Thursday, 24 September 1998
The President (The Hon. Virginia Chadwick) took the chair at 11.00 a.m.
The President offered the Prayers.
STANDING COMMITTEE ON PARLIAMENTARY PRIVILEGE AND ETHICS
Motion by the Hon. Dr Meredith Burgmann agreed to:
That the reporting date for the reference to the Standing Committee on Parliamentary Privilege and Ethics relating to the special report on a possible contempt of General Purpose Standing Committee No. 2 be extended from 13 October 1998 to 10 November 1998.
PARLIAMENTARY ETHICS ADVISER
Motion by the Hon. M. R. Egan agreed to:
1. That this House directs the President to join with the Speaker in appointing Mr Ken Robson to the position of Parliamentary Ethics Adviser.
2. That the position be established by way of a contract of employment for a term of 12 months, which may be renewed upon a further resolution being passed by both Houses.
3. That the position be held part-time.
4. That the function of the Parliamentary Ethics Adviser be to advise any member of Parliament, when asked to do so by that member, on ethical issues concerning the exercise of his or her role as a member of Parliament (including the use of entitlements and potential conflicts of interest).
5. That the Parliamentary Ethics Adviser is to be guided in giving this advice by any code of conduct or other guidelines adopted by the House (whether pursuant to the Independent Commission Against Corruption Act 1988 or otherwise).
6. That the Parliamentary Ethics Adviser’s role not include the giving of legal advice.
7. That the Parliamentary Ethics Adviser be required to keep records of advice given and the factual information upon which it is based.
8. That the Parliamentary Ethics Adviser be under a duty to maintain the confidentiality of information provided to him in that role and the advice given, but that the Parliamentary Ethics Adviser may make advice public if the member who requested the advice gives permission for it to be made public.
9. That this House only call for the production of records of the Parliamentary Ethics Adviser if the member to which the records relate has sought to rely on the advice of the Parliamentary Ethics Adviser or has given permission for the records to be produced to the House.
10. That the Parliamentary Ethics Adviser meet with the Standing Committee on Parliamentary Privilege and Ethics annually.
11. That the Parliamentary Ethics Adviser be required to report to the Parliament prior to the end of his annual term on the number of ethical matters raised with him, the number of members who sought his advice, the amount of time spent in the course of his duties and the number of times advice was given.
12. That the Parliamentary Ethics Adviser may report to the Parliament from time to time on any problems arising from the determinations of the Parliamentary Remuneration Tribunal that have given rise to requests for ethics advice and proposals to address these problems.
Message forwarded to the Legislative Assembly advising it of the resolution.
STANDING COMMITTEE ON STATE DEVELOPMENT
The Hon. A. B. Kelly, as Chairman, tabled report No. 20 entitled "Interim Report on Provision and operation of rural and regional air services in New South Wales", dated September 1998.
Ordered to be printed.
The Hon. A. B. KELLY [11.09 a.m.]: I move:
That the House take note of the report.
Debate adjourned on motion by the Hon. A. B. Kelly.
SYDNEY WATER SUPPLY CONTAMINATION
The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD (Leader of the Opposition) [11.10 a.m.]: I move:
That, under Standing Order 18, there be laid upon the table of this House and made public without restricted access no later than 5.00 p.m., Wednesday, 16 September 1998, all documents relating to the ongoing contamination of Sydney’s water
supply system including all relevant letters, contracts, memoranda and files whether recorded in written or in electronic form.
My colleague the Hon. J. F. Ryan will move to amend the tabling date to Tuesday of next week. The motion calls for the tabling of documentation relating to the contamination of Sydney’s water supply. Peter McClellan, QC, is inquiring into a related matter but the Parliament should be fully cognisant of the material available on this most important issue so that members of Parliament can form their own view of the direction that should be taken to deal with the water crisis, which is a matter of State if not national shame.
Australia has held itself out to be a First World country and Australians travelling the world have confidently said that it was safe to drink the water in Sydney, whereas travellers to South-east Asia, parts of Europe, the Middle East and even parts of the United States have had to be careful about drinking the water. Only a few weeks ago I was in Lebanon and Syria, where notices on the tables advised that only the bottled water provided should be drunk. Australia previously had been immune from problems caused by contaminated water supplies.
The Parliament is entitled to know what has gone wrong, and why this has been allowed to occur. Elected representatives should be able to form a view about the action needed for the future. This is not a matter of playing the blame game; it is a question of identifying how the problem occurred and determining future actions. Let me put the matter into perspective. It is not as though it has just come upon us: in 1996 the Government had available reports suggesting that there was a cryptosporidium problem. Yet in the Parliament Craig Knowles said, "Attempts to beat up the likelihood of a cryptosporidium outbreak are little more than scaremongering."
Earlier this year Andrew Refshauge said that routine monitoring for cryptosporidium was not appropriate. We now know that it is. The water board was saying that it was testing the water every fortnight. We now know from information leaked to the media, but not available to members of Parliament, that the tests were not taking place. Not only were they not taking place on a fortnightly basis - they were taking place on a monthly basis - but the relevant canals which could have been the source of the problem were not being tested at all. Correspondence between the Health Department and Sydney Water revealed that the department was aware of the threat two years ago but the water board chose to ignore it.
The Managing Director of Sydney Water, Paul Broad, assured the Carr Government that there was no such threat and that the treatment plants would intercept up to 99.9 per cent of cryptosporidium. That assurance was given against the advice of Sydney Water’s own experts, that acceptable risk levels required treatment plants to remove more than 99.9 per cent of cryptosporidium. Why are these papers being leaked out of the departments to the media? Why should members of Parliament not have access to the papers?
If there was no cryptosporidium problem, why did Australian Water Services, the company that operates the Prospect plant, put a proposal to Sydney Water this year which would have involved the upgrading of the Prospect plant and the installation of additional treatment - the ozonisation program? Why would AWS approach the water board to spend up to, if my memory is correct, $300 million to upgrade the plant if AWS was not aware of a problem? I do not know of any corporate organisation that would propose spending that sort of money without having a concern. Why did the water board not give AWS approval to carry out the works? What papers are held by the Government in relation to this matter? The community is entitled to be informed properly. At present some of the material is being leaked around the countryside. People want to know what is going on.
On Sunday, 6 September, Prime Minister John Howard pledged to help the New South Wales Government with resources, if asked, to upgrade the works. That invitation has not been taken up by the Government. Basically, there are only two ways of providing additional treatment to give a 100 per cent guarantee in relation to the purity of Sydney’s water. One is ozonisation. However, there is speculation that ozonisation increases the risk of cancer. The other is the Memtec proposals. Depending on the approach taken, the cost would be between $500 million and $800 million.
Why has the department not dealt with the problem? It is not a new problem: in 1995 the stakeholders consultation report for the Warragamba special area referred to cryptosporidium, giardia and dangerous faecal bacteria being recorded in stormwater drains in The Oaks township. The report said that the impact on water quality was a cause of concern. A major risk was the contamination of catchment waterways with pathogenic organisms. Why has adequate funding not been made available to sewer The Oaks township? The problem was identified in 1995 but still The Oaks is not sewered. The cryptosporidium level identified in the area was 58,000 oocysts per 100 litres of water.
Another document that has been leaked but is not available to members of Parliament is an internal memorandum dated 1994 addressed to the staff of Sydney Water advising that testing in The Oaks, an unsewered residential area within the Warragamba’s inner catchment, had yielded more than 99,000 oocysts per 100 litres of water. Why did Sydney Water not sewer that area when this information has been available for five years? Why did the Government cut the country water sewerage program by almost one-third? Why has Sydney Water acceded to the extraordinary amount of dividends that have been demanded from it by the Government over the past three years?
Sydney Water had the 1996 and 1997 reports and in 1998 AWS wanted to upgrade the Prospect plant. Why did David Hill and Sydney Water agree to the massive increase in dividend to be extracted by the Government? Why was Sydney Water so compliant? What documents, communication and advice warranted Sydney Water acceding to that level of demand when the money sought by AWS in the early part of this year to upgrade the plant could easily have been allocated from those dividends? The Parliament is entitled to have those documents.
Members of Parliament should not have to read constant leaks of information in the Sydney Morning Herald or the Daily Telegraph. They should have the material available to them to enable them to put the matter into proper perspective and debate appropriate policy directions in the Parliament. We understand from the media that New South Wales Health and Sydney Water signed a memorandum of understanding for Sydney Water to immediately notify the Health Department of any monitoring that indicates the potential existence of a public health hazard. We understand that the memorandum of understanding, which honourable members should have had access to, states that the corporation "must ensure that all drinking water it supplies is safe to drink".
Honourable members question why independent audits required under the memorandum appear not to have been done. Has there been a complete failure not at the political level but at the administrative level within the organisation? The documents have highlighted risk management measures that should have been put in place. In today’s print media the union is critical of the suggestion that the two senior officers who have recently been stood down and taken leave have not in fact done so. The union suggests that these people are being made the scapegoats for others.
The Parliament is entitled to know from documentary material what has gone wrong, why it has occurred and what policy decisions the Parliament should make. No doubt the Government will say that Peter McClellan is undertaking the inquiry and he will tell the Government and the Parliament what to do. The question is whether Parliament should abdicate its responsibility of expressing an interest in and concern about this major public health failing that has damaged significantly the reputation of Sydney in the international arena. One could reflect on the words of David Hill when confronted by a press release. He said, "I hope you blokes know what you’re doing. Do you realise that what you’re doing here will affect this organisation for the next 10 years and probably longer than that?"
That attitude speaks volumes. The bureaucracy is more interested in the reputation of the organisation than in the reputation of this State, this city and the health of its residents. The Parliament has an obligation to ascertain what occurred and to ensure that the Government properly addresses an appropriate outcome. We must be aware of the financial implications of the various alternatives so that there can be proper public debate. The Government will oppose the Parliament having these documents, and will say, "Wait until you get the McClellan report." Elected representatives are entitled to receive the proper documentation so that they can be fully informed participants in the debate on the future directions of public health in this State.
In the past few days there has been speculation that the acceptable public health level of cryptosporidium and giardia should be as high as 100 oocysts per 100 megalitres. That is 10 times higher than the current public health level in the United Kingdom. Should we put the health risk of people in New South Wales at a level that is 10 times that which is acceptable in London? If we want to be part of the debate we need all the available information. The United Kingdom has passed legislation adopting a standard that has operated in New South Wales but is one which we have not been able to deliver on. Should New South Wales adopt the clean water test of the United Kingdom?
Where does New South Wales want to be in the year 2000 when it is welcoming tourists into the country? Over the past few weeks Cable News Network - CNN - broadcast to the entire west coast of the United States of America about the dirty water problem in Sydney. When one speaks to those Americans one is drenched - excuse the pun - with questions about what is going on and how bad the problem is. What reassurance can we give people throughout the world? Our standard is 10 times that of London so perhaps one should travel to London
rather than New South Wales because people are 10 times more likely to become ill here than in London. Australia should be able to say to the world, through the media, that its clean water standards are similar to those standards adopted in the United Kingdom and we should be prepared to provide sufficient funds to put in place the protective mechanisms to guarantee clean water.
That is part of the debate that members of this House must engage in this year. But if the Government prorogues the Parliament, this forum will not be available and we will not have the chance to pursue it. This matter is extremely important to both the health of the people of this State and the reputation of this city. Members of Parliament should have access to the documents so that we can be better informed and therefore in a better position to participate in debate on this critical issue.
The Hon. I. COHEN [11.30 a.m.]: I support the Opposition’s motion for the tabling of documents regarding the contamination of Sydney’s water supply. The Sydney Water inquiry is rather limited in scope and funding and it is important that members of Parliament are able to look at the documents. I understand that there may be commercial in-confidence issues, but if the relevant documents were left with the Clerk, members could at least view them in the House.
It is important that we realise that for many years there has been a culture of deceit with Sydney Water and the former Water Board. The fact that Sydney Water gave away bottled water to the people of Sydney just before this problem arose shows that the corporation is very heavy on propaganda but very light on openness and transparency - as I have encountered in my dealings with sewerage and water issues in Sydney and country areas for many years.
The Hon. M. R. Egan: Sydney Water does not operate in country areas.
The Hon. I. COHEN: Then I will confine my remarks to Sydney. In Sydney there has been a culture of opacity, if you like, and it is reasonable to say that Sydney Water should operate with a far greater degree of transparency, and that the Government should seek to achieve appropriate outcomes on this matter. It is important that we do not get carried away and beat up the problem. Although Sydney’s drinking water is now safe, we are entitled to see the Sydney Water documents so that the process, which has been vexatious for so many years, can now be seen to be transparent.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN (Treasurer, Minister for State Development, and Vice-President of the Executive Council) [11.32 a.m.]: The Leader of the Opposition has called under Standing Order 18 for the tabling of certain documents. I understand that notice of a similar motion has been given in the Legislative Assembly. Whether the Legislative Council has the power to order the production of documents is a matter that will be decided by the High Court in the case of Egan v Willis.
On 26 November 1997 the Court of Appeal held that the Legislative Council has the power to call for documents that are necessary for the performance of its function, and that it may take action, such as suspension, to coerce production of documents, but may not punish for contempt. I sought special leave from the High Court to challenge that judgment. The High Court granted special leave on 6 June 1998, indicating that there was an important issue of law to be decided. The High Court heard the case from 16 June to 18 June this year, and held a further day of hearings on 1 September after additional constitutional issues were raised and the Commonwealth and other States were given a further opportunity to intervene in the proceedings. As members would be aware, the High Court has reserved its judgment.
The primary issue in Egan v Willis is whether the Legislative Council has the power to order the production of documents. The High Court would not have given leave to hear the matter had it accepted that the law was completely settled by the Court of Appeal. This is still an important and open question that needs to be determined. The Legislative Council should not attempt to pre-empt the judgment of the High Court by ordering the production of documents before the court has handed down its judgment. To do so would not only be provocative but may even be seen as an attempt to influence the court or to undermine its role in determining this matter.
The Leader of the Opposition has previously respected the role of the court and refrained from pressing for the production of papers. In the present situation I would suggest that the appropriate course is to leave the motion on the notice paper until the court has handed down its judgment. Honourable members would be aware also that upon the outbreak of the water contamination the Government established an independent inquiry headed by Peter McClellan, QC. Mr McClellan has already submitted two interim reports and is continuing to examine all documents - I emphasise, all documents - relating to the matter. In those circumstances I trust that the House will agree that the most effective and
expeditious way of finding a solution to the contamination problem is to allow Mr McClellan to get on with the job that he has been given.
The Hon. J. H. JOBLING [11.36 a.m.]: I support the motion of the Leader of the Opposition. It is particularly important to the status of this Parliament that these documents be tabled. The motion calls pursuant to Standing Order 18 for there to be laid upon the table of this House all documents relating to the ongoing contamination of Sydney’s water supply system, including all relevant letters, contracts, memoranda and files, whether recorded in written or electronic form.
That the city of Sydney has recently experienced so much damage, disruption and inconvenience is a matter that cannot be put aside lightly or ignored. The impact on the reputation of Sydney as a major city and tourist destination - particularly as the host of the Olympic Games in 18 months - and on the reputation of Australia as a whole is terribly important, and we cannot simply say, "Wait for an inquiry to provide the answer."
For many weeks now the residents of Sydney and many companies and businesses have had to boil their water, instal filtration equipment, and change or even stop their commercial activities. Many business have suffered financial loss. It is not good enough for the Government to simply say the matter is in hand. It is not good enough for it to say, "Let us multiply by 10 the accepted level of contamination, which is far in excess of most places in the world." Contamination by giardia and cryptosporidium is a matter of great concern for the health of our people and our city.
Some questions have to be asked. First: why did it happen? We need to know why it happened, specifically how it was allowed to happen, for how long we will have this problem, and how often in the next two years will we be told, "We are terribly sorry, start boiling your water again." This contamination has caused considerable inconvenience in the education system. Children have not had free access to water; their school bubblers have been capped off and they have been obliged to buy water at school or bring water to school.
It is simply not good enough that the Government cannot find the answers to this problem. What is the Government trying to hide? Why is it saying we cannot have these documents, and that we should not know what is in them? The Parliament is paramount in this State, and it is the right of its members to call for these documents to be produced and to expect that the Government will honour that call by producing the documents - all of them, not just a selected few that suit the Government’s cause. I will support the motion of the Leader of the Opposition, but I move the following amendment:
That the question be amended by omitting the words "Wednesday, 16 September 1998" and inserting instead "Tuesday, 29 September 1998".
I call on the Government to produce the documents and papers so that the House can form an opinion as to why the contamination happened and what should be done to ensure that it does not happen again.
Amendment agreed to.
Question - That the motion as amended be agreed to - put.
The House divided.
Mrs Arena Mr Kersten
Mr Bull Mrs Nile
Dr Chesterfield-Evans Rev. Nile
Mr Cohen Dr Pezzutti
Mr Corbett Mr Ryan
Mrs Forsythe Mr Samios
Mr Gallacher Mrs Sham-Ho
Miss Gardiner Mr Rowland Smith
Mr Gay Tellers,
Mr Hannaford Mr Jobling
Mr Jones Mr Moppett
Dr Burgmann Mr Shaw
Ms Burnswoods Ms Tebbutt
Mr Dyer Mr Tingle
Mr Egan Mr Vaughan
Mr Kelly Tellers,
Mr Macdonald Mrs Isaksen
Ms Saffin Mr Manson
Dr Goldsmith Mr Johnson
Mr Lynn Mr Obeid
Mr Willis Mr Primrose
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion as amended agreed to.
CRIMES AMENDMENT (FIREARMS AND OTHER OFFENSIVE WEAPONS OR INSTRUMENTS) BILL
Bill introduced and read a first time.
The Hon. J. S. TINGLE [11.48 a.m.]: I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
There can be no doubt that crime is on the increase and that public fear about the incidence of armed crime is growing. The perception about the increase in crime is well-founded. Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the assessment by the New South Wales Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research are remarkably similar in reporting a serious rise in crime. The publication "Recorded Crime 1997" of the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Canberra, shows that a range of serious crimes increased greatly between 1996 and 1997. These are the latest figures which reflect the position across the whole nation. They show, for instance, that the incidence of murder increased by 3.2 per cent, from 312 cases in 1996 to 322 in 1997; assault increased 8.6 per cent, from 114,156 in 1996 to 123,940 in 1997; unlawful entry with intent rose by 3.9 per cent; and motor vehicle theft increased by 6.1 per cent.
The really frightening statistics are to be found in the bureau’s assessment of robbery. Unarmed robbery increased significantly, by 21 per cent, from 10,116 cases in 1996 to 12,246 cases in 1997. In New South Wales robbery without a weapon increased by 29 per cent and robbery with a firearm increased by 33 per cent. But armed robbery is the major surge in crime - and that endorses and underwrites the intention of this bill. Armed robbery showed a frightening increase of 44 per cent nationally - from 6,256 cases in 1996 to 9,015 in 1997. But in New South Wales armed hold-ups, that is, robbery with a weapon of some sort, increased by a staggering 67 per cent. The Director of the New South Wales Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, Dr Don Weatherburn, described that as the biggest increase "in this decade if not ever".
To put it in simple terms, that means that last year more than 9,000 people were held up with a gun or knife or the even more sinister and trendy weapon of the 1990s, the syringe. It is immensely important to understand that we are talking about an increase in crime in just one year - from 1996 to 1997. We should await the 1998 crime report from the Australian Bureau of Statistics with great apprehension, because there is no reason to believe that the figures will remain stable, let alone show an improvement. On the contrary, we should brace ourselves for that next report to show that crime has increased, especially the incidence of armed crime. A series of meetings about crime were held around the State recently. They revealed that there is public anxiety, and they called on parliamentarians to do more about crime. The skewed and unrealistic official view about people and their worries about crime was epitomised by the Commissioner of Police, who dismissed those public meetings as "just raising fears about crime". That showed only that the police commissioner is even more out of touch with ordinary people than I had thought.
The meetings were not about raising fears about crime. Those fears were already there; otherwise the meetings would not have been held and would not have been so well attended. I held a meeting in Port Macquarie, separate from, and in no way linked with, the so-called crime-stopper meetings organised by the National Party. It was a non-political community meeting which attracted a capacity crowd of more than 200 people on Saturday afternoon, 16 May, at Port Macquarie Westport Bowling Club. The fears expressed by people at that meeting, as at other meetings, are backed by the figures. The survey of crime statistics by the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research showed some very worrisome increases in certain types of crime. The chief concern was centred around the increase in various types of robbery; and let us not forget the huge 67 per cent increase in the incidence of robbery with a weapon - armed robbery.
The overall significant increases in various forms of armed crime should suggest to any reasonable person that criminals are becoming bolder and more desperate. In the category of robbery with a weapon - the category with the biggest increase - we see an increasing variety in the arsenal of weapons, other than firearms, that criminals are now using. There is a concern also that stabbings, bashings and home invasions are a regular occurrence, that the offender is now invariably armed, and that the victim is sometimes murdered. The incidence of home invasion is increasing and there seem to be no apparent, effective answers. Public perception is that crimes such as assault, armed robbery and even murder are not taken seriously enough. People who attended my community meeting on crime told me they felt crime is so prevalent today that they are no longer shocked by it.
That perception could be right or wrong. But one perception that seems to be universal among people troubled by rising crime rates is that there are not adequate charges available under the law to lay against those committing the crimes. And, even more importantly, judging by the typical sentences imposed, courts do not seem to be viewing crime seriously enough. I believe that the time has come when we have to regard the present level of armed crime of all types as a matter requiring urgent attention, and that we must implement laws to reflect community concern. Those laws should be aimed at placing a barrier between the offender and the implement he uses in his offence. They should make it clear that this community will not view with indifference the shootings and the stabbings with hypodermic syringes, screwdrivers and broken bottles, which are becoming commonplace. We have to make it clear in law that even the threat to use those weapons during the commission of a crime is intolerable.
We need laws to drive home those facts hard. They should reflect without equivocation that this Parliament believes that someone who sets out to carry out a crime while armed with any kind of intimidatory weapon will be assumed to have been prepared to use that weapon without compunction. The Government recently introduced sweeping laws dealing with knives - laws that introduced radical police powers and radical penalties for the mere possession of a knife in a public place without reasonable excuse. There are many who feel that those laws are too widely applied and affect the whole State, whereas they are aimed only at specific trouble areas in greater Sydney. They are in place, nevertheless, and that shows that the Government is willing to get tough. They are though, at best, only a part solution to part of a much wider problem. I point out to the Government that the laws proposed by my bill go most of the rest of the way towards discouraging the growing use of a vast array of deadly weapons in crime.
This bill jigsaws exactly with the new knife laws, and, most importantly, it extends them, it takes them further. It views weapons in the socially threatening context and seeks to focus the full power of the law on the use of any kind of weapon during the commission of any kind of crime. What does this bill seek to do? The purpose of this bill is quite simple. Its intention is to recognise growing public concern about the increased use of weapons of various types in the commission of crimes. It seeks to have the law regard the possession of an offensive weapon or instrument during the commission of a crime as a separate crime in itself, a crime in addition to the actual crime committed; not an aggravating offence, as the law sees it now, but a separate, additional crime to be dealt with separately by the law both in terms of the judgment and the penalty that the court might impose.
The central effect of the bill is to provide that, in the event of a person carrying one of the weapons or instruments prescribed in the bill while committing an offence, courts will be able to deal with the possession of the weapon as a separate crime. The court will be able to impose a separate sentence for that crime, to be served cumulatively upon, not concurrently with, any sentence imposed for the crime itself. Let me quote the overview of the bill:
The object of the bill is to amend the Crimes Act 1900 to make it an offence to be in possession of a firearm or other offensive weapon or instrument at the time of committing or attempting to commit certain specified offences or to aid, abet, counsel or procure the commission of such an offence. The bill also creates an offence that imposes a further penalty if a weapon is discharged at the time either of the new offences is committed.
I emphasise the words "or instrument" because this bill also introduces a new category of crime involving an "offensive instrument" to recognise that these days a whole new range of nasty implements is being used to terrorise or attack victims in the commission of a crime. These new nasties include things such as hypodermic syringes, often filled with something that looks like blood or, tragically in some cases, real blood contaminated with HIV or other infected matter; sharpened screwdrivers, as have been used in one notorious gang rape and many other hold-ups and robberies; broken bottles; chains; and other offensive instruments - limited only by the imagination and determination of people looking for a weapon to use to reinforce their power when committing a crime.
On many occasions those who seek to use a weapon in the commission of a crime have chosen these latter items because they believe that they are not viewed as seriously in law as are more traditional weapons, such as firearms and knives. Police officers have told me that some people arrested in connection with crimes involving these more exotic instruments have protested indignantly that the implement they were carrying was not a weapon at all. This bill seeks to bring those dangerous and despicable items into the same legal opprobrium as is usually attracted by the more conventional weapons.
There is a high level of public concern about a much more ready recourse to use weapons to intimidate victims of crime and enforce a
perpetrator’s demand than in the past. I would not need to remind honourable members that knives are frequently being encountered on the streets. Public concern about the use of knives in some recent horrific crimes makes it imperative that realistic laws are introduced to try to stop this plague. This bill seeks to add the important element of a serious deterrent to the carrying or possession of a knife while committing a crime. The consequences of a number of recent crimes, which attracted great attention and promoted public outrage, were infinitely worse because weapons were used in a savage way. The bill seeks to give the offence of the use of those weapons the gravity it deserves and make it a separate crime.
Pursuant to sessional orders business interrupted.
QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
The Hon. ELAINE NILE: I direct my question without notice to the Minister for Public Works and Services, representing the Minister for Health. Is it a fact that a 12-month-old boy was given a fatal dose of 10 to 12 milligrams of methadone by one or both of his heroin-addicted parents to quieten him? Will the Minister for Health issue a directive that all methadone doses be taken by addicts under supervision at a methadone clinic?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: I am not familiar with the circumstances referred to in the question of the Hon. Elaine Nile. However, I will refer the matter to my colleague the Minister for Health and obtain a response for the honourable member.
ELECTRICITY GENERATION SECTOR CONTRACTS
The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD: My question without notice is directed to the Treasurer. Is it a fact that New South Wales electricity retailers sold 10-year power deals at between $10 and $15 per megawatt hour, whereas a sound economic return would imply a price of at least $35 per megawatt hour? Is the Treasurer aware of advice that commercial shareholders would not allow contracting beyond a maximum of two years, whereas these contracts were 10-year deals? What action has the Treasurer, as statutory shareholder, taken about such contracts?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: All of the electricity utilities in New South Wales are expected to operate in a commercial way, and each one will make its own commercial judgments. As I pointed out to the House yesterday, in the budget for the current financial year, which I brought down in June, the Government has budgeted on total revenues from this industry of approximately $700 million - $500 million from dividends and $200 million from income tax equivalents. All electricity organisations will be expected to pay dividends to the people of New South Wales and to operate in a commercial way.
C21 CONSTRUCTION CONTRACT
The Hon. A. B. MANSON: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Public Works and Services. What has been industry’s response to the release of the Government’s C21 construction contract? How do these new contracts assist suppliers and workers in the building trades?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: I am delighted to receive this question from the Hon. A. B. Manson, who is well known for his keen interest in the building industry. The C21 construction contract is a trial design developed by the New South Wales Government for use on a number of government projects. Some of the key features of C21 are that it is written in plain English while retaining the core legal concepts, it encourages security of contractual engagement between contractors, suppliers and subcontractors, and it promotes non-adversarial dispute resolution.
C21 contract conditions have been in operation for 18 months on five Department of Public Works and Services projects with a total value of almost $19 million. I am pleased to report that contractors employed on these projects have given the new contract the thumbs up. One contractor called it a breath of fresh air in an industry in which litigation and confrontation have been regrettably common features. The advantages of these new contracts are being widely acknowledged in country New South Wales, as well as in the city. For example, a few weeks ago I happened to be reading the Moree Champion, which I do as often as I can. The Treasurer has told the House that he sometimes has difficulty finding the time to read the Sydney Morning Herald. Sometimes I am able to find the time to read the Moree Champion.
When I read that esteemed publication I was impressed by its extensive coverage of the benefits of C21 contracts for local tradespeople in Moree. During the trial period of the contract my department received more than 700 comments and suggestions. Those comments have been considered and in some cases incorporated into the second
edition of C21, which is now in operation. The second edition will be widely used on public works and services projects which exceed a budget of $500,000, including health, education and local government projects. Contractors who tender with my department under C21 conditions are required to nominate major subcontractors, consultants and suppliers at the time of lodging their tender.
That requirement reduces the practice of bid shopping, which has traditionally caused many disputes in the building industry. Tenderers are also required to use the companion C21 subcontract to ensure that subcontract part-payments are provided at regular intervals, minimising subcontract and supplier cashflow problems. Unfortunately, the building industry has had a history of disputes and legal action relating to security of payment and other issues. The introduction of C21 contracts throughout the industry is a vital step toward a permanent solution to these difficulties, and I commend the introduction of the C21 contract conditions in New South Wales.
ELECTRICITY GENERATION SECTOR CONTRACTS
The Hon. J. H. JOBLING: My question without notice is directed to the Treasurer. Is the Treasurer aware of advice that selling electricity at $10 to $15 per megawatt hour instead of at a market price of $35 per megawatt hour implies a loss of $700 million, and, when the market price is $45, a loss of $1.3 billion? How does the Treasurer justify taking no action to protect the New South Wales taxpayers from this extraordinary loss?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: The Hon. J. H. Jobling makes all sorts of assumptions. I am sure he makes them up off the top of his head. All of the electricity utilities in New South Wales are expected to behave commercially. As I pointed out in an answer to an earlier question, this year the New South Wales taxpayer will receive about $700 million in dividends and income tax equivalents from the State’s electricity utilities.
GOODS AND SERVICES TAX WINE INDUSTRY IMPACT
The Hon. I. M. MACDONALD: My question is directed to the Treasurer, and Minister for State Development. Will the Minister give the House details of the effect of the Howard Government’s planned goods and services tax on the New South Wales wine industry, if the Federal Government is haplessly re-elected? Will Howard’s GST undermine the wine industry in established regions such as the Hunter, Mudgee and Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area and also decimate emerging regions such as Orange, Cowra, Hill Top, Young, Tumbarumba and Murrumbateman?
The Hon. J. P. Hannaford: What absolutely outrageous allegations!
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: Outrageous? The fact is that grape growers and winemakers from the Riverina are absolutely furious over the Government’s taxation plans for the wine industry.
The Hon. J. P. Hannaford: What absolute rubbish!
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: They are not my words. Those words are expressed in the first sentence of the MIA Winemakers Association press release, which is a joint statement by the MIA Winemakers Association and the Wine Grapes Marketing Board. The press release reads:
Grapegrowers and winemakers from NSW Riverina are furious over the Government’s taxation plans for the wine industry . . .
Why are they furious? Because they know these plans will, as the Hon. I. M. Macdonald suggested in his question, decimate a vital industry for New South Wales. I wish I could give the House the detailed answer that the Hon. I. M. Macdonald seeks, but the problem with the Howard tax plan is that no-one can provide that sort of detailed information. It appears that Mr Howard, Mr Costello, or even the Commonwealth Minister for Agriculture, Mr John Anderson, cannot give this House a comprehensive answer to the very important question asked by the Hon. I. M. Macdonald, because they do not know.
The wine industry in New South Wales has roots going back to the First Fleet. It can rightly lay claim to being this country’s oldest European agricultural activity. Over the years people like Gregory Blaxland, John Macarthur, James Busby, Len Evans, Max Lake, and the McWilliams, Drayton, Tyrrell and, more recently, de Bortoli families have built one of the country’s strongest industries. They have been instrumental in transforming the industry from its humble beginnings into the thriving and dynamic growth industry it is today. It is an industry that leads the world in export orientation, global networking, production efficiency, innovation and quality.
But the New South Wales wine industry is now under serious threat from the Howard Government’s tax proposal. It is not a threat that
comes from the weather, disease, pestilence or the vagaries of worlds markets; it is a threat from John Howard’s GST. Mr Howard’s tax plan has left the New South Wales wine industry uncertain of its future. The impact of the Howard tax plan on the wine industry is to a large extent unknown. Members of the Opposition are embarrassed. They have blindly stepped onto the GST platform and now, in the middle of the election campaign, they recognise that they have backed a loser and they do not know what to do! The coalition has only one policy, the GST, and it is now becoming apparent that the Australian people will not cop it.
Under the Federal Government’s tax plan the wine industry will pay both the 10 per cent GST and - wait for it - a new wine equalisation tax or, as it has become known, WET. The WET is supposed to make up the difference between the current wholesale sales tax and the GST and at the same time ensure that the price of wine does not fall. But the wine industry has not been told what the rate of the WET will be, and in the absence of detail the wine industry has made its own calculations, and its conclusions are extraordinarily worrying. According to the wine industry’s calculations, the Howard Government will collect $202 million from the wine industry in the first year of a GST, with a bottle of wine costing 3 to 6 per cent more than it does now. In the last decade or so the wine industry has grown to become a vital part of the New South Wales economy. The industry has experienced a meteoric rise -
The Hon. R. T. M. Bull: No thanks to you!
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: No thanks to me? I am told that every day 200,000 bottles of wine are produced worldwide. I believe that figure is surprisingly low, because on that figure I consume one-four-hundred-thousandth of the world’s daily wine production, and I am sure many members in the House do likewise. If Choc-Top Pezzutti was in the Chamber he would tell honourable members that half a bottle of red wine, particularly the fabulous New South Wales red wine, is absolutely essential for the continued good health of males over 40 years of age. The number of wineries in New South Wales has increased by 23 per cent in the last five years. The area under vine has risen by 48 per cent. Wine grape production has increased by 34 per cent and export sales have increased in value by 62 per cent in volume and 148 per cent. We now export wine worth $255 million every year from an industry that employs thousands of workers in regional New South Wales.
The wine industry breathes life into 16 regions around the State and it is the families and the jobs in those regions that are under threat from Howard’s GST and his wine equalisation tax. The wine industry wants some answers. The people of the Hunter, the Riverina, Mudgee, Cowra, Orange, Young, Tumbarumba, the Hastings Valley, the Shoalhaven and Sunraysia all want answers and they expect that the gutless National Party members of this Parliament will follow the sterling example of some other Nationals around the country -
The Hon. D. J. Gay: On a point of order. I take offence at that little man calling us gutless National Party members and I ask him to withdraw his remark.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I am absolutely delighted to withdraw my remark if the honourable member finds it offensive, and I am also delighted to note the great embarrassment of National Party members.
The PRESIDENT: Order! The honourable member has withdrawn the remark.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: The people of the Hunter, the Riverina, Mudgee, Cowra, Orange, Young, Tumbarumba, the Hastings Valley, the Shoalhaven and Sunraysia expect a lot more from members of the National Party, who travel all over the State pretending to be their supporters. The National Party is about to destroy the industry that those people depend on. It is about to destroy one of the rapidly growing industries in this State.
Howard is going to sock a huge new tax on an industry that has a reputation all around the world. In the short time since the release of the Howard tax package we have seen the devil begin to emerge from the detail. Only a week or two ago I asked the New South Wales Treasury to have a look at Mr Howard’s tax package as it affected State budgets. Their analysis showed a $3 billion black hole in Howard’s and Costello’s figures. The wine industry has raised major concerns about the package. A joint press release by the MIA Winemakers Association and the Wine Grapes Marketing Board stated:
Grapegrowers and winemakers from the NSW Riverina are furious about the Government’s taxation plans for the wine industry under the GST regime which will see an additional $200 million being clawed from this vital industry.
In a joint statement issued today, the MIA Winemakers Association and the Wine Grapes Marketing Board called on the Government to come clean with its GST/WET proposals to give the industry the confidence to continue its current rate of investment and expansion, and remove the threat of further tax incursions into the industry.
The press release goes on to state:
Under the Government’s taxation reform proposals, wine will pay both a 10% GST and a "Wine Equalisation Tax".
While the government is remaining tight-lipped over the rate of Wine Equalisation Tax, it is obvious from the figures set out in the Government’s policy document that a WET of 31.4% will apply . . .
I am not saying that; that is being said by the MIA Winemakers Association and the Wine Grapes Marketing Board. A wine equalisation tax of 31.4 per cent will apply, and that is drawn from the Federal Government’s own figures. The press release goes on to state:
While the [Federal] government is maintaining the Treasury line that wine prices under the GST/WET will not increase by any more than the general rate of increase of 1.9%, the reality is that tax revenue will increase by some $200 million, of which $60 million will come from off-premise (bottle shop) sales. The tax on this sector alone will increase by some 19%.
According to industry modelling, this will result in a 4.3% increase in the retail price of wine products sold off-premise, well above the Government’s stated target.
The Government to date has refused to confirm or deny what the overall rate of WET will be. Clearly the sums have been done, so why is the Government being so evasive over this issue if it has nothing to hide?
This is what the winemakers say. I quote directly:
If this is the best the Government can do with the full resources of Treasury behind it, what confidence can the rest of the country have in the rest of the GST package?
The country can have no confidence in the rest of the GST package because there is clearly a $3 billion black hole in the Federal Government’s calculations. The $3 billion of Commonwealth revenue that the States will not receive will mean that enormous damage will be done to hospitals, schools, public transport, and community services - across the whole range of services and facilities the States provide to their citizens. Or the GST rate will have to go up from 10 per cent perhaps to 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 or even 20 per cent. This mob on the other side of the Chamber is pretending that there is some mechanism to ensure that the GST will never rise above 10 per cent: the support of all the State Premiers is required to lift the rate.
The fact of the matter is that the provision can be changed by a simple Act of Parliament. A couple of votes in Parliament can change it. We have already discovered that the GST calculations the Federal Government has made simply do not add up: they are $3 billion short. What we have found in specific areas of the Australian economy is what we have found in the wine industry. There is a $200-million hit for the New South Wales wine industry alone. It is no wonder that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and his National Party colleagues are on their last legs. I regret to say that One Nation is going to take over from them. That is the tragedy.
The Hon. J. F. Ryan: On a point of order. The Minister’s answer should be relevant to the question he was asked. Under the standing orders members should ask questions relating to the public administration of New South Wales. The Treasurer has referred to One Nation and other issues. He obviously is not interested in answering questions such as the one I have about cuts to police numbers. He is simply stalling because he does not want to face other questions. He is speaking about Federal issues. I ask that he be directed to confine his remarks to the question.
The PRESIDENT: Order! The longstanding convention of the House is that Ministers may answer questions as they see fit. However, I am sure that the Treasurer is drawing to a conclusion.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: There is no doubt in the wide world that the New South Wales wine industry will suffer enormously from this mob opposite playing footsy with One Nation. It must be a matter of enormous shame that the colleagues of Opposition members are giving preferences to One Nation in many electorates throughout Australia. If people in this country want an end to the One Nation threat the only thing they can do is vote Labor on 3 October, because the Australian Labor Party is the only party that categorically says that it will not do deals with One Nation. It will not form a coalition with One Nation. It will not even govern with the support of One Nation.
It is an absolute disgrace that members of the National Party are not coming to the assistance of the wine industry in this State, which is absolutely vital to regions throughout the State. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition is prepared to destroy it. He does not have the courage or the guts that some of his National Party colleagues are currently displaying in telling Mr Howard and Mr Costello that there should never, ever be a tax on food in this country. Does the Deputy Leader of the Opposition support the GST being levied on food? Does the National Party in New South Wales support the GST being levied on food?
The Hon. R. T. M. Bull: Yes.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I have got it on the record. In March we will hang that around your neck.
The Hon. J. F. Ryan: On a point of order. In the Treasurer’s desperate attempt to continually delay questions being asked he is now asking questions of other members of the House. I do not believe question time is about Ministers asking questions of other members.
The Hon. R. T. M. Bull: I am happy to answer them.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: He is happy to answer them.
The PRESIDENT: Order! There is no point of order. I understood the Treasurer to be asking the question rhetorically.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: The GST will not only see the coalition destroyed on 3 October; it will see it destroyed in March.
MANUFACTURING INDUSTRY EMPLOYMENT
The Hon. R. T. M. BULL: My question is to the Treasurer, Minister for State Development, and Vice-President of the Executive Council. Is it a fact that employment in New South Wales manufacturing businesses has fallen every year since the election of the Labor Government and that surveys from the Australian business chamber forecast this trend to continue? Given that the Federal Australian Labor Party leader has given a commitment to reduce unemployment to 5 per cent, will the Treasurer also give a guarantee to reduce unemployment in Australia’s largest State to 5 per cent?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I am very happy to point out to the House that for quite some time New South Wales has had the second lowest unemployment rate of all Australian States. Only Western Australia has a lower rate of unemployment. I am very pleased that New South Wales has a much lower rate of unemployment than the next most populous State, Victoria. There was something in the newspapers yesterday, I am told -
The Hon. M. J. Gallacher: But you do not read the papers.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I am told, I said. Just be patient. It showed employment changes in New South Wales and Victoria from 1986 to 1996 - essentially the period of the Greiner and Fahey governments. The survey showed that in that 10-year period there had been a significant drop in manufacturing employment in New South Wales. I am pleased to be able to report to the House that in the last 12 months not only has New South Wales had the second lowest unemployment rate in the country but also it has had a net gain of 70,000 jobs. That is not a bad record but it is one which we intend to improve on.
The Hon. J. KALDIS: My question is directed to the Attorney General, Minister for Industrial Relations, and Minister for Fair Trading. Will the Attorney General please inform the House what steps the Government has taken to improve security in New South Wales courts?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: Obviously security in courts in New South Wales is not an easy matter but it is one with which the Government has been concerned over the past few years. I cannot give full details of what has occurred because of security considerations. However, the Government continues to take court security very seriously. Honourable members would recall my earlier advice to the House that a comprehensive review of the management of court security services in New South Wales was conducted in 1996. That was undertaken in consultation with judges, justice agencies, court administrators and peak court user groups, such as the domestic violence court support schemes.
Honourable members may recall that although the review found substantial progress had been made in a number of key areas, it also identified a number of areas for improvement. On the basis of those recommendations the Government has provided significant additional resources for these purposes as part of a three-year program. Those additional resources amount to $2.9 million in 1997-98 and a further $2.7 million for this financial year. Those funds are being used to deliver a range of improvements.
I shall give some practical examples of the improvements to illustrate the breadth of the court security program that is now under way. More than $1 million has been provided to deliver an immediate increase in the number of uniformed sheriff’s officers in courts across the State. A total of 22 new officers are now on duty providing a uniformed presence in an additional 33 court locations.
Priority has been given to those courts with the highest domestic violence caseloads. Additional walk-through scanners and hand-held metal detectors have been deployed in 12 major locations. New security standards are being adopted as courthouses are refurbished or extended, or undergo new
construction, with 20 major locations having significant building improvements. Eleven courts have received closed-circuit television facilities and 16 courts have received new or upgraded alarm systems.
A new incident reporting system has been implemented to provide better information on the levels of risks in our courts. A peak security co-ordination and advisory body has been established in conjunction with the Attorney General’s Department, the New South Wales Police Service, the Department of Corrective Services and other relevant agencies. These improvements have been achieved in the first year of the Government’s program. Further work is proceeding and will continue over the next two years.
These measures, together with that further action, will go a long way towards making our justice system safer for all those who participate in it. It is obvious that no-one can guarantee 100 per cent safety or security in the courts or anywhere else. However, I believe that the measures I have summarised for the House constitute a tangible improvement to the pre-existing situation and constitute a series of positive measures designed to enhance security in the court system.
The Hon. I. COHEN: I ask the Minister for Public Works and Services, representing the Minister for Mineral Resources, and Minister for Fisheries, a question without notice. Is it a fact that the Timbarra goldmine is currently the only mine in New South Wales which is not required to make the mining operations plan and the threatened species management plan publicly available and to make provision for independent water quality monitoring? Why is the Timbarra goldmine exempted from normal procedures? Will the Government guarantee the long-term containment of the toxic waste generated by this mine?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: I thank the Hon. I. Cohen for his question, to which I shall obtain a response from my colleague the Minister for Mineral Resources, and Minister for Fisheries.
HONOURABLE MEMBER FOR CLARENCE GOVERNMENT CAR USE
The Hon. D. J. GAY: My question is directed to the Treasurer, Minister for State Development, and Vice-President of the Executive Council. When can the Opposition expect to see the outstanding documentation relating to the improper provision of a motor vehicle to the Minister for Regional Development prior to his ministerial appointment? If he does not provide the documentation, will the Treasurer give this House a guarantee that the documentation will be available when the coalition assumes government in March 1999 and that he will not destroy the documents?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: The question is clearly based on a false and ludicrous premise that the Opposition will win the next election.
REGIONAL PRODUCTS EXHIBITION
The Hon. B. H. VAUGHAN: I direct my question without notice to the Treasurer. Will he give the House brief details of an exhibition of regional products held in The Rocks last weekend?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: Last Friday the Premier opened a three-day exhibition of premium regional products available to international tourists visiting Sydney. The exhibition, held in The Rocks, shows how regional small business people have developed new products and found new markets. The exhibition is the brainchild of Mary Hall from Crookwell.
The Hon. D. J. Gay: My wife helped do the flowers.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: All honourable members know where Crookwell is and I am glad that Mary Hall and Mrs Gay did the flowers at the exhibition which the Premier opened in The Rocks last Friday. Mary Hall saw the need to add value to her superfine merino wool cut. She has now developed a selection of finely tailored women’s clothes and a range of soft toys. Mary approached the State Government to help find markets for her regional products. I am pleased that the Department of State and Regional Development got behind Mary and has given her a three-year commitment to sponsor the exhibitions that she has now developed. Next year there will be another two shows leading up to the big Olympic exhibition in the year 2000 that will see some 90 regional businesses on display for a week.
Behind every business in the exhibition are real country people whose products reflect a special country character. It is this sort of ambition and vision the Government wants to foster and assist. This week’s exhibition has already borne fruit. One of the exhibitors was Rosa’s Pantry in Wagga Wagga, which sells a range of gourmet marinades and dips to up-market retail stores by mail order and on the Internet. I am told that the company has now
been approached by a major chain of retail butchers interested in using her marinades.
Another three companies at the exhibition have found retail distributors for their products and another company has had two international firms looking at its product. All up there were 35 exhibitors, mostly farmers, involved in the show. Visitors to the exhibition saw woollen socks, woollen soft toys, leather footwear, cotton bed linen, marinades and dips, sauces and relishes, sugar-free baking aids and products, chocolates, olives and macadamia nuts.
The Hon. R. T. M. Bull: A good country fair.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: A good country fair held here in The Rocks. I congratulate Mary Hall on all her hard work. I feel confident that with exhibitions like this, and the work that the State Government is doing with regional businesses and communities, it will not be long before more of these regional businesses are generating export dollars and creating new jobs for the people of regional New South Wales. On behalf of all honourable members I congratulate Mary Hall and Mrs Gay on assisting with the flowers.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: My question without notice is directed to the Attorney General, Minister for Industrial Relations, and Minister for Fair Trading, representing the Minister for the Environment. Is there a significant risk that cyanide from the Timbarra goldmine will flow into the Clarence River and poison the water supply of many people? Will the Environment Protection Authority urgently examine this potential risk and take pre-emptive action using the Environmental Offences and Penalties Act? If not, why not?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: I thank the honourable member for his question, which I will refer to the Minister for the Environment and obtain a reply for him.
NEW SOUTH WALES BUSINESS PROFITABILITY
The Hon. J. M. SAMIOS: I ask the Treasurer, Minister for State Development, and Vice-President of the Executive Council a question without notice. Is it a fact that despite his continued statements to the House denying declining economic conditions in New South Wales, the September 1998 survey of manufacturing businesses by the Australian Business Chamber has found that the profitability of New South Wales firms has fallen in every quarter in every year since the election of the Carr Government? What steps will he take to improve conditions for business in New South Wales?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I do not know whether the Hon. J. M. Samios is a regular reader of the publications of the Australian Bureau of Statistics. If he is not, I urge him to become a regular reader of them. If he were a reader of such publications, he would not ask ludicrous questions. The fact of the matter is that the last publication of the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed that New South Wales had a growth in State final demand in the year 1997-98 of about 5.5 per cent, which was considerably above that of all other States except one. That is a pretty good record. Of course, it is always a matter that the Government can improve on, and it is improving on it.
COMPUTER MILLENNIUM BUG CONSUMER PROTECTION
The Hon. Dr MEREDITH BURGMANN: My question without notice is addressed to the Minister for Fair Trading. What action is the Department of Fair Trading taking to educate the community about the year 2000 date-change issue, often referred to as the millennium bug?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: Obviously the Government should and does take seriously the problems that consumers and business may face with the year 2000 date-change problem. Consumers in particular will need assistance to ensure that their interests are protected. To help them, the Department of Fair Trading has developed a year 2000 consumer-protection strategy that alerts consumers to the ramifications of the year 2000 date change. The millennium bug has the potential to affect not only personal computers and software but also any item that has an embedded microchip. This means that products already purchased, such as clock radios, microwave ovens and video recorders, also need to be checked.
The production of new millennium bug computer hardware and software is fast becoming a lucrative market. Because of the market’s rapid growth and the fact that many people have little detailed knowledge of the millennium bug problem, consumers may be vulnerable to misrepresentation or fraud in the sale or servicing of computer and other products. They may also be misinformed about whether products and services will overcome the problems.
The consumer-protection strategy of the Department of Fair Trading encompasses a range of information products, and monitoring of consumer concerns and trader behaviour. Consumer initiatives also in place include two new brochures for consumers and small business. Those brochures were distributed to all 23 New South Wales fair trading centres during the last week of August. The first of several planned consumer fact sheets is now available by telephoning the department on 13 32 20, calling in to any fair trading centre, or visiting the department’s web site. Future fact sheets for consumers and traders will be developed following a review of legislation administered by the department and any problems that arise from the millennium bug issue.
The Department of Fair Trading is also working closely with the Office of Information Technology, which, in conjunction with the Department of State and Regional Development, is taking action to create awareness within the business community. That action includes holding public information seminars across the State. To date, the department has participated in three public seminars, at Grafton, Bathurst and Broken Hill. The department gave a presentation on year 2000 date-change consumer issues at each meeting. Further seminars will be held in 15 other regional centres over the next two months. The Department of Fair Trading, in its role as the State’s consumer-protection agency, is committed to helping consumers and small-business operators meet the challenge of the millennium bug. Complacency about the issue may prove costly. I urge consumers and traders not to delay seeking expert assistance from the department on this vital consumer issue.
PETER DRAYTON SENTENCE
The Hon. PATRICIA FORSYTHE: My question without notice is addressed to the Attorney General, Minister for Industrial Relations, and Minister for Fair Trading. Is it a fact that Sydney bus driver Peter Drayton received a two-year good behaviour bond in Maitland Court and was ordered to pay $51 in court costs after having been found guilty of causing the deaths of a woman and her three children in a car accident at Black Hill in 1996? Is it also a fact that Mr Andrew Bryson, the surviving family member and husband and father of the victims, has asked the Director of Public Prosecutions to appeal this light sentence? Will the Attorney call for the file on this matter? What steps will he take to ensure that sentencing penalties in the courts reflect the severity of offences?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: I am not aware of the particular matter to which the Hon. Patricia Forsythe refers, and I would not be able to comment on the appropriateness or otherwise of the sentence until I become familiar with all the facts and circumstances of the case. However, obviously I will make an inquiry of the Director of Public Prosecutions as to the prospect of an appeal in relation to the matter.
The Hon. I. COHEN: I ask the Treasurer, representing the Minister for Transport, a question without notice. Recent newspaper reports state that the Government will ban roadside memorials on the ground of distraction to drivers. Given that these memorials have a tendency to slow potentially speeding drivers, will the Government renege on this move? If not, will it ban roadside alcohol and underwear advertisements on the same ground?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: My attention was drawn to the newspaper article to which the Hon. I. Cohen refers. I am not aware of any step to outlaw such memorials. However, I will refer the question to my colleague the Minister for Transport and obtain a response.
COFFS HARBOUR JETTY
The Hon. JANELLE SAFFIN: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Public Works and Services. Can the Minister inform the House of any public acknowledgment of the work carried out on the Coffs Harbour jetty in recent months?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: The Hon. Janelle Saffin is well known as a prominent member of the north coast community, and it is most appropriate that she should ask me that question.
The Hon. M. R. Kersten: Has she ever jumped off the end of it, though?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: It is interesting that the Hon. M. R. Kersten should ask that question, because Andrew Fraser, the honourable member for Coffs Harbour, challenged me on one occasion to jump off the Coffs Harbour jetty with him. Coffs Harbour City Council and the Department of Public Works and Services regard that as an unsafe practice, so I have not accepted that challenge, and I do not intend to. The Hon. Janelle Saffin’s question gives me the opportunity to place on record two recent private sector commendations for the efforts of the staff of my department. A number of members of the House would be aware of the heritage restoration of the Coffs Harbour jetty, which was completed by the Department of Public Works and Services some 12 months ago.
The Hon. J. P. Hannaford: There are good restaurants down there now.
The Hon. R. D. DYER: Indeed, there are some good restaurants on the foreshores of Coffs Harbour. The restoration of this 100-year-old timber jetty was warmly received by the Coffs Harbour community, and provides a fantastic attraction to the township and the harbour itself. The jetty was originally constructed to assist with the transportation of timber from the Coffs Harbour region and is symbolic of the original reasons for settlement at Coffs Harbour. The $3.8 million project has now been recognised at this year’s Institute of Engineers excellence awards in Sydney, where it received a highly-commended award in the heritage category. The jetty was also a finalist in the recent Newcastle regional awards - a matter that will be of interest to the President of this Chamber.
Since its reopening last year, the Coffs Harbour jetty has also received a National Trust award for heritage, and the jetty opening celebrations were named the community event of the year. I take this opportunity to congratulate the staff of the Department of Public Works and Services and the Coffs Harbour historical society on their commitment to involving the entire Coffs Harbour community in the restoration of this traditional landmark. I recently had the pleasure of inspecting the restoration works at the jetty on my way through Coffs Harbour. I was impressed by the standard of restoration, and the sheer size and impressiveness of the Coffs Harbour jetty, which I had not previously visited. It is indeed an historic facility. My department has done itself proud by the standard of restoration of the jetty. I can well understand the strong community support in Coffs Harbour for this important heritage site.
BROKEN HILL SCHOOL TRANSPORT
The Hon. M. R. KERSTEN: I ask the Attorney General, representing the Minister for Education and Training, a question without notice. During last night’s adjournment debate I outlined to the House the plight of the Mullins family of Metford Station via Broken Hill. Does the Minister agree that it is unreasonable to expect any family to travel 168 kilometres every day to get their children to school when a bus is available on the same route? Will the Minister examine urgently the situation with a view to accommodating school bus arrangements for the Mullins family so that their children can enjoy the same education benefits as any other student in the State?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: I must confess that I missed out on the statement last night, but I will undertake to draw it to the urgent attention of the Minister for Education and Training to see if a response can be given to the member.
BATHURST GREYHOUND CLUB
The Hon. DOROTHY ISAKSEN: I direct my question without notice to the Treasurer, Minister for State Development, and Vice-President of the Executive Council. Will the Minister inform the House what assistance has been given to the Bathurst Greyhound Club since the August floods?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I am pleased to inform the House that the Bathurst Greyhound Club will receive a $2,000 grant from the State Government to repair damage suffered during the August storms. After the Macquarie River broke its banks in the first week of August, the club’s truck, buildings and grounds were completely flooded. I am told the only parts of the club that were not damaged were the canteen and the bar. I was in Bathurst for the State Cabinet meeting at the beginning of August just as the rains started. Shortly after that a shop awning collapsed in William Street. The collapse of the awning was a tragedy that killed one man and seriously injured a woman. I am sure I speak for all in this place when I offer the sympathies of the Parliament to the family and friends of both people.
The greyhound club has applied for the grant under the State Government’s natural disaster relief arrangements that allow for sporting clubs to receive up to $12,000 in assistance, $2,000 in the form of a grant and a $10,000 low interest loan. Damage to the club has been estimated at $15,000. I am told that the club has applied only for the grant, and plans to make up the remaining $13,000 through fundraising and assistance from the Greyhound Racing Authority. I am pleased that the club is operating again, and this weekend will hold its second meeting since the floods. Since August the Government has provided more than $1 million in disaster assistance to Bathurst.
I am told that during the storms the State Emergency Service evacuated 449 people in Bathurst, Kelso and Perthville, and on 20 properties downstream of the Winburndale and Ben Chiefly dams. The Department of Community Services has provided disaster assistance worth $660,000 to 858 families in Bathurst. The Roads and Traffic Authority has spent approximately $235,000 on local government roads in the Bathurst district. The Rural Assistance Authority has received 27 applications from farmers and five applications from small businesses affected by the flooding in the central west and north-west. The majority of these applications are still being assessed.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: I ask the Minister for Public Works and Services, representing the Minister for Health, when the Health Department intends ending the practice of serving carcinogenic foods to hospital patients? Has the department finally caught up with the news that fruit and vegetables are far healthier than the carcinogenic foods currently being served to patients? Has the department, for example, acquainted itself with the research undertaken by the Adventist health study, which monitored 34,000 Seventh Day Adventists for seven years and found that white meat is as bad as, or worse than, red meat when it comes to the risk of colon cancer? When will the department get up to date with the latest information on nutrition and its effect on cancer and the circulatory system?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: It is well known that the Hon. R. S. L. Jones has a vegetarian preference. However, I am not sure that such preference should be imposed on hospital patients throughout the State. In a free society people have the right to eat meat, if they choose. I will refer the question to my colleague the Minister for Health for his examination. However, I doubt that the Minister would be of the view that hospital patients should not have the opportunity to eat meat, if they choose. The member, in posing his question, did not define what he regards as carcinogenic food. Given the context of his question, I assume that he is referring to red meat. However, if I am wrong about that the member might like to ask me a supplementary question so that I can deal with the matter more fully.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: I ask the Minister a supplementary question. I asked whether the Minister was aware of the study on white meat being as dangerous as red meat. My supplementary question is: why will the Minister not allow cigarette smoking in hospitals?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: It seems that white meat, presumably poultry and fish, is also regarded as carcinogenic by the Hon. R. S. L. Jones.
The Hon. R. S. L. Jones: By the Seventh Day Adventists.
The Hon. R. D. DYER: I doubt that those foods would be regarded by orthodox medical authorities as carcinogenic. I am sorry that I do not have the assistance of the Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti in the Chamber. I am not sure why he is not here. We have been deprived of his perceptive and intelligent interjections throughout question time today, which must be a matter of great regret to all of us. So far as cigarette smoking in hospitals is concerned -
The Hon. M. R. Egan: Be careful.
The Hon. R. D. DYER: I am going to answer that question. There is a proven causal relationship between cigarette smoking and lung disease and cancer. I do not think the Hon. R. S. L. Jones would expect me to advocate cigarette smoking within hospitals. It is possible for people to smoke outside hospitals, and some hospitals may have designated areas where it is possible to smoke. The honourable member’s vegetarian preferences are clearly within his democratic rights. However, I doubt that he should try to impose those choices on hospital patients throughout the State.
The Hon. D. F. MOPPETT: My question without notice is addressed to the Treasurer, Minister for State Development, and Vice-President of the Executive Council. Is the Minister aware that the figures published by the Australian Business Chamber have established that export sales by manufacturing firms in New South Wales have steadily declined and that the recent quarter has been the worst since March 1995? Will he continue to ignore the warnings from surveys? If not, what steps will he take to remove disincentives from firms in New South Wales to lift their export sales?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I do not think there is any doubt that events in Asia and other parts of the world are having an impact on Australian exports, particularly in the manufacturing sector. However, a lot of doomsdayers would have us believe that the end of the world is nigh. Of course, all the official statistics are to the contrary, which suggests that the doomsdayers are predicting doom purely because it is their nature and character to do so.
The last export figures produced by the Australian Bureau of Statistics show not only an increase in the value of exports but an increase in the volume of exports. One encouraging consequence is that Australian exporters are looking to diversify their markets as a result of the challenges with which they have been confronted because of events in Peking, Asia, and other parts of the world. We should be supportive of the efforts of our manufacturers and exporters to diversify their markets and, therefore, to provide jobs for the people of New South Wales and Australia.
SYDNEY WATER TASK FORCE APPOINTMENTS
The Hon. I. COHEN: My question without notice is directed to the Treasurer, and Minister for State Development, representing the Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning, and Minister for Housing. Who has been appointed to the Sydney Water task force that will implement the recommendations of the Sydney Water inquiry?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I am afraid that I do not know the answer to the honourable member’s question. I will refer it to my colleague the Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning and obtain a response.
If honourable members have further questions I suggest they place them on notice.
PUBLIC HOSPITAL LINEN SUPPLIERS
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: On 16 September the Hon. J. F. Ryan asked me a question without notice about public hospital linen suppliers. The Minister for Emergency Services has provided the following answer:
Contrary to yesterday’s claims by the Hon J. F. Ryan, at the beginning of this week I moved to assure the people of Penrith, the workers of June Anne and their union representatives that the information being peddled by the honorable member was completely incorrect. To repeat what I stated then, Corrective Services Industries has not received a single order under the new contract prices approved by the State Contracts Control Board effective from the first of this month. I have in fact directed that CSI would not accept any such order.
June Anne Manufacturing has referred the whole issue to the State Contracts Control Board and my direction will stand until the board has investigated the company’s complaint. The company’s complaints will also be considered by the Correctional Industries Consultative Council. This company is claiming that it has to lay off staff due to lost orders. This cannot be the case. June Anne has not lost any business to CSI as a consequence of this contract alteration. CSI has held contracts through the New South Wales Contracts Control Board for more than 20 years to supply linen such as sheets and hospital gowns to the health care system. The major expansion of the Corrective Services Industries, CSI, textiles division took place between 1988 and 1995 under the former Government, with the establishment of major industrial facilities at Goulburn, Lithgow and Long Bay employing more than 150 inmates.
CSI Textiles also contributes directly to the employment of 44 staff - half in the western Sydney area and the other half in regional areas such as Bathurst, Cessnock, Goulburn, Grafton and Lithgow. Independent reviews of the CSI costing and pricing system - commissioned and accepted under the previous Government - have found that CSI does not enjoy an unfair advantage in the marketplace. Although inmate wages are low, correctional industries face obvious challenges in maintaining productivity - a high level of training to meet rehabilitative requirements and skill deficiencies, a range of interruptions due to security and institutional routines and the need to maintain a high level of labour intensity, rather than automation.
New South Wales was the first State in Australia to establish a Correctional Industries Consultative Council to monitor the development and operation of correctional industries. The council comprises community, business and union representatives and has taken a pro-active approach to representations about correctional industry operations. The council ensures that CSI tenders for work on a competitive basis.
Questions without notice concluded.
LIQUOR AMENDMENT (RESTAURANTS AND NIGHTCLUBS) BILL
Bill received and read a first time.
Suspension of standing orders agreed to.
[The President left the chair at 1.04 p.m. The House resumed at 2.30 p.m.]
CRIMES AMENDMENT (FIREARMS AND OTHER OFFENSIVE WEAPONS OR INSTRUMENTS) BILL
Debate resumed from an earlier hour.
The Hon. J. S. TINGLE [2.30 p.m.]: When debate was interrupted for questions I had just finished sketching the serious nature of the huge increase in armed crime in this State, which is greater than the national average by 50 per cent. I shall now point out the main features of the bill. The bill inserts a new section 93I in the Crimes Act to make it an offence to be in possession of a firearm or other offensive weapon or instrument at the time of committing or attempting to commit certain specified offences; or to aid, abet, counsel or procure the commission of such an offence. The offences include assault, breaking and entering, committing a felony and other offences as set out in the Crimes Act or by regulation.
This section lists the types of weapons envisaged in the bill and, for the first time, names syringes and broken bottles amongst those weapons or other instruments adapted for use for causing injury to a person - for instance, a sharpened screwdriver. Before I come to the proposed penalty for these new offences, I should like to explain the thinking behind the proposal that possession of a weapon or instrument while committing a crime
should in itself be a crime. When someone goes out to commit a crime and carries a weapon - any kind of weapon - one is entitled to assume that that person is quite prepared to use that weapon to make sure the intended crime is successful. After all, if that is not the intention, why have the weapon in possession?
A person found to be in possession of a weapon while committing a crime should be regarded as having that weapon for the purpose of the crime. In the original drafting of this bill I proposed a minimum penalty of 20 years gaol for this offence. That sentence, as I indicated earlier, was to be cumulative upon the sentence imposed for the commission of the core crime. That indicates how seriously I regard this type of crime and how seriously I believe the community in general regards it.
Over protracted negotiations seeking support for the bill I was told repeatedly that the proposed minimum sentence was far too heavy, that it did not leave a judge any discretion and that it could not be supported. I still believe it is the type of minimum sentence the public would like to see imposed. I still believe that the public would have greater confidence in, and respect for, our legal-judicial system if we observed a system of minimum rather than maximum sentencing. However, the principle of the bill - that being armed is a separate, extra crime - is more important than the details of the sentencing, and I have been persuaded to amend the proposed sentence range for this type of crime.
The bill now proposes that on conviction of the separate offence of being in possession of a weapon while committing a crime, the person so convicted will be sentenced to a period of detention not less than the period of sentence for the core crime. The extra sentence for being in possession of a weapon is to be cumulative, not concurrent. This leaves a judge with a great deal of latitude in determining the total of the main sentence and the cumulative sentence, but establishes the important principle that a separate conviction has been recorded and a separate, specific sentence imposed.
I can hear the bleeding hearts suggesting that it is too tough to put offenders in gaol for an extra number of years just because they carried a weapon or an offensive instrument when they committed a crime. Tell that to the victims of the many recent stabbings; tell it to the people - bank tellers included - who have stared down the barrel of a pistol or a sawn-off shotgun; tell it to the shop assistants and others who have been threatened with blood-filled syringes; tell it to the people who have had sharpened screwdriver points pressed to their throats while they were robbed, assaulted or even raped; and tell it to the people who have been slashed and threatened with broken bottles.
The purpose of such a heavy penalty is to make it highly inadvisable for people to even carry such implements when they commit a crime. If they do not carry the implement, they can hardly use it. It is worth pointing out that if this bill had been passed previously - and it has been on the notice paper for a couple of years - and had been enacted, there would have been a different outcome in the recent trial of two of the three young men charged over the murder of Mr Angelo Cusumano, the owner of the Gamesmen store.
The jury acquitted Seldon Robinson and Andrew Ly of murder and manslaughter charges because it could not be proved that the firearms they carried during the robbery of the store were loaded. Also, it could not be proved that they knew that the firearm carried by Aaron Robinson was loaded. If this bill had been law, that trial would have had a different outcome because it would have made no difference whether the firearms were loaded or whether it could be proved that they were loaded. Under the law proposed by this bill possession of those firearms alone would have been sufficient to merit the separate charge and conviction. There would have been a very different outcome in that tragic case, because the bill states that if a person carries a weapon - any weapon - that person will be convicted.
The intention of the bill is to make it a very high risk for people to have these implements when they commit a crime. The new section also creates a separate offence of discharging or actually using the specified weapon during the commission of a crime and imposes a further five-year cumulative sentence if the weapon is discharged. The same argument applies as that which I used to justify the first extra sentence, with the rider that there is no point in imposing slap-on-the-wrist penalties for these dangerous practices. The penalty should be sufficient to fill a prospective armed criminal with dread.
New section 93I(3) makes the important exception that if a person can show that he or she had a good and legal reason for having such an implement in his or her possession at the time, no offence has been committed. For instance, a diabetic who needed a syringe to administer necessary control drugs would not be committing an offence. Obviously, genuine workers’ tools would not attract a charge. New section 93I(4) deals with accomplices. Basically, under schedule 1 to the bill
an accomplice taking part in a crime but not in possession of an offensive instrument would be just as guilty of the offence as the person in possession of the implement.
That may sound harsh until the reasoning behind it is explained, and that reasoning is based on a little psychology. I shall outline a scenario: two people set out to commit a crime and one carries a gun, knife or syringe. The accomplice discovers that his partner is armed. He knows that under this law he will be convicted of the extra crime, together with his partner, even though he is not carrying any kind of weapon. What does he do? If he is as brave as the average villain he turns around and goes home. If his armed partner is as brave as the average villain, who has to have company to get up the courage to commit the crime, he too will desist.
One might ask whether this is theory? Perhaps it is theory, but can it be disproved? And is it not worth a try? How guilty was the man who handed the shotgun to the man who killed Michael Marslew? He did not have a weapon, but he was an accomplice; therefore he was guilty. And he carried the shotgun to the murder scene. He was armed. If the law proposed by this bill had been in place, the other two who were involved in that shocking murder would have known that because their partner was armed they were all equally guilty.
However, the bill has let-outs for those who are not guilty. New section 93I(5) allows a defence to accomplices if they can satisfy the court, first, that they took no actual part in the crime; second, that they did not know and could not reasonably be expected to have known that the other person had a weapon in his or her possession; third, that they tried to prevent the other person from taking the weapon with him or her; and, fourth, that the other person had a lawful reason for having the weapon in his or her possession.
New section 93I(6) increases the minimum penalty if the weapon is discharged during the crime; it proposes an additional five years gaol. New section 93I(7) makes it clear that a person charged with possession of a weapon during a crime can, and I imagine would, be charged with the offence of the actual crime. It also stipulates that the two, or even three, sentences that might be imposed are to be cumulative. New section 93I(8) sets the penalty as a minimum. I expect some spirited resistance to the level of sentence I have proposed for this crime. I imagine some will say that what could be an effective doubling of the main sentence is far too harsh, given that the penalty for the actual offence might be five, seven or 10 years.
Such an argument misses the entire point of this bill, which is to create an offence and to provide a penalty that will seek to take the armed violence out of hold-ups, rapes, home invasions, muggings, and the like. The bill says to the criminal, "Maybe you are the type of germ who does not think it matters that you commit crimes against other people. Just know that if you commit those crimes while you are carrying a weapon, it will not only make that crime worse, it will make you guilty of a much worse crime, one that could put you away for twice as long - no arguments, no excuses!"
The community is demanding much tougher penalties for the thugs who shoot, slash and bash. The community is frightened. It is weary of and angry at the notion that we should be kind to these people. Decent citizens are sick and tired of hearing courts almost apologise when they send someone away for a long term. They are fed up with criminals being seen as the victims of their own crimes. People want an end to violence. They want an end to stabbings and shootings and bashings by gutless morons who derive their power and strength only from threatening defenceless people with a weapon.
We must send the right message to the hoons, goons, home invaders, muggers and rapists. The message must be: do the crime and you will do the time. But do the crime armed, even with a screwdriver, and we will be so outraged that we will throw you in the slot and throw away the key. I believe this is the only message the gun and knife carriers, syringe wielders and bashers will understand. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate adjourned on motion by the Hon. Dorothy Isaksen.
PUBLIC HOUSING FIRE SAFETY COMMITTEE
The Hon. J. F. RYAN [2.44 p.m.]: I move:
1. That a select committee be appointed to inquire into and report on fire safety issues in residential properties of the Department of Housing, having regard to:
(a) the comparative proportion of fires occurring in public and private properties;
(b) design features and construction materials used in existing properties and future public housing projects which may minimise the risk of fire, limit the spread of a fire or facilitate escape after a fire has broken out;
(c) maintenance programs by the Department of Housing which contribute to fire safety;
(d) installation and maintenance of smoke detectors;
(e) fire safety education programs;
(f) deliberately lit fires;
(g) social factors which may contribute to fire safety;
(h) other relevant issues raised by submissions to the committee.
2. That the committee consist of five members, comprising:
(a) 2 Government members nominated in writing to the Clerk of the House by the Leader of the Government;
(b) 2 Opposition members nominated in writing to the Clerk of the House by the Leader of the Opposition; and
(c) 1 crossbench member, nominated by the crossbench members.
3. That the committee have leave to sit during any adjournment of the House; to adjourn from place to place; to make visits of inspection within New South Wales and Australia; and to have power to take evidence and to send for persons, papers, records and things; and to report from time to time.
4. That should the House stand adjourned and the committee agree to any 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 House;
(b) the documents 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 documents be laid on the table of the House at its next sitting.
5. 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.
This motion was debated in this House about 12 months ago and was almost resolved until, regrettably, members of the Labor Party decided they would filibuster to prevent it from proceeding to a vote. During that debate I had no doubt that members supported the proposal to establish a select committee to investigate fire safety issues in Department of Housing residential properties to deal with the concerns of the thousands of Department of Housing tenants in our State in relation to the fire safety of their homes.
I cannot imagine anything worse than being burnt to death in a house fire. The thought of such a situation would fill anyone with dread. Yet it happens much too often in our State, and it would appear that the proportion of deaths in fires is higher in Department of Housing properties. Government reports indicate that, for some reason - perhaps because of the way the houses are constructed or perhaps the lifestyles of those who live in them - Department of Housing houses are more prone to catch fire and people are more prone to die in them than in any other type of building in our State. For that reason I put to the House the proposition that a committee should be established to investigate such fires.
When I moved the original motion, on numerous occasions I offered the Minister for Housing the opportunity to establish his own independent inquiry and to set the terms of reference for that inquiry. If the Minister had taken up the offer I would have withdrawn the motion. I considered that provided the matter was being investigated at arms length by the department, the issues I sought to put before the House would be resolved. However, the Minister refused my offer. Initially his response was that the Coroner would investigate the issue.
At the time I moved the motion five people had been burnt to death in a Department of Housing fire in the Claymore area near Campbelltown. Essentially, the Minister said that those issues would be canvassed before the Coroner, who would make recommendations. The Minister said that if those recommendations were relevant to Department of Housing fires generally, he would act on them. I put to the Minister that it was not appropriate to apply recommendations of the Coroner following a coronial inquest into one specific fire to all Department of Housing properties across the State.
In fact, that is what the coronial inquiry into the Claymore fire found. The late Philip Molan, who conducted the inquiry, said he would willingly support my suggestion that a committee be established. He said that he did not believe it was appropriate for him to investigate those matters, but that because they were of a general nature they should be canvassed by a committee established by this House. After that recommendation the Minister, in vaudeville political mode, focused his attention on a spurious attack against the Federal Government and attempted to avoid the issues.
The only matter of substance that has occurred with regard to this matter is that the Government has expedited the fitting of smoke alarms within Department of Housing homes. I endorse that move, and I am sure the tenants welcome it. I understand that statistics released at the end of last year - which, despite my interest in this matter, the
Minister did not see fit to send to me - indicate that the number of deaths in Department of Housing fires has reduced as a result of the more extensive fitting of fire alarms within Department of Housing homes.
I understand that almost 99 per cent of Department of Housing homes are now fitted with fire alarms. With regard to the few homes that do not have fire alarms. the problem relates to access and other technical issues. To some extent that outcome may have been as a result of my raising the matter in the House. Although I welcome the outcome, there are more important issues to consider than the installation of smoke detectors.
As I have always said, smoke detectors are helpful, but other issues need to be addressed if the number of house fires is to be reduced. I again refer to the tragic fire at Department of Housing premises at 87 Proctor Way, Claymore in November 1995. The coronial inquest heard evidence from representatives of the Department of Housing about the general fire safety of the thousands of houses that were constructed in the Campbelltown area in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Essentially the inquest was told that all houses built at that time generally conform with what was then known as ordinance 70 of the Local Government Act.
Apparently it was worthy of note that even though Department of Housing homes did not have to comply with local government ordinances at the time, in most instances they did comply. However, Department of Housing properties in the Claymore and Campbelltown areas did not comply with ordinance 70 because their ceilings were lower than required. That has an important impact in the event of fire. If the ceilings are low, the air space in the room is significantly reduced, thus the speed at which the rooms fill with smoke is maximised. A fire detector may be activated, but there would be less time for the inhabitants to respond to the alarm because the rooms quickly fill with smoke.
Fortunately, with today’s technology, there might be a way to deal with that problem. That is one of the many issues that could be addressed by a more general inquiry into fire safety in Department of Housing homes. The Department of Housing admitted that houses built in the Claymore area and, presumably, similar houses in Macquarie Fields, Airds, Shalvey and Blacktown probably have ceilings that are lower than they should be. They run the risk of quickly being filled with smoke, minimising the chance of inhabitants escaping from the fire. Many of the homes in those areas still have windows that open by means of a winding mechanism. To some degree they prevent people from breaking in, but they pose a significant problem because they also prevent people from escaping in the event of a fire.
Only a few weeks ago in the Macquarie Fields area two people died in a Department of Housing fire. One of those people had rescued most of the members of his family, and went back into the house to rescue his elderly father. But because he was unable to escape through a window, they both perished. That issue needs to be addressed. The motion remains relevant and should be addressed by the House. I do not wish to delay consideration by the House a moment longer. I have already been critical of Government members for filibustering. The House should vote on the motion. I can understand that 12 months after the event, and given that the fifty-first Parliament does not have much time before the election next March, there may be a lack of enthusiasm to establish another committee.
However, I am aware that the shadow minister for housing intends to announce in the coalition’s housing policy that the inquiry I have requested will be established under a coalition Government. I do not know where the traditional Government supporters of Department of Housing tenants are; the coalition appears to be more willing to establish this inquiry than Craig Knowles. I ask the House to support the motion, even though time may be limited, and an inquiry may also be limited. But at least we could raise the issues publicly and have them addressed. I commend the motion to the House. I ask honourable members to consider the seriousness of the matter. Those who are affected are among the most disadvantaged in our State. The matter should be reviewed quickly.
The Hon. JAN BURNSWOODS [2.56 p.m.]: I have not heard so much rubbish from the Hon. J. F. Ryan since I heard his speech on this motion on 10 April 1997 or, indeed, on 27 November 1996. What he said today is similar in many ways to what he said on both those occasions. I can only assume that in moving to establish a select committee, the Hon. J. F. Ryan has a death wish or is desperately trying to remind people of his importance. What he said is wrong, and he knows it. I have respect for many of his views but certainly not in relation to this matter.
In due course I will read, as I did previously, the letter from the Coroner. Contrary to what the Hon. J. F. Ryan told the House, the letter from the Coroner totally opposes his motion. Members opposite may have gathered by the amount of paper I have with me that I am not in a hurry. Even the Leader of the Opposition is yelling. I know that
members of the Opposition are increasingly nervous about the forthcoming Federal and State elections. It is particularly strange that of all the issues that could have been raised in this House a week before the Federal election the Opposition should raise public housing. I have a lot of material on that subject.
I shall bring the House up to date in regard to the installation of smoke detectors. I could talk at great length about Department of Housing properties in Gladesville, Henley, Hunters Hill, Ryde, and North Ryde, But instead I will provide more general figures. I refer to the installation of smoke detectors, which so much of this debate has been about. The percentage of homes protected the last time the figures were finalised - a month or two ago - was 98.7 per cent.
Let me give honourable members some indication of the figures involved and the work that this Government has done in looking after housing department tenants. So far the number of properties that have been protected total 129,331. Those properties are fairly evenly spread across eight Department of Housing regions: 15,470 in southern Sydney; 17,500 in south-western Sydney; 21,760 in central Sydney; 21,848 in western Sydney; 17,245 in the Hunter region; 10,607 in the northern region; 13,352 in the south-eastern portion of the State; and 11,549 in the western portion of the State, making, as I said earlier, a grand total of 129,331.
If the Leader of the Opposition, the Hon. J. F. Ryan and all those other howling hyenas opposite doubt the work that this Government has done in relation to the undoubted risk from fire in Department of Housing homes, those figures give the lie to what they are saying. I point out that, at that stage, only 1,764 properties were unprotected in the State. For some reason officials from the Department of Housing were unable to get into every one of those properties. There could be a variety of reasons why they were unable to get in.
At that time, follow-up letters had already been issued to tenants who had not responded to the repeated efforts of installation contractors to arrange access. Action letters were issued immediately in those instances where it had not already happened. In the Hunter region and in western Sydney advertisements were placed in local newspapers encouraging tenants to come forward and share in the protection.
The work done by the department in the period since this program started certainly cannot be doubted. I have with me a file of correspondence and examples of letters sent to tenants in Liverpool over the past two years. The Hon. J. F. Ryan tried to take credit for doing something in this area. I am not sure what he is taking credit for - probably wasting the time of the House. Earlier he suggested that he had played some role in the implementation of this program. He should have been aware of the fact that this program has been in place for well over two years. He wasted the time of the House in November 1996, April 1997 and again in September 1998, but all honourable members would be aware that that does not go back two years. If any one should apologise for misleading the House it should be the Hon. J. F. Ryan.
Letters were sent by the department to tenants in an ongoing attempt to install smoke detectors. I have in front of me an advertisement addressed to public housing tenants which contains a picture of a fire alarm and a smoke detector and it invites those tenants who have not had hard-wired smoke alarms installed to contact the department’s installation contractor and to arrange to have it done immediately. There is no doubt about the work done by the department in addressing the fire safety issue. As I said earlier, that work was virtually completed by mid-1998 - six months ahead of the schedule of the Government and the department - with the exception of those properties to which access could not be gained.
This three-year program, which is not a minor one, commenced in early 1996 and cost $26 million. The program was completed six months ahead of schedule. Looking back through my notes I established that, in most cases, the figures were impressive. The last time the Hon. J. F. Ryan tried to debate this silly motion, 14,953 homes in western Sydney had been fitted out. That figure is now 21,848. Over two-thirds of the homes in the western Sydney area had been completed by early 1997 and the other one-third has been completed since then. Similar figures could be given for south-western Sydney and the seven other regions I mentioned earlier.
I refer now to the letter from the Coroner - a matter about which the Hon. J. F Ryan appeared to be obsessed. He referred earlier to a tragic event and tried to mislead the House by arguing that the Coroner believed his motion made a certain amount of sense. I will read the key sentence from the letter of Derrick Hand, State Coroner, written to the Minister in December 1996. I read this letter onto the record in April 1997 but, because the Hon. J. F. Ryan chose to debate this matter again today, I will again read that letter as I do not believe honourable members should be so badly misled. The key sentence, in quite a detailed letter from the State Coroner, Derrick Hand, states:
I also don’t believe that such an inquiry would provide any additional information than you presently have on the social needs of public housing tenants. It is my opinion that such an inquiry would be a time wasting exercise without the prospect of discovering anything new of value. It also seems to me that an inquiry of this type comes more within the realms of the Federal Government rather than being a State issue.
I will deal later with the role of the Federal Government. I have a lot to say about its role in relation to public housing in New South Wales and other States. However, I return to the letter from the Coroner which was written in 1996. He was, of course, responding to the recommendations made by the Deputy State Coroner, Phil Molan, in respect to the tragic fire at Claymore. He said in his letter how pleased he was to note the substantial progress that had already been made in implementing the Coroner’s recommendations. Honourable members should remember that this letter was written in December 1996. The recommendation in question from Deputy State Coroner Molan was:
. . . Department of Housing dwellings will be fitted with hardwired smoke detectors six months inside the time frame recommended.
The Coroner, Mr Hand, said he agreed that the cost and time required to install battery-operated smoke detectors in the meantime - which, of course, the Hon. J. F. Ryan neglected to say was what had been recommended by the Deputy Coroner - would prejudice the hard-wiring being completed by June 1998. The Coroner said:
It is more urgent that the hard wiring be completed as soon as possible as I see this as being the more secure way of protecting residents. I concur with the Department in continuing to provide battery operated smoke detectors at a concessional rate to those residents who require them.
The Coroner referred also to the program being adopted by the housing department and the New South Wales Fire Brigades. The Hon. J. F. Ryan seriously mislead the House when he pretended that the Coroner supported this crazy time-wasting and money-wasting motion. I want to comment on the Federal Government’s role in the provision of public housing in this State, and I will refer to a number of recent matters. The Coroner pointed out that if there was to be a wide-ranging inquiry, then "an inquiry of this type comes more within the realms of the Federal Government than being a State issue".
The State Government has attempted to deal with the massive cuts in Federal Government funding for public housing by continually providing its own funds. Indeed, the current leasing program that the State has embarked on will provide homes for about 4,000 people over the next three years. Given the climate of massive cuts in housing funding by the Commonwealth to the State and the Commonwealth’s refusal to commit any funding beyond June 1999, long-term leasing is one of the best ways for the New South Wales Government to continue to provide public housing.
This Government has budgeted $100 million for the leasing program, which will enable 1,500 homes to be leased for between 10 and 15 years. Under this program the Department of Housing and the Office of Community Housing will lease properties from the private sector in Sydney, the Hunter, the Illawarra and on the north coast and make them available to low-income earners who are eligible for public housing. About 20 per cent of those properties will be designated for older people.
Although I have considerably more detail about that program, I have said enough to indicate that this Government, which cares about existing public housing tenants and about the people on the long waiting lists, has been doing everything it possibly can to overcome the savage Commonwealth funding cuts and to try to house as many people as possible. In this regard it would be relevant to refer to the current plans of the Federal Government. The introduction of a goods and services tax will add yet another layer of insecurity for public housing tenants across Australia. Since announcing its proposed GST, the Federal Government still has not provided any detail to housing authorities across the country. However, we have some idea of the results of a GST.
A GST will increase the price of everything, including public housing. Perhaps the Opposition would like a select committee to be set up to inquire into the sterling work of its Commonwealth colleagues in the provision of public housing. Over a month ago the Federal Government was asked: Will the 4 per cent increase in pensions be quarantined from the calculation on rents? We still have not had an answer to that question. That 4 per cent increase could be spent on the increased cost of food which will occur with a GST. Will housing authorities be classified as non-commercial organisations so that they can recoup the increased costs of public housing, construction and maintenance? The Federal Government has not provided an answer to that question. It is interesting that Opposition members are now quiet. The noise they were making has suddenly stopped.
I will continue to refer to the effects of the Federal Liberal-National Party Government proposal, which the members opposite support. The Department of Housing is responsible for the
construction of about 6 per cent of all housing starts in New South Wales. If a GST is introduced the construction costs of the Department of Housing will increase by $48 million a year. The Hon. C. J. S. Lynn, having lost his campaign to install the honourable member for Lane Cove as leader, has decided to sit on the backbench and yell. Could the Hon. C. J. S. Lynn tell us where the New South Wales Department of Housing will get $48 million a year for increased construction costs?
Will the honourable member’s Federal colleagues provide that money or will they yet again show their absolute lack of concern for public housing tenants by making sure that the $48 million is not found? Will they leave it to the New South Wales Government to find the money? With the increase in costs, instead of the Department of Housing constructing 6 per cent of all housing starts in New South Wales, it will construct only 4 or 5 per cent.
That is the kind of support for public housing that is given by Opposition members. There are many more important questions about the whole issue of a GST, which would have a similar effect on the construction of private housing. The introduction of a GST by the Federal Government, with increased costs on pensioners and on the construction costs of the State Government, would add to the uncertainty in public housing.
The Hon. J. H. Jobling: On a point of order. Standing order 81 deals with relevance. The issue of a goods and services tax is not mentioned anywhere in the motion moved by the Hon. J. F. Ryan. I ask that the honourable member be drawn back to the motion.
The PRESIDENT: Order! I uphold the point of order. The Chair has allowed some latitude in this debate, but the Hon. Jan Burnswoods is testing the patience of the House and the Chair. The motion is specific and the member should confine her remarks to it.
The Hon. JAN BURNSWOODS: I get carried away by the anger I feel about the imminent Federal election.
The PRESIDENT: I would counsel self-control.
The Hon. JAN BURNSWOODS: The other major problem facing the New South Wales Government and all public housing residents in areas such as Ryde, where I live, in western and south-western Sydney and across the countryside is the fact that the current Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement lapses in July next year. It is not known how much money the Federal Government is proposing to offer to the States to continue to build and maintain public housing.
The amount ripped out of the national housing budget is already in the vicinity of $200 million, of which $50 million comes from New South Wales. With a GST it would be another $48 million. The Opposition, sitting opposite in deafening silence, has not uttered a peep about the Commonwealth Government’s abysmal role in public housing. It is really a trifle too much that this House discussed the motion in 1996 and 1997, and is discussing it again in 1998. The motion of the Hon. J. F. Ryan should be dispatched.
The Hon. J. F. RYAN [3.20 p.m.], in reply: I presume that the amazing performance of the Hon. Jan Burnswoods represented the views of the Government. Not once did she express concern for any of the Housing Commission tenants who perished in the fires. The honourable member said much about politics and about the goods and services tax. She criticised me and made imputations about my motives in raising this matter. I put on the record that I have probably visited more Department of Housing homes than all Government members have.
When I was a candidate for the Camden electorate I set myself the challenge of visiting all 4,000 homes occupied by Department of Housing tenants in the areas of Claymore and Rosemeadow, and since then I have visited probably thousands in Airds and in other areas around Blacktown. I have taken a deep interest in the welfare of those people. The performance by the Hon. Jan Burnswoods was unbelievable. The spurious letter from the Coroner, which the honourable member read, has possibly influenced crossbench members. I believe that the letter has been genuinely signed by the Coroner but I accuse the Coroner of allowing himself to become part of a political response.
Mr Molan inquired into the Claymore fire, and I intend to read what he said. I ask crossbench members to compare Mr Molan’s comments in his final report on the Claymore fire to the rather political document which apparently was composed later and signed, I believe by mistake, by Coroner Derrick Hand. I ask members opposite to make such a comparison and not continue their claptrap. The late Mr Molan, referring to my request for an inquiry, said:
I do not agree that the examination of these fires should be examined as a group while I am conducting an inquiry into the fire that I have now concluded. Such an inquiry should encompass a consideration of the social and economic issues that are involved in housing people in areas such as this.
He could not be said to be opposed to it. He continued:
It is certainly a study which may be justified.
Does that sound like the letter the Opposition just received from the Coroner? Mr Molan continued:
It is a study which may be justified. In my opinion, though, such a broad ranging inquiry should be specifically set up by Parliament with appropriate terms of reference as I have attempted to do.
That is a reference to the inquiry which Coroner Derrick Hand allegedly said would be a waste of time. Mr Molan, who heard the evidence relating to the Claymore fire, said:
I, of course, would be only too pleased with such an inquiry with the information that I have.
Mr Molan, the Deputy Coroner who conducted this inquiry, is unfortunately no longer with us. He died shortly after completing this inquiry. Soon after his death this unbelievable letter emerged. It is a political letter because it includes claptrap about the responsibilities of the Federal Government that reads like the cynical political speech just delivered by the Hon. Jan Burnswoods. I do not know how that letter came about, but I find it -
The Hon. Jan Burnswoods: On a point of order. Is it in order for the Hon. J. F. Ryan to suggest, as he has just done, that the State Coroner has been told to write a political letter to the Leader of the House?
The Hon. J. F. RYAN: On the point of order. I do not think I said he was told. I referred to what I believe was the political content of the letter which the Coroner signed, and I was making a critique of the letter.
The Hon. J. W. Shaw: On the point of order. A member cannot attack a judicial officer except on substantive motion.
The Hon. J. F. RYAN: Further to the point of order. I am in a difficult position. The Government has tabled a letter but will not give me a copy despite the fact that I have asked for it. The letter has been put forward as part of the evidence against my motion, and I have to make some response to its contents.
The PRESIDENT: Order! A member may not attack a judicial officer other than by way of a substantive motion. I did not hear everything that the member said, and I ask him whether he was making such an attack.
The Hon. J. F. RYAN: I make no attack on the Coroner himself. I simply state that his letter directly contradicts that of the Deputy Coroner who made comments in relation to this inquiry at the end of his remarks. The two comments contradict. If that is a critique of the Coroner, I cannot help that.
The PRESIDENT: Order! If the member is cautious in his remarks and simply draws attention to a discrepancy in a letter between the Coroner and a Deputy Coroner, he will not contravene the standing orders. If he goes beyond that, he will.
The Hon. J. F. RYAN: I take your advice and will continue with the point I was making. I have now received a copy of the letter via a member of the crossbench. Significantly, the letter has not been made available by Government members, despite my requests. After the death of the Deputy Coroner, the State Coroner Derrick Hand said:
It is my opinion that such an inquiry would be a time-wasting exercise without the prospect of discovering anything new of value.
That is strong comment and, as I said, borders on being political comment given that the matter was before the House.
The Hon. J. W. Shaw: On a point of order.
The PRESIDENT: Order! I will pre-empt the Attorney’s point of order, and uphold it. I directed the member that he should not imply that there is any political motive or connotation of interference in the letter and comments of the Coroner. The honourable member should desist.
The Hon. J. F. RYAN: Contrasting those remarks, I quote from the transcript of the case in which Mr Molan said:
It is certainly a study which may be justified.
A letter from the Coroner says that it is a time-wasting exercise, yet the comment on the transcript by the Deputy Coroner who heard the evidence and was familiar with the material, was that it is a study which may be justified. I find that comment astonishing. I remain passionately committed to addressing the issues that have been outlined in this motion. Members of this House who share my concerns should vote with me to support the establishment of an inquiry. This issue involves people’s lives.
I simply cannot believe the political and cynical response of members opposite who wandered into traversing issues such as the goods and services tax, the Federal Government and so on. That was entirely inappropriate. I urge members to show compassion and concern for the people involved. I acknowledge that good work has been done with smoke detectors, but there are other relevant issues. In particular, I say to crossbench members that more needs to be done. These issues will not be addressed unless there is some sort of inquiry independent of the Department of Housing. Such an inquiry could have been provided by this House. As I said, I offered the Government the opportunity to take this matter out of the hands of the House by setting up an inquiry. If we do not do this we let down the people involved.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put.
The House divided.
Mr Bull Dr Pezzutti
Mrs Forsythe Mr Ryan
Mr Gallacher Mr Samios
Miss Gardiner Mr Rowland Smith
Mr Hannaford Tellers,
Mr Kersten Mr Jobling
Mr Lynn Mr Moppett
Mrs Arena Rev. Nile
Dr Burgmann Mr Obeid
Ms Burnswoods Ms Saffin
Dr Chesterfield-Evans Mrs Sham-Ho
Mr Cohen Mr Shaw
Mr Corbett Ms Tebbutt
Mr Dyer Mr Tingle
Mr Jones Mr Vaughan
Mr Kelly Tellers,
Mr Macdonald Mrs Isaksen
Mrs Nile Mr Manson
Mr Gay Mr Egan
Dr Goldsmith Mr Johnson
Mr Willis Mr Primrose
Question so resolved in the negative.
PROTECTED DISCLOSURES AMENDMENT (POLICE) BILL
Bill received and read a first time.
Suspension of standing orders agreed to.
NATIONAL PARKS AND WILDLIFE (PARRAMATTA REGIONAL PARK) BILL
Message received from the Legislative Assembly agreeing to the Legislative Council’s amendments.
The following bill was returned from the Legislative Assembly without amendment:
Legal Profession Amendment (Practice of Foreign Law) Bill
PUBLIC HEALTH (SMOKING IN VEHICLES) AMENDMENT BILL
Motion by the Hon. R. S. L. Jones agreed to:
That, according to Standing Order 200, the Public Health (Smoking in Vehicles) Amendment Bill, interrupted by the close of the previous session, be restored to the stage it had reached in the previous session.
GAMBLING (ANTI-GREED) ADVERTISING PROHIBITION BILL
Bill introduced and read a first time.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE [3.41 p.m.]: I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
The object of the Gambling (Anti-Greed) Advertising Prohibition Bill is to discourage the proliferation of all forms of gambling, as follows:
(a) by prohibiting advertising of existing forms of gambling and gambling facilities, and
(b) by prohibiting advertising and other promotional activities aimed at publicising new forms of gambling and new gambling facilities, and
(c) by prohibiting the use of any form of gambling to support the sponsorship of any government or community activities, including (but not limited to) sporting activities, and
(d) by requiring studies and assessments to be made of the impact of proposed gambling legislation on families and the community.
The bill aims also to create increased public awareness of the problems associated with gambling and to promote government support for community and other services that assist those adversely affected by gambling. Yesterday the media reported on the Federal Government’s inquiry into gambling. The inquiry found that relaxed restrictions on gambling over the past 10 years has led to the doubling of gambling losses, to more than $10 billion per year. Gambling is now an $80 billion a year industry in Australia, of which more than $10 billion is lost by gamblers.
Gambling promoters are now targeting women as a new market for gambling revenue. Gambling machines account for 50 per cent of the total spent on gambling, followed by 19 per cent on casino games, 17 per cent on racing, and 12 per cent on lotteries. Evidence shows that a large proportion of gamblers are on social security benefits or on lower incomes. I do not often visit casinos but I was invited by the manager of the Darwin casino to inspect that establishment. I took that opportunity and I was surprised to see people whom I assumed would not have a great deal of money to spend, including Aboriginal folk - particularly Aboriginal women - at the card tables.
I was concerned about their welfare and whether they had been seduced into using their limited funds on the gambling facilities at the casino. The commission of inquiry is starting to form the belief that "gambling expenditure is higher as a share of income in poorer households, raising the issue of its connection to poverty for some Australians".
In the past two years 17,000 poker gambling machines - I prefer to use the word "gambling" rather than the softer word "gaming" that is used - have been installed in New South Wales hotels, clubs and casinos, and 2,000 poker machines were added to hotels in June despite our efforts to defeat that bill. Earlier this month the hotels were allowed a further 2,300 machines. There is a method in the Government’s madness in that it seeks bids for those poker machines as a source of revenue on top of the tax it receives from the operation of those machines.
In fact, some of the 2,300 machines sold for double the amount originally paid by the Government. The result of this rapid expansion of gambling in our State is an increase in addict gamblers. In August there was a big increase in the number of problem gamblers calling counselling services for help. The Department of Gaming and Racing has reported that 498 calls were registered in August to the G-Line 24-hour service for problem gamblers. A year ago the G-Line reported just 56 calls. That is a dramatic increase in the number of people seeking help for their addiction. That addiction is being fed by the flood of advertising, particularly on television.
The bill seeks to prohibit the advertising of gambling. Why should the advertising and promotion of gambling be prohibited? To answer that question one must look first at the nature of advertising. Every textbook on advertising states that the singular role of any advertising or promotion is "to form an emotional bond between the consumer and the product". Let that sink in. Advertising seeks to form an emotional bond, which is the most powerful bond among humans. A constructive emotional bond brings meaning to life. A destructive emotional bond destroys life, and it is the most difficult to break. I instance the woman in a destructive relationship. She may be bashed and so on, but in many instances she returns to that relationship because of the emotional bond.
Advertising seeks to form a bond of that depth between the consumer and the product. In this case the product is gambling. In order to create that bond, advertising gives a wholly one-sided view of the product. The advertising industry is governed by the Trade Practices Act to ensure truth in any promotion, but advertising often only tells half the truth. It is usually what is left out that is of most importance. While being compelled to ensure that any claim in an advertisement is true, the advertiser is not compelled to include information that would warn a consumer of the negative impact of the product, or the comparative benefit of refraining from using the product, or indulging in it. Honourable members would all agree that advertising gives the impression that a person who purchases a lotto ticket or engages in other forms of gambling will win. There is no reference to how many millions of people will lose.
For this reason all advertising, no matter how truthful its claims, carries an element of deception by omission. It is this deceptive nature of advertising that makes the promotion of gambling a grave
danger for society. Gambling advertisements say that someone is going to win, and that the winner could very likely be you. Gambling advertising produces a very strong emotional incentive to chase what is falsely being promised - wealth, esteem, a solution to financial problems, even a way out of the poverty trap. One advertisement showed a young couple in front of a lovely house. I thought it related to housing loans from a building society or a bank. I then realised it was an incentive to buy a ticket in a gambling promotion so that if you win you could buy the house. That is false and misleading advertising.
On most occasions the reality is that those least able to afford financial loss are the ones lured by the big prize. They enter a world where financial loss is inevitable, and their resultant misery provides the means by which the gambling industry supports itself. In order to set the bait, the promotion of gambling goes beyond the normal deception inherent in advertising. This is due to the nature of gambling itself. The only saleable point about gambling is the slim possibility of winning. The promotion of gambling upgrades the slim possibility of winning to the near certainty of winning. It hides from the consumer the high probability of losing. In fact, the probability of losing becomes an absolute certainty. The viability of gambling establishments relies completely on consumer losses, but advertising does not say this. It says only that the player is likely to win. This is completely deceptive because the player is not likely to win at all.
A survey of gambling slogans clearly shows that the promotion of gambling implies that the consumer will most likely win. For example, a Lotteries New South Wales slogan states, "Someone’s gonna win the big one. It might as well be you." It fails to say that the chances of winning are around 10 million or 20 million to 1 against. Lotto’s press advertising headlines include "Strike it rich", "The Easy Money game", "Another chance to win", and "More out of life". All promise an exit from the poverty trap, but in reality fail to deliver. Aristocrat poker machine’s advertisement in the May 1997 edition of Australian Hotelier boldly states in a headline, "Everyone wins". That is just a straight-out lie.
A Sunday Telegraph’s Star City magazine headline states, "Come in Winner", implying that everyone who "comes in" will be a winner. That is simply not so. Star City Casino’s slogan says "Hit the big time". A quick look over the gaming floor at any time of the day or night will show that very few ever hit anything but rock bottom. In fact, I was shown a docket from the Westpac Star City automatic teller machine dated 1 December 1997 which showed a time of 6.44 a.m. and the telling caption "Insufficient funds". Clearly, at a quarter to seven in the morning that docket has a very sad story to tell. And it is a story being repeated countless times in Sydney and other areas of New South Wales.
Some might say that is an exaggeration. Let us look at the research. Where exactly does the viability of a gambling institution come from? Who is basically financing the gambling industry’s existence? According to the Illawarra Mercury of 25 April, Australians lose around $10 billion a year on gambling. As reported in the Age of 10 September 1997, around half of that sum comes from family housekeeping budgets, not from family entertainment budgets.
Numerous studies show that it is the poor who carry the major burden of gambling losses. They include a report by the Department of Human Services, which was cited in the Age of 15 October 1997; Abbott and Cramer’s "Gambling Attitudes and Participation", from the Journal of Gambling Studies; Clotfelter and Cook’s Selling Hope - State Lotteries in America, from Harvard University Press 1991; Borg, Mason and Shapiro’s The Incidence of Taxes on Casino Gambling - Exploiting the Tired and Poor; the American Journal of Economics and Sociology of July 1991; and the Age of 15 August 1997.
In fact, it was reported in the Age of 10 Sept 1997 that 52 per cent of regular casino-goers are unemployed. Surveys reported in D. J. Tice’s Big Spenders, by Saint Paul Pioneer Press, February 1993, also show that it is normal for a mere 2 per cent of gamblers to account for 63 per cent of all money wagered. University studies reported in Grinols and Omorov’s "Development or Dreamfield Delusions?: Assessing Casino Gambling’s Costs and Benefits", Journal of Law and Commerce, University of Pittsburgh School of Law, 1996, show that 52 per cent of casino revenue comes from problem and pathological gamblers. Honourable members will remember the tragic cases of children driven to the casino by their parents, who go into the casino and then forget that their children are outside in the car. In some instances children are left in a car for 24 hours. That shows the extent of the pathological addiction that grips some people.
Recent trends and statements in New South Wales indicate that great social dislocation will follow the promotion of gambling. The Sydney Morning Herald of 19 August reports that doctors have noticed a rapid increase in gambling-related
medical and social disorders. In fact the medical fraternity is circulating warnings that such disorders are approaching epidemic proportions. Surely a Labor government that says it represents the working class and the poor must have some concern about opening the doors to every form of gambling and expanding those forms of gambling, as has now occurred in this State. Doctors are saying that gambling is approaching epidemic proportions and they are concerned about gambling-related disorders. I believe that gambling has now reached epidemic proportions.
The Sydney City Mission, the Wesley Mission, the Salvation Army and G-Line all report a rising tide of problem gamblers that is stretching those charities beyond their limit. For more than two years now, since the opening of the Sydney Harbour Casino, Paul Symond from the New South Wales Council on Problem Gambling has noted a significant and steady increase in pathological gambling. As reported in the Sydney Morning Herald of 29 August 1996, Paul Symond noted also:
The majority of these people are earning less than 30 thousand dollars a year. Initially they are lured to gambling because of greed - because they think gambling is an easy way to make money, but before they know it, they are at the point of no return and they can’t actually control their gambling.
There have been a number of extremely tragic examples of the impact that gambling has on families and individuals. However, I will not take up the time of the House by referring to them in detail. How can the Government allow those who are least able to afford it to get into the position where they are unable to back out of a financially devastating gambling habit? Obviously they have become emotionally attached to the activity, bonded to it by the attraction of the unattainable prize. In short, they have been sucked in by the sales pitch of gambling advertising. Although the Sydney Harbour Casino positioning statement is "Non-stop fun", it seems that the reality of gambling is non-stop pain.
Gambling is having an immense negative impact on the Australian way of life. Some might argue that there are only a small number of problem gamblers. However, Mitchell Brown of Gamblers Anonymous conservatively estimated in a 1992 report prepared for the University of New South Wales that for every problem gambler there are at least 10 other people directly affected, ranging from family and friends to employers and social workers. Gamblers Anonymous further reported that 50 per cent of male problem gamblers require marriage counselling, 66 per cent of wives in these relationships have to borrow to pay for household necessities, 47 per cent report depression, and 14 per cent attempt suicide. According to the Age of 19 June 1997, gambling is listed as a factor in 20 per cent of domestic violence cases in which women seek crisis support.
My father was addicted to gambling and spent all of his spare money on it. He thought he would win from gambling, but of course he never did. He was one of the losers, as are the majority of those who get involved in gambling. Because of his example, I followed in his tracks and as a young man I became very much involved in gambling on the horses, the dogs, or whatever was going. I believe gambling became a temptation to me. It was only when I became a Christian and sought God’s help that that attraction, that emotional bonding I have spoken about, ceased.
I know that gambling can be attractive and devastating for people who are led along that path. That is why I have now adopted the policy of never buying a raffle ticket or getting involved in any form of gambling. When I make a donation to a charitable organisation they often say to me, "You have to buy a ticket." I say to them, "Write your name on the ticket; don’t write my name on the ticket." I have tried to maintain that policy of principle with regard to both small matters and large matters.
Suicides attributed to gambling have steadily increased in Victoria since the opening of the Crown Casino. Over the same period, the Victorian branch of the Salvation Army has reported a 400 per cent increase in the number of crisis calls directly attributed to gambling. It is widely reported both in Australia and overseas that a tenfold increase in child protection cases is not uncommon within 12 months of the establishment of a casino. In fact, the latest figures from the Star City Casino show that since its opening in 1995 there have been 250 cases of parents leaving children in cars while they gamble. Surely that should concern the Government and the Department of Community Services. This matter must be considered by governments.
The figures show that gambling is detrimental to the social wellbeing of an area, and is driven by supply. In other words, it is not a matter of gambling facilities being provided to fill the demand; it is a case of gambling venues being established and, by their mere presence, attracting new punters and cannibalising an economy in the process. When I inspected a casino in Christchurch I was amazed to see a section set aside for training gamblers. A school, displaying signs, had been set up to teach the finer points of gambling to those who did not know how to gamble or play cards.
That puts an end to the argument that we are catering to a market - gamblers who will gamble even if we do not provide the facilities. A large effort is being made in Australia, New Zealand, the United States of America and other countries to increase the number of individuals who gamble.
Gambling affects entire economies as well as families and small communities. Every mid- to long-term study into the effects of gambling shows a devastating effect on the community. Atlantic City went from fiftieth to first in crime rate figures within three years of the opening of casinos. Sydney and Melbourne may not yet have seen or felt the full impact of the Star City Casino and the Crown Casino respectively on their crime rate. Atlantic City experienced a 40 per cent decline in the number of independent restaurants, a doubling of unemployment, a 33 per cent decline in retail business and a bankruptcy rate 35 per cent higher than other States, all directly associated with the amount of gambling and the number of casinos in the city.
Other counties in the United States of America report a decline of up to 60 per cent in retail business within two years of the opening of a casino. Professor John Kindt of Illinois University estimates that it costs a government an average of $3 in social support structures to cope with the fallout from gambling from every $1 gained in gambling tax revenue. In some areas he estimates it to be $10 for every $1 of revenue. Any economic benefit supposedly derived from gambling is a mirage. However, we know that the Treasurer is keen to balance the budget. We know he has been strict in controlling expenditure. He and the Government have become more dependent on the income derived from gambling. Unfortunately, the temptation is to continue to expand gambling to get the tax dollar.
The Treasurer cannot see what the Minister for Community Services will see: an increased demand for community services. More money will have to be spent, and one does not have to be a genius to work out that the Government will be in big trouble. The more the Government relies on gambling revenue the more it will go into deficit, not surplus. There is one other reason for prohibiting the advertising and promotion of gambling. It would appear that gambling establishments are able to censor effectively from public view the antigambling message. With the huge dollars gambling establishments pour into the coffers of media outlets, they exert tremendous influence over programing decisions, as was evident when the Christian Television Association was unable to run its antigambling advertisement on Melbourne’s Channel 9.
A Channel 9 executive said that the antigambling advertisement concentrated on casino gambling. Channel 9 pretended that its decision had nothing to do with the fact that Crown Casino is a big advertiser and program sponsor, or that the owner of the station is a large shareholder in the casino. Discussing powerful personalities in our State and nation can become sensitive; some of those individuals have a tremendous influence on Australia - even on elections. Some are heavily involved in the gambling industry. They often have shares in casinos and may gamble millions of dollars in one night. They may lose $20 million or win $30 million! It is worrying that those same people may have a say in the control of the media.
I expect that this bill and my second reading speech will receive no mainstream media coverage because they are already compromised by their association with the gambling industry through advertising. The same principle applies in other areas. The gambling industry has a two-pronged advantage. It has unrestricted access to public broadcasting. Television stations and mainstream newspapers - of which there are few because they are now concentrated in fewer hands - promote an unrealistic image of gambling and, at the same time, exert sufficient pressure to censor the message of self-control and promote a more realistic image of gambling. There is excessive advertising or publicity when someone wins lotto or a couple of million dollars, but the media do not draw attention to those who become bankrupt, who are imprisoned for embezzlement, or whose children are not eating properly because the money is going into poker machines. They never tell that side of the story.
The Parliament made a courageous stand in relation to tobacco advertising and supported our bill, which is now the accepted norm for parliaments all over the world. This bill may seem to be radical, but I do not believe it is. It will set a new standard not only for this Parliament but for other parliaments. When the legislation is adopted it will be a model for other States of Australia and other nations. The advantage that the gambling industry has through advertising is evil, and the bill will curb that advantage. Coupled with a ban on gambling advertising and promotion, the bill proposes that the odds of winning should be displayed at gambling venues and point of sale to inform the punter of the reality of the game he is playing. With regard to horse races and greyhound racing the odds are clearly displayed and punters gamble accordingly.
Betting on other sports also involves a clear display of the odds. It seems only fair trading that other gambling outlets should do likewise, not so much to reduce the number of people who gamble but to give those who do gamble a realistic expectation. If gamblers have an unrealistic expectation of the game they are playing, they are more likely to gamble beyond their means, chasing a win that they might feel is probable, but which is in fact highly improbable. As I said earlier, the opportunity of winning might be 20 million to one. If the odds are clearly displayed, gamblers will have the knowledge to empower them to stop playing when they are moderately ahead, rather than losing all in an impossible quest. I commend the bill to the House. I believe it will go a long way to reducing crime, poverty and hardship within our community.
Debate adjourned on motion by the Hon. J. P. Hannaford.
OMBUDSMAN AMENDMENT (COMPENSATION) BILL
The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD (Leader of the Opposition) [4.09 p.m.]: I move:
That, according to Standing Order 200, the Ombudsman Amendment (Compensation) Bill, interrupted by the close of the previous session, be restored to the stage it had reached in the previous session.
I am pleased with the overall support that has been extended to me for the concept of providing a mechanism for the assessment of compensation where the Ombudsman has made a finding against government departments. Suggestions have been made to me for amendments that would improve the bill and certainly make it more acceptable to the Ombudsman. I will circulate those amendments to the House so that they can be dealt with at the same time as the second reading.
Motion agreed to.
GOVERNOR OF NEW SOUTH WALES
The Hon. J. M. SAMIOS: [4.10 p.m.]: I move:
That this House condemns the Carr Government for not upholding the traditions and principles of our Westminster system of government by downgrading the role of Governor and interfering with the use of Government House as the principal workplace and residence of the Governor.
History repeats itself. Eighty-six years ago the Labor Government of the day promised that the role of the State Governor would be abolished and that Government House in Sydney would no longer be used by the Governor-General. Accordingly, in 1912 it was announced that Government House would be converted into a museum of antiquities and its grounds would be open to the public. Honourable members are aware that it was subsequently decided in 1915 that the Governor of New South Wales should return to Government House.
More recently, on 16 January 1996, the Premier of New South Wales, Bob Carr, announced that Her Majesty the Queen had been pleased to approve his recommendation on the appointment of the Hon. Gordon Samuels AC, QC, as Governor of New South Wales to succeed Rear Admiral Peter Sinclair, AC. In a press release on the same day the Premier announced that the Governor designate, the Hon. Gordon Samuels:
. . . will not take up residence in Government House following the Swearing-In in March. In excess of $2 million, around two-thirds of the current budget, will be saved annually on the expenses of the governor’s office, with a non-resident governor.
Events later showed that the Premier was out by $1,900,000 in his estimation of savings. The Premier went on to say:
The new governor’s official accommodation will be provided in the historic Henry Parkes Suite in the Chief Secretary’s Building.
The new governor will discharge the combination of protocol, community, ceremonial and constitutional functions while continuing as Chairman of the Law Reform Commission of NSW.
Honourable members will recall the toing and froing in relation to the Governor’s position at that time. The Premier then said:
I have already advised the governor designate that the government has no objection to his continuing as Chairman of the Commission, providing that no fee is paid and that the function does not interfere with the exercise of his duties as governor.
The Hon. Jan Burnswoods: This is very old history is it not?
The Hon. J. M. SAMIOS: It is pertinent history. Government members do not like me recalling history. The Premier also said:
A panel comprising the Director-General of the Premier’s Department, the Secretary of the Minister of the Arts and the Director of the Botanic Gardens and the Historic Houses Trust have been appointed to prepare a management plan for the future use of Government House and its grounds.
The government is currently discussing alternative arrangements for 25 staff for Government House.
That statement means that those staff got the bullet. Twenty-five staff who had given long and dedicated service to this important position of Governor were sacked. On 11 March 1996 Mr Collins said that the Attorney General:
. . . has supported the criticism of Premier Carr by ICAC chief Barry O’Keefe that his planned legislation to allow Governor Samuels to carry on as Law Reform Commissioner could lead to a conflict of interest.
Immediately a conflict arose relating to the appointment of the Governor and his right to continue acting as Law Reform Commissioner. The Commissioner of the Independent Commission Against Corruption then stated his position. In a letter to the Opposition Mr O’Keefe said that special legislation could give the impression that the powerful and well-placed can have special rules made for them.
Pursuant to sessional orders business interrupted. The House continued to sit.
LIQUOR AMENDMENT (RESTAURANTS AND NIGHTCLUBS) BILL
The Hon. R. D. DYER (Minister for Public Works and Services) [4.15 p.m.]: I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
I seek leave to incorporate the second reading speech in Hansard.
The Liquor Amendment (Restaurants and Nightclubs) Bill 1998 has three main objects. First, the bill will amend the Liquor Act 1982 to enable up to 30 per cent of dining seats in licensed restaurants to be used for the consumption of liquor without the need to consume a meal. Second, the bill will amend the Liquor Act to provide that liquor served to a person at a restaurant does not have to be consumed by the patron while seated at a table, so long as a seat at a table is available for the person. Third, the bill will amend the Liquor Act to enable a small number of existing nightclubs to be granted an extension of trading hours beyond 3.00 a.m., where an extension of hours had been previously granted to the venue under a former restaurant cabaret licence.
The amendments brought forward in this bill are significant ones for the New South Wales restaurant and hospitality industries. They represent reforms that have been sought for many years by our restaurant industry - and they are reforms that are in response to the community’s demands for a greater choice in drinking environments and demands for better wining and dining facilities. In bringing forward this bill, New South Wales will join all of the other Australian liquor jurisdictions in allowing licensed restaurants to sell liquor to patrons under controlled circumstances - without the absolute requirement for all patrons to eat a meal at the restaurant. Under this legislation, restaurants will have to ensure that they operate at all times with the primary purpose of being a restaurant, and at least 70 per cent of their seating must be allocated to dining patrons. An important result will be that the many thousands of people who enjoy going to licensed restaurants will have the opportunity to dine or drink at their favourite restaurants.
This legislation is therefore landmark legislation for New South Wales. I want to stress that the amendments contained in the bill are not about deregulation of the liquor industry. They are sensible measures which will ensure that we will not have a proliferation of public bars in New South Wales. The bill also contains proper measures to promote responsible service and responsible drinking. I will briefly describe some of the more important control measures of the restaurant proposals for the benefit of members. The amendments proposed in the bill will impose the following controls and limits on restaurant licensees wishing to operate as a dine or drink restaurant venue. I will mention just the main operational features of the proposed scheme.
An application will be necessary to the Licensing Court for a dine or drink endorsement on the restaurant licence, and there will be a fee payable on the grant of the application. The fee structure has four tiers - to take into account the size and location of restaurants - as follows: $5,000 for a small restaurant, that is, 100 seats or less, in the non-metropolitan parts of the State; $10,000 for large restaurants, that is, over 100 seats, in those same areas of the State; $10,000 for small restaurants in the Sydney metropolitan area, and Newcastle and Wollongong; and $15,000 for large restaurants in those metropolitan areas.
Applications for a dine-or-drink authority will be subject to the normal range of requirements that apply to other liquor licence applications in New South Wales - such as the responsible service of liquor, and the quiet and good order requirements, along with the objections and complaints provisions of the law. Applications will be subject to the court being satisfied the premises will function at all times with the primary purpose of a restaurant, and that the premises has proper facilities, including a kitchen, and amenities to support the primary purpose, and for the sale and consumption of liquor. In accordance with the primary purpose of a restaurant, the grant of an application - and operation of the premises - will be subject to a requirement that at least 70 per cent of seating must be allocated to diners at all times.
The premises must be operated and configured so that adequate seating is provided at tables or bar-tables for all patrons admitted, whether they be drinkers or diners, so that restaurants will not become overcrowded bars for drinking. It is also proposed - through regulations to be formulated under the Act - to prohibit inappropriate promotion or advertising by dine-or-drink venues, as well as inappropriate entertainment on these premises, that is inconsistent with the venue’s primary purpose of being a restaurant.
In relation to minors, the bill specifically provides that responsible adult requirements will apply to these venues after 10.00 p.m. each night. This is a sensible precaution - minors will not be prohibited after 10.00 p.m. but they must be with a responsible adult if they are to be on these premises after 10.00 p.m. Finally, these licences will of course be subject to the applicable offences that apply to other liquor licences,
including supply of liquor to minors, intoxication and so on, along with appropriate offences, penalties and disciplinary measures to address non-compliance with the law.
It is important too that the proposals in the bill will not allow restaurants which are granted the new dine-or-drink authorities to have gaming machines, or to have takeaway sales of liquor. That is quite fundamental. Also, the opportunity is being taken to clarify the law in regard to the provisions that are generally known as the stand and consume requirements for restaurants. The Restaurant and Catering Industry Association has sought clarification of these provisions to ensure that no breach or offence is committed if patrons - in circumstances that are normal and reasonable for a restaurant - move between tables with their drink, or have a toast with their glass of wine while standing, or stand with a drink at a function on the premises. That clarification should be welcomed as a reasonable and practical amendment, in recognition of normal and acceptable patron behaviour at restaurants.
I am pleased that the measures in the bill have the strong support of the Restaurant and Catering Industry Association, and I acknowledge the effort and input of the association in contributing to the regulatory scheme contained in the legislative package now before the Parliament. The input of Mr Michael Fischer, until recently the President of the association, and Ms Jenny Lambert, the association’s Chief Executive, are especially acknowledged. I also acknowledge that the Australian Hotels Association has indicated its opposition to these restaurant reforms, and the Government recognises those concerns. However, the Government’s view is that it is time for the issue of liquor without meals in restaurants to be genuinely and appropriately addressed in New South Wales. As a result of this Government’s recent initiatives for hotels, I can positively say that the hotel sector has been given a strong boost and a secure future.
It is understood that the AHA’s concerns about the restaurant reforms are that, with this legislation, we will see restaurants setting themselves up as public bars, and not being required to pay a proper fee for the necessary authority. I can say confidently that those views are not justified - whether they are held by the AHA, by any members of this Parliament, or by members of the community. I have referred previously to some of the measures in the bill that will ensure that our restaurants continue to operate as restaurants and not as public bars. I also make the point that it is timely for the legislation to go forward now, for a number of reasons which I would like to elaborate upon.
New South Wales does not have a suitable or reasonable option in its licensing laws to enable restaurants to serve patrons with a drink when they do not wish to have a meal. The hotel licence is not a suitable licence for these diverse venues. It is clear that there is a community demand for small ambient cafes and venues, particularly in tourist areas, where men, women, mixed groups, single-sex groups, couples, and families - in fact everybody - can eat, drink and socialise in pleasant surroundings. We also know that patterns of liquor consumption are changing, with per capita consumption of beer decreasing in Australia, along with other trends such as a greater emphasis on fine food and wine, eating out, and casual eating.
Another relevant point is that much progress has been made through the Government’s responsible serving and responsible drinking programs, and standards are improving across the industry. I acknowledge the efforts of all the industry sectors in getting behind those programs. And of course, New South Wales has the Olympics. We have the ideal opportunity to showcase our lifestyle to the world. We also have the ideal opportunity to support our hospitality and tourism industries in responding to the enormous challenges that flow from the Olympics.
I would like to finally and briefly describe the nightclub trading hours provisions in the bill. The amendments are significant for a small number of licensees around the State who obtained a new nightclub licence following the commencement of the special nightclub legislation in March last year. Those licensees, an estimated 15 in total, are disadvantaged by the nightclub legislation in that they are required to close at 3.00 a.m., Mondays to Saturdays, under the terms of their nightclub licences when, under their former restaurant licence, they could trade beyond 3.00 a.m. The bill before the House will allow those licensees to apply to the Licensing Court for approval to be granted their former trading hours, up to a maximum closing time of 6.00 a.m. Such applications will of course be subject to the quiet and good order requirements of the law, and the usual procedures for objections by police, residents and the local council. I commend the bill to the House.
The Hon. R. T. M. BULL (Deputy Leader of the Opposition) [4.16 p.m.]: The Opposition has much pleasure in supporting the Liquor Amendment (Restaurants and Nightclubs) Bill, which in the future will allow restaurants in New South Wales to provide liquor without meals. This legislation comes as no surprise to anyone. The Opposition was one of the first parties to announce earlier this year that it would effect those changes if it was elected to government next year. That announcement, which was made in April at a Restaurant and Catering Industry Association function, brought the Government to the negotiating table and resulted in the introduction of this legislation.
The past two weeks have been extraordinary. The Government was about to announce its decision concerning the serving of liquor without meals. It suddenly went back into the bunker and denied to all and sundry that it was about to make that announcement. It was then held up to ridicule by just about everyone in the community, especially the press, over its decision to go back into the bunker and turn its back on this reform of the Liquor Act. Quite rightly the Leader of the Opposition and the Opposition have kept the Government to its word. We have kept our commitments to the Restaurant and Catering Industry Association. Over the past week the Government and the Premier capitulated and the legislation has been revisited.
The Government made its announcement on Tuesday and this legislation was introduced in this Chamber on Thursday. In my 15 years as a member of Parliament not too many bills have passed through this place with such speed. The Government, having made the right decision, wanted to introduce the legislation and get it out of the way. As I said earlier, the Opposition initially made a
decision in relation to this matter in April. If the Government had delayed this legislation any longer it would have done a disservice to the restaurant industry and to those many people crying out for reform in this area.
This legislation will bring New South Wales into line with other States, and indeed with the rest of the world, by allowing restaurants to supply liquor without the consumption of a meal to up to a third of their seating capacity. Before I raise a few problems about the legislation, I acknowledge the presence in the gallery of Restaurant and Catering Industry Association representatives, who have promoted their cause marvellously. I had great pleasure working with them. It is pleasing to see their work come to fruition in this legislation. I have enjoyed being part of the negotiation process since the Opposition’s public commitment last April.
Restaurants will have the ability, at a fee, to participate in selling liquor without meals. I do not expect that all restaurants will take up the option. Many restaurants will decide to continue to sell meals only; others will take up the option of selling liquor without the consumption of meals. The greatest problem that I see with the legislation is the possibility of the development of a bar situation, which would detract from the general ambience of a restaurant environment. Many honourable members who have been overseas have enjoyed drinking a glass of wine or beer in the quiet ambience of a sidewalk cafe in Paris. Similarly, one would think that those who want to have a glass of chardonnay or Crown lager in a restaurant would want to sit down at a table, talk to their friends and enjoy the quite ambience.
This legislation will allow people to stand around a bar and consume alcohol. Many restaurants would not tolerate such a situation, and I hope it does not occur. People expect to go to a restaurant, partake of a meal and some drinks and talk with their friends. However, in a restaurant with seating for 100 people, approximately 30 people could stand around a bar consuming alcohol, provided 30 seats are left vacant in the restaurant. Another 20 or 30 patrons may be waiting in the bar to be seated for their meal. So in a 100-seat restaurant, 30 people who do not intend to partake of a meal and another 30 waiting to be seated for their meal could be at the bar drinking and creating a rowdy hotel bar atmosphere.
I have given an example of a possible scenario, which I hope does not happen. I have been opposed to the general stand-and-consume concept because it is not in the interests of restaurant patrons or restaurants. We could see a proliferation of bar-type restaurants over the next year or two, with restaurants offering a limited menu but exercising their right to have 30 per cent of the restaurant set aside for liquor consumption. They might promote the bar side of the business to the detriment of the food service. My friends in the RCIA would probably say that will not happen. The reality is it can. A press release from the Premier dated 22 September states:
Mr Carr said however, there was some concern that restaurants would overnight be turned into busy bars with only token food services being provided.
That is exactly what this legislation provides. I hope that scenario does not occur because people who patronise restaurants, as opposed to hotels, do so because they want to sit down and talk to their friends in an environment where they can be heard. They do not want to be confronted with a hotel-type atmosphere. I give the warning that my leader in another place has already stated that if there are problems we will bring the legislation back to address this and a number of other issues.
Applications by restaurants to the Licensing Court for an authority to serve liquor without meals will be subject to an applicant being a fit and proper person. That situation already exists. Applications will also be subject to advertising, responsible service of liquor and quiet and good order requirements. Those general standards apply across the industry, whether in a hotel or a restaurant. They are recognised in the harm minimisation legislation that was passed in 1996 and in public interest safeguards.
However, if there is going to be a change in the way a restaurant is run, moving away from a dine-only restaurant to a dine-or-drink restaurant, sufficient checks and balances should be available to the Licensing Court to make sure that local requirements and the interests of the public and other providers in the area are preserved. Presently, a restaurant needs local government authority to change its structural environment. Undoubtedly, a number of restaurants will make structural changes. But, as I understand it, an alteration of use would not require local government consent. That issue may need to be addressed. New section 53(4)(a) states:
the granting of the application would not result in the frequent undue disturbance of the quiet and good order of the neighbourhood of the premises to which the application relates,
New section 53(4)(d) states:
the premises have the proper facilities for a restaurant, including facilities to support that primary purpose and facilities for the sale, supply and consumption of liquor,
In other words, will the restaurant premises be adequate for the 30 per cent of patrons who are consuming liquor only? If people are consuming liquor over a period of time, more toilet facilities might be required than for a dine-only restaurant. The Licensing Court will need to take those matters into consideration to ensure that a restaurant’s facilities will support any change of use and that proper facilities are provided for the patrons. There is nothing worse than going to a restaurant and having to queue to use the toilet. Many women complain about the long queues to use the toilet facilities in some older theatres around the city. We want to be sure that all restaurant facilities, including those to support the primary purpose and a change of use, are in place. That could be spelt out in the regulations or taken into consideration by the Licensing Court.
There has been adverse comment from a number of liquor providers about the requirement to pay a fee. The amount of any fee is never easily determined. A similar problem was faced when a fee was struck for incorporation in the nightclubs legislation; a number of people were unhappy. However, I remind honourable members that the fee is a one-off fee and not an annual fee, and I suggest that for anyone who will be seriously involved in liquor provision over the next 10 or 20 years $10,000 is not such a large fee. Of course, the fee is transferred with any change of ownership or change of address of the restaurant within the general neighbourhood.
A number of other concerns have been expressed about the way these restaurants will be conducted. I believe that most restaurateurs will do the right thing and conduct their businesses according to the spirit of the legislation. People will be able to enjoy a quiet drink at a restaurant - for example at Michael Fischer’s beautiful restaurant on the Parramatta River, where people will be able to sit and enjoy a glass of chardonnay or a quiet beer without having a meal. Although the provisions of the legislation are open ended, I am sure New South Wales restaurateurs, like their counterparts throughout Australia and overseas, will not abuse the privilege and will conform with the true spirit of the legislation. No decent restaurateur would want a noisy gang at the bar driving away his diners.
I have, as other members obviously have, received representations from a number of nightclub owners who lost their 6.00 a.m. or late licences because of amendments to the nightclubs Act. They feel aggrieved because they believe their locations warranted the issue of such a licence. The Opposition supports the provision that will allow the granting of a licence to those who held such a licence prior to any change. That is a worthwhile addition to the bill.
These are exciting changes to the State’s liquor laws, and I am pleased that they will be implemented before Christmas. They will bring liquor administration and availability in this State into line with those of other countries. They will be a great plus for Sydney in the run up to the Olympic Games in 2000, at which time many hundreds of thousands - some say millions - will visit our shores. I trust that there will not be a proliferation of hotel bar-type consumption of alcohol in our restaurants. I am sure restaurateurs will ensure the continued comfort of their diners and, at the same time, provide a place where people who just want a quiet drink can sit and talk.
It has been a great pleasure working with the representatives of the Restaurant and Catering New South Wales (Association), especially Jenny Lambert, who has done a terrific job. I give special mention also to Michael Fischer and my colleague the shadow minister for tourism in the other place, the honourable member for Ermington. My leader is extremely enthusiastic about these changes - I do not suppose that is a surprise to anyone. The Opposition supports the bill.
The Hon. Dr A. CHESTERFIELD-EVANS: [4.35 p.m.]: The purpose of this bill is to liberalise the laws relating to the consumption of alcohol in restaurants by people who are not dining. It has three main objects: first, to enable up to 30 per cent of the dining seats in a licensed restaurant to be used for the consumption of alcohol without the need for those consuming the alcohol to have a meal; secondly, to dispense with the requirement that a patron in a restaurant must be seated at a table while consuming alcohol; and, thirdly, to enable a small number of existing nightclubs to have their trading hours extended beyond 3.00 a.m.
Over the past few years the Australian Democrats have been in contact with Jenny Lambert, the Chief Executive of the Restaurant and Catering New South Wales (Association), and we fully supported the association’s "No dine, no wine, no choice" campaign of last year. The main objections to the proposal came from the hotel industry, which claimed that its members would lose a substantial part of their liquor business if these reforms were allowed to go ahead. That argument is a bit rich, I suggest, given that hotel owners have been given the right to install poker machines in their premises which generate far more income than their liquor sales ever did. Hotels these days have become no
more than de facto clubs; much of the old style ambience of the pub has been destroyed.
Many people who enjoy a drink at the end of the day have given up going to hotels because the noise and cigarette smoke are more than can be tolerated. Speaking personally, after trying three different pubs a group of people with whom I play tennis gave up going to hotels as we found we simply could not breathe because of the smoke. So rather than have to go home or take our drinks with us to the tennis club, not having solved the tobacco problem - which, as everyone knows, I have campaigned for over some considerable time - we will now be able to go to a restaurant. Although they are all not smoke free, restaurants have made a great deal more progress with regard to being smoke free than have hotels.
Furthermore, the new laws will enable people to have a quiet drink in pleasant surroundings without the intrusion of the ubiquitous card machines. The hotels have destroyed what they once were and have no right to complain now that restaurants will fill the gap, as it were. The Bureau of Crime Statistics has produced some compelling evidence to show that the likelihood of incidents of violence is reduced when alcohol is consumed with food or in a restaurant-style setting. In civilised surroundings people are more likely to behave civilly.
In his second reading speech the Minister used a curious phrase, "inappropriate entertainment", when referring to restrictions on the new licences. By way of clarification of that phrase the Minister’s office advised that the regulations to the bill will provide that the primary function of restaurants will still be the serving of food. The regulations will not permit the installation by restaurateurs of such items as pool tables and pinball machines. Of course, music will be allowed, as it should be and as it has been in the past. With those few remarks the Australian Democrats wholeheartedly support this bill.
The Hon. I. COHEN [4.39 p.m.]: The Greens support the Liquor Amendment (Restaurants and Nighclubs) Bill, with some reservations. On balance the liberalisation of restrictions on people participating in a social pastime is appropriate. People have complained to me about being refused liquor without a meal at restaurants, much to the chagrin of the customer and the proprietor. Many people choose not to go to hotels. For far too long the hotel industry has exerted pressure to maintain its monopoly on the serving of liquor. The proposed changes to the liquor laws are in keeping with Australia’s increasingly multicultural nature. Europeans are comfortable with a more liberal attitude to liquor consumption.
In the past the Greens have highlighted problems with overconsumption of liquor, even in the Parliament. Problems result from the abuse of alcohol. The Greens do not acquiesce to the alcohol-based culture but liberalising liquor laws so that people may drink in restaurants, where there is a more relaxed ambience, is conducive to quality consumption of alcohol rather than abuse consumption of alcohol. On 23 September the Sydney Morning Herald published an article on the issue. David Charles, Chief Executive of the Australian Hotels Association in New South Wales, was reported as saying:
The Liquor Act in NSW has served this State well and has seen greatly improved controls over the responsible service of alcohol. Hoteliers are put under probity check, have to prove need to operate and work with local government in relation to operating. They have also been active in the development and implementation of the responsible service of alcohol.
The hotel industry has been the leading light in the provision of responsible service of alcohol courses for its employees.
This may well be the case but the hotel industry has a responsibility to control the actions of it clientele, which often are detrimental to the people in the local community. Decentralising places of alcohol consumption can help to reduce potential problems in the community. Allowing 30 per cent of the seating in a restaurant to be used for alcohol consumption without a meal is reasonable. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has told me that in some situations things could get out of hand, but it would be in the interest of the restaurateur to control matters and run his or her business comfortably and profitably while effectively serving the clientele.
I am sure that no member who sits in the Parliamentary Dining Room would be refused liquor without a meal - even before this legislation comes into effect. Members are treated maturely and the general population should be treated in a similar manner. Last night when I walked into the parliamentary bar I had to leave immediately because the air was heavy with cigarette smoke, once again. It happens regularly. I have argued with National Party members in the parliamentary bar over the issue. I have also had arguments with staff about it. I get tired of arguments, especially if I have had a hard day in this place.
I am not a drinker but I enjoy sitting down with friends to have a mineral water. I certainly do not like doing so in a smoky atmosphere. The
continuing problem in the parliamentary bar parallels what happens in the community. The general public are far less tolerant and expect reasonable etiquette in restaurants, but that is not the case in the parliamentary dining room. If I want to have a drink, I will go to the dining room rather than the bar because I get better treatment there.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: You do not drink.
The Hon. I. COHEN: I might drink mineral water. It does not matter what I drink; that is unimportant. The fact is that I might enjoy -
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: You do not go to the bar.
The Hon. I. COHEN: A mineral water can be bought at the bar.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: You do not go there.
The Hon. I. COHEN: I do.
The PRESIDENT: Order! The honourable member must address the Chair.
The Hon. I. COHEN: One can drink whatever one likes at a bar, a restaurant or anywhere else. The licence fee appears to be onerous but application for a licence is purely voluntary. The industry is very profitable and employs many people, and I am sure it will accept the fee in that light. The provision to extend nightclub trading hours from 3.00 a.m. to 6.00 a.m. caused considerable discussion in my office: it divided those who like to party and those who like a quieter lifestyle. Nevertheless, there are advantages in extending the trading hours.
If all nightclub patrons are forced out onto the street at 3.00 a.m., problems can result, particularly for women. If the trading hours are extend past 3.00 a.m., people will leave at different times rather than all at once in hours of darkness, particularly on a Sunday morning. It is better to have people drinking and being entertained in a regulated environment - be it a nightclub, a restaurant or a cabaret - than forcing them onto the streets at a particularly quiet time when there is difficulty catching cabs, and there is always a problem with public transport. The Greens support the extension of trading hours for nightclubs and wish the restaurant industry well. I hope that the diversification of entertainment that exists in our city will not cause problems.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES [4.48 p.m.]: I support the Liquor Amendment (Restaurants and Nighclubs) Bill. For several years in discussion with Jenny Lambert, the Chief Executive Officer of the Restaurant and Catering New South Wales (Association), I have lobbied for the changes, as other members no doubt have lobbied. Tourists coming to Sydney, particularly for the Olympic Games, would have found it anomalous if they were not able to have the occasional drink. The community has been held to ransom by the hotels and Registered Clubs Associations for far too long.
I have been to many countries in Europe where one can have a Pernod, an absinth or a Cointreau on the footpath. It is very pleasant watching the passing parade. I was in Manly this morning at 7.30 sitting on the footpath having a coffee, but I could not order an absinth - not that I would at 7.30 in the morning. All round Sydney and the suburbs there are outdoor cafes. People who have been to Paris would be well aware of the rows of seats in dining premises facing the footpaths, where one is able to enjoy oneself with an absinth and a coffee watching the passing parade. It is about time that these reforms were introduced. When the hundreds of thousands of people come to Sydney for the Olympic Games they will see that Sydney is the sophisticated city they thought it was. In Queensland people can have a drink whenever they want -
The Hon. Elaine Nile: The streets are being cleaned out. All the people are being cleared off the streets.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: Do you mean like in Atlanta?
The Hon. Elaine Nile: Just as they did in Atlanta.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: I hope that does not happen here. I hope we are more civilised than that.
The Hon. Elaine Nile: The Government is doing it.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: Are you sure?
The Hon. Elaine Nile: It has been in the press and on the news.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: That is very upsetting. I asked the Minister’s advisers whether it was possible for every McDonald’s to be issued with such a licence. Naturally that could not happen.
The Hon. Elaine Nile: Parents take their children to McDonald’s!
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: That is not the only reason. McDonald’s employ people up to the age of 18. They are paid extremely low wages and then they are dismissed before they become too expensive. McDonald’s would not obtain such a licence; most of its customers are children and it employs young staff. The test must be conducted to ascertain whether there will be an oversupply of the licences. When I inquired whether every restaurant along Campbell Parade, Bondi Beach, could obtain a licence I was told that it would be unlikely because the result would be an oversupply of licences. It was suggested that the licence fee of between $5,000 to $15,000 would be a disincentive to many. I am sure the restaurants along Campbell Parade would be willing to pay the $5,000 to $15,000 to enable their customers to sit and watch the passing parade while enjoying a drink.
It is suggested that only 30 per cent of restaurants in New South Wales will take up the option. I do not know how reliable that information is. It may be 40 to 50 per cent. The Licensing Court may set a limit of 30 per cent, although how that will be arrived at, I do not know. Restaurants must reserve 70 per cent of their seating for diners at all times. Outdoor cafes similar to the attractive Barcelona cafes - which I am sure some honourable members have visited - will apply for a licence, and people will be able to walk into a cafe and have a drink.
I am pleased that such legislation has finally been introduced; it is about time Australia fell into line with European habits. When I came to Australia the so-called 6 o’clock swill had just finished, when people would order four or five beers at closing time. Those days of swill and sly grog have gone; people will now be able to take their time and have a coffee and a drink without having to eat. In the past people tried to circumvent the law by buying small meals, having a pretend meal. This legislation will be in place at the time of the Olympics, at which time no doubt I will be sitting at a sidewalk cafe with the Hon. E. M. Obeid and the Hon. J. H. Jobling sipping absinth, Pernod, Cointreau or some other alcoholic beverage. The President may even travel down from Queensland and enjoy a drink on the footpath somewhere in Sydney.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE [4.53 p.m.]: The Christian Democratic Party has always sought to be consistent in its attitude towards alcohol, and this bill will certainly increase the opportunity for alcohol consumption. Despite support for the bill from the restaurant industry we oppose it and will be seeking to divide the House on its second reading. However, the Government and the Opposition both support the bill. The Australian Hotels Association submitted rather strongly, and justifiably so, that there has not been adequate consultation with all the stakeholders and has requested that the bill be stood over until 13 October to ensure that all parties have had an opportunity to consider it in detail. In a letter dated 24 September Peter Laidlaw from the AHA wrote to me:
Further to discussions with your office, please find following a proposal that we put forward to the Government in relation to the Liquor Act amendment.
The AHA (NSW) is concerned this Bill will open the way for another 3000 plus new bars to be opened up across the State. We are also extremely concerned about the "stand and consume" aspect and reduction of responsible measures for service of alcohol.
We feel it is important that this bill be held over until October 13 to ensure that all parties have had the opportunity to look at the Bill more closely.
Attached to the letter were some well thought out proposals that should have been incorporated in the bill. Perhaps the Government will include them by way of regulation. They are about fairness and the administration of the Act by the Licensing Court. There is concern that there will be little control over the sale of alcohol in restaurants despite the requirement to abide by strict controls. David Charles, Chief Executive of the AHA, wrote:
Currently, as a general rule, an applicant to the Licensing Court must have a local authority consent only if his premises require alteration. It is submitted that this is a deficiency which should be rectified.
All applicants to the Licensing Court should be required to establish that they have a relevant council consent to use the premises for the exercise of the licence which they seek. This approach would provide consistency between the two jurisdictions - licensing and local council and permit each jurisdiction to rely with confidence on the other. Presently, concepts such as hotel, tavern, restaurant, bar and nightclub are not clearly recognised and understood by local councils.
The AHA (NSW) therefore puts this submission forward which will achieve:
2. uniformity between the two arms of Government: liquor licensing and local government.
It is insufficient, in the AHA (NSW)’s view, that the Liquor Act simply provide that councils be notified of applications. If the Government is to introduce drinking areas in restaurants other than by the introduction of a separate licence, inevitably the public and local councils which represent them will express concern that they did not participate in the process.
There is considerable concern in the community about liquor and environmental matters, and the public demands to be involved and to express views on such proposals. Mr Charles continued:
The AHA (NSW) therefore submits an approach comprising:
1. a scheme of classification for restaurants in the local government area including a restaurant with a special area in which liquor consumption only is permitted by way of a State Environmental Planning Policy (Attached Part A); and
2. amendment to the Liquor Act to provide for the grant of a new class of restaurant licence (Class III) (Attached Part B).
I received these documents only recently. I inquired of the Clerk whether I could move the matters referred to in the form of amendments. They are detailed and appear to have been drafted by persons experienced in formulating legislation; they are similar to amendments drafted by the Parliamentary Counsel. I assume that the documents, which comprise four pages, have been drafted by the legal advisers to the Australian Hotels Association. I do not believe we will have time to submit them as amendments. One of the documents refers to local government, and the other refers to a restaurant class III licence. I seek the leave of the House to incorporate two documents, rather than read them to the House.
Leave not granted.
If time were available, I would move the AHA’s proposals as amendments. Perhaps the blame rests on the shoulders of the AHA because the association has only just supplied the documents to me. At this stage I will simply present to the House the main aspects of the proposed amendments, which directly relate to the bill. The AHA has made the point that the Government’s speed in introducing the bill has made it easy for restaurants to be able to operate. In the short time I have had available to me to study the AHA’s proposals, I believe they have great merit. Local government should have some role to play in deciding whether liquor should be sold in restaurants in their locality without meals being consumed. Restaurant owners may want that to happen, but the local residents of the area may not want it to happen. The first document from the Australian Hotels Association, entitled "Part A - Local Government", reads:
(a) to define certain classes of development in terms which correspond to provisions of the Liquor Act 1982, as amended;
(b) to require development consent to be obtained for any change in the class of such developments.
2. Area to which this policy applies
This policy applies to the State.
This policy commences from the date of its publication in the Government Gazette.
For the purpose of this Policy, the following definitions apply:
"entertainment" means the provision of music or other entertainment by live persons or the provision of music for dancing from any source whether or not any charge is made for entry to the premises.
"refreshment room" has the meaning assigned to it in the Model Provisions 1980 with the addition of the words "provided the premises are not licensed under the Liquor Act 1982."
"licensed restaurant" means premises used principally and primarily for the supply of meals for consumption on the premises and which are licensed (or are intended to be licensed) under the Liquor Act 1982 by an on-licence (restaurant).
"nightclub" means premises licensed (or intended to be licensed) under the Liquor Act as a nightclub.
5. Classification of licensed restaurants
All licensed restaurants shall be classified under one or more of the following classes:
•"licensed restaurant (Class I)" means premises to which an on-licence (restaurant) issued under the Liquor Act 1982, applies and which may or may not be endorsed to permit the provision of a reception area as defined under that Act.
•"licensed restaurant (Class II)" means a licensed restaurant (Class I) in which the provision of entertainment is permitted.
•"licensed restaurant (Class III)" means a licensed restaurant (Class I) or (Class II) in which the provision of liquor for consumption without the prior intention to partake of a meal is permitted.
Development consent must be obtained for:
(a) the development of a licensed restaurant,
(b) a change of use from a refreshment room to a licensed restaurant of any class,
(c) a change in the class of any licensed restaurant, and
(d) the development of a nightclub.
7. Requirements upon Licensing Court
(a) The Licensing Court of NSW shall accept an application for the grant of an on-licence (restaurant) of any class or for the grant or removal of a nightclub licence only if development consent has been obtained for that development in accord with this policy.
(b) Where an application of the kind referred to in (a) is made to the Licensing Court and it relates to premises which are to be erected or to existing premises which are to be altered in such a way as to necessitate the issuing of a construction certificate under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979, the Court shall accept that application only if that certificate has been obtained.
(c) Where an application of the kind referred to in (a) is made to the Licensing Court and it relates to premises which do not require any building works, it shall accept the application only if the application is accompanied by a certificate from an accredited certifier or the consent authority that the premises comply with the relevant provisions of the Building Code of Australia.
8. Classification of existing licensed restaurants
(a) A consent authority shall, when it receives a development application which seeks approval to change the classification of a licensed restaurant, determine the classification of the existing licensed restaurant before it determines the application.
(b) In determining the classification of the existing licensed restaurant, the consent authority shall consider:
•any and all relevant development consents granted for that use of the premises,
•the mode of operation of the premises, and
There seems to be a loophole in what is being done in the Parliament at the moment in relation to hotels compared to what happens in other areas. The document continues:
•any representation made by the public or any other authority, in respect of the premises.
(c) Upon determining the classification of the existing licensed restaurant, the consent authority shall notify the applicant and the Registrar of the Licensing Court of its determination.
(d) The notification required under (c) may be effected by including it in the instrument of determination of the development application.
The second document, entitled "Part B - A Restaurant (Class III) Licence", which refers to the Liquor Act, reads:
The Liquor Act be amended to provide for the grant of a restaurant (Class III) licence in accordance with the following procedure and conditions:
1. that the Licensing Court not grant a restaurant (Class III) licence unless it is satisfied:
A. that there is a need for the Licence;
B. that the applicant has a consent of the local council to:
(a) the use of the premises as a restaurant (Class III); and
(b) any work which the applicant wishes to do to make the premises suitable to be so licensed.
[Note (a) to apply whether or not the premises are currently restaurant premises and whether or not they require alteration or not.]
C. that the primary purpose of the premise is/and is to be, a restaurant;
D. that the special area be defined and approved area not exceeding in floor area 10% of the licensed area and comprising not more than 10% of the seating accommodation of the restaurant. (If the restaurant has an approved reception area, the area of the reception is to be included in the special area for the purposes of this calculation);
E. that the premises have the same standard of fittings and facilities (including toilets) as required for all licensed restaurants;
2. that the licence be subject to the following conditions:
A. that the special area only operate while the dining room is operating;
B. that any person consuming liquor be seated;
C. that the special area be a restricted area;
D. that the special area be so located that no member of the public (including a minor) be required to pass through it to gain access to the dining room or toilets; and
E. such other conditions (noise emission, entertainment, conduct of departing patrons, etc) as are applicable to restaurants or as the Court otherwise determines.
3. payment of a fixed fee of [whatever the Government establishes];
4. that a holder of such a licence undertake a prescribed course including Responsible Service of Alcohol and Liquor Act Modules prescribed for such a licence.
I believe that those two documents contain a number of positive propositions. As members of the House know, I fought strongly against the introduction of poker machines into hotels, and I still oppose that.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: Now that they are there, you want to force people to drink there and nowhere else.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE: If I were the Government, I would move the poker machines tomorrow. Even though the Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti is happy to have poker machines in hotels -
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: Where do you think people drink now without the poker machines?
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE: You put poker machines into hotels.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: I didn’t.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE: Yes, you did; you voted for it. So do not criticise what I am saying. I have inspected other cities that have massive social problems. I am deeply concerned about the expansion in this city of bars that simply serve liquor.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: As in Paris?
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE: It is no good comparing Sydney with Paris or other cities. Countries of British origin have a major problem with alcohol. Mainland Europe, excluding the United Kingdom, seems to deal with alcohol in a civilised way. Australia’s historical background sheds light on the habits of our society, but I leave it to the experts to analyse causes.
History records that in eighteenth century London gin shops were to be found on every corner and much of the populace was drunk or under the influence of alcohol most of the time. That historical fact led to the liquor laws that apply in this State today. Alcohol abuse in England became a major social problem that forced that society, reluctantly, to change its attitude and introduce restrictive laws. Australia, New Zealand and other countries inherited those restrictions from Britain. However, interest groups in this country are hell bent on destroying the perceived wisdom of that time.
I am critical of the Leader of the Opposition. The Labor Government is moving faster than it intended because of taunts and ridicule directed at it by Mr Collins. I would like to quote from an article in the Sydney Morning Herald in which Mr Collins criticised the Labor Government, particularly Mr Carr:
There are something like 27 sitting days left in the current session of Parliament if it goes its full term.
And that is not very long for the Government to deliver to an industry that really needs to be brought into the latter half of the 20th century.
He then used the following emotive language, which I reject:
These are restrictive laws we have in NSW. They are antediluvian and make us a laughing stock in other States let alone internationally.
He continually uses the term "take us into the twentieth century", but his views are taking us backwards to the conditions of the eighteenth century. The ugliness of eighteenth century London is not yet to be found on the streets of Sydney, but increasing alcohol consumption is moving our society in that direction. Alcohol abuse is our primary problem. The hotel industry and the restaurant industry have used liquor as a political football to get what they want. Increased availability of alcohol leads to increased alcohol consumption and, in turn, to mounting social problems. The Government must step back from rubber stamping every demand to repeal or abolish existing controls.
I have learned over the years that when controls are repealed, it is very hard to put them back in place. Coalition members sympathetic to my views have told me that once laws are repealed they cannot be reimposed. In America I have seen people who just drink and drink once they sit down at a bar. The bar becomes their life. They have no involvement with their families or society. That is a tragic way for anyone, of any age, to spend their life. Bars in New York and other cities throughout the United States have become second homes to heavy drinkers. I do not want to see that trend develop in Australia.
I am a teetotaller, but I am given to understand by all the experts that food should be consumed with alcohol because it reduces the impact of alcohol on the ability of the drinker to function. The door should not be opened to enable consumption of alcohol without food. Any requirement that a meal accompany the consumption of alcohol can be easily applied. A simple meal can be ordered.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: At every hotel?
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE: The bill deals with restaurants, and I am concerned about its impact. One could argue that the Australian Hotels Association has a vested interest in trying to restrict the object of the bill, but there is merit in what the association has said. The Hon. Jan Burnswoods is a strong advocate of community involvement, of
residents expressing their views to their local council and having their say in the quality of life of their community. The honourable member adopts that approach on green issues but chooses to ignore the impact of this devastating social problem. Local government should play its part in exercising control. Negative concerns were expressed by people within the liquor industry. The Sydney Morning Herald of 20 September reported as follows:
Bills two owner Bill Granger, who runs two inner-city BYO restaurants, said he would convert to licensed restaurants. He believed that many others would probably follow suit.
But he did not think small BYO restaurants would vanish completely because the licenses were expensive and customers still want the choice of bringing their own alcohol
The bill may have a hidden negative in that it may be the death knell of the small, bring-your-own, intimate restaurants, which have some merit in this State. I am also concerned about a report in the Daily Telegraph of 18 September, which states:
The State Government cancelled at the last minute yesterday a meeting with the Australian Hotels Association over the introduction of new wining without dining laws.
The cancellation of the meeting, which was to beheld with Gaming and Racing Minister, Richard Face at 4pm, effectively shuts out the AHA from the process of reforming liquor laws.
If that press report is correct, the Government has not attempted to involve all stakeholders in an effort to reach agreement, but has encouraged confrontation. We oppose the bill and call for a division on it.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI [5.18 p.m.]: I would like to put on the record that a lot of singing and dancing preceded the belated introduction of the bill. In August I attended an Italian community function at Dee Why in the presence of the Premier and the Minister for Multicultural and Ethnic Affairs, the Hon. Philip Ruddock, who recently celebrated 25 years in the Federal Parliament. I was representing Mr Collins, the Leader of the Opposition. During that function two important decisions were made. Bob Carr promised that he would go to the next St Georgio Martire gathering at Kenthurst in August, in spite of his busy program. He would arrive by helicopter and leave by helicopter but he would be there. He had made an adjustment to his program. His second decision was that by the time the Olympics commence in 2000 a citizen would be able to enjoy a glass of wine at a coffee shop.
When I made my speech that evening I said to the audience that I was sure that, by April 1999, the Premier’s diary would be so empty he would be able to spend the whole day at Kenthurst. That received an enthusiastic round of applause. I also said that, by the year 1999 or 2000, if the Leader of the Opposition had his way and was Premier, people would be able to have a glass of wine at a coffee shop. That put the cat amongst the pigeons. Bob Carr made it perfectly clear that he would change this law. It took him a long time to convince his Cabinet colleagues. Peter Collins and this Opposition have pressed for this measure for a long time to bring us into the twentieth century before we face the twenty-first century. I reject the arguments put forward by Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile in this regard.
The Hon. R. D. DYER: (Minister for Public Works and Services) [5.21 p.m.], in reply: I thank the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and other honourable members who spoke in this debate for their support for the bill. I thank Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile for participating in the debate, although he does not support this measure.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile: The Government might consider the constructive suggestions I made.
The Hon. R. D. DYER: I am sure that it was the intention of the honourable member to be constructive. However, on this occasion the Government cannot give effect to his wishes. The introduction of what the Government regards as sensible drinking laws in restaurants across the State represents major progress in ensuring that the New South Wales liquor laws are responsive to community demands and our 1990s way of eating and drinking. The Government believes that these laws will positively encourage our hospitality industry as well as provide an environment in which there is a low risk of harm from drinking.
Before I respond to some of the points made, in particular, by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and by Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile, on behalf of the Government I place on the public record our appreciation of the efforts of the Parliamentary Counsel, Mr Dennis Murphy QC, who is known to most of us. He put in what can only be described as an extraordinary effort to draft this legislation and have it available in a short time frame. His personal commitment is recognised and appreciated by the Government.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition raised the issue of drinking at a bar and expressed some concerns in that regard. The bill includes a number of controls that will discourage the operation of
what might be termed rowdy bars. First, restaurants are required to operate primarily as a restaurant. It is not putting the matter too strongly to state that they will place their licenses in jeopardy if they do not operate as restaurants. After all, that is the primary purpose of the business and the licence under which they operate. Second, the legislation contains a range of harm minimisation controls which require the responsible service of liquor and the responsible operation of the premises.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: What about the blood alcohol limit? That would make a difference.
The Hon. R. D. DYER: The Government has in place a harm minimisation strategy. Restaurants and, for that matter, other holders of various liquor licences, are required to operate within the harm minimisation strategy of the Government. Those minimisation controls are set out in the legislation. The third factor I advance in response to the concerns expressed by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is that there must be seating for all patrons in the dining area - for both eating and drinking customers.
Fourth and finally - and this is the most important point - restaurants will manage their premises so that they look after their diners. To say otherwise is to depart from reality. They must be and will be concerned about their commercial interests. If restaurants were to allow drinkers to dominate their premises, clearly they would be in jeopardy of losing their dining customers. That is not in their commercial interest. I would think it is stating the obvious but, if they were to do so, they would be placing their licences in jeopardy as well.
I turn to some of the concerns raised by Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile. I deal first with local government consents. The honourable member expressed concern on behalf of the Australian Hotels Association about matters raised in material supplied to him by the AHA. Those concerns are addressed in the bill which includes a wide range of application, objection and disciplinary provisions. For example, an application must be made to the Licensing Court. The Act allows a range of parties to object to those applications. The parties who may be objectors include the local consent authority, the police, the Director of Liquor and Gaming and, of course, local residents. That remains part of the law and all those people can be objectors to a particular application.
A significant point is that the Liquor Act does not override the Local Government Act. Restaurants still have to meet all the planning and other requirements of the Local Government Act, leaving aside the provisions of the Liquor Act. Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile also expressed concern about the proliferation of bars - again I believe on behalf of the AHA. Those concerns are unjustified and are not supported by the information the Government has in its possession regarding alcohol-related violence.
The most at-risk drinking environments are considered by the Government to be large entertainment venues, hotels and night clubs - certainly not restaurants and in particular the numerous small restaurants which clearly concentrate on the provision of food rather than the sale of alcohol. Realistically, that is unlikely to change. The primary purpose of a restaurant is and always will be the provision of meals. That is where their business is and where their custom comes from. People want to go to a restaurant for a meal.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile: So why change it?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: Because it is part of life in Europe - to give one example - to be able to go to a restaurant and have a drink without a meal, if a person so desires. Idyllic pictures were painted of sitting by the Seine, for example, having a quiet drink and watching the passing traffic.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile: Up in Kings Cross with drug pushers?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: I think honourable members really understand what I am talking about. I do not think it is legitimate to say that drug pushers are running around in front of every restaurant. I certainly hope not.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile: At Kings Cross there are.
The Hon. R. D. DYER: There might be a few at Kings Cross. The Government is doing its best, through the Police Service and other agencies, to address that problem. The Government has been making good progress with its responsible drinking programs. We are seeking to encourage low-risk drinking. We believe that environments such as those at our restaurants are an important part of that strategy. With those few pertinent words, I commend the bill to the House.
Question - That this bill be now read a second time - put.
The House divided.
Mrs Arena Mr Macdonald
Mr Bull Mr Manson
Ms Burnswoods Mr Moppett
Dr Chesterfield-Evans Mr Obeid
Mr Cohen Dr Pezzutti
Mr Corbett Mr Ryan
Mr Dyer Ms Saffin
Mrs Forsythe Mr Samios
Mr Gallacher Mrs Sham-Ho
Miss Gardiner Ms Tebbutt
Mr Hannaford Mr Tingle
Mr Jones Mr Vaughan
Mr Kelly Tellers,
Mr Kersten Mrs Isaksen
Mr Lynn Mr Jobling
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a second time and passed through remaining stages.
Motion by the Hon. R. D. Dyer agreed to:
That this House at its rising today do adjourn until Tuesday, 13 October 1998, at 2.30 p.m.
The Hon. R. D. DYER (Minister for Public Works and Services) [5.38 p.m.]: I move:
That this House do now adjourn.
UNIVERSITY OF NEW SOUTH WALES CHAIR IN IRISH STUDIES
The Hon. B. H. VAUGHAN [5.38 p.m.]: The recent visit and speech by the Irish President, Mary McAleese, on 8 September 1998 to this Parliament highlighted the importance of Irish history to Australia and Australians. It is exciting for me to bring to the attention of the House the establishment at the University of New South Wales within the Faculty of the Arts and Social Sciences a new chair in modern Irish studies, the first such chair in Australia. At the Sydney Opera House, on the evening of President McAleese’s address to this Parliament, the President announced the establishment of the chair and launched a fundraising campaign to finance the chair.
Ms Mary Lee, an outstanding member of the Irish community in Australia and a Commissioner of Ethnic Affairs, has agreed to serve as President of the Committee for the Chair of Irish Studies Endowment. Her goal is to raise $1 million in three years, and the University of New South Wales has pledged an additional $200,000 during that period. On 11 September UNIKEN, a University of New South Wales publication, reported:
The move to establish the Chair in Modern Irish Studies within the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences follows closely the appointment of a full-time Development Officer for the Faculty.
Ms Mary Lee’s first choice, in my opinion a natural choice, was that the pre-eminent university in this State, the University of Sydney - from which I graduated and on whose Senate I sit as a representative of this House - should have the first Chair of Irish Studies. The University of Sydney has a Celtic Studies Foundation, embracing Irish, Scots and Welsh cultures, and that in itself made it an obvious choice for the Irish Studies Chair.
I am advised that at a meeting in August last year between Richard O’Brien, who is Ireland’s Ambassador to Australia, Pro Vice Chancellor Professor David Weisbrot, and Dr Aideen Cremin, who I think is the head of the Celtic Studies Foundation of Sydney, Ms Mary Lee was led to believe that the University of Sydney had accepted the idea of the Irish Studies Chair. For my part, I raised the matter with Professor Weisbrot prior to a meeting of the Senate of the University of Sydney earlier this year. Mary Lee formed the opinion in recent times, with great reluctance, that there was no real intent on the part of the University of Sydney to base a chair there, although it may be presumed it made that decision on the basis that that university, like every other university in Australia today, is starved of cash by the Federal Government.
I have been advised that Ms Lee considered she was in a position to assure university authorities that the necessary funds would be found. For example, Ms Lee is on the fundraising committee of the Australia-Ireland Fund and in this regard had every reason to believe that grants would be made from that organisation, as well as from the Irish-Australian community at large. It was at this point that Mary Lee turned her attention to the University of New South Wales and was greeted there with open arms. After appropriate negotiations, the University of New South Wales, which seems to
me to be one of the most dynamic and entrepreneurial universities in this country, agreed to this chair being established.
As an Irish Australian I am impressed beyond description by the alacrity with which the University of New South Wales took up, as we call it, "a cause", and I congratulate Mary Lee and her supporters who have brought about this seminal event in the Irish-Australian community. However, I am of course disappointed that the cause was not embraced by the university I attended and for which I have heartfelt admiration. I give my very best wishes to the University of New South Wales upon this endeavour, and to Mary Lee, the visionary whose efforts brought it about.
LORD HOWARD FLOREY
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI [5.42 p.m.]: Today is the centenary of the birth of one of Australia’s greatest tall poppies, Lord Howard Florey. Lord Florey was born in Malvern, Adelaide, on 24 September 1898, the only son and the third child of Joseph Florey and his second wife, Bertha. His father was a very wealthy man, having established a shoemaking business in Adelaide and at the time of Federation he owned the biggest shoe and boot making company in South Australia. Lord Florey attended Kyre College - which was to become Scots College - and St Peters College - where my wife’s great-aunt was in fact the headmistress for a time, but not at that time. He travelled to school by tram and bicycle.
Importantly, Lord Florey was not just a bookworm; he was interested in and received medals and awards for running, gymnastics and hurdles. He was in the school tennis and cricket teams and was the captain of the District Sports football, tennis and cricket teams between 1915 and 1916. He attended the University of Adelaide in 1917, having won a scholarship. By that time, as was so often the case with manufacturing companies in Australia, his father had lost his fortune.
Lord Florey received awards while studying at university and won a Rhodes scholarship in 1921 which took him to Oxford, where he gained his Bachelor of Science degree. In 1925 he transferred to Cambridge University, where he gained a PhD. He then won a Rockefeller grant to study in the United States, where he developed research techniques working with famous scientists in Philadelphia, Chicago and New York. Lord Florey then returned to Oxford where he established himself as a leading scientist and became Professor of Pathology in 1930.
At about that time Fleming had discovered that penicillin mould would defeat bacteria. Penicillin mould, of course, was discovered by a scientist in Stockholm in 1911, but in 1928 Fleming purified it and noticed its anti-bacterial properties and developed it for topical use. In 1930, having carried out research in many countries, Lord Florey returned to Oxford and with the help of another important scientist at the time, Dr Chain, developed methods of purifying penicillin and commenced research on the injection of penicillin to solve and cure bacteria that had invaded the body. This was an important step. Although sulphanilamides were available at that time to treat some bacteria, they were slow and had side-effects.
To take the House back to the 1920s, cobwebs and ointments made out of a variety of materials were being used. Burning oil, leeches, maggots, kerosene and turpentine were also placed on infected wounds. Even mercury, lead and arsenic were used. For chest infections garlic and camphor were worn around the neck. Many children wore a red cloth or sock containing garlic around the neck, and so on. But penicillin cured patients within a matter of days. After a short course of penicillin, those believed to be on their deathbeds were cured.
It is clear that the introduction of penicillin to the armamentarium of the new science of therapeutics owed much both to the discovery by Fleming and to the persistent development by Chain and Lord Florey. Lord Florey used penicillin intravenously for the first time in 1941, but for the first patient on whom it was used there was not enough penicillin to continue the course for the full five days, and after four days the patient, almost cured, relapsed and died on the sixth day.
Lord Florey’s wife, Margaret, whom he had met and corresponded with and whom he married a couple of days after she had arrived in London, was a member of his team of researchers. Lord Florey always acknowledged the work of the team, consisting of Abraham, Fletcher, Gardner, Heatley, Jennings, Orr-Ewing, Sanders and, of course, Lady Florey. In 1952 and 1953, as a young child I was one of the first people in Australia to be given penicillin when on many occasions I suffered with tonsillitis, which nearly carried me away. I am therefore eternally grateful for the work of Lord Florey. He is, without doubt, one of Australia’s leading tallest poppies in the area of medical research, for which he, Fleming and Chain received the Nobel Prize.
BLUE MOUNTAINS POLICING
The Hon. J. F. RYAN [5.49 p.m.]: I had intended to raise the matter of policing in the Blue Mountains area more briefly at question time but, unfortunately, I was unable to do so because of a very lengthy answer by the Leader of the Government in which he traversed issues such as the goods and services tax. I wanted to ask whether the Minister for Police knows that the Blue Mountains local area patrol is about to be restructured, resulting in the abolition of seven police officer positions. The police strength in the Blue Mountains area was cut by five officer positions 18 months ago when the Katoomba and Springwood police patrols were amalgamated to form the Blue Mountains local area patrol.
I understand also that very recently the one-officer police station at Mount Victoria was closed and is not likely to reopen. Any further cuts in policing services in the Blue Mountains area would be of great concern. I would like to know how the Government justifies this reduction in the strength and expertise of local police in the Blue Mountains at a time when strong concerns about public safety have been expressed in local communities. I am aware from local media of comments by business representatives and members of the public about the breakdown of law and order in local shopping centres.
Only recently a police officer was attacked in broad daylight in the Springwood shopping centre - not the sort of behaviour people who live in the Blue Mountains are used to. This hardly seems to be the time for making cuts to police services in the Blue Mountains area. In fact, the cuts fly in the face of promises to increase police numbers which the Carr Government made before it took office. I would be very grateful for a response by the Minister for Police to these serious concerns.
Motion agreed to.
House adjourned at 5.51 p.m. until Tuesday, 13 October 1998, at 2.30 p.m.