that committee. I found the experience very useful. I urge the House to give that same opportunity to other members who make a similar request. It is a pity that the Hon. Patricia Staunton does not have a reputation for being a tad more conciliatory than she is. She is a very talented chair and conducted a difficult inquiry, representing the Government, in a very professional and reasonable manner.
The difficulty is that the honourable member has a reputation for wanting to use all the powers of the chair to give the Government absolute control of every situation. She has done that on the occasions she has chaired estimates committees when non-government members have asked for a bit of latitude. She never gave any. That is a pity because she had nothing to fear; I was not going to make trouble and did not make trouble on the committee. I have a reputation in this House for being a person who is conciliatory and reasonable. As I said, it was a useful experience to sit in on that committee. I learnt several things. Of course the overall objective of the committee was to consider whether it was the Government’s intention to turn everyone’s garbage can into a branch of the tax office.
The Government was caught and bowled in that regard. Without a doubt the increased levy was an extra tax. No additional money was spent on waste management as a result of the increase in that levy; it all went to consolidated revenue. There is nothing wrong with that, and I applaud any government that spends more money on schools, hospitals, et cetera. However, the Government promised not to introduce new taxes or increase existing taxes. The Government justified this increase in taxation on the basis that it was spending more money on waste minimisation. I believe that there is goodwill in the community for such a proposal.
The Hon. D. J. Gay: There was.
The Hon. J. F. RYAN: Yes, there was. A survey conducted during the term of the previous Government found that members of the public were happy to be taxed an extra $20 a year for environmental purposes, particularly with regard to recycling and waste minimisation. There was nothing wrong with this Government doing so per se; it was a pity, however, that it did not do it honestly. It attempted to cover up the introduction of what was, in essence, an additional tax. Labor came into government with a clear promise not to impose such a tax. I warn the House that the regulation which was disallowed by the House last November can be revived at the end of May. At that time it is quite possible that the Government could reintroduce the regulation. I urge members to watch carefully the Government Gazette. I am not convinced that the Government has given up entirely on its intention to reintroduce this tax.
If the tax is reintroduced I ask that the crossbench once again vote to disallow it unless the Government is able to give objective, verifiable and uncontrovertible evidence that the extra increase in revenue will be spent entirely on new - and I emphasise new - measures for waste minimisation and management. Of course there should be no attempt to involve any expenditure by the Waste Service, which not only conducts all of its operations on a commercial cost-recovery basis but also actually pays a dividend to the Government. It carries out waste management on the basis that it is supposed to make a profit for the Government. It is bizarre to include any expenditure by the Waste Service as part of the Government’s expenditure.
Again I thank the members of the committee for allowing me to have minor participation in its deliberations. I congratulate the chair on carrying out such a difficult job, given that she also conducted hearings of the Standing Committee on State Development into fishing and other issues that required a fairly solid round of hearings. In the course of a month that committee, of which the Hon. Patricia Staunton was the chair, sat for 20 days. That is a fair ask of any member of this House. To some extent it provides an answer to some of the nonsense reported recently in newspapers about members of this House not fairly earning their salary.
There is no doubt that the Hon. Patricia Staunton, for all of her stroppiness from time to time, does good professional job representing her side of the House. I suggest that if she ever receives a similar request from another member to sit in on a
committee who gives a reasonable undertaking to not disrupt the committee - which I did not propose to do, and did not do - she gives that request more sympathetic consideration than she initially gave mine. I thank the Hon. I. Cohen for his assistance. Without it I doubt that I would have had the chance to sit in on the committee hearings.
The Hon. PATRICIA STAUNTON [5.57 p.m.], in reply: It is not my intention to respond at length to the comments of the Hon. Jennifer Gardiner and the Hon. I. Cohen about this report. They presented their cases succinctly and reflected only too well their views of the committee’s deliberations. However, I do wish to respond to the comments of the Hon. J. F. Ryan. I am very upset that he stood in this House and, in my view, misled the House as to the sequence of events that led to his presence on that committee. I place on record my recollection of events. I was contacted by the Hon. J. F. Ryan a few days before this matter was due for hearing. He pointed out to me that Resolution 23, which deals with the setting up committees, provides:
Unless a Standing Committee otherwise decides a member of the House who was not a member of the relevant committee may take part in the public proceedings of a committee and question witnesses but may not vote, move any motion or be counted for the purpose of any quorum or division.
I confess that I had not been aware of that resolution until he drew it to my attention. He telephoned me to say that he wished to take advantage of the resolution. In doing so he made it clear to me that in view of his longstanding interest in this matter he wished also to exercise his right, as he saw it under this resolution, to question witnesses. He said that quite clearly.
The Hon. J. F. Ryan: No, I did not.
The Hon. PATRICIA STAUNTON: You did. My recollection is that I made it clear to the Hon. J. F. Ryan that because of the workload of the committee and because the committee only had two days set down for hearing I did not agree that he had the right to ask questions. I indicated that there was no doubt about his ability to be present but I objected to his right, which he was insisting upon, to ask questions. He certainly placed some limitation on the type of questions he would ask, but notwithstanding that I was not happy. The Hon. J. F. Ryan took great exception to my position. He then lobbied the Hon. I. Cohen, who is nodding in agreement with what I am saying, to get him, as it were, to support the Hon. Jennifer Gardiner, who would have been placed in the position of supporting the right of Hon. J. F. Ryan to ask questions.
The Hon. I. Cohen did not acquiesce to the approaches made to him by the Hon. J. F. Ryan, who, therefore, did not have the numbers to get the committee to allow him to ask questions. The members of the committee decided not to allow the Hon. J. F. Ryan to ask questions, but we certainly agreed to allow him to be present. I had a discussion with the Hon. J. F. Ryan on the morning on which this inquiry commenced. I made clear the basis on which he was allowed to be present. I also made it clear that if he tried to ask any questions at all he would be asked to leave. He gave me an undertaking, both verbally and in writing, that he would not ask questions. On the basis of that undertaking he was allowed to participate and be present at committee hearings. I object totally to the way the Hon. J. F. Ryan has misrepresented what took place.
Motion agreed to.
BUDGET ESTIMATES AND RELATED PAPERS
Financial Year 1997-98
Debate resumed from an earlier hour.
The Hon. I. COHEN [6.02 p.m.]: I conclude my contribution to the budget debate with a statement by Christopher Titmuss, the author of The Green Buddha. It is important that honourable members start to discuss the philosophy surrounding the economic management of this State and to consider alternative means of dealing with the many problems that are occurring. The author is a Buddhist teacher whom I have met and with whom I have studied in the past. I read from an open letter to world political leaders in which he states:
I appeal to you to examine your political beliefs in the face of the harsh truths of global life. Safeguarding people, the Earth and its protective biosphere are of paramount importance.
People everywhere yearn for peace and justice and to live in safety. It is their right to campaign for food, clothing, a home and medicine. It is also their right to abide in an environment that is free from harmful pollution of land, water and air.
I believe that current political standpoints require a spiritual and ecological basis. Political action has to be grounded in compassion for the sustained welfare of human beings, animals and the environment.
The unrestrained consumption of resources has provided wealth and privilege for a minority of the world’s population while the majority live near, on, or far beneath the poverty line. Many policies work at the expense of the deep needs of
people locally, nationally and globally. Unless there is a dramatic re-evaluation of the influential political ideologies, the remaining years of this millennium will continue to be a time of thoughtless waste, mindless consumption and utterly misguided political and economic views.
I also bring to your awareness the way the ego influences your political judgements. I perceive the main impetus of leaders is the desire to retain power; the will to control becomes the reason for existence. Political beliefs and self interest matter more than the needs of the people, even though decisions are made in their name. Thus you direct your efforts towards controlling others and the natural world rather than implementing wise and compassionate political and economic policies.
The resolution of unsatisfactory patterns in leadership comes through understanding your relationships with political supporters, opponents, the people and the Earth. Characteristics which get a person to pole position can become the model of success.
The DEPUTY-PRESIDENT (The Hon. D. J. Gay): Order! I remind honourable members of the President’s memorandum concerning behaviour in the President’s gallery and the privileges that he grants for members to use his gallery. Conversations should be kept to a minimum.
The Hon. I. COHEN: The letter continues:
Subordinates achieve a sense of self worth by copying the language and mannerisms of their leader and exuding the same brand of cleverness. They either admire or resent you, imitate you or plot to succeed you. They praise you publicly and undermine you behind closed doors. These concerns become your world at the expense of countless citizens.
Leaders utilize the various powers at their disposal with efficiency to sustain power. But without self knowledge it is impossible to discriminate between wise leadership and the abusive imposition of control over people and the environment. Leaders naively believe they are taking the only course available such as constantly exhorting economic growth, bringing in foreign capital, increasing military exports or imports, and dismissing voices of opposition. All these demonstrate a lack of wisdom and foresight.
Leaders may believe their actions are for the common good but, without realizing it, their decisions may contribute to irreversible harm for the present and future generations. Economic analyses must measure the cost of exploiting resources in the human and natural world. Calculations of economic growth do not measure the rapid depletion of natural capital. Like all such calculations, the result depends on economists’ choices: what to include and what to exclude. Ignoring the cost to resources makes economic growth an illusion. I believe you must support a steady economy and oppose an infinite growth economy. A steady economy accords with the reality of the Earth which has finite resources; economic growth is consuming the Earth, soon there will be nothing much left for the world’s poor or future generations to live on.
Leaders cannot browbeat ordinary people into becoming workaholics and pawns for economic growth. Leaders think people don’t work hard enough when their policies fail. Perhaps you are not working hard enough to look into your political beliefs, particularly around growth. It is vital to look into yourself and explore the underlying motives for your decisions. If you are honest with yourself, you will see your political and economic objectives are not really in the interests of the country, but express your hope to gain respect and a place in history.
Leaders often feel they want an orderly and safe country but perhaps unconsciously pursue a country that has surrendered to their authority. Their relationship to the country becomes a mirror for their mind. While leaders and their opponents undermine each other, the genuine needs of people and the environment become a minor consideration in the struggle of wills and one-line sound bites. Never forget that compassion is the ultimate political ethic, free from prejudice, enabling a leader to act boldly.
I believe political beliefs are reflected in the way we live and act rather than through the words we proclaim. Your use or abuse of power and pressure affect the quality of life in your country and on the international stage. Political leaders make demands for sacrifice on their citizens which they have no intention of observing in their own lives. Many politicians live extravagantly, out of touch with the personal and community hardships of the people they claim to represent. The lavish, self-indulgent lifestyle of the government and official opposition, both at public functions and private gatherings, must stop.
Politicians cannot comprehend, emotionally, people’s daily struggles and the suffering of trying to make ends meet.
Power is as addictive and dangerous as hard drugs. The desire to hire and fire, approve and condemn takes over at the expense of deep and caring values. Waging a campaign day in and day out to dominate the direction the country will take into the next century is dangerous thinking. Leaders reward those who serve their interests with power, money and titles; yet withdraw support, reduce the benefits and ignore the way of life of the needy. When leaders ignore the poor, hold back financial support for local communities and reject protection of the social and natural environment they expose a depth of insensitivity, a lack of compassion and the absence of wisdom.
People reach the point where they can no longer stomach a leader’s policies. They may even rise up and oust their president or prime minister from office. The priority is to relieve suffering Here and Now. How many of your citizens would emigrate tomorrow if it were possible? Those who are not able to be in control of their own lives get neglected or, at best, receive scant attention. Organisations working on behalf of the neglected and dispossessed have to appeal repeatedly for support and assistance, but when finally given, if at all, it is grudgingly.
Modest and reluctant support for global issues is only an exercise in international public relations. If our leaders show a lack of compassion then nothing better can be expected from anyone else. The tendency to direct blame elsewhere, and never admit to making mistakes fools nobody. When citizens protest non-violently they are labelled trouble makers or extremists. You feel safe by shutting up the voices of those who think differently. Your identification with power contributes to despising the powerless. The obsession with economic growth damages the fabric of the Earth; people become angry, frustrated aggression and intolerance mounts around the world at the unprincipled values of politicians and the privileged elite. Conflict and tension around money, debts, unemployment and the future run riot. Widespread disillusionment contributes to violence and abuse in the home
and on the streets as young people become cynical about the present and even more so about the future.
I urge you to engage in deep political, social and economic analysis of cause and effect relationships, both in the short and long term. The current political ideology of the left, right and centre must change beyond all recognition. There must be the political will to stop the consequences of any political views obsessed with profit and exploitative use of human and environmental resources. You must acknowledge publicly the responsibility to present and future generations; this must be reflected not only in political and economic decisions, but also in modesty and integrity in personal and public life.
Leaders delude themselves when they think truth and vision lie in their hands. You cannot possess the whole picture of political realities for you are only part of the picture. If you acknowledged this then listening would replace attack, generosity would replace arrogance, participation would replace domination and wisdom would replace ideology. Wisdom offers compassionate action to people in need and environmental protection. Wise political leadership expresses personal sacrifice and stimulates the release of insightful initiatives in people, thus offering a genuine opportunity for a safe and fair society with environmental justice.
If you wish to take credit for economic growth then you must also take responsibility for the consequences, namely fragmentation of society, the decline of the local community and the systematic destruction of the Earth. Wise leadership includes providing a pluralistic, tolerant and caring society in a safe and protected environment. The nation’s scientific and technological resources must be directed towards the sustained welfare of the field of existence, not to its exploitation. The atmosphere, seas, rivers, forests, landscapes and habitation of people and wildlife, deserve a high degree of care and attention. Applying this vision would encourage others to respond to local, national and global realities.
Wise leadership looks within and far beyond national borders to see the consequences of decisions for the entire biosphere. A spiritual and ecological basis for political life offers a significant contribution to the whole world. By actively acknowledging and respecting the interconnection of the web of life, you participate in a turning point in the life of the nation and the Earth.
The Hon. J. S. TINGLE [6.14 p.m.]: Budgets come and budgets go, and every budget seems to bring us to the edge of crisis when it is brought down. Everyone gets worked up about it. The Treasurer comes down from a state of euphoria on budget day to a position of defensive determination a few days later, and then it all sorts itself out. It is just not the done thing to tamper with budget bills, we are told, so in the end we like the budget or lump it. We live with it whether we like it or not, and it becomes a matter of history - until next time. The Treasurer described this budget as a typically big, bold Labor budget and, later, with characteristic modesty, as the best budget ever. It certainly is a Labor budget with its high spending and high taxing, and it is that latter part that has caused the most heartburn in the community. Any government that proposes the introduction of a new tax must expect an outcry. Nobody likes the idea of new and different taxes, as John Hewson will tell you. He should have known, but he tried it anyway and lost an election that he probably should have won.
Governments always assert that they need to raise taxes to meet costs, much as it hurts them so deeply to tax us. That proposition is probably fair enough, so far as it goes. The community tends to do a double-take when a tax is introduced that affects only a small and specific section of people, or of the business community, and when it can be seen in general terms to have regressive effects, particularly on lower-income earners, small business or employment. It is interesting and perhaps somewhat alarming about this budget that it sends the clear signal to many people that the Government, by some of the measures it has introduced, has opened the way for a regime of service taxes. That is a significant development and its full import needs to be clearly understood. The Treasurer has said that the new measures are here to stay. That, of course, might depend ultimately on the internal nervousness of his party about the electoral effects of the measures. It may be that the Treasurer is right. He has been right before - occasionally. Does this mean that service taxes of this type are here to stay, and that there will be more of them? Is our Treasurer planning to introduce a Hewson-style goods and services tax bit by bit?
The budget has attracted a great deal of attention because of two taxes in particular: the bed tax on central business district and North Sydney hotels, and the extra poker machine tax. A third tax, the change in the liability of some expensive residential properties to pay land tax, has also caused a wail of dismay. That tax applies to only a couple of thousand properties. It is selective, but I believe it is also defensible. At least, it will cause distress only to the relatively few people affected by it. However, the tax is regarded by many as unjust and unjustified, as land tax has always been regarded as an indefensible, counter-productive and even discriminatory tax. That has not stopped any government, of course, of either political colour from levying it.
The bed tax, or accommodation tax, has been vigorously opposed by the hotel industry, as might have been expected. The industry claims that it will damage the tourist industry and that hotels built to take advantage of the bonanza of the Olympics will not be able to carry the tax after that time, when Sydney is likely to have a surplus of medium to medium-high quality hotel accommodation. The hotel industry, again as might be expected, has also warned that the bed tax will mean a loss of jobs as hotels cut back costs to try to keep tariffs at a world
competitive level. I have no major problem with a bed tax as such in principle, as it applies in many parts of the world, but it seems to me that this particular tax is too much too soon and that it is too selective.
An impost of 10 per cent coming out of the blue and applied only to hotels in the relatively small area of the central business district and North Sydney seems too brutal and too absolute. Could the tax not have been phased in in increments to allow the hotel industry to adapt to it instead of it being dropped on the industry in this manner? The Government claims it has restricted the tax to those areas because it needs to recoup the huge amounts of money being spent to make Sydney a more pleasant place to live in or visit. The Government has said that the hotels in those areas will benefit most from those improvements. There is no doubt that many hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent on, or are earmarked for, a whole raft of initiatives and projects that will facilitate transport, clean up the city, clean up the harbour and some waterways and in other ways give Sydney the general scrub-up which it certainly needs.
I sincerely congratulate the Government on that, but I have serious problems with the bed tax as it has been proposed because of its selective nature and because it does not apply to a series of hotels on the rim of the CBD or in closer Sydney areas which also cater for the inbound foreign tourist trade and which, I believe, also benefit from the improvements to the city. In addition, because it is so restricted in its application, I believe the accommodation tax could well turn out to be self-defeating. I have had discussions with industry representatives involved in the travel and airline industries and they have a simple and, when one thinks about it, obvious way around this tax. They have told me that they will place their inbound tourists in hotels just outside the CBD, including some of the high-quality hotels closer to Mascot airport, and so avoid the effects of the bed tax, which they expect will lead to higher tariffs in CBD and North Sydney hotels in comparison with the hotels they now use.
I reiterate that I believe that the high introductory level of the tax and its extremely selective nature will effectively defeat it. The tax will damage the affected hotels, damage tourism and, by discouraging hotel development in the affected areas, may end up not producing the revenue that the budget expects of it. It has already produced so-called unforeseen consequences in that it will also affect a youth hostel set up by the Youth Hostels Association in the affected area. That means so-called budget accommodation for the young and elderly, and backpacking young tourists in this area of Sydney will now attract the tax. Could some levels not have been built into this tax to allow for the fact that not all the accommodation in the affected area is five-star, some recognition that a 10 per cent tax might not be appropriate for all the beds in the area?
Australia is vulnerable in the overseas tourist market because of the great distances people must travel to get here and because of the cost of that travel and of tourist accommodation, which is already high in Sydney. I understand that our future tourism is by no means guaranteed. There has been publicity overseas about our crime rate, and a former fish-and-chip-shop person from deepest, darkest Queensland has put the fat in the fire by creating a furore over immigration and racism, which we are told is already affecting our attractions as a tourist trap. I believe great care needs to be exercised in adding to the costs of the tourist industry in a localised area in an environment like ours.
The increased tax on club poker machines is equally difficult to understand, and is nothing other than a revenue-raising measure. It certainly will not return anything to registered clubs by way of concomitant benefits. It applies only to clubs with a gross poker machine profit of more than $1 million, and, while the Government claims this protects smaller clubs, my experience in talking to representatives from a number of these clubs is that an apparent poker machine profit does not mean that clubs have that money sloshing around freely to spend as they like. The smaller clubs with poker machine profits around the $1 million to $2 million mark claim that those profits are virtually absorbed into benefits for members and in club improvements. The club industry has become fiercely competitive, and it is a far cry from the golden days when money was no object.
In my home town of Port Macquarie, a quartet of clubs compete for the available clientele. They are in a constant state of offering special inducements for memberships, attendance at special promotions and so on. In the last couple of years most of those clubs have undertaken building and extension programs to provide better facilities for members as part of the competitive nature of the industry, and none are in what could be described as a happy financial position. I am told they rely heavily on the net profits - I repeat, net profits - from their poker machines as their only major source of revenue to fund salaries, running costs, maintenance and repairs, improvements and
extensions, and, of course, their community and charitable programs.
A profit of $1 million sounds a lot, but with the new generation of poker machines and the dimensions of the club industry it is not very hard to reach that level of profit. Ironically, that level of profit is in some cases not enough to keep a club’s head above water. These clubs tell me that an increase in their tax of 7.5 per cent from 22.5 to 30 per cent - an increase of 33_ per cent - might make the difference between staying afloat and going under, or having to severely curtail members’ services and their community work.
Clubs in Port Macquarie, which I use as an typical example of most country centres of the State, rely on casual labour for about half their work force. They tell me that the bite of this tax will result in most casual workers being laid off. The Westport Bowling Club, arguably Port Macquarie’s most popular club, will lay off at least 12 staff when the tax increase begins. In a town like Port Macquarie, which has the same severe unemployment problem as many other country towns, that would have a terrible economic effect. I have been inundated with protests from clubs of all kinds in many parts of the State and from individual members of those clubs. Using those faxes and letters, I have taken a small random sampling of 15 of the clubs which approached me seeking my opposition to this tax.
I asked them a number of questions. I asked them what their gross poker machine profit was per annum. I asked them how much they contributed to community and charitable projects, and how much they would have to reduce that contribution because of the tax. I asked them how many staff they employ, and how many of those would be laid off because of the tax. Amongst the 15 clubs I surveyed there was a total gross profit from poker machines of $77,012,000. Of that amount $5,110,000 was donated to charity and community affairs. The remainder was largely absorbed in running the club, and in matters such as paying salaries and maintenance, et cetera.
Many clubs told me that the poker machine profit was the only revenue of any substance they received during a year and that with many of them not in a healthy financial position, the tax bite into this revenue would make the difference between staying afloat and going under. For instance, representatives of the Moama Bowling Club pointed out to me that of its gross profit of $2,005,942, $700,000 a year goes straight to the Commonwealth Bank in repayments. They told me that an increase in poker machine tax would in reality be a tax on the club’s revenue, which would affect its ability to meet its commitments; the club would then be forced into receivership, which would obviously affect staffing and community support programs.
One aspect of this tax which troubles me greatly is that it is a tax on gross profit. That does not take into account that if the profit is the main revenue stream for a club, a major reduction through tax of that stream could severely damage the club’s ability to function. The 15 clubs surveyed all indicated that they would be reluctant to lay off staff, and would do so only as a last resort. But they also said that they were likely to lay off a total of 177 people between them, that is, cuts in total staff of about 14 per cent. The reductions in their donations to charity, community programs, and support of local sporting, cultural and other activities, would vary, depending on the circumstances of each club, between 30 and 100 per cent.
In addition, many larger clubs which have undertaken comprehensive extension and building works have now put those works on hold. The Registered Clubs Association claims that this building work, which is in limbo, is worth more than $336 million. That will cause unemployment in the building industry as well. Contemplating the effect on employment of the bed and poker machine tax imposts, I am moved to remark that the one growth area in this country which owes its growth to governments, State and Federal, is unemployment. Is that the real bottom line that economic rationalism concentrates on so much?
I have received a letter from the chaplain to the Sydney Division of the New South Wales Ambulance Service, Father Denis Madigan, C.P., O.A.M. I say "a letter", but in reality it is more an urgent appeal - a cry from the heart, if you like - from Father Madigan for the Government to rethink the increase in the poker machine tax. He gives several instances in which he says the tax would create not only serious difficulties for clubs, but for the wider community. Father Madigan instances recent challenges to the licence of the Sydney Aussie Rules Social Club Ltd, which he says has done wonderful work for the community.
While he was giving evidence for the club to the Licensing Court he said a councillor from the South Sydney Council appeared to also give evidence in support of the club. That lady wanted the club to retain its licence because of the good work it did in the community. She produced facts and figures about the aged community which is housed in high-density living in the Kings
Cross/Potts Point area, and the need to keep our senior citizens ambulatory. She insisted it was better for these people to go out to eat, rather than have Meals on Wheels delivered to their homes. She said meals were provided for them by the Sydney Aussie Rules Social Club for a mere pittance.
Father Madigan points out that the Paddington-Woollahra RSL Memorial Club has donated two ambulances to the Paddington Ambulance Station and recently also donated $5,000 to the station to cover the painting and refurbishment of the officers’ amenities area where, the chaplain claims, the ambulance officers are expected to paint and improve their facilities even though the facilities and the station are government - that is, public - property. Father Madigan has told me that the Paddington Ambulance Station was in a poor state of repair and upkeep. He added that the Catholic Club recently donated $12,000 to try to bring another ambulance station with similar problems, the station at Campbelltown, up to scratch. In his letter Father Madigan said:
All in all, clubs, including the Sydney Aussie Rules Social Club Ltd., are providing a service to our community through their profits, and such service will be denied to the community by further erosion of their gross profits.
Finally, I would like you to know that I have, on several occasions, expressed my concern that governments exploit the weaknesses of people, in increasing gambling opportunities, and then rely on taxes from such to meet their commitments.
Like other honourable members I have received a massive number of letters and faxes from people protesting about the increased poker machine tax. Those letters have come from clubs, big and small, all over the State. But interestingly there have also been hundreds of letters from individual club members - not form letters given to them by their club for them to sign, but individual handwritten letters. Those people described their clubs as the only decent local social gathering place, and they fear that the impact of this extra tax will force many of them to close or to seriously reduce their services to the community.
I cannot remember ever having received such an inflow of mail on any single issue, including the Conveyancing Bill. The flow of mail in relation to that bill jammed my fax machine for days on end. I estimate that the pile of letters and faxes I have received on this issue is some 30 centimetres high - about 12 inches in real measurements - and it is still growing. The Treasurer has said he will not be moved on this measure and that the club movement has nothing to complain about. One thing they are complaining about is that clubs are the only sector of the gaming industry which has been hit with these taxes. They are angry that the casino and hotels are exempt from tax increases, and that tax paid on high rollers in the casino has been reduced by more than 50 per cent. Again, that is a heavy, selective application of a tax.
I would like to be assured that the Government is not moving against the club industry, which is owned and operated by its members as a cooperative movement, in favour of the hotel and casino trade. If the club movement also includes as well as employees and management of clubs, all these ordinary little people who are its members, and if they are as angry and bewildered at this tax as they are telling me, all I would say to the Treasurer is that these same people might take an example from his stand on this tax and take a similar unmoving attitude towards him and his Government on Saturday, 20 March 1999. I believe he should rethink this one.
One of the most appalling effects of galloping economic rationalism has been the increasing tendency of governments to use the bottom line, the dollar cost, as justification for economic programs which have thrown thousands of people out of jobs. Such policies have made the dollar so much more important than the person; they treat the worker as merely a dollar-cost factor, not as an element of human and social responsibility for governments and employers. So we ruthlessly cut costs, and shrug off the unemployment growth that that cost cutting brings about. All those matters need to be taken into account when we contemplate an increased tax of this sort.
While I recognise - as we all must - the Government’s right to impose taxes to raise revenue when necessary, I must ask whether the threshold of $1 million invoked in this taxation change is the right threshold. Underlying all the concerns being expressed about the new taxes and increased taxes is one unarguable fact - one fact I believe casts a shadow over all this argument. That one fact is that this Government came to office riding on a promise of no new taxes and no tax increases. However, we face an overall increase in taxes in the next financial years of about $420 million - the largest increase since the mid-1980s. Of course, these taxes can be seen as taxes on wealth and the wealthy and on people who can afford to pay them. That is certainly the way the Treasurer has presented them. Included in that category are registered clubs, which are seen as being wealthy if they make a gross profit from the pokies of more than $1 million a year. That being so, the Government hopes there will be little sympathy for those who are complaining that these
taxes will have all manner of unintended consequences.
In that regard this is a neat and clever budget politically - a budget which could be expected from a neat and clever Treasurer. But I have a sense of a growing public irritation, affecting the grassroots, which might make it hard to simply brush the complaints aside. Election after election State and Federal governments come into office with high promises of keeping their sticky fingers out of our hip pockets. Time and again those promises evaporate with the high euphoria of election night, and time and again governments do not apologise and do not even seem embarrassed by their breach. I suppose that could be because we have become so used to it now and so expectant of it that a breach of promise in the marriage arranged between government and community hardly raises a murmur and seldom causes any real excitement or surprise.
That is a sad commentary on what we expect from our governments and what reliance we place on their promises. Then again, this is undeniably an election budget devised with the third Saturday in March 1999 firmly in the Government’s sights, with hopes that the big spending may well eclipse the big taxation when that time comes. We know that we are on the downhill run to the next election and with it the same old round of promises, policy auctions, obfuscation, confabulation and confusion that mark all these quadrennial events. By the time that happens all of this excitement, tension and resentment will be forgotten. The budget comes and goes, and it is gratefully forgotten. Government goes on forever, grinding exceeding small. So I merely ask: what is all the fuss about? None of it will make the slightest difference - wait and see.
Debate adjourned on motion by the Hon. Dorothy Isaksen.
[The Deputy-President (The Hon. D. J. Gay) left the chair at 6.33 p.m. The House resumed at 8.15 p.m.]
GUARDIANSHIP AMENDMENT BILL
Debate resumed from 7 May.
The Hon. PATRICIA FORSYTHE [8.17 p.m.]: The Opposition does not oppose this bill. Opposition members have some concerns, however, in relation to one part of the bill, that concerning drug trials. I shall expand on those concerns and at the Committee stage shall seek to move amendments to the bill. The Minister, in his second reading speech, gave a background of the history of guardianship in this State. He said that the system was "working successfully". I am not sure whether similar views are expressed in the Labor Party room on an issue such as this, but when the Guardianship Board is mentioned in my party room many members raise issues of major concern. If there is a suggestion in the Minister’s second reading speech that all is well with the guardianship system and that the community is generally happy with the operations of the Guardianship Board, I would have to disagree.
Many Opposition members have received correspondence and have attended meetings that demonstrate that all is not well with guardianship in New South Wales. There is much community concern about the Guardianship Board, obviously on the part of people who have had significant dealings with the board in some way. I believe that some time soon, possibly in the next session of Parliament, it will be necessary for me to move that the Standing Committee on Social Issues re-examine the whole issue of guardianship and the Guardianship Board. The role of the Guardianship Board will increase following changes in the Commonwealth system of nursing home funding and nursing home fees. I am not making a comment for or against the Commonwealth Government proposals in that regard; I am simply stating my belief that the work of the Guardianship Board will have to be enhanced and resources will need to be increased.
This debate presents an opportunity for honourable members to talk more broadly about the role of guardianship. I would be surprised if the Minister could say accurately that guardianship is working so successfully that he could defend everything that is happening. This evening as part of my contribution to the debate I wish to table a petition received from 625 citizens. This petition is not in a form that would be acceptable to the House in the normal fashion. It is duly signed by each individual and the form of the petition is correct. The difficulty is that the wording of the petition takes the prayer beyond New South Wales. The petition states:
We, the undersigned, do hereby demand that a ROYAL COMMISSION INQUIRY be held into the practices of Australian Guardianship Authorities.
This we request on behalf of those who cannot ask for it themselves and whose lives are affected on a daily basis by decisions made by these bodies.
We appeal to Parliamentarians to call for the inquiry on an immediate basis.
The concerns they raise are as follows:
1. That in many cases, persons are placed under State Guardianship laws when a less restrictive alternative is available.
2. That in many cases close family and friends are not involved in the decision making processes.
3. That in all cases financial affairs are administered by underqualified and unlicensed personnel.
4. That many complaints of Human Rights abuse and Medical, Legal and Financial improprieties should be investigated.
5. That these Guardianship Authorities be made accountable to the Parliament.
I seek leave to table this petition.
I table that petition because it plays an important part in setting the Opposition’s position regarding drug trials. It would be hard to defend the bill when 625 people have signed a petition expressing concern about the issues that would be involved with drug trials. I return to some of the other issues raised by the Minister in his second reading speech. The Minister made the point, and I accept it, that the basis for this legislation was a discussion paper issued in October 1994 by the Hon. Jim Longley when he was Minister. The former Minister said that 44 government and non-government organisations responded to the paper with strong support for the proposals, but I am unaware whether there was also opposition to them.
In seeking to carry out some background inquiries relating to the bill I had the opportunity to talk to the Carers of Protected Persons Action group - COPPA. When the original discussion paper was released that group suggested at public meetings that the issue did not relate to just providing support and that the bill mirrored the original discussion paper. The Minister did not indicate whether any of the 44 submissions received opposed the process and, if so, what was the nature of that opposition. The outcome of the consultation process was not outlined in the second reading speech, nor has the bill incorporated the express concerns of the community.
Certainly the words of COPPA would suggest that all is not rosy. However, the reason the Opposition will not oppose the bill is that it takes a forward step to enhance the system, even if it is not the logical conclusion that COPPA would like. The change of name from Guardianship Board to Guardianship Tribunal accurately reflects the role of that body, but the concept of adopting the least restrictive alternative for financial relations and easing some restrictions by creating a more flexible approach is laudable and will go some way to reducing the problems associated with guardianship.
I make it quite clear that some groups in the community have previously had unfavourable dealings with the Guardianship Board. Perhaps they did not achieve their desired outcomes, but it would be impossible to ignore the extent of the problem. When I have raised for discussion in the coalition party room proposed legislation dealing with the Guardianship Board my colleagues have presented a flood of complaints and concerns, particularly from lower House members, who deal daily with constituents on personal issues. Obviously those problems must be brought to the attention of the Minister. It is appropriate therefore in speaking to this bill to raise some issues associated with a more flexible financial approach that will help ease community concerns.
If the coalition were in government and Jim Longley were still Minister, I am sure he would accept, as the present Minister must, that guardianship is important. Though the proposals for guardianship have bipartisan support, the community still remains somewhat apprehensive about the issue. Certainly much of this legislation is laudable, particularly the capacity for more flexible arrangements in the care of mentally ill persons. I thank Mr O’Neill from the Guardianship Board for forwarding me the briefing papers on this matter. One can well understand an intellectually disabled person managing his or her daily affairs not necessarily needing the involvement of the guardianship system to manage a pension. However, should that person inherit a significant amount of money, it would be accepted that orders would need to be made in relation to the protection of that inheritance.
The proposed system will allow for flexible orders involving some, but not all, of the affairs of a person under guardianship. That is an important step and goes some way to meeting community views. The bill takes a number of steps forward. I have consulted widely among a number of groups interested in this matter. Certainly support was received from the Council on the Ageing, the Council for Intellectual Disability, the Carers Association and the Alzheimer’s Association. All aspects that increase the level of flexibility in the care of a person under guardianship, for example those that allow for interstate reciprocity, move in the direction favoured by the Opposition.
However, I must register concerns raised with me about the drug trials. A number of organisations expressed some reservations. Notwithstanding the original discussion paper and the submissions from a number of organisations - the Alzheimer’s Association was well briefed on this legislation - many other organisations seemed surprised that some aspects of the legislation were being dealt with at this time. When the bill was first presented I sent a letter to a number of organisations, as I would normally do, informing them that the bill had been presented in the House and asking them if they needed a copy of the bill, because I wanted their comments on it. I was surprised by the number of organisations that contacted my office requesting a full copy of the bill and the second reading speech. Those organisations seemed unaware of the details in the bill, yet they were all peak bodies that one would have expected to be very much involved in the process. While I appreciate that there has been considerable consultation on this issue, at the same time there has been some concern. The Alzheimer’s Association is one organisation which has given strong support to this issue. In a letter to me the association stated:
The Alzheimer’s Association NSW, having seen the Guardianship Amendment Bill 1997 as presented to the Parliament, is of the view that the amendments would effect a substantial improvement of the legislation in terms of its general functions and the achievement of its objectives, promote the welfare and interests of dementia sufferers and be beneficial to their carers, relatives and wellwishers.
For these reasons the Alzheimer’s Association NSW, in the interests of its members and people affected by dementia, strongly supports the whole of the Guardianship Amendment Bill 1997.
Later, in relation to the drug trials, the letter stated:
The Association has had detailed consultation since 1994 with the Guardianship Board during the development of this Bill. The Board of Management of the Association appointed 23 members to consult with the Guardianship Board.
The letter named them, and it continued:
Forty three per cent of all applications to the Guardianship Board in 1995/96 were from people affected by dementia. This, therefore, indicates the importance of the Bill to the Association and families affected by dementia.
I put that on the record because I want it understood that the Opposition has been fair in its approach. We accept that an organisation such as the Alzheimer’s Association has a strong interest in the legislation, including the drug trials. In his second reading speech the Minister talked about the development of drugs specifically for people with dementia and how such people would benefit from clinical drug trials. Last week, in relation to a drug trial for heart disease, a news report stated that the trial had been so successful that a drug for the treatment of coronary disease will shortly to be taken off the trial list - after only six months. It is to be made available for general use. That sort of evidence is important.
I consulted a number of medical people including Professor Morgan, the head of neurosurgery at the Royal North Shore Hospital, and Professor Brodaty, professor of psychogeriatrics, who has been associated with the Alzheimer’s Association. They have expressed keen support for and explained the importance of drug trials. However, significant reticence was expressed by other important groups. The Carers Association of New South Wales raised concerns in relation to clinical trials and questioned medical and legal ethics. The Council for Intellectual Disability, which appreciated the value of drug trials in some cases, also expressed concern that despite the original discussion paper the issue really has not been debated in the public domain.
We are dealing with significant issues of rights and ethics. I accept that the bill contains safeguards, but there has not been adequate broad public discussion on the rights of people with an intellectual disability. For instance, I would appreciate the Minister explaining his role as the guardian of children. When reference was made to drug trials we had quoted to us examples of dementia and stroke victims. Why has the bill been amended to make the Minister the guardian of children? I am conscious of the moves we have made in recent years away from a drug regime when dealing with young people with an intellectual disability. We have moved towards dealing with behavioural issues other than by way of drugs.
From my reading of the bill I gained the impression that opportunities would be available for different treatment. One has to be mindful, notwithstanding established safeguards, that there is a history that we cannot ignore. One cannot ignore Chelmsford. One could say that these things simply will not happen again, but they did happen. There was a Chelmsford! In the Human Rights Commission and Mental Illness inquiry, Burdekin reported:
Mental health practitioners should only administer medication of known or demonstrated efficacy.
I understand that this is a catch-22 situation: how will we develop some of these drugs unless we allow them to be trialled? We have not had a public
debate on this matter, we have not been given an opportunity to put all sides of the argument on the record. In Committee I will propose that these provisions should be withdrawn. I will ask the Minister to refer the matter to the Standing Committee on Social Issues. The terms of reference should be narrow, requiring the committee to investigate clinical trials in the context of the bill, and the reporting time should be short. Given that the discussion paper has been around since 1994, next September - when Parliament resumes - would be an ideal opportunity for many medical practitioners and others to put on the record their views and, at the same time, allow for discussion among the many concerned groups.
To ignore the concerns of other organisations would be to ignore valid concerns. The Council on the Ageing wrote to me regarding proposed section 16(3). The council expressed concern that the Public Guardian will not be appointed as a joint guardian. While the Council on the Ageing agrees with the intent of the proposed section, it does so only on the basis that the Office of the Public Guardian is adequately resourced to ensure that guardians receive the necessary support to enable them to be effective. I raised this issue previously with the Minister, and I ask him to respond to it in his reply.
To be fair, I inform the House that I am well aware that there is a significant body of opinion among medical experts that it would be beneficial to expand drug trials, particularly when dealing with dementia. Some peak organisations, such as the Council for Intellectual Disability, would certainly appreciate the opportunity of a public forum to place on record the views of many medical experts and people involved with ethics committees. It is important to place on record also the concerns of others so that a proper and impartial judgment can be made by the Standing Committee on Social Issues.
This comes down to an issue of rights, which I do not challenge nor dismiss lightly. I am conscious of the strength of support throughout the medical and research professions for drug trials. The Council on the Ageing is very involved and interested in this process. The Disability Council and the Carers Association would like some caution to be exercised with clinical trials. It would be unfair to ignore these important groups, which have a vital interest in this legislation. I do not oppose the provisions in the bill dealing with clinical drug trials per se but I believe that in recent times there has been a lack of public debate on the topic.
A perfect forum for debate is a committee of this Parliament so that the opinions of people who have genuine concerns for the interests of members of their own families can be placed on the record. It would also provide an opportunity for members to hear evidence from medical experts. I assure honourable members on the crossbenches in particular that this is not an opposition per se but an opportunity to be conservative and to exercise some caution. I do not believe there has been sufficient public debate on this important issue. I accept, however, that many provisions of the bill are a step in the right direction - that is, forward. It would be an injustice to ignore the concerns of the 625 signatories to the petition, those in the community who have a sense of concern about, and who feel outright anger towards, the Guardianship Board. There are also other legal, medical and ethical concerns. I do not believe the Opposition is being unreasonable. A way forward must be found. I am asking for perhaps a three-month window of opportunity for all the facts to be put on the record. I support the bill.
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY [8.42 p.m.]: The Australian Democrats are pleased to support the Guardianship Amendment Bill. I should like to read some comments of the Guardianship Board which it included in its 1994 report entitled, "Reform of Guardianship Legislation in NSW - a consultative paper". With regard to guardianship the board noted:
The Guardianship Act deals with the guardianship of adults, 16 years and above. Indeed, the majority of applications now being made to the Board concern elderly people with dementia.
The concept of adult guardianship is only now beginning to develop as legislation in being introduced in Australia and other countries to deal with some of the consequences of people born with intellectual disabilities or acquiring brain damage during their lifetimes leading normal life spans and people developing dementia later in life but living with it for some years.
It is becoming clearer that the principal role of the guardian is to act as a substitute decision-maker for the person under guardianships and that the marking of a guardianship order has the consequence of removing from the person under guardianship some of his or her decision-making powers and placing them in the hands of the appointed guardian. When a person is appointed a guardian of another person, he or she does not take on responsibility for caring for that person although some private guardians will carry out this role, many will not. The Public Guardian clearly has no such responsibility.
The consequences of these perceptions of guardianship are that it is not appropriate to invest the guardian with the custody of the person under guardianship unless that is necessary for the guardian to carry out decision-making functions under seldom
given plenary guardianship order. Nor is it appropriate to liken the person under guardianship to a child as is both expressed and implied in section 21 of the Guardianship Act.
In redrafting the legislation these matters have to be reconsidered.
The first change made by the bill will be to the name of the Guardianship Board; it will be known as the Guardianship Tribunal. The main role of the board is to consider evidence and decide whether or not to appoint a guardian or financial manager for a person. The board also has the ability to empower either a private guardian or the Public Guardian to carry out certain functions for the person, or to appoint either the Protective Commissioner or a private person to manage a person’s property or affairs. The Australian Democrats are pleased that this change of name will better reflect the quasi-judicial role of the organisation.
The second change envisaged by the bill will place the authority for the appointment of financial managers under the Protected Estates Act with the Guardianship Act. At present the jurisdiction for the Guardianship Board is found not only in the Guardianship Act but also in the Protected Estates Act and the Mental Health Act. Its guardianship jurisdiction is located in the Guardianship Act whilst its jurisdiction to appoint financial managers to manage property and affairs of those incapable of managing for themselves is located in the Protected Estates Act.
I am pleased to note that this change will ensure that the financial management jurisdiction is located in the Guardianship Act thereby making consistent the policy and the operations of the board. Currently, the Guardianship Act only allows for the making of a fixed financial order. Once the board makes a financial management order it remains in place permanently and no variation can be made to that order unless the order is revoked. This contrasts markedly with the power of the Guardianship Tribunal to review guardianship orders and to revoke them, as it regularly does, when they are no longer needed. The Guardianship Board also made some comment on this matter in its consultative paper. Under the heading "Revocation of Orders on the Basis of Need", it stated:
The Board frequently comes across situations where a person or their family may seek to have an order discontinued on the basis that there is no longer a need for the order. Commonly in such situations an order was originally made to enable property to be sold, one spouse having previously managed the jointly held property on behalf of their partner who has a significant dementia. At present even though there may no longer be a need for a legal management order and even though there is no real risk that the spouse’s informal management would result in any disadvantage to their partner’s property interests, the Board is unable to revoke the order. Not surprisingly, the spouse and other involved family members often see continuing formal management as an unnecessary intrusion.
The Board should be able to make orders where there is a practical legal need but also to be able to revoke them if the need has been accomplished and if there is no real risk that the person will be disadvantaged by the revocation of the order.
In view of the board’s concerns it is very pleasing to note that the bill seeks to allow for variations of the original order which will better suit the persons involved. The changes will allow the board to revoke financial management orders if that is in the best interests of the person when such orders are no longer needed. The board will also be able to review financial management orders either at the request of others or on its own motion and will be able to exclude some elements of a person’s property and affairs from management where that is appropriate. The Democrats are also pleased to note that the bill introduces a system of enduring guardianship. Enduring guardianship is similar to power of attorney over financial affairs, but it enables a person to nominate someone who will make personal decisions for them. Personal decisions can relate to medical and dental treatment, to decisions about where the person might live or what services they should receive if they are unable to consent themselves.
That is a proper consideration, and I am pleased that there are a number of safeguards operating in that regard. These include the provision that the person concerned will appoint the enduring guardian in a written document witnessed by a legal practitioner, clerk of the Local Court or person prescribed by the regulations. The person appointed as the guardian will acknowledge acceptance on the document. If there is doubt as to when the enduring guardianship will start, the fact can be evidenced by the certificate of a doctor, or the Guardianship Tribunal can be approached for an order that the enduring guardianship has commenced. If there are problems with enduring guardianship, either someone with a genuine concern for the welfare of the person may request the tribunal to review the appointment or the tribunal may in fact decide to review the matter itself.
On review, the tribunal may confirm the appointment of the enduring guardian or if necessary it may revoke it. If the tribunal considered it appropriate to do so, it may appoint a guardian or a financial manager, placing the person under formal
guardianship or formal financial management according to the needs of the individual at the time. The bill seeks to make changes to the provisions for substitute decision making about medical and dental treatment. The Act currently uses the term "person responsible" to denote the person who is authorised under the Act to exercise various functions in relation to another.
The bill seeks to restrict the term "person responsible" to mean only those who are authorised to consent to the carrying out of medical and dental treatment on persons who lack the capacity to consent to their own treatment. Inherent in this is the ability of the person to nominate a hierarchy of people for an enduring guardianship order. This would include a first person responsible and then a number of others who could take on that role in the event of illness or incapacity of the first nominated person. The bill also allows for reciprocal arrangements with regard to guardianship laws in other States. The Guardianship Board notes with regard to cooperation between the States and Territories:
One of the major defects of the Australian federation is that there are nine different legal systems in this country one Commonwealth, six States and two Territories. Putting aside the question of sterilisation of children with intellectual disabilities, the Commonwealth law plays little part in guardianship and associated areas of the law. However, each State and Territory has its own separate system. Whilst each system has limited capacity to operate beyond the territorial borders of its State or Territory, there need to be mechanisms for recognition of guardians and financial managers appointed interstate.
In view of that statement, I am very pleased that the bill will give the tribunal the power to recognise guardians appointed in other States and jurisdictions. I am pleased also that Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory have already enacted this provision and that other States and New Zealand are expected to follow soon. Finally, the bill contains several provisions relating to access to new treatments. As one might expect, this is the most controversial part of the bill. The Guardianship Board noted that:
. . . there is a need to consider a legislative regime for dealing with research and development of new treatments which will improve the health of people who have lost the capacity to consent to their own treatment. The programmes in mind are those which will improve the health or may restore the physical or intellectual capacities of people with dementia, intellectual disabilities, stroke victims, those with trauma related alcohol or drug related brain damage, or those with mental illnesses or other conditions which preclude them from consenting to their own treatment.
As such, the changes proposed by the bill will allow people who cannot consent to their own treatment to access new treatments that are currently only available through a clinical trial. Item  of schedule 1 inserts proposed sections 45AA and 45AB. Proposed section 45AA will empower the tribunal to give consent in certain circumstances to the participation in clinical trials of patients who cannot consent to the treatment. They may be given to the person only if the Guardianship Board is satisfied that the treatment is the only or most appropriate way of treating the person and is manifestly in the best interests of the person and, further, that in so far as the National Health and Medical Research Council has prescribed guidelines that are relevant to the carrying out of that treatment, those guidelines have or will be complied with in relation to the person.
Proposed section 45AB will allow the tribunal to delegate to the person responsible the function of granting consent to that particular patient’s taking part in the clinical trial once the tribunal has satisfied itself as to the appropriateness of the trial. It has been noted and referred to during debate that clinical trials at present are probably of most benefit to sufferers of Alzheimer’s disease or stroke. I would like to bring to the attention of the House the remarks of the Alzheimer’s Association of New South Wales as they relate to this part of the bill. Recently I received a letter from that association - as I believe all honourable members did - which is dated 19 May. It states:
The Alzheimer’s Association NSW, having seen the Guardianship Amendment Bill 1997 as presented to the Parliament, is of the view that the amendments would effect a substantial improvement to the legislation in terms of its general functions and the achievement of its objectives, promote the welfare and interests of dementia sufferers and be beneficial to their carers, relatives and well wishers.
For these reasons the Alzheimer’s Association NSW, in the interests of its members and people affected by dementia, strongly supports the whole of the Guardianship Amendment Bill 1997.
The Association considers the flexibility with financial orders, the possibility of enduring guardianship orders, the possibility of joint or alternative guardians and the clinical trials to be advances in the provision of guardianship in New South Wales.
In particular, the Association sees it as very important to allow people who have lost their competency to consent, the opportunity with appropriate safeguards to participate in clinical trials of new drugs or procedures which may help them. (The safeguards in the bill were strengthened as a result of advocacy by the Association).
The Association has had detailed consultations since 1994 with the Guardianship Board during the development of this Bill. The Board of Management of the Association appointed three members to consult with the Guardianship Board. The members are Judge Kevin Holland QC, former Supreme Court
Judge and family carer, Professor Henry Brodaty, Professor of Psychogeriatrics University of New South Wales and Ms Di Griffin, retired social worker.
All three members are well experienced in the work of the Guardianship Board and the current Guardianship Act, having represented the Alzheimer’s Association NSW in 1986/87 when Guardianship was first introduced in the State. During preparation of amendments Judge Holland, Professor Brodaty and Ms Griffin attended a Board Meeting to report formally their recommendation to the Board that the Association should support the Guardianship Amendments Bill. This followed a flier to all members and a focus group of members interested in guardianship and financial management.
Forty three per cent of all applications to the Guardianship Board in 1995/96 were from people affected by dementia. This, therefore, indicates the importance of this Bill to the Association and families affected by dementia.
A few moments ago the Hon. Patricia Forsythe, who led for the Opposition in this debate, suggested that the only group that had fully approved of the bill was the Alzheimer’s Association. She suggested, if I understood her correctly, that other groups of carers in the community and those representing patients with other disabilities who might need guardianship should have had an opportunity to be consulted and that their views should have been taken into consideration. I do not know details of the groups she is referring to. As a member of the crossbenches I receive a great deal of correspondence. The only correspondence I have received on this legislation has come from the Alzheimer’s Association, and it is totally favourable. One of the groups referred to by the Hon. Patricia Forsythe is the Council for the Intellectually Disabled. The council has not contacted me in regard to this matter. It has contacted me in relation to many other pieces of legislation, but at no time has it referred to this legislation.
I am certain that if the council had serious concerns about this legislation it would have raised them with me in the course of other representations to me. The council has had ample opportunity to contact me and, indeed, there have been joint meetings with all crossbench members and the Council for Intellectual Disabilities within the last 48 hours, and this matter was not brought to our attention. I understand the Opposition intends to move an amendment to the bill. I am puzzled about the necessity for the amendment. I will listen with some interest to the debate at the Committee stage, but at the moment I believe it is proper for the bill to be passed in its present form. Frankly, I see no need for any further amendment.
The Hon. JAN BURNSWOODS [9.03 p.m.]: I speak briefly in support of the bill. I join with other members who have said this is good legislation. It is the continuation of a process that has worked particularly well. The major bill was introduced in 1987 by the Unsworth Government and had the support of all parties. The Act was amended in 1993, again with the support of all political groups in the Parliament, and the amendments in the bill have been discussed not only in this House but widely through the community as a result of discussion papers and submissions dating back to 1994.
The Minister should be congratulated on a bill that reflects that successful consultation. I strongly support the remarks of the Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby at the end of her speech. Like her I have received correspondence only from the Alzheimer’s Association. As she said, it seems strange that members of the Opposition have a different view from Government members and crossbenchers. For that reason I doubt whether the amendments proposed by the Opposition are necessary. I am concerned about the amendments, because they encapsulate a view that is the exact opposite of the view expressed in a letter dated 19 May from the Alzheimer’s Association, which strongly supports the legislation as it stands. I will not read the letter because it has been referred to in detail, but I draw attention to the paragraph dealing with clinical trials of new drugs. The association not only supports what is proposed by the Government in the bill but points out that the safeguards in the bill have been strengthened as a result of the advocacy by the association. The paragraph concludes, "It would be misguided to block this part of the bill."
For that reason I would argue that the Opposition’s amendments, which would block that part of the bill which the Alzheimer’s Association strongly supports, should not be supported. As Joan Simms, the Chief Executive of the Alzheimer’s Association, points out, "Forty three per cent of all applications to the Guardianship Board in 1995/96 were from people affected by dementia." It is worth pointing out that at the moment clinical trials of drugs relate overwhelmingly to people suffering from dementia or who are affected by strokes. There are strong reasons to support the bill as it stands.
I conclude by briefly paying tribute to the work of the Alzheimer’s Association. The association is based in North Ryde, close to where I live. I am familiar, through the local papers and the local activities of the association, with its fine work in fundraising, helping those who are afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease, and helping the families of those groups. They have worked very successfully with John Watkins, the member for Gladesville, and with the Minister for Health. Although the
association is based at North Ryde and is active in that area it has worked successfully across the State. I strongly support the legislation as put forward by the Minister for Community Services and I urge other members to do so.
The Hon. I. COHEN [9.08 p.m.]: On behalf of the Greens I generally support the bill, but I have some serious concerns about one aspect of it. The Guardianship Act enables the Guardianship Tribunal to make guardianship orders if there is evidence of three matters: disability, incapacity, and need. A booklet entitled "What is the Guardianship Board? A Guide for Applicants" states:
. . . guardian makes personal decisions about daily life on behalf of a person who is unable to make decisions because of a disability - such as decisions about housing, health care, who they should have contact with and what training or education they should receive.
These are major decisions about various aspects of an individual’s life. If there is no guardian the person responsible undertakes this role. According to proposed section 33A, the person responsible is the person’s guardian, a spouse, a person who has the care of the person or a close friend or relative of the person. The Greens are concerned about the provisions which allow the tribunal to give consent to clinical trials and allow the tribunal the authority to delegate the giving of consent to clinical trials in particular circumstances.
Individuals who are unable to make decisions about medical and dental treatment can be very vulnerable. Other individuals have to make the decisions for them.
It is essential that the provisions in the statute adequately safeguard the rights and best interests of individuals who are unable to make these decisions so that they are not abused in any way. The Greens are particularly concerned about new section 45AB, which gives the tribunal the power to delegate to the person responsible for a patient the function of giving or withholding consent for the patient to take part in the trial or to retain that function itself. The Greens are of the view that this power should not be delegated. At the very least the tribunal should be making decisions for those who are unable to make such decisions; delegation to the person responsible may lead to abuses.
The Greens are of the view that the person or persons responsible may not be appropriate people to decide whether an individual should be able to take part in a clinical trial. Such a decision should be left to the appropriately trained people who make up the tribunal. While the Greens understand the proposition that people with intellectual disabilities should not be denied access to beneficial drugs, they are concerned that these amendments allowing people with intellectual disabilities to participate in trials may lead to their being used as guinea pigs in scientific experiments. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Mentally Retarded Persons states:
6. The mentally retarded person has a right to protection from exploitation, abuse and degrading treatment . . .
7. Whenever mentally retarded persons are unable, because of the severity of their handicap, to exercise all their rights in a meaningful way or it should become necessary to restrict or deny some or all of these rights, the procedure used for that restriction or denial of rights must contain proper legal safeguards against every form of abuse . . .
The Greens are of the opinion that this bill does not contain proper legal safeguards to ensure that intellectually disabled people are not abused by being used as guinea pigs in scientific experiments. For those reasons, I will support the Opposition’s motion to refer the clinical trials issue to the Standing Committee on Social Issues so that the matter can be thoroughly investigated.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI [9.11 p.m.]: I substantially support this bill. Honourable members will forgive me if I give a brief history of this matter which is not included in the Minister’s second reading speech. This bill was part of the reforms initiated by the Unsworth Government but those reforms remained unfunded, so my colleague the Hon. Virginia Chadwick, whom the Minister for Community Services continues to bag from time to time, took on the onerous duty of promulgating and implementing the legislation. The first commissioner was Mr Roger West, who is an excellent example of a good public servant fulfilling his role accurately, producing annual reports of great clarity and providing support for those who have no-one to turn to but a relative, friend or guardian.
In 1991 problems with the bill drafted by Mr Unsworth and later promulgated by the Hon. Virginia Chadwick were identified. Those problems arose because it was too difficult to fulfil the requirements and it was too onerous to define who could stand in and give consent. Unique in Australia at the time, New South Wales established the principle that the person giving consent was someone who could be seen to be acting in the person’s interests, that is, a family member or friend; and a definition of "friend" was provided. Interestingly, it was the first time that partners in same-sex relationships were recognised as doing
what the injured person or the person seeking assistance in terms of guardianship perhaps would have wanted.
Following that, obviously it was necessary to go further. After the Guardianship Board was set up more needs within the community were recognised as needing to be fulfilled, so in 1994 the Minister for Community Services, Jim Longley, produced a discussion paper. This matter was discussed at length and with some deliberation throughout the community, and a very good position paper was presented. I generally applaud the bill introduced by the Minister. It will move the board into a more tribunal-type arrangement, which is entirely appropriate as it makes judicial judgments and should carry judicial responsibilities.
The bill introduces flexible financial arrangements and interstate reciprocity, which is terribly important in 1997. The Minister read the first few pages of his second reading speech and then simply incorporated the remainder in Hansard. Honourable members are probably grateful for the time that was saved, but the part that the Minister did not read on to the record is the part that has caused much consternation - clinical trials. The preamble to the bill does not instantly draw one’s attention to clinical trials, although much of the correspondence I have received relates to that issue. I am grateful that the Minister provided all honourable members with a full copy of the speech he incorporated. I have a couple of letters that should be placed on the record as they will assist honourable members in considering this matter. In a letter from the Carers of Protected Persons Action Group, the founder of the group, Patricia Costa, said:
Mr President, The Hon. Ron Dyer opened his speech of motion of the second reading of the Guardianship (Amendment) Bill 1997 with the words "one of the challenges of Government in the twentieth century is to respond to the needs of older people and adults with decision-making disabilities." I entirely agree with this.
As the representative of over 700 family and friends of protected persons, I have presented to The Hon. Patricia Forsythe, a petition calling for a Royal Commission into the operations of the Guardianship Authorities, who have caused extreme stress, family conflict, poverty and death by actions carried out under the existing Guardianship and Protected Estates legislation. Some of the amendments moved by the Hon. Ron Dyer are not perceived as a response "to the needs of older people and adults with decision-making disabilities" but more like a ‘blue-print’ for fine tuning non-accountable, authoritarian control of basic human rights.
Mr President, The Hon. Ron Dyer referred to the provisions in the Bill "which will give people who cannot consent to their own treatment, access to new treatments that are available only through a clinical trial in which a person may receive the new treatment or may receive only a placebo."
On careful study of the Bill, this would also appear to apply to State wards as the Minister and the Director-General are the "person responsible" within the meaning of the Children (Care and Protection) Act 1987.
Under Sections 45AA, & 45AB of the proposed Bill, The Guardianship Tribunal may give consent to the testing of drugs or techniques in clinical trials providing the trial has been approved by a relevant ethics committee.
Section 45AA(4)(iii) defines "a university, being an ethics committee concerned, wholly or partly, with medical research,".
Section 45AA(3) reads "The fact that a clinical trial will or may involve the giving of placebos to some of the participants in the trial does not prevent the Tribunal from being satisfied that it is in the best interests of a person that he or she undergo the trial".
My question, Mr President, is how can a placebo be in the participants ‘best interest’?
As I understand it, clinical trials are conducted over a set period of time under a rigid set of procedures. It would not seem realistic for the Guardianship Tribunal to formally order clinical trials, all "intended to cure or alleviate a particular condition" (Section 45AA(2)(a)) within a specific trial period.
Practically, I would see the participants being State wards and people under the Public Guardian chosen as the easier target.
Mr President, The Hon. Ron Dyer has given the impression that the provisions of this Bill gives "spouses or close family members" as "the person responsible" the function of giving or withholding their consent. Although agreeing that this is highly desirable, I point out that 1000's of people with spouses and family members have a Public Guardian, including State wards, and this number increases daily. In the not too distant future any one of us may become unable to make our own decisions and become involved with the Guardianship Tribunal and their "God" like powers.
Mr President, from the experience of 1000's of distress calls and correspondence over a 3 year period, I know the individuals that are Public Guardians or varying Guardianship authority staff members are not always adequately trained, wise enough or experienced enough with the elderly or disabled to be given the powers that this Bill proposes.
Section 21A(1)(c) gives a staff member of the Public Guardian, The Minister or Director-Generals’ offices the power to enforce guardianship orders upon authorisation of their respective office.
Section 21A(2) then proposes that the staff member alone needs only to feel an action is either "reasonable" or "desirable" to render them "not liable to any action, liability, claim or demand arising out of the taking of that measure or action".
It is neither reasonable nor desirable that one public servant should make decisions of the magnitude of drug testing or medical intervention on the life of a person who cannot give approval and to the exclusion of family members as proposed in Section 21(2A) " . . . the guardian of a person the subject of a guardianship order (whether plenary or limited) has the
power, to the exclusion of any other person, to make decisions."
In practice, it can be these public guardians who seek an order from the Guardianship Tribunal and these public guardians who will see these orders are carried out by whatever "cause any such required assessment to be made as specified." (Section 24(2)). This will cause conflict!
Does "as specified" in the aforesaid section refer to the 1994 Consultative Paper put out by The Guardianship Board?
Quote; "If the person fails to comply with that requirement either the President or Deputy President of the Board may issue a warrant empowering designated persons or police officers to enter the premises where the person is and take them to have the appropriate assessment which will be at the cost of the Board."
I respectfully suggest that the members of this house look at the Innes case in New Zealand where the Government accepted fault for the death of Mr. Innes when Police Officers were called to transport him for psychiatric assessment.
On the one hand this Bill provides for the introduction of "Enduring Guardianship" legislation but in Section 61(1) it takes it away with; "A guardianship order made in respect of a person who has appointed an enduring guardian operates to suspend for the duration of the order, all authority of the enduring guardian to exercise a function under the appointment." and
(2) If a person who is the subject of a guardianship order purports to appoint an enduring guardian, the purported appointment is of no effect."
All through this Bill, the Tribunal is given "escape" protection clauses. e.g. "Despite" subsections are proposed several times to allow the Tribunal the choice of whether or not they will review a decision, whether or not a person "on a particular day or during a particular period" was in need of a guardian, nullifying any personal wishes, whether or not they are required to give notices of intention, whether or not, now a single Tribunal member, will allow legal representation by Tribunal Hearing participators.
These escape subsections effectively negate much of the positive legislation.
This Bill leaves the often prohibitive costs of the Supreme Court as the only place of redress.
I have letters from The NSW Ombudsman, a Director of The Australian Securities Commission, a Commissioner of Police, the NSW Governor and members of the NSW Parliament all stating they have no power to intervene in Guardianship disputes.
The PRESIDENT: Order! Is the honourable member quoting from a document?
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI: Yes. I made that clear before I started to quote.
The PRESIDENT: The member will identify the document.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI: I am quoting a letter addressed to the President of the Legislative Council, New South Wales Parliament, by the Carers of Protected Persons Action Group. The letter is written by Patricia Costa, founder of the COPPA Group.
The PRESIDENT: How much of the letter remains to be quoted?
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI: There are another two paragraphs of the quotation.
The PRESIDENT: The member knows my views on lengthy quotations.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI: The letter continues:
The Guardianship Board President and The Protective Commissioner and their authorised personnel, in public speeches and all their public literature argues the advantages of their intervention in sound theory. But in practice, Mr President, these theories have not worked to date as the existence of C.O.P.P.A. confirms.
I see this Guardianship Amendment Bill as exasperating an already intolerable situation.
The Guardianship Act 1987 was passed into law by this Parliament at 4.15a.m. in the morning.
How many members of this House read the Act? How many have read this Guardianship Amendment Bill 1997?
Mr President, I urge each member of this House to give the consideration now that this Bill demands. I ask for an urgent Senate Inquiry into all aspects of Guardianship and before this Guardianship Amendment Bill 1997 is passed.
The PRESIDENT: Order! I take this opportunity to give the House some guidance in relation to quotations. It is, of course, proper for members to read onto the record letters or quotations. If these are lengthy - and by lengthy I mean taking more than 30 seconds to read - I respectfully suggest that a better process would be for the member simply to refer to the source of the letter and the essence of it, and then to seek leave to incorporate it in Hansard.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI: I accept your guidance, Mr President. I have another letter received from the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and the University of Sydney neuropsychology unit which argues very strongly for the acceptance of the Minister’s amendments. This letter argues that the
only people that can have these tests done on them are people who are in some way intellectually disabled or unable to give consent of their own accord. In part that letter states:
Founder of The C.O.P.P.A. GROUP.
Member of The Executive Board of Carers Taskforce Inc.
. . . consent is invariably forthcoming, [from the guardians] but the exercise is often a major issue of logistics and phone and fax communication, especially out of normal working hours.
I seek leave to have the letter incorporated in Hansard.
The PRESIDENT: How long is the letter?
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI: It is one page long.
The Honourable Patricia Forsythe, MLC
Parliament House, Sydney
Thank you for sending me the relevant section of the proposed amendments to the Guardianship Act. I write to you as a medical researcher who is actively involved in clinical trials of new substances that may protect the brain after a stroke. I also chair the University of Sydney Human Ethics Committee. We have discussed the problems arising from the current Guardianships Act at our meetings, but I am not able to circulate the proposed amendments for discussion until our June meeting. As such, this letter can only encompass my views, and not the official views of the Committee as a whole.
At present almost all the stroke trials in Australia are directed at patients with moderate to large strokes. Consequently, consciousness may be impaired, or the power to understand and to speak may be diminished. The medication (or placebo) must be given quickly, usually within six hours of a stroke. The trials are all set up under NH&MRC guidelines and all have been approved by the appropriate Ethics Committees.
It is my understanding that in all States except New South Wales, and perhaps South Australia, the patient’s relative or other responsible person is able to give consent for the patient to participate in such a trial. In New South Wales at the moment the Guardianship Board must be approached to give consent, as by definition the trials are of new treatments that have not yet gained widespread medical support. Although not required by law, the Board will currently only give consent if the patient’s relatives also approve. It is my experience that consent is almost invariably forthcoming, but the exercise is often a major issue of logistics and phone and fax communication, especially out of normal working hours.
In seeking to protect patients from certain experimental, inappropriate and unacceptable medical procedures, sections of the current Guardianship Act and Regulations were developed. I do not think that the framers of the legislation intended that properly conducted clinical trials, under the auspices of the NH&MRC and Institutional Ethics Committees, should be caught by the same legislative provisions. I have reviewed the proposed amendments and believe that they will help to foster important clinical trials without in any way harming the rights and welfare of eligible patients.
JDG Watson, DPhil, MB, BS, BSc, FRACP
Senior Lecturer in Medicine, University of Sydney
Director, Neuropsychology Unit, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital
Clinical Academic, Neurologist, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital
cc. Ms Gail Briody, Ethics Officer, University of Sydney
The PRESIDENT: Order! The guidance I gave a moment ago is based on the principle that Parliament is not here to receive the written thoughts of other people, but the thoughts and comments of members. Members are, of course, perfectly entitled to draw upon the views of other people and the comments of other people to support their own views, but members are not here primarily to record the views of other people.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI: I am sure that the entire House will be relieved by your ruling, Mr President. I have read those two letters onto the record of the House to draw to the Minister’s attention - although I am sure he knows already - that there is a wide divergence of opinion about this particular part of the Act. As long ago as October 1995 the Chairman of the New South Wales Council for Intellectual Disability, Mr Jacobsen, expressed concern about these provisions. For my own part I support this part of the legislation. I consider it to be wisely written and wisely conceived and I believe that it will bring an enormous benefit to the people who are concerned with this issue. On the other hand, I completely support my colleague the Hon. Patricia Forsythe, because there are people who will be concerned by this issue and should have their voices heard. If they are to be heard before a parliamentary committee, since Parliament is the supreme generator of power within this great State of New South Wales, then that is the way it should be. I completely support what the Hon. Patricia Forsythe has proposed.
I have already made my contribution to the debate on the mental health legislation, which will be debated at a later time, but another vexing issue is that if somebody is intellectually incapable of making decisions and is also mentally ill, to whom does one apply for approval should that person be required to undergo a special procedure? Should it be through the Mental Health Review Tribunal and its new process or should the application be made to the Guardianship Board? Both organisations have perfectly proper arrangements to give consent for
people not able to give consent for themselves for different reasons. As I said before, this duplication of effort must be sorted out. I confirm my support for the bill and for the consultation process, but express my view that the process should extend a little further.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE [9.30 p.m.]: Call to Australia supports the Guardianship (Amendment) Bill. The Guardianship Act was enacted in 1987 to respond to the needs of older people and adults with decision-making disabilities. A discussion paper inviting broad community consultation was the basis for the introduction of the Guardianship (Amendment) Bill. This bill brings about certain major changes in the operations of the Guardianship Board, which will become the Guardianship Tribunal. The process will better reflect the role of the organisation because it will consider evidence and decide whether to appoint a guardian or financial manager for a particular person. The bill will also change authority for the appointment of financial managers from the Protected Estates Act to the Guardianship Act.
The bill introduces flexible financial management over the estate of a person under care. Currently the Guardianship Act only allows for the making of a fixed financial order. No variation can be made to that order unless the order is revoked. This provision allows for variations of the original order to better suit the client. Enduring guardianship is also brought into play through this bill. This process is similar to a power of attorney over financial affairs. It enables people to nominate someone to make personal decisions for them, for example, where they live, what services they receive and what medical and dental treatment they receive. The bill will also allow the tribunal to recognise guardians appointed in other States and jurisdictions.
An important aspect of the bill is that it allows a number of people to be nominated for an enduring guardianship order. One might nominate a spouse as the first person responsible followed by children or other relatives to take on that role in the event of illness or incapacity of the first-nominated person. A controversial provision of the legislation is for access by the person under care to new treatments. Many honourable members have received submissions on this issue and some members have referred at length to the document forwarded by the Carers of Protected Persons Action group.
Call to Australia received the same document from COPPA. The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti has quoted the entire document, so I shall not quote further from it. The bill will allow those who cannot consent to their own treatment access to new treatments currently available only through clinical trial. Such treatments may benefit some clients through a clinical trial. The tribunal may delegate the final decision to the person responsible. That is the most controversial aspect of the bill and in a separate letter to the Hon. Elaine Nile and me COPPA was critical of the bill, making particular reference to this aspect. Patricia Costa, the founder of COPPA, said:
I believe the entire subject of guardianship has reached crisis stage and feel that there has not been adequate consultation with this proposed Bill with peak organisations concerned.
Consultation was undertaken, but COPPA may not have been involved or may have been opposed to some provisions contained in the legislation. Sometimes it is not possible to achieve the total agreement of all parties involved in a consultation process. That may have been the result with COPPA. The Minister outlined a number of safeguards contained in the bill. He stated that the drugs or techniques tested in the clinical trial are intended to cure or alleviate a particular condition from which the person suffers.
Under the provisions of this bill, before there can be any involvement in treatment the requirements to be met are as follows: the trial must be approved by the relevant ethics committee and comply with any relevant guidelines issued by the National Health and Medical Research Council; the development of the drugs or techniques must have reached a stage at which safety and ethical considerations make it appropriate that the drugs or techniques be available to persons with that condition, even if those persons are not able to give consent to undergoing the trial; the trial will not involve any known substantial risk to the person or, if there are existing treatments for the condition concerned, it will not involve material risks greater than the risks associated with those treatments; and finally, that it is in the best interests of the person with the condition that he or she undergo the trial.
Those requirements appear to provide the necessary safeguards, but the community and particularly those groups affected by the legislation have some concern. Those fears are not justified, but in the case of aged persons, even an imagined situation can cause stress. We should err on the side of caution to remove those fears, even if the problem is the perception of aged people. For that reason, perhaps there is some value in referring that particular section of the bill to the Standing Committee on Social Issues to undertake further dialogue with individuals and groups that represent the people in this category under the Guardianship
Tribunal. The social issues committee already has a heavy agenda, but it need only set aside some short time to consider this issue. The process would not take any longer than perhaps a few days to hear from witnesses and then to advise the Minister of the results. That process may remove some of the fears that have been expressed to honourable members. I am prepared to take guidance from the Minister on the matter.
The Hon. J. F. RYAN [9.38 p.m.]: I shall briefly address the Guardianship (Amendment) Bill. I appeal to the Minister to handle this issue in a conciliatory manner. The only controversial change of all the amendments before the House is the one relating to the experimentation with drugs. It is a serious matter for someone to find himself in the care of the State through the Guardianship Board or the Protective Commissioner. The matter should be handled conservatively. Unless there are special reasons, if there is not overwhelming consensus for the introduction of some new change, it is better to make sure sufficient public consultation occurs for the community to have confidence in the change.
The change the Minister seeks to make about experimentation with new medication is a reasonably subtle and small change. However, if the House did not proceed with that aspect of the bill, very little would change for any average person with dementia under the protection of the Guardianship Board. If new medication is available that might assist a person with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, the bottom line would be the medication could be used provided that it was prescribed for treatment of that person. The only circumstances under which this would change would be where it was possible to prescribe it to some and have others on a placebo. Any beneficial effect of new medication should be available to anyone with dementia or anyone under the protection of the Guardianship Board. It is only a matter of allowing the scientific community the opportunity to experiment with different forms of medication. The concept of experimenting with people who are not able to speak for themselves is one that must be treated with enormous caution.
Whilst there is considerable consensus supporting this change it could also be said that there is considerable reservation about making the change. Given that reservation, simple commonsense dictates that one should not proceed that way until there has been an opportunity for a public inquiry, which could be managed by the social issues committee or something of that nature. In that way, all the concerns of the community can be ventilated and responded to properly. As I discovered when speaking to various groups about this bill, there was strong support for almost all of its measures. That is because the bill generally states that it is up to individuals to have as much control over their lives as possible and that the State should intervene by way of the Protective Commissioner or Guardianship Board only when absolutely necessary and at no other time.
Whilst I have great respect for the work of the Guardianship Board, as a member of Parliament I have received representations which have given me cause for reservation. I understand why people have reservations about this important issue. For people not able to make decisions for themselves, having a body such as the Guardianship Board is of terrific benefit, if used for that purpose. However, many constituents have illustrated to me that there are circumstances where the Guardianship Board has been asked to intervene in family circumstances in which a person with dementia has had two families, as a result of a subsequent marriage. The original biological children are concerned that the new marriage will somehow deprive them of an inheritance. In such instances the children go to the Guardianship Board in order to protect assets and things of that nature. I have certainly experienced occasions where that has happened and I have not been able to satisfy myself that that has not been the case.
So there is reason to be conservative on this matter. By moving an amendment to delete one small aspect of this bill, the Opposition is indicating that it is sensible to be conservative. There is no obvious reason to rush headlong into change no matter how strongly that change might be supported. It is sensible to be conservative; nothing will be lost if this amendment is passed this evening to delete that single provision. We will gain time to win the confidence of the community. When controlling people’s lives and destiny by Government control bureaucrats, no matter how well meaning, can only second-guess decisions which the person involved might have made.
I strongly support the reservations expressed by the Opposition. I urge the House to pass the amendment, not because the Opposition is trying to be difficult, but because I came to the strong conclusion that there was a need to be conservative. I did not have the personal expertise to come up with ready answers to allay the concerns that were put to me. It is sensible to allow that to be done in public where concerns can be expressed. Of course we can always revisit this matter at another time. Other than that, I am happy to join with the Government in supporting every other measure in the bill. I commend the Government for processing
this bill, with that single minor reservation which is important to the people who will be affected by that change.
The Hon. R. D. DYER (Minister for Community Services, Minister for Aged Services, and Minister for Disability Services) [9.45 p.m.], in reply: I thank all members who have spoken in this debate for their support of the bill, albeit with some reservations. I do not wish to be contentious; however I express some disappointment and concern. Hitherto the Guardianship Board has been dealt with on a bipartisan basis, but that bipartisanship appears to be in danger of collapse.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: I totally supported your legislation.
The Hon. R. D. DYER: I am not referring to anything that the Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti said during the debate. However, I understood the Hon. Patricia Forsythe expressed some reservations regarding the performance of the board, having regard to certain groups who have expressed misgivings, and worse. In the usual case people who are related to a person who might otherwise come before the board can sort out their own affairs and the matter can be dealt with on a consensual basis. Generally speaking, in contentious matters that is not possible and the board has to be approached.
In litigation, leaving aside the Guardianship Board, in the ordinary case one party wins and one loses. The loser will not ordinarily say that his case was deficient, that he did not give his evidence well, or that the law was not on his side. Rather he will say that the judge was partial, or that the lawyer did not present his case properly, or something of that kind. Lawyers are not particularly popular and one reason for that is that one half of litigants always lose.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: Every time there is a case someone loses.
The Hon. R. D. DYER: Yes.
The Hon. J. F. Ryan: It happens in politics too.
The Hon. R. D. DYER: That should be a truism, but it is the case with the Guardianship Board as well. Where there is contention regarding a particular matter, the party who does not succeed in obtaining the order sought will be aggrieved and will express that grievance. The Guardianship Board was set up under legislation introduced by the previous Labor Government in 1987. It was put in place by the incoming non-Labor Government. It is my belief that the Guardianship Board, to be renamed the Guardianship Tribunal, has acquitted itself very well. It is little wonder that some people are aggrieved on the basis that I have mentioned.
The Hon. Patricia Forsythe raised an issue of detail relating to section 16(3) of the bill which deals in essence with the issue of joint guardians. I am advised that that provision came about as a result of a request from the Office of the Public Guardian. I am further assured that the Attorney General’s budget has been augmented to fund the private guardian support unit. I am told that the Attorney General has received ongoing additional funding for this purpose. In that regard, while not wishing to pre-empt the budget debate, reference is made to this matter at page 169 of Budget Paper No. 3, Volume 1. In truth, the only substantial matter at issue in regard to this bill is that relating to clinical trials.
What might be called the guinea pig issue does not arise, for a number of reasons. For example, no-one can be involved in a clinical trial unless that person has the condition the trial is intended to treat. To be fair, the Hon. Patricia Forsythe presented the matter in quite a responsible way, and I do not suggest otherwise. However, not only must the person have a condition the trial is intended to treat, but protections are afforded by the guidelines of the National Health and Medical Research Council - a very responsible body, not radical by any stretch of the imagination.
In addition, the protocols required by ethics committees of hospitals are relevant, and they provide a whole range of requirements before a person can be included in the trial. The trials have to have reached a stage where safety and ethical considerations make it appropriate that the treatment should be used on people who cannot consent to their own treatment. That is, it is only at a late stage in the development of the treatment that this can occur. Furthermore, it must be in the best interests of the people that they be involved in the trial. The two examples that can be given are in relation to strokes and dementia.
Obviously I am a lawyer, I am not a medical practitioner, but I am advised that there is no proven treatment to overcome secondary brain damage. There are developing treatments presently available only through drug trials, that is, in effect no treatment is available currently other than good hospital care and monitoring. I am advised that new drugs to retard or even stop dementia are getting to the stage where it is proper to use them on people
with more advanced dementia who cannot consent to their own treatment. Unless the amendments contained in the bill are approved people with dementia in New South Wales will not get access to these newly developing treatments for some years.
For the purpose of approving clinical trials, there will in fact be three members selected to sit on the tribunal, as it is to become known, because of their experience. One will be the senior presiding member, quite often the president or the deputy president of the tribunal. They must be legal practitioners of at least seven years standing, but in the usual case they would have much more standing than that, and very substantial legal experience. There would also be as a member of the tribunal sitting on the particular matter a professional member, usually a doctor and usually with experience in clinical trials and ethical issues. Finally, there would be a community member, usually with experience in medical and ethical matters.
Regarding the clinical trial issue, from my experience in politics, which extends to almost 18 years in this House, one does not ordinarily have to stir up people to express views. The Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby said that the only correspondence she received was from the Alzheimer’s Association, which supports the bill and this part of the bill. Reference has been made to Mr John Jacobsen and the Council for Intellectual Disability. Mr Jacobsen expressed some reservations and concerns about 12 months ago. However, he has been very quiet regarding the matter since. Mr Jacobsen is not a shrinking violet; he is not the sort of person who would hesitate to express his views on any occasion if he felt it to be appropriate.
My advice is that the concern of Mr Jacobsen and his body relates at this stage, in the events that have happened, to the aspect of consultation rather than to the concept itself. However, I make the general point that when one considers other pieces of legislation that have come before this Parliament, such as the Judicial Officers Bill of some years ago, to take one example, one did not have to seek out people to find out what their views were. I believe that if there were deep-seated or widely held views regarding drug trials. The seven members of the crossbenches certainly would have been inundated with correspondence expressing reservation about or even opposition to the drug trial aspect.
The true position is that in general support has been expressed for the drug trials by the Alzheimer’s Association and by the association representing stroke victims. Both of those organisations very strongly support these provisions. There has not been a lobbying campaign against this part of the bill, although the Hon. Patricia Forsythe might have been approached. However, I am entitled to say that in my experience if there is widespread concern, the people who are likely to be approached rather quickly, if not first, would be the seven members of the crossbenches.
The Hon. I. Cohen: Yes, I have been approached.
The Hon. R. D. DYER: The Hon. I. Cohen evidently has been approached. However, my impression, from what the Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby in particular said, is that there has been a comparative lack of approaches. If there has been a campaign of opposition to this part of the bill, it has been the most remarkably quiet campaign that I have noticed in very many years. It is generally acknowledged that the bill contains many useful innovations and reforms regarding the practical operation of the Guardianship Board, to be named the Guardianship Tribunal. In Committee we will deal with the amendments foreshadowed by the Hon. Patricia Forsythe regarding the clinical trials issue. I thank her for her courtesy in giving plenty of notice of the amendments. I indicate in advance that I will be facilitating consideration of those amendments in globo to save the time of the committee. I commend the bill to the House.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a second time.
The Hon. PATRICIA FORSYTHE [10.00 p.m.], by leave: I move Opposition amendments Nos 1 to 7 in globo:
No. 1 Page 31, Schedule 1, lines 3-12. Omit all words on those lines.
No. 2 Page 31, Schedule 1-, lines 15-27. Omit all words on those lines.
No. 3 Page 33, Schedule 1, lines 19-21. Omit all words on those lines.
No. 4 Pages 33-35, Schedule 1, lines 24 on page 33 to 24 on page 35. Omit all words on those lines.
No. 5 Page 37, Schedule 1, proposed section 51A, lines 21 and 22. Omit ", special treatment or treatment by way of a clinical trial".
Insert instead "or special treatment".
No. 6 Page 38, Schedule 1, proposed section 51A, lines 9 and 10. Omit ", special treatment and clinical trial".
Insert instead "and special treatment".
No. 7 Page 42, Schedule 1, proposed section 76A, lines 13-17. Omit "However, the report under this section must include details of all clinical trials (within the meaning of section 33) in which any person under guardianship participated during the period covered by the report."
In moving these amendments I have to say that, to some extent, the debate seems to have degenerated into an issue of who said what to whom and when, or whether anyone actually spoke to anyone else about other issues rather than the substantive issue, which relates to clinical drug trials. It appears to me that so much of the debate hinges on whether the section should be deleted because of community concerns. The second phase would be for the Minister to refer this matter to the Standing Committee on Social Issues or, if he chooses, to a legislation committee.
There is certainly precedent in this Chamber for a bill or part of a bill to be sent to a committee for further consideration. The issue tonight is whether the Committee should omit that part of the bill that deals with clinical trials. To suggest that only a few people in the community are concerned about this issue is to misstate the fact. The group known as Carers of Protected Persons Action represents, according to a letter that I received, more than 700 families. The petition that I tabled earlier today was signed by 625 people. Although I did not received 700 individual letters, it is quite normal for members of Parliament to receive letters from peak bodies that represent a substantial body of opinion.
The Hon. I. Cohen referred to the Intellectual Disability Rights Service. Certainly I have been lobbied by that organisation. On 12 May I received a telephone message, although I did not speak to her at the time, from Joan Hughes from COPPA. She has raised concerns about clinical trials. Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile said it all with regard to the omission of this provision. He said quite eloquently that when there is concern in the community and when there is anxiety, particularly among older people, we should do something to relieve that concern and anxiety.
The Minister must concede that this is groundbreaking legislation. It will give allow a class of people access to drug trials. The trials will be administered only to those who suffer from a particular condition. Not all who submit to the trials will benefit from them, because some will receive only a placebo. That is very much the issue at heart here. Honourable members are examining the fundamental rights of people. I was indeed surprised that the Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby was happy to concede those rights. I rather thought that one’s rights were of some significance to the Australian Democrats.
It is because of some measure of concern in the community that the Opposition seeks to delete this provision from the bill. As I said earlier, and I know the Minister acknowledged it, there are arguments both for and against this legislation and there is a strong body of medical opinion in support of extending drug trials. If some people in New South Wales are to be denied access to some trials, the situation with regard to the rights of people in the other States should also be made clear. Therefore, my amendments seek to omit from the bill any provision dealing with drug trials in order to allow honourable members to give more earnest consideration to the rights of those under the care of the Guardianship Board - that is, as a class of people.
At present people suffering from secondary brain damage may participate in clinical drug trials. I accept that there are important safeguards in place; they have been well documented and are clearly set out in the bill. However, honourable members should be given the opportunity to hear the concerns of groups such as the Intellectual Disability Rights Service, COPPA and the Council on Intellectual Disability. To do otherwise would be to deny many people in the community an important right. We do not and should not give up rights easily. I believe members should err on the side of the conservative position and allow the debate to be properly aired; to allow members of Parliament to put on the record, more strongly than they have been able to do in this debate, the issues for and against the legislation.
As I said, the Intellectual Disability Rights Service has very strong reservations about the legislation. That organisation represents a significant group of people in the community. A measure of doubt does exist, and Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile expressed it succinctly in relation to the aged community. He said that we must seek to settle that anxiety. I could think of nothing more appropriate than to have the matter referred to a committee, which would be required to report back within a narrow timeframe. It will not cause undue delay, and it will allow an opportunity for the debate to be properly aired. If all concerns cannot be satisfied, at least honourable members will have a better
understanding of the community’s concerns. The medical and research professions may be able to allay some of the fears of the community.
The Hon. R. D. DYER (Minister for Community Services, Minister for Aged Services, and Minister for Disability Services) [10.07 p.m.]: The Government is opposed to the Opposition’s amendments. During my reply at the second reading stage I advanced arguments in favour of the clinical trials in some considerable detail. I pointed out the various protections and safeguards that are available, not only available but required before clinical trials can occur. The Hon. Patricia Forsythe mentioned the placebo issue. As a matter of statistical practice it is necessary for a placebo to be administered to some people taking part in a trial. If that is not done, there is no control group and one could not tell whether the results being obtained are statistically significant or not.
In order to make the trial valid and effective, a placebo must be administered to some persons. I was amazed to hear, and I take it that the Hon. Patricia Forsythe is accurate in this regard, that the Intellectual Disability Rights Service might have expressed misgivings about the legislation. My advice is that it has certainly not expressed misgivings to the Government or to the Guardianship Board. I take it that the Hon. Patricia Forsythe is not mistakenly confusing that body with the Council for Intellectual Disability.
The Hon. Patricia Forsythe: It is the Intellectual Disability Rights Service.
The Hon. R. D. DYER: The honourable member has shown me a handwritten note. However, I have not sighted any correspondence conveying any concern from that service. In the course of my duties as Minister for Disability Services I have correspondence from time to time with the Intellectual Disability Rights Service about disability issues. I advise the Committee that that service is not backward in coming forward to put its views, and I am confident that it would have approached me if it had any misgivings about this aspect of the bill. It is not necessary for me to restate what I said in my second reading speech. The Government believes that a case for clinical trials has been made out. Even the Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti, during the second reading debate, said that on a personal basis he felt this was a sound approach. That may not be the Opposition’s collective view; however, the view of the medical profession seems to be that drug trials are necessary and appropriate and will in many cases help people who would otherwise be beyond help and whose condition could not be improved. I rely on the provisions in the bill, the undertakings I have given, and the conditions are set out in the bill regarding clinical trials.
The Hon. I. COHEN [10.10 p.m.]: I support the Opposition’s amendment. My office has been approached confidentially by a number of people and organisations, so I am not at liberty to reveal their names. The Alzheimer’s Support Group represents about 40 per cent of those people who are under guardianship, and another 60 per cent have representation with other bodies and individuals. Whilst the Alzheimer’s Support Group consists in many cases of friends and families of those who suffer from this condition, other advocate groups have expressed some concern about the issue that is being debated. It is a matter of great sensitivity and importance. As a Green, on a matter such as this, which relates to peoples rights, it would be appropriate for me to err on the conservative side and allow a further ventilation of the issue. I therefore support the Opposition’s amendments.
Question - That the amendments be agreed to - put.
The Committee divided.
Mr Bull Mrs Nile
Mrs Chadwick Rev. Nile
Mr Cohen Dr Pezzutti
Mr Corbett Mr Ryan
Mrs Forsythe Mr Samios
Mr Gallacher Mrs Sham-Ho
Miss Gardiner Mr Rowland Smith
Mr Jones Tellers,
Mr Kersten Mr Jobling
Mr Lynn Mr Moppett
Mrs Arena Ms Saffin
Dr Burgmann Mr Shaw
Ms Burnswoods Ms Staunton
Mr Dyer Mrs Symonds
Mr Egan Mr Tingle
Mr Johnson Mr Vaughan
Ms Kirkby Tellers,
Mr Macdonald Mrs Isaksen
Mr Obeid Mr Primrose
Mr Hannaford Mr Manson
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendments agreed to.
Schedule as amended agreed to.
Bill reported from Committee with amendments and report adopted.
MENTAL HEALTH LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL
Debate resumed from 20 May.
The Hon. PATRICIA STAUNTON [10.22 p.m.]: I support this bill. I preface my comments about the amendments in the bill with a general statement about mental health. It is fair to say that the development of modern-day health care systems - overborne as they are by advances in science and technology - and the provision of care and treatment for people suffering from what is generally referred to as mental illness have had a chequered and somewhat shameful history in Australia and many other developed countries. From the early beginnings of European settlement in Australia until comparatively recent times the provision of mental health services for those in need was characterised by social stigma, community rejection and custodial, institutional care.
For example, it was only relatively recently, in 1958, that the name of the relevant legislation relating to the legal status, care and control of persons deemed to be mentally ill in New South Wales was changed from the Lunacy Act to the Mental Health Act. Fortunately, in the last 20 years there has been considerable progress in mental health care and treatment. The community at large is slowly recognising that mental health is as important as physical health in the development of individual and community better health strategies. In addition, I would like to think, and I hope, that much of the stigma attached to mental illness is being eroded, albeit slowly, by public education and informed debate. There has been a move in some States - and it has certainly occurred in New South Wales, which I am pleased to note - to separate the care of the mentally ill from those deemed to be either intellectually disabled or developmentally disabled, previously known as intellectually handicapped, where that is able to be done.
More and more - and this is critical to modern-day mental health care - when the condition of the patient or client permits, mental health care is moving away from long-term institutional care to community care and treatment. As a result, mental health legislation in some States, including New South Wales, is now reflecting that trend, providing for a variety of community-orientated care and treatment orders. Credit must be given to both coalition and Labor governments, which since the early 1980s have made an important contribution to amending mental health legislation in New South Wales. Not one side of politics can take the high moral stance of assuming that it was in fact the forerunner in this regard.
It is most pleasing - and I say this from my experience before becoming a member of this House, when I was involved in the health care system, including mental health - that governments of all political persuasions have had the good sense and foresight to allow New South Wales to move ahead with mental health legislation. A most pleasing bipartisan approach has been taken to this important area of care. This bill, which will amend the 1990 mental health legislation, arises partly because of problems with the interpretation and application of section 9, which this bill has been drafted to address. To understand the difficulties that have arisen with section 9 it is important also to understand the wide-ranging objects of the bill, which are properly encompassed in section 4(2) of the Mental Health Act, which provides:
It is the intention of Parliament that the provisions of this Act are to be interpreted and that every function, discretion and jurisdiction conferred or imposed by this Act is, as far as practicable, to be informed or exercised so that:
(a) persons who are mentally ill or who are mentally disordered receive the best possible care and treatment in the least restrictive environment enabling the care and treatment to be effectively given; and
(b) in providing for the care and treatment of persons who are mentally ill or who are mentally disordered, any restriction on the liberty of patients and other persons who are mentally ill or mentally disordered and any interference with their rights, dignity and self-respect are kept to the minimum necessary in the circumstances.
Those objects are laudable and are very important directions by the Parliament of this State to the people who have to operate within the provisions of the Act. They require people to make sure that clients or patients who come into their care do so from the perspective of the least restrictive environment and that any interference with their rights is kept to a minimum. Those who practise in this area, and have strived so hard to observe the objects of the Mental Health Act, have caused some of the problems that have arisen in relation to
section 9 of the Act. When one has regard to the overriding objects of the Act and then notes that section 9 states that one has also to have regard to questions such as the serious physical harm that may occur to a patient or client and the need to address the type of risk the mentally ill person is in or may be placed in, one recognises that in erring on the side of the most appropriate determination to be made there are times when people will perhaps not be admitted to correct care when they might need it. That is what has happened.
Experience with the Mental Health Act has shown that because of the way in which section 9 has been interpreted by practitioners, some patients or clients who on balance - and that is the only way it can be expressed - should be admitted for care, treatment and control have missed out. They have, as it were, fallen through the cracks created by the legislation, the objects of the Act and section 9 in particular. That is nobody’s fault except perhaps a most positive interpretation - some might say a very narrow interpretation - of the term "least restrictive environment" and the provisions of section 9. It is to be hoped that proposed new section 9 will address the problem. I wish to comment also on other matters encompassed in the proposed amendments to the Mental Health Act.
The bill seeks to amend section 24 of the Act by giving power to a member of the Police Service to apprehend a person in "any place" who appears to be mentally disordered. At present the Act provides that the police can apprehend a person only in "a public place". I believe that the amendment is appropriate and sensible. As we know, the behaviour of people who may require apprehension for their care, treatment and control does not very often occur in a public place. It is more often that a person’s behaviour in his or her own home suddenly becomes aberrant and calls for intervention. Often other people in the household cannot cope and cannot control that person. Such behaviour often occurs in a person’s workplace. The restriction in the current section 24 has caused difficulties in practical application and the substitution of "any place" for "a public place" is welcome.
As somebody relatively familiar with the Act, I make the comment that section 24 is the only provision in the Mental Health Act in which one finds reference to a person who is mentally disturbed. The Act makes a number of references to what is meant by mental illness; what is meant by someone being mentally ill, in addition to the requirement to have a mental illness; and what is meant by a mentally disordered person. The Act does not, however, define a mentally disturbed person. Reference to a mentally disturbed person is made only once in the legislation, in section 24, in relation to the powers given to the Police Service. I find that a curious anomaly in the Act that is not addressed in the bill.
Given the consistency of approach followed through all of the other provisions in the bill, I have no idea why proposed new section 24 uses the term "mentally disturbed", which is not defined, for the purposes of assisting the Police Service in the execution of its duty. It may well be that the matter is addressed in any future amendments to the legislation. I do not suggest that anomaly will cause significant problems, but it is a curious one-off in an otherwise clinically consistent bill. I do not believe it is necessary for me to comment on every amendment contained in the bill, but I shall speak to those I consider to be particularly relevant and important.
There is a very important change made to section 204 of the Act. For honourable members who are not familiar with that provision, section 204 deals with the application of what is referred to as special medical treatment. To find out what is meant by "special medical treatment" under the Act, it is necessary to turn to the dictionary of terms used in the Act. For the purposes of section 204, special medical treatment is defined as a treatment, procedure, operation or examination that is intended or is reasonably likely to have the effect of rendering permanently infertile the person on whom it is carried out, or any other medical treatment that is declared by the regulations to be special medical treatment.
On anybody’s reading of that definition, the application of special medical treatment can have radical outcomes for the people who are subjected to it and therefore it is critically important that there be appropriate and proper safeguards for any decision taken to subject a person to special medical treatment by definition under section 204. The additions to sections 204(2A) and 204(2B) are designed to provide the safeguards needed in relation to special medical treatment. Proposed new sections 204(2A) and 204(2B) set out clearly the requirements that the Mental Health Review Tribunal must observe in giving its approval to special medical treatment for those clients or patients who will be subjected to it.
Proposed new section 286F inserts completely new provisions into the legislation and deals with requirements that must be observed in the transfer of mentally ill patients to and from New South Wales. The new provisions are clearly needed. I have
experienced at first hand the difficulties, of both a clinical and a practical nature, posed when one has severely psychotic patients who have come from another State and require to be treated immediately and then be transferred back to their place of residence in another State. Because of the bureaucratic problems created, I welcome these amendments to the Mental Health Act.
The Hon. M. R. Kersten: It is a bureaucratic nightmare.
The Hon. PATRICIA STAUNTON: As the honourable member has said, it can be a bureaucratic nightmare. The amendments highlight an important and pressing need in mental health legislation in Australia. In my view they highlight the need for a model national code for mental health legislation. I have had cause over the years to refer to and review the mental health legislation of each of the States of this country, which reveals only too vividly the widely divergent approaches to mental health legislation that the States of Australia have adopted. Some States do not have any definition of mental illness in their legislation or what it means for a person to be mentally ill. Some States have not, as New South Wales has in an enlightened way, taken the approach in legislation of separating the care of the mentally ill from that of the intellectually or developmentally disabled. The challenge of creating a model national code is very important. It is not a challenge or task that is without precedent.
Those honourable members who are familiar with successful attempts in the past by the Commonwealth to set a standard for forward-thinking legislation will remember that in 1976 the then Commonwealth Attorney-General, Mr Ellicott, referred the matter of human tissue transplant to the Australian Law Reform Commission under wide-ranging terms of reference. The commission produced a report in 1977 entitled "Human Tissue Transplants". One of the most important features of that report, which was to be found in appendix 4, was draft legislation that was presented not only to the Commonwealth but to each of the States to be picked up for the purposes of nationally consistent legislation in that important field of health care. Those of us who are familiar with that legislation know that each State now has consistent human tissue legislation dealing with regenerative and non-regenerative tissue transplantation.
Outside the health field the Commonwealth has produced a model criminal code for each State. Honourable members would know that as part of a nationally consistent approach to vexing issues New South Wales is currently considering the model criminal code for theft, fraud, bribery and related offences. I use those only as examples because members of this House who are familiar with the Burdekin report and its inquiry into mental illness and other matters would know that some States take a shameful and regressive approach to mental health legislation. It would be a forward-thinking step if we could hope to look forward to a time when a model national code for mental health legislation will apply to mental health from the perspective of the least restrictive environment and recognise the rights and entitlements of the mentally ill. The changes proposed in the bill are to be welcomed. In a debate last week in this House about the creation and appointment of inspector-general of our prisons one of my colleagues said by way of precis, quoting Winston Churchill, that the measure of any society was how it viewed its prison system.
The Hon. Patricia Forsythe: The Hon. Jan Burnswoods and the Hon. Janelle Saffin said that.
The Hon. PATRICIA STAUNTON: I thank the Hon. Patricia Forsythe for assisting me with the names of the members responsible for that remark. Whilst I do not in any way discount that as a benchmark for any civilised society, I consider the better benchmark of any society is not how we deal just with our prisons but, more significantly, how we deal with the most vulnerable members of our society. People suffering mental illness fall into that category. Therefore, as a society we have a continual responsibility to ensure that we always apply the highest standards to the care and concerns of those people. Finally, I acknowledge two groups that should never be forgotten because of the care they deliver to the mentally ill and the developmentally disabled in our community. The first, of course, are the health professionals, those who deliver care daily to people on a long-term basis.
I assure the House that caring for people month after month, year after year and seeing very little improvement in their overall condition can sometimes create a depressing and negatively charged environment. Those health professionals are unlike those who provide care in mainstream hospitals. Those carers see the patient come in, have an operation, get better and go home. That is not seen in patients suffering mental illness: improvement is very slow and sometimes does not occur at all. It is a measure of the commitment and concern of those carers that they continue to deliver the highest quality care in what can only be considered a most difficult and challenging clinical environment. I pay tribute to them.
One could not leave any debate about mental health without paying tribute to those families who must care for family members with mental illness. Having observed the environment at close quarters, I assure the House that there can be no greater challenge for any family than to cope with and live with a family member suffering mental illness. Families must cope with that environment every day year after year. Many families witness daily the total disintegration of a personality that they love and care for. Indeed, it is a great challenge for them. In any consideration of mental health legislation and in the context in which it is debated, those people must be acknowledged and supported. Above all they must be saluted for their courage and dignity in difficult circumstances.
The Hon. I. COHEN [10.47 p.m.]: Certain community attitudes to mental illness have drastically changed over the course of history. In the seventeenth century the approach was to confine those that suffered from mental illness. The mentally ill were locked away with those convicted of crimes and others considered undesirable by society. In the early nineteenth century the mentally ill were separated from other socially unacceptable persons and legislation establishing asylums was enacted. Individuals were locked away in those asylums so that they would not be seen by society. In the 1950s new drugs and a change in attitude to the mentally ill resulted in the concept of open hospitals with locked wards only for the most intractable patients. In the late 1960s deinstitutionalisation began in New South Wales. The practice accelerated in the 1970s and 1980s. In 1965 in New South Wales 12,421 individuals were treated as inpatients.
By 1991 this figure had decreased to 2,294. One reason for the decrease was the findings and recommendations of the Richmond report after the 1983 Inquiry into Health Services for the Psychiatrically Ill and Developmentally Disabled. The Richmond report advocated deinstitutionalisation. The Greens support that concept. One key recommendation of the Richmond report was that services be delivered primarily on the basis of a system of integrated community-based networks, and that the highest priority in mental health services be given to the provision of community-based care and rehabilitation of the seriously mentally ill.
The two main objectives of the key recommendation were to provide services that maintained patients in the community and to reduce the number of fifth schedule hospitals, that is, stand-alone psychiatric hospitals. The report advocated a number of services to try to implement its key recommendations. These included the provision of after-care services, hostel accommodation, day programs and the integration of community and hospital services to provide a comprehensive service for an area. However, the deinstitutionalisation process has not been successful, mainly because of funding and management issues.
There has been insufficient provision of community-based services to successfully implement the deinstitutionalisation process. That has left many patients homeless and without the necessary skills to deal with the outside world. For instance, patients who have been institutionalised for many years have lost many social skills; they need to be retaught those skills so they can cope with the real world. In addition, inadequate provision of accommodation for deinstitutionalised people can lead them to be homeless or facing the revolving door syndrome because they have nowhere else to go. According to the Richmond report it is estimated that at least 250,000 Australians, or approximately 1.5 per cent of the population, suffer from major mental illness and approximately one in five adults have, or will develop, some form of mental disorder.
Those statistics were confirmed by the 1993 Burdekin report into human rights and mental illness. The prevalence of schizophrenia is approximately 0.5 per cent of the population; affective disorders, 11.3 per cent; and anxiety disorders prevail at the rate of 17.2 per cent. According to Parliamentary Briefing Paper No. 21/96, in 1993-94 there were 61,407 hospitalisations for mental disorders in New South Wales. Of these 27 per cent were for depression and related disorders, 14 per cent were for schizophrenic disorders and 9 per cent were for alcohol abuse and dependence. There are many theories about mental illness. The medical model is the most dominant one. That model originated in the nineteenth century when the science of psychiatry was well established. The model views mental illness as an illness like any other and is treated as such, usually with drugs.
For example, according to the medical model schizophrenia is considered to be a disease of the brain and should be treated as such. E. Torrey’s 1983 book Surviving Schizophrenia: A Family Manual argues that schizophrenia should be paralleled with such diseases as diabetes, epilepsy and cancer and that they are all scientific and biological entities. The Greens reject the strict medical model of schizophrenia. The Greens believe that many factors may contribute to the onset of schizophrenia, including socioenvironmental factors
such as stress, pressure, drug abuse, upset in social relationships, loss, grief, possibly pollution and toxic chemicals.
Medical models of depression once again focus on problems in the brain. For instance, biochemical theories state that depressions may be associated with deficiencies of certain biochemicals in the brain. That was stated by Carlson in 1987 at page 645. Physical treatments include drug treatment and electroconvulsive therapy. There are many non-medical theories about depression, including depression as grief. The assumption here is that depression is caused by a loss resulting in grief. Social origin approaches assume that depression is caused by vulnerability factors, for instance poverty and low self-esteem. Intervention is aimed at the societal level and at preventive work.
Psychodynamic approaches assume that a past painful experience has caused depression which affects current functioning. Individuals are encouraged to work through past experiences through therapy to enable them to improve their current functioning. The Greens consider medical models of mental illness to be narrow, short-sighted and failing to utilise a holistic approach to mental illness. As the Council of Social Service of New South Wales pointed out in NCOSS News November 1993, mental health policies which concentrate on medical issues seemingly forget that people with a mental illness have other needs for which they require support to assist them to live successfully in the community. At the very heart of these needs are a stable, secure and affordable place to live. Similarly, at the Burdekin inquiry an experienced psychiatrist stated:
. . . psychiatry and psychiatrists . . . view patients . . . too exclusively within a medical model, seeing any level of symptoms or disturbed behaviour as reflecting some sort of underlying pathological process, and then putting them on medication perhaps too precipitately. Many psychiatrists ignore environmental or life stresses that may have, in fact, precipitated the problems that the patient presents with, hence inadvertently increasing the patient’s dependency, lowering their self esteem and lowering their sense of empowerment as they increasingly . . . identify themselves as a patient.
The medical model of mental illness focuses on medical intervention and drug prescription. The Greens believe that a move is needed away from the current reliance on medical intervention and drug prescription towards a greater synthesis of orthodox western and alternative therapies and, above all, a holistic approach involving multidisciplinary input and preventive measures. Individuals suffering from mental illness cannot be treated in a vacuum. Their whole social and environmental being must be taken into consideration for any treatment to be effective.
The bill proposes to broaden the definition of mentally ill persons. It does this by removing the existing requirement that a person suffering from a mental illness is such a person if the person requires care, treatment or control for the protection of the person or others from serious physical harm and replaces it with a requirement that such a person requires care, treatment or control for the protection of the person or others from serious harm. The term "physical" has been removed. The effect of this is to enable other kinds of harm, such as financial harm or harm to reputation to be considered when determining whether a person can be detained as a mentally ill person. The new definition also allows an assessment to be made that when deciding whether a person is a mentally ill person, any likely deterioration in the person’s condition and its effects are to be taken into account.
Clearly the new definition widens the net of people who can be declared mentally ill and detained involuntarily. That will mean that more individuals will be scheduled and subjected to detainment or community treatment orders. The Greens oppose the broadening of the definition for the reasons set out later in this speech. The Burdekin report also found that the criteria for detention are too broadly defined. In a review of the Burdekin report prepared in 1993 as a parliamentary briefing note, Rebekah Jenkin and Sharon Rose stated:
(c) Involuntary Admission
* Criteria for detention are too broadly defined in most jurisdictions (including NSW).
* Procedures for involuntary admission in a number of States afford the exercise of a very wide discretion by the police, magistrates and medical practitioners.
* There is often insufficient provision for assessment by appropriately independent and expert medical practitioners prior to detention.
The broadening of the definition of mental illness is therefore inconsistent with the findings and recommendations of the Burdekin report. It is also inconsistent with the findings and recommendations of the Richmond report as it will lead to more people being institutionalised. The medical model’s main approach to the treatment of mental illness is through the administration of drugs or the administration of electroconvulsive therapy or ECT. The administration of drugs is either achieved on a voluntary basis by the sufferer or involuntarily if the
patient is scheduled. The broadened definition will mean that more people will be subjected to the medical model treatment of mental illness which basically means drugs and/or involuntary detainment and sometimes ECT. The Greens have serious problems with that for the following reasons. The drugs administered to treat mental illness can cause serious side effects. The following passage appeared at page 238 of the Burdekin report:
. . . the use of psychotropic (mind-affecting and mood-altering) medication and reactions to drug treatment elicited the most intensely expressed and controversial material presented by individuals in evidence to the inquiry.
The report also stated:
Psychotropic drugs have - and are intended to have - a significant impact on the way people think, feel and behave; that is, they are not only powerful and potentially therapeutic substances, but also intrusive and open to gross misuse . . . Their impact on personal and social functioning is typically severe . . . and, not infrequently, more disruptive to life than the original complaint.
Many individuals believe that medication is used as a control mechanism rather than a therapeutic tool. According to the inquiry, many psychiatric staff use involuntary medication as a method of ward management and control rather than for therapeutic purposes. That raises serious cause for alarm. Witnesses at the inquiry said many things about the negative effects of medication. One witness had this to say about a patient:
. . . she has experienced horrific side effects, which have usually been treated by prescribing further drugs . . . Some instances of these side effects include becoming totally expressionless, heavily sedated and almost immobile; enormous and sudden weight gain; hallucinations; constant walking, compulsively, all day; hideous rashes; sleeplessness; constant sleeping; memory loss; tremors.
General side effects were stated on page 242 as follows:
. . . dizziness, blurred vision, nausea, constipation, weight gain, sleeplessness, drowsiness, a generalised sedative effect (heaviness), decreased sexual function, eyes rolling back in their sockets, dribbling, shuffling, and twitching of feet or other parts of the body.
As reported at page 242, one witness when speaking about Largactil, a drug commonly used for schizophrenia, said:
. . . would knock out a horse - I became a vegetable on it within 24 hours . . . All my muscles went into spasm. I dribbled constantly, couldn’t talk and my tongue hung out of my mouth all the time.
These kinds of side effects make individuals on the medication appear odd to the rest of society because they look and behave differently from the established norms of society. This makes people turn away and avoid the person on medication, compounding the distress of mental illness. Finally, many witnesses experienced the overprescription of these drugs. At page 243 one witness said that a patient she knew has continued to be drugged and overdrugged for 25 years. The cure has been far more destructive and devastating than the so-called disease. The Greens can never support provisions which allow more people to be involuntarily detained and forced to take drugs which cause such devastating side effects. The expanded definition will lead to many more people being institutionalised. Once individuals have been institutionalised they face many problems, including stigma, discrimination, loss of self-esteem, loss of social skills and institutional abuse. On 21 April Barry Hart, a former Chelmsford patient, said:
. . . there is no worse stigma as far as your reputation is concerned than being labelled a "psychiatric patient".
The Burdekin inquiry found that many people felt that "one of the most debilitating aspects of being mentally ill was not the illness itself, but the social stigma it attracts. It erodes confidence, damages self-esteem and contributes to an overwhelming sense of isolation and fear". On page 439 it is stated that one witness said:
. . . the worst thing was that people I thought were my friends didn’t talk to me after I came out of hospital. I don’t know whether they thought I was still mentally ill or whether it was contagious or something, but it really hurt that they didn’t seem to want to know me anymore.
Once people have been labelled mentally ill, for instance because they have been involuntarily detained and hospitalised, it is virtually impossible to shake off the label. The stigma and suspicion directed at people who have been labelled mentally ill constitute a major barrier to their full and equal enjoyment of life. At page 445 one witness stated:
. . . one of the worst things that can be done is to have a psychiatric label put on you because it discredits you for the rest of your life. Not only this, the social stigma attached to being labelled mentally ill can affect housing, education, employment and social life opportunities. The stigma can impact virtually upon every area of one’s life.
Being labelled mentally ill can lead to discrimination. If prospective employers, landlords and even friends find out that a person has been hospitalised for mental illness they discriminate against that person. The inquiry found that "many private contracts specify that a person who is made an involuntary patient ceases to have rights under particular legislation or agreements". Once a person
has been labelled mentally ill and involuntarily detained and given patient status, he or she will start to lose self-esteem. The longer the patient remains involuntarily detained the lower the self-esteem. This can lead to a loss of social skills. Institutionalised patients have everything done for them. They do not have to cook, do the dishes, go to the bank or do the shopping. Valuable social skills start to fade. Involuntarily detained patients have very little to do. One patient stated to the Burdekin inquiry, at page 275:
There were showers after we got up at 6, but nothing much to do all day long, except sit in the sunshine and smoke . . . We had an occasional group with the social worker and a rare game of cricket, but no occupational therapy . . . After about three weeks of nothing to do, I told my psychiatrist if he didn’t get me out of there, I really would go crazy.
As the inquiry pointed out, while daily occupation, recreation or exercise are not the principal focus of hospital care, long empty days of stifling boredom certainly do not constitute an environment conducive to the recovery of people with mental illness. Not only do involuntarily detained people suffer boredom, they are also cut off from family, friends and even employment. The social isolation aspect of involuntary detention is similar to the experience of prisoners carrying out a custodial sentence for committing a crime. These individuals are deprived of their liberty and are unable to participate in community life. This can have profound effects on their mental health, such that it can impact negatively upon an individual's ability to get better. Many patients complained to the inquiry of institutional abuse at the hands of the staff and at the hands of the other patients. One witness, at page 272, stated:
A person I am familiar with . . . was being verbally abusive to staff and other patients . . . He had a headlock put on him in the psychiatric ward by a male staff member to the point where he was not able to breathe. He got out of that situation by sheer physical force.
Many witnesses also complained of being sexually assaulted by staff. One witness said:
I know of many instances, innumerable instances of sexual abuse. I think this is enhanced by the state of powerlessness of the patient who is often heavily drugged.
Often, once a patient has been physically or sexually abused, it is hard for that patient to have a complaint listened to. One witness put it this way, at page 272:
In my personal experience, none of these sorts of abuses ever reached the official complaint level because you’ve been totally zonked out on medication and you’re not entirely positive what he did . . . You’re just a very unreliable witness.
If a complaint is made, staff claim that the patient is deluded or fantasising due to his or her mental illness. As well as being abused by staff, many patients are abused and assaulted by other patients, mainly due to overcrowding in wards. Barry Hart, a Chelmsford victim, was abused so badly in Chelmsford that he suffered permanent brain damage and psychological damage as a result. The abuse that Mr Hart was subjected to included the administration of drugs in a highly dangerous quantity and variety, unauthorised physical restraint, the administration of electroconvulsive treatment and narcosis - deep sleep therapy - without his consent and gross failure and neglect to ensure circumstances conducive to minimal risk of complication.
Mr Hart contracted pneumonia, pleurisy, deep vein thrombosis, a pulmonary embolus, anoxic brain damage and severe chronic post-traumatic stress disorder as a consequence of the abuse he suffered in Chelmsford hospital. Cases such as these make the Greens extremely concerned about what goes on in psychiatric hospitals. For these reasons the Greens cannot agree to statutory provisions which place more people in hospitals. The electroconvulsive therapy - ECT - is the firing of 180 to 460 volts of electricity through the brain from temple to temple, or from the front to the back of one side of the head. It causes a severe convulsion or seizure of long duration, called a grand mal convulsion, identical to an epileptic fit. It is a controversial treatment with the medical profession not understanding how it works. Some individuals outrightly reject and abhor ECT. One witness to the inquiry stated:
Whatever the medical benefits may or may not be, the process of ECT remains totally repugnant to me . . . Involuntarily ECT is an invasion of man’s last barrier of freedom . . . his mind, and hence of greater moment than invasion of his body. The medical aspect of a problem is one aspect only . . . sometimes, the patient would rather suffer through the illness than accept a particular line of treatment.
Patients should never be forced to have ECT. Such an invasive process should be entirely voluntary. The Greens consider this kind of treatment to be very dangerous and it should be used only as a last resort with the consent of the patient. The long-term effects of ECT are unknown; in the short-term it causes memory loss and causes patients to be disoriented and distressed. People with mental illness are human beings with human rights. Principles for the protection of persons with mental illness and for the improvement of mental health care were adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1991. While these principles have not been formally incorporated into any Australian legislation, they
have been endorsed by the national mental health policy released by the Federal health Minister in 1992.
New South Wales is committed to implementing the policy. Relevant principles include that all persons have the right to the best available health care, which shall be part of the health and social care system; and every patient shall have the right to receive such health and social care as is appropriate, according to his or her health needs, and is entitled to care and treatment in accordance with the same standards as other ill persons. There are also a number of other general international human rights instruments which are relevant to the issue of human rights in New South Wales and to which Australia is a signatory. These include the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights - ICESCR - and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights - ICCPR. Relative provisions of the ICCPR include article 7, which states:
No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. In particular, no one shall be subjected without his or her free consent to medical or scientific experimentation.
The Greens believe that involuntary ECT treatment, in the experience of many in-patients in fifth schedule hospitals, can be construed as being subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. As it is unknown how ECT treatment works, the Greens consider that it is scientific experimentation and therefore a gross violation of one’s human rights. Article 9 states:
Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention.
The Greens consider involuntary detention to be the equivalent of arbitrary detention. Article 10 states:
All persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person.
As is evidenced in the Burdekin inquiry, many patients in fifth schedule hospitals are not treated humanely and with respect for their inherent human dignity. Article 18 states:
1. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
2. No one shall be subject to coercion which would impair their freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of their choice.
Clearly involuntary detainment and the administration of extremely powerful drugs impede one’s right to freedom of thought and conscience. The relevant provision of the ICCPR is article 15, which states:
1(a) The right of everyone to take part in cultural life.
Those detained are unable to take part in their cultural and social life because they are removed from society. Thus the Greens argue that involuntary detainment and the administration of drugs and ECT to those suffering mental illness clearly breaches Australia’s obligations under provisions of the ICESCR and the ICCPR to which Australia is a signatory. The Greens wanted to move amendments in Committee to safeguard the human rights of those detained and suffering mental illness. However, as this part of the Act was not being amended, it will not be possible to move them. In our opinion the following amendments would have helped to protect the human rights of those detained:
s20A: Detention must not violate an individual’s human rights
A person must not be admitted to, or detained in or continue to be detained in, or given treatment while detained in a hospital, if such procedures violate any human rights protected in United Nations Covenants, Declarations or Principles to which Australia is a signatory.
s120(1)(d) that the order will not subject the person to any violation of human rights protected in United Nations Covenants, Declarations or Principles to which Australia is a signatory.
s133(1)(e) the Tribunal or Magistrate is satisfied that the order will not subject the person to any violation of human rights protected in United Nations Covenants, Declarations or Principles to which Australia is a signatory.
The Government is proposing an amendment which will enable a member of the police force to enter a private place to apprehend a mentally disturbed person suspected of committing an offence or attempting to kill himself or herself. The Greens find this amendment particularly worrying. Previously police were allowed to detain such people only in public places. The Greens are particularly concerned that this provision may impact upon an individual’s human rights and that the police may not be trained properly to be able to deal with such situations, as police are not psychiatrists. Abuses may occur if properly trained professionals do not accompany police to the private place.
Whilst the Greens object to the expansion of the operation of this provision to include private places, I will be moving amendments in Committee to try to lessen the problems and the impact that may occur as a result of this provision. The Greens agree with the Richmond report that deinstitutionalisation is the route to follow with regard to mental illness. However, the Greens agree that the deinstitutionalisation process will succeed only if adequate resources are allocated to its operation. The Greens also believe that the community needs to be educated about mental illness so that those suffering are not shunned, discriminated against and stigmatised by society.
The Greens consider that the expansion of the definition will lead to increased institutionalisation, and this is contrary to the recommendations of the Richmond report. People suffering from mental illness have a right to live in the community as much as possible. They should not be shunned and locked away. The Greens also believe that we need to move away from the strict medical model treatment of mental illness to a more holistic, multidisciplinary approach. Drugs and ECT treat only the symptoms of mental illness and not the cause. Programs are needed that address preventative measures and consider the causes of mental illness.
Alternative therapies include psychotherapy, hypnotherapy, private psychology, social work services, relaxation therapy, group therapy, meditation, yoga, occupational therapies, and so on. One witness to the inquiry stated that since the mid-1950s the chemical straitjacket has been the mainstay of treatment and the traditional professions have discounted other things. Individuals say that things like gardening, craft activities, painting, sewing, physical exercise, education and a healthy diet are just as important to becoming well again. One individual said:
There is a place for psychotropic drugs as an initial stabiliser, like aspirin for a headache - thereafter, a thorough investigation to find a cause is a must.
The Greens adopt this position and emphasise the need to move away from drug treatments as a way of treating mental illness. These alternative therapies need to be coupled with the recommendations made by the Richmond report, including providing halfway houses, living skills programs, sheltered workshops and adequate financial support. The Greens are particularly concerned about the plight of forensic patients as the law currently stands. Forensic patients fall into three categories. These are: first, those who have been arrested for allegedly committing a criminal offence but there is a question as to whether the individual is fit to be tried; second, those who are found not guilty of an offence by reason of mental illness; and, third, those who become mentally ill while undertaking a custodial sentence and who are transferred to a psychiatric institution.
As the law stands at present forensic patients have to be reviewed by the Medical Health Review Tribunal before they can be released. A person found not to be mentally ill cannot be released automatically. The tribunal makes a recommendation to the prescribed authority, which is the Governor, the Governor-General or the Minister for Health. With regard to forensic patients, the release from a psychiatric institution of forensic patients is made by a branch of the Executive Government. This is problematic for several reasons. First, the decision to release a forensic patient becomes a political decision and not a medical one. Second, forensic patients experience long delays in the decision being made because it is made at the political level. This is particularly discriminatory against individuals who may have committed only minor crimes yet are still subjected to the Governor’s pleasure regime. If the Governor-in-Council refuses a release recommendation, there is no right of appeal.
As well as this, section 83 of the Act requires the Minister for Health to notify the Attorney General and the Director of Public Prosecutions of the recommendation for release. Section 84(1)(a) of the Act allows the Attorney General to object to the release on the basis that the person has served insufficient time in custody. The Mental Health Act Implementation Monitoring Committee stated that this is only appropriate to individuals who have been transferred to a hospital while serving a sentence. The committee considered the insufficient time in custody objection to be wholly inappropriate for individuals against whom legal proceedings are still pending.
If the person becomes fit to be tried, he or she may be proceeded against and detained in prison, if that is an appropriate sentence for the crime. Patients who have been found not guilty by reason of mental illness should be detained only if they are a danger to themselves or to the community. Once the danger has passed, those individuals should be entitled to their liberty and the Attorney General should not have a right to object. Section 84(3) of the Act also requires that the prescribed authority notify the Minister for Police of the date of the patient’s release. Page 25 of the 1996 discussion paper into the proposal for reform of the Mental Health Act states:
There is no known parallel legislative provision for informing the Minister for Police of the release of any other prisoners. To make such a requirement solely in respect of mentally ill persons is therefore discriminatory and inequitable.
The Government’s original amendments to the Mental Health Act, contained in the first print of the Mental Health Legislation Amendment Bill, went a considerable way to overcoming some of these problems. For instance, the provisions took away the requirement that the Minister had to notify the Minister for Police of the proposal to release a forensic patient. It also specified that the Director of Public Prosecutions had to be notified only if the person was awaiting committal for trial. It enabled the Attorney General to make an objection to the release of a forensic patient only if the patient had been transferred from a prison while carrying out a custodial sentence or if the patient was awaiting trial.
Unfortunately, these provisions were objected to by the Opposition, despite widespread community support. Every submission read so far by my office has supported these changes. The Greens urge the Opposition to rethink its position on this issue to enable these much-needed changes to occur. The provisions have not taken away the executive discretion nor the rights of the Attorney General to object to certain forensic patients being released. The executive discretion would still enable the patient to be detained if it is in the public interest. The Greens support those provisions and will move an amendment in Committee to have them reinstated. The National Mental Health Report 1995 undertook an analysis of mental health services in New South Wales. It found that State spending on mental health services has increased by 5.7 per cent since the commencement of the national mental health strategy, but that in New South Wales 15 per cent less than the Australian average per capita is spent.
For all three years of the strategy, New South Wales was the lowest-spending jurisdiction in its provision of public sector mental health services. With regard to expenditure, 27 per cent of the budget is spent on community services, 26 per cent on co-located hospitals, and 47 per cent on psychiatric hospitals. The Greens would like to see more of the budget spent on community services and less on psychiatric hospitals. The Greens believe that the broadened definition will result in more of the State budget being spent on hospitals as more individuals are involuntarily detained, and that even less will be spent on community services.
The report also found that a significant redistribution of resources from the State stand-alone psychiatric hospitals to community mental health services has not yet commenced in New South Wales, as recommended by the Richmond report. The Greens consider that this must happen, together with additional funding to ensure that those suffering mental illness are given appropriate services in the community. The Greens will closely examine the budget in respect of the Government’s allocation to community-based mental health services. For the reasons stated, the Greens have some serious concerns about the bill. An article in the Northern Star of Saturday, 29 March, referred under the headline "Mentally ill in a mess" to a man with a mental health problem, and stated:
. . . each night a man in his 40s with a mental health problem lies down on that mattress under an abandoned, burnt-out house in Lismore.
This is a regional problem. People across the State are not being properly looked after. The Greens have some serious concerns about the bill and will move amendments at the Committee stage.
Debate adjourned on motion by the Hon. Patricia Forsythe.
CRIMES LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL
Bill received and read a first time.
Suspension of standing orders agreed to.
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) [11.23 p.m.]: I move:
That this House do now adjourn.
YOUTH EMPLOYMENT PROGRAMS
The Hon. PATRICIA FORSYTHE [11.23 p.m.]: I would like to draw the attention of the House to a fine initiative of the Federal Government that was mentioned in the recent Federal budget. The national launch of the project took place this week. I refer to a program known as the job placement employment and training program. It has been introduced to provide funding to 90 agencies nationally to assist young people throughout Australia. The Federal Government announced that $11 million will be provided in direct assistance to those agencies, both this year and next year. This initiative will affect many people that I deal with in
my shadow portfolio areas of community services and juvenile justice.
The program is aimed at skilling many young people under 21 years of age, particularly those aged from 15 to 19 years, many of whom have left school early, have attended many different schools or have a broken record at school for one reason or another. It is aimed particularly at low-skilled or unskilled young people. In Federal Parliament last week the Minister stated:
The young people who will be helped by this sort of service around Australia are or have been wards of the State and some have been involved with the law. They might be students, young refugees or ex-offenders. So JPET will offer ongoing support and referral services to those under 21 and especially for those 15- to 19-year-olds who have significant problems.
The Minister defined some of the underlying problems and stated:
Once those underlying problems are managed effectively, participants in the program will then be assisted in their efforts to gain access to education, entry level training or employment and in particular will be supported to maintain their participation in those activities.
As I said earlier, $11 million per annum for the next two years has been made available to assist young Australians who are homeless or are at risk of becoming so. The program will assist approximately 8,000 young people through more than 90 agencies throughout the nation. I want to put this on the record because not many programs are geared for State wards or former State wards, or young people who have perhaps had an involvement with the juvenile justice system. As I said, it will also assist young homeless people or those at risk of becoming homeless. It is a worthwhile program because it will help young people to obtain skills and overcome problems related to literacy and often more fundamental problems. I commend the Federal Government on its initiative in this regard.
CLOTHING INDUSTRY OUTWORKER EXPLOITATION
The Hon. Dr MEREDITH BURGMANN [11.27 p.m.]: I commend the tremendous efforts of those involved with the Fair Wear campaign and I want to raise an important issue that everyone who buys clothes can do something about. That issue is the terrible exploitation of outworkers in the clothing and textile industry, who work in cramped and unsafe sweatshops and garages for as little as $1.70 an hour. As clothing companies attempt to cut costs, the number of outworkers in the industry has increased dramatically. It is estimated that there are now 300,000 outworkers in Australia.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: On a point of order. Do the honourable member’s comments relate to a matter set down for debate in this Chamber on the next sitting day?
The Hon. Dr MEREDITH BURGMANN: On the point of order. I am speaking about a demonstration to be held on Friday, which is related to, but is not the subject of, my notice of motion.
The PRESIDENT: Order! The member may refer to the demonstration, but I entreat the member not to make any comments related to the subject matter of the notice of motion.
The Hon. Dr MEREDITH BURGMANN: I might say that I am shocked that the Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti would seek to exclude from the record information about these Third World conditions in Australia. The public is becoming more and more aware of the horror stories of outworkers. The members of one family from Vietnam have been working as outworkers for seven years.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: On a point of order. The honourable member is obviously defying your ruling. She is referring to the subject matter of the motion, rather than the demonstration.
The PRESIDENT: Order! The honourable member is transgressing the subject matter of her notice of motion. She will contain her remarks to the demonstration.
The Hon. Dr MEREDITH BURGMANN: At a demonstration organised for Friday at 12 noon outside Sportsgirl in the Pitt Street mall a coalition of churches, unions and community groups will be advocating a way to stop exploitation of outworkers. They will encourage people to purchase clothes from companies such as Just Jeans, Country Road, Ken Done and Target Australia which have signed the homeworkers code of practice or the deed of cooperation with the Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union. At that demonstration they will also encourage people to ask if items have been made by exploited labour before they buy and to slip pamphlets and fliers into the pockets of clothes on racks which have not been made by manufacturers who have signed the homeworkers code of practice or the deed of cooperation.
They will emphasise that it is incredibly important to put pressure on retailers to sign the homeworkers code of practice which was developed by the Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union and the industry. Unfortunately, most retailers have been
very reluctant to do this, opting instead to sign the Australian Retailers Association homeworkers code of practice. Unlike the original homeworkers code of practice, the ARA code is not open to public scrutiny and the guarantees given by companies which agree to it cannot be monitored. It is a fake, the soft option for retailers wanting to shirk their responsibility to the workers who make the garments. One of the slogans of the demonstration will be that an outworker was probably paid only $3 for a shirt that will retail for $70. Garments are labelled as to size, material, washing instructions and cost. They should also indicate under what conditions the clothes were made. I urge everyone to attend the demonstration outside Sportsgirl on Friday.
ART WITHOUT BOUNDARIES EXHIBITION
The Hon. J. M. SAMIOS [11.31 p.m.]: I recently attended the official opening of "Art without Boundaries" at a private gallery in Surry Hills which is an exhibition of artwork of some 24 Croatian artists, painters, sculptors and potters from New South Wales, headed by the internationally renowned and acclaimed Charles Billich. Almae Matris Alumni Croaticae Sydney Incorporated, AMAC, is a non-profit and non-political organisation formed in 1992 to foster cultural, academic and humanitarian cooperation between Australia and Croatia for the benefit of both countries and their people. The exhibition was held in conjunction with the Croatian Festival 1997 and was organised by the AMAC in conjunction with the Australian Croatian Community Council and the Central Council of Croatian Ethnic Schools of New South Wales.
Among those who were present at the opening ceremony were the Croatian Consul for Cultural Affairs, Ja’sna Pavenich, Ethnic Affairs Commission Chairman Stepan Kerkyasharian, Ethnic Affairs Commissioner Vesna Zuro and graduates of the four universities of Croatia who have settled in Australia and are presently making an impact on the Australian arts scene. Australians of Croatian background have made an important contribution to the social and cultural development of our multicultural society and, indeed, have played an important role in underpinning the social cohesion of our democratic society. The exhibition is a significant one as it highlights the important contribution made by artists from culturally diverse backgrounds who have contributed enormously over many years to both the visual and performing arts in this nation. The exhibition "Art without Boundaries" highlights this significant contribution.
ETHNIC COMMUNITIES COUNCIL TWENTY-FIRST ANNIVERSARY
The Hon. J. KALDIS [11.35 p.m.]: I am speaking on the adjournment because I do not know whether the motion of the Hon. J. M. Samios congratulating the Ethnic Communities Council on its twenty-first anniversary will be debated this session, and I do not want to be left out of the debate. I would like to add my congratulations because I was involved with the council from the beginning. I remember well nights spent in the Ashfield Town Hall, sometimes until 1 o’clock in the morning, discussing the formation of the Ethnic Communities Council. Following the formation of the council I participated in various meetings with the then Premier of New South Wales, the Hon. Neville Wran. Without his support it would have been difficult to function.
The New South Wales Government gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Ethnic Communities Council. The formation of the council gave the signal to the other States. When we talk of the council we are inclined to forget some people who played an important part. For instance, we rightly talk about Gough Whitlam but we do not mention the people around him at the time. As one of the foundation vice-presidents I am in a position to say that the presence of the then Prime Minister, the Rt Hon. Gough Whitlam, at the formation meeting at the town hall gave the council a big boost. Because of Whitlam’s presence the then Leader of the Opposition, Malcolm Fraser, attended.
Because of the presence of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition we saw a contingent of dignitaries. Amongst them were the Hon. Neville Wran, then Leader of the Opposition and later Premier of New South Wales. It all began with the presence of the Prime Minister. The man who engineered such an important beginning has not previously been mentioned - Jim Spigelman, then private secretary to the Rt Hon. Gough Whitlam. He believed, and rightly so, that such an important event needed the presence of the Leader of the Government. He said that if the Prime Minister attended, people of some importance would rush to attend. Jim was the one to convince Whitlam to attend. He was always available to assist the ethnic communities.
Spigelman, a celebrated lawyer and now the Solicitor General of New South Wales, played a leading role behind the scenes to promote the issues that are of great concern to the ethnic communities. As secretary of the media department he started
ethnic radio 2EA and 3EA, and we all know that because of ethnic radio the Hon. Malcolm Fraser later established SBS TV. I take this opportunity to pay tribute to Malcolm Fraser, who stood by the ethnic communities as few others did. The Ethnic Communities Council has for 21 years been the official voice of the ethnic communities. I congratulate the Hon. J. M. Samios, former president of the council, who moved the motion and gave us the opportunity to pay tribute to and congratulate such an important organisation. In conclusion, I wholeheartedly agree with what the Hon. J. M. Samios and the Hon. Franca Arena said about this matter.
QUEENSLAND GOVERNOR APPOINTMENT
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI [11.39 p.m.]: I bring to the attention of the House the appointment of Major General Peter Maurice Arnison, AO, as the next Governor of Queensland. He will take up that position and will be officially sworn in on 28 July. Major General Arnison was born in Lismore, was educated at South Lismore Public School, and completed his secondary education at Lismore High School. Following his graduation from the Royal Military College at Duntroon he was commissioned into the Royal Australian Infantry Corps. In his traditional regimental appointments Major General Arnison had two active service tours of South Vietnam with the Royal Australian Regiment, First Battalion from 1965 to 1966 and the Third Battalion in 1971. He was posted to the 11th Infantry Brigade, United States Army, at Hawaii on exchange duty in 1967-68.
Major General Arnison’s senior staff experience includes Chief of Staff, Headquarters First Division, Brisbane, and Director-General, Joint Operations and Plans, Headquarters Australian Defence Force, Canberra. His principal command experience includes Commanding Officer, Fifth Seventh Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment; Commandant, Land Warfare Centre, Canungra, Queensland; Commander, Third Brigade, Ready Deployment Force, Townsville; Commander, First Division, Brisbane; and Land Commander Australia, Sydney. Major General Arnison has undertaken national and international professional military and strategic studies. On his retirement from the Australian Defence Force, he returned to live permanently in Brisbane.
Major General Arnison is currently the executive director of Allied Rubber Products (Queensland), a manufacturer of customised products for the mining, agricultural, transport and local government sectors. He graduated from the University of Queensland in 1975 as a bachelor of economics. He holds a graduate diploma of applied finance and investment with the Securities Institute of Australia and he is a senior fellow of the Corporate Directors Association. He was appointed an officer of the Order of Australia in 1992. Major General Arnison is married to Barbara and has two adult children. From his biography, I have gleaned that his interests include golf and watching rugby and cricket. He is the model of a modern major general: he has an interest in and is an expert in computing.
A son of Lismore has been appointed to one of the high offices of Australia by Her Majesty the Queen to represent her in the governance of Queensland. When the appointment was announced the Northern Star carried a picture of his mother and his sister on the front page. The heading of the article was "Lismore ‘son’ Qld Governor". His mother, Mrs Norma Arnison, has retired in Lismore. She was bursting with pride for her eldest son. She remembered the efforts that she and her husband, Mr Frank Arnison, a well-known tailor in Lismore, made to provide a good education for their six children. She told the Northern Star:
I know Peter will relish the opportunity to continue serving his country. He can be on everyone’s level, from the youngest digger to the top brass.
I have met Major General Arnison on many occasions. He has been the guest of the City of Lismore on Anzac Day. He has been the guest of Legacy and he has visited the city on other occasions. I have also met him socially. I was impressed when I met him before leaving on my tour of Rwanda. He was keen to know whether we were prepared for what lay ahead of us as specialist medical officers. He was equally as keen to find out our thoughts when we got back. Major General Arnison is a man of enormous stature. He is respected in the military community and the commercial community, given his new role with the Brisbane company. No matter where one comes from, one can serve Australia at every level. That is something of which we should all be proud.
Motion agreed to.
House adjourned at 11.44 p.m.