Thursday 21 September 2006
The President (The Hon. Dr Meredith Burgmann)
took the chair at 11.00 a.m.
The Clerk of the Parliaments
offered the Prayers.
CHILDREN AND YOUNG PERSONS (CARE AND PROTECTION) AMENDMENT (PARENT RESPONSIBILITY CONTRACTS) BILL
CRIMES AMENDMENT (APPREHENDED VIOLENCE) BILL
Leave granted for procedural matters to be dealt with on one motion without formality.
Motion by the Hon. Tony Kelly agreed to:
Bills read a first time and ordered to be printed.
That the bills be read a first time and printed, standing orders be suspended on contingent notice for remaining stages and the second readings of the bills be set down as orders of the day for a later hour of the sitting.
SYDNEY HARBOUR DEVELOPMENT APPLICATIONS
Production of Documents: Order
Motion by Ms Sylvia Hale agreed to:
That under Standing Order 52 there be laid upon the table of the House within 14 days of the date of the passing of this resolution, the following documents in the possession, custody or control of NSW Maritime or the Minister for Ports and Waterways, created since June 2005:
(a) all development applications for land on or adjacent to Sydney Harbour owned by NSW Maritime,
(b) all instruments of delegation made under section 23 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979, or other legislation, in relation to the above development applications, and
(c) any document which records or refers to the production of documents as a result of this order of the House.
Anti-Discrimination (Religious Tolerance) Legislation
Petition opposing the proposed anti-discrimination (religious tolerance) legislation, received from Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile
STANDING COMMITTEE ON LAW AND JUSTICE
The Hon. CHRISTINE ROBERTSON
[11.05 a.m.]: I inform the House that on 19 September 2006 the Standing Committee on Law and Justice received the following reference from the Minister for Community Services and the Attorney General:
1. That the Standing Committee on Law and Justice inquire into:
(a) the impact of the Commonwealth Family Law Amendment (Shared Parental Responsibility) Act 2006 on women and children in New South Wales, and
(b) the impact of the Commonwealth Family Law Amendment (Shared Parental Responsibility) Act 2006 on the operation of court orders that can prevent family violence perpetrators coming into contact with their families.
2. That the committee report by Friday 1 December 2006.
SMOKE-FREE ENVIRONMENT AMENDMENT (REMOVAL OF EXEMPTIONS) BILL
Debate called on, and adjourned on motion by the Hon. Peter Primrose.
WESTERN SYDNEY ARTS STRATEGY
Debate resumed from 7 September 2006.
The Hon. AMANDA FAZIO
[11.08 a.m.], in reply: I thank honourable members who have spoken on this motion, which deals with the Government's commitment to arts in Western Sydney. That commitment has been demonstrated by the establishment of the Strategy for the Arts in Western Sydney. As I said in my opening remarks, in 1995 this Government went to the people of New South Wales with a commitment to achieve greater equity in arts funding for the communities and arts practitioners of Western Sydney. As I clearly demonstrated, the Government has delivered on that promise and commitment. The people of Western Sydney now have greater access to a range of arts facilities than they have ever had. The involvement of people from a range of different cultural backgrounds as art practitioners in Western Sydney has also been greatly expanded as a result of this State Labor Government initiative.
As I said in my earlier contribution, the one organisation I particularly wish to speak about is the Information and Cultural Exchange. I have had a fair degree of involvement with the organisation and can say it has been extremely successful in engaging young people in Western Sydney, diverting them from rather meaningless activities and getting them involved in the arts. The organisation has provided a creative outlet for young people and has ensured that the projects it is involved with have encouraged people of all nationalities and from all backgrounds to get involved in the arts—not just traditional arts but a whole range of new and innovative arts, including hip hop, spray can art, jewellery making, and a whole range of other activities.
As I also indicated in my earlier contribution, and as the Hon. Melinda Pavey alluded to, there is more to arts policy and arts strategies in New South Wales than simply funding arts in Western Sydney. I stand by my comments that the New South Wales Government has made a major contribution to the development of regional arts centres and regional art galleries. We have instituted measures such as the cultural accord between local government and the New South Wales Government in the delivery of the arts. In fact, that is probably one of two aspects raised by the Hon. Don Harwin in his contribution with which I agreed. The honourable member stated that the Western Sydney Arts Strategy relies heavily upon the initiatives of local councils. I agree with him; that is why we instituted the cultural accord with local government.
The Third Cultural Accord covers the 2006-08 triennium, and will maintain and further develop the working partnership between State and local government. It aligns with both the Department of the Arts, Sport and Recreation and the Local Government and Shires Associations strategic plans. This cultural accord will enable both organisations to achieve their objectives in partnership. The Third Cultural Accord recognises the significant commitment that both local government and the State Government have towards cultural development. The other comment made by the Hon. Don Harwin with which I agreed relates to the contribution made by the Hon. Peter Collins when he was the Minister for the Arts under the former Coalition Government. We were all very well aware of Peter Collins' commitment to the arts, and of his active engagement and involvement. However, since he left the portfolio the arts have been a black hole for Opposition policies or initiatives, not only in Western Sydney but anywhere in New South Wales.
The Hon. Melinda Pavey raised the issue of the New England Regional Art Museum [NERAM] and asked a question without notice about it. Unlike the Hon. Melinda Pavey, I do not simply drop into an area, have a look at the local newspaper and then try to run an issue in this Chamber. I actually belong to the New England Regional Art Museum and for quite some time I have been involved in discussions with museum staff about the funding difficulties the museum has experienced. As I indicated previously, and as the Minister the Hon. Tony Kelly has stated, the art museum is an unusual gallery in that it was not set up in the same way as other regional galleries, and for a number of years it has received its funding from the Department of Lands.
I support the actions of the New England Regional Art Museum and the Friends of NERAM, their activities in trying to work through the museum's financial difficulties and their efforts in trying to come up with a constructive way to secure the museum's financial future: a proposal that they sell half of one of the museum's paintings to the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Many people have been up in arms about this, but the simple fact is that by making that single transaction they would achieve three things: They would gain greater publicity for the gallery, because the Art Gallery of New South Wales has promised that it will provide at its gallery a lot of information about the Hinton collection and the activities of NERAM; the painting would be displayed where it can be seen by a vast number of people; and the gallery would receive the money it needs to ensure its financial future.
It is important to note that the painting has not been on exhibition at the New England Regional Art Museum for at least five years because it has been part of travelling exhibitions. In this period the museum and the Friends of NERAM have raised only $25,000 because the painting has been travelling to other regional galleries, which cannot afford to pay large amounts to take on travelling exhibitions. It is not as though the painting has been wrenched from the people of Armidale; they have not had the painting on display there for five years. During that five-year period the painting has earned $5,000 a year to support NERAM. The current proposal—which I strongly support, as I have indicated to the Friends of NERAM and the business development manager when I have visited the museum—is the way to go forward to ensure the future of the gallery.
I commend Armidale council for getting involved with the New England Regional Art Museum. For a long time there was not a strong link between the two bodies but, following another wonderful New South Wales Government initiative, the regional City of the Arts, and after Armidale received that honour, the council decided to take on a stronger role in arts activities in Armidale. That has led to the council working co-operatively with the New England Regional Art Museum to try to solve this problem. It is yet another initiative that the Government has taken to complement the sort of activities I have outlined in the Western Sydney Arts Strategy. The Government is providing extensive support for the arts with regard to facilities, galleries, museums, arts practitioners, people who like to come along and participate in artistic events, and the development of young artists. We have assisted the arts not only in Western Sydney—where there was a dearth of arts facilities prior to 1995 when we introduced the strategy—but throughout New South Wales.
The New South Wales Government has assisted not only small arts institutions. It must be remembered that we committed funding to bail out the Museum of Contemporary Art when it faced the scenario of being either closed or rebuilt and taken over by the Council of the City of Sydney. We have assisted the arts in a variety of ways. When I moved the motion I did so because I was brought up in Western Sydney at a time when there were no arts facilities there, and I was contrasting what happened in the 1960s with what has happened since 1995. Over that time this Government has made a fantastic commitment to the arts in Western Sydney. I am very proud of what the Government has done under the Western Sydney Arts Strategy, and I know that our commitment to funding for the arts will go from strength to strength.
The Government's funding commitment to the arts has not only helped out all the regions in western and south-western Sydney but also forged a strong link and cultural accord between local government and the State Government. We have also extended all these initiatives to regional areas of the State. Arts practitioners, whether they live in Uralla, Campbelltown, Green Valley, or wherever, are far better off as a result of the policies and funding initiatives of this Government than they ever were before. I commend the motion to the House and ask members to ignore some of the churlish comments made in the contributions of other members. I ask members to support the motion because it is very worthwhile.
Motion agreed to.
NURSING FACULTY STUDENT PLACES
Debate resumed from 30 August 2006.
The Hon. JENNIFER GARDINER
[11.18 a.m.]: Prior to the interruption of this debate I had moved an amendment to the motion that would make it read as follows:
(a) notes that the closure of the faculty of nursing at the University of Sydney did not result in a reduction of undergraduate nursing places with places transferred to the University of Technology and the Australian Catholic University;
(b) commends the Federal Government for funding an extra 1,000 higher education nursing places and 420 new places in mental health nursing from 2007;
(c) notes that only 36 per cent of registered and enrolled nurses in New South Wales work in the public health system; and
(d) condemns the State Government's failure to address the critical shortage of nurses resulting in the closure of over 3,000 hospital beds across the State over the past 11 years and an increase in the elective surgery waiting lists.
The Liberals and Nationals understand that nurses are the backbone of the public hospital system. In government we intend to attract more nurses and we intend to better recognise their worth. We will help them build vital skills and we will provide their profession with the support it deserves. Also, we will provide nurses with the opportunity to have a say in how hospitals are being run. When an illness or injury affects us or our loved ones we expect professional, compassionate care in properly staffed hospitals, and the people of New South Wales contribute vast amounts to the Labor Government through taxes and charges—money that should be funding world-class health care, but, sadly, that is not the case.
We all know that the public health system in New South Wales is broken. Indeed, that it continues to function at all is due solely to the dedication of exceptional doctors, nurses and other health workers willing to endure conditions that are, frankly, unacceptable by modern standards. We have heard, for example, of towns such as Cobar where there are no obstetric services at all. We know of hospitals, like the one at Cobar, that are dreadfully in need of maintenance. There is the scandal of the hospital at Narrabri, which the Government has ignored during its 12 years in office. There is no doctor at Lightning Ridge—there has not been for three months—and the Minister for Health cannot tell the House when a doctor will be appointed. There are many other instances of a ramshackle health system in New South Wales.
With insufficient nurses hospital beds are closed and people have to travel from places such as Cobar to Dubbo—hundreds of kilometres—for surgery, only to be told when they get to Dubbo that there is no theatre time for them. After fasting in preparation for surgery they are now not going to have, they have to turn around and go home. There are longer waiting lists, more jammed emergency departments and more ambulance delays—frustration, anger and disenchantment with the whole health system in this State. Nurses who do remain are run off their feet: they regularly work double shifts, they struggle for resources, they treat sicker and sicker patients and they are frustrated by being unable to provide the kind of quality care that first attracted them to their profession.
The Liberal-Nationals Coalition in government intends to have a dedicated program to bring nurses back to try to fix the neglect of the Carr-Iemma years. We intend to improve the nursing degree courses by ensuring that greater time is spent in clinical practice in hospitals and in other health settings, and in investigating the opportunities for accelerated degrees to be offset by nursing internships. We will increase retraining opportunities for registered and enrolled nurses who want to come back into the work force. In our first term we will appoint an extra 50 clinical nurse educators to enable recent nursing graduates to receive a greater degree of mentoring. Also in our first term in government we will fund 500 more nurses and make a commitment to fund an additional 500 nurse positions on top of the existing 1,800 vacant full-time nursing positions.
We intend to establish an additional quarantine fund, which will enable individual hospitals to negotiate benefits to meet the particular needs of nurses at the workplace, and we intend to give nurses more recognition and control by maintaining senior nursing management positions, ensuring that they are underpinned by strong support positions. We will establish nursing staff councils to give nurses the same clout and direct access to the Minister as doctors have with their medical staff councils, in some instances at least. Some staff councils would say they have not had that sort of clout and they need it, but we believe that nurses should be given clout as well—and many doctors support that view. As part of our policy we will ensure that nurse representation will be a part of the district hospital boards that we will establish on coming to government. I urge the House to support the Opposition's amendment so that there is a better deal for the hard-pressed nurses in our State.
The Hon. CHRISTINE ROBERTSON
[11.25 a.m.]: I come to this debate as a former nurse and as somebody who learned and grasped the present situation in relation to nurse training somewhat later in life, but I join the debate quite enthusiastically. The motion is very relevant to health services and nursing today and I find the totally negative nonsense that the Hon. Jennifer Gardiner has put forward as an amendment particularly offensive.
The Hon. Jennifer Gardiner:
You do not like it because it is true.
The Hon. CHRISTINE ROBERTSON:
Truth is rarely offensive. I will start by speaking about the process from a historical perspective. For the benefit of honourable members who may not be fully aware of the details of this matter I will clarify the situation concerning the Faculty of Nursing at the University of Sydney. In June 2004 the University of Sydney announced it was seeking Federal Government approval to transfer its undergraduate nursing allocation of around 275 commencing places in 2005 to the Australian Catholic University and the University of Technology, Sydney, without any consultation with the New South Wales Government.
Dr Nelson, the then Commonwealth Minister for Education, Science and Training, supported the proposal of the University of Sydney. Minister Nelson's approval was subject to a requirement that our undergraduate indigenous nursing program be continued at one of the universities involved. So, while the Faculty of Nursing was not closed, the University of Sydney has decided to stop enrolling undergraduate commencing students in order to move to a postgraduate nursing education focus. Former Minister Refshauge wrote to the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sydney in December 2004 encouraging the university to ensure that it does not diminish its level of support for programs that benefit Australia's indigenous community.
If this development has one positive aspect it is that the Bachelor of Nursing Indigenous Australian Health Program remains at the University of Sydney at present, which is very important because the indigenous faculties at the University of Sydney are very supportive of each other and have become a core of education for Aboriginal persons in New South Wales. Dr Nelson took the decision in spite of the National Health Workforce Strategic Framework. This framework is meant to promote cohesive action amongst the health education, vocational education and training and regulatory sectors, but was ignored in this instance by the Howard Government.
The reality is that due to the Federal Government's neglect of its responsibilities for higher education the shortage of nurses in Australia has been growing each year. In 2003 more than 2,000 enrolled nurses were unable to convert to a bachelor of nursing program because the Commonwealth refused to make distance education places available for nursing. In 2004 more than 580 people could not get a place in the bachelor of nursing course by distance education at Charles Sturt University alone because the Commonwealth Government refused to provide enough nursing places in this critical area. This particular program at Charles Sturt University has made a phenomenal difference to nurses in country New South Wales. That university is where I obtained my degree in nursing. Because it is distance education with components, students can travel to Wagga Wagga, or wherever it is based, for a couple of weeks a year. This enables a person with a young family and holding down a job to undertake the course. The university is very supportive in enabling this process.
The fact that 580 persons were not able to get a bachelor of nursing degree by distance education at Charles Sturt University alone is an indicator that many more places are required. Many of these people want to convert their enrolled nursing qualifications into a nursing degree to achieve promotion and to improve their career and job opportunities. Indeed, this relates not just to enrolled nursing qualifications but also to the old apprentice-based nursing qualifications that were required in the early 1980s at the tertiary education level for me to even continue my job, let alone gain a promotion and improve my career and job opportunities. Year after year the Howard Government has denied them this chance. However, it appears that the Commonwealth Government is starting to learn two important lessons. One is that the growing shortage of nurses, doctors and other health professions needs special consideration, and the Hon. Jennifer Gardiner referred to some of these matters. Second, any solution needs to be worked out and co-ordinated with the States and Territories.
I am pleased to note that the Council of Australian Governments [COAG] agreed to a multilateral memorandum of understanding for better consultation with the States and Territories on the distribution of health-related university places, which was a recommendation from the Productivity Commission. The Commonwealth Department of Education, Science and Training will retain responsibility for determining the total funding for university-based health education and training and for related negotiations with individual universities. COAG agreed that the responsibilities of the Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs would be expanded to include annual agreement on national work force priorities and advice on education and training that addresses current and emerging national skills shortages.
Although the recent increase in the allocation of student places in nursing is welcome, the number of places available does not meet either student demand or labour market needs. New South Wales has consistently argued that there are not enough fully funded higher education places available to meet critical areas of national and State needs such as nursing. This remains so, despite the recent COAG decisions regarding Australia's health work force. I call on the Federal Government to come to the table on this critical issue, willing to listen and respond appropriately. It should not be congratulated on the part it is currently playing; it should expand on what it is doing. It is important to talk about nurse training in the past and where that training should be heading.
I started my nurse training back in 1966 after passing my Leaving Certificate. Huge numbers of students moved into nurse training at that time. Many of our families could no longer afford to support us and quite a few of us had academic qualifications that enabled us to gain teachers college scholarships. Those who started early in the year collected Commonwealth scholarships and moved off into university careers, although perhaps not their chosen ones. Nursing gave us the opportunity to have somewhere to live and somewhere to work. My first pay was very small, I think, $13.30. However, that income, along with full board, meant that people were able to be relatively independent, support themselves and no longer be an impost upon their family. Families did not want to kick their children out; they just wanted their children to do well, and the process taught us to be independent.
At that time very few opportunities were available for young women of that age. We could either work in the bank or be teachers or nurses. If a person was extraordinarily brilliant, she could be lucky enough to receive a Commonwealth scholarship, although she would have to struggle for a few years to receive higher education. Nursing was considered an acceptable career. It is wonderful that women now have more choice—or it would be if the impost on the families of Australia were not so onerous. The impost is enormous because of Higher Education Contribution Scheme [HECS] debts. In the olden days people who were capable of going to university would receive a Commonwealth scholarship, which may have only amounted to their bread-and-butter, but it was a wonderful opportunity for everyone. Today we have been told during the debate how great it is that people can borrow $100,000 for their HECS fees. Most families in country New South Wales would not even consider borrowing that amount, now or in the future, as often their properties are not even worth that.
I am not suggesting that we go back to the old traineeship days. I did the Leaving Certificate in the year that it was abolished. Following that, I completed six weeks at the preliminary training school as the most junior of human beings in the hospital environment. We were taught to step aside when anybody walked along the street. People who know the area around Prince Alfred Hospital would know that the footpath in Grose Street accommodated only two or three people. Our first few months at the hospital were spent in the gutter, because we were the lowliest of the low and had to step off the footpath any time a senior person came along. We were given a full-hour lesson on that subject. We were told how we were to go up and down stairs. If a doctor was coming down the stairs, we were to scurry back down the stairs so that the doctor could go by in all his wondrous splendour before we could continue on our way.
The Hon. Greg Pearce:
This is Nurses Union rules, is it?
The Hon. CHRISTINE ROBERTSON:
No, that was the way of the world. The world fixed it, the world changed because that hierarchy had nothing to do with the delivery of service provision. However, this is what our training involved. Even though it is long time ago I remember laughing about a lengthy lesson on how to put people on a bedpan. It was not all that clever because I had been in the ward for probably two weeks when an old bloke asked me for a bottle and I asked him whether he had some flowers that he wanted to put in it. Certainly the six weeks of preliminary training school were not all that helpful, but it was an interesting process in putting us in our place. We considered that training was exciting and we boasted for many years about how much we knew, but we did learn the hard way. These days we often talk about quality in the health sector. It is important to ensure that we provide the best care in the most efficient and effective way for patients and that every part of the team is involved in that process.
I remember when I was 18 years of age and I had been at Prince Alfred Hospital for only 18 months arriving at work one night to find that I was in charge of 50 patients. I had a child of only 17 years of age to help me. Yet I was responsible for the care of these people, some of them very sick, for the entire evening. There was one fully trained nurse on duty for the entire hospital. She spent her night barging around, perhaps on a small cart that staff used at night. I know the staff at Royal North Shore Hospital used a cart to barge around at night. One trained nurse was responsible for the entire geographic area of the Prince Alfred campus, and we children were caring for and making decisions about the patients.
Some doctors were on call, but in those days most doctors generally worked 24 hours a day and sometimes a couple of days consecutively. They were most certainly not people who we could badger with what may or may not be minor questions about decisions that had been made. We spent a lot of time cleaning the pan room. Many women wearing large veils and white gloves were in charge of us. Every afternoon they did an inspection, running their white gloves across the top of the benches to see if we had washed them properly and picking up pans to check whether we had left anything in the bottom. We spent a lot of time concentrating on that stuff.
The university process for nurses means that there is a strong academic base from which nurses can deliver their service. Talking to patients was a dreadful thing to do. We were told that it was a waste of time talking to patients and we should spend the time scrubbing someone's back or something like that. Nurses training at the university level means that nurses who begin practising now are capable of considering people they care for as whole persons. That is an incredibly important process for nursing, and it must be endorsed. Men make pretty good nurses, too. It was interesting when men first started nurse training. They did not perceive that they had to do the slough work and they thought they would all become managers. We hated them, but gradually they turned into valuable parts of the nursing team.
Women and men need an open and equal opportunity to ensure that we have the best possible nursing teams in our hospital sector. Earlier reference was made to policies and the perception of some people that they are not in the right place and that they want more control. I worked in the health system for many years and I met a lot of nurses who did not have to be in positions with the title of "nurse". One benefit of ensuring that there is as much access as possible to nurse training within the university system is that many talented people can start their working lives by nursing and then move into other positions within the health system or outside it.
It is important that we do not get tangled up in nonsense rules about who must be in charge. This is about how jobs are delivered and about the quality processes in the health system that ensure that those jobs are done properly. Throughout this debate we have heard some uncomfortable words and derogatory statements about the way the health system in this State is structured. We heard a lot of nonsense about the area health service structure. I started off in all sorts of jobs in what was a regional office controlled by the New South Wales Department of Health. The department had total control; no decisions were made locally. There was a nonsensical belief that health boards made local decisions about their hospitals, but in fact they made decisions about what colour cars the staff could have; the major health decisions and how the health system should operate were made by a regional office.
From that we moved to district boards. Some of them worked very well. Some of them were fantastic but others were an absolute disaster. Because the hospitals maintained themselves as separate structures, there was little interrelationship between the individual hospitals. There was a belief that the individual hospitals delivered every service possible, and that the bigger hospitals did not have to share their skills, time or bed spaces among those who needed them. There was little integrated service or care. Then we moved to an area health service model, which was the beginning of the change to ensure that health services were serving a population and that hospitals and health services were not deluded into thinking that they were serving themselves and maybe the few people who got inside the hospital doors. Hospitals are good at controlling who can get inside their doors. That was the beginning of the new process of area health services. It means that hospitals are integrated with tertiary services, regional services and secondary services. All the different health services work together so that all persons can get the services they need at the right place and at the right time. This is all based on knowing that there are plenty of nurses to help deliver those services.
The Hon. DON HARWIN
[11.45 a.m.]: Nurses are the backbone of our public hospital system. For more than a decade this Labor Government has failed to recognise the worth of our hospital nurses. It has failed to provide the nursing profession with the support it deserves and has forced nurses to work in conditions that are unacceptable. As a result our hospitals are in crisis. The State Government would like to shift the blame to the Federal Government's university reforms, but the buck firmly stops with the State Government. In 2005 the Federal Government implemented a package of higher education reforms that are enabling Australia's higher education institutions to compete more effectively on an international level.
The Federal Government recognises that an important key to the success of our higher education sector is diversity. The traditional one-size-fits-all model for universities no longer allows them to meet international quality benchmarks. It is not desirable for all universities to be the same. The Federal Government has recognised that our higher education institutions need to be free to pursue distinct missions within the overall tertiary education system. The closure of the Faculty of Nursing at the University of Sydney last year is an example of these reforms. The University of Sydney made the strategic decision to concentrate on providing postgraduate and advanced education in health sciences and in developing its nursing research program.
By focusing its approach on the field of health sciences, the University of Sydney is able to highlight its commitment to achieve excellence and fostering top-level research in a specialised field. Its reputation will be enhanced and an important forum for research will be expanded as a result. While encouraging specialisation and diversity, the Federal Government has, however, acted to ensure that the higher education sector in Sydney does not experience a reduction in the number of undergraduate nursing places as a result of the University of Sydney's decision. The Federal Government supports collaboration between the University of Sydney and both the University of Technology, Sydney [UTS] and the Australian Catholic University [ACU]. As a result, the University of Sydney's undergraduate nursing places have been transferred to expanded programs at UTS and ACU.
While the University of Sydney is now focusing on postgraduate education and research, both UTS and ACU are building on the strengths of the Bachelor of Nursing programs that they already run. Each institution is now able to pursue its own strategic direction with regard to health sciences education. The transfer of nursing places is not, however, the extent of the Federal Government's commitment to the field of nursing education. In April this year the Prime Minister announced funding for an extra 1,000 higher education nursing places in 2007, as well as 420 new places in mental health nursing. The Prime Minister also announced that the Federal Government will provide $31 million over four years to raise the level of its contribution to the cost of nurses' clinical training from $690 to $1,000 a year per full-time student.
These facts stand in sharp contrast to misleading attempts by members of the Federal Opposition and the New South Wales State Government to suggest that the Federal Government is not supporting the education of nurses in Australian universities and is not supplying adequate places for nursing students in our higher education system. The motion of the Hon. Jan Burnswoods is a typical example. For that reason my colleague the Hon. Jennifer Gardiner has moved an amendment. Paragraphs (a) and (b) of that amendment specifically deal with the areas I have just referred to in my speech.
In 2006 more than 83 per cent of eligible applicants for undergraduate nursing places across Australia received an offer. The suggestion that the remaining 17 per cent were turned away because there were not sufficient places is substantially incorrect. A report by the Australian Council for Education Research found that the main reason students missed out on a place was their tertiary entrance performance. It is also important to note that nearly a quarter of all offers made for nursing places were rejected. In New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory, the proportion of applicants who received offers for nursing places at university in 2006 was approximately 92 per cent. Again, it is important to note that nearly a third of those offers were subsequently rejected. So it is simply dishonest and misleading to suggest that a lack of university places for nursing students is responsible for the shortage of nurses in New South Wales. The truth is that nurses have been driven out of the public hospital system in this State by the Labor Government's neglect of their conditions and benefits.
According to the latest available figures, released in April of this year, there are 1,285 full-time vacancies for nurses in our State's public health system. Yet, according to NSW Health's annual report for the financial year 2004-05, only 36 per cent of registered and enrolled nurses in New South Wales work in the public health system. The New South Wales Government is the highest-taxing State government in Australia, reaping vast amounts of revenue from land and payroll taxes. The State Government should be funding a world-class hospital system. Instead, nurses are required to work in unacceptable conditions without adequate resources, and it is getting worse. With insufficient numbers of nurses, hospitals are forced to close beds and fewer patients are admitted. This is despite many nurses regularly working double shifts.
Over the past 11 years, the Labor Government's failure to address the critical shortage in nursing numbers has resulted in the closure of more than 3,000 hospital beds. This is another point specifically covered in the amendment moved by the Hon. Jennifer Gardiner. Consequently, waiting lists for elective surgery continue to grow. There were 44,707 patients awaiting elective surgery in 1995. By March 2006 that figure had blown out to 58,461. Not only are more patients waiting, but the length of time they are waiting for their operations is also increasing. The average wait time for an operation in 1995 was 1.42 months. By March 2006 that waiting time had been drawn out to over three months. The pay for nurses under this Labor Government has also been neglected, while the salaries of Health bureaucrats have blown out. Between 1996-97 and 2003-04 the salary payments for administrative staff grew by more than 95 per cent while the salary payments to nurses during the same period increased by just 56 per cent.
The shortage of nurses is having a major impact in all hospitals across the State. Shoalhaven hospital, for example, is 30 nurses short of the number it needs to operate at full capacity. This shortage of nurses has resulted in an increase in elective surgery waiting lists at the hospital. At the time that the Labor Government was elected on a promise to halve waiting lists, 793 patients were waiting for elective surgery at Shoalhaven Hospital. The list now stands at 1,217 patients. The Government has pledged to open extra hospital beds at the Shoalhaven, but has failed to employ more nurses. Without more nurses it simply is not possible to open additional beds.
Unlike the tired old Labor Government, the Coalition is committed to fixing the problem. The Coalition is committed to improving nursing degree courses by increasing the amount of clinical practice in hospitals. The Coalition will increase retraining opportunities for registered and enrolled nurses wishing to re-enter the work force and provide funding for 500 additional nurses above and beyond the existing full-time vacancies. Finally, the Coalition will give nurses more recognition and control by maintaining senior nursing management positions, establishing nursing staff councils and ensuring nurse representation on each local hospital board. These policies are the key to solving the crisis in our public hospitals. Our State's hospitals are struggling with a shortage of nurses caused by the State Government's neglect of their conditions. Trying to blame the Federal Government's higher education sector reforms will not solve the situation because those reforms have not caused the shortage. It is the long-term neglect of nurses' conditions that has caused the crisis and only by improving those conditions will the problem be resolved. I urge the House to support the amendment moved by the Hon. Jennifer Gardiner.
The Hon. IAN WEST
[11.55 a.m.]: I strongly oppose the amendment moved by the Hon. Jennifer Gardiner. I listened intently to the contribution of the Hon. Christine Robertson. I was struck by the likeness of her history in the nursing profession to that of my wife, Gail, who started nursing in 1966, the same time as the Hon. Christine Robertson. My wife was at the Children's Hospital at Camperdown in 1966. In that decimal currency year, just after February 1966, she started on $12 or $13 a week. She immediately joined the nurses union as a student nurse and was extremely grateful for the support she received from the nurses association. As she went through her career doing the various menial jobs and learning the profession of nursing to quite a large extent, she learnt many tricks of the trade to which the Hon. Christine Robertson referred.
In the amendment that has been moved by the Hon. Jennifer Gardiner in this matter, which refers to the closure of the Sydney University Faculty of Nursing, there is a complete lack of understanding on the part of the honourable member about the shortage of nurses and doctors in all Australian States and Territories. That clearly demonstrates that the Federal Government is slowly but surely abandoning its traditional responsibility for higher education.
The Hon. Don Harwin:
The Hon. IAN WEST:
Nationally, between 1996 and 2004 approximately 18,000 nursing applicants were turned away from university because they were unable to secure a place. That is not nonsense_that is a fact. Had this trend continued, the shortfall in the nursing work force was expected to be at least 40,000 by 2010. For many years New South Wales has been arguing that not enough higher education places are available to meet the critical shortage in the nursing profession. In 2004 the New South Wales Government advised the Commonwealth that New South Wales required significant numbers of additional university places for nurses in order to meet the State's work force planning needs and to address the palpable shortage of nurses. That was the case then. It continues to be the case in this State, particularly in rural and regional areas where the shortage is more than just palpable; it is critical. How did the Commonwealth respond? How did the Federal Government respond to that critical shortage? It allocated a mere 462 nursing and midwifery places for 2006 in New South Wales' universities.
Pursuant to sessional orders business interrupted.
QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
The Hon. MICHAEL GALLACHER:
I direct my question to the Treasurer. Does the Treasurer stand by the claim he gave during the estimates hearing on 4 September that, "I do not accept the proposition that we are a high-taxing State." ABS figures show New South Wales to be the highest-taxing State at $2,645 per man, woman and child. That means the people of New South Wales pay $861 more than the people of the Northern Territory; $828 more than Tasmanians, $466 more than Queenslanders, $452 more than the Australian Capital Territory, $258 more than South Australians, $125 more than Victorians and $63 more than Western Australians. Will the Treasurer now admit that, under Labor, New South Wales is, in fact, the highest taxed of all the States in Australia?
The Hon. MICHAEL COSTA:
Once again the Opposition is peddling half-truths and distortions. The reality is that New South Wales is a donor State in respect of taxation. New South Wales is in its current position because of the iniquitous goods and services tax collection regime, which I have spoken of on many occasions. The reality is, as we all know, that New South Wales' taxpayers contribute approximately $3 billion to other States. What do those other States do with that $3 billion? Well, we are all familiar with what occurs in Queensland.
The Hon. Michael Gallacher:
Are we or are we not the highest taxed State—yes or no?
The Hon. MICHAEL COSTA:
No, we are not. We all know what happens in this State. New South Wales is ripped off by the Federal Government.
Order! I call the Hon. Jennifer Gardiner to order for the first time.
The Hon. MICHAEL COSTA:
We are ripped off by the Federal Government to the tune of $3 billion a year. That money goes to States like Queensland, which subsidises its petrol prices. That necessitates the State Government providing subsidies to service stations on the North Coast of New South Wales. That took an enormous amount of money from the budget. We absolutely know the source of the problems in this country because the Warren report sets them out very clearly. We have the Federal Government collecting 80 per cent of taxation revenue in this country, and spending approximately 50 per cent. The States collect 16 per cent of national revenue and spend 40 per cent.
It is clear on that evidence that the Federal Government has a windfall of taxation and is distorting not only the tax base but also the expenditure base in this country. I am glad the question was asked. It shows that members of the Opposition are out of touch. They are in crisis. They cannot manage their own party and they cannot manage the State. They will never stand up to Canberra. They are clearly a risky choice, which is becoming more and more evident as they go ahead on a spending spree of $20 billion plus that will bankrupt the State.
Order! I call the Hon. John Ryan to order for the first time.
The Hon. MICHAEL COSTA:
This Government is making real progress with new directions for New South Wales, as embodied in its State Plan.
Order! I call the Hon. John Ryan to order for the second time.
The Hon. MICHAEL COSTA:
We are heading in the right direction. We have more to do and we will do it after the next State election.
E10 BIOFUEL TASK FORCE
The Hon. PETER PRIMROSE:
My question is directed to the Minister for Rural Affairs. Will the Minister update the House on the recently announced E10 task force?
The Hon. TONY KELLY:
Honourable members would be aware that the Premier last month announced the Government's ongoing support for biofuel. The Premier committed the Government to looking at the feasibility of introducing mandatory use of ethanol in New South Wales. He also announced the establishment of a task force to report back to the Government with an implementation plan. Today I am pleased to report the membership of the task force. The chair of the task force is Dr Col Gellatly, Director General of the Premier's Department. He will be joined by Dr John Keniry, who is Chair of the Ridley Corporation and, as honourable members may be aware, a former chair of the Prime Minister's biofuel task force. Also on the task force are: resource economist Dr Brian Fisher; Dr Paul Martin, Director of the Centre for Agriculture and Law at the University of New England; Mr Alan Evans, President of the NRMA; and Tony Windsor, the Federal member for New England.
The task force represents a wide range of scientific, economic and legal know-how, as well as the interests of motoring groups and the broader community. The task force will convene its first meeting on 11 October. The terms of reference require the task force to undertake consultation with industry and the community, and will include oil refiners, importers, retailers, primary producers, and environmental, motoring and consumer groups. The task force will examine key issues, such as timeframes, supply and infrastructure needs, environmental impacts and community acceptance. It will also look at the role of other biofuels, such as biodiesel and butanol, and alternative fuels such as LPG, compressed natural gas, hydrogen, liquid fuels from coal, and electricity. The task force will be charged with consulting with Commonwealth and other State and Territory governments to examine the feasibility of the implementation of a mandate on a nationwide basis.
From day one this Government has said that the best way forward would be through a national mandate, led by the Federal Government. Unfortunately, what we have seen is a complete lack of leadership by the Howard Government, which has been tinkering around the edges and setting non-enforceable, pathetically low targets for the industry. Evidence of this came only this week when BP announced that it was well down the track to delivering 400 million litres of biofuel over the next couple of years—some 50 million litres more than Howard's 2010 target. One fuel company by itself will be able to produce and deliver more than John Howard's target for the whole of Australia and all fuel companies. The Federal Government is happy to sit there, collecting millions in excise.
The Hon. Michael Costa:
Collect them off everybody.
The Hon. TONY KELLY:
That is right—taxing, taxing, taxing. The Federal Government is happy to sit and watch petrol prices skyrocket while our fuel trade deficit plummets. I think it gets 50¢ a litre out of fuel at the moment.
Members opposite would do well to listen to Senator Boswell. He is standing up for country people. Those opposite do not seem to do so.
Order! I call the Hon. Jennifer Gardiner to order for the second time.
The Hon. TONY KELLY:
They are not listening to Senator Boswell. They should listen to what he is saying. The Nationals have once again been shown up as politically irrelevant. Like industrial relations and Telstra, they are simply ignored and dismissed by the Liberals. In the absence of Federal leadership and The Nationals lack of traction on this issue, it is up to the Labor States and Territories to drive real progress on this matter.
KEELONG DETENTION CENTRE
The Hon. CATHERINE CUSACK:
I direct my question to the Minister for Juvenile Justice. Is Keelong Detention Centre in the Illawarra a secure facility housing juvenile offenders on remand or convicted of serious and violent criminal offences? If so, can the Minister explain how thieves were able to break into Keelong in the middle of the night and steal thousands of dollars of electrical equipment, including laptops, from classrooms? How many fences, gates and locked doors were the intruders able to penetrate to steal this equipment from the most secure parts of the centre? What actions have the Minister and his department taken as a result of this remarkable breach of detention centre security?
The Hon. John Hatzistergos:
The Hon. TONY KELLY:
I will acknowledge that interjection before I answer the question. I understand that the Hon. Catherine Cusack was working in the Minister's office when some of these facilities were built. They were built without chapels and schools. In fact, this Government provided a chapel at Kariong only recently because when the Coalition was in power it did not approve any of those facilities.
Order! I call the Hon. Catherine Cusack to order for the first time.
The Hon. TONY KELLY:
I am advised that the Department of Juvenile Justice is reviewing security following a security incident at the Keelong Juvenile Justice centre at Unanderra. The incident occurred during the night of Sunday 27 August. Electronic equipment was stolen during a break-in from a classroom near the perimeter of the centre. The thieves cut through a perimeter wire fence and forced a door to gain access to the building. At no time was it possible for detainees to access that area due to recent hardening of the sterile zone with razor wire. Police were called in and are investigating.
The department will increase security patrols in the centre, lighting in the affected area and reinforce the door to that building. Other security measures are being explored for this section of the centre. The department recently boosted security at Keelong with the addition of 660 metres of razor wire to the entire perimeter fence and rooflines of all buildings at a cost of $73,000.
The Hon. CATHERINE CUSACK:
I have a supplementary question. What was the value of the equipment that was stolen during the break-in?
The Hon. TONY KELLY:
I am advised that electronic equipment was stolen during the break-in. I have no information about the value.
MADDISON HALL AND MULAWA CORRECTIONAL CENTRE
The Hon. PETER BREEN:
I direct my question to the Minister for Justice. Is the Minister aware that before her sex-change operation prison inmate Maddison Hall spent eight months in F Wing of Mulawa women's prison when a man? Is he also aware that during that time Maddison Hall, as a man, had sexual relations with female prisoners at Mulawa before the Commissioner for Corrective Services ordered his return to the male prison at Long Bay? How many female prisoners at Mulawa did Maddison Hall have sex with and how many of them fell pregnant? What steps will the Minister take to ensure the proper segregation of male and female prisoners? How many other male prisoners in anticipation of a sex-change operation have been inmates at Mulawa women's prison?
The Hon. TONY KELLY:
The hearing on Maddison Hall is continuing this morning, and obviously, I cannot talk on the detail of the hearing. I make it clear that the Government has not paid for any treatment for transgender inmates. I understand there are about 12—I am not aware of any others at the moment—but in relation to where they are housed, that is done in accordance with international standards.
AMBULANCE SERVICE PARAMEDICS THIRTIETH ANNIVERSARY
The Hon. CHRISTINE ROBERTSON:
I direct my question to the Minister for Health. Will the Minister inform the House about the role of the paramedics in the Ambulance Service of New South Wales?
The Hon. JOHN HATZISTERGOS:
This year marks the thirtieth anniversary of paramedics in the Ambulance Service of New South Wales. It is difficult to believe that it was only 30 years ago that paramedics became an integral part of the Ambulance Service, and New South Wales was the first jurisdiction in Australia to take that step. Before then an ambulance was summoned only to deliver first aid and to transport a patient to hospital.
In February 1975, the Ambulance Board formed a working party to research the idea of training ambulance officers to man mobile intensive care ambulances. Those officers would be able to treat cardiac arrest and other emergencies without the help of doctors and nurses. Initially, the concept was met with much criticism from the medical fraternity. However, with the strength and determination of a select few the Advanced Life Support Course was born. Associate Professor Michael O'Rourke, Dr Bob Wright, Dr Henry Kilham and Professor John Overton were responsible for developing the subject matter for the course. Sixteen Officers graduated from what we now know as Course 1, and in November 1976 they commenced duty at Circular Quay Ambulance Station.
I am very pleased to inform the House that of the original 16 ambulance officers, many are in the gallery today. I am sure honourable members will join me in welcoming: Stan Harrold, Val McMahon, Ken Ladd-Hudson, Terry McDermott, Trevor Thompson, Paul Featherstone, Rick Meredith, Jeff Gilchrist, Stan James and Edna Purdy, representing her late husband Bruce. Ian Willis and Eric Cox were in Parliament House earlier today at a reception I hosted, but they had to leave early. We acknowledge all of them, those who instructed them and the chief executive of the Ambulance Service of New South Wales, Mr Greg Rochford, who is also in the gallery.
Since that first paramedic course was run in 1976, 56 paramedic courses have been run, with the fifty-seventh due to commence next month. Among the 2,900 ambulance officers employed by the Ambulance Service of New South Wales, nearly one-third are fully trained intensive care paramedics. Paramedics now have 23 pharmacologies that they can administer for emergencies, including relief of intense pain, cardiac arrest, nausea, epileptic fits, diabetes and so on. They can treat everything from heart attack to chemical accidents, childbirth to diving emergencies, and much, much more. Paramedics have literally hundreds of pieces of equipment at their fingertips, including facilities to give oxygen, put up drips, resuscitate someone, extricate a spinal patient from a mangled car, just to name a few.
Today our paramedics also benefit from a modern fleet of 800 ambulance vehicles, 300 support vehicles, four fixed-wing aircraft and nine rescue helicopters working from 221 ambulance stations across New South Wales. Ambulance crews respond to a call for assistance every 33 seconds. That is an average of 2,595 responses every day. Last year that increased by 2.1 per cent from the previous year, and indications are that the number will keep rising. We all should feel proud, and indeed safe, knowing that our ambulance service is among the most advanced in the world, achieving excellence in pre-hospital care every day. The New South Wales Government is committed to ensuring that the ambulance service remains world class. I am sure that honourable members will join with me in congratulating ambulance staff on achieving this great milestone.
GORDON ESTATE, DUBBO
Mr IAN COHEN:
I direct my question to the Minister for Health. Is the Gordon Estate in Dubbo being cleared due to antisocial behaviour? Has the impact of Aboriginal family separation and enforced relocation been assessed with regard to the mental health and physical wellbeing of the residents of this estate?
The Hon. JOHN HATZISTERGOS:
The matters relate more closely to the portfolio responsibilities of the Minister for Housing and I will refer the question to her for an answer.
Mr IAN COHEN:
I have a supplementary question. It is clearly a question about mental health as a result of physical relocation. Surely that is a reasonable question to ask of the Minister for Health.
Order! As I have pointed out many times, Ministers may answer questions as they see fit so long as their responses are relevant and they do not debate the question.
CROSS CITY TUNNEL ROAD CHANGES
The Hon. MELINDA PAVEY:
My question is directed to the Minister for Roads. Now that the Minister has been dragged, kicking and screaming, to reverse road changes associated with the Cross City Tunnel, which will be completed today, will he now also look to reverse road changes made by his Government in connection with the Lane Cove Tunnel before the March 2007 State election?
The Hon. ERIC ROOZENDAAL:
I want to correct a matter referred to in the Hon. Melinda Pavey's question. The changes in relation to road reversals around the Cross City Tunnel were completed this morning. I am pleased to advise the House that all surface road changes associated with the Cross City Tunnel are now complete. Hardworking Roads and Traffic Authority [RTA] crews worked overnight to complete the last road reversal, re-installing a second right-turn lane from the Cahill Expressway off-ramp to Cowper Wharf Road. The roads were opened to traffic this morning, completing the New South Wales Government's program of road reversals. These road changes have achieved their aim of improving traffic flow for motorists in Sydney's central business district [CBD]. In June our hardworking Premier, Morris Iemma, announced a program to reverse key road changes and improve traffic flows through the Sydney CBD—as opposed to that lazy member for Vaucluse. Since the RTA began work on the reversals, there has been a significant improvement to traffic in the William Street area.
The RTA advises me that traffic flows have improved since the following road changes were made: reopening the Bourke Street intersection on the southern side of William Street for left in and left out movements; removing the seagull island at the intersection of Sir John Young Crescent and Cowper Wharf Road, which now allows direct access to the harbour crossings from Palmer Street and Sir John Young Crescent; reintroducing traffic lights at the intersection of Palmer Street and Sir John Young Crescent, which has improved traffic flows; reopening Druitt Street to general traffic westbound between Kent Street and Clarence Street; retaining two right-turn lanes from Elizabeth Street northbound into Park Street eastbound; providing an additional right-turn lane at Queens Cross for a turning movement from Darlinghurst Road northbound into Kings Cross Road eastbound; and providing a third general traffic lane eastbound along William Street east of Palmer Street.
We did not proceed with the installation of a new bus lane southbound on Elizabeth Street between Park Street and Bathurst Street. We also did not proceed with the installation of right-turn bays in Park Street westbound into Pitt Street and eastbound into Castlereagh Street. Palmer Street was changed from one lane northbound and one lane southbound between Sir John Young Crescent and Cathedral Street to two lanes northbound. Finally, last night a second right-turn from the Cahill Expressway off-ramp to Cowper Wharf Road was reinstalled. Ms Lee Rhiannon should listen to this. I can also advise the House that the RTA has withdrawn a planning submission to remove two bicycle lanes in Kings Cross. I am advised that with the traffic flow already improving, there would be no significant extra benefit to removing the remaining bicycle lanes. This decision was based on sound traffic advice. The two bicycle lanes will remain.
These were the major road changes identified by traffic experts to improve traffic flows in the Sydney CBD. The Government's decision to make these changes was only taken when a joint settlement with the owners of the Cross City Motorway could not be reached, despite protracted negotiations in good faith. The Government's priority was always to make the road changes in a financially responsible way for the benefit of the community. Of course, our negotiations with Connected Motorways will continue, to ensure we maximise benefits to the community and minimise inconvenience to motorists during construction of the Lane Cove Tunnel project, including the expanded Gore Hill Freeway and the opening of the Falcon Street ramps.
STROKE AWARENESS WEEK
The Hon. JAN BURNSWOODS:
My question without notice is addressed to the Minister for Health. What is the latest information on stroke intervention, services and awareness in New South Wales?
The Hon. JOHN HATZISTERGOS:
I welcome the question, especially on the occasion of National Stroke Awareness Week, which runs from 18 to 24 September. Strokes affect younger people as well as older people. According to Dr Denis Crimmins, the Chair of the Greater Metropolitan Clinical Taskforce Stroke Services Network, the consequences can be far greater for younger people. The causes and deficits of strokes are the same, but the ramifications are devastating for younger people, who are more likely to be physically active, be in the paid work force, have financial commitments, and have dependent children.
I can inform the House that John Hunter Hospital and the Ambulance Service of New South Wales are collaborating to reduce the mortality and morbidity of people who have suffered a stroke. The new stroke intervention protocol for Hunter is a first for New South Wales and forms part of the New South Wales Health Greater Metropolitan Clinical Taskforce innovations in stroke care. The partnership will mean rapid pre-hospital assessment by an ambulance officer of suspected stroke victims and, where appropriate, transport to a specialist stroke facility at John Hunter Hospital. Ambulance officers will utilise an assessment tool—the glucose, arm, speech model—to evaluate patients who have suffered acute ischaemic stroke within two hours of presentation, identifying those who may be suitable for specialised therapy with clot-dissolving medication.
An Ambulance Northern Operation Centre supervisor will then notify a neurologist at John Hunter Hospital of the activation of the stroke intervention protocol, who will in turn confirm acceptance of the patient and mobilise the acute stroke team. The initiative involves Lower Hunter stroke patients who are assessed as suitable for a clot-dissolving medication, called tissue plasminogen activator, also known as TPA. I am told that the medication is of proven benefit if given to carefully selected patients within three hours of onset. However, patients who are not suitable will be transported to their nearest hospital.
All Hunter-New England hospitals follow standardised stroke management protocols to ensure that all stroke patients receive the highest quality care. The excellent links between the Ambulance Service, emergency departments, radiology departments and stroke teams will ensure that if TPA is given to appropriate stroke patients it could have a dramatic effect on the patient's outcome, with a major reduction in long-term disability. The quicker the process can occur, the faster the drug can be given, the more brain is saved, and the better the patient's outcome. That is why it is vital that people who think they are having a stroke seek help immediately. I congratulate the Ambulance Northern Divisional Manager, Allan Loudfoot, and the Director of Acute Stroke Services at John Hunter Hospital, Dr Chris Levi, on their collaboration and hard work on this important initiative.
I can also inform honourable members that the New South Wales Government will seek expressions of interest for specialist stroke services for rural and remote communities across the State. In 2006-07 the New South Wales Government is providing an additional $1 million recurrent funding to boost stroke services in regional New South Wales. Expressions of interest will be sought from each of the four rural area health services for this funding. The department will work closely with the Australian Stroke Unit Network and the New South Wales Institute of Rural Clinical Services and Teaching to help the area health services prepare their submissions.
While the model for rural services will differ from those in the metropolitan regions, it is important that we draw on the expertise and knowledge of metropolitan services. The process will ensure that relevant and appropriate stroke services are developed for rural and remote communities. In providing stroke services to rural areas, the time it takes to get acute care and access to rehabilitation services after discharge from hospital are vital considerations. These new initiatives are in the context of annual funding of more than $10 million and capital funding of more than $2 million provided by the New South Wales Government since 2003 to support the establishment or enhancement of specialty acute stroke units across the greater metropolitan region. There are now 23 acute stroke units in New South Wales with speciality staff and monitoring equipment, resulting in improved access to specialist assessment and treatment for stroke patients, quicker transfers to rehabilitation, and reduced length of hospital stays.
GORDON ESTATE, DUBBO
Ms SYLVIA HALE:
I address my question to the Minister for Industrial Relations.
The Hon. Michael Costa:
He is not here.
Ms SYLVIA HALE:
Then whoever is standing in for the Minister, possibly the Minister for Health. With regard to the Gordon Estate in Dubbo, why did the first contractors who demolished houses, Burns and Company, get the sack? Was it because they bulldozed houses for security reasons but had no licence for asbestos removal? Were people, particularly children, exposed to asbestos dust? Why was no fencing provided to protect people against asbestos dust? Resitech replaced Burns and Company, but Resitech is still using contractors. Are the contractors qualified to remove asbestos? Does the Minister guarantee that asbestos has been properly cleaned up on the site, particularly in light of the exposure risk to children?
The Hon. MICHAEL COSTA:
I will take the question on notice and ensure that the Minister for Industrial Relations provides an answer.
STATE PAROLE AUTHORITY
The Hon. CHARLIE LYNN:
My question is directed to the Minister for Justice. When will the Minister admit that his Labor-appointed State Parole Authority, the membership of which includes former Labor Party member of Parliament Faye Lo Po' and the brother of former Labor member of Parliament Paul Whelan, has failed community expectations in its handling of yet another parole fiasco? Why does the Minister not dismiss the current board and start again?
The Hon. TONY KELLY:
This question could almost be regarded as a dorothy dixer. I am really pleased that the Hon. Charlie Lynn has asked me this question because I can confirm that I have the utmost confidence in the State Parole Authority, particularly after its decision just a few moments ago to revoke the parole of Maddison Hall, who will now remain behind bars and will not be considered for release for at least another 12 months. I understand that Maddison Hall can next apply for release on 6 December 2007.
It would have been interesting had the honourable member read out the names of other members of the authority, like former Deputy Police Commissioner Peter Walsh, Bob Inkster and a number of others. I particularly remember Ms Lee Rhiannon complaining when those people were appointed. If my memory serves me correctly, she said to the former Minister in relation to those appointments, "Why would you put these people on the parole board because they are very unlikely to let anybody out who they put in there to start with?" I remind the Hon. Charlie Lynn of Ms Lee Rhiannon's words.
The Hon. CHARLIE LYNN:
I ask the Minister a supplementary question. Will the Minister give this House an assurance that the Labor Party hack retiring from the Parliament at the end of this session—the Hon. Jan Burnswoods—will not be appointed to the parole board?
The Hon. TONY KELLY:
PORT STEPHENS TOURISM AND MARINE INDUSTRIES
The Hon. IAN WEST:
My question is directed to the Minister for Lands. Will the Minister tell the House what the Government is doing to support tourism and marine industries at Port Stephens?
The Hon. TONY KELLY:
Earlier this month I paid a visit to Port Stephens to announce plans by the Iemma Government for developing the Nelson Bay marina and foreshore reserves. The Government is committed to improving commercial and recreational opportunities on Crown land right across the State. As a sign of our commitment I also announced more than $2 million in funding to develop facilities at three Crown land caravan parks in the Port Stephens region. This will enable three key caravan parks at Port Stephens, Fingal Bay, Halifax and Shoal Bay, to provide more cabins and improved amenities.
Order! I call the Treasurer to order for the first time.
The Hon. TONY KELLY:
We are backing this funding with local jobs that will ensure close lines of communication between the Government, local businesses and the community. The Department of Lands will open an office early next month at the Nelson Bay marina. As some members may be aware, the marina is the centrepiece of the Nelson Bay foreshore. It is in close proximity to the Nelson Bay central business district and is central to the region's commercial and recreational activities.
The office will be the focal point for the department's consultations with local industry, marina operators and the broader community on how the marina can be improved for business and the community. It will play an important role in ensuring Crown land in the Port Stephens area is managed in the best interests of the community. The department will play a key role in a review of the marina's potential for improved commercial and tourism opportunities at Nelson Bay, including identifying industry partners to revitalise the facilities and address the growing recreational needs of the community.
The department will work closely with Port Stephens Council to examine how the Nelson Bay central business district connects with the marina, as well as examining issues such as parking and pedestrian access. The Iemma Government is seeking to fast-track the redevelopment of the marina and adjoining facilities. We will look at expanding the marina's berth capacity and improving the commercial and recreational development opportunities. The requirements of the fishing industry will also be addressed. These moves demonstrate the Iemma Government's commitment to improving the economic, recreational and tourism potential of the Nelson Bay foreshore for the Port Stephens community and for the people of New South Wales.
The Government is all about seizing economic opportunities for country and coastal New South Wales and backing that up with the funding and manpower needed to deliver economic, social and environmental benefits to these communities. These types of initiatives would be jeopardised under Coalition plans to slash jobs and resources for country and coastal New South Wales. In contrast, the Iemma Government is investing in the futures of country and coastal communities. Our commitment to Port Stephens is just one example to show that the Government is getting in there and working with local communities to deliver better facilities, jobs and economic growth for the regions.
LISMORE BASE HOSPITAL REDEVELOPMENT
The Hon. JENNIFER GARDINER:
My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Health. Given that a new $8 million rehabilitation facility is being planned for Ballina, will the Minister assure the House that stage three of the redevelopment of Lismore Base Hospital will include a complementary rehabilitation facility, as promised by the North Coast Area Health Service? Could the Minister confirm that stage three of the Lismore Base Hospital redevelopment, including the proposed rehabilitation centre, is included in the capital works program?
The Hon. JOHN HATZISTERGOS:
I am advised by the North Coast Area Health Service that to address the increased demand and pressures for rehabilitation beds, the North Coast Area Health Service has commenced construction of a purpose-built 18-bed in-patient transitional care and ambulatory care facility at Ballina. This facility is part of the proposed integrated 42-bed rehabilitation transitional care facility planned for Ballina, which will be completed by February 2008. I am advised that benchmarking for the North Coast Area Health Service demonstrates that transferring the services from St Vincent's hospital campus and integrating them with the North Coast Area Health Service will result in significant gains. The transfer is supported by clinicians also. For example, according to Dr Christopher Mitchell, the general practitioner and visiting medical officer at Lennox Head:
If you look at where the population growth is, it really is clear that it is on the coast. Over the next few years there will be a 5 per cent growth rate on the coast—double the State average—and most of that will be in the over 65 age group.
I am advised by Mr Chris Crawford, the Chief Executive of the North Coast Area Health Service, that patients will have equal, if not improved, access to quality clinical care, medical specialists and diagnostic services. In this regard the North Coast Area Health Service has undertaken a number of actions. It has appointed an extra physician at Ballina and met with the Ballina staff council, who are supportive of the facility. Discussions are currently ongoing with St Vincent's hospital management and staff regarding the transfer of services to the direct management of the North Coast Area Health Service. The issues of Lismore and the capital works projects are matters that are already in the public domain and I have made a number of comments about them. I refer the honourable member to those comments.
ABORIGINAL MATERNAL AND INFANT HEALTH STRATEGY
The Hon. PENNY SHARPE:
My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Health. Will the Minister inform the House of the results of the New South Wales Government's Aboriginal maternal and infant health strategy?
The Hon. JOHN HATZISTERGOS:
During the winter recess I had the opportunity to visit Moree where I launched the evaluation of the New South Wales Aboriginal maternal and infant health strategy, a New South Wales Government initiative aimed at improving the health of Aboriginal mothers and their newborn babies by providing accessible and culturally appropriate maternity care programs for families. The strategy has remarkably improved Aboriginal maternal and infant health outcomes, leading to a significant decrease in the rates of prematurity and newborn deaths, and a welcome rise in breastfeeding rates and the number of women accessing antenatal care before 20 weeks into their pregnancy.
The State Government implemented the strategy in December 2000 at a cost of $1.5 million annually and the outcomes are a testament to its effectiveness in providing comprehensive antenatal services and early intervention in pregnancy, particularly for at-risk Aboriginal women. The strategy targeted seven antenatal-postnatal programs for Aboriginal women and infants across New South Wales, in Broken Hill, Wilcannia, Coffs Harbour, Taree, Dubbo, Moree and Newcastle. A major strength of the strategy is the midwife and Aboriginal health worker teams, which work with the community, building relationships with Aboriginal women and their families. I was pleased to meet with an Aboriginal health worker while I was in Moree. The inclusion of an Aboriginal health worker in the team facilitates culturally appropriate care and provides the midwives with unique cultural awareness training.
The strategy's training and support unit has also developed university-accredited training for Aboriginal health workers. With more than 22 graduates to date, the importance of the training should not be underestimated, especially given the well-established links between education and the social determinants of health for Aboriginal communities. Of the 22 Aboriginal students who graduated from the maternal and infant health preparatory course, 13 went on to further studies, including bachelors of midwifery, nursing, primary health and community development, and graduate diplomas in Aboriginal primary health.
A number of innovative community development projects, such as art programs and peer education, have been undertaken as part of the strategy. The Moree young mothers project titled Mubali won a Baxter NSW Health award last year. It was my honour to present this award and meet the parties involved. This project was a collaborative effort between an arts intervention organisation, the Aboriginal maternal infant health strategy and the Gamilaroi community midwifery team. The project successfully targeted and engaged young Aboriginal pregnant women, encouraging them to participate in group activities and building trust in their health providers, and this brought about an increase in breastfeeding rates and is working to improve self-confidence and inspire creativity.
The evaluation showed that significantly more Aboriginal women attended their first antenatal visit before 20 weeks gestation in 2003 and 2004 than before the establishment of the strategy. In total, 78 per cent of women attended their first antenatal visit before 20 weeks gestation compared with 65 per cent prior to the strategy. The evaluation also showed a decrease in Aboriginal perinatal mortality from 20.4 per 1,000 in 1996-2000 to 14.2 per 1,000 in 2001-03. The proportion of babies born prematurely has also significantly decreased since the establishment of the strategy. Of the women who received care from the strategy, 11 per cent of births were premature compared with 20 per cent prior to the establishment of the strategy. I commend the team members for their high level of skill, expertise and commitment to their communities and congratulate them on their role in improving the health of New South Wales Aboriginal women and their babies.
REDEEMER BAPTIST CHURCH ELDER APPREHENDED VIOLENCE ORDER
Reverend the Hon. Dr GORDON MOYES:
I ask the Minister for Roads, on behalf of the Minister for Police, the following question without notice: Is the Minister aware that on 22 March 2005 proceedings were conducted at the Local Court at Parramatta whereby an elder of Redeemer Baptist Church sought an apprehended violence order against a Mr Glossop? Is the Minister aware that on 18 August 2005 the solicitors for the elders of the church wrote to the Commissioner of Police regarding evidence that suggests a commission of perjury by Mr Glossop and, thus, grounds for investigation of Mr Glossop on this basis? Is the Minister aware that these representations were referred by the commissioner to a local area command and that no response to these representations has yet been given? Will the Minister indicate why NSW Police has taken no action in relation to these representations?
The Hon. ERIC ROOZENDAAL:
I will refer the question to the Minister for Police for an appropriate response.
MAITLAND MENTAL HEALTH UNIT
The Hon. ROBYN PARKER:
My question without notice is addressed to the Minister for Health. Is the Minister aware that the Maitland 24-bed mental health unit has only six beds in place for people with high needs? Further to this, is the Minister aware of statements made by the Premier, a former Minister for Health, who believes this level of investment appropriate for the region, considering the high rate of mental illness, especially in young people living in rural areas? Is the Minister willing to commit more resources to mental health care in the Hunter region?
The Hon. JOHN HATZISTERGOS:
The honourable member would be familiar with our "New Directions" statement in relation to mental health and would know about the investment that we are undertaking in mental health services, not just in the Hunter but across the State. She would also know, had she done her research, that when the Coalition was last in government—she was handing out how-to-vote-cards at the polling booths then—it closed 711 mental health beds. It did not add any beds, it closed 711 beds—and that was in addition to the 30 hospitals that it downgraded or closed. And I have not mentioned the terrific decision on Port Macquarie Base Hospital! Last week we had Tony Abbott saying everyone regrets the fact that Port Macquarie was taken back over by the State. Members should tell that to the community of Port Macquarie. The shadow Minister is running around saying that there is no better way than privatisation. Well, I have stated the Opposition's record.
When in government the Coalition closed 711 beds and downgraded 30 hospitals, yet it has the nerve to canvass this Government's commitment to mental health. The Government has already committed in a "New Directions" statement funding of around $900 million to mental health, one of the most rapidly growing areas of expenditure in health. As to the specific question, I will get advice about the particular bed configurations. The honourable member has nothing to worry about in terms of this Government's commitment to mental health but she does have something to worry about in terms of the record and commitment of her party.
SOIL CONSERVATION SERVICE
The Hon. TONY CATANZARITI:
My question is directed to the Minister for Lands. Can the Minister advise the House on the latest work of the Soil Conservation Service?
The Hon. TONY KELLY:
The Department of Lands Soil Conservation Service Division [Soil Con] is well established in rural New South Wales as a leader in soil conservation earthworks and consultancy, with projects ranging from rehabilitating degraded lands to fire trail assessment and maintenance. I am pleased to report to the House that the division's consultancy business is going from strength to strength. As a Government business, Soil Con delivers the highest quality product to clients; a fact recognised by its commendation in the Premier's public sector awards for the $800,000 Tingha sewerage scheme pond system, which earlier earned two industry environmental awards.
The division has specialist conservation teams permanently located in rural and regional centres working on an impressive array of projects across New South Wales. The unit successfully bid for a number of State government tenders, which meant co-operating closely with other State government departments. During the past year, Soil Con has worked with officers from the Department of Education and Training in the design and project management of school ground rehabilitation works at 24 schools throughout New South Wales There have been 18 projects in rehabilitating derelict mine sites across New South Wales.
One recent project was at an old mine site at Burraga, a village in the Central Tablelands about 47 kilometres from Oberon and 120 kilometres from Orange. The Burraga mine, once one of the largest copper mines in the State, was abandoned in 1961. The derelict mine program at Burraga involved containment of contaminated material and the prevention of further leaching of contaminants into the environment. The site, which ultimately drains into the Murray-Darling River system, has a high environmental risk from the movement of contaminated sediment. Rehabilitation work included covering four shafts with steel grates, fencing two shafts and closing off the chimneystack with a steel grate. The $300,000 project is now complete. The result is a win for the environment and safety, as well as for the overall look of the site.
Another job recently completed by Soil Con is work on the Junction Reefs Dam, on the Belubula River in the New South Wales Central Tablelands. The dam, a 19-metre concrete and brick arch structure built in 1897, was the first multiple arch dam to be built in Australia and is listed on the State heritage register. The brick arches have significant heritage value but the dam structure was assessed as not complying with current safety criteria. Soil Con was engaged to ensure this heritage-listed dam would meet modern safety standards. Work commenced in May to strengthen the dam, lower the spillway and redirect low flows to improve stability.
During construction there were some challenges for the team, working around the continuously flowing spillway in wet conditions and securing new concrete support without compromising the stability or heritage value. I am delighted to announce works are now complete on this $494,000 government project. Thanks to the expertise of Soil Con, the dam is safeguarded from failure, properties downstream are protected, and its heritage is maintained.
PRISONER NOEL CROMPTON, KNOWN AS MADDISON HALL
Reverend the Hon. FRED NILE:
I wish to ask the Minister for Justice a question without notice that relates to an answer given by him earlier. Is it a fact that convicted murderer Noel Crompton, who murdered a female, was allowed to undertake a sex change operation whilst in prison? Is it a fact that Noel Crompton, now known as Maddison Hall, was transferred from the male prison to the female Mulawa prison? Is it a fact that he has been accused by female prisoners of rape, sexual assault and intimidation? Will the Government, through policy, prohibit any sex change operations for prisoners whilst in custody, and will the Government keep male sex change prisoners such as Noel Crompton in a special prison and not transfer them to a female prison?
The Hon. TONY KELLY:
As I said earlier, it has been confirmed that Madison Hall will stay in prison. It had been alleged that Madison Hall assaulted another prisoner. However, police were unable to pursue the matter because the person upon whom the assault was alleged to have been made left the country upon her release from prison. So the matter remains an alleged assault. Certainly, the Government has not assisted prisoners in any way with sex change operations in the past and that will continue to be our policy. However, the Government is bound by the provisions of the Anti-discrimination Act in terms of where prisoners should reside—obviously, based on the advice of psychologists and psychiatrists—and that is the case in relation to Madison Hall. Honourable members can rest assured that I am keeping a close eye on exactly where such prisoners are kept.
WESTMEAD HOSPITAL MORGUE
The Hon. DAVID CLARKE:
My question without notice is addressed to the Minister for Health. Given that a recent leaked letter from Westmead Hospital Morgue states that grieving families are subjected to viewing rooms that are far too small and often have smells from the post-mortem room, and given that a recent Government report reinforced this concern by stating that there is a particular problem with the spread of odours from decomposed body storage cabinets, why has the Government refused to alleviate these conditions in which grieving families find themselves?
The Hon. JOHN HATZISTERGOS:
I have indicated that the redevelopment of the morgue is a priority. Currently, planning is under way to consider it. I should make it clear that when the hospital was built it was never intended that the Westmead mortuary, as it was known, would become a forensic facility. Time has taken its toll on the facility; its purpose has changed. Although the facility is a good one in many ways, it certainly needs redevelopment, as I made clear when I visited the hospital.
As to the question of odours, the place is fully airconditioned. During my visit the head of the forensic facility, Dr Ellis, advised me that the issue of odours is acceptable, but no doubt an upgrade of the airconditioning system will be considered in the context of redeveloping the facility. It is anticipated that planning for the facility will be concluded by the end of the year, and next year we will have to make decisions about its reconstruction. The matter is uppermost in my mind. Unfortunately, when I visited Westmead Hospital I did not have an opportunity to see the viewing room as families where using it at the time. However, I hope to see it on another occasion. In relation to that and other aspects of the honourable member's question, I refer him to what I have already said about the need for redevelopment.
ROADS AND TRAFFIC AUTHORITY CHEMICAL AND MATERIALS TECHNOLOGY UNIT
The Hon. GREG DONNELLY:
My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Roads. Will the Minister provide the House with the latest information on the use of laboratory testing to improve road quality?
The Hon. ERIC ROOZENDAAL:
I thank the honourable member for his question and his interest in this matter. Honourable members would be aware of the New South Wales Auditor-General's recent report into the maintenance of New South Wales State roads, which found that the overall quality of roads managed by the Roads and Traffic Authority [RTA] has improved over the past decade. Despite increased pressure on the network from more traffic and heavier trucks, the RTA has improved overall ride quality. An integral part of road maintenance in New South Wales is the RTA's chemical and materials technology unit. This expert RTA team specialises in research, laboratory testing, field testing and monitoring programs to test the actual materials our roads are made of.
Located in a custom-designed laboratory facility at Auburn, the unit tests products ranging from bitumen, concrete and cement to reflective line markings and obscure drainage geotextiles, to ensure they meet the required RTA, Australian, Austroads or international standards. The laboratory team of materials scientists, chemists and laboratory personnel provide a unique range of expertise in a broad range of scientific research and analysis, specialist and routine testing, field investigation and monitoring. Many of the unit's scientists and laboratory staff also represent the RTA on Australian standards and Austroads committees.
In addition to having top-class staff, the laboratory has a wide range of world-class scientific equipment, some of which has been specifically designed for the RTA and is exclusive to the Auburn laboratory. For example, the laboratory team is currently using x-ray fluorescence analysis equipment to examine the durability of concrete. Imported cement is being increasingly used in roads and bridges, in place of traditional Australian sources, and there was increasing industry interest in its durability. Since 2001 the RTA's chemical and materials unit has monitored the quality of this imported cement, playing a small but important role in ensuring that the RTA is getting the right raw materials for our roads and bridges.
A temperature-controlled, dust-free laboratory within the main Auburn laboratory has been especially equipped to provide this important service, which requires a complex testing process. The success of our monitoring scheme has led other government agencies to use the laboratory's resources for their own major concrete infrastructure projects, adding further to the Auburn laboratory's utility for the community of New South Wales. Another example of this is the unique rut tester, which simulates prolonged trafficking on a road surface by using a hydraulically driven pneumatic wheel. The unit is also involved in assessing new industry road products.
The unit's research has helped the RTA to develop new specifications and test methods. The laboratory has been responsible for developing improvements to road surface binders, or bitumens, to cement quality monitoring, as I have already mentioned, and to line road markings that are more visible in poor weather. It is relatively unknown but the RTA continues to perform important functions like this for the community day in and day out to improve road safety and the quality of our road network for all motorists and the community.
Ms LEE RHIANNON:
I direct my question to the Minister for Roads. Given that today's Sydney Morning Herald
quotes the Minister as saying that he thinks it is unfair that drivers who evade fares on private tollways are not being chased up, and that he will ask the RTA to contact private toll operators to ensure that they pursue drivers who do not pay, and given also that one private consortium, Transurban, has said that it wants to use the State Debt Recovery Office or the courts to pursue motorists who do not pay, will the Minister tell the House who will pay for the cost of collecting these fines? Will it be the State Government or the toll operators? Will the Minister ask private tollway operators such as Transurban to refund the State Debt Recovery Office for the cost of recovering money from motorists? Will he also ask the private consortium to refund the RTA when people have their licences removed for non-payment of fines?
The Hon. ERIC ROOZENDAAL:
I am advised that under the terms of the service level agreements with all motorway operators the pursuit of unpaid toll revenue is a matter for the operators, as is the case with all Sydney motorways. I am pleased to note that the Cross City and M2 operators have both pledged to pursue toll evaders. It is important to make it clear that lost toll revenue on private motorways, such as the Cross City motorway and the M2, does not cost taxpayers a cent. Non-payment of tolls is lost revenue for the motorway operator, not the RTA or the New South Wales Government.
It is against the law for a motorist to fail to pay a toll, and I am pleased to advise the House that the vast majority of motorists pay the tolls and do the right thing. Every day there are 500,000 trips on Sydney's motorways, and far less than 1 per cent result in the non-payment of tolls. It concerns me when motorists are not treated equally because some toll operators choose not to pursue lost tolls. Private toll operators should treat all motorists equally and fairly. I am pleased to note that the operator of the M2, Transurban, has today stated its intention to begin pursuing motorists who do not pay the toll.
WAKOOL SHIRE TIMBER BRIDGES
The Hon. RICK COLLESS:
My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Roads. Is the Minister aware that there are more river crossings in Wakool shire than in any other shire, with major grain, rice and feedlot industries using the roads, along with school buses, B-doubles and semitrailers? What action will the Minister take to provide funding for the six RTA timber bridges in Wakool shire that are in a state of imminent collapse? What action will he take to provide funding for the 33 local government funded timber bridges in Wakool shire now that he has withdrawn the timber bridges program?
The Hon. ERIC ROOZENDAAL:
I recognise that this is an important issue. I have received many representations from Country Labor members and Independent members, such as the honourable member for Tamworth, a fine upstanding member, the honourable member for Dubbo—wait a minute, Dubbo used to be a Nationals seat, did it not? That is right, they lost it.
Order! I call the Hon. Melinda Pavey to order for the first time.
The Hon. ERIC ROOZENDAAL:
I have received representations from the honourable member for Northern Tablelands—which used to be a Nationals seat too—and from regional mayors about funding for the country timber bridges program. The honourable members for Monaro, Bathurst, Tweed, Maitland, Murray-Darling and Peats have all reinforced the importance of the old timber bridge program in the country. The program needs to be funded and I have asked the Roads and Traffic Authority [RTA] to look at funding options. Of course, the Opposition's promise in relation to timber bridges, like just about all the promises from the honourable member for Vaucluse, is completely unfunded.
The Opposition has magically announced a $60 million—$15 million over four years—bridges program without any indication of how it is going to pay for it. We know the Opposition plans to sack 29,000 public servants and disband the RTA, which will be detrimental to all of the communities that depend on it. That $60 million is added to the $20 billion worth of unfunded promises. It must be great being in the Coalition: they create the magic pudding and just keep serving up promises. I am worried that the Peter meter is going to explode from the excess of promises that continue to be made by the honourable member for Vaucluse in his never-ending quest—
The Hon. Rick Colless:
You are trivialising the people of the Riverina, you fool.
The Hon. ERIC ROOZENDAAL:
The dunderhead of The Nationals yet again throws in an interjection. The continuing quest of the honourable member for Vaucluse is to make more and more unfunded promises to try to sneak his way into Parliament. With the quality of candidates the Coalition is selecting those days, such as the controversial candidate for Epping, it is evident to me it is not fit to govern. Whether it is making unfunded promises it has no way of paying for or preselecting controversial candidates like the candidate for Epping—what a win for the Liberal Party the candidate for Epping is—
The Hon. Don Harwin:
Point of order: I am tempted to draw the attention of the Leader of the Government to the time, but I would go back to the—
The Hon. Jan Burnswoods:
The Opposition cannot even think of any questions.
The Hon. Don Harwin:
We have plenty.
Order! The Hon. Don Harwin will come to his point of order.
The Hon. Don Harwin:
The Minister’s remarks are now clearly outside the ambit of the question and are not in accordance with the standing orders.
Order! I remind the Minister that his answer must be relevant.
The Hon. TONY KELLY:
If honourable members have further questions, I suggest they put them on notice.
MAITLAND MENTAL HEALTH UNIT
The Hon. JOHN HATZISTERGOS:
Earlier in question time the Hon. Robyn Parker asked me a question about acute beds at Maitland. As usual, the Opposition has got it all wrong. There are 24 acute beds at Maitland. There are six high-level observation beds for people who require a very high level of observation. One would have thought that someone who lives around there would know this.
Questions without notice concluded.
Bill received, read a first time and ordered to be printed.
Motion by the Hon. Tony Kelly agreed to:
Second reading ordered to stand as an order of the day.
[The President left the chair at 1.04 p.m. The House resumed at 2.45 p.m.]
That standing orders be suspended to allow the passing of the bill through all its remaining stages during the present or any one sitting of the House.
FAIR TRADING AMENDMENT (MOTOR VEHICLE INSURANCE AND REPAIR INDUSTRIES) BILL
Bill received, read a first time and ordered to be printed.
Motion by the Hon. Henry Tsang agreed to:
Second reading ordered to stand as an order of the day.
That standing orders be suspended to allow the passing of the bill through all its remaining stages during the present or any one sitting of the House.
NURSING FACULTY STUDENT PLACES
Debate resumed from an earlier hour.
The Hon. IAN WEST
[2.48 p.m.]: Before debate was interrupted for the taking of questions I advised the House that nationally between 1996 and 2004 approximately 18,000 nursing applicants were turned away from universities because they were unable to secure a place. Had that trend continued, the shortfall in the nursing work force would have been approximately 40,000 by 2010. For many years New South Wales has argued that there are not enough higher education places available to meet this critical area of need. In 2004 the New South Wales Government advised the Commonwealth that New South Wales required a significant number of additional university places for nurses to meet the State's work force planning needs, and to address critical shortages, particularly in regional New South Wales.
The Commonwealth response to that request in 2004 was extremely disappointing. A mere 462 nursing and midwifery places were allocated to New South Wales' universities for 2005. The New South Wales Government wrote again to the Commonwealth seeking to have the allocation increased by approximately 2,800 nursing places to meet the State's future nursing requirements. The Commonwealth response was, to say the least, underwhelming and, more to the point, a complete abrogation of the Commonwealth's responsibility in the areas of skilling and health. A few weeks ago the Commonwealth announced that it would offer Australia-wide—not to New South Wales, but across the whole length and breadth of our great southern land—a meagre 1,036 additional nursing places.
To those of us with any understanding of the shortages in the nursing profession that is an insult to our intelligence. But the insult is multiplied. Of the meagre 1,036 nursing places in the whole of Australia, the Commonwealth proposes that 326 places be allocated to New South Wales—just 326 places in New South Wales, which has a basic need for 2,800 additional nursing places. That is the State's basic requirement in the nursing profession, leaving aside the issue of the lack of corporate knowledge and skills structure in the health area as a whole. It is not only completely unsatisfactory, it is also an insult to anyone who has a rudimentary understanding of the skills shortage in this critical area.
The mental health sector is also suffering because of the Commonwealth Government's totally inadequate allocation of training places. Mental health services suffer staff shortages internationally, nationally and definitely in New South Wales as a result of decades of inappropriate policy decisions—although no doubt they were made honourably and with the best of intentions. The mental health sector is experiencing not only skills shortages but also the loss of corporate knowledge that has been developed over many decades. It is in desperate need of overhaul, and that is happening in New South Wales. Unlike the Commonwealth Government, this Government is doing something to address that problem. It has allocated an additional $900 million to the mental health budget.
In contrast, the Commonwealth Government has offered the entire country only 431 mental health training places. That is laughable and totally inadequate. Of that allocation, New South Wales will get only 110 places. That is less than a quarter of the available places. The population of New South Wales represents about 38 per cent of the national population, which means that allocation is disgraceful. Of the 210 places allocated for clinical psychology training throughout Australia, the Commonwealth Government is prepared to give New South Wales—the largest State in Australia—only 28 places, or 13.3 per cent of the total. Obviously, those places are welcome; I am not suggesting that Mr Howard take them back. However, our need is far greater than that. Professional skills shortages have the potential to threaten the delivery of quality public services in a range of areas, but particularly health and hospital services. Education and law and order are under stress in this regard, but this shortage has the most impact on the health sector.
A few years ago the Commonwealth abandoned the age-old consultation process with the States about the allocation of university funding. Since then, despite the State's arguments, the Commonwealth Government has been reluctant to sign any new memorandum of understanding with New South Wales about work force planning. That has had a dramatic impact. The distribution and profile of university places are now more likely to reflect the decisions of an individual university and the Commonwealth Government's funding policies rather than the State's work force needs. This situation does not take into account the need to work out the percentage differences between universities, which should be established co-operatively by the Commonwealth Government and State governments. Leaving that aside, the distribution is now extremely ad hoc. The system seems to be: Let's cross our fingers. We will put a finger in the air and check which way the wind is blowing, and that is how we will work out the funding for the education of the university sector across the States.
The closure of the undergraduate nursing program at the University of Sydney is a classic, clear demonstration that this approach of ad hoc funding arrangements has completely and utterly failed the State, its university students, its education system, and its health system. The growing discontent and disconnect between graduate supply and demand is exacerbating the State's skills shortages, particularly in essential services such as nursing. On 6 June 2006 that growing discontent and disconnect between graduate supply and demand reached boiling point. On that date Mr Howard visited the university, when he was given a reception by the students and the Nurses Association, which represented the nurses on the site.
The students and Nurses Association representatives made it quite clear to the incumbent Prime Minister that they were protesting not only against the end of the undergraduate nursing school at the university but also against the WorkChoices legislation. Under that legislation, if they ever did graduate they would find themselves at the behest of whoever was then in administration determining their wages and conditions. It would be a purely master-servant relationship, involving a 100 per cent employer prerogative. The nurse, undergraduate or graduate would have absolutely no say with regard to their wages and conditions, let alone what shifts they work. One of the most important aspects of the health system is the shifts people work. As we know, the health system operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The Hon. Christine Robertson recounted to us that when she trained as a nurse in the mid-1960s, just after decimal currency was introduced, she got $13 a week—
The Hon. Christine Robertson:
It was $13 a fortnight.
The Hon. IAN WEST:
I apologise, it was $13 a fortnight. As I listened to the Hon. Christine Robertson I reminisced that my wife, Gail, went through exactly the same period and the same circumstances. I have listened to a number of my wife's stories from those days. One particular story she likes to tell is that when she was in first-year training at the Children's Hospital at Camperdown the nurses received advice on how they should react to certain patients. They were advised on how to deal with amorous gentlemen and difficult situations that occurred. She was told about using a cold spoon to make sure everything was put back in order. [Time expired.
Ms SYLVIA HALE
[3.03 p.m.]: The public is sick of hearing the State and Commonwealth governments and the Liberal and Labor parties endlessly trying to blame one another when something goes wrong in the health system. The public is also sick of being shifted between different health services—not on the basis of which is the most effective but on the basis of which level of government picks up the bill. The public does not want to hear yet again an argument about who is to blame for the problems in the health system and why the tertiary education institutions cannot seem to train enough nurses, dentists or doctors. The public simply wants the system fixed.
Everyone is aware that the biggest problem with the health system in this country is the complex and inefficient structure of our national system for the delivery of health services. In its 2003 report on the performance of the national health system, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare described the system as "a complex system characterised by differing roles and responsibilities of different levels of government". Julia Gillard, Labor's shadow health Minister, recognised the problem when she wrote in The Age
on 23 August 2006:
The states have been desperate for reform; they understand that the health system produces a whole lot of rational results simply because of cost shifting.
Tony Abbott, the Liberal health Minister, also acknowledged the problem on the Sunday
program on 20 June 2004 when he said, "This blame game has been going on for a long time." So everyone, including both the Federal Minister for Health and Ageing and the Federal shadow Minister for Health and Ageing, recognises that the problem is the complexity of Australia's national system for delivering health services, and the unwieldiness, inefficiencies and duplications that this complexity creates.
Why, then, are we presented with a Labor motion excoriating the Federal Government for closing the nursing school at the University of Sydney—which, I agree, is deplorable—followed by a counter amendment from The Nationals seeking to laud the Federal Government and deploring the failings of the New South Wales health system, without at any point acknowledging this central problem? Because, yet again, both Labor and the Opposition parties want to engage in a disingenuous round of political point-scoring while ignoring the real problem. And yet again there will be a lot of heat and no light, and the long-suffering Australian public will see their health services continue to decline. Between them, the Labor and Coalition parties have held power at both State and Federal level for more than 50 years, yet both have failed to fix the structure of the national health system.
Instead of trying to shift the blame between them, they should recognise that they are both to blame. They have both had the opportunity to fix the system, and they have both failed because they have been more interested in short-term blame and cost shifting than in any commitment to long-term reform of the system. Today's debate is just the latest example of this futile and apparently endless exercise. The Greens will therefore move an amendment to focus the debate on the underlying problem, not just the latest symptom, and to try to provide a way to move forward. At different times in the past both the Labor and Liberal parties have called for a process to look at national health reform, so neither party should be opposed to an amendment that seeks to set such a process in motion. Rationality would suggest that neither would be opposed to the amendment, but the practical realities of the situation are, I believe, that both will oppose it.
It needs to be a co-operative process, and that is why we are suggesting that the New South Wales Government initiate a national constitutional conference to look at the options for fundamentally reforming the delivery of health services in this country. The priority of this conference must be to place the needs of patients ahead of the needs of political parties or State or Federal bureaucracies. It needs to examine which level of government is best placed to deliver health education and services in an effective, efficient and responsive way and how those services should be funded. The conference needs to be driven by evidence and by the views and experience of front-line health professionals and those who use health services. It needs to be open to alternative models for delivery and alternative models for funding. Until we undertake such a national reform process, the symptoms, such as a lack of nursing staff, will only get worse and the public will continue to suffer. Therefore, I move:
That the question be amended by omitting all words after "That" and inserting instead:
(a) notes with regret the closure of the Faculty of Nursing at the University of Sydney,
(b) notes that the closure of the faculty is symptomatic of broader problems in the provision of health care and the training of medical practitioners. These problems stem from an outdated and ineffective national system for the delivery of health services and health education that gives rise to blame and cost shifting between State and Commonwealth governments while patient services suffer, and
(c) calls on the Government to initiate a national constitutional conference to develop options for a new model for the delivery of health services and the training of nurses and other health professionals that provides an effective, efficient and responsive health service for the Australian people.
The Hon. Dr ARTHUR CHESTERFIELD-EVANS
[3.11 p.m.]: I am always a little reluctant to speak at length on motions that involve Federal and State, and Labor and Liberal bickering. This House should not be involved in that sort of bickering. We now have, effectively, three motions to choose from—we have a smorgasbord of choice. The motion moved by the Hon. Jan Burnswoods condemns the closing of the Faculty of Nursing at the University of Sydney and notes that since 1996 18,000 nursing applicants have been turned away from the university because there are not enough places; confirms that New South Wales needs more nurses, not less; and calls on the Federal Government to co-operate with the New South Wales Government to address the shortage of nursing places in New South Wales universities.
The changing of nursing to a university faculty was in response to the desire to professionalise and raise the status of nurses, but it took away the apprenticeship-type system where nurses spent a lot of time at hospital bedsides as they trained. Of course, that was a very important resource for the staffing of hospitals with well-motivated and enthusiastic people. The shortage of nursing, in part, came from the fact that instead of working in hospitals as they trained student nurses worked in universities. While the status of nurses was higher and their pay, in consequence, was higher, I believe it led to better-trained nurses but fewer of them, and of the ones that were trained fewer of them were at hospital bedsides because they were more expensive. The nurses who trained in hospitals, and are very well trained, are often discriminated against in regard to promotion because they have a nursing certificate rather than a degree. There has been a quite significant downside—although I believe nurses are probably better trained, at least at a theoretical level.
The Howard Government treated universities as just another industry, and if they make money from selling their courses the courses prosper and if they do not sell their courses they do not. That very narrow view of education has ignored the previous way of arranging university education, which was to attempt to project work force needs for the future and fund universities to do that. However imprecise that science may have been, I think it was better than simply relying on what makes money today. That strategy assumed that all the people who knew how much science would be needed in 20 years enrolled in science or took an interest in science, and so on. Of course, we have ended up with—God help us—a glut of lawyers and a shortage of scientists, dentists and nurses, as one might have expected, looking at how cheap it is to train lawyers and the difficulty of training scientists, dentists and nurses. The Howard Government has been very stupid and short-term in its attitude to the university sector in general and the nursing sector in particular. While these nurses were being turned away, everyone was crying from the hilltops that there was a shortage of nurses. It is just another example of the Howard Government's stupidity and venality in the higher education sector. There is no doubt that New South Wales needs more nurses. The Federal Government has to work more co-operatively on this issue.
The amendment moved by the Hon. Jennifer Gardiner notes that the Faculty of Nursing at the University of Sydney did not result in a reduction of undergraduate nursing places_some were transferred to the University of Technology and the Australian Catholic University. In a sense, it means that the University of Sydney said, "We do not want to have nurses", and some of the other universities took up the slack. There is an idea to have them trained by Catholic universities: presumably there is secular education in nursing—we can only hope there is. The amendment states that the Federal Government should be commended for funding an extra 1,000 higher education nursing places at a national level—having cut far, far more than that from the system. This is just one of those overblown sops to a cheap headline when the Federal Government has systematically done a hell of a lot of damage.
The fact that the Liberals can come in here with this sort of nonsense—a fig leaf to cover a horrendous policy—shows the triumph of politics over reality in a most unfortunate fashion. The same might be said for mental health nursing. While we have far more than 420 new places in gaols for our mental health patients, 420 new places in mental health nursing is a tiny bit and very late. The Federal Government's approach to mental health has been very tokenistic and, frankly, impractical. To say that only 36 per cent of registered enrolled nurses in New South Wales work in the public health system shows there is some sort of a fiddle in numbers, because that figure is for full-time nurses. There are quite a lot of nurses who are either on maternity leave or who are working part-time_so the figure is higher than that.
While the Howard Government supports the private hospital sector to the extent it does, it is trading nurses out of the public hospital sector. It is a bit disingenuous then to say that only a few of the registered enrolled nurses work in the public health system when in fact the Howard Government is subsidising the private health insurance system to hell with money that should be going into the public health system. To condemn the State Government over the critical shortage of nurses when the Federal Government is so involved in the closure of nursing is, again, disingenuous. I refer to the closure of 3,000 hospital beds. While there is a shortage of hospital beds, it must be said that Australia does not do too badly in the general hospital sector.
The decline in hospital beds to a large extent results from shortened hospital stays in the acute sector, and that should be noted. The problem of hospital beds should, to some extent, be addressed with more sensible public health measures—how much support there is for people to continue to live in their own homes and health measures that stop people getting sick and lessen the incidence of chronic illness that makes people bedridden. So to simply look at the number of beds and extrapolate that across is also somewhat disingenuous. The amendment of the Hon. Jennifer Gardiner is stitched together as fine politics, but it does not cut the mustard in the real world.
The Greens' amendment expands the issue beyond nursing to look at the broader problems in the provision of health care and the training of medical and nursing practitioners. It is true that there has not been a good look at the delivery of health services. It is also true that the cost shifting and blaming between Federal and State governments is a depressing feature, and I will not broaden it further by saying that the Democrats solution to this problem is to abolish State governments. I have a plan for doing that, which I have enunciated to this House on a number of occasions.
Be that as it may, I also have a 10-point plan to save the health system, one of which is to have a single administration, away from the Federal and the State systems. The key object of health policy now is not how to build the best health system but how to shift the costs to the other tier of government, the patient or the insurance systems. The key objective of health policy is to shift costs. The concern is not about total cost but the component of cost for which that person is responsible. John Menadue, who had a distinguished career in the public service, and who looked into the public health system, said the problem is that nobody is in charge. He said that it is a, "strife of interests", to use the phrase of Sydney Sacks, who talked about the politics of health care in his seminal book some years ago.
My 10-point plan involves rationalisation of the single system of Federal-State problems in health, which was to support the public system because competition in health care is nonsense. The main competition between different systems simply results in duplication and a need for excessive record collecting. This means that the overheads of different health funds are far greater than the overheads of Medicare because of its universal coverage of the whole country. Also, competition does not really exist because patients are not able to make informed decisions about something being cheaper because they are not in a position to know prices and, therefore, cannot make valid comparisons on technologies or expertise. The market model simply does not work.
A privatised system also seeks the most lucrative procedures and does nothing towards prevention, which must be done at the national level or by targeting relevant groups. Prevention is ignored in the market system. Medical indemnity reform is needed because a huge percentage of pathology and radiology services are carried out so that doctors cannot be sued for not being diligent. That may appear worthwhile but it wastes huge resources on tests when the answers are already known. It seeks also to strengthen the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme [PBS], which has been systematically weakened by the Howard Government after the lobbying of Pfizer so that drugs are now in the upper price range.
It might be noted that pharmaceuticals have risen dramatically as a percentage of the health budget but cost effectiveness has been reduced. The PBS system before Howard reformed it was the envy of the world in that it not only looked at the drugs but the cost effectiveness of the drugs, which is the key aspect. Honourable members who would like to read the rest of my 10-point plan can visit my web site at www.chesterfieldevans.com
. The Greens amendment further states:
Calls on the Government to initiate a national constitutional conference to develop options for a new model for delivery of health services and the training of nurses and other health professionals that provides an effective, efficient and responsive health service for the Australian people.
The Labor Party has criticised that. It suggests it is doing its best to get national co-operation through the mechanisms of the Council of Australian Governments and, as such, that is not a justifiable call. However, the more effort put into national co-operation the better chance we have. It is a radical point that there may be other methods of delivering health care. We need closer scrutiny of the current mix of doctors and their roles, and nurses and their roles. We need to consider the exclusion of psychologists from the public system in significant numbers and whether they could make a huge difference in mental health. Closer scrutiny should be given to the importance of podiatrists in lessening pathology from foot problems in diabetics and elderly people, physiotherapy and rehabilitation and which groups are funded.
It is inefficient to have people who are overly qualified and it is dangerous to have people who are unqualified. It is a question of determining the mix of people and optimising the mix. It is time that someone examined the issue. Primary prevention is stopping the disease, secondary prevention is stopping it from getting worse and tertiary prevention is the speed of rehabilitation. The use of skills other than doctors in terms of Medicare and the way it is funded and optimising the skills mix of people delivering health care needs attention. The Greens amendment is a little distant from the motion but it is worth supporting. The motion is reasonable in that it highlights the lack of attention given to the training of nurses in the environment of a nurse shortage and the Howard Government's neglect of the higher education sector. As such the motion deserves support. The Liberal Party's amendment is a piece of political nonsense and does not deserve my support. The Greens amendment is correct, although it is broader, and I will support it.
Reverend the Hon. FRED NILE
[3.26 p.m.]: The main thrust of the motion is the closure of the University of Sydney Faculty of Nursing. It relates to the number of students who have sought to undertake nursing training but who had been turned away from universities. It confirms the obvious that New South Wales needs more nurses because most of the pressure on hospitals relates to staff, whether it is the shortage of nurses or the shortage of doctors. The latter part of the motion calls on the Federal Government to work with the New South Wales Government to address the shortage of nursing places in New South Wales universities. The Christian Democratic Party would prefer to support the original motion. I agree with the sentiments of the Hon. Dr Arthur Chesterfield-Evans that we seem to have created major problems by phasing out, fairly dramatically, hospital-trained nursing and replacing it with university-trained nursing.
Obviously, that was done to improve standards, but I believe there is still a place for hospital-trained nursing, for a variety of reasons. It may be possible still to have the two levels of entry into the nursing profession. Those who have obtained their Higher School Certificate may still be able to go on to the faculty of nursing at a university while those who may not be as academically proficient but are temperamentally more suited to nursing may have the opportunity to go into a hospital-trained program and be trained on the job. They would still be required to have the necessary training for a modern hospital. I am not suggesting that they would learn it all by being in a hospital ward, as occurred in the past, where classes were held in the day with senior nurses and others instructing new nurses in their role. Over the years I have met young women who would have liked to take up nursing but they were not able to achieve the requisite academic standard and the door was closed to them. They did not want to go to university; they simply wanted to be a nurse. Young men and women with the right temperament and a caring nature, people who want to care for patients in hospitals, should be given the opportunity to do so.
I have received reports that nurses who are trained in universities quite often are shocked when they go into a hospital and must deal with patients' problems, illness, blood, patients who cannot control their bowels and so on. I have heard of university-trained nurses more or less turning up their noses at such things. I suppose it is because they wanted to be nursing managers rather than be involved with physically handling sick people. But some young women and men are happy to do just that; they have a real calling and the compassion to care for people. I believe we should provide such people with a level of entry into the nursing profession so that they can help, and that will in turn help to alleviate the nurses shortage. We all agree that there is a shortage of nurses, and it is a pity that the present system has caused suitable nursing candidates to be turned away. I call on the Government to consider reviewing the process to see whether a second level of entry into nursing can be provided. That would enable on-the-job training in hospitals as well as a degree of academic training. We support the motion moved by the Hon. Jan Burnswoods.
The Hon. JAN BURNSWOODS
[3.31 p.m.], in reply: I thank honourable members who participated in the debate, which has been interesting and well-informed. I was particularly interested to hear honourable members talk about the old days of hospital trained nurses, particularly the Hon. Christine Robertson, the Hon. Ian West in relation to his partner, and the Hon. Dr Arthur Chesterfield-Evans in relation to his sister. Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile took up some of those points. Many intelligent and compassionate points were made about this matter. However, the debate has become much broader than I intended. I make it clear that my motion is in many respects quite narrow. It was sparked off in 2004 by the decision of the University of Sydney to close the undergraduate part of its Faculty of Nursing.
Many people strongly objected to that decision on a number of grounds, and I shall come to them in a moment. The motion addresses the broader issue of the need for more nurses, and draws attention to the fact that in the 10 years of the Howard Government 18,000 nursing applicants have been turned away from university because of insufficient places. Of course, with the nursing shortage that we face, that has been a disaster for the nursing profession. The motions calls on the Federal Government to work with the New South Wales Government to address the shortage of nursing places in New South Wales universities. I ask honourable members not to support the Greens amendment, although I sympathise with Ms Sylvia Hale in terms of her intention.
Previously I have made the point, as have other members of the Standing Committee on Social Issues, that during the committee's inquiries into dental services and the recruitment and training of teachers we became aware of the difficulties confronting our country at the moment as a result of the Federal Government's attitude to funding universities and funding individuals to study in the important health and education professions. I think Ms Sylvia Hale's amendment tries to address some of those issues. The New South Wales Government agrees with the principle that the recruitment and retention of health professionals must be considered as a national issue. The New South Wales public health system is the largest health care employer in Australia, with more than 92,000 full-time equivalent staff.
The doctors, dentists, nurses, ambulance officers and allied health professionals involved in direct clinical care make up 66 per cent of the health work force; the remainder provide support functions. Hospitals throughout the world are struggling to meet the growing demands of an ageing population, the high cost of new medical technology and shortages in the health work force. The Commonwealth's failure to address these issues is deplorable. I take the point that sometimes we have blame and cost shifting—points that Ms Sylvia Hale emphasises in her amendment. However, the point is that we are dealing with an issue that is totally within the constitutional power and funding power of the Commonwealth Government. The training of nurses in universities, the provision of places and the fees they pay are not matters for the New South Wales Government; they are matters for the Federal Government, and the Federal Government must address them.
I ask honourable members to reject that part of the Greens amendment that calls for a national constitutional conference. The Hon. Dr Arthur Chesterfield-Evans made the point that the Greens amendment goes well beyond any issue relating to nursing and deals with the broader issue of delivery of health services. However, specifically in relation to the health work force, I remind honourable members that the Greens amendment fails to recognise the role that the New South Wales Government has already played in taking the issue of the health work force to what is effectively the highest decision-making body in the country for these issues—the Council of Australian Governments [COAG].
The issue was addressed by the Productivity Commission, and the New South Wales Government followed that up by raising the issue at COAG. We got some begrudging concessions but those have not been sufficient to meet our needs. I do not think we can step away from the fact that the Commonwealth must solve the workforce issues addressed in my motion and that it is not doing so. It is inappropriate to suggest that the New South Wales Government should initiate a national constitutional conference. As for the amendment moved by the Hon. Jennifer Gardiner, perhaps I do not need to add much to the good critical points made by the Hon. Dr Arthur Chesterfield-Evans and by my colleague the Hon. Ian West. Clearly, the Hon. Dr Arthur Chesterfield-Evans was totally correct in saying that it is nothing but a political amendment.
Before question time today the Hon. Ian West made some factual points about the Opposition's amendment, and I turn to them now. The figures are rubbery. Indeed, the figures in paragraphs (b) and (c) of the amendment should be described as a misuse of statistics. Last year the New South Wales Government asked for an extra 2,800 nursing places. This amendment purports to congratulate the Federal Government on providing an extra 1,000 nursing places. However, those 1,000 places were provided to the whole country; from memory, I think New South Wales received an extra 326 places. So we asked for 2,800 to begin to address the grave shortage of nurses and we got 300. Similarly, in relation to mental health nursing, the Opposition's amendment, while apparently referring to New South Wales, uses the figures in a rubbery way. The 420 new places in mental health nursing referred to in the amendment are again Australia wide. New South Wales is aware of the great shortage of nursing places. We asked for places; we got 110 out of the 420 referred to in the Opposition's amendment.
Paragraph (c) of the Opposition's amendment is, if possible, even more misleading. I am not sure of the purpose of noting that 36 per cent of registered and enrolled nurses allegedly are in the public health system. I do not understand the point of that statement, but I point out how totally misleading it is. Nurses employed in the public system are recorded in the official statistics, such as the annual report of New South Wales Health, as full-time equivalents. The number of registered health professionals in New South Wales, such as enrolled and registered nurses, is determined by headcount, not full-time equivalents. The number of registered health professionals in New South Wales includes all of those who are registered, and that includes those working overseas, those working interstate, those on leave and, particularly in regard to nurses, on parental leave—as many of them are—and those not currently working as nurses. So, the figure is totally meaningless and totally misleading.
I endorse the points made by the Hon. Dr Arthur Chesterfield-Evans about paragraph (d) of the Opposition's amendment. To suggest that the closure of hospital beds is the result of a shortage of nurses is quite disingenuous, as the honourable members expressed it. Indeed, that is true. The Hon. Dr Arthur Chesterfield-Evans sensibly made the point about changes over the years in the methods of treatment, the length of stay in hospital and all kinds of other issues related to the delivery of health care. I emphasise, as the Hon. Ian West did earlier, that at least we should put on the record that the nurses employed in the public health system in New South Wales are protected from the WorkChoices legislation, whereas others are subject to that draconian legislation. Since Morris Iemma became Premier more than 800 nurses have joined the public health system and, thanks to our Government, our nurses are the best-paid nurses in Australia with the best conditions. [Time expired.
Amendment of the Hon. Jennifer Gardiner negatived.
Question—That the amendment of Ms Sylvia Hale be agreed to—put.
The House divided.
Question resolved in the negative.
Motion agreed to.
Reverend Dr Moyes
ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF SACRIFICE MADE BY AUSTRALIAN SERVICE MEN AND WOMEN
The Hon. CHARLIE LYNN
[3.52 p.m.]: I move:
That in recognition of the year of the ninetieth anniversary of the Australian landing at Anzac Cove in Gallipoli, the sixtieth anniversary of the end of the Pacific War and the fortieth anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan, this House calls on the President to acknowledge the sacrifice made by Australian service men and women who gave their lives in defence of the freedom we enjoy today after the prayer at the beginning of each sitting week in the following terms:
"I acknowledge the supreme sacrifice made by the servicemen and women who gave their lives on active service in defence of the freedom we enjoy in New South Wales today."
Since I proposed my original motion in the House on 4 May we have observed the fortieth anniversary of the battle of Long Tan, about which I will speak shortly. Acknowledgment of the traditional owners of the land seems to have been introduced around the time of the republican-reconciliation debates during the Keating Labor era. Left-wing academics, inner-city urban dwellers and doctors' wives were among the comfortable middle-class voices calling for changes to our flag and our system of parliamentary democracy. They also wanted us to say "sorry" for historical wrongs over which we had no influence.
As it turned out, the only thing that changed was the government. I would hope that these ideological warriors of the Left will come to understand that the wider Australian community will accept such changes to our systems, symbols and institutions only when they are treated as equals in the debate and not as a group of uneducated westies or rednecks. It is my view that concentrating on so-called progressive issues for our indigenous people has done them more harm than good. The feel-good factor for the chattering classes in comfortable inner-city environments does not translate into worthwhile sustainable benefits for indigenous people in remote and isolated areas. It has taken the emergence of indigenous leaders, such as Noel Pearson and Warren Mundine, to get some balance back into the debate, and to earn the respect of the wider community in the process.
The election of one of the ideological relics of the Left to the presidency of this House brought with it some radical but predictable change. Firstly, our ex-servicemen and ex-servicewomen were insulted when representatives of some of the most repressive Communist regimes in the world were invited as official guests to the opening of the House, while our former and current allies, with whom we had spilled blood in conflict with those Communist regimes, were ignored. The next to go was the portrait of the Queen from the public area of the Parliament. The President used considerable vision in the removal of that portrait, given that, because of the position in which it was hung, it was not seen by many who visited the Parliament.
The Hon. Jan Burnswoods:
Point of order: The motion that the Hon. Charlie Lynn has moved is very specific. It deals with a number of anniversaries in relation to battles fought by Australian servicemen and servicewomen. Nothing he has said so far has related to that motion. However, what he has said in terms of the reconciliation process and the traditional owners of the land, and his reflection on the President, is against the standing orders as well as being totally outside the leave of the motion he has moved.
The Hon. CHARLIE LYNN:
To the point of order: The motion states that after the prayer at the beginning of the sitting week we acknowledge the supreme sacrifice made by the servicemen and servicewomen who gave their lives on active service in defence of the freedoms we enjoy in New South Wales today. That was initiated as a result of the introduction to this House of acknowledgment of the traditional owners of this land. Everything I am saying in this debate relates to that original motion, and I will develop the argument as to why our servicemen and servicewomen, who sacrificed their lives on active service in defence of the freedoms we enjoy in New South Wales today should be acknowledged.
The Hon. Jan Burnswoods:
Further to the point of order: By the Hon. Charlie Lynn reading parts of his motion for the third time he is hardly saying anything relevant to the point of order. He did not argue, and the motion does not state, that it relates to the acknowledgment of the traditional owners. But I also took exception to his reflections on the President and the monarchy in contravention of the standing orders.
The Hon. Jennifer Gardiner:
To the point of order: The Hon. Charlie Lynn's motion refers to Australian servicemen and servicewomen who gave their lives in defence of the freedoms that we enjoy today. Some of those freedoms are not to be found in some of the regimes to which he referred and that goes to the heart of what he is on about. Therefore there is no point of order.
The Hon. Peter Primrose:
To the point of order: I am loath to interfere on the basis that I believe we were reaching some degree of consensus, and that has been my point all along about what form this debate should take. However, I remind the Hon. Charlie Lynn that one of the freedoms members do not enjoy is the freedom to contravene the standing orders. If the Hon. Charlie Lynn wishes to make such aspersions against people outside this Chamber, that is a matter that can be addressed by the due processes of this House. But I would urge you not to allow the Hon. Charlie Lynn to make reflections on members of this House, the monarch or, indeed the Governor General or Governor, in seeking to influence the House to vote in one way or another
The DEPUTY-PRESIDENT (The Hon. Patricia Forsythe):
Order! I have heard sufficient on the point of order. The member may, by way of background for his motion, refer to Aboriginal land rights and the acknowledging of the traditional owners of this land. However, I caution him about reflecting on the President and the monarch. The standing orders are very clear on that.
The Hon. CHARLIE LYNN:
I was congratulating the President on moving the portrait of the monarch to a place where it is seen by everyone who enters and leaves this place. That is a wonderful thing.
Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile:
It is not a reflection.
The Hon. CHARLIE LYNN:
No, that is correct. However, in speaking on behalf of servicemen and servicewomen, the Returned Services League and the Vietnam Veterans Association, I remember the outrage when this Parliament was opened and the high commissioners of North Korea, Vietnam and Cuba were invited into this House as official guests and the representatives of our allies were ignored.
The Hon. Jan Burnswoods:
Point of order: Madam Deputy-President, you probably know that the Hon. Charlie Lynn is ignoring the warning you gave him about reflecting on the President.
The DEPUTY-PRESIDENT (The Hon. Patricia Forsythe):
Order! The Hon. Charlie Lynn is reflecting on the President, and that is contrary to the standing orders. Such reflections cannot be made unless by way of substantive motion.
The Hon. CHARLIE LYNN:
As I said, one group of people in our community should also be acknowledged by our parliaments, our local councils and our educational institutions. That is our servicemen and servicewomen, who sacrifice their lives in defence of the freedom, peace and prosperity that we have in this country today. Since I first spoke on this motion on 4 May we have commemorated the fortieth anniversary of the battle of Long Tan. Honourable members will recall the conflict in Vietnam and the conscription program in place at the time. I was conscripted into the army with thousands of other young Australians. Like them, I voluntarily served the governments of the day, both the Liberal Government and the Labor Government. That was a sad period, because it was the first time in our history that our servicemen and servicewomen returning from active service were betrayed by a small minority of radicals who campaigned against us and mocked us when we arrived home. That is probably one of the most disgraceful chapters in our history. I will record the reflections of Major Bill Wallace, who spoke at the battle of Long Tan commemorative service on 20 August this year. He stated:
Colonel John McRae, a Canadian Medical officer in WW I (formerly Professor of Medicine at Macgill University) was the composer of "In Flanders Fields", which he had written in 1915, but was not published (at first anonymously) until 1923. He died of wounds in May 1918, and on the night before his death said to his doctor this quote from the last stanza. Tell them this, "If ye break faith with us who die we shall not sleep". Today we honour those who sleep and help them to sleep peacefully.
In recognising that 18th August is the anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan (this being the 40th anniversary of that battle), the headline battle from the Australian involvement in the Vietnam conflict, it was not the largest in which the Australian forces were engaged. But it has come to symbolise the conflict in the Australian community.
However we are here because this day was appointed by the Parliament of Australia, on advice from the Veterans, to honour the service of the 50,000 Australian servicemen and servicewomen who served in Vietnam between 1962 and 1972. So we gather here not to reflect specifically about the few hundred Australians and New Zealanders who fought the Battle of Long Tan, but all those who served. We are honouring also those who fought at Bien Hoa, in War Zone D, FSB Coral and Balmoral, Binh Ba, Baria, Dat Do, along Route 44, in the Long Hais, Mai Tao Mountains, Hat Dich, Tui Tich, Xuyen Moc, The Horseshoe, The Light Green and the Long Green, in the Courtney Rubber, and along the Song Rai. Not forgetting the heroism of the AA TTV Members in 1 Corps and 2 Corps which resulted in the awarding of many honours including the Victoria Cross on 4 occasions. We must also honour the service of the members of 1 Australian Logistic Support Group in Vung Tau whose efforts kept the combat elements in the field supplied with all the materials needed to wage war, repaired all the damaged equipment, and mended wounded and diseased bodies. And we remember those who served at HQ MV in Saigon, keeping contact with Australia, and co-ordinating the activities of the Australian forces with those of the allied nations.
We must also remember the members of the RAAF whether flying Hueys with 9 Sqn out of Vung Tau, with Wallaby Airlines flying their Caribou aircraft to all parts of the country, with the Canberra bombers, destroying enemy installations, isolating the battlefield and disrupting enemy supply lines, or with the C130 Hercules taking men and supplies to and from Vietnam, especially providing those special medical evacuation flights which had a 10 year unblemished record. We also remember the service of the members of the RAN ferrying men and materials from Australia on "The Vung Tau Ferry", HMAS Sydney and on HMAS Jeparrit, conducting combat and fire support operations along the coast on the DDG Destroyers, the clearance divers keeping the harbours secure, or the pilots of Fleet Air Arm either with the Assault Helicopter Coy at Bear Cat or on attachment to the RAAF Units.
But why do we remember these Veterans? What is so special about being a Veteran? The answer quite simply is that these are the only servants of the Australian Nation who have had to be prepared to die to implement national policy. No others are required to make this commitment. When undertaking this service to the nation, these men and women are deprived of any of the personal rights which properly protect our freedom and democracy. When you don a uniform, you lose the right to refuse a lawful command at every level from the CDF to the lowest recruit. If the Government says that this is what is required, the defence force has no alternative but to say "Yes Sir". This is why the nation does not have occasions such as this to remember the service of government employees who work in the ATO or in the Diplomatic Service. Only Veterans have been required by the Australian Nation to make this ultimate commitment. Only Veterans have been required to be prepared to die in the service of the nation.
This makes all Veterans "special". However, to the veterans it appears that the nation has forgotten this and has allowed Veterans issues to become part of party politics. Veterans believe that if the maintenance of the Defence Force is the premium on the Nation's Insurance Policy, Veterans are the payout on that policy, and as such are above politics. To provide appropriate support to the veterans is a national obligation, and must progress from being considered "adequate" to being appropriate before those who did not come home will be able to rest peacefully.
But we are here today specifically to honour the Veterans of the conflict in Vietnam. Why are these Veterans specially honoured? What is special about being a Vietnam Veteran?
For the first time in Australian History a war was lost. There was no return of conquering heroes to a grateful nation. The attempt to prop up the corrupt military dictatorship in South Vietnam failed and the reunification of Vietnam under the North Vietnamese Government is now a permanent fixture. Australia fought this war with limited political aims, mainly to convince the United States that we were a true and valuable ally, and that the US should fill the vacuum created in SE Asia by the British decision the withdraw to Europe. It could be argued that this also has failed and that Australia is still pursuing a foreign policy to achieve these objectives.
It is now beyond dispute that the intelligence advice to the government before the decision to deploy combat troops was taken was that the war was not winnable. Yet the decision was taken which cost the lives of 501 young Australians.
As the ADF knew this, the motivation for the soldiers deployed to Vietnam was based purely on mateship, pride and professionalism. When they returned, none of this was recognised.
The soldiers felt betrayed by the nation because of this, and buried themselves back into the community. But the recognition that was given to the men after WW II was not afforded to them. Allowances were not made for the effects of war on these young men. I remember when I was a boy that a man's shortcomings would be tolerated because he was a "Returned Man". This did not happen in Australia in the 1970's and 1980's. Happily it is now being done, but for a great many, the damage is irreparable.
During the Vietnam War, the nation was not at war. Other than the families of the soldier, no-one in Australia was required to make any sacrifices. As a result, after the war, veterans issues quickly disappeared over the political horizon, and with some minor exceptions this continues to be the case today. Veterans feel betrayed. The Minister for Veterans Affairs is no longer a stand alone figure, having dual responsibility as a junior minister reporting to the Minister for Defence. Recently the Minister made an important announcement regarding issues about which Vietnam Veterans feel passionate. This media release was widely circulated in the veteran community but ignored in the media.
The Prime Minister will attend dinner with the Long Tan Veterans in the Great Hall but will not grant the national president of the TPI Association 10 minutes in his office. Politicians are happy to accept the recommendations of an independent tribunal to fix their own salaries and conditions, but accepted less than 20% of the recommendations made by Justice Clarke who had been appointed to independently review veterans' entitlements. The electorate accepted without question the spin that the veterans were being looked after, (albeit only after a backbench revolt in the lead up to the election in 2004).
Besides the Veterans, the casualties of the Vietnam War have been our beautiful and long suffering families. The one positive is that it is now accepted, although not yet at the policy level, that war has an effect on families. The divorce rate in Vietnam Veterans is almost twice the national average, and the effect on our children has been horrendous.
The Hon. Jan Burnswoods laughs. This is not something to laugh about; it is a very serious issue among Vietnam veterans. I cannot understand why the Hon. Jan Burnswoods would turn her back on this debate and laugh at these statistics. The address continued:
It has been confirmed that in the tragedy of youth suicide, sons and daughters of Vietnam Veterans are over represented by a factor of 3.5. This is not a fact for which the Prime Minister apologised in Parliament on Wednesday. This needless waste of so many wonderful young people continues and is largely ignored. Happily, things may well be changing.
Despite world-wide recognition of the effect of dioxin exposure on the health of individuals and their offspring, the Australian Government hides behind a limited scientific opinion, and refuses to revisit this issue. Although it is too late for our children, there are signs that it is being recognised that war affects families and that programs are being developed to attempt to limit these effects. One could say that this is just an extension of occupational Health and Safety which is mandatory on all employers.
Vietnam Veterans feel betrayed. In 1969 when I was placing my life on the line for this nation, the special rate of pension paid to permanently incapacitated servicemen was 90% of average weekly earnings. TPI's did not receive welfare. The neglect of all governments since, which has been accepted by the electorate, has resulted in those people now being welfare dependent. When the automatic adjustments are made next month, for the first time welfare will constitute more than 50% of the income of most TPI's, and the special rate of pension will be about 40% of the average weekly earnings. Of the 40,000 Vietnam Veterans still alive (5,000 have taken their own lives—10 times as many who died during the conflict), 18,000 are now classed as Totally and Permanently Incapacitated. They feel betrayed as since 1997, all Centrelink Benefits and Parliamentary Superannuation payments have been indexed at the more advantageous rate of MTAWE which has been a serious disadvantage to veterans. I return to my earlier comment that Veteran entitlements should be appropriate, not adequate.
This is why Vietnam Veterans are "special". Mainly for reasons we would rather have ignored or wish had not occurred at all. Whilst there are 40,000 of us still alive, the nation has a chance to make amends, not merely by public expressions of sorrow and gratitude, not by glittering dinners and ceremonies at the fine memorials which have been built, but by changing things which affect the everyday lives of veterans.
I found this poem by James D Young which captures the spirit of my address in a fine anthology of Australian Military poetry.
The Folly of War
The cannons roar, the bullets whine,
The soldiers' dreaded fate,
The reason why, not clear to see
Thoughts of logic, far too late.
Where hide the ones who make the war
Who fashion all the rules,
Not for the battlefield
This honour—left to fools.
Yet fools we are, we men of arms
Who hold our honour high,
While those who make this world of war
Care not that soldiers die.
Vested power to politician
Who, for greed, would sell their soul,
But never they in gunshot sound
For them, no bells do toll.
Never yet in history's time
Were problems solved by force,
Still Man must pay the devil 's price
The biblical rider, on a pale horse.
Where men of science boldly tread
No man has been before,
Yet humanity prospers not a whit
When it comes to the folly of war.
To extrapolate from the words of Colonel John McRae in May 1918; you as the Australian Nation have not kept faith, and those who died are not yet sleeping.
I commend Major Wallace for that fine speech to the veterans at the fortieth anniversary of the battle of Long Tan commemorative service held in Ballarat on 20 August this year. The address adds weight to the need for us to try to heal the wounds felt by many veterans, particularly Vietnam veterans, who were betrayed by their own people back here. It was not the veterans who started the war; it was the politicians who committed them to war. The veterans simply served their nations as they have always done. If people had wanted to attack the politicians who sent them to war and demonstrate against them, we would have acknowledged that. But to attack the soldiers, as they did, after the Vietnam War was an absolute disgrace. These radicals also tried to hijack Anzac Day ceremonies during the Vietnam War. An article in a 1981 newspaper under the heading "Ugly, violent Anzac Day" reported:
Police and demonstrators clashed violently at yesterday's Anzac Day march in Canberra.
Who was demonstrating? A bunch of left-wing, radical women, who were campaigning about women raped in war. They were simply trying to grab some very cheap publicity. Federal Labor member Ken Fry described it as "the blackest Anzac Day ever" because these people, who had campaigned against the veterans, tried to then ambush Anzac Day ceremonies. It was also reported in a 1981 newspaper:
The national president of the RSL, Sir William Keys, was unavailable for comment after the march. But on Friday [he said]: "The women can march or demonstrate or protest whenever they want at any other time or place. We do not interfere with their occasions or rights. Why do they want to interrupt ours?
It was an absolute disgrace. When a motion such as this is moved normally the first thing the Left do is seek to discredit the motion, and I anticipate that. The first thing they do is change the word "commemorate" to "celebrate". Nowhere in my contribution have I used the term "celebration of war"—and never will I. But I will use "commemoration", in commemorating the deeds of our servicemen. Changing the word from "commemorate" to "celebrate" allows the Left to suggest that we are trying in some way to celebrate war. As I said, anyone who has fought in war would agree that it is not something one would celebrate.
Our involvement in other wars has also been brought up in debate. Our involvement in the Boer War in 1899, our involvement in the Boxer Rebellion and in the Sudan in 1885, and our involvement in the Maori wars in 1863-64 were brought up as examples of why we should not be proud of previous service. I have never proposed that.
The Hon. Peter Primrose:
Point of order: I understand that the Hon. Charlie Lynn is speaking to a motion as written and that he has indicated his intention to include in the motion the words "including the fortieth anniversary of the battle of Long Tan". I believe that is an appropriate amendment, but I understand he needs leave to move the amendment before his time for speaking has expired. That is why I am interrupting him at this point. I ask that he be given leave to incorporate that clause in the motion prior to the conclusion of his contribution.
The Hon. CHARLIE LYNN:
I thank the Hon. Peter Primrose for reminding me of that. Accordingly, by leave, I move:
That the question be amended by inserting after "Pacific War" the words "the fortieth anniversary of the battle of Long Tan".
I remind the House that this motion is about the involvement of Australian servicemen and servicewomen and that we honour that in our words. The Boer War, the Boxer Rebellion and the Maori Wars were not our wars. We were not an Australian nation; we were a British colony. We became an Australian nation on 1 January 1901 and from that time our involvement has been in World War I—and I reflected on that in a previous debate when I spoke of the wonderful leadership of General Sir John Monash and the involvement of Australian troops—and World War II. Australian troops fought first in the Far East, the Middle East, at the battles of Tobruk, El Alamein and so forth, then in the south-west Pacific along the Kokoda track, at Milne Bay, Lae, Finchhafen, Bougainville and so forth. After that they fought in the Korean War and then the Vietnam War. These are the engagements for which I believe the sacrifices of Australian service men and service women should be acknowledged in this Parliament. I hope that eventually they will be acknowledged in all parliaments, including the Federal Parliament, and in all local government councils after the acknowledgment of the traditional owners of the land.
Reverend the Hon. FRED NILE
[4.21 p.m.]: I strongly support the motion moved by the Hon. Charlie Lynn. We know this is very much a personal issue for him as he has spoken on related matters many times in this House. I congratulate him on his efforts and on his sincerity in his attempt to have these additional words spoken at the beginning of each day of Parliament. The Procedure Committee, previously called the Standing Orders Committee, has been established to consider such matters. Changes to the procedures of the House should not be simply voted on in the House as stand-alone issues but should be referred to the Procedure Committee. It is an all-party committee that can give serious consideration to how proposals may affect the running of the Parliament and how they fit in with the present procedures. After the committee has reached consensus on an issue the matter can be dealt with in the House and passed without any sense of animosity or disagreement. I agree with all that the Hon. Charlie Lynn has said and support his objective. I have foreshadowed an amendment that I understand has been considered by Government and Opposition members. I have also discussed it with the Hon. Charlie Lynn. I move:
That the question be amended by omitting all words after "That" and inserting instead, "the Procedure Committee inquire into and report on the desirability of the President acknowledging after the prayer on the first sitting day of each week the sacrifice by Australian service men and women who gave their lives in defence of the freedom we enjoy today; and related matters."
If the matter is referred to the Procedure Committee forthwith we may reach agreement on the best way to deal with the issue. But it is a matter for the House, bearing in mind that some members have expressed strong views for and against the proposal. The amendment is intended to transfer the debate to the Procedure Committee to be discussed in a calm and rational manner. The committee can then bring a recommendation back to the House in due course. Obviously, according to the rules of the House, other members can speak on the matter when I conclude my remarks. I do not want to draw out the debate but I agree with the Hon. Charlie Lynn that there should be some way in which this House acknowledges the sacrifices made by Australian service men and women who gave their lives in defence of the freedom we enjoy today. How that is finally done is a matter for the House. I hope that the Procedure Committee can bring forward a recommendation that is supported by all parties.
The Hon. Rick Colless:
Point of order: I am a little confused about what Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile is trying to achieve. From what he was saying it seems to me that he wants this debate to go to a committee and then come back to the House. To me, what he has moved would seem to make perfect sense if it were to be voted on at some stage and then go to a committee. But I do not see that it can be sent off to a committee and then come back to the House for the debate to continue.
The DEPUTY-PRESIDENT (The Hon. Kayee Griffin):
Order! I was about to clarify that point with Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile. If the member wishes to have that amendment dealt with immediately, there will obviously be procedural issues to consider. Usually, amendments are dealt with at the conclusion of debate on the question before the Chair.
Reverend the Hon. FRED NILE:
To the point of order: I am happy for it to be left to the end of the debate, if other members wish to speak to the motion.
The DEPUTY-PRESIDENT (The Hon. Kayee Griffin):
Order! I welcome to the President's Gallery Joseph W. P. Wong, Secretary for Commerce Industry and Technology, (Hong Kong) Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China.
ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF SACRIFICE MADE BY AUSTRALIAN SERVICE MEN AND WOMEN
The Hon. DAVID OLDFIELD
[4.30 p.m.]: I move:
That the amendment of Revd Mr Nile be amended by inserting after the words "Australian servicemen and women" the words ", in particular those".
I support the Hon. Charlie Lynn in everything he is attempting to do. My amendment makes a slight change to what he is suggesting, in that the current proposal rightfully takes into account all those who have given their lives in defence of the country. I seek to include not just those who have given their lives but to acknowledge the sacrifice of everyone who has served. It includes not merely those who died in the service of Australia but those who were wounded and those who suffer consistently as a consequence of their service upon return even though they may not have been wounded. Great sacrifices have been made in the course of war by those who were captured and became prisoners of the various countries that we were at war with, be that with Germany in the First World War and Japan in the Second World War.
The intention of my amendment is to include the service of all those who have served in the defence of Australia and to acknowledge their sacrifices in that service, rather than those who, unfortunately, also gave their lives in service. What the Hon. Charlie Lynn is doing is most appropriate. We recognise all sorts of things in this House. In particular, on so many occasions in different places in public life we recognising what are said to be the traditional landowners of Australia. However, Australia as we know it today_regardless of any traditional landowners or anybody else_would not exist in the form of this Parliament, our democracy and justice, and everything else that we enjoy without the service not only of those who gave their lives but also those who served bravely with them, the men and women of the Australian armed forces.
It is very appropriate for this service to be acknowledged. I thank the Hon. Charlie Lynn for bringing this issue to our attention. We should at all points acknowledge that Australia would not be a place of freedom today without those who have served. My amendment includes everyone who has served, alongside those who unfortunately made the supreme sacrifice of giving their lives in the defence of Australia so that we can live in the free democratic country that we are so fortunate to live in and be citizens of today.
The Hon. CHARLIE LYNN
[4.33 p.m.], in reply: I thank the Hon. David Clarke, the Hon. David Oldfield and Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile for their contributions to the debate and for their support. This motion is about commemorating service. I want to make it clear that it is certainly not about celebrating war. I thank the Hon. David Oldfield for his thoughtful amendment. Whilst we remember and acknowledge those who paid the ultimate sacrifice and died in war, there are many living victims_they are living with both the physical and psychological scars of war. I refer, in particular, to the Vietnam veterans. Earlier I gave some horrific statistics about the impact of the Vietnam War on veterans and their families, such as the divorce rates and the illnesses facing the children of veterans, which have now been proved scientifically.
I refer also to the feeling of neglect, particularly by totally and permanently incapacitated [TPI] pensioners, who are now virtually welfare-dependent. A very good Vietnam mate of mine, John "Jethro" Thompson_who is well known in the veteran community_was serving in a minefield and was blown up in a mine explosion. He lost his right leg at the hip, he lost his right arm, he lost a lot of his left arm and he suffered severe internal injuries. Even today his body is still full of shrapnel. He defied medical science and survived because of his very strong mind and very strong will. He has dedicated his life to assisting the Vietnam's veterans who have not been able to put up with the psychological betrayal of the Vietnam War.
Jethro was recognised in the Australian Honours List, an honour that was very well deserved. He has lived with those injuries and scars for most of his life, but as a TPI pensioner he does not receive any additional benefits. However, he is more concerned about others than he is about himself. He is living testimony to the term "selfless sacrifice". Governments of all persuasions should revisit their policies in regard to how we look after TPI pensioners. I remember years ago, before I got into politics, that Jethro was president of the TPI association and there was a proposal that TPI pensioners would revert to being normal pensioners at age 60 or 65. He made a brief submission in which he stated, "I look forward to being a normal pensioner at age 60 and getting my arm and leg back." Of course, he never received a response, but he still has that sense of humour.
I seriously believe that acknowledgment of service will go a long way towards healing some of the anxieties and psychological wounds that our veterans feel. As the Hon. David Oldfield pointed out, we acknowledge the service of many individuals and organisations in this House. The acknowledgment of our veterans should be included on a formal basis immediately following acknowledgment of the traditional owners of the land, an acknowledgment that I endorse and support. The addition of this acknowledgment would be a great way to start each parliamentary week. It would remind us of the duty that we have to our indigenous people and to our service men and women. Once again, I thank all honourable members who contributed to the debate.
Amendment of the Hon. David Oldfield agreed to.
Amendment of Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile as amended agreed to.
Motion as amended agreed to.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Postponement of Business
Private Members' Business item No. 5 in the Order of Precedence postponed on motion by Ms Lee Rhiannon.
Private Members' Business item No. 6 in the Order of Precedence postponed on motion by the Hon. Peter Primrose, on behalf of the Hon. Christine Robertson.
Private Members' Business item No. 7 in the Order of Precedence postponed on motion by the Hon. John Ryan.
Private Members' Business item No. 8 in the Order of Precedence postponed on motion by Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile, on behalf of the Hon. Jon Jenkins.
Private Members' Business item No. 9 in the Order of Precedence postponed on motion by the Hon. Don Harwin, on behalf of the Hon. Michael Gallacher.
Motion by the Hon. Henry Tsang agreed to:
That this House at its rising today do adjourn until Tuesday 26 September 2006 at 2.30 p.m.
The Hon. HENRY TSANG
(Parliamentary Secretary) [4.48 p.m.]: I move:
That this House do now adjourn.
DISABILITY SERVICES AND COMMUNITY PARTICIPATION PROGRAM
The Hon. JOHN RYAN
[4.48 p.m.]: I bring to the Government's attention representations I have received from five families in the Blue Mountains area that are being forced to move from their current disability service provider, the Eloura Disability Service at Springwood, in order to access Community Participation Programs because the Eloura service failed in the recent tender process conducted by the Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care [DADHC]. These families have been fighting tooth and nail to keep their family members in their current service because they feel that it best meets their needs. In most instances the issue for these families is transport, but there are other issues relating to the manner in which the service is provided or the social situation in which the family members with disabilities will find themselves if they are forced to move.
Their situation is not much different from the circumstances faced by families using a service at Sutherland called the Sylvanvale Disability Service and another service at Sutherland called the New Era Disability Service. In that instance the Government eventually agreed to an alternative solution that allowed many of these clients to stay at those services. For some reason that I am unable to explain local DADHC staff, possibly working under some sort of policy direction by more senior staff, have been frustrating families at the Eloura service from achieving exactly the same result.
I have now received letters from five service users of the Eloura service. All of them have indicated to me that they have either not chosen another service or they have chosen an alternative service but under some level of duress. Many of these people who were using the Eloura service, which was located at Springwood, will now be faced with half-hour travel journeys to services in Penrith or Lawson. It concerns them that they do not believe their family members will be able to do that travelling and they will be forced to spend up to an hour travelling with them. As we all know, travelling up and down the Blue Mountains on the Great Western Highway, particularly at peak times, can be subject to significant delay.
I have had representations from Jennifer about her daughter Vanessa. I have also had representations from Fran, who is concerned about her daughter. I have had representations from Sue, who is concerned about her daughter Ariana. I have had representations from Helen, who is concerned about her daughter. In every instance they have examined the alternative positions and are not happy with them. Because some of them felt they were being badgered by DADHC staff to choose an alternative service by a particular date—some were concerned that if they did not choose a service they might lose their funding and were worried that all of the places in the alternative services would close their books to new entrants and their existing service would close—they were put under enormous pressure. Therefore, some of them reluctantly made the decision to choose an alternative service.
At the moment the Government is running the line that it will allow the positions established for parents at Sylvanvale if families are unable to find another service. If they have signed up with another service provider, even under some level of duress, they are seen to be able to find another service. Therefore, the Government will not make available to them this alternative commonsense option that existed at Sylvanvale. I believe the Government should be making this position available. It should stop pressuring these families to conform with a policy that it has established and that is largely about saving the Government embarrassment, as the tender process was not great. It should allow these families to have the same choice given to parents—according to an answer the Minister gave me, up to 50 other parents—in other services. I ask the Minister to consider the position of these people and, even if they have selected another service, to make this choice available for them. They dearly want to stay at the service located at Springwood. I believe they should be supported in doing that.
SNOWY RIVER WINE LABEL
The Hon. TONY CATANZARITI
[4.53 p.m.]: Tonight I speak about the Snowy River wine label. On Thursday 10 August I had the honour of attending the launch of Snowy River wine, produced by the award-winning Westend Estate. The launch coincided with the official commissioning of the Barren Box Swamp and Bray's Dam project, a great project in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area of which I have spoken previously and which will see up to 20 gigalitres of water returned to the Snowy River each year. Celebrated with a gala dinner at the Westend Estate winery, the launch was attended by 130 people. Guests included the Minister for Natural Resources, the Hon. Ian Macdonald; the former Mayor of Griffith, Mr John Dal Broi; and the chairman of Murrumbidgee Irrigation, Mr Dick Thompson.
The Snowy River label celebrates our iconic river. The Snowy feeds into the Murrumbidgee and Murray rivers and is of vital importance to the wine industry. It is these waters that help to irrigate the vines. The aim of Snowy River wine is very simple but equally very important: it will allow Australian consumers to support Australia's river systems. The range includes chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, shiraz and cabernet sauvignon. A proportion of the sale proceeds from each bottle is being donated towards the Barren Box Wetland Project and its restoration. The benefits of the project are already evident, with native flora and fauna making a return to the wetland. Bill Calabria, Managing Director and Chief Winemaker of Westend Estate, said:
Water resources are becoming a bigger and bigger issue in Australia and Snowy River wine enables consumers to make a contribution to the management and preservation of Australia's precious waters.
No-one can argue that this State's primary producers place a great importance on water. Without water, the foods and fibres that we rely on cannot be produced. I find it a pity that there are those people, particularly in our metropolitan areas, who are unaware of the water savings that have been achieved and the restoration works that are being carried out by rural communities. These projects are achieving a balance between the needs of the environment and people. As honourable members may be aware, primary producers invest millions of dollars installing new technology and contributing to research to ensure that water efficiency gains are continually improving. Our crops are produced without subsidies in a safer, more environmentally friendly manner than many other countries. Crops that feed and clothe our families are being produced at world's best practice.
Unfortunately, these are stories that so-called environmentalists and the Greens do not want anyone to hear. The environmentalists and Greens, who make all sorts of noises about what should be happening in rural and regional areas, are no doubt the ones who will quite happily stand under a shower for around half an hour without any regard to where the water or the energy to heat it is coming from. It is time that environmentalists made a real effort to discover and appreciate what rural communities are doing to ensure the sustainability of their land for future generations. It is incredible to believe that these environmentalists and the Greens can claim to be experts on rural and regional New South Wales when they are the ones living in a concrete jungle on the coast. So I say to the environmentalists and the Greens: Why not concentrate on your own backyard just as the people of western New South Wales do? The Snowy River wine label is a great example of this.
The Calabria family has chosen to assist a local project that will not only have sound environmental outcomes for the local area but will have flow-on effects that will benefit three of New South Wales' major rivers. I congratulate Bill Calabria and his family on having the foresight to undertake this project. I hope that the Snowy River wine label, which shows horsemen crossing the river, will stimulate conversation around the dinner table and encourage more people to become interested in where their food, wine and raw materials for clothing are produced in New South Wales.
DEATH OF KING TAUFA'AHAU TUPOU IV OF TONGA
Reverend the Hon. Dr GORDON MOYES
[4.58 p.m.]: On Sunday 10 September the King of Tonga died. I met him on several occasions. King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV, 88, was the benign feudal ruler of Tonga, the South Pacific kingdom known as the Friendly Islands since the days of Captain James Cook. The King was the world's only Methodist sovereign. He had great respect for Wesley Mission Sydney, the church home of Tongans who came to Australia. With a Pacific colleague I planted 11 congregations of Tongan people, numbering about 3,000. A Government official once informed me that the King wanted my advice on some matters. I pondered what the problems would be. I was surprised when the King asked me: Should he as a Christian offer an uninhabited island as a nuclear waste dump for Western countries? Should he allow an extension of the airport runway so 747s could land, knowing they would bring thousands of tourists, which would result in the sexual exploitation of young girls and boys from the sexual tourist trade? Would he permit Japanese long-line trawling in Tongan waters, as that would decimate the porpoise population? I realised what heavy decision-making responsibilities he had, especially as he was the only university graduate in the Government of Tonga at that time. The king was a jovial man-mountain of energy. He was 1.9 metres tall and at his peak weighed 220 kilograms. A servant carried into my office a wide stool for him to sit on rather than have him strain my chairs. Yet while at Newington College and the University of Sydney he was an outstanding athlete who set a new all-championship pole vault record and who loved surfing and diving.
Captain Cook first visited the 150 islands of Tonga in the 1770s and since that time it has been a peaceful and politically stable nation. The king was the eldest son of the famous Queen Salote Tupou III. He was the forty-third generation of direct descendants of Aho'eitu, the first supreme ruler who lived in the tenth century. His great-great-great-grandfather, King George Tupou I, established the kingdom in 1845 with the help of Methodist missionaries, and the king and family have remained ardent Christians ever since.
Jesus Christ once spoke about Himself returning to earth. He said, "No-one knows the day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, when the Son will come." Jesus went on to explain that Christians should keep watch for His coming. I found an excellent example of this in the life of the king. I received a telephone call from the Protocol Department of the Australian Government in Canberra about a royal visit of the King and Queen of Tonga. At the last moment, the king had decided he wanted to spend the weekend with the Tongan people of Wesley Mission and so we would have a royal visit the following Saturday night with a concert, speeches of loyalty and a feast with dancing and choral singing—the only problem was that I had less than 24 hours to prepare for it!
I contacted the members of the Tongan congregation and they were overjoyed. They soon had the feast ready—the pigs roasted, and the watermelon and yams cut up—and the dancing prepared. It is customary in a village when the king comes for a special house to be built for him. How could we build a special house in our auditorium? It was done overnight! Hundreds of green palm branches were brought in, and layer upon layer of Tapa cloth arrived and covered the floor of the auditorium. The big wide stool was set in the centre, and all was ready for the coming of the king. The Australian police arrived, the security men went to their appointed positions, the Governor General's Rolls Royce arrived, and the King and Queen of Tonga came in right on time. It was a wonderful weekend.
Afterwards I puzzled about how it had been possible to transform the auditorium and the theatre for the coming of the king in less than 24-hours notice. I found out from the people. They all said the same thing: "We keep special mats locked away at home in every village awaiting that day when the king would come. We always knew that one day he would come and we have been prepared ever since." What a lesson! Christians know that they must be prepared for the coming of Jesus. In that regard we need to remember: Be prepared, rejoice, the King is coming! In my imagination last week I could picture the Tongan believers in heaven gathering around and singing as they do in their inimitable Pacific Island fashion. They would be singing to the tune, "The King is coming! The King is coming!" This week he came.
JUVENILE JUSTICE FRONT-LINE STAFF ACKNOWLEDGMENT
The Hon. CATHERINE CUSACK
[5.03 p.m.]: I take the opportunity tonight to direct my remarks to the hardworking, long-suffering front-line staff in the Department of Juvenile Justice. It has been my privilege to meet and speak to many youth workers in detention centres as well as to dedicated community-based staff in the regions where the boundaries just seem to keep increasing as the available resources and programs keep decreasing. I am aware that inside detention centres many youth workers are demoralised and feel at risk of assault because of the lack of expertise and support for professional and safe security arrangements. I have been able to dig out many reports from the department that explain why management inside detention centres is so dysfunctional.
The Fish Payne Pakel review of properties highlighted the physical flaws in most centres, especially the newer ones. The Newbury report produced after the Kariong debacle highlights how woeful and prejudicial the system of investigations is. In spite of the report, that issue has not been addressed by the Minister or his department. Child protection notifications, an issue that was supposedly addressed in recent legislation, was not in my view ever a problem. It was a ridiculous policy that presumes youth workers are offenders and detainees are all victims. The legislation was simply a face-saver for the Government to effect a change in policy. The policy has been changed only because of sustained pressure by the State Opposition on their behalf.
Of particular importance was the Select Committee on Juvenile Offenders, which was established as a result of our amendments to the Kariong legislation. The work of that committee exposed many of the problems and burdens imposed on front-line staff. It forced the Government, the department and the Public Service Association [PSA] to reluctantly deal with some, although not all, of the issues. Unfortunately, there is still a very long way to go. The extraordinary conditions under which staff were expected to work at the former Kariong Detention Centre, literally putting their bodies on the line without back-up, was a terrifying example of why the staff's case has had to be taken up by the State Opposition. The indifferent attitude of management and of the Government to a mounting list of violent attacks on staff; culminating in the disgraceful treatment of a casual worker, Dicky Dare, convinced the staff that lives were at risk inside that dysfunctional centre and that unless direct action was taken somebody would die.
The many wrongs that were committed against those staff both during and after the Kariong crisis are yet to be righted—and they will be righted by a Liberal-Nationals government after the next State Election. The former Kariong staff who know me know that the injustices against them will be corrected if we are successful in March next year. They have my word. The treatment of these good staff is unfinished business and we will attend to it as our first priority in government. Notwithstanding that, a dishonest and desperate campaign regarding our policies is being conducted by the Public Service Association [PSA] on behalf of the Labor Party. The PSA scare campaign suggests that a Liberal-Nationals government would abolish the department and transfer its responsibilities to the Department of Corrective Services. This allegation is nothing more than a scurrilous, politically motivated lie.
The Liberals and The Nationals are committed to maintaining a separate Department of Juvenile Justice. We will be embarking upon significant change at management level, in order to professionalise the department and support front-line workers. In this way we will save the Department of Juvenile Justice, which is being destroyed from within by mismanagement. The department will be reorganised to focus on its core business of custody and community-based rehabilitation. Those whose sole misguided mission is to advocate for young offenders, and to treat detention centres as if they are somehow shameful places, will no longer be able to infect the policies and procedures that are relied on for safe and satisfying work. Our aim is to reform the debilitating culture of centralised control and cover-up. We believe that the simplistic strategy of putting a lid on every issue means the problems fester and spread so that by the time the lid is eventually lifted, a small embarrassment has become a great stinking rotten mess. That is an inevitable process and that is why this culture has to be reformed.
Those who argue for the integration of Juvenile Justice with Corrective Services are taking the same cheap shortcut in logic that was used by Labor, which scape-goated at Kariong when it transferred it from the juvenile justice system. I made no secret of my unhappiness at the Government's mismanagement, denial and vindictive treatment of the Kariong problems. However, when it became clear that Labor lacked the vision, strength and leadership to fix Kariong, we had to accept its transfer in order to save lives. A Liberal-Nationals government will take a positive approach because we believe that, given the right policies and procedures, the front-line staff of the department—both in the centres and in the community—are more than capable of making our juvenile justice system the best in the world. Over the coming months the front-line staff of the department will see our policies give effect to these commitments. We are grateful for the work they do, and we will not let them down.
GORDON ESTATE, DUBBO
ROZELLE NEIGHBOURHOOD CENTRE
Ms SYLVIA HALE
[5.08 p.m.]: Today a delegation from the Dubbo Gordon Estate action group visited Parliament and held meetings with various members of Parliament, including the Greens. While no-one denies there were problems on Gordon Estate and some criminal behaviour, especially by young people, bulldozing much of the estate and dispersing the community may not be the only answer. Those who want to stay cannot; they are being forcibly relocated. It does not matter how long they have been there—and some of them have been there for up to 30 years—or whether they are good tenants. If they do not accept one of the two offers of alternative accommodation from the Department of Housing, they may lose their eligibility for public housing. Those who have purchased their houses previously under a rent-to-buy scheme may have their homes compulsorily acquired, although it is not clear whether that will happen.
The department has been purchasing housing elsewhere in Dubbo, and paying about $300,000 for each house. However, this new stock will be paid for by selling an entire swathe of land; that is, precinct 2 of the Gordon Estate. The Greens were told today that in relation to the demolition of precinct 2, a contractor, Burns and Company, was sacked after the company was reported to WorkCover for not following safe removal of asbestos practices. Disturbingly, children were found playing in an unfenced area where asbestos had been located. During budget estimates hearings, the department always tells me that it follows the guidelines relating to asbestos removal. However, perhaps its contractors, even though they may be licensed, sometimes do not. Whatever the case, there seems to be little oversight of what actually goes on at a demolition site and the tenants end up monitoring the situation. I believe that in the instance of Burns and Company, someone from Gordon Estate told WorkCover what was going on, and WorkCover stepped in and removed the company from the job.
The department's demolish-and-disperse attitude to public housing estates does affect communities. I know some people want to stay. Some of these tenants have been there for long periods, in some cases up to 30 years. At estates like Gordon and Minto, although there may be instances of criminal and antisocial behaviour, there are also strong community ties and shared responsibility, and people looking out for each other. People have told me that when they are relocated elsewhere, at first they like being in new or nicer houses, but they soon miss that sense of community and sometimes find they do not have as much in common with their new neighbours.
On the one hand, the department claimed that no-one wanted to be housed in Gordon Estate. On the other hand, tenants know people who did want to remain there, but houses that are left empty and boarded up are soon vandalised, thus enabling the department to say that the whole estate needs to be demolished. I know there are no easy answers, but the department's bulldoze-the-lot mentality is too crude. I thank Evelyn Barker and the other people from Dubbo for meeting with the Greens today, and for meeting with me when I visited Dubbo earlier this year.
I recently had the opportunity to accompany Leichhardt Greens Councillor Rochelle Porteous on a visit to the Rozelle Neighbourhood Centre and to meet with the staff involved in running its excellent programs for members of the community with an intellectual disability. I did so because of the very favourable feedback I was hearing from members of the local community about what a difference the centre is making to the lives of the people of the Inner West who have an intellectual disability and their families. I particularly acknowledge the strong community support for the work of Susan Johnstone, Lisa Smajlob, Rita Grant and the new centre manager, Carol Strong.
The highlight of the visit was to see the work of the Ever After Theatre Company, which comprises young people aged 15 to 25 with an interest in movement, drama and music and who have an intellectual disability. In 2005 the group performed at the Awakenings Festival in Horsham, Victoria, and were the subject of a documentary film. In May this year they performed their latest work to great acclaim at the neighbourhood centre. The workers at this centre, the young people themselves, and their families and carers, deserve to be acknowledged for the enormous contribution they are making to the community of Sydney's inner west.
DEATH OF THE HONOURABLE KEVIN JAMES STEWART, AO, A FORMER MINISTER OF THE CROWN
The Hon. KAYEE GRIFFIN
[5.13 p.m.]: This evening I wish to speak about the life of Kevin James Stewart, AO, who sadly passed away on 22 August 2006 aged 77. Hundreds of people attended the mass of thanksgiving and celebration of the life of Kevin Stewart at St Mary's Cathedral on 28 August. There were people from many areas of his life: Kevin's family and friends, former parliamentary colleagues, current State and Federal members of Parliament, members of the Australian Labor Party [ALP], particularly from the Canterbury area, parishioners from the Parish of St Joseph's at Belmore, and many people from the Canterbury Bulldogs Football Club and Leagues Club. It was truly a tribute to a very well-known and popular man.
Kevin was born at Belmore in 1928, one of seven children. He grew up in a devout Catholic family which took a keen interest in Labor politics and in the local district rugby league club. His older brother Frank entered Federal Parliament as the member for Lang in 1953 and went on to become a Whitlam Government Minister. Kevin Stewart was educated at St Joseph's at Belmore, St Thomas Christian Brothers at Lewisham, and De La Salle College at Marrickville. After leaving school at 15, Kevin followed his father into the New South Wales railways from 1944 to 1962. During this time he served as the Metropolitan President of the Australasian Transport Officers Association and as a delegate to the Trades and Labor Council, and he was an active member of the trade union movement.
Kevin married Jean Keating in 1952, and the Stewart household grew with the subsequent birth of Kevin and Jean's seven children: Anne, Frances, John, Margaret, Tony, Mary and Helen. Kevin served his local community as Chairman of the Canterbury Hospital Board from 1954 until 1962. He was elected to the New South Wales Legislative Assembly in 1962 as the member for Canterbury. He held a number of portfolios in the Wran Government: Health from 1976 until 1981; Youth and Community Services from 1981 until 1983; Mineral Resources from 1983 until 1984; and, finally, Local Government until 1985, when he retired from State Parliament after 23 years of service.
During his parliamentary career Kevin was genuinely liked by all sides of politics and was credited with being an outstanding debater, and a clever and witty interjector in the Legislative Assembly. Following his retirement from Parliament Kevin was appointed as the New South Wales Agent-General to Great Britain and Europe, and he served in that post from 1986 until 1988. On Australia Day 1989 Kevin was awarded an Officer of the Order of Australia Medal for his service to the New South Wales Parliament and for his term as New South Wales Agent-General in London. The Australian Sports Medal was awarded to him in February 2000 for his long-term involvement with the Canterbury Bulldogs Leagues Club.
Kevin was a very proud Bulldogs supporter, and stepped in to become the Canterbury Leagues Club president in 2002 after the problems caused by the salary cap scandal. Kevin worked very hard to ensure that the club got back onto an even keel. I recall him talking about the work he was doing as president. He put an immense amount of energy and time into the job. The current Bulldogs Chief Executive Officer, John Ballesty, issued this statement following Kevin's death:
Kevin was a foundation member of Canterbury and a great stalwart of the club.
His father was the club's foundation President, and the Stewart family has always been a central part of the Bulldog story.
As President since 2002, Kevin's contribution to the club has been inestimable. He came to the presidency in very difficult times, and provided the rock on which we have survived and thrived since.
His leadership, wisdom, his integrity and his unfailing courtesy have been a huge influence on everything that happens here.
He will be sorely missed.
The leagues club's statement reads:
Kevin Stewart was not only a long term board member and President of the Leagues Club but a passionate supporter of the Bulldogs football team. It did not go unnoticed by the players that he attended most games even when his health was failing.
Kevin had an intricate knowledge and memory of the Football Club and its past and present players, which he was only too happy to share with his colleagues.
The Bulldogs commitment was always to the fore with Kevin. I was told by someone who visited him in Concord Hospital earlier this year when he was hospitalised because of a stroke he suffered, ironically at a Bulldogs game, that he was concerned about taking medication that was coloured red and white, and indicated that he would have preferred the medication if it had been blue and white. Another tribute to Kevin would, of course, be a Bulldogs victory in the 2006 Grand Final.
On a personal note Kevin, Jean and the Stewart family have been part of my parish life at St Josephs, Belmore, for as long as I can remember and, of course, they have been great supporters through the ALP. I thank Kevin and Jean, both life members of the ALP, for their support during my time as the Mayor of Canterbury City Council. I again extend my condolences to Jean and her family on their loss. Kevin was well loved and respected in Canterbury. We will miss his company and humour. We have lost a good friend.
Motion agreed to.
The House adjourned at 5.18 p.m. until Tuesday 26 September 2006 at 2.30 p.m.