Wednesday, 24 September 1997
The President (The Hon. Max Frederick Willis) took the chair at 11.00 a.m.
The President offered the Prayers.
SYDNEY CRICKET AND SPORTS GROUND AMENDMENT BILL
HEALTH PROFESSIONALS (SPECIAL EVENTS EXEMPTION) BILL
Bills received and, by leave, read a first time.
COMMITTEE ON THE OFFICE OF THE OMBUDSMAN AND THE POLICE INTEGRITY COMMISSION
Motion by the Hon. M. R. Egan agreed to:
That, in accordance with section 31D(2) of the Ombudsman Act 1974, Mr Kelly be appointed to serve on the Committee of the Office of the Ombudsman and the Police Integrity Commission as a member of the Legislative Council in place of Ms Staunton, resigned.
Message forwarded to the Legislative Assembly advising it of the resolution.
STANDING COMMITTEE ON STATE DEVELOPMENT
Motion by the Hon. M. R. Egan agreed to:
That Mr Kelly be appointed as a member of the Standing Committee on State Development in place of Ms Staunton, resigned.
Motion by the Hon. M. R. Egan agreed to:
That Mr Kelly be appointed as a member of the Library Committee in place of Ms Staunton, resigned.
COMMITTEE ON THE HEALTH CARE COMPLAINTS COMMISSION
Motion by the Hon. M. R. Egan agreed to:
That, in accordance with section 68(2) of the Health Care Complaints Act 1993, Mr Johnson be appointed to serve on the Committee on the Health Care Complaints Commission as a member of the Legislative Council in place of Ms Staunton, resigned.
Message forwarded to the Legislative Assembly advising it of the resolution.
COUNCIL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY, SYDNEY
Appointment of Representative
Motion by the Hon. M. R. Egan agreed to:
That, under section 9 of the University of Technology, Sydney, Act 1989, Mr Primrose be elected as the representative of the Legislative Council on the Council of the University of Technology, Sydney, in place of Ms Staunton, resigned.
CONSTITUTION AMENDMENT BILL
Bill introduced and read a first time.
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) [11.09 a.m.]: I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
The object of this bill is to amend the Constitution Act by reducing the number of members in the Legislative Assembly from 99 to 93, and increasing the maximum number of Ministers from 20 to 21. The bill will not affect the numbers in the Legislative Council. No referendum is required to make these changes. The bill contains a transitional provision that will enable the redistribution of electoral districts to be undertaken before the next general election based upon the reduced number of
members. The reduction will take effect at the next general election. It is clear the community believes that we are overgoverned. There is general support for reduction in the number of members. New South Wales has 12 Senators and 50 members in the House of Representatives, as well as 99 members of the Legislative Assembly and 42 members of the Legislative Council. That is a total of 203 State and Federal politicians plus 177 councils with 1,807 elected representatives in local government.
The ratio per head of population in New South Wales for State, Federal and local representatives is amongst the highest of all representative democracies in the world. The reduction of six seats will increase each seat by 2,500 electors. Improvements in communications and transportation, as well as additional staff and facilities mean that members of Parliament can now better represent their electorates than they could in days gone by. An extra 2,500 electors should not affect the ability of a member of Parliament to represent and serve all the people in his or her electorate. In 1990 the Greiner Government reduced the number of members in the Legislative Assembly from 109 to 99. The bill is a logical progression from that earlier effort, and reduces the number of members in the Legislative Assembly from 99 to 93 members. The reduction of six members will guarantee protection of rural representation, while delivering significant cost savings.
The net cost saving from reducing the number of members in the Legislative Assembly will be significant. It is estimated that the current cost per member of Parliament is $400,000. The saving made from reducing the size of the Legislative Assembly, allowing for an increase in the ministry, over a four-year term is estimated at $5 million. At present, with Minister Knight occupied fully with the Olympics, the State has only 19 Ministers to deal with the administration of the Government of the State. A new ministry is desirable to target job creation, with particular emphasis on a secure jobs plan for rural New South Wales. The Government’s focus on rural and regional New South Wales demands strong representation in the ministry. Our goal of providing access to quality government services in rural and regional areas of the State will be a priority leading up to the next election. The role of the new Minister will focus on this responsibility.
A particularly important area of expansion in the jobs market is information technology and multimedia. Information services are essential for rural and regional New South Wales. Modern technology means that for the first time we can truly break down the tyranny of distance. Geographical location should no longer be a barrier to the development and provision of services. Part of the focus of the new Minister will be to promote the development of the information technology and multimedia market in New South Wales, with a view to securing long-term, satisfying and productive jobs in this State. The Government is committed to seizing every opportunity that arises to benefit rural and regional New South Wales. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate adjourned on motion by the Hon. J. P. Hannaford.
JUSTICES AMENDMENT (BRIEFS OF EVIDENCE) BILL
Debate resumed from 16 June.
The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD (Leader of the Opposition) [11.15 a.m.]: The coalition supports the Justices Amendment (Briefs of Evidence) Bill. In his second reading speech on 16 June, the Attorney outlined in detail the reasons for the bill, which may be summarised as saying that the requirement for the prosecution to provide to the defence a brief outlining all the evidence to be adduced against a defendant is limited to indictable criminal cases. The effect of the legislation will be that in all criminal cases, other than those that involve an appeal to the Local Court from the issue of infringement notices, the prosecution will be required to provide to the defendant a brief of the evidence to be adduced by the prosecution in that criminal prosecution. Such a procedure will result in significant benefits to the criminal justice system. A defendant representing himself will have a written document setting out all the allegations made against him, which is important if the defendant is in court for the first occasion and does not have legal representation.
The defendant, when representing himself, will be able to form the view immediately as to whether he is prepared to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty to the allegations as they are detailed, or to seek an adjournment of the case. There is good reason to believe that defendants, when they know the full details of allegations made against them and the evidence to be brought against them, more likely than not will be prepared to immediately accept their responsibility as defendants, or as accused persons, and to indicate whether they accept the allegations and will plead guilty. If the matter is to be adjourned and a defence entered, a further benefit will flow in that the legal adviser will have a full outline of the allegations made. Thus, the legal
adviser will be able to inform the defendant whether he has a credible defence to the charges, and a determination can be made as to whether a plea of guilty should be entered. Again, that will increase the efficiency of the courts.
Overall the procedure will result in significantly less trauma for defendants and significantly less trauma for victims of crime, as they will know much earlier in the proceedings what is happening to charges laid as a result of crimes committed upon them. The courts will operate much more efficiently, which will result in a much more effective criminal justice system. The Government has given itself a regulation-making power to extend the range of matters that can be brought under the auspices of this legislation. It is an administrative procedure that the coalition need not oppose. My consultation with all of the interest groups - the Law Society and the Bar Association - has elicited support for the proposal. However, my colleague the Hon. M. J. Gallacher, who has had some experience through the Police Service, will outline further an administrative concern, because we have heard nothing from the Government in this regard.
This legislation will have a significant impact on police administration. Police will have to prepare their cases much earlier. They will have to provide much more detailed documentation in response to charges. I believe that this increased workload will result in a demand for a significant increase in administrative staff or a significant increase in police. The Government has not indicated whether or not those resources will be made available to meet the demands of this legislation. If those resources are not made available there will be a reduction in the effective policing of this State. If police spend more time doing the paperwork they will have less time available to them to undertake the real policing that this community demands. The Opposition will closely monitor the impact of this legislation.
I place on the record the Law Society’s response to this legislation as a reminder to future governments - in particular as a reminder to me when the coalition returns to office in 1999. The Law Society supports the proposals embodied in this bill. In fact, it said that it welcomes the bill and looks forward to its implementation. The Law Society, in a letter to me dated 17 June 1997, made the following further comment:
The Society also supports the defence having a reciprocal right to serve witnesses’ statements on the prosecution and have them tendered into evidence by consent. However, this may have to wait until another day.
I tried to draft amendments to this legislation to achieve that objective. However, that was not possible within the ambit of this bill. I lend my support to the request made by the Law Society. The defence should be put in a position where it can file briefs in response, which would increase the efficiencies of the courts and result in less potential trauma for victims. The Opposition supports the legislation. I encourage the Government to take into account the suggestion made by the Law Society.
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY [11.23 a.m.]: The Australian Democrats support the Justices Amendment (Briefs of Evidence) Bill. I am informed that the Criminal Law Committee of the Law Society suggested that the legislation should provide for the service of prosecution briefs in summary criminal matters. Before this legislation was drafted consultations took place with the police, the Chief Magistrate’s office, the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Legal Aid Commission and the Bar Association. This bill will amend the Justices Act 1902. Briefs of evidence must be served in summary criminal matters unless a magistrate orders otherwise. This relates only to matters to be prosecuted summarily by the Police Service or the Director of Public Prosecutions; it does not relate to matters that may be prosecuted by a penalty notice.
The Leader of the Opposition just informed the House that this legislation is supported by the Opposition as well as by the Government. Honourable members on both sides of the Chamber have agreed that there are benefits in the scheme. Those benefits are quite simply put: there will be fairer hearings due to the defendant knowing what he or she is up against in the way of evidence. There should be shorter hearings as they will be focused on relevant issues. It is quite possible that more pleas of guilty will be entered prior to these hearings. There appear to be no arguments against this legislation. As I said earlier, I support the legislation. Any proposal that speeds up a court process and relieves pressure on court lists, without the rights of the accused being diminished, should be supported. There is no compulsion on the accused to plead guilty but, after seeing the prosecution case, an informed decision may be made.
In some cases the most advantageous result might be to plead guilty and, therefore, hope for a lighter sentence. I was informed earlier that the Opposition would move an amendment to this legislation on the advice of the Law Society to have the defendant serve a brief on the prosecution. I gather that the letter from the Law Society suggested that the amendment should be in the form of an option: that it may serve its brief on the prosecution.
However, for the reasons just given by the Leader of the Opposition, I gather that that amendment is not possible and it will not be moved in the Committee stage. For those reasons I am happy to support the legislation as it stands.
The Hon. M. J. GALLACHER [11.26 a.m.]: I support the comments made by the Leader of the Opposition in debate on the Justices Amendment (Briefs of Evidence) Bill and place on the record some of the practical implications of this legislation to ensure that, when it is read in 12 months or two years time by the powers that be, whether it be by the Parliament or by the New South Wales Police Service, there is a record of its implications for policing. All honourable members would be aware of the problems being experienced throughout New South Wales by the Police Service in its delivery of services. It is a matter for debate whether or not those are perceived problems or actual problems. Overall, members of the community believe that the level of service that is being provided has been found wanting. They are concerned about one area of policing, that is, the response times. In my view, this legislation will impact negatively upon response times.
The Justices Amendment (Briefs of Evidence) Bill was introduced in this House with all the best intentions. In reality it will be a further impost upon the delivery of services provided by members of the New South Wales Police Service at the sharp end of policing - the street level - and not necessarily from an administrative point of view. Let me put the problems being experienced into perspective. The workload is so great that police can often find themselves neglecting their duties. They can easily fail to supply within 14 days briefs of evidence in indictable matters, something that is required by present legislation. For a number of reasons they can often find it difficult to finalise those briefs of evidence and place them before their local brief inspection officer. Once this is reflected in an audit of the system they have to justify their actions to their commanding officer. They may well be neglecting their duties by not preparing or presenting briefs of evidence.
Indictable matters that are complicated and involve numerous witnesses generally are the domain of criminal investigative officers, detectives or specialists in the field of criminal investigation. Many indictable matters, apart from assaults and fraud, are left to detectives, whilst uniformed police perform day-to-day policing duties, which include attending domestic disputes and dealing with street crime. By including summary offences in the legislation a requirement will be placed on police to prepare a brief of evidence within 14 days of a plea of not guilty being lodged by a defendant. The amount of time spent interviewing witnesses and undertaking administrative duties by uniformed, general duty and highway patrol police officers involved in the investigation of criminal offences will increase dramatically. Failure to provide such a brief may result in an officer being charged with neglect of duty.
Some time ago I spoke in this House about an investigation in which I took part that involved a young woman who was charged with in excess of 1,200 offences of bankcard fraud. Because of the small monetary value involved in each offence the cases were dealt with by the Local Court and, therefore, apart from some aspects of the evidence, a brief of evidence was not required. The proposed legislation places a requirement on the Police Service to supply a brief of evidence to an offender charged with such offences. To put it into perspective, the 1,200 offences of bankcard fraud of which I spoke were committed by the use of a number of bankcards. In such a case the Police Service, for identification purposes, would have to interview each of the persons upon whom the fraud was committed, bearing in mind that there were 1,200 incidences of fraud in the case. Furthermore, witnesses to each offence may have to be interviewed. It may well be that in excess of 2,000 people would have to be interviewed to prepare a brief of evidence.
Often offenders will plead not guilty in order to find out more about the prosecution case and to delay the matter before the court. By pleading not guilty a defendant can drag out a court case by telling a magistrate or judge that he or she needs more time to present a case. The proposed legislation will create a propensity for most offenders to plead not guilty to delay proceedings. Police will have to apply for longer adjournments to enable them to prepare their cases because of their increased workload. For all its good intentions, the result of the proposed legislation will be a reduction in the service provided at street level by the New South Wales Police Service. More police will be involved in undertaking administrative duties and compiling briefs of evidence. There will also be an increase in costs as more police revert to obtaining expert evidence.
With regard to what plea will be entered by specific defendants police have, traditionally, acted on their instincts. Under the proposed legislation, from the outset police will have to obtain expert evidence, such as fingerprint or other forms of scientific evidence. A cost will be involved in the
gathering of such evidence. Overall, a negative cost factor will be the result of including summary offences in a requirement that previously related only to indictable offences. This morning during a brief consultation with the Attorney General I asked whether the proposal had been trialled. Unfortunately, the Attorney General was not in a position to give me any further advice. To my knowledge, there has been no trial, certainly not in the metropolitan areas of Sydney. Before the legislation is introduced, it would be preferable to trial it for a period of six months in areas such as Blacktown, Penrith or on the central coast, to determine its cost and to monitor its effect on delays in the court system and on the delivery of service by the Police Service.
The Hon. J. P. Hannaford: You could do that on the commissioner's instructions.
The Hon. M. J. GALLACHER: Yes, it most certainly could. I suggest that the Attorney General consider such a trial, before introducing the legislation statewide, for a period determined by the Attorney General, say six months, to monitor the overall costs and the benefits of the system as it relates to defendants, the Police Service and the community as a whole. The legislation is to be commended. It will improve the integrity of the system and benefit those defendants who are not sure of what is available to them in the system. They may not have the opportunity to get legal assistance or for any number of reasons may not be aware of the way cases are presented in the Local Court. Having said that, there are still a number of what seem to me to be unexplored negative impacts. As the Leader of the Opposition correctly points out, we will monitor the impact of the legislation throughout New South Wales. I am not aware of any comment by the Police Association on the proposed legislation. Perhaps in the future the Parliament will hear from the association about its impact on policing generally.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE [11.37 a.m.]: The Christian Democratic Party supports the Justices Amendment (Briefs of Evidence) Bill, which will bring into operation a system that deals with the service of prosecution briefs in summary matters. It was recommended in July 1995 by an interdepartmental working party which discussed the Law Society’s proposal of January 1994. Members of the working party included representatives from the Ministry for Police, the Law Society of New South Wales, the New South Wales Young Lawyers, the Chief Magistrate’s Office, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Legal Aid Commission and the New South Wales Bar Association. As the Hon. M. J. Gallacher said, Parliament has not received a response from the New South Wales Police Association, the views of which would not automatically be included in the position put by the Ministry for Police.
The working party agreed that the proposal was a good one and should be proceeded with, that it provided certain benefits such as fairer hearings, as defendants became apprised in advance of the prosecution case; shorter hearings that are more focused on the relevant issues; and more guilty pleas being entered prior to the commencement of hearings. The bill relates only to matters to be prosecuted summarily by the Police Service and the Director of Public Prosecutions. It does not relate to any matter that may be prosecuted by way of penalty notice. The Christian Democratic Party urges the Government, as the Hon. M. J. Gallacher did, to monitor the operation of the legislation, not merely as to its impact on the court system but also as to how much time is taken by police officers undertaking paperwork for this purpose.
A major drama has been developing in places such as Cabramatta, where police have been very active, as directed by the Government and as required by the community, in cracking down on drug traffickers. Under present procedures police officers are tied up with a tremendous amount of paperwork. We have tried to reduce regulations for small business, and perhaps it is time for a committee to review administrative requirements in the Police Service with a view to reducing paperwork and the number of forms that have to be filled in. Streamlining of the lengthy procedures required would mean that a police officer who is active in charging many offenders will not have in the back of his mind that the amount of paperwork required will take him away from his main role, which is protecting the community and charging persons breaking the law. I urge the Government to monitor the operation of the legislation and to consider an overall review of paperwork that police officers are required to complete so that they may be set free to do their job on the streets.
The Hon. J. W. SHAW (Attorney General, and Minister for Industrial Relations) [11.41 a.m.], in reply: I thank honourable members who have supported the bill, although at one stage of his speech the Hon. M. J. Gallacher seemed a little lukewarm in his support for the bill. However, he finished on a brighter note.
The Hon. M. J. Gallacher: I came good.
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: He came good at the end and he recognised the bill as an appropriate innovation. More seriously, the House has
recognised this as a step forward. It is part of a series of positive criminal law reforms that the Government has put to the Parliament. I am pleased about the progress and quality of those reforms of the criminal justice system. Concern has been expressed about police resourcing in terms of backing up this new process of serving briefs in summary matters. The police have been involved in this process: a Police Service representative was on the working party. My understanding is that it is accepted that resources can be provided to achieve this desirable end. It is common ground that the prior service of briefs is valuable. I believe the police will be able to adequately service this matter and deal with it effectively.
It is not true that this is an entirely new phenomenon. Briefs are served as a matter of form in many Local Courts. Prior service of the police brief goes on informally at the moment, so this will not be an entirely new development. I stress that briefs are required only once a plea of not guilty has been entered. In such cases a brief is prepared in any event for the use of police prosecutors. I thank all those who have been involved in the development of the bill. In particular I single out police prosecutors, who have been so constructive in helping to establish the informal arrangements that presently exist for the service of briefs. That sort of initiative has made the introduction of legislation such as this so much easier than it might have been.
This is a reform that will provide clear benefits to every person who comes before the Local Court. It will simplify and clarify defended hearings. It will encourage pleas of guilty in appropriate cases. In short, it will contribute significantly to the Government’s ongoing quest to ensure that the courts are responsive to the needs of the people of this State. The Leader of the Opposition had a query about the proposal flowing on from submissions by the Law Society of New South Wales. He suggested in effect that a provision might be inserted in the bill or might be enacted in future to allow the defendant to serve statements of witnesses and to tender those documents in evidence in lieu of oral evidence.
The Government’s response to that is that section 190(1) of the Evidence Act 1995 already allows for such a procedure. It does that in a comprehensive way by providing that the rules of evidence which would otherwise prevent the tender of such documents may be waived by the court where the parties consent. The Evidence Act came into operation only in September 1995 and it may be that those provisions have not been fully considered or fully comprehended. But the Government’s immediate response to the suggestion of the Opposition is that the matter is already attended to by the provisions of the Evidence Act, which is part of a uniform national system of evidence laws. Obviously one would be reluctant to vary the system of rules of evidence in regard to only one State. I commend the bill to the House.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a second time and passed through remaining stages.
CRIMES LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL
The Hon. J. W. SHAW (Attorney General, and Minister for Industrial Relations) [11.47 a.m.]: I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
I seek leave of the House to have my second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
I am pleased to introduce the Crimes Legislation Amendment Bill 1997. The bill contains provisions that are largely practical in nature and seek to remedy defects and anomalies that presently exist in criminal law and procedure. It is a product of the Government’s desire that the criminal law should be ever more responsive to the needs of the people of New South Wales.
The proposals for reform that together make up this bill have arisen from a variety of sources. Those sources include the judiciary, the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Crown Solicitor’s Office, the New South Wales Police Service, the New South Wales Ombudsman, and the Legal Aid Commission.
Following wide consultation with those involved in the day to day administration of the criminal law, it has become apparent that these reforms enjoy wide support. Moreover, I am pleased to note that the bill enjoys the support of the Opposition.
To all of those who have contributed ideas and comments, the Government expresses its sincere thanks. When it comes particularly to matters of fine-tuning, as many of these reforms are, the constructive assistance of those within the system is indispensable.
I will now address in turn each of the reforms made by the bill.
Schedule 1.1 Makes amendments to the Bail Act 1978. The effect of the amendments is to enable bail to be granted to a person pending the hearing of an application under section 100A or 100B of the Justices Act 1902, or under section 45 of the Children (Criminal Proceedings) Act 1987. The lack of a power to grant bail to persons in relation to those applications was drawn to the attention of the Attorney General by the Crown Solicitor’s Office.
An application under section 100A of the Justices Act 1902 may be made where a person has been found guilty of an offence in his or her absence in circumstances where he or she did not have knowledge of the proceedings.
Under section 100B of the Justices Act, the Attorney General may refer to a Local Court a matter in which information has been received that raises a question or doubt as to a finding of guilt made by that court.
Section 45 of the Children (Criminal Proceedings) Act 1987 applies where the Attorney General is satisfied that a court has dealt with a person with whom it did not have jurisdiction to deal by virtue of that person’s age. In such a case the Attorney may refer the matter to the court that made the decision for a review of the matter.
In each of these cases, there is no reason why the question of bail should not be open for consideration on its merits. Indeed, because these are the sorts of cases where real issues may arise as to the guilt of the convicted person, it is essential that bail should be available, where appropriate, pending the outcome of the application and any subsequent further hearing of the matter. The well established principles that the law applies to the consideration of bail in individual cases will apply in these cases also.
Schedule 1.2 of the bill makes a number of amendments to the Crimes Act 1900.
Item  amends section 61S of the Crimes Act 1900 to extend to all offences the abolition of the common law presumption that a male under the age of fourteen years is incapable of having, or of intending to have, sexual intercourse.
Historically, at common law, a boy under the age of fourteen years could not be convicted of any offence involving penile sexual intercourse, whatever his actual physical capacity, because there existed an irrebuttable presumption that he was incapable of penile sexual intercourse.
By section 61A(2) of the Crimes Act, which was enacted in 1981, that presumption was expressed not to apply to a range of sexual offences in the Crimes Act. Those offences did not include homosexual sexual offences.
In 1989, section 61A(2) was repealed at the same time that the sexual offences provisions of the Crimes Act were overhauled. It was replaced in the new provisions by the current section 61S, which was intended to be of similar effect.
By expressing itself to apply only to sections 61H-61U, however, the effect of section 61S is that the common law presumption of incapacity is now not expressed to not apply to the offences under sections 66A-66F. Those offences concern sexual acts with minors. Arguably, the common law presumption has been reinstated in relation to such offences. That result was surely unintended and cannot be justified on policy grounds.
It is manifestly no longer true that males under the age of fourteen are necessarily incapable of penile sexual intercourse. As was stated at the time of the enactment of the original section 61A(2), the age of puberty has, by virtue of improved conditions of life and health over the last century, dramatically decreased for males as well as for females.
It is timely and straightforward to specify clearly that the presumption is no longer to apply to any offence. In doing so, this bill goes well beyond the limited abolition effected by the repealed section 61A(2). The bill abolishes the presumption completely in relation to any offence that occurs after the commencement of the amendment.
Item  of schedule 1.2 makes an amendment to section 309 of the Crimes Act to provide that a prosecution for an offence under section 309(1) may be commenced at any time within two years after the date of commission of the offence.
Part 6 of the Crimes Act, which includes section 309, was introduced in 1989 to provide for offences relating to computers. Section 309 creates a number of offences relating to unlawful access to data stored in computers.
The offence created by subsection 309(1) is a summary offence of, without authority or lawful excuse, intentionally obtaining access to a program or data stored in a computer. The maximum penalty for this offence is six months imprisonment, or a fine of $5000, or both. Because the offence is a summary offence, in the absence of any provision to the contrary, section 56 of the Justices Act 1902 applies. That section imposes a time limit of six months on the commencement of proceedings.
The offences created by subsections 309(2),(3) and (4) are aggravated forms of the offence in subsection 309(1). They require the person accessing the program or data to have acted with a dishonest or fraudulent intent (s.309(2)), or to have knowledge or constructive knowledge that the information was confidential or sensitive in a manner defined by the Act (ss.309(3)And(4)). These are indictable offences that come within table 1 of the Criminal Procedure Act 1986. They carry maximum penalties of two years imprisonment, or a fine of $50,000, or both. There is no time limit on the commencement of proceedings for offences against these subsections.
One class of offenders who have been prosecuted under section 309 consists of police officers who have accessed, and on occasions misused, confidential information stored in police computer systems.
In November 1995 the NSW Ombudsman, Ms Irene Moss AO, provided a special report to the NSW Parliament entitled "Confidential Information and Police". The report details an alarming incidence of police misuse of confidential information, including computer based information.
While in many cases it is appropriate for criminal proceedings against police for such offences to be instituted under the aggravated forms of offence contained in section 309, on other occasions it is in the public interest for more expeditious proceedings to be instituted summarily under section 309(1).
The Ombudsman’s report suggests that, where summary proceedings against police are considered appropriate, the six month time limit for commencement of proceedings often proves to be problematic. That is because many such offences are only detected by random audit, and so only come to light after the six month limit has expired.
A working party that was established to implement strategies in relation to the Ombudsman’s report has recommended that the six month time limit in relation to section 309(1) be extended. It is appropriate that it be extended to two years.
There is precedent for such an extension. A similar amendment was made in 1995, for similar reasons, to section 527C of the Crimes Act, which concerns the offence of having custody of stolen goods.
Item  of schedule 1.2 provides for section 316 of the Crimes Act to be amended as follows. Where an offence against the section is alleged to have been committed by a person belonging to a class of professional persons and other workers, any prosecution is not to be commenced without the approval of the Attorney General. The precise ambit of that class will be specified by regulation.
Section 316 of the Crimes Act makes it an offence for a person, "without reasonable excuse", to fail to notify the police or other appropriate authority of information which the person possesses about the commission of a serious offence by another person.
The desirability of an amendment to section 316 has been drawn to the Attorney’s attention by a number of persons, including the former Minister for Health and the Law Society of NSW. The concern has been that there are certain classes of professional persons who are exposed to the risk of inappropriate prosecution under the section.
Such persons, in the course of their work, may receive information from patients or clients concerning the commission of serious offences. The circumstances of disclosure of that information, however, may be such that the professional person believes it to be inappropriate to divulge the matter to the police. By not disclosing such information the professional person becomes liable for prosecution. Classes of persons at risk in this regard arguably include solicitors, medical practitioners, and sexual assault counsellors.
An interdepartmental working party, including representatives from the Law Society of NSW, the Department of Health, the Office of the NSW Director of Public Prosecutions, and the NSW Police Service, was convened by the criminal law review division of my department to consider the section and to recommend any necessary changes.
The approach recommended by the working party recognises that there will be occasions when the prosecution of professional persons for an offence of this nature will be appropriate, but that such prosecutions should not be commenced without proper consideration of all issues. In requiring the sanction of the Attorney General for this class of prosecutions, the section is similar to other provisions in the Crimes Act such as sections 66F and 78T.
The class of persons to be detailed by regulation for the purpose of the section is proposed to include lawyers, doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses, social workers, victim support workers, academics and other researchers, among others. By including that list in the form of a regulation it will be possible to more readily amend it if need arises.
A number of things should be made clear.
First, the fact that an alleged offender against the section does not come within a profession, calling or vocation prescribed by the regulations, is not intended in any way to operate so as to prevent that person from establishing that he or she has a "reasonable excuse" under the section.
Second, the requirement for the Attorney General’s approval for a prosecution is not to be interpreted as limiting in any way existing protections and privileges that may apply to particular professional or other groups. For example, this amendment does not affect the existence or scope of legal professional privilege.
Finally, I should take this opportunity to explain how this reform will fit with another bill that is currently before the House; namely, the Evidence Amendment (Confidential Communications) Bill 1997.
I understand that concern has been expressed by some members of the community about the way that those two bills will fit together. In particular, I understand that some people regard the following situation as troubling.
On the one hand, the Evidence Amendment (Confidential Communications) Bill 1997 operates to provide enhanced protection to confidentiality between complainants in sexual assault matters and sexual assault counsellors. On the other hand, a sexual assault counsellor will not receive a blanket protection from prosecution under section 316.
A number of aspects should be noted. I hope that, taken as a whole, they will go a long way to alleviating concerns.
The first is that these two bills are really dealing with separate issues. The Evidence Amendment (Confidential Communications) Bill 1997 does not purport to deal with anything other than the adducing of evidence in court. Therefore, that bill does not extend to the more general question of whether or not a person who is appraised of details of a serious offence is required to inform the relevant authorities of it.
In short, one bill is about what evidence may or may not be led in courts; the other is about the occasions on which persons who have knowledge of serious offences must inform the authorities. I hope I have made that distinction clear, and that any jumbling together of these two separate issues can be avoided.
Second, it should be remembered that the general requirement placed upon persons aware of serious crimes is that they should inform the authorities unless they have reasonable excuse. Of course, it would be inappropriate for me to try to predict rigidly how juries may interpret the meaning of that flexible phrase.
Having said that, I should say that I would be surprised if a jury comprised of citizens of this State were not prepared to find that a counsellor, having been appraised of an offence by a sexual assault complainant, and who failed to bring evidence of an allegation to the authorities at the request of that complainant, was acting with a reasonable excuse.
Third, to my knowledge there have been no prosecutions whatever of counsellors, or indeed other professionals, under section 316 since it commenced in 1990. Furthermore, I am unaware of any prosecution in recent times of the same classes of persons for the old common law misdemeanour of misprision of felony, which existed up until its abolition and replacement by section 316.
Fourth, I should inform the House that I have decided that this particular discretion is not one that should be delegated to the Director of Public Prosecutions. That is in contrast to the procedure adopted with certain other provisions entrusting an oversight of prosecutorial discretion to the Attorney General.
At an earlier stage, a preliminary view was formed that the discretion should be so delegated, and that was the position that was stated when the bill was introduced in the other place, in May of this year.
Upon further reflection, however, and having regard to a number of submissions that I have received, I am satisfied that, with regard to this peculiar and rather controversial
offence, it is appropriate for the Attorney General to retain the overarching decision-making power.
Fifth, although I do not propose to bind myself rigorously with regard to any circumstance or situation that may arise in future, I can inform the House that it would only be in the most exceptional circumstances that I could envisage myself authorising the prosecution of a sexual assault counsellor who, in good faith, respected the request for confidentiality of a sexual assault complainant and, as a result, did not inform the authorities of an allegation of a serious offence.
Sixth and finally, this House should be aware that I have recently referred the broader question of whether or not section 316 should be retained or further amended to the Law Reform Commission of New South Wales for its speedy consideration. I understand that a discussion paper on the issue should be available quite shortly. Furthermore, it is hoped that a final report will be available by the end of this year.
Item  of schedule 1.2 amends section 353A(7)(b) of the Crimes Act 1900 to include the offences of negligent driving occasioning death and negligent driving occasioning grievous bodily harm among those offences for which an order under section 353A(4) may be made.
An order under section 353A(4) of the Crimes Act may be made by a court that has found an offence, which is prescribed by or under section 353A(7), to be proven. An order under the section requires the offender to submit to the taking of any particulars that are necessary for the identification of the person, including the person's photograph and fingerprints.
The section was designed to ensure that persons who attend court in answer to a summons or court attendance notice do not escape having their conviction for an offence entered on their criminal record. Because such persons were not fingerprinted at the time of the offence, unless they can be properly identified at a later time pursuant to this section, it is not possible to include the offences on a criminal record that is able to be strictly proven.
The offences listed in section 353A(7) include serious traffic offences. Such matters are often commenced by summons rather than charge.
When the new offences of negligent driving occasioning death and negligent driving occasioning grievous bodily harm were introduced in 1994, they were not included in the list in section 353A(7).
Although these offences are serious, they are frequently commenced by summons. Accordingly, it is necessary for them to be included in section 353A(7).
Item  of schedule 1.2 makes an amendment to section 399 of the Crimes Act to specify that pleas of autrefois acquit and autrefois convict are to be determined by a judge and not a jury.
In answer to criminal proceedings for an alleged offence, it is open to a defendant to plead "autrefois acquit" or "autrefois convict". The plea of autrefois acquit avers that the defendant has previously been acquitted of the same offence as the one he or she now faces, and accordingly may not be tried again. The plea of autrefois convict avers that the defendant has previously been convicted of the same offence, and accordingly may not be tried again. The Crimes Act makes provision for pleas of autrefois acquit and autrefois convict at section 399.
By a rule of common law, the determination of a plea of autrefois acquit or autrefois convict is to be made by a jury. Historically, it appears that the reason such pleas were considered to be matters for a jury was that they involved the determination of a question of fact; namely, whether there had been a previous acquittal or conviction. It is well established that questions of law are to be decided by a judge, while questions of fact are to be determined by a jury.
In the present day, although both such pleas are uncommon, the issues arising from them are almost always complex legal ones rather than factual ones. The question tends to be not so much whether there has been a previous acquittal or conviction, but whether, for example, the offence previously charged contained the same elements as the present offence, or whether the manner of disposal of the previous offence entitles the defendant to a bar against the present proceedings. These are properly matters for a judge.
The proposal that has led to this amendment was originally received from the Chief Judge of the District Court, Justice Blanch. Following the Chief Judge’s suggestion, the criminal law review division of the Attorney General’s Department consulted widely regarding an amendment to the Crimes Act to specify that pleas of autrefois acquit and autrefois convict are to be heard and determined by a judge alone. The proposal has received wide support. The law in England has already been amended in this fashion.
It has been additionally suggested that a legislative amendment should be made to ensure that an autrefois plea can be the subject of an interlocutory application rather than take place during valuable allocated trial time. That proposal is effectively dealt with in another government bill that deals with matters of trial procedure, being the Criminal Legislation Amendment (Procedure) Bill 1997.
Schedule 1.3 makes amendments to the Criminal Appeal Act 1912. It will be more convenient to deal with those amendments after referring to schedule 1.4, which makes amendments to the Criminal Procedure Act 1986.
Items  and  of schedule 1.4 make amendments to part 9A of the Criminal Procedure Act 1986 to include offences under sections 300, 301 and 302 of the Crimes Act 1900 within table 2 to the part where the amount in respect of which the offence is charged does not exceed $5,000.
Currently, all offences under these sections are table 1 offences. That means that the defendant maintains the right to a jury trial if he or she so desires. Under the proposed amendment, the defendant would retain that right except where the amount charged does not exceed $5000.
Included within table 2 already is a range of offences involving dishonesty where the value of the property, or the amount of money or reward, in respect of which the offence is charged does not exceed $5000. Those offences include not just theft, but also offences such as the obtaining of a benefit by deception, receiving stolen goods, and involvement in corrupt practices. Such offences have in common the fact that their seriousness is capable of being expressed in monetary terms.
The summary disposal of such offences expresses the community interest that the expense of a trial should not be incurred when that expense is out of all proportion to the detriment the community suffers as a result of the crime itself. Setting the cut-off point at a monetary limit of $5000 is a fair balancing of the seriousness of the crime and the appropriate forum and mode of trial.
The current offences in relation to the making or using of false instruments (previously referred to as forgery), found in sections 300, 301 and 302 of the Crimes Act, were enacted in 1989. They have never been included in table 2 or its predecessor provisions, presumably because they are offences that are not always readily quantifiable in money terms.
For the sake of maintaining consistency with other offences of dishonesty, however, and for the reasons expressed above, where the monetary amount of these offences is quantifiable and does not exceed $5000, it is desirable that they also should be included in table 2.
Items  through to  of schedule 1.4 make amendments to part 10 of the Criminal Procedure Act 1986.
Part 10 of the Criminal Procedure Act 1986 provides that a court may, at the conclusion of the trial of an indictable offence, deal with any "related summary matters" if the parties consent. "Related summary matters" are defined by the part to be summary matters which arise from substantially the same circumstances as those from which the indictable offence, subject of the trial, arose.
Part 10 presently does not differentiate between "back-up matters" and other "related summary matters". A "back-up matter" is a summary matter that is a less aggravated version of an indictable offence with which a defendant is also charged. For example, a person may be charged with supply of a prohibited drug based on the person’s possession of that drug. The same person may also face a "back-up" charge of possession of a prohibited drug, which the prosecution may seek to prove if the charge of supply is dismissed. If the person is convicted of supply however, he or she cannot also be convicted of the charge of possession.
It is possible to distinguish from "back-up" offences another class of summary offences that, while occurring in the course of the same criminal enterprise as the indictable offence, do not rely on identical facts. In the hypothetical case given above, an example of such an offence might be that of possession of equipment for the administration of a drug. Even if the defendant were convicted of supply of the drug, he or she would still be liable (if a case could be proven) to conviction also for possession of the equipment.
At present the provisions of part 10 are being under-utilised. This arises in part because it is often unclear to the trial court, and to the prosecutor, which summary matters are related to which indictable matters, and in some cases whether or not those summary matters are actually "back-up" matters or are merely other related summary matters. Accordingly, trial courts often decline to deal with any of the summary matters, electing instead to allow a Local Court to sort them out at some later time.
The consequent management and disposal of pending back-up and related summary matters takes up a significant amount of Local Court time. Some courts, such as Waverley, have devoted two full days a year just to calling over and sorting out such matters.
The proposal in the bill for improvement of part 10 was made by the Legal Aid Commission, and has the support of the heads of jurisdiction, the Director of Public Prosecutions, and the Law Society. The amendments will require:
(i) the prosecuting authority to tender to the Local Court, at the time of committal for trial, a certificate detailing, in respect of each charge to be dealt with on indictment:
(a) any "back-up" summary offences, and
(b) any other related summary offences; and
(ii) the trial court, at the conclusion of the trial, in relation to any indictable matter upon which the defendant is convicted, to deal with any "back-up" summary offence unless the court believes that it is inappropriate to do so.
The proposal will ensure that clear information is provided to the trial court as to what summary matters exist, and whether those summary matters are "back-up" summary matters or merely "related" summary matters. It will also ensure that, unless there is some particular reason why it is not appropriate in a given case, the trial court will dismiss any "back-up" summary matter following a person’s conviction of the indictable offence to which it relates. The court will retain its usual discretion in relation to related summary matters, which on occasions will not lend themselves to being readily dealt with.
While the amendments to part 10 do not formally provide for a stay of proceedings in the Local Court in relation to summary offences that have been included in a certificate under the part, it is the practice of Local Courts to await the outcome of the trial courts’ deliberations in relation to such matters. It is envisaged that that practice will continue.
I now return to item  of schedule 1.3. The Director of Public Prosecutions has drawn attention to an anomaly that exists in the fact that there is no provision for the Crown to appeal against inadequacy of sentence when the Supreme Court or District Court, pursuant to part 10A of the Criminal Procedure Act, imposes a sentence for a summary offence.
The defendant, by section 5AA and 5AD of the Criminal Appeal Act 1912 is provided with rights of appeal against conviction and sentence in respect of any matter dealt with by the Supreme Court or District Court under the part.
The Crown, by section 5D of the Criminal Appeal Act 1912, has a right of appeal to the Court of Criminal Appeal against any sentence imposed by the trial court in respect of the indictable matter or matters, but not in respect of any related summary matter.
At a practical level, it is to be expected that Crown prosecutors may frequently decline to have summary matters dealt with under part 10 if the legislation remains unchanged.
Yet, for the reasons discussed earlier, it is important to encourage trial courts to utilise the powers given to them under part 10.
The form of appeal adopted in the amendment mirrors in significant respects that given to the Crown, under section 131AB of the Justices Act 1902, in relation to appeals from the Local Court.
Proposed subsection 5DB(6) places limits on the adducing on appeal of new evidence or information. These limits are based on those found in section 131AC(3) of the Justices Act, and provide, in the case of the prosecution, that new evidence may only be given in exceptional circumstances. Section 12 of the Criminal Appeal Act, which is referred to in proposed subsection (7), provides, further, that in no case shall any
sentence be increased by reason of, or in consideration of any evidence that was not given at trial.
Item  of schedule 1.3 amends section 22(1) of the Criminal Appeal Act 1912 so as to add the power to dismiss appeals as incompetent to the list of powers which may be exercised by a single judge of the Court of Criminal Appeal.
Section 22(1) of the Criminal Appeal Act 1912 contains a list of powers which may be exercised by any judge, sitting alone, of the Court of Criminal Appeal.
The section was amended in 1995, at the suggestion of the Chief Judge at Common Law, so as to introduce an additional six powers to the list. The Chief Judge at Common Law has now made a further recommendation that, consistent with the powers already added to section 22(1), the power to dismiss appeals as incompetent should also be included.
Incompetent appeals usually arise where a summary conviction in a Local Court has been followed by an unsuccessful District Court appeal. There is ample authority that in such a case no appeal lies to the Court of Criminal Appeal (other than by stated case), because the conviction was not upon indictment. Nonetheless, at present such an appeal cannot be dismissed unless the court is constituted by at least three judges.
The proposed amendment will further assist the court in the efficient management of its duties.
The final significant amendment made by the bill is found in schedule 1.6.
Items  to  of that part of the schedule make amendments to the Listening Devices Act 1984 to make it clear that the "proceedings" referred to in section 13(2)(d), and also the "criminal proceedings" referred to in section 14(1), include bail proceedings.
The desirability of this clarification has become apparent following an examination of the Listening Devices Act 1984 in light of the decision of the NSW Court of Appeal in DPP v. Serratore (1995) 132 ALR 461.
In Serratore’s case, the Court of Appeal held that the transcript of recordings of telephone conversations lawfully intercepted under the Telecommunications (Interception) Act 1979 (Commonwealth) could not be received into evidence on an application for bail in the Supreme Court because such application was not "a proceeding by way of prosecution for a prescribed offence".
The Court of Appeal went on to note in Serratore that there is a real potential for practical inconvenience or absurdity if telephone intercept evidence, which may be admissible at the hearing of a matter, cannot be considered on a bail application.
The NSW Director of Public Prosecutions, in a letter to the Attorney, expressed concern that a similar difficulty might arise in the context of sections 13 and 14 of the Listening Devices Act, regarding the admissibility in bail proceedings of material recorded pursuant to a listening device.
On the advice of Judge R. N. Howie QC, then Crown Advocate, amendments to the relevant sections have been prepared in accordance with Mr Cowdery’s suggestion. While the then Crown Advocate considered it was well arguable that the words "criminal proceedings" in section 14 of the Act do include bail proceedings, and even more arguable that bail proceedings are encompassed by section 13, nonetheless he recommended the amendments be made for the sake of abundant caution.
The balance of the provisions in the bill are consequential amendments and transitional provisions. Generally speaking, the transitional provisions follow the convention of avoiding retrospectivity wherever their effect is to alter any person's substantive rights. Where procedural amendments are able to operate retrospectively without that danger, then that course has been adopted.
I am sure members will agree that the bill contains a considered and worthwhile package of amendments. They reflect a considered, constructive and commonsense approach to reform of the criminal justice system.
In closing, I would again like to thank those who have taken the trouble to draw to the Government’s attention the issues that have been addressed. As always, the criminal law review division of the Attorney General’s Department will continue to gratefully receive constructive ideas for the improvement of the criminal law.
I commend the bill to the House.
The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD (Leader of the Opposition) [11.47 a.m.]: The Opposition supports the Crimes Legislation Amendment Bill 1997. The object of this omnibus bill is to make a number of miscellaneous amendments to the Bail Act, the Crimes Act, the Criminal Appeal Act, the Criminal Procedure Act, the Justices Act and the Listening Devices Act because, whilst the amendments are important, it is not appropriate that they be dealt with in individual amending bills. Over the last three to four years a number of minor difficulties have been raised in relation to the Acts and administration of the justice system. The bill addresses each of the matters to make it easier to administer the criminal justice system. I will not go through all of the changes but shall highlight a couple which I believe are important for the future, such as the provisions enabling orders to be made by the courts for the taking of photographs and fingerprints and other particulars. The Government has been trialling such a program in a number of the courts. The bill will provide a broad-based power to order fingerprinting.
I recall that in the latter days of my administration as Attorney General problems arose as to whether people had the criminal record which was identified in information placed before the courts. A survey showed that in a number of cases the criminal record produced to the court was not the full criminal record. Part of the reason was that not in all offences were fingerprints taken, therefore there could not be certainty about the particular people against whom information was registered and the information may not have accurately reflected the record of the person before the court. The fingerprinting provisions will now mean that much
improved criminal records are being kept, which is a significant step forward. Giving to the Crown the right of appeal in certain additional cases will enhance public confidence in the appeal process and the criminal justice system. It will ensure that judges who sit alone in the Court of Criminal Appeal have the same powers as three judges sitting as the Court of Criminal Appeal.
Recently the system has been changed so that it is no longer necessary that three judges sit to hear all appeals; in certain cases the court may be constituted differently. It is important that judges when acting in that manner have the full powers of the court. The bill pursues a number of other non-controversial changes; they are administrative changes designed to improve the system. The Opposition, therefore, supports the bill. Given that in consultation with various interest groups no adverse comment was made about the legislation to the Opposition, the bill should have the support of all members of the House.
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY [11.51 a.m.]: The Australian Democrats also support the Crimes Legislation Amendment Bill, which was based on proposals brought to the attention of the Attorney General from the judiciary, the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Crown Solicitor, the Police Service and the Legal Aid Commission. As the Leader of the Opposition said, the bill seeks to introduce several miscellaneous amendments, largely practical in nature, which will remedy defects and anomalies that exist in the criminal law and procedure. The 10 listed amendments are to the Crimes Act 1900, the Criminal Procedure Act 1986, the Justices Act 1902, the Criminal Appeal Act 1912, the Bail Act 1978 and the Listening Devices Act 1984. Probably one of the most important of those amendments is the proposal that sections 13 and 14 of the Listening Devices Act be amended to make it clear that evidence that is lawfully recorded pursuant to the Act is admissible in bail proceedings as well as at trial. That means that any recording that has not been lawfully obtained will not be admissible. That is an important provision.
The bill in its draft form was circulated to all the major bodies involved in the criminal justice system and met with wide approval. Another important provision in the bill is the proposal that section 61S of the Crimes Act 1900 be amended to extend clearly to all sexual offences the abolition of the common law presumption that a male under the age of 14 years is incapable of having, or of intending to have, penile sexual intercourse. That is obviously a very old-fashioned provision. Many young women have been abused by teenagers, therefore, it was important that this common law presumption be removed. The amendment to the Criminal Appeal Act 1912 to provide for a Crown appeal in respect of inadequacy of sentence when a related summary offence is dealt with pursuant to part 10 of the Criminal Procedure Act 1986 will be of value, particularly to those members of the public who are becoming concerned about some sentences that do not seem to properly fit the crime for which the punishment was inflicted. With those brief remarks I too am happy to support the bill.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE [11.55 a.m.]: The Christian Democratic Party supports the Crimes Legislation Amendment Bill 1997. The object of the bill is to make miscellaneous amendments to the following Acts relating to criminal law and procedure: the Bail Act 1978, the Crimes Act 1900, the Criminal Appeal Act 1912, the Criminal Procedure Act 1986, the Justices Act 1902 and the Listening Devices Act 1984. The bill is the result of advice from many sources, including various legal bodies, that have expressed concern about the need to update legislation in this regard. Suggestions have come from judges, the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Crown Solicitor’s Office, the New South Wales Police Service, the New South Wales Ombudsman and the Legal Aid Commission. Those involved in the day-to-day administration of the criminal law have been consulted widely and, from what the Government has said, the bill enjoys wide support. The Christian Democratic Party has not been lobbied in any way by groups wishing to object to proposals in the bill. For those reasons the Christian Democratic Party supports the bill.
The Hon. I. COHEN [11.56 a.m.]: The Greens generally support the bill but have serious reservations about one aspect of it. The bill makes miscellaneous amendments to various Acts relating to criminal law and procedure. It proposes to amend section 61S of the Crimes Act, the "offenders who are minors" provision. As the section stands at present, for the purposes of sections 61H to 61U, which deal with provisions relating to non-carnal knowledge sexual assault, indecent assault and acts of indecency, the perpetrator is not presumed, by reason of age only, to be incapable of having sexual intercourse with the victim or of having an intent to have sexual intercourse with the victim. In other words, the perpetrator’s age cannot be used as a defence. With regard to carnal knowledge provisions set out in sections 66A to 66F, age is a defence because the matters referred to in section 61S do not apply. Age is a defence because of an old common law rule that perpetrators under the age of 14 years are considered to be incapable of sexual intercourse and therefore cannot be convicted. The proposed
amendment to section 61S abolishes the common law rule for offences under sections 66A to 66F. The result will be that age will not be a defence for any sexual assault offences.
The Greens accept that individuals younger than 14 years of age are capable of sexual intercourse, sexual assault and carnal knowledge. Indeed, many victims of child sexual abuse complain of having been raped by young siblings or younger peers. The Greens accept that this situation must be covered by the criminal law to deter such activity and to provide an avenue of redress for victims. However, the Greens are extremely concerned about the possible unintended consequences of this amendment. Section 77 of the Crimes Act specifies that consent to sexual intercourse is no defence to carnal knowledge offences except in very limited circumstances. There is a defence available if the alleged victim is over the age of 14 years and consented to the intercourse, and the alleged perpetrator thought the victim was 16 years of age. Generally, however, consent is no defence. Chapter 5 of the draft model criminal code put out by the Model Criminal Code Officers Committee of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General in 1996 proposes a restricted defence of consent where there is a similarity in age. The code, at page 118, sets out the defence as follows:
A person is not criminally responsible for an offence against this Division in respect of an act if, at the time of the act:
(a) the child concerned was 10 years of age or older, and
(b) the child consented to the act,
(c) the person was married to the child (or reasonably believed he or she was married to the child) or the person was not more than 2 years older, nor more than 2 years younger, than the child.
As the code points out, three factors must be present before the defence can be made out. First, the child must be between the age of 10 and 16; second, the child must have consented; and, third, there must be no more than a two-year age difference between the two involved or they must be married. The rationale for this defence is that research and anecdotal evidence have shown that young people often engage in sexual experimentation before the age of consent. The problem may now arise that this kind of young sexual experimentation may be subject to criminal sanctions. The carnal knowledge provisions contain very heavy penalties. Having sexual intercourse with a child between the age of 10 years and 16 years carries penalties of eight to 10 years, depending on the age of the child. Generally, in a boy-girl sexual experimentation situation the boy will be prosecuted, not the girl, due to the definition of sexual intercourse, which describes sexual intercourse in terms of penetration to any extent of the genitalia of a female person or the anus of any person by various things or by penetration or insertion of the penis into the mouth.
While the definition in the Act does allow for girls to be charged with carnal knowledge, that is, if they commit cunnilingus on an underage boy or insert objects into an underage boy’s anus, generally boys will be prosecuted, not girls, if full sexual intercourse takes place. This could potentially lead to many young boys being incarcerated for engaging in consensual sexual experimentation with girls of a similar age. The Greens consider that section 77 of the Crimes Act needs to be amended immediately so that the defence suggested by the model criminal code is inserted into it, otherwise there may be a flood of these types of offences brought before the courts, instigated by angry underage girls’ families. The boys will end up being the victims as they begin their life with a long term of incarceration for what may have been an innocent, consensual sexual experimentation.
The Hon. J. W. SHAW (Attorney General, and Minister for Industrial Relations) [12.01 p.m.], in reply: I thank honourable members for their generous and thoughtful support for this bill, which is undoubtedly a collection of sensible, practical and non-contentious matters that will improve the criminal justice system in New South Wales. I noted the comments of the Hon. I. Cohen about carnal knowledge and make the observation that they appear to relate to proposals for the future rather than to the substantive provisions of the bill. When I say "proposals for the future", I do not mean proposals put forward by the Government but ideas that the Hon. I. Cohen has expressed. I commend the bill to the House.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a second time and passed through remaining stages.
CRIMES LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (PROCEDURE) BILL
The Hon. J. W. SHAW (Attorney General, and Minister for Industrial Relations) [12.03 p.m.]: I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
This bill contains a package of reforms directed towards the procedure by which trials on indictment are conducted in the District and Supreme Courts. Some of them are in the nature of fine-tuning of procedures that have shown themselves to be troublesome in the past; others are substantial changes to the way trials are conducted. All of them are valuable, and all of them maintain the proper balancing of the rights of the parties in serious criminal matters.
In summary, the bill makes the procedure when accused persons plead guilty during a trial less cumbersome, introduces a means of clarifying at an early stage the real issues to be placed before the jury, permits the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court to better manage the business of that court, permits criminal trials to be conducted more efficiently by way of resolution of legal issues before the empanelling of the jury, and removes a restriction on the rules committee of the District Court.
By way of background, may I say that trial procedure in New South Wales has some very ancient sources stretching back many hundred of years. Given this weight of history, changing the system should be done in a careful and considered way. On the other hand, that does not mean that the way we conduct trials must be seen as something immutable and writ in stone. This bill is a reflection of the approach of the Government - reform that is careful, constructive, and beneficial.
I turn now to a detailed analysis of the provisions of this bill.
Schedule 1, item  inserts section 399A into the Crimes Act 1900. It amends a somewhat formal procedure. Currently, once the accused is placed in the charge of the jury, only the jury may bring down a verdict and thereby end the trial. Accordingly, if the accused changes his or her plea from not guilty to guilty during the course of the trial, the accused must be re-arraigned and plead guilty before the jury. The judge thereupon directs the jury to bring down a verdict of guilty. This procedure is rather time-wasting, and no doubt sometimes a little confusing for jurors.
The amendment vests a power in the judge to accept a plea of guilty in the course of the proceedings without the involvement of the jury. The judge can discharge the jury from giving a verdict and find the accused guilty. It is important to note that the finding of the judge will have the same effect as if it were the verdict of the jury.
It should also be noted that the bill is wide enough to permit a plea to be taken on a charge by way of the new procedure even though the accused was not originally arraigned on that charge. It is not uncommon for an accused to plead guilty to an alternative charge in the course of a trial, and the bill is intended to apply this procedure to such an event.
The next aspect of the bill constitutes a very significant step forward in trial procedure.
The accused is given, by schedule 1 of the bill, which amends section 402 of the Crimes Act and inserts a new section 405, the option of making an early opening address on trial issues. Counsel for the accused (or the accused if unrepresented) may exercise that option immediately after the opening of the Crown case by the prosecutor. The address of the accused is to be limited generally to all or any of the matters disclosed in the prosecutor’s opening address that are or are not in dispute, and the matters to be raised by the defence.
The idea is to give the accused the option of identifying, right at the start of the trial, the real issues in the trial. That will be of value to all concerned, not least the jury, who will be able to observe all of the evidence from the very beginning with the real issues of dispute firmly in mind.
It is important to grasp that it is entirely at the accused’s discretion whether or not to make the new address, just as it is currently entirely at his or her discretion to decide whether or not to open his or her case if calling evidence, and whether or not to address the jury at the end of the trial.
Furthermore, the making of the new address does not preclude the accused from opening his or her case if calling evidence for the defence. That is appropriate for two reasons.
First, the two addresses are rather different in their general natures, though there may be some overlap in practice. One foreshadows the issues in the whole trial; the other foreshadows the evidence to be called by the accused.
Second, the exercise of the option of making the new address, bearing in mind that it will be to the benefit of all, should be encouraged, rather than made into something that would only be done by the accused after a tactical cost-benefit analysis.
The opportunity has also been taken of simplifying the layout of the provisions in the Crimes Act relating to addresses by the accused.
An opening address by the accused on trial issues will help to crystallise which issues are and are not in dispute. It will enable the jury to be in a better position to appreciate the significance of the evidence as it is given throughout the trial, and particularly in the prosecution case. Furthermore, it will allow the prosecution and judge to focus upon those matters which are genuinely in dispute.
I hope that honourable members will agree that this measure is a valuable and worthwhile reform to the criminal justice system from the point of view of all concerned.
Schedule 2 introduces an administrative reform by way of inserting section 16A into the Criminal Procedure Act 1986. It allows the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court to issue a practice note directing that indictments of a particular class are to be presented in the District Court rather than the Supreme Court, unless the Chief Justice approves of a particular indictment of that class being presented in the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court may reject an indictment that is presented in the Supreme Court in contravention of such a practice note.
This amendment will ensure that only those matters which, by their nature, should be heard before the Supreme Court are so heard, and that all other cases are dealt with by the District Court. It will give the Chief Justice greater control over which criminal matters are heard in the Supreme Court.
The bill inserts new section 19 into the Criminal Procedure Act 1986, which gives both the Supreme and District Courts clear authority to conduct trial proceedings after presentation of the indictment and the arraignment of the accused, and before the jury is empanelled.
It is vital to grasp with regard to this aspect of the bill that it does not introduce some separate regime of pre-trial hearings. The point is that the trial itself commences, and all of the
rights and obligations vested in the parties and the trial judge apply, at that stage just as much as they do after the jury is empanelled.
The reform allows for the presentation of the indictment before the jury is empanelled, in order to allow for those matters in the trial that are not for the jury to be dealt with at that stage. There are many kinds of matters that could be appropriately dealt with in this way. An example is a voir dire held to determine whether evidence has been obtained illegally and, if so, whether the discretion of the judge should be exercised to include it.
The accused is to be arraigned again when the jury is empanelled for the purpose of continuing the trial.
I should clarify one aspect of that procedure. It is certainly not the intention of the Government to affect, by way of new section 19(3)(b), the current process whereby accused persons are arraigned and thereafter juries are empanelled for their trial, and that portion of the bill should not be interpreted as doing so.
All that the provision in question seeks to ensure is that, when the aspects of the trial that are able to be dealt with by the judge, pursuant to this new procedure and before the jury is empanelled, have been completed, then the accused is arraigned again and the jury empanelled in the ordinary way, exactly as occurs now.
This whole reform may not seem like much at first blush, but it will have very substantial benefits in practice. It is not uncommon for a criminal trial to start by way of the empanelling of a jury of twelve citizens, only to have them sent away for a period of hours, days or even weeks so that legal issues may be determined. This reform does away with the need for any such procedure. It has the potential to save a lot of time, money and inconvenience.
It should be noted that this reform is not intended to affect the procedure in the District Court whereby an arraignment hearing is held shortly after committal to that court. This reform is directed towards trials themselves.
I stress that this reform does not establish some cumbersome system of pre-trial hearings. It achieves the same aim, that is, of resolving issues before the involvement of a jury, by a better method.
Finally, schedule 3 amends section 171 of the District Court Act 1973. The amendment removes the requirement that certain procedural rules made by the rules committee of the District Court must be approved in writing by the Attorney General. A comparable provision does not exist regarding the Supreme Court. It is appropriate to empower the rules committee of the District Court without the oversight of the Attorney General.
In conclusion, may I say that these procedural reforms are by no means nibbles at the edges of the criminal justice system. Nor are they the half-baked, publicity-seeking exercises that the Opposition engages in every so often by way of its ill-thought through private members’ bills about criminal law. On the contrary, this bill contains some detailed, workable, common-sense changes to criminal procedure. They have the potential to assist very much in the administration of justice.
I commend the bill to the House.
The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD (Leader of the Opposition) [12.03 p.m.]: The coalition supports the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Procedure) Bill. On its face it appears an innocuous bill; however, it is an extremely important reform which will have significant ramifications in improving the efficiency of the operations of the courts. The first matter is the least of the changes which would generate a significant improvement, that is, the proposal to change the procedure for a plea of guilty made during the course of criminal proceedings being heard by a jury. The judge will have the authority to discharge the jury and find the accused guilty instead of directing the jury to do so. That is a simple, but logical, administrative change.
The second matter relates to the proposal to allow the defence to make a limited opening address on trial issues immediately after the prosecution has made its opening address, without affecting the right of the defence to make an opening address at the end of the prosecution case and before calling evidence for the defence. Jurors enter court with wide-eyed innocence and listen to what the prosecution has to say without having any idea about the issues to be addressed or matters that may concern the defence. It may take until the end of the prosecution case before the jury realises that the defence is relying on one significant issue to which the jury ought to have been paying more attention. This measure will allow the accused’s representative to outline to the jury the relevant issues and this will lead to a significant improvement in the efficient operation of the jury system.
The third measure in the bill will enable the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court to issue a practice note directing that certain types of indictment be presented in the District Court rather than the Supreme Court. This is the most important amendment in terms of the operation of the Supreme Court. It means that the Federal Director of Public Prosecutions will now have to reassess the way Federal drug cases are run. The Federal Director of Public Prosecutions has tended to lay charges for drug cases in the New South Wales Supreme Court. In fact, on one occasion a drug charge was laid in the New South Wales Supreme Court when it could well have been dealt with in another jurisdiction. The Federal Director of Public Prosecutions should lay charges in the New South Wales Supreme Court only when absolutely necessary. If it is good enough for the New South Wales police to have all their drugs cases heard in the District Court, it is good enough for similar Federal cases to be heard there also. This measure will ensure that the criminal jurisdiction of the New South Wales Supreme Court is not clogged with unnecessary Commonwealth drug prosecutions.
The fourth matter provides the Supreme Court and District Court with clear authority to conduct trial proceedings in respect of indictable offences after the presentation of the indictment and before the jury is empanelled for the trial. On the face of it one might well ask: what does that mean in English? It means that from now on in criminal cases judges will be able to manage criminal trials. To improve the efficiency of the criminal justice system judges in the Supreme Court and the District Court will now be given a parliamentary mandate to take over the management of criminal cases.
When I was the Attorney General I established a working party to examine judicial management of criminal cases, which prompted significant debate amongst legal practitioners. I appointed Judge Nader to head that working party. Though there was almost unanimous support from all practitioners in the field, the Law Society of New South Wales and the New South Wales Bar Association strongly opposed the proposal, mainly because a small number of their interest groups were opposed to this significant reform. Much can be done to improve the efficiency of the criminal justice system to make it more transparent and to ensure that it is not abused. This can be achieved by giving judges control over the management of criminal cases without undermining the right of the defence to remain silent.
Justice Davies, of the Queensland Court of Appeal, recently published a number of articles in relation to the judicial management of criminal cases. Research has been conducted in this regard in New Zealand. Judges should require the experts who prepare reports in criminal cases to be the experts of the courts, and experts who give evidence and prepare reports should do so for the courts, not for the benefit of the defence. The legal profession should be obligated to inform the courts about the experts to whom it turns to gain evidence. I admit, as a former legal practitioner - although the majority of my work did not involve crime - that we shopped around the country, sometimes the world, for experts who might be able to cast a doubt.
A defence lawyer does not look for evidence of a positive nature, but for experts who will cast a doubt on the professional information provided by the prosecution. The job of a defence lawyer is to cast doubt on the prosecution’s case. I remember being involved in a case - a difficult case concerning the death of a person - in which 30 or 40 experts from around the world were approached to cast doubt on new technologies used by the prosecution. We finally found one expert who would cast doubt - and we spoke to in excess of 30 - and I thought I would get an acquittal. My client then instructed me not to adduce any evidence. He said, "I have no recollection of the incident, but if the prosecution can prove that it occurred I will take whatever punishment is meted out to me. You are not to pursue the defences that might be available to you." That does not often happen, but it shows the way in which expert evidence is capable of not being used to the benefit of the justice system but can be abused to undermine the system.
The criminal law is not about trying to find the truth, but about trying to cast doubt on the credibility of the prosecution, which undermines the justice system in New South Wales, Australia and throughout the Westminster system. The community is currently demanding reform to ensure that the criminal justice system protects a defendant from the abuses of the power of the police as investigators and to ensure that there are checks and balances that mean that the power and authority of the Crown to investigate are not abused in that investigative process. The community wants a more transparent criminal justice system and one that is aimed at finding the truth. The amendment contained in schedule 2 will provide a significant step forward in the reform of the criminal justice system. The courts will have the power to manage indictable cases that lead to these matters coming before a jury.
The final matter is an administrative change. It removes the provision that certain classes of criminal procedure rules made by the District Court Rule Committee do not have effect until they are approved by the Attorney General. That is a redundant process because the courts have been making such rules for a significant period of time. The rules have to be published in the Government Gazette. It is no longer necessary for the Attorney General to provide oversight of that rule-making process. I commend the Attorney General for the change, which gives the courts the power to take administrative control of the preparation of criminal cases. This is only the first step.
As is apparent from Justice Nader’s report and his efforts to drive ownership of reform, the traditionalists in the criminal justice system will oppose any change in this area. They will tart up their opposition on the basis that it is undermining the fundamental right of the defence; but it is not. It is trying to retain the status quo, which is all about defence lawyers playing a game - a game the system authorises them to play - ostensibly for the purpose of defending the client from abuse. However, the defence tries to create as much obfuscation as possible. The greater the obfuscation, the greater the chance the jury will have a doubt; if the jury has a doubt, the person accused will get off. We hope the
truth prevails and justice wins out. It will be a significant step forward if it can be achieved.
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY [12.17 p.m.]: I support the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Procedure) Bill. As has been pointed out by the Leader of the Opposition, the legislation resulted from a report made by Mr John Nader, QC, in 1993 when he examined the existing procedures in the conduct of complex criminal trials. It was known at that time that many of the trial rules were old and it was believed that reforms should be ongoing. The bill will allow judges to accept a plea of guilty without the involvement of the jury; the defence will be given the option to make an opening address in reply to the Crown’s opening address; the chief justice will be able to direct that certain classes of indictments are to be presented in the District Court rather than in the Supreme Court; and the Supreme Court and the District Court will be given clear authority to conduct proceedings after the presentation of the indictment and before the jury is empanelled.
I am informed that the Bar Association and the Law Society of New South Wales were consulted by the Government and the Opposition in relation to this legislation, and that both organisations are happy with it. The bill has bipartisan support and the support of the major representatives of the legal profession. Therefore, the Australian Democrats support the changes, in particular the opportunity to give the defence the option to make an opening address in reply to the Crown’s opening address. We believe that this is a much-needed and sensible reform. As in the theatre, first and last impressions are the most important. It is essential that trials get off on an even keel. I support the bill.
The Hon. J. W. SHAW (Attorney General, and Minister for Industrial Relations) [12.20 p.m.], in reply: I thank the Leader of the Opposition for his support for the bill and I thank the Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby for her support on behalf of the Australian Democrats. General support in the House for such a reformist measure in the criminal law is evidence that we are likely to have it approximately right. I commend the bill to the House.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a second time and passed through remaining stages.
HEALTH LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL
The Hon. R. D. DYER (Minister for Community Services, Minister for Aged Services, and Minister for Disability Services) [12.10 p.m.]: I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
I seek leave to have my second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
This Bill proposes amendments to a number of pieces of health legislation, namely the New South Wales Institute of Psychiatry Act 1964, the Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Act 1966 (with cognate amendments to the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act 1985) the Dental Technicians Registration Act 1975 and the Private Hospitals and Day Procedures Centres Act 1988 which I will address in turn.
I commence with the proposed amendments to the New South Wales Institute of Psychiatry Act. The New South Wales Institute of Psychiatry was established by the New South Wales Institute of Psychiatry Act in 1964 following the Callan Park Royal Commission. Although the objects of the Institute were wide, the principal functions at that time were the fostering of research in mental illness and the training of psychiatrists, the end result of which has been significant developments in psychiatric research. In response academic psychiatry has developed into a well established discipline and is a significant component of undergraduate and postgraduate medical education. Not unreasonably, the membership of the Institute, which predominantly comprises psychiatrists, and has a strong academic and college representation, clearly reflects the past need to overcome identified deficits in psychiatric research and training. However, at the same time the Institute has endeavoured to broaden its focus through an increasing involvement in multidisciplinary training and community education in mental health. While the Institute has responsibility for multidisciplinary training, neither non-medical health practitioners nor the community have ever been represented on the Institute.
There is, however, extensive interest within the community in the Institute’s role. This was demonstrated by the fact that some twenty-two different organisations with an interest in mental health were represented on the consultative committee established to provide input into the review of the Institute’s activities.
The amendments proposed to the New South Wales Institute of Psychiatry Act address this lack of representation and will ensure that the Institute is better positioned to give effect to its charter for multidisciplinary training.
Mr President, in discussions with the Institute it has been agreed to reduce and amend the membership of this organisation, which is to consist of:
•a chairperson nominated by the Minister;
•a member of the business community;
•a psychiatrist from three nominees invited from the New South Wales Branch of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists;
•two academic psychiatrists from different universities selected from a panel of up to two nominees of each of the University of Newcastle, the University of New South Wales, and the University of Sydney;
•a health professional currently working in mental health services in New South Wales selected from two nominees
of each of the New South Wales Branch of the Australian Psychology Society, the New South Wales Branch of the Australian Association of Social Workers, and the Australian Association of Occupational Therapists;
•a mental health nurse nominated by the Australian and New Zealand College of Mental Health Nurses;
•a consumer representative with a demonstrated interest in mental health;
•a senior officer of the Department of Health, or a Chief Executive Officer of an Area Health Service; and
•the Director of the New South Wales Institute of Psychiatry.
With the exception of the Director, the term of office of members of the Institute will be reduced from five years to three years, with a maximum of two consecutive terms. This proposal is in line with appointments to other Government bodies and committees.
It is further proposed to require the Institute to establish committees dealing variously with the training of psychiatrists, research, multidisciplinary training and community education and outreach. This amendment will reinforce the broadening of the Institute’s role and will facilitate the involvement of a wider range of professional groups than has been the case to date.
Under the proposed amendments the Institute will also be required to consult with groups having an interest in the provision of mental health services. Groups including relevant community organisations and public and private health care providers will have an input in the implementation of the objects of the Act.
Mr President, I now move on to the proposed amendments to the Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Act and associated amendments to the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act.
In 1995 the Department of School Education expressed concerns that school staff who keep in their possession medications required by students may be in breach of the Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Act. While on one view school staff could be said to have custody rather than possession of students’ medications, it was clearly desirable that the legal position be put beyond doubt, not only for the benefit of school staff but for the wider class of persons having the care or assisting in the care of others.
Persons who provide care or who assist in the care of others in the course of their employment or voluntary activities should bot be placed in the position of possibly being in breach of the Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Act and/or the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act, in respect of the possession or supply of medication lawfully prescribed for a person in their care. Accordingly, the proposed amendments to the Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Act and Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act will make clear that persons having custody of lawfully prescribed medications, as an incidence of the care of others, may be in possession of such medication for the sole purpose of administering or assisting in the self-administration of that medication.
Mr President, it is proposed to amend the Dental Technicians Registration Act to make clear that dental prosthetists are able to make and fit mouthguards and so overcome a very strong misperception within the field of dentistry.
While the legislation does not restrict dental prosthetists from making and fitting mouthguards, so strongly held is the view within the field of dentistry that dental prosthetists cannot do so, an express permissive provision is warranted.
This view arises out of the difference in practice between dental technicians and dental prosthetists. The definition of "technical work" in the Act is considered to allow dental technicians, who work in dental laboratories, to make dental mouthguards, usually for dentists. However, dental prosthetists, being dental technicians that have "chair side" status to attend upon patients for the making of dentures, have been considered to be excluded from attending upon patients for the making and fitting of mouthguards, under both the current terms of the Act and also those in the Dentists Act 1989.
Advice is available that dental prosthetists in Queensland, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia are permitted to make and fit mouthguards. While it is thought that many dental prosthetists in New South Wales may already have some experience in making mouthguards, they practise in what is regarded as being a legislative grey area.
While facilitating the provision of dental services to the community through removing uncertainty, the proposed amendment will not affect the current availability of ready made, non-customised, mouthguards from retail outlets such as sports stores and pharmacies.
Mr President, the proposed amendments to the Private Hospitals and Day Procedure Centres Act, which provides for the licensing of private hospitals and day procedure centres, are intended to clarify a number of definitional issues. The amendments, which are supported by the Medical Services Committee and peak industry groups, will ensure that the Act is applicable to those to whom it should apply and able to be enforced as intended.
The Act defines a private hospital as "premises at which patients are provided with medical, surgical and other treatments, and with ancillary nursing care, for fee gain or reward . . . ". Similarly, a day procedure centre is defined as "premises at which patients are admitted and discharged on the same day for medical, surgical or other treatment for fee gain or reward . . . ". The proposed amendments will omit references to "patients" in the definition of day procedure centres and private hospitals to clarify that the Act also applies to treatment provided to only one patient.
It is also proposes to remove the reference to "fee gain or reward" from the definition of day procedure centre to make clear that the Act applies to all medical, surgical and other treatments conducted at a day procedure centre.
The need to clarify the meaning of the word "treatment" in the definition of "private hospital" and "day procedure centre" has arisen as the definition is being read by some licensees as excluding diagnostic-only services. The commonly held view is that treatment includes diagnostic-only services. However, some licensees have sought to minimise the impact of licensing by seeking to isolate diagnostic-only services from the licensing requirements.
The need for licensing turns on the risks to the patient of the procedure and the form of sedation or anaesthetic employed. Whether the activity is a treatment or diagnostic-only service does little to diminish the risk for the patient. In either case the risks to the patient arise out of the procedure itself and the administration of anaesthetic or sedation.
To ensure that licensing standards under the Act apply equally to diagnostic services and other forms of treatment, it is proposed to insert an additional entry in the definition section of the Act which expressly states that a reference to medical, surgical or other treatment includes a reference to a diagnosis for the purpose of such treatments.
I commend these amendments to the House.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI [12.21 p.m.]: I lead for the Opposition. The bill makes a number of amendments to health legislation. The first, and probably unnecessary, amendment was inserted by the Minister for Health to clarify the position that dental prosthetists may make, fit and advise on mouthguards. This amendment was opposed by the dental association, but, as it simply clarifies the existing circumstance, the Opposition will not oppose it. The second amendment in the bill will amend the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act to clarify the position of a person who holds prohibited drugs on behalf of another person. The amendment particularly covers carers, people who may hold methadone for a person on the methadone program, or a schoolteacher who holds drugs on behalf of a school student who needs to take those drugs during the day. It also covers people travelling with others. If it can be proven that the person holding the drug is carrying on behalf of another, that would be consistent with the person not being subject to the Act. The amendment also covers instances in which a carer may administer the drug.
The third issue relates to amendments to the Institute of Psychiatry. The Minister has taken the same path he adopted when he made changes to the New South Wales Cancer Council. He has taken the Governor and the Executive Council out of the picture so that whatever the Minister does is not subject to any oversighting by the Government. Therefore the Minister will be able to appoint people willy-nilly. Honourable members know what happened last time he adopted this course: he appointed his mates to the Cancer Council. They made certain decisions which were not approved by anybody in the community. As a result, and quite properly, the Cancer Council got the bullet. The Minister then reverted to legislation which severely limited his choice. People were chosen by representative groups to further improvements in health related to cancer and the delivery of services, as well as research into cancer in New South Wales.
On this occasion the Minister is proposing a board of 10 made up of the director of the institute and nine members, all of whom will be appointed by the Minister. I am aware that the Hon. R. S. L. Jones will move amendments to the bill, and the Opposition will substantially support the amendments. The Minister will appoint the chairman and other members from the business community and consumer interest groups. The Minister will select a psychiatrist from a panel of three nominated by the New South Wales Branch of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists and one health professional from two nominees of each of the Australian Psychological Society, the New South Wales Branch of the Australian Association of Social Workers and the Australian Association of Occupational Therapists. A mental health nurse will be nominated by the Australian and New Zealand College of Mental Health Nurses, and the Minister will have no choice in that appointment.
However, the Minister will be able to choose health professionals from the psychological society, social workers and occupational therapists. He will also choose one of three nominees from the College of Psychiatrists. An amendment, to be moved by the Hon. R. S. L. Jones, relates to the Minister’s choice of two academic psychiatrists nominated by the University of Newcastle, the University of New South Wales and the University of Sydney. The Minister has the right idea in allowing nurses to nominate their representative, in whom they would have absolute trust. But the Minister will call for nominations from the other organisations and he will choose, perhaps, one of the people he favours rather than the person who has the total support of the organisation from which he or she has been nominated.
Other changes are to be made to the Act but, most importantly, the Minister is moving to set up new committees of the institute: the psychiatrist training committee, the research committee, the multidisciplinary programs committee and the community education and outreach committee, which are all supported by the Opposition. We look forward to those committees doing some very good work in improving teaching, research, co-ordination of care, education and outreach. These are important goals for the institute to focus upon, as they always have been. Amendments to the Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Act have already been covered. Amendments will also be made to the Private Hospitals and Day Procedure Centres Act to clarify that a practitioner may have only one patient, as opposed to a number of patients, treated in a centre under certain conditions.
The Act will be widened to remove references to fee, gain or reward because the legislation now covers public hospitals and places in which standards are maintained, whether or not the patient pays for the service. Amendments have been made to ensure that diagnostic services - x-rays, other
investigations like gastroscopy or colonoscopy, which are no longer called surgical procedures, as the Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby would know - come within the definition. Such procedures may be surgical in nature, for example, the removal of polyps and the like. In general terms the Opposition is highly critical of the Minister being the sole arbiter of who will be appointed to the board, except for the one nurse representative. We believe that the Minister should have adopted the model he has now adopted for the Cancer Council. He should have worked out that learned societies, organisations and community groups are perfectly capable of making good choices in the interests of the people, without the Minister getting in the way. The Opposition will not oppose the legislation.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES [12.30 p.m.]: The Health Legislation Amendment Bill proposes amendments to four pieces of legislation. Most of the changes are minor and I am happy to support them. However, I have some reservations about the amendments to the New South Wales Institute of Psychiatry Act. Intense debate over recent amendments to the Mental Health Act demonstrates that mental health is an extremely emotional topic. The debate highlighted the need for further research into the causes of mental illness, the need for further training for mental health professionals and the need for a broader community awareness of mental health issues. In all those areas the New South Wales Institute of Psychiatry plays a vital role. Any changes to its operation must be carefully considered. Its aims, which are enshrined in the Act, are to provide programs of training in mental health; to initiate and encourage research into all aspects of mental health; and to promote mental health education throughout the community.
The bill will reduce and reconfigure the membership of the institute, reduce the term of office of members of the institute and establish four new committees. I am particularly concerned about the reconfiguration of membership. Currently there are 12 members of the institute. Six members are from the relevant universities, two each from the University of Newcastle, the University of Sydney and the University of New South Wales. Two members are from the Department of Health, two are from the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, one is from the Department of Veterans Affairs and one is the chairperson, who is nominated by the Minister. The bill will reduce the membership of the institute from 12 to 10. The amended membership would comprise the director of the institute, a chairperson nominated by the Minister, a member of the business community, a person with an interest in mental health appointed to represent consumer interests, a psychiatrist from the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, a health professional engaged in mental health services, an officer from the Department of Health and a total of two academic psychiatrists chosen from a panel of up to two nominees each from the University of Newcastle, the University of New South Wales and the University of Sydney.
There are several problems associated with the new membership composition. First, it was established after discussion that there was little need for a business person. The bill merely states that the person must be a member of the business community. It does not refer to any qualifications that the person must have, such as accounting, financial or marketing skills, and it does not refer to any interests that the person must have, such as an interest in mental health, psychiatry or education. The Minister could nominate anybody with a vague affiliation with the business community. In any case, regardless of the qualifications and interests of the business person, the reasons for including such a person are unclear. The explanation offered by the Minister is that it would broaden the skills base of the membership and make the board less academically focused. However, the objectives of the institute, as stated in the Act, which are largely academic, relate to the development of training, research and post-graduate education in the mental health area. Fulfilling the objects of the institute does not require any obvious accounting, marketing or financial skills, and if these skills were required the relevant person could be consulted. Professor Peter Beumont, head of the Department of Psychological Medicine at the University of Sydney has written to me to say that he sees little need for a business person to be a member of the institute. The letter states:
At present the Board acts very competently on financial matters without having a business man involved. Because of the devolution of financial responsibilities to academic and clinical heads in recent years, I believe that many on the Board have the necessary expertise in this area.
There is no need for a member of the business community to be a member of the institute. Second, and more importantly, the proposed amendments will reduce the number of university representatives from six out of 12 to two out of 10. The institute agreed to reduce the level of university representation but it was never intended that only two members of the institute would be university representatives, and it was certainly never intended that one university would not be represented. Because the objectives of the institute are largely academic, university representation is important. It is
given at no cost and has provided considerable educational and research input into the institute since its formation. Such a drastic decrease would compromise the institute’s education and research-related objectives. A number of problems are also created by having unequal representation from each of the universities. It is vital that the institute remain independent, without any affiliation, and able to receive advice that fairly represents all three medical universities. Disaffiliating one university will expose the institute to biased advice and make it easier for one university to overly influence the institute. Professor Gordon Parker, head of the School of Psychiatry, in expressing his concerns to me about unequal representation from the universities, said:
To not have each university represented would be inappropriate and potentially lead to a number of second-phase problems with the disaffiliated university.
We must increase university representation on the board of the institute and ensure that it equally represents all three universities. I foreshadow that I will move amendments in Committee to increase university representation to one from each university. I was going to move amendments which I circulated earlier to remove from the legislation the reference to a business person, but those amendments are not supported by the coalition. I will not now move those amendments. The amendments I foreshadow will focus merely on increasing the university representation to one from each university.
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY [12.36 p.m.]: I support the Health Legislation Amendment Bill. As has been pointed out, the purpose of this bill is to amend certain pieces of health legislation to clarify various regulatory provisions and reduce the membership on the board of the New South Wales Institute of Psychiatry from 12 to 10 members. Some of the amendments are technical, but they are simple to understand. One of the objects of the bill is to amend the Dental Technicians Registration Act 1975 to clarify whether dental prosthetists can make or fit mouthguards. Any young man playing any sort of contact sport obviously needs a mouthguard. The bill will also amend the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act 1985 and the Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Act 1966 to make it clear that persons caring for or assisting in the care of others may have custody of lawfully prescribed medications for the purpose of administering them to the persons in their care - again a very necessary amendment.
The bill will amend the Private Hospitals and Day Procedure Centres Act 1988 to clarify whether the statutory requirements for private hospitals and day procedure centres apply in all cases where a single patient is provided with treatment, and to clarify whether, in prosecutions arising from the statutory requirements emanating from the Private Hospitals and Day Procedure Centres Act, it is sufficient to prove a single incidence of treatment. The bill will also amend the Private Hospitals and Day Procedure Centres Act 1988 to clarify whether the requirement for licensing of private health facilities applies equally to diagnostic services as it does to other forms of treatment by making it clear that a reference to medical, surgical or other forms of treatment includes a reference to a diagnosis for the purposes of such treatment.
A few moments ago the Hon. R. S. L. Jones foreshadowed his intention to move amendments in Committee - amendments dealing with the composition of the New South Wales Institute of Psychiatry. The bill as it stands will reduce the membership of the institute from 12 to 10 members; reduce the term of office of those members, with the exception of the director, from five to three years; and provide for the establishment of four new committees: the psychiatrist training committee, the research committee, the multidisciplinary programs committee and the community education and outreach committee. The amendments proposed by the Hon. R. S. L. Jones suggest that there should be three academic scientists: one from the University of Newcastle, one from the University of New South Wales and one from the University of Sydney. I believe that those reasonable amendments encompass representation from all the leading medical schools in this State. I foreshadow that I intend to support those amendments when they are moved in Committee by the Hon. R. S. L. Jones.
The Hon. R. D. DYER (Minister for Community Services, Minister for Aged Services, and Minister for Disability Services) [12.40 p.m.], in reply: I thank the honourable members who have contributed to the debate. The proposal to include a member of the business community in the institute’s membership is consistent with the broader focus proposed by the institute. Business and organisational skills are clearly relevant to the operation of a body whose role is expanding beyond psychiatric research and training to include multidisciplinary training and community education in mental health. Therefore, the professional background from which a member of the business
community might be chosen should not be limited. Some other concerns were raised and I note that the Hon. R. S. L. Jones intends to move amendments in Committee. Those concerns related largely to how the composition of the institute was achieved and why there is not greater representation from other professional groups.
Dealing with the first concern, during the review of the institute’s structure extensive consultation was undertaken to ensure that input was sought from all stakeholders and interested parties, including the institute, regarding the composition of the institute. The make-up of the institute as set out in the draft legislation is based on the responses and recommendations received from the community, as well as comments received from the institute and the consultant who undertook the review. As the House can appreciate, it is not possible for every organisation and professional group with an interest in mental health to have representation on the institute. Were this to happen, the institute would become cumbersome and unworkable. For that reason, each appointment to the institute is a personal appointment and not as a representative of the nominating organisation.
As to the second issue, membership of the institute relates to its role and function. The proposed amendments will provide for increased participation by a broader spectrum of the professions involved in providing mental health services than was previously the case. However, functional limits are to be considered in regard to the size of the institute. In addition, it is not possible or practicable to provide for representation from each and every teaching facility that is involved in the training of health professionals who work in the mental health field. The institute is a stand-alone body with each member being appointed to it on a personal basis and not as a representative of a body which nominated him or her. The proposed size of 10 members is considered to be the optimum number for the nature of the institute’s activities. I commend the bill to the House.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a second time.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES [12.44 p.m.]: By leave, I move amendments Nos 1 to 3 circulated in my name in globo:
No. 1 Page 5, Schedule 3, line 20. Omit "9", insert instead "10".
No. 2 Page 6, Schedule 3, line 1. Omit "5", insert instead "6".
No. 3 Page 6, Schedule 3, line 16. Omit "2", insert instead "3".
These simple amendments allow for each of the three universities to be represented. The existing bill at page 6 states that the academic psychiatrists selected under subsection (2) are to be from different universities. The Minister has said that these appointments were not from the universities, they were personal appointments. Then, one would ask, why are they from different universities? That clause would not be included if they were personal appointments rather than representing universities. My amendments seek to increase the membership from two to three to ensure that each of the universities has representation. As I mentioned previously, I received a letter from Gordon Parker, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of New South Wales, which states:
Broad representation is important for a whole range of educational reasons.
It further states:
It would be unwise and discourteous to abandon one university in such a process involving the reconstitution of the board.
Professor Peter Beumont, head of the Department of Psychological Medicine at the University of Sydney, said:
I think it is very unwise to reduce the number of academic representatives from three to two. Three universities - Sydney, New South Wales and Newcastle - are actively involved in psychiatric education, research and teaching, and I believe all three should have a representative.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI [12.46 p.m.]: The Opposition supports the amendments. It is important to note that these nominations must be official nominations by the universities concerned and, therefore, are not from people selected by the Minister from within the relevant university departments.
The Hon. R. D. DYER (Minister for Community Services, Minister for Aged Services, and Minister for Disability Services) [12.47 p.m.]: The Government is opposed to the amendments. It must be understood that while the institute has a continuing responsibility to provide input to the training of psychiatrists, that is not its sole responsibility. The institute is responsible for
multidisciplinary training for all health professionals involved in providing mental health services. That is why the composition of the institute was restructured. Recognising this, the Government’s view is that it is not possible or practicable to provide for representation from each and every teaching body that is involved in the training of health professionals who are working in the mental health field.
Each of the universities in New South Wales involved in the training of psychiatrists will be asked to put forward nominees for consideration. Each university may nominate up to two persons. While the training of psychiatrists is important, so is the training provided to other mental health professionals. To maintain the institute at a workable size and at the same time provide for a broad-based membership, the Government submits that it is not possible to provide for every teaching facility to have representation. For those short reasons, the Government opposes the amendments.
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY [12.49 p.m.]: I have listened with some amazement to the reply of the Minister on behalf of the Minister for Health because to have representation from all three universities - Newcastle, Sydney and New South Wales - would be valuable in the training of psychiatrists and also of psychologists and other health professionals involved in the field of mental health, particularly at the University of Newcastle which has a different curriculum to the curriculum at the universities of New South Wales and Sydney. I also remind the Government that it has previously tried to remodel other medical bodies. The New South Wales Cancer Council is an example. It was remodelled with disastrous effect and when it all fell apart the Government had to put it back together again. I believe that this is an eminently reasonable amendment and if the Hon. R. S. L. Jones calls for a division on it I shall support the amendment in the division.
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
Dr Goldsmith Mr Tingle
Mr Jones Tellers,
Ms Kirkby Mr Jobling
Mr Lynn Mr Moppett
Dr Burgmann Mr Primrose
Ms Burnswoods Ms Saffin
Mr Dyer Mr Shaw
Mr Egan Mrs Symonds
Mr Kaldis Mr Vaughan
Mr Kelly Tellers,
Mr Macdonald Mrs Isaksen
Mr Obeid Mr Manson
Pairs Mr Kersten Mrs Arena
Mr Willis Mr Johnson
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendments agreed to.
Schedule as amended agreed to.
Bill reported from Committee with amendments and passed through remaining stages.
[The President left the chair at 1.00 p.m. The House resumed at 2.30 p.m.]
SELECT COMMITTEE ON THE PROPOSED DUPLICATION OF NORTH HEAD SEWERAGE TUNNEL
Suspension of standing and sessional orders agreed to.
The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD (Leader of the Opposition) [2.30 p.m.]: I move:
1. That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into and report on the Waterways Advisory Panel’s report on the Sydney Water proposal for duplication of the North Head Sewerage Tunnel and continued sewage outfall to the Pacific Ocean, and in particular:
(a) to determine to what extent did the Waterways Advisory Panel’s terms of reference (including the year 2000 deadline) preclude proper consideration of the most environmentally appropriate methods of achieving a cleaner Sydney Harbour;
(b) to determine to what extent will duplication of the tunnel improve water quality in Darling Harbour, Homebush Bay, Parramatta River and the majority of Sydney Harbour;
(c) to determine whether or not a better environmental outcome could be achieved for Sydney’s waterways by expenditure of $375 million in a more appropriate manner;
(d) to determine to what extent have alternative technologies been considered by the Waterways Advisory Panel and Sydney Water in reaching their decision;
(e) to determine if Sydney Water failed to provide access to vital environmental and sewerage data to
the proponents of alternative solutions and to determine the extent to which such solutions were hindered by any such actions by Sydney Water;
(f) to review how long the statutory aim of Sydney Water to end dry weather sewage discharges into the Pacific Ocean will be set back by construction of a second tunnel;
(g) to review the contract process and any reasons given for not going to public tender;
(h) to assess if the cost to the community would be reduced if the private sector is allowed to build, own and operate the sewerage tunnel;
(i) to investigate and determine any other matters the Committee deems relevant.
2. That notwithstanding anything to the contrary in the standing orders: the committee consists of six members, comprising:
(a) two Government members nominated in writing to the Clerk of the House by the Leader of the Government;
(b) two Opposition members nominated in writing to the Clerk of the House by the Leader of the Opposition; and
(c) Mr Cohen and Mr Jones.
3. That, notwithstanding anything to the contrary in the standing orders, the time and place for the first meeting of the committee be fixed by the Clerk of the House.
4. That the committee have leave to sit during any adjournment of the House; to adjourn from place to place; to make visits or inspections within New South Wales; and have power to take evidence and send for persons, papers, records and things; and to report from time to time.
5. That should the House stand adjourned and the committee agree to report before the House resumes sitting:
(a) the committee have leave to send any such report, minutes of proceedings and evidence taken before it to the Clerk of the Parliaments;
(b) the document be printed and published and the Clerk forthwith take such action as is necessary to give effect to the order of the House; and
(c) the document be laid on the table of the House at its next sitting.
6. That on receipt of a request from the committee for funding, the Government immediately provide the Legislative Council with such additional funds that the committee considers necessary for the conduct of its inquiry.
7. That the committee report by 26 November 1997.
The effect of the motion is to establish a select committee to inquire into and report on the report of the Waterways Advisory Panel on the Sydney Water proposal for duplication of the North Head Sewerage Tunnel, continued sewage outfall to the Pacific Ocean and a number of other matters relating to that issue. The House might recall that on 19 February 1996, in an article in the Sydney Morning Herald headed "Plan for ocean outfall scrapped", the State Government overruled the Sydney Water Corporation’s proposal for the Cronulla sewage treatment plant by ordering a $135 million upgrade of the plant rather than build a new submarine ocean outfall. At that time Minister Knowles said:
This is a clear indication of the Government’s determination to establish a fundamental shift in the way in which Sydney Water has operated over the last 100 years, to move towards a re-use, recycling strategy rather than the pumps and pipes mentality that has dominated Sydney Water’s operations for more than a century.
That announcement was made, effectively, 11 months after the Labor Government was elected to office. The House will recall that Pam Allan, as shadow minister, walked the waterways and foreshores of New South Wales in the lead-up to the 1995 election advocating that she would close every ocean outfall in New South Wales.
The Hon. M. R. Egan: I think you are misrepresenting her.
The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD: That is what she said - I heard her. That was clearly her position prior to the 1995 election. The announcement of 19 February was the first fundamental indication from this Government that it would embark upon such a program. It was a clear indication from Minister Knowles that a proposal for another ocean outfall would not be accepted by this Government. Everyone took it as a clear signal that there would be no expansion of the ocean outfall operations, and this was interpreted by many as the first step towards securing what the public believed would be the commitment of this Government.
The Government’s commitment was further emphasised in a report in the Daily Telegraph of 12 March 1996 under the heading "Sydney Water fined over ocean pollution". The Land and Environment Court imposed a fine of $20,000 on the Sydney Water Corporation after the Environment Protection Authority charged it with polluting the waters around North Head. On 21 October 1996 the Sydney Morning Herald, under a heading titled "Inquiry may hasten plans to re-use water", reported that Minister Pam Allan announced the appointment of Michael Codd as commissioner of the public inquiry into the management of sewage and sewage by-products in the coastal zone. Clearly, there was disagreement between the Environment Protection
Authority and the Sydney Water Corporation over the pace of water re-use, the Sydney Water Corporation saying it needed 50 years to institute such a program and the Environment Protection Authority clearly aiming at a 20-year program.
An article published in the Sydney Morning Herald of 4 November 1996, under the heading "The Best of Both Worlds" relating to the Prospect water filtration plant, announced that the program would be completed six months ahead of schedule because of the involvement of the private sector. In that article the managing director of Australian Water Services, Pierre Alla, stated that the public-private sector partnership model was one of the principal reasons for the success of the Prospect plant. The institutional constraints which slow down infrastructure projects were thereby removed. With the public sector setting the standards and the private sector taking all the commercial risks, it seemed that the New South Wales Government had finally found the best of both worlds. Clearly a direction was being set by the Government.
On 18 December 1996 in an article in the Sydney Morning Herald, under the headline "Sydney Water’s $3 billion upgrade", Sydney Water, which is Australia’s largest water utility, stated that it would undertake a capital expenditure program exceeding $3 billion over the next decade in a bid to upgrade its ocean outfall and sewerage operations. The projects included a $300 million to $400 million upgrade of its three ocean outfalls; a $90 million to $120 million upgrade of the Cronulla wastewater treatment plant, which had previously been referred to; a $300 million to $400 million upgrade of its 30 inland treatment plants; and a $2 billion plan to solve Sydney’s sewage overflow problems.
In an article in the Sydney Morning Herald of 11 February 1997, headed "$400 million plan to clean up harbour", an announcement was made that the Sydney Water Corporation proposed a radical $400 million, 14.5-kilometre storage and transport tunnel to relieve pressure from the sewage overflows and transport sewage from the North Head sewage treatment plant to a new sludge-handling plant at Camellia. In an article in the Sydney Morning Herald a few days later, on 15 March 1997, under the heading "Coming clean over Sydney Water", Murray Hogarth suggested that the Sydney Water Corporation’s snap announcement of its $400 million tunnel proposal was intended strategically to gazump the Carr Government’s intention to allow the private sector to compete for capital works.
The article adverted to the fact that David Harley, Ian Kiernan and Col Gellatly all support private sector involvement in water technology. Honourable members will recall the media hype that surrounded that announcement. The Government considered all the options and submitted a further proposal on 3 September, which was outlined in the Sydney Morning Herald under the headline "$60m boost as State backs harbour tunnel". The article reported that the Waterways Advisory Panel had recommended that the harbour tunnel proposal should proceed provided Treasury allocated $60 million over the next three years to deal with stormwater. Jeff Angel of the Total Environment Centre described the plan as half-baked and part of an Olympic cargo cult.
There is no doubt that all honourable members have a commitment to a cleaner harbour. Acknowledgment must be given also to the Labor Party, which, when last in government, initiated programs to improve Parramatta River and Sydney Harbour. When the coalition came to office it maintained that commitment and announced an expansion of the program through the introduction of the $80 levy on all properties. The Labor Party was outraged at that proposal and argued that people in western Sydney should not have to pay for what was regarded by Labor as the protection of Sydney beaches. However, it was finally realised that a substantial amount of the levy was to be allocated to the Hawkesbury, Nepean and Parramatta river systems. There is no doubt that significant benefits flowed from that.
The Labor Party also commenced the ocean outfall tunnel, which the former coalition Government maintained and completed. This initiative could be described as a year 2000 program because the upgrading of this tunnel is, shall I say, Olympic driven. It is for the inquiry to determine whether those decisions are justified. Stormwater outlets contribute significantly to pollution of Parramatta River, Homebush Bay and Sydney Harbour. The Government prepared environmental impact statements for 35 stormwater outlets in Sydney Harbour to be completed by June 1996. The Environment Protection Authority directed the preparation of those environmental impact statements, which were aimed towards works that would significantly improve the condition of Parramatta River and Sydney Harbour. Those environmental impact statements were rejected as being inadequate, and the Sydney Water Corporation was directed to reprepare the environmental impact statements. However, they have not yet been resubmitted. This is the result when agencies prepare own environmental impact statements, particularly if they have an agenda that differs from that of the Government.
The mere fact that the Government does not appear to have control of the agenda of the Sydney Water Corporation is not, in itself, justification for pushing a $375 million program that may, at the end of the day, not be necessary. One may well be able to achieve a significant proportion of the agenda just by completing environmental impact statements on stormwater outlets if one is following a Sydney 2000 agenda. I am not suggesting that Sydney Harbour is not able to be improved; however, I suggest that we should not be totally ashamed of its condition. A program must be put in place to set the priorities and drive the imperatives. In this case, the wrong priorities and agenda are being driven. Why has the Government ignored the recommendation of the Codd inquiry that government policy on sewage management should be articulated to provide for its long-term sustainable management? Is that too difficult a matter for the Carr Government or the Sydney Water Corporation to address?
Construction of the 15-kilometre tunnel will deliver double the amount of sewage into the ocean at North Head that is delivered at present. If that is the objective, it is inconsistent with what the Labor Party told the electorate in 1995 and inconsistent with announcements made by the Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning about the Cronulla sewerage program. It is also inconsistent with the direction advocated by the EPA. It is a total repudiation of the Government’s policy. Is it another broken promise, or is it yet a further example, under this Government, of one section of bureaucracy driving an agenda while another is unable to provide appropriate checks and balances?
If the Government cannot provide the appropriate checks and balances through its own bureaucracies, the Parliament, through its parliamentary committees, should examine the policy objectives and ascertain whether the imperatives are justified. The Parliament should ascertain whether there is a clear set of sustainable priorities and whether sufficient resources will be allocated to meet those priorities. Once that is established, the Parliament can then advise the Government, if necessary, to review its programs. As many honourable members would know, with regard to capital works bureaucracies drive their own agendas, with the best will in the world, and in the flurry of decision making that sometimes occurs within government, issues can be overlooked and wrong decisions made. The view of the Opposition is that in this instance wrong decisions have been made.
The Hon. M. R. Egan: Not when Labor is in government.
The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD: Things were reasonably stable when the Treasurer actually had control of the agenda in the first nine months of this Government’s term, but since he lost control of the agenda, things have slipped. The Opposition urges the House to embrace this proposal. Sydney Harbour is one of the icons of this nation, indeed of the world, and honourable members should be better informed about this decision. At the end of the day if the committee acknowledges that the right priorities are in place and that the project should be completed, all honourable members will embrace it. However, if the committee finds that the wrong priorities are in place, the Parliament should use its authority to have those priorities corrected. I commend the motion to the House.
The Hon. J. F. RYAN [2.50 p.m.]: I support the motion and urge all honourable members to support it. If the House passes this motion it will do what the public believes it should do: review legislation and important Government decisions. A $400 million capital works package to improve the water quality of Sydney Harbour must be reviewed by this House. The Opposition has moved this motion because it wants to lift the lid on what it believes to be a smoke and mirrors trick by the Carr Government to get a good press release, a photograph with Ian Kiernan and a few ill-gotten green brownie points for an announcement that has no environmental substance. The Government’s 2 September Sydney Harbour stormwater pollution package bears the hallmarks of a hastily compiled package. It is a politically motivated gimmick in which public relations has triumphed over real and scientifically measurable environmental benefits. The vision outlined by the Government achieves an expensive, short-term tidy up of a small section of Sydney Harbour waterways with old-fashioned technology. The Premier’s announcement was sweeping. His press release stated:
While the initial focus will be in the Sydney Harbour Catchment, the Government will extend the stormwater program across the State.
Waterways which will initially benefit include those across Sydney as well as those at Gosford, Grafton, Newcastle, Dubbo, Tamworth, Albury, Balranald, Griffith, Wagga Wagga and Queanbeyan.
Frankly, I do not understand why the announcement did not list the Nile, the Amazon and the Yellow River; this package will have as much impact on those rivers as it will outside a small section of the Sydney Harbour foreshore. It is said that the package will clean up Sydney Harbour, but it will not do that. When most people think about Sydney Harbour, places such as Port Jackson, Bennelong
Point and Watsons Bay come to mind. But this package will have a negligible impact on those parts of Sydney Harbour. Instead, it will clean up Castlecrag, Middle Harbour and Lane Cove. I do not know whether people who live at Penrith and Campbelltown, for example, even regard those areas as part of Sydney Harbour. I am sure that when the people of New South Wales heard the Premier talk about cleaning up Sydney Harbour, they saw visions of ferries cutting through pristine water on their way to Manly. That will not happen.
The Premier announced the construction of a $375 million tunnel that will store and transport raw sewage from sewage overflow points at Tunks Park, Scotts Creek, Lane Cove and Quakers Hat Bay and dump it at the North Head treatment plant, where it will join the North Head ocean outfall for disposal in the Pacific Ocean outside the northern beaches. The Premier is ashamed of his announcement. When members read his press release they will discover that there is no mention of what will happen to the water when it gets into the tunnel; there is reference only to the storage and transportation of sewage. There is no reference to where the sewage will go. Why is that information not in the Premier’s press release? Because he is ashamed of where it will end up: the middle of the ocean.
The Hon. Jan Burnswoods: You are wrong.
The Hon. J. F. RYAN: I look forward to the speech of the Hon. Jan Burnswoods, who is trying to defend the indefensible. There is nothing visionary or forward thinking about the Government’s proposal; there is nothing state of the art about the tunnel. It is an extension of the same old out-of-sight, out-of-mind, pipe-it-out-to-the-ocean solution that was part of Laurie Brereton’s dream for Sydney Harbour - a mentality that has dominated the management of Sydney’s sewerage system for more than a century. The Government will defend itself by saying that it has the support of people with high environmental credentials, such as Ian Kiernan and David Harley. The Opposition wants to test that endorsement because it passionately believes that the report of the panel that examined the proposal contains codes that indicate that even the people outwardly doing the Government’s bidding are not happy. If they were put on oath and had to answer the question, "Is this the best possible solution for cleaning up Sydney Harbour in the long term?", I have no doubt they would say no. The Waterways Advisory Panel report, which supposedly endorses the Government’s approach, freely acknowledges the following:
The private sector demonstrated an ability to address issues within a strategic approach to water cycle management which is different from the approach of the Sydney Water proposal. The panel believes that Sydney Water should be encouraged to undertake trials of the alternate approaches to determine their effectiveness in the Sydney region.
The panel was convinced that outside Sydney Water, in the private sector, people have better solutions to the water pollution in Sydney Harbour and have more effective technology to solve the problem, both of which Sydney Water ought to trial. The panel did not state that it endorses the proposal; it stated that there are better solutions. The panel had to choose the solution offered by the Premier because the Government is allowing its environmental program to be Olympic Games driven. We are spending $400 million to clean up a small section of Sydney Harbour that will be under the gaze of the world for two weeks in 2000. I would be surprised if the Treasurer has not searched his soul and asked whether $400 million is an effective expenditure of the Government’s budget. When the Treasurer learnt that the Government was intending to spend $400 million to clean up a small section of Sydney Harbour - a part of Sydney Harbour that people do not initially associate with the harbour and that is used by wealthy yacht owners, not the ordinary people of New South Wales - just in case it rains immediately before or during the Olympics, I am sure he wondered whether this was the most useful way to spend the State’s funds.
According to the panel’s report, the Sydney Water tunnel proposal was the only proposal for the reduction of outflows that could be delivered by June 2000. That is the bottom line: this solution was chosen because it would be delivered in time for the Olympics. In other words, the Government is happy to spend $400 million for a quick-fix solution with outmoded technology to improve one part of Sydney Harbour so that it will look good for two weeks in 2000. The problem may not even arise; that part of the harbour may look perfectly acceptable during the Olympics. A problem arises only after much rain, when sewage overflows into the harbour. The spending of $400 million to clean up this area just in case it rains during a six-week period prior to the Olympics is not good value for money. It may be worth spending $400 million if the tunnel solution works, but the panel’s report for the project provides a far from overwhelming endorsement. The summary states:
The panel’s review of Sydney Water’s modelling results indicates that option B, which is Sydney Water’s preferred tunnel option, would considerably improve the safe usage of Lane Cove River and Middle Harbour for recreational activities. Up to an additional 16 days per year would be gained when people could safely swim in these water bodies.
However, the Panel is concerned that the proposal for the tunnel would not improve water quality in the Parramatta
River and would have only minor impacts on recreational amenity in Port Jackson. Further overflow abatement would result in only minor improvements.
I ask the Treasurer to consider the statement of the review panel, that this will result in only minor improvements. I commend tables 6, 7 and 8 of the advisory panel’s report to all members. However, I cannot provide a page number because my copy of the report comes from the Internet and it was delivered in stages. The tables compare the various performances of the different options considered by the advisory panel and examine the impacts of each of them. The three options are measured in columns for their performance in lowering the number of unsafe days for water recreation at a number of locations in Sydney Harbour, for example, Lane Cove River at East Ryde, Long Bay, Middle Harbour at Castlecrag, Middle Harbour at The Spit, Middle Harbour at Balmoral, Port Jackson at Cockatoo Island, Port Jackson at Bennelong Point and Port Jackson at Watsons Bay.
Honourable members will be interested to know that after an expenditure of $400 million the number of days per year on which the Lane Cove River will be unsafe for swimming will be reduced from 35 to 19. At Long Bay the number of days on which the water will be unsafe for swimming will decrease from 25 to 17, which is hardly a huge amount. It is currently unsafe to swim in the water at Middle Harbour in Castlecrag for 28 days a year. That number will fall to 15, which, I acknowledge, is a significant improvement. At The Spit the number of days will fall from 22 to 14. At Balmoral, the number of unsafe days will fall a whopping four days, from 16 to 12. At Port Jackson, Cockatoo Island, the bit of Sydney Harbour we normally think of as Sydney Harbour, will be unsafe for swimming for 23 days, a three-day improvement. At Bennelong Point the number of unsafe days will decrease from 22 to 20. At Watsons Bay, get ready for it, the huge improvement costing $400 million will result in the addition of one day: the number of days the water will be unsafe for swimming will drop from 17 to 16.
The Government wants to spend $400 million on those improvements! I urge honourable members of this House to read carefully the report of the advisory panel because it states that the figures indicate that the abatement options that were investigated will significantly reduce faecal coliform levels in the Lane Cove River downstream from the siphon overflow in Middle Harbour. Minor reductions will occur in Port Jackson, which would mean that faecal coliform levels will exceed guideline values for primary and secondary recreation by smaller margins than occur at the moment. In other words, there is almost no benefit for nearly $400 million worth of expenditure just so that the harbour looks good for two weeks in the year 2000. I urge members of this House to realise that there are better ways to deal with this problem and far more visionary propositions this House should consider.
I would now like to deal with an issue I adverted to when I commenced my contribution to debate on the motion, something that is important to the Opposition. The waterways package does not deal with waterways across New South Wales. In fact, when this package was debated in another place members of the Opposition started to talk about the impact of the waterways package in rural New South Wales and the Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning took a point of order because what Opposition members were saying was not relevant to the motion. How very true! Condemned by his own words! To discuss rural waterways was not even relevant, yet the Premier’s press release suggested that the water quality in New South Wales would improve right across the State. However, when the Opposition started to point out the weaknesses of the package in rural areas, the Minister responsible in another place said that was irrelevant. The Opposition agrees with him: it is irrelevant because this package does not deal with the problems associated with rural waterways.
The package does not deal with Homebush Bay, where the Sydney Olympics will take place. Homebush Bay is probably the most polluted waterway in the world. The bay contains phthalates, dioxins and all sorts of heavy metals. It is potentially extremely dangerous, yet this package does absolutely nothing to solve the problem. The Premier wants to strut the centre stage, but he sees the stage as Sydney and the harbour. He does not understand or care about rural New South Wales, or parts of Sydney Harbour that he does not think are significant. A person died as a result of eating contaminated oysters produced in the Lake Macquarie area on the central coast. Nothing in this package deals with contaminants in that area. The package provides $100 million per year for rural waterways, which ought to be contrasted with the $1 billion allocated to the metropolitan area. Ten times more money is spent on metropolitan areas than on rural waterways.
New South Wales has 172 estuaries, which gives an average expenditure by this Government of approximately $500 million a year per estuary to assist with the many problems associated with rural waterways. The Environment Protection Authority has indicated that the four rivers in the northern part
of the State - the Tweed, the Brunswick, the Richmond and the Clarence - have major pollution problems with a number of hot spots. The Government is cutting back expenditure in those areas to fund this inadequate solution for Sydney Harbour. Some of the projects for which the Government claims credit, such as the waterways program and the $20 million announced for total catchment management programs, were introduced by the former Government and have absolutely nothing to do with the election of this Government. The only argument I have heard against this proposal put by the Opposition has nothing to do with the science or detail of the argument I have just put before the House.
There has been little discussion of the fact that the package is inadequate. There has been little discussion or criticism of the Opposition claim that this is an old-fashioned pipeline solution that ought to be far more imaginative and high tech. The complaint about the proposition put to the House by the Opposition is that members are fed up to the back teeth with having to sit on committees. That might be true, but it is the task of this House to review what the Government does. The day members start to get tired of sitting on committees to review what the Government does is the day they ought to tell the Daily Telegraph that they will vote to close down this House. There is plenty of criticism outside this place that this House does not produce enough for the people of New South Wales. This is something we can do that is very productive, something that is very important, something that the Opposition’s consultation with environment groups, councils and people in private industry has told us will achieve a better result if other solutions are investigated. I urge honourable members to support this package. They would do otherwise only if they allowed themselves to become starry-eyed, like the Premier, with an Olympic-driven environment package, which is not good enough for the people of New South Wales.
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY [3.07 p.m.]: The motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition is to establish a select committee to inquire into and report on the Waterways Advisory Panel’s report on the Sydney Water proposal for the duplication of the North Head sewerage tunnel and continued sewage outfall to the Pacific Ocean. It is quite a long motion, and I am sure honourable members have read it. The motion specifies that the select committee will report by 26 November. A few moments ago I was handed an amendment to that motion, proposed by the Hon. I. Cohen, that the motion be amended by inserting a new subparagraph:
To determine solutions and alternatives to the ongoing stormwater and sewage overflow problems experienced within the Sydney Harbour catchments within the context of the total water cycle.
It should be quite clear that if the amendment is accepted there is no way in the world that the proposed committee can report by 26 November. Although I do not believe that we should be driven by the Olympics or the year 2000, I do not see how it will be possible to deal with the continuing pollution of Sydney Harbour if such an amendment, which would take at least two years to be properly investigated, is accepted. This enormously complex matter has been dealt with to a degree in the report of the Waterways Advisory Panel. At the back of the report is a list of people who gave evidence before the panel. All those people would have to be recalled in order to get their views on the proposed amendment.
I have taken a great deal of advice on this matter, ever since it was referred this morning by the Leader of the Opposition to members on the crossbenches. I have also had brief consultations with the Minister and with his adviser, Mr Paul Levins. Mr Ian Kiernan came to see me in my office this morning. I am grateful to him for giving of his time to come and talk with me. The terms of reference that I believe should be debated further by a select committee of this House and which are dated 11 August 1997 were given to me yesterday by the Minister’s adviser. The report of the Waterways Advisory Panel includes those terms of reference, some findings and the panel’s comments on those terms of reference, on major findings, on strategic planning and on other issues. When I read this short briefing paper I realised that even the Waterways Advisory Panel was not totally satisfied that the proposed tunnel would guarantee a cleaner harbour in the time frame required by the Government. The report contains this statement:
It was the only proposal for the reduction of overflows which could be delivered by June 2000 . . . the proposed tunnel would not by itself, guarantee a clean Harbour in the time frame required by the Government.
The advisory panel obviously has many reservations. Members of the environmental groups with whom I discussed the matter over the telephone this morning were in favour of the proposal to establish a select committee so that their concerns could be revisited. Later I had further conversations on the matter with the Minister’s adviser. The tragedy of the whole thing is that this report is dated 11 August. Today is 24 September. I was given this report this morning and I have not really had the time to study it in any detail. If the Government believed that this report
contained the answers why was it not distributed to members of this Chamber when it was put into the hands of the Minister? Members would then have had an opportunity to look at it in the detailed way in which they look at all reports. Figure 2 on page 44 of the report ranks the largest overflows by volume. Having in mind what the weather is like at the moment I imagine that the overflows would be quite horrendous. This extremely heavy storm would result in the stormwater drains and the outfalls being overloaded with water. The report states:
The tunnel will operate whenever the volume of sewage arriving in the lower end of the NSOOS is too great to be contained. This situation arises during wet weather when rain water enters sewers through cracked pipes, poorly designed gully traps, and illegal connections of stormwater to the sewerage system. Wet weather flow in the sewerage system can be 10 or more times greater than dry weather flow.
I am certain that the flow would be 10 times greater today. Ian Kiernan expressed his concern to me and said that if nothing was done between now and the year 2000 the cracked sewerage system would deteriorate even further. I am certain that he is correct. I do not deny that, as it has long been a matter of public comment that the sewerage system for Sydney is in urgent need of upgrading and is totally inadequate for the pressure that is now being placed on it by the population explosion around Sydney and the development of more and more housing. The report also states:
•a sludge pipeline to transport biosolids (stabilised sludge) from North Head STP to another location for final processing and/or distribution, substantially reducing truck movements through Manly
Yesterday I was told by the Minister that there are more than 15 truck movements a day carrying this sewage sludge through Manly - an extremely unpleasant thing for the people living in Manly. I am sure that is why the honourable member for Manly has given his support to the Government’s proposal. The report also states:
•a reuse pipeline to pump treated effluent back to areas where it may be able to be used for industrial or commercial purposes
The report makes reference to treated effluent. I do not know where that effluent will be treated. The report continues:
•an electricity cable to add security to the existing electricity network at North Head and surrounding areas
•a conduit in which a coaxial telecommunications cable could later be laid.
I do not believe that that has any priority. There is another remarkable statement in this report:
The EPA has not set an abatement target as yet, but targets 80-90 per cent containment, depending on the system, have been proposed, based on the reduction in environmental benefit and exponential increases in costs that occur beyond this point.
The Government is going ahead with a $375 million project when the Environment Protection Authority has not yet set an abatement target. That seems to me to be extremely strange. Page 50 of the report refers to cost estimates and to the reasons the project will cost $375 million. It also states:
An economic evaluation of the tunnel project is understood to be in progress and to be due in early August 1997.
That evaluation has not been distributed, so presumably it was not completed by early August. The proposed select committee might request that the evaluation be tabled to enable it to decide what the economic evaluation and the value of such an expensive project would be. The Hon. J. F. Ryan dealt at length with the number of days which would be safe for recreational use at any of the three sites in Port Jackson. The report concludes:
. . . usage at any of the three sites in Port Jackson would be increased by only 10 to 20 per cent by any of the three sewage overflow abatement options.
So the $375 million which will be spent will achieve very little harm minimisation. The report also states:
The abatement options would result in significant improvements in the Lane Cove River and Middle Harbour . . . Parramatta river would be unaffected.
Parramatta River will be one of the gateways to the Olympic Games. But, according to the panel’s own conclusions, Parramatta River will not benefit greatly from the tunnel program if it is built before the year 2000. At the end the report refers to obstacles to achieving plans or activities. Many of the obstacles are real, so I am not surprised that they have been listed. Some of the obstacles the report refers to are: no water quality goals; the need for legislative power to stop polluters, that is, councils’ and Sydney Water overflows; too many existing uses; continuing increases in development; the Olympics bring an inappropriate time frame; lack of connection between action and consequence; no point of focus for harbour wellbeing; and restrictions of technological frame. And the report lists this wonderful obstacle: "We do not understand water quality issues scientifically."
The Waterways Advisory Panel states in its own report that it does not understand water quality issues. Although I have only read it briefly, I consider the document to be amazing. I am aware
that concerns had been raised about the tunnel project which focused on the urgent need to integrate the tunnel with other strategies. These views were strongly put to the advisory panel by the Total Environment Centre, the Environment Protection Authority, the Manly Environment Centre, Memtec, the Stormwater Industry Association and Water and Energy Technology. For example, the Total Environment Centre considered the tunnel project a questionable solution unless it incorporated the following: minimal impact on marine and coastal environs and reuse capability.
This morning Mr Kiernan told me that he would definitely be in favour of the project, but Clean Up Australia Limited is very concerned that the tunnel project is only a technical solution which will not fix the problems and avoids dealing with the management problems of the harbour. The Manly Environment Centre is concerned about the side effects of the project, such as the effects of construction activity on sea grasses and national parks. Nearly all of the concerns raised by these groups added to criticism of the lack of a long-term strategy for waste water management and total water cycle management of Sydney Water and the urgent need for a long-term approach.
I am certain that concern has compelled the Hon. I. Cohen to prepare an amendment to the motion. But his amendment is far too complicated to be encompassed by a committee which has to report back to the House by 26 November. Under the terms of reference proposed by the Leader of the Opposition and with the ability of the select committee to study the report in detail, particularly the diagrams and technical material, the committee would be able to report to the satisfaction of honourable members whether there was some value in proceeding with the Government’s plans, particularly as the environmental impact study will not be completed before the end of November. So the committee would work within the same time frame as has been set for the preparation of the EIS. Therefore, I am happy to support the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition.
It is not possible to support the amendment that has been foreshadowed by the Hon. I. Cohen, although I understand why he considers that the committee’s terms of reference should encompass the Sydney Harbour catchment area. When it was made known to the Minister’s office that I intended to support the Opposition’s proposal, the Minister and I had a conversation in which he said that I was delaying the project for several months. I disagreed on the basis that a select committee can deal with the terms of reference in a reasonable time frame and report to the House by the end of November. The Minister disputed that. He said that after being set up committees request an extension of time, then a further extension of time, and months and months pass. I said that perhaps the Minister misunderstood the way the matter could be handled.
The time frame set down in the motion will become a resolution of the House and it will be necessary for the chairman of the committee to ask the House for an extension of time. Some committees are automatically granted an extension of time. On many occasions in the recent past an extension of time has been granted to the Standing Committee on Social Issues, of which I am a member. But I gave the Minister an undertaking that if the committee were established by resolution of the House and if it subsequently requested an extension of time past 26 November on the basis that it could not complete its work, I would refuse to support such a request.
I do not know what other crossbench members would do but I have briefly glanced through the document and am of the view that, given that many serious questions have been raised, it would be proper to set up a committee of this House on the basis that it reports back by 26 November. It is not beyond the possibility of the House to refer the amendment foreshadowed by the Hon. I. Cohen to the Standing Committee on State Development. It is an extremely complex matter and the determination of solutions and alternatives to the ongoing stormwater and sewage overflow problems of the Sydney harbour catchment within a total water cycle could not be accomplished within a short time frame. I support the motion of the Leader of the Opposition.
The Hon. I. COHEN [3.29 p.m.]: I support the Opposition’s call to examine in greater detail the Waterways Advisory Panel’s report on the Sydney Water proposal for sewage overflow abatement in Sydney Harbour for three primary reasons. First, the Waterways Advisory Panel clearly had difficulties with its limited terms of reference. The report states:
It was the only proposal for reduction of overflows which could be delivered by June 2000 . . .
Other options assessed by the panel were viewed as strategic and holistic, such as the Atlantis proposal. The report further states:
The private sector demonstrated an ability to address issues within a strategic approach to water cycle management which is different from the approach of the Sydney Water proposal.
However, the private sector proposal was rejected because "it cannot be implemented in time to have a
significant impact on the impacts of sewage overflows on Sydney Harbour by the 2000 deadline". As a Green member of Parliament I believe that we should look carefully at vital issues such as the ongoing sewage problem in the waterways of Sydney and Sydney Harbour itself and, for that matter, the continuing problem of the ocean outfalls and the offshore pollution that has been created and dispersed by the ocean outfalls over the last decade. The focus of our interest in resolving these significant problems is the deadline of 2000 and the Olympics. I have difficulty in accepting this principle. We should be looking far beyond the Olympics and the target date. I applaud many actions on the environment that have been moved along by the Olympics deadline. However, the huge problem of Sydney’s ocean outfalls, the sewage problem and the urban runoff into our waterways, and in particular the harbour, should not be linked to a deadline of 2000. As the ocean outfalls of the 1980s were pointing the issue in the wrong direction, this also is pointing the issue in the wrong direction. The AWS, ANI Kruger, and WET technologies were considered as applicable treatment technologies and although used successfully overseas were rejected for not having been trialled here. The words used in the report were:
. . . the high risk that these submissions cannot meet the necessary planning and regulatory requirements in time . . .
This is of great concern to me. However, the time constraints, although recognised by the Waterways Advisory Panel, were not considered as relevant for the Sydney Water proposal. The report states:
. . . panel members concerns about the tightness of the timetable of the capital works program, they also noted that there are additional complex aspects of the proposal that require thorough analysis before the necessary approvals could be granted under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979.
The report outlines another concern of the panel:
Alliance contracting arrangements mean that the concept development and detail design [will not be] started until the contract is awarded.
This could delay the completion date and may mean "that design and construction decisions are rushed at the expense of the best ultimate outcomes". My second point in argument against the process is that apart from the inherent problems of solving the stormwater and sewage issue of Sydney Harbour in a 2½ year timetable, the Waterways Advisory Panel points out quite clearly that:
The proposed tunnel would not, by itself, guarantee a clean harbour in the time frame required by the Government.
So what does Sydney Harbour get for the $375 million? It gets an improvement in water quality for approximately 16 days per year at Lane Cove and four to 11 days per year at Middle Harbour. It is obvious that this major project is not getting to the source of the overall problems. It is another band-aid, another fix. With rain and major storm activity such as is occurring at present there is the potential of overflows but the concern is only to deal with the problem in time for the Olympics. It is a very incomplete solution to the problem and may not succeed even after the $375 million tunnel is completed. The report goes on to state:
However the panel had concerns that the proposal for the tunnel would not improve water quality in the Parramatta River and would have only minor impacts on recreational amenity in Port Jackson.
I reiterate a number of the concerns expressed by previous speakers. The Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby made clear that we are not dealing with the major problem. The Parramatta River will be used to take people to the Olympics site yet water quality in that area will not be improved. So what will solve the real problem, the long-term problem that Sydney has had ever since it polluted the Tank Stream back in the first settlement? What do we do with our effluent? The same logic has been applied to the problem for almost 200 years: take it away. The pipes have just got longer and bigger. Some thought with that logic that the deep water ocean outfalls were the penultimate solution, but we still get this type of tunnel vision.
The Waterways Advisory Panel, by expanding its initial terms of reference, came up with some really good recommendations. The panel recommended a number of long-term strategies by which to achieve the required improvements within the context of total water cycle management. These include: immediate publication of Sydney Water’s wastewater strategy, Water Plan 21; a review of the current inflow-infiltration program carried out in conjunction with the EPA and reporting to the community by 1 December 1997; mitigation of all other sewage outflows affecting Sydney Harbour and the Parramatta River by 1 January 1999; and Sydney Water co-operating with all relevant agencies in the preparation and implementation of strategies and a program for the abatement of stormwater impacts in priority areas by 1 January 1999. This would be paid for by all revenue raised by Sydney Water from stormwater charges and has been endorsed by the Government with the announcement of a $60 million early action program.
The report also recommended that Sydney Water play a pro-active role in trialling other
solutions, in partnership with alternative treatment technology companies. An important initiative is the formation and resourcing of a single body to manage the entire water cycle within the Sydney region. They are all good initiatives, long-term strategic actions which will eventually result in a cleaner, healthier Sydney Harbour and associated waterways. They are the sorts of solutions one could reasonably expect from panel members of such prominence and with a long-term commitment to dealing with the problems. The members recognised the amount of credibility their involvement lent a very rushed and limited process. The report states:
The panel also believes that the inclusion in its ranks of representatives such as Ian Kiernan and David Harley, and being advised by Bob Wilson, has raised community expectations that consultation would be thorough and comprehensive.
I feel that the inclusion of such members, not merely consultation, raised community expectations in a whole range of areas. Ian Kiernan has been involved over a decade in dedicated action and public education on the issues of stormwater and sewage pollution. I have shared his concerns. However, on this occasion I believe that the option which the panel recommended was chosen because of the timetable and other limitations of the terms of reference. I believe that we would have a completely different answer if, as the committee pointed out, Sydney Water adopted a total water cycle philosophy to its long-term planning and the committee was not limited to finding a solution in time for the Olympics.
This brings me to my final point. As a community whose government is committed to effluent reuse within the next 25 years, why do we continue to entrench the outmoded, outdated outfall system? We have invested far too much in end-of-pipe technology. Sydney Water promised us that the deep water ocean outfalls were the real thing and that rehabilitation of the leaky pipes was to follow, logically, as dictated by the examination of each of the 35 sewer catchments in Sydney Water’s management. Priorities were to be addressed across each of the catchments in order of severity, not by political priorities but based on real ecological and toxicological data. The urgency of that project seems to have been reduced by the immediacy of the tunnel proposal. It is not getting rid of it - just out of sight, out of mind, into the ocean. We should deal with these deep, ecological and toxicological problems. We are learning more and more about the impacts of the viral load in the ocean - how long the viruses survive and their long-term impact on not only humans but fish, the very food we eat.
Viruses are just becoming understood in the scientific community and their impact on the ocean could be quite cataclysmic - way beyond what has so far been the understanding and the expectation of the community, the medical fraternity and scientists. Yet, we are not moving away from this outmoded tunnel vision, this concept of dumping our waste into the ocean. Logic and applied science have been derailed by a big tunnel proposal. This indicates to me that Sydney Water has changed little over the 10 years we have fought this battle. I, together with other members of this House, have been involved with this issue for many years. One would have thought that the Labor Government would have learned its lesson from the outfall battles of the 1980s when there was so much clear public opposition to the idea of simply pumping waste into the ocean and further dispersing the problem rather than resolving it.
Cronulla Beach - a beach that the Treasurer has something to do with and at which I first started surfing many years ago - is now the receiver of the ocean outfall material; it is spreading far and wide. Cronulla Beach is now one of the dirtiest beaches in Sydney, and it used to be one of the cleanest. Part of that pollution problem is coming from the industrial areas of Kurnell, part of it is coming from the outfall at Cronulla, but part of the problem is the spread of that flume from the deep ocean outfalls way out to sea. We now have pollution problems from these outfalls as far afield as the south coast and central coast of New South Wales. This is not an intelligent, twenty-first century way to deal with our sewage problem.
I was overseas on a committee when the headlines hit about this latest tunnel, and I was quite shocked. I thought we had learned our lesson, but it appears not to be the case, and I think it is a sad situation. Whether people agree with me that re-use is a realistic, necessary and imminent development for the Sydney region, it is obvious that this proposal bears further scrutiny. The northside sewerage tunnel proposal will not achieve a clean harbour by 2000, and the truth is that nothing will. We need to be realistic about the scope and extent of the problem and strategic in the implementation of effective solutions. The residents of Sydney do not need to be sold another Sydney Water sewerage fantasy. For far too long the engineers of Sydney Water have been overly excited about their tunnel technology, and we need to see this organisation diversifying. It sets a very important precedent for other areas along the coast. We need to reuse. We need to be more intelligent about how much water, effluent and run-off gets into the sewerage
system.We need to look at solutions at the point source and deal with them in a more decentralised way.
The centralised system will eventually overflow and impact on our quality of life. Given the experience and expertise that we have and the growing industries that are of great benefit and potential wealth to the people of New South Wales in terms of alternative water purification systems, surely this State is in an ideal position. Australia was the world leader in solar technology. I hope we take advantage of such technology and continue on a creative path, rather than turn back to an old-fashioned sewerage outfall proposal that should have been left far behind in any debate on this issue. I appreciate the concerns of the Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby about an amendment that I proposed, belatedly, reflecting the concerns of a number of members of peak environment organisations in the conservation movement. Whilst my amendment can be perceived as expanding the issue to an almost insurmountable set of problems to be solved in a short time, the committee can still decide how much energy is to be devoted to that aspect of the inquiry. I move:
That the question be amended by inserting after subparagraph 1(a) new subparagraph (b) as follows:
(b) to determine solutions, and alternatives, to the ongoing stormwater and sewage overflow problems experienced within the Sydney Harbour catchment, in the context of the total water cycle.
It is imperative that this committee examine the total water cycle and recognise that this proposed tunnel is purely tunnel vision. We must resolve a monumental problem that will not go away as Sydney grows. As citizens we have a right to expect, and as members of Parliament we have a responsibility to provide, clean water so that people can go swimming without fear of contracting stomach diseases, ear infections and various other problems proved to be associated with sewage and stormwater run-off in our city. If that is achieved we will have in the next century a city of which we can be proud. I support the Opposition’s motion.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES [3.46 p.m.]: I support the motion of the Leader of the Opposition. A select committee should be established to investigate these matters, particularly the terms of reference of the Waterways Advisory Panel. I want to know how this money is being spent and whether it is being spent in the most cost-effective way. My key interest, and I believe that of other members, is to not only appear to be cleaning up our seas but to actually be cleaning up our seas. One of the ways of doing that is to reverse the flow of sewage back to the hinterland on this side of the mountains; that is, to treat the sewage, return the treated water to Warragamba Dam and use the solids for whatever purpose they may be used, such as for compost and for farms.
Sydney Water has not yet made a commitment to return the water back to Warragamba Dam. If that were done, there would be no need to build the Welcome Reef Dam, at a cost of about $500 million, which I understand has now been reduced to about $20 million or $30 million. I would like to see a commitment from Sydney Water to start turning the flow of water back to the dam and to recycle it many times, as happens in Europe and America. I understand that in New York the water is used about 19 times and that in England it is used nine times before it is finally dissipated. I want to know whether this money will achieve the result that it should and whether it really will reduce the sewage overflows into Sydney Harbour, and exactly by how much. I hope that when the committee is set up and commences its inquiry it will be able to answer the questions that have been asked in the notice of motion.
I applaud the commitment of Ian Kiernan, Tom Perry, David Harley and Col Gellatly. I know that Ian Kiernan has a very powerful commitment to cleaning up the harbour by 2000 and getting rid of the sewage that is going into our oceans. I am quite sure that he and other members of that panel would wish to see the sewage returned essentially to where it came from, that is, to the river. That would allow the waterways system to be flushed out more frequently than it is now and would remove to a certain extent the algal blooms from the Hawkesbury system. Honourable members of this House were threatened that if they passed this motion they would then be responsible for allowing algal blooms in the harbour during the Olympics. I doubt that we will get algal blooms in the harbour during winter and spring time - perhaps in the summer, but I think that is very unlikely. That certainly will not stop me from voting in favour of the motion, and hopefully it will not stop the majority of my colleagues from so doing.
I note that this committee will comprise six members and is to report by 26 November. I hope that whoever chairs the committee will be an inquisitive person, able to extract the necessary information from Sydney Water to determine whether the expenditure of $375 million is appropriate or whether it could be spent in a more productive way. I want to ensure that Sydney Water has a major policy change once and for all to turn
back the water. The proposal for the tunnel has been on its drawing board for many years. Sydney Water was aware of the infrastructure collapse of the existing tunnel and appears to have prettied up the tunnel to include the removal of some overflows. However, it is the same old tunnel that has been in its plans for some years.
I do not believe at this time that Sydney Water has a genuine commitment to removing the ocean outfalls from North Head, Maroubra and Bondi. I would like to see it happen eventually, within my lifetime if possible but, if not, within the lifetime of other members of this House. This is what the community wants and it must be done at some point. It may be that the $375 million could be used to facilitate the move away from ocean outfalls towards treatment of sewage in north-western Sydney in an appropriate area and for the reuse of the water and other solid matters that come out of it. I enthusiastically support the motion.
The Hon. JAN BURNSWOODS [3.51 p.m.]: On behalf of the Government I speak to the motion to set up a select committee on the proposed duplication of the North Head sewerage tunnel. I make it clear at the outset that I oppose the motion and have good reasons for doing so. The Waterways Advisory Panel report was released on 11 August and, contrary to earlier comments, was widely available, not least on the Internet. Therefore, the report has been available for six weeks, though it is obvious that some honourable members who spoke in the debate have not read it and should do so. The most remarkable contribution so far was that of the Hon. J. F. Ryan.
The Hon. I. Cohen: He is a remarkable speaker.
The Hon. JAN BURNSWOODS: Perhaps he always makes remarkable speeches but in this case the loudness and colourfulness of his contribution disguised its lack of substance. I return to the background of the tunnel proposal and the report of the Waterways Advisory Panel. The people who were commissioned and have given the subject independent scrutiny include eminent people such as Ian Kiernan; Tom Parry, chair of the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal; David Harley, chair of the Environment Protection Authority; and Col Gellatly, Director-General of the Premier’s Department. The panel considered the issues at stake and drew on independent technical advice and expertise. The panel canvassed views from stakeholders and the private sector and basically came to the conclusion that the way to go is to build the northside storage tunnel being discussed today.
Already the quite lengthy terms of reference proposed in this motion have been addressed by the Waterways Advisory Panel and considered at length, particularly because of the expenditure of public money. If the Opposition were honest with this motion, it would have looked at the panel’s terms of reference and compared them with those suggested for the select committee. It would then have realised how unnecessary, indeed how mischievous, the motion is. The motives of the Opposition in moving for the select committee are different to the motives it expressed which relate to the environment. The Opposition has also made it clear that it has not read or understood the panel’s report. Given this duplicity of the Opposition, I am concerned that the reputation of Ian Kiernan, who has high standing in this area and has made himself available to discuss the issue with the Opposition and crossbenchers, has been impugned. No honourable member could suggest that Ian Kiernan would have lent himself to something that was not worth doing for the city and for the harbour. The panel concluded:
. . . that the proposal by the Sydney Water Corporation to build and operate the storage and transport tunnel from Lane Cove to North Head should proceed immediately.
Nothing could be clearer than that. However, that does not suggest that the panel did not examine the other considerations, in particular, the safeguards that should be adopted in the building of the tunnel and other necessary works. The panel found that the tunnel would address only the problem of sewage overflows into the harbour and recommended that other measures were needed to address the stormwater problem and to ensure that local government was stimulated and supported in that. The Hon. J. F. Ryan was in error, as was the Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby in this area. The Hon. J. F. Ryan spoke as though the storage tunnel was the only initiative of the Government, which is wrong. The Government is carrying out a total package involving storage and stormwater problems in the harbour, including a major program already under way involving $112 million in sewer repairs in the upper Parramatta River, Lane Cove River, Homebush Bay, Iron Cove, Darling Harbour, Walsh Bay, Circular Quay, Farm Cove, Rushcutters Bay, Double Bay and Rose Bay. The storage tunnel is part of the total package.
Another major component of the total package is the program that was announced in August when the report of the panel was released. The Government committed $60 million to be spent over three years on alleviating the problem of stormwater and stormwater management. The Government is not suggesting that the tunnel will solve all the problems, despite such assertions by the Opposition;
it has proposed the tunnel and other major sewer repairs and stormwater management. In the next years leading up 2000 and 2002 the Government is embarking on a program to deal with our beaches and rivers.
The Hon. J. F. Ryan was in error when he suggested that the package did not deal with problems other than in the oceans. The Government seeks to make safe for swimming beaches stretching from Palm Beach in the north to Bombo in the south, including Cronulla and the Illawarra. The plan also includes a commitment to ensuring that no algal blooms exist in the Hawkesbury-Nepean river system and in the Georges River arising from the sewage problem. The Government also seeks to establish recycling markets for water, including a water factory at Quakers Hill, to demonstrate safety and to help reduce reliance on ocean discharge.
Pursuant to sessional orders business interrupted.
QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
FORMER CHIEF SUPERINTENDENT DENIS GILLIGAN
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE: My question without notice is directed to the Attorney General, in his capacity as Attorney General and as representing the Minister for Police. Is it a fact that the special police task force inquiring into allegations of paedophilia against John Marsden has reported to Chief Superintendent Denis Gilligan? Is the Attorney General, the Minister for Police, the Commissioner of Police or any government agency aware that Chief Superintendent Denis Gilligan has accepted an offer as a highly paid consultant to Mr Marsden’s law firm? Will the Minister advise the Parliament whether this offer was made by Mr Marsden to Mr Gilligan before Mr Gilligan resigned recently from the New South Wales Police Service? What precautions are taken by the Commissioner of Police or the Police Integrity Commission to ensure that sensitive information of the kind known by former Chief Superintendent Gilligan is not divulged for other than police purposes as it may compromise any possible action by the Director of Public Prosecutions? Should this matter be referred to the Independent Commission Against Corruption or the Police Integrity Commission?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: I am not aware of any of the matters referred to by Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile. I will refer his question to the Minister for Police and obtain an appropriate response.
PACIFIC POWER PRIVATISATION
The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD: My question without notice is directed to the Treasurer and Minister for Energy. Is it a fact that Pacific Power is not covered by the provisions contained in the State Owned Corporations Act or the Energy Services Corporations Act which apply to other electricity entities in this State? Is it a fact that the Government could sell Pacific Power without further approval from Parliament? Will the Treasurer give the House an assurance that Pacific Power will not be sold without the proposal being considered and approved by the Parliament?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: As the Leader of the Opposition would be aware, it is not the role of Ministers to give legal advice during question time, and I will not do so. Having said that, I doubt whether Pacific Power, or any other government utility, could be sold without legislation of this Parliament.
PACIFIC POWER PRIVATISATION
The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD: I ask a supplementary question. Will the Treasurer assure the House that, no matter what legal advice he may receive, Pacific Power will not be sold without the proposal being considered and approved by the Parliament?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: That is a matter that neither I nor the Government have considered.
MACKSVILLE COURT FACILITIES
The Hon. JAN BURNSWOODS: My question without notice is directed to the Attorney General. What action is the Government taking to provide modern court facilities for the Macksville community?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: The present Macksville court was built in 1894 and remains substantially unchanged from its original form. It is of historical and social significance to the heritage of the local community, but it is unable to meet the present day requirements of providing services to the community or of accommodating staff at levels well in excess of those foreseen in the 1890s. A workplace study and a geotechnical survey have been conducted to facilitate the integration of functional and engineering imperatives into the design of additional accommodation. The Government proposes to refurbish and extend the existing building. The decision has been made in consultation with the staff of the local court so that
the new accommodation will fulfil the demands of the staff and the community.
The proposed layout and floor plan have been finalised and are currently being documented to obtain a construction estimate in preparation for tender. The proposed design will provide suitable accommodation in the courthouse precinct to be built in harmony with the heritage architecture of the building and the predominantly residential streetscape. The work to be undertaken at Macksville is a concrete example of the Government’s commitment to ensure that modern court facilities are available to the people of rural New South Wales while at the same time recognising the historical significance of our country courthouses. The extension and refurbishment plan for Macksville will enable the historic building to continue its service to the local community well into the twenty-first century and provide supplementary accommodation to address the increasing demands made on this important regional facility.
TOTALIZATOR AGENCY BOARD PRIVATISATION
The Hon. R. T. M. BULL: My question without notice is directed to the Treasurer. How much have Bankers Trust, Hong Kong Bank and Shanghai Bank been paid for their work relating to the privatisation of the New South Wales Totalizator Agency Board?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I could not be expected to carry such figures around in my head.
The Hon. R. T. M. Bull: You have advisers with you.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: They do not carry that information around in their heads either. Unfortunately, I cannot answer the question.
PARLIAMENTARY PRESS BOX DOCUMENT DISTRIBUTION
The Hon. FRANCA ARENA: My question without notice is directed to the Attorney General. I believe that this morning a typed sheet of paper - with no address, phone number or letterhead - was placed in the press boxes of level 6 of Parliament House. Did the sheet of paper come from his office? Was it placed in the boxes by his staff or by the staff of the Chief Justice? Has the Attorney General seen the statement? If so, does he agree with the sentiments expressed in it?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: I did not place the document in the press boxes and to the best of my knowledge it was not placed there by any member of my staff. I believe that it was issued by the Chief Justice. I have read the statement, and I do not know what the honourable member means by "the sentiments expressed in it". I accept the matters of fact detailed by the Chief Justice in that statement.
ELECTRICITY INDUSTRY PRIVATISATION
The Hon. D. J. GAY: My question without notice is directed to the Treasurer. When will the Treasury start to implement the important recommendation of the Hogg committee: that the Government provide a more generous voluntary redundancy package to the 4,000 employees who are expected to lose their jobs prior to privatisation commencing? Will the newly established and smaller electricity workers superannuation fund be able to cope with the huge payouts that accompany redundancies? Will the Treasurer be addressing this matter when he has his $100,000 soiree with the unions?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: Certainly, when I meet with delegates from the various power unions who work at the various power utilities I will discuss with them future employment prospects in the electricity industry. I will also discuss with them matters such as voluntary redundancy packages and superannuation.
The Hon. D. J. Gay: Will the superannuation fund cover it? It is smaller than the other fund.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: Of course it will cover it!
The Hon. D. J. Gay: Are you sure?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: Yes, absolutely. And, indeed, to the extent that any electricity utility has unfunded superannuation liabilities, obviously at the time of privatisation that matter will be part and parcel of the financial arrangements that are settled.
The Hon. D. J. Gay: So there is a potential for unfunded liability?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I am not sure whether the electricity utilities have an unfunded superannuation liability.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: You should know that. You are going to sell it.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: My recollection is that that matter was fixed at the time of corporatisation, at the time of setting up the capital structure of each new body, so that each new body commenced without an unfunded liability. That is the normal course when a body is corporatised and is given a commercial capital structure.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: This is amazing stuff.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti would not know what he was talking about.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: I do know about unfunded superannuation.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I do not think the honourable member knows what he is talking about.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: You don’t know what you are talking about.
The PRESIDENT: Order! Members will maintain decorum.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: It could well be, and it probably is the case, that currently all electricity utilities do not have an unfunded superannuation liability. In other words, the full liability in respect of each member’s superannuation is fully funded. I would imagine that in the event of privatisation the existing electricity employees would continue to be members of the recently established electricity industry fund.
The Hon. D. J. Gay: It is thought to be a bigger liability than the original.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: The Hon. D. J. Gay obviously does not understand how it works. If it is fully funded, there is no problem. In other public sector superannuation schemes which are not fully funded there is a requirement for the unfunded component of a member’s superannuation to be paid into the fund when that employee retires and takes voluntary redundancy. The honourable member nods in agreement. The honourable member probably knew that all along.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: I did know that all along.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti did not know at all. He just wallows in ignorance.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: On a point of order. I find the Treasurer’s statement offensive and I want it withdrawn.
The PRESIDENT: Order! What is the statement that the honourable member finds offensive?
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: He said I was wallowing in ignorance.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I said the honourable member wallows in ignorance, which is probably a statement with which every member of this House agrees.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: I find that statement offensive also and I want both statements withdrawn.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I do not think it is offensive.
The PRESIDENT: Order! Minister, it seems the member is mortally offended.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: Presiding Officers have ruled on such matters -
The PRESIDENT: Order! I have not ruled on the point of order. I have merely made a comment.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: But the rulings are that a matter has to be objectively offensive, that it has to be personally offensive, not just a statement made in the rough and tumble of political truth.
The PRESIDENT: Order! Does the Minister require me to rule on the matter?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: Yes.
The PRESIDENT: Order! The words are not offensive in a parliamentary sense and, therefore, it is unnecessary for the Minister to apologise or for the words to be withdrawn.
The Hon. D. J. Gay: But they are dangerously close.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: They are perilously close. The Hon. D. J. Gay at least knew the situation, even if the Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti did not. That is why the Hon. D. J. Gay is on the frontbench and the Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti is not. I now refer to the other matter raised by the Hon. D. J. Gay, that is, more generous voluntary
redundancy packages. Electricity industry employees will be aware that the Government’s capacity to be more generous depends very much on whether the Government privatises these utilities. As things currently stand the Government would not have the resources to make voluntary redundancy packages any more generous than those currently on offer. If we were to sell the industry and get anything like what the analysts are suggesting, we would have the wherewithal to be more generous to employees who stay in the industry and those who choose to leave the industry, and we would be able to spend very significant amounts of money assisting any region that might otherwise be affected by a reduction of employment in those industries.
It is acknowledged by the unions and everyone else that in the next few years there will be a significant reduction in jobs in respect of the existing activities undertaken by utilities, which employ currently about 13,500 employees. It is believed that the optimum level of staffing is around 10,000. That level will have to be reached, not only because of improvements in technology but also because of competitive pressures that will require each utility to achieve world-class efficiency. A reduction in jobs will occur in the next few years whether the industry stays in public ownership or whether it is sold. But what will be different is the capacity of the Government to make available more generous voluntary redundancy packages for departing employees, and this will depend, of course, on whether we have the proceeds of a sale.
FOSTER CARE WEEK
The Hon. A. B. KELLY: Will the Minister for Community Services, Minister for Aged Services, and Minister for Disability Services advise the House of what support and recognition he and the Government gave to Foster Care Week?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: I take the opportunity to welcome the honourable member back to the House after an absence of too many years. This year Foster Care Week was celebrated in the week commencing Sunday, 7 September. I had the very great pleasure of officiating at the launch organised by the Association of Children’s Welfare Agencies. Foster Care Week is a time to celebrate the achievements of carers, children and young people in care. This year there was a story competition for carers to write about their amusing experiences as foster carers. While foster care is a very serious challenge taken up by people with a will to provide a valuable community service, I was delighted to note that it can also be a situation that produces a lot of humour and fun. It is those light-hearted moments of misunderstanding and things gone awry that add to the sense of family that is so valuable to every child and parent, whether it is a temporary relationship or one that is more permanent.
The message that came through loud and clear from these heart-warming stories is that as a parent it is not just the milestones of life that form lasting memories, it is also the day-to-day fun times. I would like to relate just one of those moments, and it was related in a poem a woman wrote about caring for a three-year-old girl, her first-ever foster child. After bathing the girl and putting her to bed the woman told the child "You are so nice and clean that I will call you Sparkles from now on." The little girl replied that she would call her "Boofhead". That is not a term I am entitled to use in the House, particularly in relation to a particular member seated opposite. However, that is the sort of response that children can sometimes give. I offer to foster carers the congratulations I offered at the launch early this month on their good work and commitment. I wrote to all foster parents in New South Wales to mark National Foster Care Day, which was observed on Sunday, 14 September. My letter was an opportunity to thank the foster carers for the work they do. Their work is often overlooked or taken for granted. I place on record that I will never overlook their efforts or their magnificent achievements.
As well as meeting foster carers and the children and young people they care for at the launch on 7 September, I had the pleasure of presenting the Foster Carers Association with a cheque for $10,000 to produce a video. The video, which is to be produced by foster carers and which will be available to all new foster parents and prospective carers earlier next year, will answer common questions about fostering and address those issues and problems which most often crop up. This Government has done much to improve the circumstances of foster carers, including increasing pocket money for children in care, something the previous Government never got around to doing, and providing the first significant increase in foster care payments for seven years, another matter that the previous Government did not think was important. This Government has also introduced an after-care and leaving-care service to help young adults venturing out into the world on their own. I mention one other recent initiative: the foster care information line, a 1800 free-call number operating 24-hours a day, seven days a week. The foster care information line makes it possible for anyone in New South Wales at any time to get accurate and helpful information about foster services. The telephone number is 1800 629 628.
ELECTRICITY INDUSTRY PRIVATISATION
The Hon. J. M. SAMIOS: My question without notice is directed to the Treasurer and Minister for Energy. What restrictions on foreign ownership will the Government be imposing for the privatisation of the New South Wales electricity industry?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I have pointed out on a number of occasions that I am not a Pauline Hanson One Nation xenophobe.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: Why not?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: What an appalling interjection!
The Hon. Patricia Forsythe: Do you find it offensive?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I do not find it offensive, but I find it appalling that Pauline Hanson has a supporter in this Chamber - none other than the Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti!
That was the clear implication of the honourable member’s interjection. He might not have thought before he interjected, but that is his problem. He opens his mouth without thinking about what he is saying. Foreign companies would certainly be allowed to bid for any utility that was sold by way of a trade sale.
The Hon. J. M. Samios: The emphasis is on restrictions. What restrictions would there be?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: There would not be any restrictions. There would be restrictions on the sale of any utility, but those restrictions would apply equally to foreign and domestic organisations. Any foreign buyer would have to run the gamut of the Foreign Investment Review Board. Because we hear from time to time xenophobic and economic illiterate nonsense about foreign ownership I advise honourable members that if the Government were to sell the New South Wales electricity industry it would enable us to retire our debt. It would therefore mean that we would be able to relieve ourselves of $1,500 million in interest payments each year, the majority of which are paid to bondholders overseas. About $750 million a year goes to Japan because that is where we borrow the great bulk of our money. So there is the prospect of dividends being repatriated to foreign-owned companies, but it would also relieve us of the need to send $750 million in interest payments to foreign bondholders each and every year.
OLD CARRIAGEWORKS THEATRE SCAFFOLDING COLLAPSE
The Hon. ANN SYMONDS: Will the Attorney General, and Minister for Industrial Relations inform the House what action is being taken as a result of the collapse of scaffolding in a Sydney theatre last night? Will the Minister assure me that the problem will be rectified by 3 October, the date on which I have booked a seat at the theatre?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: The incident to which the honourable member refers was sad for a number of reasons, not least, as I understand it, because the play in question is a fine production. At about 8.00 p.m. last night there was a regrettable accident. Temporary scaffolding, which was erected to seat the audience of a Belvoir Street Theatre production, Black Mary, collapsed. Approximately 15 people have been treated for relatively minor injuries. Last night a construction safety inspector was at the scene. This morning two construction inspectors and an engineer were carrying out investigations. WorkCover believes that both the general public and employees of the theatre company were at considerable risk of serious injury.
Honourable members would be aware that the Occupational Health and Safety Act requires employers to ensure the health and safety of employees and the public at places of work. This incident highlights the dangers associated with scaffolding. The Industrial Relations Commission, in Court Session, yesterday fined a director of a demolition company $20,000 in relation to a tragic accident which resulted in the death of a person and serious injuries being occasioned to one of the deceased’s colleagues. Honourable members may recall the media coverage of the grief-stricken father at the time of the tragedy. On 31 March 1994 individuals were working on a site in Oxford Street, Darlinghurst, when a scaffold collapsed. I am not seeking to draw a linkage between those two events but it brings home to those concerned with the erection and maintenance of scaffolding the inherent dangers involved in it. I hope that the problems at the Belvoir Street Theatre can be satisfactorily resolved so that the people of Sydney can continue to enjoy the production free of danger or the risk of injury.
BHP WORKPLACE SAFETY
The Hon. I. M. MACDONALD: Is the Attorney General, and Minister for Industrial Relations aware of yesterday’s occupational health and safety judgment against BHP Steel, an organisation that has done its best to ruin Newcastle? Will the Minister respond to the important issues raised in this case?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: WorkCover has worked constructively with BHP Steel at a number of its plants with respect to occupational health and safety. Regrettably, over the course of the last few years there have been incidents in which safety standards have been less than optimal. I am aware of the decision handed down by the Industrial Relations Court yesterday morning in the matter of WorkCover Authority v BHP Steel (JLA) Pty Ltd. That prosecution arose out of a road accident at the BHP Steel site at Spring Hill, Port Kembla, in July 1995. A 43-tonne forklift carrying a 10-tonne coil of steel hit a light truck which had pulled over and was stationary on a ramp to allow the forklift to pass. The driver of the truck, a contract worker on the site, was trapped in the vehicle by the steering column and had to be cut free by emergency service personnel. He suffered fractures to the tibia and fibula of his right leg and was absent from work for several months.
Investigations revealed that visibility from the forklift driver’s seat was limited by the position of the forklift mast which created a blind spot. There were no centre-lines marked on the road. Access to the ramp where the accident occurred was restricted by a flower bed and a lamp post. The forklift driver was forced to cut the corner, an unsafe work practice that he and other drivers had been forced to do for years, thus hitting the light truck which was obscured from his vision. The evidence that emerged from the case points to a situation occurring too often in the workplace: employees have drawn the potential risk of a dangerous accident to the employer’s attention but the employer has failed to take steps to prevent an accident. A BHP Steel representative conceded that the company was aware of complaints made by his employees concerning potential danger on the ramp. Justice Schmidt, who heard the case, said:
The system of work in place was deficient in a number of accepted respects. Such deficiencies have now been addressed with little apparent cost or difficulty.
Only a month ago the WorkCover Authority successfully prosecuted a retail butcher after horrific injuries were sustained by an employee who lost his right arm after his hand was caught in a mincing machine. It was found that the injured worker had spoken to his supervisor weeks earlier about fitting a safety guard to the machine. The company was fined $18,000 under the Factories, Shops and Industries Act for an offence which carries a $25,000 maximum penalty. Justice Schmidt fined BHP $40,000 with a moiety to the WorkCover Authority plus costs. Despite the company’s good safety record, Justice Schmidt found that the appropriate sentence in the case could not be a light one given the seriousness of the offence. The maximum penalty under the Occupational Health and Safety Act for that offence was $250,000. The Government has put legislation through the Parliament doubling the maximum penalty for a first offence to $500,000 and imposing a penalty of $750,000 for repeat offences committed on or after February 1996.
KEMPSEY TAFE EMPLOYMENT OF Ms VAL KERRISON
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY: My question without notice is directed to the Attorney General, representing the Minister for Education and Training. Will the Minister provide details about the current employment status of Ms Val Kerrison with her employer Kempsey TAFE? Is Ms Kerrison still employed at Kempsey TAFE? Has Ms Kerrison’s employment with Kempsey TAFE been terminated?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: I will refer the question to the Minister for Education and Training to obtain a precise reply about the circumstances of the employee, or former employee, identified in the question.
COMMUNITY-BASED CHILD-CARE SERVICES SURVEY
The Hon. Dr MEREDITH BURGMANN: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Community Services. Will the Minister advise the House whether he is aware of the results of a survey of community-based child-care services?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: I am indeed aware of the outcome of the survey. The care, protection and security of children is one of the Government’s highest priorities. The results of the survey of community-based child care by the National Association of Community Based Children’s Services are an indictment of the Howard Government’s policies on children’s services. In its national survey the association found that approximately 4,000 families have either given up using child care or have reduced their child-care hours because of the fee increases brought about by the Federal Government’s anti-family funding cuts.
The Hon. J. F. Ryan: On a point of order. It is a clever ploy but this is another ruse whereby the Minister is anticipating debate on the Federal Government’s action on child care, a matter referred to last night by you, Mr President. It is the same agenda and the same material rerun another way. No doubt the Minister will extensively use the survey in debate. I ask that the Minister’s attention be drawn to the fact that he is anticipating debate and that the question and answer be ruled out of order.
The Hon. R. D. DYER: On the point of order. I am the Minister responsible for the provision of children’s services in New South Wales. The State and Commonwealth Governments contribute in various ways and proportions to various forms of child care by way of recurrent or capital funding. The question is based on a survey, prepared by a body known as the National Association of Community Based Children’s Services, becoming available yesterday. It is a matter of public interest within my responsibility. I should be able to respond publicly to questions posed to me regarding a significant matter of public policy within my administration.
The PRESIDENT: Order! I direct the Minister’s attention to the wording of the notice of motion standing in the name of the Hon. Jan Burnswoods, namely:
That this House reasserts its conviction that access to quality, affordable child care is a basic right for families and a vital service for children, and condemns the Federal Government for its savage cuts to child-care funding.
Provided that the Minister does not refer specifically to those matters set out in the notice of motion, he will not be anticipating debate. The Minister may continue.
The Hon. R. D. DYER: I will endeavour not to refer to material that would cause me to violate your ruling. Having regard to my concern about the matter, I wrote as recently as yesterday to my Federal colleague, the Minister for Family Services, the Hon. Judi Moylan, to support the independent call for a Senate inquiry into the matter and to urge her to take immediate action to once again make child care affordable. A news release issued by the Hon. Judi Moylan yesterday sought to dismiss the findings of the association’s survey. However, I take issue with various claims made by her in seeking to rebut the findings of the survey. In the community-based sector, the management committee of an organisation sets the fees. However, the committee must take into account cost inputs and funding cuts when setting its fees.
The Hon. Judi Moylan claimed that the association’s survey lacks validity because of the sample size. The survey is based on responses from 270 centres and 129 parents. Surely that is a representation large enough, at least in statistical terms, from which to draw valid conclusions. I carefully avoid referring to amounts. However, I urge in particular Liberal Party and National Party women members opposite to support my call for the Howard Government to reconsider its stance regarding child-care funding. This important issue about children and families should be taken seriously, irrespective of the side of the House members occupy.
STREET LIGHTING SERVICES
The Hon. C. J. S. LYNN: My question is directed to the Treasurer and Minister for Energy. Is it a fact that the July 1997 report of the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal found impediments to ensuring the contestability of street lighting services? Does this fly in the face of the Government’s stated intention to sell electricity assets to create competition? Will the Treasurer give an assurance that he will allow contestability in the street lighting business? Will the Minister amend the legislation to allow contestability?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: It is a matter for the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal.
ELECTRICITY INDUSTRY PRIVATISATION
The Hon. JENNIFER GARDINER: I ask the Treasurer and Minister for Energy what specific assurances he will be providing to consumers in relation to certainty and reliability of supply following privatisation of the electricity industry. What specific conditions and penalties will be applied to generators and distributors for instances of unreliable supply or breakdowns in supply?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: The Hon. Jennifer Gardiner has asked a very intelligent and important question. Following the rather silly questions that have been asked on electricity privatisation this week and last week, I have to say that that is an intelligent question.
The Hon. R. S. L. Jones: She always asks good questions.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: Most of the time; sometimes someone writes them and gives them to her.
The Hon. J. F. Ryan: What about the questions from your side?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: Quite frankly, I would be surprised if there were an intelligent question on electricity from this side of the House, but there have been no electricity questions from this side. The question of the Hon. D. J. Gay was very silly.
The Hon. D. J. Gay: What were you saying?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I was saying that all of the questions asked on electricity this week and last week were silly except for the question that has been asked by the Hon. Jennifer Gardiner, which is a very good question.
The PRESIDENT: Order! The Minister will not focus on levels of silliness but will answer the question.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: In the first instance I refer the Hon. Jennifer Gardiner to the 101 recommendations of the Hogg report. From the bones of those recommendations I am currently working up more detailed proposals which will essentially be a service charter guaranteeing levels of reliability and having sanctions attached. We are some way off completing that but when it is completed I think the Hon. Jennifer Gardiner will be very interested and pleased.
PINE BRUSH NATURE RESERVE
The Hon. I. COHEN: I direct my question to the Attorney General, representing the Minister for the Environment. Has the Australian Labor Party Government taken action over former Minister Ian Causley’s conversion of the proposed Pine Brush Nature Reserve to freehold? Is it true that this was against the advice of three government departments? Did the National Parks and Wildlife Service conduct surveys on portion 183 prior to its being converted to freehold? If so, what were the results? If not, why not? Is the Minister aware of illegal logging currently taking place on the land?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: I am sure that the Hon. Pam Allan will be ready and anxious to reassess the decision of the former Minister as requested in the question. I will refer it to the Minister for the Environment to obtain a reply.
INTERNATIONAL DATA CORPORATION SYDNEY FORUM
The Hon. E. M. OBEID: My question is directed to the Treasurer, Minister for Energy, and Minister for State and Regional Development. Given the growing importance of the information technology and telecommunications industry, what success is Sydney having in attracting world renowned IT and T conferences to our shores?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I am pleased to advise that just yesterday the Massachusetts-based International Data Corporation announced that it will stage its inaugural Asia-Pacific IT forum in Sydney in 1998. International Data Corporation is the world’s leading market research analysis and consulting organisation dedicated to the computer, communications and information industry. Since its formation in 1964 IDC has specialised in monitoring and reporting on all aspects of this rapidly expanding industry. The group has a combined turnover of more than $1.4 billion and employs some 7,200 people in 65 countries. IDC expects that 600 delegates will visit Sydney in 1998, with around 200 travelling from overseas, each spending an average of $700 a day.
The forum will bring to Sydney leading purchasers and suppliers of technology as well as government representatives and senior IDC consultants. They will examine the present and future effects that information technology will have on business and the opportunities represented by these changes. I am delighted that IDC has chosen Sydney as the venue for this very important IT industry event, which will be the most comprehensive and authoritative IT conference in the region. The choice of Sydney highlights its growing stature in the IT industry. More than three-quarters of the world’s 100 top IT companies have already established subsidiaries here, while New South Wales is second only to the United States in the number of computers and Internet hook-ups per capita. According to the 1997 world competitiveness report, Australia is also well ahead of the three major economies of the United States of America, the United Kingdom and Japan in its mobile telecommunications. IDC expects this forum to be -
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: Yes, precisely. Why did all the Federal Government’s telecommunications infrastructure fund go to Tasmania? It is an absolute scandal! Howard, Senator Harradine and Senator Alston set up this fund and sent all the money to Tasmania. All we ask is a fair per capita share of that telecommunications infrastructure fund. IDC expects this forum to be as successful as the European IT forum, which has been running since 1990. It is now considered to be the pre-eminent IT forum in Europe, attracting speakers such as Bill Gates from Microsoft and Scott McNeilly. IDC Australia’s vice-president Len Rust has
acknowledged that IDC was attracted to Sydney for a number of reasons, including the fact that it is an international city with first-rate conference and hotel facilities. He was also impressed by our unique multicultural blend, making us one of the most welcoming and tolerant cities in the world.
On top of this, Mr Rust acknowledged Sydney’s IT and T strengths and its prominent location in the Asia-Pacific, the region recognised by IDC as being the key to the next phase of worldwide IT development. Hosting a prestigious event such as International Data Corporation’s 1998 Asia-Pacific forum is indeed a coup and will no doubt provide a further boost to our rapidly expanding IT industry. I congratulate IDC on the decision to choose Sydney and I extend a warm welcome to all delegates attending the forum in 1998.
STATE WARD CUSTODY APPLICATION
The Hon. PATRICIA FORSYTHE: I refer the Minister for Community Services, Minister for Aged Services, and Minister for Disability Services to the case raised yesterday of the plight of the children who, despite seven notifications that they were being neglected and abused, were effectively ignored by the Department of Community Services. As he did not answer my question yesterday, despite my notifying him of my intention to raise the issue, I ask him: what disciplinary action has been taken against the officers involved? Is it intended that someone in the department will be held accountable for the inaction in this case?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: I did indeed answer the question yesterday. I commenced my response by indicating that a prohibition order has been issued by the Supreme Court regarding the publication of any information that might lead to, or have a tendency to lead to, the identification of the children or family in question. What is more, proceedings are in train involving three courts - the Children’s Court, the District Court and, in the case of the prohibition, the Supreme Court. In traversing material raised in the question I would place myself in grave jeopardy of identifying the family in question. When the proceedings are out of the way it may well be that attention can be given to the matters referred to. However, some of the facts are clearly in dispute, and are in dispute in regard to litigation before the courts that I have mentioned. That being the case, I cannot deal comprehensively or finally even with the issue the honourable member raised in the question.
NATIVE ANIMAL TOURIST ATTRACTIONS
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: I ask the Treasurer, representing the Minister for Transport, and Minister for Tourism whether he is aware of the study undertaken by the Australian institute in Canberra called "Koalas and tourism: an economic evaluation". Does this study show that koalas contribute 9,000 direct jobs and $1.1 billion to the Australian economy? Does this mean that koalas bring in something like $20,000 each per year, meaning they are worth approximately $200,000 each? What study has been undertaken to determine the value to tourism and the economy of live kangaroos? Is it not a fact that live kangaroos would almost certainly be worth more to Australia as a tourist resource in outback Australia than they are for their skins and meat, which fetch only a few dollars for each animal? Is it not a fact that it has been found that live whales are worth far more as a tourist resource than they were when they were being killed until 1978? If research has not yet been undertaken on the value of live kangaroos, when will it be done?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I do not know what the Hon. R. S. L. Jones is asking. I do not know whether he wants koalas or kangaroos hopping around Hyde Park. I am aware of the great popularity of koalas and kangaroos for tourists to Australia. In fact, I know of one story, a true story, of a German family with young children who came to Australia on holidays. The children were confidently expecting to see koalas and kangaroos. When the children came out of the terminal at Mascot, they literally broke down in tears when they realised that they were not going to see any koalas and kangaroos hopping around the streets of Sydney, because that indeed was their expectation.
The Hon. R. T. M. Bull: They could have gone across to the zoo.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I am sure the Hon. R. S. L. Jones does not want koalas and kangaroos in the zoo. I do not know how the honourable member arrives at these sorts of figures, but I assure this House that I would not want him doing economic evaluations in the New South Wales Treasury. When he leaves this place he should not apply for a job in the Treasury because I assure him he will not get one. I will obtain whatever information the honourable member wants me to obtain.
STATEWIDE LEAVING CARE RESOURCE CENTRE
The Hon P. T. PRIMROSE: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Community Services. Will the Minister advise the
House of the operation of the Statewide Leaving Care Resource Centre and the separate regional services that have been established?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: I certainly can satisfy the curiosity of my colleague the Hon. P. T. Primrose regarding that important matter. In April last year the Premier announced the provision of $1.2 million per annum to establish leaving-care and after-care services for young people. Young people who leave State and non-government care lack the close network of family contact and support which young people in the ordinary community take for granted. Their needs for care and support do not stop abruptly when they reach a particular date on the calendar. Leaving-care and after-care services are an important initiative to help these young people adjust to their changing world and develop as valued members of the community. Three services commenced operation in metropolitan areas in May this year, and I had the pleasure of officially opening those services on 21 July this year. Relationships Australia (New South Wales) is contracted to operate the service based at Parramatta, Burnside is contracted to operate the service at Campbelltown, and Centacare is contracted to operate the service at Glebe.
The Hon. Ann Symonds: All wonderful organisations.
The Hon. R. D. DYER: They are indeed wonderful, praiseworthy organisations. These services will supplement existing substitute care services and aim to ensure that all young people who are exiting from care have a leaving-care plan and access to a support service for information, advice, advocacy, brokerage and referrals, where appropriate, to other services they may need. In addition, ongoing referral and advice will be provided to young people and adults who were abused while they were in care. Relationships Australia (New South Wales) operates the Statewide Resource Centre at Parramatta, which includes a free-call telephone referral, advice and information service. The free-call telephone service incorporates the functions of the help line which was set up in response to evidence presented at the police royal commission. Relationships Australia also provides a specialist regional leaving-care service for young people in the Nepean, Cumberland-Prospect, northern Sydney and central coast areas. Similar specialist regional services are being provided by Burnside in the Macarthur, Illawarra, south-west Sydney and Southern Highlands areas, and by Centacare in the inner west and south-eastern Sydney areas.
GOSFORD-WYONG JOINT WATER SUPPLY AND SEWERAGE SCHEME
The Hon. M. J. GALLACHER: My question without notice is directed to the Treasurer. Has he received a submission from the Gosford-Wyong joint water supply committee requesting him to revoke the recent proclamation placing the Gosford and Wyong water supplies under the provisions of the Finance and Audit Act and Annual Reports Act? What is the Treasurer’s response to this request? Will he give a commitment to this House that he will not require the Gosford-Wyong joint water supply committee to provide, now or in the future, any form of dividend to the State Government?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: With regard to the last part of the Hon. M. J. Gallacher’s question, the answer is yes, the Gosford and Wyong water and sewerage schemes, whatever technical name they go under, will not be paying dividends. They will, however, be audited under the Public Finance and Audit Act. Recently I have written to the general managers of at least one of the councils, and possibly two of the councils - I know I have written to one; I just cannot recall whether I have written to two - assuring them that dividends will not be paid but emphasising that they will be audited. From recollection, I think I have revoked whatever instrument it was that brought them under the Public Finance Act, but I just cannot recall the exact mechanism whereby we will ensure that they can be audited but nevertheless not become liable to pay dividends. There is a mechanism that we have discovered to enable that to happen.
OLYMPIC GAMES REGIONAL BENEFITS
The Hon. A. B. KELLY: My question without notice is directed to the Treasurer and Minister for State and Regional Development. What steps is the Government taking to ensure regional New South Wales shares in the economic opportunities created by the 2000 Olympic Games?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I thank the Hon. A. B. Kelly for his very important question. The Government is determined to ensure that all of the State’s regions are well placed to capitalise on business and tourist opportunities created by the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. Essentially, opportunities for the regions will be in two areas: first, hosting pre-Games training by not only Australian but, probably even more significantly, international teams; and, second, regional businesses winning contracts for Olympic projects. The Government has established a number of programs
that will make sure that regional organisations and businesses are not only aware of the Olympic business opportunities but also have practical advice and assistance once they want to become involved. A series of workshops have been organised across New South Wales to provide advice on tendering for Olympic-related work. These hands-on workshops are based on the Olympic Co-ordination Authority’s specific requirements for tendering.
To date a total of seven workshops have been held, attracting over 100 potential suppliers. Follow-up workshops are planned for October, focusing on environmental management and innovation. The Government has also established the Olympic Business Information Service, which has already received around 5,000 registrations. To date regional companies have been awarded Olympic-related contracts worth over $70 million. These include the firm from Young, National Engineering, which won a huge contract for roof trusses for the Olympic stadium; Daracon Engineering Pty Ltd, from Newcastle, which has won site remediation work; and a Lake Macquarie firm, Shaft and Tunnel Pty Ltd, which has won a significant contract for the railway line loop that is being constructed at Homebush.
With regard to pre-Games training the Department of State and Regional Development and the Department of Sport and Recreation are holding a series of meetings with regional councils, regional economic development boards and regional tourism and sporting bodies. To date meetings have taken place in Nowra, Wagga Wagga, Newcastle, Wollongong, Lismore, Coffs Harbour, Tamworth and Wauchope, where departmental representatives have provided interested parties with information relating to the pre-Games requirements of international Olympic teams. In addition, a publication entitled "Get the Home Town Advantage", which highlights the extent of each region's sporting and sports medicine facilities, was recently launched by my Parliamentary Secretary, Sandra Nori. That document is being sent to key officials for each national Olympic team. In October Sandra Nori will also accompany a delegation of 11 Consul Generals on a tour of the Northern Rivers region. The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti should be listening to this instead of wasting time. He is invited so long as he behaves himself.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: What date?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: It is in October. It is a Consul General tour of the Northern Rivers region. The visit will provide the region with an excellent opportunity to display its training venues, such as the Clarence River. Further Olympic business Consul General tours are planned for later in the year, but the Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti is not invited to those. Finally, I am advised that someone is in the process of choosing the most appropriate route for a 100-day Olympic torch relay to all States and Territories. Of course, New South Wales regions will be an important part of this process. The 2000 Olympic Games presents New South Wales with a real opportunity to excel in both the sporting and business fields. Also, through our Olympic business programs and workshops New South Wales regions will have the opportunity to maximise their involvement in the Sydney Games.
ACCOMMODATION FOR THE HOMELESS
The Hon. HELEN SHAM-HO: My question is addressed to the Minister for Community Services, in his own capacity and as representing the Minister for Health. Has the Minister read a report entitled "Shifting the Deck Chairs - Homeless People and Mental Health Services in Inner City Sydney", compiled by the Sydney City Mission, the St Vincent de Paul Society, the Salvation Army, the Wesley Mission and the Haymarket Foundation Clinic for the Homeless? Is the Minister aware of their fears and concerns that, in preparation for the Sydney Olympics, homeless people with mental illness will be removed from the streets and from public view by draconian methods, such as the methods used in Barcelona and Atlanta where homeless people were shipped out of the inner cities to outlying areas? Does the Minister agree that this will not solve homeless people’s problems and, in fact, will only exacerbate existing problems and create new ones? What plans has the Minister made to address the ongoing problem of these homeless people, particularly in the lead-up to the Sydney Olympics?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: I am aware of the report to which the Hon. Helen Sham-Ho refers in her question. The provision of mental health services to people residing in the inner city, especially those who are homeless and disadvantaged, remains a high priority for the Government. The Department of Health provides over $10 million per year to mental health and related services in the inner city. This includes funding for the Inner City Mental Health Service and several key non-government organisations, such as the St Vincent de Paul Society and the Sydney City Mission.
A report entitled "Shifting the Deck Chairs - Homeless People and Mental Health Services in Inner City Sydney", commissioned by a number of inner city charities, wrongly claims that funding to the Inner City Mental Health Service will be cut. This is not the case. There has been no reduction in funding to that service and the department remains committed to meeting the needs of people with mental illness in the inner city. Representatives from the South Eastern Sydney Area Health Service met with representatives of the charities to discuss their concerns and invited each non-government organisation to make a formal submission.
Earlier this year the South Eastern Sydney Area Health Service released a discussion paper on mental health funding. Comments on the paper are being assessed by the area health board before discussions with the department take place. Since the Government came to office in 1995, an additional $36 million has been allocated to mental health services. The Government remains committed to removing the unwanted stigma associated with mental illness, to further improving clinical services and to further improving the quality of life of people living with mental illness. I am confident that the prediction made in the report referred to by the Hon. Helen Sham-Ho, namely, shifting people out of the inner city, will not occur. I am aware of reports that such events occurred in Atlanta and Barcelona. However, I believe that in this country we have a social conscience and that will not happen.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: May I suggest if honourable members have further questions, they place them on notice.
Questions without notice concluded.
ASSENT TO BILL
Assent to the following bill reported:
Special Commissions of Inquiry Amendment Bill
OFFICE OF THE OMBUDSMAN
The President tabled, pursuant to section 31AA(1) of the Ombudsman Act 1974, the special report of the Ombudsman entitled "The STA Report", dated September 1997.
The President announced that pursuant to section 31AA(2) of the Act he had authorised that the report be made public.
STANDING COMMITTEE ON SOCIAL ISSUES
Report: Children of Imprisoned Parents
Debate resumed from 17 September.
The Hon. ANN SYMONDS [5.07 p.m.]: As a member of the Standing Committee on Social Issues I am delighted to speak on the report entitled "Children of Imprisoned Parents". The Standing Committee on Social Issues has demonstrated a strong commitment to issues concerning children and young people in the numerous reports produced since its establishment. I note, Mr President, that the committee started off under your chairmanship, and produced a substantial and significant report into adoption information, which has transformed the lives of thousands of people in this State and throughout Australia. I am pleased to have been associated with that. Also, the Hon. Dr Marlene Goldsmith was the chairman of the committee when it produced a report of an inquiry into juvenile justice. As a result of that report a number of significant and substantial changes are being introduced to the way in which offenders are managed in this State.
The committee has as its terms of reference the problems of young people. The members of the committee dealt with young people in a manner devoid of political debate, and were concerned about the policy issues that arose as a result of the hearings. Committee members have come to understand that too often the needs and rights of children and young people are neglected. The report, entitled "A report into Children of Imprisoned Parents", report No. 12 of the committee, is a recognition that these children have particular needs which, until now, have been ignored in decision making and policy formulation in New South Wales. People understand the trauma and grief experienced by children when they lose a parent through death, illness or divorce; however, there is no comparable sympathy or understanding for children who are separated from a parent because of their parent’s involvement with the criminal justice system. Centacare made a good point in this regard, which can be found at page 53 of the report:
. . . there is great sadness and distress similar to that experienced by children whose parents are separating, however, with the important difference . . . that children whose parents are imprisoned do not receive the same level of understanding or sympathy from friends, networks or the community. The experience carries a deep sense of shame and stigma.
It has been drawn to my attention that Gerty Melville, who was elected to the Legislative Council
in 1952 and who was the third woman in this place, had an interest in the children of prisoners. In 1926 she endorsed a motion protesting the gaoling of a Western Australian woman who had a young baby. She referred to the lack of humanity in separating an infant from its mother. We are still dealing with such practices. I hope this report will put an end to that for children, particularly infants, in New South Wales. On 22 August 1995 the committee received a reference from the Minister for Corrective Services, Bob Debus, to inquire into the adequacy of policies and services to assist the children of imprisoned parents in New South Wales. This report presents the findings and recommendations arising from that inquiry, and received unanimous support from committee members.
The committee is putting a complex set of recommendations to the Government. The recommendations apply to prisons, the Department of Juvenile Justice, the Department of Community Services, the Police Service and the Attorney General’s Department, and affect policies relating to courts administration, housing, health, drugs, alcohol, education and even transport. Transport is required so people can visit people in prison. The committee made a number of recommendations to the Department of Social Security in relation to imprisoned parents and the needs of children. The multiparty support for the report only strengthens our resolve to address the need for changes in policies and services for children of imprisoned parents, an especially vulnerable and powerless group in our society. During the course of the inquiry, the committee received 38 submissions from organisations and individuals and heard evidence from 39 witnesses.
The committee made the following site visits in New South Wales: Mulawa Correctional Centre, Emu Plains Correctional Centre, Long Bay Correctional Complex, Junee Correctional Centre, and the Parramatta Transitional Centre. The committee met staff and children at the Children of Prisoners Support Group, and more than 60 inmates and 15 children spoke with committee members about their often traumatic and difficult experiences. The committee is extremely grateful to the children for their input to the inquiry. The committee undertook relevant site visits interstate and overseas. Members of the committee met with inmates and correctional welfare staff in South Australia and Queensland. In addition, the committee’s senior project officer and I received briefings on international models when we undertook a study tour to England, Sweden, Denmark and the United States of America. We met experts and visited sites relevant to our report on children of imprisoned parents and our report on children’s advocacy.
The report makes 97 recommendations relevant to children of imprisoned parents. The report is about children who have done no wrong. Children whose parents go to prison have committed no offence. As our research revealed, children are too often indirectly punished as a result of their separation from their primary carer. The fact that we recognise the pain and suffering of a child separated under these circumstances is one thing; whether we are prepared to change policies to overcome that unnecessary pain and suffering is another. The Daily Telegraph was unsympathetic to the needs of these children when we released our report on 21 July. It did not accept the need to consider the children in this situation, even though they are totally innocent. I am grateful that that is not the response of the members of the committee, and I believe that it will not be the response of the Government when it considers our recommendations and findings.
Chapter two of the report reviews a number of models in Australia and overseas. The committee learnt that some jurisdictions have parent-child facilities in their prisons. We did not visit any establishments in the United Kingdom - it has a rather dismal prison practice and the highest rate of incarceration in Europe. The inspector general, a retired army officer of senior rank - appointed by the Secretary of State for the Home Department, the Rt Hon. Michael Howard - refused to enter the women’s prison because it was in a substandard condition. We talked to people who were attempting to facilitate services dealing with the parents, families and their relationships with children.
We visited a remarkable prison outside Helsingor, Denmark, which has 220 inmates. It is a good example of how to maintain the relationship between imprisoned parents and their children. It is an open prison - there are no walls or bars. In fact, mothers and fathers who are imprisoned can apply to be placed in the family section of the prison, where they can reside with their babies and children. We talked to a father with a two-year-old daughter and to a young mother with two children. These programs are based on the fact that parents are responsible for their children. Therefore, there is an emphasis on the bond between parent and child.
Whilst this inquiry deals largely with the child’s experience of a parent’s incarceration, it also examines the experience of the parent. Chapter 3
profiles offenders. It concentrates on female offenders, because they are the predominant carers. The committee heard evidence that imprisonment of the mother has a more damaging impact on a child than imprisonment of the father. We would have expected this, but some of the examples really underscored the intensity of the experience and the destructive nature of the experience for the child. Approximately 60 per cent of the women in prison are parents; 30 per cent to 40 per cent of them are sole parents and were so at the time of incarceration. The committee was told that of the 350 women currently in New South Wales correctional facilities, probably only about 15 need to be in secure care for the safety of the community and for their own safety.
It is rather distressing to have to acknowledge that since we delivered the initial report on women in prison in 1985, when we urged the Government of the day to provide alternative sentencing options for women because we were alarmed that the New South Wales women’s prison population was approaching 200 - and we have continued to assert over more than the past decade that imprisonment is a last resort - the number of women in the prison system has risen to 350. This is a very clear example of the rhetoric and the intent not even coming near to the practice of prison policy. I hope that our report will provide some impetus to change that. Evidence presented to the committee showed that most women serve sentences of less than 12 months, yet the separation from their children can have a lasting impact. It is horrendous when one examines the actuality of the prison system. For example, most sentences are about three months or six months.
We heard of a one-week sentence given to a woman who had recently given birth to a baby and who was breast-feeding. Why would anyone incarcerate for one week a woman who was breast-feeding a baby? What on earth was the offence that required that her punishment had to be imprisonment? I cannot believe that there was not an alternative to incarceration. She had to express her milk every day and have it taken from the gaol to the baby so that the baby could have all the benefits of breast-feeding and so that the relationship could continue upon her release from prison. It is remarkable and unforgivable that that situation occurred within the past 12 months. One of the alarming features of the inquiry was the number of Aboriginal women sent from remote areas into the only women’s prison, in the metropolitan area. We hope that significant consideration will be given to alternatives for Aboriginal offenders so that these women, who usually have the sole care of their children, are not placed in a position that causes grief and trauma to their children. Recommendation 4 states:
That the Attorney General, the Minister for Corrective Services and the Minister for Juvenile Justice establish a program to ensure that all options for court diversion and non-custodial penalties are thoroughly exhausted before incarceration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander offenders is considered. The Committee urges that this recommendation be treated as urgent and that particular attention be paid to primary carers of children.
What is the purpose of sending an Aboriginal woman from Moree to Mulawa, and of her effectively abandoning three children? What are the consequences for the three children? How does society benefit from determining that is the way in which to punish an Aboriginal woman? In Chapter 3 the committee also examines the link between drug and alcohol abuse and criminal behaviour. The evidence presented to the committee shows that the majority of prisoners in New South Wales correctional centres have a drug and alcohol problem. Most property offences, for instance, are committed because of a person’s addiction to drugs. I disagree with the public statements of the Premier this week that self-indulgent drug users are the cause of the rise in the crime rate in this State. We need to understand it is not a matter of self-indulgence but a matter of addiction, which is a health problem and needs to be treated as a health problem.
We were very clear about recommending that people with drug problems should be referred, as a sentencing option, to detoxification and treatment programs. What are we intending to do if we are running a corrections system other than correct behaviour that is the cause of criminal and destructive activity? A survey conducted by the Department of Corrective Services in 1992 found that 67 per cent of prisoners were drug or alcohol affected at the time of their offence. Some 34 per cent were affected by alcohol, 23 per cent were affected by other drugs and 10 per cent were affected by both. The most common drug used was heroin. The committee also heard that drug addiction was related to the very high recidivism rate among offenders when they are released from prison. The sentencing process can provide a rescue operation for somebody who is enthralled with illegal drug use. The committee believes that prison as a sentencing option should be the last resort for all prisoners, but particularly for most minor and non-violent offenders with a drug addiction.
The committee firmly believes that imprisonment may not be the most appropriate way of dealing with such people. I draw attention to recommendation 32, asking that the Attorney General introduce legislation based on section 429A of the Australian Capital Territory Crimes Act 1900 and, in particular, incorporate subsection (m), which provides that when sentencing a person the court shall have regard to the probable effect that any sentence or order under consideration would have on any of the person’s family or dependants. If the ACT can have that operational guideline, we ought to rapidly incorporate it into our processes. Chapter 4 considers the issue of parents’ imprisonment from the perspective of a child. The committee heard powerful testimony of the profound and destructive effect separation due to imprisonment can have on a child. In the words of one of the committee’s witnesses, herself an inmate mother, "When a mother is given a gaol sentence, a child is given a life sentence." Research shows that the separation of a child from a parent can affect a child at any age.
The separation of babies from a mother can result in a failure to bond and can result in the child experiencing emotional, psychological and physical problems throughout his or her life. We all participated in the effort to reunite the two-year-old boy with his mother, a first offender, who did not anticipate receiving a custodial sentence for a non-violent crime. In fact she was assured she would not receive a custodial sentence because her employer, against whom she had committed a financial offence, had agreed on a system whereby she could repay the money. As this was her first and only child, and he was two years old, it seemed that the judge would almost automatically agree to a non-custodial sentence. However, the judge thought otherwise. In demonstrating his lack of understanding of child growth and development, he said, "If the child is only two he will not miss his mother." In fact, the child missed his mother to such an extent that he went into a depressive state and refused to eat, which resulted in his hospitalisation.
I greatly appreciated the efforts of all members of the committee to ensure that the child was reunited with his mother. I hope that the child eventually recovers from the unnecessary trauma of his separation. The committee also heard that many children of prisoners end up in a substitute care system and become wards of the State. This can lead to their becoming homeless and later becoming involved in the juvenile justice system. All honourable members would remember the story of the 12-year-old boy whose mother received a two-year sentence, again for a non-violent crime. The boy is now permanently brain damaged and in the care of the juvenile justice system. Chapter 4 examines the roles played by the Department of Community Services, the Department of Juvenile Justice, the Department of School Education, and the Department of Corrective Services.
The report recommends the establishment of a network of children of prisoners’ officers throughout the State and the appointment of a children’s officer to ensure that the needs of children residing with their mothers in corrective services facilities are met. In chapter five the committee examined a parent’s experience with each aspect of the criminal justice and correctional systems. The committee examined the role of the police and the criminal justice and correctional systems and recommended changes in the sentencing of those convicted men and women who have children. The police should be actively encouraged to use field court attendance notices when apprehending people suspected of committing non-violent or minor offences. That would dispense with the need for a person to be charged and for a bail determination to be made. If we do not resolve the separation issue that can occur at arrest, we will not resolve the immediate trauma of the separation of the parent from the child.
There is no point in waiting until a court determines a sentence, which may be of a non-custodial nature, if separation has already followed arrest. Persons can be placed on remand while they are awaiting bail. We must put into place new practices to deal with people when first apprehended. The committee suggests judicial training to encourage members of the judiciary and magistracy to exhaust all sentencing options before imposing gaol sentences on parents. The courts must be encouraged to take into consideration the best interests of the child as a matter of course. The report clearly explains that imprisonment should be used as a last resort for primary carers of children as well as for those women pregnant at the time of sentencing. No pregnant woman in Sweden is sent to gaol. Such sentences are deferred until the birth of the child and the woman is given time to breastfeed the child before she fulfils the conditions of her sentence.
A range of options and alternatives are identified and examined in chapter six, including periodic and home detention, community service orders and Griffiths bonds. The committee emphasises - this was said repeatedly - that those are not soft options. Punishment is a deprivation of liberty, and the acceptance of conditions of atonement and restoration. But that does not necessarily mean that it can be carried out only in a prison system. The committee’s primary concern was
to ensure that parents were held responsible for their crimes while minimising the impact of the imprisonment upon the child. In this chapter the committee examined the concept of mothers’ and babies’ units and the establishment of the New South Wales mothers’ and children’s program. The committee was pleased to support the current facilities available at Jacaranda Cottages and Parramatta transitional centre. Jacaranda Cottages have the capacity for 15 preschool-aged children. At the time of our report five children were living with their mothers full time at those cottages. Parramatta transitional centre can take up to five children. At the time of the report there were two full-time children at the centre.
I pay tribute to Major-General Neville Smethurst, the instigator of those two programs. I am pleased that my colleague the Hon. Bob Debus opened those two facilities for ultimate inclusion in the correctional system, but I place on the record that Neville Smethurst instigated the women’s unit and the women’s advisory network within the prison system. The committee also made a number of important recommendations regarding conditional release under section 29(2)(c) of the New South Wales Prisons Act 1952. The committee is concerned that an absence of written criteria for eligibility for conditional release may lead to inconsistency in decisions and recommends that guidelines be provided on the circumstances that must be satisfied for an inmate to obtain such a release. The introduction of section 29(2)(c) is the direct result of a visit paid to the women’s gaol by former Minister Rex Jackson, in the early 1980s. He discovered something that no-one knew existed - mothers in the prison system who had their children with them. He was appalled to find that children were behind bars and that they were being raised in the prison system. He ordered that alternative arrangements be made for those children.
It was agreed that, under section 29(2)(c), mothers who needed to care for their children, in particular pregnant women and women with small babies, should be given conditional release. That system has never worked appropriately or effectively. From time to time three women have been allowed out with their babies, but more often than not seven days after a mother has had her child in hospital she is returned to prison and the child is placed in care. If members of the community were aware of those circumstances I do not believe that that would be tolerated. I am talking about non-violent offenders - people on short sentences who really need not be incarcerated for the safety of the community. I hope that guidelines will be clearly laid down and circulated and that the system functions in the interest of children.
I believe that fathers should be included in the provisions of section 29(2)(c). The committee also took account of and gave serious consideration to the situation of imprisoned fathers. Committee members spoke to a number of imprisoned men who believed that they were not able to fulfil their parenting role. They said that the system did not enable them to maintain contact with their children. Particular reference was made to the importance of the father-child relationship. The committee made recommendations relating to improved and meaningful contact between fathers and children. I will not go into detail but I draw attention to a number of recommendations that the committee made concerning visits - a matter that is urgently in need of reform. Parents must be able to maintain relationships with their children. I hope other honourable members will refer to the inadequacy of existing visiting arrangements.
In chapter 6 the committee recommends a review of the feasibility of allowing fathers who are primary carers to care for their children in the established mothers’ and children’s units - Jacaranda Cottages at Emu Plains correctional centre. It worked perfectly well in prisons in Denmark and in mixed prisons in Sweden. Why should we be so uncivilised that we would not introduce a similar arrangement? A young man in Long Bay prison is the sole carer of a three-year-old child, who was involved in an accident. There are no means by which the man can be released conditionally to care for the child, who is sorely in need of the one person to whom he can relate effectively.
Chapter 7 examines the experiences of children in juvenile justice centres who are parents, as well as of children in detention centres who have a parent in an adult correctional centre. The committee wants structures put in place to deal with minimising the trauma of separation for a child and the parent in the juvenile justice system. The committee is aware that the situation pertaining to children of detained immigrants interned at Westbridge detention centre, Villawood, is a Federal matter. However, the committee received evidence on the experience of these children, and the issues are dealt with briefly in chapter 8. At no time did the committee have any intention to cause difficulties for the Federal Minister. I hope that the correspondence that I have engaged in with the Federal Minister has allayed his concerns in that respect.
The committee came to three key conclusions regarding children of imprisoned parents. Firstly, a sentence of imprisonment of a primary carer of children should be imposed only when all possible alternatives have been exhausted. The courts should always seek community-based alternatives, particularly in the case of offenders who have committed non-violent offences. Secondly, data on the number of parents in prison and on the number of children who have parents in prison should be maintained to ensure that effective policies and strategies are developed for these children. If it is not known who or where they are, how on earth can services be planned for their care and protection? Thirdly, effective pre- and post-release services that have as a focus family support and reunification should be properly resourced and available throughout New South Wales.
A post-release plan, which is fundamental to dealing with the issue of recidivism, is dealt with in recommendation 38. A post-release plan for each prisoner should begin from the moment of entry into the prison system so that the issues of housing, finance, and reunification with the family will be taken into account in order to ensure that the person does not have a pattern of offending behaviour and return within a year to the prison system. I am enormously grateful to the committee members for their commitment to the lengthy and complex inquiry. The inquiry process involved a heavy schedule of public hearings and site visits. I know that some committee members never want to see a prison again. I would like to be invited from time to time to the official closing of a prison because too often we are requested to attend the opening of new prisons, which do not benefit anyone. On behalf of committee members, I commend the committee secretariat for their dedication and skill in the production of this important report.
Ms Alexandra Shehadie deserves special mention for her primary role in the research and writing of the report. Ms Shehadie’s work is of the highest quality and I acknowledge her compassion for the children of imprisoned parents. Above all, I value her analytical ability in addressing the issues to ensure that these innocent children will be protected from unnecessary grief and trauma. The comprehensive policy directions are outlined in the report and I hope as a tribute to Ms Shehadie’s work they will be pursued. Ms Shehadie has since left the committee and is already greatly missed by committee members and the committee secretariat.
I also thank Heather Crichton who, once again, has done her extraordinarily professional work of formatting the report. I thank Julie Langsworth, my assistant, for the invaluable assistance and support that she provides to me and to the committee process. On behalf of committee members I thank all the organisations and individuals who produced submissions or gave evidence to the inquiry. Most importantly, I express my sincere thanks to the children of imprisoned parents who talked to us and told us their often very painful stories. I hope that the Minister and the Government will use the unanimous report to guide reforms in the corrections system. All committee members want to see significant changes in the provision of services for children of imprisoned parents. They are a group in serious need of care and attention. I commend the report to the Government and look forward to its response.
The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH [5.45 p.m.]: The Standing Committee on Social Issues has conducted a number of inquiries into matters that involve substantial social suffering. This was one such inquiry. This important report into children of imprisoned parents is one of the committee’s landmark reports into children’s issues. The phrase "the forgotten people" has been used on various occasions to refer to political and social situations in our society. As I have previously stated, some of the most forgotten people in our society are children because they do not have the capacity or skills to lobby and do not have a right to vote. Their parents are usually too busy and too frantic to lobby on their behalf. But of all of those forgotten children, the most forgotten are the children of prisoners. A concern that emerged in the course of the inquiry was how great their needs are and how neglected they had been. At the outset I state that the emphasis of our inquiry was not about the rights of prisoners. When we talk about structural changes to systems, we are not talking about making life easier for prisoners. Our focus has been on the children, the innocent children. They have not committed any crime; they have the misfortune to have parents, particularly carer parents, committed to prison. The introduction to the report states:
. . . this Inquiry is not about the rights of prisoners. It is not about absolving prisoners who are parents of their offending conduct. Rather, the Report is about the rights of children to be spared unnecessary hardship, trauma and discrimination because of their parents’ imprisonment.
The effects on children are horrific. Evidence and submissions to the committee have variously described the experiences and emotions of children of imprisoned parents as being disastrous, damaging, inhumane, traumatic and devastating. The committee was told that children whose parents are in prison are negatively stigmatised and stereotyped, grief-stricken, depressed, anxious, angry, ashamed,
isolated and aggressive, and experience a lack of self-worth and self-esteem. Any sentence which a parent receives will inevitably impact on a child, but a sentence of imprisonment has the most dramatic impact. Throughout the inquiry we heard from a number of witnesses the repeated refrain that when a mother is given a gaol sentence the child is given a life sentence.
The loss of a parent, whether through death, separation or divorce, can have a profound effect on a child. The impact on children in these circumstances has been well documented by research identifying that for many there is a period of considerable grief and trauma. Research has shown that without proper support many of these children often fail to get over their loss and they then underachieve or engage in antisocial or self-destructive behaviour. The children of prisoners experience all of that and more because the children do not receive the same level of sympathy and understanding from friends, networks and the general community. Because having a parent imprisoned carries a deep sense of shame and stigma, the children are encouraged to keep quiet about the situation or, in many cases when the community finds out, they are isolated and stigmatised. The situation is a nightmare for the children.
One particularly traumatic case was brought to our attention. As a child, a witness experienced precisely this problem. His mother had murdered his father, so he had effectively been orphaned. He and his siblings were counselled not to disclose to anyone in the community into which they were moved for foster care their plight or who their mother was. This resulted in their being unable to pursue the topic among themselves. They were unable to discuss it with their foster parents. The witness stated to us, "This had the effect that we never resolved our problems or feelings. Instead of bringing us closer together, as it could have, this silence only pushed us apart."
A frequent refrain in the committee’s hearings was that young children dealing with such terrible traumas received no support. We should look at the research summary and not lose sight of the effect that such separation has on children. The chair of the committee in her address alluded to some of the research but I do not think it hurts to refer to it again. One research study showed that the behaviour of the children deteriorated after imprisonment of the father. A Californian study showed that children with an incarcerated father were rated below average in various social and psychological areas more often than other children. A 1977 clinical report found that of the 24 children in the survey 12 displayed aggressive or antisocial behaviour within two months of their father’s incarceration.
Male children between the ages of 11 and 13 seemed the most vulnerable to the effects of paternal separation. Of course, there are other studies into the effects of separating children from their fathers. I refer honourable members to pages 54 to 56 of the report for a summary of the information. Overwhelmingly the greatest effects on children result from incarceration of the mother because the mother is usually the primary carer. It is the loss of the primary carer, whether male or female, that is most devastating for the child because not only does the child experience separation and stigma, but also in many cases the child effectively will lose his or her home. It is the break-up of the family unit that results from the imprisonment of the primary carer that creates perhaps the most trauma.
The chair of the committee alluded to one such case. A mother was separated from a small child for a property crime for which she was atoning. Yet a judge sentenced her to a substantial custodial term, to be separated from a two-year-old child whose health deteriorated very seriously as a consequence. I place on record my gratitude to the chair of the committee for her correspondence with the Minister and her pursuit of this matter leading to a resolution of the case in favour of the reuniting of the mother and the child. Committee members were unanimous in wanting to see that happen, but it was the chair who pursued the matter on behalf of the committee. I am very grateful that she did and very pleased with the results. I join the chair in hoping that in the long run the child will not be too traumatised by what has happened. I shake my head at the behaviour of a judge who could impose such a sentence and who could honestly believe that separation of a two-year-old child from his primary carer would not affect him.
In brief, the consequences for children of the break-up of the family unit and separation from their primary carer include behaviour problems, trauma, school failure, a substantially increased risk of criminal behaviour, damage to long-term capacity to sustain relationships, and sheer human pain. Not only that, the committee received very disturbing testimony that such separation was also linked with suicide. Given the level of youth suicide in our community, it is important to look at such statistics carefully. The group Justice Action in evidence to the committee stated from its research that the children of prisoners are five times more likely to commit suicide than Aborigines, and we know that Aboriginal people have a high level of suicide.
Justice Action also contended that the children of prisoners are "providing the fodder for the prisons of the future".
Since 1991 Justice Action has documented more than 500 deaths, 91 being Aboriginal. Of course, there is a high overlap because the Aboriginal population is so overrepresented in the prison population. It might be illuminating to analyse suicide statistics for a correlation between suicide and being the child of a prisoner. Clearly it is an issue that must be addressed. In a number of contexts, at a number of venues, and in relation to a number of issues I have made a statement to the effect that if we want to prevent violence, if we want to prevent crime, if we want to prevent drug abuse, and if we want to prevent school failure, we must ensure that children are parented. In any reference to such children I would most definitely include the children of prisoners.
We need a number of initiatives to facilitate the parenting of children of prisoners and to support that parenting. As the chair of the committee mentioned in her speech, wherever possible we need alternatives to full-time custodial sentences for carer parents. It is not necessarily a matter of softer or harsher options. We must look at the extent of the sentence involved. Imposition of a suspended sentence instead of a full-time custodial sentence might rightly be argued by the community to be a softer option. But the range of options that we consider need not necessarily be softer options. The committee certainly did not see them in that light. We have to look at appropriate sentences for crimes but sentences that also take into consideration the fact that the criminal is a parent, particularly a carer parent.
The deferral of sentence until after a child is born and until after the mother has the opportunity to breastfeed the child is one example of such a lesser sentence. Sentence options include community-based sentences, community service, periodic detention - if detention is essential - and a range of other options. Where an alternative is not available there should be consideration of ways of keeping mothers and small children together within the custodial system. A number of the committee’s recommendations examined these options and ways of keeping the parent and child together. When a custodial sentence is unavoidable, far better visiting arrangements need to be available.
The committee was appalled to hear of some of the cruelties inflicted upon children when trying to visit their parents. Those cruelties include body searches and the children being turned away at the gate when attending to visit a parent in a prison which is a substantial distance from where the children live, because, although it should have been a visiting day, it was not convenient for them to visit on that day. The committee was shocked to hear that when the visit takes place, it takes place in an area where the children cannot have even a hug from the parent. We also need support services for such children and their families. There are sensitive issues involved in circumstances when a woman with a child is sent to prison, and the issues must be given careful consideration.
The committee was horrified to hear of a case in which a woman was sent to prison for a non-violent offence even though her small child who, as I recall, was five years old, had been raped twice just before the woman had been sentenced to prison. That child had been through the most appalling trauma and then had lost her primary carer - not just to prison but to a prison a long way from where she lived. It is no wonder the suicide levels of children of imprisoned parents are high. While on this subject of the support services that are needed I would like to advert specifically to recommendation 17 of the committee’s report, which was that the Minister for Corrective Services appoint a children’s officer to the women’s unit in the Department of Corrective Services to ensure that the needs of children residing with their mothers in corrective services facilities are appropriately met. To facilitate this role that officer would have regular liaison with the network of children of prisoners officers in the Department of Community Services and with the Office of the Status of Children and Young People.
I do not think it would be out of order for me to inform the House - and I think some members of the committee would be aware of this already - that Madeleine Loy, one of the witnesses who gave evidence before the committee, has been appointed to that position. Ms Loy certainly impressed me, and I know that I was not the only committee member whom she impressed, with her high level of competence and professionalism and her humanity, concern and feeling for the people with whom she dealt. The committee had a very high regard for Madeleine Loy, and I express my personal delight that she was the officer who succeeded in being appointed to that position. I feel certain Ms Loy’s role in that position will be a very important one. In fact, I am informed that her role is proceeding well, that there have been a number of meetings with the Department of Community Services and that the liaison is operating extremely well. The gaols have a responsibility to set up assessments for every woman with a child who passes through the system, and that, of course, is being monitored by Madeleine Loy.
The Hon. Ann Symonds: That is a major breakthrough.
The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH: As the chair of the committee remarks, that is indeed a major breakthrough. I am probably not out of order if I report that when I was mentioning my high regard for Madeleine Loy the chair of the committee was nodding vigorously. The chair of the committee is nodding vigorously again. I am delighted at Ms Loy’s appointment and at how well things are proceeding. I am delighted also that a number of the committee’s recommendations have already been implemented. I hope that all of its recommendations will be implemented because, as I mentioned in the introduction to my contribution, this is a landmark report.
Structural changes are needed to the system to ensure that never again can these children be the forgotten people. I am reminded of the prisoners who gave evidence before the committee and said that they do not want anything to do with the Department of Community Services. The statement was made to the committee, "They take your children away, they are judgmental, and they are perceived as promoting only negative services." That was an indirect report of some prisoners given to the committee by those who have dealt with the department. In the past the Department of Community Services has not done well in this area. I hope that the new structures will do much better.
An item of concern that emerged for me as a member of the committee was the high level of domestic violence experienced by some prisoners. According to the officers in the system, at least 85 per cent of female prisoners have been victims of severe domestic violence. Many of them are terrified of going home. There is a belief amongst domestic violence prisoners that the one who is left standing is the one who wins, and so they slug it out to the end. Imagine the effect of this on their children. The committee also looked at such things as the high risk of abuse for children who are left in the care of violent fathers. Women in domestic violence situations often do not get any money. Often they are desperate and "take pills by the handful" as emotional painkillers, as one witness said. One such woman, who was desperate and without any money, stole a doona and got five months imprisonment. Again, that was one of those sentences that had the members of the committee simply shaking their heads and asking why this was happening. I will conclude my remarks when the House next resumes this debate.
Pursuant to resolution business interrupted.
SELECT COMMITTEE ON THE PROPOSED DUPLICATION OF NORTH HEAD SEWERAGE TUNNEL
Suspension of standing and sessional orders agreed to.
Debate resumed from an earlier hour.
The Hon. JAN BURNSWOODS [6.09 p.m.]: Earlier I was speaking against the Opposition’s motion to set up a select committee to inquire into the Government’s desire to build the northside storage tunnel, as it is known - in other words, the tunnel from the Lane Cove River to North Head at Manly, which the Government believes will reduce wet-weather sewage overflows into Sydney Harbour. I referred in some detail to the work of the Waterways Advisory Panel, which reported in August, and the role of its members. I mentioned the benefits that will flow to Sydney and the harbour from the construction of the tunnel. I referred also to the numerous factual errors in the arguments of the Leader of the Opposition and the Hon. J. F. Ryan against the tunnel and their apparent failure to realise that the tunnel is only part of the total package for the harbour. The package includes $112 million in sewer repairs, which are already under way, and the $60 million allocation of the Government for stormwater management. It includes also efforts to clean up the beaches from Palm Beach to Bombo and to rid the Hawkesbury-Nepean and Georges river systems of algal bloom, as well as to establish recycling markets for water.
If the Opposition is not in error, it must be devious and dishonest. I wish to draw particular attention to paragraph 1(g) of the motion, which states, "to review the contract process and any reasons given for not going to public tender". I point out to the ill-informed Leader of the Opposition that that is wrong. On 10 and 15 September the Government called for expressions of interest for tenders. A briefing for interested tenderers was held on 19 September and 24 consortia, representing more than 50 Australian and international companies, have so far purchased tender documents. This project will be delivered through a partnership between the private sector and Sydney Water. Prices for customers will be held at the level of the consumer price index. I do not understand why the Opposition has moved paragraph (g) of the motion.
I could refer to other specific points in the motion but it is enough to indicate that those sorts of examples could be multiplied. To be kind, the Opposition has misunderstood the proposal, failed to take into account all the other steps that the
Government is taking and has given - particularly in the contribution of the Hon. J. F. Ryan - an indication that this is an ocean outfall. Of course, it is not: it is a storage tunnel. It is a tunnel that in wet weather will take sewage and water overflows, store them and then treat them at Manly. Allowing for bad weather it is estimated that the amount of sewage and water being dealt with will increase by 2 per cent. The Opposition has failed to distinguish between a proposal for a storage tunnel dealing with overflows between the Lane Cove River and Manly and an ocean outfall. It has made many other factual errors and has failed to understand the purpose of the work and the way it fits into the total Government program for cleaning up Sydney Harbour.
I conclude by commenting on the proposal to set up a select committee. The Government is concerned about the proposed membership of the committee. However, more important is the need to draw attention to the number of ad hoc committees being established and the virtual inability of members to sit on such committees simultaneously and of the Parliament to resource them. The Parliament has standing committees and other types of committees. When the Hon. J. F. Ryan and I spoke earlier we anticipated that we would be members of the committee. Already because of other committees meeting simultaneously, both Government and Opposition members are finding it increasingly a problem to meet all of those commitments. I question the motives of the Opposition in foisting upon this House another select committee to inquire into something that has already been well ventilated in the report of the Waterways Advisory Panel, in the documents presented explaining the northside storage tunnel, and in other material. This is an ill-conceived motion which, instead of providing concrete alternatives - because the motion suggests no alternative whatsoever - will only succeed in delaying by at least some months the long overdue work needed to clean up Sydney Harbour and other waterways throughout Sydney, from Hawkesbury to the ocean, from Palm Beach to the Illawarra.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE [6.17 p.m.]: I speak to the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition to set up a select committee to inquire into and report on the Waterways Advisory Panel report on the Sydney Water proposal for duplication of the North Head sewerage tunnel and continued sewage outfall to the Pacific Ocean. In particular, it outlines the terms of reference. The committee will be required to report by 26 November 1997. It will comprise two Government members, two Opposition members and two Green members, the Hon. I. Cohen and the Hon. R. S. L. Jones. Of the total membership of six, the Government will have a minority of two. The chairman, who will probably be either the Hon. I. Cohen or the Hon. R. S. L. Jones, is to be elected by the committee.
Only time will tell whether the committee will carry out the terms of reference or see its charter as examining everything in the State involving water, sewerage and other related matters. If there is a need for an inquiry, the matter should be referred to the Standing Committee on State Development. This is already a policy of the Christian Democratic Party because each of the standing committees has a large staff, a head office and facilities to handle the matters referred to it. That is far more desirable than a multiplicity of select committees, which have no staff and place significant pressure on the Clerks of this House, who seem to carry the load when a select committee is appointed.
Experienced members of the Standing Committee on State Development have examined related issues and could do a good job. I shall conclude my contribution by moving an amendment in this regard. According to some members of the Opposition, the members of the Waterways Advisory Panel have changed their opinion and now have reservations about what they recommended. For example, I was advised that Ian Kiernan had changed his mind. I have received a letter from Clean Up Australia Ltd signed on behalf of Ian Kiernan, which reads:
This confirms that I have not changed my position in support of the Waterways Advisory Panel report and that I continue to support the Sydney Water Corporations project for the construction of the tunnel in conjunction with the other recommendations.
Some honourable members have a negative attitude whenever someone says in respect of buildings, waterways, beaches or whatever, "We want it finished so that our city, our State, can be in pristine condition in 2000." That is a good target date for us to work towards. For some honourable members the mention of the Olympic Games is like waving a red rag at a bull. They become negative, want to delay projects or not have them completed by that time. Such a move would damage the reputation of the State. Every action should be taken so that projects can be completed prior to 2000 and the Olympic Games. Our city will then be presented in the best possible light, which will have a major impact on future tourism and thus provide jobs and improve the economy. A number of honourable members have canvassed this issue in detail and I do not want to duplicate what they have said. By leave, I move two amendments circulated in my name in globo:
That the question be amended as follows:
No. 1 Paragraph 1. Omit "a Select Committee be appointed to", insert instead "the Standing Committee on State Development".
No. 2 Paragraphs 2 and 6. Omit the paragraphs.
The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD (Leader of the Opposition) [6.23 p.m.], in reply: I do not accept the amendment moved by Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile, which will bury the inquiry in the Standing Committee on State Development. That is undesirable. The Government has indicated that it wishes to proceed with works under this project. This committee will conduct a short, swift inquiry, analyse the issues as they have been outlined and indicate whether the project ought to go ahead. The motion does not preclude the Government from entering into contracts or continuing to pursue the project - although it does so at its own political risk.
I refer to the amendment moved by the Hon. I. Cohen. While there is merit in his amendment, it may not be necessary because the issues he raised can be pursued under paragraph (i), the authority to investigate and determine any other matters the committee deems relevant. Because of the broad-ranging nature of this reference and the matters adverted to by the honourable member, he may believe that it is now more desirable for them to be dealt with under paragraph (i) and that it is not necessary to divide on the amendment. The Opposition will address the matters raised by the Hon. I. Cohen if they are raised by him in the committee.
The PRESIDENT: A motion has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition, to which Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile and the Hon. I. Cohen have moved amendments. Because of the sequence of the amendments, I shall put the amendment of Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile first.
Question - That the amendments of Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile be agreed to - put.
The House divided.
Dr Burgmann Mr Obeid
Ms Burnswoods Mr Primrose
Mr Dyer Ms Saffin
Mr Egan Mrs Symonds
Mr Johnson Mr Tingle
Mr Kaldis Mr Vaughan
Mr Macdonald Tellers,
Mrs Nile Mrs Isaksen
Rev. Nile Mr Manson
Mr Bull Ms Kirkby
Mrs Chadwick Mr Lynn
Mr Cohen Dr Pezzutti
Mr Corbett Mr Ryan
Mrs Forsythe Mr Samios
Mr Gallacher Mrs Sham-Ho
Miss Gardiner Mr Rowland Smith
Mr Gay Tellers,
Mr Hannaford Mr Jobling
Mr Jones Mr Moppett
Mrs Arena Mr Kersten
Mr Shaw Dr Goldsmith
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment of the Hon. I. Cohen negatived.
Motion agreed to.
[The President left the chair at 6.35 p.m. The House resumed at 8.15 p.m.]
GOVERNOR’S SPEECH: ADDRESS-IN-REPLY
Second Day’s Debate
The Hon. VIRGINIA CHADWICK [8.15 p.m.]: I welcome the opportunity to respond to the Speech of His Excellency. Despite the controversy in the populist media about the opening of Parliament by His Excellency, I especially want to pay tribute and give thanks to those in the Parliament who are largely the unsung heroes: those who contributed to the presentation of the House, to the preparations for the opening and for the afternoon tea. They really presented our House, our Parliament in a splendid way. They did us proud. Those who, for whatever reason, have made negative comments about the opening forget the cleaners, painters, polishers, caterers, attendants and chefs, in particular, who all worked so very hard and who, from my experience and discussions with them, were very proud of how the job was done and how the House looked on the occasion of the formal opening. It is a sad commentary on life that people choose to make negative comments about particular incidents, forgetting how much such comments decry and belittle the hard work and the contribution of so very many people. I want to take this opportunity to say thank you. They did us all proud.
I also want to take this opportunity to welcome back the Hon. A. B. Kelly. It seems a very strange
way to accrue seven years service. I hope that in this instance he is planning to continue his tradition of accumulating his seven years in six-month job lots. It will be very painful, and it will certainly mean that people like me will not see his seven years accrue, but it is very nice to see him back. It is somewhat surprising that others have not taken the opportunity to thank the Hon. Patricia Staunton for her contribution to this Chamber and to wish her well in her new career as a magistrate. While there were those on this side of the Chamber who sat with teeth grinding or in awe or terror of her method of chairing committees, we all recognised her intellect, her focus and her sheer skill level. I hope that those are skills she will be able to apply well in her new role in life.
The Hon. Dorothy Isaksen: And you hope you will never appear before her.
The Hon. VIRGINIA CHADWICK: I do not plan on ever appearing before her. Also, like the Hon. J. R. Johnson, I place on the record my regret at the passing of our late Chairman of Committees, the Hon. Clive Healey. What I am about to say may seem a little irreverent, but I am sure Clive would forgive me. For those who were not in the Chamber during Clive’s time, his chairmanship was legendary. He could speak faster than a race caller. I could never understand what was going on as he moved so rapidly through bills. My very favourite recollection and one that I often share with my friend Beryl Evans, much to her chagrin, is of a particular evening, no doubt after strenuous discussion over dinner that Clive must have enjoyed, when he was chairing a committee and in full flight. My friend Beryl Evans stood up and said, "Mr Chairman", and he gave her the call with the epithet "The Hon. Eryl Bevans". That very much sticks in my mind. I send my regrets to his family on his passing. He certainly is missed in this Chamber.
The Governor, in his address, spoke of the Government’s planned changes to education. I use the term "changes" advisedly as that word is not necessarily interchangeable with the word "reform". The dictionary meanings of those two words are very different. I refer to the changes that the Government will be making in the educational area. While the Governor spoke in his address about many interesting matters, I hope I will be forgiven for addressing only education. One thing that concerns me is that in 1988 a number of principles underpinned the educational policy of the Greiner and Fahey governments. I raise that matter not because of any sense of history or because I am dwelling on the past but because those principles were universal in their application and non-political in nature. Back then I believed passionately - I still do - in those principles. They will be as relevant in 1998 as they were in 1988.
I raise this matter because one thing is clear from the last two years and from the comments made by the Governor. There is no clear, philosophical underpinning of education in New South Wales today. The Minister, the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai and others are able to speak successfully about specific issues, such as the day-to-day running of educational institutions. However, I and members in the other place are concerned and despair about the fact that there is no such philosophical underpinning of the Government’s actions over the last few years. Public servants, consultants and often the Minister try to give practical form to little more than the Premier’s populist cliches - the cliches that got him into government. I feel sorry for the Minister who has to try to give practical form to those populist cliches.
The principles to which I referred earlier, which are not partisan, are worthy of consideration by the Government. This Government seems to believe that the critically important billion dollar investment in our children’s future - education - is not stunted and devalued. I referred to these principles because I believe that Government and Opposition members who have an interest in education have devalued the critical $5 billion education industry that is so important to our children’s future. Should policies be determined by each day’s crisis and how one responds to it or by what is happening on talkback radio? That is reaction; that is not philosophy. It is not the way in which to achieve solidarity in educational policies. An analogy that is often used is that a tree will not grow if one keeps pulling it up to see whether the roots are growing, or if one keeps cutting it and pruning it indiscriminately. So it is with children and with education.
That is the test by which we should judge the health of education today. The principles to which I refer are excellence, equity, choice and diversity. Let us examine those four principles in light of what is happening in the educational area today. Do we have excellence? Do we strive for the best? Do we truly believe that the Government’s proposal to abandon three-unit courses in the higher school certificate is in pursuit of excellence? The Government, by abandoning three-unit courses, will lower the quality of secondary education. Those more academically able students will be denied an opportunity of rigorous study in three-unit and four-unit courses.
the Government has argued that, by abolishing three-unit courses, two-unit courses will become more academic. How can that be? Is that fair? How will those who obtain a disappointing result feel when the 8,000 students who are currently undergoing a three-unit course impact on those undergoing a two-unit course? It will skew the results enormously.
When considering the principle of excellence I ask: what will the Government do about the existing specialist designation of schools? Two years ago I came to realise that specialist schools, such as language or technology schools, were not achieving what we originally hoped they would achieve. They were not fulfilling what I regarded as their charter. In simple terms, they by and large had not risen to the challenge to become centres of excellence in their designated areas of expertise. Given that the coalition Government started those schools, I can say that I do not believe that they fulfilled the opportunity and charter that they were given. The specialist tag is devalued if the Government does not remove the tag from a specialist school that is not performing and give it to a school that is fulfilling its charter. Sadly, I have not seen any consistent attempt to review, to change or to deny. Specialist schools are desirable because they provide choice. But the Government has not done anything to correct an eroding situation that devalues specialist schools and brings the specialist tag into even further disregard.
In the quest for excellence it is imperative that the best possible person be appointed to our schools, especially in senior positions of principal and deputy. However, I have been informed that these days it is honoured more in the breach than in reality, and by attrition that great and hard-fought goal is being eroded. Indeed, in a most cynical and callous way, in the salaries conflict in February 1997 a deal was done that the Government would not push any further on this issue. The Government has given up. In terms of appointment by selection on merit, one of the last great sheltered workshops is in an area that is of critical importance to our children and the next generation. The fight has been too hard for the Government.
Despite the fact that people like me bear the scars from the fight we fought to select principals and deputies in this State on merit so that the best possible people are appointed, the Government has been sliding back, it is honoured more in the breach, and the Government gave up the fight in February. I would be forgiven for feeling more than a little cynical when I hear Ministers and the Premier talk about a belief in excellence, rigour, education and merit because the Government gave up the fight as part of the industrial settlement back in February. The pathetic lack of will and conviction of the Government is a tragedy. Whether it happens to be Liberal or Labor, we who took up the fight bear the scars. For the Government to give the game away and for hard-won advances to wither through lack of attention and commitment is a tragedy.
The Premier espouses excellence in education but he has shown a surprising lack of courage in pushing the boundaries in all of the areas of teacher and staff appointments. I am reminded of the literary analogy: a rose is a rose. Apparently, in the appointment of principals, deputies and head teachers in this State a teacher is a teacher. We all know in our hearts that is not true because the quality of leadership shown by a principal and deputy principal make or break a school. But, sadly, Government members have allowed themselves to believe that a rose is a rose, a teacher is a teacher. When the Government relinquishes merit selection in education, it should be remembered that the analogy goes further: a rose is a rose is a rose is an onion.
What encouragement is given to selective schools, especially in their legitimate concerns about the administrative staffing nightmare of the McGaw recommendations implementation? I have copies of letters that have been received by the Minister from a number of selective schools across New South Wales highlighting the huge difficulties that they will face in the McGaw implementation program. Does any member here, regardless of political affiliation, want James Ruse Agricultural High to lose staff, be unable to cope, and lose its academic excellence? That is what will happen. Does any member, regardless of political affiliation, wish to see our selective schools go down the drain? Surely not. I know that the Minister has these detailed submissions and letters because I have copies of them. But there has been no response from the Minister to these legitimate administrative concerns.
When I turn to the principle of equity a shameful indictment of the Government is revealed. What has happened about the McRae report recommendations to integrate children with disabilities in our schools? Why did the Government initiate the McRae report if it did not have the money, will or commitment to implement its recommendations? All that does is raise people’s expectations, only to be dashed. What will happen to our specialist schools for behaviourally disturbed and intellectually disadvantaged children if, as is currently proposed, their support staff is to be cut? Given that it is a question of equity, what is the Government going to do, particularly the Left wing
which is so concerned about equity? Why is the Left wing letting the Minister get away with inequitable and unfair action? The extra classes that were promised for these difficult and disadvantaged children are nowhere to be seen.
Where is the fairness and equity of a political- partisan approach to capital works? Apparently need is of no value when stacked against marginal seats and favours for mates. Where is the fairness and, indeed, sense in political interference with maintenance and minor capital works budgets? In 1988 the coalition Government inherited a shambles in education and hundreds of millions of dollars were spent on simple housekeeping to repair and maintain assets. Four years of Labor has set back that commonsense program and taxpayers’ money will have to be spent in 1998 to repair the damage. Is there equity in the current approach to the installation of airconditioning? Apparently schools in Campbelltown and Badgerys Creek need airconditioning but schools in Cowra and Bourke do not. The airconditioning dollars are being spent in Campbelltown.
The Government’s approach to computer allocation is another classic example of equity gone mad or being honoured in the breach. For example, the Government is going to connect all public schools to the Internet, and the Attorney General can find ways to prevent schoolchildren accessing pornography and paedophilia rings. Every schoolchild will be able to access the Internet and computers will be allocated to schools on a one-to-eight ratio. How does the Government equitably allocate those computers? The Government gives one computer to Mount Druitt High because the parents at Mount Druitt have slaved and run fairs to raise money to buy computers for their children, and gives a mass of computers to schools on the north shore because their parent-raised funds have been spent elsewhere. It is absolutely incredible. It has only been in the most recent times, given an outcry, that the Minister has realised the despicable lack of equity in that policy.
Freedom of choice is another fundamental concept underpinning any good education policy and must include the obvious choice of private versus public schools. If we are not careful, the old divisive debates will reappear. While I value and stoutly defend public education, I also believe in parents’ rights to choose non-Government schools. Rather than attack private education or non-government school choices by parents, the Government and the Minister would be well advised to figure out why some parents choose private schooling over public schooling. That would indicate how to address some of the challenges. It is not to deny support to public schools; it is to make public schools more competitive.
What do parents want? They want high academic standards, a strong discipline policy, good academic results, a strong principal, consistent application of rules and a good ethos in the school. That is why what the Minister has done at Castle Hill School is absolutely appalling. The principal, the school council and the student council said, "We are a drug-free school and we want to expel these students." The Minister came in over the top of the principal, the staff, the school council and the student council, belittled the principal, and said, "Back off." Every principal, every school council and every student council in the State and all people interested in supporting public education and wanting to ensure that public education has a fair chance to compete in the community against private education have received a message from the Minister cutting Castle Hill off at the knees: do not bother to suggest anything because there will be other exigencies and other factors that will come into play and you cannot expect the Minister and the department to back you. I disagree very strongly that that is a way of enhancing our public school system vis-a-vis competition from the non-government school system.
Zoning has gone by the board, and now there are children who cannot even attend the same school as their siblings. Choice is being eroded day by day in the public education system. Parents want choice. If we cannot offer them excellence and choice and equity in our public school system, they will decide to go elsewhere. Those who defend public education should not allow this to happen. It was most ill advised and misguided for the Minister to take the action he took. Much legislation will come forward as a result of the McGaw report. There is much I want to say on the issue which is probably better not said this evening; however, I shall mention a couple of matters before I conclude my remarks. First, I refer to the current literacy debate - and I use the term "debate" fairly loosely.
It is an absolute tragedy - accepting that all education Ministers are motivated by goodwill - that a Federal Minister, who like all Federal education Ministers does not have the responsibility for a single student or a single school, should make provocative and unilateral announcements on the issue of education. It is equally tragic that State Ministers respond like Fortress New South Wales or Fortress Victoria as they have done. I regard the actions of the Federal Minister as unilateral and provocative. Given there is no agreement on
measurement of literacy, his statements are very provocative. I also regard the reaction of the State Ministers, who deny that there is a problem, as equally indefensible in terms of what the community truly believes is the problem. Our children would be better served if people accepted that there was a problem and decided to find common baselines, common ground, to address the problem.
We should accept that perhaps some of our very favourite programs are not working. One such program on which I and my colleagues Terry Metherell and John Aquilina have spent millions of dollars is the reading recovery program. There are now two reports which state that the program does not work and that 12 months after a child has gone through it the child backslides, indicating no discernible advantage. Why do we not accept that? Why do we not say that with the best will in the world we tried it but it did not work? We should abandon our prejudices and shibboleths of the past and our favourite programs and recognise that wherever the baseline is, whoever is right or wrong - and there are no rights or wrongs in this - we are not doing it as well as we should. We should get together and figure out how to do it better. There have been enormous faults on all sides, Federal and State, about this. I do not think the universities are blameless either, because they do not train our teachers well enough for the difficult task that they face.
Finally, I make a last plea - I hope it is not too late - in relation to the thinking of the Government concerning the McGaw report. When the relevant legislation comes before this House I hope I will have the opportunity to make a worthwhile contribution to it. There is one fundamental and philosophical tragedy that flaws the McGaw report, leaving aside all the detail, and that is that the Government has abandoned what in educational terms could be called key learning areas. In general philosophical terms which I think we would all understand we have abandoned the notion that it is imperative that a child study across a broad range of areas at school to receive a broad and well-rounded education. We have abandoned the notion that it is important that a child not specialise in those early years. When students are at university, TAFE or wherever it is that they go after secondary school is the time for specialisation. They may leave school and not go on to further study, and if we have not provided them at school with an opportunity for a broad education we have failed our children. There is nothing in the McGaw report or the Government’s recommendations which suggests to me that there is a will, a belief or a commitment by the Government to ensuring that a broad, well-rounded education is an imperative for children in the New South Wales education system. I do not care where we stand in the political spectrum, if we have not included that imperative in what we call reform of education, we have failed indeed.
The Hon. P. T. PRIMROSE [8.49 p.m.]: The Governor in his Speech touched on many aspects of our society and many policies that the Government is presently pursuing. He defined the key objectives of the Government as being economic growth, job creation and security, social justice, protection of the environment, and financial responsibility. In this short speech this evening I want to touch on just a couple of those matters and give some personal views about the concerns that I believe are developing in relation to those objectives. The first matter I want to touch on involves competing narratives. The second matter involves the promotion of a corrosive monopoly in New South Wales. The third matter concerns the promotion of racism and hatred.
Recently I have been reading the debates on the adoption of the Australian Constitution that took place in the New South Wales Parliament at the end of the nineteenth century. One term that seemed to be continually used but which is not often used in debates nowadays was the concept of narrative. That is the idea that people saw the Constitution as a way of completing a story, or a belief, about the way that they hoped our society would develop. They saw the adoption of the Constitution as giving meaning to those aspirations and the consequent policies of society, the citizens and the Government. One key feature of that narrative was expressed by the then Attorney General, Mr Reid, in the other place on 2 August 1899. He said:
I suppose there is no man, whether he professes to be a radical or professes to be a liberal, who stands in the public life of the country as one who wishes to see reform and development in our political constitution, who has not as his chief aim a development that will give the mass of the people of this country a larger and larger and more active share in the decisions of great public questions.
One of the questions I would like to raise tonight is whether we have really succeeded, almost a century on, in that aspiration that Mr Reid saw as a key part of the unfolding narrative of nationhood. I suppose the relevant questions are: Do members of our society really feel more in control? Do they feel they really have, as he said, a more active share in the decisions of great public questions? It seems to me that over the last few years we have increasingly come to regard ourselves as living in an economy, not in a society. Instead of being fully participating citizens we have become consumers; what is good
for the economy now takes precedence. I will take one example, the issue of work practices. Today’s economic rationalists savage yesterday’s work practices as having been hopelessly inefficient. Yet, today’s social conservatives praise yesterday’s families. As Adele Horin stated in a recent article, what freed parents to come home at a reasonable hour is now regarded with disdain. They were the unions and awards, the 38-hour week, paid overtime and a less competitive economy.
Today, 9-to-5 workers are regarded as a menace to our economic prosperity. To the economic rationalists, it is all featherbedding. Unpaid overtime, lower tariffs, individual contracts, competition and uncertainty are all held up as key objectives. But they are destroying families. People like the Prime Minister are caught in a lie. They mouth economic platitudes about the importance of family life while destroying the institutions that protect it. Do our citizens really feel in control of their lives, of having a greater say in the important questions facing our society? Today the average full-time male worker clocks up 45 hours a week, compared to 38 hours in 1982. People work longer hours because they are scared of losing their jobs if they do not. Fewer of them are unionised. Unemployment is high.
Bosses are freed from having to pay penalty rates and overtime under workplace agreements and are demanding longer hours from their staff. And when they finally do get home, many parents are faced with university assignments or TAFE homework as they try to improve their credentials to compete. Even when they are at home, family time is being cut as parents are busy skilling up. Parents want to be involved with their children. Most say they are dissatisfied with the continued erosion of family time. We have to make a choice: do we want to live as consumers in a competitive market economy or as citizens in a society in which families are regarded as important and in which we protect workers accordingly from the harshest aspects of the competitive marketplace?
The second matter I wish to raise concerns the reference the Governor made to the opening of the permanent casino complex at Pyrmont later this year. We all know what casinos mean for families, and the destruction that a similar facility is already bringing to Melbourne. I will not dwell on that. I want instead to look at the broader question of gambling and State revenue. The recent High Court decision in the cases Ha and Hammond was simply another nail, albeit a pretty big one, in the fiscal coffin of the revenue-raising capacity of all States. The budget papers already show that for 1997-98 proceeds from gambling make up 10.8 per cent of total State receipts, or $1,392 million. It concerns me that as the options available to State governments of all political persuasions decrease, they have turned and will continue to turn increasingly to regressive and socially destructive forms of revenue such as gambling and casinos.
Under the new economic orthodoxy, it is politically untenable for governments to raise income taxes to pay for essential government services. Instead, revenue raising has to be disguised. Ha and Hammond may simply push this process along, and we clearly need national action to redress this imbalance. I do not say that this is the responsibility of a Federal government of any particular political flavour; it is the concern of government at all levels and it is a matter that we need immediately to examine carefully. On a side issue, it seems incredible that in an era of disaggregation, when competition is king, State governments of all flavours are legislating into existence monopolies in the form of casinos. We live in bizarre times.
The final matter that I want to raise in relation to the Governor’s Speech is the issue of intolerance, bigotry and racism. These matters were dealt with at some length in the Governor’s Speech. I note with concern, for example, the article in the Daily Telegraph of 13 August titled "Step to the Right". One of the matters raised in this article was the re-emergence, as a senior player in Liberal Party factional tussles, of the well-known anti-Semite and Nazi collaborator Lyenko Urbanchich. The article covered a meeting between a number of New South Wales Liberal Party factional heavies from the broad right wing of the party. Of course, that other well-known Australian citizen and nazi, Conrad Kalejs, was delayed and unable to attend the meeting, as a court case he was involved with in Canada had stretched out a tad longer than he had anticipated. There have been suggestions that had he been able to attend, he may well have sorted out some of the internal factional problems that the New South Wales Liberal Party is currently embroiled in. But alas, the Canadian court that found him guilty of war crimes took a little longer to expel Mr Kalejs than even the Liberal Party had expected.
Lyenko Urbanchich’s re-emergence is particularly disturbing given the refusal of the Liberal and National parties to put candidates of racist parties such as Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party last on their how-to-vote pamphlets, not to mention statements like those of Northern Territory Chief Minister Shane Stone, who referred to a senior Aboriginal elder as a "whining black". The
resurfacing of Mr Urbanchich, and his ability to draw members of the New South Wales State Opposition as well as members of the Federal Government to Liberal Party gatherings, is a particular worry. It must be particularly distressing to New South Wales’ Jewish and Aboriginal communities, not to mention the tens of thousands of genuine displaced persons who came to Australia in the 1940s and early 1950s as victims of the Third Reich.
Lyenko Urbanchich was not a genuine displaced person. The criterion involved, as defined by the International Refugee Organisation, was that "war criminals, quislings . . . [all people who had] voluntarily assisted the enemy in operations against the United Nations or in the persecutions of civilian populations" were barred. This definition was put in place to assist the sea of victims of nazi, fascist or quisling regimes. Those who know anything about Lyenko Urbanchich’s past could not fail to see the irony of this definition as applied to Mr Urbanchich’s situation at the end of the war. Mr Urbanchich was known as the Little Goebbels of Lubiana. He was a highly placed official within the propaganda apparatus of the nazi puppet-state of Slovenia. During the reign of this quisling regime, 90 per cent of Slovenia’s Jews were either killed or deported to the death camps, while Lubiana’s Jewish community was annihilated. It was one of Lyenko Urbanchich’s jobs to whip up the anti-Semitic hysteria that was so necessary for the elimination of Europe’s Jewish population; a task he took to with vigour and enthusiasm, if his radio broadcasts and newspaper articles are to be believed - and they are to be believed.
The New South Wales Liberal Party, upon completion of an internal investigation of Mr Urbanchich’s wartime activities, headed by then State president David Patten and metropolitan vice-president John Spender, verified the authenticity of the various writings, speeches and radio broadcasts as the words and work of Lyenko Urbanchich. As Simon Weisenthal pointed out upon looking into the Urbanchich case, the extermination of the Jews and other enemies of nazism could not have continued without the work of propagandists, who disseminated the idea that the extermination of the Jews and others was not a crime. It is enough to quote from some of his more memorable pieces of propaganda work to understand his role in the Slovenian Government and to get a better insight into his political beliefs. In a 1944 broadcast on radio Lubiana, Mr Urbanchich stated:
. . . it is not important that I speak to you as the youngest Slovene journalist . . . (what is important is that) the truth which is older than I, which is centuries old (be proclaimed). That is, the truth about all the vile intentions of the chosen people, the 15 million Israeli race roaming the world.
. . . we went to war because of Jewish interests, for the benefit of international communism, and the responsibility lies with those "allies", the British, the Soviets, and Masons, and above all, and I stress the words above all, the Jews, sworn enemies of Christianity and all the non-Jewish world.
Later in the broadcast he concluded with a tirade against the handful of Chinese, Indian and African troops fighting against the Reich on European soil, and then with a rallying cry to his listeners to:
. . . follow our leader, the experienced and homeland-loving General Rupnik, about whom we can say that God himself has sent him to us . . . It is our duty to repeat over and over again, to exhaustion, that there is only one way, the way of General Rupnik.
General Rupnik was charged, tried, convicted and executed for crimes against humanity at war’s end. Lyenko Urbanchich fled justice and entered Australia illegally, under Australia’s commitment to the International Refugee Organisation program, which, as was already mentioned, strictly prohibited the likes of Lyenko Urbanchich from taking advantage of its good intentions. But those who might be tempted to think that Lyenko Urbanchich and his racist and anti-Semitic views were abandoned once in Australia are mistaken. He rose to prominence in the New South Wales Liberal Party and became one of its more powerful factional figures during the 1970s and 1980s, and if his right-wing factional friends within the New South Wales Liberal Party have their way, his comeback has already begun.
Because of the Liberal Party’s protection and endorsement of Mr Urbanchich, he came to hold incredible influence within the organisation, to the point of being appointed to the party’s State executive, where at the zenith of his power he controlled one-third of the votes at the State council. I know that many honourable members opposite view his continuing role with great shame. But it is also an insult to the overwhelming majority of citizens of New South Wales, who would repudiate Mr Urbanchich’s racist, anti-Semitic and bigoted views. It is now time for the Liberal Party to publicly repudiate and disassociate itself from the likes of Lyenko Urbanchich and the views he represents. A good start would be to announce that racist candidates like Pauline Hanson will be put last on the coalition’s how-to-vote cards at the coming Federal and State elections. I conclude with a quote from a former Federal Liberal Party Senator and Government Senate Leader, John Carrick, who said
in 1979 in reference to the Urbanchich issue that there "is no room in my party for the expression of pro-Nazi views and violent anti-Semitic and racial tendencies". Nearly 20 years down the track John Carrick is gone but Lyenko Urbanchich is still there.
The Hon. J. F. RYAN [9.04 p.m.]: It is a great pleasure for me to contribute to the Address-in-Reply to the Governor’s Speech, especially as this is the first opportunity members have had to reply to a Speech given by a current Governor, the Hon. Gordon Samuels, AC. Given some of the unfortunate circumstances generated by the Government - and they were generated entirely by the Government - over the appointment of Governor Samuels, it is pleasing that the Governor has resumed his traditional role of opening the Parliament and presenting the Government’s program for the scrutiny of honourable members. I congratulate the Governor on his reference to the recent death of the Princess of Wales and Mother Teresa of Calcutta. He also paid tribute to the terrific job done by State Emergency Service volunteers and other members of emergency services at Thredbo. I am sure every member of the House endorses those sentiments. I certainly associate myself with them.
I have not had much experience contributing to an Address-in-Reply debate. I was pleased that His Excellency departed from the tradition of merely reciting the program of the government of the day to make a number of comments that were obviously the product of his own warmly held values. It was a refreshing innovation. However, in many respects those sentiments represent the highest aspirations of good citizenship. I applaud his comments which urged honourable members to work together in a true Federal spirit to make genuine progress towards Aboriginal reconciliation based on justice and respect and to show leadership in the never-ending fight against intolerance and ignorance. I welcome those remarks and warmly endorse them, and congratulate His Excellency on his initiative in making his views public. They are non-controversial views and all honourable members would share them.
Having made those comments and welcomed the Governor’s Speech, I now resume the usual tradition and seek to make some partisan political remarks. I should like to comment first on the contribution of the Hon. P. T. Primrose, with whom I share the aspiration to pursue intolerance and to work towards a harmonious nation, particularly with regard to racial matters. I shall not traverse the entire speech; however, I was surprised that the Hon. P. T. Primrose raised the subject of Liberal Party preferences for the forthcoming elections. I recall that when the honourable member sought election to this place in 1995 he associated himself with and received assistance from a group in the electorate of Camden that presented itself to the public in a racist light. It had an anti-Asian immigration policy. Its brochure was printed by a former member of this House, a union member -
The Hon. Jan Burnswoods: On a point of order. I know that the Address-in-Reply debate is wide-ranging but I wonder whether the allegations of the Hon. J. F. Ryan about something that occurred one or two elections ago can really be relevant to the Governor’s Speech.
The Hon. J. M. Samios: On the point of order. The speech of the Hon. P. T. Primrose was far-reaching and remarkable tolerance was given to it. However, the Hon. J. F. Ryan is referring to an issue raised by the Hon. P. T. Primrose. The tolerance extended to the Hon. P. T. Primrose should be extended to the Hon. J. F. Ryan.
The Hon. P. T. Primrose: On the point of order. If the honourable member wishes to tell lies about me, I will tell the truth about him. If he wishes to move a substantive motion against me, I am happy for him to do so.
The DEPUTY-PRESIDENT (Rev. the Hon. F. J. Nile): The Hon. J. F. Ryan is responding to points made by the Hon. P. T. Primrose. However, I urge him to return to the Governor’s Speech.
The Hon. J. F. RYAN: The Hon. P. T. Primrose asked us to do something about our preferences with regard to election campaigns. I do not believe that he has shown a particularly good example when he has stood for election to this place. The Governor’s Speech outlines the program that the Government intends to pursue during the session. I listened to the Governor’s Speech with that in mind. I was waiting for something exciting, far-reaching and visionary. I hoped that new benchmarks of public policy would be reached, given that we have not had a Governor’s opening of the Parliament for some time. The opening was arranged in ceremonial and exciting circumstances.
I presumed that the Premier wanted the Governor to open Parliament because he wanted to announce some particularly spectacular policies that would capture the imagination of the people. Not a great deal in the Governor’s Speech lived up to my expectations. Legislation is not mentioned until page 4 of the Speech - after a lot of political diatribe. During this session honourable members will be
asked to consider legislation to implement education reforms. Neither House has seen that important piece of legislation. I suspect that it will contain minor administrative changes which, in the usual forms of the House, will be introduced in the latter stage of the session and will not receive the appropriate amount of consideration or public consultation.
The Parliament will be asked to amend the Police Service legislation to implement further recommendations arising from the royal commission, but honourable members do not know what it will look like. Thus far we have been fixated on the comments of a member of this House. Legislation will be introduced to deal with knives as weapons and to safeguard and strengthen penalties. Important though that is, it is hardly exciting stuff. It does not suggest that the Government will deal with anything new. From my experience in the public service, those issues would not have come to the Government as a result of constituents saying, "We want this raised", or from broad public interaction; they have been raised by public servants and, by and large, they are administrative changes that have been discovered in the normal process of Government programs.
The environmental operations legislation, which is to be revised, may live up to my expectations. However, it was tabled in the House prior to the Governor’s Speech: it is old news. The Speech contains a reference to the environmental planning and assessment legislation, which many people thought would be exciting and cut red tape. I am a member of the Joint Select Committee upon the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995, which heard that this proposed legislation will address only the building of garages and carports and the changing of internal fittings of buildings already in existence - hardly ground-breaking stuff that will capture the public imagination.
I have recently spent a great deal of time in parts of Sydney’s west, an area the Opposition hopes to represent in the future. In particular, I spent time in the electorates of Blue Mountains, Penrith, Londonderry, St Marys and Badgerys Creek - areas within close proximity of my home, and populated by people who have aspirations and experiences not dissimilar to my own. The Carr Labor Government has abandoned its traditional constituency. Nothing in the Governor’s Speech will capture the imagination or address the concerns of people who live in the electorates that I have visited in the Penrith local government area. People who live in Badgerys Creek and Penrith are concerned with bread and butter issues, such as health, law and order, jobs and the efficiency of the public transport system. The Government has not addressed those matters; it has presented the State with a litany of broken promises, it has run away from its commitments and it has replaced substance with political gimmicks. I shall illustrate this when I highlight the concerns raised with me by people who live in the Penrith local government area.
The Hon. Jan Burnswoods: What do they think of John Sharp in Badgerys Creek?
The Hon. J. F. RYAN: I will get to that later, in particular the hypocrisy of members of the Labor Party. The Labor Party has abandoned the battlers. Law and order was something that Mr Carr, as the Leader of the Opposition, made a great deal about in the lead-up to the March 1995 election. What has been the result of all the huffing and puffing in Penrith? One out of every seven car thefts in New South Wales occurs in Penrith, sexual assault has increased by 52 per cent, robbery with a weapon has increased by 93 per cent, and indecent assaults have increased by 41 per cent. These figures are proof positive that the Carr Government has broken its election promise to be tough on crime and the causes of crime. The Carr Government frequently says that it is concerned about jobs. A specific Carr Government initiative, introduced in the last budget, has meant the loss of 90 jobs that would have been created by Penrith Panthers’ recent expansion - jobs that would have gone to young people in an area that has one of the worst youth unemployment records in the nation.
People who live in the Penrith local government area are also concerned about the security of their houses, as they are at some risk from the Warragamba Dam breaking in the event of a catastrophic flood. The Carr Government, instead of carrying out the commitment of the former coalition Government to build a proper augmentation of the dam by increasing the height of the wall, has decided to build a cheap spillway. The dam will be protected, but the residents who live downstream from it will continue to have no protection from the flooding that occurs from time to time. If the dam is ever subject to a catastrophic flood, their houses and livelihoods will be destroyed. But the dam will stay. The Government has the option to protect both.
Another area of development in close proximity to Penrith is of great concern to residents. It is known locally as the ADI site, owned by the Commonwealth, formerly used by Australian Defence Industries. There has been much talk from the Government about what might happen to the site. Lend Lease has proposed a development that
would create a massive number of jobs, house thousands of people and generate workplaces in close proximity to the people who live in the Penrith local government area. But instead of deciding what to do about the ADI site, Minister Knowles has ordered inquiry after inquiry to stall consideration of the project. As a result developers and potential employers continue to be uncertain as to where might be the best place to invest in land and to commence businesses. It may be that the best decision is not to develop the ADI site according to the Lend Lease plans. I am not necessarily here to promote the cause of Lend Lease, but the people of Penrith want to know the Government’s view so that they can develop the area as public space, develop it as partially housing and partially employment, develop somewhere else, or develop the site in the way Lend Lease has suggested and take advantage of the opportunities that a 15,000-hectare site might provide.
It is a very important decision that will affect the future of Penrith. The Government has reports it will not release to the public. I call upon the Government to release those reports some time during this session so that they can be considered by the people who live in Penrith and Blacktown and by the Penrith and Blacktown councils. One of the local members in the Penrith area is the Hon. Faye Lo Po’, the Minister for Fair Trading. She presents herself to the electorate as a person concerned with consumer protection. One of the great icons for those who live in Penrith is the home and its security. One of the most important decisions people who live in places like Penrith will make is how they might buy or sell their home. This Government and its representative are considering introducing proposals to abolish a level of regulation of the industry that is an important form of consumer protection.
Sales people in the real estate industry have to complete a five-day approved training course to obtain a certificate, and a police check is carried out to discern whether they are people of suitable character. Real estate agents who work and live in the electorate of the Hon. Faye Lo Po’ told me that the certificate represents a guarantee to vendors that their properties are secure when they hand over the keys of their houses to real estate staff. The certificate also ensures that the sale of a house is handled by people with an adequate level of skill and expertise. For many people buying and selling a house is one of the biggest decisions they will ever make in their lives. Customers and vendors need and deserve this level of protection. It is appalling that a person who seeks to represent people of western Sydney has not understood that or been made aware of it, even by people within her electorate. Another aspect of concern to the people of Penrith is the flexibility of the environment in which small business can develop and create jobs. Recently, at the invitation of the Penrith Chamber of Commerce, I visited three or four small businesses in the Penrith area.
Each small business representative told of the inflexibility of government departments to consider issues vital to the health and wellbeing of small business. We visited the premises of a small business in Emu Plains and were told of the obstacles the owner had to overcome to move his business to Emu Plains. He talked about delays in the planning approval, squabbles about his desire to paint the building white, which was in keeping with the logo he used to promote his business, setbacks in installing the telephones and the impasse regarding the location of a fire hydrant. The local fire brigade officers measured the distance diagonally from his business to the fire hydrant, but the council wanted the measurements taken between the location of the premises and the fire hydrant square across the street so that the measurements were at right angles. The fire brigade officers pointed out that if a fire were ever to occur the hoses they would use would run diagonally, so that the diagonal measurement was a more relevant measurement.
The council was forcing the small business owner to outlay a further $20,000 to have the hydrant moved so that it would comply with council regulations. I accept that the regulations were not part of the State Government’s responsibility. During that morning we visited a number of businesses that were affected by exactly the same sort of inflexibility on the part of the State Government. A group of businesses had been operating on the Hume Highway at Emu Plains. One is a cheesecake shop and one is a newsagency. These businesses depend very much on their access to passing trade. An important part of attracting passing trade is the ability for people to park outside the shops. The owners discovered that the Roads and Traffic Authority was about to erect road signs preventing people from parking outside their shops until 10 o’clock in the morning, despite the fact that traffic surveys by the RTA indicated that such a facility was needed only until 9 o’clock in the morning. But because the RTA wants to standardise these signs across the State and not take local differences into consideration these small business owners had to put up with the fact that the RTA would erect signs to prevent parking until 10.00 a.m., and that would be that.
The Hon. Jan Burnswoods: I thought you believed in local government.
The Hon. J. F. RYAN: This has nothing to do with local government, it is the RTA.
The Hon. Jan Burnswoods: I thought you believed in local differences.
The Hon. J. F. RYAN: Obviously your Government does not. We also met with about a dozen small business people whose businesses operate at the intersection of Castlereagh and Peach Tree Road, just outside Penrith. Traffic lights and a roundabout are urgently needed because those businesses are adversely affected by traffic congestion, especially in the afternoon, which everybody wants to avoid. While other businesses in the area enjoy a rush period of trading, the affected businesses slow to a halt. Relief in the form of roadworks designed to upgrade access to the rowing centre for the year 2000 Olympics was supposed to start more than a year ago, but new advice from the RTA suggests that the work will not start for another two years. That is an example of how this Government’s broken promises affect the everyday lives of people.
The Chamber of Commerce also drew our attention to other issues that generally limit the capacity of local businesses to create jobs or to pay higher wages. Many industries do not have provision to allow award wages to be varied to enable businesses to set special rates of pay to train young people. It happens in some industries, but many industries operating in the Penrith area do not have access to a training award rate and they find it very difficult to provide opportunities to give young, untrained workers and unskilled workers a start in the business. I was told that employers who pay over-award rates are hit by higher workers compensation premiums. If any of their workers are injured they receive exactly the same payout in accordance with the award rate, and no compensation is given to the worker for the fact that he or she earns above-award wages.
This rigid workers compensation premium prevents some businesses from paying higher wages, even if they want to, because of oncosts, but they get absolutely no benefit for paying higher premiums. Many small businesses that have never experienced an injury on their work site are given absolutely no credit for having good work safety records. Nothing in the Government’s program addresses those issues, yet those are the sorts of issues that concern the constituents that Government members say they represent. Honourable members have heard much about the Government’s commitment to public transport. Trams have been introduced in the inner city area, but in places like Penrith people are still coping with the fact that more than 10 per cent of the trains do not run on time. CityRail set itself a target of having 90 per cent of trains run on time. That is measured by whether trains arrive within a three-minute time frame of their schedule. Even allowing for the skipping of some stations, trains are on schedule only 82.7 per cent of the time, which means that one in five times, at least once a week, a train will not arrive on time or it will not get passengers home on time.
The daily peak average for the financial year that has just ended was only 80.9 per cent - the lowest figure in five years. That figure was revealed only because of leaked documents given to the shadow minister for transport. On the main Penrith line 143 stops are skipped every week to improve on-time running statistics. The Carr Government foolishly believes that it can fix timetable problems, but at the same time it is cutting 863 jobs from CityRail’s customer service division. I can recall the Carr Government promising to address the hospital waiting list issue. The Government lost its battle in the Penrith area. Recently released hospital waiting list statistics for the Penrith district indicate that more people are waiting for surgery in Penrith now than there were before the 1995 State election. When Mr Carr took office and promised to halve waiting lists, 1,541 people were waiting for elective surgery. Figures just released for June indicate that 1,756 people are now on the waiting list. So much for the Carr Government’s promise!
What are local members of Parliament in the Penrith area talking about? Are they talking about health, law and order or better schools? No! They are madly distributing ribbons to people in the Penrith area; they are cranking up the Badgerys Creek airport issue, which has nothing to do with their responsibilities as members of Parliament. Even worse, they were happy to be associated with this issue when a Federal government of the same political persuasion was in office in Canberra. Let me illustrate that by referring to some of the statements made by local members in Penrith about Badgerys Creek airport when Laurie Brereton was transport Minister. In the two years before the Hon. Faye Lo Po’ became Minister for Fair Trading, and Minister for Women she said nothing against Badgerys Creek airport. At that time the Federal Labor Government announced that it would acquire the land, expand the airport to enable international jets to land, fast-track its construction and open it 24-hours a day. Mrs Lo Po’s only public comments
about the airport are contained in a speech in which she urged the State Parliament to speed up legislation to enable the closure of a rubbish tip which she claimed would get in the way of the airport.
When Diane Beamer, the honourable member for Badgerys Creek, was Mayor of Penrith, she said she was all for fast-tracking the airport. In November 1993 she said that the airport could "only benefit Penrith residents" and she called for an increase in the size of the airport. Honourable members will be stunned when they discover that the honourable member for Badgerys Creek said that the Federal Airports Corporation proposed a smaller runway. She said that that would put the airport in the same league as Bankstown and that her council would push for a longer runway which would be suitable for domestic and international flights.
Penrith Labor members of Parliament, including Diane Beamer, pushed their leader, Bob Carr, to visit Penrith to address a pro-airport convention in November 1993. At that convention the Premier told them that Badgerys Creek airport must be operational well before the 2000 Olympic Games - and all that was said without any public consultation, without a proper environmental impact statement and without taking into account the independent audit commissioned by the Howard Government. Local Labor politicians have no credibility on the airport issue. Faye Lo Po’ knows that she will never have to deliver on her promise to stand in front of the bulldozers because it is unlikely that she will contest any election after 1999, and there is no chance that the construction of the airport will have commenced by that time.
Other Labor politicians in western Sydney, and Ministers in the Carr Government, the Hon. Craig Knowles and the Hon. Michael Knight, have the same view about the airport. They promoted it in 1995 but are now trying to run away from it. They have been peddling the idea that the State Government does not support Badgerys Creek airport. They have suggested that the Keating Government was planning only a small overflow airport at Badgerys Creek. Some members of Parliament who represent western Sydney are using that as a means of excusing their former, wholehearted support for Sydney west airport. On 17 September the Hon. Craig Knowles said in the Sydney Morning Herald:
The Keating Government had planned an overflow airport with a large freight component. The new administration was promoting options for a 24-hour international airport that did not stand up to environmental scrutiny.
I have news for Mr Knowles. Laurie Brereton, in Hansard of 10 May 1995 - which was just after the Carr Government came to office - described the airport that the Federal Government was planning to build. He said:
It will mean that we will have an airport with sufficient capacity to handle 94 per cent of all our flights to international destinations as well as domestic services. It will have firefighting services and it will have great facilities, as well as a 10,000 square metre terminal capable of handling up to 1.2 million passengers per year . . . also included in the acquisition of a further 50 hectares of land as well as the relocation of the Northern Road. We have seen the removal of any impediment to the future extension of the main runway to 4,000 metres and the later provision of a second 2,500 metre parallel runway.
That does not sound like an overflow airport to me. That sounds like a large, international airport, capable of taking any jumbo jet - 94 per cent of our international and domestic transport, according to Laurie Brereton. The Carr Government and those members who represent electorates in Sydney’s west are being hypocritical in regard to their policy on Badgerys Creek. Their fingerprints are all over the decision to select the site at Badgerys Creek, to promote it as an international airport, to fast-track its construction and to open it 24-hours a day. They are now trying to run away from their commitments, for base, political advantage. I have no intention of allowing them to get away with it. They might be trying to tell the electorate that they thought their mates in Canberra were planning an airstrip with a single hangar and a couple of crop-dusters. However, their mates in Canberra were planning a full, international airport. They supported that proposal then, so they should at least enable an investigation of the airport site which the Howard Government inherited from the Labor Party. The Federal Government is trying to do the best it can about the problem it inherited.
I have tried to demonstrate in this Address-in-Reply debate that the State Government has lost any semblance of sympathy it had for the people living in western Sydney. It has no understanding of their needs or concerns. It has gone off on a tangent. It is pursuing gimmicks and issues that do not concern ordinary working men and women who live in places such as Sydney’s west. No wonder this Government is trying to introduce legislation in this Parliament to rort the outcome of the next State election! This Government has not captured the hearts and minds of people living in Sydney’s west. I have no doubt that they will tell this Government when they get an opportunity to do so in March 1999.
The Hon. JANELLE SAFFIN [9.40 p.m.]: It gives me great pleasure to speak in this House about the key legislative and policy proposals and associated matters for the third session of the fifty-first Parliament of New South Wales, as outlined in the Speech by the Governor His Excellency the Hon. Gordon Samuels. I too was saddened and shocked by the deaths recently of my fellow Australian citizens in the Thredbo disaster. At the time I was overseas, where it received much media coverage. I was stunned by the circumstances and scale of the disaster but proud that the Australian spirit of mateship prevailed and that the nation joined to show it in practical and emotional ways. The police, rescue and emergency services, supported and assisted by hundreds of volunteers, toiled painstakingly to remove the debris in their search for survivors. They were rewarded in their efforts by finding Mr Diver clinging to life, yet deeply distressed at the major loss of life. Their heroic efforts were recently formally acknowledged. As outlined in the Speech, the Government is committed, as any government would be, to support the Thredbo community to rebuild.
The tragic death of Diana, Princess of Wales, also stunned the nation and the world. I, like many others, did not realise how much her life had become interwoven with mine and the community’s and how much I liked her. Her capacity to effect good had only been lightly tapped. She had the double blessing of being able to effect personal and political change. Individuals who had contact with her felt that their own lives were enriched. More importantly, the humanitarian way she took on the cause of removing landmines had the effect of bringing about political change. My son, who is aged 13, was as saddened as I when we learned of her death. As did colleague the Hon. R. S. L. Jones, I sat riveted to the television watching the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales. I could not take my eyes away until I saw her arrive at her home at Althorp. Mother Teresa’s death also shocked the nation, not for the reason of prematureness, as in the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, but because the world had lost another humanitarian. It is ironic that two women so different - generations apart in age, wealth and lifestyle - yet to some degree so alike, died in the same week with global effect.
The program presented by the Governor on behalf of the Government advances the Carr Government’s key objectives of economic growth, job creation and security, social justice, protection of the environment and financial responsibility. On election the Government undertook to enhance the State Government’s core responsibilities to provide quality and accessible services in health, education, transport and public services, and so far it has achieved that. In the past three budgets the Government has increased the health budget by almost $1 billion. This financial year all of the area health services have received increases in funding. The Northern Rivers Area Health Service, the health service that covers the area in which I live, received approximately an extra $11 million. My colleague the Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti has made negative comments locally about this matter. Nevertheless, it is the first real increase in a number of years. Enhancements in past years have had to be offset by productivity savings, gains and efficiencies. The extra money will allow for enhancements in drug and alcohol programs and other areas.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: You know that the cuts will be made in other areas.
The Hon. JANELLE SAFFIN: I know that historically health budgets have had an accumulating overrun. The region is becoming an area exacerbated the problem. But the fact is a few million dollars are available for enhancements and new projects.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: That is true but it was $5 million over budget last year.
The Hon. JANELLE SAFFIN: It does not matter, extra money is available. We will discuss it later. The area also received a boost of approximately $800,000 for mental health. Whilst I am grateful for the money because it allows the area to maintain and enhance its mental health services, more is required to bring it to a level playing field with other regions and within Australia. For many years mental health has been sadly neglected and on a State comparison the funding in New South Wales is the lowest in Australia. That is an historic situation which the Government is trying to correct. I am happy to have the resource distribution formula applied to mental health funding but only after a level playing field is achieved. The $800,000 goes some way, but to get to a level playing field so that the resource distribution formula can apply another approximately $4 million is needed. I have been agitating for that for a long time and some of that funding is now being provided.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: We got some funding under the coalition Government.
The Hon. JANELLE SAFFIN: Yes, we did get some. But to achieve a sort of parity over the coming years I will continue to lobby for funds. I am pleased that the Government has started to address this issue, although it is not an easy matter to fix overnight. I thank the Minister for Health,
who has a commitment to mental health, for taking notice and trying to tackle the problem. The rural health unit, which was moved from North Sydney to the country, was opened in Grafton.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: I was there, you were not.
The Hon. JANELLE SAFFIN: No, I could not go. I agitated for that move for a long time, particularly at ALP conferences. To date, the rural health unit advisory body, chaired by Professor Sandra Speedy from the School of Health Sciences, Southern Cross University, has done excellent work in community consultation. I recently raised the point that it is absolutely necessary to have rural representation on the ministerial advisory committee on tobacco, alcohol and other drugs. Government, no matter who is in power, needs reminding about the issue of rural representation because it is consistently forgotten.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: Have you got representation on the committee?
The Hon. JANELLE SAFFIN: I have requested it and I am sure that it will happen. I have also raised the unpopular issue of the hypothecation of alcohol and tobacco taxes to the drug and alcohol health budget.
The Hon. Ann Symonds: It was a recommendation in one of the reports of the social issues committee.
The Hon. JANELLE SAFFIN: Yes, it was. Another issue that I congratulate the Government on is the historic achievement in the forest conservation area.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: Even Whian Whian?
The Hon. JANELLE SAFFIN: Yes, even Whian Whian was successfully resolved. I take the opportunity to praise four matters in this area: the funding allocated to stakeholder groups in the forestry debate to enable all of them to participate fully - the process has been a positive one with the balance of participants contributing to the success; the agreed upon definition of old growth of a five hectare minimum as opposed to the original 25 hectare minimum; an identification of what constitutes a rain forest - much more sensible in that if it can be seen on an aerial map it can be identified.
Two issues still need to be resolved and are currently being worked on. One of them is that the Resource and Conservation Assessment Council has enough funding to continue the comprehensive, adequate and representative - CAR - process and the issue of the JANIS criteria, which define "comprehensive" and "adequate". The nationally agreed criteria underpin the national forest State agreement. It is those criteria upon which the CAR process must be based. I turn to three other matters that the Governor outlined in his Speech: economic growth, competition policy and regional development and priorities. As the Governor noted, New South Wales continues to lead the nation in economic growth, business investment and regional headquarters establishment, and it has the second-lowest unemployment rate. He further noted that the Government is deeply concerned at continuing job losses nationwide, with a resultant unacceptably high youth unemployment rate, particularly in the regions.
I am deeply concerned about this, as are all members of Parliament. The tragedy though is that all policy initiatives to date have not brought the jobs promised. The previous Federal Government’s Working Nation plan was initially tackling this. I do not know whether it would have brought permanent change but it was certainly hopeful. The current Federal Government’s job blitz - just the small one at the moment - is yielding results but I do not know whether it will bring permanent change either. Since I joined the work force - some 30 years ago - the Australian corporate ethic has undergone big changes. I can remember full employment. There were different economic and global circumstances but employers in general were willing to hire people in a sense as extras, to forgo some direct benefit to give people, particularly youth, a go.
I do not know whether we can foster that attitude again but it would certainly help. The capitalist economy gives people, especially corporations, the right to make money - sometimes lots of it - but that right should be accompanied by responsibilities. One is the provision of extra jobs. Last week I was in Armidale representing the Treasurer at a function hosted by the New England North West Regional Development Board, chaired by Mike Montgomery, the Mayor of Moree and also chair of the regional economic development organisation. The purpose of the function was to make awards for excellence in business. One employer who won an award had the ethic that I referred to. I was told that the employer hired people who were down on their luck - long-term unemployed - and so far all have become great,
loyal employees. The employer also hired a few extra people.
Even though the Government, the Opposition and the Independents are deeply concerned about unemployment, we are committed to policies that will further erode employment levels. One such policy is competition policy. It is ironic that we need to deliberately overlay the economy with a competition policy, because one of the fundamental characteristics of a capitalist economy is competition. It cannot survive without competition. I want to talk a little about competition policy, particularly in relation to the regions in the last couple of years. I shall put on record some of my thoughts and concerns about possible impacts and issues to consider. They are in point form and not in any particular order. The unbundling of British Rail - Australia is following a similar policy and it is the way this country is going - involves three things: the loss of interconnecting timetables, increased cost for consumers, and social dislocation because of the uncoordinated and generally unreliable nature of the service.
The community service obligations that are so fundamental to our public utilities may be abandoned to some degree. The subtext of Hilmer’s report is unmistakable: community service obligations might in these circumstances constitute an impediment to competition. Another point is the futility of competition which requires new government subsidies, for example, the 1996 Northern Rivers Regional Organisation of Councils local government question: will there be support from the State Government to assist councils in implementing and resourcing competitive operations? Most recommendations about the benefits of certain action, especially in rural districts, are based on minimal evidence accompanied by little supporting argument. Reduction in cost is often accompanied by a reduction in quality. There are many other points but they are a few of the key ones I wanted to put on record in the Address-in-Reply debate.
Even for the regions to climb on board the competition juggernaut they still require government assistance of some kind. The other issues of fundamental importance to economic growth are regional development and regional priorities. There has been talk in the Chamber about wish lists, as some people call them, but I would call them regional priorities. In recent years, under the then Federal Government’s regional development program, all regions underwent a comprehensive exercise in the development of regional priorities which would require government support and expenditure. The work was spearheaded by the regional economic development organisations but it was done in conjunction with the State regional development boards. The regional priorities refer to all the regions in New South Wales, including Orana, northern inland, Hunter, Illawarra and south- east New South Wales. That work has already been done and it has been done cooperatively. It would be useful for all members to have a copy of these priorities.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI [9.55 p.m.]: It is with great delight that I speak in response to the Governor’s Speech to the Parliament. I have known His Excellency the Hon. Gordon Samuels for many years and served for five years on the University of New South Wales Senate Council with him. He is a man of amazing abilities and enormous people skills. The Governor had a long and distinguished career at the bar, in the army, on the bench and at the university. He surprised us all when he announced his retirement. We were all stunned. It took eight months to find a suitable replacement. I am pleased to say that the new Vice-Chancellor of the University of New South Wales, Sir Anthony Mason, is an excellent replacement for Gordon Samuels at the university.
I am pleased to welcome Tony Kelly to our ranks to replace Ms Staunton. I will say more about the resignation of the Hon. Patricia Staunton at a later time. I was impressed with the opening of the Governor’s Speech when he spoke with such dignity about the catastrophe and miracle at Thredbo, the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, and the death of Mother Teresa. The words he spoke mirrored the feelings of the people of New South Wales. However, when he moved on to the Government’s program he got into strife because he was then in the murky waters of this Government’s promises. We know what they have been worth - almost nothing. I think we are up to 485 broken promises now.
The Hon. Ann Symonds: You made that up. Name them.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI: Perhaps it was 585; it will be by the end of this term. It is remarkable that we have waited this long to have an opening of Parliament by the Governor. Why did we have it? So that the Government could parade the Governor after losing so much faith with the people of New South Wales by booting the Governor out of Government House. The Government was trying to claw back some support from the community. It was also done so that the Parliament could be prorogued and so that a whole lot of regulations that were
being challenged could be knocked off. That trick was used before in this Chamber on fisheries and in the other Chamber on fair trading.
The Hon. M. R. Egan: That is a scandalous thing to say.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI: That is precisely the impact. The Treasurer knew it was going to happen when he did it. Last time the Treasurer prorogued the Parliament the hospital waiting lists committee could not meet for three months.
The Hon. M. R. Egan: That was your fault. We prorogued Parliament because of your silly antics.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI: No, you did it to hide from the people of New South Wales the proper scrutiny of the great promise on waiting lists. I will have more to say about that later. The Governor said in his Speech:
In this session, the Government will introduce legislation for comprehensive reform of the health care system. A draft Health Services Bill has been the subject of extensive community and professional consultation. The legislation will incorporate the results of those consultations.
Well, wait for it! Here is the bill, which has been around for almost two years, getting maggoty. The Minister promised that people in the country would be treated as well as their city cousins and would get the same rotten area health service arrangements as the city people. He thinks they deserve to get it, because he does not like them. The Health Services Bill is dated 1996. We will not see this bill passed until 1998, if at all.
The Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby: Where did you get it from?
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI: This one fell off the back of a truck in early 1996. Now, after community consultation, we will have a new version. I do not know anybody who has been consulted about the bill. A bit of corporate consultation is all that has occurred. I am sure that the Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby has not been consulted, nor have any Government backbenchers. I know that the Nurses Association has been consulted and I know what they think of this bill. We will see what impact this bill will have when it is introduced into this House.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile: Why did the Hon. Patricia Staunton resign?
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI: I will come to that. It is unfortunate that the Hon. Janelle Saffin is not here because I told her I would talk to her about health care funding. She said that the Northern Rivers Area Health Service had an increase in funding this year, and that appears to be so because the Minister said its funding increased by $11.2 million. That is a bit of trickery because last year it went over budget by $5.2 million and it still owed $2.3 million from the year before. The service was almost $9 million behind the eight ball when it started. This year the service will get $11.2 million, which is enough to pay off half its debt from last year and cope with the same amount of money, and still pay off the $2.3 million.
However, as the Hon. Janelle Saffin said, in that budget there was money to open the Tweed Emergency Service, which had been in place and ready to open for a year, and the Murwillumbah Rehabilitation Service, something the Hon. Ann Symonds would be pleased about. The Hon. Janelle Saffin said that $11 million has been set aside for mental health services, as well as increased services for oncology at Grafton and eye surgery at Grafton, the new drug rehabilitation centre at Lismore, and a range of other community health initiatives. This all adds up to another $4 million of new services. How will the Government pay off the bill? The answer came very quickly. Dr Sherbon, the new chief executive officer from St Vincent's Hospital, has taken over from Mr Kelly, who was the first of the local area health services employees from the country to get the bullet. Now we have Briggs from Tamworth and a lady from Wagga Wagga who got the bullet. That is three gone out of eight.
The Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby: She resigned!
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI: It is the same thing: she got sick of it. In Lismore Dr Sherbon attacked the problem. He advertised for 150 redundancies in the week after the Carr miracle was to send 150 jobs to the country. To save $3 million 150 redundancies were offered. A newspaper article on the New Children’s Hospital stated, "Hospital staff line up to quit in crisis." Hospitals faced vital cuts in services. The Hon. Janelle Saffin said that the budget had been increased. Yesterday the Government announced that 20 beds will be cut from Casino hospital and that more cuts are on the way in the Northern Rivers Area Health Service. They still have to pay back their debts.
I checked with the General Manager, Mr Mick Reid, and asked whether the service would have to pay back old debts. He said, "Yes". When I said that
some of them are surely too old, he said, "No, the Treasurer, Mr Egan, wants his money back over a three-year period." So where is the equity? Where is the increased funding? I am pleased that the Minister has insisted that the Northern Rivers Area Health Service spend more money on health. When I was Parliamentary Secretary the Government increased the budget for that area with real money by $1.2 million. This $800,000 is forcing the local area health service to put more money into that area of health, but it does not have the money to spend.
The Hon. M. R. Egan: Who are you talking to?
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI: The Hon. Janelle Saffin, who is in the President’s gallery with the Treasurer’s advisers. She will advise them too.
The PRESIDENT: Order! The member will refrain from conversing with people, even members of this House, seated in my gallery.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI: Without anticipating debate on waiting lists, they have continued to climb. As the Hon. J. F. Ryan said, waiting lists at Penrith have increased by 700 since 1995; they have not been halved. We will have a debate on waiting lists. At Wagga Wagga patients are waiting until the year 2000 to have hip surgery, as has been reported in the newspapers. We have heard sad stories of people being discharged too early without having care available at home. At Wagga Wagga patients have to wait 33 months for surgery. The Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby lives in that area and at some stage, when she retires to her farm, she may need hospitalisation, but she will have to wait. We have to fix this problem before she goes.
Health budgets and funding will be subject to inquiry by this House as a result of the budget session. General Purpose Committee No. 2 will inquire into the health funding of rural and regional New South Wales. That committee has held its first meeting and is now awaiting the raw data on which to make decisions and discussion points. The usual inquiries of chief executives and boards will follow. We are trying to get to the bottom of why rural hospitals are so deeply in debt; why the New England Area Health Service has gone over budget by about $8 million; why Wagga Wagga is in desperate trouble; why Central Sydney is $3 million in debt and is facing a 3 per cent reduction this year, next year and the year after that; why North Shore is $2 million over budget and is facing a 3 per cent reduction this year and next year; and Westmead came in on budget, but is facing a 3 per cent cut next year.
Why is the South Eastern Sydney Area Health Service $3 million over budget and looking at a 3 per cent cut per year for the next three years? Why are patients’ waiting times and waiting lists growing? Recently I rang a friend at an intensive care ward in the South Eastern Sydney Area Health Service and he told me that his hospital had had the largest number of no-bed days that it had ever had and that it was short of nurses and short of money. That means that people who need major surgery, for example liver surgery, and require an intensive care bed for a couple of days post-operatively, have their surgery put off. Putting off the surgery for a week will not make a big difference to their prognosis, but it is a worry for them. The hospital and the nurses, who are under stress, also feel that anxiety for the patient. When the nurses say to a professor, "I am sorry, Professor, you cannot do this patient’s operation because we do not have an intensive care bed," the nurses know that a great deal of anxiety is suffered all the way down through to the relatives and friends. It also causes disruption to operating theatre lists, and that comes at a cost.
Dr Refshauge made the point that the Federal Government has cut his funding. That is just not true. The Federal Government has borne the substantial rise in the cost of hospital Medicare in New South Wales. It is also substantially true that many people who are now opting out of Medicare and the public system and are going to the private system; and that 20 per cent of patients going to private hospitals are now paying cash and not using their funds. So, although there has been a big shift of patients from the private sector into the public sector because of patients dropping out of funds, 20 per cent of the people who now go to private hospitals are actually paying not through insurance but out of their own pockets, and are quite happy to do so. But the waiting times and waiting lists are growing.
Debate adjourned on motion by the Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti.
LOCAL GOVERNMENT AMENDMENT (ECOLOGICALLY SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT) BILL
SEA-CARRIAGE DOCUMENTS BILL
MOTOR ACCIDENTS AMENDMENT (BOARD OF DIRECTORS) BILL
REAL PROPERTY AND CONVEYANCING AMENDMENT BILL
CRIMES AMENDMENT (CONTAMINATION OF GOODS) BILL CO-OPERATIVE HOUSING
Bills received and, by leave, read a first time.
AND STARR-BOWKETT SOCIETIES BILL
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) [10.16 p.m.]: I move:
That this House do now adjourn.
AUSTRALIAN RECORD INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION AWARDS
The Hon. J. F. RYAN [10.16 p.m.]: Last night I drew the House’s attention to the very successful ARIA music awards that were held the night before last at the Capitol Theatre. I particularly wanted to make the point not only that these awards were successful and highlighted the achievements of many great young performers but also that they reflected well on the performance of the recorded music industry to New South Wales. As I said last night, the recorded music industry provides jobs for more than 50,000 people throughout Australia, 35 per cent of whom are in New South Wales. Every major recording company has offices in Sydney, and most of them also have headquarters in Sydney, including Sony Music Entertainment (Australia) Limited, Warner Music Australia, PolyGram Australia, EMI Music Australia Pty Limited, Festival Records Pty Limited, BMG Australia Limited, Universal Australia Limited and Mushroom Records Pty Limited. There are three CD factories in Sydney, and two of them use state-of-the-art manufacturing technology. The Data plant at Silverwater and the Sony plant at Huntingwood near Blacktown employ 600 to 700 employees between them. The Sony plant has recently installed glass CD mastering equipment, which puts that company and Australia at the leading edge of CD manufacturing in the world. It may interest members to know that 95 per cent of the CDs sold in Australia are also made in Australia.
At the ARIA awards the Brisbane group Savage Garden, which comprises two very talented young individuals, took away just about everything other than the furniture. However, a number of New South Wales artists also did very well. Two of the best-known groups, Human Nature and silverchair, are recent products of the New South Wales public education system. Members who have been to the Schools Spectacular will remember Toby, Michael, Andrew and Phil, who make up the group Human Nature, in their former identity as the 4 Trax. All of them went to the Hurlstone Agricultural High School at Glenfield. They were nominated for five awards. Three members of the band silverchair, Daniel, Chris and Ben, still attend Newcastle High School, and they are all about to do their higher school certificate. Last year silverchair won five awards; last night the group was nominated for another five. Members might find their brand of music a bit heavy going, and the titles of their songs, including "Freak", "Living in a Cemetery" and "Abuse Me", convey something of what their music is like. I like the music, but I recognise that not everyone will find their music exactly soothing.
A whole host of other names from the New South Wales music industry also did well at the awards ceremony, including a new female artist, Rani, who is the daughter of Kamahl; the group Spiderbait, who hail from Finley in country New South Wales - and from my own experience of hearing them at the Sydney City Mission sleep-out, their sound is not exactly country and western - the country music artist Troy Cassar Daley; Jimmy Barnes, who needs no introduction in this place; a new Sydney group with a very melodic rock sound, called Leonardo’s Bride; Deni Hines, who is the daughter of Marcia Hines; jazz musicians The Catholics, Clarion Fracture Zone and Bernie McGann; and a classical musician who is particularly talented, Tamara Anna Cislowska. We in New South Wales have many musicians of whom we can be very proud. I am sure all members of this House will join with me in congratulating ARIA for its outstanding award ceremony and for the success of our recording artists, particularly those associated with New South Wales; and also join with me in recognising the importance of the recorded music industry to the economies of Australia and New South Wales.
SYDNEY GIRLS HIGH SCHOOL PLANNING OUTCOMES
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY [10.20 p.m.]: About a month ago I received a letter signed by the secretary, the president and the federation representative of the New South Wales Teachers Federation Branch of the Sydney Girls High School. The letter stated:
We wish to bring to your attention the detrimental effects of several recent planning decisions on the teaching and learning and the maintenance of a "safe and happy" environment at Sydney Girls High School. The social effects of these planning decisions need to be addressed so that the education of our students is not adversely affected. The Department of School Education needs to start now to put in place ameliorating measures so that the impact of these planning decisions are minimised.
1. Aircraft noise: The North Eastern Jet Path which will commence in early 1998 will mean that jet aircraft will fly directly over the school on an average of 16 times a day with the possibility of as many as 80 times a day. The estimated noise level will be 70-90 decibels. The official predictions that the air traffic will double within ten years further emphasises the problems which will be created by the new flight path. The new flight path will be very disruptive to classroom teaching unless the buildings of the school are modified to prevent noise intrusion. As has been done at other schools in major flight paths this will mean that double glazing and air conditioning will need to be installed. Work on preparing the buildings to withstand the increase in noise from aircraft should commence immediately so that teaching and learning are not disrupted once the new flight path is started.
2. Vehicle traffic noise: Already the volume of traffic on Anzac Parade and Cleveland Street make teaching difficult in rooms facing on these thoroughfares. The Eastern Distributor will further compound this problem. Particularly the amount of stop/start traffic at the intersection of Cleveland Street and Anzac Parade, as well as on Anzac Parade, will increase. Classrooms facing on these streets need to be insulated. As with aircraft noise the only way to effectively minimise the effect of vehicular traffic is by double glazing and air conditioning.
3. Pedestrian access: There is a need for clear pedestrian crossings along Cleveland Street and Lang Road at Anzac Parade. Ideally a pedestrian underpass would be built. Although unsightly, overhead pedestrian bridges would also relieve the pedestrian problems. Currently there is no pedestrian crossing along Lang Road at Anzac Parade. In 1996 there was a pedestrian fatality at this intersection and students find it extremely difficult to safely negotiate crossing Lang Road.
4. Security: The development of the showground as a twenty-four hour amusement centre by Fox Studios will increase the need for security on the school premises. Already there is vandalism, theft and hooliganism associated with major sporting and cultural events at the Hordern Pavilion, Cricket Ground and Sportsground. With the extended hours of operation of the Fox Studios, the need for security at the school’s premises will only increase. Private security at the expense of the providers of entertainment at the showground complex should be provided for the school.
We bring these matters to your attention so that steps can be taken now to ensure that teaching and learning at Sydney Girls High does not suffer unduly because of planning decisions which have been made over the past three years. In many instances the school staff has conveyed to the relevant planning authorities its concern about the effects of the approval of these proposals, although in the case of the change in the aircraft flight paths no consultation has been sought. We ask that you reply at your earliest convenience to these concerns.
Of course, I cannot reply, but I believe that these matters should be brought to the attention of the Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning, the Minister for the Environment and, in particular, the Minister for Education and Training because the objections and concerns are well-founded. The Government ought to make representations on behalf of Sydney Girls High School because of problems associated with the excessive noise.
GOSFORD AND WYONG STATE EMERGENCY SERVICE VOLUNTEERS
The Hon. M. J. GALLACHER [10.25 p.m.]: I should like to draw to the attention of the House the tremendous dedication of the members of the Gosford and Wyong State emergency services. I am pleased to be the first member from the Wyong shire to acknowledge the work done by my local State Emergency Service workers in a recent event at Thredbo. All these members are volunteers who spend their time helping the central coast community when disaster strikes. They are the people that we rely on when storms damage roofs, floods threaten homes, hailstorms shatter windows and buildings collapse. As a member of the Police Service I worked first-hand with State emergency services personnel in the January 1994 bushfires. Paid members of the Police Service are expected to perform their duties at the fire front but when these volunteers carried out this unpaid work that was highly dangerous, it made me realise what a credit they are to the community that they represent.
These men and women do not belong to the State Emergency Service because it pays well or the conditions are good. In fact, there is no payment for their services and often the conditions they work under are worse than any honourable members could imagine. They perform this service because they are dedicated to helping their fellow man. Their dedication was no more evident than during the recent Thredbo disaster search and rescue. Thirty-five members from the Wyong and Gosford SES gave up their time and employment to rush to the scene of the disaster, hoping to be able to help save the lives of those trapped below a mountain of rock, dirt, concrete and two buildings. They could not have known then what we know now about the sheer scale of the disaster and the terrible death toll they would face.
There is an old adage that goes along the lines of "A fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay". These men and, yes, women gave up a total of 2,700 hours to help fellow Australians in need. Their transport was provided by Gosford City Coaches. I should
like to thank Gosford City Coaches management and staff for the donation of coaches, drivers, fuel and lost trade. Once at Thredbo they joined many other central coast rescue experts on site, including special casualty access team member, Tom Ferguson. The job of the SES crews was not glamorous and it did not lift them to the status of heroes. They simply did what was asked of them, removed debris and improved drainage on the site - a dirty and often dangerous task, no more manifestly so than in Thredbo. They worked 12-hour shifts, usually four hours on followed by a short break and then another four hours of duty. Travelling to and from the base camp at Berridale, 70 kilometres away, meant that many had less than eight hours of rest or sleep during the course of any one day.
I believe that the dedication of all the rescue workers at Thredbo was a rarely paralleled example of the true Australian spirit of helping a mate in strife. On behalf of my colleagues I should like to congratulate them on a job well done. In conclusion, I should also like to personally thank the members of the New South Wales Fire Brigade from the central coast who also attended the Thredbo disaster scene. I understand that at least nine fire officers who live on the central coast worked on the site or in a support capacity. They included Oliver Holland, Rick Evans, Garry Mizon, John McDonough, Grahame Cunningham, Hart Peters, Mark Stringfellow, Wayne Young and George Erwin. As the only member to date from the Wyong shire to acknowledge the work that they have done, I put on record that I am very proud of them and they have our continued support in the Wyong shire.
The Hon. HELEN SHAM-HO [10.29 p.m.]: I would like the House to take note of a new group, Racial Respect, which was launched two nights ago at the Petersham Town Hall. I was privileged to be invited as the speaker for this inaugural meeting in New South Wales. Racial Respect has the objective of promoting the values of a multicultural society and Aboriginal reconciliation, as well as countering Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party. Racial Respect is a national organisation formed to encourage the development of Australia as a nation in which racial diversity is recognised and respected. Racial Respect stands for the right of all Australians to live without fear of scapegoating, racial attack and discrimination.
The group represents Australians who want to halt the tide of intolerance and hatred that has been directed to minority groups. Racial Respect is still in its early stages of development. It has now formed groups in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Canberra. It is a network group, drawing on the work of respected analysts and researchers to present factual information to challenge the recent outbreak of racially intolerant views and to counter misleading information and racist attitudes. Racial Respect is an educative rather than a protest organisation. Members of Racial Respect promote intercultural education and understanding and encourage the wider community to combat racist attitudes and ignorance about race.
Members of Racial Respect come from all walks of life: the private sector; local, State and Federal governments; professionals; academics; media personnel. I have met the group’s national convener, Professor Jamie Mackie, an emeritus professor at the Australian National University, who is an authority on South-east Asia. Professor Mackie is a member of the Immigration Reform Group that did much in the early 1960s to assist in the overturning of the White Australia policy. It was during the Liberal Holt administration in 1966 that this disgraceful racist policy was eventually dismantled.
I take this opportunity to thank the Immigration Reform Group and Professor Jamie Mackie for their work towards the demise of the White Australia policy. I also met the Sydney convener of Racial Respect, Will Atkins, who has been a journalist and is now working towards a thesis about media ownership in South-east Asia. He has certainly tried hard to co-ordinate the Sydney Racial Respect group. I thank Mr Atkins for his invitation to attend his group’s inaugural meeting as a speaker. I wish Racial Respect every success. We must all stand up for a harmonious Australia, in which people of many backgrounds can expect a future of justice, respect and opportunities. We must all work towards a society of peaceful and respectful co-existence.
The Hon. J. M. SAMIOS [10.33 p.m.]: Recently I attended the annual dinner of the Hainanese Association. The association is made up of people from the island of Hainan, off the coast of Vietnam. The Hainanese are a Chinese people. A population of some seven million live on the island and a great number of Hainanese have migrated to different parts of the world. Hainanese communities are to be found in Japan, Malaysia, Thailand, the United States and Australia. In Australia the Hainanese are a group that arrived, in general terms, after the Second World War. The Hainanese Association, which is some 43 years old, has among
its members prominent medical practitioners and other professionals, academics and business people.
The association’s president, Tony Goh, is a medical practitioner, as is his wife. Tony Goh is the second president of the association, which is playing an important role in contributing to the multicultural nature of our society. The Hainanese community does not have the longevity of some of the older Chinese groups that have been settled in Australia since the gold rush days. As I have already said, most of its members arrived here after the Second World War. In a short time the Chinese community has made an important contribution to our community, particularly with respect to its commitment to family values, and to the business and professional arena. These are just some examples of the burgeoning contribution of people from China.
Last weekend Carnivale was launched in Chinatown. We enjoyed the hospitality of the Chinese Youth League, another old group that has played an important role in the Chinese community, particularly in relation to young people. The president of the league, Jeffery Ng, has just entered his third term. Although the weather was not the best, a significant part of the afternoon was devoted to reaching out to other Asian communities and to the wider Australian community. We were entertained by Indonesian dancers of great panache and by Australian colonial dancers. This was a deliberate and wonderful attempt to reflect on our colonial history. The performance of the dancers blended in with the multicultural nature of the occasion. These activities augur well for the social cohesion of our society.
Motion agreed to.
House adjourned at 10.37 p.m.